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Tag "art"

I have been thinking a lot about the ethnography of the image, semiotics, and discrimination shrouded by art.  I just purchased this book by Morse Peckham, and I am tingling with excitement.  Peckham’s pragmatism may not be one for the ages, as I was unable to find any influence of his work beyond the occasional citation.  This man is a gem.  Here’s what he wrote to the editors at NYRB in 1971:

I believe it to be an error that a theory of art is “rightly and inevitably evaluative.” (1) Any proposition can be used as a basis for judging art. (2) An indefinably wide range of propositions has so been used, and new ones will be thought up. The process will continue as long as there are people and art, and the question cannot be resolved. (3) So to use a proposition is to judge art on the basis of whether or not it is an exemplification of a proposition. Such activity ascribes to art a lesser value than the propositions used to judge it. Individuals intensely concerned with evaluating works of art appear to have as their central interest the severe restriction of the number of works of art to be taken seriously. (4) We judge art because we judge everything else. Value judgments of works of art are of great interest sociologically, but of little or no interest in understanding works of art.

Let’s also note this little sentimental proof was wrapped in his response to a review of five of his books by Christopher Ricks (who, apparently, “really did quite well. To be sure, he made a number of blunders, as was to be expected.”)

So, in contemplating the axiom that the meaning of a sign is the response to it, I’m sharing Kenneth Fitzgerald’s essay in Emigre #48 “Skilling Saws and Absorbent Catalogues.“  It isn’t particularly related to aesthetics and semiotics, but it does feature a great little nug from MP: “It is clear that art is useless, that perceiver and artist are arrogant and indifferent. … Art tells us nothing about the world that we cannot find elsewhere and more reliably. Art does not make us better citizens, or more moral, or more honest. It may conceivably make us worse.”

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I’ve read several essays and manifestos recently on the artistic implications of Facebook.  These writings can be evocative, and are often extremely successful at garnering the cultural capital they wish to theorize.  My own thoughts on these essays are best expressed by friend and scholar Adam E. Leeds.  I’d like to quote an email I received from him:

“…I am done reading articles about how Facebook changes the world.

1. I don’t actually believe that what goes on on social networking sites is that different from what went on before them, or changes our sense of self much.

2. There are changes in society on account of them; the most important ones are the delocalization of networks and the instantaneity of mass communication — new articulations of time and space.

3. These technologies are totally in their infancy.  Facebook might not be around in ten years. We don’t even know what is the paradigm that will replace it, yet.

4. We won’t really know the cultural implications until we see the culture that the generation that grows up with whatever replaces Facebook creates.”

Total agreement.  This is not to suggest, of course, that pop culture requires being canonized before it can be effectively parsed.  There is a significant difference between technology as phenomenon and technology as medium — when writers treat cultural phenomena as media, the theory must take a different approach.  To speak of Facebook as medium, as paradigm, disallows its potential for instantaneity which, I think, is what it is actually good at.

Surely, the contemporary theoretical essay does not need to be one for the ages –that’s the mode of contemporary. But I can’t help but think how I recently read Boris Groys’s problematic essay on institutionalized video art, and how very dated it felt (it was written only 6 years ago).  To speak of these phenomena as prototypes for the future (or even prototypes for now) misses the point of technological ephemerality and presentness.  Presentness, in this instance, is not necessarily grace.  In technology, presentness is chopped, distorted, and wholly untrustworthy.  It is interesting, certainly.  But it is not implication.

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You know that saying about contemporary and/or modern art, “my 5 year old could do that?”  We artists usually scoff at such cynicism.  Because, obviously, your 5 year old does not have the brain capacity to grasp the heavy concepts of the work like feminism or the ennui of modern life.  Nor could he have thoughts towards other vital elements in a piece like intention or connecting the work with art history. Duh.

Welllllllll not to rain on anyone’s parade, but  I think the cynics may have a point.  In searching the internet for children’s artworks (you know, a thing I like to do) I came across quite a few works by 5 year olds that are really good.  Not in a bad-good way like Everclear or de Kooning.  An actually good way.

“Untitled” by Tony Billoni, age 8.  This is just a really good sandwich of Barnett Newman and Jasper Johns, washed down with a glass of Sol Lewitt.  Maybe with a bag of Frank Stella chips on the side.  Also, how does an 8 year old already have a great nom de plume picked out for himself?

“Surf” by Cali Trembles, age 8.

Artist’s statement: “I have three dogs Bean Hula and Vasha he has googly eyes
2 Foxes and flesh eating beatles”

This is the first action MSpainter.

“Untitled” by Franny Hudson, age 5.  Alias: On Kawara, only a lot better.

“Stars” by Melina Garcia Dato, age 9.  Artist statement: “I like stars.”  Whoaaaaa Vija Celmins, I’m sorry for your loss.

There’s a lot more amazing work out there.  I think I may start a new weekly feature.

New Colgate ad by Y&R Dubai (via copyranter)

Nancy Rubins sculpture at MOCA La Jolla (photo by me)

For this Four Eyes Friday, a 1,909 word trade ad by David Ogilvy from the 70s.

Click the image for full size

“Be suspicious of awards. The pursuit of creative awards seduces creative people away from the pursuit of sales.”

Artists, read it.  All of it.