Thursday, May 31, 2012

occupy the banks, spanish style

via iván de la nuez  

as a spanish cantor breaks into BANKIA's mid-day idleness singing a subversive buleria, a group of female dancers dressed in black take over the bank's lobby improvising a flamenco choreography. after the initial shock the customers and some bank employees get into the groove. meanwhile a wary manager calls the police.

the song goes:

bankia you raised my salary,
then you cut it,
i don't love you bankia, 
i don't love you anymore

what did you think, that the spanish banks would miss their bailout carnival? here is the spanish equivalent of our wall street vultures!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

the new power of "arthoodication"

 View of Manitoba Museum of Find Arts, via MMOFA


A Tara McDowell reviews Manitoba Museum of Find arts @ Will Brown Gallery for Artforum:
The collection grew organically over the years, mostly through gifts from artists, and is accretive, idiosyncratic, and mnemonic in the way that the pinboard aesthetic of a personal archive is, even one on the cubicle wall. Here, Henry Hopkins’s Rolodexes share space with Stephen Kornhauser’s glass jar of cotton balls used to clean the museum’s Jean Arp sculpture, a pot holder printed with a mushroom cloud, and all manner of moose-themed collectibles (a favorite of Mayo’s). Ephemera for MMoFA exhibitions featuring George Herms, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Sol LeWitt, and many others appear throughout the gallery, which also features an extensive gift shop. One notable event was the Bruce Conner look-alike contest and bake sale, the judges for which, the flyer tells us, have seen Conner many times. 
 Stephen Kornhauser’s glass jar of cotton balls used to clean the museum’s Jean Arp sculpture

McDowell goes over the exhibit's details like a pro, but misses a significant point, which is obscured by her own description. "Finds art" is art, right? A symbolic leap from "found object" without proper submersion? Arthoodication advances!
The museum’s collection and ephemera are now on view at Will Brown gallery, a new exhibition space operating in the vein of Philadelphia’s Triple Candie, if the venture’s first three projects are any indication.
"Ephemera" by definition refers to collectable items not intended to be preserved for more than a short time. But this is quite the opposite. These artsy objects belong in a museum's growing collection under the denomination "finds art." As such, McDowell's assumption rests on a paradox. How can it be solved? One quick fix is to simply assume collection/autonomy, i.e., "the collection grew organically over the years," as if "collection" is, like in physical processes, caused by a non-human self-producing entity.

Or, "collection" and "ephemera" rest on an art/axiom:

found art =  conceptual art = art

Since the conceptual revolution, information substitutes representation (as this blurb of an interview with Seth Siegelaub in 1969 proves): 
When art does not any longer depends upon its physical presence, when it has become an abstraction, it is not distorted and altered by representation in books and catalogs. It becomes PRIMARY information... when information if PRIMARY, the catalog can become the exhibition.1 
Fast-forward about 50 years. Conceptual art is very much collected and publicized by a global market which digests & produces representation. So, McDowell mentions these historic factlets (in blue above) to buttress the very category she assumes, an problematic sign of systemic redundancy. She takes the elevation of objecthood-to-arthood for granted. That is to say:

You know art when you see it. You see art it when it's exhibited in the white cube.

How about problematizing "how" art happens? Unless "how" is cut off as a banal concern, politically speaking. Art questions, concepts, are processed by the art system via institutional infrastructure (i.e., Artforum's "critic's pick" section, a reputable website with experts in the field).    

What's the strategy? Curators and critics enthuse the public into consuming art. Art is culture. Culture is good for you. But culture, as Donna Haraway suggests, can be a logic of "domination of a necessary but dangerous instinctual nature."2 Unfortunately, artists (the other vested party in this game), are too concerned mimicking & negotiating with what's already sanctioned out there in their Weltanschauung (incidentally, a systemic organism digesting symbols in the same redundant manner).

The jar exhibits a categorical problem. How to explain its uncanny passage from objecthood-to-arthood unless it undergoes a process of arthoodication? Is it really about a magic-friction-factor? Is it proximity, or q-entanglement, whereby the cotton balls and Jean Arp's museum sculpture become a part of the same phenomenon?).3

The same goes for this artsy glow-in-the-dark-MMOFA-key chain:  

glow in the dark MMOFA key chain

Or this artsy tree-bark piece with carved initials,

tree bark with carved initials

)Art criticism is an arthoodication publicity machine(

The public (including many critics & art experts) regard arthood as an intrinsic property of, well, art/objects. Culture is associated to an aesthetics of pleasure which partakes of a global consensus. All the while, arthoodication remains concealed.

Where is the magic if people realize that what makes art art is a market strategy?4 

In spite of these problems, McDowell ploughs ahead to an unresolved conclusion (the same that plagued Conceptual Art's project of art emancipation):5
Mayo’s intention was to show artists not included in that “other museum.” “I’m not official,” she once said, “I’m unofficial. Unofficially, they let me indulge myself.” Not only does this unofficial endeavor inflect current calls to occupy museums and problematize standard definitions of institutional critique in one fell swoop, but it also demonstrates the importance and affect of alternative archives, particularly when so closely aligned with institutional ones.
"Unofficial endeavor,"? "Institutional critique"? Not so fast. The critic unproblematically echoes Alberta Mayo's wishful thinking that she is "unofficial," as the latter figures as director of a museum that houses her own "accretive, idiosyncratic, and mnemonic" collection; gets exhibited at a gallery and figures in a critics' pick @ Artforum!

Are you kidding me? The "institutional critique" that McDowell refers to is a travesty, a pseudo-institutional apparatus stubbornly concealing (and disconnecting) arthood from arthoodication.  

1 Alexander Alberro, Conceptual Art and The Politics of Publicity, p. 155. 2Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, p. 22. 3 What makes Manzoni's Merda d'artista art? Manzoni's shit, his celebrity name, or both? Check Manitoba Museum's name dropping: 
Highlights include: mirror submitted by Bruce Conner for the first ever Bruce Conner Look Alike Contest and Bake Sale; atomic bomb hotpad; glass jar of cotton balls used to clean Jean Arp sculpture; glow in the dark MMOFA key chain; pencil used by Sol Lewitt to make MMOFA wall drawing; tree bark with carved initials; Henry Hopkins' rolodexes; fake butter; fake teeth; small flocked moose; burnt package for Henry Hopkins (never opened); mature discretion sign; Clyfford Still drawing; diploma; Lynn Hershman's "game"; 4th Annual Chloe Footstar Potluck Memorial Picnic Announcement; special members gift; fashion advertisement photographed in Rauschenberg retrospective with Tyrone Brue, security guard, signed by Tyrone.
4 This is the description for a piece @ a recent show at a relatively known gallery in New York City:  
Appropriated street organ with cart, 3.5x5x4. Wood, wire, melamine, epoxy, wheels. The instrument may have been used to calm down mental patients at Kings Park Psychiatric Hospital during the 1940’s (Kings Park closed in the early 1990’s). Given to the artist by an Italian ex-patient & low-rank member of the Profaci Family with whom the artist established a friendship.
5 The major paradox of Conceptual Art (as other forms, such as Earth Art, Performance etc, to come out of the early 1960's) is that its project of artistic autonomy & emancipation mimicked the instrumental logic of the market. In liberal economics, "FOR SALE" is seen as a sign of socio-political independence. Did you ever wonder how come the art market is the most unregulated of all markets? See Lucy Lippard's "Postface," in Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972, p. 263.

Monday, May 21, 2012

moving backward, forward. is there a way to know?


all congas move forward (to be more precise side-and-forward). this one, entitled "irreversible conga," choreographed and designed by los carpinteros for the havana biennial 2012, is a first to challenge the rule. "irreversible" can be seen as a global reference to time & social progress.

the message is clear: we are moving backward and there is no stopping it.

that much we know. but to understand what that means we have to be able to see the bigger picture. so, what's "forward"? the problem is that we've been moving backward for so long that we don't remember.

better yet, what if all this was, from the start, an irreversible march backward?

is there a way to know anymore?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

i finally got it! bear and bull don't yield net gain!

james dimon, chief executive of j. p. morgan. (happier times)

UPDATE: hi folks. in the last 72 hours j. p. morgan has lost another billion. the reason is the nature & propinquity of bets. i've been thinking about it. some bets are essential, some are not. ours was a bullish bet on an index of investment-grade corporate debt, later paired with a bearish bet on high-yield securities.

i got it! the lesson is that bear and bull don't yield net gain. (incidentally, i'm beginning to hate credit-default swaps).  do i look like another beat-up wall street ceo?



@ j.p.morgan we've lost $2 billion overnight. it's true. but ladies and gentlemen, what an incredible pleasure it is to handle the uncertainties of financial risk!

do you see what i'm getting into? risk is pivotal for our species: no matter how much we have, we are always ready to lose it all. for what? the ride of risk! that's where we come in. banks evaluate these possibilities for you. for decades we've perfected models & strategies to manage risk. the variables, often hidden in financial & legalistic gobbledygook, are too complicated to be fathomed by the average joe. here, investment banking becomes essential! how to transfer risk elsewhere? how to reduce its negative impact? now i'm prepared to address the question:

what happened with the $2 billion? as dubious as it may sound, the answer is volatility. 

and what's volatility? again, risk! (too much of it).

i know you think that my argument is redundant. in other words, risk management is just a way of making, or losing money as a result of, or in spite of, volatility. i'll spare you with the trivial details of human greed as an important causal factor. the good news is that @ j. p. morgan we can absorb this loss (and i'll be shockingly honest now): we can because that money is not really j. p. morgan's. it's yours.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

We will not tolerate fear!

We will not tolerate
Daryl Gates
creates mistakes
false facts
fuck that
get myyyyy gat

Sunday, May 6, 2012

sublime abuse = sublimity

this diebenkorn fits rosenberg's "sublime," which "wouldn't exactly screw up your maid's room"

aLfrEdo tRiFf

Web-browsing through the art bubble I find the following excerpt, written by a Meredith Rosenberg,* who appears as "gallery director at BravinLee programs (...) a partner in BravinLee editions –hand knotted rugs, tapestries and installations by contemporary artists":
Prints are often placed at the bottom of the caste system, behind paintings and drawings, but Diebenkorn’s sublime etchings disrupt this order. I’m not saying, if I had my choice, I wouldn’t rather have a big Ocean Park painting hanging in my stupidly oversized après-ski mansion in Aspen, but this absolutely sublime softground etching from the 1980s wouldn’t exactly screw up the maid’s room either.
Rosenberg drops "sublime" twice, plus her adverbial use of "absolutely" in the last sentence, a sort of steroidal trope to emphasize her own preferences. Without doubt, she means the prints are more than beautiful (the more tired buzzword of the art lexicon).

But her panegyric makes you wonder.

Oddly, Rosenberg's real choice is not the Diebenkorn print, so obviously praised, but a painting she already owns (entitled Ocean Park which hangs in her "stupidly oversized mansion" after skiing expeditions in aspen). Division of labor aside here, the "absolutely sublime" ends up relegated to a maid's room. isn't this admission queer? Unless Rosenberg's hyperbole reflects a deeper valuation problem, which has become second nature amongst pseudo critics and art connoisseurs alike. We need to go back in time to find out.

In his philosophical inquiry into the sublime, Edmund Burke describes the feeling associated with the sublime as negative, antithetical to beauty. When it happens, our imagination is moved to awe, even horror. Later, Immanuel Kant shifts the emphasis to make it less psychological and more analytic, but he keeps a bit of Burke:
The sublime may be described this way: It is an object (of nature) the representation of which determines the mind to regard the elevation of nature beyond our reach as equivalent to a presentation of ideas. (CJ, 119)     
this turner painting fits the burkean sublime
The sublime for Kant represents a failure of imagination before the brutal forces of nature, which are compensated for by reason's self-reflection. The sublime is a kind of balance between nature's raw power and reason's feat at self-admiration.

this representation of planetary cataclysm fits the kantian sublime
Fast forward to late-20th century: The sublime surfaces again. jean francois lyotard retakes the kantian sublime, defining it as an aesthetic manifestation of the unrepresentable:** 
(...) the event of a passion, of a possibility for which the mind will not have been prepared, which will have unsettled it and of which it conserves only the feeling -anguish and jubilation of- an obscure debt. (ti, 141)
What is this "obscure debt"? For Lyotard, the political & ethical of 20th century horrors. ***

thousands of victims of pol pot's kmer rouge fit the lyotardian sublime
I'm not implying that Rosenberg needs to be updated with these particular aesthetic developments to inform her opinions, which no doubt percolate into her writing. Only that "sublime" now becomes a buzzword to refer to something better than, a sort of je ne sais quois which -incidentally- deserves praise.

In a perverse sense Rosenberg's abuse of "sublime" proves that Lyotard is right: the term has fulfilled its role of representing the unrepresentable, only now as cipher for the inadequacy of any representation. How come?

When normative differences disappear between beautiful and non-beautiful, high and low, good and bad, art has to be expressed as a sort of impossibility of representation. That is to say, now that  anything is representable, we have superfluously turned "sublime" into a sublime "abuse," which has become for some time now the very essence of art.

* Here one finds several articles Rosenberg has written. **Lyotard wrote these essays on the sublime through the 1980's. As this and this proves, his ideas were influential in art circles throughout the early 2000's. *** In particular, the holocaust. Lyotard is influenced by  Adorno's negative dialectics. Readers of Lyotard extend this "differend" to the representation of late-20th century horrors. Books cited for this post: Kant's Critique of Judgment and J. François Lyotard's The Inhuman.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

everyone's attention is directed towards something, independently of what this *something* is

it seems pretty redundant. naively, life can be seen as the prerequisite for pleasure (pleasure being the prerequisite for happiness), or worse yet, it can be seen as the plus or minus of positive values corresponding to unhappiness, pain and death.