MET Moments

WHOA, the holidays are almost over. Will and I have been running around, checking out The Frick & The Met.  Here are a few moments from our adventure in The Met!!  There were so many paintings to see, and so many people who were looking at all of them. 




 In the style of Hieronymus Bosch

 Pieter van Laer


James Gilray

Puvis de Chavannes

It was so nice to see so many deliciously painted fabrics & Will enjoyed the many portraits of Italians currently on display.  The Frick was great also! Will just sang this song, perhaps you can imagine the tune with these lyrics!

Little bunch of flowers,
didn't cost a dime,
picked them in the park,
in their prime.

SEE YOU IN 2012.


Brooklyn Art Museum: Sanford Biggers!

UM, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!   The last few days I've been running around with Fisk doing lots of merry merry things, one of which was going to the Brooklyn Art Museum.  A bit of a journey, but worth the effort! This museum is well known for it's ownership of one Judy Chicago's The Dinner Table - which was amazing to see in person.  I enjoyed this museum very much, the curation was a little odd in my opinion, paintings&sculptures were grouped based on subject matter and not based on art movement or historical location. It was mostly distracting, but then in some cases curious, like this photo above, courtesy of Fisk, where a beautiful white marble statue falls in front of an ominous wall piece in the back. Surely neither artist was intending for this sort of pairing, but this was unique none the less. 

Here are some pics from Sanford Biggers' first big New York Introspection.

What I enjoyed most about this exhibition was the amount of space the works were given.  The space really enhanced the many aspects of this show, utilizing the echoes of sound from the pianos, shadows that fall across empty walls, and light that shines across the room.  I most enjoyed how these assemblages felt awkward and strange to walk around and look at, but also felt entirely thoughtful and strong. The piano in the tree also played itself, this for me can never really escape notions of haunting, which seemed relevant to other aspects of the show. Steps on the walls allows you to imagine the presence of feet moving and dancing along the ground, while literal graphic images of slaves ships leave a thick presence of life lost, emphasized by the emptiness of the white walls surrounding it.  This show was eery and uncomfortably vacant for the amount of history and presence it was conjuring up.

A couple other pieces that struck my fancy!

A great painting by Glenn Ligon.

Laundry on the Floor no. 3, Sylvia Plimack Mangold.  Those of you who know me will understand why I enjoy this piece, I mean come on, such great folds!

Everything is just grand. Oh! Will tomorrow, more museums to come & the final chapter of SUBLIME sooooooon  (phew!)



Hello & Hello. There are two chapters left in this purple MIT press collection. This chapter takes us through different ideas of how the horrific can unleash sublime. ((I empathize with this notion because no doubt watching a good horror film does allow me to slip into a silent state of reverie,,  Tokyo Gore Police anyone?)) 
I had a few favorites in this chapter: 
Thomas Weiskel's, The Logic of Terror, 1979 - "This is a why a diffuse melancholy predisposes to the sublime. The melancholic is in need of 'narcissistic supplies'-self esteem- from his superego, in which an original deprivation is likely to have been institutionalized.  The sublime appearance offers and overabundance of stimulation..." 
Julia Kristeva's, Approaching Abjection, 1980 - "The abject is perverse because it neither gives up nor assumes a prohibition, a rule or law; but turns them aside, misleads, corrupts; uses them, take advantage of them, the better to deny them."
And of course, Okwui Enwezors's, The American Sublime and the Racial Self, 2006 - "...Fanon's work then was a double therapy, dealing with literal madness and colonial racism.  Lorna Simpson's interrogation of race in her work has consistently  attempted to unravel the underlying madness of the same: the racial sublime, a combination of desire and repression.   The racial sublime operates on the prodigious multiplication of social signifiers along with the phantom forms of subjection in everyday life in America."  Whoa,, there is a lot going on in this chapter! The essay I'm writing about what was not necessarily my favorite, but it gave me a lot of interesting ideas to chew on for a while, so here it is.

Gene Ray
Joseph Beuys and the After-Auschwitz Sublime//2001

This essay is all about Joseph Beuys and his relationship to the horror that was the Holocaust through the work that he made.  A lot of this essay felt like speculation, but that didn't deter me from being interested in the connections that were being made. An initial quote from Beuys in 1980 at the beginning of this essay, 
"Bueys acknowledged a deep personal shock which came with his first realization, after the end of the war, of the full extent of the genocide.  That shock, he said, 'is my primary experience, my fundamental experience, which led me to begin really to go into art'." 
Ray goes on to make the point that we cannot truly know how Beuys felt about the Holocaust, if his objects were intentionally coded with Holocaust references or not. Ray goes on to make this point about Beuys' intentionality,
"One does not need to be an uncritical Freudian (with respect to the unconscious) or a missionary Derridean (with respect to intention and iterability) to realize that Beuys' works could function at one level as objects and gestures of mourning with or without Beuys' clear intention or full apprehension."
This idea makes sense to me, Beuy's works function as statements of personal mourning and as art objects.  The question becomes about whether or not Beuys was aware of this duality, even if he was aware of how they were functioning in relation to Auschwitz, perhaps he was not admitting it in order to save his work from falling into a category that would constrain it.  Rays emphasizes this point, 
"There would have been good reason to do so; the effects of the sublime depend in large part on a certain openness or vulnerability on the part of the spectator.  The expectation that one was about to view 'Auschwitz art' would have functioned for many as a protective shield of barrier against the hit of the sublime."
I love this, because Ray makes an excellent point about the sublime, that it can only really be achieved or experienced with openness to endless possibility.  A major downfall of categorization is it's ability to immediately cancel out many possibilities for understanding. But I shouldn't get started on the evils of definitive meaning...  Ultimately Beuys didn't want his spectator to leave his work with a definitive idea of Auschwitz.  Ray claims that the narrative of Auschwitz has remained on the sidelines of Beuys' art, which leads to a greater concern, the German's inability to mourn, and when confronted with mourning, threw themselves into a less painful labour of economic recovery. Ray quotes Zizek who makes an excellent point, 
"that the weakness of the major discursive analyses of Nazism carried out by Frankfurt School and poststructuralist theorists is that their focus on the levels of imaginary and symbolic identification misses the deep, 'pre-symbolic enjoyment' which the Nazi fantasy activated." 
Whoa again, Zizek, really. Zizek asserts that rational critiques are ineffective  because they leave this deeper level of enjoyment untouched.  It's clear that Zizek feels this deeper fantasy is what needs to be addressed.  Ray ties this notion back to whether or not Beuys was aware of this deeper fantasy,
"Whether he knew it or not, Beuys found a way to evoke and avow the genocide by means of subtler strategies of indirection, opening up the way to what Zizek calls the 'traumatic kernel'.  And as one nears the irreducible kernal of catastrophe, one is exposed to the sharp and disturbing punch of the sublime." 
Rays elaborates saying that the risk of the sublime is that it is not always followed by an adequate interpretation. Once we experience the sublime, it's not as though we can exactly say what or why it was happening.  Ray then states that the greatness of Beuys' work comes from it's simultaneous engagement of past and future.  This is true, but I suppose I feel that most great art should have this engagement.  Rays ends on a somewhat contextual historical note,
"As Beuys seems  to have implied, it may have been too early, even in 1985, to 'talk about one's own country' directly, with clear words and place names.  It may have been too early to make the more brutal linkages I have made here. One trusts it is not still so."




My lovely sister Gina is in town and managed to get in touch with a great artist- Reverend Jen, who gave us a tour of her beautiful troll museum.  I have no words for how incredible some of these trolls are.

 Two headed troll!

 A troll feeling hungry...

Ah! It was so great to meet Jen after reading her book! (Live Nude Elf, but she has many more) It was an exciting time, especially hearing about all of the unique stories behind the many trolls she owns. Even nicer! She came out to have a drink with us! Beautiful. 


SUBLIME: Technology

This short chapter described a variety of ways in which technology relates to the sublime, through the unpresentable, beauty, and the logic of late capitalism.  All were relevant in describing how technology has developed in our lives, and how that development points you into a limitless direction that inspires sublime.

Roy Ascott
Is There Love in the Telematic Embrace?//1990

I was fond of this short essay for it's ability to present a cohesive flow of ideas that immediately inspired you to consider the role that technology plays in our spiritual lives.  Ascott suggests the use of the personal computer opens the door to the interpersonal computer, where networks link memory bank to memory bank, intelligence to intelligence, creating a synthesis of modes that hypermediates networked sensibilities  across global cultures.  It would be impossible not to consider the internet after a statement like this.  He goes on the further develop the computer as a device that deals invisibly with the invisible, organizing chaos that lies outside of our vision and perception, taking metaphorical existences - nonlinear, uncertain, layered and discontinuous - and re-describes them.  He ends with a relevant quote about the computer, 
"The technology of computerized media and telematic systems is no longer to be viewed simply as a set of rather complicated tools extending the range of painting and sculpture, performed music or published literature.  It can now be seen to support a whole new field of creative endeavor that is as radically unlike each of those established artistic genres as they are unlike each other.  A new vehicle of consciousness, of creativity and expression, has entered our repetoire of being..."
These ideas are hard to ignore, and absolutely relevant.  It seems almost in vain for us to begin to try to use the computer solely as a tool to enhance already existing modes of art practice, but to begin to see it as a separate entity in and of itself.  When thinking about the ability the computer has to cross cultures and genres, I can't help but think of Ryan Trecartin, whose videos not only rely heavily if not entirely on the computer, but whose narrative story telling bridges similar cultural mores.  

All due respect, if you managed to watch that entire video, you deserve a hug.  Clearly his work is about much more than it's obvious reliance on the computer and technology,, 

You know, this essay also made me think of this internet gem. 
This computer was designed to remember (or store rather) all information that it is given, with the ability to regenerate information back when prompted.  Essentially, a computer that communicates with you through it's ability to regenerate previous conversation to use appropriately.  I'm getting a little off point, but this computer's ability to allow cross cultural dialogue is interesting, no doubt, Cleverbot has confessed it's love while later deciding to speak French.  Seriously, go talk to it for a while.  MOVING right along...  The ability the computer has to show us and give us access to a limitless world creates a unique kind of sublime that exists less within the comfort of your own home or office than within the realm of the device itself.  I have reservations about these ideas, but perhaps that's because I've always been a girl who loves and is interested in tangibility, no matter how wonderful and sublime imaginary spaces can become, ...call me old fashioned. ;)


Carsten Höller: Experience

Yesterday my friend Marisa and I went to the New Museum to have an experience led by Carsten Höller.  Thankfully, the show was photography friendly, so I'm here to share that experience with you! I had heard many things about this show, and had been anticipating it for a while, so I was more than glad to go.

The main floor had these amazing sculptures of shrooms. Alice and Wonderful with their growing shape and size.  These sculptures prepare your mind for the sort of fantasy land that awaits you in the rest of the museum. 

My preference in museums is to start from the top and work my way down.  So up we went, first stop, this very slow moving swing carousel while birds tweeted in their cages above.  Shows that require participation also require patience I think. Comments I over heard on the carousel, "This is going so slow" or "So this is it?  What is it supposed to mean?" Clearly people are looking for immediate results.  More than an immediate experience, I enjoyed the way the carousel brings you back to experiences you've already had.  This entire show felt like a carnival, albeit, quiet and much more thoughtful. 

There were various participatory pieces around, some of which worked, some of which didn't.  This piece was a video of ourselves, looking at ourselves.  Some people were disappointed, others seemed to have a great time seeing themselves projected onto the wall.  They moved around in funny ways. 

The floor where the slide ended was filled with these strange animal sculptures that were neon colors. I loved them and thought they were cute, some people seemed disgusted by them, which was interesting. There were flashing lights in this entire space, so capturing them was difficult, but I enjoyed that.  Something about a flashing light disrupting your ability to really perceive your surroundings, it elevates you to a different kind of cognition.

Then I went back upstairs to wait in a long line for this two story slide.  Like many carnivals, the line, and waiting, become a large part of this exhibition. Whether the artist thought about this aspect or not is unclear, either way, I didn't mind the wait. The really special part about this piece was the way people reacted when entering into the slide, immediately the years of adulthood vanished into the same nervous joy of entering into the abyss of childhood. Some people screamed, some laughed, some were scared and didn't end up going down. The employees went down numerous times a day, I felt strong pains of jealousy.  After all, it's a TWO STORY slide we're talking about here.  It was FUN. 

Lastly, after coming down the slide I felt completely sold on this show, I wasn't really thinking about how relevant anything was or wasn't, just that it seemed  necessary to participate. So I waited in line to enter the Giant Psycho Tank.  Appropriately named because it is an interesting mental journey when you make the decision to take off all your clothes and lay naked in a pool of salt water with New York's finest.  It was an individual experience, and there was a shower, but I still can't explain the strangeness of floating nude in a shallow pool of water.  Anxiety at first, joy for the sake of being naked in a museum, and relief that it was over and no one managed to peek up at me while I was getting dressed.  

I still have salt in my ears from the water.

There are significant positive themes of childhood, play, and amusement that surround most parts of this exhibition.  Negative ones like waiting, impatience, and broken equipment.  After it all, I couldn't help but want more.  I mean, really, why aren't there slides connecting us to the bottom floor of our homes yet?  Are we really that serious? 



This short chapter is about the sublime that nature evokes. If you've ever stood on the edge of the world, looking out into the vastness of the pacific ocean, or been in any setting where nature does no less than belittle your existence, you'll need no convincing of the existence of sublime. Beginning with heaven and earth, taking you through the abstract sublime, through Frederick Law Olmsted, and lightning fields this section offers a broad yet concise overview of subliminal nature in art. While later chapters about earthworks fail to actually manifest a single sentence between the work and the sublime, it's alright, that's what our imaginations are for. This chapter ends with the essay I'm going to write about:

John Berger
Into the Woods// 2006
In the early 2000's Jitka Hanzlová took a series of photographs that featured scenes from the depths of the forest. Berger, to no surprise, wrote a beautiful essay about the affect and power this work has. I'll let you follow along a series of quotes that emphasize the ease with which this essay reads. 
"A forest is what exists between it's trees, between its dense undergrowth and its clearings, between all its life cycles and their different timescales, ranging from solar energy to insects that live for a day. A forest is also a meeting place between those who enter it and something unnameable and attendant, waiting behind a tree or in the undergrowth. Something intangible and within touching distance. Neither silent nor audible."
Berger further establishes fundamental notions about the forest before placing his hand inside of the very core of photography, setting up a dual foundation to this short essay between photography and the forest. 
"It's commonplace to say that photographs interrupt or arrest the flow of time.  They do it, however, in thousands of different ways... ...What is strange about some of Jitka's forest photos - not her photos of other subjects - is that they appear to have stopped nothing. In a space without gravity there is no weight, and these pictures of hers are, as it were, weightless in terms of time. It is as if they have been taken between times, where there is none."
It seems that this particular series of photographs, in Berger's eyes, have captured not only the movement of time, but a lack of acknowledgement of time itself.  Without seeing these photographs in person, I'm hesitant to come to such similar conclusions so easily, but stronger than my skepticism is a strong desire to really see these photos, in some sense these photos are already more successful than previously mentioned.  Berger continues,
"To make sense of what I'm suggesting it is necessary to reject the notion of time that began in Europe during the eighteenth century and is closely linked with the positivism and linear accountability of modern capitalism: the notion that a single time, which is unilinear, regular, abstract and irreversible, carries everything.  All other cultures have proposed a coexistence of various times surrounded in some way by the timeless."
For me to imagine a negation or acknowledgement of time makes me laugh, human beings have come so far, but have not gotten anywhere without at least the acknowledgment of forward movement. There is no forward without a linear idea of time, and I can't help but giggle at the thought that these photos point to a perhaps larger scale of things, a broader understanding of space that doesn't care to admit any linear direction at all. 



Yesterday I began reading the second chapter of SUBLIME and felt refreshed, instantly grateful that I read three novels before digging into more art theory. Transcendence is a pretty short chapter, so I'll focus on one essay that I loved. Probably because I love James Turrell and have secret fantasies of flying to Flagstaff Arizona to visit that beautiful crater in the desert. Mostly, this chapter is about that exact moment when our souls escape physicality and reach for the void of spiritual transcendence.

Lynn M. Herbert
Spirit and Light and the Immensity Within//1998

Leaving our physical realms behind, Herbert starts this essay by talking about light and its power to bring us to our knees. We take it for granted most of the time but, "Not only does it reveal what is around us, it also makes known that which is inside us." Herbert then continues by introducing Turrell whose sole medium has been light since the 1960's. She emphasizes Turrell's, "particular gift in affording us the opportunity to have a unique and intimate experience with light and to feel its transcendent power." Our experience with Turrell's work becomes extremely personal and for many, leads to thoughts about spirituality and religion.  Not to get too caught up in religion, Herbert quotes a former priest who makes the point,"one doesn't get 'religion' in a church anymore than one gets 'education' at a university." I liked this point because it opens the door to suggest that spiritually is manifested in so many other places.  Herbert gives a brief explanation of Turrell's upbringing and his constant relationship with light and brings us to the 60's where Turrell was able to work alongside arist Robert Irwin with scientist Dr. Edward Wortz.  After this Turrell created immaterial pieces out of light that tied him to minimalism, yet referenced the color of artists like Mark Rothko.  Turrell found Roden crater, an extinct volcano in north of Flagstaff Arizona, where you feel geological time and the sky is theatrical and vivid. "Sunrises and sunsets present ranges of color unimaginable to the uninitiated.." I have yet to forget the kind of intensity of color that exists in this part of the South West, hues are more saturated, and the lack of cloud cover allows the deepest of blue to penetrate the surrounding landscape in a heavy way.  Herbert describes the work that Turrell has made at the crater, 
"Emerging from tunnels and chambers to the rim of the crater, one will experience a phenomenon called 'celestial vaulting' in which the eye sees the sky as a dome rather than a flat expanse.  With this vision of the heavens embracing one overhead, the feeling is very much as if one were standing on the edge of the earth, close to the sky."  
Turrell speaks of the crater's ability to connect time in a vast way. He states that there are stars that are billions of years old, and there is starlight that is very recent, perhaps only 20 light years old, and that mixing this light of different ages speaks of its time.  Herbert ends this essay on Turrell's ability to create a transcendent experience in the simplest of ways, that draws our attention to the immensity within ourselves. "He allows us to look at light in such a way that we can see into ourselves through to the universe beyond..."