Archive for November, 2009

Bottom-feeders of the Art World

Posted in Anthropology, Art, Artists, Contemorary Art, Criticism, Film, Gallery Talk, Pop-culture, Social Science, Technology, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 17 November, 2009 by endlessslug

I often check ARTINFO‘s website for new gallery exhibition calls, jobs, and news.  It’s a hip site.  Today, I happened upon this:

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tactileBOSCH Gallery & Studio, Cardiff, Cardiff, United Kingdom

Call For Submissions – Reduplication of the Real
An exhibition of photographic Performance Art documentation
Deadline: 1st December 2009

During the last decade a curatorial style has arisen that gives greater significance to the soiled, worn, damaged and defaced props left at the conclusion of a Live Art performance. Often these objects are considered Art in its own right and have been showcased in various stand-alone exhibitions. Yet the other significant permanent Live Art by-product: photographic documentation is often simply understood as a prosaic method of documenting the act for future reference and so its strengths as a stand-alone Art form has yet to be fully tested.
However, the photographic documentation of a performance is often fascinating, poignant and even humorous in its own right. It is a montage of esoterically linked everyday objects juxtaposed with a performer, focused in their entirety on a single, ultimately pointless, action; all frozen in a single frame. The photographs, with their distorted quotidian actions and objects, can come across as a scene anywhere between an uncanny distortion of the everyday and a gross and disturbing dream-like sequence
Reduplication of the Real will showcase a diversity of photographs that document Live Art Actions by both established and emerging artists from both national and international backgrounds. Some images will stand-alone while others will form small sets covering an individual performance. The exhibition will highlight the strengths of performance Art documentation and will lead the way towards further dialogue about the images as standalone works.

The exhibition aims to showcase a broad and diverse selection of images and as such, will work on an open submission basis. The curator will review all submitted work and choose a selection of work based upon their strength as standalone images. In order to keep the exhibitions presentation clear and cohesive the curator will request an electronic copy of all selected images which will be printed in sizes to compliment the galleries layout and mounted in a uniform manner.

Images will be valued at a price that will be discussed with selected artists and sold at 30% commission. All unsold work can be brought by the person who submitted it at the price of its creation.

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Seriously?  I was reading this and asked myself, “where do I begin?”  Not only is Live Art a massive waste of anyone’s time (please learn from the DaDa movement), but to profit on and exhibit the leftovers from such performances as art itself?  Have we gone to such a pseudo-refined degree that what we produce from a pre-planned arts demonstrative performance is in itself some sort of communication?  What exactly is this particular form of trash telling an audience that the trash after my last Stop Making Sense party did not?  Yes, “something happened,” I get it, but who cares?

There is a sense of archaeology about such a processual art display.  I keep using the word “art,” by the by, but I hesitate greatly to use it.  I once created a 35 minute powerpoint mini-movie on the archaeology of trash receptacles around my college campus for a contemporary archaeology course – so I do know a few things about trash and leftovers and how people generally feel about it.  People care little for it.  There is no good art-style “shock” about “what remains”.  Few people really care at all.  As the exhibition description says above, these are wastes of time.  Folks that travel the Live Art scene may pick up something from the leftovers and sometimes can swap stories, but what we have here is something more pedantic and certainly post-modernly selfish.  We have forcibly created storytelling among a very small imagined community for the purpose, I believe, in maintaining the ties and ideology – namely the life – of that small group.  People who have been to the performances can see references to what they saw, what they didn’t see but what other’s must have seen, and things no one should see.  We don’t have art for art’s sake, not art for artist’s sake, but art for ‘this guy”s sake.  What have we become?

I read a number of published theses from the grad students of the Art Institute of Chicago.  A number of them claimed that painting was dead and film was the murderer.  I’d say, rather, that painting is sleeping, and waiting for the confusion of the contemporary western art state to kill itself so that we may move on to making beautiful, mass-meaningful things again, and not waste our high-interest lease on time.

My Foot is Killing Me

Posted in Artists, Studio Work with tags , , , , , , on 16 November, 2009 by endlessslug

I woke up a few days ago and my foot was killing me.  There was a sharp but inconsistent pain in the sole.  This throbbing annoyance was just enough to completely blow a whole painting day.   Every time  I sat down to work, my mind kept focusing on the pain and I could not focus on what I was doing.  Further, I was in a delicate phase of a new oil painting I was (am) working on and the work requires my full attention.

Point being: It’s amazing the simple small things which can kill a mood.  For those of you out there who are not artists in any form, know that motivation for creating is often fickle.  Some of the painting-a-day people can still piss out their terrible works, but for anyone who cares about painting or even some illustrators, a three-day foot pain can lead to the demise of the whole work.  It’s somewhat nice that I have no 9-5 job at the moment, other than the intense poverty which is a whole other problem towards working.

A Note on New Legos

Posted in Art, Toys with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 10 November, 2009 by endlessslug

I thought a small rant about Legos would be perfectly in order for a blog about the state of fine art today.  Legos are not necessarily a very refined art, but Legos are a hell of a lot of fun to play with when not in the studio.

Construction Legos

I was watching Nickelodeon today when a commercial for the new(ish) construction Lego sets came on.  I’ve seen this commercial a few times before but today the commercial struck me as odd so I paid a little closer attention.  Why would Lego make construction Legos?  The toy is a construction-based toy.  They’re just advertising in a literal fashion, what the toy is for.  This seems redundant and really can’t be selling well.  Let’s say you are a kid with tons of legos sitting around – are you going to purposefully NOT finish a few sets in order to create a construction theme scene?  Construction sets seem to communicate a message of “please, only half-play with me”.   Now, I am mostly criticizing the idea of creating construction zones in your playset.  The trucks themselves (cranes, bulldozers, steam-rollers, etc.) are all just fine to have around.  Countless hours can be lost running your little protagonists after your villainous antagonists through construction sites, so in this respect, these toys are just fine.  But we really don’t need half-built buildings.  We have many other sets we can just leave unfinished instead, and with better parts.  So, Lego, lets rid ourselves of the buildings and just sell the trucks.

“Modular Design Sets”

Legos, until the early 2000’s were lots of fun to build.  Buy a set, dump the pieces into a huge box (usually provided), and then spend hours sifting loudly through hundreds of little plastic pieces as your little construction grows from chaos into form.  It was always a pleasure to see how the Lego designers would come up with new ways in which to use old parts and how they would solve construction problems.  Less is more.  Unfortunately, through the 90’s, Lego began introducing many pieces which were form fitted for specific purposes.  How they are able to afford so many specialized pieces is beyond me.  Due to the special purposes, many of these pieces are functional for nothing else, ultimately limiting your creativity with them.  Also, over the last ten years, Lego has shifted to this Modular Design idea.  The MD idea is that you build a model in smaller parts and then assemble all the smaller parts into a larger set at the end.  Not only does MD kill creativity, but it also makes the models much less stable, less thought out, less enjoyable to build, and less fun to play with.  I note specifically the Y-Wing for the Star Wars sets – the Ultimate Collector’s version.  In this model, you build the cockpit, fuselage, and engines all separately and then snap it all together.  It was only minimally interesting to build,  but the final model was very unstable.  I had it on display for a couple months in my old apartment and every day, someone would knock the table and the whole thing would collapse.  Over time, the side engine pods weighed down so much that they noticeably sagged and could easily become detached.  A $150 building toy/model should not fall apart constantly and generally look like shit on display.  The same could be said of the Tantive IV.  The UC Tantive’s engines were barely connected.  It was just ridiculous.  Whoever designed that should be fired out right.  Finally, the Star Destroyer UC was hollow.  It’s plates were connected by magnets!  This is a damned Lego set people, I paid for LEGOS not for magnets connecting a lego false front.  Of course, I wouldn’t expect the thing to be solid plastic, that’s also nutty, but seriously… this was the best design?

New Town Models

In positive news, Lego has been putting out these new town-based sets for the past few years.  These include the Green Grocer, Market Square, and Cafe Corner as well as a few other new ones and similarly themed sets.  These sets are all really well designed except for the lower floors of some of them which are only half-built.  By half-built, the floor is a split-level which would normally go below the street level, but since Lego hasn’t come out with their sewer sets yet, the floor only appears as if it goes below the street from the windows but is actually cut-off at the street level like any other model.  While it doesn’t matter too much, you are making toys folks, not purely models.  Or at least come up with some sort of noticeable differentiation.  The modular design of these models works generally well, but again there’s something “missing” from building the sets.  I think it’s the fun value.  Still – awesome sets and I hope to see many more.

Numbered Bags

What the hell?  New Lego sets come with bags with numbers on them.  The numbers indicate the order by which the Legos inside are to be built.  I don’t remember being 8-12 years old, but I seem to recall that I never had a problem with this before.  In fact, I’ve seen new kids actually use the numbered bags and do everything by the book because they don’t know any different and choose to follow the directions instead of the chaotic method.  Again, something is lost here.  It seems geared toward quick construction as opposed to working out problems, finding the correct pieces, shape differentials, and time management.  Knock it off Lego!  Let them make a huge mess!

 

Ritual As Art

Posted in Anthropology, Art, Contemorary Art, Literature, Music, Social Science, Technique, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 2 November, 2009 by endlessslug

This morning, the day after Halloween, I was sitting and staring at a gorgeous plate of chorizo and pork tacos at my favorite Mexican restaurant near my home.  The owner of the restaurant recently started this bi-monthly Sunday brunch buffet which I’ve been desperately trying to go to since the first one.  However, due to the holiday the night before, the owner could not prepare the normal buffet meals and could not do the brunch.  Instead, he gave us the buffet deal anyway and said we could just keep ordering food as an all-you-can eat festival.   I love this place.

Originally, I wanted to go in to the restaurant to make some sketches of folks at the buffet.  These days in our world of pre-packaged, mass-produced meals, it is a rare treat to have an open bar of food, especially Mexican food cooked fresh and from scratch.  The whole local community showed up at the first buffet thrown and it was pretty amazing.  Lot’s of people, live music, great food, and a wait-staff and owner who come around and chat with everyone as if this were all extended family.

I’d like to paint this.  Why? Because here is a series of complex emotions and epiphanies which cannot be communicated to others in any other way.  But then, even the painting falls short.  What we have here is participation in a ritual.  Ritual itself is a form of fine art, refined over thousands of years to be a collective and festive event which helps us as humans to achieve a greater understanding of ourselves and our place in the world.  It already is a painting, just a painting which you may only experience by being part of it and it lasts for maybe two hours every other Sunday at this restaurant.

As a painter, I realize this cannot and should not be painted as it is akin to plagiarism – I would be just copying someone else’s work, afterall.  No, instead what the painter does, it tries to pull from the millions of life experiences he or she has had and select a series of symbolic references which help to construct a similar series of feelings to a more diverse audience.  I sit, I think, I try to break down the feelings of that restaurant into it’s smaller parts and develop a concept of how the ritual functions and works for all involved.  Then I can transpose it to another medium.  If I painted the scene at the restaurant, it would appear as maybe Renoir’s party at the frog pond, and that’s not exactly what I am looking for.  I also cannot simply slap down random paint blobs and “express” what I feel about the brunch, no one would care (see: all postmodern contemporary and student painters for examples of the latter).  The importance here though is the thinking and realizing that the scene I enjoyed and want to re-create cannot generally be recreated exactly or I end up communicating something else – either a narrative, an illustration, or poop on canvas.   I want to make the viewer a participant in an event of cultural exchange, public celebration, exploration, unexpected but delightful shock, and ridiculously awesome food, music, and dance (or maybe consummation?).  But this is too much for a painting – which is why ritual is a completely different form of art.  It is not easily painted, drawn, or written about, certainly not danced, sung, or played about, but can be re-enacted out.

I can’t wait for next Sunday.