ASRL / PERPETUAL 2014
 
Reappraising Rodin's Work at the Musee Rodin
By Maria Goldverg
posted: 05-18-11
The Kiss, Auguste Rodin, 1889
Image Source


About a week ago an exhibit on modernist French sculptor Auguste Rodin opened at the eponymous Musee Rodin in Paris. As beautiful and monumental as Rodin's work may be, the appeal of the show lies as much in the fresh approach its curators have undertaken to shed a new critical light on the artist's legacy as it does in its scope: the Musee's press release cites their mission as being a "reappraisal" that "stems from the work of critics, art historians, and curators who have introduced the public to an enriched oeuvre by including the plasters, fragmentary figures and assemblages" and it will display approximately 100 larger sculptures and fragments of assemblages found among the detritus of Rodin's studio and 40 pieces by contemporary and modernist artists such as the previously noted Urs Fischer, Jean Arp, Sophie Ristelhueber, and our personal favorite here—Marcel Duchamp.

Rodin's life and work has consistently suffered the scrutiny of a historical analytic, often within the context of the academy's rejection of much of his work: his insistence on privileging the natural and individual form was always met with disapproval within arts institutions and his is commonly remembered for his persistent clashes with traditional tastes, forms, and symbols. For instance, his sculpture of the young soldier, Auguste Neyt, in "The Age of Bronze" was falsely accused of being actually sculpted from molds taken of the model. Resisting the constrictions and determinacy of a diachronic framework—one that would insist on establishing his relevance within the particular situation of his time—this particular exhibit seeks to permit its visitors "to choose their own way around and form their own free associations."

Click "Source" below for more detailed information on the museum's site.

...Source
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And the Avant-Garde Gesture of the Micro-Epoch Belongs to: You?
By Eli Epstein-Deutsch
posted: 05-16-11
Try this at home.
Image Source

When I think back on the past several years, as to whether there was any artist who came forward with a move that resonated in that the-world-before-and-after, you-can-only-do-it-once sort of way (like say, Duchamp's submission of a urinal to the Salon Des Independants): well, the only thing that really jumps to mind is Urs Fischer's excavation of the entire floor of the Gavin Brown Enterprise gallery. The massive crater he produced out of a piece of pricey NY real estate (an exhibit entitled "You"), and the corollary threat of at least disorientation, and possibly bodily harm it presented to any potential visitor, had an air of the pure, sexy media stunt to be sure.  But mixed in it was a punk's menacing sneer, and a subversive spark of Zen: the refusal to comply with the fundamental presuppositions of the cultural game, and present a piece of the void instead. And it made for an oddly sublime image...

If anyone's topped that since, well, who was it? In my book, You's the thing to beat.

...Source
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Fluxus, the Sprightly Godchild of Duchamp, Retrospectivized at Dartmouth
By Eli Epstein-Deutsch
posted: 05-15-11
Helmet/Sky Puzzles, Yoko Ono, 2006
Image Source


Fluxus, the sprightly Godchild of Duchamp, has endless quantities of material around that will keep scholars and enthusiasts of conceptualism, antics, hijinks, and the general dada spirit busy for many years to come. A new exhibit at Dartmouth's Hood Museum: "Fluxus and the Essential Questions of Life," presents a fair swath of the witty, irreverent output of this 1960's and '70's neo-Avant-Garde.

Fluxus works are like philosophic miniatures: very small pieces of really large questions about self, nothingness, art, everyday life and religion. An empty wine bottle is labeled "God." A painting is placed on the floor, inviting viewers to step on it (and there is plenty of dimly lit Baroque portraiture I would truly enjoy grinding a hiking boot over).

This last work is Yoko Ono's, who happens to be among my favorite Fluxus artists. I went to an exhibit at the ICA in Philadelphia which had a phone on the wall with text underneath suggesting that Yoko called it once every several weeks. I was disconsolate when it didn't ring while I was there. Then, two weeks later, a man in Manhattan's Lower East Side handed me a card with a hole cut out in it. He said that Yoko Ono wanted me to look, really look, at the sky through that hole. Somehow, this was redemptive.

We haven't convered Fluxus much so far at MarcelDuchamp.net, but that should change. Got something interesting to say about Fluxus? Write to us and let us know.

 

...Source
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Markopoulos, Late Doyen of Avant-Garde Film To Have Final "Tenemos"
By Eli Epstein-Deutsch
posted: 05-14-11
A young Markopoulos: before his disappearance.
Image Source

In Paul Auster's novel, the Book of Illusions, a silent movie star pulls a disappearing act after a terrible personal tragedy, and ends up at a secret location making genre-bending, rule-breaking films (which he would subsequently order burned Kafkaesquely). Later, a grief-struck scholar gets pulled into an obsessive quest to unearth the truth of the actor's life.

Subtract some of the truly soap-operatic drama and the silent bit, and Auster's narrative has definite parallels to the strange tale of Gregory Markopoulos, one of the most prolific and celebrated avant-garde filmmakers of the 20th Century.


As related by Princeton Visual Arts scholar P. Adams Sitney at the American Academy in Berlin last Thursday, Markopolous's career was marked by the paradox of feverish invention and production on the one hand, and radically stingy distribution on the other. The bulk of Markopoulos's tremendous output of films is not widely available. This paradoxical situation was brought about, intentionally, by Markopoulos himself, and his partner Robert Beaver.

After they moved back to Greece, leaving the U.S., the country that had most eagerly embraced Markopolous's intricate poetics and innovative, erotic visual language (and offered one of the first art-film faculty posts at the Art Institute of Chicago), the duo refused to allow distribution of Makropoulos's films in North America and went to court to prevent Professor Sitney from including an essay on Markopoulos in reprintings of his  anthology of film scholarship. This is despite the fact that Markopoulos had himself published widely on cinematic theory in  top International journals. Thus, Markopoulos has, to say the least, faded from the annals of household culture that retain the names Bergman, Goddard and Tarkovsky, despite the Greek auteur's vast contributions to his field.

Sitney related a few anecdotes from Markopoulos's bio that might help account for the cineaste's wary, hermetic behavior: one of his early directing projects, Serenity, for instance, was very nearly sabotaged by an Italian producer running a genuine The Producers-style accounting scheme. The producer would send him a camera with the sound not working, or actors that never showed up; for each attempted sabotage Sitney said, Markopolous would innovate a workaround that contributed to his groundbreaking style: labyrinthine superimposed/nested shots, shots separated by anticipatory darkness, uncanny unpeopled spaces and flickering landscapes. Later, the film reel was stolen, and Markopoulos's avant-garde debut showed up as a bastardized, watered down product at an Italian festival, forever instilling him with a cynicism about mass modes of distribution. HIs stint teaching at the Art Institute of Chicago, where his classes were packed with poor Markopoulos imitators, instilled him with cynicism about academia, and perhaps art institutions in general.

After retiring to Greece, Markopoulos came up with an idea to circumvent mass modes of distribution entirely, laying the groundwork a near-sacramental viewing event more akin to Wagner's Bayreuth, or seeing Aeschylus at the festival of Dionysus (of course, Markopolous was influenced considerably by Classical poetics, along the writings of Schopenhauer, who argued that music was a direct expression of the noumenal realm).

Markopoulos spent the last years of his life producing and editing the Enaios cycles, 80-some hour immersive filmic occasions to be displayed at a Tenemos: a Greek-temple like site dug into the ground in the Peloponnese countryside. He died in 1992, before he could see the completion of the project, but his partner Robert Beaver carried out his vision: Tenemos screenings have already occurred in 2008 and 2004. The next, and I believe final, cycle is to be displayed at the Tenemos site outside the village of Lyssaraia, in the South of Greece, in June 2012. We'll keep you updated with the latest info on that as it comes in.

Just as Dada was famously anti-Art (and anti-Dada), as a friend of mine pointed out, Markopoulos is really anti-film; his Tenemos concept is opposed to the very mode of production and distribution that made film the great mass art form of the 20th Century. Indeed, it is likely that the only thing that keeping Markopoulos's  films from being outright theater is the fact that they are so resolutely filmic, in the sense that they depend on the materiality of film itself for their revolutionary effects. All and all, this is exactly the sort of provocative semi-paradox that the best of the Avant-Garde is known for.

...Source
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In Defense of the Sharjah Art Biennial
By Maria Goldverg
posted: 05-13-11
Mustapha Benfodil's offending It Has No Importance/Wild Writings
Image Source


The Sharjah Biennial, the oldest and most respected biennial in the Middle East hosted by the eponymous Sharjah Art Foundation in the United Arab Emirates, is about to close its doors this Sunday, May 16. It remained opened for two months, and has, in that brief time, also become the focus of a whirlwind scandal concerning the contention between the contrarian secularism of modern art and the devout religiosity of the region's general population.

The situation that occurred was simply this: the offensive nature of a displayed work, It Has No Importance/Wild Writings by Algerian artist Mustapha Benfodil, passed unnoticed under the eye of director Jack Persekian. The piece was composed of headless figures arranged in a field as though in the midst of a soccer match. The t-shirts worn by one team bore quotes from popular Algerian culture while the other team displayed excerpts from Benfodil's previously written novels, plays, and poems. The offending bit of text adorned just one of the t-shirts. It read:

"With each breath of the wind I see a hand on my pants and hymen torn / Every night was a sharp body raid / Vaginal sacrifices for lustful gods / My nights were haunted by the cries of all those virgins whom they had / Scratched, molested, maimed, bitten, eaten / RAPED KILLED / After being blessed / By the penetrating holy word of Allah / The sperm of his Prophets / An the spittle of his apostles."

The fact that a text such as this would be offensive to the majority, if not the entirety, of the conservative Islamic population is far from surprising. Abdal Hakim Murad, the Sheikh Zayed lecturer of Islamic Studies at Cambridge University, used this opportunity to discuss the importance of the recent stake modern art has set in the Middle East. He remembered Marcel Duchamp's famous response when asked to estimate how many people he thought actually enjoyed modern art by the art dealer John Bernard Myers: "oh maybe ten in New York, and one or two in New Jersey." The truth of that statement is often underrated: Duchamp's name itself has since become a a stable figure in the most art forums, but his opponents maintain the frustrated voice of those who favor the legacy of a mimetic tradition.

This contention between the conceptual and and anti-establishment sensibilities particular to the avant-garde and representational or symbolic art becomes obviously politicized when thrust into the context of an Islamic state such as the UAE. And it is this that the erudite professor, Abdal Hakim Murad would like his democratic and secular Western readership, so quick to decry the removal of an offending work of art, and the careless director, from the biennial exhibition to understand. He is right to note how remarkable it is that: a. the Biennial was never shut down and continued to attract a crowd after the piece and the Biennial's director were removed; b. that so many people, locals included, encountered the piece without there ensuing a larger fiasco; and c. the simple fact that a contemporary art biennial has existed for as long as it did, and continues to do so successfully, in the UAE. He couldn't be more right to remind his contemporary Western audience of how truly amazing it is that the Middle East has truly modernized as quickly as it has.

...Source
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