March 23, 2009

the art market is an extreme example of what Marx termed commodity fetishism...


Every exhibition tells a story, by directing the viewer through the exhibition in a particular order: the exhibition space is always a narrative space. The traditional art museum told the story of art’s emergence and subsequent victory. Individual artworks chronicled this story – and in doing so they lost their old religious or representative significance and gained new meaning. Once the museum emerged as the new place of worship, artists began to work specifically for the museum: Historically significant objects no longer needed to be devalued in order to serve as art. Instead, brand new, profane objects signed up to be recognized as artworks because they allegedly embodied artistic value. These objects didn’t have a prehistory; they had never been legitimized by religion or power. At most they could be regarded as signs of a “simple, everyday life” with indeterminate value. Thus their inscription into art history meant valorization for these objects, not devaluation. And so museums were transformed from places of enlightenment-inspired iconoclasm into places of a romantic iconophilia. Exhibiting an object as art no longer signified its profanation, but its consecration. Duchamp simply took this turn to its final conclusion when he laid bare the iconophilic mechanism of glorification of mere things by labeling them works of art.

Over the years modern artists began to assert the total autonomy of art – and not just from its sacred prehistory, but from art history as well – because every integration of an image into a story, every appropriation of it as illustration for a particular narrative, is iconoclastic, even if the story is that of a triumph of this image, its transfiguration, or its glorification. According to the tradition of modern art, an image must speak for itself; it must immediately convince the spectator, standing in silent contemplation, of its own value. The conditions in which the work is exhibited should be reduced to white walls and good lighting. Theoretical and narrative discourse is a distraction, and must stop. Even affirmative discourse and favorable display were regarded as distorting the message of the artwork itself. As a result: Even after Duchamp the act of exhibiting an object as an artwork remained ambivalent, that is, partially iconophile, partially iconoclastic.

The curator can’t but place, contextualize, and narrativize works of art – which necessarily leads to their relativization. Thus modern artists began to condemn curators, because the figure of the curator was perceived as the embodiment of the dark, dangerous side of the exhibiting practice, as the destructive doppelganger of the artist who creates art by exhibiting it: the museums were regularly compared to graveyards, and curators to undertakers. With these insults (disguised as institutional critique) artists won the general public over to their side, because the general public didn’t know all the art history; it didn’t even want to hear it. The public wishes to be confronted directly with individual artworks and exposed to their unmediated impact. The general public steadfastly believes in the autonomous meaning of the individual artwork, which is supposedly being manifested in front of its eyes. The curator’s every mediation is suspect; he is seen as someone standing between the artwork and its viewer, insidiously manipulating the viewer’s perception with the intent of disempowering the public. This is why, for the general public, the art market is more enjoyable than any museum. Artworks circulating on the market are singled out, decontextualized, uncurated – so that they have the apparently unadulterated chance to demonstrate their inherent value. Consequently the art market is an extreme example of what Marx termed commodity fetishism, meaning a belief in the inherent value of an object, in value being one of its intrinsic qualities. Thus began a time of degradation and distress for curators – the time of modern art. Curators have managed their degradation surprisingly well, though, by successfully internalizing it.

– Boris Groys


March 12, 2009

Writing in Spanish


Roberto Arlt (Argentina) - The Seven Madmen

Juan Carlos Onetti (Uruguay) - Let the Wind Speak

Ricardo Piglia
(Argentina) - Artificial Respiration

César Aira (Argentina) - An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter

Horacio Castellanos Moya (Honduras) - Senselessness

Alvaro Mutis (Columbia / Mexico) - The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll


March 11, 2009

graceful and ridiculous, lecherous and angelic, happily lost


I remember my walk from the Solar to the movie theatre where Land in Anguish was playing. It must be said that I found the film even more uneven than Black God, White Devil. [Both films by Glauber Rocha.] The lamentations of the main character – a left-wing poet torn apart by conflicting ambitions to achieve the “absolute” and social justice – were at times frankly sub-literary. In addition, certain intolerable conventional shortcomings of Brazilian cinema – high society parties staged unconvincingly, female extras encouraged by directors to enact deplorable provincial caricatures of sexy glamour, an overall lack of narrative clarity – these were all in painful evidence (though less intensely.) Yet as in Glauber’s previous films and a great many other Cinema Novo productions, suggestions of a different vision of life, of Brazil, of cinema, seemed to explode on the screen, overwhelming my reservations. The poet-protagonist offered a bitter, realistic vision of politics – in flagrant contrast to the naïveté of his companions – as he resisted the recently imposed military dictatorship. The film stages the moment of the coup d’état as a nightmare he has at the moment of his death: a confusing spectacle evoking at once Buñuel’s La fièvre monte à El Pao (Republic of Sin), mixed with some of the bad habits of the New Wave and strokes of Fellini’s 8 ½. But that chaos contributed to the parodic force of the film. And the effect was not entirely a disservice to the character, even though his desperate attempts at maintaining a critical perspective on his political objectives while sustaining the will to carry them out – the kind of dilemma that would lead so many to madness, mysticism, or the trenches of the opposition – lead, rather gratuitously, to his death. It is touching to think, today, how such a series of events might provide, with slight variations, a succinct biography of Glauber himself.

The film was naturally not a box-office success, but it scandalized the intellectuals and artists of the Carioca Left. Some in the audience – leaders of politically engaged theatre – jeered as the lights came up. One scene in particular shocked them: During a mass demonstration the poet, who is among those making speeches, calls forward a unionized worker and, to show how unprepared the worker is to fight for his rights, violently covers his mouth, shouting at the others (and at the audience), “This is the people! Idiots, illiterate, no politics!” Then a poor wretch, representing unorganized poverty, appears from among the crowd trying to speak, only to be silenced by the point of a gun stuck in his mouth by one of the candidate’s bodyguards. This indelible image is reiterated in long close-ups.

I experienced that scene – and the indignant, heated discussions that it provoked in bars – as the nucleus of a great event whose brief name I now possess but did not know then (I would try to name it a thousand ways for myself and for other people): the death of populism. There is no doubt that populist demagogues are sumptuously ridiculed in the film: they are seen holding crucifixes and flags in open cars against the sky above the Aterro do Flamengo, a wide modern road by the sea, lined with landscaped gardens. There they are in their gaudy mansions, celebrating the solemn rites of the church and Carnival that touch the heart of the masses, and so forth. But it was their essential faith in the popular forces – and the very respect that the best souls invested in the poor man – that here was discarded as a political weapon and an ethical value in itself. It was a hecatomb that I was facing. And I was excited by the prospect of examining what drove it and anticipating its consequences. Tropicalismo would have never have come into being but for that traumatic moment.

This assault on traditional left-wing populism liberated one to see Brazil squarely from a broader perspective, enabling new and undreamt-of critiques of an anthropological, mythic, mystical, formalist, and moral nature. If the scene of the poet and the worker that incensed the communists charmed me with its courage, it is because the images that came before and after it were trying to reveal something about our condition and ask questions about our destiny. A great cross on the beach overshadows a gathering of politicos, transvestites dressed to the nines for a ball, and Carnival Indians; one feels the presence of the grotesque and with it the revelation of an island always newly discovered and always hidden – Brazil. Among the multitude at the rally, a little old man is dancing samba, graceful and ridiculous, lecherous and angelic, happily lost – the Brazilian people captured in a paradox. One does not know whether they are meant to seem despairing or suggestive; political decisions are discussed on cement patios with black lines dividing the floor, asserting a denial of the comings and goings of the characters. The camera weaves among groups of four, five, six restless agitators, who express disagreement over tactics through their body language, all shot in black and white with enormous areas of light threatened by ominous, looming shadows. It was a political dramaturgy different from the usual reduction of everything to a stereotype of class struggle. Above all, here was the rhetoric and the poetics of post-1964 Brazilian life: a deep scream of pain and impotent rebellion, but also an updated vision, nearly prophetic, of our real possibilities to be and to feel.

– Caetano Veloso, from Tropical Truth: A Story of Music & Revolution In Brazil


Sometimes in an art gallery or museum...


Sometimes in an art gallery or museum, I have these really sad moments. 'Contemporary art,' I think 'is like a commercial for the artists career. It's lost the desire to speak about the world.'


March 9, 2009

The Agenda of Curator Ditte Maria Bjerg


I don’t really care about Theatre or Art! But I am passionately occupied with such questions as:

- How did shopping become the most aggressively promoted religion of all time?
- What does the exhausted word; Globalisation actually mean - besides providing me with more money to spend on underpaid Polish builders or Indonesian nannies?
- Are we truly on the verge of post-democracy?
- Why is feminism still the ultimate dirty word? We still don’t have equal pay, equal leave for both parents and the 20 largest businesses in Denmark are all run by men.
- Is shipping tycoon Mr. A. P. Møller a hero or a villain, when he can avoid tax laws by applying diplomacy and charisma?
- Wherein lies free democratic choice, when the only choice I’m presented with is tax-limitations or tax-limitations?
- How do I burst this claustrophobic hetero-bubble of invest-‘n’-consume families that thrive in a super-sized IKEA world? Is there an alternative to fumbling blindly for the exit, as we contemplate which sofa cushions will complete our lives?
- How do I find empathy, imagination and desire - so I can contribute in creating a new Global Citizen?
- How do I become a citizen again and not remain a consumer?
- Is theatre able to approach such subjects? Of course! Where else can you address them? It’s worth a shot! Theatre must be a free public space of dialogue and generosity welcoming genuine encounters between people – a place liberated from the chains of work and private life!

I impose that Camp X in the period 01.07.07 – 30.06.09 must:

• be a spy, a police officer and an archaeologist and NOT a performance factory
• steal from the wicked and give power to the audience
• breakdown the imprisoning heterogeneous girl-meets-boy concepts
• sail the seven seas with Mærsk to discover its secrets
• create theatre that double espresso businessmen will note up in their BlackBerries
• lie to discover truth
• cultivate the hunger for knowledge and collaborate with experts
• interfere in the rapidly diminishing public space
• sing as much as possible

Original link:


March 2, 2009

PME-ART in Japan


PME-ART, Unrehearsed Beauty/Le Genie des autres (Canada)

Except some reports of performers' personal experiences such as labor at Dunkin' Donuts or conversation with an American soldier, some yes-or-no questions, fragments of performances and several rock tunes, the whole space is given to audience "without rehearsal." There is a microphone in the center of "audience seats" that they can use to fill the void, but it is all up to them. An experiment that transforms theatre into a kind of open forum and explores what the notion of "public space" can be today.

Dates: March 13-15, 2003
Venue: Super Deluxe, Roppongi

PME-ART, Families are Formed through Copulation (Canada)

Humiliation and death of the best friend, an allegorical story in which a father, mother, and daughter rape each other, a man who suddenly "becomes" a "Jew" during his travel in Germany, a family therapy in the nuclear age, a computer's voice preaching that we must not have children with tons of reasons. Following the experiment in Unrehearsed Beauty as a plain answer to the question "what theatre can do" in terms of content, this "theatrical" performance straightly depicts unjustifiedness.

Dates: March 9-10, 2006
Venue: Tokyo Kinema Club, Uguisudani

chelfitsch, Three Days in March (Japan)

"March 15, 2003, when the USA was about to start bombing on Iraq, I saw at Super Deluxe in Roppongi, with a fair amount of beer, a theatrical show from Montreal that looked like a political forum called Unrehearsed Beauty. Some said the performance was not worth serious consideration, but for me it was one of the very few performances that were really striking.

To tell the truth, what made me write Three Days in March that was premiered in the next year's February was the performance experience of that day. So I am very glad being able to show the piece at the Super Deluxe in the festival that the group of Unrehearsed Beauty is in. Besides, a Japanese post-rock band Sangatsu [March], which was the source of the title, is going to play at the same venue in our performance period.

I hope that audience will enjoy the piece and the band's live concert relaxing, eating and drinking as I did with Unrehearsed Beauty. It has been three years since then, but the war on Iraq is still ongoing."

(Toshiki Okada, from the brochure of PPAF 2006, translated by Tomoyuki Arai)

Dates: March 11-21, 2006
Venue: Super Deluxe, Roppongi

Original link: