Anodyne
Saturday, June 25, 2005
 
Mount Fromme, Lynn Peaks, and Dog Mountain from Burnaby, B.C.

The image should be complex (its pieces should form a complicated relationship; it shouldn't be 'schematic' nor 'topographical,' nor neccessarily deadpan, like a real estate ad).

The image should invite explicit comparison with another (the 'quoted' or 'bitten' work) but should stress qualities which were 'defects' or 'throwaways' in the original. Mistranslation or dub remix, not literal recreation.

A photographic sequence structured like a musical score or comic strip composition, to provide moments of alternate tension and release (comparison with Chopin or Bach?) Ebb and flow. Organic metaphor: Active Pass tides. Easy rhythm -- the eye drifting in and out, first expansive, then micro-detail. Cumulatively undermining single point perspective, its implication of a static or fixed point of view.
 
Madlib Live @ Chocolate City -- free 65-minute live set. Bumpin' my speakers!
Friday, June 24, 2005
 
Phone call:

"Which Chris is this? Ferlinghetti Chris or modern art Chris?"
 
Gilles Deleuze, from Difference & Repetition:

"Repetition appears as the logos of the solitary and the singular, the logos of the 'private thinker.' Both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche develop the opposition between the private thinker, the thinker-comet and bearer of repetition, and the public professor and doctor of law, whose second-hand discourse proceeds by mediation and finds its moralising source in the generality of concepts (cf. Kierkegaard against Hegel; Nietzsche against Kant and Hegel; and from this point of view, Peguy against the Sorbonne)."
Thursday, June 23, 2005
 
Alison Yip @ Blanket -- review from this week's Straight. If you're in town and have the chance, go see this show. (Blanket is my new upstairs neighbor).
 
Grouse Mountain Resorts, Inc. -- trail maps (PDFs) and assorted publicity bumpf, so that non-Vancouverites can follow along with Team Cat's adventures.

As I came out of the chalet last night, heading for the tram with my coffee, a woman was climbing into the back of a pickup with something large on her (gloved) hand. This something turned its head as I walked by, and I stopped to pay closer attention. A falcon. A foot and a half high, off-brown and white feathers, long hooked beak, two incredibly bright black eyes. Its friend or mate sat, hooded, in the bed of the pickup beside it.

A strange feeling to see such intelligent and precision-built animals up close. I was perhaps fifteen feet away, but felt myself registered and tracked even at that distance.
 
100K Club -- cjb & Team Cat

Up Grouse late yesterday afternoon (5pm start from Seabus!) via the by-now well-known combination of Lonsdale Avenue, Prospect Road, Baden-Powell Trail, the Cut, Simic's Trail, BCMC Trail. My painter/printmaker friend Arnold Shives was a little surprised to see me slogging past his front door at 6pm, so a little bit of art criticism was worked into the day, too. 1128m of elevation gain, the last few hundred meters in the clouds. Descending on the Skyride we dropped back out of the clouds above Capilano Lake, half the lake smooth as a mirror, full of inverted clouds and the green gullied side-slopes of Hollyburn Mountain, the other half spontaneously generating clouds, which would rise up off the water and drift up-valley, so that by the time we docked the entire lake was covered in a thin layer of white cloud.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
 
The Buffett Partnership Letters

A few outstanding requests for these, complicated by last week's hard drive failure. Everyone who is in the queue, please be patient for another day or two until I can forward the documents on to you.

More response to this than any other post, ever. The files have gone to Spain, Switzerland, both coasts of the USA, and Hong Kong. But not yet to Nebraska.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
 
100K Club -- cjb & Team Cat

Not really a Team Cat outing; I only decided to go walking at the last minute, having spent the morning at work fighting with my newly-reinstalled accounting program. So Rose spent the afternoon at home, on guard against the mailman and any supernatural intruders.

Up Lonsdale Avenue in 90% humidity and steadily darkening sky. Over the Powerline Trail to the Skyride parking lot, and bus home, just as the first drops began to fall.

A nice high-level route just above the highest subdivisions, salmonberries, blackberries, and other assorted "greenbelt" shielding you from backyards and pools. A little black bear futzing around in the foliage just off the trail, and a big snake and a little alligator lizard soaking up warmth side-by-side on somebody's stone driveway marker, lazy in the heat and politely oblivious to curious me.
Monday, June 20, 2005
 
Hanne Darboven -- another favorite of mine, and the highlight of a 2003 visit to Beacon, NY.
 
Please Pay Attention Please

Conceptual Art: a historically delimited period style (Following Lucy Lippard and LAMOCA's Reconsidering the Object of Art I'd go with 1967-1973, as opposed to Wikipedia's 1967-1978, but internal disagreements exist).

Conceptualist: a creator of conceptual art. In wide use, and practically interchangable with the more awkward "conceptual artist." Equally employed by artists (qv. Mel Bochner's June 2005 Artforum review of Donald Judd's collected criticism), critics and art historians.

Neoconceptual: "Works which include the concept (idea) as an element in the realization of the work, and work with existing forms of behavior, pictorial presentation or culturally coded signpictures. Three approaches characterize the neoconceptual procedure: (1) the readymade strategy of taking over existing (finished) 'representations of a culture' as the signifier of art, (2) the use of presentation media as a 'generator' of meaning, and (3) a parallel presentation of different forms of representation, which means that the work is not being shown in order to tell a story, but in order to denote representative synchronized media differences, schisms and break-ups in presentation." (My slight abridgement of a definition originally proposed by Misko Suvakovic)

Neoconceptualist: a creator of neoconceptual art.

Sunday, June 19, 2005
 
Still pouring over Tate magazine. Specifically, a competently written but poorly argued article by Christy Lange called "Bound to Fail," which makes extravagant and goofy claims for the work of neoconceptual artists like Annika Strom, Jonathan Monk and Sean Landers. Lange begins with close readings of works by Walter De Maria, Bruce Nauman, and Bas Jan Ader, then concludes her historical exegesis as follows:

"Taken in earnest, Ader's and Nauman's insistence on trying to perform physical impossibilities and then document [sic] their shortcomings, seems to have been a test of the impact of their own human and artistic failings on the world. But they attempted their feats knowing that these minor failures bore only minor consequences on the world itself. Why not set themselves a task they could deftly and triumphantly complete? Perhaps they sensed that if their systems functioned efficiently or successfully, they would be indistinguishable from 'ordinary work,' and could no longer be called art."

There's a lot of rhetorical equivocation in this passage (seems to have been.../perhaps they...) and a gaping logical flaw. Lange's argument presupposes that the goofy, irrational, or self-defeating systems of Ader, Nauman, de Maria, et. al. are art precisely because they are neither efficient or successful; they invert the criteria by which useful work is judged (Thus de Maria's claim, 'Filing letters in a filing cabinet could be considered meaningless work only if one were not considered a secretary, and if one scattered the file on the floor periodically so that one didn't get any feeling of accomplishment'). Lange unquestioningly accepts that irrationality and self-defeat are essential ingredients of conceptual or neoconceptual art. "[T]he secret of meaningless work: even frustrated art making itself can be successful artwork if it acknowledges its own failings. Better still, if it acknowledges this fact, but also acknowledges the irony of it."

This is totally ass-backwards. Duchamp definitively proved that you can't object to art on morphological grounds alone; anything can, at least in theory, "come up for the count" as art. Language; a chopped-up shark in a tank; "oral communication"; inert gases; a urinal; an oil painting on canvas; sunlight; meaningless work. It doesn't matter. Lange's claim that, "even frustrated art making itself can be successful artwork" seems profound, but isn't, because it simply reiterates what anyone who's thought carefully about contemporary aesthetics already knows. And the recognition that some successful artworks have been made from "frustrated art making" doesn't extend a free pass to the category of "frustrated art making". Art's success or failure can't rest on morphology, because if it did, it would be possible to specify art's contents in advance, just like the ingredients in a readymixed cake. Which to my mind is what the work of artists like Landers and Jonathan Monk really is, the artworld equivalent of Betty Crocker.

Lange: "In Return to Sender (2004) Monk co-opts On Kawara's series I Got Up (1968-1979), in which Kawara sent postcards to friends and colleagues systematically reporting his whereabouts. Tearing the pages out of a catalogue that documented the work, Monk dutifully sent the pages back to the original addresses, hoping for responses, yet knowing Kawara had long left the location. 'That's something where the possibility of failure is there before you start,' says Monk. Using Kawara's own system as a point of departure, he created another, more illogical system, resuscitating a work from the past."

Lange gives Monk's effort a free pass by failing to ask just how this hypothetical resuscitation is performed. Kawara's work is not unknown to the contemporary artworld (Phaidon monograph, major collections, reproductions in October, etc.) so she can't mean that Monk's work resuscitates Kawara's reputation. Kawara's rigorous, elegant work needs no help from Monk nor any other young artist, and it would be a weird project indeed that based its own success upon the deliberate "resusciatation" of older artists' reputations.

Maybe Lange actually means that Monk has created a system more illogical than the one which his is based upon. Fair enough, but this doesn't tell us anything about his project's aesthetic success. How could it? It's just another description of Monk's project, disguised as a judgement and analysis of it.

Elaine Sturtevant's and Sherrie Levine's practices convince me that aesthetically successful artworks can be made from the appropriation, recycling, and re-presentation of preexisting images, styles, and aesthetic programs, but as a critic, I see lots of distance between, say, Sturtevant and Jonathan Monk. Formal or stylistic emulation doesn't constitute successful artmaking on its own, much as Monk or Lange might apparently wish otherwise.

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