Saturday, November 26, 2005

Speed freaks

Sunday's Washington Post, Blake Gopnik's "Doing Their Own Thing" looks at how some DC area museums are returning to featuring their own permanent collections (duh!).

Art, that is, has become a high-energy, must-see "occasion," like a hot film or a big-time Broadway show. It's part of the entertainment rat race, rather than offering a contemplative experience in contrast to that rush. Museums have got their public hooked on special exhibitions, and now they're stuck having to cater to the speed freaks they've created.

I wonder why some museum doesn't sell off most of it's permanent collection and just become a presenting organization of travelling shows or why a museum isn't started just to be a presenting space. And yes "art" is part of the entertainment rat race and I'll entertainment myself thank you.

Best friends?

On the Business Standard, Kishore Singh's aticle "Best Friends" examines the relationship between artist, gallerist and the commerce of art:

It’s always been a fractious relationship and one based not so much on a shared love of art as much as avarice and greed. The gallerist and the artist are two ends of a paradigm; they cannot exist without the other but that co-existence is far from cosy.

With few exceptions, gallerists are seen to feed off an artist’s talent, making money (sometimes much more money) than the artist. And since their investment iself isn’t huge to begin with (how much can space, a catalogue, an opening, cost the gallery?), that they’re feeding off the fat of an artist’s labours seems slightly
abhorrent.

It is perhaps this that makes us consider the professional gallerist with something resembling loathing.

We often hear complaints from musical artists about the record labels and filmakers about the studios - it seems as an extension of the entertainment industry "art" follows the same control of distribution model. Of course with a much reduced universe of players, even a small time hustler, uhm I mean gallerist, can make waves.

Where can I get one of these hustlers to move my work?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hold the presses: Fictions are in!

An article in Saturday's New York Times by Alan Riding, "Photos That Don't Capture Reality, but Change It" may have officially ushered manipulated photographs to the front of the bus.

Three quotes jump out:

"Most prefer to use color, while many work with large formats, manipulate their images digitally, dabble with collage and design complex mises-en-scènes."

"Indeed, if any common characteristic fits the contemporary photography seen here, it is a concern with form - form that takes on a different meaning when altered digitally and presented in large format."

"Still, whether large or small, documentary or manipulated, most of the works here seem to reflect a conscious effort to alter perceptions. And perhaps that suffices to define art. For those streaming through Paris Photo, the point goes without saying. As the New York dealer Deborah Bell put it, "You judge photography by the same criteria as you judge any work of art." "

Time to call Zeke down at Spectra and update the portfolio.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Poetic reflections on the most alienated aspects of the contemporary human experience

I have no interest in most movies, I hate being manipulated. I'll entertain myself, thank you (unless the kids want to see them) but this review/article (registration required) in the Washington Post on Jem Cohen has caught my interest.

"in a film that blurs the lines between fiction and documentary, personal essay and political polemic, formal rigor and punk rock spontaneity"

I see myself working much of the same although I am probably not so much punk as I used to be back in the day ....

I'm in Hong Kong this week, then back to NY for Thanksgiving before another week in London at the end of the month.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Let truth be the prejudice

Robert Trippett's article THE VISION THING: Navigating the Slippery Slope of Digital Manipulation With Eyes Wide Shut on Digital Journalist poses 18 question for photojournalists seeking to navigate the "murky line between vision and manipulation".

A photojournalist must carefully measure their intent, both aesthetic and journalistic, making the choices along the way that lead to clarity and not distortion or superficial showmanship. That intent, ethically calibrated, is the fulcrum that begins to resolve some of these thorny dilemmas, counterbalancing the mantra to create something "different" with the more imperative calling to convey what is true.

Now although these questions are posed within the context of a photojournalist's work, it does offer a shopping list to cross examine any purist's dersion of even simple manipulation. I am often asked "how do you do it?" For me the first manipulation is at the click of the shutter.

Now back to some more superficial showmanship ......

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Little movies

From the LA Times article Waters' stills do run deep by Christopher Knight on an exhibition of photobased art by John Waters.

Usually Waters appropriates images that have appeared in mass media, sometimes even shooting off the TV screen. Then he reassembles them, often in sequential strips, in ways their makers never dreamed.

The 79 works emerge as Conceptual Pop — the illegitimate love child of John Baldessari and Andy Warhol. Waters began to make art in 1992, after the triumph of Cindy Sherman and other artists who erased all established distinctions between photography and art. Formally Waters' work is more tame than adventurous, but he's the rare entertainment celebrity who also manages to make art worth looking at.

Waters' working method crosses film editing with collage. He refers to the resulting montages as "little movies," and generally they elaborate on themes familiar to his films. They also reveal a downright obsessive intimacy with all things cinematic.

My first encounter with Waters films was at the Performance Garage on Wooster Street in the late 1970s or early 80s. Intoxicated on cough medicine I watched Multiple Maniacs, Female Trouble and The Diane Linkletter Story projected on what I remember to be a big bed sheet.

Waters' concept of "little movies" is something that intrigues me as an extension of the manipulation and editing that I already do. I had been thinking about this more literally up till now - animating sequences. It will give me something to think about on my way to Hong Kong at the end of the week.

What projects are you working on?

Friday, November 04, 2005

The intolerant myopia of visual artists?

The Georgia O'keefe Museum is having an internet confernence on the 1980s. I'll spare you my thoughts on the overall unbalanced politics of the debate. I worked for a major NY cultural organization from 1983-2000 and I am convinced that US arts struggle for two reasons: 1.) the professional arts administrator class created permament institutions that saw their own survival as the reason to be thereforenever expiring to let the new in and 2.) the export of US culture forces all consumptive media to be subject to market forces including funding sources.

Anyway there was one post (4th from the bottom) by Olu Oguibe that I thought asked some very tough questions and perhaps the only really meaningful post of those that I have read.

The visual art world, however, spared itself this kind of indulgence, at least to the very best of my knowledge. Instead, the vocal minority in that world, just like the vocal minority on the Right, made it palpably uncool to question the ‘Divine’ right to liberty and artistic license. Seldom was it permitted to ask; Who are we speaking to when we make art, who are we making the art for, what is it we are trying to say with some of the art that provoked conservative assault and how effectively or not do we manage to get those points across, how well were those points being understood? No one seriously asked: When we step out of the protected territory of the artist’s studio and step into the world, what are the ramifications and what must we expect? When we enter the realm of public patronage, what can we insist on and what can we expect to get away with? When we accept municipal and state funding, does that make us perhaps accountable to much more than the sacred muse of individual genius? When clamber up the high-ground of artistic license, on what parameters do we do so and within what perimeters? In the course of the culture wars and their aftermath, the visual art community shied away from one crucial issue, the issue of Responsibility.

And, because many pertinent questions were drowned in the deluge of art world outrage and self-pity, many equally pertinent lessons were not learned. Instead, it seemed that the only lesson learned, at least certainly by artists, was that controversy pays. Because the pertinent lessons were apparently not learned, the art world continues to be harassed and terrorized at will not by the majority of society, but by the vocal minority of conservative fundamentalism. Hence, the repeat scenario of the Brooklyn Museum vs. Mayor Giuliani and the City of New York at the turn of the century, on which occasion the response of the visual art community was anything if not predictable: the chorus repeating the age-old line, “Damn Censorship!” Hardly anyone asked: how do we get across to the silent majority to whom the rabid Right always appeals when it mounts its assaults on cultural expression, and get that majority used to the idea that we are all tax-payers, after all, and have equal rights to the cultural largess of public funds? No one broached the notion that perhaps it is time to engage in a deeper, wider, more serious discussion on the nature and politics of individual cultural expression and representation especially in the public space. And of course, no one was allowed to acknowledge that all dissent has a right to representation, including the protests of the real and supposed philistine minority, that in the case of Mr. Ofili’s use of animal dung to represent a major Christian icon, believers in that Faith had a right to hurt, shock, and outrage; in other words, that outrage is not the exclusive right of the all-knowing, supposedly more cultured, art community. The universal cry of “Damn Censorship!” occluded, as it continues to, the fact that the gains of other critical struggles are being gradually and incrementally eroded every day by artists under the guise of free individual expression, which for instance is why, again in the case of Mr. Ofili’s controversial work, no one paid heed to the fact the use of animal dung to represent a woman’s breasts may indicate a little more than artistic license and freedom of expression, that indeed, it may also serve as a fine example of the return of male license to the image and representation of the female in art.

When the visual art world replicates the intolerant myopia of the philistine, fundamentalist minority as it did during the culture wars by getting caught in the motions of the moment and fighting shy of broad and deep self-reflection, it not only leaves itself open to attack without devising a strategy of effective response, it also allows related and no less important questions to go under the sludge. When we fail to take advantage of certain moments in history to redefine the liberties that we call on society to uphold, we lose sense of the meaning of those liberties and why they matter, why it is important to defend and uphold them. In my thinking, the Era of Reagan and the immediate aftermath was one such lost moment.

So the dirty little secret "the visual art world replicates the intolerant myopia of the philistine, fundamentalist minority" is there - what do you think?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Serendipity and art

In a New York Times article on Harry C. Dorer, Ronald Smothers reports:

Barbara Yochelson, a historian of photography and a freelance curator of photography exhibits, said that libraries and local historical societies often have such collections, valuing them more as history than as art. But that is changing, she said, as inexpensive digital technology and the Internet have made it easier to duplicate and exhibit pictures, making them accessible to a wider array of people and beginning to blur the line between history and art.

In the last 30 years or so, she added, "vernacular photography" - the kind done by local portrait photographers, journalistic toilers such as Mr. Dorer and drawn from simple family albums - has attracted increasing interest. She said that "serendipity" had always elevated some snapshots to art, but this phenomenon seemed more common.

How has "inexpensive digital technology" created "serendipitous art" in your own work?