Yesterday I posted something inÂ Art21‘s “Centerfield” column about some of Katie Paterson’s work. One of the works discussed centers on a Morse code broadcast transmitted to the moon’s surface. Paterson then captured and re-transcribed the same message it’s reflected, return journey. In a similar spirit, I read about Agnese Meyer-Brandis’ “Moon Goose Analogue” onÂ We Make Money Not ArtÂ Â and thought I could post it here. Brandis is in the midst of a very long project to breed Moon Geese â€” geese who are slated to travel with her to the moon in 2027.You can read more about this project by goingÂ here, and in the meantime check out this amazing, sometimes Wes-Anderson-feel trailer!
Agnes Meyer-Brandis: The Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird FacilityÂ is part of theÂ AV Festival.Â And for any and all of you who happen to be in the UK, the film and installation in on view through the 31st of March, 2012, at theÂ Great North Museum: HancockÂ in Newcastle. This project was commissioned and curated by Â The Arts Catalyst as part of theÂ ACE funded Republic of the Moon exhibition held with FACT,Â Liverpool over the last few months. For more information about this and upcoming work, please visit:Â http://www.artscatalyst.org/
The following interview with Mary Jane Jacob continues from the Art21 blog; you can read thatÂ here. Our conversation is filtered through the lens of two books,Â Buddha Mind in Contemporary ArtÂ andÂ Learning Mind: Experience into ArtÂ that Jacob co-edited withÂ Jacquelynn Baas. Those books were published by the University of California Press in 2004 and 2009 respectively. The third title in the series,Â Chicago Makes Modern: How Creative Minds Shaped Society,Â is due out through the University of Chicago Press this summer.
CP:Â One of the things that especially intrigues me about this connection (between Buddhism and contemporary art practice) is how it encourages a kind of anti-egotism, something that goes directly against the grain of our larger society. When so much about cultural production feels contingent on the legitimacy provided by recognition, monetary reward and public acclaim, it is difficult to comprehend an art practice that functions outside those expectations. I am particularly interested in what kinds of conversations arise between you and your students as you wrestle with this subject. Can you talk a little bit about that?
MJJ:Â Itâ€™s true that egotism, the get-all-you-can-help-yourself-ism of which you speak, is a prevailing strain of our society; we see it played out right now in the Republican primaries. But I would not like to call it â€œthe grain of larger societyâ€ because, at the same time, there is a lot of desire for change. It’s expressed in a rising consciousness for the need to care for the earth, for community well-being. Not everything points to self-serving-ness. This other strain possesses a sense of necessity and a lot of optimism. Many understand that this selflessness today is urgent to take into action. It also has something to say aboutÂ why art?Â I trust art in the social equation.
Among students it is in part a factor of their generation (young people embracing aspects of â€˜70s counterculture) and in part a value of art, and notably in the modern era. While modernism brought us the solo, superstar artist, there was another side. This is the story of modernism we are telling in upcoming bookÂ Chicago Makes Modern: the role of art that is beyond self for the benefit of the greater good, for the common cause. The severing of art and spirituality is a much-mistaken myth about modernism; take for instance the convictions of Malevich, Moholy-Nagy, Newman, Reinhardtâ€¦.
So for students who have their careers and lives ahead of themâ€”who have chosen art, not just because they possess skills and interests, but because they often share certain social values, and who have a desire to probe and create meaning, to realize themselves and to communicate to others through artâ€”the work that came through the â€œAwake: Art, Buddhism, and the Dimensions of Consciousnessâ€ program and which they can access through theÂ Buddha MindÂ book speaks to them. I have found students ready, really hungry, for this. And many Asian students at SAIC have conveyed to me how this has given them a new way to look at their culture, at something they took to be tradition and not modern; they have felt a sense of integration.
CP:Â Additionally there is a way in which you tackle the idea of consciousness (and of course philosophy) â€” ideas which are not often (as far as I can tell) discussed in tandem with artmaking. It reminds me of a very early essay in Learning Mind: Experience Into Art, where Danto describes Modernism as a movement to separate and parse painting from sculpture (p.20).Â
MJJ:Â It seems like you could also say the same of philosophy and art and religion and science â€” of course, these subjects bleed into art making, but they seem to me to be generally reserved for a kind of personal artist-talk expose. More often than not, I feel like there is an emphasis on the social implications of art work, how it can function politically, but here there is a suggestion that it can function philosophically as well, as kind of tenant of meaning…is that a fair understanding?
Itâ€™s great you bring up Arthur Danto because he is a writer and a friend who was very important to me in the early â€˜90s when I was trying to retool and find my way back to art and out of museums. What I love about Arthur is that he can write eruditely (he can cite and use so aptly references from all of Western culture) and at the same time bring it right down to street level (quoting an immigrant cab driver). He uses philosophy to understand our life now, and isnâ€™t that what philosophy was intended to be. He also sees art as a valuable, fundamental part of life; not all philosophers do. But one who did, John Dewey, we might say had an art philosophy of life.
Considering the respect these thinkers had for art, I think theyâ€™d agree that artists have a lot to sayâ€”in their art and in their words, through their works and livesâ€”that speaks to a larger realm of being. So I donâ€™t know that Iâ€™d see â€œpersonal artist-talkâ€ as â€œexposeâ€; Iâ€™d hope with the best of them offer insights. At least thatâ€™s how I look at it. Maybe thatâ€™s why I align more with artists than other arts-related professionals.
CP:Â There seems to be a natural progression between the extensive work you’ve done discussing art that takes place in the public sphere â€” the way that such projects challenge conventional hierarchical expectations about art’s place in society. Â This examination of Buddhism seems to access a different aspect of that same conversation, though one no less political. I am very curious about whether you feel like you address and incorporate Buddhism as a religion, with it’s varied and immense associative/historical past, or if it is more like a kind of philosophical metaphor. I feel like Buddhism somehow becomes a corollary example that, grafted onto an artistic practice would lend new (and iconoclastic) insight. Insight that is not *necessarily* contingent on one’s becoming a monk….
MJJ:Â Thanks for recognizing that the subject of Buddhism and art has something to do with my work in the expanded public art arena. I said at the beginning of this interview that some program officers in foundations criticized negatively my â€œorganicâ€ process of curating. However, during the early days of the â€œAwakeâ€ program a foundation president, who had greatly help find the program, came up to me at a session break and said, â€œI see how the Buddhism project relates to your work with the Spoleto Festival.â€ [I have worked for two decades on site-specific and community projects in Charleston South Carolina, starting with the exhibition â€œPlaces with a Pastâ€ in 1991.] I was astounded; I had been trying to come to terms with what , at that point, I felt more in my gut than my head.Â So it was amazing to hear these words, this perception from another.
With the Buddhism project we always made clear this was not about religion, not a cultural study either. It was to see what this wisdom tradition can tell us about the art experience in making and in viewing. This was a level of primary research for us as artists, curators, and educators. Some of what I took away was generosity (we see this as a mode of art practice today as well as in general in the way art is offered to others, including the notion of the gift), interdependence (and here I think of the intrinsic relationship of artists and audience, object and viewer), interconnection (this has a lot to say about our relationship to others and to the world), potentiality and the concept of â€œnot-emptyâ€ (the unknown, the creative space), non-attachment (the way art is a Â generative process), and the beginnerâ€™s mind (that something doesnâ€™t have to be wholly new and, in recognizing what came before us, we should neither possess the hubris that we are the first and unique, nor be deflated that everything has already been done; rather to possess the beginnerâ€™s mind is to take something into yourself, revitalize it by having it live within you, and with this, innovation is always possible).
So Buddhism is not â€œgraftedâ€ onto artistic practice. Instead, as I feel you mean when you say it can lead to â€œinsight,â€ Buddhism offers things consistent with the art process, and for some artists it can aid that process. So the next book in a couple of years from now (tentatively titledÂ Artway of Living) will continue this thread. On the one hand, it will deal with socially engaged artists, so the public art aspect remains. On the other, through artistsâ€™ firsthand narratives and, yes, their insights, it will dwell on questions at-once philosophical and practical: How can you sustain your art practice? How can you sustain your life as an artist? What is it to live the life of an artist? What is it to live your life as a work of art?
I came across an articleÂ by Martin Patrick, Restlessness and Reception: Transforming Art Criticism in the Age of the Blogosphere,Â that discusses at length the role of art criticism today and â€” unlike most pieces I read about the state of the world â€” ends on a seemingly hopeful note. It thought I Â could post something about it here because I find I’m often thinking about the web-context and what it means as a medium. I don’t especially feel like I have a handle on how best to exercise its talents, but I like chewing on the idea periodically, no doubt in hope of some Eureka! moment. “The web becomes a tool for â€˜housingâ€™ certain materials, indeed a virtual archive, or in Andre Malrauxâ€™s famous phrase a â€˜museum without wallsâ€™ but then it is more important to ask how can newer arrangements, actions, conversations be created on the basis of these contextual settings” (Patrick).
I’ve seen a dramatic shift in Chicago’s critical dialogue. When I first moved here about seven years ago all anyone could talk about was the death of the New Art Examiner. Its demise added salt to the already throbbing (and ever hysterical) wound of Chicago’s second city syndrome. The Midwestern art market was not even capable of supporting a magazine that represented its interests and the rest of the country was disinterested in the activities of its midriff. While I’m likely misremembering the past (again, I’d just come to Chicago and did not yet understand its nuances), it seemed like that pang of insecurity propelled a number of other projects forward, as they insisted on creating modes of dissemination and representation. When I came here NAEÂ had been out of commission for two years and its lament was continuous for the following four. Now, there’s an amazing vitality located largely on-line with artslant, art21, BadatSports (though I suppose B@S would resist the art criticism label standing somewhere between ViceÂ and Cabinate) and many others. The mechanics of this phenomena are reflected in Patrick’s piece, as he points to the once-professional potential of The Critic (even in so far as it possesses archetypal potential); now much of the critical dialogue is activated and sustained by amateurs. Even those who are paid rarely expect a living wage and at best peddle together a variety of wages. “The blogâ€”apart from the vast amount underwritten directly by corporate sponsorshipâ€”is most often an amateur/volunteerâ€™s virtual space involving a greater probability of being generated and launched quickly, randomly, even haphazardly, and with more chance of rapidly ensuing back-and-forth discussions, responses, dialogue than a traditionally formatted journal, magazine or newspaper can generally allow.”Â That’s not to say the article is all positive.
This model of free labor is quite attractive to corporations. Additionally there some very real suggestions that the bite has been taken out of critical remarks (for instance, Mad Men’sÂ ironic appropriation of the past that nevertheless collapses into a complicit reprise of old hierarchies, or how response to the Yes Mens’ NYTimes prank neutered the fake newspaper’s very serious critique message.) These aspects are also endemic to an Internet age, where we can constantly rewrite history. Then of course there’s the Internet’s shady origin story: “The origins of the Internet itself derive from the American attempt to establish a communications system in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack under the aegis of the the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) a wing of the Department of Defense, or ARPAnet[work]” (Patrick). Additionally the web facilitates a kind of sloppiness. (At this time I would like to retroactively apologize for my typos. If you want to be my editor without pay, give me a holler). But beyond slights of hand, on-line appropriation is fast, constant and cheap â€” it’s so easy, for instance, that images, text and ideas are borrowed, spliced, reiterated, misrepresented and so on and so forth. While on the one hand the frontier-like openness of this space, a space not yet settled and defined, is exciting; it lacks a codified rigor. It is still experimental and malleable and capable of much more. The question then remains: How to exhaust its potential as a response vehicle for cultural production? How do we embrace its shortcomings with its strengths? And does it truly challenge canonical ideas of art historicism?
“The internet offers a seemingly open public space that is simultaneously private, solipsistic, restricted. Within this reconfigured environment the digital archive acts as a kind of indirect critical mechanism and virtual repertory house for essential material to be potentially drawn upon by interested parties. That is to say, the accessibility lent to previously arcane and unusual avant-gardist phenomena goes a long way towards setting a tone for the integration of the wildly eccentric and experimental practices that are too long overlooked rather than solely the widely accepted canonical material which is in turn overexposed and despite its merits altogether lifeless. Thus the existence of new sites such as Kenneth Goldsmithsâ€™ www.ubu.com facilitates the permissive and promiscuous notion of having experimental strands of poetry, prose, music, film and visual culture inhabit a treasure hunt/database ready to scavenged and relived via the use of mp3 files, YouTube-style streaming video, text files and so on means that Hollis Frampton, Marcel Broodthaers, Luigi Russolo and many more are incrementally closer to becoming household names” (Patrick).
Our latest “Centerfield” column is now up on Art21 blog. This week, I talked to Chicago artist/educator/gallerist Dan Devening of devening projects + editions. In particular, I wanted to learn more about the editions side of Dan’s project, because I often feel that artists’ multiples gets short shrift when it comes to contemporary art discourse. Devening Projects will be opening a new exhibition of artist’s multiples on January 30th alongside a new “Kabinett” exhibition featuring works by Andreas Fischer and Melissa Pokorny. An excerpt from the Art:21 interview is below; please click on over to Art:21 to read the full piece! Also, the Art:21 interview is excerpted from a much lengthier transcript. We’ll be posting the full exchange with Dan Devening here on the blog tomorrow.
Claudine Ise: Can you take us through the process â€“ both the creative and production sidesâ€”of creating an edition/multiple?
Dan Devening: In most cases, when I propose the publication of an edition with an artist, Iâ€™ll show them a bunch of examples of recent work and use those examples to open a door to whatâ€™s possible within the project. Mostly, Iâ€™m hoping that theyâ€™ll take up the challenge and approach the process as an experience that can expose their practice to something new. Because there is the necessity that the work be an edition, the requirement that there be multiple copies of the work sets up a nice set of parameters. The artist may have some ideas about how they might proceed and if thatâ€™s the case, weâ€™ll start talking about production methods or options. The great thing about doing editions with artists is that theyâ€™re artists; theyâ€™re trained to be creative problem solvers, so Iâ€™ve never been disappointed with the editions that have come out of these conversations. For example, a recent piece from Nathaniel Robinson called Dreg is a resin-cast styrofoam cup. Itâ€™s a one-to-one replica of the real thingâ€”including teeth marks near the rimâ€”that also includes a set of greasy fingerprints on the inside of the cup. I donâ€™t know how Nathaniel made this edition of three and I donâ€™t think I ever want to know. The mystery of this modest little object is its beauty. My only fear with Dreg is that someone will mistakenly throw it in the trash. (ReadÂ more).
January 10, 2011 · Print This Article
I recently interviewed Anne Elizabeth Moore for the Art21 blog. Our interview ran over the prescribed length but I was still pretty fascinated in what AEM had to say. Thus, I’ve posted the extension of the interview here. First, we talk about copyright issues–what seems of real interest, given that making visual/creative work (especially outside of a stream-lined commercial business context) begs such questions. For instance, I’ve worked with authors who have insisted on using Creative Commons (not a problem with the GLPress since the author/artist always keeps the rights to whatever we print), and Creative Commons is awesome, maybe even preferable, but how to think about it? What does it mean? Well, Anne Elizabeth Moore to the rescue, because she has thought about it. ALOT. Maybe in part because her namesake created the first copyright way back when. Aside from copyrights, we also talk about her Fulbright and what she’s doing in Cambodia. Which is also well worth the read. So.
CP: How do you deal with copyright issues?
AEM: Depends on the project. I’m not a big fan of current copyright law and it’s ease for corporate abuse, but I’ve also seen how the copyright activists tend to be these loud, masculine players who are just as aggressive as, say, those corporations that virulently defend their copyright despite fair-use defenses. So let me say this once: demanding I give up my copyright as a matter of politics is just as shitty as suing me for using yours. I’ve been involved in some fairly big-deal copyfights, and I’ve just seen the same thing, over and over and over: the loud white obnoxious psuedoradical dudes, usually also the best educated and with the most money, consistently have the most say. It’s weird, right? That in this supposedly deliberate anti-corporate field of criminal activity, we’ve got the same problem as in boardrooms across America: rich white dudes grabbing all the power. So I started to look into it more, and it’s a pretty complex matter. Because copyright doesn’t actually cover all matters of intellectual property rights: there are a ton of things that we do, make, use, and create that we don’t bother to assign copyright to. Cooking, for example, and quilting and knitting and sewing. Traditionally known as women’s work. Most of this isn’t eligible for copyright because, in the theory that went into creating the law, they worked from the accrued common knowledge of a group of people and result in products that are intended for private consumption. So: the law is publicly acknowledging that some work traditionally identified as feminine doesn’t matter in terms of this law, which after all is about the right to have ownership over, but also profit from, your own work. This is therefore a law that is fundamentally flawed, in several different arenas. Fighting it on its own terms isn’t going to change the basis of our understanding about the kinds of work that matters and the kinds of work that don’t. And so also, Creative Commons isn’t going to challenge this law to the degree I feel it needs to be challenged. And look at the basis of the law: that the accrued common knowledge of a group of people working together on something? I’m all about that kind of work. You cannot tell me that it does not have value. Although I will hear arguments that its primary value is in creating corporate-resistant structures unacknowledged by our current legal system. But we get confused in the States. When the legal and corporate world tells us something has value, we don’t have much space to rethink that. Even the copyright pirates, right? The copylefters, a thing that I first heard about in zine culture: this is a proposal to freely re-use work, to open it up to any and all users, for any purposes whatsoever. This is helpful, but it doesn’t say, here are all the ways this law is wrongly established.
What I’m for is the first copyright. Some 1790-ish thing called the Statute of Anne, this first copyright law in the UK gave creators rights to their own work for a very reasonable period of 14 years. The end. It would be great if this applied to all created works–quilts, family recipes, etc.–and if the profit-making edge copyright has taken on especially in recent years were eradicated from the whole deal, so that creators would feel empowered to defend this work for this short time on the basis of its own merits and not for its money-making potential. But until copyright law is challenged fully and on all the bases that I feel it needs to be challenged, I will continue to respond to each individual project with a unique take on copyright that challenges it on the grounds I think it needs to be challenged on.
Like, a 2004 zine about Starbucks marketing and branding strategy in underground culture. Because they had recently tried to take Kieron Dwyer to court, an associate from my comic-book days, I assigned copyright of this very critical piece to Starbucks, and then distributed it inside Starbucks around the US. Actually it’s still in circulation, and I just got an email from someone who found it a few months ago. [ONLINE SOMEWHERE AT ANNEELIZABETHMOORE.COM] Or I will pirate things when I need toâ€”the American Girl Doll cards, for example. I have yet to do a project where I needlessly copyright something created by a large number of people just to prove a point, but I do assign full credit within works I complete on their behalf, and don’t register them for separate copyright. And then here in Cambodia, there is no copyright law. So every single thing I do here is purely contributory, or could be, or hopes to be.
CP: I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about your Fulbright….
AEM: So I was invited to teach media and communications in Phnom Penh for the winter term, and I actually just gave a little intro lecture to my students yesterday. There, because the country’s been so poor in the past–it’s developing now, and rapidly–the way globalization takes hold is really, really evident. And because there is a visible middle class there now, whereas there was not three years ago (when I started working there, on the self-publishing project I mention above), there are also the markers of the middle class: namely, advertising. What I’ll be studying here with my students is the rise of advertising in a country where most of the nation earns less than $60 per month, often supported by young women in the garment factories, who of course unknowingly supply the world with clothes sold under brands like H&M, Gap, Adidas, Bennetton, and Nike. What happens in an insane context like this is, those same brands are being pushed on the makers of them, but no connection to the process of creation, or between their wages and the price point, is ever acknowledged. Yesterday I met a kid who proudly whipped out an iPhone he doesn’t know how to use. You may know I first came here right after my book Unmarketable came out, about the cooptation of the cultural underground by marketing forces. It was very well received, and this was all very exciting, but there I was in Cambodia where, like the town was getting excited about the very first KFC (called here Khmer Fried Chicken, of course) opening up. Unmarketable made no sense. I was asked to come give a lecture on it at a university here, and it was like, OK: but first I have to explain what a cultural underground is, and then I have to explain about what marketing is. And then I have to explain what resistance movements are. Now, in three years, Cambodia has caught up the our most globalized cultures in terms of advertising if not in terms of actual economic development. What’s up with that?