Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What's the Biggest Question Facing Artists Today?

In its quest to be all things to sane people, the Guardian continues to be everywhere. More recently here, asking artists, curators, directors (but not critics?), What's the biggest question facing artists today?

Responses vary. Jeremy Deller offers up incredulity's acronym ("WTF?"), while Marina Abramović reminds us that we are "human beings." Most see the present as a dilemma. Tacita Dean OBE RA believes in "balancing a need for the market with a detachment from it," while ICA director Stefan Kalmár is concerned less with functionalism's "balancing" act than in identifying what is, in effect, a Marxist "contradiction."

I appreciate what Stefan has to say about education in the third paragraph below:

The big question for us all – but particularly for artists because it’s more pressing – is, essentially, can we bite the hand that feeds us? The economic make-up of the 21st century has forced us to shy away from more fundamental questions. An artist is now someone who sells work through a commercial system, to people they might not know, whose political and social affiliations they might not know. As a director, you wonder how long those contradictions are sustainable. Your exhibition might be sponsored by people who you oppose.
How many galleries in the US have Trump supporters as their major donors? How does that sit with the more progressive curatorial decisions? Equally, how does the ICA behave with those contradictions? I mean, at least we can talk about them, rather than pretending they’re not there.
Then there is the question of education in general, and art education in particular. Why is it that a society that largely communicates through visual media then deprives generations of young people of an arts education? To do so essentially produces a visual illiteracy, so people can’t understand or read the world. They cannot understand that the world projected at them has social, economic preconditions and interests behind them. In a world that is saturated by image, where ideologies talk to each other through imagery, it is a basic human right to understand how images are produced, circulated and distributed. It’s like learning a language or learning the alphabet. Isn’t looking after the people the basic foundation of any politics? Why would it ever be interesting to introduce tuition fees and reduce people’s access to education? The same for healthcare. Why should it be difficult? Shouldn’t it always be government’s prime mandate to produce a well-educated and healthy society? We could get more political and say, “Why is it always conservative governments that do this?” There isn’t a liberal or social democratic element that would do that. You very, very rarely get well-educated fascists or racists.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Together Again!

A highlight of the VAG's Entangled: Two Views on Contemporary Canadian Painting exhibition: a make-out corner featuring Joyce Weiland's The Kiss (1960) and Michael Snow's Between (1960).

Sunday, October 15, 2017


How in reading one thing, then another, a word, a particular word that speaks to a "momentary or partial view" -- a glimpse.

A kitchen table busy with books and papers. I sit down, make room for my coffee, then pull towards me something to read. At one point Anne Low's text from her Artspeak exhibition, Witch With Comb, which riffs on Muriel Spark's 1960 short story "The Ormolu Clock":

At one point in the story the narrator catches a momentary glimpse into a room through a door, that up until that moment, had remained locked.

I twig on the word. Where have I just seen it?

I read further:

The narrator’s description of the magnificence of the room revealed a canopied bed, stacked with plush pillows, highly adorned quilts and Turkish carpets all in hues of deep crimson, dark wood and flashes of gilded gold, a glistening tiled stove and an elaborately decorated clock.

A passage from Huysman's À rebours? (The copy in the bathroom?) Roussel's Locus Solus? (The copy in the glove compartment?)


The narrator is struck by the opulence of the bedroom, seemingly the antithesis to the rest of the establishment with its humble scrubbed and polished wooden interior. 

Of course! Right there in front of me! The opening of Mark Fisher's 2009 Capitalist Realism:

In one of the key scenes in Alfonso Cuarón's 2006 film Children of Men, Clive Owen's character, Theo, visits a friend at Battersea Power Station, which is now some combination of government building and private collection. Cultural treasures -- Michelangelo's David, Picasso's Guernica, Pink Floyd's inflatable pig -- are preserved in a building that is itself a refurbished cultural artifact. This is our only glimpse into the lives of the elite, holed up against the effects of a catastrophe which has caused mass sterility: no children have been born for a generation. 

The sterility of human beings (the film refers only to women's sterility) implies a shift in utility. While human beings can continue to produce things, they can no longer reproduce their species. This, too, is operative in Anne's exhibition, and is expressed not through a literal recreation of a functioning bed or stove (as glimpsed through a door or, in this case, through shutters or drapery) but through an aestheticization of these furnishings as forms crafted from -- memory?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Screen Shot

Found the above while cleaning up my desktop. It was taken from the front page of the November 1, 1966 edition of the Vancouver Sun newspaper.

Found the below while doing the same.

I wonder if Thomas d'Aquino's "family of Named Gallery Spaces" is related to Dr. Ron Burnett's family of Named ECUAD Spaces?

The world is so small these days.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Blue Cabin

A few years ago, when Al Neil and Carole Itter's Blue Cabin showed no signs of going anywhere other than where it was, I spent an afternoon scraping its soffits, in advance of another volunteer's paint job.

Most of these scrapings remained on the deck, but some I pocketed. Or rather, some fell into my pockets and, in preparing my clothes for the wash, I put them in a bowl.

Over the years I have come to see these scrapings less as remnants of the Blue Cabin than as emblems of labour, and it is for this reason that I keep them on my desk next to some seeds I collected from a tomato I picked that same year, in Noto.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Flight from Beauty

I first saw Jeff Wall's Overpass (2001) in the days following 9/11 and thought I would forever associate it with that event. But now, in light of Westbank's recent campaign, it has taken on a new meaning.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Barnacle Bill the Sailor (1930)

Amazing animation and sound. Cartoons were the first talkies, no?