Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Maggie Nelson, "The Argonauts"

Here are two quotes which I have come to love from Maggie Nelson's book "The Argonauts".

"You, reader, are alive today, reading this, because someone once adequately policed your mouth-exploring. In the face of this fact, Winnicott holds the relatively unsentimental position that we don't owe these people (often women, but by no means always) anything. But we do owe ourselves 'an intellectual recognition of the fact that at first we were (psychologically) absolutely dependent, and that absolutely means absolutely. Luckily we were met by early devotion."

"We bantered good-naturedly, yet somehow allowed ourselves to get polarized into a needless binary. That's what we both hate about fiction, or at least crappy fiction - it purports to provide occasions for thinking through complex issues, but really it has predetermined the positions, stuffed a narrative full of false choices, and hooked you on them, rendering you less able to see out, to get out."

Communion (Komunia) + Q&A at ICA London

Last night I went to see the UK premiere of Anna Zamecka's film 'Komunia' released this year at the ICA in London. The film was indeed beautifully shot, and her subjects, a family going through a difficult time both financially and interpersonally were each in their own way, gorgeous, charming and evocative. In the Q&A, Zamecka mentioned having had a script in mind as well as having a story line she wished to communicate about the 'adult-child' or having to grow up too fast.

None of the subjects (she used the word characters) ever acknowledged the camera and the editing was continuous to such an extant that it was easy to forget that one was watching a 'documentary'.

Some questions that arose when I thought about the film further:

- to what extent are documentary filmmakers ethically accountable for a self-reflexive and critical stance of their own involvement in the scenes in which they seek to represent? Further, to what extent  do they have a responsibility to acknowledge their presence in a literal way, beyond the assumed intimacy between the filmmaker and his/her subjects?

- in this way, to what extent does the camera and the presence of the filmmaker alter the 'performance' of the subjects (characters?), and as a result, should this be addressed within the film?

- what gets included within documentary? What should be included?

- to what level of involvement should a filmmaker introduce his/her input in or manipulations of scenes? How does a documentary filmmaker 'direct' if he/she is truly making a documentary? Is this present mainly in the editing process? How involved should a director be? Is it more honest to allow scenes to unfold before the camera rather than to follow a script in the making of a documentary film? Is this 'honesty' necessary?

- to what extent is documentary filmmaking opportunistic in its very nature of representing real people in real scenarios and as a consequence of making a film, to have one's name as author attached to the depiction of the lives of others? To what extent do you need to be opportunistic to produce good documentary - when you discover an important story, you follow it?

- how might documentary filmmaking serve to help its subjects especially if they are represented as dealing with some sort of hardship or economic difficulties?

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Pier Paolo Calzolari

Arte Povera

Pier Paolo Calzolari 


Monday, 14 November 2016

Quote by Moholy-Nagy

In the following passage, Moholy-Nagy works to posit his own philosophy as separate from a Fordist discourse that sought to anonymise workers to the extent that they became alienated with their labour and with society as a whole. Still embracing elements of mass-production, Moholy-Nagy writes that while everyone cannot be an artist, everyone can still be a creative producer of things and an agent of material and aural expression. In a sense, he foreshadows a debate that would seep the authorial argument and critique of much contemporary art, which relies on the question of who can be an artist? Who is an artist and who gets excluded from this category? 

Furthermore, there is an effort even here to bridge the gap between life and art and to propose a simultaneous engagement with technological advancement that allows for the existence of and life practice engagement with mass-production and the individual with personal skills, emotions and subsequent responses. Rather than try to pedagogically dogmatise one extreme way over another, Moholy-Nagy suggests a harmonious encounter between the two which maintains an importance on individuality in the face of a technologically progressing society. 

Here is Moholy-Nagy:

“Everyone is talented... everyone is equipped by nature to receive and assimilate sensory experiences. Everyone is sensitive to tones and colors, everyone has a sure ‘touch’ and space reactions, and so on. This means that everyone by nature is able to participate in all the pleasures of sensory experience, that any healthy man can become a musician, painter, sculptor, or architect, just as when he speaks, he is ‘a speaker’. That is, he can give form to his reactions in any material (which is not, however, synonymous with ‘art,’ which is the highest level of expression of a period). The truth of this statement is evidenced by actual life: in a perilous situation or in moments of inspiration the conventions and inhabitants of daily routine are broken, and the individual often reaches an unexpected plane of achievement”[1].

[1] Moholy-Nagy, The New Vision, 17.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Questions raised at Anachronic conference

"The work of art when it is late, when it repeats, when it hesitates, when it remembers, but also when it projects a future or an ideal, is 'anachronic'".

- A. Nagel & C. Wood, Anachronic Renaissance

On the anachronic and anachronisms:

- Can we look at anachronistic engagement in art as positive and fruitful rather than as something that should be avoided?

- Should an intentional anachronistic approach be avoided?

- How does an anachronic approach to art risk dehistoricizing works?

- How might we lose a sense of politics in an artwork if it becomes dehistoricized as a result of an anachronic methodology?

- How do we as art historians inevitably engage in anachronistic practices when trying to reconstruct or rewrite problematic histories?

- In which ways is our understanding of time conventionalised and contracted (linear time leading to an ultimate and inevitable mortality? What can we make of queer, feminist or racial 'times'?

- How might we approach the historicity of objects so that we take into account the changing reception of it throughout different moments in history?

- Liminal time, purgatory

- How do we document that which is fleeting or ephemeral (performance)? And in which ways do these documents keep alive moments passed? How do they in turn become objects with their own histories?

- (How) can we look non-judgmentally at anachronisms as beyond repeating a past iconography? Does this entail a triangulation of unrelated points and instances?

- Synchronicity

- A non-linear approach to time would propose or imagine an infrastructure of simultaneous and multiple stories. What can we say about this storytelling process?

- What is art object and what is a document or non-aesthetic object? How can we define these?

- How do documents presuppose a future audience, thus mangling its relation with time or presenting objects to be received in a future that is separate from the present or past?

- How does a close analysis of media and materials say something about time?

Friday, 11 November 2016

Iwao Yamawaki

Saw these Bauhaus photographs at the Tate Modern the other day...

Untitled (Composition with bricks, Bauhaus) (1930-2)

Bauhaus Student (1930-2)

In Dessau (Modernist architecture) (1930-2)