26 September 2014

18 September 2014

In response to what Simon sez, to which (for starters) I'd add the above.*

The last bit (text) comes courtesy of the artist known as Momus from his recently published The Book of Scotlands. Of which version 158 too much reminds me of what might otherwise pass for "Origins of Modern American Regional Cuisine, Chapter 3: The Deep South."

Not that any of this hs anything to to do with the vote, of course.

17 September 2014

Inside the White Cube

From  |  via

15 September 2014


Hauser & Wirth in NYC recently launched the exhibition "Rite of Passage: The Early Years of Vienna Actionism, 1960-1966," whichg the gallery has billed as " the first major New York City exhibition" devoted to Hermann Nitsch and his Actionist associates. Thomas Micchelli at Hyperallergic weighs in with one of the earliest reviews of the show:

"Through elaborately staged performances, or 'actions,' ... they strove to break down the defenses, rationalizations and inhibitions of the audience as much as remove the barriers between art and life. It was an art, as Nitsch says in the VICE interview, 'which can be experienced with all five senses, thus being an artistic synthesis.'

"This of course brings to mind Richard Wagner, whose idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk, or total artwork, hovers over the Actionists’ ethos as much as his music is historically linked to the cultural ideals of Nazism. And this is the most unsettling part of the Actionists’ enterprise, in that (as with the example of Wagner, whom Friedrich Nietzsche condemned as 'a disease') the primal forces they sought to unleash could go either way, toward staggering works of art or unheard-of barbarities. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that they go both ways, uncontrollably. [...]

"In the obituary that The New York Times ran for Muehl in May 2013, he is quoted as saying, 'The aesthetics of the dung heap are the moral means against conformism, materialism and stupidity.' That the Actionists used debasement, the same weapon wielded by the Nazis against their racial and political enemies, as a 'moral means' to rid society of 'consumerism, materialism and stupidity' is a paradox that can be endlessly parsed, with equally compelling arguments for and against their tactics."

Which cuts to the core of why I've never been the least bit comfortable with the Actionists, some that lay behind all the unseemliness of blood, shit, viscera and mutilation that characterized their activities activities. As a minor postwar art movement, Actionism shared a common theme with that of other European postwar ("anti-")art movements in that it constituted a rejective "protest" against the excesses of recent Western history -- a reaction to fascism, genocide, the traumas of then-recent Germanic history. the possibility of atomic war, and etc.. As such, it took the form of a type of exorcism, or at least a a self-reckoned purgation by means of theater-of-cruely cathartic extremes.

Problem was, in doing so the Actionists failed to break with, let alone recognize, the nature of the social and cultural pathologies it claimed to address. Case in point: As far as fascism was concerned, it often seems that Actionism was in some degrees carrying the same, albeit in a slightly different key -- what, its appeals to myth, to collective ritual, to sanctioned forms of violence and regressive savagery.*  Bloodletting, primal-therapuetic histrionics, transgressive shocks, yeahyeah. But, all gruesomeness aside, merely that. At the very one could argue that, in the course of responding to one type of excess with its own, it was just all too literally-minded.**

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*  As well as, via its exultations of the 'primordial', and the perpetuation of such as the domain of of a certain type of masculine activity. Where's Klaus Theweleit when we need him?

**  If not a little too Mondo Cane.

12 September 2014

The Anti-Archive

"Murder, The Hope of Women, a twenty-five minute opera composed in 1919 by Paul Hindemith  ●  ...Lost, the rope given to Marina Tsvetaeva by Boris Pasternak to tie up an overstuffed valise; in 1941, Tsvetaeva used the rope to hang herself  ●  In 1899, the Spanish demand Goya's remains, buried in Bordeaux in 1828; the body, without the head, is returned to Spain  ●  ...In 1921, in a film by Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray is asked to shave off the pubic hair of the very eccentric Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven; the film is destroyed in the course of being developed  ●  ...Dorothy Parker was cremated in 1967 (the epitaph suggested by Dottie: 'Sorry for the dust'); the urn stayed at the undertaker's until 1973, the year it ended up in the office of a notary, who put it in a drawer where it was forgotten until 1988  ●  ...In a fit of rage, Egon Schiele's father, stationmaster at Tulln, burned all his son's drawing representing railroad cars  ●  ...The letters of Proust torn up by Marie-Laure de Noailles (six years old)  ●  For the 4 percent of the population afflicted by a congenital inability to perceive music, Mozart no longer exists  ●  Jean Giraudoux: 'Plagiarism is the foundation of all literature except the first, which is unknown'  ●  ...In Vladivostok, the city where Osip Mandelstam is said to have died (no one is sure of this), a cast-iron statue representing the poet was lost, a victim of metal looters  ●  ...Destroyed, the paintings of Alberto Greco, which he threw under the wheels of of cars while screaming, 'Long live living art!'  ●  Flaubert's Bouvard and Pécuchet, unfinished novel; finished, it would have no ending because there is no end of the stupidity of human beings  ●  From the train that took him to Buchenwald, the father of Martin Monestier managed to send a letter to his wife who forwarded it to their son; Martin Monestier, who didn't want to know the contents of the letter, never opened it  ●  ...Bombarded forty times and forty times rebuilt, Belgrade has lost almost all its original architectural character  ●  ...Before starting the monologue of How I Ate a Dog, Yevgeni Grishkovetz wrote a version in dialogue that he destroyed: 'They say manuscripts don't burn. They burn burn very well,' he pointed out  ●  Cervantes used to say of himself that he should also be admired for what he didn't write  ●  ...The indigenous art of all epochs destroyed by missionaries  ●  As part of an exhibition called Land's End, the artist Bas Jan Ader decided to cross the Atlantic solo from Cape Cod and disappears forever  ●  ...The sixteen drawings offered by Amedeo Modigliani to his lover Anna Akhmatova were 'smoked' by the Red Guards, who used them as cigarette paper."

From The Missing Pieces, by Henri Lefebvre (no, not that Henri Lefebvre -- but another, younger one), to be published by Semiotext(e) in October, gleaned from a teaser excerpt appearing in the new issue of Harper's. In which the author offers a "incantory" text, listing of various types of artworks and efforts that have either been abandoned, destroyed, lost, forgotten, purloined, mislaid, or which -- in some manner or another -- no longer exist. A Borgean exercise in the form of an inventory of rumors, myths, ghosts; an index to an empty codex. I expect the manuscript for the second volume of Gogol's Dead Souls is cited in the course of the thing, as well.

11 September 2014

Was Autonomy Just a Moment?

"Another incoherence here is that while claiming extreme social openness and political commitment in the vein of the avant-garde’s impact on society, contemporary art—de facto—in its economic disposition happens to be part and parcel of post-Fordist alienated production. In other words, in narratives it claims democratic and resisting values, but in reality it happens to be a nonsocialized, nondemocratic, i.e., quasi-modernist, realm in its means of production and sense. Resisting attitudes and constructed situations are often used in art as externalized, abstract, and formalized actualities rather than necessities stemming from the material and immanent bond with political constellations. Hito Steyerl approaches this condition from the other end. Considering the mutation that the avant-garde’s aspirations of fusing with life have undergone in recent times, she observes the opposite effect of such a goal—life being occupied by art. It is that very art that pretends to be dissolved in life, but de facto absorbs life into its all-expanding but still self-referential territory. The system of art believes in its social microrevolutionary democratic engagement. But since the social and economic infrastructure is privatized and not at all a commonwealth, social-democratic values happen to be declared or represented while the ethics contemporary art uses to deal with social space are rather based on the canons of modernism’s negativity—which internalizes, absorbs, and neutralizes outer reality and its confusions, even though all this might be done quite involuntarily. [...]

"Today, the problem facing many contemporary art practices—also due to their very close proximity to institutions and their commissioned framework of production—is that they have fallen out of classical aesthetics, as well as what stood for non- or post-aesthetic extremities (the sphere of the sublime). I.e., they have fallen out of modernism’s canon of innovative rigidity as well as the avant-garde’s utopian horizon, but they have also failed to return to the practices of pre-modernist realisms, because contemporary art languages cannot help but decline the dimension of the event; they consider the anthropology of the event to be the outdated, almost anachronistic rudiment of art. Meanwhile, what has become so important in the highly institutionalized poetics of contemporary art are the languages of self-installing, self-instituting, self-historicizing in the frame of what constructs contemporary art as territory. The context in this case is not historical, aesthetical, artistic, or even political, but is rather institutionally biased. So that the subject of art is neither the artist, nor artistic methodology of any kind, nor the matter of reality, but the very momentum of institutional affiliation with contemporary art’s progressive geographies. This brings us to a strange condition."

Excerpt from Keti Chukhrov's essay "On the False Democracy of Contemporary Art", which appears in the new edition of the E-flux journal. This edition picks up where the journal left off before its summer vacation, with a second installment of the double-issue theme "The End of the End of History?" Which means another round of essays on contempo art practice, and how its modes of discourse and representation contend with recent shifts in specific cultural or national identities; particularly when the latter takes an ultranationalist turn. Hence essays addressing recent developments in Hungary, Greece, Macedonia, Russia, France, and elsewhere; as well a discussion of the expanding "statelessness" of Neue Slowenische Kunst.

08 September 2014

Ugly is as Ugly Does

Yeesh. I suppose quite a few people think it only appropriate that the prize went to a complex of living quarters built around a Tesco superstore. But once you check out the menagerie of worthy contenders, you might conclude that it was all stiff competition, and the final call must've involved a drawing of straws. (Note the strong hint of streamlined, recuperative Brutalist Revivialism towerblackage exhuded by Unite Stratford City.)

As far as the carbuncular champion Woolwich Central is concerned, the former head of the district's planning committee offered something of an explanatory mea culpa on his own blog; detailing the history of the developmental plan, the subsequent proposals, and how the architectural plans were gradually "dumbed down" throughout the process, before concluding:
"No matter how you dress it up, Woolwich Central is a huge two-storey car park with a supermarket above and some flats on top: a type of development completely alien to London town centres like Woolwich and one which struggles to integrate well. Woolwich Central is at best a red herring and at worst an obstacle on Woolwich’s road to recovery. It may not be a carbuncle but it is a flawed project and I regret my role as its midwife."

05 September 2014


Random Notes

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Everynoise.com purports to be "an algorithmically-generated, readability-adjusted scatter-plot of the musical genre-space," what maps the supposed 1246 genres and sub-genres of contemporary music.

I'm sure there are legions of purists of each stripe out there who will and -- say -- declare "false necrogrind" of Parasite Hilton. In a few instances, genre names have been invented by the sat being taken care of, all you need to do is create DJ monikers for the sorts of club DJs who specialize in each designated genre. [via the Guardian]

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From the architectural pavilions of this season's Venice Biennale, in which participants kick against the guidelines of "starchitecture," as exemplified by current Biennale curator Rem Koolhaas:

"Most of the curators of the national pavilions embraced Koolhaas’s challenge to reconsider their countries' architectural history, and most ignored or deliberately undermined his polemical and ideological agenda—as Koolhaas himself had come to recognize by the show’s opening. As a result of this unanticipated and welcome rebellion, this year’s Biennale offers an unforgettably wide-ranging, if scattershot, survey of modern and contemporary architectural history that will forever demolish the popular notion of what modernism in architecture was.

"It is ironic justice that Koolhaas’s very failure to control the message in the national pavilions is precisely what makes this year’s show the most illuminating and important exploration of architectural culture in recent history. The national pavilions from Albania to Uruguay swirl with architectural splendors and revelations. Who beyond its borders knew of the rich modernist tradition in Mozambique, with one foot in south European and especially Portuguese avant-garde trends and the other in Africa’s thatched huts? Or that Pier Luigi Nervi, the Italian engineer famous for elegant long-span bridges and stadia, designed a spectacular cathedral, abbey, and monastery for the Benedictine order in western Australia from 1958 to 1961? (Alas, it was never built.) How many have recognized the importance of South Korea’s deep modernist tradition, which produced dozens of buildings that are innovative, 
beautiful, and good?"

See also: The virtual tour recently offered by ArchDaily.

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Somewhat relatedly: Every nation is the market for monuments. As those in the market have learned, North Korea's Mansudae Art Studio is frequently there to meet the demands. However:
"...There’s a consistency in the details of their craft. German officials, who commissioned Mansudae Studios to rebuild a fountain destroyed in World War One, complained of angular, cement block haircuts of the depicted women, which had an unwanted soviet touch. In Benin, critics have called a North Korean built monument Stalinist, a cartoonish depiction of Africans, and even chauvinistic."

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National Public Radio does a segment on the what all's involved in assessing the worth of a museum's entire holdings, in this case the Detroit Institute of Arts.

An historical footnote about the DIA collection: When Hitler invaded Poland and effectively got the WWII ball rolling, the Western world took note. Curators began scrambling to devise contingency plans to stash their institution's collections into safe storage in the event of an invasion. This began in London and Paris, quickly followed by museums in such U.S, coastal cites like New York, Boston, D.C., and San Francisco. But Detroit waved away the notion, mainly because Henry Ford had ordered that the doors remain open and the collection stay as it was. His rational supposedly being that (a) Detroit was too far inland to be at risk, and (b) Axis powers weren't likely to invade the U.S.. Fair enough -- but given how Ford had long been so chummy with Adolph Hitler, one can't help but wonder if his decision was partly based on one part intuition to one part "insider information."

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