Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gedi Sibony on Bruce Nauman @ Dia

Sources tell me this was quite the crack-up! Apparently clowns were involved, along with children's stories, Philip Guston and only a passing mention of Nauman's work. My primary source was so scarred from the experience that those scant details were all I was given (so much for AO's crack team of journalists). Anyone else who attended willing to share their experience? Just to be clear, Art Observations is a safe place. Let it out, let the healing powers of the written word mend your psychic wounds. Your therapy is our therapy.

Who... is... Neil Benezera?

Monday, March 22, 2010


Croak the toad, tweeze the mink, nozzle the chaplain, grease the maze, etc.—Contemporary Art Daily has a twitter account! (Find the link yrself...) I know, I know, I have a one-track mind, that I just did a gross-out post involving this site. But hark, I implore thee, am I the only one who dreams of hearing slap bass interludes while you wait for the latest Sutton Lane or Kordansky show to load? Am I dumb? All I can say about this "journal" is that we make dreams—however dim they may be—a reality...just click play!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Deja Vu

An old text, recently redrafted. Still a mess but I digress—

Even before the market's invisible hands heeded the demanding koan, "get the lead out," when one walks into certain NY galleries it is possible to simply taste the desperation in the air. Ripe as a family of dead animals covered by drywall, connivingly villainized as Judy Greer in 13 Going on 30, this desperation is hard to forget, much less escape; it travels with art everywhere, and, in one instance, is the reason why a magazine like Artforum is so physically exhausting to simply open or even click on, a life or death stampede into a late 70s Who concert (now it's your turn Texte zur Kunst). Sure, artists embody it, wailing "bare life" while writhing in a Gangs of New York unitard like a tantrum-prone pageant runner-up. But please, there's worse: turn those clocks back one week and this desperation will surface like the odor of a garbage strike bookended by a Flavin installation, soundtracked to led er est, light asylum, orphan, i.u.d.—tunes enlisted in the service of nth-gen krebberesqueries and le nouvel esprit du contemporary art daily.

The source of this desperation, NY professionalism, pathologically finds itself in a Master Cleansed psychomachy as its professionalized bodies are left with evacuated cavities, ravenous love puckers in desperate need of value-rich cultural idioms to fill the disciplined void, cathectic canalizations of one's barren insides to allow for a backdoor flood of value-creation. A sublimated means of mourning liberal attitudes with melancholic neoconservativism, like combating sexual diseases with "dirty" business—maybe. A "someone had to do it" resolution to the bodily apprehension particular to the Age of Aquarius' economic and communicative immaterialities—more likely. Regardless, who has never met the Cotton Mather'd anal retentiveness of NY's "liberal" professionals? No doubt, it's the reason why so many of us have spent the latter half of the last decade—boom time—trying to "reinsert" all the artists who could never "figure it out" into contemporary discourse. Unter hunde whose leaky assholes kept on letting shit fall out as the present day us follow in distant parallax, proving history wrong and the market right which each felled item properly re-secured into our shitless asses. Dear Martin, Lee, Donald, Guy, Allan, Lorraine, Martin, Peter, Nancy, Andre, Bill, Rene, John, etc.: our ecstatic assholes are a better archive than any sort of history.

I'm not Jesse Helms, I'm not against anyone using their anus as a cultural repository. When it comes to communicating artistic narratives, it beats the lasting (and deeply paternalizing) molestation unique to pedagogic influence—at last, there's a choice of what goes in. Also, I don't totally dread the neoliberalization this culturally fashioned kópros, the fanatical philicizing that accompanies the ledgering of our shit substitutes. The fiscal reification of many of these previously uninsertable artists has managed to at least affix a glowing sign over a few prudish assholes, an animated billboard telegraphing, "OPEN FOR BUSINESS," laying bare an obviousness that some would prefer to observe subtly. See all the old dead farts squeezed into the contemporary canon thanks to the whole Harvey Shipley Miller's "evil"—or whatever—shopping spree, making MoMA look more like post-Herbie LiLo than its usual pre-3D Joe Jonas.

What is to be dreaded is the expropriable, ecstastic logoi that forms the erotics of these artful anal toys; namely how we conceptualize ourselves, our bodies as we renovate its sites in order to satisfy this yen for reterritorialized pleasures, er, necessities (me? a luddite?). The re-evaluated expansion of cultural margins into a broader social communicability rezones our reception of the techniques of artistic lifestyling, canalizing more effectively the self-motivating movement of our inner policemen—the one who inserts "know how" and "can do" ("young, ready and willing"?) to optimize the crops of cultural law writ corporeal. As the communion of markets is reconsidered, re-fantasized, re-eroticized so are we, becoming bodily relayers and retainers of value's consensual realities; reboots construed both inside and out along the jerrymandered lines of evaluative productivity and "full release" serviceability. A historicizing marketing immanent to our very bodies with the unworkable, the heterogenic, and the anartistic now enthusiastically dildoed into this limitless culture of anal homogeneity. Is the internalized expansion of marketability—those invisible hands caressing our benighted interiors—an arousal, a reason to will (like a tween at the Twilight of their sexual inexperience) paramount to whatever other conscious and unconscious pleasures might still be lurking out there? With invisible hands in our craw, can we still enjoy taking a shit? Is it that much more pleasurable?

However dread is unnecessary and best left to fascists; where there's a will, there's another way. Dreadful thoughts often come at the onset of hallucinated majorities, the incorporation of untouched margins into the all-consuming bog of social communion, the goosepimpling possibility of kool-aid group think. Despite the bunging of our (potentially) leaky asses with the repository of cultural slag amassed by the well-lubed "Man" interior and exterior to us, "his" limitlessness is our potential gain. It allows always for another crevice to soil, grave to profane, fresh abscess through which to plunge the needle, reinscribing the erotics of our integral flesh with a material perversity, a desecration repellent even to the subjectivizing techniques of cultural cathexis—all the more if this integral flesh isn't "ours" anymore. As now, as it always has been to Christians and Satanists, our flesh is "his."

Monday, March 1, 2010

One from the Crypt: Victor Man @ Gladstone

The NY Times strapped a veritable brodequin to Victor Man's Gladstone debut 1 year ago, laying down one of the meaner bits of mainstream art writing in (my) recent memory. After insisting that Man "stop pulling on our heartstrings and go back to the drawing room," Roberta Smith then goes on to encourage some "ground rules" for contemporary art to prevent it from adhering to Man's "generic recipe": "taste is not talent; obscurity is not meaning; and the heads and pelts of dead animals should be used sparingly, if at all." While Smith may have a point about the opportunistic familiarity of Man's motifs, the fact that Man's artistic output doesn't cohere to the idiosyncratic yet communicable work that Smith regularly praises is frankly intriguing.

Now, just to be clear, the 'Goo is not trying sing unsung verbiage in favor of Man; his "devastations"* are clearly bathed in cologne, outfitted with D&G briefs and square-toed leather while raving on Croatian shores or voguing some of Helmut Berger's butcher roles. Yet who, in questionable taste, wouldn't find that appealing? The "straighter" the role, the "better" Berger is. The very inanity of Man's show was its most appealing aspect: a predictably morose mixture of nth-gen Tuymans with nth-gen Beuys, topped off with a formerly-curtained "miami wice" patina. While I may be out on a limb here but Man's show seemed the perfect contemporary art analogue to the elegant, Eurocentric trashfests so common to the film work of Andrzej Zulawski, Walerian Borowczyk, Juan Lopez Moctezuma, post-Secret Things Jean-Claude Brisseau, Donald Cammell, Jean Rollin, pre-Caligula Tinto Brass, to name but a few. Perhaps the reason why Smith was unwilling to digest Man's generic cuisine is potentially due to the fact that American audiences understanding of B pictures is largely mainstream fare writ small fry, lo-fi spectacles that maintain an approximation of hollywood razzle dazzle as their bottom line. It is a rarity to find post-'60s American films that so wholeheartedly lollygag in the limbo between pretension and late-nite Cinemax—DePalma, Hellman, Downey Sr., Michael Tolkin and maybe Eric Mitchell's films being notable exceptions (BTW let's not bring Tarantino into the picture...). Is it any wonder Warhol's "Hollywood" films were produced in Italy?

*I put "devastations" in quotes as this is the preferred word that the Gladstone staff apparently uses to describe the similar work, attitude-wise, of Gregor Schneider

While mainstream film critics for sometime now have piled (with occasional reluctance) great value onto "bad" films, art critics—especially mainstream ones like Smith—are light years from ever generating such positive evaluations. Certainly the notoriety achieved by cult films is in part through their questionable relationship to formal quality, however their ever-valuable "success" is more importantly weighed on their ability to become a object of individuated cathexis, a revealing object of desire that exposes more the acculturated techniques of its viewing subject than whatever was dedicated to film. The evaluative relation between cultural object and viewing subject is, no doubt, at constant play within all cultural forms but finds one of its most explicit configurations in the deeply fetishized cult film genre—think only of the fanboys decorating their rooms and bodies with the films through which they find themselves.


When art insists on pulling your heartstrings, camp can't be too far behind. As viewers' tissues soak up Man's sob-stories, they may soon find themselves drenched in post-Ceausescu kitsch, surrounded by a farce of feel-bad manias translated into commercial goods. Given a fanboy's unrequited love, Man's highly emotive "devastations" may have some value beyond their ostentatious price tag. The visibility granted to such highbrow mawkishness by an imposing gallery like Gladstone stands indicative of the emotional prerogatives of a specific consuming niche, a niche that unquestionably laps up Man's sturm-und-drang alongside Gladstone's other benighted apertifs, regional flavors that stretch from Iran to China to Tribeca. When credence can be lent to some of the culture industry's lesser inanities, why not let ourselves toss some to the fatuous "winners" of such an industry's most gilded, lotus-eating branch? Especially when these winners are potential Ishtars (or Brünos) that barely slip through the ire of mainstream opinion, a mound of turd so foul that the concealed social relation intrinsic to its commodity form reveals itself as plainly as a pikestaff.