Sunday, May 31, 2009

In Adulthood, It Is Tact That Is Golden, Not Silence*

Fig. 1. Walker Evans - Salón, West Virginia, 1935

'Never discuss the poem you contemplate writing. It's like turning on the outside spigot. It takes all the pressure off the upstairs bathroom.'

Robert Frost

* 'It is tact that is golden, not silence.' (Samuel Butler)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Reprise #6: A Place Between Certainty And Oblivion

Fig. 1. Robert Morris - Bodyspacemotionthings, 1971

'The Photograph does not necessarily say what is no longer, but only and for certain what has been. This distinction is decisive. In front of a photograph, our consciousness does not necessarily take the nostalgic path of memory (how many photographs are outside of individual time), but for every photograph existing in the world, the path of certainty: the Photograph's essence is to ratify what it presents. One day I received from a photographer a picture of myself which I could not remember being taken, for all my efforts; I inspected the tie, the sweater, to discover in what circumstances I had worn them; to no avail. And yet, because it was a photograph I could not deny that I had been there (even if I did not know where). This distinction between certainty and oblivion gave me a kind of vertigo, something of a detective "anguish" (the theme of Blow-Up was not far off); I went on to the photographer's show as to a police investigation, to learn at last what I no longer knew about myself.'

Roland Barthes

Friday, May 29, 2009

Reprise #5: You're Only A Conference Of Organs, Pal

Fig. 1. Tony Oursler - Station, 2002

'We are all haunted houses.'

H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reprise #4: At Nightfall In The Forest Of Philosophy

Fig. 1. Caspar David Friedrich - Evening, 1820-21

'An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself.'

Albert Camus

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reprise #3: Build It And They Will (Probably) Muse

Fig. 1. Nike Savvas - Atomic: full of love, full of wonder, 2005

'Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it "creative observation". Creative viewing.'

William S. Burroughs

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reprise #2: But, After We've Smoked Another Silence

Fig. Nan Goldin - Nan and Brian in Bed, NYC, 1983

'To love another person you have to undertake some fragment of their destiny.'

Quentin Crisp

Monday, May 25, 2009

Reprise #1: Evicting The Soft Embalmer Of The Night

Fig. 1. Gustav Klimt - Danae, 1907-08

'The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.'

Gustav Klimt

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Finally, There Is Only A Queer Divine Dissatisfaction*

Fig. 1. Vivienne Shark LeWitt - Diners Club, 1992

'A moment of complete happiness never occurs in the creation of a work of art. The promise of it is felt in the act of creation but disappears towards the completion of the work. For it is then the painter realises that it is only a picture he is painting. Until then he had almost dared to hope the picture might spring to life.'

Lucian Freud

* 'No artist is pleased. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.' (Martha Graham)

Addendum: The Sunday Six

Six different translations of the opening lines of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations:

1. It is in the nature of every advance, that it appears much greater than it actually is. (Malcolm, 1984)

2. It is in the nature of all progress, that it looks much greater than it really is. (Baker and Hacker, 1980)

3. The thing about progress is that it appears much greater than it actually is. (Barker, 1985)

4. In general, it is characteristic of progress that it looks much bigger that it really is. (Spielberg, 1978)

5. It is a thing about progress: it generally looks bigger than it really is. (von Wright, 1982)

6. Motto: 'Anyway, the thing about progress is that it looks much greater than it really is.' (Stern, 2004)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Not Many Things Come With A 500-Year Guarantee

Fig. 1. A photograph of Michelangelo’s Pietà by Aurelio Amendola from the book Michelangelo: La Dotta Mano (2008)

'Beauty is the purgation of superfluities.'

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simon

Friday, May 22, 2009

Four Blind Ears: Or, The Art Of Listening To Pictures

Fig. 1. Alessandra Sanguinetti - Time Flies (2005)

'What the picture tells me is "itself" - I should like to say. That is, its telling me something consists in its own structure, in its forms and colours.'

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Don't Always Apologise For Talking About Painting*

Fig 1. Theo van Doesburg - Composition VIII (The Cow), c. 1918

'To see is to forget the name of the thing one sees.'

Paul Valery

* 'We must always apologize for talking painting.' (Paul Valery)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Had A Dream, And In My Dream History Came True

Fig. 1. François Morellet - Néons avec programmation aléatoire poétique-géométrique, 1967

'In its traditional form, history proper was concerned to define relations (of simple causality, of circular determination, of antagonism, of expression) between facts or dated events: the series being known, it was simply a question of defining the position of each element in relation to the other elements in the series. [But] the problem now is to constitute series: to define the elements proper to each series, to formulate its laws, thus constituting the series of series, of "tables." ... Thus, in the place of the continuous chronology of reason, which was invariably traced back to some inaccessible origin, there have appeared scales that are sometimes very brief, distinct from one another, irreducible to a single law, scales that bear a type of history peculiar to each one, and which cannot be reduced to the general model of a consciousness that acquires, progresses, and remembers.'

Michel Foucault

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

In Truth, Other People Are A Problem Worth Having

Fig. 1. Helen Levitt - New York, ca. 1940

'For there is but one problem - the problem of human relations. We forget that there is no hope or joy except in human relations.'

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Monday, May 18, 2009

Death Came To Them Daily In The Form Of Ideology

Fig. 1. Sungsoo Koo - Tour Bus (from the series Magical Reality, 2005-2006), 2005

'Works of art are often sites where the issues or questions a community or culture finds urgent, fundamental, or troublesome are elaborated and negotiated. In part, this is a matter of what Nelson Goodman calls the "cognitive efficacy" of visual representations: through representing or symbolising selected elements of "the world," experience is made susceptible to ordering and rearrangement; the world can be more completely grasped, ordered, illuminated. Visual representation is, consequently, a vehicle for the increase of knowledge, both scientific and nonscientific. But knowledge is ideological: what passes for knowledge at any given moment is radically conditioned by a complex of regnant interests, values, utilities. What may seem at first a pure discovery, an objective truth emergent in visual representation - linear perspective is a good example - is later revealed as a culturally specific, ideologically* engaged, contingent construction.'

Michael Leja

* 'Ideology designates a rich "system of representations," worked up in specific material practices, which help form individuals into social subjects who "freely" internalise an appropriate "picture" of their social world and their place in it. Ideology offers the social subject not a set of narrowly "political" ideas but the fundamental framework of assumptions that defines the parameters of the real and the self; it constitutes what Althusser calls the social subject's "'lived' relation to the real."' (James Kavanagh)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Sunday Six: Keep Moving - Nothing To See Here

Fig. 1. Al Held - Torquad II, 1985

Fig. 2. Blake Edwards - Untitled, 1987

Fig. 3. Peter Halley - The Acid Test, 1991-92

Fig. 4. Karen Kunc - The Wanting Pool, 2007

Fig. 5. Peter Zimmermann - Shess, 2007

Fig. 6. Parastou Forouhar - Red is my Name, Green is my Name, 2008

'What you see is what you see.'

Frank Stella

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Untitled (So They Call Upon The Author To Explain)

Fig. 1. Rudolf Schwarzkogler - Action, 1965

We Call Upon The Author

What we once thought we had, we didn’t
And what we have now will never be that way again
So we call upon the author to explain

Our myxomatoid kids spraddle the streets
We’ve shunned them from the greasy-grind
The poor little things they look so sad and old
As they mount us from behind
I ask them to desist and to refrain!
Then we call upon the author to explain

Well, rosary clutched in his hand
He died with tubes up his nose
And a cabal of angels with finger cymbals
Chanted his name in code
We shook our fists at the punishing rain
And we called upon the author to explain

He said, everything is messed up round here
Everything is banal and jejune
There’s a planetary conspiracy against the likes of you and me
In this idiot constituency of the moon
Well, he knew exactly who to blame!
And we call upon the author to explain

Prolix! Prolix!
Nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix

Well, I go guruing down the street
And young people gather round my feet
And they ask me things - but I don’t know where to start
They ignite the powder-trail straight to my father’s heart
And, yeah, once again
I call upon the author to explain

Who is this great burdensome slavering dog-thing
That mediocres my every thought?
I feel like a vacuum cleaner - a complete sucker!
It’s fucked up and he is a fucker
But what an enormous and encyclopedic brain!
I call upon the author to explain

Rampant discrimination
Mass poverty, third world debt
Infectious disease, global inequality
And deepening socio-economic divisions
Well, it does in your brain
We call upon the author to explain

Now hang on
My friend Doug is tapping on the window!
Hey Doug, how you been? (hey Doug)
Well, he brings me a book on holocaust poetry - complete with pictures
And then he tells me to get ready for the rain
And we call upon the author to explain

Prolix! Prolix!
Nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix

Bukowski was a jerk!
Berryman was best!
He wrote like wet paper maché
But he went the Heming-way
Weirdly on wings and with maximum pain
We call upon the author to explain

Down in my bolthole I see they’ve published
Another volume of unreconstructed rubbish
“The waves, the waves were soldiers moving”
Well, thank you - thank you!
Thank you and again
I call upon the author to explain

Prolix! Prolix!
Nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix

Nick Cave

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Pictorial Peccadillo From The Cannibal's Cookbook

Fig. 1. James Ensor - The Banquet of the Starved, 1915

'We need ... to grasp both sides of the paradox of the image: that is it alive - but also dead; powerful - but also weak; meaningful - but also meaningless.'

W. J. T. Mitchell

Thursday, May 14, 2009

One More Verse From The Ballad Of Jack The Dripper

Fig. 1. Jackson Pollock - Lavender Mist, No. 1, 1950

'Once the secondary elaboration of style has covered the wild form-play of art, never again can the human eye see its full effects, neither this generation, nor future generations.'

Anton Ehrenzweig

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Bridge Of Flesh Between The Mind And Its Others

Fig. 1. Hannes Schüpbach - Toccata (video still), 2002

'The artist ... has never lost his original function and establishes the unity of the ultimate by reducing all phenomena to the terms of the sensual. For sensuality is the one basic human quality necessary for the appreciation of all truth.'

Marl Rothko

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's Hard To Be Lean Without Also Being A Little Mean

Fig. 1. Alberto Giacometti - Le Chat, 1951

'Things would have been fine if my body and I had got on well together. But the fact is that we were an odd couple. When the child is unhappy, he doesn't asks himself questions. If he suffers bodily as a result of needs and sickness, his unjustifiable state justifies his existence. His right to live is based on hunger, on the constant danger of death. As for me, I was neither rich enough to think I was predestined nor poor enough to feel my desires as demands … Breathing, digesting, defecating unconcernedly, I lived because I had begun to live. I was unaware of the violence and savage demands of that gorged companion, my body, which made itself known by a series of mild disturbances, much in demand among grown-ups ...'

Jean-Paul Sartre

Monday, May 11, 2009

It Takes Longer To Fully Unravel Than It Does To Live

Fig. 1. Liza Lou - Continuous Mile, 2007–2008

'There is an optimism that consists in saying, "In any case, it couldn't be any better." My optimism would consist in saying, "So many things can be changed, being as fragile as they are, tied more to contingencies than to necessities, more to what is arbitrary than to what is rationally established, more to complex but transitory historical contingencies than to inevitable anthropological constants."'

Michel Foucault

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Sunday Six: It Ain't No Carnival For The Animals

Fig. 1. Sue Coe - Elephant Slaughter in Sudan, 2007

Fig. 2. Scott Robert Hudson - Bison, 2005-2007

Fig. 3. Xavier Veilhan - Shark, 2008

Fig. 4. Steve McQueen - Running Thunder, 2007 (film still)

Fig. 5. Bill Hammond - Jingle Jangle Morning, 2006

Fig. 6. Damien Hirst - Tranquility from the “Butterfly” series (2002-)

The Janjuweed (Death on Horseback) using high powered rifles slaughter 100 elephants in one afternoon to sell the ivory to China. The money buys more weapons for the war in Darfur.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

When Courage Takes To The Dance Floor, Joy Leads*

Fig. 1. John Brack - Latin American Grand Final, 1969

'There is no greater joy than that of feeling oneself a creator. The triumph of life is expressed by creation.'

Henri Bergson

* 'Joy prompts courage.' (Hans Christian Andersen)

Friday, May 8, 2009

For Thy Part, I Passionately Wish Thou Wert A Dog*

Fig. 1. Michelangelo (di Lodovico Buonarroti Simon) - The Last Judgement, 1534-1541

'To think ill of mankind and not wish ill to them, is perhaps the highest wisdom and virtue.'

William Hazlitt

* 'I am misanthropos, and hate mankind,/For thy part, I do wish thou wert a dog,/That I might love thee something.' (from Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Only At One End Of Their Alimentary Canals, Mr. C

Fig. 1. Luis Meléndez - Still Life with Melon and Pears, c.1772

'The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.'

G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Note: Capitalism Does Not Come Fitted With Airbags

Fig. 1. Aernout Mik - Middlemen. 2001 (single-channel video installation, looped)

'Art is always and everywhere the secret confession, and at the same time the immortal movement of its time.'

Karl Marx

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What Has Ever Been So Horrible It Can't Be Imaged?

Fig. 1. Vija Celmins - To Fix The Image In Memory XII, 1977-82

'To suffer is one thing; another thing is living with photographed images of suffering, which does not necessarily strengthen conscience and the ability to be compassionate. It can also corrupt them. Once one has seen such images, one has started down the road of seeing more and more. Images transfix and images anaesthetise. An event becomes more real than it would have been if one had never seen a photograph. But after repeated exposure to images it also becomes less real.'

Susan Sontag

Monday, May 4, 2009

Promised Lands Will Always Break Their Promises

Fig. 1. Martin Kippenberger - The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s “Amerika”, 1994

'To the degree that a work of art breaks through the realm of art and becomes uptopian perception, it is creation - meaning that it is subject to moral categories in relation not just to human beings in the act of conception, but to man's existence in the sphere of perception. The moral nature of creation gives the work the stamp of the expressionless.'

Walter Benjamin

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Fascist Would Rather Be The Bulb Than The Light

Fig. 1. Olafur Eliasson - Inverted Berlin Sphere, 2005

'Education is dangerous - every educated person is a future enemy.'

Hermann Goering

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Tell Me When You Think You Know Where I'm Going

Fig. 1. Jaroslav Krupka - Path near Police nad Metují, c. 1930

'If I'm free, it's because I'm always running.'

Jimi Hendrix

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Song Is Anything That Can Walk By Itself, He Said*

Fig. 1. Bob Dylan - Scotland, possibly Princess Street, 20 May 1966 Edinburgh (p. Barry Feinstein)

'A person is a success if they get up in the morning and gets to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.'

Bob Dylan

'A song is anything that can walk by itself.' (Bob Dylan)