Monday, May 10, 2010

Art and the Quotidian Object

What constitutes authorship
How does the use of post production objects change the basic goals of art
What constitutes a quotidian or post production object-- is it the object itself or the way it is used

Sonya Clark
Madam C.J. Walker

Martin Creed
Work No. 925

Lisa Norton
System for Habitable Spaces

Susie MacMurray
A Mixture of Frailties

Ted Noten

Pablo Reinoso

Dan Flavin
The Nominal Three (to William of Ockham)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Art and Globalisation

What would utopia look like?

Destabilized identity-- mentioned in the chapter. As globalisation destabilizes a sense of identity, it may also paradoxically enable people to create their own identities.

Is it a good idea to further internet access to countries that have limited access? Given all we know about the perils of increased globalization, should we prompt others to engage the world in a similar way?

Is it possible for a person from a colonized country (current or former) to make work without speaking of globalization?

To what extent can globalism be seen as a privileged activity?

Is globalism an unavoidable influence on artists raised in the information age?

See my Art and Globalism blog for images, descriptions, and further questions.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"With the assertion of identity comes the risk of being ghettoized"
-p 246
Is there a way around this?

Is asserting identity the same thing as asserting difference? Can one assert collectivity and sameness without asserting difference or is this impossible as the nature of art making is based in asserting difference?

Does this mean that heterosexual white middle class males are incapable of asserting difference in this culture? This seems like a dangerously double edged sword-- it seems to allow white males to deal with more universal content than the liminal artist.

How can one identify with a group without their work being drawn through the filters associated with said group whenever their work is viewed? (Ex: Georgia O'Keefe's flower paintings)

Essentialists vs. Deconstructionists. How can identity be stable? What would that look like? It seems that identity is a mutable thing-- subject to cultural fluctuations and reliant on context.

"Difference implies difference from something-- it can't exist in itself. Thus, critics argued, these concepts actually reinforce the hierarchies they claim to undermine." p.246
Yes, BUT to ignore difference or claim sameness without asserting difference would be tacitly giving in to the status quo, assuming equal rights and treatment when in reality people are treated differently based on their perceived deviance from the norm. There is a need for identity based art as long as there is identity based prejudice.

"Otherness and sameness are more useful when they are viewed not in terms of dualities or conflicts, but but in terms of degrees and movements within the same concept, or better, in terms of difference both within and between entities." p.248
I am cheered by the above idea-- it seems much less limiting than the 90's version of multiculturalism. What would art created in light of the above statement look like?

Is identity partially based on choice, or is it solely based on circumstances into which we are born?

Artists for Art and Identity

Sonya Clark
Afro Abe Progression, 1

Reva Leher

Do-Ho Suh
Home Within a Home

Robert Rauschenberg

Louise Bourgeois
Crouching Spider

Monday, April 19, 2010

Art and Deformation

Jo Spence
The Picture of Health? Property of Jo Spence?

Waafa Bilal
And Counting

"…and Counting addresses this double standard as Bilal turns his own body – in a 24-hour live performance -- into a canvas, his back tattooed with a borderless map of Iraq covered with one dot for each Iraqi and American casualty near the cities where they fell. The 5,000 dead American soldiers are represented by red dots (permanent visible ink), and the 100,000 Iraqi casualties are represented by dots of green UV ink, seemingly invisible unless under black light. During the performance people from all walks of life read off the names of the dead. " -- taken from Bilal's website

Extra Ear Project

"The 1/4 SCALE EAR is about 2 collaborative concerns. The project represents a recognizable human part and was meant to be ultimately incorporated on to the body as a soft prosthesis. However it is being presented as partial life and brings into question the notions of the wholeness of the body. It also confronts society's cultural perceptions of life with the increasing ability to manipulate living systems. Tissue Culture & Art are dealing with the ethical and perceptual issues stemming from the realization that living tissue can be sustained, grown and is able to function outside of the body. The prosthesis is now a partial life form - partly constructed and partly alive. But being only 1/4 scale it was not visually adequate to be used directly as a body augmentation. " -- taken from Stelarc's website

Annette Messager
Mes Voeux

Review of an art exhibition in Second Life
Example of the body deformed and abstracted through digital media

This example is a long shot, but I think it brings up some important questions in relation to the body, deformation and art. As is put forth in the chapter, part of what makes deformation so frightening is the tendency of the viewer to identify with the deformed body-- and while this deformation can indeed by frightening, it can also be pleasent. When choosing an avatar on Second Life, one is picking an abstracted representation of a body; a representation that can be entirely different than the body one possesses in real life.


My main question in regards to this section is how does disability factor into a conversation based around bodily difference?

I was very upset by the article we were asked to read entitled "Freak Photography". The use of the word 'freak' to loosely define all bodies that do not fit within mainstream expectation is ignorant to say the least. Throughout this article, the 'freak' is referred to as a tool for social critique, a "human curiosity", a "human oddity", and is aligned with fantasy, disease, criminality and monstrosity. No peoples with disability are interviewed, no knowledge or interest in the disability rights movement is displayed, and of the large numbers of artists with disability producing work, not one was mentioned. Peoples with disability are referred to using insulting, derogatory, and ignorant language, and the tone of this article reads as if it were written in the 1950's. While the author makes a few feeble attempts to establish alternate, non-insulting meanings of the term 'freak', she is careful not to refer to women, gays or lesbians as freaks, although it is clearly established in her thesis that signs of difference are the establishing characteristics of freakishness. I was also left wondering what difference was, ultimately, between the kind of notoriety achieved by those who participated in freak shows and the subjects of Arbus' photographs; whether in the circus or on the gallery walls, both examples are exalting signs of difference and putting them on display. Not until 20 pages into the article is the phrase 'people with disabilities' used, and then only to say that they must "now confront the problem of social and political invisibility and must seek new, less exploitative ways of gaining the public eye." People with disabilities have been doing just that for decades, and their voices should be included in any dialog that so clearly centers around their representation.

Intriguing quotes fro Art and Today:

"The breakdown of categories is a largely destructive act"

"The impulse toward deformation often centers on the distortion, fragmentation, and distortion of the human body. But deformative border crossing can also run between high and low art or realism and abstraction"

Monday, April 12, 2010

Artsts to Consider

Eduardo Kac

Steve Kurtz
Marching Plague

"Marching Plague re-creates a 1952 British military experiment wherein guinea pigs were infected with the plague to see how fast it would spread. Only instead of plague, Kurtz used a harmless bacteria. It’ll be included in the Biennial, but just on video. The Whitney didn’t want the bacteria in the building."

I was very happy to read that after a 4 year ordeal, Kurtz's case (he was accused of attempting bioterrorism) was dismissed. Read more at the Critical Art Ensemble website.

Olafur Eliasson
360 Room for All Colours

Guerrilla gardening
The mission: to beautify unsightly, unloved spaces by planting on land that doesn't belong to them."

Guerrilla gardening in Chicago

Eduardo Kac
GFP Bunny

The following statement is taken from Kac's website. I think it is important to awknowledge the reasoning behind Kac's creation. He speaks very strongly about Alba (the bunny) not as a project, but as a living creature worthy of respect, and it is clear that he sees bio art as not simply a question of aesthetics or exploration, but as field replete with moral obligations.

"My transgenic artwork "GFP Bunny" comprises the creation of a green fluorescent rabbit, the public dialogue generated by the project, and the social integration of the rabbit. GFP stands for green fluorescent protein. "GFP Bunny" was realized in 2000 and first presented publicly in Avignon, France. Transgenic art, I proposed elsewhere [1], is a new art form based on the use of genetic engineering to transfer natural or synthetic genes to an organism, to create unique living beings. This must be done with great care, with acknowledgment of the complex issues thus raised and, above all, with a commitment to respect, nurture, and love the life thus created.

Robert Smithson
Produced by Minetta Brook in collaboration with the Whitney Museum of American Art
Floating Island to Travel Around Manhattan

Art and Narrative + Art, Nature and Technology

Some questions:

Does our lack of clear, collective cultural narrative contribute to our desire (as artists) to create our own stories?

What is the social responsibility of the artist? Is there a moral imperative to creating art in this day and age? What is the line between art and activism (if there is one)?

Peter Halley is quoted as saying that, "more and more people are becoming more comfortable in the simulated world than in the real one." What implications does this have for art based in technology? Should artists be concerned with exposing this dependence rather than exploring and possibly exploiting its many conceptual possibilities?

What is post-humanism?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


The video was compressed to a prohibitively low resolution, so I've included a copy of the text below. It can also be seen on youtube.


Introduction to the Manifesto for Art of the Coming Age

We live in a world where the only aspect of our lives that cannot be outsourced is our time.

Skill can be outsourced. Our time is a finite resource.

For this reason, manual skill is no longer a vital part of the artist’s tool box. Time is the most important material that artists posses.

Creation is no longer the primary goal of the artist, documentation and sensitivity towards time and its passage are of the utmost importance.

This is not a manifesto. This is a preamble. I, Celine Browning, as an artist of the Coming Age, can be found expressing this manifesto from 10-11 AM Eastern time every Thursday morning for the remainder of my natural life.

Art is Life. My manifesto lives as I do.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Carnal Art


Carnal Art is self-portraiture in the classical sense, but realised through the possibility of technology. It swings between defiguration and refiguration. Its inscription in the flesh is a function of our age. The body has become a “modified ready-made”, no longer seen as the ideal it once represented ;the body is not anymore this ideal ready-made it was satisfaying to sign.

As distinct from “Body Art”, Carnal Art does not conceive of pain as
redemptive or as a source of purification. Carnal Art is not interested in the plastic-surgery result, but in the process of surgery, the spectacle and discourse of the modified body which has become the place of a public debate.

Carnal Art does not inherit the Christian Tradition, it resists it! Carnal Art illuminates the Christian denial of body-pleasure and exposes its weakness in the face of scientific discovery. Carnal Art repudiates the tradition of suffering and martyrdom, replacing rather than removing, enhancing rather than diminishing - Carnal Art is not self-mutilation.

Carnal Art transforms the body into language, reversing the biblical idea of the word made flesh ; the flesh is made word. Only the voice of Orlan remains unchanged. The artist works on representation.

Carnal Art finds the acceptance of the agony of childbirth to be
anachronistic and ridiculous. Like Artaud, it rejects the mercy of God -Henceforth we shall have epidurals, local anaesthetics and multiple analgesics ! (Hurray for the morphine !) Vive la morphine ! (down with the pain !) A bas la douleur !

I can observe my own body cut open without suffering !....I can see myself all the way down to my viscera, a new stage of gaze. “I can see to the heart of my lover and it's splendid design has nothing to do with symbolics mannered usually drawn.
Darling, I love your spleen, I love your liver, I adore your pancreas and the line of your femur excites me.

Carnal Art asserts the individual independence of the artist. In that sense it resists givens and dictats. This is why it has engaged the social, the media, (where it disrupts received ideas and cause scandal), and will even reached as far as the judiciary (to change the Orlan's name).

Carnal Art is not against aesthetic surgery, but against the standards that pervade it, particularly, in relation to the female body, but also to the male body. Carnal Art must be feminist, it is necessary. Carnal Art is not only engages in aesthetic surgery, but also in developments in medicine and biology questioning the status of the body and posing ethical problems.

Carnal Art loves parody and the baroque, the grotesque and the extreme.
Carnal Art opposes the conventions that exercise constraint on the human body and the work of art.
Carnal Art is anti-formalist and anti-conformist.


I'm increasingly interested in carnal art. There's a book I've just started reading called "Carnal Art: Orlan's Refacing" - it's suprising, but the purported goals of Orlan are much the same as mine. Which leads me to believe that my work is far, far too tame. Or in Rena's words, too polite. Here's a short quote taken from an interview with Orlan (cited from "Carnal Art"):

"A few words...on these images... Sorry to have to make you suffer, but know that I do not suffer-unlike you- when I watch these images. Few images force us to close our eyes: death, suffering, the opening of the body, certain aspects of pornography (for certain people), or for others, birth. Here the eyes become black holes into which the image is absorbed willingly or by force. These images plunge in and strike directly where it hurts, without passing through habitual filters, as if the eyes no longer had any connection with the brain."

Fluxus Manifesto

Monday, March 22, 2010

Negotiating Meaning in The Radicant Take 3

Questions relating to Readymade art

1. Has the artist as selector replaced the artist as creator in our culture? I think so, and I find this transformation ominous as it seems superficial and transient.

2. While the origins of readymade art are quite revolutionary, could our current day proclivities toward readymade art be connected to our culture of sedentary privilege?

3. How does readymade art differ from post-production art? Could postproduction art be seen, at a certain level, as a simply a number of readymades displayed in relation to one another?

4. On page 148, Bourriaud comments that "Displacement is a way of using the world, a way of surreptitiously eroding established geographies." In an increasingly globalized world, will we reach a point where such displacement is no longer possible? Will we reach a point in art where readymades have lost their power as an objects ability to be displaced diminishes?

5. If choice is all that is necessary to distinguish a work of art, does quality have any place in our discussion of a work of art (specifically readymade art)? Choice can be seen as a representation of personal taste-- are we condemning ourselves to a world of mediocre art by reducing the role that manual skill plays in art?

Artists mentioned:

Curry 2

Tool Table

Navin Rawanchaikul ART or (M)ART?
2002, Acrylic on wood 488x732cm
Installation view "SUPER(M)ART", Palais de Tokyo

Porcelain Chair

"This work consists of nine unique, porcelain reproductions of different styles of mono-block resin chairs. The chairs were made by crafts people at the Jiao Zhi studio in Xiamen, China, completely by hand, no molds were taken from the originals. The place and method by which they were made is important to the meaning of the work in several ways, most obviously as it contrasts with the manufacturing process of the mass-produced resin chair on which it is based. Mono-block resin chairs are made using the injection molding process..."

Why is it that Durant is able, here, to speak of the political repercussions of the chair's reproduction and the 'transformations' that take place in this process, while ignoring the political implication of the means of its reproduction?

Marcel Duchamp
Etant Donnes

The re-emergence of craft.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Negotiating Meaning in The Radicant Take 2

"Claire Bishop has recently interrogated the claims of democratization made for this model, charging Nicolas Bourriaud as a formalist in that he posits the generic principles of open-endedness and participation as ends in and of themselves, failing to attend to what she calls the “quality” of the activities catalyzed by an artist such Rikrit Tiravanija: “what Tiravanija cooks, how and for whom are less important to Bourriaud than the fact that he gives away the results for free.”1 This results in a claim for social engagement unburdened by political specificity and institutional self-criticality that “rest[s] too comfortably within an ideal of subjectivity as whole and community as immanent togetherness.”2 "(Exerpt taken from Indirect Action: Questioning Neo-Situationism, by Yates McKee. Found at

What is Neo-Situationism? I'm not sure. But my brief reading of the interview cited above leads me to belief that it shares many common threads with Bourriaud's call for radicantity, with one key addition; the inclusion of the multicultural insistence on subjectivity found in postmodern thought. McKee brings up a valid point in the above exerpt; he brings our attention to Bourriaud's insistance on the act rather than the result. The "what Tiravanija cooks, how and for whom" is just as important, if not more, than the fact that he gives out the results of his labors for free-- after all, there is a great deal of precedent of this type of artistic activity; giving out pieces of the art itself, the act of which becomes the art. Felix Gonzalez-Torres is an example of an artist who used these techniques in the late 80's and early 90's. With this in mind, I am left wondering if Bourriaud considers the who how and what of Tiravanija's work to be examples of Radicantity, or if it is simply the where and when that he considers relevant to his discussion.

Untitled (portrait of Ross in LA), 1991
Felix Gonzalez-Torres
175 lbs Fruit Flasher Candy, size variable

"Working as a team since 1995, Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla have tried to challenge the homogenizing forces of globalization by empowering local communities to articulate a diverse range of creative voices." -- International Center of Photography

Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla's work (mentioned by Bourriaud on page 89) is used as an example of what the author referrs to as the "precarious aesthetic"- work built not to last but to reinterpret the endless piles of detritus that are the aftermath of our consumption based society.
Does this shift in artistic focus also imply that contemporary art values process over finished product? After all, the work of Allora and Calzadilla does not seem to fit into the category of 'finished'-- it is only the camera's documentation that defines it loosely as such. But if the work is in fact the physical footprints in the sand, then if I were to wear one of their altered shoes and add my marks to the composition, the piece would not be any more finished or unfinished- it would simply be altered. In contemporary art, can we ever claim that our work is finished? Or is it simply in an ever changing state of becoming?


Recreating the compositions of traditional Dutch still life paintings, London-based photographer Ori Gersht captures these scenes of flowers and fruit in the act of exploding. This work seems to have a fascinating parallel to Bourriaud's 'iconography of the precarious world'. While Gersht does not employ the type of visual language that Bourriaud seems most devoted to (these flowers are not mass produced disposable items in the same way that plastic cups and tennis shoes are), he does channel the feeling of violent fragility so prevalent in contemporary existence. This leads me to question how exactly the 'aesthetics of precariousness' can be defined. Could the traditional Dutch still life painters have a claim in this territory? After all, their work was a confrontation of our own mortality; is this the vital component of Bourriaud's prized aesthetic?

On page 102, Bourriaud claims that a new kind of artist has emerged, labelling them 'semionauts'. He defines a semionaunt as "a creator of paths in a landscape of signs". I find this to be a compelling notion, particularly in the wake of so many artists who re-produce post-produced items. Yet in considering Bourriaud's claims, I can't help but wonder if these artists are doing more than simply forging paths, whether they are in fact producing new signs through their artistic practice. For example, in the Museum of Art and Design's recent exhibition, Second Lives : Remixing the Ordinary, artists have taken post production items and used them to create new structures. Borris Bally's Brave #2 is a neckpiece made entirely of gun triggers. By comparing the structure of Native American tribal wear and the significance of guns in inner city life, a connection is made between two disparate cultures that does not simply translate one to the other or create a path between them, it combines them into a new sign.

Robert Rauschenberg, Charlene, 1954, Combine painting.

Bourriaud points to Rauschenberg as the precedent for the artist as semionaut.
On page 107, Bourriaud askes the poignant question, "How can one become the explorer of a world now covered by satellites, a world whose every millimeter is now registered and surveyed?" In the following paragraphs, he goes on to answer himself, implying that one can be an explorer in a well-charted world by mixing reality with imagination and fiction. Huyghe is used as an an example of such an explorer. Of him, Bourriaud states the "Imagination and fiction enable Huyghe to open up free spaces in the real geography he traverses."

In this section Bourriaud cites the work of many artists who use the act of travelling the world as their form of expression, and the journey as the work of art. Despite my misgivings, I am not willing to traverse the murky territory of whether such work is art-- I do wonder, however, why such actions are best understood through the lens of art. Why do the artists in question insist on labelling their activities as art, and displaying the remnants of their voyage in white gallery space? This seems ineffectual to me. If, as Melik Ohanian states, the work is about "the experience of exploration more than the image of exploration," then why even attempt to translate the experience to a larger audience? Such presentation seems unnatural and against the very object of the work.

Artists Mentioned in The Radicant, Take 2

Black Pussy, installation in Los Angeles, CA
Photo: Douglas M. Parker Studio


"art as the exaltation of instability" (p.87)

Rikrit Tiravanija


Exhibited at Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, Summer 2001


Gabriel Orozco
Yogurt Caps

Monday, February 22, 2010

Artists Mentioned in The Radicant

Marcel Duchamp
Bicycle Wheel, 1951

" "I was quite happy to feel like (an uprooted person)," Marcel Duchamp confessed at the end of his life, "precisely because I was afraid of being influenced by my roots. I wanted to get away from that. When I was in the USA I had no roots at all because I was born in Europe. So it was easy, I was bathing in a calm sea where I could swim free. You can't swim freely when you get tangled up in roots." " (p.50)

Nathan Coley, The Lamp of Sacrifice, 286 Places of Worship, 2004

Mentioned on page 59. Here he harnasses the power of these specific church's histories by recreating them in detail and placing them in the same space.

Gerard Byrne, Case Study: Loch Ness (Some possibilities and problems), 2001-2008
"...brings fragments of our history back to life by embodying them" (p.59)

Paul Gauguin, Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?, (1897-98).

Bourriaud claims that Gauguin "did not exploit the cultural context in which he settled." (p.64). This is highly debatable, and I personally disagree with this statement intensely. Gaugin was searching for the 'other,' and though he did indeed speak out for native sovereignty, he was still an orientalist. He was searching for a purer, simpler culture where he could get away from French society.

Eugene Delacroix (p.64)

In Darcy Grimaldo-Girgsby's book, Extremities. Painting Empire in Post-Revolutionary France, exoticism in colonial France is examined at length. Through her discerning gaze, the work of Delacroix and his contemporaries is passed through the lens of subliminal desire. French society enthusiastically embraced north African culture as 'the other' so that their liminal desires could be infused into a culture they knew little about. The specifics of 'the other' were unimportant; North African cultures were used as a mirror through which the French could begin to understand their own fears and desires. In this way, they could experience that which they simultaneously feared and desired without claiming it as their own. Delacroix's monumental painting, The Death of Sardanapalus, done in 1827 illustrates this point to perfection.

Jean-Leon Gerome was another 18th c French artist whose orientalist works showcased liminal desires.
Jean-Leon Gerome, Moorish Bath, 1870

Although Shepard Fairey is not mentioned in The Radicant, I believe that his work serves as an example of the radicant spirit.