October 13, 2013 · Print This Article
“Art world badass, gallerist, curator, writer, swell mofo” Mat Gleason brings in Episode 423 of the Bad at Sports podcast; during the show, people are called Ninny! Art school is shit-talked! TMZ! Lawsuits! Artists traded like sports players. All that and so much more here.
The week began with Edition #18 of What’s the T? from our very own gossip columnist, Dana Bassett. Bassett begins with good advice about “How to stay relevant through the weekend”, the weather report, the failure of Aiken’s Station to Station, and Feminism in digital art. As Bassett says, “Just some light reading to distract you from the shutdown and Miley Cyrus.”
For the first time in history, says Nicholas O’Brien, Phillips organized an art auction for Digital Art.”The auction, entitled Paddles On!, is of particular significance because it is not only the first auction for Phillips, but also the first primary market auction to occur at any major international auction house to only feature digital art works” :
All coincidence of overlapping interests and timing aside, what Paddles On! presents to audiences – both familiar and new – is that artwork made and distributed through digital networks must now become more vocalized and represented within a contemporary art market. Many recent signposts have been pointing to this moment – the heated conversation around Rhizome’s booth at the Armory in 2011, the outrage of artists and academics railing against Claire Bishop’s misinformed “Digital Divide” essay in Artforum, the development of the Art Micro Patronage project by The Present Group, the selling of digital art by AFC at NADA this past year, just to name a few. But now it is happening, and already over half of the works have been bid on through Paddle8 – a sign in and of itself that now seems to be the time.
Kevin Blake interviewed Carl Baratta in anticipation of Baratta’s upcoming show at Sidecar Gallery. When asked about his relationship to abstraction, Baratta replies:
I was trained initially as an abstract artist. It’s kind of weird because traditionally an art student gets trained in figurative stuff and then they are allowed to meander into other modes of painting. In undergrad, I had a bunch of former students of NYC AbEx painters as my professors (students of Al Held for example). The figurative painters I did end up taking taught me how to find and extrapolate forms from what was around me. So basically literal abstraction.The work I’m doing now is me backing out of pure abstraction and color field painting into something more figurative. Navigating between these two things is a major theme in my studio. Paint is always first to me even when I’m trying to figure out the shape of a nose or a chicken, so it naturally is always first and foremost in my mind. I can’t help it, I was brought up that way.
This week Jeffrey Songco interviewed Lacey Haslam of Oakland-based BLOCK Gallery and artist Kari Marboe “regarding their newest project titled Latham Memorial Fountain Unveiled.” When asked what “site specific text based work” was, Marboe replied:
Artworks designed conceptually and physically for a particular space, and in my case made with text. For example, during our thesis exhibition I worked with Dena Beard to find a public and easily accessible spot outside of the Berkeley Art Museum to place a piece. She suggested taking over one of the panels outside of the museum on Bancroft which is normally used for internal advertising on upcoming exhibitions or events and found a 4’x4’ panel that was available during the time we needed. So I wrote a piece that talked about being exactly in that space, the motions of coming in and out of the museum, in poem form so people could sit down on one of the benches across from the work and enjoy it for a while. The label for the work was displayed right as you were walking out of the museum, so people were stopping and asking, “where is this piece of art, it’s not the Calder, where is it”. Another piece I worked for that show was with the East Bay Express—
The Jerome Foundation Fellowships have supported emerging artists since 1981. The fellowship comes with $10,000, studio visits from professional critics, technical assistance, and a culminating exhibition. It is one of the premier individual artist awards in Minnesota. The opening was full of people wanting to see that work, to support that legacy of emerging artists, to see who the Jerome Foundation had selected as the artists to continue watching, but I wanted to say, “Come out from the gallery. Come out to experience the real world around us. The work in the exhibition is good and interesting within the gallery, but it has truly come to life as I have lived with it outside, in the real world.”
Curious about Birmingham? Mark Sheerin interviewed Ikon Gallery curator Stuart Tulloch:
“If you’re in London, you’re still thinking about people who are in London, and in a sense the angle’s still provincial,” he says. “London will think about what’s relevant to be shown or to be seen within London, and in some ways Birmingham removes you from that…This is an amazing place, with an enviable reputation and an international reputation,” he says with no hint of spin, ”It can say ‘This is interesting. Here’s something you’ve never seen before. Let’s bring this person from the other side of the world to share something with Birmingham’.”
Terri Griffith waxes on life works via a $1.99 copy of Jonathan Biss’ long essay about playing through the Beethoven catalogue:
If we are lucky, our work becomes larger than we are and takes on a life of its own. Sometimes we know this at the outset and sometimes we come to know as the work moves forward. I’m thinking here of Walt Whitman and his Leaves of Grass, which started as a slim and youthful volume of poems. Whitman revised this modest book until, on his deathbed, book had grown weighty, to over 400 poems. Over his lifetime, as Whitman had hoped, the work had grown with him. Pianist Jonathan Biss might similarly be embarking on this sort of life’s work. At 33 he is undertaking to record all of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, a project scheduled to take nearly a decade.
Sara Drake interviews the oh so lovely Anya Davidson who just released her first full length comic:
Chicago-based artist and musician, Anya Davidson, has recently debuted her first full-length comic book, School Spirits. Up until now, her modest print editions make her work difficult to come by outside of the defiantly small world of alternative comics. Davidson is probably one of the few artists for which it is appropriate to combine words like brush pen and bad-ass in the same gust. Her stories are often eclectic mash-ups of metal fantasies, female overlords, science fiction, collected vernacular and whatever else gets whirlpooled away into her consciousness. Her newest creation, a high school story that follows the friendship of two teen girls and their fanatical love of a metal band, is a keen understanding of comics as an art form synthesized with Davidson’s own radical tendencies.
Opportunities y’all — with such delectables as a Full Time Tenure Track position at the University of Iowa’s Film Department, APEX art’s open season for curatorial projects, Emergency Grants (offering emergency funds to artists for art projects) and open calls for the Journal for Artistic Research and gomes. Blammo.
1. University of Iowa Full Time Position Description: The Department of Cinema and Comparative Literature at The University of Iowa invites applications for a tenure-track position that will be filled at the Assistant or Associate Professor level, depending on qualifications and experience. The position will begin in August 2014. We are looking for a Film/Video maker with significant experience in digital documentary filmmaking. The successful candidate might also work in non-fiction and experimental modes of film and video production. This new faculty position is part of Iowa’s Public Digital Arts Cluster initiative. (for more information see: http://now.uiowa.edu/2013/06/new-faculty-cluster-public-digital-arts ). New faculty with expertise in public digital arts will complement the University’s considerable existing expertise in these areas to form the core of this innovative multidisciplinary initiative. Participation in the PDA Cluster will be an important component in performance evaluations. Candidates will be expected to teach courses in digital video production and post-production at all levels of the undergraduate and graduate curriculum. Possible courses may range from documentary filmmaking, digital cinematography, and new media to digital animation, 16mm, directing, and screenwriting. Screening begins November 15, 2013. More info here.
2. Unsolicited Proposal Program at APEX Art: Applications accepted Oct 11 – Nov 8, 2013 — online only Submit your idea for a curated exhibition.
Now in its 17th year, apexart’s Unsolicited Proposal Program open call is accepting submissions for exhibition ideas starting October 11, 2013. Three winning proposals will receive funding and administrative support from apexart to present their show in its Tribeca space. The Unsolicited Proposal Program asks for idea-based, 500-word proposals for curated shows of three or more artists that examine a compelling idea. Exhibitions can be about any topic that the organizer finds compelling—successful shows have been selected about everything from television to mapping to literature. No prior curatorial experience is required and we invite submissions from people of all backgrounds. Proposals are anonymously evaluated by an international jury of 150 people from all disciplines. Votes are processed through a unique apexart-developed crowd-sourcing computer script to determine which three proposals received the highest scores with no direction or interference from apexart or its staff. The three winning exhibitions will be presented in apexart’s 2014-15 season. Proposals are accepted online at apexart.org/unsolicited.php from October 11 – November 8, 2013. You may also visit this page for FAQs and other guideline details.
3. The Journal for Artistic Research (JAR) invites original submissions for future issues from artists worldwide, with or without academic affiliation. The journal is open to submission from all artists who wish to reflect on and expose artistic practice as research, who are interested in exchanging ideas and processes with a group of engaged peers and, thus willing to contribute to the ongoing debate about research in the arts. Submissions that should be considered for JAR5 need to be made before November 15, 2013.
JAR is a peer-reviewed journal, publishing original research from artists of all disciplines. Published twice a year, with currently four issues accessible online, the journal is unique in its field, marrying the rich-media and social networking capabilities of online publishing to peer-review and scholarly rigour.With the aim of displaying and documenting practice in a manner that respects artistic modes of presentation, the journal uses the Research Catalogue, a free-to-use online tool that allows the weaving together of text, image, audio and video material.JAR is open to all possible approaches to the publication of research including those that use little or no text. The Research Catalogue also enables collaboration, allowing multiple authors to work on the same document simultaneously and submit to the journal as a team. Articles that are not accepted for publication in JAR can be self-published, free of charge in the Research Catalogue.
JAR is a free open-access resource, with an international readership and a growing pool of renowned artistic and academic reviewers. The journal’s issues are non-thematic and submissions are considered by an experienced editorial board, in a rolling fashion, as they are submitted. To submit an article, contributors are required to register for an account on the Research Catalogue, and use the writing space to layout and expose their research. JAR provides editorial guidance and technical help with these processes.
Interested contributors should first acquaint themselves with previous issues at www.jar-online.net (the inaugural issue JAR0is a good place to start) and then contact the journal to discuss the suitability of their material and receive advice on progressing towards submission.
The next issue, JAR4, will be published in November.
Send your correspondence to Barnaby Drabble, Managing Editor, Journal for Artistic Research: email@example.com
4. Call for Critical Writing Proposals:JAR is published by the Society for Artistic Research.
gorse‘s website will publish shorter pieces of criticism , narrative essays and interviews. We are not currently considering fiction or poetry. Please send a query, or the first 500 words of your proposed essay, to info [at] gorse [dot] ie. Work should be previously unpublished. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable as long as you tell us straightaway if your work is accepted for publication elsewhere. We will do our best to reply to all queries, but if you don’t hear back from us within six weeks please feel free to submit to another venue. Please note that as our resources are limited, we are only in a position to offer contributors a token fee. Finished pieces for the website would ideally be between 500 to 3000 words.
We are interested in the potential of literature, in literature where lines between fiction, memoir and history blur (Sebald, Cendrars, Bolaño, Joyce), in experimental  writing, in fiction in translation, in the unconventional and the under recognised, in the personal essay (Sontag, Dyer). We are a literary journal equally interested in the arts (fine art, photography, architecture, film, music), in culture, in politics. We’re looking for smart writing, not academic.
1. “I. The critic is the strategist in the literary battle. II He who cannot take sides should keep silent. III. The critic has nothing in common with the interpreter of past cultural epochs. IV. Criticism must talk the language of artists. For the terms of the cenacle are slogans. And only in slogans is the battle-cry heard…” Walter Benjamin ↩
2. We acknowledge the word ‘experimental’ is not without its problems. (See John O’Brien on this point: “If Sternewere writing today, he would be labeled a postmodernist, but what sense would that make, given when he was actually writing? As far as I am concerned, the history of fiction is one of invention, oftentimes playful and conscious of itself, but always pushing limits in terms of what it is and what else it can be. But I absolutely do not think of a Sterne or a Joyce as “experimenters”: they didn’t experiment, they made these remarkable books whose ingenuity and art are rarely seen in other writers or matched. Their works are finished and complete achievements, not experiments.”) ‘Experimental’ is not weird for the sake of weird, it is innovation. ↩
Created in 1993, Emergency Grants provides speedy funding for visual and performing artists who have unanticipated, sudden opportunities to present their work to the public, or who incur unexpected or unbudgeted expenses for projects close to completion with committed exhibition or performance dates. The grants are intended to support the creation of innovative and experimental work, and are meant to assist individuals and groups when there is insufficient time to seek other sources of funding.
Requests are primarily granted to artists who are “emerging” and have few sources of financial support. Emergency Grants is the only active, multi-disciplinary program that offers immediate assistance of this kind to artists working anywhere in the United States.
Emergency Grants applications are accepted year round; there is no deadline. Applications are accepted online only; please refer to the application requirements below. Grants are determined on a monthly basis by the Emergency Grants Panel, a volunteer committee of established artists. In 2012, grants ranged in amount from $350 to $2,440; the average grant was $1,165. Go here for more information
Thea Liberty Nichols writes about a new independent film project by Laura Stewart:
The two main protagonists of Laura Stewart’s latest film are the titular “Shooter,” motorcycle gang leader of Green Bay, Wisconsin’s Black Pistons, and Whitley, a young woman who is both his partner in crime and charity project….Shot without a script, the film uses voice-over narration to reveal the thoughts, fears and desires of Shooter and Whitley, and we experience the filmic world Stewart creates through the lense of their impressions and experiences. Although Stewart confesses that a typical days shoot would involve “having a general idea what I’d want to film,” she cultivated a collaborative relationship with her actors and actresses wherein they would agree or decline to proceed given the premise she would establish. The goal was always to produce scenes that most realistically reflected their lives, so although the relationships and events of the film are all constructed, the characters had, “the freedom to expose the parts of their lives that they want(ed to).”
Another fantastic post from our game blogger, Paul King:
The world of Dark Souls is, as the title would suggest, dark. It’s a classic, worn down fantasy world where everything is crumbling. Your character begins in a prison for the lost and undead; your default state is one of decay. Even as you continue to a city meant for gods, all is in dangerous, ruinous disrepair.
And most of the game is spent alone. Save a few neutral, stationary characters, any sort of dialogue is non-existent. Your hero never speaks, only grunts in the heat of battle, and these stationary merchants quickly run out of new phrases, things to sell you, or purposes to exist.
But at a certain point, your character may buy (or steal) a chunk of soapstone from one of these merchants. Once you obtain the soapstone, you may use it to write, coating the floor in incandescent orange scribbles that, upon interaction, reveal their text.
During the course of Dark Souls, no fix for the broken world emerges. At times, other characters hint that the universe has descended into darkness from a former glory, and your lone hero’s quest might be the thing to restore it. But nothing you do on your journey really changes anything; felled enemies reappear upon your death and subsequent rebirth, and also upon the saving of your progress. But while your standard fantasy actions yield no change and are easily erased, the soapstone allows you to impact the game’s world in a singular, everlasting way: through writing.
Repost on Ana Mendieta; as her tragic end seems so often to eclipse her narrative, I was especially excited to read more about her life:
Cuban-born and American-raised, Mendieta described her work as “earth-body” art. From 1971, when she had her first solo show while an MA student at the University of Iowa, until her death, she created a diverse collection of work that included silhouettes of her body created in mud, earth, rocks, wild flowers and leaves, performance pieces that evoked the folk and occult traditions of her native Cuba as well as her beloved Mexico and subversive self-portraits that played with notions of beauty, belonging and gender. In her performance pieces, where she sometimes used blood “as a very, powerful magical thing”, she evoked the power of female sexuality as well as the horror of male sexual violence. In her photographic self-portraits, she pressed her face against glass to distort her features or pictured herself dripping in blood or disguised as a man with glued-on facial hair.
Mendieta’s art, like her spirit, was feuled by a restlessness rooted in her exile from Cuba. Friends described her variously as “sparky”, “provocative”, “tempestuous”, “outspoken” and “fiercely ambitious.” After her death, many saw, in her often dark and ritualistic art, a foreshadowing of her fate – she once staged a performance in which visitors came upon her prone under a blood-splattered white sheet. Others claimed her as the freest of female free spirits in a male-dominated art world. The curator and scholar Irit Rogoff, her as “essentialised through an association of wild appetites and with unbounded female sexuality.” It is only now that the power of her art is finally taking precedence over the stereotypes that were thrust upon her and the darkly dramatic manner of her death.
Repost from Dezeen on curation and design, wherein 96 Curatorial Theses are propsed:
I interviewed Andreas Fischer who forever transformed my thinking about painting with the following statement (and the rest of the conversation is just as good):Well, I think of painting as decidedly not static and that is a big reason I am interested in it. I do think that so called fixed images are different from what we more clearly accept to be in motion. Paintings are moving perhaps more slowly and can be understood as attempts to visualize actions in a heightened way. Literally and chemically paint is moving and changing over time from the moment pigment is ground, through the gesture of applying paint, to the drying; shrinking; aging and cracking that paint undergoes over time.
Mairead Case continued her lovely series, Maintenance this week, opening with a quote from Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ 1969 Manifesto for Maintenance Art: “The Life Instinct: unification, the eternal return, the perpetuation and MAINTENANCE of the species, survival systems and operations, equilibrium” Case discusses books:
Here are five books I read this month, and pictures of three more. An asterisk means the book (or zine) came out less than 365 days ago. (The green polish is Selena Gomez Nicole by Opi. I don’t own the bottle but I did bonk my thumb running for the #18, and a nice lady at the library let me do a touch-up. The silver is Wet n Wild.)
+ Library Mixtape (exhibition catalogue) (John M. Flaxman Library at SAIC, 2013)*
+ Radon by Travis Fristoe and Aaron Cometbus (Salad Master, 2013)*
+ The Wayside by Julie Morstad (Drawn and Quarterly, 2012)
+ The Long Goodbye by Meghan O’Rourke (Riverhead, 2011)
+ You’re So Sexy: When You Aren’t Transmitting STDs by Isabella Rotman (self-published, 2013)*
October 3, 2013 · Print This Article
This summer I visited slow gallerys’ group show, Rehearsal Attire. It was an exhibit about painting and something about what slow’s Director Paul Hopkin said has stuck to my ribs. Hopkin talked about how many Chicago painters created flat canvases, with a picture plane that stands parallel to the viewer, suggesting this predisposition might have something to do with our immediate landscape — the way we live in a flatland, on urban streets crowded with buildings. By comparison Southwestern painters are prone to pictures with expansive skies and topographical landscapes stretching indefinitely out. Hopkin admitted that conversations like that — about horizon lines and abstraction — led Fischer and Hopkin to organize Rehearsal Attire together. In this case, however, landscapes were not expressly present, nor limitless topographies. Rather, Fisher’s abstract paintings hung alongside Meg Duguid, Mindy Rose Schwartz and Charles Fogarty. Duguid disassembled a wall in the gallery and packed it in a suitcase. Fogarty removed a wall from his studio, on which he had painted a gingham cloth and re-situated it inside slow, beside a pile of campaign-like baseball hats that read “LUNCH”. Mindy Rose Schwartz sculpted a figure out of plaster cast with an unprimed, and partially stitched canvas face; in another work a delicate series of hoops reach off the wall at variant angles. Between the hoops’ bounds, flowers and thread weave in abstract, figurative compositions. I was drawn into these works with many questions — questions about limits, deconstruction, assembly and abstraction, questions that brought me to Andreas Fischer’s studio, where we discussed his approach to painting, and how Rehearsal Attire came about.
Caroline Picard: How do you think about horizon lines in paintings? Can you have multiple limits operating at once in the same piece?
Andreas Fischer: Things like horizon lines and spatial boundaries come from conventions embedded in the images I have been using. The starting points for all of my recent work are what I would call conventional everyday image types -the kinds of images that are so present that they often get taken for granted or ignored. At the same time, though, they have a problematic status because they are completely contested territory even though they might look stable.
On one hand I am using various aspects of the conventional states of these images, which are socially determined. On the other hand I am materializing a reaction by trying to reconstruct these images, which I see as an example of how any individual might react. So, yes there are definitely multiple limits and they are directed by moving changing negotiations that I see as a kind of intersection of one idea of what is social and another idea of what is individual. Painting in this sense is a kind of materialization of reception or reaction — action painting in a sense, but not as a statement — maybe more like the way an electronic instrument might monitor a changing environment.
CP: Wait — that’s exciting. How is a painting like an electronic instrument? Is it responding to you or the viewer?
AF: Well, I think of painting as decidedly not static and that is a big reason I am interested in it. I do think that so called fixed images are different from what we more clearly accept to be in motion. Paintings are moving perhaps more slowly and can be understood as attempts to visualize actions in a heightened way. Literally and chemically paint is moving and changing over time from the moment pigment is ground, through the gesture of applying paint, to the drying; shrinking; aging and cracking that paint undergoes over time.
More importantly, though, a painting is an action or gesture that begins to happen under certain circumstances and changes as the context around it changes. Our perceptions and interpretations of paintings change as the changing chemical compounds intersect with worlds that are always trying to figure themselves out. In this sense painting is like an electronic instrument in that it is a kind of sensor and feedback system that outputs interpretable data as the world moves — the meaning of the painting (or its output) changes as the stuff around it changes.
I am interested in the act of painting as a way of thinking, sorting or diagnosing. Both painting and electronic instruments come into being in a sense because of what they need to be able to do with their environments. Electronic instruments are programmed to track, calculate, and relay data based on socially developed criteria or perceived need. Maybe we do a version of this too as individuals and if so I think painting is likely a materialization of this kind of reflection of a larger social environment.
CP: How do you think about the logic of a single composition?
AF: The operating functions for composition and formal relationships for me are negotiation and process. In a sense each work is compositionally and formally its own activity. The kinds of reactions and procedures that an image seems to provoke on a given day especially as these bounce off of different patterns of thought and expectation floating around in the world vary quite a bit. This part of the operation is not a logical progression — it is more preformative, maybe a bit like the way a player responds to the action in many kinds of sports.
CP: But in that case are you playing against yourself? Like a soccer player bouncing a ball against a concrete wall with static, physical and predictable qualities? Or do you feel like the canvas/paint/medium brush are less predictable and somehow capable of responding to you, like — say — another player on the field?
AF: I definitely experience it as the latter. What I was thinking about was the way a body navigates and responds to various barriers and desired outcomes in real time — the spontaneous interaction of it all is so much like the act of painting for me. Maybe the ingredients of painting are not quite like another player, but more like the entire context of the game. So yes, the medium is not predictable for me. If I could control it I wouldn’t paint. Furthermore, I suspect that I am deciding or acting and reacting coextensively with social interactions I have had or might anticipate having in the future. I think this is where the distinction between what is social and what is individual falls apart in an interesting way because each of these determine the other and maybe there is not really even a distinction in the end. Maybe we are really post-individual.
CP: How did your recent show “Rehearsal Attire” come together?
AF: Paul Hopkin and I have been talking about doing something for a while and when we started to think seriously about what a project might look like we started trying think of way to acknowledge conversation as a generative tool. I was making work that was in many was the product of specific conversations I was having with a few people and was very interested in a group show as a way to extend that dialogue. I think Paul had been on that page for a while before we started working on the project.
Much of art history is really the act of watching very particular materialized conversations between a surprisingly small group of people. One could argue that the real content of much art is the function of conversation or relatively intimate social interaction. I wanted to start acknowledging my work as a set of indexes of lines of conversation. I wanted to take that system into a gallery and mix it with a different group of people having different conversations so that one conversational context would bounce off of a few others to see how they would co-mingle and resisted each other. There are so many amazing ways that groups or specific conversations out in the world intersect with other groups. There is something fundamentally fascinating about a semi closed circle bumping into another semi closed circle. That vibration, that negotiation is incredibly exciting to me and has been a huge motivator for my work over the last several years.
CP: How do you see that fitting into the more general dialogue of painting at the moment?
AF: I see a great deal of coolness of one kind or another in painting right now. I might be interacting with that characterization in the sense that, even though I kind of love much of the work I would characterize this way, I am much more interested in a state of being thoroughly tangled in the messiness of thought, struggle, material, and process. I am probably not anything like cool in my interaction with painting. I think I embrace a kind of sloppy affirmational complexity that has more of a diving-into-the-muck quality to it.
CP: How do you think about deconstructing frames? Is that something of interest to you in painting?
AF: I love deconstruction and the expectation that it will yield different layers of meaning. But I don’t think of my work in those terms right now. I think the negotiations that I see the work enacting are more like a struggle to bring things together. There is the familiar idea about early modernism that at a certain point painting became more opaque, more interested in its own materialism as a way of enacting skepticism toward unified illusion and its ability to function as a vehicle for certain idealisms, perhaps dangerously so. This is a way of seeing materially oriented painting as engaged in negation, criticism or the act of taking apart to an extent. Now that the idea of a unified illusionistic painting is historical and the more usual way for painting to function is through assertions of materialism over illusion, I think materially active painting has executed one critical task that maybe does not need to be rehearsed as insistently anymore meaning that materialism is a kind of free floating signifier that can attach itself to a much wider range of potential functions. The range of possibilities for material activity has opened up.
One of the possibilities can be a link between opacity and the act or struggle to form an image or to produce rather than take apart. Painting can be expected to create a narrative construction relative to images we know to exist or not. For me the act that is most important is the act of framing in a sense, or getting an image to grow and take shape inside a frame, on a surface, or within a field. In that case when we watch a painting we are watching something grow.
CP: One of the things I often struggle with in abstract painting is how to understand the meaning, or what is at stake in a given work. Taking what you said into account, I wonder if this idea of emergent order (is that an accurate paraphrase for “getting an image to grow and take shape inside a frame”) is at the heart of the matter. Namely, whether or not a painting succeeds and/or fails at that — whether it makes the pursuit of that order interesting, and — if you’ll allow a sentimental tone — heartbreaking (again, because it succeeds, or almost succeeds)?
AF: I totally agree with what you are suggesting at least in terms of how I would like my work to live or die. Heartbreak could very well be a part of it all.
I like that you use the term emergent order as well. I understand that to be a bottom up kind of growth based on a kind of exchange and growth where no one entity is in charge, is designing or directing the process or even knows what is going on, but great innovation or development takes place anyway. I think social interaction that flows beyond individual intent or understanding (or maybe just determines it in the end), but operates none the less is totally fascinating and it might be that many kinds of paintings are symptomatic of this kind of function somehow because they happen through a group of impulses, gestures, thoughts, urges, curiosities that just move around an individual kind of unknowingly. There is an argument about Cezanne, for example that his supposedly individualistic innovations in paint handling are really just marks that anyone could make, which means that Cezanne is not an old fashioned modernist genius, but a kind of repository of commonality and his brilliance is really in his assertion of a shared, common, everyday kind of simple mark that anyone could make.
In the end if all of these interactions somehow reflect something valuable then they work. And as you suggest, maybe if this kind of thing is true then it establishes a different way for painting to function than relying on what we might have called meaning in the past. Maybe it is not really about the question of where or even if it ends up, but a kind of empathetic struggle to move toward something.
In the first of his monthly columns for Dezeen, V&A senior curator Kieran Long argues that today’s obsession with authorship and celebrity “leads to serious imbalances in the way we see design in the world” and calls for an overhaul of the way design is curated in the twenty-first century.
Long, who was an architecture journalist before being appointed to curate design, architecture and digital at the V&A last year, points out that museums like the V&A focus on handmade, one-off objects at the expense of the mass-produced, anonymous objects that predominate in the real world. “The museum is more or less silent on the era of extraordinary Chinese manufacturing we are living through,” he says.
Below he sets out “95 Theses” for contemporary curation, including provocative statements such as “Ugly and sinister objects demand the museum’s attention just as much as beautiful and beneficial ones do” and “Museum curators have as much in common with investigative journalists as they do with university academics”.
Every morning, on the way to my office, I pass a sign that reads: “Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” At the Victoria & Albert Museum, the building is always telling you to do something. The didactic, Victorian and Edwardian decoration asks you to pay attention to nature, to design and manufacture, to the provenance of objects, even where your food comes from. But this particular sign is deeply serious in its upper-case, gilded typeface. It can be seen only by V&A staff, and most often by the people who empty the bins in the service road at the back of the museum.
As a motivational slogan, it’s espresso-strength, but it also betrays an emphasis at the V&A on the handmade, the artisanal and the one-off that design institutions, the media and designers themselves share. An object that an artist’s or craftsperson’s hand has touched has far more chance of making it into the V&A’s collection than something mass-produced or anonymous.
In our China gallery, for very good institutional reasons, there are no contemporary, mass-produced objects. The twenty-first century is represented by artisanal glass and works of conceptual furniture design: the museum is more or less silent on the era of extraordinary Chinese manufacturing we are living through. Dezeen has a similar emphasis: while the site is catholic in its tastes, the anonymous, the mass-produced and the semi-designed are suppressed in favour of the work of a fairly coherent group of designers.
There are all sorts of pretty reasonable explanations for this. The most banal is, of course, that star designers are click bait: celebrity matters, especially in the media. On the other hand, some might argue that designers’ work is simply better than the anonymous manufactured stuff that surrounds us. It’s easier to love the milled aluminium monocoque of Jonathan Ive’s Macbook than the awkward black plastic housing of a traffic light.
The emphasis on the authored leads to serious imbalances in the way we see design in the world. In future months, I will use this column to try to broaden the conversation about what design is, to try to move beyond a myopic interest in what designers and architects do, toward understanding what their work tells us about the world we live in. The others writing here (Sam, Alexandra, Justin and Dan) are all much better at this than me: I’m looking forward to reading their work. read more