Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Year of the Screw


I know it’s un-hip to turn to the New York Times for inspirational art critique. Better, “they” say, to read something I wouldn’t know, because I would never know, because I’m not enough something.

But, two great articles this week prove “them” wrong. They say fuck ‘em and what’s even better, they do it eloquently.

The first by Holland Cotter says 2007 was a boring marketing scheme. The best work could not be grasped, could not be sold.

The second by Roberta Smith reminds us that the artist’s job “is to operate outside accepted limits” and turn “intangibles […] into a kind of material.”

In 2008, come on, let’s do it. Let’s turn inwards, bring out what’s there, despite trend and sale-ability, and make some indescribable thingy, indescribable until someone else puts some words on it for us. Let’s read or not, talk to each other or not, take some time, or no time at all, work together, or in total isolation, and in the great words of the Nike corporation, “Just.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hearty



Back to political activism in/as art. Take Sharon Hayes.

In her current installation at the New Museum titled I march in the parade of liberty, but as long as I love you I’m not free, we listen to the artist reciting love letters from a street corner in the manner of a speech at a rally. Her tone is urgent, a bit shrill, her pauses pregnant. Yet her words are intimate, the stuff of broken hearts. To me, this is a moving, and poignant example of how metaphor and contrast best represent both social and personal struggle.

On another, only somewhat related topic: her website contains very heady descriptions. It’s sometimes difficult to wade through. And this is probably the greatest pitfall of writing about art: killing the piece. But, there’s also the possibility that writing can add another dimension to the understanding of work. In the case of Hayes, though, you’ve got to see it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Having fun, but still complaining



Any new museum gets my applause, although I’m only now learning absolutes are impossible. Therefore, it’s only in the spirit of positive griping that I write about the New Museum building on the Lower East Side.

The building has received much critical praise, and much of it, for good reason. The space is spacious and somehow humble. But, no windows? No matter how high the ceilings, these galleries remain quintessential white cubes and feel claustrophobic. That said, I don’t like architecture to rival my art, so, cubes are ok by me, but no windows is not.

My favorite work on view were special exhibitions, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries and Sharon Haye’s piece. More on the latter later.

As for the former, the multi-channel text-based videos in the lobby by the Seoul-based collective, has had me reconsidering the power fun can have in art. I’m usually not a fan of party as art (assume vivid astro focus, blech), but these guys make you smile, tap and think hard at the same time. See their website. I’ll see how long this feeling lasts.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Errata



I wanted to expound on my last post.

Who knows what actually has an effect on the world on a large scale. One could understandably think that the massive worldwide protests against a preemptive attack on Iraq in 2003 did diddly-squat; One could think the same about artist Mark Wallinger’s recreation at Tate Britain of Brian Haw’s protest display outside of parliament.

But, as an artist or activist, I think we have to believe in momentum. We have to have faith that pressure and protest grow, that both reflect a collective mood, and hopefully influence it. If not, why bother making anything at all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Why not all join hands?



I’ve had blog block. Sorry about the no show Monday.

An old friend of mine runs and owns Bluestockings, the radical bookstore and activist center on the Lower East Side. While there yesterday, I heard talk about “actions,” skimmed through a book of maps prepared for future protest, noticed the sartorial choices of visitors, and realized to myself, “These people seem like artists!”

So what are the differences between activists and artists? As for me, what makes me the latter more than the former, is that I like be alone most of the time and I believe individual contribution is possible (which may just be ego). I’d really like to be part of a movement, a community, but, I shy away from groups. And, I confess, part of me wants the spotlight. I do think artists can make a mark on the world, but I tend to think activists are more successful at it.

What’s funny is that when art seeps into political action, I usually ignore it. I somehow look down on paper maché idols or even the Missile Dick Chicks. “That’s not art,” I say. And when political action comes into the gallery, I usually feel like it’s futile or uninteresting, unless it’s made complex through poetic gesture.

So, we’re back to square one. What are the terms of art and how can art make a difference?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What about neon?


I’m heading out to Lite Brite Neon today in Brooklyn to explore ways of transforming some of my text-based videos into three-dimensional objects. These folks seem very familiar with artist’s projects, as their website attests. They produce Glen Ligon’s neon work, including his new sign at the Studio Museum in Harlem (the image above).

I’m on the fence about neon as art. It all seemed to have started with Bruce Nauman’s The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths, which borrowed what was then a purely commercial medium for art purposes. Part of his intention was for the piece to not look like art. Which at the time, it didn’t. Now that neon and signage is a common sight in exhibitions, I wonder what the point is in producing yet another statement or another example of language as art. Once this thought formulates in my mind, I’m almost immediately reminded that originality is mostly moot now. And then I remember I could have the same gripes about my “own” medium, video.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Five Easy Pieces

I finally learned how to upload video to the blog. Poor quality of image, fuzzy font (actually Helvetica) and letterbox are part of the deal for this space for now.

Nevertheless, here's an excerpt from a new video of mine.

I repeat a monologue from the 1970 film Five Easy Pieces over and over for thirty minutes while the room darkens as night falls. Accenting the psychological influence of family, the piece fluctuates between humor and tragedy.

video