Category:writing

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I'm kind of giddy even to type this, but I will be in a panel discussion this Sunday to talk about Social Medium: Artists Writing 2000-2015, an anthology published by Paper Monument and edited by Jennifer Liese. And yes, that means that I have an essay in the book. Technically, it's a revised version of the series of blog posts I wrote between 2011-13 about Erased de Kooning Drawing, but it still feels unreal to me that it's actually happening.

The talk will be held in conjunction with the preview of the book at the NY Art Book Fair Classroom, PS1, 3pm. Also in the discussion, which Jen will be leading: Ginger Brooks Takahashi, Josiah McElheny, John Miller, and Mira Schor. I mean, right? You should come back to NYABF just for these people.

Later I will write more about the anthology, which looks amazing; with 75 artist writers, it's easily 15x as amazing as our 5-person panel will be, and the official launch next month at The Kitchen should be great too. But for now, the point is, I am stoked for Sunday.

Social Medium: Artists Writing 2000-2015, published by Paper Monument Oct. 20, 2016 [papermonument]
NY Art Book Fair | The Classroom [nyartbookfair]

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examples of Taliesin Square Papers from the Frank Lloyd Wright Library at Steinerag

Welcome to Better Read, an intermittent experiment at greg.org to transform art-related texts into handy, entertaining, and informative audio. This text is excerpts from a pamphlet essay by Frank Lloyd Wright, "In the Cause of Architecture: The "International Style" (Soft Cover), published by Taliesin Fellowship in February 1953. It would be the last of what were called the Taliesen Square Paper Series. The editorial was republished in the July 1953 issue of House Beautiful magazine with the title, "Frank Lloyd Wright Speaks Up." Wright was 85 years old at the time, and he hated hated the International Style.

I could not find print copies of either of these publications available anywhere. Library holdings of House Beautiful are spotty and incomplete. When I tried the authoritative-seeming, five-volume Frank Lloyd Wright Collected Writings, I also came up short. There are only five copies of Vol. 5 (1949-1959) listed in libraries in the US. How could this be? I ended up buying a used copy for a couple of bucks from Goodwill in Michigan, which turned out to have been deaccessioned by the library in a federal prison. Anyway, the text comes from there [pp. 66-69].

I wanted to find this text because it is the source of two popular zingers from Wright: the great opening line, "The 'International Style' is neither international, nor a style," and saying supporters of modern architecture are not only totalitarians, fascists, or communists, they "are not wholesome people." This line came up, for example, in a recent Atlas Obscura article about Hollin Hills, a nice but innocuous mid-century modernist subdivision near Washington DC.

I wanted to see the fuller context of Wright's criticisms, partly because one of the objects of his scorn, the MoMA-affiliated architect Philip Johnson, was actually a Nazi and an aspiring leader of US fascism at one point. [I've come to think Johnson recognized the disadvantages of political affiliation for his real interest: himself and his career, and that his devotion for the rest of his life to establishment power was quite sincere, but that's not the point right now.]

The main reason is because Wright's communist and anti-modernist bogeymen sounded familiar, like they might resonate with the conservative or rightist campaigns against everything modern, from abstraction to Brutalism to Post-Modernism, to Tilted Arc to the Culture Wars, Wojnarowicz, you name it. Wright's architecture has been generally assimilated into our historical narrative, but, I thought, it's come at the cost of our understanding of the political context in which he created it, and from which he attacked those who didn't ascribe to his own views, or pursue his particular agenda.

Anyway, Wright's text is after the jump, or you can listen to the text read by a robot.

better_read_frank_lloyd_wright_intl_style_20160505.mp3 [dropbox, 18mb mp3, 13min or so]

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I was going to post an actual review of Kenneth Goldsmith's new book, Capital, then the attacks in Paris happened. And then I thought I would write about Benjamin's The Arcades Project, which served as inspiration for Goldsmith's compendium. But I found the texts about Paris that fascinated Benjamin to be completely unhelpful for the situation I was in. I lived and worked between New York and Paris for several years until 2000. I embraced the 1999 edition of The Arcades Project as a map into my adopted city. And now that map felt out of date.

This is all too much information, though, for what I have decided to do, since no one really needs my warm take on a book that is, by design, nearly unreviewable, about a city, New York, that is equally impervious to encapsulation.

So here is a mashup of Capital and The Arcades Project, excerpting texts from whatever page I turn to, in turn. Benjamin first, p. 306:

WB: Baudelaire
Baudelaire's fatalism: "At the time of the coup d'état in December, he felt a sense of outrage. 'What a disgrace!' he cried at first; then he came to see things 'from a providential perspective' and resigned himself like a monk." Desjardins, "Charles Baudelaire," Revue bleue (1887), p. 19.

Baudelaire-according to Desjardins-unites the sensibility of the Marquis de Sade with the doctrines of Jansenius.

...

KG: Food-Chinese
Americans looked on with wonder and asked him what the name of the food was that his chef was preparing. His answer was "Chop Suey" which meant that it was a combination of mixed foods. He explained that it was a meal consisting of bean sprouts, celery and Chinese greens, plus amy more vegetables, with a touch of meat, usually pork. The guests begged him to let them taste it. They did. Immediately they clamored for more. Overnight, Chop Suey won widespread popularity.
Chinese residents in New York soon found a new field of endeavor open to them. They opened restaurants and called them "Chop Suey Houses." Many of these original Chop Suey Houses still exist.

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Cover, "Why We Should Talk About Cady Noland", a zine published by Brian Sholis in 2004, image: archive.org

It's been a while since I've put up an edition of Better Read, audio works made from worthwhile art texts read by a machine. But yesterday I listened to "Why We Should Talk About Cady Noland," Brian Sholis' 2004 zine essay while I was working, and I decided to clean it up for public enjoyment. Which basically involves extra punctuation marks to smooth the flow, and tweaking the spellings so the computer voice will read French or German plausibly.

As the title implies, Sholis's essay argued for the continued relevance of Noland's work and writing at a time when firsthand encounters with both were hard to come by. Now it's also a useful reminder that there's more to talk about than auction prices and lawsuits.

Better Read: Brian Sholis on Cady Noland 20150810.mp3 [dropbox]
Original text: Jan. 20, 2004: Cady Noland [briansholis.com]
Previous Better Reads: Rosalind Krauss; Ray Johnson; W.H. Auden
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OH IT GETS BETTER 25 June 2015 UPDATE
ALSO UPDATED OCTOBER 2015 WITH AN ENTIRELY NEW DISCLAIMER THIS WILL EVENTUALLY BE A BOOK I CAN FEEL IT

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[This image needs a disclaimer all its own] Cady Noland, Log Cabin Blank with Screw Eyes and Café Door (Memorial to John Caldwell) (1993), collection Norman & Norah Stone, image: stonescape.us

In a lawsuit about the unauthorized log replacement in and failed sale of Log Cabin, filed by buyer Scott Mueller against Michael Janssen Gallery, seller Wilhelm Schürmann, and adviser Marisa Newman comes this glorious gem:

15. Noland called [Mueller's dealer/agent] Shaheen. Noland angrily denounced the restoration of the artwork without her knowledge and approval. She further stated that any effort to display or sell the sculpture must include notice that the piece was remade without the artist's consent, that it now consists of unoriginal materials, and that she does not approve of the work.

16. Noland also sent by facsimile a handwritten note to Mueller on or about July 18, 2014, stating, "This is not an artwork" and objecting to the fact that the sculpture was 'repaired by a consevator (sic) BUT THE ARTIST WASN'T CONSULTED." (Emphasis in the original.)

Hmm, technically, this is more a reflection of a disclaimer than a disclaimer itself. But it is awesome. Frankly, Noland's demands as characterized in P15 don't seem that egregious, or like a dealbreaker. "This is not an artwork" is pretty solid, though. Maybe people could try to engage Noland before altering her work. Is that so high maintenance?

The only way this could get better is if the "Plaintiff Mueller," who is seeking the return of his remaining $800,000 were "an individual residing in Chagrin Falls, Ohio." Hey guess what! [via a rather snide artnet rewrite of courthousenews's report. Read Mueller's original court complaint here.]

Also, speaking of "chain of provenance": Mueller's suit says Log Cabin is owned by Schürmann, but it is installed at Norman & Norah Stone's art vineyard in Napa, who call it "an integral part of Stonescape," and "a singular work in the Stones' contemporary art collection"? And who, like the artist, were very close to the late SFMOMA curator namechecked in its title. How was this work owned by Schurmann or for sale in the first place? And how much rotting does wood do in Napa anyway? The Stones' picture dates from at least 2009, but still, it looks totally fine. Oh hey, here's a 2008 photo by Michael Sippey. It looks like 15yo wood, which would be totally appropriate. Who would up and decide restore this thing? Or sell it for the price of a San Francisco 2-bedroom condo? Honestly, Noland sounds like the sanest one in this whole story.

I am going to bet anyone a dollar that there are two outdoor Noland sculptures titled Log Cabin, and that in the Google frenzy to report the story, every outlet has confused the visible Stone/Caldwell work for the cabin Schürmann left in front of a German museum to rot. I propose the next disclaimer read "THIS IS NOT THE ARTWORK BEING SUED OVER."

Indeed. The sales agreement filed as part of the lawsuit makes it clear Log Cabin is not the Stones'. It was on loan from 1995-2005 to the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum in Aachen, and the conservation report & log replacement took place in 2010-11. It was exhibited at KOW Berlin in 2011 and, according to the agreement, "An image of the artwork was initially posted on KOW, Berlin's website and was subsequently taken down, as Cady Noland did not approve of the context of the exhibition; and did not want to be shown along side with Santiago Sierra." A glimmer of a disclaimer, though the exhibition website still shows four other Noland works.

BEGIN ORIGINAL POST

Benjamin Sutton tweeted the Cady Noland Disclaimer for "Rawhide," a cowboy-themed exhibition at Venus Over Manhattan:

VENUS
MANHATTAN
DISCLAIMER

Because Ms. Noland has not been involved with the chain of provenance with many of her pieces, there are more situations like this show which place demands on her time and attention to ensure proper presentation of her artwork--including its representation in photographs--, than she has time or capacity to be involved with. She reserves her attention for projects of her own choosing and declined to be involved in this exhibition. The artist has not given her approval or blessing to this show.

[via @bhsutton]

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Peter Brant posing with a study for a Cady Noland work-in-progress, photo: bfa.co

The differences between it and the disclaimer posted at "Deliverance," at the Brant Foundation last fall are few, and give the air of repurposing, if not appropriation. Since the VOM show is curated by Dylan Brant and Vivian Brodie, maybe it just came down from Greenwich with the art:

Cady Noland has requested the Brant Foundation Art Study Center post the following disclaimer:

"Because Ms. Noland have [has] not been involved with the chain of provenance with many of my [her] pieces there are more situations like this show which place demands on her time and the artist's attention to ensure proper presentation of her artwork (including its representation in photographs), than she has time or capacity to be involved with. She reserves her attention for projects of her own choosing and declined to be involved in this exhibition. The artist, or C.N., hasn't given her approval or blessing to this show."

I believe the bracketed grammatical corrections were made by Andrew Russeth, who reported the text for ARTnews. Which may mean that Ms. Noland simultaneously refers to herself in the third person as Ms. Noland, the artist, and C.N. To which I say, brava; the art world can only be improved by a multiplicity of Cady Nolands.

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NO NOLAND PHOTOS AT THE BRANT FOUNDATION: Except for Bill Powers slippin'em to Purple, apparently

In 2012 Chris D'Amelio, who worked with, or at least showed, Noland in the 1990s, had a very special, personalized disclaimer in his booth at Art Basel, and in the fair catalogue:

At the request of the artist, D'Amelio Gallery has agreed to display the following text:

"This exhibition is not authorized or approved by the artist Cady Noland, nor was she consulted about it. Neither Christopher D'Amelio nor the D'Amelio Gallery represents Cady Noland or her interest. Ms. Noland does not consider Christopher D'Amelio to be an expert or authority on her artwork, did not select the artwork being displayed in this exhibition, and in no way endorses Mr. D'Amelio's arrangement of her work."

[ibid.]

Of note, then, is the absence of a disclaimer in a show bracketed by Brant's and D'Amelio's: the two-person show, "Portraits of America: Diane Arbus | Cady Noland," at Gagosian's street-level Madison Avenue space in February 2014. What this silence says about Noland's involvement in the show and the artist's view of Gagosian's expertise w/r/t her work can only be inferred. Same goes for Skarstedt's 2013 Kelly/Noland/Prince/Wool group show including Noland's work, "Murdered Out."

Additionally, there appears to have been no disclaimer published in relation to "The American Dream," the De Hallen Haarlem exhibition of Noland's work in 2010-11, which, incidentally, ran alongside a Diane Arbus show.

This post will be updated with more Cady Noland disclaimers if and when they appear.

Or when they are remembered.

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Cady Noland, Oozewald, 1989, as illustrated by Sotheby's Nov. 2011, incorrect base not shown

When Sotheby's sold a 1989 sculpture Oozewald in November 2011, Noland inspected the piece. Through her attorney she required Sotheby's to compose the following disclaimer:

Please note the stand with which the lot is being displayed is not the stand that Cady Noland designed for this work and this stand is not included in the sale of this lot. As a result, subsequent to the sale, the buyer will be provided with a new stand, which will be in accordance with Ms. Noland's copyrighted stand design for this lot, and which will be an integral part of the complete work.
Internal documents produced during the court case Jancou v. Sothebys & Noland indicate the artist would approve the disclaimer text before publication. Since it was published, we can assume she did.

And last fall when Sarah Thornton published her book of artist interviews, 33 Artists in 3 Acts, the Cady Noland chapter carried a footnote reading, "* Ms. Noland would like it to be known that she has not approved this chapter." [Thanks to Grant for the reminder.]

It just does not get any better, though I am sure it will. OH IT DOES UPDATED 6/25

UPDATE: Triple Candie ended the announcement for their controversial 2006 show, "Cady Noland, Approximately, Sculptures & Editions 1984-1999," with the following disclaimer: "None of the objects in the exhibition are individually authored. Cady Noland was not consulted, or notified, about this exhibition." It follows, then, that Ms. Noland was not consulted or notified about this disclaimer, either. So we should consider it with an asterisk *.

OCT 2015 UPDATE

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Neither Ms. Noland nor Sotheby's has been asked for nor given the rights to any small jpgs of her works made from photos presumably made by the auction house as part of their sales preparations, nor is any claim to rights being made. But those corners do look better preserved than some.

The listing for Blue Cowboy, Eating, 1990 [Est. $2-3m, that's gotta hurt], in the catalogue for Sotheby's contemporary evening sale on Nov. 11, 2015 includes the following:

Statement from the Artist:

In an atmosphere of rapidly trading artwork, it is not possible for Cady Noland to agree or dispute the various claims behind works attributed to her. Her silence about published assertions regarding the provenance of any work or the publication of a photograph of a work does not signify agreement about claims that are being made. Ms. Noland has not been asked for nor has she given the rights to any photographs of her works or verified their accuracy or authenticity.

Silence is not agreement.

APRIL 2016 UPDATE

Christie's includes this same Statement from the Artist on Lot 470 in their May Contemporary Day Sale. That work, the 1989 assemblage CHICKEN IN A BASKET is signed and date twice ["(on the Michelob 6 pack)"!], and also includes a signed certificate of authenticity. Are we perhaps seeing the emergence of a Platonic ideal of a Cady Noland disclaimer, and if so, is the market able to accommodate it in considerations of authenticity? Enquiring minds!

March 11, 2015

The Tonight Series

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Arthur Dove moon drawings, from Helen Torr Dove & Arthur Dove's diary, 1936, image: aaa.si.edu

In 1936 Arthur Dove and his wife Helen "Reds" Torr were living upstate, in Geneva. That fall Reds went to Hartford to take care of her injured mother, and was gone for what turned out to be more than two months. Alone and pining for his wife, Dove eventually began making sketches of the moon each night in the diary they kept together.

From Jennifer Stettler Parsons' 2012 essay on Dove and the moon:

In addition to recording the temperature and weather conditions, Dove began making drawings in his diary (1936 diary, p. 137). These sketches, with their shadings and mysterious markings, appear to be evidence of the artist tracking the moon. The moon drawings continue each day with notations of temperature and barometric pressure, until Reds returned home on 8 November 1936.13 (1936 diary, p.155, 160). They mysteriously cease for two days on 15 and 16 November, but recommence on 17 November. (1936 diary, p.164-165) Dove continues to draw the moon every day until the end of the year. The new 1937 diary contains no moon drawings.(1937 diary, p.2) The drawings do not directly correspond to any established system of astronomical recording. The lunar notations, with their symbolic shadows and arrows (which change and move in each drawing), might be said to represent an individual system that Dove invented to document his observations in a personal and meaningful way.
Dove and Torr's papers are at the AAA, which has digitized their diary.

Absence and Presence: Arthur Dove's Paintings "From the Radio" by Jennifer Parsons [aaa.si.edu]
Helen Torr Dove and Arthur Dove diary, 1936 [aaa.si.edu]

January 9, 2015

Uber, But For Artists

Monochromes. Why's it always gotta be monochromes?

In his recent NYT Magazine profile of Stefan Simchowitz Christopher Glazek writes about the emerging artist Kour Pour that "several artists I spoke with had initially assumed that Pour did not in fact exist -- that he was a computer-generated figment of Simchowitz's prodigious imagination." One reason Glazek gives is that Simcho's email was the contact link on Pour's website. Another, he infers, is because Pour's digital image tapestry paintings seem so perfectly suited to Simcho's Instagram- and minor tech billionaire collector-centric art dealing operation.

But Glazek saves the biggest reveal for his annotation of his own article on genius.com: he'd heard that Simcho had already fabricated an artist, and had put his work up for show and sale in 2011. That artist's market-optimized multi-culti name was Chen Obogado.

An artist told me Simchowitz had approached him to make paintings under a false name, though it seems possible that Simchowitz actually painted them himself. I'm not sure if money ever exchanged hands for the paintings. It may have been more of a prank than a scheme, and the art world is forgiving of pranks.
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China Art Objects, Mind Games, installation view with Chen Obogado [L] and actual artist Evi Vingerling [R], Jul/Aug 2011

Let's review Obogado's known body of work and brief exhibition history. It won't take long. As far as I can tell, Chen Obogado made his debut in a summer group show at China Art Objects called, appropriately enough, "Mind Games."

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Chen Obogado, MS6 01, 2011, resin, pigment, aluminum, image: caog.la

Like many actual artists at the time, simulated artist Chen Obogado [SimChO?]'s practice interrogated chemical process-based abstraction; two works are pigmented resin slabs, possibly on aluminum panels, but definitely in tray-like aluminum frames. They retain the traces of their skll-less pour [!]: bubbles, pour lines, and pigment mixed unevenly within each batch. I guess this is supposed to be works' content. If I were trying to sell them, I'd reference the foam scenes from Fischli & Weiss'sThe Way Things Go and let the zombie abstraction momentum do the rest.

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Chen Obogado, MS001PB001, 2011, polyurethane, aluminum, image: caog.la

The third, smaller work is made of polyurethane in aluminum. It is glacial, sculptural and reductive, and appears to be a piece of Stingel-ian insulation board that's been scraped with a solvent-dipped spackling knife. They have inconsistently formulated serial numbers for titles. Their irrelevance is a standout, even among the forgettable flotsam that seems to have washed up in Culver City that summer. [Like car crash videos in drivers ed, anyone starting a new painting series should be forced to surf 3-yr-old group show installation shots.]

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Chen Obogado, CO MSM 001 S1, 2011, resin, platinum powder, aluminum, est. $3,000, opening bid: $1,500. image: laxart

Which wasn't enough to actually forget them. The fourth and last Obogado to make a documented public appearance was in November, at the LAXART benefit auction. This work was made of resin and platinum powder on/in aluminum. Which sounds like it might be kind of metallic and shiny, a poor, stupid, unconnected man's Jacob Kassay.

It was listed as a "donation of the artist and an anonymous donor," which makes little sense in the benefit auction context, and even less if he actually didn't exist. But it does seem like the credit line of an artist who didn't exist who wasn't buying his own materials. Last summer Simcho told Artspace, "I help dealers decide which artists to represent, how to represent them." Was SimChO presented to CAO and LAXART as a Simcho joint? Was he pitching the glorious future where artists-as-brands soared free of the foibles and frailties of actual artists? The next step in the end of authorship? That would be more than a scheme OR a prank.

The Kassay mention above is interesting because Summer 2011 was when Kassay had his first show in LA, and L&M. And Henry Codax had his first show in New York. Is it too late to organize an east coast/west coast monochrome show of these two non-existent artists? Please say no. #Sumer2015

Though rumors of Kassay and Olivier Mosset's involvement in Codax's work were reported at the time, I've come to think that Codax must be a gallerist's dream: all that margin without all those hassles. Assuming it sold, of course, and you could keep it moving. And maybe that's what doomed SimChO's work: Simcho couldn't keep up the act well enough to sell it, or maybe it sucked so bad even his buy-it-now yesmen network didn't click, and so Simcho decided to eat the cost of two buckets of resin and call it a day?

It's worth considering Chen Obogado in the Simcho's own preferred, network/platform/disruptor context [My favorite quote, from another of Glazek's annotations: "All he demanded was a minimum level of respect. 'You can't say I'm bad--I created the post-internet movement!'"] Stories of artists feeling exploited by Simcho remind me of reports last year of the drivers who were the pawns in Uber's anti-competitive attacks against Lyft. Which LOLjobsWTF when Uber's CEO talked about how psyched he was to replace all the drivers with robot cars. If Chen Obogado's any indication, Simchowitz may feel the same way about artists.

Christopher Glazek annotates himself [genius.com]
When he has a fawning audience Simchowitz really lets the vision flow. Must read. [artspace]

It's taking longer to gather these things together, but I just found another fascinating statement-as-question from the Q&A session of a panel discussion. This time, it's "Fractures of the Civilization," a discussion by composer/philosophers C.C. Hennix and Henry Flynt, along with John Berndt, held in June 2013 at the Goethe Institut in NYC. The talk was organized in conjunction with a realization of Hennix & Flynt's 'The Illuminatory Sound Environment" at ISSUE Project Room.

I've been a fan of Flynt's music for quite a while, but in the last couple of years I've also tried to step up my engagement with his writings, his talks, his ideas. I must say, it's exasperating; there's real genius and groundbreaking thought, action and insight there, but Flynt's a maddening interviewee, and even more frustrating on a panel. My operating theory is that he's been not listened to for so long, he can't but vent. And his views often have that determined, hermetic brittleness of someone who's had to figure out the world and what's wrong with it by himself. His far-ranging intellect and the rapid vigor with which he makes leaps and pronouncements makes it basically impossible for anyone to ask a follow-up question, or to challenge or probe something further.

My hope is that someone smart enough and well-versed enough will go deep with him on the art and music where his contributions are still only feebly understood. Anyway.

ISSUE Project Room's video of the talk is here; the question comes at around 1:19:00:

There's like this thing that I think about sometimes--
oh, thanks [gets mic]
There's this thing that we--about the Cold War, Progress science in the 20th century, there's this fight between the superpowers in order to get to some,
you know, higher place
to prove some sort of animalistic thought
When that fell apart with the end of Communism,
with this idea that,
you know, Capitalism,
Neo-liberalism's gonna go all through the world
people don't have this thing to fight against, as far as this race,
we've kind of--
the science that we have--
the futurism that we've come to
it's very social and helpful,
but it's not the futurism that we had in the 60s and 70s that idea of what we'd be like
now.
So there's this need
or something
for these
you know people,
Futurist Transhumanists,
to fill in this blank area, that's sort of this faith area that I think you're talking about
where,
you know
they're taking this place of--
basically we work more, as humans now
at some point they thought
robots were gonna
DO most of the work
And people were actually worried
what the lower classes are going to do with all their free time.
But apparently, we work more
than we did in the 60s and 70s,
at least in this country.
So there's this, like,
WANT
for
something to happen with futurism,
this futurism that might be based on a science fiction or something, but
essentially these people are running away with it
and it captures people like a relgious-type
experience.
So I just wanted to say
what do you have to say about that?

Previously: 'I'm going to fail,' or Protocols of Participation

I like to keep up with the discussions and presentations at NYU's Institute of Fine Arts. They recently posted video of a panel I'd been waiting for from late April titled, "Protocols of Participation: Recent Models of Socially Engaged Art in the United States and Europe," where Creative Time's Laura Raicovich, and Xavier Douroux and Thérèse Legierse from Nouveaux Commanditaires, who commission and mediate public artist projects in France. IFA's own professors Thomas Crow and Alexander Nagel participated as well. [It was organized as part of ART², a whole month's worth of events I missed across the city.]

It was an interesting comparison of the two systems designed to facilitate artists' engagement in their politics, culture, and communities. So watch the whole thing.

I had it playing in the background while I worked, and during the audience questions, I was suddenly alerted to the change in cadence. I knew what was coming: the long, winding, potentially discourse-derailing statement disguised as a question.

It's a cliche of the panel discussion/public lecture format, the kind of interaction that organizers sometimes like to head off by explicitly warning against, or even by soliciting written questions. It's almost always an uncomfortable, flow-breaking moment, met with either indulgence or annoyance. No one's come to hear some rando bounce his pet theory off the headliners.

It breaks form, yet it is the form. Such questions and their possibility are intrinsic to the very format of open, public discourse. So when the breach of protocol came for an event titled, of all things, "Protocols of Participation," I resisted the urge to close tab or tune out. And I was transfixed by this unseen, unidentified woman's speech, how she said it, and even what she said. It occurred to me that probably no one would ever take her comment seriously, or even know about it.

[I vividly remember my first audience question in New York City. It was to Brice Marden at MoMA's Cy Twombly artist panel. Years later, when WPS1 posted the audio of the event, it omitted the audience Q&A segment entirely. Which can be interpreted on several levels.]

In every panel or discussion I attend, I, like everyone else, always fantasize about revolutionizing the format. Or at least fixing it. It never feels optimal. And yet it never, ever changes. So I'm going to start collecting these marginalized, random, dodged, cut-off, derailing statement/questions from audience members and see what comes of it. Do you have a favorite? Send a link, let's add it to the collection!

As you can see from the complete transcript of the audience member [with a couple of interjections and a response by Prof. Nagel], maybe these things should be written down and studied after all. Because as a text, I think it's rather fascinating. Expectations and context.

Watch/listen to the question, beginning around 1:27:10. I wanted to capture the sense of hearing it, so I left in the ums and repetitions. Line breaks are pauses.

I'm going to fail
um I missed a little bit, but I was misdirected to the wrong place, sorry
um

cage_merce_corita_rules.jpg

Usually the Internet solves mysteries by yielding definitive information. Sometimes it makes it worse, though, and more confusing. Tumblr, I'm lookin' at you.

Artist/artist book hero Dave Dyment emailed the other day, wondering what I thought about the source of 10 Rules For Students And Teachers From John Cage, which was famously on the wall at Merce Cunningham's studio for years, and which has been circulating online in various photocopied and scanned forms.

Except for Rule 10, which is a quote from Cage's book SILENCE, Dave didn't think it really sounded like Cage, and I certainly agree. And he'd never been able to find the other texts in Cage's published works. So who might have written it, if not Cage? And if he didn't write it, how did it get attributed to Cage, while it was hanging on the wall of Cage's longtime partner's studio?

In 2012, Brain Picking had said that despite what everyone thought about Cage, 10 Rules' actual author was everyone's favorite serigraphicist nun, Sister Corita Kent.

Which was funny, because in 2010, blogger Keri Smith wrote about 10 Rules because she'd heard exactly the opposite: that despite what everyone had heard about Sister Corita, those rules were actually written by John Cage. And one source of that information was none other than Laura Kuhn, of the John Cage Trust.

Smith's post attracted some seriously high quality comments in 2010-12, including students of students of Sister Corita who remembered the Rules; and scholars of dancers who remembered the flyers. Then in June 2012, Jill Bell quoted "Richard Crawford who was in on the creation of 'The Rules'." Crawford was a student of Sister Corita's in 1967-68, and says she gave the class the assignment to come up with a list of rules one night, and then to design and print them up. Cage's quote was contributed by one of the students.

Which, even if it's definitive, still doesn't explain how they got to Cage, and to Merce with Cage's name. The Rules circulated among Kent's students and school. They were included in the 1986 edition of the Whole Earth Catalog, with Cage's name in parentheses following Rule 10. Whether Kent sent the Rules to Cage before this, or after, or Cage found them and posted them, or a Merce dancer found them, they were connected to Cage and had a resonant presence in Cunningham's and Cage's community. If the last two years have uncovered any additional history from the MCDC side, I haven't seen it, but I'd love to.

2012: 10 Rules for Students, Teachers, and Life by John Cage and Sister Corita Kent [brainpickings.org]
2010: You Know I Love A Good Mystery [kerismith]

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Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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