Monday, April 27, 2009

TJ Clark, BFFF...Jutta Koether @ Reena Spaulings 2009



When I started this blog I was hoping to
not write exclusively about middle-aged/mid-career artists who exhibit at well-publicized galleries, but then again with the handful of posts on this blog I often say one thing and do another (an apology to Jay Sanders' White Column show...that will be posted one day...). So with that pseudo-caveat in mind, I'd like to focus some attention on Jutta Koether's current show at Reena Spaulings. Consisting of a single painting--a punkish copy of a Poussin landscape memorializing Lux Interior's passing--the show like many of her other shows leans heavy on its own posturing. Koether, in fact, specializes in turning aesthetic posturing/posing into artistic praxis.




Where Sherrie Levine clinically fucks/fucks with the paternal (im)postures of modern art, Koether doles out a far sloppier hate-fuck to her aesthetic "dads". Or at least Koether used to... This last statement is far more reserved to her eighties work and its malicious treatment of neoexpressionism's political conservatism. Her newer work (and this show in particular) is steeped in a posthistorical melancholy that finds artistic, political and/or libidinal death more productive than the life of such things. While this is certainly not a politically abject reaction to such a posthistorical moment--consider for a moment neo-nazism, born-again christianity and islamic fundamentalism as politically opposite responses to the same social conditions--it is certainly not without its problems. Or maybe just annoyances...





Taking as a cue TJ Clark's most recent book, "The Sight of Death," (to the detriment of this piece of writing, I haven't read the book) and its reconsideration of Poussin in the spectacularized canons of modern political and aesthetic history, Koether seeks to animate Poussin in an act of melancholic détournment; analogizing Poussin's pastoral deaths with the dumb, slow death of punk. This is where the problems begin to emerge... Koether's détournment seems to operate not dissimilarly from assembling pictures for the interest section of their myspace page (or a blog, for that matter). See the archive she has assembled an archive in book form for the show for one example... or better yet, just notice how her always referential, expanded approach to art production fills out all the necessary interest sections (about me; who I'd like to meet; music; movies; TV; books; heros). Where someone like Terence Koh (almost goes without saying, one of the worst possible artists exhibiting today) becomes an artist through their makeout club page that mixes James Lee Byars and homoeroticism (or was it livejournal?) it becomes clear that nowadays, given a "profile" or a "handle" (or an art gallery), everyone détourns spectacular words and images to suit their visual-libidinal needs.



But is this in fact a problem? Digital fatherfucking in the Levine tradition? or as I suggested before, just an annoyance? An annoyance that celebrated contemporary artistry might amount to little more than spectacular bricolage? It is curious to see that Koether's artistic celebrity did gain greater ground the more myspace/facebook became a legitimate social phenomenon.

While I have yet to read Clark's book, I did happen to read Giorgio Agamben's recent(ish) book "The Open," which includes a Benjamin-ian rumination on the two post-coital lovers of Titian's painting, "Nymph and Shepherd," as a means of giving light to the political aporia of posthistory/posthumanity. Where Clark and Koether emphasize the political elegy of love's suicidal potential, Agamben sees Titian's lovers (complete with a horny goat in the background) as figures whose act of love potentially "unworks" the political anthropology of post-history (specifically the biopolitical definition of "human").

"Bare or clothed, they are no longer either concealed or unconcealed--but rather, inapparent. As is clear from the posture of the two lovers and the flute taken from their lips, their condition is otium, it is workless. In their fulfillment, the lovers who have lost their mystery contemplate a human nature rendered perfectly inoperative." (Agamben, 87)

Where some see death, others see the life good sex brings...


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

NY SPRING BREAK


































So back to art...

What's worth my precious time to write about these days in NYC? I'll just tweet...

-There's the ghastly New Museum show. I couldn't sit through Cyprien Galliard's much fete'd video...that damned screamoclash soundtrack kept me away with a magnetic force.




-Zwirner's Adel Abdessemed show doesn't include a video of domesticated animals being beaten to death with baseball bats. Instead there's a Nancy Rubins-cum-Claes Oldenburg airplane sculpture mixed invariably with Nauman-meets-Jodorowsky videos. The picture of Akitas was cute...



-GG regular Richard Phillips has a show at Gagosian. He's from Marblehead, MA. I hear Yale's a hard school. I hope his new paintings sell so that he can afford Death in June's back catalogue on top of his student loans...



-Michael Werner added some fresh ween to his assisted living sausage party of a gallery, Aaron Curry. From LA, likes science fiction, Noguchi and bad silkscreening. I thought he also was an Anal Cunt fan but then I realized "AxCx" is just his way of signing his work. Dude...



-Alex Fleming had a pleasantly mellow show at Lisa Cooley Gallery (even though one work had a suicide narrative...) that closed the other week. The new show there can go back to NJ...



-Krebber student, Henning Bohl, has a way mellower show at Casey Kaplan of Matissean paintings. He seems like a nice guy... could use some time away from minimal techno... so could the gallery...



-speaking of minimal techno, there's a Berlin-themed show at the Chelsea art museum that's like flipping through pages of a desperate magazine. Same goes for Andrew Kreps... Miguel Abreu... Drawing Center... The CAM show is also shameless self-promotion for a desperate gallery... but who ever goes there anyway? Maybe to visit Schneidemann's rub 'n' tug... for more information visit here.

-CRG gallery should be sued by the NAACP for its current show...



-Over at PS1 is a balls-out show by Lutz Bacher...



-Jacqueline Humphries at Greene Naftali is a pleasant surprise to see how long she is able to play out the silver paint gimmick. Is it even a gimmick? Like driving a rented car with a broken kilometer (this is a good thing!).


-Jutta Koether is opening a show this weekend at Reena Spaulings... no paintings of Peaches this time...


Readers! What am I missing!!??



Monday, April 20, 2009

French Horror Notes II: Martyrs and Pascal Laugier's Hellraisin' future...


































"Martyrs" is being released (finally) in the states next week by the Weinsteins' horror imprint, Dimension Films (they may have added an extreme in there somewhere...). It arrives on a massive wave of horror dweeb hype, no doubt due to the fact that it has been screened (legitimately) only a handful of times in North America (perhaps some clever marketing on Dimension's behalf?).  Is it better than '07-'08's "Inside"? It's an unfair comparison, but given the status of this niche market, it's an inevitable one. To this humble critic, the answer is no.  But that doesn't stop it from being a great horror film.



















As one can gather from the first part of the post, I love a genre picture that is able to use its secondary economic status as a means of exploring counter-hegemonic social meanings (and on that same coin, I hate when a genre picture reinforces submissive power structures--which is in fact the norm for this genre).  Both "Inside" and "Martyrs" instrumentalize the genre in this manner, draping the viewer's repressed psychological fears on a political armature and creating a beautiful po-mo amalgam of conservative form and liberal content. Yet the greatest strength of "Inside" is that the amalgamation of form and content is so fluid that it utterly avoids the potential pitfall of political kitsch, which in this case would not be excessive silliness (see here), but rather a preening, moderately (neo-)liberal ostentation that is typically found in the Oscar fodder the Weinsteins' spend most of their time serving up for award's season. Never does "Inside" take time away from its viscera and impalements to proselytize on a soap box, never does it speak down in a dominant tone.  Whereas "Martyrs" opts to coat the soapbox in blood and guts, hence my reservations...



















As I mentioned in the first portion of this post, "Martyrs"--almost intentionally--includes the thematic macguffins of a slew of recent horror films (the torture pits of "Saw" and "Hostel;" the victim/victimizer schizophrenia of "High Tension;" the racial politics of "Frontiere(s)"; the bourgeois privilege of "Inside"), stewing them all together into the feel-bad lefty flick of the year. Is Laugier giving Lars von Trier a run for his money? We'll see... 

While it is to some (petty) extent exciting to see a political/philosophical idea like bare life sketched out so clearly in a filmic context (I won't ruin the rather disturbing end that literalizes the term)--not to mention have a conventional film that, as Laugier puts it in a recent interview, plays 'indian' against the neocon "cowboys" so often celebrated in conventional horror narratives. Instead, Laugier transforms an overdetermined violence into copious amounts of liberal shame that weighs heavy on a viewer who only expected a couple of shits and giggles. Genre films that take themselves too seriously have become a serious cultural epidemic in the filmmaking industry (see the massive success of the terrifyingly conservative "Batman" revamps), and Laugier is certainly not smiling (see his discussion of his filmmaking process in the linked interview). Titillation and liberal politics are not fire and ice yet are treated as such (maybe just bad box office?). This is perhaps one of the core problematics of liberal filmmaking in its contemporary forms as we drift further from libidinal utopias of the 1960's into the aporias of genre exploitation writ Imax to Blu-ray. (Paul Verhoeven is a saint in this regard...)


















Yet let's not despair as Laugier might want us to, he has been tapped to write and direct a "Hellraiser" remake/remodel (curiously enough, filling in for the directors of "Inside"after they parted from the project). Perhaps Laugier's liberal consciousness mingled with the hedonistic torture central to the masochistic series will yield a cultural experience that is as libidinal as it is political. And Jesus wept...


despite these reservations, martyrs gets by with 4 out of 4 bonch stabs



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