Monday, August 04, 2008

"Snarky" Bricolage

So I'm back in the land I love: the land of good manners and country-fried cholesterol. I still have photos from Oregon, etc., but, in the meantime, allow me to try something “different.”

From Enemy of the Good, a video by Janet Biggs, visited by both Jonathan Bouknight and Felicia Feaster. In her recently published Art Papers review, Feaster gave the video lower marks than Biggs' other works.

Something about this reminded me of Matthew Barney climbing the walls of the Guggenheim.
- Bouknight, referencing Enemy of the Good.

Like Matthew Barney, Biggs is invested in gender differentiation through costume, sport, and behavior. While both artists are similarly drawn to the fetishistic accoutrements of sports, entertainment, and military culture—the protective padding… has an added vérité spin
- Feaster.
I recently spoke with a friend, a graduate of the GSU philosophy program, about approaches to writing reviews. She described an idea similar to Greg Ulmer's thesis on "post-criticism." What if you wrote the article in a way that actually emulated the the art under review?

Ulmer takes the idea a step further, asking that critics relinquish their role as outside interpreters; basically criticism should reduce itself to the level of collage. The review would become, in words, a montage approximation of the art.
The interest of collage as a device for criticism resides partly in the objectivist impulse of cubism... The cubist collage, by incorporating directly into the work an actual fragment of the referent (open form), remains "representational" while breaking completely [with realism].
Ulmer, "The Object of Post-Criticism," Collected in The Anti-Aesthetic.

Biggs, Solipsism Syndrome.
At first I thought it was a nude hairy male (Biggs purposefully abstracts the bear) which was really interesting, a representation of sexual unrest or the mating dance...
Polar Bears are going extinct you know.

- Bouknight on Solipsism Syndrome.

This juxtaposition of ritualized, controlled performances suggests extreme forms of male strength and female beauty, as well as the human quest for perfection.
- Feaster, referencing the same.

dialectic(s) 1 in ancient Greece, dialectic was a kind of disputation undertaken as a game or exercise in which questions were asked and answers for the most part had to be ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
- The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy.

Instead of comparing/contrasting two signifiers within one video, such as female swimmers and male military cadets, this video focuses only on the horse and its acrobatic male rider. The relationship between the two is chocked full of innuendos but is not contrived by Biggs... it happens naturally and is more interesting for it.
- Bouknight

The effect of the video works varies. Most are hypnotic and thought-provoking, though Biggs’ Enemy of the Good, 2007 is less successful... Hyperconsious of the camera, the pianist then sits down to perform to an empty concert house. Stagey and performative, the video lacks the naturalism of the other works.
- Feaster.
Everywhere, Killing Time by Marcus Kenney.

I've been hard on Feaster recently, and although I never expected to be taken seriously, I regret my "unqualified" remarks. She is alive—and certainly qualified.
In Kenney’s snarky bricolage, history is something to be discarded or pasted over when necessary. Even his subjects are frighteningly masked and duplicitous, hiding behind black face, hijabs, and appropriated faces...
- Feaster (another review in the July/August issue).

bricolage: French for ‘tinkering about’ or ‘do-it-yourself’; a bricoleur undertakes odd jobs and is a jack-of-all-trades, as distinct from a craftsman. Because of the difficulty of finding a strict equivalent, the French term has been retained by the translators of Levi-Strauss, who uses bricolage to describe a characteristic feature of mythical thought. [The materials of bricolage] are a subset of a wider culture and already have their own meaning, but they can be rearranged in new combinations and contexts.
- The Penguin Dictionary of Critical Theory

These materials become the visual equivalents to the incessant bleating of television news or talk radio—frantic white noise that drowns out any cogent, reasoned thought.
- Feaster.

Farewell to Allusions. There's some ambiguity surrounding the syntax of Kenney's titles. He says the title here is spelled "allusions" not "illusions." This sort of thing must happen all the time...

Marcus Kenney is a homeboy.
- Cinque Hicks, CL, June '08.

Me: Are you... a "homeboy"?
Kenney: I don't know... I'm not sure what a "homeboy" is!
. . .
Kenney: I have to do commentary that includes everything that “American” means. I want to dive in as honest and truthful as I can... So I made a promise to myself to not censor the load. I'm not going to paint what a white 35-year-old male with two kids is supposed to paint. I'm going to paint what I'd paint.
- Notes on Midnight in America ; from a phone conversation.1

dialectic(s) 2 the art of discourse by which we either refute or establish some proposition by means of a question and answer on the part of the interlocutors. This is, for Plato, a method preeminently suited to finding truth, no matter whether the dialogue is carried on with another person or in one’s own mind.

Like the maniacal, violent kinder of Henry Darger, Kenney’s children wield sabers and shields, decapitating other children in frightening echoes of the child armies of Uganda or Sudan.
- Feaster.

Above, signs point in opposing directions, inexplicably, to destinations labeled “here” and “there.” We see here an almost schizophrenic “joy” – shown by the severed head smiling ironically on the floor – expressing a general paroxysm at the dawn of the millennium.
- Continued from my notes.

dialectic(s) 4 Hegel used the term dialectic to designate a process which brings forth an opposition, between a thesis and an antithesis, which has within it an urge to be resolved by a synthesis, a combination in which the conflicting elements are preserved and somehow reconciled.

A row of little girls in camouflage and acid hunter-orange dresses march menacingly toward a boy in State of Nature, 2007, suggesting some imminent attack.
- Feaster.

The same three girls, now in tan camouflage, guard the borderline of some dream-world nation state. The viewer is placed over the shoulder of an anonymous immigrant with skin the color of dishwater... Kenney makes it difficult to take ethical or political positions for or against the subjects presented. The viewer remains in a state of hermeneutic destabilization, unable to find conclusive solutions: What makes this State of Nature so "natural?" What could possibly be "new" about The New Communism?"
- Notes.
Joker Remix, a tribute to the late Heath Ledger by the Atlanta painter, Kombo Chapfika. He finished the painting in 2007—before the actor's death. If you pull up Kombo's site, click on "Portfolio" and find Disco Darfur. It's sick.

Last week, I thought I'd write a post about the latest Batman film. Well—as is commonly the case with blogging—tight scheduling has tossed that idea "down the shitter." Instead, I've given you this "snarky bricolage," which I hope proves more entertaining than pictures of me climbing mountains.

And, as a nice, masochistic chaser, here are some words by Georg W. F. Hegel, philosopher:
Art inspires men to directly opposite emotions, it only magnifies the contradiction of our feelings and passions, and either sets them staggering like Bacchantes, or passes into sophistry and skepticism, in the same way as argumentation.

If culture of the world has fallen into such a contradiction, it becomes the task of philosophy to undo or cancel it, i.e. to show that neither the one alternative in its abstraction nor the other in similar one-sidedness possesses truth, but that they are essentially self-dissolving; that truth only lies in the conciliation and mediation of the two.
- Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics, p. 53 and 60, respectively.

1 I later asked Kenney to name some of his favorite music "influences." Public Enemy topped his list, followed by Fat Boys and Easy E...

::: )


mike said...

Thats a lot to dig through.

Jeremy Abernathy said...

Sorry, I know. The posts just keep getting longer and longer. As if I was trying to make up for the guilt of not posting.

Jonathan said...

Its interesting that you are stepping back from the art to anaylze or rethink the criticism surrounding it.
I don't see myself as a critic, but writing anything about someone else's art is a bit egomaniacal and presumptive. I especially like what Ulmar says about the role of the critic in relation to the work and I agree.
I wrote a post once on Eyedrum's Dead Flowers group show and it evolved into more of a companion piece to the exhibition than a seperate dissection of it. In many ways I felt that was more succesful, at least for me, it made more sense.
Keep this dialoge rolling in your blog - it's something important to consider.


Jeremy Abernathy said...

Thanks. I feel there's a formula to writing about art, and although I admire it and like to see myself "learning its ways" I don't want to get stuck.

Comparing what you did, Jonathan, to what Feaster wrote in Art Papers was very interesting to me. I don't think it really came through in this post, but I think Local E's coverage had something that Art Papers could never have... of course it's the amount of pictures, yes, but the different attitude counts for a lot as well.
I liked to read both side by side.

Then again Feaster can, as several critics in this town can, still write circles around me...

I'm glad you got something out of it.

Jonathan said...

The post points out the fact that the very approach one takes towards viewing art will completely affect/change one's review of it. This is indicative of just how subjective and transient the opinion is.

Oh, and Feaster certainly has a way with words - so its kind of embarressing when my words are put next to hers. I lean heavily on the word "interesting" while Feaster tosses around words like "fetishistic accoutrements."

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