I built up something by having disturbed something: destruction becomes construction. Action interrupts contemplation, as the means of accepting something among many given alternatives, for accepting nothing becomes chaos. A system became necessary: how else could I in a concentrated way find something of interest which lends itself to continuation? My systems are numerical concepts, which work in terms of progressions and/or reductions akin to musical themes with variations. In my work I try to expand and contract as far as possible between limits known and unknown. Generally, I couldn’t talk about limits I know. I only can say at times I feel closer to them, particularly while doing or after having done some conceptual series…. The most simple means for setting down my ideas and conceptions, numbers and words, are paper and pencil. I like the least pretentious and most humble means, for my ideas depend on themselves and not upon material; it is the very nature of ideas to be non-materialistic. Many variations exist in my work. There is consistent flexibility and changeability, evidencing the relentless flux of events.
Hamburg, 1968, as quoted in “Artists on Their Art,” Art International 12, no.4 (20 April 1968): 55.
photo credit: D. Lasagni
How is art less than a thing? A thing, like a table, helps us belong in the world by taking on the essential properties of what we want in a table. It does not matter whether it is made of wood or steel, or whether it has one leg or four. As long as it is endowed with purpose, so that a table inhabits its “table-ness” wholly, to not only give us a surface on which to eat, or write, or have sex, but also to substantiate that purpose as the external embodiment of our will. In a sense, a thing is not itself until it contains what we want. Once it becomes whole, a thing helps us differentiate it from all that it is not. A chair may act like a table, enabling us in a pinch to do all the things a table can. But it is only acting. A thing’s use is external to its nature. And what is essential to a table’s nature is that all the parts that make up a table become wholly a table, and not a chair, or a rose, or a book, or anything else.
In art, the parts do not make a whole, and this is how a work of art is less than a thing. Like the perfect crime or a bad dream, it is not apparent at all how the elements come together. Yet they nevertheless do, through composition, sometimes by chance, so that it appears as if it were a thing. But we know better, since it never feels solid or purposeful enough to bear the weight of a real thing. This is not to say that art does not really exist or that it is just an illusion. Art can be touched and held (although people usually prefer you not to). It can be turned on or off. It can be broken. It can be bought and sold. It can feel like any other thing. Yet in experiencing art, it always feels like there is a grave misunderstanding at the heart of what it is, as if it were made with the wrong use in mind, or the wrong tools, or simply the wrong set of assumptions about what it means to exist fully in the world.
This is how art becomes art. For what it expresses most, beyond the intention of the maker, the essence of an idea, an experience, or an existence, is the irreconcilability of what it is and what it wants to be. Art is the expression of an embodiment that never fully expresses itself. It is not for lack of trying. Art, like things, must exist in a material reality to be fully realized. But unlike things, art shapes matter—which gives substance to material reality—without ever dominating it. All matter absorbs the manifold forces that have influenced how it came to be, and the uses and values it has accrued—and emanates the presence of this history and its many meanings from within. In a sense, form is just another word for the sedimented content that smolders in all matter. Art is made with sensitivity to and awareness of this content. And the more the making becomes attenuated, the more art binds itself to the way this content already determines the reality of how matter exists in the world. This reality, or nature, is the ground art stands on to actualize its own reality: a second nature. But it is never real enough, since the first nature will never wholly coincide with the second.
What art ends up expressing is the irreconcilable tension that results from making something, while intentionally allowing the materials and things that make up that something to change the making in mind. This dialectical process compels art to a greater and greater degree of specificity, until it becomes something radically singular, something neither wholly of the mind that made it, nor fully the matter from which it was made. It is here that art incompletes itself, and appears.
The irony is that because it cannot express what it truly wants to be, art becomes something greater and more profound. Its full measure reaches beyond its own composition, touching but never embracing the family of things that art ought to belong to, but does not, because it refuses (or is unable) to become a thing-in-itself. Instead, art takes on a ghostly presence that hovers between appearance and reality. This is what makes art more than a thing. By formalizing the ways in which objective conditions and subject demands inform and change each other over the course of its own making, a work of art expresses both process and instant at once, and illuminates their interdependence precisely in their irreconcilability. And it is as a consequence of this inner development that art becomes what it truly is: a tense and dynamic representation of what it takes to determine the course of one’s own realization and shape the material reality from which this self-realization emerges. In other words, whatever the content in whatever the form, art is only ever interested in appearing as one thing: freedom.
(excerpt read full statement)
It is a give-and-take between an idea, what one might call “text”, and what is recorded using the medium as “subtext”. I have to ask myself what I expect from painting: should it be subservient to my ideas or a queen that I have to serve? The text, which I regard as a private matter, must be able to stand being dragged diagonally across the canvas. If it loses something along the way, so much the better, since it then gains something that it may have urgently needed: sensuality and a truth that is rooted in non-verbal space.
Since the model he so faithfully copies is not going to be hung up next to the picture … it is of no interest whether it is an accurate copy of the model. Whether it will convince or not, depends entirely on what it is in itself, what is there to be seen. The model should only serve the very private function for the painter of providing the starting point for his excitement. The picture is all he feels about it, all he thinks worth preserving of it, all he invests it with. If all the qualities which a painter took from the model for his picture were really taken, no person could be painted twice.
My whole life as an artist is the attempt to come into contact with other people, to leave this aloneness (alleinigkeit).
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)
Bill Viola (b.1951) is internationally recognized as one of today’s leading artists. He has been instrumental in the establishment of video as a vital form of contemporary art, and in so doing has helped to greatly expand its scope in terms of technology, content, and historical reach. For over 35 years he has created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast. Viola’s video installations—total environments that envelop the viewer in image and sound—employ state-of-the-art technologies and are distinguished by their precision and direct simplicity. They are shown in museums and galleries worldwide and are found in many distinguished collections. His single channel videotapes have been widely broadcast and presented cinematically, while his writings have been extensively published, and translated for international readers. Viola uses video to explore the phenomena of sense perception as an avenue to self-knowledge. His works focus on universal human experiences—birth, death, the unfolding of consciousness—and have roots in both Eastern and Western art as well as spiritual traditions, including Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, and Christian mysticism. Using the inner language of subjective thoughts and collective memories, his videos communicate to a wide audience, allowing viewers to experience the work directly, and in their own personal way.
Curiosity for transformation is the driving force in my work. My concern is with art as ever-changing communication – a dynamic language varying with its message.I have been interested in non-verbal communication in society and art since the start of my practice in 1996. I believe that good art should not provide answers, but instigate questions and change lives through continuing conversations with society. My work is concerned with the continuous questioning of social constraints and conventions. I try to generate knowledge through the visual representation of these questions, and the deconstruction of society’s clichés ”
My work focuses on the way the mind and body are affected and transformed by external elements and impulses, and the inter-relation between intimate consciousness and public perception.
“I never liked the term “multimedia artist”, because I found it too simplistic and almost reductive. You can of course imply that multi-media means multiple media, where a medium is anything from a pencil to a processor. But that term ended up defining people who make cd-rom art, or digital art, or net art, as the main aspect of their practice. My work often engages with electronic media, in the form of interactive technology, film, audio and net-based art, but I also use low-tech media like performance, visual arts, design, and more. I use different media according to the most suitable ones needed to create particular projects. I decided to use the term “cross-over artist” because I work across artforms. I could say I am like a swiss knife artist, an artist who crosses over different means of expression to find the most appropriate one according to need and inclination.” Read the rest of this entry »
A train ride away from Koo Jeong-a’s family home in Seoul, Korea, an eight-hundred-year-old frog lives in the side of a mountain. Over a number of years Koo traveled four times to its mythic home, but the golden creature would not appear. Despite not having lain eyes on it, she knew it was there: Koo defended its existence to friends who came but did not see and protected its ancient status from scientific naysayers. Her constant belief was finally rewarded: on a fifth trip the wrinkled being emerged.
Koo’s ephemeral installations suggest rewards for the constant believers—for those with unwavering confidence in the existence of alternate realities. She breathes life into the usually inert, creating miniature worlds through ordered scatterings of such everyday material as aspirin, sugar cubes, cigarettes, and light.
In A Reality Upgrade & End Alone (2003), Koo’s piece for the 50th Venice Biennale, she carved out a space for subtlety in the midst of insistent politics. The artist brought the upper regions of two walls alive by embedding prismatic buttons into their cracks and crevices. These constellations sparkled with hope and made visible the state of in-betweenness: the realms that could be—and for Koo are—layered all around us.
from Artspace San Antonio
“I can think of nothing which, uncurbed, uncontrolled, untamed, can lead to more ruin than thought and I can think of nothing which, curbed, controlled, tamed can bring more rewards than thought. ” Anguttara-nikkâya 1,4 (words attributed to the “awakened one”).
Claude Margat lives in Rochefort-sur-mer in Charente-Maritime, between the ocean, the woods and the marshes. He is one who roams space. He first published a few books under the friendly protection of poet Bernard Noël (who became his friend) and then, as early as 1990 started to produce exorcistic caricatures which were supposed to cure his malaise and his notorious inability to adapt to social life. With the help of a few anarchist friends, his works were first exhibited in the Librairie du Monde Libertaire, rue Amelot, in the 11th arrondissement in Paris. Along with more novels and poems he went into a thorough study of Dao and Chan with sinologist François Cheng. He was sent to China by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and he met there two great calligraphers Qin Zhu Yi and Li Shou Ping, in Yangshuo (autonomous province of Guangxi), a landmark in his life. Read the rest of this entry »
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.