Five years ago, it seems, someone was wrong on the internet, and I am now here to make the needed correction. It seems that if you google the phrase (without quotes) "get out as early as you can", one of the top results is this essay. I do not know the author's other work. It may be that it is highly distinguished, I do not judge. But the idea that somehow Larkin's admonition to "get out" has something to do with . . . what, not calling your mom every Sunday? That is not quite the level of darkness, deepening like a coastal shelf, at stake. It's jaw-droppingly obtuse. Seriously, read that poem and notice how each line drops a step in tone. By the end, we're in Cumaean Sibyl territory, and this guy is making it sound like it's about getting one's first apartment. Sweet Jesus.
I'm not exactly a fan of Dave Hickey, so I've been enjoying the comments here in which he gets roundly criticized, even if it did make me think, "Y'all postin' on a troll video." While I haven't had a chance to read all of the thread on Hickey at simpleposie that comes up in the comments at AFC, I have to say I find the bits of it (on Hickey and feminist art) referred to intriguing, especially combined with Tom Moody's comment on one of Hickey's, um . . . is "straw men" the mot juste? There's no doubt that, as various people point out, Hickey's annoyingly glib and given to untenable overstatements. But all of this only makes me more intrigued to see what happens on October 6, when he's scheduled to give the Gail Silver Memorial Lecture at RISD. It comes the Museum will have just opened its Lynda Benglis exhibition, with Hickey's lecture listed as part of the associated programming. I don't know what his take on Benglis is, or if he'll even actually address the exhibition specifically. But if anyone wanted to stir things up over feminism, contemporary art, and the art market, let alone sex toys, a Lynda Benglis retrospective at RISD seems like the perfect occasion.
UPDATE: Now that I've had a bit of coffee, I have to say that I can easily imagine Hickey fawning all over Benglis, or at the very least, her best-known moment. And it would be very easy, depending on how he was inclined, to use that praise as a stick to beat whatever target he might choose among his many favorite hobby horses (uptight academics come to mind, but it might be more fun, given the setting, to go over museums and art students.) I do wonder if he'll have anything to say about the actual work, especially that from later years. I obviously haven't seen it yet myself, so I'd just say that I'm personally skeptical but ready to be convinced.
2ND UPDATE: Please see the comments below by the curator of contemporary art at RISD regarding Hickey's involvement with the Benglis catalogue, his lecture in October, and a forthcoming project of his on women artists. They add valuable perspective to some of my own too-glib remarks above. Should be an interesting event.
Apropos of nothing, I was struck by this passage from an interview with Hal Foster (via):
OH: Yet I think the problem is raised anew by new
social art practices and relational aesthetics, art practices that are
still very much concerned with the breakdown of boundaries between art
and the everyday. How do you understand the curious persistence of that
mission within contemporary art today? If that project is continued,
what do you foresee as the repercussions for art as a specific genre of
HF: My sense is that one cannot decide once and for
all between artistic autonomy and social embeddedness. It is a tension
that should persist. Sometimes I am on the side of Adorno, and sometimes
I am opposed. It depends on the situation. To me that is not
opportunistic, it is simply being responsive. Even if the autonomy of
art is always only semi-autonomy, it is important to insist on.
Otherwise art becomes instrumental, which is problematic even if that
means it is an instrument in the hands of progressive artists.
One thing that strikes me about relational art is that it treats art
spaces like a last refuge of the social—as if social interaction had
become so difficult or so depleted elsewhere that it could only happen
in the vacated spaces of art. It was such a sad take on the state of
sociability at large. I also felt that, for all its worthy attempt to
work against the spectacular basis of contemporary art, there was a way
in which it posed participation as a spectacle of its own. I suppose I
am more interested in practices that use art as a guise or ruse for
other practices altogether, such as pedagogy, say, or politics.
I suppose the easy joke here has to do with relational aesthetics being the last refuge of something, at the very least. But I find the note of pathos Foster locates in it to be all too real, if not a recommendation of the practice. I can't decide, though, if that sad take represents an actual comment on the state of sociability at large, a more narrow comment on state of sociability among those whose etiolated lives make relational aesthetics seem exciting, or (most likely, I fear) another burbling forth from a culture that, to borrow a phrase, fosters a form of assent which does not involve actual credence.
Lots more going on in the quote above and the interview as a whole, of course, to which I no doubt will never get. I would note before leaving that I'm struck by the apparent (to me, at any rate--I may be wrong) contradiction between Foster's gentle insistence on the (semi!) autonomy of art and his professed greater interest in practices that use art as a guise or ruse. A bit of a shift there.
Several months ago a friend at work brought in a compilation of 1970's Philadelphia soul (this one, if I remember correctly.) A lot of it was more than familiar--like listening to my childhood--though none the less welcome for it. The one track that blew my mind, making me wonder how I had possibly never heard it before, was Dee Dee Sharp Gamble's version of "Ooh Child." It's hard to think of many songs of its type that, at this point, fall further into the category of cliche than that one. I remember putting it on 1970's mix tapes 20 years ago or so and everyone enjoying it, but for a long time now it's buried under the weight of ersatz Aaron Neville renditions and the like. Dead, dead, dead.
There's nothing dead about Sharp Gamble's take. To a post-seventies listener, the introduction with piano and strings sounds like the sort thing that, within a year or so of her recording, would be used to lead into a frantic disco beat. Instead, as the music crests and the bass and horns ease into the song with unexpected delicacy: ooh child, things are going to get easier . . . In part it's the great production (so much space in those recordings!), but the match of Sharp Gamble's vocal and the instrumentation comes across as a perfect balance of warmth and generosity. The last minute or more of the record may switch the mood into agreeable but minor vamping, but it can't do anything to take away the impact of the first few minutes. It'll make your head much lighter.
Big RED & Shiny has published its last issue, for which I failed to write anything (no surprise there); it follows many of the blogs this irrelevant website came up with in shuffling off. A whole bunch of others have taken their place, but I've not warmed up to many of them, and besides, we're now told the web is dead. The things taking its place seem at once significantly worse while still attractive enough to succeed, at least for the time being. And now I learn definitively that I've not even been in the running for a job I thought I might have a chance at and (worse) came to desire deeply; that it went to someone far better suited to it than me is proving no comfort. So: blah.
. . . since the sitemeter indicates that it's the only regular visitor coming here these days (with good reason), though anyone else should feel free to chime in. I'm going to New York soon, mostly for very boring reasons, but should have some free time. What should I go see? Right now I'm thinking Amy Sillman and Charline von Heyl, but what else? Preferably not too far away from those two, although I could be convinced to ditch my current plans and work on something else entirely. I should be hitting the Met and (I hope) the Frick at some point, at least briefly, and don't care to bother with the Guggenheim or MoMA on this trip. Part of me feels like I should hit the Whitney Biennial, but the larger part feels that I'm going to have too little art viewing time to spend it on being dutiful.
If this post receives no comments, I will be very sad.
I've been reading a lot of blog posts about William Powhida. Perhaps you have, too. A few thoughts:
I'd be ok if I didn't see anymore discussion, on anyone's part, of "insiders" and "outsiders." It is, among other things, tiresome. I suppose it would be more on point to note that it's a woefully oversimplified way of thinking, but that doesn't get at the pain such talk causes.
Judging by the comments I've seen, Powhida (and Jade Townsend, don't forget him!) is either our Daumier and/or our Hogarth, or it's utterly absurd to suggest he's our Daumier, our Hogarth. It only raises the question, doesn't anyone here know the name of a caricaturist aside from Daumier or Hogarth? C'mon, people, I thought we were the insiders. Can someone give me a Gillray? One of the Cruikshanks? If you're feeling unkind, perhaps HB or one of his followers. Try a little harder, please.
I think some of Powhida's critics are perhaps overestimating how charming people must find it to be caricatured, what a thrill his targets must get out of being featured in the latest drawing that everyone's talking about. Not everyone's actually all that keen on being part of the joke. On the other hand there's this, so a little sneering might in order.
One thing we can all agree on is this statement by the artist regarding his and Townsend's Hooverville: " Just don't miss the fact that you are pretty much fucked one way or
another whether you're in this drawing or not." Ain't it the truth?
Pretty much what I've been thinking for months now:
filter failure for me. Yes, there are ways to segment information and
keep groups, but there aren’t very good ways to keep worlds from
overlapping. Facebook isn’t a more neutral LinkedIn and Myspace. It is
the collapse of LinkedIn, Myspace, and a bunch of other networks, while
many people want these worlds compartmentalized. I mostly avoid Facebook
the same way that I’ll get drinks on a Monday night with colleagues,
but not on a Friday or Saturday night. This generation blurs the line
between work and play, but there is still a line or else you’re not
getting the best out of either.
It's really a very annoying problem for those of us who would like to see what the latest development is over at the Saltzklatsch but don't want to risk coming to the attention of all the Facebook zombies from the past out there. Anyway, via.
I'm talking about art and historiography, of course, the chocolate and peanut butter of the mind. I was delighted to learn yesterday, via the Art History Newsletter, that the University of Glasgow has begun to publish The Journal of Art Historiography. The first issue gets its Kunstgeschichte on with a focus on Viennese and German thought. Warburg! Riegl! Novotny! Just thinking about it makes me feel like . . . well, like I just ate a lot of chocolate and peanut butter and need to take a long nap. More seriously, it's all very fascinating, if a bit heavy going at times. The editors wisely put this interview (warning: pdf) with the late Michael Baxandall at the top, easing the reader in with a little lighter fare. It's an engaging read, with citations that would provide a good reading list for an intro art history seminar on their own. At times it's perhaps a bit too light or predictable (Baxandall liked Richard Wollheim, and admired Francis Haskell, though thought the latter went too far--more detail, please?), but one can't expect too much from a transcribed conversation, tantalizing though it may be. And while I'd prefer that the journal published its articles on pages of their own and not as pdfs, I'm happy to see that they're up at all, and so I'll stop nitpicking and just be thankful for the free ice cream. Or chocolate and peanut butter, as the case may be.
As this mostly dreary summer seeks to belie its dimming through a series of perfect days that can't quite hide the coming fall, a fragment from a Transylvanian idyll, long ago:
"The summer solstice was past, peonies and lilac had both vanished,
cuckoos had changed their tune and were making ready to fly. Roast
corn-cobs came and trout from the mountains; cherries, then
strawberries, apricots and peaches, and finally, wonderful melons and
raspberries. The scarlet blaze of paprika--there were two kinds on the
table, one of them fierce as gunpowder--was cooled by cucumber cut thin
as muslin and by soda splashed into glasses of wine already afloat with
ice; this had been fetched from an igloo-like undercroft among the
trees where prudent hands had stacked it six months before when--it was
impossible to imagine it!--snow covered all. Waggons creaked under
loads of apricots, yet the trees were still laden; they scattered the
dust, wasps tunnelled them and wheels and foot-falls flattened them to
a yellow pulp; tall wooden vats bubbled among the dusty sunflowers,
filling the yards with the sweet and heady smell of their fermentation;
and soon, even at midday, the newly distilled spirit began to bowl the
peasants over like a sniper, flinging the harvesters prostrate and
prone in every fragment of shadow. They snored among sheaves and
hay-cocks and a mantle of flies covered them while the flocks crammed
together under every spread of branches, and not a leaf moved."
To read C.V. Wedgwood on The Thirty Years War and reflect that she herself had not reached the age of thirty when she completed her astonishing, magisterial volume it is to realize exactly how large a distance separates oneself from greatness. "Humbling" does not begin to do justice to the feeling.