The erosion of cultures – and of “culture” as a whole – is the theme that runs through the last 25 years of my artistic practice. Cultures arise, become obsolete, and are replaced by new ones. With the vanishing of cultures, some people are displaced and destroyed. We are currently told that the paper book is bound to die. The library, as a place, is finished. One might say: so what? Do we really believe that “new technologies” will change anything concerning our existential dilemma, our human condition? And even if we could change the content of all the books on earth, would this change anything in relation to the domination of analytical knowledge over intuitive knowledge? What is it in ourselves that insists on grabbing, on casting the flow of experience into concepts ?
When I was younger, I was very upset with the ideologies of progress. I wanted to destroy them by showing that we are still primitives. I had the profound intuition that as a species, we had not evolved that much. Now I see that our belief in progress stems from our fascination with the content of consciousness. Despite appearances, our current obsession for changing the forms in which we access culture is but a manifestation of this fascination.
My work, in 3D as well as in painting, originates from the very idea that ultimate knowledge could very well be an erosion instead of an accumulation. The title of one of my pieces is “ All Ideas Look Alike”. Contemporary art seems to have forgotten that there is an exterior to the intellect. I want to examine thinking, not only “What” we think, but “That” we think.
So I carve landscapes out of books and I paint Romantic landscapes. Mountains of disused knowledge return to what they really are: mountains. They erode a bit more and they become hills. Then they flatten and become fields where apparently nothing is happening. Piles of obsolete encyclopedias return to that which does not need to say anything, that which simply IS. Fogs and clouds erase everything we know, everything we think we are.
After 30 years of practice, the only thing I still wish my art to do is this: To project us into this thick Cloud of Unknowing.
The installation: Le mot traduit le bruit des contingences passées [“The Word Reflects the Noise of Past Contingencies”] is based mostly on sonic concerns. Although its form and the elements used in it all point toward what should be a video installation, the work actually highlights the main feature of sound: its evanescence. Sound exists only in an instantaneous temporality. Through an attempt at playfully piecing back together a vanished sound event, the installation sets a series of ambiguous relationships between sounds and pictures, past time and present time, unique perspective and mobile perspective. Surveillance cameras and monitors – the guards of our relationship to the present time and our fantasies of omniscience and ubiquity – spy the inanimate shards of one of their own, heavily fallen from the ceiling, taking with it the sound of a past event. Inescapably, time dissipates the clamour of the noisiest events… Lacerated matter – the sole clue of the event’s violence – contains in itself the trace of a noisy transformation of matter. Through multiple perspectives on the remains of this incident, the work makes sound reappear. The sound is not reproduced; it is suggested, implied; it is written. So the installation transforms sound into picture, pictures into word, and word into sound. Therefore, the work addresses a number of issues in relation to temporality and mobility, through a series of cognitive games and back-and-forths between moving images, real time, sound, multiple perspectives, and a single perspective. Are we in the presence of a sound work, despite the physical absence of sound?
A delirious silence — the sound of negative space. Inverting presence along with its reflections. Also, and more importantly, inverting absence. And its reflections too. The limits of a reasonable thinking are those that break down when confronted with reflected absence. A confounding assertion in that it refers no longer to the impossibility of presence, but also the impossibility of absence itself. An unavoidable and inexhaustiblepresence of nothingness.
The delirious image — no longer the image of reflected worlds, but the impossible image of inverted reflection. Between selfless self-portraits and portraits of selflessness, not a void but the paradoxical variations of reflected play. Figures of inversion, absurd and delirious. A silent cacophony of tongue-less twisters.
At the limits of a reason of this sort lies, not only silence but also the irrational and its various formulations. And to rise to this challenge, three theses. The thesis of the absurd, Camus’ silent universe and Regine Robin’s Vampire Narcissus. The thesis of paradox, Virilio’s world of sightless vision and the myth of the nymph Echo. And the thesis of delirium, Baudrillard’s world of holographic thinking and Echo turned vampire. Consequently, a theorizing of the signs of inversion and impossibility — reformulating a world that is no longer reasonable; a world that is transformed, from silence to delirium. (read full text)
Marcel Dzama (born 1974 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) is a Canadian artist living in New York City known for small-scale ink and watercolor drawings of human figures, animals, and imaginary hybrids. Dzama has a BFA from the University of Manitoba. Dzama typically uses a muted, melancholic color palette of browns and greens, drawing from nature and army textiles. He often employs root beer base as an artistic medium. In addition to ink and watercolor drawings, Dzama also creates many collages. A recent departure for Dzama is the move into large-scale polyptychs, sculpture, and video. Dzama is known for providing the cover art to a number of major albums, notably The Else by They Might Be Giants, Guero by Beck and Reconstruction Site by The Weakerthans. His costume designs can also be seen in the music video for the Bob Dylan song “When the Deal Goes Down.” Since 1998, Dzama has been represented by the David Zwirner Gallery in New York City, at which he has had numerous solo exhibitions. In 2006 he had a major exhibition at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, England, which traveled to the Centre for Contemporary Art in Glasgow, Scotland. Dzama co-founded the Royal Art Lodge artist collective in Winnipeg in 1996. McSweeney’s has published two collections of his work, The Berlin Years in 2003 (reprinted in 2006) and a follow-up, The Berliner Ensemble Thanks You All, in 2008. His works are held in the collection of the Tate museum.
Art work has only a tintering of what it attempts to represent to the artist and to repsonsive observers. It is not beneficial, nothing is gained from it, and it does not tell the truth. It is enjoyed or not according to the condition of the observer. A very small gesture of exultation.
Writings, pg. 16
Agnes Martin was born in Macklin, a town in Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1912. She grew up in Vancouver, then moved to Bellingham, Washington, in 1932. Martin gained a bachelor of science degree in 1942 and a master of arts degree in 1952 from Teachers College at Columbia University, while living intermittently in New Mexico. In 1957 she relocated to Coenties Slip in Lower Manhattan. She had her first one-person exhibition in 1958 at the Betty Parsons Gallery, New York. Surveys of her work have been presented at venues including the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (1973), the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1991), and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1992). She was awarded a Golden Lion at the Venice Biennial in 1997 and a National Endowment for the Arts National Medal of Arts in 1998, among other honors. From the late sixties until her death on December 16, 2004, Martin lived and worked in rural New Mexico.