Sunday, May 20, 2012

Elias Canetti Notebook Excerpts - 3 of 3

This is the last of three posts of Canetti excerpts, i.e., recordings of the decisions that happened to me.  Post 1 here & 2 here.

From The Agony of Flies

If he had made good use of his time, he never would have amounted to anything. (127)

Whenever he is assaulted by adjectives, he becomes ridiculous. They contain his emotions. (127)

The misfortune of ethics: because it knows everything better, it learns nothing. (129)

How many people Nietzsche inspired with a craving for danger! Then the dangers materialized and they all failed miserably. (147)

Keep things apart, keep sentences separate, or else they turn into colors. (159)

His life is a search for everything that can't be sold. (99)

He collected all opinions to show how few there are. (199)

The desire to stay, a kind of bookkeeping. (227)

From Notes From Hampstead

“Voluptas ex felicitate alieni”
    -Leibniz (ecstacy from the happiness of another)

I have read my old sentences again; they are no longer mine. Since they were printed a piece of my life has fallen away... (83)

A thinker must forget that he is clever, else no matter what the field he will think only about his own cleverness. (84)

We write because we cannot speak out loud to ourselves. Speaking to others leads to the most unpredictable estrangements. (85)

It is necessary that we leave learning alone from time to time, that we put it away, not use it, almost forget it. It is precisely this compulsive quality ...that makes it necessary to let air into it, loosen it, fill it with the breath of years. It can be part of our nature only when it has given up its compulsiveness. (86)

A country where everyone walks backward, to keep an eye on themselves. A country where all turn their backs on one another: fear of eyes.

A labyrinth made of all the paths one has taken.

...the sole criterion of the epic talent: a knowledge of life even at its most horrific, a passionate love for it nonetheless, a love that never despairs, for it is inviolable even in its desperation. (90)

He was so good that no one ever remembered his name. (128)

She kills every man who won't love her. But she also kills every man who does.

“Nothing pleases me more than presenting a totally false picture of myself to those people I have taken into my heart. Perhaps this is unfair, but it is daring and, so, correct.”
    -Robert Walser, “Jakob Von Gunten” (129)

The English expression “I appreciate”: embarrassing. Its tone of “pressure” and “price,” as if one wanted to say, “I will keep pressing till the price is right.” But without the pressure, the price wouldn't mean anything. One of the arrogant expressions of the English language -- in this, the language is inimitable. (139-140)

Poets are unbearable to one another. You have to see them with other people to know what they're like. (141)

“A friend of mine”: one of the greediest English expressions when spoken.... The friend remains indefinite, unnamed; he is private property, protected.  (172)

It is always painful for me when I stop narrating. It is this pain that keeps me alive. (188)

“And that the likes of Shelley, Holderin, and Leopardi perish in misery means nothing; I think very little of such men.”  -Nietzsche (190)

I love the sense of justice Jews demand of people, their patience, often their kindness! But their obedience to the never ending threat of God disgusts me...  Can we stand up against a visible lord if we have no invisible lord?  A trying question. (190)

A writer who doesn't have a wound that's always open is no writer for me. (212)

One who sucks all the poison out of books and administers it to those around him in careful doses. (208)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Aesthetics of Decision

"An aesthetics of decision precedes & grounds cognition and consciousness rather than either of these being grounds or preconditions for any process of decision."

"... for Whitehead, the decision in which private experience culminates is also what makes it public and potentially conscious...  Decision is what makes consciousness, cognition and public relationality possible in the first place.  Feelings or movements of appetition are the basic elements of mentality (aka inwardness or qualitative experience)."

-S. Shaviro

A Transposition.

There is a single transhistorical invariant operative in every attempt to poeticise.  Let's call this the poetic decision.  The structure of decision is a formal syntax governing the possibilities of poetry.  Yet this structure remains unrecognized by poets, precisely because of poetry's hyper-reflexivity that prevents it from identifying its own decisional form.  Decision cannot be grasped reflexively because it is the constitutive element of poeticising.

Since there are no rules for the singular (and unrepeatable) decisions that are involved in every "poetic" event/moment, these decisions are not volunteers.  They don't simply emerge out of chaos - and to the extent that they are new and unrepeatable, they're incompatible with autopoiesis.

[note: the above transposition is a found text at this point.  don't recall how it was constructed. dated 10/24/2009.]

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Cartoons of Hegel

This is not to mention the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, or, more recently, Alain Badiou, who have all kept alive, from very different philosophical positions, the practice of pitting one literary modernism or another against a cartoon of Hegel made to stand in for something like either the rigidness or the insufficient militancy of the French Communist Party. (15) 
   -Chris Nealon, from The Matter of Capital

Serial monogamy
Full stop

But of course this is only the end
Of the beginning

They jumped my bones
One bone at a time

Progression ending with
Uninteresting work

Can't quit ahead of
Whatever you got there

Paris 1968 or
Vancouver 1986

I am thinking the gap
There is no gap

Welcome to the family
Of dominant thought

The most sublime hysteric
Ruined minds of a whole generation

Repulsive charlatan
Trumpeted abroad as immortal wisdom

Serene baritone follows serenest alto
Follows forgotten bass

The tipping point
Is a two-timing adaptation

Severs limbs until fully stopped 

After the aesthetic of the sublime
Art becomes unpleasurable

Molten ingredient parking near paradise
Eating heros and gyros

Hungover bird
In my mouth

Your words here
A loss leader

A self-organized hole
In one

You win
The end

We have eyes
Therefore we cannot see

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Donald Young Interview - 1991 - In Memoriam

In memory of Donald Young (1942-2012) who sadly passed last month, I dug up this old interview (Nov/Dec 91, Reflex v. 5, no. 6) from when he first moved to Seattle.  [Chicago Sun-times obit here. ]

High Art Blows in From the Windy City

The October 3rd opening of the Donald Young Gallery, relocated from Chicago, inaugurated what promises to become an important part of the Seattle art world. Representing internationally renowned artists as well as rising stars, Young hopes to mount seven to eight shows a year. His first season will include at least two group shows and four solo shows. The opening group includes an impressive array of older, more established artists: Artswanger, Baldessari, Federle, Flavin, Judd, Kounellis, LeWitt, Long, Mangold, Nauman, Ruckriem, Ryman, and Serra. The second will feature a younger, more diverse grouping, half-European and half American, including: Rosemary Trockel (Germany); Sophie Calle (France); Tony Cragg (UK); Cristina Iglasias and Susana Solano (Spain); Jana Sterback (Canada via Czechoslovakia); and Chris Burden, Gary Hill, Jeff Koons, Sherry Levine, Martin Puryear, Charles Ray, and Bill Viola (USA). The solo shows will feature: Sol LeWitt’s “New Structures” (opening November 21), German sculptor Ulrich Ruckriem, videographer Bill Viola – which is his first ever gallery show, and sculptor Charles Ray. On October 5th, I spoke with Donald Young about what activates him aesthetically and what role he hopes to play in Seattle’s art community. – RM

Robert Mittenthal: I was somewhat intrigued with your description in New Art Examiner [May 1991] of the kind of support system that might constitute a so-called “major” art community. What similarities and differences do you see in the artistic life of the cities of Chicago in 1976 (when you & Rhona Hoffman opened Young Hoffman Gallery) and Seattle in 1991?

Donald Young: I think it’s difficult to compare the two cities. You’re also talking about a 15-year time difference. When I moved to Chicago in 1976, there had not been any gallery dealing with those exciting ideas of the sixties which by then were already established, almost historical facts. So, it was a question of coming into a major city – with the Art Institute and the history of its collecting families and its other cultural institutions—which had a history of being a serious art city. There was a logical reason why it was worth coming to do something in Chicago.

Seattle today does not have that culture that Chicago had. It has a recent cultural history, and growing successes in different cultural areas and growing recognition in different areas. Chicago is by nature very urban-a gritty, rough city. Seattle is almost like the last frontier of the US, but without the rawness-much less urban. The scale is more human, the pace is slower. In terms of my own career, the mid-70s were really quite a time. Because major figures from the ‘60s had not had a great deal of success in America, it was a very open situation. Here was a new gallery in Chicago, being run by a guy who’d been in the art world for fifteen years by that time. So they were very happy to get involved. And the gallery grew. Fifteen years later, my situation is that of being in an established position working with those people and building on that base with younger artists. So, my situation from the outgo was different and Seattle is very different.

RM: To continue on the idea of city, in the NAE article, you talked about what’s essential to the artistic life of the city, specifically about a range of art galleries from non-profit spaces to museums. It seemed clear that you thought of yourself in the “more established” category, where your role was to “show some of the most important work of our time, work that has been the inspiration for many younger artists.”

DY: Right, I still consider that my role. I don’t intend to change my role here. Having a gallery like mine in Seattle is as valuable as it is in Chicago. I think the way it can help in terms of community is by encouraging interesting artists to come to the city. And once they’re here, working in conjunction with the museums or other institutions, so that these people: could have some contact with the community Beyond that, I don’t know. But the art will be here for anybody to walk in and look at, on a continuous basis.

RM: Aesthetically, there are a lot of things that are consistent with the work in this first show. But I was thinking that someone could easily walk in and ask: “So, what’s wrong with oil painting?” How do you answer that kind of question?  

DY: I think the answer is probably that the ‘60s and 70s were not as much about painting as they were about discovering other areas beyond or besides painting. I think the conceptual leaps are what’s exciting about ... that period. It’s the idea that an artist’s gesture or an artist’s activity is itself art. The idea of art as being something beyond the precious object - that is, put on a pedestal or up on the wall. The idea that art can be something that affects the total environment, that is a part of the environment, that changes it with light, with structure. Those are the exciting things. But there are three painters [Marden, Richter, Polke] who could have been in this first show. I just don’t have the same kind of long-term working relationship with them that enables me to get an important new work for this opening show. So, this show is about my activity. It’s not trying to be a museum show.

RM: In the NAE article, you draw a distinction between the terms “art” and “artistic.” You argue against decorative and/or narrative models from the past – against the sentimental and the nostalgic. This would imply to me a belief in “high” art or in an historical avant-garde, an avant-garde in front of, or some might say “above” the masses. What’s your view of the avant garde?

DY: I believe in the avant-garde, in ideas pushing frontiers, and I don’t mean that’s progress. It just means pushing the perception of things. Creating challenges, pushing us personally to think about things differently, see things differently, that’s what interests me. Storytelling doesn’t interest me. Which doesn’t mean that an artist can’t do interesting work in which there is a story.

RM: Does loyalty to your artists, particularly the Minimalists – Judd, Flavin and LeWitt – who some might say have been doing the same piece for 25 years, ever conflict with your interest in “ideas that challenge existing thinking”? How disruptive are these Minimalist ideas today?

DY: The idea of repetition. In a clear definition of what is original, probably it’s only original the first time you do it. I think an artist has a certain character and a certain personality that is reflected in what he does. I think it would show a lack of character and integrity for an artist to continually change every year. Originality is not change in itself. If an artist is working with an original idea, an interesting idea, repetition may, in fact, give depth to that idea.

RM: It’s been said that even the great composers had only one or two pieces, or things that they did. They used different repetitions and variations In that same kind of serial way.

DY: Right, and there are high points to an artist’s work, obviously. A certain moment of maturity. When you look at the body of an artist’s life-work, there’s always that small group of work which signifies an incredible burst of energy, at a certain moment of thinking. There’s an enormous value sometimes in the later, more mature work, too. For me, that’s not a contradiction. Look at some of the Russian Constructivists – that work in the 1920s is mind boggling. History has not made it less interesting.

RM: You can always argue that the Minimalist’s works are disruptive in different kinds of ways than they used to be. They can still be disruptive measured against contemporary culture by making those repetitions

DY: . But it’s not disrupting in the same way that it was. The effect it has is different today. No artist working today can work without being aware of what happened in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It’s such a fundamental part of our art language now, our way of seeing art. To see the actual work is important. It shouldn’t just be something in a book. But those are not the only things I’m involved with. Obviously, I’m interested in new ideas.

RM: That’s clear from the show in January. About Jeff Koons, I understand he’s supposed to be in that show. I’ve always thought of him as someone who wouldn’t be as interesting if work wasn’t successfully being sold. I think the money actually fuels a critique of the art economy. By representing him, do you ever think about this or are you ever self-conscious of the way you’re participating in how the art works its way into culture?

DY: Jeff Koons is an unusual case which really sets him apart from the other artists of his generation. It’s not that anything he does in itself is that original, but he takes an idea to an extreme which nobody could conceive of doing and even if they would conceive of doing it, they would never do it. It’s one idea to take a kitsch object and make it into a collectable. You can do it, you can take the object and put it on a stand and say now it’s art. In 20th century art, we’ve already dealt with that idea of changing the context of something, Duchamp etc. It becomes a work of art because the artist says it is, because it changes the context. But here he takes, a kitsch object, which may exist in plastic. He gives it to the finest craftsmen in woodcarving in the world; who normally make church ornaments... [Or] he goes to the finest porcelain makers in Europe and he gets them to make a pig!

RM: What do think of the situation where he’s in the lawsuit about using a postcard without getting permission from the photographer? 

DY: I think the whole thing is nonsense. The only reason this photographer is suing him is because he heard he made some money. As far as I’m concerned, if you do a postcard and publish it, it becomes public visual material. Everybody has access to it. What we see out there has got to be available for an artist to work with. It’s not like they went and took that photograph out of his file...  If you change something from a photograph into a three-dimensional object, it’s a completely different medium.

RM: There’s a blind lawyer who specializes in copyright law. I thought he would be perfect for representing Koons, since he can say:, this piece is completely different.

DY: When he did those images using liquor advertising, he went to the advertising companies and got the original color negatives. He used that as his original material, he didn’t change it.

RM: Going back to the Minimalists. Originally, their work was perceived as being political in the sense that it rejected abstract expressionism. How do you think commodification affects political content?

DY: The formal conceptual ideas of the ‘60s were not political. They were art-political. It did not come out of any social consciousness. But it was definitely a reaction. Abstract expressionism was out of Europe. It still is really the end of European art. Pop art and the formal conceptual ideas of the late ‘60s were really the first break in that tradition, that basically French tradition of painting.

RM: What theory and/or art history do you read?  

DY: I don’t think of myself as an art intellectual if that’s what you mean. I learn by looking and experiencing. I don’t spend a great deal of time reading art-theory, but obviously I do read a certain amount of it and I am aware of different currents – deconstruction or whatever. For me the most valuable thing is the continual experiencing of art and that, I feel, is my value as an art dealer – the fact that I do see a lot. I compare a lot.  

RM: Here’s a question I cringe at having to ask, but I think people are wondering what minorities and women you represent. I know that you represent Martin Puryear, Rosemary Trockel, and perhaps Susana Solano?

DY: Well, Martin Puryear is a black artist, but you see I’ve never chosen art based on having some sort of social-political mix. I don’t think art is about that. That’s not my job. My job is to find ,the most interesting ideas and present them. I really don’t give a shit about whether it’s made by a woman or by an Oriental or a Black or by a Caucasian or an Indian. That is completely irrelevant to me and it should be to everyone else. I’m not in the business of trading personalities or people.

The artists I represent, most of them in fact, are completely against any sort of public contact. They really want to get on with their work and do their work and they want their work to speak for them. Most of them are not good speakers. A lot of them avoid social contact. Socially, there is no question that it was more difficult, for certain of what we call today minorities, to be included in the art mainstream. But I really don’t believe that’s true anymore. I think what’s· really interesting is the difference between this first show which represents the ‘60’s and ‘70s and the next [group] show which represents the artists from the ‘70s on, is that the second show will have over a third women. But this is not a political gesture on my part to say, you have to have more women in the gallery or you have to include all the minorities.

RM: So, it’s just coincidental that there are women among those artists making the art you’re interested in.

DY: I think that society’s attitude towards women making art has changed also. So, there’s no question that it’s been easier. There are women who would have fit into this first show – Eva Hesse is certainly as interesting as many of the artists here, but she’s dead. And I never worked with her, so it’s not a possibility. Louise Bourgeois is an interesting artist but she doesn’t fit in with this context. She’s not from this context. Who are the other [female] artists of that generation? There weren’t very many.

RM: That scarcity has been used as an argument against the Minimalists, at least the original ones.

DY: But today, there’s art that has social and political content. You have a whole string of artists: Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman – she could be in the second show. A lot of the strongest social commentary is coming from women artists today. But they’ve been accepted, they cannot say they have not been accepted. I really don’t think there’s any prejudice on that level today.

RM: Do you represent buyers in any way that is similar to the way you represent artists?

DY: It’s a strange thing being a dealer with living artists because you represent the artist and you have a responsibility to the artist. But you also have responsibility towards the collectors because you’re presenting to them that this work has a validity. And I’m not talking about investment value. I’m talking about a purely artistic point. And so, there are two things: one – is the artist valid, secondly – is this particular work valid within the artist’s work. Not everything an artist does is great even by a great artist. So, that can be a conflict sometimes. And it’s something that’s not always easy to do. But the bottom line is if you believe in an artist, you have to support their work.

RM: I was actually thinking that it might be more like “placing” than selling.

DY: Yeah, but that’s the strange thing. We’ve talked about its value to the community and to other artists-its educational value. But on the other hand, I can only keep the business going by selling. I have no funding from the state, city or from any individuals or from an entry fee, so I have to sell, So, in a strange way it’s a service business which is funded by selling. Unlike other galleries whose only motive is really selling, to have an object that’s salable.

RM: But all galleries have a social function in the community.

DY: I’m not saying they don’t have social function but that their driving force, their motivation is to show artists that sell. And so they pick artists based on whether they think they can sell them. Which is very reasonable retail marketing.

RM: So if you weren’t able to sell the art that you like, that you’re interested in, you wouldn’t be in business?

DY: That’s true.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

To Say To See

      -for Nico

Please lowercase and fire
My thumbs come to hang me
The stumblebum lost
A serial career in the mode
Of how to say - to see

How did that song go
O that his beauty remarks
On the color sky - words are such
A tougher guy

I must find the plane
That finds me
Open air to where trust
Or the risk of such counters

It moves away
It from writing away


Is a shark in
A body costume

The man
See him go

As emotion
As robbery

What in the other's time

As what words
Might sing

Them then
Swinging down toward your gait

Measured in what is
The meat in the sandwich

Past and