Monday, October 31, 2011

Blogging in tongues

I’m still wondering what’s really relevant about ancient art, aside from its esthetic economy, which parallels a contemporary sense of chic spareness. I think there’s a directness in ancient art that we today read as meaning. No wobbling and ruffles. They’re SYMBOLS, we say. Symbols make us feel profound. I suppose symbols are in fact profound. But I’m not sure those symbols are apt for our times. Unless those symbols are something we need now. That’s what I wonder.

The Ancients didn’t think they were making art. Artness is a value that was imposed much later. I don’t really know what they thought, but from what I gather, visual representation was a tool for them. It showed something. It served as something. I think artists today hope their work will do the same, but it can’t really in the same way, because we have a category called art. So we can’t really go back to art as use. Although art can speak like symbols.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


(Still from a Ryan Trecartin video)

The Occupy Wall Street protesters are teaching me a lot about horizontal. There have been accusations, critics, worries that the movement has no leaders, no demands. But what I’m seeing is that it is precisely this widening of the field that is allowing for the movement to embrace other groups and complaints and to grow. This horizontal can also be called non-hierarchical. I’ve heard Ryan Trecartin’s videos being described as non-hierarchical. I suppose they could also be called horizontal.

But frankly I’m more attracted to vertical for it’s concentrated energy and strength. In terms of social movements, there is of course the word “uprising.” That surge is vertical. In terms of art, I see columns, standing figures, even seated figures, back straight.

The problem with vertical is that it is narrowing. It’s a funnel, and in terms of art, I personally need to let it spill out so as not to be constrained. But really, I guess you need both directions. The base of the horizontal, the thrust of the vertical.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Going beyond

What I’m trying to figure out is why mankind’s first images have such a contemporary feel. Is that work relevant to – even significant to - our times other than formally, esthetically?

Formally, esthetically speaking, the work lives on today because it lives: high-contrast patterns are energetic and bold lines are vectors. Furthermore, when images are schematic, they go beyond a specific time. Why is there no respect for the schematic? Is it because it’s not observed, because it’s not what we see with our eyes? Some schematic images can look like generalizations, but others are metaphors, they point to something bigger.

Schema: A pattern imposed on complex reality or experience to assist in explaining it, mediate perception, or guide response.

But why is it relevant to our times? I’m not really sure.

This art is pre-self. There is no turning inward, no me-reflection, no depiction of subtle emotion (brains then just didn’t do that yet). The images these cultures made served as consciousness. They were used as consciousness. Art today can expand our consciousness. So the connection must have to do with consciousness. With letting go of the self. With making a leap outside of ourselves and into understanding.

Monday, October 17, 2011


(Georges Braque, Lying Nude (The Bather IX), 1932)

I’ve been thinking about hallucinations. Generally we associate the word with acid and mushrooms. That doesn’t interest me so much mainly because I’ve never tripped and I never want to. I don’t need it, I’m scared enough as it is. I suppose it has be powerful. New York Times art critic Ken Johnson just published a whole book on the influence tripping has had on modern art.

Georges Braque also used the word “hallucination” to describe the process of artmaking. Miro did too. In a statement in Minotaure, December 1933, the latter said:
It is difficult for me to talk about my painting, since it is always born in a state of hallucination, brought on by some jolt or other – whether objective or subjective – which I am not the least responsible for.

From what I gather, these artists were both using the word to describe what we might now call a process of “making the unconscious conscious.” I doubt many would use the word “hallucination” anymore in this way in our times, because we’ve become so familiar with psychoanalysis, dream interpretation and representation, etc. It doesn’t really qualify as halluncination, in my mind, because it’s familiar (now). We can explain it, whether it’s accurate or not. I think a hallucination must be something that feels outside the self.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


(Thomas Hirschhorn, Tool Family, 2007)

I don’t see my drawings before I make them. I don’t have a vision or a continuous voice that dictates what’s next. I just do and work with what comes out. If I have a preliminary idea, it never works. So what is it that moves the work? Because they are moving as a body, the drawings keep coming out, and they change. I must therefore have some kind of inner direction. I just don’t know what that direction is.

I suppose I have a position: that art is best when it’s personal. It doesn’t have to be about you – and please, spare me - but I like it when it’s your verve, stripped of pretension. For example, I like Thomas Hirschhorn, despite what I used to think. His work isn’t about him, but it is deeply personal. And it is deeply visual. Yes, I also think art at its best is visual, that it’s its own language, not dependent on explanation.

One definition of consciousness is that it is generated by language. Language describes and then we have what it describes as part of our awareness, as part of how we conceive of the world. There was a time in history when language wasn't as developed, when a mind couldn’t reflect on itself, couldn’t describe itself, guide itself. This mind, a pre-conscious, two-part mind called the bicameral mind (Julian Jaynes), hallucinated voices and figures as guides. Sculptures and effigies were made not as a reflection of these voices but in order to aid these voices.

This is all related, I just don’t know how.