Every hour, we’ll be posting images from the Detroit Museum of Art’s collection. This gesture is part of a larger, Internet-wide effort to reflect on the institution’s resources in the hopes that it might, in some small way, counter any proposal for future deacquisition. For more information A Day for Detroit has been covered here, on the Daily Serving. Please consider joining the Detroit Institute of Arts as a member. Or, join us today and post pictures from the DIA collection today on your blog, facebook, or twitter feed.
The following essay by Dylan Trigg was published by The White Review.
THE GHOSTS OF PLACE
’So I turned around for an instant to look at what my field of vision onto the sea had not offered up: the heavy grey mass where traces of planks lined up along the inclined ramp like a tiny staircase. I got up and decided to have a look around this fortification as if I had seen it for the first time, with its embrasure flush with the sand, behind the protective screen, looking out onto the Breton port, aiming today at inoffensive bathers, its rear defence with a staggered entrance and its dark interior in the blinding light of the gun’s opening toward the sea.’ – Paul Virilio, Bunker Archaeology
IT IS OCTOBER 2010 AND I AM IN THE KITCHEN OF AN OLD HOUSE IN SUSSEX. FROM THE KITCHEN, A DOOR LEADS TO THE HALLWAY. SUDDENLY THE DOOR BEGINS TO SWAY FROM SIDE TO SIDE. AT FIRST, I THINK NOTHING OF IT AND PUT IT DOWN TO A BREEZE FROM ANOTHER ROOM. BUT THEN THE SWAYING BECAME MORE DELIBERATE, AS IF A PRESENCE WERE TRYING TO COMMUNICATE FROM AFAR. THE DOOR MOVES TO ONE END, PAUSES FOR A SECOND, AND THEN PROCEEDS TO RETURN TO THE OTHER SIDE. TO AND FRO IT MOVES, UNTIL SUDDENLY, AND WITHOUT WARNING, IT STOPS. AS I STAND TO INVESTIGATE, AN IRIDESCENT LIGHT FILLS THE HALLWAY, AND A TALL SILHOUETTE CLAD IN BLACK SLOWLY CROSSES THE LANDING BEFORE DISAPPEARING INTO THE BRICK WALL. IN RESPONSE, THE SKIN ON MY BODY BECOMES CLAMMY WITH ANXIETY, WHILE THE HAIRS BEGINNING AT THE BASE OF MY HEAD AND EXTENDING TO THE LOWER REACH OF MY NECK RECOIL, AS IF THEY HAD GRASPED SOME KIND OF HORROR THAT I WAS STILL IN THE PROCESS OF EXPERIENCING. ONE MINUTE LATER, I AM ON THE STREET.
Disturbed by the vision, I look at the house from the vantage point of the outside. If the figure has come to me in a moment of private intimacy, then I am sure it would not follow me down the stairs and onto the other side of the street, and thereby expose itself to the public gaze. On the contrary, I am fairly convinced it is still inside, likely oscillating between the landing on the hallway and the kitchen, where – so I assume – it may have once encountered some kind of trauma that led it to being affixed to this place in time.
How many other people had seen the figure since the conception of the house in the fifteenth century? Numerous people no doubt through the centuries, each of whom will have had their own story to tell. In addition, all of these people will have had their own interpretation of the figure, from the seventeenth century interpretation of spectres as restorers of social injustices of the living to the nineteenth century interpretation of the such sights as a figure of death that refuses to die, thus offering hope that in an increasingly secularised age, life after death remains possible.
In all this, I may well form part of a historical community that will have encountered this vision in this particular place, 70 High Street, Lewes, Sussex. What did the figure want from us all: to testify to its mournful existence, to become its voice, or simply in the act of affecting another person, to remind itself that it still holds the power to form an alliance with the living? And why did it choose us? Are we in some sense more receptive to the troubled dreams of those who refuse to die than other people? Did the figure sense an anxiety within each of us that renders our senses more attuned to ambiguous forms of life?
What is a ghost? The question has gained a particular value in the last decade or so owing to the influence of Derrida’s concept of hauntology, a pun on ontology referring to the spectre of Marxism. As it is understood in a post-Derridean context, the concept refers to a broad range of cultural phenomenon characterised, above all, by a certain collapse in the spatio-temporal order, signalling the radical collision of old and new. It is a Ballardian vision of time, in which the end has already occurred and we are now – perhaps unknowingly – living in its shadow.
The term figures in a variety of mediums, from the archival restoration of ‘abandonware’ and ‘dead tech’, to the music of both Caretaker and the retro pastiche of Belbury Poly together with the associated Ghost Box Music label. In films, the theme is evident in works such as Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) and Nic Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (1973). Alongside these mediums, the image of the urban ruin being reclaimed by wild mangroves, the drained swimming pool of an abandoned hotel, and the decommissioned remains of war bunkers would all be central motifs for the hauntologist. In each of these forms, the hauntological aesthetic plays out in terms of an appeal to the uncanny: that is, to the re-emergence of what was originally repressed, but only now—through an accidental rupture in the present – comes to light. Such an aesthetic has its roots in Freud, and can then be mapped out in the work of surrealists and their usage of anachronism, before then resurfacing in Walter Benjamin’s philosophy of history, which will later re-appear once more in the works of W. G. Sebald, and in a contemporary guise, in artists such as Cyprien Gaillard and Gregory Chatonsky. (read more)
“In the air I can already feel the lateness of things, the way Autumn is waiting at the back of this month.” Helen McClory,
This week on the podcast, we discuss David Linneweh’s podcast Studio Break and his kickstarter campaign “Remembering Place.” Linneweh has been described as one who paints “unpeopled, architectural landscapes always carefully rendered on bare wood supports. Sometimes the buildings are taken apart and reassembled – fractured almost beyond recognition. Other landscapes are left incomplete with empty spaces that demand completion in viewers’ minds. What could this mean in early 21st century America?” Listen to it all here.
Monday began with Jeriah Hildwine’s reflection on critical framework:
Metaphorically, then, the frame can serve more as an unconscious bias, changing an image indirectly, by the context of its presence, and without the viewer’s conscious awareness. When you see something in a given frame, that frame alters what you are seeing, but does do without your knowledge or consent. It takes alertness and training to become aware of the influence of the frame, and even with this awareness, its influence may not be negated. To return to the initial example, seeing something in a Modernist frame may mean unconsciously minimizing the political, activist, Conceptual, gendered, or other meanings of a work, and perhaps emphasizing the rapturous and sublime, along with overt formal analysis which is the ostensible goal of this frame. If the intention is to directly change the meaning of the subject, then the frame may be the wrong metaphor; perhaps a lens is intended instead.
Word from Indianapolis this week comes with love from Wendy Lee Spacek. Spacek describes a series of events and art shows that she attended this month, including 4th of July fireworks, Ai Wei Wei’s traveling exhibit at the Indianapolis Art Museum, an installation at 100 Acres Park at the IMA called Flock of Signs by Kim Beck, a studio visit and much much more:
Later in the month I was lucky to be able to visit the studio of one of my favorite Indianapolis artists Kyle Herrington. Kyle has several shows coming up in September, so there was plenty of new work to see. One show is called Backyard Phenomenaand chronicles Herrington’s struggle with being thrust into new found adulthood, which culminated in him turning thirty and buying a house. His anxieties about something catastrophic happening to his house has translated into sculptural pieces as well as paintings. We talked for quite a long time. I admire Kyle’s commitment to making everysingleideathathehas. I think it is what has allowed him to make such a large body of work with what I see as having very consistent and complete conceptual ideas in relatively short time frame (just one year). Kyle’s work makes reference to sci-fi logic, modern obsessions with the apocalypse and celebrity and mashes them altogether into a funny, but kind of scary reality.
My favorite dreams these days are the ones closer to life, the walks down familiar streets, the supermarket with fluorescent lights. In the morning, they are clearly dreams too, but I wake to contemplation instead of surprise or relief. Those closer to life dreams linger in my brain longer, maybe because they are easier to remember, maybe because they blur the line between my waking and dreaming lives. The flashier dreams make more of an immediate impact, but the normal dreams burn much longer and slower.
Flags are meant to be visible and memorable, to represent some message, some place, someone. The artists in Flag Show use flags to call attention to the reality and complexity of waking life. Adam Setala’s I Promise To Not Kill You layers visual and textual cues to confuse who is safe from whom. Brian Walbergh’s White Flag for Misplaced Teenage Angst #1 and #2 carry the weight of personal and societal histories in their visibly heavy denim. Lea Devon Sorrentino questions the differences between long-distance and digital communication with #Semaphore.
Heralding from Brighton, UK, art writer Mark Sheerin posts about a group show in Reykjavik:
It is more than 1,000 miles from Luton, England, to Reykjavik, Iceland. But Dominic from the UK town appears to love a good caper. Why else would he put together a group show on very little money in one of the most far flung and expensive cities in Europe?
“It was done on a wing and a prayer,” he tells me on the phone from his Luton studio. “The art was just really, really ambitious considering we didn’t have much money to play with. It’s amazing what you can do with a cardboard tube and a delivery van.”
Five artists took part. And the show has just run for a month at gallery Kling & Bang. Along with Dominic, the full bill included Gavin Turk, Mark Titchner, Laura White and Peter Lamb. The show went by the name London Utd. “It’s kind of doing what it says on the tin,” says Dominic, whose eponymous town is just a twenty minute train ride from the UK capital.
Terri Griffith posted a little something on the Illinois Railway Museum:
Good public transit is the hallmark of a civilized city. One of the things I love most about Chicago is the train system. Both the Chicago Transit Authority’s “L” and the Regional Transportation Authority’s Metra are fantastic examples of how efficiently people can be transported from hither to yon. You can, if you wish, take this with a grain of salt seeing as I hail from the Pacific Northwest where public transportation is craptastic, save for the stellar ferry system. But it’s more than just getting to work or the grocery store that makes me loves these trains—it’s the history. Most people would find it impossible to conjure an image of Chicago without also envisioning the elevated train line that rings our downtown. This is why last weekend, my friends and I headed to Union, Illinois to visit the Illinois Railway Museum.
The week closed out with Saturday’s Endless Opportunities.