Monday, September 19, 2011


Karin Sander: Chicken's Egg, Polished, Raw, 1994

Perhaps the practice of artists whose work constantly changes
may turn out to be a non-practice, a patient waiting for the next
idea to arrive. Perhaps such artists need to return, again and again,
to the waiting state, to a kind of hovering or abstention from
thought and activity, in a practice of availability.

If that is the case, then they may not be so far from artists of
the single road as may appear. Emptiness, or inactivity, will
be their continuity. Their loyalty to a silence between works
may be as constant as the commitment to a single project.

Both sets of artists will be opposed to development, to a
recognition of work and self retrieved through narrative.

Perhaps there are artists whose practice is to wait without
expectation. Perhaps their commitment is as much to
the interval between works as to the works. But this is
mere speculation...

Karin Sander: 1:10 - 3D body scan figures of actual
persons, on a scale of 1:10.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

a different duration

Daniel Buren, Les couleurs: sculptures, 1977,
white and green, on the main pole of the Bazar
de l'Hotel de Ville.

"Holding onto a point means exposing the individual
animal that one is to becoming the subject of the
consequences of this point. It means incorporating
oneself into the construction of these consequences,
into the subjective body that they gradually constitute
in our world. In this way, we construct, in the
temporality of opinion, a different duration, distinct
from that which we have been driven into by
the symbolization of the state."

"If there is not such a point, then the only liveable
(or survivable) outcome is the most abject
submission to reality. We find ourselves here in a
Lacanian dialectic, between the Real and reality.
If nothing punctures a hole in reality, if nothing is
an exception to it, if no point can be held on to for
its own sake whatever it costs, then there is only
the reality and submission to this reality, what
Lacan called 'the service of wealth'."

          - Alain Badiou, "The Meaning of Sarkozy"

Friday, September 9, 2011

Working in series

In his famous essay, ‘Three American Painters’ from 1965, Michael Fried notes that contemporary modernist painters often work in series, and he speculates as to why this might have become an appealing way of making art.

It provides a “context of mutual elucidation” for the individual paintings constituting the series, he explains. If a viewer sees a number of works “which represent essentially the same approach to the same formal issue”, then it makes the issue much easier to understand. But it also allows you to register the differences, bringing “out the particular expressive intonation of each.”

Frank Stella, installation at Leo Castelli Gallery, 1960

Frank Stella, installation at Leo Castelli Gallery, 1964

Kenneth Noland, installation at Andre Emmerich Gallery, 1967

Philip Fisher draws on this passage in his book Making and Effacing Art, in order to make an observation about the arbitrariness of museum display. Emphasizing that an individual work of art always has the potential to be presented out of context in a modern gallery, he uses Fried’s remark to suggest that for many contemporary artists, it is the series that has become “the basic unit of work.”

“In the precise, dated series the painter rules out the surrounding chaos by supplying the context, the commentary of neighbors, for the no-longer-intelligible single work. He creates whole sections of history at once, not pictures for the whims of history to supply antecedents and descendants for. In viewing such a sequence a striking effect occurs. Once only one picture exists at any instant as a picture, the others are temporarily explication, frame, and criticism. The power of the series lies in the skill with which each picture can exchange roles; now a sensory experience, exhaustively commented on by the rest of the series; a moment from now, part of the explication for one of the other pictures. In the series we reach an authentic clarity of the part, the smallest detail of any structure comes in time to replicate the form of the whole: the series is not art, but a miniature art history.”

This comment is useful in highlighting the extraordinary care that many artists who have produced a life-long series of works have shown in regulating the terms of their reception. 

For instance Roman Opalka was exceptionally scrupulous in setting up an “optimum installation” for his paintings, or Details, as he calls them. Not merely satisfied with fashioning his oeuvre into one integrative, serial whole, he supplemented the displayed paintings with sound recordings, and with his photographs.

From 1994 onwards, he went even further, and began to experiment with modifying the architecture of the exhibition space itself, resulting in what he named Octagons. In his ideal installation, the octagon would be a cellular, freestanding structure that would be erected inside a museum. It would consist of seven walls, with the eighth being the point of entry, and would be used to display seven Details. The space would be lit from above and below, and, in one essay, he stated that in addition to a guard, only seven visitors should be allowed inside the octagon at any one time.

Roman Opalka's Octagon at Musée d'Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne, 2006

Ad Reinhard’s ‘outline for a book’ is arguably even more exacting than Opalka’s desire for a meditative Gesamtkunstwerk. He extends his desire to control the terms of his paintings’ reception by intervening directly in the discourse of art history. His plan was to write a comprehensive and definitive book on art that would provide the most sympathetic context possible for approaching his ‘black’ paintings.

(Click on image to view in full)