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