Archive for HB

Commercial Philosophy?

Posted in Art, Art and Philosophy, Deleuze, Film with tags on May 17, 2012 by immanentterrain2

In an interview with Cahiers du cinema following the publication of his cinema books, Deleuze describes his experiences in the cinema while studying as a philosophy student and the similarities he found between the two forms. In his studies, he was drawn to philosophers that were interested in introducing “real” movement to thought, so it’s no surprise that he found a commonality in film, an art form of movement. He finds cinema to be highly adept at displaying spiritual life, or as he defines it, “movement of the mind” (Deleuze 366). “The brain is the screen,” thoughts being the construction of molecules linked together in time (Deleuze 366). Deleuze turns to cinema when philosophical problems lead him there looking for answers, but the relationship goes both ways.

The part of this interview that most intrigued me was when the interviewer asks about the crisis of the cinematic auteur. The crisis being the current proposal that everyone is an auteurs, and bad ones at that. Deleuze answers with a discussion of the differences between advertising and art. He notes that advertisers that call their work “the poetry of the modern world,” have failed to realize that no art is created in regards to the public’s expectations. (Deleuze 369). Advertising is most definitely created with the expectations of the public in mind, even when it strives to shock. Art is created from the opposite of this, from unexpected places and thoughts. Here then he says there is no such thing as commercial art. There is art that is wildly popular, that requires financial means, or that is bought and sold, but if it is art, it is not commercial. The term auteur refers to artwork, but not everyone creating film is an auteur for Deleuze. A work of art should ask new questions, probe problems, and create new space and time, exactly what an auteur should be doing through film.

Considering Deleuze sees such similarities between cinema and philosophy, I was wondering what would be considered the commercial opposition of philosophy. Perhaps it is the entire genre of self-help books. In a way they traverse some of the same avenues as philosophy, for instance probing questions about how one should live, but again, we can see how Deleuze makes the distinction between advertising and art. Self-help books are constructed with the expectations of an audience in mind and seek to provide answers, however flimsy they may be, instead of breaking new ground and furthering inquiry into the basis of the questions they ask. Self-help books may become best sellers, but they appeal to a lower level of thinking that craves easy answers just as Deleuze describes poor cinema as appealing to the lower brain circuitry of violence and sexuality.

-HB

Gilles Deleuze, “The Brain is the Screen”, in Gregory Flaxman (ed.), Brain is the Screen:Deleuze and the Philosophy of Cinema (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), pp. 365-373.

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Frieze Weekend 2012

Posted in Art, Art Exhibits, Deleuze and Guattari with tags on May 17, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Last weekend, I took a ferry out to Randall’s Island to visit the Frieze Art Fair, the inaugural New York iteration of the London fair. It’s hard not to have a love/hate relationship with art fairs. On the one hand, they offer the opportunity to view an incredible amount of art from galleries all over the world in one location. On the other, the sheer volume of work makes them an exhausting experience that is not conducive to a truly rewarding experience of art – not to mention the fact that there’s no hiding the intention to move large quantities of product.

The tent, three football fields long and pristinely white, was as beautiful as it was imposing. Holding over 180 galleries from 30 countries, Frieze estimates that visitors numbered in the region of 45,000 (1).

Frieze Art Fair New York 2012

There’s really no comparing the experience of the tent’s interior to other New York art fairs, even the Armory Show, Frieze’s closest competitor. With a high, vaulted ceiling and natural lighting only supplemented by fluorescence, the tent provides gallery conditions not far shy of the country’s best contemporary art institutions.

It is both an insult to museums and a compliment to the fair that the two forms have come to resemble one another to this degree. The fair provides these beautiful open spaces, charges you an exorbitant admission fee ($40/ $25 for students), includes panel discussions and lectures by people like curator and art historian Robert Storr and MoMA Director Glen D. Lowry, produces a “Frame” section of curated galleries displaying solo exhibitions of artists who have yet to display internationally, has multiple restaurants, and a non-profit arm called Frieze Projects that commissioned outdoor work by ten artists displayed surrounding the tent. Frieze even came with a major corporate sponsor, Deutsche Bank, who also sponsors exhibitions at the Guggenheim.

Team Gallery’s booth at the Frieze Art Fair New York 2012

Salon 94’s booth at the Frieze Art Fair New York 2012

So yes, the tent was beautiful, but in the end it still had the feeling of a corporate trade show or market, specifically designed to keep you moving and weed out the buyers from the gawkers.  Without a map, the uniform spaces became a blur. I found myself thinking about smooth and striated spaces while traversing the many halls.  Art Fairs are incredibly nomadic as they take place all over the world in pieces of pop up architecture or temporary exhibition halls. One could reach the Frieze Fair by complimentary ferry, shuttle, or car, with connections to the other fairs around the city capitalizing on the influx of art buyers and professionals. This kind of nomadism is not what Deleuze and Guattari are referring to in reference to smooth spaces in A Thousand Plateaus. This kind of travel and movement is about the destination and is incredibly organized. The experience of Frieze was utterly striated and controlled. There is a hierarchy of access including two levels of VIPs as well as the high-ticket price that deters another level of audience. Galleries purchase territories within the tent with slight differences in placement and size, but for the most part, they are all little white boxes in a line. They are homogeneous, distinct, and ordered.

As I was walked the halls, becoming numb to the quantity of art and lacking a sense of direction, I spotted the art collector and philanthropist Eli Broad (http://www.broadfoundation.org/).  I decided that following his path would be as good as any other direction. It was a completely strange experience because it made me realize that while I was conscious of the fact that everything displayed was for sale, the prices were so wildly out of my price range that this fact became almost completely irrelevant. How different it must be to visit an art fair for shopping and not spectacle.

Eli Broad in front of the Metro Pictures booth at the Frieze Art Fair New York 2012

For all the doom and gloom about it being a celebration of conspicuous consumption and art market value over artistic value, art fairs and galleries are still some of the best opportunities to see work directly out of artists’ studios and even better, works by artists who have yet to be included in museum shows. There wasn’t much of this at Frieze, the expensive gallery fee no doubt motivating the safer display of established artists (riskier choices at NADA or smaller fairs like seven @ SEVEN the same weekend). I will say, though, that I discovered the work of Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff there, when I almost kicked a piece of their installation:

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Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff, “New Media (Cocktails),” 2012 at T293 Naples and Rome, Italy. Photo: http://sb95.com/

And gained a new appreciation for Roger Hiorns, whose sculpture that continuously produced foam, inspired some of the most sustained looking I observed at the fair.

Roger Hiorns at Marc Foxx Gallery’s booth, Frieze Art Fair New York 2012

-HB

(1)  http://friezenewyork.com/press/releases/frieze-new-york-2012-widespread-acclaim-for-inaugural-edition/

Object Memory

Posted in Art, Deleuze, Film with tags on May 2, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Last week’s discussion of Daniel Frampton’s book Filmosophy, as well as the brief mention of object ontology, had me thinking about artists outside the medium of film using metaphors of the mind. In his book, Frampton traces a rich history of writers considering film as analogous to the operations of the mind, be it as a record and reproduction of perception or as a representation of mental states. The most difficult proposal to swallow in Frampton’s text is his insistence of film’s autonomy. He writes, “for a ‘film-being’, filmosophy wishes to place the origin of film-thinking ‘in’ the film itself. There is no ‘external’ force, no mystical being or invisible other. It is the film that is steering its own (dis)course” (Frampton 73).

This kind of mental leap, that’s conceptually interesting but hard to take literally, reminded me of the work of Fred Wilson and his description of the “memory” of objects. He is most well known for working with existing museum collections, re-contextualizing their collection to expose gaps, injustices, and buried meanings through the form of exhibition display itself. In his first major museum intervention, Mining the Museum (1992), Wilson was given access to the Maryland Historical Society’s entire collection. Pulling objects associated with African American histories and slavery, Wilson created tableaus pointing to complexities the previous displays had ignored and how meaning is created through museum display.

Fred Wilson, Untitled (Pride & Prejudice), 1993, concrete sculptures, lobby of 2 W. 13th St. Parsons

Explaining his interpretation of objects, Wilson has said, “Objects have histories of their making, of their purpose, and their use. This is what I mean by ‘memory.’ Objects have multiple layers of meaning over time and as the object moves from place to place” (Wilson and Graham 213). Frampton and Deleuze describe film as being particularly interesting in that it’s a physical record of perception (by light) and time. I think Wilson’s interpretation of objects is similar in this regard. Objects’ “memories” are formed over time in their physical use and interpretation. By juxtaposing objects in new and surprising ways, Wilson seeks to expose forgotten meanings while actively creating new ones. We discussed Frampton’s emphasis on solely the audience/film experience devoid of filmmaker context as being detrimental to his argument. What I find interesting about Wilson’s work is that the scenarios he manufactures operate at a nexus between artist, object, and viewer. Each piece benefits from a greater understanding of Wilson’s practice but relies on the embedded memories of both the object and a varied audience.

To me, the “memories” of objects can be seen as the virtual in Deleuze. They lay latent in the object until made actual by audiences, and because there are multiple meanings, they can be in varying degrees of becoming. Wilson writes, “Meanings, like memories, don’t go away. They can be suppressed, but they remain within, waiting for someone to reveal them.”(Wilson and Graham 214). The meanings of objects are imbedded in an immanent plain of existence and shift between virtual and actual as revealed by Wilson and his varying audiences. Wilson uses the metaphor of memory to evoke a meaning without implying an autonomy of objects that imbues them with the sort of cognitive power Frampton gives film.

-HB

Frampton, Daniel. Filmosophy. London: Wallflower, 2006. Print.

Wilson, Fred and Graham, Mark. “An Interview with Artist Fred Wilson.” The Journal of Museum Education, Vol. 32, No. 3. 2007. 211-219. Print.