COPY part 1

“All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music.”

-Walter Pater

The essayist here is referring to the pure non-representational nature of music, and how in music for and content are nearly the same. Music does not aspire to be or to represent anything other than it is. It invokes emotions, it stirs emotions, but it does not represent emotions. Language strives to represent thought. Both of these elements – the invocation of emotion and the encapsulation of thoughts – are two crucial poles to human communication. COPY is a project I’ve been working on for longer than I’d like to admit that engages with these ideas in pictorial form.

I’m displaying here the original drawings, done in wax pastel on black paper, to start the process of documenting the creation of the work. Each of the drawings was made as a response to the one ta came before, with very little forethought as to what each would contain. They could be considered abstract, but I was aware of using the basic shapes of the triangle, the square, and the circle; as well as some an-alphabetic glyphs and structures that look like notation. The feeling I’m trying to invoke is that feeling that happens when one repeats a word, over and over, until it loses it’s meaning and becomes simply a sound. It is this state, where the given-ness of the world around us, is suspended and a space of inquiry opens up. In Lacanian terms, it’s a disruption of the symbolic order. It’s a making-strange of the always-ordinary.

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Ludic – the Cure for the Ironic©

I’ve been doing some reading lately that’s been intersecting in some interesting ways, and will probably be the basis for an essay to be published later this year in ArtMemo. It has to do with the idea of gesture (of course) in relation to cinema, a topic I plan to take up with more regularity. I’m currently putting together a course for a Motion Picture History: the science fiction film class and it’s really got me reinvigorated to study and do work in the moving image. In any event, the idea springs from Agamben’s idea that the basic unit of cinema is the gesture, not the image (from “Notes on Gesture”in Means Without End: Notes on Politics). I want to explore the links between this idea and Massumi’s idea of “Animal Politics” and then link it all back to the (outdated) idea of a “cinema language” a la Metz, taking up in the account (really, beginning the account with) a recitation and examination of his “On the Impression of Reality in the Cinema”

One of the aspects of the idea of the ludic gesture – the playful gesture of animals – that struck me early on is the aspect of it that it is not what it outwardly seems to be (“this is not a bite”),and that this aspect of the ludic gesture constitutes an abstraction, and is thus metacommunicative, though it may fall short of language itself. In the play of animals, we can see the beginnings of the human capacity for language (also something I’ll take up again on the blog). This same kind of negation happens in the construction of ironies. One example that jumps to mind is Banksy’s Dismaland. In its irony, it’s a negation of the capitalist enterprise that is Disneyland, but in a way it only recapitulates the conditions for Disneyland to exist. The only thing it produces is a feeling of superiority. It’s good for a chortle, and maybe for a moment of authentic self-reflection, but what after that? Negation only leads to two things – a dead end or a return to the original.

A ludic gesture, on the other hand, creates an excess. It is not a negation, but a divergence from. Not a pull against, but a step around. The ludic act is one that surpasses the given needs of a situation, it is a something extra. This excess is sometimes discarded, vanishing just as it comes into being, and sometimes proves useful. I find the kind of genetic mutations that evolution hinges on to be instructive on this point. Mutations do not happen for any specific reason, except that if there is reason for their existence they become part of the given. This given, this base state then becomes that from which the ludic diverges.  Massumi downplays the importance of the dialectic between play and combat (it really isn’t useful in terms of politics – of course there is no extolment of violence), instead focusing on the reciprocity between the “autonomy of expression” or “lived abstraction” (metaphorical “play”, meaning that it should be as free of consequence, stakes, and other mitigating factors as possible) and the “dependence on the already-expressed” or “lived importance” (combat, in the analogy, where stakes, consequences, utility, and so forth do matter).

Art that simply calls out problems with the given, with society, is cynical art. Art does not need to be discursive or prescriptive in giving society cures for what ails it, but it can open the possibilities for new avenues of discourse. Art certainly need not be optimistic, but it does society a disservice when it engages in irony simply for the sake of negation. I remind myself every time  I am tempted to use the the worn-out art trope that something “calls attention to” something could use a hint of the ludic in order to recall that there should be a purpose to a calling out.

And that’s why we say Ludic – the cure for the Ironic.©


Personal, pictorial, political.

Inspired by this quote from the third introduction, Formalism and Structuralism, to the opus Art Since 1900 by Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alan Bois and Benjamin Buchloch.

…the “Neoplastic” pictorial vocabulary that he had coined in 1920 and used ever since was transformed into a self-destructive machine destined to abolish not only the figure, as he had done before, but color planes, lines, surfaces, and by extension every possible identity — in other words, that Mondrian’s art elicited an epistemological nihilism of ever growing intensity. In short, if art critics and historians had been more acutely attentive to the formal development of his oeuvre, they might have earlier on grasped the connection he felt more inclined to make in his writings, from 1930, between what he tried to achieve pictorially and the political views of anarchism.

And thus the quote for today – a riff on the old feminist shibboleth that the “personal is political.” I also like the visually similarity between the two words, and so in my mind that becomes a weird justification for the slogan. It’s got a nice symmetry.

On a more serious note, there is a connection between “the personal” and “the pictorial” in our heavily mediated age. Pictures are political tools in the Trump age (though not because of Trump), and the personal is so often expressed in picture.

Life drawing again

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Drawing is at the core of my entire artistic practice, and I hold a special place for figure drawing, especially short poses. Anything over 5 minutes and I start to get bored. These quick drawings are often known as ‘gesture drawings’ – a phrase that has two meanings. One, they are of gestures. The poses can be more challenging as the model does not have to hold them as long (though, our model last night didn’t seem to get this. Oh well, we can work on that next week), so active, gestural poses are possible. The second is that the action taken to make the drawing is more gestural – fast, intuitive, expressive.


Gallery Review: Jason Rhoades – Installations 1994-2006

I reviewed Hauser Wirth & Schimmel’s latest offering for Art Memo Magazine. This one was a lot to sort through – both visually and conceptually – the installations are very dense, with lots of personal references, cultural references, and art historical references, and there are about a million different slang words for “vagina” rendered in neon lights.

Check out the full review at Art Memo.

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Work-in-progress 2/7/17

Below are some images of branches. My current trajectory of research into ideas of metacommunicative states, language, and gesture has suggested to me an interesting metaphor for written language – dead branches. As in, the written word is to language what a dead branch is to a tree. There is also a reference to the body, in the tree limbs as stand-ins for body parts; body parts again which make the gestures from which language comes.

I also really like how the technique used here renders the branches in a soft, fleshy manner.branch-02branch-01

Still shaken, stirred

Perusing Hulu yesterday looking for something mindless to watch, I noticed a glut of 007 films. It was almost as of to say, “See? Sometimes when a narcissistic, misogynistic white guy goes off on his own, things turn out alright.”

I know this is a weird metaphor; Trump is much more Bond-villain than Bond-stand-in. But to be clear, the way to beat this guy is not with an equally sadistic but better looking narcissist white guy, but through a diverse coalition, organizing and agitating and working collectively to preserve the victories of the last eight years and hold Trump accountable and for the love of god take back a few statehouses, yeah?