November 13, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake

OOPS! Never mind!


In my dead-serious indignation, I had completely overlooked the potential of Marina Abramovic's MoCA Gala for pathetic comedy. Fortunately, we have Ryan Trecartin, who speaks diva absurdity fluently. Trecartin's livetweeted photo report from inside the tent is hilarious.

First, of course, the page of "INSTRUCTIONS FOR BEHAVIOR WITH THE CENTERPIECE," which, yes, but. The second you read the instructions, you know the piece has already failed, or has at least missed an opportunity.

In 1974, Abramovic executed a piece called Rhythm 0, in which she sat completely impassive next to a table full of objects, including a gun and a knife. A sign informed the audience they could use anything they wanted on the artist's body. It got kind of aggressive, and contested, and Marina says later she "felt really violated." Surely the norms of gala culture would have tempered any actual violence, but would it not have been more illuminating to not tell the gala crowd to behave with basic human decency toward the human performer--and then see what happens?

But that's not what was on the menu for this piece. Oh, the menu. "THE SURVIVAL MOCA DINNER" featured "Super Human Cocktails: Purity MoCA Martini, The Minimalist, The Conceptualist" and "John Cage Symphony," which was a frisee salad with crostini and a fruit-nut loaf. Rauschenberg, de Kooning and Warhol were the other artists with courses named after them. I have no idea.

Holy moley, what is this extraordinary thing where people chant Marina's artist manifesto at the audience? And Debbie Harry gets carried out by four Hollister doormen? A runway-like stage seems to be a trademark of the MoCA gala medium. Vezzoli had it. Aitken had it. Now Marina had it.


As Marina says, you can't judge a work unless you've experienced it. Fortunately, Trecartin and his intrepid entourage stayed until after the bitter end, after the body part cakes in the form of Miss Thang and Ms. Harry were reduced to roadkill, and they investigated the underside of the table and then popped their own heads up. This is close looking and arts journalism, right here folks.

And in the service of art. For then our man in Los Angeles headed [sic] back to his hotel room with the greatest gift bags imaginable, containing kits to make centerpieces at home. So. Awesome.


Off with their heads!

All images via Ryan Trecartin's Twitter

At the invitation of Jeffrey Deitch, Yvonne Rainer has seen a rehearsal of Marina Abramovic's performance art project for this year's MoCA Los Angeles gala. And in a new letter to Deitch, she has refined and reiterated her condemnation of it as an exploitative and "grotesque spectacle [that] promises to be truly embarrassing."

Would that it were actually embarrassing to the people involved, and to Marina herself. Rainer goes to great, cordial lengths in her open letter to Deitch [reproduced below] to separate her criticism of the gala from Abramovic's work. While generous, I believe this is incorrect; the only context in which a revolving human head centerpiece on a $100,000 table could be realized is as an artwork. I mean, Abramovic's certainly not claiming this is just edgy party decoration, is she?

If that were so, the case for embarrassment would be easily made. No, I think the reason this rankles so much is precisely because the gala does take on the mantle of art--and the stamp and stature of the artist. It's not possible to say that this gala is not art; it is art you cannot afford to experience. It is art that you find humanly, ethically, and socially objectionable. And it is being produced and shown for money in one of our [sic] most reputable museums, by an artist who shows and is celebrated in similar institutions.

That's a reality of the art world as it's currently constructed.

Last year between the blog post where I declared the Gala as Art Movement and my presentation on it at #rank, I found two things: 1) Abramovic was deeply engaged in the luxury/sensual/sensory spectacle that is the gala experience's stock in trade. And 2) Doug Aitken's MoCA gala Happening was, on one level, a critique of the real estate and cultural forces which used art and museums to shape Los Angeles to serve their own needs. And that critique was utterly and completely subsumed by those very forces, probably without Aitken realizing it.

The Gala is bigger than any artist's attempt to subvert it from inside the party tent. Aitken tried and failed, but I think Abramovic is just fine with it.

Yvonne Rainer Blasts Marina Abramović and MOCA LA []

Previously: An Incomplete History of The Gala-as-Art Movement []
"Relational Aesthetics for the Rich, or A Brief History of the Gala as Art" [vimeo]

Yvonne Rainer's revised letter to Jeffrey Deitch, along with its growing list of signatories, is after the jump.


I count it as a matter of pride and oddly satisfying accomplishment to learn I'd been thinking some of the same things about the International Prototype Kilogram that Charles Ray was thinking about the International Prototype Kilogram.

Picture Piece: Same but different, the many ur-Kilos [frieze, jan-feb 2000]

Previously: The International Prototype Kilogram, or le Grand K
Here is the International Prototype Kilogram again


The classic saying, so closely associated with the conservative icon economist Milton Friedman, just sort of came out last night during a brief Twitter discussion with Bill Powhida and Magda Sawon about what, exactly, my point is on Rirkrit Tiravanija's gorgeous, mirrored objects.

And basically, I think it comes down to my dissatisfaction with what feels like the persistence of a critical adulation of Rirkrit's socially oriented practice--and, by extension, Relational Aesthetics generally--as anti-market, anti-commodity, gifty experientialism, which does not acknowledge, must less seek to understand and account for, the beautiful luxury goods at the center of so many of these projects.

This seeming contradiction or paradox--I will not call it hypocrisy, at least not on the artist's part--should be adding a level of complication and contestation to Rirkrit's work. Instead, it's reduced to the critical comfort food of free soup and socializing.

I think Rirkrit knows about the "there's no free lunch" concept, at least on some level. Thanks to Friedman and to Robert Heinlen before him, who popularized the acronym, TANSTAAFL [There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch] in a 1966 sci-fi story about lunar colonists rebelling against their earthly overlords, the saying is pretty deeply embedded in the history of postwar liberalism and globalization, the very political and philosophical context Rirkrit's work engages [and from which he appropriates so many of his forms.]

So now, against my better judgment, perhaps, I think I want to take a closer look at Rirkrit's practice and the Relational Aesthetics construct from the perspective of Friedman's foundational libertarianism. It'll be like opposition research as art criticism. Or maybe it won't be. To ignore the highly market-oriented aspects of Rirkrit's work, and focus solely on the dinner parties and sleepovers is to almost perfectly miss Friedman's point: nothing comes without a cost; it's just a matter of identifying it and figuring out who's going to pay.

While no one seems to be paying much critical attention to Rirkrit's objects specifically, Relational Aesthetics and its evangelist Nicolas Bourriaud have been worked over repeatedly by other critics in ways that can implicate and/or illuminate these shiny baubles. Claire Bishop, Miwon Kwon, and Stewart Martin are just three prominent voices in the debate, which takes RA to task for both feeble anti-aestheticism [Bishop], and for neutralizing and commodifying social practice within the institutional apparatus [Martin]. I really don't have the chops or the stamina to lay all this out right now [or maybe ever, who knows?] But the Radical Cultural Research Collective's RA critique critique provides a handy reference point, as does Dave Beech's horribly formatted analysis of participation.

What I can do right now, though, is ogle this awesome book cover from 1949, which just became a study for a painting I will have to make. This slim book, TANSTAAFL: A Plan For A New Economic World Order by the hard-to-research Pierre Dos Utt, is one of the earliest published references to "ain't no free lunch."


The phrase has its own Wikipedia page, of course.

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. [wikipedia]
thanks to Brent for help in approximating Rirkrit's font for the mockup up top.

November 4, 2011 +rirkrit

Thanks to Awl for reminding me that not everyone is not talking about Rirkrit Tiravanija's sexy, blingy objects. I'd found this last week, but it was crashing my browser, and it may do the same to yours, probably because it's designed for folks who trade up their computers with the same frequency Steve Jobs traded his AMG SL65.

The Financial Times' luxury lifestyle magazine supplement How To Spend It loves Rirkrit's work.


In "Art Works: Spectacular Sculptures - with a purpose," Helen Chislet delivers servicey with a smile by revealing the "spectacular and tremendous fun" that can result "when artists are asked to design functional outdoor objects." Objects like Rirkrit's "ping-pong table of flawless mirror-polished stainless steel in an edition of ten--a piece of perfectly executed workmanship that carries a price tag of $55,000." [no correction to my original price mention; if you want to pay 10% more that's your business -ed.] Objects which are still likely to appeal to the FT's ideal UK-centered international demo, typified by one garden folly maker's client base as "City workers relocating to the country, but now includes European royalty and "extraordinary people."

And the Palm Pavilion at Inhotim gets a starring role in "Artward Bound," Pernilla Holmes's round-up of far-flung private art parks, which, I love this:

"So much contemporary art is commodified," says [Doug] Aitken. "A place such as Inhotim works against that. It empowers the artist rather than curating the artist. It's a phenomenal template for a modern museum." Unlimited by budget constraints, bureaucracy, timescales and space, such privately owned modern museums are popping up in spectacular, middle-of-dowhere locations around the globe as moneyed art collectros turn the traditional museum model on its head. Each is as unique as the personality of the person who dreamt it up.
Aitken really does have his finger on the pulse of these things.

previously: relational aesthetics for the rich
the gala-as-art movement [vimeo]

November 3, 2011

Richard Prince And Friends


I've tweeted on this a bit already, but it's really worth repeating: Richard Prince's appeal of the Patrick Cariou copyright infringement decision is a really great read. The brief was filed last week, and I finally got around to reading on Halloween night. I find it makes a very clear and persuasive argument for throwing out Judge Batts' sweeping ruling, and it's a nice, not too esoteric discussion of appropriation and fair use as well.

Basically, Prince, his new lawyers, and Larry Gagosian argue that Judge Batts wrongly applied the prevailing legal standards for fair use, especially the most recent, relevant case which had been before the same court, Blanch v. Koons.

I think I've written before that Prince's work, and his first-round defense, relied very heavily on Koons's winning argument that an artist's transformations of size, scale, material, and context were sufficient for fair use. But their briefs almost never cited Blanch and did not make that transformative use argument clearly or well. That has changed.

Prince's lawyers also argue that Batts overreached and erred by finding all 30 of Prince's Canal Zone works to be infringing, regardless of what, how, or how much of Cariou's imagery they contained. And that it's wrong to force Prince to hand over all the artworks to Cariou when the settled precedent of monetary compensation exists.

I think that, at the very least, the court will find that each painting must be evaluated, and that the court will have to decide Prince's transformative efforts. While I would love to publish such a document, because it would just be the best kind of worlds-colliding art criticism around, I suspect a check will be cut before the judges take out their rulers.

I could rattle on about this all day, but why not just read it yourself? Here is a copy of Prince's filing, which I'll host on my Dropbox own site for a while. The 135-page ruling has a lot of very nice, full color illustrations and clocks in at around 7mb.


And in even more interesting news, Joy Garnett just gave me a heads up that the Warhol Foundation has actually filed an amicus brief in Cariou v. Prince, warning the courts that if Judge Batts' ruling were to stand, it would put works by other artists in jeopardy, and would cause "such uncertainty in the field as to cause a chilling effect on the creation of new works." I expect I'll come back to this after I read it all, but the Foundation's brief defends Prince's work as part of a broad, artistic history of appropriation, quoting, and collage. Should be interesting. The Foundation's 57-pg brief [pdf] is linked directly here.

Previously: the five most ridiculous things about the Richard Prince copyright decision
The Richard Prince decision? You're soaking in it!
Richard Prince's Spiritual America
Size Matters?
"THE WITNESS: This could be a cool book."
"The Movie is called 'Eden Rock'"

October 10, 2011

Practice Practice Practice

From the Frieze blog, the Goldsmiths brain trust answers the burning question, "How to get to Turbine Hall"?:

'Eleven Statements Around Art Writing' is co-authored by the teaching team -Maria Fusco, Michael Newman, Adrian Rifkin and Yve Lomax - of MFA Art Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. It proposes a moment in contemporary production: writing as art practice.
That's right, call it a practice and let the curators and art historians sort it out.

best tweet update ever: "frieze_magazine: Dan Fox asks the MA lecturers to clarify their statements about art writing on frieze blog. It's pens at dawn!"

11 Statements Around Art Writing [frieze via @crosstemporal]

Holy smokes, The Brooklyn Rail reviewed Canal Zone Richard Prince Yes Rasta:

Appropriation art is such an accepted part of the contemporary vernacular that some already find it passé--or at the very least no longer trendy. Gagosian isn't exactly at the forefront of art discourse; perhaps the texts of Cariou v. Prince reintroduce the still-revolutionary possibilities of Prince's proposition within the broader, non-art context. The court takes the role of the beleaguered parent who has just discovered that her child is having sex, to the point where Judge Batts employs pointed scare quotes in her introduction of "appropriation art" as a term.
A "scrapbook-style curiosity" that reads like a parent discovering their child having sex? I can't really top that.

Canal Zone Richard Prince Yes Rasta: Selected Court Documents, &c., &c, reviewed by Andrea Neustein and Alex Neustein []

September 30, 2011

On The Nightmare Of The Rack


Kriston Capps' tweet to Powhida about art and immortality instantly reminded me of RH Quaytman's conversation with Steel Stillman, which ran in Art in America last summer, and which upended my own comfortable memory of first encountering Quaytman's little storage rack sculpture back in 2008:

rh_quaytman_rack_anaba.jpgSS For "Ark, Chapter 10," which was the three-person show you organized at the end of your time at Orchard, you made paintings that related to Orchard's history, and displayed several of them on storage racks similar to ones you have here in your studio. The display of paintings became a sculpture [From One O to Another].

RHQ I felt I needed to acknowledge--within the structure of the pieces themselves--the fact that I would be showing my own works, becoming, in effect, my own dealer. The storage racks, like the racks in a typical gallery's back room, enabled visitors to pull out the paintings the way a dealer might, when showing them to prospective clients.

SS The racks addressed the nightmare, which perhaps all artists have had, that their work will never be seen.

RHQ Making the storage-rack pieces reminded me of the trauma of putting my stepfather's and father's works in storage after they died. Those experiences and the questions they raised--about artists' estates, and about the life of the work itself once the artist has gone--left a big impression on me.

SS In 2008, you made a book, Allegorical Decoys, whose centerpiece is an essay you wrote about the development of your work. Having been your own dealer, you became, in effect, your own historian and publisher.

RHQ I realized instinctively that, in some sense, the paintings wouldn't exist unless they were written about and collected. Otherwise, they would be like trees falling in the forest with nobody there to hear them. Writing that essay was an opportunity not just to reflect on my practice, but to locate my work within a larger critical conversation on my own terms.

[image: [From One O to Another], via anaba]

Features | RH Quaytman, June 2010 [artinamericamagazine]
Previously, Jan. 2010: Nice Rack! RH Quaytman on MoMAPS1's blog

Spectrum IV, 1967, image via moma

Amazing how you can look at something so often, for so long, how you can like it, seek it out, even, follow it, poke around the awesome/odd parts, all without really realizing what it is you're looking at.

So as I start trying to paint some monochrome metal panels in a variety of colors, I can still somehow end up not thinking about Ellsworth Kelly. Which is a mistake.

Spectrum V, metropolitain museum, image via jeffdtaylor

And not just any Ellsworth Kellys, but the Kellys I see most regularly: Spectrum paintings from the late 1960s that anchor both MoMA and the Met. [Jeffrey Taylor's photo on his Tumblr finally set me straight this morning.]

image via patrick-paine

But anyway, Kelly's writing. "Notes of 1969" was first published in a 1980 catalogue at the Stedelijk, and was revised slightly in 1993 for inclusion in Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings in 1996:

The new works were to be objects, unsigned, anonymous.

Everywhere I looked, everything I saw became something to be made, and it had to be exactly as it was, with nothing added. It was a new freedom; there was no longer the need to compose. The subject was there already made, and I could take from everything. It all belonged to me: a glass roof of a factory with its broken and patched panels, lines on a road map, a corner of a Braque painting, paper fragments in the street. It was all the same: anything goes.

I felt that everything is beautiful but that which man tries intentionally to make beautiful, that the work of an ordinary bricklayer is more valid than the artwork of all but a very few artists.

[via Google Books]

I mean, I could have written wish I'd written that yesterday. Except that Kelly wrote it in 1969, and I had no idea about it.

UPDATE: Or maybe I had no idea that's where I got it. In 2009, I was reading Kelly on his early development and his interest in "painting objects," a noun, and the use of fabric for canvas as a "ready-made color":

Another important example of a panel painting that explores the idea of the mural was Red Yellow Blue White (1952). It's the only one I ever did using actual dyed fabric of ready-made colours, which moves the painting into the realm of real objects. It consists of five vertical panels, each with five canvases. The vertical panels are separated on the wall and the intervals of the wall surface between them are part of the painting.
Only, at the time, I was just researching the kind of incredible oddness of an Ellsworth Kelly dress for someone else. 1952, eh, Blinky?

Previously: Dress, 1952, by Ellsworth Kelly??

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Since 2001 here at, 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 that time.

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