A Rant (In Two Parts)

Rant:  Part I (In Which I Think Deep Thoughts About Art, Art Ownership, and the Institution, Then Get Sidetracked)

I’ve been reading a book called Ways of Looking:  How to Experience Contemporary Art by Ossian Ward.  It is a bit of a beginner’s guide to looking at contemporary art, which I picked up with the idea that  it might be useful for teaching younger kids or non-art folk about contemporary art.  Yes.  I am that nerd that thinks about pedagogy and teaching ALL the time.  It’s a pretty basic read, but interesting.  Anyway, it dredged up a few thoughts that have been kicking around in my head for awhile and got me thinking about them again.

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Urs Fischer, You, 2007 Not my image! http://thefunambulist.net/

The premise of this book, is that it breaks down contemporary art into “Art as” sections to be decoded using the author’s TABULA Rasa formula (Time, Association, Background, Understand, Look again, Assessment).  These “Art as” sections include:  Art as Entertainment, Art as Joke, Art as Message, etc.  The last two chapters are Art as Spectacle and Art as Meditation, which I was reading on the train on my way into work this morning.   Toward the end of the Art as Spectacle chapter the author discusses Urs Fischer’s You, and writes:

“Resembling a battlefield or a construction pit rather than an exhibition, Fischer’s destructive, anti-artistic statement was not only an assault on the senses—involving as it did a precipitous 8-foot drop and the risk of serious injury—but it was also an attack on the very structures that support and validate art itself (it was nevertheless sold to a foundation for excavation at a later date at some other location).

At which point I literally wanted to stand up on the train and flip a table.  It just seems so ridiculous to me that this piece was bought by a foundation to be moved from it’s context, making it even less accessible. It actually made me angry. Because let’s face it, there is a certain amount of privilege involved in being able to visit (access) a museum, gallery, foundation, or other arts institution.  But also, I really HATE the idea of ownership when it comes to art (especially when it comes to something so ephemeral and site-specific).  I want everyone to have access to art all the time.  I don’t think you should have to pay to see something that is culturally relevant, or interesting, or thought provoking, or just plain fucking beautiful (although I could personally not care less about that particular criterion). And I think art objects are stupid.  It upsets me that these are things which artists have poured themselves into, and they are hoarded away by private collectors or museums, only to see the light of day occasionally.  Art isn’t about just looking/seeing.  But I’ll get to that rant in a second.

The author continues his bit about You, referencing the writings of Robert Smithson (of Spiral Jetty fame).  Smithson was a leading figure in moving art outside of the gallery, and helped to develop the Land Art movement of the 70’s.  At one point he wrote that museums are just graveyards above ground.  And, regardless of the context in which Smithson said/wrote that, or the context in which Ward is theoretically linking it to You, I really am starting to believe it’s true in a very literal sense.  Museums are places that art goes to die.  Art no longer exists as it was originally envisioned once it’s consigned to a collection, where it is restored, or stored, or academicized.  It becomes part of a hushed atmosphere, in which you are supposed to take everything very seriously, study the beauty of the “masters” (which, fuck that noise), and learn something.  These randomly selected objects are placed onto white walls and white pedestals to be admired and revered (from a distance), because someone employed by the museum said that they should be.  Aside from the usual rhetoric over who gets to decide what is art, what isn’t, and what should be displayed/preserved, it’s a stupid, stupid system.  And sure, there are museums, or exhibitions out there that challenge this status quo, but not enough.  The majority of them do not.  The majority of them are the white cube-didactic-no-touching model.

This makes me think of the Futurist Manifesto (because really, it’s never far from my mind), and the Futurist’s desire to destroy all museums/libraries/academies etc, because they viewed them as antiquated and therefore an impediment to the progress of the future. Sometimes, I think they weren’t far from wrong (aside from their somewhat blatant misogyny and general delight at war).  We have created these repositories of things that we are told to revere.  I can easily question and challenge it because I have the theoretical knowledge and art back ground, but the average person does not.  They take it to heart.  We cling onto these things, as if they truly are the end all and be all of beauty, or whatever the hell it is that we are looking for in art.  We uphold the past, and scorn the contemporary (Thats why books like Ways of Looking are written…).  It’s almost like we want to hold ourselves back.

My ponderings on art ownership, objects, and destroying museums also started me thinking about the other forms of art that we accumulate and store.  For instance, why am I OK with collecting outrageous numbers of books, of which many are works of fiction, and therefore art?  I LOVE books.  I learn things from them, I escape every day life with them, they are magical objects to me, and are tied into happy childhood memories.  But still, they are art.  So why can I support ownership of those and not works of visual art?  Is there any difference?  Perhaps it bothers me less because there are often thousands, if not millions of the same copy of my book floating around?  Because anyone can go to the library, find that book, and read it for free (Unrestricted access)?  And libraries are depositories of ALL books, not just some.  I realize not every library will have every book, but they don’t actively seek to curate their patron’s visit by limiting their selection, to say the 200s (Religion) in the Dewy Decimal System.  Or perhaps they do, and I am just unawares.

And what about music?  I’ve never been one to obsessively collect albums.  I’m perfectly content to turn on Spotify/Pandora/insert-other-internet-radio-here and listen.  I don’t need to own it.  But there are some who make it a priority in their lives.  And in some weird, conceptual way I find it more acceptable to collect that form of art.  Again, perhaps it’s because theoretically anyone has access to this art form, and there are millions of copies laying around.  Perhaps because someone else could then learn that piece of music and play it for themselves (or others), whether it be in a replication of the original, or in a new interpretation.  Its tough.  And I’m not sure I can justify my ability to accept owning those art forms but not others… Maybe I just need to give up my book collection.  *insert wide eyed emoji here*

Rant:  Part 2 (In Which I Get Back on Track, and Rage at the Consumption of Art)

 

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I don’t think I really need to caption this very obvious wealth of information.

 

The other side of the issue of owning art and locking it away, is that we also treat it like a commodity to be consumed.  We pack large rooms and entire buildings with vast collections of “precious” art objects for people to pay to see.  Often times these collections are so enormous, it could take you days if not weeks to view just what was on display.  For instance, according to CNN, it would take you SIXTY-FOUR DAYS to see everything in the Louvre if you only looked at everything for SIXTY SECONDS.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Sixty-four entire days, looking at roughly 35,000 works of art for exactly sixty seconds each.  Forget actually studying, appreciating, or processing a work.  And that is only what they have on display at any given time.  Their entire permanent collection is around 460,000 objects (You do the math on that one).  So it’s no wonder that with museums like MOMA in New York charging upwards of $25 or more for an individual admission to just the permanent collection, people are going to want to get their money’s worth.  They are going to rush through, trying to take in as much as possible (which is the  worst possible way to view art), making it  into a sort of scavenger hunt to find the most famous, or popular works of art.  All so that they don’t feel gypped, so that they can say they saw the Mona Lisa, and of course, so that they can snap a selfie.  What. The. Fuck. World?  It’s so angering.

Art is not meant to be consumed like that.  It’s meant to be experienced.  It’s meant to leave us thinking, in awe, or some how impacted.  The final chapter of Ward’s book is Art as Meditation, which address works of art that require time for reflection and processing.  He writes that some artworks need contemplation and a sort of extended digestion.  I would argue that this is every work of art, because art can change in meaning over time for you, depending on any number of variables… Circumstances, experiences, knowledge, relationships.  All of which are dynamic, and subject to change in and of themselves.  Ward continues this line of thought, saying:

These shifts in perception or changes of heart require time.  They need time to reveal themselves, to create an atmosphere, to warp the here and now, and –maybe– to formulate a new universe… This kind of contemplative situation, or ‘Art as Meditation,’ as I’ve called it, is not about conceptual art, or anything necessarily related to the 1960’s Conceptual art movement (with a capital C).  Nor is it about seeing something that isn’t there or posing more thoughts that can only live in your head.  It relates to the ability to better appreciate or more deeply engage with a work of art without succumbing to the bite-sized nibbles of culture offered elsewhere or having our heads turned this way or that by any number of other tempting distractions.”

These are things I’ve been trying to get at in my own work for a few years now.  I want my audience/participants/viewers to have an experience rather than simply look/see/consume what I have to share.  I want their lives to be impacted, for them to think about what they saw for years to come, and for that experience of the work to evolve as they themselves change and grow.  Otherwise, what was the point of making the work in the first place?  Sure, it fulfilled a selfish need of my own to create and express myself, but it doesn’t mean anything until someone else enters into the picture.  Otherwise, why look at art at all?  If you’re only going to spend sixty seconds staring at it, only to move on to the next piece immediately, and instantly forget what you saw just moments before.  Everything then becomes a blur, and nothing sticks.  Nothing makes an impression.  And I’ll have done all this hard work for nothing…

Never Fear…I’m Still Alive.

Hi.  I know I’ve been gone an awfully long time.  This time it’s not because I was being lazy, or avoiding things… It’s because life decided to really challenge me and my sanity.  In the last two months I’ve had (in no particular order):

-a broken refrigerator

-a stolen scooter

-a broken stove

-a few teaching issues

-a flooded house

-extreme lack of communication leading to confusion and my community classes getting canceled

-an exhaustingly epic trip to New York City

-several crises in my private/personal life

 

Oh, and I’ve been working on job searching and applications and researching my written thesis.

 

 

Anyway, I promise I’m working on new posts for you all about the show and studio happenings, it’s just been slow goings.  I’ll also share with you my trip to NY…  Just please be patient.  Please?  I’ll bake you cookies… No, wait I take that back. Baking won’t help anything (except allowing me to eat my feelings) because then it will take me longer to get these posts out.  THEY’RE COMING, I PROMISE!  Until then, enjoy this picture.  I even took it myself, with my DSLR!

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SO MANY THINGS!!!!

I have studiously been working on a post about my on going shoe piece, applying to shows, reading/researching, teaching kids about art, and cooking, but while doing all of that, SO MANY THINGS HAVE HAPPENED THAT I JUST FREAKING CAN’T KEEP UP!

ALL THE THINGS

The next blog post I was going to write (once I finally posted the one about the shoes) was going to be about performance art and popular culture smashing into one another and making weird offspring. I was thinking about this specific topic because, A) I make performance art, B) I’m not entirely sure people understand what performance art is, and C) my Sister the Psychologist posted this about Amanda Bynes potentially being the greatest performance artist ever. That all got me thinking about Lady Gaga (never thought I’d be talking about her on my blog…), and the interpretations of her as a performance artist that were rife about 2 years ago, and then about the more recent Tilda Swinton and James Franco performance art… But before I had even had a chance to sit down and sift through my thoughts on this matter, much less properly research it (ie not just Google “Lady Gaga Performance Art” or “Tilda Swinton Sleeping” or “James Franco Performance Artist”, and copy and past the most recent link I could find… Like I might have just done….), I get an email from Hyperallergic telling me THIS HAPPENED.

If you’re like me, and didn’t have the damn Vine app (but unlike me refuse to download it, even for this epic something) here are some images of JAY-Z RAPPING AT MARINA ABRAMOVIC AT PACE GALLERY IN NYC. (I whole heartedly admit that these are not mine, I found them doing a Google image search. The first is from blouinartinfo.com, and the second from vogue.com):

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Yeah, in case you missed that:

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That one’s from hipinion.com…

I haven’t even had time to process this. I feel like I need an adult or something. I’m not even sure what to say… I can’t keep up with all this arting! Hennessy Youngman help me out here! Give me sometime to think about this and do some reading and I will totally get back to you on this topic. Until then just… Um, I guess make some performance art?!

Oh! And this happened too:

Dry spell officially watered!
Dry spell officially watered!

More soon!

Tangents, Daydreams, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

I’m not even going to apologize for not posting for two weeks again… I think maybe we should all just accept that I’m terrible at keeping up a regular blog.  Don’t let that stop you from reading on though!  Prepare yourselves for a first class tangent!
So this past week I have been in a really strange frame of mind.  I’ve been totally spacy, restless, and unable to focus on anything for more than a few minutes at a time.  I have been daydreaming like there is no tomorrow, and having incredibly vivid dreams.  This is very much unlike me. I don’t think I’ve daydreamed or let my mind wander so much since I was in high school.  I typically don’t have time to be unfocused…adulthood and responsibility have sucked that luxury from me.  In fact, if my mind does wander these days, it goes to the  list of things I need to accomplish during the day, and then the ever increasing things piling up that are waiting to be taken care of when I have a free moment.

Needless to say, this past week was an interesting one for me.  I kept forgetting things everywhere, calling the kids at work by the complete wrong name, leaving the house with out my lunch, losing track of time on my lunch break walks and coming back late… I sat down twice to try to write a blog post, and couldn’t get past the first sentence, and forget trying to finish reading Why Art Cannot Be Taught.  In fact, right now as I’m typing, I have to keep stopping because I am unsure if my words are spelled correctly, and then I get distracted by something else.  It’s been a long week.

On Thursday or Friday, the husband said something mean to me, but in a teasing manner of course.  As a joke, I told him I was just going to leave him for Joseph Gordon-Levitt (We had just seen The Dark Knight Rises, and I have long harbored an innocent crush on said gent..and who wouldn’t?  He’s handsome and incredibly talented.  hitRECord anyone?).  The husband’s retort caused me to pause for a moment.  His reply was something along the lines of:  “He is so far out of your league you have no idea…”  Obviously that’s a very negative thing to say, and really, if Mr. Gordon-Levitt is out of my league, what does that say about Hubsley?  But, what really made me stop and think, was the implication that even if realistically speaking I am unlikely to ever meet this person, I should not even be thinking about it.  The thought should not cross my mind.

Now, in conjunction with my daydreamy self, I began to wonder exactly why and how it had come about that I had ever stopped daydreaming to begin with, and then I started pondering why it was so unacceptable to daydream, or have dreams that were perhaps beyond reality.  I have spent all summer teaching art to kids who so absolutely nothing wrong with dreaming unrealistically, so I can hardly say that its a bad thing.

I’m not going to lie… A huge part of why I became an artist is because I got to exist in a world in which my ideas could be bigger than life, and where whimsical, unlikely things are encouraged.  But somewhere along the lines I have completely lost that.  Instead of having daydreams unlikely hopes, and dare I say, fantasies?…I have goals, targets and intents.  I have concrete, realistic, mature markers by which to gauge my success and progress in life.  I spend next to no time in that imaginary world that belongs solely to myself, where I can think (or rather dream) about life’s possibilities, outside the realm of reality.

Of course leaving this world behind is part of growing up, entering the “real” world, and accepting responsibilities.  But that doesn’t mean that our own personal imaginary worlds are gone for good, and there are some people who continue to enter into them as adults. But I think in my case, my chosen path into academia, was the final poison arrow to my ability to day dream.  I don’t know what it is, but academia really jades you.  You lose your sense of possibility, and it becomes about quantifying, recording, and proving exactly what you can achieve.  It becomes less about the process and more about the end result.  You may begin with an out of this world idea, but if you can’t conceivably achieve it by the next review or the end of the semester, you lower your sights and the idea morphs into something more realistic. You don’t get points for being daring or risky, or really for failing.  Professors will deny this, but I really think it’s true.   As a result of this, I think I stopped entering into that world of daydreams and non-realities, because I became so utterly focused on what I could realistically achieve.  Subsequently, because I became so absolutely terrified of failure, I didn’t dare to dream.  Does that make sense?  Maybe it’s just me that’s lost this ability in life, I haven’t done a scientific double blind test in order to prove my theories.  I’ll get right on that…

When I brought all of this up to the husband (I opened the conversation with:  “Remember the other day when you told me Joseph Gordon-Levitt was out of my league?”  using my best serious face.  Ahhh, the look on his face was great!), he offered the characteristically stodgy academic response:  “Well I remember in one of Orloff’s classes, we discussed the idea that analysis decreases pleasure.” (Orloff is Deborah Orloff, a professor we both took classes with in undergrad.)  He then launched into a lecture about whether as artists we should forgo that analysis and understanding for the pure pleasure of creation.  *Buzzer Sound*  He totally missed the point of what I had to say.  It is not only about being an artist, its about being human, and also about reclaiming that part of yourself that you frequently deny.  I’m not advocating a complete return to our imaginary worlds, but maybe just a visit every once in awhile to brighten our days and put life into perspective.

So, until the day that I die, I will make it a point to re-incorporate daydreams and unrealistic hopes (as opposed to the unrealistic goals and expectations I frequently struggle with) into my daily life.  As such, I will continue to hold out on the hope that I will get to go on a date with Joesph Gordon-Levitt.  So Mr. Gordon-Levitt, if you are out there and by some freak chance read this blog… Pretty, pretty please?  Don’t worry, I have a permission slip from the husband!  Marital discord will not be sowed.  Don’t make me start an internet campaign…hahaha.  I’m certain that came off as creepy, but it is meant in the most harmless, funny way possible.

Hope all of you imaginary readers enjoyed another random tangent brought to you by me.

Well FUCK.

So, I just spend the last hour and a half writing a most brilliant post, if I do say so myself.  It was everything an amazing blog post should be.  All about The Sublime, and Kismet, and it was entertaining.

And then, for what ever ridiculous reason, WordPress crashed my web browser.  WTF. W. T. F.!  I even had pictures for you, imaginary reader.  Pictures!

What’s that you say?  WordPress has autosave?!  Oh, yes, I know all about that…but it didn’t work.  I have approximately three sentences from what was once a nearly 1200 word post.

So here’s whats going to happen.  I’m going to post pictures.  Words will come later, when it’s not 1:30am and I don’t have to get up in 6 hours.

Way to invalidate me WordPress.  We’re fighting now.