Wednesday, September 30, 2009

[Insert The Name Of Your City Here], Mon Amour ...

Fig. 1. Diane Cook - Little Red Lighthouse - Fort Washington Park, Manhattan, 2002

I am less interested in how one locates oneself in a city than in how one locates a city within oneself. ... For the traveller willing to be seduced, a new city is not only an affair of the mind (all that remembering) and body (all that perambulating), but also an affair of the heart. We leave the cities we love as reluctantly as we leave the beds of our beloveds. We leave the cities where we have loved (albeit briefly), and been loved (albeit badly), even more reluctantly.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien ... Je Ne Regrette Rien ...

Fig. 1. Andi Domke - Ausgestopftes Meerschweinchen auf Rollbrett (Stuffed Guinea Pig On A Skateboard), 2009.

We can’t always be worthy of our opportunities. We should, however, always strive to be worthy of our gifts, no matter how great or small, because it is from these that we derive our fundamental - and, yes, final - greatness or smallness. In truth, I wish I’d been granted more gifts and fewer opportunities. Too late … too late.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Histories Are The Collective Memoirs Of Our Species

Fig. 1. Anselm Kiefer - Germany’s Spiritual Heroes, 1973

Pasts are lived. Histories are told.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Then There Were Three - Now There Is Only One ...

Fig. 1. Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Francesco Clemente - Alba's Breakfast, 1984

The necessity of sharing the world with others is a fate we can hardly avoid. Sharing our way of being in it, on the other hand, is a fantasy rarely achieved.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

On Obscuring, And Unobscuring, Objects Of Desire

Fig. 1. Lorenzo Lotto - Venus and Cupid, c. 1525

A lover becomes a lover long before obtaining, or even locating, the object of his or her desire. Lovers are created (or, rather, create themselves, and each other) the instant they affix a name or image to their latent impulses, which would otherwise have remained worryingly anonymous - and, perhaps worse, perennially amorphous. These names and images are potent aphrodisiacs, as well as the first warning a lover receives that their desire, no matter how precisely objectified or labelled, will always exceed its objects. ... Unsurprisingly, lovers routinely ignore this niggling augury.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Memories Are What Clinch Our Exile From The Past

Fig. 1. Holger Niehaus - Untitled, 2000

Nostalgia is one of the many skins in which we wrap our memories. ... Like us, they perish when flayed.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Most Beautiful World In The Girl Is You, Not Her

Fig. 1. Damián Ortega - Cosmic Thing, 2002

Falling apart is sometimes the only means we have of discovering how we fell together.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

From Little Things Big Things Grow ... And Grow ...

Fig. 1. Giulio Romano - Fall of the Giants (Sala dei Giganti), 1526-34

The problem with always putting the very smallest of your problems under the microscope is that the very biggest of your problems will eventually follow suit, undergoing a far more terrifying - and paralysing - magnification.

Addendum (click): Jack and the Beanstalk, 1933 (ComiColour, Celebrity Productions)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Best Gamblers Can Always Absorb Thier Losses

Fig. 1. Georges de La Tour - The Card-Sharp with Ace of Diamonds, 17thC

Trust because you can afford to, not because you need to.

Addendum: Barry Lyndon (1975) - d. Stanley Kubrick

Monday, September 21, 2009

I'd Leave, But A Promising Future Is Blocking My Way

Fig. 1. Henry Moore - Reclining Figure, 1939

Feelings are punctures of varying dimensions in our psychological fortifications.

Addendum (click): Yes, it's just a video of Andy eating a hamburger.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bill Viola: Further Explorations In The Digital Sublime

Fig. 1. Bill Viola - Memoria, 2000

A face is to a body as a fingerprint is to a finger.

Addendum: Click me! Click me!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Untitled (No, No, Just Looking, Thanks ... ): Part 10

Fig. 1. Matt Mullican - City as a Map (of Ideas), 2003 - 2008

Friday, September 18, 2009

Untitled (No, No, Just Looking, Thanks ... ): Part 09

Fig. 1. Jill Magid - I Can Burn Your Face 2008

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Untitled (No, No, Just Looking, Thanks ... ): Part 08

Fig. 1. Sibylle Bergmann - Untitled (Gummlin), 1948 (from the series A Monument), 1975-86

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Untitled (No, No, Just Looking, Thanks ... ): Part 07

Fig. 1. Richard Long - Berlin Circle, 1996

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Untitled (No, No, Just Looking, Thanks ... ): Part 06

Fig. 1. Gilbert & George - Lacewood, 2008

Monday, September 14, 2009

Untitled (No, No, Just Looking, Thanks ... ): Part 05

Fig. 1. Matt Calderwood - Some Things Just Work, 2004

Untitled (No, No, Just Looking, Thanks ... ): Part 04

Fig. 1. Mircea Cantor - Chaplet, 2007

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Untitled (No, No, Just Looking, Thanks ... ): Part 03

Fig. 1. Raoul De Keyser - Seventh Linen Box, 1971

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Untitled (No, No, Just Looking, Thanks ... ): Part 02

Fig. 1. John Baldessari - Ear Sofa & Nose Sconces + Flowers, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Untitled (No, No, Just Looking, Thanks ... ): Part 01

Fig. 1. Wolfgang Laib - Without Place-Without Time-Without Body, 2007

Thursday, September 10, 2009

When Seeing Is Listening: The Concert Champêtre

Fig. 1. Titian - Le Concert champêtre, c. 1510

Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of
me! You would play upon me; you would seem to know
my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my
mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to
the top of my compass: and there is much music,
excellent voice, in this little organ; yet cannot
you make it speak. 'Sblood, do you think I am
easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what
instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you
cannot play upon me.

Hamlet (Hamlet, Act II, Scene iii – William Shakespeare)

'Even if our only evidence were their surviving output, it would still be abundantly clear that artists of the sixteenth century were routinely acquainted with, and profoundly sensitive to, the fact that looking is something we do with all of our senses, not merely that of sight. Titian, the artist who is believed to have painted what is now officially referred to as Le Concert champêtre, c. 1510, not only knew this to be true, but also made it integral to the effect and meaning of his image that it should be heard as well as seen, that its visibility should be inextricably entwined with its audibility. Patricia Egan, Philipp Fehl, and Patricia Emison, in their (variously convincing) interpretations of this enigmatic work, all make reference to how its musical content serves to structure our reading of it. None, however, correctly identifies the implied sonic lacuna around which its iconography is constellated.'

Lucio Crispino (from When Seeing Is Listening: The Broken Music of Titian's Le Concert champêtre)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pinning The Tale On Jenny Watson: The Art Of " ... "

Fig. 1. Jenny Watson - A Painted Page 1: Twiggy by Richard Avedon, 1979

Fig. 2. Jenny Watson - 'I woke up. I was in a hurry ...', 1993/94

Clearly, in undertaking an internal and architectonic analysis of a work … and in delimiting psychological and biographical references, suspicions arise concerning the absolute nature and creative role of the subject. But the subject should not be entirely abandoned. It should be reconsidered, not to restore the theme of an originating subject, but to seize its functions, its intervention in discourse, and its systems of dependencies. We should suspend the typical questions: how does a free subject penetrate the density of things and endow them with meaning; how does it accomplish its design by animating the rules of discourse from within? Rather, we should ask: under what conditions and through what forms can an entity like the subject appear in the order of discourse; what position does it occupy; what functions does it exhibit; and what rules does it follow in each type of discourse? In short, the subject … must be stripped of its creative role and analysed as a complex and variable function of discourse.

Michel Foucault

Jenny Watson might explain her art in Samuel Butler’s words - that art is interesting only insofar as it reveals the artist. The figures in her paintings, to be sure, are often self-portraits, surrogate or otherwise. The horse is her horse. The shoes are hers. Jenny Watson’s paintings can also be said to reveal an artist in the other, more profound, sense: her art shows the continuous rites of ‘becoming’ that an artist performs for her audience. For Jenny Watson, in particular, the art of painting is constitution of the artistic ego.

Paul Taylor

I really want art to be taken from life. I’m uncomfortable with ‘art for art’s sake’. I find a lot of abstraction completely empty for that reason. If you’re making ‘art for art’s sake’, it’s very hard to make something that is about art and also relative to the real world.

Jenny Watson

'Jenny Watson is, and always has been, an astute pictorial strategist. There are two reasons for this: one to do with sensibility, the other to do with circumstance. Firstly, Watson is an avowedly self-conscious practitioner of her art, who deplores the notion of painting as a spontaneous outpouring of an artist’s inner life. Secondly, the formative years of her practice coincided with the rise of Postmodernism, which gave renewed impetus to what is still generally referred to as “the crisis of authorship”. In an eponymous essay, Roland Barthes, the literary and cultural theorist whose eloquent polemical forays into the topic were crucial in fashioning the new discursive and material identities of those who produce texts, even went so far as to proclaim ‘the death of the author’. However, as Watson’s work amply illustrates, declarations of the author’s demise were greatly exaggerated - though not as greatly as some of her Neoexpressionist peers would have us believe. While her early images confidently exemplify the accent on detachment favoured by several of the more intransigent members of Melbourne’s appropriationist fraternity, her transitional and, later, her “signature” pieces, retain (and tacitly valorise) certain freshly discredited (and ostensibly defunct) humanist tropes: namely, subjectivity, expression, and originality. In fact, it is her tactical, often whimsical, fusion of intimacy and irony that Watson most wants us to notice, and to fathom.'

Lucio Crispino (from Pinning The Tale On Jenny Watson: The Art of " ... ")

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Illusions Cut To The Measure Of Desire: A Love Story

Fig. 1. Anca Daucikova - Kissing Hour (video), c. 2000

We are never so defenceless against suffering as when we love, never so helplessly unhappy as when we have lost our love object or its love.

Sigmund Freud

'The longing to be, the act of falling, and the bliss of actually being in love are almost always thought of as quintessentially romantic states; which most of us experience more than once, though rarely as we had anticipated - or, alas, in ways we later care to remember. And what are love stories, if not anthems to the desires that engender, and the memories that embalm, the loves we win and lose in the course of our amatory lives? Though short, and not much more demanding than a Billboard ballad, Jaime Marques’ El paraíso perdido, 1999, is just such an anthem.'

Lucio Crispino (from Illusions Cut to the Measure of Desire: Varieties of Love in Jaime Marques’ Paradise Lost, 1999)

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Ballad Of Piet The Neat And Jack The Dripper

Fig. 1. Piet Mondrian - New York City I (1941-42)

'The paradoxes of abstract art run deep. At its best (and most interesting) it is the manifest sum of its formal and conceptual tensions - a sometimes sober, sometimes sizzling alliance of quotidian means and immaterial aspirations, in which order and disorder, relativity and universality, immanence and transcendence are repeatedly invoked, frequently juxtaposed, and occasionally reconciled by a profusion of defiantly unique pictorial dialects. For some, these essentially private idioms are unconscionably arcane, proof that abstract art is a pointless, wilfully hermetic practice, hell-bent on maintaining the aesthetic and discursive obscurantism that, from very its inception, has kept it severed from its natal contexts and deprived it of any real capacity to modify the way we think and feel about the social environments in which we live. For others, abstract art’s hermeticism is a sign of its autonomy, not its insularity - a mark of its aptness as a vantage point from which to image the experience of modernity, not an indicator of its solipsism or indifference. According to this view, the mature work of Piet Mondrian and Jackson Pollock had - and still has - the ability to both challenge and change its audience. Question is: can abstractionists speak to all of us, or are they nothing more than a ragtag confederacy of self-obsessed monads?'

Lucio Crispino (from An Infinity of Discrete Orders and Indiscreet Disorders: The 'Hermeticism' of Piet Mondrian and Jackson Pollock's Late Abstractions)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Enigma And The Ecstasy: Botticelli's Primavera

Fig. 1. Sandro Botticelli - Primavera, c. 1482

'We should also note that, Flora, after becoming Zephyr’s bride, never ceased waxing lyrical about his prowess as a lover, or his superlativeness as a husband; that the suppression of Venus’ lustful aspect also entails the suppression of her sexual vitality; that it is an infantile male, Eros, who “inflames” Thalia’s/Semiramide’s heart with a preference for emotional enchantment over erotic desire; that female perfection is represented as something achieved by “cultivation”, while male perfection remains fully conversant with the “wild” forces of nature; and that, ultimately, the address of the painting is to a woman who is being asked to see herself not as someone who acts, but, rather, as someone who is acted upon (just as Semiramide was in being married off to Lorenzo). Flaunting its links to Ovid’s Fasti, Botticelli’s Primavera is one continuous metamorphosis, which kicks off with a violent deflowering and powers down with the passive blossoming of a woman into a wife. In the process, the bride-to-be is reassured of her safety, and of her importance to the Medici - especially to Lorenzo the Magnificent, who rewards in her in advance by encouraging her to think of herself (via Botticelli’s demure Venus) as supreme mistress of his family’s vernal Garden of Love. Identity has been exchanged for image, thanks to the ennobling influence of a cast of archaic luminaries and the “naturalising” propensity of a superabundant, ostensibly eternal, Nature.'

Lucio Crispino (from The Enigma and The Ecstasy: On Reading Botticelli's Primavera, c. 1482

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Body Regained: Donatello And The Male Nude

Fig. 1. Donatello - Ascension Pulpit (Church of San Lorenzo, Florence), 1460-65

'It is in what is believed to be one of his final creations, the Ascension Pulpit (San Lorenzo, Florence, 1460-65), that Donatello bequeaths us a remarkable clue to the riddle of his diverse - and, in many respects, ambiguous - representations of the male body. Over a series of three abutting panels, a man journeying from Purgatory to Paradise is shown struggling to free himself from the haggard, yet plainly mulish, straitjacket of his expired flesh. In the first, he wades through a seething throng of grasping, zombie-like corpses. In the second, he clambers sluggishly over the knee-high lip of his own sepulchre. In the third, he is finally (albeit awkwardly) tugged to his celestial destination by a risible flotilla of pint-sized cherubs. This is no ordinary man, of course, but Christ incarnate. Equally, this is no ordinary depiction of his flickering mortality. In countless canonical versions, by both earlier and later artists, he is majestically ethereal (i.e. disembodied) well in advance of his ascension. Here, however, he evinces Donatello’s career-long obsession with resurrecting the body - figured primarily as the male body - in art. Rising from its historical grave, to which it had been consigned by the carnally censorious Middle Ages, the body returns to sculpture with amplified naturalism and sensuality: and, by exceeding both sacred and classical propriety, spills out into the world of lived experience.

This impression of corporeal “excess”, artfully “spilling out” beyond the bounds of either an actual or putative frame, is one that appears repeatedly, though not always prominently, in Donatello’s representations of the male body. In the Ascension, for example, it is deftly and discreetly sutured into the narrative, taking the form of Christ’s haloed head rising to meet, then breaching, the decorative banding that separates the reliefs proper from the entablature. In his bronze David (early 1440s), on the other hand, it permeates the entire work - which, being the first freestanding statue of its type since antiquity, can be read as a flamboyant transgression of the moral and aesthetic proscriptions of medieval culture. It is in his Judith and Holofernes (late 1450s), though, that Donatello mines this trope for its full compositional, expressive and polemical potential. Holofernes’ legs, which dangle limply from the cramped pediment on which he is being so spectacularly slaughtered are, above all, exquisitely naturalistic (and hence highly seductive) eye-level intensifiers of his handsomely proportioned (but also brutishly villainous) masculinity. Whether or not Donatello was conscious of using this ingenious trope as a metaphor for his epoch-making liberation of the flesh from its centuries-old sarcophagus is debatable; but the fact that it exists, and that it predominantly - at times insistently - figures the body’s “resurrection” as male, is not.'

Lucio Crispino (from The Body Regained: Donatello's Representations of the Male Body)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Over Her Wed Body: On Gifting And Countergifting

Fig. 1. The Botticelli Workshop - The Story of Nastagio degli Onesti (first episode), c. 1483

'Patrician marriages in northern Renaissance Italy were convoluted, expensive, protracted, and intensely bureaucratic affairs. They entailed an obligatory series of public meetings and ritual celebrations, at which deals were struck, vows were made, and, most importantly, gifts were exchanged in order to advance not only the union of the bride- and groom-to-be, but also the desired alliance of their respective clans. Christiane Klapisch-Zuber’s description of the Renaissance road to matrimony as both a ‘nuptial scenario’ and a ‘network of exchanges based on gift and countergift’ aptly characterises it as a strategic fusion of social and commercial rites: i.e. as a zesty concoction of theatre and business. ‘It was’, she writes, a ‘symbolic process by which new relationships were established between lineages.’ Symbolism of a more explicit - and problematic - kind is discernible in images that adorn the larger of these endowments, cassoni and spalliere. For instance, “exemplary” narratives valorising the ‘quiet suffering’ of women do more than simply exhort their female viewers to wifely virtue. They also implicitly validate the husband’s lawfully inscribed right to ‘assert [his] power over the whole of the conjugal estate’, including the gifts “given” to his bride as part of their betrothal negotiations and marriage ceremonies - and, more disturbingly, over the silent (read: silenced) body of the bride herself.'

Lucio Crispino (from Over Her Wed Body: The Importance of Gift Giving in Italian Renaissance Marriage Rituals)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Lust Less Ordinary: Revisiting Bart Tare's Problem

Fig. 1. Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins) and Bart Tare (John Dall) in Joseph H. Lewis' Gun Crazy, 1950

'Bart Tare (John Dall), the protagonist of Joseph H. Lewis’ Gun Crazy (1950), has a problem. He is afflicted - or so we are told - with a ‘dangerous mania for guns’. His once anodyne passion for firearms has mutated into a pathological lust. He must therefore be taught how to curb his aberrant desire, as well as his narcissistic insistence on gratification, in accordance with the rule of law. Consecutive stints in reform school and the army almost do the trick. After meeting Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins), however, his tenuous rehabilitation comes fatally unstuck. Bart’s failure - the source not only of incessant angst, but also of escalating thrills - furnishes him, and the film, with their narrative and emotional trajectories. These, in turn, reveal Bart’s problem to be a toxic medley of ingrained psychosocial, affective, and existential ailments. More, though, needs to be said about the analogical relation between Bart’s acute moral incoherence (his real “disorder”) and the performative heterogeneity of Gun Crazy’s transgressively idiosyncratic form.'

Lucio Crispino (from A Lust Less Ordinary: Revisiting Bart Tare's Problem in Gun Crazy, 1950)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Before It Speaks, Every Body Has It Own Language

Fig. 1. Davey Gordon (Jamie Smith) - Killer's Kiss (d. Stanley Kubrick, 1955)

' ... the body is like a sentence that can be broke down into separate parts so that its true contents can be put together in an endless series of anagrams ... '

Jacques Lacan