Wednesday, 8 February 2012

News Flash and stuff

I'm just checking in, Oh Most Luscious Reader(s), not staying for the night - I'm making my Witch's Wicked Ass Chili, so in typical witchy fashion, I gotta go stand over the bubbling, steaming cauldron stirring and cackling, y'all. I just wanted to jot a few things down before I forget, however, and so here we go:

1) Remind me to give you my Square, Square Business Chicken Pot Pie recipe that I came up with. Mind you, I don't know how well it works with vegetarian chicken substitute (or tofu) and vegetable stock for those of you who don't eat things that once had eyes, but considering how many veggies I crammed into this recipe, it should work out for you guys too.

2) Remind me to provide a link to my Creative Digital Technology final essay on Mare Tralla's Protected series because it's down with the sickness and I earned one serious A, lovers.

3) I wanted to run this by you very quickly. Read it, then come back here. Someone mentioned, to paraphrase it, something about the brainwashed and the dangers of religion construing the 'natural' as “sinful”. Here's my response (because I can't bother to reinvent the wheel tonight, thanks):

When did Victoria Secret fashion shows and padded bras with frills all over them become ‘natural’? Now mind you, I love me some lingerie – I wear it every night, including right now. But let’s not kid ourselves into a discourse of the ‘sinful’ juxtaposed against the ‘natural’… in a Victoria Secret context. Really, now. I’m not religious and I’m definitely not Christian in spiritual orientation but I definitely think that if our society is going to hold very, very young women [read girls] up as icons; sexual, cultural, or otherwise which it frequently does, we’re going to have to learn to accept that many of these TEENAGERS are not particularly too bright in making decisions regarding their entire futures or their religious convictions. Were you? I mean, just because someone wears a DD doesn’t make them an adult, folks. But I digress, the point is, given her age and the ages of many of the other girls we proudly knight as celebrities and sex symbols, we shouldn’t be surprised when some of these sexual or cultural icons actually experience intellectual, or in this case, spiritual growth spurts while in the limelight. She was just a kid – sorry to put it so bluntly, but that’s the reality – and we should learn to contextualize realistic factors like lack of maturity when considering why she opted out of lingerie modelling. Not to mention, these are confusing times. Consider the hegemonic context which fostered this girl’s development: we (in the West) live in such hypocritical societies where 19 year olds are supposedly so grown, grown ass men lust after them and some of these girls aren’t even university age yet, the far right (usually Christian identified) host, judge, and encourage female pageantry all over the world and masquerade it as ‘wholesome’ and supporting ‘traditional values’. How they hell would she know what was right or wrong for herself? It’s confusing as hell. If she’s suddenly realized that she’s not living in alignment with her values, then good-got-dam for her.

4) One last thing, I am not usually interested in the art of the overt but I think The Great Wall of Vagina is really interesting.

That's it. That's my quick update. Nighty night, Gentle Reader(s).

Friday, 3 February 2012

Critic Going Off: A Critique of Cory Arcangel’s Speakers Going Hammer at the Lisson Gallery, October 12 – November 12, 2011

Did I mention that I'm working on my MA? I guess not. That's why I've neglected you, Gentle Reader. Apologies. Anyway, here's a rough copy of a review I haddado for class in early November 2011. Thought I might show it to you, change things up a bit in the subject matter department:

In broaching an attempt to write a review, or better yet, critique of Cory Arcangel's Speakers Going Hammer at the Lisson Gallery, this critic opted to allow the contents of the exhibition to sink in and wash over the psyche in order to compile a fresh, objective approach. Frankly, I had my worries as I found myself ruminating between a brutally honest approach and one based upon my tutor's presumed respect for the artist.

There always exists in my mind two or three worlds of art analysis; the world of the high brow, stately, thoughtful chin scratching analysis, the world of legitimate awe and wonder analysis originating from the depths of my inner child to teen artist who worshipped the greats ("the greats" of course being totally subjective), and the world of the I-love-art-and-everything-but-this-is-bullshit-and-I'm-outta-here analysis. Existing outside of the professional and/or academic art sphere(s) for such a long time has afforded this critic the unchallenging luxury of remaining in those median or latter worlds of art analysis without every having to worry about maintaining diplomatic appearances. Admittedly, as I left Cory Arcangel's exhibition, worries over the possibilities of a need for false diplomacy rose like a bad case of heartburn.

There was a side, a very predominant side, of myself which considered the probablility that I simply hadn't the right, or better yet, the chops to critique any professional "hot shit" artist mainly because I had existed outside of the professional and academic art sphere(s) for so long. Just to cross-check, and possibly broaden my perspective I asked each of my fellow students who had accompanied me to this show what they thought of it. One of them shrugged, another smiled, shook her head, then admitted that she had no idea what the artist was trying to say to her, and another grimaced, shrugged, and then launched into a fragmented and uninspired soliloquy about alleged meaning of the Photoshop CS (2011) series being a criticism of the use of primary colours according to something someone else had said; and then her face drew a blank.

Cory Arcangel's Photoshop CS (2011), Timeless Standards (2011) , and Regular Flex (2011)
Lisson Gallery, London

Many seem to have a fear of admitting when publically sanctioned or popularly endorsed art work doesn't speak to us, particularly if it posesses the combined qualities of minimalism, dubious or ambiguous tone, and especially if the work represents a departure from traditional high art. Often, we feel as though we're missing something; some intellectual or sophistication chip that one needs to posess in order to comprehend works of art whose meanings escape us. Along these lines I can speculate as far as considering the possibility that having been fairly unfamiliar with Cory Arcangel's larger body of work, it is possible that I seem have missed the punch line at the very least, and missed the whole visual language at the very worst - and I do not say this casually; being unfamiliar with an artist's larger body of work can present a significant element of confusion. But I will also admit to feeling slightly ambivilant about works of art which are apt to leave the viewer puzzled and/or uninspired should they happen to be viewed outside of the context of the artist's larger body of work. I tend to be drawn more towards work which stands as strongly on its own as much as it does within the context of the artist's overall body of work.

There are valid questions somewhere therein along the lines of levels of required viewer continuity, ‘good’ art being able to effect a person on a visceral level outside the intellectual minutia and explanations attached to it via authorities and the artist's general body of work, and insider and outsider identities with respect to art viewing; questions which defy definitive answers, especially for a novice. But having mentioned all of the above, permit me to draw nearer to the point and take the proverbial plunge by saying that I found Arcangel's exhibition overall to be uninspiring and lacking a certain depth. 

Cory Arcangel's Research in Motion (2011)
Lisson Gallery, London

To begin, the curatory approach felt fragmented. Arcangel's dancing homage to Sol Lewitt, Research in Motion (2011), bears little aesthetic relationship to anything else in the show. Not that it is of real importance that art objects contained in one show be totally matched up, but this show seemed like such a mishmash that there was a tendency to latch onto that thing which was large and significant enough in physical presence to exist independently and long for some sort of continuation of its aesthetic somewhere else in the exhibition. It is a somewhat interesting piece on its own because of the mesmerizing effect of the motion, if not marked for slight laziness on Arcangel's part for basically commandeering a pre-existing gadget and not really constructing something more original. Of course it could, and will be argued over and over years beyond my existence, that post-post-modern art is marked up and down the road with the presence of readymade art (or ready-bought art). But the common presence of so much readymade art actually enhances the possibility of coming off as unoriginal, pretentious, and flat out lazy, which translates into uninspiring at best, and anger inducing at worst. And that sentiment also goes for the pair of purple Ugg boots (lead ingots or not) featured in A Few Casuals (2011), and the Diet Sprite spraying humidifier, Real Taste (2011) (which emitted a mist which smelled like something found near the bottom of a public toilet). Not to digress, those two pieces were presented in such a way that they appeared to have little to no relationship with each other or with several other (visually anaemic) works, Three Palms, Taurus, Clinton (2011) with which they share a space. 

Cory Arcangel's A Few Casuals (2011)
Lisson Gallery, London

On the subject of Three Palms, Taurus, and Clinton, presumably the viewer is encouraged to consider that these works were produced by the obsolete pencil plotter machine programmed by Arcangel and view them within that context. But they’re flat, depressing, and soulless. Perhaps the evocation of those feelings pinpoints Arcangel’s intention, or perhaps he would just take that sort of response with a good deal of humour over disconcerting viewers. I have read about the theme of delineation of authorship attached to these works, but the interesting thematic goal does not translate into an interesting visual representation; certainly it is possible to accept that it might not be meant to, but if there’s little to no visual interest, no matter how great the ‘concept’, people will end up disappointed, pissed off, and feeling like they’ve been conned.

Cory Arcangel's Clinton (2011)
Lisson Gallery, London

Forward Attitudes (2011) much like A Few Casuals and Real Taste, is another almost ready made pop cultural object with a pair of earbuds outfitted through the drawstrings of a hoodie and some Steely Dan just to tweak it, but that too fell pretty flat. Perhaps the solution would have been to draw these three objects closer together to gain some sort of grasp on them as a collection of passé pop cultural artefacts, if that was his intention (an intention we’ve actually seen over and over at least since mid-Twentieth Century). As they are presented, these objects just feel like lost, half-hearted efforts towards an already exhausted theme – The presence of a passé quality concerning the theme itself is ironic, as the thematic core of this exhibition, at least in part, appears to be asking the viewer to view and consider the presence of objects which are soon to be passé.

Since U Been Gone (2011) reads like a game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with a cringe-worthy former American Idol contestant as its original subject. Was it designed to make highbrow art people cringe because of its subject, Kelly Clarkson? Perhaps, but it felt vacuous and dull, though the execution by way of screenprinting and metallic foil on paper is well executed.

Cory Arcangel's  Since U Been Gone (2011)
Lisson Gallery, London

The room containing Self Playing Nintendo 64 NBA Courtside 2 (2011) the Photoshop CS series, the Timeless Standards (2011) series, and Regular Flex (2011) obviously houses works which have a vibrant colour relationship with each other – yellow is the tie in. The color field mimicry is generated with a simple gradient tool, and the pop art mimicry is made via scanning and it seems clear that the simplicity in recreating or mimicking well established mid Twentieth Century art movements is the point. But his color field and pop art mimicry thrown together with the golf clubs and the self playing Shaq game read almost like a spoiled, rich bad lad’s room – and again, perhaps this was his intention overall, especially when one considers the fact that Arcangel’s goals tend to include the exploration of trends and fading trends of pop culture (which one would certainly find in a spoiled bad lad’s room). But is this exploration exciting and punctuated? As far as I’m concerned, no.

Finally, many still draw the distinction between mainstream pop culture and African American pop culture. This distinction is drawn because of the particularly sensitive nature of the African American existence within the dominant culture as a stratified, estranged group who routinely have their art forms (especially music) and colloquialisms appropriated, distorted, and ridiculed on one hand, and popularized and capitalized off of on the other for the benefit of the dominant culture. I find Arcangel's use of the colloquialism, Speakers Going Hammer, to be disturbing. By using an African American colloquialism likely to be unfamiliar to his audience, Arcangel can easily borrow - read appropriate - and capitalize off of the "coolness" of black American culture while standing behind the sheild of polarization which will keep him from ever really being challenged on the authenticity of his use of the figure of speech by the cultural source of the figure of speech.

It should be noted that Soulja Boy may be a “pop star” but he’s still an African American and nothing evidences this more than his music video to Speakers Going Hammer, where he presents the familiar scenario of infiltrating a white, wealthy neighbourhood and winning them over with the power of his beats and ability to party. It’s essentially a fantasy about acceptance and inclusion, both social and economic, which still remain fantasy for many African Americans. Arcangel doesn’t seem to be addressing these sorts of issues with his commandeering of Speakers Going Hammer, he seems to be using the colloquialism to represent pop culture and kitsch. If Arcangel’s overall artistic goal is to explore the relationship between technology and culture, I sure would like to see him explore the concept of appropriation of materials from subcultures and minority groups in the technological age. That would certainly be interesting.

Work like Arcangel’s, while there’s certainly a place for it in the wide world of art, strikes me as part of what I like to call the Anti-Ofili. Chris Ofili can be respected because of his tireless craftsmanship, his technique, his bizarre choice of mediums, his visual originality, his biting, honest, and emotional themes which balance on joy and angst of being the other and being the artist. If I’m being honest, it’s safe to say that I also get the sense of this balance from many other artists from many walks of life, but for simplicity’s sake, I tend to reference the likes of Ofili. What is at hand, for the sake of this examination, is the sort of work which doesn’t require a curator or catalogue to parse the visual language, takes no short cuts (and I’m not referring to the use of new media versus old here – I’m talking about originality), and creates some political tension or deep discomfort. Maybe my trouble is that I need some angst and I don’t get any angst from Arcangel’s work. Maybe Arcangel’s work has created some political tension, but if so, it’s the sort of political tension that I’m tired of experiencing; that which emanates from a privileged class of people making art for the viewing pleasure of a privileged class of people and relies on its ‘edgy’ status because of the fact that it wasn’t traditionally constructed. That simply isn’t enough for me.

I'm baaaa-aaaack

Susan G. Komen Planned Parenthood Funding Decision Sparks Donation Spike, Strong Reactions

Good. I'm just beside myself over this whole thing. These so-called conservatives are just big, fat hypocrites and very hateful people. Those at the top do so much infamous dirt for which they frequently get busted: embezzlement, insider trading, supporting the sex trade industry (associated with HUMAN TRAFFICKING) though let's just politely call it 'personal donations' , exploit  immigrant labour (cos, you know, who's going to change the rich old man's bed pan, do the laundry, and mow the lawn?), and you know good and well when their daughters and nieces require terminations for their unplanned pregnancies all of a sudden morality becomes a remote consideration, if a consideration at all. Incidentally there are so many links on these subjects that I could spend the remainder of my blogging life posting links, but I digress; the far right is rife with morality orientated scandal.

Bottom line? Like most far right crusades, this lastest shit storm has very little to do with morality and boils down to suppressing the rights of working class populations; see hegemonic actualization. And as usual, this hegemonic actualization is cleverly disguised as the morality fairy poised to beat down 'baby killers' with her magic wand. When you weigh in abortion services provided by private health care providers against those provided by public health care, and also weigh the plethora of other, more commonly performed health care services other than abortion provided by Planned Parenthood, like routine breast examinations (which help prevent cancer), and most often pap screenings (which help prevent cancer), you're inevitably forced to consider the dawning suspicion that perhaps a handful of conservatives with the financial resources to control the social tide are legitimately against abortion, but something more is at play. Permit me to boldly suggest that outside of the aforementioned handful, the rest of the powerful far right constituency may be simply be holding to the basic belief that poor and working class people shouldn't have the right to affordable or free healthcare services in the first place... especially if they're poor women. Wouldn't want them to gain any advantages of any kind. Somebody's gotta work at Wal-Mart, scrub the toilets of the rich and be wage slaves. So let's break this down a bit. Have a look at what Planned Parenthood actually does.


Plese note the three percent on the pie chart. Who is providing the rest of these abortion services? Mostly, private health care providers according to a midwife I spoke with who wished to remain anonymous. People with money can and do often go to their private health care providers for abortions, and certain members of the monied social class are interested in making sure that people without resources have no recourse when faced with unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, much needed breast screenings, or other services associated with public health facilities... which subsequently would go to suggest that they should be allowed to suffer and die.

This isn't just a women's issue or a feminist issue; this is a class issue and I wholeheartedly suggest that second-class citizenry is an phenomenon which requires that average people start noticing the patterns. In the U.S. second-class citizenry (or poverty) has (A) been mythologized, as self-inflicted because myths surrounding choosing to become successful have predominated popular American culture through the American Dream rhetoric and (B) second-class citizenry has strategically been bound to race and mostly race by design so that struggling and impoverished white people will mentally fall back on race privilege to feel better about themselves or blame ethnic minorities for their economic woes. The realities and nuences of second-class citizenry where traditionally, for example, the likes of John McCain's ancestors might have hired the likes of Sarah Palin's ancestors to oversee their slaves but not marry their children or sit at their table for Sunday supper have been largely ignored by the majority of average people affected by these class stratifications. It's easier to ignore your lot as a second class citizen and focus on what small crumbs of racial privilege those in charge throw at you; it's all very glass half full. This is also why Tea Partiers refuse to accept that they have, economically and socially, more in common with the family who raised Obama than they do with the family that raised McCain - because we're trained to think that superficial genetic appearance (race) trumps class commonalities. And hegemony likes it that way and trains people that way.

We've been duped on how massive class oppression actually is because those at the top 10 economic percent don't need for all of us to figure out how much the wealthy conservative right hates all of us. I'm not saying anything new; read Althusser's writings on how ISAs operate then go watch some Sut Jhally  and get back to me. And, no, I'm not a socialist. I'm a realist whose eyes are open enough to consider that problems and their answers usually lie somewhere between the critical examination of society and a variety of proposed theoretical solutions. People had better stop calling this a feminist issue or an abortion issue and start focusing on the fact that in a country of soaring health care costs it is horrific that some charity foundation, under the guise of morality, could snatch that level of health care support away from Americans who really need it. What a pack of liars. They just want anyone who isn't rich to be totally desolate. What's next? Ask yourself, those of you who work a regular job and make less than $50,000 a year, if the people with resources on the far right are going to help you pay for your girlfriend's cancer treatment because Planned Parenthood got shut down and she couldn't afford to pay to go to a private physician for early detection. Maybe that's not your situation, but just think about it for a minute: how will more of these sorts of antics affect you? Don't get caught up in the morality spin; there is something more behind this.

For the record, I now live abroad in a country which is sufficiently capitalist, but ALSO has a very well functioning national health service - I'm here to remind those of you who are so worried about socialized health care creating socialism in general in America that there is a middle ground. Believe me, I had no complaints over being able to grieve over a recent miscarriage without having to consider paying a $3000 or $4000 hospitalization bill at the same time. But then again, I'm also living in a country where those with financial resources by and large do not have a secret agenda to leave working class people completely out in the cold, then blame them for not pulling themselves up by the bootstraps and seizing the American Dream.

...And while I was writing this blog, this just came in, and I'm filing it under Oh REALLY?

OK, it's time for me to go do my pedicure and get prettied up for the weekend; a weekend of studying cultural and critical subject matter, but a weekend nonetheless, and that always requires hotness and beauty, people.