> PARCO CENTRALE / The Power of the "Specific" Image

01/02/2012

The Power of the "Specific" Image

Rosalind Krauss

Il testo di Rosalind Krauss qui pubblicato è stato letto nel corso di un incontro organizzato dalla Prof. Franca Franchi nell’ambito delle attività del Centro studi sull’antropologia dell’immaginario DOCUMENTS.

To discuss the power of images, I’d like to turn to Walter Benjamin, and, more specifically, to his essay The Image of Proust. There Benjamin stresses that the warp and woof of the tapestry of memory that Proust weaves night-after-night depends on a chain of resemblances and that these are inalienably visual. This exclusive visuality restricts the number of supports for the Proustian exploration of involuntary memory – denying, in fact, that “images can transpose themselves in space and time, but also from support to support (from medium to medium), from the written page to film, from painting to video art, from theater to photography.” (in this issue of transposition, I quote from the presentation of the seminar topic sent to me by the organizers). Benjamin insists that only a single medium, the carrier of a specific tradition, works to trigger the onset of the memory Proust sought so attentively. Though the madeleine soaked in tea involves gustatory as well as auditory memory (the taste as well as the clink of the spoon on the cup and saucer), the experience’s consummate visuality is found in its exquisite climax, when Proust writes: “And just as the Japanese amuse themselves by filling a porcelain bowl with water and steeping in it little crumbs of paper which until then are without character or form, but, the moment they become wet, stretch themselves and bend, take on color and distinctive shape, become flowers or houses or people, permanent and recognizable, so in that moment all the flowers in our garden and in M. Swann’s park, and the water-lilies on the Vivonne and the good folk of the village and their little dwellings and the parish church and the whole of Combray and of its surroundings, taking their proper shapes and growing solid, sprang into being, town and gardens alike, from my cup of tea.”
“The eternity which Proust opens to view is convoluted time, not boundless time.” Benjamin insists. “His true interest is in the passage of time in its most real –this, space-bound – form, and this passage nowhere holds sway more openly than in remembrance within and aging without. To observe the interaction of aging and remembering means to penetrate to the heart of Proust’s world, to the universe of convolution. It is the world in a state of resemblance, the domain of the correspondences; the Romanticists were the first to comprehend them and Baudelaire embraced them most fervently, but Proust was the only one who managed to reveal them in our lived life. This is the work of the mémoire involontaire, the rejuvenating force which is a match for the inexorable process of aging. When the past is reflected in the dewy fresh ‘instant’, a painful shock of rejuvenation pulls it together once more as irresistibly as the Guermantes way and Swann’s way become intertwined for Proust when, in the thirteenth volume, he roams about the Combray area for the last time and discovers the intertwining of the roads.”
The discovery of the convergence of the two separate “ways”, forms the sudden realization of the unity of the whole world in Combray, and of his life there as experience, which is to say as continuity.
In contrasting the mémoire volontaire with that of involuntary memory, Benjamin stresses this word “experience”. He writes: “Man’s inner concerns do not have their issueless private character by nature. They do so only when he is increasingly unable to assimilate the data of the world around him by way of experience.” As we would expect from Benjamin’s essay The Storyteller, he continues,

Newspapers constitute one of many evidences of such an inability. If it were the intention of the press to have the reader assimilate the information it supplies as part of his own experience, it would not achieve its purpose. But its intention is just the opposite, and it is achieved: to isolate what happens from the realm in which it could affect the experience of the reader. The principles of journalistic information (freshness of the news, brevity, comprehensibility, and, above all, lack of connection between the individual news items) contribute as much to this as does the make-up of the pages and the paper’s style. (Karl Kraus never tired of demonstrating the great extent to which the linguistic usage of newspapers paralyzed the imagination of their readers.) Another reason for the isolation of information from experience is that the former does not enter ‘tradition’.

The singular channel supported by tradition is explored by T.S. Eliot’s brilliant essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent”, published in 1919 in opposition to the manifestos by Marinetti and Tristan Tzara demanding a rupture between the art of the present and that of the past. Objecting to the demand for originality as the warrant of a poet’s value, Eliot speaks of the simultaneous existence of the whole tradition of the past for the experience of any modern writer. “The necessity that the writer shall conform, that he shall cohere, is not one-sided;” Eliot writes, “what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new. Whoever has approved this idea of order, of the form of European, of English literature, will not find it preposterous that the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past.”
Charles Swann is not so much a writer as an amateur of art, at work on a history of painting when Marcel tells the story of his relations with Odette in that section of A la Recherche, called Swann in Love. Swann’s appreciation of Odette’s beauty is awakened in him by his association between her and the Botticelli in the Sistine Chapel representing Jeptha’s daughter. It is exactly Eliot’s “alteration of the existing order” that Proust projects into Swann.

He stood gazing at her; traces of the old fresco were apparent in her face and limbs, and these he tried incessantly, afterwards, to recapture, both when he was with Odette, and when he was only thinking of her in her absence; and, albeit his admiration for the Florentine masterpiece was probably based upon his discovery that it had been reproduced in her, the similarity enhanced her beauty also, and rendered her more precious in his sight. Swann reproached himself with his failure, hitherto, to estimate at her true worth a creature whom the great Sandro would have adored, and counted himself fortunate that his pleasure in the contemplation of Odette found a justification in his own system of aesthetic. [263]

The insistence of the power of images to transpose themselves from medium to medium is made coherent with Marcel’s love for the images projected onto his bedroom walls by the magic lantern slides he describes as a means of calming himself for sleep. Nonetheless, these slides re-enforce his sense of tradition as when he speaks of the images of the Guermantes family in the Combray church in relation to “the image of Geneviève de Brabant, ancestress of the Guermantes family, which the magic lantern sent wandering over the curtains of my room or flung aloft upon the ceiling- in short, always wrapped in the mystery of the Merovingian age, and bathed, as in a sunset, in the orange light which glowed from the resounding syllable ‘antes’.” Such projections introduce photography into the painterly tradition of Swann’s experience. This brings us to Walter Benjamin’s associations between the Newspaper and the photograph, the two belonging together to bring about what Karl Kraus had called “the paralysis of imagination”. As Benjamin says,

The techniques based on the use of the camera and of subsequent analogous mechanical devices extend the range of the mémoire volontaire; by means of these devices they make it possible for an event at any time to be permanently recorded in terms of sound and sight. Thus they represent important achievements of a society in which practice is in decline. To Baudelaire there was something profoundly unnerving and terrifying about the daguerreotype; he speaks of the fascination it exerted as ‘startling and cruel’. . . . The perpetual readiness of volitional, discursive memory, encouraged by the technique of mechanical reproduction, reduces the scope for the play of the imagination.

I have taken this detour into the world of the image’s relation to involuntary memory and its destruction by its transfer from medium to medium because this reinforces my own current work – a book dedicated to the absolute importance of the specific medium as a support for the most meaningful practice of contemporary art. With your indulgence, I will enlarge on this theme.

The ubiquitous form of art within international art fairs and biennales, such as Documenta, is Installation Art, its mixture of images through video and projection an attack on the very nature of mediums as specific.
In her interview on the television channel Arte, Catherine David, the director of Documenta X, repeatedly insists, “Unless you are naive, or a hypocrite, or stupid, you have to know that the white cube is over.” The white cube of this assertion is the sanctuary worshiped by modernism as it worked to secure the separation of art from the bustle of the world around it, a separation declaring the autonomy of the work, its commitment to “art for art’s sake”. The logical corollary of Catherine David’s assertion about the death of the white cube follows in her remark: “I don't agree with authenticity, purity, or this strong ontological opposition between art and the media.” “For me”, she continues, “any intense aesthetic experience now has to do with media.”
 The media, translated as video installations, which create vivid spectacles that engulf and overwhelm their viewers are now, indeed, the contemporary work elicited by the international exhibition or art fair. Nothing else seems to attract visitors as do these ensembles that demand no sustained attention, and no work (of eye or mind) to decode their meanings. It is, indeed, the white cube – museum hall, or gallery space –that, like the sides of a swimming pool, encourages the viewer to touch base so as to propel herself back through the water. That base, like canvas surface, plaster wall, or marble block, is the support for the work’s representation, or as some would call that support, its medium. For decades this idea of a medium secured the modernist work of art with just those things Catherine David dismisses with her pronouncement, “I don't agree with authenticity, purity, or this strong ontological opposition between art and media.”
In this short presentation, I will begin by testing Catherine David’s assertion against the art of the filmmaker Harun Farocki, whose oeuvre is – perversely, I think – always referred to as Installation. A filmmaker whose work is screened as video, the images are transmitted through monitors or projected on the white wall of the cube. The example I want to explore is Schnittstelle (translated as Interface), presented on two monitors, side-by-side, each mounted on its own pedestal, and a bench supplied for the viewers to watch as the film unfolds (Fig. 1). It is the presence of the bench, I think, that encourages the term Installation, or, to use a more current designation, Relational Aesthetics. At the opening of the work, Farocki speaks to us from his Schnittstelle, or video editing room, supplied with tape recorder, tape player, and control deck, where he explains, “Today I can hardly write a word if there isn’t an image on the screen at the same time. Actually, on both screens.”   Indeed, editing on video requires two screens, one to run the raw footage so as to copy segments from it to be transferred onto the finished tape being built on the other screen (Fig. 2). If Schnitstelle means editing room, Interface refers to the developing relation between the double screens, a connection Farocki sometimes calls “soft editing”.
Near the end of Interface, Farocki shows images of Enigma, the machine the Nazis used to encode military messages, each letter electrically driven by an individual rotor (Fig. 3). It was British special agent Alan Turing, at Blechly Park, who managed at last to break Enigma’s code, and in so doing invented the computer. Turing, Farocki says, “delighted in thinking of the human intellect as a machine.” Lingering over this story, Interface tells it by means of “soft editing,” a form of watching that demands the viewer’s gaze to ricochet back and forth between one monitor and the other. In this visual shift what the eyes must pass over is the blank wall behind and between the two monitors, the very side of the white cube off of which to push so as to propel oneself into the heart of Farocki’s medium. “Soft editing” is thereby analogized to the very process of the Schnittstelle itself, because, like Enigma, video editing demands a code to translate the analogue images of film into the digital ones of a computer-editing program such as AVID. Accordingly, Farocki asks, “Might this editing station be an encoder or a decoder?” Unlike the art fair Installation, Farocki’s viewer is required to linger over his films so as to analyze their raison d’être; in this task the viewer here enters the Schnittstelle to identify with the artist.
Catherine David’s skepticism over “purity and . . . ontological” difference was voiced at just that time when Postmodernism had attacked the separation of painting from sculpture, declaring the obsolescence of the individual and distinct traditions on which modernism’s belief in self-criticism rested. The formula for this was stated by Clement Greenberg when he wrote, “It quickly emerged that the unique and proper area of competence of each art coincided with all that was unique to the nature of its medium. The task of self-criticism became to eliminate from the effects of each art any and every effect that might conceivably be borrowed from or by the medium of every other art.”
The modernist idea of self-criticism then fell victim to Conceptual Art, as when Joseph Kosuth dismissed the medium by saying: “Being an artist now means to question the nature of art. If one is questioning the nature of painting, one cannot be questioning the nature of art. If an artist accepts painting (or sculpture) he is accepting the tradition that goes with it. That's because if you make paintings you are already accepting (not questioning) the nature of art.”
The hay, with its added lettering, that Georg Kiefer piled on the stretched canvas (Fig. 4), the buildings that Michael Graves decorated with references to Classical architecture (Fig. 5), challenged that very idea of “purity” modernism came to call “medium specificity.”
 Both Relational Aesthetics and Installation fed off Post- modernism’s declaration of the end of “specificity” or, as Jean-François Lyotard would put it, “the end of the master narrative.” Farocki’s Interface touches base not only with the gallery wall as “the side of the pool” but with the nature of video-editing’s demand for two screens, as well as the translation of a digital code. In this, as I will argue here, he joins with a band of rebellious artists who refuse both Postmodernism’s and Documenta X’s decree about the end of the white cube. In writing about these rebels, I have acknowledged the difficulty they must contend with to counter the opprobrium of both Postmodernism and Conceptual Art as well as Installation. To do this, I have abandoned the word medium in order to translate it into the more neutral term I have begun to call “technical support”. If the traditional mediums, like painting and sculpture, mobilized artisanal talents to develop their individual supports such as plaster wall, wooden panel, or stained glass, technical translates artisanal into contemporary, technological means and support generalizes the specific traditions into a newly invented form that is now generic rather than specific. The genuine contemporary artist will make that form recursive, or as Greenberg would say, self-critical.
To take an example, I turn to the work of Ed Ruscha whose technical support is undoubtedly the automobile, celebrated over and over by his gasoline stations (Fig. 6), his parking lots (Fig. 7), and his display of Every Building on the Sunset Strip, which he filmed each year, from the back of his car. If the automobile secures his work’s specificity, Ruscha is also focused on the word “medium”, which technically is the matrix for the suspension of color; oil is such a medium, as is egg tempera. Stains is the collective title for the books Ruscha made to celebrate color’s medium, whether it be blueberry extract, chutney, or chocolate syrup (Fig. 8). Stains are also the puddles of oil left from the crank cases of the departed vehicles that had occupied the spaces of his Parking Lots. How can we think of “stains” without leap-frogging over Postmodernism into the recent modernist history of Color Field, or Stain Painting? The technical support allows the contemporary rebel to perform the modernist artist’s awareness of the history of his own medium, its teleological unfolding in the grip of an inner necessity and according exactly to Lyotard’s master narrative. This is the leap backwards Walter Benjamin called Tigersprung: a tiger’s leap that immediately connects past and present. Benjamin owned this Paul Klee water-color called Angelus Novus, a figure whom he described as looking backwards, horrified, at the ruins piled up by modern man’s fascination with progress (Fig. 9). The Tigersprung eradicates these ruins by adopting a moment from the past to energize a practice in the present.
Farocki’s technical support is the video editing room and the means of translating or encoding the images visible on the two monitors. His drive to touch base with the wall of the white cube echoes Ruscha’s resort to Stains, for Farocki’s recycling the archive of historical cinema, as in his Workers Leaving the Factory in Eleven Decades, leaps back from the camera’s current robotic use as an automated instrument of surveillance and control, to a dawning Utopia of recording new forms of life. These recordings also demand new systems of perception, as when Farocki speaks of film editing as newly developing the subtle sense of touch. Referring to his work in the editing station, Farocki speaks of the impossibility of communicating his experience to other people. Here we immediately think of Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida, describing his loneliness as he thought about the essence of photography: “One day” Barthes says, “I happened on a photograph of Napoleon’s youngest brother, Jerome, taken in 1852. And I realized then, with an amazement I have not been able to lessen since: ‘I am looking at eyes that looked at the Emperor.’ Sometimes I would mention this amazement, but since no one seemed to share it, nor even to understand it , (life consists of these little touches of solitude), I forgot about it. . . . This question grew insistent,” Barthes continues. “I was overcome by an ‘ontological’ desire: I wanted to learn at all costs what Photography was ‘in itself’, by what essential feature it was to be distinguished from the community of images. Such a desire really meant that I wasn’t sure that Photography existed, that it has a ‘genius’ of its own.”
Looking for the “genius” – driven by “ontological desire” – means seeking the walls of the white cube in order to touch base with the specificity of a medium, whether newly invented or traditional. Acknowledging the history of traditional mediums, as Rucha’s books glance off painting’s drive to suppress the devisive outlines of cursive drawing with the use of stains, is to remember a recent means of touching base with the sides of the cube. The Tigersprung acknowledges history as a form of situating the demands of a specific genre as it unfolds towards its destiny, to touch base with its “genius” as art. Morris Louis, in this Unfurled, uses the rivulets of paint at lower right and left to bevel the empty canvas forward, making its raw expanse the luminous expression of the depth separating stretched canvas surface from the wall behind it (Fig. 10).
Another of our rebels is William Kentridge whose technical support is animation, achieved by making charcoal drawings that he erases and slightly corrects, shooting one frame of film at each shift in the image (Fig. 11). He speaks of the smoky traces of his erasures, in a parallel with Ruscha, ­­as a kind of stain. He has an affection for the look of high-tech medical imaging such as CATscans, sonar, and MRIs. As he says, “there is a great affinity between the velvety grey tones of an X-ray and the softness of charcoal dust brushed onto paper.” I will return to Kentridge; but for the moment, I will turn to another of the contemporary rebels. 
The medium developed by Christian Marclay’s technical support is synchronous sound, the basis of the Hollywood Film sometimes called the “talkie”, which was invented in 1929. Marclay’s Video Quartet spreads four DVD screens along a wall with small gaps between each screen (Video 1). For the most part the films are musicals, like West Side Story or The Music man. Often they are memorable moments of dramatic sound, such as Janet Leigh screaming in the shower from Pyscho, or Ingrid Bergman singing “As Time Goes By”, to voice her nostalgia in Casablanca. As we would expect, Marclay focuses on the fact of synchronicity, as when the four screens present a visual quartet of spinning circles: roulette wheels, phonograph records, drum heads. The most exciting moment in Video Quartet by far is the vision of a crowd of cockroaches spilling onto a piano keyboard and scurrying over it – soundlessly, of course (Fig. 12). Here the Tigersprung overleaps the field of sound itself, back to 1929 and the transformation of silent film to sound. If sound is Marclay’s technical support, he wants us actually to see its immediate historical moment, which is silence. Along with the scurrying cockroaches this is made visible by the bare feet of an organist working the instrument’s pedals or the musical scores that form the background to the work’s opening moments. The lesson Marclay teaches us is that the media, here in the form of film, can be made self-reflexive and thereby impressed into the service of the white cube.
To return to Kentridge, we witness the way his insistence that his support be self-critical, extends to his success in touching base with the white wall of film itself, whether this be the gate of the projector or the technique of his erasure. In Ubu Tells the Truth, Kentridge takes us to apartheid South Africa, where the blackened window-frames of the prison cells at the Johannesburg Police station reflexively take on the look of film frames (Figg. 13-14). From there, he imagines the roof of the building from which, notoriously, prisoners were pushed to their deaths. As the black shapes of the bodies plunge down the frame, they pass the windows, one-after-another. The illusion Kentridge achieves is that the film strip itself is rising behind them, to reverse its direction, as if to reel itself back through the gate of the projector (Video 2). History of the Main Complaint is the story of Soho Eckstein, one of Kentridge’s stock characters, while Soho lies in bed in a trauma remembering the accident he caused while driving his car through the rain. We are shown the car from the front so that we see the smear of the windshield wipers, reflexively miming the action of Kentridge’s own erasers (Fig. 15 e Video 3). This is Kentridge’s “stain”.
Sophie Calle is a conceptual photographer whose technical support is photojournalism, the newspaper’s detective-work to solve political or financial crimes, as in the U.S. case of Watergate. The solutions she works at, as sleuth, are frequently the portrait of an unknown character as in the case of Address Book [at the top of the screen]. Having found the telephone register of a man who left it in a bar, Calle proceeded to telephone each one of the entries, asking the woman who answered about the man who was presumably her friend. These conversations and Calle’s projections of the man’s character – both physical and psychological – were published daily in the French newspaper Libération. Another example is A WomanVanishes, the case of a guard at Calle’s retrospective at the Paris Museum of Contemporary Art (Fig. 16). Fascinated by Calle’s investigative procedures, the woman, Bénédicte Vincens, secretly followed some of the visitors to Calle’s exhibition in order to photograph them. After a fire had destroyed Bénédicte’s apartment on the Ile St. Louis, charring the negatives and prints of her work, the police could find no trace of her, either in the Seine River or in other houses in the neighborhood. In her work reproducing the charred remains, Calle was obviously fascinated by the unknown alter-ego who was secretly tracking her (Figg. 17-18). Most recently, Calle was asked to be France’s representative at the 2007 Venice Biennale. Her entry, a work called Take Care of Yourself [Prenez Soin de Vous] was subsequently shown in Paris at the Bibliothèque Nationale (Fig. 19). Along the tables in the main reading room many video monitors showed a variety of women reading a letter sent to Calle by a lover abruptly breaking off their relationship because he couldn’t keep his promise not to involve her in a polygamous affair. The performers of the letter are famous actresses like Jeanne Moreau or Miranda Richardson. The letter’s callous announcement of the abrupt and final end of Calle’s affair by her unseen lover, sardonically signs off, “take care of yourself”. By staging the work in the reading room lined with shelves of leather-bound volumes, the Bibliothèque’s display of “Take Care of Yourself” heightened the question of the letter’s unseen author, just as so many earlier works by Calle had done. To say “staging the work in the reading room”, is to make Take Care of Yourself sound like an Installation. Quite to the contrary, the reading of the letter from so many monitors, refers back to the shelves from which occupants of the reading room select their books. Not only this, but the work demands a reflexive reading that touches base with Calle’s own technical support. As the viewer tries to track down the letter’s author, she follows in Calle’s footsteps just as Benédicte had done before she vanished. Like Address Book, the work is intended to build an image of its writer. Separating this work from others like it, however, is the delicate question of whether or not Calle herself is the letter’s author. Thus, paradoxically, an artist whose entire work turns on the matter of documenting the unknown Other, might end up making a sentimentally “confessional” object, to be performed by strangers.
Another example of rebellion would be the work of the Irish artist James Coleman, whose technical support is the slide-tape, two projectors sharply focused on the same point so as to give the image an hallucinatory depth of visual information. Through the tape’s sound track a simple narrative unfolds, like Romance stories or photo novels, drawn from the lowest stratum of art. As in Romance reading, two characters are drawn into intense exchanges. But Coleman’s rule for directing their actions is to prevent them from ever making eye-contact since both are staring out of the frame at the viewer. In this, they follow Roy Lichtenstein’s comic book choreography (Fig. 20), a rule for what Roland Barthes calls the “anecdotalized image” of either photo novels or stained glass windows. Just as the artisans of the traditional mediums began their careers as apprentices to established masters in order to learn the rules of their craft, the inventors of a new technical support both find and obey the rules required to touch base with the resistant surface of their new medium. James Coleman’s “rule” is something I have called “the double face-out”, by which he is able to point to the flatness and the shallow space of the anecdotalized image, generated by the sequence of just one slide at a time. The most intense moment of the self-critical demonstration of his own medium appears in his work I.N.I.T.I.A.L.S, when a line from William Yeats’s play “The Dreaming of the Bones”, points directly to the rule of the “double-face-out”. In the drama, Yeats shows the fatal attempt of a pair of lovers to evade pursuit, one of them asking his partner, “Why do you gaze, one on the other . . . . and then turn away . . . . and then turn away?”
Another contemporary “rebel” against the dictum of “the end of the white cube” is Marcel Broodthaers, a surprising addition to this list insofar as Broodthaers seems to have made the mixed medium of Installation the very genre of his work. This took the form of his Imaginary Museum in which the vitrines displaying precious loans mimic the sites of Fine Arts Exhibitions. But, like Ruscha and Marclay, Broodthaers celebrates the Tigersprung in his brilliant film: A Voyage on the North Sea. Based on a 19th-century seascape he found in a shop for odds-and-ends in Paris, Broodthaers trains his camera on details of the painting, moving it over the churning water to the whalers in their long-boats and finally detaining it on the schooner’s masts and sails (Figg. 21-22). The heavily painted breakers cannot but remind us of both Manet’s and Courbet’s turbulent oceans, while the billows of the sails with their light and shadow, suggest the a-chromes of Piero Manzoni (Figg. 23-24). The Tigersprung is complete when Broodthaers’s camera finds its ultimate target in the sails themselves, white fields of canvas as the very picture of his support: Here we cannot but remember Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem, Salut, the brilliant toast he delivers as he raises his glass while standing on the speeding yacht:

Rien, cette écume, vierge vers
À ne désigner que la coupe;
Telle loin se noie une troupe
De sirènes mainte à l’envers.

Nous naviguons, ô mes divers
Amis, moi déjà sur la poupe
Vous l’avant fastueux qui coupe
Le flot de foudres et d’hivers;

Une ivresse belle m’engage
Sans craindre même son tangage
De porter debout ce salut

Solitude, récif, étoile
À n’importe ce qui valut
Le blanc souci de notre toile.*

The wall intruding into our vision, as we carry out the ‘soft editing” of Farocki’s Interplay, is, indeed, the white care of our canvas in Mallarmé’s toast to the blank sheet of paper or the empty canvas from which poet or painter ventures forth.
There is no canvas to see in the Installations called for by the art fairs that constitute our contemporary aesthetic experience. No demand is made on our time to penetrate the artificially radiant surface to the signifying power of the work. The aesthetician Stanley Cavell wrote that, “the possibility of fraudulence, and the experience of fraudulence, is endemic in the experience of contemporary art.” Installation’s contempt for the white cube is what I have been trying to expose as “fraudulent”, remembering Cavell’s dictum about our present dilemma according to which we are tested to tell the difference between the genuine and the fake: “Modernism”, Cavell writes, “only makes explicit and bare what has always been true of art”, which is to say, “The dangers of fraudulence, and of trust, are essential to the experience of art.”
The works I have been showing you here have earned my trust as they continue to reveal the sources of signification that genuine art attempts and achieves.
If I might make such a suggestion, I think this seminar should be centered on the fraudulence of the power of the image heralded in the art that now surrounds us, and the international practice of art fair, biennale, or Documenta that cynically provides us with assurance of its good faith.


* Nulla, spuma, vergine verso/ A non designar che la coppa;/ Tal si tuffa lungi una frotta/ Di sirene, il dorso riverso./ Noi navighiamo, o miei diversi/ Amici, io già sulla poppa/ Voi sulla prua ch'apre alla rotta/ Flutto di folgori e d'inverni;/ Un'ebbrezza bella m'ingiunge/ Senza temer beccheggio lungo/ Di levar alto questo salve Solitudine, scoglio, stella/ A non importa ciò che valse/ La cura bianca della vela.

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