My brain’s desktop, part one

I haven’t been doing much with my blog lately but, lo, golden week is upon us, so here now is an index of what I’ve been looking at, reading about, or wanting to write about lately. For the most part, I’m using my desktop as a guide here (it’s cluttered with jpegs I grab and don’t file). Some of this stuff I intend to write more about at some point, hopefully this week. But for the time being, and in the interest of cleaning up my desktops - mental and computorial (alas, not the physical one), the following assortment of jpegs, links, etc…

Sharon Stone visits Marina Abramovic at MOMA. I think I like this photo because I imagine Sharon Stone, the real, middle-aged woman, getting up, putting her hair back, going to a museum, committing to an unfamiliar art experience just like everyone else, open to it, unjaded. Maybe I just like thinking about this other person, this other Sharon Stone, whoever she is. Other than that, she just looks beautiful anyway, more so for the absence of make-up. The whole photo series (in which you’ll see some other recognizable faces) is fascinating just as a display of physiognomic variety. Okay, there is a white majority, but there might also be a female majority (as well as a fairly high quotient of art schoolers, if I’m any judge). As Ingmar Bergman knew, close-ups are always interesting - we never tire of the human face. Jerry Saltz, in his review of the exhibit, alert to this so-intrinsic-you-almost-miss-it content: “Abramovic gets you to understand why many animals hate being looked at by humans. There’s something powerful and uncanny and pure about an unbroken gaze.

Marina Abramovic herself, on the other hand… I’m not sure. If an up or down thumb were asked of me (just supposing), I don’t know which way I’d go. From photos I’ve seen and especially reading the online buzz about this exhibit, I can’t help feeling that were seeing self-imposed suffering and a strange kind of projected sainthood as spectacle, which makes me really uncomfortable about it. I’m not saying there’s nothing else there, just that that side of it, which is fundamental, annoys me. This I’ve been wanting to write more about, but I’m trying not to simply respond with my gut, my cynical gut, on this. I’m trying to give it the benefit of the doubt.

One thing that has to be positive (or does it?): people are talking about it, and talking about art. One discussion I found particularly interesting was the one below Jerry Saltz’s brief article for New York. I didn’t think the article itself was anything special, but Saltz held court on his own comments board, defending himself against a typically antagonistic crowd of posters and laying out not only a defense of the exhibit but practically a statement of principles for his critical practice. Frankly, I liked Jerry the engaged commenter more than Jerry the critic this time.

Still on the Abramovic topic…

Apparently, one performer in the show was dismissed for penile misconduct (ie. erection) at the family-friendly institution. Reading the metafilter messageboard, I came across this disquieting but ripe-for-John Waters-satire art-school tale:

"In one of my drawing classes we had a male model and a physiotherapist with a pack of Crayola washable markers for a lesson in anatomy: The physio used different colors to outline various muscle groups (e.g., the deltoid) and then had the model move to demonstrate how the muscle contracted and bulged in various ways (e.g., lifting his arm caused the deltoid to get shorter and wider, and this was easily visible with purple outline and contour lines).  Very useful demonstration, except that for the entire three hours, the model had a full erection, and a slow dribble of semen; occasionally he’d make a furtive gesture to wipe it away. Bizarrely, we all sat there for all three hours, pretending this wasn’t happening. On break, we made jokes about the leaky model, and then returned. In retrospect I think that it was the peculiar atmosphere of art school: This is art, and this the body, and everything it does (and that comes out of it) is natural and nothing to be ashamed of. So we spent three hours watching a man ejaculate. Fortunately that model wasn’t invited back."

……………………………………………………………………………….

Recent Chris Ofili paintings. Still trying to find out what’s going on in these private little affairs. I kind of like them though.

……………………………………………………………………………….

Old Comme des Garcons. Lumps and Bumps, 1997.

……………………………………………………………………………….

Elizabeth Murray: The Lowdown. I was thinking about Murray and Bruce Nauman, two artists whose (totally polar) work didn’t appeal to me at first blush at all but which I’ve come to love. It’s nice to have your taste pried open now and again, to have to broaden your definition of what art is and what the right thing to do is.

……………………………………………………………………………….

Fischli and Weiss, on the other hand, has always worked for me. (A midpoint between Murray and Nauman?) They seem fun when so much art has forsworn that frivolous commodity. They’re coming to Kanazawa for their first solo show in Asia in September. Can’t wait!

……………………………………………………………………………….

Speaking of fun, here’s its opposite: the new International Style. Who made these paintings? No. Guess again? No. No, you’re never going to get it. They’re by Adrian Ghenie. But it could have been any one of a hundred artists (let alone countless hundreds of students) making paintings like this right now. A little bit Tuymans, a little Neo Rauch - I don’t know the exact recipe, but I know I see this everywhere and it’s already intensely lame. Let me guess: they’ve something to do with memory, history, and dreams. Very well done, and drab, drab, drab.

……………………………………………………………………………….

30 Rock: the best thing being produced by the United States right now? Jane Krakowski (as Jenna Maroney) - and not Alec Baldwin - the best part of the show?

……………………………………………………………………………….

Every month near my apartment there’s a market for antiques, junk, etc. Who knows what this item is for? I guess I’d hope it’s for displaying clothes. But weird.

……………………………………………………………………………….

New Bolano story in the New Yorker. Strange and thrilling reading.

……………………………………………………………………………….

I’m afraid of the future of Joan Rivers. Could her face be the apocalypse?



Fischli & Weiss: from Equilibriums.

"Gerhard Richter once said something I really liked: a lottery ticket with six out of six winning numbers marked on it can only be good. Only an idiot would say. ‘But the crosses aren’t nicely distributed’. And the same is true with the ‘Equilibriums’: if it stays up, then it can only be good."

- Peter Fischli



Fischli and Weiss: How to Work Better and Flowers, Mushrooms.

Some people put it on their fridge or tape it to their studio wall. Others write it off as self-help parody. For me, appreciating How to Work Better, a list of ten work strategies by Fischli and Weiss, means knowing the irony is there but being able to see the inspirational logic in it at the same time, being able to tack it to your wall and apply the efficiency tips to your life even though you know it’s problematic and not to be taken entirely seriously. The rules are all too simple and have the insipid ring of managerial cant to them, but who, on the other hand, wouldn’t benefit from putting them into practice? Like the insufferable AA cliches in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, they are cliches because they are, time and again, proven true, proven useful. Flexibility (to use another reliable business meeting byword), being able to live on both sides of the divide between irony and sincerity at once and somehow commit to both, seems like a very contemporary survival skill.


How to Work Better

1. Do one thing at a time

2. Know the problem

3. Learn to listen

4. Learn to ask questions

5. Distinguish sense from nonsense

6. Accept change as inevitable

7. Admit mistakes

8. Say it simple

9. Be calm

10. Smile


The same ambiguity is present in most all of Fischli and Weiss’ work. Their Flowers, Mushrooms, a series of double-exposures, seems more and more masterly (and funnier) all the time.

The idea, as usual, is so simple that the (negative?) comparisons to design seem relevant, the results so unabashedly pretty as to prompt knee-jerk skepticism; we question it for what seems like a lack of difficulty, even childishness. And it’s true - the whole family could enjoy these pictures, which bothers some of us. The point, again, seems to be to fully embrace both the sickly-sweet vileness and the almost comical explosion of anti-intellectual beauty in the imagery, rather than, like a child or cynic, just one of those sides. It’s a work that asks a particularly timely question: What is it like to live in a world weary and wary of pleasure?



Saint Passionate

//////////////////////////////////////////

priceless anecdotes drawn from my real experiences and souvenir jpegs of lost time

Tags

art / film / music / books / reviews / lists / artbullshit / titles / quotes / paintings / photography / collage / tv / japan / comparecontrast / myfavoritecharts / artistsinpictures / mybrain'sdesktop / mistakes

Reading Choices

Matthew Collings / If Charlie Parker... / FourFour / Rouge's Foam / Conversation Reading

archive / comment / mixtape