Wednesday, April 25, 2007


One thing is for certain. If you can just get into a kind of hypnotic state in the studio, in which you do without thinking, it’s best. I would say this happens about 3% of my time there.

The practice of making seems most fruitful when the voices clear out, and identity falls. This doesn’t mean the struggle falls, just that it’s given room. Just for a second.

I’d like to get my 3% rate up to about 25%. Any more would be unwanted, I think. As if the hypnotic state had become the way. Definition is narrowing, although intention is necessary.

If I could only get at what is not neatly bundled.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Thanks, Roberta

I've always liked Roberta Smith. She’s clear and insightful.

In a review today she says:

Most contemporary art comes partly from other art. One way to assess the health of something new is to subtract all the visible influences, precedents and received ideas and see if there is any pulse left.

She concludes the review with:

The main problem is that it is unclear what is accomplished by the workmanlike, uninflected translations…

I’m not really interested in this critique with regard to the show at hand, but as a general comment about a goal of art. That is: art can borrow, but it can’t just borrow. Art needs to take its references somewhere else.

Also in the NYT today, Bridget Goodbody (who is Bridget Goodbody?) writes:

The biggest problem that derails this exhibition, however, is one that the artists probably should have foreseen: the power of Brancusi’s forms to remain his, despite manipulation. As the poet Audre Lorde wrote, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

But, the jury is still out on where Michael St. John’s work weighs in on this balance.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Video Forms

I’ve been thinking about video forms for galleries. It’s really a choice.

There’s the narrative, beginning-middle-end, form, which usually entails a recreation of a theater space, with seating, a dark room and large projection. I personally feel uncomfortable walking into a narrative form in the middle, but, I seem to be in the minority about this.

Then there’s the video loop, which at best, is a moving still. That is, there’s a graspable image that changes but not so much to imply sequence. I tend to think of this form as an extension of art-on-walls.

Then there’s video in space. This is when video comes off of the wall, and exists sculpturally in the gallery, on scrims and monitors. The Douglas Gordon video with an elephant (Play Dead) at MoMa last year was a beautiful example of this.

Recently, I’ve been feeling most attracted to video loops, because they’re fast to get. And I fear viewers won’t have patience to spend more time in front of a piece. But, video is a time-based form, so I better get over that insecurity I think.

What I want to know is does video art have to be an “experience.” My initial reaction is vomit. Experiences happen at amusements parks or tourist safaris. By extension, the idea of people walking in to a darkened room to enter an atmosphere and undergoing something is a major turn off to me. But, I love going to the movies. And art is, to a certain extent, about altering perception.

It’s a funny love-hate relationship with being part of our times (video) and stepping away from it (video).

Thursday, April 12, 2007

When Night Falls

The movie When Night Falls is about Reinaldo Arenas’s lifelong struggles with the Cuban revolution, which he initially supports. He suffers imprisonment, persecution, exile (which he to a certain extent chooses) and censorship, both because he wrote, and because he was gay. The movie is directed by Julian Schnabel, the painter, which immediately annoyed me, mostly because of Schnabel’s hip, overly self-aware aura, which can be felt in the way the film is shot and edited, the music, the d├ęcor, even the titles. What’s doubly annoying is that many of Schnabel’s choices are pleasing. So it’s a love-hate relationship, with the love side somewhat representing self-hatred.

At one point, a character asks Arenas, “Why you write?” (The movie is in English, but performed by Latin Americans). He answers, “Revenge.”

I love that.

That’s it. That’s the freedom of art, to say what you can’t elsewhere, to represent yourself when you’ve been misunderstood. Herein lies its power, and also its threat to the power of others.

As for me, and I would imagine most artists, there are also psychological obstacles to standing by one’s self. I personally was never much of a rebel - although that is indeed a romantic role in my mind - mostly because of what going against the grain implies: being an outcast, being in the minority, being judged. And yet, the lives I admire most are all “against the grain.” But doing so of course can’t be a choice, really. That’s affect. It’s about a will to be free.

I never thought I would use such a big word.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Balancing Act

Most artists need to have an alternative source of income, literally a second job. Mine is translation.

When I’m buried in a book project, I find it difficult to get into the studio. It’s a combination of anxiety about having bread and butter work to do, and feeling art and translation are two different parts of the brain.

The right way to balance activities isn’t clear to me yet. All I know is the guilt is high when I don’t go into the studio.

I’m a firm believer in routine, and think the creative act is in fact a muscle to be built. Art takes time to gestate. But, you have to give it that time in the right space. And sitting in front of a computer translating coffee table books about luxury hotels, or poker, or interior design, is not the kind of time or space I'm talking about. I’ve always thought it’s better for art work to sit in the studio doing nothing, than to be “productive” with something else.

But, as a friend reminded me. Everyone has their own way. Jack Kerouac would sniff entire bottles of nasal decongestant.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Pantheon of Tortured-ness

You can’t manufacture meaning. But you can’t pretend to be solely motored by some sincere impulse to express either.

Is it preposterous to take oneself seriously?
Is it preposterous not to?

Are artists only people who think they’re special? Or is it actually their job to distinguish?

How are you supposed to make anything without the prospect of it being seen? But are you really an artist if you don’t just make for makings-sake?

Are artists dilettantes? Is a video artist just someone who’s not as knowledgeable as a professional editor or a filmmaker? Or is it the role of an artist to take skills somewhere else?