Yoav Sivan and The Restroom of King Francis
By Eli Epstein-Deutsch
posted: 06-13-11
Image Source

Yoav Sivan is not primarily an installation artist, but rather a journalist, who recently graduated from the Columbia Journalism School and has written about politics and gay rights for the Huffington Post, The Guardian, Haaretz and Moment Magazine. But he recently decided to enter the conceptualist fray, attempting the subtle science of the Duchampian homage, with suitably mixed results:

As detailed on his website, Sivan submitted a work entitled the Restroom of King Francis to the Salon des Independants, er, rather, to the Columbia Arts Initiative's sponsored exhibition at Lincoln Center. The submission appears to have consisted of the idea to construct two rooms: one a urinal-filled men's room with a Mona Lisa hanging on the wall (perhaps mustachio'd in the fashion of L.H.O.O.Q); the other, a replica of the Louvre hall that contains the Mona Lisa, only with a replica of Duchamp's urinal hanging next to it.) The title is an allusion to Leonardo Da Vinci's principal patron, the noted humanist who sadly did not live quite long enough to witness the genesis of the flush toilet.

In his web post, Sivan emphasizes the strategic elements of an institutional art submission. He rightly compares the original staging of the R.Mutt-inscribed Fountain submission to a chess game in which the moves were carefully arranged. Furthermore, in his account of Duchamp's original proffering of the urinal, Sivan puts forward the coordinates of what he calls a "Duchamp experiment, played according to the rules, but in which a player attempts to alter the rules of evaluation that apply to the player himself."

In general I think this is a good way of putting it, and it would be a worthy task to try to identify further Duchamp games as they might exist in the world: or where in fact they could be played in the future and under what conditions. Yet I think it may be open question whether Sivan played one himself: as he noted, the Columbia Arts Initiative dutifully rejected his submission to exhibit at Lincoln Center.

Given the subject matter, Columbia's rejection could well be burnished as a credential for the work. On the other hand, what truly allowed Duchamp to execute a flanking manouvre in his particular game was the fact that he himself sat on the board of the Salon; therefore upon the "rejection" of the urinal he was able to call attention to it by resigning (and had his avant-garde friends write eloquent protests in his favor). Sivan, it could seem, has no similar recourse. And in any case, it's not quite obvious what the significance of Columbia's rejection is. Are they not radical enough? Too radical? What did they even promise to do under their own rules?

On yet another hand (now we have three hands), Sivan may have outflanked Columbia from the other side. This has to do with the intersection between space, value and virtuality, a theme which Sivan's work specifically questions. More concretely: what is at stake in having a specific artwork appear in a specific physical space? What is the value, to pick a wild example, of having an object appear at Lincoln Center, stamped with the Columbia Arts Initiative imprimatur?

(post to be continued: stay tuned)

Like toutfait on  Facebook,   Follow us on  Twitter

Concrete Utopia, and a poem from the Editor
By Eli Epstein-Deutsch
posted: 06-11-11
whither utopia?
Image Source

Concrete Utopia, a "collaborative project space" in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is emerging as an intriguing site for the examination of the legacy of 19th and 20th Century aesthetic and political discourses; though it is also, of course, squarely forward-looking. Their current show (and print publication), "I'm not a good enough feminist," grapples with the theory, history, and future of the feminist movement. I generally appreciate C.U.'s eagerness to combine artistic production with activism and earnest intellectual debate, along with the current trend they inhabit of breaking down borders between space, text, object, idea and mission. Increasingly there's a sense that an artistic product worth its salt should be able to traverse at least all five.

C.U.'s founding event was a call for riffs and variations on the classic Avant-Garde theme of the Manifesto, a dying art once much beloved by Communists, Futurists, Dadaists, Situationists, and the semi-fictional Necronautical Society.

I submitted a poem (in homage or contestation of Asger Jorn's scathing remark about socialist realism,) "one can only identify accidentally with a poor woman buying fish."


(Rethinking Synthesis) A Call To Really Invent Socialist Realism, on the Anniversary of Asger Jorn:


One can identify only accidentally with a poor Brooklynite buying fish.

One can identify only accidentally….

One must only identify with the accident of buying fish.

With the accidental Brooklyn of fish-buying and identity.

The identity of fish and the identity of buying.

Can each be properly identified? With…what?

Brooklynites, countrymen, fish, we must strive for the total unity of identity and accident.

With the total marketization of Brooklyn we must buy identities like fish to proclaim them an accident.

Unos Dos Tres Fulminates against Yi Er San

Hieroglyphs will kick the shit out of Cyrillic

Ideograms won’t know what hit them

With the total marketization of Babel we must make all textual systems fight to the death in Brooklyn

 Think of the rarefied European thought systems that fed Marx and then think of what it would be like to be a poor peasant in Brooklyn told that even the accident of buying fish 

is an identification, an assertion of identity.

Can you identify with this?

You must, and it will raise a red flag.

We must, or it will raise the death of Brooklyn

Re: the death of Babylon.

A grave accident.

A fish graveyard.

A transcendental accident that makes a unity of buying and identity.

A Re-Babelization of buying that makes the market into poetry

A re-concretization of transcendence that makes poetry into fish

Ich Ni San will bitch-slap Aleph Gimmel Hay

Marx will grow leery

Of Concrete Utopia

Teach a fish to fish, we proclaim.

And you will have fish for life




Like toutfait on  Facebook,   Follow us on  Twitter

Cow Clicker: a Fountain for a New Generation of Online Gaming?
By Maria Goldverg
posted: 06-08-11
Screenshot of Spring from Bogost's chapbook, A Slow Year
Image Source

Previously on, we posed this question: whether Marx remains inescapable to the formulations of subversion fundamental to the survival of an avant-garde in the present day. Certainly, structuring a leftist mode of critical thought in an era, no longer modern and no longer even post-modern and increasingly defined by the reaches of interconnectivity and globalization, poses numerous difficulties. What, for instance, truly belongs in the scope of the avant-garde? And can an avant-garde retain its potency in both intention and practice? Fortunately, however, we can still find reminders that proto-Marxist investigations are as paramount today as they have been during the last century. And avant-gardists lurk in the least expected spaces.

Ian Bogost, professor from Georgia Tech, is responsible for creating the increasingly popular and beguiling new Facebook game--Cow Clicker, "a game about Facebook games." The game's premise is comically simple. Every six hours the player must 'click' on a cow to receive points. These points can later be exchanged for a differently colored cow or other 'rewards' of a similar nature. There is no distinct end to gameplay. There is nothing for the player to accomplish, only an endless string of clicks to look forward to. Yes. It is meta; but, it is also the latest cultural object to put all objects of it's kind to shame, e.g. Farm Ville--another Facebook game that, according to Bogost, offers no challenges and charges very real bank accounts for ultimately worthless hours.

Not only does Bogost take pleasure in composing 'chapbooks' of so called 'game poems,' which are, in fact, video games, written in a retro aesthetic for consoles that prefer small file sizes such as the now near extinct Atari. Size is important to Bogost, primarily be size of his insistence on personally controlling every aspect of these poems' production. And this is exactly what poesis entails. A poet, by his being a poet, cannot be a laborer. And Bogost's games do not fall within the latter of Arendt's capitalist work-time / entertainment-time paradigm. It is perhaps, in this, that Cow Clicker shares a quality of avant-gardist insurrection with Duchamp's Fountain (1917).

Timothy Morton, English professor at UC Davis, recently blogged on the supposed parallel between Fountain and Cow Clicker. The latter, he writes, "is working with much more basic elements of human and to that extent it's much more sophisticated." He may be right. But, in any case, both men set out to crack a joke at the expense of a dominant institution they believe to be hollow and destitute of meaning. Bogost advertises his app (it costs $0.99) with this introduction:

"Cow Clicker Moobile lets you click your cow on the moove. Just open it up and click your cow every six hours on your iDevice. Want to click more often? No problem, just make sure your Cow Clicker account is engorged with mooney and skip your click timer right from the app! ...

...Attention collectors! When you buy Cow Clicker Moobile, you'll get amspecial, limited-edition cow after your first click. You can obtain it by purchasing this app!"

Bogost's appealing, even endearing, line of criticism stems from the seemingly inescapable fact that despite our best efforts at interrogating our socio-economic environment, we remain endlessly gratified and mystified by the value-less "click" through the tundra of the Internet: " Maybe it takes a ridiculous cow game to remind us just how weird modern life has become, and how easily we've adopted our newfound home beyond the looking glass."

Like toutfait on  Facebook,   Follow us on  Twitter

The God-Trap in the Young European Landscape
By Eli Epstein-Deutsch
posted: 06-05-11
photograph by Mary Prager

"The Young European Landscape", an upcoming exhibition at the Galerie Wolfsen Aalborg D.K. to be curated by Uwe Goldstein, aims to revive the landscape genre as a "framework for the reception, coordination and mirroring of our present-day lifeworld," with painting, photography and sculptural works by Gabor A. Nagy, Franziska Klotz Peter Hampel, Mirjam Siefiert and others.

One subsection, "Into the Wild" focuses on "wilderness as a utopian space, marked by a certain accommodation of post-romantic longings for oneness and unity with nature," but none the less sidesteps nostalgia to contend inescapably with a cultural order immersed in "a maelstrom of contingent information," in which transcendence is always-already blocked.

One can thus perceive the continued relevance of the seemingly outdated Romantic form: think of Caspar David Friedrich's Monk by the Sea for instance, which Heinrich Von Kleist famously said made the viewer feel as "as if one's eyelids had been cut away."; the "monotony" and "boundlessness" of that foggy plane appear with a subliminity that can perhaps be recaptured in the apprehension of our vertiginous, multipolar age.

The Young European Landscape definitely aims at just this sort of heavy project; on the other hand it is lightened with a dose of existentialist wit. This is most prominent in Horst Waigel's God Trap, a whimsical, vaguely Fluxus style send-up of the notion of locating God in nature (producing an effect similar to making a cut-up collage out of a Ralph Waldo Emerson essay). All ingredients for producing the God Trap are given in Waigel's installation, which also contains instructions.

Suffice it to say the the contraption involves a "reversed soup ladle" a fully charged Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner, such "bait" as a Jesus figurine, a hip-flask, and "money." Eventually, God is somehow supposed to be caught in the dreams of your cat via the trap, vacuumed up with the Dirt Devil, and uploaded to the Internet.

Please try this at home.

Like toutfait on  Facebook,   Follow us on  Twitter

Does the Avant-Garde Need Marx?
By Eli Epstein-Deutsch
posted: 06-03-11
Karl Who?
Image Source

It's official: Marx is back. At least that seems to be an increasingly acceptable veiwpoint within mainstream, English-speaking intellectual circles that would've not so long ago viewed the great 19th Century economic and political thinker as no more than a passe obsession of the Cold War era, a fetish of sheltered English departments in the ivoriest of ivory towers (about as relevant to contemporary economics as Freud is to cognitive psychology), or a dubious authority to be appropriated in piecemeal fashion by scholars who would never associate themselves with the totality of Marx's critical vision.

In a recent article for the London Review of Books, "How Much Is Too Much," on the subject of "Marx's Return," Benjamin Kunkel reviewed several books by David Harvey. He's the geographer and political theorist whose recent book, "The Enigma of Capital," placed Marxist economic interpretations at the center of analyzing global Capital's contemporary crises.

Harvey, long a favorite of leftist social scientists, has spent the last several decades documenting globalization, postmodernism, and class warfare with the methodology of Das Kapital always in mind. He has an unusual ability to present Marx's work in non-jargony terms that seem relevant to our current, neoliberal zeitgeist. If there is anyone whose work might be able to bridge the po-mo chasm to a new, broadly populist Marxist mood, I might put my money on Harvey.

How is all this relevant to the Avant-Garde? The relation between Marxism and the historical 20th Century Avant-Gardes was always complex. Or, at the very least, it certainly wasn't as straightforward as it appeared in some of its most influential theorizations, especially Peter Burger's Theory of the Avant-Garde and Clement Greenberg's "Avant-Garde and Kitsch." For one thing, Italian Futurism, which clearly stands as one of  the core, seminal Avant-Garde movements, is often left out of these left-wing accounts due to its ultimate alliance with Fascism, rather than Marxism. Thus, art-historical analyses are often oversimplified.

But it is true that the possiblities of anti-bourgeois politics in the first part of the 20th century are inextricable from the appeal and power of those early Avant-Gardes, from Constructivist attempts to build a genuinely modern, proletarian art form, to Futurist attacks on traditional cultural elites, to the anti-commodity Dada provocations of Tristan Tzara, an avowed Communist. The Surrealist and Marxist movements had distinct affinities which nonetheless failed to coalesce into an outright allegiance (as was so often the case with the left), as the Fascists moved to consolidate power in Europe.

Today, of course, any theoretical connection between a revivial of Marxism and artistic avant-Gardism is yet more tenuous and problematic: this is especially due to the cultural backdrop widely known as postmodernism in which (as David Harvey well articulates in one or two places) artistic and sexual experimentation and provocation has been largely permitted and embraced by Capital as a pillar of the neo-liberal superstructure, especially in financial and cultural centers like New York City.

Any way forward for the Avant-Garde that might be specifically coupled to the possibilities of left-wing politics is therefore that much more difficult to envision, to say nothing of practice. Although, at core, the concept of a natural connection between Marxism and Avant-Gardism still seems sound. Always, and perhaps now more than ever, global Capital relies on a "phantasmic supplement..." a collective "illusory" or "religious" faith in the essential worth of its institutions and values (such as the faith in the value of money) to function. The fact that Capital has been able to thus far co-opt the challenging and undermining of these institutions by the Avant-Gardes and others is no absolute guarantee that it will be able to continue to do so in the future. Even less is it a guarantee that no gestures of creative, calculated contempt for the bourgeois life-world remain that would appear, in themselves, as Art.

Like toutfait on  Facebook,   Follow us on  Twitter

Back to list
First   Prev |   Pages : 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30   | Next   Last  
© is published by Art Science Research Laboratory. All Rights Reserved.      RSS