Sunday, February 22, 2015

Jeff Gibbons' Drink the Bath at Conduit

 Jeff Gibbons, Body

Jeff Gibbons  Drink the Bath

I like the term 'intermedia', used to describe Jeff Gibbons' work. Besides the obvious Fluxus provenance (sentimental or otherwise) and its related overtones, the term seems to fit very well with the kinds of displacements that Gibbons "performs", for instance, his use of wire hangers as both line and structural support. Since the first time I saw Fischli and Weiss's work in the 1980's I have been attracted to work which delves fully into both the materiality and narratology of the lives of objects, and the lives of ideas as objects.. I think there is a certain kind of conceptuality to this particular work that I like which is involved with its thinginess. By what circuitous flexing of the mind does an object become philosophical? Is it by replacing a hanging head's tongue with a brick? Is it by painting a stationary figure onto the surface of a video monitor whose scene doesn't so much change as drift? The name of this grouping also seemed interesting in light of the quote used to preface it:

“The water in a vessel is sparkling; the water in the sea is dark. The small truth has words that are clear; the great truth has great silence.” - Tagore (from Stray Birds)

A bath seems somewhere between a vessel and the sea, and this work seems somewhere between clear words and a great silence. One of the funnier pieces that even echoes and compresses both options together was a piece that read like something by Raymond Pettibon. In a large black empty field of color is a tiny little planet covered over mostly with the tiny exclamation of "woo!".. The first way I read this was of a funny evocation of the whole of the history of our planet (animal, plant, everything) as compressed into one blissful confused cosmic yawp, an occulted version of "big deal", as if to say even after all of this, it's still only "this big", issuing a sort of negative grandiosity. Strangely enough, because of the several other adjacent pieces using the celadon color that reminded me of Chinese Ming pottery, that little "woo" started reminding me of the Chinese phrase "Wu Wei". Gibbons' "woo way" now began to make its way into my mind. Wu, being without, made it read as a picture of a planet having lost its way, but also of a humorous and serious complexity; woo as in trying to get someone or something to love you, and of course the original Taoist set of meanings which might more or less be translated as 'the way is the way's way', or if you don't agree completely with that, there is always wikipedia's take:

Wu may be translated as not have or without; Wei may be translated as do, act, serve as, govern or effort. The literal meaning of wu wei is "without action", "without effort", or "without control", and is often included in the paradox wei wu wei: "action without action" or "effortless doing". The practice of wu wei and the efficacy of wei wu wei are fundamental tenets in Chinese thought and have been mostly emphasized by the Taoist school. One cannot actively pursue wu wei. It manifests as a result of cultivation. The Tao is a guide.
In Zen Calligraphy, wu wei has been represented as an ensō (circle); in China, the calligraphic inscriptions of the words wu wei themselves resonate with old Taoist stories.

So is it strange then for me to continue making these kinds of associations within the work that may not even be there? Possibly, but I'd like to point out a statement about Rabindranath Tagore to illustrate the line of thinking: "Tagore introduced new prose and verse forms and the use of colloquial language into Bengali literature, thereby freeing it from traditional models based on classical Sanskrit." When I think about it, "colloquial language" seems very much akin or cognate to something like a "vernacular object", and this idea for me both tightens the association with historical fluxus intermedia (pianos, frying pans, concerts of everyday living, etc) as well as clarifying a certain aspect of the grouping in the whole of the gallery for this show. Part of Stephen Lapthisophon's gallery blurb reads thusly:  The mixed media works combine text and letter forms to create poetic improvisations inspired by and referring to deeply buried literary sources. Through the use of unconventional materials such as pigmented animal fats, spices, dirt and coffee grounds, Lapthisphon exalts the everyday and attempts to slow time in order to look longer and unpack hard to find meanings and forgotten histories. It's also very easy to locate vernacularity in the work of the other artist on display in the gallery, Vincent Ramos, whose use of golf putting machines, golf balls, and old portable cd players, as well as common cartoon characters, jazz, records, as well as the fringe of spiral notebook paper all become a stew of material referentiality.

Tightening up my view, and looking for models of this occulting (ie "forgotten histories"), I really became intrigued by Gibbon's use of these nebulous celadon forms. Looking at the wikipedia entry for celadon, you get a sense of the tangled and confusing cultural history surrounding the naming of this color:

The term "celadon" for the pottery's pale jade-green glaze was coined by European connoisseurs of the wares. One theory is that the term first appeared in France in the 17th century and that it is named after the shepherd Celadon in Honoré d'Urfé's French pastoral romance, L'Astrée (1627), who wore pale green ribbons. (D'Urfe, in turn, borrowed his character from Ovid's Metamorphoses V.210.) Another theory is that the term is a corruption of the name of Saladin (Salah ad-Din), the Ayyubid Sultan, who in 1171 sent forty pieces of the ceramic to Nur ad-Din Zengi, Sultan of Syria. Yet a third theory is that the word derives from the Sanskrit sila and dhara, which mean "green" and "stone" respectively.

It's this "corruption of the name of Saladin (Salah ad-Din)" which grabbed my attention with regard to the name of Gibbon's show _Drink the Bath_. Gibbons studied intermedia with Stephen Lapthisophon  as part of his MFA from the University of Texas Arlington in 2013.
How similar is "Drink the bath" to "Lap this" or "Lap this, o faun", or even "Lap this, Sophron.." And even more to the point, how clear is the reference here to both the Fluxus instructions and the instructor of Fluxus intermedia?

Sophron of Syracuse (fl. 430 BC) was a writer of mimes. Sophron was the author of prose dialogues in the Doric dialect, containing both male and female characters, some serious, others humorous in style, and depicting scenes from the daily life of the Sicilian Greeks. Although in prose, they were regarded as poems; in any case they were not intended for stage representation. They were written in pithy and popular language, full of proverbs and colloquialisms.

There is something strangely resonant and relevant in the evocation of Sophron here:
serious AND humorus, daily life, prose regarded as poetry, pithy and popular, full of proverbs and colloquialisms.

At any rate, I found it very difficult to get very far in attempting to unlock very much of what might be under the surface of Lapthisophon's offering, but looked at as a kind of key, Gibbon's work seems to unlock at least a sense of deeper relationality between the different artists within the show. This isn't a criticism, but Gibbon's work for me, if not exactly speaking clearly, did at least speak even upon first glance. For instance, if the black "woo" piece seemed like Pettibonian black humor, the celadon pieces (Body, Body II) read like evocations of a transhistorical, transrational sublime, which then became entangled auspiciously in the complex etymologies of certain schools of buddhism, ie, the "lesser" or "greater vehicles". The celadon pieces seem to depict a projectile, almost a pot, or a fish, perhaps not unlike a transcultural memory of Brancusi's Bird in Space, a pale cloud-like jade iconographic rendering of an orca, a hollow amphora with a dorsal fin, or perhaps even being,  now gone astray in the white noise of being, the sound of "astray" echoing L'Astrée from the tangled history of the term celadon.

I'm fairly certain that I've been led astray in certain of my readings here, and perhaps several of them are even "lesser" or inferior, but there is an echo even there, with the workings of Tagore's epithet:

“The water in a vessel is sparkling; the water in the sea is dark. The small truth has words that are clear; the great truth has great silence.

Is not a great silence able to be rendered as small clear words?
And then there is that bath, and the command to drink it. For me, this seemed like the most prescient and amazing connection I've ever seen between something like the meaning of Fluxus, and Diogenes of Sinope.

Diogenes is discussed in a 1983 book by German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk (English language publication in 1987). In his Critique of Cynical Reason, Diogenes is used as an example of Sloterdijk's idea of the "kynical" — in which personal degradation is used for purposes of community comment or censure. Calling the practice of this tactic "kynismos", Sloterdijk explains that the kynical actor actually embodies the message he is trying to convey. The goal here is typically a false regression that mocks authority — especially authority that the kynical actor considers corrupt, suspect or unworthy.

This also seems to reflect back on the work's materiality, calling into question all kinds of hierarchical assumptions about beauty, and the separation of human life from the singularity of biosemiosis (even when termed as divinity), or even a clean separation of the concepts of corruption and metamorphosis. It is on this basis I think there is much here to recommend this show, and also this grouping of artists.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Between Action and the Unknown (Dallas Museum of Art)

For a very long time now, I've harbored, or tinkered with, a kind of minor literature revolving around something I call 'syntaxis'. In biology, each type of lifeform generally has some set of stimuli they respond to. With plants, when they move to get more light onto their surfaces, this is called phototaxis. When certain kinds of bacteria respond to certain chemical triggers, this is called chemotaxis. But in none of the literature is the human response to a stream of inner or outer signs  or symbolics labeled 'syntaxis', however, the word does exist, and meant in Latin basically the same thing as our word 'essay'... In the many years since I have been tinkering with this concept, I have connected it up to various systems, post-structuralism via Deleuze's 'schitzo's stroll', poetry, with its 'feet' and ancient Hindu poetics of 'steps', computationalism via Wolfram, wherein each discrete thought and action are rendered flat, like steps in a single equation, very much like the idea of praxis, yet more fully formed, a kind of politico-mathemic semiotics of the random walk.

So I was very intrigued when I visited _Between Action and the Unknown: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Sadamasa Motonaga_ which features, among many many wonderful styles and ideas about painting, these works by Shiraga which are painted with his feet! But he doesn't just trudge across the canvas leaving a trail to follow, but hangs from a rope with his hands and sort of surfs around creating a new expressive mechanistic arrangement with which to apply the paint, and the meaning for that matter, at least for me.. When I saw this, I immediately became aware of a new relationship within syntaxis, that the rope, like the materiality of conceptuality is tantamount to a pivot point, and that ranges of random walks of hermeneutics are sourced from its length or parameters in some way..
At any rate suffice it to say, the figurality of this gesture or procedure was not lost on me. And really once I had absorbed the full effect of this detail, I began to see the show in a much more fluid and associative way, not necessarily ahistorical, but definitely more personal. "Between Action and the Unknown" seemed to have come alive for me.

Motonaga's work was nearly completely unknown to me, and Shiraga's was too, although I had seen both of their names before when I read Shinichiro Osaki's Gutai essay _Body and Place: Action in Postwar Art in Japan_. The wonderful and occulted effulgence of one of Shiraga early notebooks completely captivated me. The way the tiny yellowed drawings were placed one to a page like lone stamp blocks in their journal in a completely philatelic manner, their seemingly fully-developed surrealist or symbolist style, like a traditional ukiyo-e done by some unknown Japanese de Chirico, was a happy discovery, but only a few tantalizing images were visible. This drawing was something like 3-4 inches tall..

The early Motonaga paintings and journals were just as interesting. The green nudes especially looking very contemporary, and just very sweet and kind of odd. I especially enjoyed the narrative of how one of the themes of a series of paintings developed, that what seemed to me to be 12 little black toes at the end of a golden foot, was actually the twinkling lights at the top of a mountain.. All these readings seemed delightfully absurd, and yet the paintings remained dignified in their child-like assertions.. And most of Motonaga's work is simply called with some variation "Work"..
One black and white piece I particularly liked seemed to make the edge of the painting the boundary for a house occupied by a worm like line which was also part of the house.. There was also a short gap in the perimeter like a door for the worm to enter or leave by, but could it really do either? The simplicity of the gesture of this painting weighed against its kind of subtle ecological or existential message, almost like a child's dream of wabi-sabi, a humble and humbling image.. This particular image seemed to really underscore for me a possible buddhist reading, or even grotesque, while at the same time echoing something like a poetics of futility as in Shiraga's _Challenging Mud_, which can almost be read as something like the artist had become a fly trapped in the surface of one of his own thickly impasto'd paintings..

After looking at Between Action and the Unknown, I can sort of imagine how Antoni Tàpies felt in 1957 when he first visited the Gutai group in Japan, that while some of the work initially resembled art informel, or abstract expressionism, it was in fact very much its own thing, and making strides into the unknown. I feel both lucky and enhanced spiritually, if one can say such a thing, for having seen this gorgeous show.. 

Shiraga's Wild Boar Hunting II, 1963, and Hanmo (Proliferation), 1973, as well as Motonaga's Red and Yellow, 1963, and Piron Piron, 1975, are easily some of the most beautiful abstract paintings I have seen in a while..

In front of Motonaga's Red and Yellow, 1963, I had an epiphany of Amateratsu as a kind of living blood emerging from a sun which was also an egg yolk.. of cosmology as pregnancy, of pregnancy as the redolency of the wave / particle structurand.. Thinking of both Dogon cosmology and the more recent 'uterine philosophy' of Sloterdijk's _Globes_, this work seems to appear directly out of a collective unconsciousness, no matter how unfashionable it might sound to say that..

Shiraga's Wild Boar Hunting took me back to old Japan. The irony of how something so modern can recall the past so vividly seemed uniquely Japanese, or perhaps it was just my own oddity.. When I was standing in front of it, I found myself thinking that it was one of my favorite paintings ever.

Piron Piron is visual onomatopoeia, and its figure is a kind of form that becomes a character in Motonaga's 'funny paintings'.. like a funny big chinned letter G or Popeye character, this figure appears over and over in Motonaga's work.   

Shiraga's Hanmo (Proliferation), 1973, is the image the Dallas Museum of Art chose to be the cover for the exhibition catalogue, and for me, the title had a great deal of weight. Proliferation is a word that I have associated with the only logical answer to a natural telos for years, it is amoral, and also both negative and positive, it is the irruptive surface itself, all surprise, all repeating until it isnt, all smooth, all rough.. Proliferation is the mysterious reality of semiosis itself..

Shiraga's Hanmo (Proliferation), 1973

Motonaga's Red and Yellow, 1963

Motonaga's Piron Piron, 1975

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Some Notes That I Played About Loris Gréaud at the Dallas Contemporary

When I think about it, writing about a show that already has some freight attached to it is sort of fun, the train is already rolling so to speak, and all I have to do is just find a likely appurtenance, and just grab on! But with Loris Gréaud, where to grab? lol. Would it have something to do with the local dust up involving the artist and one of our local critics?

Loris Gréaud Tells Critic She's Undersexed and Ignorant

Does a Female Writer Need to Get Laid to Understand Art? Loris Gréaud Thinks So.

French artist tells female critic at Dallas paper to get a boyfriend

Sexism and Loris Greaud: Where Does the Dallas Contemporary Go From Here?

A French Artist Demonstrates How Not to Handle Criticism

No. Well, not exactly. But I have mentioned the freight, so maybe I can find my way into the writing by what has already been said, and look for places where I might weigh in (for better or worse) I suppose.. Here is Lauren Smart's original article for the Dallas Observer:
Loris Gréaud and What He Didn't Create for His Art Exhibition

And below, are excerpts of Lauren's piece written in italics, with my take below that. This is in no way meant as a criticism of Lauren's work, but rather, is just a way of organizing my thinking, and maybe giving a little extra contextuality.

Last Friday afternoon, I stepped into the Dallas Contemporary galleries with select members of the press to get an early view of Loris Gréaud's The Unplayed Notes Museum, an exhibition meant to fill the mammoth warehouse space -- roughly 26,000 square feet of emptiness for the artist to play in.

I came in roughly 2 weeks later right alongside a kind of hip looking 20 something black kid that seemed to know the attendant, what appeared to be a small college art criticism class with maybe 4 students, 2 young women and 2 young men, who were actually walking around writing in their notebooks! Also, a barely 30 something Indy couple, the wife had purple hair, and the husband a shaggy beard and a baby in a sling. They appeared to be extras from the popular TV show Portlandia. He asked me "not to post pictures of this on the internet." I said, "What, the show?" He said, "No, my son." I said, "No problem, I get that, I know other 30 somethings who are into the no photography of my child please on the internet thing.." We parted. So yes, the dc museum is more or less filled. The work is definitely playful, but playful in a strange way, as if Juxtapoz magazine had hired a Parisian curiosities dealer to interpret Anselm Kiefer to a graphic novelist attempting to make Negative Theology into an Opera about some people who have never heard of the Encyclopédistes, unlike us, who all know that the encyclopédistes were not a unified group, neither in ideology nor social class.
I'm starting to think about 'unplayed notes' a little at this point I think.

And he created what he calls a "new kind of natural history museum," filling much of it with a taste for slick decadence. There were lacquered black paintings and oversized sculptures. In one room a herd of black, mutated sheep were frozen mid-motion, running past globular lights that seemed straight out of the many design boutiques on Dragon Street just a few blocks away.

This bit about the natural history museum is a touch chuckly, but also odd, and even more so, when you read the text the artist wrote which he presented as a limited and numbered edition perfect bound paperback book with gatefold dust cover.. (which I did purchase for 15$) The writing in the book is what I would call in some sense what you would imagine a precocious (and also possibly Très précieux) adolescent artist might write in a private journal, imagining something 'gronde' or 'incroyable'..  somehow like a black velvet fashion-punk version of Victor Segalen, maybe even like one of the students I saw meandering around the museum the day I went, sort of like how a French teen might emulate J.G. Ballard (as in Atrocity Exhibition) within a prose poem written by Aloysius Bertrand after having read Robbe-Grillet and maybe 'even' Baudrillard, but still being very into both the color black and maybe even Raymond Roussel, or at least his naivete. The text of this book, while wonderful as an example of stagey strangeness, or an underlining to the show's gothic paean to cosmic adolescence, still somehow reads as something poorly formed placed into the service of something which is arguably well formed, or at least something put together by a team of adults in a professional capacity. Which really brings me around to where I might possibly part ways with Lauren's assessment. In a way, I think there is enough in this show to stand alone, and by that I mean that the artist could have left out the pretense of the idea of the natural history museum at least in the sense of tricking it out with the asemic text and iconography slash faux exhibit labels (which are really upside down and backwards french rendered in mostly the International Phonetic Alphabet) while arguably a fun idea, in actuality, it seemed to detract from the presence of the actual sculptural pieces which, at least in my first viewing, I found to be rather interesting, and effecting in various ways. But after thinking this, I think it is the use of the museum trope, and the text, and the exhibit labels, that give it over to being a 'gothic paean to cosmic adolescence.'  For example, I could now begin to see that somehow the adolescent quality and the gothic quality are somehow related to an unstated (unplayed) historicist narrativity as in something along the lines of 'The natural history museum when it existed before the age (the renaissance through age of enlightenment) of the fully formed scientific discliplines (or after they died) might somehow serve as a model for our current treatment of our aesthetic production as 'prodigies', basically, monsters that give us pause for thought..' So, this is how I arrived with a (I suppose) reconciliation with Mr. Gréaud's trans-historical-gothic-paean-to-cosmic- adolescence-in-an-art-museum-interpreted-as-a-wunderkammern which is fine. Maybe he had also read about this Gothic Marxism being an adolescent velvet punk poet of Paris? Maybe he replaced "Inter-War" with "Interzone".. Maybe Burroughs did too, come to think of it. Interzone is a well known place in the writing of William S. Burroughs if you're not too young to know that. This is from Adam Turl:

I first heard China Mievelle use the phrase “Gothic Marxism” in a talk on “Marxism and Halloween” at the Socialism 2013 conference in Chicago. Mieville invoked the concept in relationship to the idea of “solidarity with monsters,” an impulse toward (or need for) solidarity with those that a capitalist society has made monstrous by virtue of their inherent or voluntary opposition to the standardization of everyday life — the outliers in a system of generalized commodity production. Of course I Googled “Gothic Marxism” and asked around. Margaret Cohen’s 1994 book, Profane Illumination, seemed to be the main text to explicitly deal with the idea of Gothic Marxism. Profane Illumination focuses on the inter-war European cultural production and criticism of André Breton and Walter Benjamin. As the word “Gothic” implies, it concerns itself, in part, with the historical abortions and aberrations of a system based on constant innovation and constant destruction. Cohen provides the following rubric of Gothic Marxist concerns:

(1) the valorization of the realm of a culture’s ghosts and phantasms as a significant and rich field of social production rather than a mirage to be dispelled; (2) the valorization of a culture’s detritus and trivia as well as its strange and marginal practices; (3) a notion of critique moving beyond logical argument and the binary opposition of a phantasmagorical staging more closely resembling psychoanalytic therapy, privileging nonrational forms of ‘working through’ and regulated by overdetermination rather than dialectics; (4) a dehierarchization of the epistemological privilege accorded the visual in the direction of that integration of the senses  dreamed of by Marx in The 1844 Manuscripts….and (5) a concomitant valorization of the sensuousness of the visual: the realm of of visual experience is opened to other possibilities that the accomplishment and/or figuration of rational demonstration.

In another room there was a video of a man and a woman having sex, but filmed with a thermal imaging camera. So, as Gréaud explains it, he hired "sex professionals" and asked them to attempt orgasm so he could film the way heat travels through their bodies. Then, he spins the image in strange ways to make it look artistic. Ah, yes, genius.

I wasn't so interested in the sex video. Although some of it did look pretty. Some not so much. I did however enjoy the rather "Kafkaesque" and vaguely "Budapestian" hammer dulcimer music that was playing very loudly.. And especially as I drew near to the angel group and began to notice the wry look on one of the angel's faces.. I liked how this group seemed to be a translation of the solar system, the fact that the earth's magnetic field signature against the solar wind begins to look like an angel, or at least some kind of divine being in a cape or with wings folded, maybe even a goddess or a god.. I liked this face in particular. I liked imagining it actually being on a pilaster or something on a building for a moment.. I thought maybe he could have made more out of the faces of the angels. Making huge plaster masks of them which might have hung behind or around this piece on the walls.. I also started really wanting to see a bright white sphere at the back of the room, but one which went from the floor to the ceiling... like that giant orange in the Magritte painting.. you know.. That would have filled up the space a little more.. I love adolescence.

And this sort of interest in appearances runs throughout the space. In each room, the only thing binding it all together beyond decorative hollowness are books that line a small portion of the floor in each room, titled Encyclopedia of Irresolution. And in each room of really boring art, I have this urge to topple the statues and tear the art from the walls and throw it across the room, screaming, "ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME?"

This is perhaps one of the few things I understand about Gréaud and this exhibition, because he also wanted to destroy it.

I am definitely effing kidding both or all of you whoever you may be. I definitely do not think I had any sort of any truly emotional reaction to the work at all other than a kind of economic bemusement, and a certain entre' to riff ontologically which I somewhat half-heartedly rejoined. I definitely felt no urge to smash any of it, as what that seemed to do was to reveal some of the more tacky aspects of the materials used, which perhaps has its own kind of postmodern lineage as well.. So, I definitely think that there was an interest in appearances throughout the space, as I am sure the artist was paid to create them all through the area. And also I think space usually binds everything together no matter what. Even the faux fragments of ancient roman text that Giovanni Battista Piranesi so paradoxically wove together in his Lapides Capitolini (1761) were joined together by space, and by the space of the page of the etching. And that work too, now that we look back at it, may be situated within some kind of synchretic and encyclopedic tradition. "Both the broken form and subject of the Lapides Capitolini (1761) escaped dogmatic final definition. The heroically scaled fold-out plate, with its juxtaposed snatches of inscription, lengthy but incomplete lists, severed friezes, and detached bits of ornament, was a pictorial Dictionnaire critique." What sort of diction does the air itself have? I kept thinking (really), how hard would it be for moi, a hardened gothic adolescent black velvet punk of Paris to steal one of these uber cool stone encyclopedias? But then I just thought, I think they might be too big to get down my pants.. Oh well! Guess I'll just have to sit around and think about the amazing career of BARBARA MARIA STAFFORD!

So I know what you must be thinking! What about the Raymond Roussel reference? Right?
Right! So, in the room with all the manuloquia (the hand signs).. It seems like that with a little work one might be able to make out a text from the gestures, maybe even a very loose or flexible text, after all, a whole room full of floating signifiers ought to be able to accomplish at least a bare minimum of ambiguity, right? I kind of liked those tacky all black paintings in the hand room.. I heard phrases in my mind like 'to touch the macadam of space'.. I guess it's because these paintings look like both road tar and star fields.. or like maybe when you reach up into the inky blackness the stars would throb forward toward the gravity of human charisma.. I love adolescence.

Later, after I left the show, and maybe the next day I was still thinking about all this as I was taking a walk around my neighborhood.. I saw a kid walking around with a t-shirt that said "MOODY HIGH".. that definitely seemed adolescent.

or perhaps even child-like?

"going through each gallery as slowly and in the same involved manner as a child would leaf through an encyclopedic collection [...] trapped in a riveting terror, the unplayed notes museum went through the dawn of its existence to the rhythm of blows, structures crashing, sculptures smashing to pieces, paintings ripping open" etc..

Looking at it like an artist would, it seems to me that the event itself was a kind of cryptic, reflexive, homophonic reading of the word Encyclopedia:

En (In)
cyclo (a cyclone)
pedia (we walked)..

In a cyclone we walk, loving our adolescence.

And so, don't even like get me started about the big long room with the tree.. ABSTRACT BLACK STAINED GLASS WINDOWS turned the whole room into a prodigious gothic pastoral scene inside of a BLACK CATHEDRAL.. with the demonic / angelic tree of ontology standing as the perfectly still shepherd for an unmoving flock of gorgeously unmoving monstrous sheep (black sheep like text on a white page in a black cathedral of gothic punk adolescent velvet!).. and somehow, oh somehow, the lightbulb of ontology is the leaf or fruit of every tree, ontology is not owned solely by humanity, it gets scattered around (the faux lightbulbs do) as ONTIC ONTOLOGY!.. wow. I love adolescence. No, really, I really do love it. Just like Balthus, if he were Tycho Brahe..

Final non sarcastic remark:
I thought it was a pretty fun show. I think it might have been stronger as a strictly more sculptural show, but I'm personally glad it was 'weak' in the way it was weak, because it seemed less predictable and maybe a little more human.. Fail more, fail better. I saw Beckett at the show. He said something like that to me as we passed like deformed sheeps in the night.

The one big black reclining figural form on the right as you walk in is I think the most beautiful thing in the show. and maybe the cloud brain video which went with the sheep room. Cloud brains are good. Adolescent parisian velvet, arguably, good, whatever the hell that means anymore. Whatever happened to ontology as weird utopia as "basically wrong". Well, just like space, or the interzone, it never seems to die, but it will. It will.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Sundowner at Circuit 12 Contemporary

22 November 2014 – 03 January 2015

After attending the opening to Sundowner and jotting down what notes came to me that night, knowing nothing about the impetus of the show, I was pleasantly surpised that I actually had picked up on a good deal of what the show has put forward as its project. On Circuit 12 Contemporary's website there is a quote, and a longish explication of the ontological pinning behind the show, which while not saying exactly what I was feeling, is definitely a kind of translation which is fairly remarkable, I thought. My scant notes were as follows:

Something fell out from the specifically inspecific atmosphere. The photographic image as you enter the video cave / naos / viewing area seemed for me to represent something like a totem of the internet, an ironic totem in which photography like the modernist guardian which stood before the gates of the post-modern has now become an 'Ozymandian' image of the Internet. Sitting in a rubble of digital ruins, old monitors, mostly, the odd spirit animal like a lost team mascot from a forgotten sport sits guarding the entrance to the cave which is in effect 'a turn'.. On one of the monitors in the photograph was the sole word 'input' and over the animal's head were a series of chrome balloons spelling out XOXOX.. This had the strangely unexpected effect of seeming like an ancient icon, as the word 'input' is exactly the same amount of letters as 'latin', and the XOXOX is both, a contemporary, if slightly dated form of web shorthand for hugs, kisses, hugs, kisses, and some kind of offhand echo of a roman numeral although the O's would have to be C's or D's.. The upshot of all this? A portrait of the internet as a slightly jokey yet historically sublime spirit animal is sitting as a contraction at the entrance to a cave whose contents also seem to be a contraction, a sparse video accompanied by an indistinct yet loud soundtrack which somehow felt when I heard it, to represent thousands of compressed concert experiences, but not just any concert experience, but one of a certain kind of dark post-adolescent wonder, a wonder on the precipice of adulthood. That dark wonder was some kind of sacred music replacing art with an avatar, a goddess of music. This led me to conceive of some kind of post-structuralist pantheon of media, where Art, in some ideal Platonic form, was removed in this place, to a kind of high ancient plateau, its distance performing the concept of the sacral, or if not holy really, then mad, something spoken of in hushed tones, but not self-serious, just weird, fatalistic, an ancient and tragedic generativity. I felt happy that this 'cave of music' like Plato's cave did seem to mean something more than just 'video installation'.. It seemed, at the very least, to be a kind of candid portrait of the unconscious, an unconsciousness present in itself as absence recorded as memory, like the mood of 'someone's'  thousand rainy days compressed into a repeating moment, a distillation of some unspeakble thread of thought yet somehow bottled, preserved like a tincture, which can be seen, or heard, but whose contents cannot be completely discerned only felt at a remove, but definitely felt!

When I return to my notes now, I also seem to remember that there were video monitors stacked up which could also be read as a totem: a water below, and a water above, and a black hyphen to replace the vulgar narratology of days whose contents always seem to be translations.. The black hyphen is a wonderfully supercharged image / idea reconciling space and language and performing a virtual chant of all the connectives at once, another contraction, limning a deconstructed + sign, a kind of totemic gnosis of the idea of 'and'.. At the entrance to the show there is also another photograph. Is this the image of a supplicant? Or is it the figure of a vital questioning, a 'what'? I'm tempted to feel drawn back to a narrative of society imploring an oracular art, itself, in its largness, receding from the lived experience of itself as a person. Sundowner, for me, more than fulfills what it sets out as its impetus, and creates a space where very astute questions form of their own accord, and perhaps are answered.

I definitely recommend seeing the show for yourself, and taking the time to read what the artists have put forward as their motivation on the Sundown press release. [link]

Welcome to Pahnichoba.

This is just a quick note to give a little context for my new writing project Pahnichoba.. What I am setting out to do here is to put down some of my thoughts about the local art shows that I attend here in the Dallas, Texas and associated regions. The name comes from the Native American (specifically Alabamu) name for the Trinity river, which is a major geological feature of our area, and one that runs not too far from many of local arts venues. My goal here is to practice my writing skills as an art critic / art journalist and to inform the broader public of ways of looking at art that may be somewhat different from their own, or similar to their own. As I write about a show, I will be adding associated links to the sidebar.. I will also open comments so as to get feedback, spur discussion etc..