Thanks to the titular genius of an Art & Language/Red Krayola malapropism1, my poetic license this month allows me to muse once more on art thinking against the current political frontage of what might best be described as “non-art thinking”. As we enter what is almost the seventh month of virus-driven global control, it is fair to say that the novelty of the provisionally-titled pathogen, Novel Corona Virus (nCoV), has well and truly worn off, and our patience worn thin. Read the full article here.
Before you ask, no I haven’t been reading R.D. Laing’s Knots. Here I make more than passing reference to in the title is conceptualism, à la Reinhardt, Kosuth, Weiner, LeWitt et al. (and forgive me for taking these references1 as a shorthand for a myriad of significant moments, but I really don’t have time here to explain). I alighted on the title in the current milieu of sense and nonsense that we have foisted on ourselves in trying to wrestle down our global viral load and the tragic personal consequences for thousands, if not millions, of families in terms of bereavement and other less tallied suffering. Having, like many of us, been relatively confined for almost half a year now, my own suffering thus far has been insignificant, but relative sensory deprivation is perhaps the best way to describe my experience of Covid anti-culture. I am missing looking at, smelling, touching (don’t tell!) and navigating art, its spaces, its people, and perhaps more unexpectedly, its emotional draw and retinal imprint. Read all about it in the full article.
Whilst my title may imply some shallow meaning, it is intended to echo the deadpan and non-egotistical approach to the titular taken by the artist, on which more later. Worth mentioning of course that this masterpiece by Modest Mussorgsky was based on a largely lost series of watercolour sketches in an exhibition by the artist and architect Viktor-Edouard Hartmann (1834-1873), who had died a year previous to the suite’s production. This in itself is curious fact in that we understand the inspirational impact of the work by proxy, but not by the works themselves.
In a similarly disembodied vein, there are few things weirder than writing a thought piece based on remote viewing an online gallery exhibition, the hazard being of course that we play out, in public, a game of critical Chinese Whispers based on Photoshop phantoms. In fact, I have no idea if this exhibition is ‘real’, other than it is as real and unreal as any other screen-based entity or object in my current, screen-bounded world. see full article here.
“The Past is a Foreign Country; they do things differently there”, so stated L.P. Hartley in his award-winning novel the Go-Between (1953). Beyond the mainstream critique of that text and accusations of its culturally narrow reference base, I would argue that before long we will have need to revisit textbook diagrammatic representations of the human timeline, and perhaps even the dendrochronological carbon record as we traverse this momentous watershed called Coronavirus. We may also need to rethink our Julian definition of BC (I am hereby christening ‘Before COVID’ BC2 here for the purposes of this article) and the rest (I am compelled to say I am already weary of the term ‘the new normal’ btw). see here
I write this short text, imagining myself in some small way, to be particularly French: Raymond Roussel (1877-1933), or Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848-1907) by name, living vicariously and imaginatively in my unconfined and constructed world. This risks sounding rather glib given the gravity of our current predicaments, and as if to excuse the conceptual shorthand, I shall endeavour to unpack the aforementioned. Unzipping the both of these in turn is both complex and, I would assert, extremely relevant. Relevant in that we currently find our collective human conditions radically altered by circumstances that highlight the divergence between our interior worlds and externalised existences – in itself a rare occurrence. Read all about it here.
The exhibition at Gagosian, London, until March 14, 2020, borrows its title from the 1997 novel of the same name by Philip Roth, in which the idyllic life of the New Jersey protagonist, Seymour, comes posthumously to represent an unravelling of the American Dream, a dream we even now recognise as being dogged by political and familial turmoil. Read it here…
In this month’s edition of Wall Street International I write briefly on the works of Richard Deacon, not about an opening, but almost as a finissage to his current show Deep State in London.
From the time of his very early success at Riverside Studios in London, Deacon has carved, or more accurately, constructed, a career of considerable longevity comprised of works of huge variation, and below I will attempt to unpick why exactly this is of itself a more major accomplishment than one might think.
Deep State © Richard Deacon and Lisson Gallery
It is with great sadness that I share this. I first met ULAY in Glasgow Tramway back in the 1980’s. Today the ULAY Foundation announced: “It is with our immense sadness that we write to inform you of the passing of one of the greatest artists of our time, the pioneer of polaroid photography, the father of performance art, the most radical, the one and only, ULAY, who has left for another journey, today, peacefully in his sleep (November 30, 1943–March 2, 2020).
Ulay and Marina Abramović. Photograph: TCD/Prod.DB/Alamy
Image: Ulay/Abramovic Rest Energy. Copyright the artists.
As we find ourselves advancing into the New Year and all of the promise/threat that this holds, I decided to take a slightly unorthodox approach to slicing-up art history through the lens of film. In fact it was the Michael Powell (no relation) and Emeric Pressburger film of (almost) the same name, that inspired me to want to gain some kind of insight into how art has wrestled with trying to express, Janus-like, the passing of time and its corollary concern with mortality. Of course any media-savvy type will tell you never to use the word ‘death’ in a movie or Internet article as it is an audience turn-off. Here we go then, death by misadventure…