Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New art and it's Assimilation into Institutions

These past few weeks I have been studying net.art. Here is an article that I wrote discussing whether or not net.art ought to be curated. If you read my earlier post about the Guggenheim's show "Youtube Play" you may remember that I do not think net.art is conceptually strong when placed in an institution. Accessibility at the price of authenticity is inappropriate curatorial practice.

For those who still may not fully grasp what net.art is here is a snippet from my article:

"A common mistake made discussing net.art is assuming all images and video posted to the Internet qualify. Because the Mona Lisa, along with the rest of the Louvre’s collection, are posted online does not make it net.art. The second common mistake made is believing works that deal with the internet as its subject fulfills the requirement of being net.art. Nonetheless, net.art is posted online and its subject often is a discussion of the internet. Specifically net.art’s main strengths include its immateriality, 'interactivity, connectivity, variability… and the participatory and time-based nature of the works.' Credited as being one of the first net.art pieces My Boyfriend Came Back From the War, 1996, by Olia Lialina, provides an example of how a piece, beyond just being posted to the internet, effectively uses the aforementioned strengths."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Compassionate Objectivity? A Postcolonial Question

I am currently reading excerpts from Five Centuries of British Painting: From Holbein to Hodgkin by Andrew Wilton for Dr. Magleby's 18th C. Grand Tour seminar. In a caption on page 84 for George Stubbs' painting, A Cheetah and Stag with Two Indians, 1765, the author states: "The men are painted with the compassionate objectivity that Stubbs brought to all of his subjects."

As we discussed postcolonial theory in ARTHC 300 on Thursday, and I have been reading a lot of postcolonial theory for a paper I am writing, this statement really made me think. Is it even possible for a white, upper middle class, male, British painter in the 18th C. to objectively portray men from India? In any time period how can someone so ingrained with a Western mentality ever portray men from India with objectivity? Why is his objectivity "compassionate?" To me, there is something even problematic about the use of the word "compassionate" ....

I am really curious - what does everyone else think? Is it possible for an artist with a Western perspective to portray those outside of that perspective objectively?

Personally, I think the portrayal is definitely not one of the most problematic depictions of the East by a European artist, however, I really think it is impossible for any one to portray another culture, or people from that culture, objectively - and I certainly think that Stubbs' painting is not an objective portrayal.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Good bye, Golden Age

Last week my little sister called to tell me she had sent me an article clipping from the Wall Street Journal. She had zoned in the piece it because it was about art, but knew nothing about the content of the article. When I got the letter and opened it up, I found a review of the Palmer Museum's (at Penn State University) show "Taxing Visions: Financial Episodes in Late Nineteenth-Century American Art." You can read the review here. This was SO apropos (for both my own studies and the WSJ).

I am currently in a transatlantic art seminar in which we have been studying the work of Golden Age artists like Whistler and Sargent. There is copious literature about high price bidding wars, artistic speculation, and tariffs on French paintings. However, as this article reminds us, it was a period in which millionaires were both made and broken.

The show, review, and my recent research has clued me into a recent trend of historians, critics, and curators looking at art as it interacts with economic markets. Influenced by Marxist theory, this new art history at times (as in the Palmer exhibit) highlight conspicuous absences, but it also views art in terms of the culture of commodity trading. (For an example see Laura Meixner's "Gambling with Bread"
Monet, Speculation, and the Marketplace available here; be forewarned, Meixner deals with a considerable amount of stock market jargon.) I find it fascinating the way in which scholarship is responding to contemporary crises. I know that art never operates outside of its cultural context, but this is the first time I remember it being so overt. Also, this is the first time I have been knowledgeable enough to recognize the subsequent change in scholarship. I wonder if the increasing interest in less traditional mediums (like graffiti art and video) is also being fanned by the decrease in funding for traditional forms?

Back to the Palmer. The only issue I had with the review was the comment, "Fortunately, the exhibition itself is not depressing, for as the catalog notes, artists knew that their paintings could not be too "squalid," or they would not sell," which makes me wonder if the gravity of the crises is sometimes glossed over in an attempt not to be "depressing." Like it or not, there are victims and lessons to be learned. Although, I can also appreciate that being depressed serves no greater good, and that perhaps even those most adversely affected appreciate the infusion of hope.

The reviewer's final statement is the perfect response to these issues, the exhibit and current scholarship: "For its size—about 30 academically informed, narrative paintings and a few etchings, including one of beggars by Mr. Whistler—this exhibition covers a lot, indeed too much, ground. . . Perhaps that is because the show itself was the victim of the current recession. Originally, it was conceived as an exhibit of about 70 works, with a catalog—now about 75 pages—longer by 200 pages. Shrunken by the times, it's quirky and uneven, but it does remind viewers of this neglected genre of American art." What is your take? Do you see parallels between contemporary art/scholarship and 19th century/current economic situations? How can the turn of the last century inform our perceptions of the present?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Youtube "plays" the Guggenheim... by Spencer Twelmeyer

In New York this past week, on October 22, the Guggenheim held the first biennial for creative video. The event, "Youtube Play", was streamed live to an online audience and the Guggenheim itself acted as canvas for the projected videos to be viewed. The jurors for the show included such notables as Douglas Gordon, Shirin Neshat, Laurie Anderson and Nancy Spector. The 25 finalists selected can be found here.

These videos are pretty great but I question the concept/motivation of the Guggenheim on this one. Was this a corporate promotional event branding Youtube as a legitimate stage for fine art? If so, I think that this event was more for the establishment than it was for the artists. I am not denying how well the Guggenheim executed the event. It is because the event was so polished that I take issue with its authenticity. To hear more of this argument, the Guggenheim as marketing minded, read Tyler Green's article discussing "pay-for-play."