February 28, 2007

Space Between Screens

Administrator's note: Emma Riley posts this week on recent views and critiques of "screen practice."

In Liz Kotz's "Video Projection: The Space Between Screens" she showcases the evolution of video projection from its roots in a television monitor to Douglas Gordon's alteration of Hollywood blockbusters to Matthew Barney's elaborate video productions. Kotz speaks of video art as high-tech paintings that straddle the high culture of the commodification of art with the pop culture aesthetics of Hollywood. This argument makes the wide spread acceptance of video art easy to understand. Kotz quotes film historian David James: "Projection itself becomes the site of creativity, where somatic passivity of theatrical consumption is replaced by ecstatic engagement." The narrative in video will create conclusions for you, unlike that of painting. Have we as viewers conformed to that which is easy?

Video projection enables a collapse of the interior and exterior worlds, the interior physical life versus the external reality. The viewers can find themselves lost within the projected image that is /is not there. Video artists use the idea of the fantasy of things which are not there; playing with the use of light, space, proportion, sound, architecture, juxtaposition, and color. They create a new realm. A new dimension in which we can escape. Do these techniques enable us to engage more with the work and pave the way for a higher understanding of the concept? Or have we only developed an understanding of the medium because it is something so closely linked to all of us?

Readings for 7 March: Ch. 9, The War on Culture and Ch. 10, Feminist Fundamentalism: Women Against Images, both by Carole S. Vance.

February 8, 2007

"yBa's" as Critique

Administrator's note: This week's topic post is by Mia Montazzoli, who addresses questions raised concerning the use of Duchamp's "readymade" technique by the emergent British artists of the 1990's.

In July of 1988 Damien Hirst organized an exhibition of his own work as well as fellow students from the Goldsmiths College in London. The show was called “Freeze” and the artists became well known for their rebellion against conventional boundaries. The artists in “Freeze” would later be known by a title of “yBa’s” (young British artists), and would dominate the British art scene in the 1990’s.

In James Gaywood’s “Yba as Critique: The Socio-Political Inferences of the Mediated Identity of Recent British Art he discusses the techniques in which this group of self-promoting young artists operates to set themselves a place in history. Gaywood recognizes that without artists like Duchamp and Kurt Schwitters the work in “Freeze” would not have had the same significance. The work of Duchamp may also be a source from where the yBa’s harshest critique was derived. Gaywood does not take a particular stance, but states, “overt appropriation of avant-garde technique, brought back into the fold of consumable art, could be criticized for its misrepresentation of the former practice”. Where the work of the yBa’s makes reference to the past it exists side by side with our consumer culture, therefore functioning in a different way from Duchamp’s “readymades”.

The yBa’s took the history of the readymade and extended it to become more relevant to the current time. Duchamp’s previous gestures that exposed the commodification of art paved the way for these artists to use that history. While seemingly doing the opposite gesture the works’ similarity to consumerism is what makes it ironic because the actual meaning is often related to Duchamp’s questioning of what art is or what it could be. The work in “Freeze” marked an important exhibition of contemporary artists who used the readymade’s past to make a point that is just as progressive in a subtler manner.

Reading for 14 February: Chapter 8: Video Projection: The Space Between Screens by Liz Kotz.

February 1, 2007

One Art Fair After Another

Administrator’s note: This week’s topic is by Rebecca Jones, who provokes an inquiry into the relationship between site specificity and the ubiquitous “art fairs.”

In Miwon Kwon’s “One Place After Another: Notes on Site Specificity”, Kwon lays out a chronological history of the types of sites that site specific works have worked with and within. The text was written in 1997 and an interesting new phenomenon to discuss in the context of sites for art is the more prevalent than ever Art Fair. The nomadic location of the Art Fair is not the same set of limitations for the artist to work within as a gallery or museum because it is not a physically grounded site. However, the Art Fair carries with it the same framing function that the gallery does, by being in a fixed and enclosed context, politically, geographically, and culturally. The context shifts from location to location of course, and so the same work is read differently each time, like a traveling exhibition. But now the work has a new set of restrictions unique to the concept of the Art Fair.

The institutional critique of the 1970’s that began the pronounced emphasis on subversion in site specific works (with Mel Bochner’s “Measurement Series”, as an example), as well as the prevailing resistance to commodification (as discussed by Kwon) has more potential than ever in the Art Fair, which now directly manifests the heightened capitalism and nomadic “societies of power” of our times (as in Gilles DeLeuze’s “Postscript on the Societies of Control”). It will be interesting to see whether or not, as it grows and continues, there will be a resurgence of such subversion with the site of the Art Fair as its main focus.

A second aspect of the relationship between the Art Fair and site specific work is the opportunity to be specific to a new physical site, not just a new political or theoretical site. In the Art Fairs in Miami concurrent with Basel, hotels in the heart of South Beach are used as stand-in galleries, as well as elaborately constructed tents in lower class areas. This leaves lots of room for irony and contrast in the work that’s included. As Kwon concludes in her essay, the difference of adjacencies and distances between fragments and people is the new territory to be explored for site specific artists. (As opposed to exploring the serialized and linear differences promoted by Modernism). These Art Fairs bring together a wide variety of galleries and artwork in various institutions and in different class typified areas within one city. This sets the stage for artists to raise socio-political issues, address the connotations of the institutions they occupy, and to study the resulting incidental juxtapositions that occur in the Art Fair environment.

Kwon asserts that “artists are inevitably engaged in the process of cultural legitimation” despite an intent or stated position against it. And so the question presented by the new prevalence of Art Fairs, is whether artists will succumb to the extreme commodification of their works they participate in by having them taken around from one hyper-commercial fair to the next, or if they will start to take command more of the commercial process through the work that gets passed around.

Reading for 7 February: Chapter 7: “YBA as Critique: The Socio-Political Inferences of the Mediated Identity of Recent British Art” by James Gaywood.