Relations, Folds, Affects, Forms

During the semester I went to the MoMa specifically with the intention of exploring the contemporary galleries on the 2nd floor, and with the hope to eat curry in Rikrit Tiravanija’s Untitled (Free/Still), which unfortunately had closed down by the day I got there.  While I wasn’t able to explore that piece, I engaged with a few pieces that have remained with me for this or that reason since my exploration of the exhibit, and I want to use this as a forum to explore why these pieces struck me and why they have remained with me.

I enjoy going to museums, and the city has some of the best and worst examples of them.  The MoMa, especially on Free Friday, is a perfect example of museums gone commercially wrong.  There are thousands of people shuffling in lines through completely white rooms, absorbing a piece for maybe a few seconds and eventually moving on.  The gift shops on every floor are filled with books, mugs, key chains and more with the stamp of various artists or iconic paintings.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see a candy wrapper from Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ Untitled (Placebo) on a T-shirt. However, in the galleries, every once in a while, someone will remain on a piece for a time for this or that reason. I had a few of these experiences, but only one on the 2nd floor.

I understand the idea behind relational aesthetics, and for me, sublimating the medium to the ideas behind the piece is equally as appealing as it is horrifying, and the emphasis on relations between people is enthralling.  Regardless, there is still some medium in the relational exhibits we’ve been shown, be it wood and curry, candy, or dilapidated huts in ethnic neighborhoods, and my question is if art is about the ends rather than the means, so to speak, as these exhibits, to me, all seem less focused on the experience (relation between person and piece) and more so about the relation between people in regards to the ideas of the piece.  All the Deleuzian thought that we’ve covered so far would lead me to say it is not about conversing about the piece or the experience but the experience itself: the means leading one self to the ends.  I say this knowing my own bias, as the pieces I related with (2 specifically) were all based in a medium, as has almost every art piece I’ve ever engaged with.  The other question brought to my mind is if there is a way to sublimate or remove the medium of cinema in this sense.

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The piece that truly shook the very fiber of my being during my visit was Keith Haring’s masterpiece, Untitled (1982), which occupies nearly 3 walls of a room on the 2nd floor that for some silly reason has a trio of basketballs in the middle, right where the perfect view of the piece is.  Regardless, in my attempt to describe my experience in words, there is no way I can communicate the sublime shock that overcame me when I rounded the corner and saw the room and the piece.  I’ve only seen a few Haring pieces in real life, and still have yet to make it to the exhibit in Brooklyn, but this specific piece is simply incredible. When viewed from right to left, it depicts basically every Haring theme and image in some sort of epic, grand narrative of humankind, and yet every corner of it contains folds within folds so that one can remain within a certain section of the piece for lengthy periods of time.  I spent what felt like an hour going back and forth through this piece, discovering new image after image every time I returned to a section.  I didn’t even see the giant penis the men having sex with each other were riding on, or the Mickey Mouse testicles, until the 2nd or 3rd time around.  The piece is, to say the least, baroque in the sense Deleuze describes in his essay, “The Fold.”

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The other piece that grabbed my attention from another side of the room was Kandinsky’s Panels for Edwin R. Campbell.  Even now looking at these pieces on a computer monitor, they seem to jump out of the screen.  The description reads, “Kandinsky coined the expression ‘nonobjective painting’ to refer to painting that depicted no recognizable objects. Although preliminary studies for one of these paintings suggest that Kandinsky had a landscape in mind when he conceived it, he ultimately envisioned these works as free of descriptive devices. Kandinsky stressed the impact of color and its association with music, explaining that, “color is a means of exerting direct influence upon the soul.”  Whatever Kandinsky was painting, he painted the affects of the pieces in a different way than Cezanne or Bacon, without any descriptors, using the simplest phonemes of formal composition: color and movement.  There is form, but not in the sense that we are used to, and it is painted so masterfully that it exerts a direct visceral response from the beholder upon viewing even on a computer monitor.  What the painting is describing is indescribable in words, as well as in any other medium and digital representation of the painting on a computer, but the affect comes across from piece to viewer without any problem.

Jeff

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One Response to “Relations, Folds, Affects, Forms”

  1. immanentterrain2 Says:

    Throughout this semester I have been thinking about how two dimensional visual art can be linked to Deleuzian thought. It is interesting to me because Deleuze discusses visual art so infrequently than he addresses other art forms, as say, cinema. I know this is certainly not without reason.

    I think it is interesting you bring up Kandinsky’s work to portray affect in relation to Deleuzian thought. I remember thinking about Kandinsky as we discussed Francis Bacon though at the time I was caught up in relating it to Deleuze’s ideas on the figure in Logic of Sensation. The most noticeable point of departure between Logic of Sensation and Kandinsky’s work was most obviously that Bacon painted the flesh and Kandinsky painted affect. Bacon was more of an outsider in the ‘art world’ than Kandinsky–and still is. Perhaps it is for that reason Deleuze chose to feature his work so extensively in Logic of Sensation–his only work to my knowledge that speaks of visual art apart from Klee in the Fold. I am glad someone brought up Kandinsky. I think there are more interconnected notions in the thought and works of Kandinsky and Deleuze–especially his monograph on Francis Bacon–but curiously, I have found only a few works that directly deal with their connection.
    B. Paris

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