Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Unfinished Business...

If you followed the blog you may know that I had a tendency of announcing reviews that are never posted. Sorry 'bout that. Given the intentionally convoluted thought behind much of what I had written, it easily spins outta control. With that in mind, I've added four unfinished pieces of NYFAL apocrypha. While I always tried to have a"lo-fi" approach with Al Miller's writing, this here texts are the real scuzz, demo tracks buried in tape hiss.

Unfinished Business...

Bernadette Corporation @ Greene Naftali

When asked to summarize normative trends in contemporary art in a (somewhat) recent Texte Zur Kunst, Alex Alberro concludes with the following:

"With the ideals of the institution of art and of other Enlightenment institutions in ruins, contemporary artists who continue to work in - and rework - the legacy of the artistic avant-garde are left to choose between contemplating the moribund cultural apparatus and engaging with social conflicts far beyond it. The most interesting contemporary art fuses these irreconcilable positions."

Despite its strangely oedipal, Kramer vs. Kramer intimations, Alberro's curt last sentence does speak with great relevance to the considerable crisis of criticality within the exhibition of contemporary art today, be it in a kunsthalle or on mediafire. The core division of contemporary critique between a practice of constituent activism and a practice of self-reflexive participation is certainly an antagonizing dilemma for those who find themselves on either side of this landfill-allergic chasm; where, to generalize, the activist is haunted by the (cynical?) participant's custodial concern for (however ruined) aesthetic traditions and its attendant publicity, subsequently the participant seems haunted by the activist's idealized political "integrity" of by-passing such a custodianship. Even though both positions are undeniably palpable solutions to the potential aporia of exhibiting/activating critique within the capitalist cultural apparatus, the bone I wish to pick has to do with the death that encouraged such a split, that of the Enlightened art institution as it collapsed into the ruins of culture industries.

Like a horror film villain, it is easy to declare something (an idea, a community, a subject, etc.) dead for the sake of narrative clarity, yet only to allow such a "something" to given its its fiscally solvency. This fiscal logic, the fluid sense of undying forms, is predicated on the desire to witness the ascesis of the sensible and ethical (with its narrative materializations) trangressed into guilt-free pleasure. If a cultural form resists death to the point of "rebirth", did it ever die in the first place? That is, if desire (with its never-hesitant de/re-territorializing reboots) is the wellspring of subjective formation, does "death" even exist? When looking at the "moribund" cultural apparatus, the object so central to contemporary art's claim on criticality, is it truly deserving of such death rattles? Or instead might it be that "death" is in fact a libidinally-deprived object always open to ecstatic remortaging, thus always open to the possibility of its existence over whatever silence is brokered by its discursive "death"? Would it be then that the history of contemporary art, as it is proceeds from its "modern" origins, through the actualization such a cluster of libidinal desires be better represented through gestures that seem life-endowing rather than death-ennabling?


where laibach self-consciously merged the ecstasies of the fascist ritual with europe's emergent club/rave culture, its little german nephew Rammstein managed to graft the erotics of the fascist body onto the turn of the millenium cryptohomo gym culture...

overidentification> nsk, posing as an idol as demonstration of this televisual fascism's very hollowness, like miming, the clearly inverted postmodern subject where political form becomes aesthetic practicet>>>bernadette corporation, a dispersal of hypercapitalist forms, its proliferating organless bodies positioned as the aesthetics of postsubject politics.

nsk's avowed purposeness is certainly what dates it, its attempt to reclaim politics for the avant garde or even as the avant garde, since it is this very purposeness that inspires the more insipid and tacky culture jammers of the present day--which i believe runs a deeply vast gamut from something like the yes men, coco fusco and overproduced, overdetermined politicized pretensions of what can generically be termed "biennial art." the rhizomatic production of BC is a better heir.

Power's construction of "human" feeling: the ecstasy of the fascist ritual or the melancholic imprisonment of neoliberalism--why should one be deprived the base feelings historically perveted by their ritualization? now i don't mean to position sentiment or feeling as a means of recovering a subject in it absence (there is no subject to alienate, rather the subject is construed in its alienation), rather the sentimental intensity of being held (captive or free) as a subject of power is not something to dismiss; especially within an artistic context whose ideal goal (in my estimation) is the exposure of such an intensity, the very conditions of "being-held"-ness, to the viewer. Given the ethical tradition of interpreting power as either good or evil, in subcultural music especially, one sees the cultural reaction to this subjectivization bisecting into two representations: "good" neo-ascetism/iconoclasm (sXe, veganism, andrea zittel, etc.) and the "bad" mimicry of baroque capitalist/fascist rituals (skinheads, satanism, neo-paganism, etc.); pulling these two methods, the right and left hand path of cultural resistance, into seemingly unconsolable opposition. Yet anyone who has ever stared at a yin-yang might know the solution: two opposite entities whose mingling weaves the veil of Maya cast over our eyes

unlike many of their contemporaries, BC's overidentification with the neoliberal ego never directly occupies the historically coded avatars of "art." It is one of the few anartistic beyonds that manages to find one (of many) homes in a gallery.

Money is always there but the pockets change; it is not in the same pockets after a change, and that is all there is to say about money. - Gertrude Stein

Unfinished Business...

tom burr @ bortolami

burr's take on sexual identity as it is understood art historically seems quaint in comparison to the far less closeted approaches out there, hawkins, hardy, olesen. while unequivocally faggy, burr's interest in allegorizing closeted sexuality through sublimated aesthetic codes (minimalist theatricality primarily) feels nearly archaic not only in the vintage sources (minimalism, pre-guiliani nyc, john cage, kate bush, etc.) but also in his insistence on the trenchcoated latency of the sexual other. but then again marc camille chaimowicz's mothballs are feeling fresh to many people...

Unfinished Business...

rh quaytman @ miguel abreu

Integral to The Mystery Method is the use of a "Neg," a backhanded compliment intended to snub a potential mate ("target"), telegraph a lack of interest ("false disqualification"), encourage the target to prove their worth ("qualify"), and simultaneously disarm 'obstacles' such as protective male or female friends. While I find no use of such techniques in my personal life - for better or worse my sexuality doesn't hinge on the conception of women as "targets," however when it comes to this (sometimes) backhanded blog it is the chicken to my egg. Blogging has mustered up a small miracle by somehow condensing negging with "peacocking," the technique of drawing attention to yourself by dressing like this (link pic of mystery). By negging Sam Lewitt with comparisons to Sancho Panza or saying that Olivier Mosset paints with no fat chix stickers it is not dissimilar from cruising Wierd with a Spencer's Gifts sandwich board. If this last sentence is any indication, Miguel Abreu gallery has received a fair share of my peacocked negs, all with the kind hearted intention of merely giving them a hard time a la Mystery kino escalating a rape whistle.

The most curious aspect of Mystery's art of seduction is that it is not an art per se but rather the type of magical sleight of hand that might earn someone such a ridiculous moniker - in fact Mystery is merely a highly publicized exemplar of a magical subgenre dubbed Attraction Magic ( Like the matter of fact technique which creates the mystique of performing magicians, Mystery's method is in fact a deeply rigorous series of conversational cues that, through their proper application, rig a diversionary smoke and mirrors so as to not only psychically enchant its audience (which is in this case is considered a "target") but also physically seduce them. The mystery of Mystery lies in this beguiling transmog of abstracted social relations into physical actuality, the mystery in which the games of language materialize into sensual contact. In many ways, this "mystery" is simply the transposition of magic's spectacular staging unto the semi-private domain of interpersonal relationships; swapping seduction's intimate "art" for the publicized spectacle that is "magic."

The veil of mystery that cloaks the possible relationships between sensuality and language - and its ambiguous terrain of public/private distinctions - is by no means exclusive to the artless practice of fooling women into discretionary lapses, said veil remains ineradicable to the ever-artful practice of painting - especially given this medium's awkward encumbrance of aesthico-politics both public and private. While the word mystery is sprinkled throughout painting right down to the mystery of its very origin (not to mention its tremendous valuation by other cultural forms), to this myopic mind, mystery makes a notable stage entrance in the few decades padded before and after the turn of the 20th century as an opaque shadow to modernity's increasingly sublimated clarity - from the pagan anachronisms of Moreau and Böcklin to the homophonic pranks of Picabia and Duchamp reach out a hook to pull modern painting's enlightened clarity back into the shadows.

As another decade happens to close, increasingly publicized is the interest of artists - New York ones especially - to reconvene modernist abstraction and its histories in the endarkened corners of its very own rehearsal; drawing the form of its performing body not with a history founded in Helmholtz's optics and Cezanne's tracings but instead finding form in the very absence of the stage of painting's expected performance. While this absence is certainly provoking, there is often a twinge of macho disregard to such bodily abandonment in both senses of the word. Think not only of Mystery's offstage "magic shows" but also Def Leppard's historically renowned mid-show exit to the unseen stage bays of their very own elaborate spectacle so as to get a piece of mom'n'daughter - all while their freakshow drummer remains on stage "sugar-free." Or the notches in Rich Aldrich's belt as he moves from "cup to cup"... (there's that peacocking/negging again. I mean no harm Aldrich...) Thanks to this historical carte blanche perversely received by those who embrace the behavoirs and attitudes of "men", the readiness and willingness to which they are predisposed to disappear from (or simply mock) the stage of historical crisis seems strangely similar to paying child support or paging a wingman to drop a chick at the abortion clinic (While I don't want to get into it but could this be why painting's mortality is so readily a concern? It's incomplete nascence always under the practical necessity of being aborted?). Or are they simply blinded by the light? Wrapped up like a douche running off in the night?

this is not to say that painting's claim on "life" is intrinsic to an essentialized social body or expectation, rather when the discourse of contemporary painting hinges on a belief of life and death, a reproductive body seems the embodiment this discourse. Furthermore my reference to "painting's reproductive body" isn't meant to enforce a heteronormative conception of artistic life-endowing and death-cheating. When contemporary human reproduction has just as much to do with turkey basters, petri dishes and overpopulated 3rd world countries as it does with the heterosexual reproductive act, it is foolish to revert to historical normativity. Rather the literalized semiosis of sexuality within contemporary bodies is worth consideration. Thanks to the simultaneous mainstreaming of body modification and plastic surgery (plus its synthetic form, gender-reassignment surgery), the nowadays language of gender has a very blunt manner in which it's spoken.

as hetero norms fades into another historical twilight, it is why so many artists use painting as a site to not only eulogize but also commence an archeological dig out to publicly expose its biopolitical foundations (but is it a real dig, or simply its allegorical performance? is it king tut's or al capone's tomb?)? While Chazz Bono has daydreams of little rascals tugging at his ankles learning to pronounce "daddy," both kelley walker and jutta koether use the publicized site of painting to eulogize a pre-AIDS new york. Koether is especially didactic with the allegorical staging of this site, keeping the painting halfway on the performing stage, halfway off getting a guilt-free beej (or picketing, or both), but such ambiguities strictly ground the work as "contemporary." like the mystery method, this sort of contemporary painting spectacularly and self-consciously publicizes the once-private social relations that find themselves on canvas. yet this exposure of one's own private domain to the proscenium of spectacle is a very peculiar movement, as it semiotically reassociates social alterity as nominal acceptance; moving from radically queer to the empowerment of a joint-bank account. . perhaps this also answers why everyone still clamors not only for paintings but self-aware ones that act simultaneously as historical custodian and miscreant to its very categorical existence, in a sense paintings formed not through the border-drawing construction of an "other" but by the border-crossing/collapsing transpostion of "otherness" onto its self.


quaytman privatizes painting's spectacle, blinded by the light of painting's spectacular contemporary-ness, narrates painting's nominal tender.

quaytman's paintings which seem blinded by their very painting-ness, by the stage on which they elect to remain.

quote blanchot work of fire, rimbaud in regards to quaytman's non-lozano absence, absence/abandon...

Unfinished Business...

Reader warning... late night bender...

When I was in college, for several days a week, I assisted the curator of contemporary art at my school's small museum. Growing up in a part of the US and then going to school in another part that both would be--without hesitation--dubbed "regional" in relation to the urbanized hegemony of an international art economy I typically longed for the discursive primacy/intimacy offered by a city like the one emblazoned in the title of this very blog. When the curator mentioned that the museum had just received a grant to purchase (relatively inexpensive)
British art (my favorite past-time at this menial job was looking for "deals" in auction catalogues) my cow-pie naïveté surged forth and timidly recommended Merlin Carpenter, who at the time was having his Tarantino-quoting RSFA debut. BTW I know nothing about the pricing of his work and am a great admirer. In the end I believe my old boss opted for something along the slickly communicative lines of a Liam Gillick or Martin Boyce multiple...Anyway...

Given the little I know of his person, Carpenter's that is, I do find a bit of irony at work with the generally allergic reaction that his perverse criticality garners among "regional" tastes as the town of his birth--with its 6,000 residents--is far from what one might call "centralized." (I should note that his work was just included in a broad group exhibition on history painting at the '90s favorite regional alma pater, UMich. Aside from internet research, I also know
nothing about England's geography...correct me if I'm wrong...)

I am projecting a lot of my experience on this little shred of bio, no doubt misrecognizing the respect I have for such a practice with something that I feel is personally relatable. As soon as one adorns the artistic subjectivity necessary of contemporary artistry, they are then thrust toward internationalized art's discursive hegemony through one of its many foci (city, school, friends, etc.). What, of course, ensues is probably written in stone somewhere. It is a maudlin,
done-to-the-Dickens tale fraught with the usual heapings of disillusionment, angst and the perennial postponement of cathartic integration--especially if such a thing isn't even desired. Well, that or--everything works out perfectly. Anyway, out of the self-indulgent critical (or is it juvenile) desire for empathy I truly hope this rote yet resonant personal narrative tale is present in Carpenter's acerbic pissings. As profanity trails the sacred, so, too, the country mouse.

The narrative of provincial tension is certainly miniaturized discursively by its contextualization within the internationalized/globalized economy of art, leaving behind rarified micro-economies tied to such narratives. Compared to some of the artists who exhibit work along similar narrative lines as that of Carpenter, the guy ain't so bad off. Yet simultaneous to these rarified microeconomies (or perhaps boutique economies) exists a vaster libidinal economy pingponging across the planet, incongruously caught between aping such an economy's Samantha and its lumpen muselmann--amalgamating financial solvency with the pretense of discursive "Realness". Perhaps this is best literalized when a gallery performance by Marina Abramowicz was included in an episode of Sex and the City. Did the Balkanized body get a makeover? I wish the enormous cow baby that Zhang Huan made for the same gallery had a chance of
making on it the show.

One such Samantha/muselmann-mime happened to be a favorite of this former employer, Cuban-born body artist Tania Bruguera. Thanks to my sensitive palate for boutique affairs, the globalized body art of Bruguera's or Abramowicz's ilk (not to mention a flash-in-the-pan like
Aliza Shvarts) are artistic practices that makes me politely gag simply for even knowing what it is. No doubt this genre of body art's utter un-selfconscious "expression" of, in my viewpoint, an over-rehearsed political reality to an audience so wide that only a few can afford it is what makes lil' ol' boutique moi cover my mouth with a napkin or, in a more vitriolic mood, yak it up all over the place. Yet these blunt horizons of standard-issue liberal topicality and the spectacle to which they submit their bodies are probably what makes this art so appealing to a person, like my former employer, whose job is to present--with mild provocation--these works to a spectacularized provincial norm. Hmm, is Jonathan Horowitz a pirate bay contemporary of these women?

Somehow TJ Clark's discussion of Ab-Ex's vulgarity comes to mind. Its reflection on the provincial tensions (in his case abstract expressionism's new world vs. old world iterations) that emerge within the internationalization of artistic production seems truly relevant to these present-day considerations. This is not not to rekindle the criticality of a position like Bruguera's but rather to hold the vast discursivity that such a position adumbrates into critical tension
with the rarified gastronomy of nebbish micro-economies. Perhaps unforseen doors will open if we follow the specters that pass throughout this proposed tension; between a contemporary art whose profound communicativity is rooted in the spectacularization of bodies and another whose boutique subjectivities offer themselves as vehicles of flight from such bodily subscription. Or perhaps these doors will just slam in our face...

In truth, I only bring up this tension after reading this dumb meme (ed. note: NYAL doesn't endorse this linked blog...) on a recent coke-related scandal involving Bruguera (initially posted here) I'd simply like to offer to my readers the following spot the diff game between the two images below, both relating to recent performative works/stunts by Carpenter and Bruguera. Where does Horowitz's Rob Pruitt fit in??

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