I made a comment about the Met’s punk show on Twitter that seems to have sparked a bit of a lively response. Since Twitter is a medium best suited to pithy and/or snarky declarations and not actual conversation or debate, I figured I’d elaborate here instead.
1. Writing on Dan Graham’s Rock My Religion in 1985, Benjamin Buchloh describes its “problematic” status as a work with no clear audience: existing solely as a video tape, without any artist-specified installation parameters, the hour-long video is unbound by the confines of the museum or gallery, suggesting the possibility of multiple channels of distribution. Yet trying to identify what those channels might be raises its own set of issues: however enchanting Graham’s argument may seem, it fails spectacularly as a work of historical scholarship, thus precluding the possibility of treating it as a straightforward documentary—it is plainly an artist’s project, subjectively composed by an author who is allowed the license of a bricoleur. Likewise, its low-budget production values and “unorthodox methodological synthesis of Horkheimer/Adorno, Benjamin, Foucault, and Lacan” makes a television audience unlikely: too academic for MTV, too unwieldy for Masterpiece Theater. Buchloh is at once intrigued and disturbed by Rock My Religion, less by the content of the video itself than its lack of a determined contextual framework:
"While the audience for Graham’s work is therefore unspecific—and that is clearly problematic—it is at least shifting and diffuse, and the work is potentially open to non-art-world audiences, neither fixed in its distribution form nor exclusively contained in one particular institutional apparatus."
Rock My Religion was made in the early 1980s, but its ideal mode of distribution and presentation seems, in retrospect, obvious: it’s the Internet.
2. Awhile ago, I wrote an essay for Rhizome on several projects involving quasi-ethnographic or archaeological fieldwork, including Ellie Ga’s ongoing The Fortunetellers, the result of several months as the ‘artist in residence’ on a research expedition in the Arctic, for which she became the expedition’s self-appointed archivist. The precedent for this, I realized today, is the surrealist poet-turned-ethnographer Michel Leiris’s 1934 publication L’Afrique fantôme, an essentially uncategorizable document of his time as the “secretary-archivist” of the Mission Dakar-Djibouti, an ethnographic expedition sponsored by the French government from 1931-33.
I reviewed It’s No Good, the recently-released collection of poems and essays by Kirill Medvedev (published by N+1 and Ugly Duckling Presse) for the Observer. I initially came to Medvedev’s work a year or so ago via Chto Delat (though most of what he’s published there has been essays and dialogues), so I’d been anticipating this collection for awhile. Medvedev is a strange, but fascinating writer, and overall I thought the book successfully captured the various aspects of his “practice,” for lack of a better word, and the ways they intertwine. That said, I found it to be, at times, almost excessively thorough—there are a few mediocre, shorter texts that seemed unnecessary, especially given the strength of the longer essays, which I’d place among the most provocative arguments about literature and politics of the last decade. There are a few aspects of the book that I wish I’d had room to discuss, namely the near-absence of women in Medvedev’s work, which seems to attest to the problematic place of feminism in Eastern Europe even among the far-left, and, more broadly, the issues that go along with transplanting writing initially intended for the Internet into print form. For instance, “An Invitation,” a short text originally posted on Medvedev’s Livejournal, includes a discussion about why he’d turned comments off on the post, which is a sort of jarring intrusion, but one that opens up a potentially productive conversation about the blog as a literary form and the types of language it introduces.
Maren Hassinger, Place for Nature, 2011
I had little to contribute to the furor that erupted in late October ago over Ken Johnson’s New York Times review of Now Dig This: Art and Black Los Angeles, currently at MoMA PS1, since I hadn’t seen the show. It seemed obvious that Johnson’s approach to the work was based in some deeply problematic assumptions (for instance, that works by Duchamp are “deracinated, intellectual mischief-making designed to question relations between language and reality” which seems to implicitly argue that only white men can make wide-reaching statements about reality, as if being a white, heterosexual European male isn’t a perspective as particular as that of a non-white, female, or gay artist) but I wondered if the clumsiness of the review was based on the fact that Johnson is, simply put, an inarticulate, unsubtle critic. I figured it was possible that Johnson simply lacked the adequate language or intellectual acuity to properly express whatever point he was trying to make, and thus fell back on worn out art-historical assumptions about the universality of the canon of white men. However, I saw the show yesterday, and was shocked by the degree to which it differed from the expectations set up by Johnson’s review. In reality, the show bears absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to the one Johnson describes. At no point did I feel alienated, as a white viewer, as Johnson apparently did, from the works; rather, I was mostly frustrated that I was encountering so many of them for the first time.
Join Triple Canopy for our annual marathon reading of Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans.
155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn, NY
7 p.m. Friday, January 18, 2013 through 11 p.m Sunday, January 20
Free and open to the public
Triple Canopy is pleased to present our second annual marathon reading of Gertrude Stein’s enormously long and allegedly unreadable novel The Making of Americans: Being a History of a Family’s Progress. Over one weekend, an invited list of New York–based artists, writers, publishers, scholars, and other collaborators will gather in Greenpoint to perform the entirety of Stein’s text in a continuous read-in, expected to last 52 hours, more or less. There will be coffee and donuts during the dawn walk-in hours; borscht and booze at dinnertime; and champagne toasts. The schedule of readers, including time slots for walk-ins, can be found here.
You can come heckle me from 3:15-3:30pm on Saturday.
I told Michael that I wanted to spend my break doing something productive like, say, reading Hegel.
I wrote an essay for Rhizome about some of Liza Bear and Willoughby Sharp’s projects for public access TV after the end of Avalanche. The projects are interesting in themselves, insofar as they represent an early attempt to experiment with what was, at the time, a new medium (public access channels in the US were introduced around 1969), but I was also interested in the fact that they’re rarely, if ever, mentioned in any of the work that’s been done on Avalanche over the past few years. Avalanche is often discussed in terms of the materiality of the magazine format and the ways in which Sharp/Bear experimented with it as a medium, as well as its rootedness in the SoHo art scene of the 1970s, all of which is very true, but considered in light of the artists’ subsequent turn towards telecommunications, I’m surprised that there hasn’t been more consideration of their interest in (and Avalanche's relationship to) mass media.
This is something I’d like to do more work on (at some theoretical future date when I have free time, which will be never) but I was struck by the degree to which the discourse surrounding public access in the ’70s anticipates the internet (for instance, Ann Arlen’s 1972 article “Public Access: The Second Coming of Television?” in Radical Software, wherein she describes it as “our first experience of an electronic mass medium through which people may talk to other people unmanipulated by media professionals.”) I’d be curious to hear whether early internet artists were thinking about public access TV at all, especially in terms of projects oriented towards reaching the broadest possible audience (as opposed to, say, engaging the formal properties of the website as a medium, specificity of the browser as a site of reception, and so on).
Fore catalogue is here!
I have an essay in here on artist/dancer/choreographer Taisha Paggett. Her work is amazing, as is the show in general.
We’re proud to announce that Kirill Medvedev’s It’s No Good, which Keith and a team of translators have been working on for more than a year—and which, yes, we’ve advertised in the last few issues as “coming soon”—has finally gone to the printer. The book collects much of Medvedev’s poetry, essays, and public actions from the past decade, including “My Fascism,” “Literature Will Be Tested,” and “Brecht Is Not Your Aunt.” n+1 readers will remember Medvedev’s poetry from Issue 6, and his essay on Russian poetry from Issue 13. We should have copies in early December for the socialist internationalists on your Xmas list. More soon.
(If you are a member of the media (we mean that in the broadest possible sense), and want to write about the book, which gives a panoramic vision of post-Soviet intellectual life, especially of the last ten years, please send us a note at editors at nplusonemag.com and we’ll get you a galley.)
This is a thing I want to read.