December 29, 2008

Art School


While still in art school, all artists should take mandatory courses in humility.


December 27, 2008

On Artists and Lonliness


I was thinking random thoughts, perhaps not really thinking anything at all, when a rather concrete question randomly formulated itself, namely: am I more or less lonely than other artists? And then: are contemporary artists, as a type, particularly lonely? And then: is there any documentation on the relative loneliness, or lack of loneliness, of contemporary artists? These didn’t seem, to me at least, to be particularly engaging or timely questions to be posing but my mind hovered around them for a few brief moments and I recalled something I had read in the book Artistic Research – theories, methods and practices by Mika Hannula, Juha Suorant and Tere Vaden:

Following Rorty (1991), the question indeed is: what communities and traditions does the person undertaking artistic research belong to? The sad thing is that sometimes we are happy with the context where we find ourselves – and yet again sometimes not. The politics of the everyday – and how we can cope with it – is how we specifically handle this conflict. But Rorty continues. The other decisive question is: What is our approach to loneliness? We cannot underestimate or despise such a question. It is useless to claim that one would enjoy one’s existence maximally only if and when one is alone. Despite the journey and need to make decisions, the question is about being in the world, about the pressures and needs stemming from this and how this relationship is carried out.

I have often said that one of the things art can still do, and perhaps the thing it still does best, is help us formulate what we believe in and therefore concurrently allow us to form alliances, and perhaps even communities, with those who have similar compulsions and beliefs. If there is a work of art I like I naturally begin to think about why exactly it is that I like it. This leads me to think what questions and positions the work of art expresses that resonate with my more general world view, allowing me to further clarify what it is that I actually think and why. When I meet others who like the same work of art we have a point of departure for a discussion about values. It might turn out that we like the same work of art for completely different reasons. And these differences once again allow us to clarify what might be meaningful to us.

In an art culture of hyper-plurality, such alliances at times seem few and far between.



December 25, 2008

Top Twelve (Not Necessarily Released During The Past Year But Nonetheless Listened To.)


The Wave Pictures - Instant Coffee Baby
Reiko Kudo - Rice Field Silently Ripping In The Night
Fabulous Diamonds - 7 Songs
Dirty Projectors - Rise Above
Nigeria Special: 1970-1976
Hefner - The Fidelity Wars
Tony Allen - Afro Disco Beat
Adrian Orange & Her Band
Erykah Badu - New Amerykah: Part One
Philip Cohran and the Artistic Heritage Ensemble - Singles
Icy Demons - Fight Back
Tiombe Lockhart - Queen of Doom


December 21, 2008

Painting, Coffee, Toast


Painting, Toast, Coffee

Does anyone still remember the end of painting, the death of painting, etc? It all seems like such a long time ago. What was it exactly that we thought was ending? An interest in strong male (possibly drunk) figures standing in front of blank canvases as if the canvases themselves were land waiting to be conquered? The feeling that abstraction was a meaningful, resonant break with representation? Art that didn’t involve video cameras?

And then another thought, another question: does anything ever really end? Do bands actually break up, or at least ever stay broken: the Sex Pistols got back together, Young Marble Giants got back together, The Pixies got back to together. Every ending is only a dull pause before the beast comes, once again, back to life.

Toast, Painting, Coffee

The colloquialism ‘you’re toast’ of course means: you’re beaten, you’re down for the count, you’re done, it’s over. I do not know the expressions origin. Should I look it up? Should I google it? Could I simply figure it out myself through common sense or logic? Bread is put into a toaster. Before it goes into the toaster it is bread, after toast. The bread is gone, of course only transformed, but somehow something that is less fresh, more burnt, now stands in its place. Perhaps, when there is discourse about things coming to an end (the end of history, the death of the novel, etc.) such things are not gone at all: they have only been toasted (I am tempted to write: toasted by over-thinking, by over-examination.) Where once there was something fresh, something straight out of the oven, in it’s place is now something that is burnt and, at any moment, ready to crumble.

Toast is traditionally eaten in the morning. “Tomorrow is another day,” is another expression that suddenly comes to mind, along the lines of: Today painting is dead but tomorrow is another day. Another day with toast and coffee and a new sunrise that will shine through the studio window. Each work will be seen in this new light. The pain and struggle, from the day before, of trying to figure how and why and what to make is washed away by such light. All you have is the work in front of you, without explanation, saying only what it chooses to say in that exact moment. Does it still choose to say: ‘you’re toast.’

Coffee, Toast, Painting

I often wonder, in an of course completely hypothetical manner, if I were to wake up one morning and there was simply, absolutely, no art left anywhere in the world, how long it would take me to notice. If I wonder about this for a while I usually come to the conclusion that it might even take a few days. However, if I were to wake up one morning and there was absolutely no coffee left anywhere in the world I am quite sure I would notice in about fifteen seconds. From this tentative thought experiment is it possible to ascertain that coffee is considerably more important than art.

You are in the studio, it is morning, a coffee in one hand, perhaps a cigarette in the other. You’re wandering around the studio, looking out the window, wondering about various random things, wondering about the next move, absent-mindedly placing the coffee cup down, picking it up again, noticing that the bottom of the cup has left a ring, a stain. The stain is a trace of this aimless moment, repeated over and over again, as if into infinity.


December 17, 2008

Brian Holmes: "But it is to say that unconventional and dissenting ideas don’t often come out of established and conventional functions."


Well, the problem I have, and maybe others have too, is that the formalism and the professionalism of the museum-university-festival circuit sometimes keeps you from knowing either who you are, or what you’re really talking about. This is not to say we should close the museums, picket the universities, burn the libraries, or go back to the land or whatever. But it is to say that unconventional and dissenting ideas don’t often come out of established and conventional functions. And when everybody tacitly agrees that culture production can only take place under the beneficent gaze of the market and the state, and on their payrolls, what you get in my opinion is very dull and timid attitudes combined with grotesquely simulated and overblown emotions. Or, from the more ambitious and professional types, you may get hyper-specialized discourses and elaborate aesthetic affects, this sort of highly valorized cultural production which appears irrefutable when it comes out of MIT or MoMA, but still doesn’t seem to be what you’re looking for.

To put it in more theoretical terms, there is no possibility of generating a critical counter-power – or counter-public, or counter-public sphere – when there is no search for relative autonomy, or when the self (autos) no longer even asks the questions of how to make its own law (nomos). So the importance of this kind of project is to use it as a moment of experimentation, not just in the quest for the perfect theory or the perfect procedure, but cosmologically, to rearrange the stars above your head. Such events don’t happen often, the only solution is do-it-yourself. It’s also part of the search for the outside, which has existential necessity. I think I’ve learned the most about art and social theory from counter-summits with lines of teargas-belching cops, and from those kinds of anarchist summer universities where you camp out for a week and have a hard time finding a shower, but also get to cooperate directly with people whose words and gestures aren’t totally dissociated from their bodies and their actions. Well, since those moments I have felt a need to develop more complex discourses and experiments, but hopefully not more conventional and complacent ones […]

- Brian Holmes

[The rest of the interview can be found here: Articulating the Cracks in the Worlds of Power. 16 Beaver Group talking with Brian Holmes]