Friday, March 29, 2013

iSn'T ThiS waY beTtEr tHAn tWilight?

My name is Livia and I wanted to tell you you are my air my life all my life and I believe in you! When I saw you the video that you bite the Tyra Banks I broke my computer and all my attacks (laughter) … I love you, and give you all my life to see you, but I live in Brazil and it is difficult, but one day I will see you, even if it is the last thing to do in life!
Rob you love is everything to me!
I love you forever!!
(a fan letter to Rob Pattison)

Monday, March 25, 2013

tilda swinton's absolute advantage

alfredo triff

fresh from MoMA is tilda swinton's installation piece the maybe. the daily news takes it from here:
Her public napping is part of a performance art piece titled "The Maybe," which she debuted in 1995 at London's Serpentine Gallery. She later repeated the work in the Museo Barraco in Rome. Swinton will return to the glass case several times to appear in the installation, but the exhibition dates remain a mystery even to MoMA employees.
"public napping"? i doubt swinton was napping --not with that aroused crowd gawking through the glass box: she pretended to. it's irrelevant. the audience is in awe, for this is more that they bargained for. to  pay $25 for a MoMA ticket and get a glimpse of tilda swinton so vulnerable & close? this is better than the movies: swinton placidly napping inside a glass box, wearing soft bluish linen outfit. at last, one can look at this unique hollywood specimen without being dissed, called a f***, or punched in the face by a wild bodyguard.

yet, the proposition of the maybe, myself napping in public, is redundant, ho-hum. even abramovic doing it these days looks narcissistic. what artistic value (measured in part by the artist's work portfolio) entitles this piece to be at MoMA, one the the world's leading museums?

absolute advantage!

performance art is a new fad amongst hollywood stars in search of a respectability factor.

the maybe happens at MoMA because this is (NOT a movie, but) a performance of a superstar about a superstar taking "a nap" in a transparent armor glass (security guards + camera system notwithstanding). is swinton a performance artist? not really. she has toyed with performance before, but this is not what she does (again, she can always perform in any venue she chooses). swinton is a famous star (and a very good one at that), which is enough to make her a performance artist.

can you NOT tell the difference?

do you know how many well-known performance artists wished they could show themselves in a fish tank at MoMA and have people enraptured? 

symbolically, swinton's the maybe kills two birds with one stone: it presents a killer voyeuristic spectacle for MoMA's scopophiliac audience --let's admit we're all scopophiliacs to some degree-- while facilitating the objectifying pleasure of audiences basking in the glowing presence of the rich-and-famous. it's all artblicity.

 take a look a these people, they can't believe their own eyes.

yeah, the maybe has absolute advantage.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

history's paradoxical & sobering revenge


fresh from the new york times. looking back @ ten years of vain waste with new revelations & cogitations.

what a mess!
They wanted to confirm that Iraq had W.M.D., and the intelligence analysts were inclined to move in that direction anyway. Since it would be even worse if they predicted they didn’t have W.M.D. and it turned out they did.
this is the epistemic wager of our foreign policy pundits: hope for the worse scenario and bet on it, no matter the sacrifice (were there ever any worries for those involved in making the decisions? they're now happily retired, enjoying a second chance as "policy" consultants). war is of the essence! g.w. is not having war remorse while in retirement. on the contrary, he avers that he saved us from a tyrant (oh, how he treasured saddam's gold-plated gun).

but there is a danger here: that of presuming fiascos only happens to eggheads. the iraq war was a result of a vicious cycle of fear & power embedded in our DNA. there are three immediate lessons:

1- the irreducible: the enormous (& irrecuperable) waste of lives and public money,  2- the paradoxical: we actually helped the iranians --at no x-tra charge-- to achieve their long-held dream of getting rid of saddam hussein & tilted the balance of power in their favor, 3- the saddest: we prevented the iraqi people from having their own arab spring. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

in defense of an alternative artists economy


i just read a piece by anton vidokle for e-flux (thanks to amanda san filippo). this is part of his thesis:

What I mean is that if one is really looking to produce a different kind of art, it is necessary to step through the standardization and professionalization it promises, and discover a way to access whatever may be on the other side—even if what one finds does not resemble art as we currently understand it.

how does it get here is another thing. i'd like to contrast two paragraphs from the opening (1):
(...) some of the most influential modernist artists, from Paul Gauguin to Mondrian and Rodchenko, died in abject poverty, not because their work was unpopular but because the economy produced by the circulation and distribution of their work was entirely controlled by others, whether under capitalist or communist regimes.
which is out of marx's critique of political economy 101. then we get this (2): 
I am not particularly interested in the power relations between artists and the art market, a cyclical conversation that seems to dominate much of art writing today. Historically, art and artists have existed both with and without a market. Important art was produced in socialist countries for most of the twentieth century, in the absence of an art market. true. 
ok, suppose that (1) is true. how can vidokle argue [in (2)] that such-and-such artists "died in abject poverty..." because the economy produced by the circulation and distribution of their work was entirely controlled by others, and not be "particularly interested" [as he states in (2)] by the very dynamic that causes it? there are many uninfluential artists who died well off and well-off famous artists who later died in abject poverty (as -not surprisingly- did hundreds of unknown uninfluential artists).

"circulation" and "distribution" are well-known terms of classical economy, going back to cantillon & petty (one could make the case that marx's own critique of capitalist political economy is a close kin of the former). that is to say, the reason "power relations" are such a topic of discussion in much of art writing today is -precisely: artblicity reigns!

which explains vidokle's own ambiguity:
Art can clearly exist without a market, but artists fundamentally rely upon a certain economy in order to live and make art in the first place. Furthermore, it’s important to note that “economy” and “market” are not synonymous terms: a market is just one facet of the economic sphere, coexisting with many other forms of exchange, from barter, debt, and favors to a gift economy.
what does he means by "market"? a public gathering for selling merchandise -as in the guilds of 16th century europe? the mercantile protectionist markets of the renaissance, the monopolistic industrial market of 19th century england and early 20th century america, or the wall-street financial markets of today?

then, the artists and founder of e-flux brings up ruskin's essay on political economy (the given date wrong: ruskin essay wasn't published in 1857, but 1860 in the cornhill magazine, as unto this last, a treatise as grandiloquent as ruskin's personality).

keep in mind that ruskin intended to change the discipline as defended by the likes of smith, ricardo, malthus, even j. s. mill (whom he misinterprets in his essay). here are ruskin's bombastic essay titles: "The Roots of Honour,""The Veins of Wealth," "Qui judiratis Terram," & "Ad Valorem." the first sentence opens in ruskinian
Among the delusions which at different periods have possessed themselves of the minds of large masses of the human race, perhaps the most curious -- certainly the least creditable -- is the modern soi-disant science of political economy, based on the idea that an advantageous code of social action may be determined irrespectively of the influence of social affection.
which doesn't take away ruskin's good points in it. by his own admission, ruskin was redefining the scope of classical economy. a good part of what he seems to be saying is that there is no economy without the bigger picture of sociology --something comte & even mill had been saying for some time, but ruskin didn't know.

vidokle's conclusion is that,
Ruskin laments the confusion regarding the interpretation of the word “economy,” emphasizing that economy does not automatically imply money, frugality, or expenditures, but rather taking care of a household and managing labor.
so, one gets the impression that ruskin is doing microeconomics when in fact he is doing exactly the opposite! only then vidokle can find warhol's entrepreneurial spirit as a model:
Andy Warhol’s Factory is fascinating in this respect: both a murky, magical corner for misfits and eccentrics, and simultaneously the workplace of the first self-proclaimed Business Artist. Warhol’s artistic position is very interesting insofar as it combined stances that were thought to be diametrically opposed: he was at once a dandy, a bohemian, but also someone who did not disguise his interest in business and commerce
what is vidokle after? artist's independence!
But since his time, Warhol’s economic independence seems to have been misunderstood. The independence that came from his bridging of the bohemian sphere and the sphere of day-to-day commerce has been converted into a vast proliferation of so-called artistic practices that treat art as a profession. But art is not a profession.
"profession" is treated here as if it could be separated from its economic embeddedness (i don't think ruskin own social bent would've agreed with that). 
Warhol’s position was much more honest and productive than that of artists who pretend that the artist can or should stay innocent by delegating (or appearing to delegate) business-related activity to gallerists or other agents, and who maintain that this is the only condition in which critical or culturally significant art can be produced. 
warhol honest? why is that even relevant? how can vidokle miss leo castelli's brobdingnagian shadow?  having said that, none of this is so damaging to vidokle's more interesting sort of preraphaelite thesis:
By breaking from older artistic formations such as medieval artisan guilds, bohemian artists of the nineteenth century distanced themselves from the vulgar sphere of day-to-day commerce in favor of an idealized conception of art and authorship. While on the one hand this allowed for a certain rejection of normative bourgeois life, it also required that artists entrust their livelihoods to middlemen—to private agents or state organizations.
not that artists had too much choice. but this is better:
I think it’s perfectly acceptable to work in some other capacity in the arts, or in an entirely different field, and also to make art: sometimes this situation actually produces much more significant work than the “professional art” we see at art fairs and biennials. Ilya Kabakov supported himself for decades by being a children’s book illustrator. Marcel Duchamp worked as a librarian and later sold Brancusi’s work to make a living, while refusing to be dependent on sales of his own work.
this is a point that goes to the bottom of what "art," "artwork" & "professional" means. the problem is how to redefine art practice as such? don't expect vidokle to tackle that issue. at least to question actual relations of production is a start.
These days it’s becoming more and more difficult to imagine the production of significant art without a training system that educates future producers of art, its administrators and, to some extent, its consumers. However, until only a few decades ago, many if not most artists, curators, and critics, never attended masters programs or studied curatorship and critical writing in specialized training programs. The field of art is becoming professionalized in a very, very narrow way. There’s still the old problem that professionalization is really about a division of labor, and a division of labor produces alienation.
and this:
(...) MFA programs have become a tool of indoctrination that has had an unprecedented homogenizing effect on artistic practices worldwide, an effect that is now being replicated with curatorial and critical writing programs. At the center of the problem is the black plastic folder: at the school I attended, the folder itself became the goal of the program—both the framing and the ultimate content of graduate studies in art.
towards the end, vidokle even shifts his earlier stipulation a bit. i like its forwardness: 
The market of art is not merely a bunch of dealers and cigar-smoking connoisseurs trading exquisite objects for money behind closed doors. Rather, it is a vast and complex international industry of overlapping institutions which jointly produce artworks’ economic value and support a wide range of activities and occupations including training, research, development, production, display, documentation, criticism, marketing, promotion, financing, historicizing, publishing, and so forth. The standardization of art greatly simplifies all of these transactions. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

is art evolutionary?

in the new york times, an attractive cogitation on the origins of moral norms by iain de witt. here's an interesting conclusion:
A four-dimensional scheme for social behavior that is shaped by interlocking brain processes: (1) caring (rooted in attachment to kin and kith and care for their well-being), (2) recognition of others’ psychological states (rooted in the benefits of predicting the behavior of others), (3) problem-solving in a social context (e.g., how we should distribute scarce goods, settle land disputes; how we should punish the miscreants), and (4) learning social practices (by positive and negative reinforcement, by imitation, by trial and error, by various kinds of conditioning, and by analogy).
 philosopher patricia churchland does the logistry.

what i'd like to do is to extrapolate her conclusion above into the realm of art. i.e., what does this do?

eviscerated bison in lascaux caves

let's leave aside the notion of representation as meme. re-presentation is clearly symbolic. art, 1- identifies an action pattern for the ancient paleolithic human, 2- it condenses images as "magic" (an epistemic as well as cultural practice), 3- as art evolves, from 1 & 2, into cultural habits (religion is another example) that are passed on throughout generations, art becomes a self-evolutionary mechanism.

this conclusion better contextualizes contemporary aesthetics' received picture of kantian purposelessness, arthoodication, etc, by demoting art's value for the sake of art's needs.

Monday, March 4, 2013

the banality of evil

the picture is sad enough to make one's skin crawl. the young woman in safari attitude, waving the victory sign with shades & the empty smile is not the culprit (she was hired to pose on top of the rhino). the fallen survivor of geological history now sacrificed at the altar of human greed.

this is civilization posing as self-destruction.

of course, with each passing year there will be less rhino horns on the backshelves of chinese pharmacies. the stench of death being kept safe & withdrawn (a cultural idiosyncrasy flickering at the edge of the social contract) for the sake of our narcissistic anxieties. animal extinction becomes as trivial as re-allocation of stock.

why are we so insanely destructive?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Designing "shopping"

On the  NY Times, a candid look at how corporations learn from human behavior:
The reason Target can snoop on our shopping habits is that, over the past two decades, the science of habit formation has become a major field of research in neurology and psychology departments at hundreds of major medical centers and universities, as well as inside extremely well financed corporate labs (...) One study from Duke University estimated that habits, rather than conscious decision-making, shape 45 percent of the choices we make every day, and recent discoveries have begun to change everything from the way we think about dieting to how doctors conceive treatments for anxiety, depression and addictions.
And how corporations get into the habit forming business? It turns by making you believe you make the choice! 
With the pregnancy products, though, we learned that some women react badly,” the executive said. “Then we started mixing in all these ads for things we knew pregnant women would never buy, so the baby ads looked random. We’d put an ad for a lawn mower next to diapers. We’d put a coupon for wineglasses next to infant clothes. That way, it looked like all the products were chosen by chance. “And we found out that as long as a pregnant woman thinks she hasn’t been spied on, she’ll use the coupons. She just assumes that everyone else on her block got the same mailer for diapers and cribs. As long as we don’t spook her, it works.
Didn't you know this already?

I see it differently. Though they play the paternalistic game, corporations understand that we live in bad faith. They mine on it and, by default, get us in the end.

Being a "consumer" means pretending independence.

Let's look again at this cycle of consumer's bad faith: You know you are being spied on, so you choose to play a game of "consumer independence," falling for the pretense that this time it's your choice? (not the corporation's?). Bunk.