Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day 2013


Numbers sourced: http://www.prb.org/Articles/2002/HowManyPeopleHaveEverLivedonEarth.aspx 
Feb 14 2013

Friday, January 4, 2013

Borrowed Nostalgia

(Quite the rough draft, and as always, fully incomplete.)

My wife and I recently had our first child. It is quite the experience, and has really forced me to look back on my life as I look to the future of my daughter's. As with any retrospection, a sense of nostalgia comes into play (as does a sense of embarrassment.) 
As long as I have studied art, and maybe before, I have had a negative view of nostalgia, as it runs contrary to Modernist ideals. As far as I can tell, it runs counter to Postmodern ideology as well, in that the recycling of forms used in PM art is an act of criticism, not fondness. Now, I'm not sure what kind of weight it holds, but I have heard people try to add additional "post"s in front of "postmodern" - i.e., post-postmodern, post-post-postmodern, ad infinitum.; I have never really stuck around to find out what they are pretending to know, but I imagine it must have to do with a re-using of imagery with a more sympathetic approach. Unfortunately, this type of appropriation is doomed to become idolatry or fetishism, and is a surrogate for the womb of the unoriginal, those who fashion pleasurable the stale taste of aestheticized consumerism. Appropriation of this type belongs to the plagiarist.

It seems that the ideas that Nicolas Bourriaud presented in his 2002 masterpiece, Postproduction, have trickled down through a mass of bad artists and good programmers to be misused in the feeble hands of the general consumer, who now believes him/herself to be "creative." Creative, yes, but an artist, no. An act of plagiarism is an act of creation (just as an act of destruction is), but the action of art is an act of synthesis. The former is only a vampiric or zombic act - consumption that creates more consumers, all of whom where once alive, but are now dead; the latter is an act of agriculture, a consumption (of seemingly dead resources) whose product is life. [Here may be a good place to think of Zizek's interpretation of "un" something being worse than it's opposite - the undead being a horrific alternative to the alive.]
Bourriaud made a great case for what may have been the last wave of truly postmodern artist from the 90's in Postproduction, and set up a believable scenario in which we can see the actions of the DJ and computer programmer, selectors and re-arrangers (remixers) of given lexicons, as artistic creators. Bourriaud draws his argument out in such a way that we tend to believe him we he tells us that even flipping the channels on the television is an act of creation because it is an act of selection. Again, creation, yes, art, no.
The artistic DJ and Programmer rearrange their forms in a semiotic way that synthesizes new, intelligible structures capable of becoming fodder for future utterance by others; the plagiaristic flipping of television (or Youtube) channels creates only a virtual cache of wasted time for the masturbatory voyeur.
This is a thin line that I am drawing, but a line that must be drawn. It is a line so thin that often is not recognizable until the artist intentions are spelled out. To make the line more bold, imagine the difference between a PhD thesis and a Third Grade book report.

To bring this back to the subject at hand, nostalgia, we only need to look at the current state of photography to find that nostalgia is no longer readily available, thus must be borrowed. 
In today's modernized countries, essentially everyone has a camera(phone) with him/her at all time (with a virtually infinite digital film roll), which allows for everyone to take pictures of everything all the time. Paired with this phenomena is the new social forum, the social media site - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. - marketplaces for selling [giving] one's image(s) to others. The images are small, numerous (almost infinite), and seemingly fleeting. To view them is similar to watching someone flipping through a thousand television stations and only catching one frame of each show. This fragmented state seems to lie at the foundation of postmodernism, but does not, because it lacks an unapologetic ahistoricism.
The Fauxmodernist, the plagiarizer, seeks to have a history, a stable identity to which she may return, she longs for nostalgia, but there is no nostalgia available. Her history changed so rapidly that no pairing of time/place/technology is available. There are no Polaroids in a box under a bed of the trip to the Grand Canyon; there is a crashed harddrive in a landfill somewhere with 1.2 megapixel pictures of her at a mall which has gone out of business. There are too many pictures on her Facebook page to reminisce over, she is too busy maintaining her current identity with new images. But she knows these images lack substance (therefore so does she). In order to make up for this lack the plagiarist borrows nostalgia from his/her parents; she adds "filters" to make her status update photo look like it was taken in 1976 - in a week, in might have well been. 
There is no "320x240 Logitec webcam" filter on Instagram or similar apps; such a filter would have no significance to speak of. Instead, the signifiers from another era are mimicked in order to simulate the feeling of a meaningful photograph. The photographs may hold some interest, but have no punch, no lasting impression; in the terms of Roland Barthes, they may have some level of studium, but no real punctum.
This may be a bit of a stretch, of course the youngest generations may still develop nostalgia for places/spaces, but I seriously doubt that they form the same sense of nostalgia for past times, technologies and media the way older generations do.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Commemorating the Great Recession

The Great Recession (21 September, 2012) © Casey Lynch 2011
A new work, in the style of Goya. Also, a proposed public sculpture for anywhere there is an apple store...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Work of Art in the Hyper-Relational Age


Benjamin at Tiravanija Opening © Casey Lynch 2012
The mass is a matrix from which all traditional behavior toward works of art issues today in a new form. Quantity has been transmuted into quality. The greatly increased mass of participants has produced a change in the mode of participation. The fact that the new mode of participation first appeared in a disreputable form must not confuse the spectator. Yet some people have launched spirited attacks against precisely this superficial aspect. Among these, Duhamel has expressed himself in the most radical manner. What he objects to most is the kind of participation which the relational art elicits from the masses. Duhamel calls the relational art “a pastime for helots, a diversion for uneducated, wretched, worn-out creatures who are consumed by their worries a spectacle which requires no concentration and presupposes no intelligence which kindles no light in the heart and awakens no hope other than the ridiculous one of someday becoming a ‘star’ in Los Angeles.” Clearly, this is at bottom the same ancient lament that the masses seek distraction whereas art demands concentration from the spectator. That is a commonplace.
The question remains whether it provides a platform for the analysis of the relational art. A closer look is needed here. Distraction and concentration form polar opposites which may be stated as follows: A man who concentrates before a work of art is absorbed by it. He enters into this work of an the way legend tells of the Chinese painter when he viewed his finished painting. In contrast, the distracted mass absorbs the work of art. This is most obvious with regard to buildings. Architecture has always represented the prototype of a work of art the reception of which is consummated by a collectivity in a state of distraction. The laws of its reception are most instructive.
Buildings have been man’s companions since primeval times. Many art forms have developed and perished. Tragedy begins with the Greeks, is extinguished with them, and after centuries its “rules” only are revived. The epic poem, which had its origin in the youth of nations, expires in Europe at the end of the Renaissance. Panel painting is a creation of the Middle Ages, and nothing guarantees its uninterrupted existence. But the human need for shelter is lasting. Architecture has never been idle. Its history is more ancient than that of any other art, and its claim to being a living force has significance in every attempt to comprehend the relationship of the masses to art. Buildings are appropriated in a twofold manner: by use and by perception—or rather, by touch and sight. Such appropriation cannot be understood in terms of the attentive concentration of a tourist before a famous building. On the tactile side there is no counterpart to contemplation on the optical side. Tactile appropriation is accomplished not so much by attention as by habit. As regards architecture, habit determines to a large extent even optical reception. The latter, too, occurs much less through rapt attention than by noticing the object in incidental fashion. This mode of appropriation, developed with reference to architecture, in certain circumstances acquires canonical value.
For the tasks which face the human apparatus of perception at the turning points of history cannot be solved by optical means, that is, by contemplation, alone. They are mastered gradually by habit, under the guidance of tactile appropriation.
The distracted person, too, can form habits. More, the ability to master certain tasks in a state of distraction proves that their solution has become a matter of habit. Distraction as provided by art presents a covert control of the extent to which new tasks have become soluble by apperception. Since, moreover, individuals are tempted to avoid such tasks, art will tackle the most difficult and most important ones where it is able to mobilize the masses. Today it does so in the relational art. Reception in a state of distraction, which is increasing noticeably in all fields of art and is symptomatic of profound changes in apperception, finds in the relational art its true means of exercise. The relational art with its shock effect meets this mode of reception halfway.
The relational art makes the cult value recede into the background not only by putting the public in the position of the critic, but also by the fact that at the relational arts this position requires no attention. The public is an examiner, but an absent-minded one.


*of course, this is the final section of The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction with the words "movie" and "film" replaced with "relational art."  this really saved me a lot of time coming up with a good critical stance...