Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Simon Esling responds to

Forget Watercolour. Gnute also has some observations on his show.

21 comments:

ralph paine said...

Hey Simon

Beware of critics who declare themselves to be catalysts. Like wolves in sheep's clothing, chances are they'll turn out in fact to be our inhibitors: Always wanting to block our flows, checkmate us, trip us up, correct us, catch us and our mates in flagrante delicto.

John Hurrell said...

Don't listen to him, Simon.I'm a lamb in wolf's clothing.
Seriously, what's the alternative? Silence?

I'm saying we all love to talk to each other about shows we've seen. Let's bring the conversation out into the open a bit more.

ralph paine said...

Yes, but what is the open? Today what's happening is that the open is becoming more and more a place of silence. It's where the incessant conversation stops, where the babble is-not, and thus a place where the path may begin again. Hence the watercolourist motto: To follow the brush, in silence.

John Hurrell said...

The 'open' is this page, Ralph (you silver-tongued mystic), the conversation that you are participating in. It is not incessant. Most artists wish that it were.

Is it not interesting to share opinions when so inclined to speak or listen? Tell me where the art babble is about all the exhibitions that come and go, because I've never heard it.

tim said...

i agree i wish it was incessant, and any catalyst is a good one, be it lamb or wolf. wolves are endangered and lambs are only good for eating.

artists need a tough time, they (we) should be constantly in crisis.

John Hurrell said...

I'm no vegetarian but you are a little harsh on the lambs, Tim.
As for artists, I think they need an easier time. A crisis means less artists, less galleries and less audiences, all of which will have their bodily survival to worry about.

Tim Thatcher said...

i guess i was reffereing to critical crises, that is, a crises in thought (not economic or institutional). reffering to Thomas Kuhn's paradign shift, where through crises, new knolwedge is born.

critics create crises by denouncing mediums or modes of working, and glorifying others. as with the recent, apparent, crises in painting and the crises of criticism, artists emerge stronger.

i agree a healthy art scene is beneficial to artists, as, amongst other reasons, they can focus on making work rather than applying for funding, or working in cafes.

however this blog is about critical thinking, and its asking what kind of critical thinking is healthy?. by encouraging the slaughter of lambs i was simply suggesting that, constructive honest critical thinking should be more incessant.

and although artists might get offended by someone elses interpretation of their work, this clash is ultimately healthy to ones practice.

so i apologise to the lambs, after all it is almost spring. bring on lambs and wolves but maybe no more chickens.

ralph paine said...

Okay, so between us all a new conversation emerges in the open. And yet does this emergence possess a virtue in-itself? No, because everything is risked on the 'way' of the saying.

The notion of crisis has been invoked here, as a catalyst for transitions to new thinking and action. But is this simple invocation enough? Again,no. What is actually required is the development of a much clearer perception of how crises-as-catalysts might function within the contemporary world. And towards this end lies an urgent reconsideration of (artistic)subjectivity.

The problem, then: how might we reconceive relations operating between the singular (artistic)crises we encounter and those we encounter as or within groups, as or within communities. Reconcieve them, that is, as innovative relations?

To begin again, with another question: Is the old artist/critic dialectic of much use to us in this regard?

John Hurrell said...

Hi Ralph

In this new ‘emerging conversation’ why do you dismiss the emphasis on the way of saying? ‘Saying’ as in posting a comment on this site, or ‘saying’ as in an approach to art practice?

You seem here convinced that form and content can never overlap. One is never an extension of the other. Yet your own practice belies that. Your exhibitions show that you are usually very concerned about the way you ‘say’ things visually.

Tim’s use of ‘crisis’ referred to Kuhn’s analysis of shifting paradigms, but that is very different from the crisis that Laura Preston, for example, invokes with her current Adam ‘conceptual’ show. The GFC and Eco crisis is very much part of that exhibition.

An economic crisis is not the same as an artistic one? Art can exist in a recession. It will not disappear - though the sector might. If there is an artistic crisis, that is up to artists to decide, and whether creative impulses are under threat? Is there also a crisis for literature, music, cooking, dancing and mathematics as well?

Such sweeping generalizations seem ludicrously similar to Adorno’s comment that ‘to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric’. It is an over-reaction to be so negative about creativity, and Adorno’s words are a comment on ‘civilization’ and ‘culture’ - not art. In times of crisis, art is needed to celebrate existence and life itself. That art was made in Auschwitz proves that point.

In fact ‘crisis’ in the art world is a buzz word, a hype to sell magazines. The term is not needed as a catalyst for innovation. The critic is though, as an audience representative - to propel along conversations between artist and community. No matter how serious the fiscal situation, if art exists its discussion and analysis benefits maker and audience.

ralph paine said...

Twist and turn as is your desire...

Question all consistency...

Misconstrue statements at will...

Practice doxa...

Track false leads to Auschwitz and beyond...

Delude thyself...

Speak on behalf of others...

Delegate tasks...

Deal in confusion...

Go on, represent the babble then.

But like I said, the open is becoming more and more a place of silence.

John Hurrell said...

Come on Ralph, don't blow a gasket! Saying I'm 'dealing in confusion' and 'representing the babble' is unfair because I'm obviously trying to clarify the nature of the crisis, and what you mean by 'the way of the saying'.

Why don't you link the discussion to your passion for Agamben and 'The Coming Commnunity'. Tie that in with why you think artistic subjectivity needs to be urgently reconsidered?

ralph paine said...

Unfair?

Whatever, but that ain't no gasket blowing... Just a little detour on the way of the saying.

And (to back track a little) nor is there any form/content distinction in this phrase 'the way of the saying'. To the contrary, the 'of' in the phrase joins 'the way' with 'the saying'. So the semiotic (following Deleuze and Guattari, who follow Hjelmslev) goes something like this: the phrase is an isomorphism, a coin with two sides, one side being its form of content (the saying) and the other side its form of expression (the way). The form of content is the 'with what?'of a phrase (its selection of words). The form of expression is the 'how?' of a phrase (its style, syntax, grammar, etc). This is like a recipe for a cake; there's always a list of ingredients AND a method. But in the cake itself (or in a phrase, a conversation, an essay, a poem, a painting...) everything comes together.

My passion for Agamben and 'The Coming Commnunity' is already there in a little pamphlet Daniel Malone and I published outta Gambia Castle Press last year. It's called "Autonomous Anonymous: On Becoming Whatever".

John Hurrell said...

Terrific stuff. Thanks for your patience.

So I’m wondering here..do you relate to what Laura is dong with the Adam show : http://www.adamartgallery.org.nz/thefuture/

It might be a bit early to see how these artists relate to the theme of crisis. The curatorial brief might be over ambitious?

ralph paine said...

The title 'The Future Is Unwritten' is an alteration of Joe Strummer's 'The Future Is Not Written', but it's a great alteration because now it's as if an already encoded future - our
destiny as it were - is unravelling itself (being-unravelled) right here in the present. So I'm guessing, but what is intended is that this act might just produce a simultaneous unravelling of the present conditions themselves. And if these conditions are in crisis, then the aim of the project - and again I'm guessing - is that these too will be unravelled... And then re-ravelled as something else.

And the title seems as well to be an echo of Fredrich Jameson's title 'Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions'... which in turn, is an alteration of Ursula K. Le Guin's "Towards an Achaeology of the Future", the introduction in her amazing book 'Always Coming Home'. Here's a quote from the preface:

"The difficulty of translation from a language that doesn't yet exist is considerable, but there's no need to exagerate it. The past, after all, can be quite as obscure as the future. The ancient Chinese book called 'Tao Teh Ching' has been translated into English dozens of times, and indeed the Chinese have to keep retranslating it into Chinese at every cycle of Cathay, but no translation can give us the book that Loa Tze (who may not of existed) wrote. All we have is the 'Tao Teh Ching' that is here, now. And so with
translations from a literature of the (or a) future. The fact that it hasn't been written, the mere absence of a text to translate, doesn't make all that much difference. What was and what may be lie, like children whose faces we cannot see, in the the arms of silence. All we ever have is here, now".

Thus - as D. & I wrote in 'Autonomous Anonymous' - "Translation is the tent of being... Folding, unfolding, refolding".

John Hurrell said...

Oh that's interesting,that the Julian Temple film title is a misquote of Strummer. Deliberate as you say.

Getting back to crisis. So looking at Laura's online essay, it is one and the same, what you and her are talking about?

John Hurrell said...

By the way, you might enjoy Adam Thirlwell's great article on the history of translation in The Believer.The Public library has it - Oct.2008.

Ursula Le Gruin has a thinner book of translated Lao Tzu. I have it here, but the introduction is not nearly as comprehensive as in your Always Coming Home.

ralph paine said...

No, what I am saying is that Laura Preston's title 'The Future is Unwritten' is a deliberate alteration of the title of Julian Temple's film 'The Future is Not Written', which is in fact a direct quote from a Joe Strummer sentence within the film.

And yeah, Laura's proposal does connect directly to what I was refering to before as the development of a much clearer perception of how crises-as-catalysts might function within the contemporary (art) world, and of how these crises might generate new forms of (artistic) subjectivity. And as a proposal it generous to the max, and thus confident in the reciprocating generosity of all those involved: the artists, the administrators, the spectators, the cleaners, the commentators, the security guards...

Of course today's universities and polytechs are strange and complex hybrids: part archival, part research based, part pedadgogical, part ideological, part financial, etc., and globally connected and corporate. Perfect examples, in other words (and to speak like Negri) of Capitalist Sovereignty in action. So here's where things get interesting: In the old form of dialectical thinking we would have asked: Are we for Capitalist Sovereignty or against it? If against, then what was desired was either to destroy the system itself, or relocate to some outside. But today (within postmodern conditions) there is no outside to Capitalist Sovereignty: It is everywhere. Yet our question remains the same, that is: Are we for Capitalist Sovereignty or against it? But what is now different is the strategy of those against. If there is no outside, then it is only from within that resistance can emerge, and so this resistance would have to take the form (the forming-form) of a counter-actualisation of Capitalist Sovereignty itself. But the real difficulty for any resistant theory of crisis is that Capitalist Sovereignty loves crises! Witness the so-called Financial Crisis. What's actually happening is a global and extreme devaluing of our labour power!

Sometimes I think Victoria University should've named its gallery The Storm Warning Gallery, as a counter-honouring of McCahon's gift. But hey....

ralph paine said...

And thanks for your previous comment, I got outta step.

John Hurrell said...

God I hate to be pedantic (I can't help myself - despite my idiot typos) but the Temple film is called "The Future is Unwritten."
So he has altered the Strummer song line, not Laura.

ralph paine said...

Yeah, you're right... Now I'm dealing in confusion!

ralph paine said...

And so again, re: the Words Fail You thread...

Beware of critics who declare themselves to be catalysts. Like wolves in sheep's clothing, chances are they'll turn out in fact to be our inhibitors: Always wanting to block our flows, checkmate us, trip us up, correct us, catch us and our mates in flagrante delicto.

Precisely what has been gained in attacking Lucy Holmes in such a fucked-up manner? Lucy has been on the ?-Lacan-Barthes-? path for many, many years. If today that path has joined up with the paths of these two photographers, then so be it: A new virtuality has emerged... Within the cleared space of a gallery, in the airy-ness of penned thought.

Art is not an argument, it's simply, beautifully, a potential to be.