Friday, August 11, 2017

Robert Linsley RIP

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It is with sadness that I find this piece of news, about the passing of Canadian artist, critic and fellow blogger Robert Linsley.

I knew of Linsley's writing when he discussed my post covering the Caminero/Weiwei controversy at PAMM (which started an amicable back-and-forth between both of us). I was a fan of Robert's wonderful blog, Abstract Art in the Age of Global Conceptualism. He had a direct, intimate and approachable style, nurtured by his experience as an art teacher.

At times he felt tired of writing for this reduced -though loyal few following his weekly art musings. In 2015 he stopped writing for a while, and came back reenergized with a first book, which I had the pleasure of reading.

Linsley's book is an excellent survey of past, present and -with a critical eye- a possible future of abstraction.

God bless your soul, my friend.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

How "inadecuacy of language" does *artblicity* wonders for Luc Tuymans

Luc Tuyman Still Life, 2002, 11x16 feet

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At miami.bourbaki, we expose artblicity whenever and wherever we see it.

Dear reader, if you pay a visit to our site for the first time, perhaps we should revisit the term.

Artblicity is basically publicity passing for artspeak, its goal is to $ell art.

Though publicity and contemporary art are best friends, they pretend not to know each other. Profits belong in this other human science called Economy. Art, on the other hand, is this wonderful thing you can present and represent with hyperbolic paraphrasis, pseudo theory & epiphanic slush.

In what follows we'll try to show artblicity in action. Which brings us to Belgian painter Luc Tuymans (full disclosure: we've covered Luc Tuymans before: here, here, and here).

Tuymans is an artblicity favourite.

Take this sample from the Saatchi Gallery Webpage:
The sheer scale makes the contemplation of this painting almost impossible: a vast canvas representing an absolute nothingness. Luc Tuymans chose the subject of still life precisely because it was utterly unremarkable; a generic ‘brand’ of ‘object’ rendered to immense scale; it is banality expanded to the extreme. The simplicity of Luc Tuymans’s composition alludes to a pure and uninterrupted world order; the ephemeral light, with which the canvas seems to glow, places it as an epic masterpiece of metaphysical and spiritual contemplation. In response to unimaginable horror, Luc Tuymans offers the sublime. A gaping magnitude of impotency, which neither words nor paintings could ever express.
At first, we didn't know who wrote this presentation. Then we found it was used here, and refered to as Saatchi blurb.

Then we located Simon Morley (as it turns, an artist, professor and expert in sublimity)

Morley opens with the assumption that Tuymans delivers "absolute nothingness." Not just "nothingness" (a knotty Sartrean category, circa 1950s), but an "absolute" one at that.

Suddenly, one can feel the viscosity of hyperbole constraining one's neck muscles.

This "nothingness" happens as a result of "sheer size." Yet, the ratio of the centered still-life arrangement, about 5x8 feet2, is actually quite proportional to the size of the whole piece (11x16 feet2). If Morley takes a literal cue to imply a symbolic result, the painting's ratio between part and whole doesn't deliver his badly needed sorcery.

Then, inexplicably, Morley ventures into divination: Tuymans chooses this subject matter because Still-Life's "utterly unremarkable" standing. Not just "unremarkable" but "utterly" so (notice artblicity's hyperbolic adjectival, adverbial compulsion: 1- "sheer," 2- "absolute," and 3- "utterly," etc).

In an instant, Morley turns Still Life, one of paintings' sturdiest genres, with 24 centuries of history, into a "generic brand of object."

Now, comes Morley's epiphanic release (in a mere 58-word paragraph)

* ... expanded to the extreme,
* ... an epic masterpiece,
* ... of metaphysical and spiritual contemplation,
* ... response to imaginable horror,
* ... offers the sublime,
* ... gaping magnitude of impotency,
* ... which neither words nor paintings could ever express,

And after this panegyric, he has the nerve to drop this portent:

Still Life is a monument to the inadequacy of language.

Do you buy it? 

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Revival-of-Crafts Manifesto (in progress)

Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry, Detroit Institute of Arts, 1933

Painting, sculpture or performance art are no better than bookbinding, stucco ornament, hand hammering, dry set masonry, or violin making.- Anonymous exploited craftsperson 

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Contemporary art as the church of Mammon

On Contemporary art 

Static, eroded self-presence in the now, looking yonder to its past, Contemporary art has no future.

Contemporary art builds its reputation on hubris financed by artblicity.

From artblicity comes impunity to distort: from the impunity to distort, comes the impunity to dismantle truth: from the impunity to dismantle truth comes the impunity to brainwash. Contemporary art is a form of brainwashing.

Contemporary art expresses pseudodesires. When you see it you want something, but you don't know what or why.*

Contemporary art is a state of aesthetic fetishismThe difference between the represented 14-foot tiger shark in Damien Hirst's The Physical Impossibility of Death In the Mind of Someone Living and a Carcharodon Carcharias majestically swimming in the subtropical Florida Straits is that the latter is not inside a vitrine filled with formaldehyde inside a white box.

Wake up! Contemporary art is a form of cultural hypnosis.

Contemporary art is a cheap mode of efficacy based on trendiness.

Contemporary art is redundant. Make it a goal to reinvent the art wheel.

The do's and don'ts

Stop cannibalizing art. Be original.

Don't make your art popular. Don't please everyone. 

Craft is the slow food of art. Bring craft back into your art. 

Don't explain your art. Good art doesn't need explaining.

Don't be sloppy. Whatever art you do, learn it thoroughly. 

Don't be a Mammon-sucker! If you hire someone do to art work for you, give them credit in your work.

Don't do art by looking at art magazines. Imitation is a form of limitation.

Seek effect and affect. Appropriation is cheap.

Avoid Photoshop. Bring back your drawing skills!

Art doesn't comment. Stop making art to make comments about comments.

Don't cheat. Achieving style is a slow process. 

Don't delegate any art/skill that you can master yourself.

Art making is community. Build community!

The hell with the past. Build futurity!

Stop mimicking Postmodern mimicking.

Avoid art fair art (better, go to Vegas).

Good art is not political. It is political because it's good.

Don't cheat. Learn your craft from scratch. No shortcuts! 

* Every line expressed here applies to this writer (he is YOU).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Walter Crane's dictionary (in progress)

At first sight Walter Crane (1845-1915) would not seem a figure at the level of a Ruskin or a Morris. The received information is that Crane was indeed the most prolific children's book designer of his generation; that he was a disciple of Morris and contributor to Morris’s Kelmscott Press. But Crane was active force behind the development of the Arts and Crafts movement. He figures as spokesman of the The Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, which was started in London in 1888. And yet, it is after the death of Morris in 1896 that Crane's voice emerges with a unique self confidence that makes him a valuable source of ideas behind the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Click here for our Walter Crane dictionary (in progress).  

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

William Morris' dictionary (in progress)

William Morris, 1883

This brief William Morris curated dictionary (in progress) and Ruskin's dictionary, below are spurred by this discussion.

Much of contemporary art's current crisis can be traced back to a specific moment during the fin de siecle Arts and Crafts revolution. Pre-avantgarde Nineteenth Century illumines recent ideological friction in the contemporary art world, between what we've called "not making," the "art assembly line," art "hypnosis," "the signature," the problem of "proper naming" in art, etc. It makes sense to analyze these contemporary issues from the contributions of the Arts and Crafts Movement, particularly John Ruskin, and more predominantly, by William Morris.

John Ruskin's dictionary (in progress)

John Ruskin, 1863

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Robert Chambers' Iron Oar closes tonight at Emerson Dorsch

Robert Chambers, Trackcendence, 2017, steel I- beams, BBs and reclaimed steel buoy (ball) 5 x 5 x 5 feet

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Don't miss the the closing of Robert Chambers' Iron Oar, tonight, at Emerson Dorsch Gallery.

Iron Oar is a playground connoting the Modern, craft, and a reverence to Homo ludens. One can appreciate Chamber's vatic ability to fill a big white box with the ponderous without pretense. The show invites interaction, wonderment and youthful puzzlement.

There are:

1- "Trackcendence," a 5x5x5 feet ball (a repurposed steel buoy), rolling on a sectional track of steel I-beams, occupies half the gallery space.
2- "Spinner, " a reddish 5 foot diameter disc on the floor.
3- "Couplings," two 28x28x28 inches green-painted forged drops.
4- "Lever," a forged stainless steel rod standing on its own.
5- "Ryoanji Sky Mural," a seven-sheet polished aluminum mural, on the gallery wall.

Robert Chambers, Spinner, 2017, cast iron and steel 5 feet diameter x 11 inches tall

First, the pieces speak of their historic raw material, the uneasy intersection of craftspersonship and the machine. This is the age of the steel industry, the blast furnace, Fordism, trade Unions, The New Deal, progress, the future. Thus, the Modern epoch.

Robert Chambers, Couplings, 2017, two drop forge parts, paint, 28 x 28 x 28 inches

On the other hand, Iron Oar exemplifies what one could call "Chambersian."

Here is the craftsman, dada prankster, the object/puzzle engineer fitting the outrê in the ordinary, the ponderous in the fragile, the retro in the hereafter, the ingenious in the facile, or better, the child in the grownup. The night of the opening children were static playing with the imposing two tons, 5-feet diameter ball (let's advance that the best proof for good art is a child's reaction to it). "Trackcendence" reminded this repentant adult of a benevolent, awkward giant, joltily riding its metallic spherical frame on this abstrusely narrow track in the shape of a polyhedron— for fear of harming us Lilliputians.

Chamber's objects typically exhibit a to-and-fro between the "found" and the "made" (although Chambers is too much of an engineer to ever leave things exactly as they are). These sculptures proudly evince the making: first, there's the finding. Then comes the flanging, the swiveling and the welding. Then there is the painting, the hot blackening & the polishing.

Rough enough and furbished enough, Iron Oar follows John Ruskins' craftily advice to let the art object speak of the hand that makes it.

Emerson Dorsch Gallery,
5900 NW 2nd Ave
Miami, FL 33127
(305) 576-1278

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Hegel & the logic of the "real" Barbie

Nyadak, the black Barbie

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This news from Nyadak Thot, the stunning black Barbie from Sudan made me think of Valerie Lukyanova, the white Barbie from Ukraine and this m.bourbaki post from 2012, which applies to both Nyadak and Valerie. Here it goes:

Do you know Valerie Lukyanova, the "real" Barbie?

Being the "real," she is more than her role model, the famed Barbie Doll:

the Barbie Doll

In what sense is the "real" more than the doll? It's human!

Valerie's impressive transitioning shows she has achieved her doll/ideal in the flesh. She possesses a more than, leaving dollness behind. But wait, isn't this more than not, as well, automatically, a less than?*

The "real" Barbie is sort of a truer version, but being @ this fullness, it immediately enters a perplexing state of vacancy. From now on, nothing can be realer than it.** Undeniably, with this new in-between category Valerie attains what the doll could only aspire to, but the "real" also signals its own lack.

G. F. Hegel has a telling paragraph in his Logic, under the title "Being determinate": 
... in becoming, the being which is one with nothing, and the nothing which is one with being, are only vanishing factors; they are and are not. Thus by its inherent contradiction becoming collapses into the unity in which the two elements are absorbed. This result is accordingly being determinate (being there and so). (p. 133)
This is no galimatias: the being of "real" is determinate. "Being there and so" is Valerie, the "real" Barbie. She finally filled with flesh-and-bones what used to be a mere doll/ideal (caveat: as old Heraclitus suggests things are never static).

Meanwhile, Valerie is petrified in her own determinate "real" category. She's more than automatically stopped in her tracks.

She won't be able to overcome another more than.

Valerie, the white Barbie

The question persists: Now that Valerie embodies the "real," what would a "realer" Barbie be? 

*If the human needs dollness to become "real," being human is far from the measure -as it were (a pretty girl is called "a doll"). Meanwhile the doll forever persists in its dollness. ** A "superreal" would not solve the paradox, it would actually augment it: to a "superreal," one merely adds a higher order, "super(superreal)" and so on.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Contemporary Art Has No Future

Basquiat's Untitled, sold for 57 million in 2016

Any valuable object, in order to appeal to our sense of beauty must conform to the requirements of beauty and expensiveness both. This cannon of expensiveness also affects our tastes in such a way as inextricably to blend the mark of expensiveness… with the beautiful features of the object and to subsume the resultant effect under the head of an appreciation of beauty simply. — Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class. 

My piece for The Miami Rail here. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

How "craft" fights back "not making"

Nôtre-Dame, Paris (central entrance door)

The right question to ask, respecting all ornament, is simply this: Was it done with enjoymentwas the carver happy while he was about it?– John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"Art hypnosis," and how craft becomes subservient to the art of "not making"

Damien Hirst's Demon With Bowl, 2017 (59 feet tall)

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1. Art as socio-aesthetic hypnosis

Above, see Damien Hirst's grand Demon with Bowl (2017) at the inner patio of the Palazzo Grassi for the Venice Biennale (click here for the assembling of the headless behemoth inside the patio). One is impressed by the work's majesty. The 59 feet tall bronze sculpture is a grandiose spectacle. Keep in mind that Demon is six meters taller than Phidias' masterpiece, Statute of Zeus at Olympia. Standing next to Hirst's colossus should elicit aesthetic awe  what some scholars refer to as the "symbolic."

In The Psychological Structure of Fascism Georges Bataille presents a similar idea: "the heterogeneous," a deep psychological response, quite resistant to assimilation, which is caused by the "presentation", "formation," "elements":
... heterogeneous elements will provoke affective reactions of varying intensity (...) There is sometimes attraction, sometimes repulsion, and in certain circumstance, any object of repulsion can become an object of attraction and vice versa... (p. 69)
Can this "impossible to assimilate" force be processed within society?
Heterogeneous ... is that of a force or shock. It presents itself as a charge, as a value, passing from one object to another in a more or less abstract fashion, almost as if the change were taking place not in the world of objects but only in the judgments of the subject. (p. 70)
Bataille suggests a causal chain-reaction guiding the heterogeneous. As "symbolic," the heterogeneous has a potential for mass-brainwashing, as "sacred," it assumes uncontrollable and potentially catastrophic forms. A surplus energy, once unleashed, it's often spent externally, producing shock, leading to imperialistic wars and destructive violence.

Mass hypnosis at Nuremberg, 1936 

From the symbolic to the political:
Opposed to democratic politicians (...) Mussolini and Hitler immediately stand out as something other (...) Considered not with regard to its external action but with regard to its source, the force of a leader is analogous to that exerted in hypnosis. (p. 70)
Think of "hypnosis" as socio/aesthetic phenomenon a side show of our political impasse. Being hypnotized by symbols is not out of the question. However, if one yields to aesthetic fondness while in the presence of Demon, self-indulgence fizzles as soon as one is hit with the truth:

Demon With Bowl is not made by Demian Hirst.

2. The art of "not making"

In The Art of Not Making, artist/curator Michael Petry makes the following observation:
In recent years there has been a return to a highly drafted aesthetic in art (...) But when the artist does not make his or her own work, what does it mean for the nature of art, and for the status of the artist? How can we distinguish between the artist and the artisan? Do we even need to?  (Intro, p. 6)
Petry is not equating "craft" with "fine arts." He has a different agenda.
If the intentions of context of the actual maker are irrelevant to a work's meaning, then why get your hands dirty with the making? Anyone can produce the work for you; its authorship lies elsewhere. Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami clearly fit this category, with their hundreds of assistants producing the work of "the artist" in factory-like conditions. (Intro, p. 11)
Petry seems so enthused with the prospect of "hundreds of assistants." As if "not making" was some kind of culmination of Renaissance and Baroque's arts and crafts relations of production, a come back of a movement. But we're not in the Baroque era. This is a Post Fordist assembly-line production with a star artist producing artworks made by hundreds of (anonymous) assistants in glorified artsy sweatshops. Here comes Petry's conclusion:

Art lies not in the making of an object, but in the naming of it as art.

Naming what?  One presumes that Petry is making an emergency exit through a poststructuralist secret door.1 He selectively forgets that authorship is a form of reference, as in: "Demon With Bowl is a Hirst masterpiece," which is false. The name "Hirst" does not refer to Demon With Bowl, not in the sense of art "making." Petry doesn't understand that reference (contra his watered down version of Poststructuralism) can not be arbitrary before it stops referring altogether. Thus, for the purposes of our discussion, Petry's "naming" becomes a purposeful omission, a suppression of the unnamed (those whose names have been crossed out in the name of the signature).

 Any historic development within the avantgarde (Futurism, dada, Surrealism, etc.) presupposed a battle of ideas, a winning of hearts and minds. Petry's "naming" has the glow of a solipsistic decree produced in a social vacuum. The character of corporate take over.  

Instead of "naming," we wish to defend proper description, deserved recognition and fair compensation.

"Not making" is an art of name usurpation.

3. A brief but necessary digression into the demotion of craft

Petry implodes arts and craft as a plausible explanation of his "return to craft." But he doesn't offer a convincing argument. The historic consensus is that fine art emerges from craft. According to social historian Arnold Hauser, in ancient Greece, there is little difference between the craftsperson and the artist/artisan.
Art was still looked upon as a mere handicraft, and the artist as an ordinary artisan with no part or lot in the spiritual value of knowledge or education. He was still ill-paid, without secure abode, and led a wandering life, and so was a stranger and foreigner in the city that employed him. (SHA, Vol. I, p. 55)
The difference between a commentator like Petry and Hauser is that the latter is careful to present a socio-economic backdrop against which structural developments occur. One cannot properly address the fine art/craft split during the Renaissance without understanding the economic innovations in banking, architecture, commerce and the agrarian revolution, which drives Humanism and the fine arts. For example, Giorgio Vasari no longer considers the acceptance of handicraft work compatible with the self-respect of an artist. This stage coincides with the end of the economic dependence of artists on the guilds. (SHA, Vol. II, p 49).

According to Hauser, the emancipation of the fine arts from the spirit of pure craftsmanship has to do with a new conception of fine arts as a science, which Leon Battista Alberti defends as a program of instruction for the art academies. The already pronounced fine arts/craft split becomes insoluble during the Baroque era, with the "genius" artist embodied by the figure of Michelangelo.
This is more than the artist's inborn pride, more than the consciousness of being superior to the craftsman, the mere mechanic, the philistine (...) Michelangelo is the first example of the modern, lonely, demonically impelled artist —the first to be completely possessed by his idea and for whom nothing exists but his idea— who feels a deep sense of responsibility towards his gifts and sees a higher and superhuman power in his own artistic genius. (SHA, Volume II, p. 56).
Toward the end of mid-Nineteenth Century fine art & craft converge again, during the Arts and Crafts revolution in England. But by now it's too late. The down-top push for a return to Quattrocento ideals of craftsmanship espoused by Ruskin and Morris cannot counter the top-down productive forces unleashed by the Industrial Revolution. Hauser puts it elegantly:
In other words, those elements which might have transferred the tradition of craftsmanship to mechanical production, the independent masters and their apprentices, were eliminated from economic life before they had had any chance of adapting themselves and the traditions of their craft to the new methods of production. (SHA, Volume III, p.68)
When the industrial machine takes over so much of the function of manufacture, the craftsperson is reduced to a part of a totally mechanized culture. Technological changes contribute to a transition from home-based craft production of goods to mass manufacture in urban factories, and as a result, trade replaces craft. This is why William Morris took the Middle Ages as the crafts' model era: The craftsperson produces beauty because he/she is the master of his/her material, tools, and time.

This brief Hauserian history shows the bad faith & narcissism on behalf of the fine arts. Bad faith because while coveting the excellence, idealism and practicality of craft, fine arts pretends self-sufficiency and aesthetic disdain; narcissism because without the excellence of craft, the fine arts are empty.


Fast forward to the present. Contemporary art's soaring prices and the constant demand for contemporary artworks has changed the relations of production, spurring the use of apprentices by more artists. "The Art Assembly Line" in The Wall Street Journal takes the contemporary-art-market side of the argument:
At the other end of the spectrum is Mr. Koons, who runs his vast, high-ceilinged studio with an efficiency that discourages personal interactions. Everyone has an assigned task, from painting a section of a canvas by following elaborate diagrams to mixing dozens of paints to produce exactly the right color. Large paintings are lifted up a wall by electric hoists; in one room on a recent afternoon, two painters worked silently on a canvas at floor level while two others painted the upper part from a scaffold. There's a hierarchy of supervisors, including a studio manager, a painting supervisor and several assistant managers. It brings to mind an assembly line.  
As per the division of labor:
Mr. Koons says he has 150 people on his payroll and that he himself never wields a paintbrush. "If I had to be doing this myself, I wouldn't even be able to finish one painting a year," he says. Every year his studio averages 10 paintings and 10 sculptures. In the last four years, six of his works offered at auction have sold for prices between $11 million and $25 million each.
At this point we need to make a distinction: Koons' is not an "assembly line" in the traditional Fordist sense. Koons keeps a Fordist skeleton with Post-Fordist tissue and nerves.

4. A second digression from assembly-line Fordism to Post-Fordism

Fordism refers to the economy paradigm under modern industrial Capitalism during 1930s-1960s, which brought a sustained cycle of economic growth based on mass production and consumption along with raising income and labor rights. Though far from perfect, Fordism was being constantly tweaked and ensured a stable wage relation (with the organization of labor markets and wage-effort bargaining). Since the 1970s on, a new phase of financial Capitalism has emerged. Post Fordism amounts to the Walmartization of the economy, i.e., better consumer prices, increased flexibility, along with the vanishing of mom-and-pop businesses, unemployment, reduction in wages, dissolution of the working day and de-unionization of labor. The shift from Fordism to Post-Fordism has brought a profound change in the social experience of labor.

Why is all this relevant? Because "not making" art has morphed into full fledged Post-Fordist venture capitalism. Petry and others' defense of "not making" as a historic practice in the ateliers of Renaissance and Baroque masters naively ignores the fundamental economic differences between pre-industrial and industrial Capitalism. 2

5. How "not making" exploits craft: Koons' Cracked Egg (1995)

Jeff Koons' Cracked Egg, 1995

Koons' Cracked Egg sold for $501,933 in 2003, but he never touched the painting. What you see above is the painting of an anonymous craftsperson. And yet, Cracked Egg has Koons' signature.

"I Was Jeff Koon's Studio Serf," tells John Powers' (the anonymous craftsperson) side of the story:
I was assigned a new work, a painting called “Cracked Egg.” (...) My job was simple: Paint by numbers. The most intricate sections required miniature brushes, sizes 0 and 00, their bristles no longer than an eyelash. The goal was to hand-fashion a flat, seamless surface that appeared to have been manufactured by machine, which meant there could be no visible brush strokes, no blending, no mistakes. After five long months, the painting —my painting— was nearly complete. 
Here is a true sentence: "Cracked Egg was painted by an anonymous craftsperson, not by Jeff Koons."

You bet the actual owner of Cracked Egg could care less about the sentence above being true. They would gladly use Petry's market friendly argument to add that though Koons didn't paint it, the painting is still his. Ownership? Granted, but authorship? How come? "All I care is that it has Koons' signature." Let the market do the talking: Koons has been the top selling American artist for years.

Yes, the market can favor and foster a falsehood.

Contractually speaking, Powers entered the studio agreeing to Koons' you paint, I own terms (a contract doesn't have to be fair to still compel fulfillment). "I own" means the usurpation of Powers' name (which will not appear anywhere). Koons' bargain is more than unfair: First, the contract presupposes a deceitful maneuver whereby a principal aesthetic property of the art work (that is to say, the craft) becomes now subservient to brand/name spectacle. Predictably, the wages earned by the anonymous craftsperson reflect his subservient aesthetic role.

According to his account, Powers got paid $14 an hour. He worked three nights a week and every Saturday for five months. Suppose he did 4 hrs per night and 8 hrs on Saturdays. In five months Powers worked 400 hours of work for $5,600. "Cracked Egg" sold for $501,933, which is 100 times what Powers got paid for painting it. Petry may retort that without Koons' signature Powers is lucky to sell his painting for $5,600. And by "signature" one understands enterprise, promotional ability, know-how and more importantly Koons' brand name.

Let's revise this contemporary art "return to craft,"

"not making" is the brand name spectacle: it owns the show. 

"making" amounts to merely craft and the anonymous (underpaid) craftsperson.   

Takashi Murakami, Of Chinese Lions, Ponies, Skulls and Fountains (2011)

Why is the signature so important?

Because with the scaffolding of craft, art spectacle becomes an accessible form of aesthetic hypnosis.

Meanwhile, "not making" perpetuates the oppression of craft.

When will people realize that there is no art spectacle without craft's scaffolding of the signature?3

Is there a social climate for a bottom/up craft-driven Luddite insurgency to counter the travesty of "not making"?  

(to be continued)

1 Precisely because they conflate "signature" with authorship, Koons and Hirst make authorship the absolute standard. 2 Artists like Verrocchio, and later Rubens followed a "fathering" gilded, preindustrial division of labor. To the emergent demand of artworks by the church, the court and the nascent bourgeoisie, the master artist provided training & lodging in exchange for studio work. The apprentice started as a young man who was provided with food, clothing, shelter, and an education by the master (without payment). After completing a term of service (from five to nine years), the apprentice became a journeyman and moved on to sell his services, now with the reputation of having graduated from his master's studio. 3 The scaffolding sustains the structure, but it is not (structurally) considered a part of it. Generally what sustains is relegated to a demoted, secondary, subsidiary, role. A social comparison that comes to our mind is the southern gentleman's energic protest against abolition during early 19th Century, while maintaining that the prosperity of the antebellum South was independent of the South's white class structure based on slavery:
In our description of the Southern Gentleman, his family and friends, his negroes, horses, dogs and estates, his manners, speech, opinions, excellencies, and faults, all indeed that appertains to him, we wish the reader to understand from the beginning, that we intend to confine ourselves to such a gentleman as is peculiarly the outgrowth of the institutions of the South."-- See, Social Relations in Our Southern States, Daniel Robinson Hundley (p. 20).

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The stench of nepostism atop of the art world

 i.e., both curators curated their significant others

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Congratulations to Hili Perlson and Julia Halperin from artnews, for their uncovering of nepotism at the high echelons of contemporary art. 
This year’s Venice Biennale and documenta 14—the two most high-profile contemporary art events in the world—have quite a bit in common. Both eschew art-market darlings in favor of obscure discoveries; both are heavy on music, sound art, and performance; and both seek to reinforce the healing power of art. But there is another, perhaps more surprising, overlap: both shows include work by the curator’s significant other. The Polish curator Adam Szymczyk, the artistic director of documenta 14, included his partner, the choreographer Alexandra Bachzetsis, in the quinquennial exhibition’s performance program. Meanwhile, the French curator Christine Macel included the work of her partner, the Italian-born, France-based artist Michele Ciacciofera, in the Venice Biennale’s central exhibition, “Viva Arte Viva.”
According to the reporters, the coincidence,
... illustrates the extent to which the art world is built on close personal relationships between artists and curators. But some have questioned the wisdom of these curators’ choices at a time when nepotism and conflicts of interest are increasingly scrutinized and the art industry has grown more professionalized.
Not choices, "poor" choices.

It would be clear to anyone, that a curator should not, include a family member, lover, or significant other (whatever that means) in a project they organize.

Why not? At a simple level, artistic merit and favoritism are procedural enemies: the first is autarchic and self-sufficient, the second is biased and dependent.

A conflict of interest happens when personal interests clash with judiciary obligations. As curators of documenta 14 and the Venice Biennale, both Szymczyk and Macel have the obligation to conduct themselves in a manner that reflects the highest standards. The "poor" choice of including their respective lovers doesn't reflect the best standards of selection. It speaks of a disconnect that mirrors contemporary art's identity crisis.

This is documenta 14's awkward disclosure to artnews' follow-up:
Alexandra Bachzetsis, who already participated in documenta 13 in 2012, was invited to documenta 14—like every curatorial decision in the process of documenta 14—based on the Artistic Director’s and curatorial team’s belief in the importance of the artist’s practice in the context of themes, interests, and urgencies of documenta 14. This decision does not violate any "code of conduct" of documenta gGmbH.
The documenta 14 komunikat smells of rancid arrogance. What does (being invited to) documenta 13 have anything to do with (being invited to) documenta 14? Bachzetsis' artistic merit is thrown into question the moment her invitation happens under the directorship of her boyfriend. This is what perceived conflict of interest does. But even for the sake of artistic diversity, one should argue against an artist being selected for two consecutive documentas!*

The inclusion of Szymczyk's and Macel's partners puts both artistic directors under the shadow of nepotism (that's when the conflict ends up benefiting one's "family"). And there's no way out of it.

From the top of the art pyramid to the top of the political pyramid (übercurators could learn something here):

The instant president Trump fired FBI's director James Comey, he walked into the swampland of conflict of interest (in this case leading to possible abuse of justice, but we just want to stress the conflict itself). Though many people, including rank leading democrats disliked Comey, what's at stake is that when he was fired, Comey was investigating a possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. A smart Trump (thinking already about firing Comey) would have understood the danger of perceived conflict and (since the innocent have nothing to lose) let things take their course.** Not this president. And "perceived conflict" is a stubborn fellow. That's why invoking Rod Rosenstein's recommendations as the reason behind the dismissal (which the president disavowed later) did nothing to assuage the public's perception of conflict. See how conflict now mushrooms: One could argue that it's this perception of conflict, now on behalf of Rosenstein (who is "to gain" by Comey's dismissal) that made the former to appoint a special prosecutor (in this case, not only to heed the best course of action, but also avoid the perception that he's Trump's henchman, which is what the president intended).

In a perverse way, Trump, Szymczyk and Macel have something in common: they are individuals with power making "poor" choices.

Trump was clear about it, "I'm the president."

What's Szymczyk's excuse? "I'm the artistic director of documenta 14"?

Yeap. Impunity dwells in a clear sentence.

* Just like an artist should not win a grant twice in a row from the same grantor.  Click here to find the process to be admitted to the Venice Biennale for British artists. It seems a lengthy and careful process. Not bad. The selection process needs checks and balances to avoid unfairness. And unfairness means selecting (or not selecting) someone for the wrong reasons. **Learning from Trump's mistakes, what should a smarter Szymczyk (or Macel) have done when presented with these "choices"?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

artspeak's fumblings

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it's difficult to remain neutral with artspeak. the style oscillates between the pseudo-theoretical (derridean deconstructive morsels, demanian undecidability rants, neocolonial gobbledygook), and the epihanic (kantian & lacue-labarthian "sublime" de rigueur).

here is just a paragraph from übercurator carolyn christov-bakargief of dOCUMENTA 13:
dOCUMENTA 13 is dedicated to artistic research and forms of imagination that explore commitment, matter, things, embodiment, and active living in connection with, yet not subordinated, to theory. These terrains where politics are inseparable from a sensual energetic and worldly alliance between current research in various scientific and artistic fields and other knowledges, both ancient and contemporary.
1) dedicated to artistic research" (that's easy!) &
2) "forms of imagination that explore,"

*things, (granted not all things need be matter)
*embodiment, (of matter? matter and things? does it matter?)
and active living! (as in promoting health? this is trending in the millenial department!). don't forget this oversupply as you plow along.

2.5) "... in connection with, yet not subordinated, to theory."

in artspeak, "subordinating" carries a fetor. yet, not appealing to theory is considered unsophisticated. granted, art is not theory & theory is not art, so what's this union?

contemporary art is generally a commentary on influences. the modern, the contemporary's predecessor, permanently influences the latter. so, the influence, although implicit, now becomes explicit.

up to this point, the contemporary professed non-subordination. remember 2.5)?

theory plays a nasty game: if you leave the door ajar, it comes in uninvited. with theory, non-subordination is a form of subordination. 

that's why contemporary art comes scaffolded with theory.


3) we learn these things 1)-2.5) above, are "terrains,"

now we have a non-sentence, from "these terrains" on, that is. but we still don't know what "these terrains" refer to, what they predicate, in case they did.

christov-bakargief take us through a metonymical chute-the-chute, whereby any new phrase will be automatically subsumed under the previous one, for instance:

"artistic research" and "forms of imagination that explore commitment" become... terrains, where, as the curator suggests: "...politics are inseparable from a sensual energetic and worldly alliance..." and so on,

what are we doing? why don't we just surrender & let artspeak carry us across the land expanse, that is to say, " between current research in various scientific and artistic fields and other knowledges"?

as the paragraph closes, it warily drops one more: "both ancient and contemporary."


Friday, March 10, 2017

Foucault's chironomia

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...whereas the hands may almost be said to speak. Quintilian

Michel Foucault's personality was intense & deliberate, his explosive laughter was famous. But his hands have not been paid attention to. Foucault's gesticulations exhibit a simmering touch for the dramatic, as if his hands move following an stylistic poiesis to calibrate his next cogitation. Take for instance, 1:48, when the interviewer observes: "... it's like watching yourself in a mirror and you're both strangers," 1:58, when Foucault adds:"... how can we know if not with our own knowledge?"

The philosopher sits back at 6:10 and emphatically uses his diestra. He addresses a broader (imaginary) audience in the studio (unlike today's politicians, looking straight at the camera to establish customer rapport). @ 6:58 he leans forward: "... and also this curious notion of humanism..." savoring his words (the book being discussed, Les mots et le choses, is openly anti-humanist).

@ 7:14 he incidentally looks at the camera ("...on peut dire que l'homme n'existait pas"), but he will really looks at the camera to restate this point @ 10:24, after having dropped, en passant, that "Sartre is a philosopher of the 19th Century."

Aristotle is the first philosopher to give some serious thought to the hands. On his lesser known On the Parts of Animals, one has a rare chance to see Aristotle, the zoologist, in action. One marvels at his boundless curiosity, which takes him to ponder the most minute animal morphological details, his conclusions informed by intricate unexpected relationships:
... in elephants, though they must be reckoned polydactylous, as their foot has neither cloven nor solid hoof, the fore-feet, owing to the great size and weight of the body, are reduced to the condition of mere supports; and indeed their slow motion and unfitness for bending make them useless for any other purpose. (Ibid.)
(to his credit, later, in Book 4, 12, Aristotle observes that the elephant's trunk is a kind of hand)

Here comes the point in the context of handtHiNkInG:
... it is the opinion of Anaxagoras that the possession of these hands is the cause of man being of all animals the most intelligent. But it is more rational to suppose that his endowment with hands is the consequence rather than the cause of his superior intelligence. (Book 4, 9)
Aristotle starts from the premise that if nature gives us hands it is because we can use them, hence we can not find hands in animals that are not intelligent. Following his teleological reasoning, for a hand to be such, it must function as such, i.e., the form of a human being is responsible for the matter being the matter that it is, so the form of a human being is responsible for a hand being a hand. 

Quintilian, one of the best rhetoricians of antiquity, offers a different angle in his Institutio Oratio:
As for the hands, without which all action would be crippled and enfeebled, it is scarcely possible to describe the variety of their motions, since they are almost as expressive as words. For other portions of the body may help the speaker, whereas the hands may almost be said to speak. Do we not use them to demand, promise, summon, dismiss, threaten, supplicate, express aversion or fear, question or deny? Do we not employ them to indicate joy, sorrow, hesitation, confession, penitence, measure, quantity, number and time? Have they not power to excite and prohibit, to express approval, wonder or shame? Do they not take the place of adverbs and pronouns when we point at places and things? In fact, though the peoples and nations of the earth speak a multitude of languages, they share in common the universal language of the hands.
In the 17th Century John Bulwer borrowed Quintilian's idea of universal language to build a vocabulary of hand gestures in his Chirologia, or the Natural Language of the Hand (1644). He seemed to have been influenced by Francis Bacon's idea of "manual hieroglyphics" (which the latter inherited from Valeriano Pierio's Hieroglyphica, 1556). In the end the enterprise may have paid off in a totally different field. 

Before we go, how about this photo of our anti-humanist philosopher donning his familiar white turtleneck, gesturing auditoris mitigabit, while guarding the rear of a famous "19th Century" French philosopher?

 the hand rules.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

How Roberta Smith arthoodicates 1980s painting for the New York Times by pretending not to

Left, Kathe Burkhart’s painting Prick: From the Liz Taylor Series (Suddenly Last Summer), from 1987, reprises a movie scene with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. Right, Baron Sinister from 1986, by Walter Robinson (New York Times)

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In a previous post I ask this question.

Then I read Roberta Smith's fresh from the oven Painting From the 1980s, When Brash Met Flash, now at the Whitney Museum.

Her swift opening is a bit formulaic, between name dropping, chronology & normativity:
In New York at the end of the 1970s, many people thought painting was all washed up. And if not washed up, it had to be abstract —the more austere, unemotional and geometric, the better. Then came the 1980s and a generation of young painters, like Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Eric Fischl, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, and everything changed. With “Fast Forward: Painting From the 1980s,” an irresistible if flawed exhibition, the Whitney Museum tries to sort out how that happened.
"... irresistible if flawed exhibition," peculiar conditional. Keep in mind "irresistible". I'll come to this later.

Why flawed?
In a sense, the painting that emerged in the early ’80s was mongrel and illegitimate. In logical art-historical terms, it wasn’t supposed to happen. The much-heralded Pictures Generation, a group of photo-based nonpainters, could trace its pedigree to 1970s Conceptual and performance art, and promised an orderly succession. But this divide is often exaggerated: I can imagine painters like Mr. Schnabel and Mr. Fischl thinking, if the Conceptual and performance artists, and their Pictures Generation progeny, can use figures and tell stories, we can, too.
This declaration follows,

... the painting that emerged in the early '80s was mongrel and illegitimate."

Mongrel, yes, illegitimate? No way.

Illegitimate" presupposes something "legitimate" to be compared against. And what would that be?

The 1980s painting was as legit a movement as one could possibly have, advocated and supported by the art system, i.e., artists, dealers, critics, collectors, art magazines and museums. In fact, from 1979 to 1985 Neo-Expressionism was the thing.

Is "legitimate" not that which is sanctioned by the likes of Smith? (unless she is ready to admit they were wrong —my point is double entendre).

Better yet, is Smith so oblivious not to see that her very article for the New York Times is the top of legitimation? Unless she denies her 1980s peer critics and curators the legitimation she's buttressing right now.

At miami bourbaki we take words written as behavioral dispositions. Like behaviors, words can be analyzed. Individual's intentions on the other hand are private, inaccessible, subject to mongrel associations and disconnections. 

And Smith is a bit disconnected from her own words. Which explains this,

... it wasn't supposed to happen.

The 1980s already happened. And it had to happen with everything in it, including Reagan, Punk, the Mariel Boat lift, the War on Drugs, Heavy Metal, Gorbachev's Perestroika, the Commodore 64, Madonna,  and yes, 1980s Painting.

History cannot express regrets because whatever happens is necessary. Painting in the 1980s—whatever that means—can always be traced back to the socio-political and economic vortex of the 80s.

Who in her right mind would blame the marionette for a poor marionette performance?

Eric Fischl, A Visit To /A Visit From the Island, 1983

The answer to Smith's discomfort with 1980s painting can be traced back to this 1987 review for the New York Times. Here she defends a brief movement in late 70s early 80s labeled as "New Image Painting," which is eclipsed by the sudden arrival of,
... neo-expressionism, an art movement, whose combinations of exuberant brushwork and provocative figures generated a glamorous amount of controversy, international attention and market support. 
Back in 1987 Smith dismisses Neo Expressionism as non-inherently American, which she contrasts with the "New Imagists." You can tell who wins her favor:
There is something inherently American —austere, rational and a little puritanical
—about the New Imagists' stark, tissue-thin silhouettes and their methodically made surfaces, as well as their belief in progress. This Americanness made their work seem out of step during the more European-influenced heyday of Neo-expressionism, but now, things are different.  
Now we understand Smith's "it wasn't supposed to happen" (above) and her general unease with this assignment. She is writing about a movement she never felt for. So, why do it?

She gets to be a part of the new art trend!*

In researching Smith's output for this period, one finds a disregard for the 1980s as a juncture which defines the late-Twentieth and subsequently early Twenty-First Century global art market. This avoidance of understanding market forces in art making is not necessarily new to the 1980s, though is no secret that critical main-stream writing in the 1970s was still quite embroiled in formalist battles—a result of the late-vanguard American conceptual movements on the mid 1960s.

Let's compare Smith's version with art historian and critic Irving Sandler's account of the 1980s in his Art of the Post Modern Era:
Art-world attention in the late 1980s was focused on the burgeoning art market. If it seemed to be mushrooming in the early and middle years of the decade, that was nothing compared with the boom that began in 1987. In 1979-80, only fourteen postwar paintings sold for $1 million or more at Christie's and Sotheby's; in 1987-88, the figure rocketed to $121. In the same season, the two auction houses together sold over $3 billion worth of art. Robert Hughes cautioned that art prices had gotten so high that the market could easily go bust. (p. 519)
Smith seem to gloss over the art market's shaping effect during the 1980s.
For a long time, that seemed to be the case. Over the last quarter-century, ’80s painting has tended to be ignored, if not maligned for the macho persona projected by some of its practitioners, and for reheating the art market after the relatively quiet, supposedly pure ’70s.
Observe the critic's flair for the superficial: The 1980s is about stardom, gloss & macho posturing (a stereotypical parade of gossipy insiders)
The Neo-Expressionists were an instant hit. The phrases “art star” “sellout show” and “waiting list” gained wide usage, sometimes linked to artists you’d barely heard of. Appearances in glossy magazines became routine. And many people were not happy. The Minimalist sculptor Donald Judd wrote that “talent may strike” Mr. Salle and that Mr. Schnabel “may grow up.” Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, a leading art theorist, labeled them “ciphers of regression” —insignificant, backward daubers who would soon disappear.
If you want to critique the moment, why not talk of the market fever of this period? The money flowing to Wall Street by the effects of Reaganomics, the strong Japanese yen pushing aggressively the auction houses, instigating a secondary market of speculation —as opposed to the so called primary market of artists, galleries and collectors.

What needs to be addressed is the '80s boom from its economic side.

The 1980s signal the beginning of the gap between the rich and middle class. The move from late-industrial to financial capitalism was accelerated by technology, which increased the demand for skilled workers relative to their supply, with freer trade reinforcing the effect. Then comes the institutional of economy-driving-public policy: deregulation, and the weakening of unions.

Francesco Clemente, Scissors and Butterflies, (1980s)

Neoexpressionism was a global movement (scroll down to the countries and artists in this Wikipedia article), with very strong exponents in Italy (Transavanguardia) and Germany.

Let's come back to Sandler's behind-the-scenes approach:
In the late 1980s, the new German painting had become so familiar and had come to include so many patently mediocre followers that the promotion on its behalf backfired. The New York art world was taken aback by the quantity of mannerist German painting in the BerlinArt, curated by Kynaston McShine at the Museum of Modern Art in 1987. This glut was even more fully exposed in the Refigured Painting at the Guggenheim Museum in 1989. (p. 451)
Michael Brenson 1986 article Is Neo Expressionism An Idea Whose Time Has Passed for the New York Times paints a much more complex picture. An alert witness, he provides a rich and tentative picture of the events —as they unfold. He is keen in pointing the emergence and decline of Neo Expressionism as much more than just egos and entertainment. Brenson makes a point that Smith's article overlooks: institutional complicity.
Just as serious as questions about dealers and artists involved with Neo-Expressionism are the questions about museums. These institutions have reached a point, at least in New York, where they are almost incapable of providing any guidance or direction. What does it mean when museums just about trample each other on the way to the same young artists studios and when they do not offer the public a perspective that could clarify what the rush is all about?
The rush, the rush, this is what contemporary art is about!

At Miami Bourbaki, we refer to this contemporary art rush as arthoodication, the art of profiting while appearing almost—prudently— beneficent.

How does it work?

By exhibiting art/commodities, by transforming such art/commodities from "unknown" or "forgotten" to "highly desirable," with art publicity campaigns (what we call artblicity).

Georg Baselitz, Self Portrait I, 1980s

This is precisely what Smith does (perhaps reluctantly) here.

Which brings us to Smith's use of "irresistible" (above). Her use of the adjective is the equivalent of a Freudian Versprecher (you say what you don't mean).

(time to unveil the marionette)

Does Smith realize that she is the chosen one to bring back the 1980s from 30 years of market oblivion as the next thing?

(here comes the puppeteer)

Smith follows the lead from the curator in charge of the fulsomeness, & the apparatus behind the effort, which mobilizes other curators, collectors, dealers, and at least a museum director.

Ready to follow the system's artblicity?

The Whitney Revisits the '80s, a Decade of Macho and Money. —The New York Times

The powerful excitement of the decade has been languishing in a blind spot of art history. An exhibit at the Whitney comes to the rescue.The New Yorker 

An absorbing group show that brings together about 40 paintings by as many artists. —WNYC

A show of 1980s American painting at the Whitney Museum includes serious and playful meditations on sexuality, AIDS, wealth, and politics. —The Daily Beast

Plus more at Timeout,  Intelligence Magazine,  Cultivating Culture,  Hyperallergic and so on,

(yeap, the same artblicity that back in the day legitimized the 1980s painting generation)

There is always a price to pay. In the end, Smith's nonchalant attitude toward history —particularly the 1980s— makes her article on the 1980s painting as superficial as frosting.

* When it comes to history, Smith is willfully redundant. Here's a Smith quotable (scroll all the way down the article):  ... history is always in flux. Each rewriting, like each writing, will be reworked by subsequent generations. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

see the roachface you roachphobics?

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Let's bring forth the following conjecture:
Being signifies on the basis of the one-for-the-other of substitution of the same for the other.*
Why not apply this conjecture to the blattoidea member above?

A cockroach can never be a who, even for an expert phenomenologist in otherness like Levinas: he simply forfeits the question.

He's concerned with human otherness.

Heidegger comes a bit closer, but he declares the animal kingdom as weltarm (poor in world).

But insects got to have being. This question cannot be superfluous:

What's the cockroach's being?

Obviously, this is not up to the cockroach. It's up to us.   

Can one bridge the seemingly incommensurable man/insect gap?

(with about 1,000,000 brain cells, cockroaches may posses proto-consciousness!)

paired structures called mushroom bodies in a cockroach brain play a key role in navigation.

Getting "close" to the insect means using whatever intentionalität available to find sameness in difference.

Franz Kafka's man-to-insect transformation in Metamorphosen is a fruitful exercise, but Kafka was not really interested in the phenomenological side of the insect as much as presenting a "human insect" prototype.

Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector offers a deeper phenomenological analysis in her The Passion according to HG:
The cockroach, with its dangling white matter, kept looking at me, but I do not know if it really saw me (I do not know how a cockroach sees). But she and I looked at each other (and I do not know how a woman sees).
in Lispector's metaphysical comparison (human) mental-states are as intractable a problem as the cockroach's hypothetical gaze.
... in the eyes of the cockroach I could see my own existence. In the world we were meeting there are several ways of looking: you look the other without seeing it; one has the other; one eats the other; one is just in the corner and the other is there too. The cockroach was not looking at me with its eyes but with its body.
Cockroaches have 360º vision, which make up for the flatness of their bodies. each eye contains about 2,000 lenses, which means that their reality is not static. They assimilate a dizzying multiplicity at any given time. Lispector's conclusion is quite advanced.

In the phenomenology of Merleau Ponty the gaze has fundamental properties. Seeing means being drawn into a particular dimension of being, let's say, a slice of being to which the perceiving body is not foreign. 

Is that why Lispector concludes the cockroach sees with its body?

Was Lispector aware of phenomenologists insistence on the importance of the gaze? i dunno. what's important is that she cares for the insect's gaze. she echoes Merleau-Ponty's advice:

... "with the first vision ... there is initiation, ... the opening of a dimension that can never again be closed."** 

This is a crucial point: that "first vision" is not exempt from horror (human's and the cockroach's,  i bet). that horror is the beginning. without the horror there would be no future hope of empathy. for later Levinas, the face is synonymous with diachrony, i.e., lapsing of time, from time immemorial when both human and cockroach share an ancestor.  

Clearly, Lispector finds common ground in our shared prehistory.
What I saw was life looking back at me. How to name that horrible, raw matter, that dry plasma. While I recoiled inward, I felt a dry nausea, I was falling into the very roots of my identity. Centuries and centuries in the mud --wet mud, filled with life; moving with excruciating slowness.
A shared fate with insects --in the Permian primordial mud?

If there are eyes there is a face. What a coincidence! According to Levinas the encounter between self and other is given by the face.

Do cockroaches have faces?

In Violence and Metaphysics, Jacques Derrida belabors Levinas' idea of the encounter with the other:
What then is this encounter...? Neither representation, nor limitation, nor conceptual relation to the same. The ego and the other do not permit themselves to be dominated or made into totalities by a concept of relationship.  
Derrida doesn't have a non-human being in mind. a face-to-face encounter is always a human affair. yet Lispector's analysis addresses the insect's otherness via visage.

Now, is there another way to access the insect's being?

The human/insect distance is not without riddles:  we fall for the illusion of approaching difference to reach sameness, but that's a circular trap. can we abstract both insect and human likeness to seek a more hierarchical animal likeness?

Even if the heuristics may look a bit fuzzy, positing the problem already hints @ solution.  

when do we start?

(to be continued)
* Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being (Duquesne University Press, 2009), p. 26. **Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible (Northwestern University Press, 1979), p. 151.