This from artist John Pearson, who was telling me of a talk that UCLA Professor George Baker gave on the occasion of a 2009 exhibition of Beuys multiples at LACMA. Baker’s apparently unrehearsed (and delivered without notes) discussion was about Joseph Beuys, Paul Thek and eventually Tom Burr.
“Baker tactfully declined to admire Joseph Beuys and related a story of Paul Thek visiting a Beuys exhibition in Germany, calling it ‘ponderous and didactic’ and famously, in a letter to Susan Sontag (which became the genesis for her book Against Interpretation) stating that Beuys’ work ‘needs a woman’s touch’.”
Later… “Baker proposed Tom Burr as the artistic descendant of Paul Thek and that Burr bridges the gap between Thek and Beuys.”
I someday want to be able to tactfully decline to admire something. Or just use the phrase in conversation. This bit of story about a talk I missed opened me up to Burr and Thek and offered me solace for my own lack of enthusiasm for the magic of Joseph Beuys.
Young Chung in conversation with Davida Nemeroff: Overheard at a party – Nemeroff was filming the refraction of light upon a white linoleum floor through wine in a glass and Chung, having begun his autobiographical introduction with the declaration, “I arrived at UC Irvine…” continued with a discussion of and eventual dismissal or resolution of the travails of photography since 1975. The conversation took place on a 4th floor balcony in the treetops of Los Angeles’ Hancock Park neighborhood.
“The photograph – Photography – is no longer at the service of any other medium.”
Geoff Tuck in an email to a colleague:
“If categories matter (and they do) then I’m imposing my own: Writer, I’m a writer. And an artist. A cultural producer.”
“I work too hard. The ideas are too important. (Not many people work all day and then) stay up till 3 in the morning wrestling with how to communicate to readers some vision that an artist has entrusted me with. Nor with how to make real a physical object that I can barely see (or understand) in my own head….”
From David Horvitz, in the email announcement of his project “The 2011 email list: Daily observations of the sky, or the digital residue of one-minute of paying attention to not really anything”
Link to project page here. Included on the page are downloads of observations of the night sky from Commodore Matthew Perry’s 19th Century journey to Japan.
“What I am curious about here is the interval of one minute, and how to fully occupy it with solid attention. How to claim it and stake it out as one’s own territory. We live in a world where an industry of attention bombards our senses and mental spaces ceaselessly. We are surrounded by constant noise and stimulation. The internet itself is built on attention (it’s prime currency is attention – hence the words attention-value and attention-economy ). There is a kind of poetic notion to looking at the sky. But there is also a sense of agency when one claims control over where their attention falls. To look at nothing is also to look away, or in a sense, to refuse to look. It should be clear that “to refuse to look” here is not meant to avoid looking at something, but to remain in control of where you look, and to know exactly what you are and are not looking at. Looking up at the sky lets one stop for a minute, to hold onto a clarity amidst everything else.
Attention can not be dissociated with time. That which you are giving attention, you are sharing time with. Staring at the sky is not only an act of looking, but of sharing time with it.”
Response to this from my friend Mr. Richards, aka my lover and husband: “Amen, one hundred times Amen! All we have left is control over how/where we pay attention…..”
Loosely quoting Lauren Mackler who was loosely quoting Dave Hickey:
For a long time I felt like it was my fault when I couldn’t understand a text. Like maybe I wasn’t working hard enough. Then I told myself, “Wait, you’re a close reader Lauren – maybe the writer is the one who’s not working hard enough.” Now I feel cheated when I don’t understand a text – I want to tell the writer, “Stop it! You’re keeping information from me! Try to be understandable!“
I’m reading Air Guitar, you know, by Dave Hickey? And the first thing Hickey says is,
“I apologize to my readers. As an art writer I’ve often used quotes to convey a feeling that I have about an art work. The quote will often make me feel something that pertains to my subject. I recognize not that when I give you the quote I leave my feelings behind. I won’t do this anymore. Now I will approach the work from my feelings and my perceptions. This way you will understand better why and how art is important.“
I want more people to think this way.
(Not being immediately able to put my hands on my copy of Hickey’s book I will ask that you accept the feeling behind these words, if not the exact words.)