Saturday, April 29, 2006

Still Ill

Moz. & Co. live on BBC TV, 2006. Crack band, much better sung than those Marr-era rarities floating round cyberspace.

Does the body rule the mind
Or does the mind rule the body ?
I don´t know.
Ask me why, and I'll die
Oh, ask me why, and I'll die
And if you must, go to work tomorrow
Well, if I were you I really wouldn't bother
For there are brighter sides to life
And I should know, because I've seen them
But not very often....


Several folks email or drop into the shop to ask why I'm "not writing art criticism any more." So here's a few paragraphs from the Rebecca Dart essay which pertain less to Rebecca specifically and more to that slippery package called aesthetics:

"I personally believe that 'formalism' doesn’t exist in art as such, and that this term doesn’t really have any meaning, outside of being handy to throw around as a diss or a put-down. But I also believe, as did Clement Greenberg, who for all his failings still remains for me the single most important art critic of the 20th century, that only form (called 'convention' in his late Seminars (short, philosophical essays which he published in publications like Arts magazine and Studio International) provides specific, verifiable means of describing art.

As Greenberg says at the beginning of Seminar 6, 'Formalizing art means making aesthetic experience communicable: objectifying it, making it public, instead of keeping it private or solipsistic as happens with most aesthetic experience. For aesthetic experience to be communicated it has to be submitted to conventions – or "forms" if you like – just as language does if it’s to be understood by more than one person.'

So, in place of private, and necessarily subjective statements, good criticism offers descriptions of specific, verifiable aspects of art objects. This painting is mostly blue. This sculpture consists of a stuffed goat, and a rubber tire, and oil paint, and some other stuff. There are nine panels on this page. And the specificity of this language, given plainly and directly and consequently available to almost everyone in ways in which the more specialized, technical languages of the applied sciences -- electrical engineering, say, or medicine, or quantum physics -- aren’t, is a way of gesturing toward, pointing at or otherwise denoting aspects of artworks which convince us, individually, of their 'quality.'

The point of so-called 'formal' analysis isn’t to smother artworks under a blanket of language or theory, but to concretize those aspects of them that appeal to us or move us, so that we can use these features as the basis for discussing why they move us in the ways that they do, or to argue that one thing is better than another. I once heard this process described as 'complicating love with judgement,' a phrase that still appeals to me."
Friday, April 28, 2006

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): Black Books

It's all true, folks!
Q: Where's all the art criticism? Since when does mindlessly linking to YouTube constitute a successful blog entry?

A: 4000 words on Ms. Dart and still typing. Stay tuned.

Living With War -- streaming audio of Neil Young's best album in years, my early favorite #4, "Shock & Awe."

(photo courtesy Craig Abaya and the Bridge School)
The Statue of Liberty

Lots of love for Mr. Andy Partridge, seen here pre-meltdown live in 1978 on BBC TV.
Thursday, April 27, 2006

We were never being boring
We had too much time to find for ourselves

And we were never being boring

We dressed up and fought, then thought: "Make amends"

And we were never holding back or worried that

Time would come to an end...

Mr. Neil Tennant and Mr. Chris Lowe on the office deck. Rainy April, mist and cherry blossoms mingling out on the sidewalk.

New album out in May!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Long and thoughtful appreciation of Doug Wright by great Toronto cartoonist Seth

"Earlier I used the term 'sense of exactness' to describe Wright's drawings. That sense was never more acute than in his drawings of the post-war suburban environment. They evoke the very experience of being there. I can think of nothing else, not even photographs, that brings that world of my childhood back to me with such deeply felt longing. As I peer into his strips I see the essence of an era that no longer exists. The last breath of the early 20th century mixing with the new world that is to come.

On occasion Wright would focus his great rendering skills on a small poetic moment of everyday life such as a snowy winter morning or a dusky evening of fireworks or a sudden sun shower. These images never drew undue attention to themselves. They never slowed the strips down. Still, if you stopped and took the time to take them in you would feel their subtle beauty. This brings up another of Wright's gifts-his wonderful ability to draw weather. He's one of the very few cartoonists who can actually make you feel the temperature in a comic strip. His sensitivity to weather was as integral to his work as his interest in detail."


Canadian cartoonist Doug Wright -- his gentle weekly strip Doug Wright's Family (in the Canadian Magazine, which came along with the Saturday Vancouver Sun c. 1970-1980), an enormous influence on me as a child, even to the point of mailing off a money order to obtain the second book-length collection of black and white cartoons, which I then ruined by promptly and ineptly coloring in with felt-tip markers. A few strips available at the link above, "February 18, 1967" and "Christmas" the best of these.

Scarceish here for the next few days -- preparing a presentation on Vancouver comics artist Rebecca Dart (her excellent Rabbithead depicted above) for a May symposium at the Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff, Alberta. I'll post the text here when it's complete. I usually prefer to speak from notes, or entirely from memory, when addressing an audience, but that's not possible here; WPG has requested the presentation text in advance. So, in the sort of "conceptual gesture" that has pretty much ensured my ongoing self-marginalization from the Canadian visual arts mainstream, I'm writing a 3500-word paper that simulates the appearance of total improvisational delivery, a la Robert Morris' early performance, 2.13.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Q: Would you be interested in purchasing a collection of hard and softcover "Star Trek" books? PS: I have inherited these books; I am not a Trekkie.

A: As you are not a Trekkie, I know you will not be offended if I say that I would rather cut off all my arms and legs than purchase a "Star Trek" collection of any size, shape, or form. We have never had any luck selling these "Harlequin Romances" of the SF world.
Monday, April 24, 2006

Magnolia & Cuttings, Burnaby, B.C., 2006

Soundtrack: a very loud, very aggressive guard dog barking and lunging and bouncing -- clunk, clunk! -- off the glass railing at upper left.
Back from the credit union and off the bus at Main & Broadway.

Pink snow, the wind knocking down petals swirling and shivering in gusts against my face.

Saturday's scouting trip to Seattle yields the useful metaphor embodied in Canadian "artist-in-general" Euan MacDonald's 3 Trucks (2001).
Tolagson forwards an enormous 3.5 meg attachment: the wide-open symphonic soul ("yacht rock"?) of Michael McDonald's lovely (& eminently samplable) I Keep Forgettin'.

Ding!, goes my inbox.

Breaking all previous speed records for replies, Occasional Toronto Correspondent draws my attention to the following lines of Becker/Fagen's Cousin Dupree:

She turned my life into a living hell
In those little tops and tight capris...

Least anyone think I've unexpectedly morphed into Creepy Prematurely Middle Aged Bald Guy, some subsequent lines are worth noting for context (particularly a propos stuff in bold):

I said babe with my boyish charm and good looks
How can you stand it for one more day
She said maybe it's the skeevy look in your eyes
Or that your mind has turned to applesauce
The dreary architecture of your soul
I said - But what is it exactly turns you off?

The first really warm day of spring, cherry trees ablaze with pink buds.

That deep blue of Saturday's T. rex's backdrop extended and intensified, as if some polarizing filter had been stretched across the sky.

Pale white vampiric hipsters bopping along in the sunshine, all trucker hats and rolled-up cuffs.

Capris: the most welcome resurgent fashion trend of the early 21st century. Mrrrow!

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