Lebenskünstler

Meaningless Work – Walter De Maria (R.I.P.)

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 07/26/2013

Meaningless Work – Walter De Maria

Meaningless work is obviously the most important and significant art form today. The aesthetic feeling given by meaningless work can not be described exactly because it varies with each individual doing the work. Meaningless work is honest. Meaningless work will be enjoyed and hated by intellectuals – though they should understand it. Meaningless work can not be sold in art galleries or win prizes in museums – though old fasion records of meaningless work (most all paintings) do partake in these indignities. Like ordinary work, meaningless work can make you sweat if you do it long enough. By meaningless work I simply mean work which does not make money or accomplish a conventional purpose. For instance putting wooden blocks from one box to another, then putting them back to the original box, back and forth, back and forth etc., is a fine example of meaningless work. Or digging a hole, then covering it is another example. Filing letters in a filing cabinet could be considered meaningless work, only if one were not considered a secretary, and if one scattered the file on the floor periodically so that one didn’t get any feeling of accomplishment. Digging in the garden is not meaningless work. Weight lifting, though monotonous, is not meaningless work in its aesthetic since because it will give you muscles and you know it. Caution should be taken that the work chosen should not be too pleasurable, lest pleasure becomes the purpose of the work. Hence, sex, though rhythmic, can not strictly be called meaningless – though I’m sure many people consider it so.

Meaningless work is potentially the most abstract, concrete, individual, foolish, indeterminate, exactly determined, varied, important art-action-experience one can undertake today. This concept is not a joke. Try some meaningless work in the privacy of your own room. In fact, to be fully understood, meaningless work should be done alone or else it becomes entertainment for others and the reaction or lack of reaction of the art lover to the meaningless work can not honestly be felt.

Meaningless work can contain all of the best qualities of old art forms such as painting, writing, etc. It can make you feel and think about yourself, the outside world, morality, reality, unconsciousness, nature, history, time, philosophy, nothing at all, politics, etc. without the limitations of the old art forms.

Meaningless work is individual in nature and it can be done in any form and over any span of time – from one second up to the limits of exhaustion. It can be done fast or slow or both. Rhythmically or not. It can be done anywhere in any weather conditions. Clothing, if any, is left to the individual. Whether the meaningless work, as an art form, is meaningless, in the ordinary sense of that term, is of course up to the individual. Meaningless work is the new way to tell who is square.

Grunt
Get to work

March, 1960.

Tagged with: , , ,

The comfortable absurdity of artistic “experimentation.” – Toward an expansive “we” (hint: mom and dad are invited) – Some more stuff I said on facebook with the really challenging, thoughtful, responses removed

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 07/22/2013

Mental Prototypes and Monster Institutions. Some Notes by Way of an Introduction – Universidad Nómada (Nuria Rodríguez Trans.)

Well, after sorting through all of the theoretical gobbledy-gook, I find myself in some agreement (with the intro “Mental Prototypes and Monster Institutions.”) with the spirit… But then I get to the conclusion in which they call for 4 circuits (not feeling all this 90s grad school lingo – “circuits” “monsters” “hybrids” “swarming”). These circuits sound an awful lot like they will need to be populated (and led) by artist-academics. How convenient! Their description does not seem to align with the stated ambitions:

“struggles and forms of social existence that some would accuse of being non-political or contaminated or useless or absurd ”

“monstrous, because they initially appear to be pre-political or simply non-political in form”

“another politics, that is, another way of translating the power of productive subjects into new forms of political behaviour”

I *wish* the proposed circuits, were not circuits at all and were more “useless” or “absurd.” Absurd that is in a way that academics would find uncomfortable rather than the comfortable absurdity of artistic “experimentation.”

I wouldn’t characterize my reaction as “phobia.” Rather, I would call it allergic.

The problem with the notion of hybridity advocated here is that the multiple layers don’t really seem all that “multiple.” So describing this writing as “technical” might be right…it is a field manual for the already converted, the ones who already speak the same way, the ones who always do all the speaking and not enough listening. Communication isn’t just about finding the right rhetoric. It is also about developing the proper dispositions right? I would be far less suspicious of the circuits if the notion of collectivity they proposed didn’t seem to place academic/activist/art types at the center (or at the very least, the sorts of programmatic structures they have such an affinity for – educational projects, research projects, media/publishing, and institutes/foundations). In other words, let the monsters rise, but not be created, educated, published, and exhibited within the comfort zones of the academic/activist/artistic industrial complex! Screw their mental prototypes.

I am allergic to missionary fervor – to being “saved” or “helped” by those in the know. As you have already guessed, I got nothing. But, yes, folks out there do have something, and I will not lead them. It is true we don’t read the same way, but I am happy to have at least put our readings in contact.

I have been hearing/reading big plans and big ideas from academic art types for quite some time and the track record here in the US is pretty paltry. Until they figure out a form of (non, anti, new) political engagement that has them at the margins, that has small ambitions, that isn’t predicated on “producing knowledge,” that stops thinking only in terms of urban space, that advocates diversity without being dismissive of *actually* dissenting points of view, that accepts pleasure (especially “unhealthy” sorts), and especially gives up the romance of avant gardism – I too feel like I’ll be waiting for them to work their “magic” forever…

Happy 4th of July!

I would say to your last question that *not all* art criticism, cultural theory, and yes, even urban planning is technocratic. And I would add that the technocrats have had ample opportunity to use their “expertise” to manifest something good and have very little to show for it…

Yes “we” have art, “we” have culture, and “we” have education – but a point of contention here is how expansive that “we” is. From my 20+ years around academic/art/activist types it has become clear to me that the “we” is pretty narrow. My white heterosexual middle class mom who has no interest in overthrowing capitalism, or has much clue what heteronormativity might be is pretty clearly excluded even though she might agree in spirit with the notion that a fairer allocation of resources might be a pretty neat idea…I am for a “we” that isn’t the hollow fantasy of grad school romantics, one that includes their moms and dads and all the unironic mall shopping conformists they think they are so much better informed than. I am for a “we” that includes gun owners and people who don’t have a clue who Zizek is (or even Chomsky). And I have no problem at all with attempting to “contribute towards the emergence of a non-centralized liberatory culture.” I just wish for a little more humility a little less grandiosity and maybe less occupying of parks (which is indeed useful) and more strolls. And I do think you sell short the power of the stroll vs. the dérive, or what I might call (thanks to Scott Stroud) artful living vs. art. Here is a snippet from him that may or may not help (asterisks added for emphasis):

“***Life is always lived in some present, and it is here that the battle of life is fought***; one can come armed with habits that foster engagement with that present, or one can bring in ways of viewing the here and now (be it an art object or a work task) as a mere means to achieve something in the remote future. Both of these approaches will affect and tone the quality of lived, transactive experience. Dewey’s point, which I will explore at length in this work, is that the former approach is constitutive of artful living.”

“…everyday life will then become so full of beauty that it will become art.” – No, it already *is* full of such beauty, but thankfully is *not* art

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 07/02/2013

Changing Places – Dan Fox talks to Nils Norman, Timotheus Vermeulen, Anton Vidokle and Sharon Zukin

DF: One of the problems is that the ‘art world’ superstructure has grown so large that it’s difficult to navigate our way through it with a clear perspective on our own roles. How do you stay independent or achieve agency amid such a tangle of institutions and businesses? One option would involve leaving the ‘art world’ altogether, although most people would be reluctant to do so. I also think cognitive dissonances can be identified amongst those who Nils says ‘are critical of how they are inscribed within gentrification processes’. For instance, artists who claim radical political positions from within the support structure of major museum or commercial gallery exhibitions, and who speak in visual codes legible to those in the specialist subculture of art. But it’s tricky; even having this conversation is complicated by whatever its host context may be, whether that’s an art magazine, not-for-profit venue, or wherever.

AV: Economic dependency on the art industry is probably not the only thing that keeps artists from just walking away: you can also support your art practice by doing something else and many do just that. All of these institutions you mention control access to audiences, be it the professional audience of your peers or a broader audience interested in art. This is also probably one of the main reasons why artists tend to live in cities: to be a part of a community, a conversation. Cities are not merely markets.

There have been several moments in recent history when artists tried to move out of cities for various reasons, most recently in the ’70s. It seems to me this was unsustainable and most have moved back since then. Martha Rosler, in her 2010 essay ‘Culture Class: Art, Creativity, Urbanism’, cites Chantal Mouffe’s suggestion that artists should not abandon the museum – meaning the art world – and adds that we should also not abandon the city. I fully agree with this.

AV:…While as an artist you may think that you are free to do what you want, in order for it to be economically sustainable, critically acknowledged or just even to bring it into contact with the art audience, it needs to conform to certain network protocols that dictate what sort of production can enter circulation. With the ever-increasing professionalization in the arts today, and the economic restraints of the art world, it seems that the field is moving towards restoring a more prescriptive position towards the artist.

TV: I agree. Artistic sovereignty is a discursive construct, perhaps even a myth, that is always negotiated through cultural, spatial and historical parameters.

There is a more cynical take on the relation between art, cities and capitalism, which is that the city always already allows for numerous areas to adhere to the possibility of alternate rhythms. In this view, it doesn’t make a difference whether artists or institutions are the canaries in the mine. After all, the mine is owned by the same people that own the canaries …

AV: This resonates strongly for me. It could be interesting to try to describe this ‘artistic rhythm’ you speak of. We seem to inhabit this sort of flattened, urban, capitalistic time, in which each tick of the clock is a potential investment, because we use time to make money. That’s a really monotonous rhythm.

Someone like the Croatian artist Mladen Stilinovic´ comes to mind, and his photographic series of himself sleeping or thinking in bed: ‘Artist at Work’ [1978]. In his writings from that time, he suggests that Western artists are bad artists because they work too much, and that a good artist is a lazy artist. That’s a different rhythm: syncopated by a certain refusal to perform, to be productive. Very different from, say, flexible time in creative industries today.

NN: Discussions around gentrification tend to romanticize the subversive and autonomous agency artist’s projects have in these processes – the tactics, the skipping, the interventions. This is combined with an idea that somehow everybody wants to live like artists, a theme heavily exploited by Richard Florida.

SZ: What about Marina Abramovic´, who plans to convert an old theatre in the newly gentrified Hudson River Valley, north of New York City, into an arts centre named after her and focused on her long-duration performance pieces? In The New York Times [7 May 2012], she said: ‘The concept is very clear. I’m asking you to give me your time. And if you give me your time, I give you experience.’ Has she found a way to market Conceptualism that seems to compensate for our time-starved modernity?

AV: Sounds frightening. Does one have to be naked the whole time there too?

DF: To me, Abramovic´ reinforces a stereo-type of the artist who has access to mystic truths; that crypto-religious thing, whereby if you make the pilgrimage to the temple to sit in front of the oracle and stare into her face, you will access some profound emotional core of your being, because the oracle has endured extremes of pain and discomfort (and spent large amounts of free time) on your behalf. It’s another version of the skipping game: the artist as an individual with a direct line to some higher level of knowledge/experience.

SZ: …

Any artist who wants to sell their work must apply to the gatekeepers of one or more of these hierarchically arrayed districts, a point graphically made by William Powhida in Oligopoly (Revised) [2011]. These gatekeepers are curators, gallerists, critics, journalists and, above all, entrepreneurs. They may be entrepreneurs for economic reasons, or for cultural reasons: to provide goods and services for people who share their aesthetic tastes. And for social reasons: to create a community. In brief: many art-world entrepreneurs are artists.

SZ: How can we create alternatives to the mainstream market economy? By trying to withdraw from it – say, to a mountain in Utah or Nepal? By changing our individual awareness of consumers’ effect on the cosmos – and consuming slow, or less, or not at all? By developing diversified networks of exchange like Ithaca Hours or community-supported agriculture or barters? Or by making structural changes to eliminate over-production, to tax those who consume too much, or to turn the production of toxic goods to goods that benefit collective well-being? And how does any of that apply to the production of art?

AV: Well that’s the economic aspect of production, but as an artist one also has to produce meaning and affect. It’s not only about working with minimal damage to the environment or to others. How do we talk about that? How do we account for it?

SZ: Consumption takes in the production of meaning and feelings, it’s not just economic or environmental. There’s a deep spiritual longing – for the good, the beautiful and the true, as I discovered when I did research on shopping a few years ago; for authenticity, if we use that to mean what is good both inside and outside the self; for communion, community and satisfaction – all longings that are often pursued through consumption. Artists express these longings, and we who are not artists sometimes manage to craft something – a loaf of bread, a specially knitted scarf, a self-built table – that expresses them too. How can we make it possible for everyone to develop means of expression? Or are critics, artists and writers going to remain in opposition in every form of society?

AV: My favourite passage in Karl Marx’s writings is where he describes how life can be organized without narrow professionalization: one day you can be an artist, next day a cook, then a ‘critical critic’, and so forth. Identities in such a society will be fluid and alienation will disappear. I think that everyday life will then become so full of beauty that it will become art. In such a society, artists, critics and writers will not remain in opposition. But, until then, opposition is ok with me …

Wonder Woman’s plane – Ralph Rugoff – visible works of invisible art

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 06/25/2013

Touched By Your Presence – Ralph Rugoff

Telepathic Piece pinpointed a major concern for many artists at the time: an emphasis on thinking and communicative possibilities over art’s visible and material qualities. But by invoking a sensibility beyond words, it also underscored an interest in the Sublime – an aesthetic preoccupation which typically gets written out of the Conceptual art story book. For Barry – who once remarked that ‘Nothing seems to me the most potent thing in the world’ – invisibility was a means of evoking the void and emptiness. Immeasurable and without limit, the realm of the unseen is as Sublime it gets.

The same year, Maria Nordman began creating works in specific urban settings, usually in and around Los Angeles, that employed ambient sounds, shifting sunlight and shadow, and the chance presence of local pedestrians. Geared towards accidental encounters and blending with their surrounding environments, Nordman’s works ideally attained a kind of invisible participation in the flow of urban life: an aesthetic which seemingly matched her desire to create a democratic art that would be accessible to viewers from all backgrounds. The idealistic undertones of Nordman’s approach resonate in much other invisible art from this period, as if practitioners believed their work could achieve a state of social and political grace simply by dispensing with a perceptible presence. From another perspective, however, projects like Nordman’s represent the culmination of a century-long concern with dissolving the boundaries between the work of art and its larger environment – a vein of interest that essentially reverses the strategy of collage: rather than incorporating worldly fragments, the artwork is incorporated into its surrounding milieu, embracing a dissolution of identity that, once again, recalls the mechanisms of the Sublime.

Hiding oneself or one’s art can also be an exercise in humility, an ego-stripping practice designed to force artist and audience alike to rethink the desire to exhibit, and to question the narcissistic value we place on public approbation in general. The performance artist Tehching Hsieh, probably best known for the year-long performances he began in the 70s (such as living outdoors in New York City for a twelve-month period) has recently completed such a project but, by its nature, it would be surprising if many people were aware he had even embarked upon it. For a 13-year performance which stretched from December 31st 1986 until December 31st 1999, Hsieh continued to make art, but did not show it to anyone in any way, shape or form. The lesson in invisibility he offers is simple yet powerful: rather than take the measure of himself from the external world, he makes do with his own internal value system – a system which remains unseen but must be deeply felt in order to carry out such a project.

the idea of invisible art can serve as a much-needed tonic, prompting us to see through the art world’s grandiose distractions, and so, perhaps, to think a little more clearly. They also remind us that, in the larger scheme of things, art occupies a fairly immaterial position, and whether visible or not, works of art ultimately come to life only in our imaginations, in the unseen museums we carry within us.

But perhaps the most salutary effect of invisible art lies in the chameleon-like array of meanings which have cloaked it over the past half century. Rather than simply serving as a static limit defining the no-go zone of artistic practice, it has alternately appeared under the guise of the Sublime, of social idealism, avant-garde aggression, personal humility and ironic commentary. No single artist has been able to possess invisibility as a signature medium, and its wayward history gently yet pointedly mocks our waning belief in the cult of originality. It suggests instead that art doesn’t begin and end in a physical frame or a singular context, but lives on in the potentially endless process by which we make use of it.

I can’t stand (for) art – Dear Dan Fox – “energy, dedication, love”

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 06/08/2013

[The following is a response to the piece highlighted and linked to below]

Dear Dan,

Thank you so much for this update. I think you might be the most interesting person in the art world – or I should say the “capital A” art world. Since you asked “What kind of art do you stand for?”, I thought I would endeavor an answer. Thanks for the opportunity to consider this.

The short answer is I can’t stand (for) art. Or rather, I am tired Dan, too tired to stand up (for art). I am tired of all the fretting, all the “legitimizing footnotes” and the curatorial pomp and circumstance. I look around me and see creative people everywhere – some of them wear white caps, a lot seem to wear sports jerseys, but almost none of them seem to have an opinion about documenta. And it seems to me that this is okay, that people make meaning where they are, whether watching Seinfeld reruns, gardening, arranging their Ikea furniture, or writing for frieze.

I agree that setting aside big claims like ‘This show challenges your preconceptions’ is probably for the best. And I think we should do our best to put art in its place – as one form of aesthetic enterprise, one form of meaning making, with no special purchase on fascinating ideas. If we focus on the “energy, dedication, love” rather than “the art fairs, biennials, mfa programmes, magazines, dense jargon and newspaper articles about how to make it in the art world,” I think we’d be off to a great start.

So I said I’m tired of art, but that was only because of the wording of your question. Looking closely, I notice that you engage in a kind of sleight of hand, asking what kind of art someone stands for, but then talking about Claes who advocates for an art. You too close your piece advocating for an art, rather than art. The “an” implies one among multitudes rather than a singular field, this I fully support. I stand for the art of things – the art of cookie decorating, the art of writing letters, the art of fly fishing, the art of comedy, the art of mixing music, the art of playing poker, the art of the cocktail, the art of kayaking, the art of knowing when to share a story at dinner…

I even stand for the art of making art, as long as it sees Jesus in a piece of toast not as a sign of the Second Coming (as you rightly suggest), but as one miracle among many – the miracle of people, even ones that don’t have clean drinking water, pressing on, finding beauty in small things. Or the miracle of folks making meaning from the clouds, their mom’s laugh, a reality TV show, or a gossip magazine. I stand for an art engaged in by everyone. I stand for any art of “energy, dedication, love.”

Best,

Randall Szott

Dear Claes … – Dan Fox

‘I am for an artist who vanishes, turning up in a white cap painting signs or hallways.’ A sceptic might call you out for indulging that middle-class fantasy of the artist as blue-collar worker, but I reckon you’re too savvy for that. Perhaps you meant it as a reminder to take pleasure in things in the world and not fret about their pedigree as ‘Art’. You’re certainly reasserting the old avant-garde desire to dissolve art into life, and although that’s an act of self-erasure few seem to chance nowadays – what would happen to all the free dinners, institutional glory and symbolic labour for urban gentrification? – it’s one that nevertheless begs the question of art’s influence beyond art; grubby questions about taste, audiences and who this whole game is for.

Art has obviously developed fascinating, complex ideas, but it’s had to work hard to explain them and to prove their worth in society. Yet nobody quite knows how much reach these ideas have beyond specialist circles. The industry superstructure is today so noisy we can’t tell whether it’s the structure or the art that’s having the effect. From outside, the art industry looks like a rarefied cultural activity. Newspapers like to portray it as a place for extreme shopping for the one percent. Neither of these views is entirely wrong, but nor are they entirely correct either. So much energy, dedication, love – entire lives – have been put into art’s hard-fought battles over identity, appropriation, feminism, abstraction, institutional critique, Conceptual art, Pop, Op, Cubism, Surrealism, Expressionism, De Stijl, Arte Povera, Fluxus, Mono-ha, Postmodernism, Happenings, Abstract Expressionism, Dada, Constructivism, realism, photo­realism, painting, sculpture, performance, installation, video and so forth that we crave a sign that it’s all been worth it. (The legacy of Minimalism can’t just be ikea tables.) The problem is that the art industry longs to have the mass appeal and legitimacy of pop culture– the same stripes awarded to cinema and music – but it still has to sell itself with some ingeniously gussied-up new angle on ‘high culture’ to justify its extravagances. We want the person in the white cap painting a sign also to have an opinion about this year’s documenta.

Big claims are made in our industry that leverage contemporary art as a form of salvation-cum-revolutionary-gesture such as ‘This show challenges your preconceptions’ or whatever toothless assertion of radicalism you wish to name. And still the world turns. Nothing changes. We’re quick to see a Jesus-shaped silhouette in a piece of toast and declare it a sign of the Second Coming. Cognitive dissonances have developed that allow for all kinds of mental contortions: a hair-shirt criticality that sees artists decrying capitalism in their commercial gallery shows, for instance, or artists having successful ‘practices’ making work ‘about failure’. All the pr, all the iconic museums erected in the hope of instrumentalizing art as an economic adrenaline jab, all the art fairs, biennials, mfa programmes, magazines, dense jargon and newspaper articles about how to make it in the art world – look at all that from outside the art industry, and it doesn’t add up to what we think it does. The signal-to-noise ratio is out of whack.

Our noses are pressed too close to the screen. We fret so much about the legitimizing footnotes – the art-historical lineages, the curatorial contexts and paradigms – that we forget to measure the proportionate importance of our discussions as they intersect with ‘social life’. I am for an art that knows where it stops and life starts. I am for an art that doesn’t see Jesus in a piece of toast.

Regards,
Dan Fox

Tagged with: , , , , ,

Social practice must be broad, or not at all – Some stuff I said on facebook with the really challenging, thoughtful, responses removed

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 05/10/2013

Hasn’t much of “radical politics” been co-opted by a similar set of strategies? Isn’t there a similar profession of activism? Institutionalized “radicality” has had a pretty good run – around 50 years of theory and critique. But where is the payoff? Aside from all of those theses gathering dust in universities across the US? Obviously, I am implying that I don’t see radical politics (as imagined and practiced in the academy) as being any less susceptible to charges of elitist (or specialist) irrelevance than art. It’s all well and good to be conversant with Negri, Ranciere, Zizek, or Badiou, but construction workers in Arkansas or farm laborers in the San Joaquin Valley aren’t really helped by any of this are they? (I’m not trying to be a hater here!)

I would argue that any politics not engaged with aesthetics is doomed (and really it is always engaged – it is a matter of how attentively). Art [frieze/e-flux/triple canopy type art], on the other hand is just a highly specialized and pointless parlor game played with, and within, aesthetic experience. The hope I hold for social practice (fading though it may be), is that it will keep staking a claim beyond art, after art, without art. If it returns to the historical roots you claim for it, I fear it ensures its futility. To become wed to a critique of art plays art’s game. Or am I doing the same thing by writing this?!? Ugh.

My immediate objection here is that you make a claim for ” a political movement broadly defined” which is itself completely false (the idea of it being “broad”). The academic/activist class has an incredibly narrow idea of what “politics” is – especially Bishop for example. The “sweetness” of many social practice projects has invited much scorn from the cool kid ex-punker crowd that wants a days of rage approach to social change. Being a good mom, being a good dad, being a good neighbor – these things are every bit as urgent and political as self-consciously being “radical” no? Picking up trash along your street or bringing cookies to the school teacher are every bit as “socially engaged” as AIDS activist billboards, fossil fuel divestment die ins, or WTO protests. To me, politician, artist, activist are all professional designations (or always on the verge of being used in that manner) that certain activities are best left to those who identify as such. And that masks the political and aesthetic value people create (or destroy) in their everyday lives…so I totally agree that there are grandiose claims made for social practice, but this is no different than those made for radical political activism which also could be said “to ignore its increasingly professionalizing aspects while simultaneously insisting on its relevancy” All power to the people, even the dopey, unradical ones, even the cheese ball hug circle social practice do gooders, or the Wal-mart greeter that despite all the farcical theater of the smiley face low prices , is truly enthused and upbeat while greeting you.

To me it is the politics of avant gardism and heroic gestures that reeks of liberalism. “Service” as you put it, or “neighborliness” as I was advocating for, needn’t be liberal, and certainly not about “personal” responsibility. I come at it from a conservative (old school), communitarian, decentralist place. I dare not call it anarchist – especially if I want to avoid academic discussions or want to have some modicum of engagement with people like my mythical Wal-Mart greeter. And I have to say, your critique of social practice is striking in its normativity (not that I am not also making normative claims)! It seems social practice must be “radical” or not at all. I at least stake my normative claim for an expansive social practice one that isn’t owned (exclusively) by art, academia, or activists. Something like – Social practice must be broad, or not at all.

[from the LeisureArts archive] – Art A Way Of Life (1935) – Melvin E. Haggerty

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 04/08/2013

Art A Way Of Life (1935!!!) – Melvin E. Haggerty

“Art is a way of life” is a simple statement of short and familiar words. It expresses a way of looking at life that is very old in the history of thought. If it now seems strange it is because we have permitted art to become divorced from the ordinary activities in which men [sic] engage and its cultivation to drift into the hand of specialists from whom the mass of mankind is separated as by a chasm. In recent times this chasm has become very broad and very deep. To men [sic] absorbed in the work of the world artists appear to be a cult and their work and conversation seem esoteric and almost mystical. To artists ordinary folks appear ignorant and unappreciative, and very often their thinly veiled contempt for plebeian tastes has led them to caustic expression. This dissociation is artificial; it is injurious to art and impoverishes life.

[art as a way of life] sees that as the experiences of life multiply, new and varied purposes arise that call for the invention of new objects and new forms of expression and that these, in turn, vastly increase the possibilities of enriching life…This elemental reality that binds into a single pattern all the varied arts is more important for the philosophy of education than is the stress so often laid upon the differences that superficially separate one kind of creative work from other kinds.

We have assumed a way of looking at art that permits no gulf between the simple arts of life and the so-called fine arts. It sees all as man’s [sic] more or less successful efforts to create things that increase the comforts, the efficiencies, and the pleasures of living…This view cherishes not even the ethically tinged distinction between good art and bad art.

The distinction between creation and appreciation is not one between activity and passivity but rather one among different kinds of activity. The realization of this fact should emphasize the essential unity of art experiences.

Leaving Dieter Roelstraete – The art world as urinal

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 04/03/2013

Can I Go Now? – Dieter Roelstraete

I find myself in the unfortunate position of defending Andrea Fraser, art, and Dave Hickey.

Roelstraete’s argument here has a familiar ring to it. Any vegetarian would likely recognize it – you don’t eat meat, but you’ve got a leather wallet. Or Anarcho-primitivists might see it too – you are arguing for an end to modernity, but you use a computer to type your manifesto. Maybe even anti-capitalist activists might notice – why don’t you leave this country or stop using money if you’re so sick of it? And who do you think reads your anti-capitalist essays other than anti-capitalists?

And perhaps Roelstraete “should be forgiven” for completely misunderstanding the distinction between being “more real” and being real in a different way. Just as the lives of the wealthy are “real” in some reductive ontological sense, it should not be mystifying to say that “real” life is not one of servants and private jets being at one’s beck and call. And McDonald’s might claim that Chicken McNuggets are real food and be correct in a very basic sense, but claiming fast food isn’t real food is not denying this. Sure the art world is a part of the real world just like Rodarte makes “real” clothes and Ann Romney had a “real” job, but they are not real in the same way as clothes from Wal-mart or being a cashier there. And to say “in the same way” is stopping short a bit – it would be more accurate to say they are not equally real in any way that actually matters. They are less real in this pragmatic sense.

One wonders how a curator might not understand an artistic proposition – how is it he ends up “wedded to the wrong notion of art?” Surely he understands that Duchamp’s urinal is both real and differently real, or that to declare the urinals in the MCA bathrooms more real than Duchamp’s implies nothing else than “more” real for a particular purpose. To borrow from Stephen Wright, if you need to piss, a double ontological toilet might not be the best choice and it may in fact be “better” to piss in a real one. Although Duchamp’s idea of the “reciprocal readymade” might cause us to reconsider even that decision.

In the various gestures of leaving that Roelstraete takes umbrage with, he appears to fail to see them as gestures. Ironically he sets up an even stricter “antimony” between art and the real world. He seems to want Fraser et. al. to really leave, a possibility he forecloses given that he believes that art and the real world are besties. It would seem that he wants to distract us from the flavorless, heat lamp warmed “food” of the art world by arguing about its reality rather than its desirability. When some declare let’s leave this place and find some real food, he merely wishes us luck and mumbles smugly like a Taco Bell manager, “They’ll be back.” And that art world attitude is what has my soul truly despairing.

There is a mountain – Richard Shusterman on Art and Religion

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 03/28/2013

Art and Religion – Richard Shusterman

In advocating a pragmatist aesthetics I have criticized this otherworldly religion of art because of the way it has been shaped by more than two centuries of modern philosophical ideology aimed at disempowering art by consigning it to an unreal, purposeless world of imagination. Such religion, I have argued, is the enemy of pragmatism’s quest to integrate art and life, a quest exemplified both in the classical Western notion of the art of living and some Asian artistic traditions, where art is less importantly the creation of objects than the process of refining the artist who creates and the audience who absorbs that creative expression.

The conclusion that Dewey wants to draw from this, however, is that poetic imagination, with its “moral function . . . for . . . the ideals and purposes of life” (CF 13), should not be a mere playful, compartmentalized supervenience of art for art’s sake but rather a formative force in making social and public life, as well as private experience, more artistically beautiful and rewarding. In short, Dewey holds the pragmatist ideal that the highest art is the art of living with the goal of salvation in this world rather than the heaven of an afterlife.

… Zen Buddhist-style notions of art and religious practice offer a religion of immanence with no transcendental, personal God existing outside the world of creation; no eternal, personal, immaterial soul existing apart from its embodied manifestations; and no sacred world (an artworld or heaven) existing beyond the world of experienced flux. The essential distinction between the sacred and the profane (or between art and nonart) no longer marks a rigid ontological divide between radically different worlds of things but rather a difference of how the same world of things is perceived, experienced, and lived – whether artistically, with an inspiring spirit of presence and an absorbing sense of profound significance or sanctity, or instead as merely insignificant, routine banalities. Transfiguration, in such religions of immanence, does not entail a change of ontological status through elevation to a higher metaphysical realm but is rather a transformation of perception, meaning, use, and attitude. Not a matter of vertical transposition to an elevated ethereal realm, it is rather a vividness and immediacy of being in this world, of feeling the full power and life of its presence and rhythms, of seeing its objects with a wondrous clarity and freshness of vision. Consider this description of the path to transfigured insight provided by the Chinese Zen master Ch’ing Yuan of the Tang Dynasty: “Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains and waters as waters. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and waters are not waters. But now that I have got the very substance I am at rest. For it is just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and waters once again as waters.”

However we address these issues, one question must be faced forthwith: Were those transfigured drum cans art? Though clearly not part of the institutional artworld, they were just as obviously part of an installation work of deliberate design aimed at providing experiences that could be described as meaningful, thought-provoking, and aesthetically evocative. And the deliberative design of this installation suggests that it was obviously “about something” (a condition of meaning generally deemed necessary for art). But what, exactly, the drum cans were about is a question that has many possible answers: the powers and possibilities of meditation, the surprising uses of industrial detritus, the contrast yet continuity of nature and artifact, the question of beauty (difficult and hidden versus easy and conventional), even the meaning I eventually found in it – the immanent transfiguration of ordinary objects that could make them art without taking them out of the real world and into a compartmentalized, transcendent artworld whose objects have an entirely different metaphysical status. Such immanent transfiguration, whose meaning of enriched presence is to fuse art and life rather than suggest their essential contrast and discontinuity, is where Zen converges with pragmatist aesthetics.

 

 

(more…)

The Henry Flynt Special [Part III ART or BREND?]

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 03/18/2013

ART or BREND? – Henry A. Flynt, Jr.

[Flynt sketches out his concept of “brend.”]

4. There are experiences for each person which accomplish what art and entertainment fail to. The purpose of this essay is to make you aware of these experiences, by comparing and contrasting them with art. I have coined the term `brend’ for these experiences.

Consider all of your doings, what you already do. Exclude the gratifying of physiological needs, physically harmful activities, and competitive activities. Concentrate on spontaneous self-amusement or play. That, is concentrate on everything you do because you like it, because you just like it as you do it.

Actually, these doings should be referred to as your just-likings. In saying that somebody likes an art exhibit, it is appropriate to distinguish the art exhibit from his or her liking of it. But in the case of your just-likings, it is not appropriate to distinguish the objects valued from your valuings, and the single term that covers both should be used.

When you write with a pencil, you are rarely attentive to the fact that the pencil was produced by somebody other than yourself. You can use something produced by somebody else without thinking about it. In your just-likings, you never notice that things are not produced by you. The essence of a just-liking is that in it, you are not aware that the object you value is less personal to you than your very valuing.

These just-likings are your “brend.” Some of your dreams are brend; and some children’s play is brend (but formal children’s games aren’t). In a sense, though, the attempt to give interpersonal examples of brend is futile, because the end result is neutral things or actions, cut off from the valuing which gives them their only significance; and because the end result suggests that brend is a deliberate activity like carrying out orders. The only examples for you are your just-likings, and you have to guess them by directly applying the abstract definition.

Even though brend is defined exclusively in terms of what you like, it is not necessarily solitary. The definition simply recognizes that valuing is an act of individuals; that to counterpose the likes of the community to the likes of the individuals who make it up is an ideological deception.

 

5. It is now possible to say that much art and entertainment are pseudo-brend; that your brend is the total originality beyond art; that your brend is the absolute self-expression and the absolute enjoyment beyond art. Can brend, then, replace art, can it expand to fill the space now occupied by art and entertainment? To ask this question is to ask when utopia will arrive, when the barrier between work and leisure will be broken down, when work will be abolished. Rather than holding out utopian promises, it is better to give whoever can grasp it the realization that the experience beyond art already occurs in his or her life–but is totally suppressed by the general repressiveness of society.

Tagged with: , ,

The Henry Flynt Special [Part II THE ART CONNECTION]

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 03/15/2013

THE ART CONNECTION: My endeavor’s intersections with art – Henry A. Flynt, Jr.

I can legitimately say that taking art as a the thematic axis for a chronicle of my work is not fair to the work. In the first place, from the beginning I was interested in the correlation of arts. I quickly graduated to “interdisciplinary projects” such as concept art, which had art as a precedent, but stemmed from my iconoclastic philosophy of 1960, and had outgrown art. To force my projects back into the art mold made it impossible to understand them.

From the outset, say 1958, the division of art, culture, into categories which became separate professions meant nothing to me. I simply disregarded the compartmentalization of culture, and assumed that I should pass freely among philosophy, exact science, linguistics, poetry, painting, music, whatever. Using each to illuminate the others and transferring methods from one to the other. My first “flat visual works” were precisely translations from serial music and so-called chance music. My poems also.

At some point in the first half of 1961, I completely lost interest in the “art professions,” music, painting, sculpture, poetry. My works at this time were “interdisciplinary projects” or out-of-category projects—which were shaped by my philosophical perspective, which I continued to refine throughout the spring. When I mailed Philosophy Proper, Version 3 to Carnap in 1961, he didn’t reply…

The artists whom I met through Young did not seem to be full-time artists. Only De Maria was already a “power artist”; I didn’t register it because in person he was affable and generous and because I had signed off on the art machine almost before I knew what it was. Morris, a student of Lippold at Hunter, explicitly condemned wanting to get rich and famous in a letter to Young. In other words, Morris nominally rejected the actual purpose of major public art, which is professional success. (The golden paintbrush.)

I become more and more uncomfortable that artists were offering things that intrinsically weren’t worth doing, whose only payoff was to leave the audience feeling baffled and frustrated. They were competing for social approval on that basis. They were making careers out of bluff, posture, hoodwinking the experts into giving approval for what nobody would do without the social context.

[Despite all the talk about new new new, the artistic fraternity could only deal with painting this, sculpture that. their inovation consisted in brandishing postures at each other for social effect. by definition they were intellectually vacant.

[it’s all posture, a game being played inside an elite institution, the self-important overpriviledged cognosenti, posture game or intimadation game. this cognoscenti does not have anything to say about philosophy, science, economics, government that I respect in the least.]

they were not seeking interdisciplinary or out-of-category innovation. Thus, the works which I poured myself into developing went utterly over their heads. drew a blank.

Substantial innovation, e.g. concept art, went over their heads.]

I passed from the mystique of the avant-garde to the conviction that art had a flawed premise. Cage had already said it, with a different rationale. But he didn’t mean it. [Later, Ben Vautier would deliberately use anti-art as a ploy, the collectors paid him to scam them.]

I became willing to forgo “participation.” I revived the utopianism of my cultural position. What ought to be was so far from what was socially feasible that there was no bridge between them. I chose to again emphasize what ought to be. It was a drop-out stance which combined utopian social speculation with solitary self-realization.

Tagged with: , ,

Draining the Swamp of Art – John Zerzan – The Case Against Art

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 03/11/2013

The Case Against Art – John Zerzan

Frequently compared to play, art and culture – like religion – have more often worked as generators of guilt and oppression. Perhaps the ludic function of art, as well as its common claim to transcendence, should be estimated as one might reassess the meaning of Versailles: by contemplating the misery of the workers who perished draining its marshes.

Today culture is commodity and art perhaps the star commodity. The situation is understood inadequately as the product of a centralized culture industry, a la Horkheimer and Adorno. We witness, rather, a mass diffusion of culture dependent on participation for its strength, not forgetting that the critique must be of culture itself, not of its alleged control.

The avant-garde has generally staked out wider claims, projecting a leading role denied it by modern capitalism. It is best understood as a social institution peculiar to technological society that so strongly prizes novelty; it is predicated on the progressivist notion that reality must be constantly updated.

But avant-garde culture cannot compete with the modern world’s capacity to shock and transgress (and not just symbolically). Its demise is another datum that the myth of progress is itself bankrupt.

Occasionally critics, like Thomas Lawson, bemoan art’s current inability “to stimulate the growth of a really troubling doubt,” little noticing that a quite noticeable movement of doubt threatens to throw over art itself. Such “critics” cannot grasp that art must remain alienation and as such must be superseded, that art is disappearing because the immemorial separation between nature and art is a death sentence for the world that must be voided.

Adorno began his book thusly: “Today it goes without saying that nothing concerning art goes without saying, much less without thinking. Everything about art has become problematic; its inner life, its relation to society, even its right to exist.” But _Aesthetic Theory_ affirms art, just as Marcuse’s last work did, testifying to despair and to the difficulty of assailing the hermetically sealed ideology of culture. And although other “radicals,” such as Habermas, counsel that the desire to abolish symbolic mediation is irrational, it is becoming clearer that when we really experiment with our hearts and hands the sphere of art is shown to be pitiable. In the transfiguration we must enact, the symbolic will be left behind and art refused in favor of the real. Play, creativity, self-expression and authentic experience will recommence at that moment.

Tagged with: , , ,

Manifesto on Art – Fluxus Art Amusement – George Maciunas, 1965.

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 03/04/2013

ART
To justify artist’s professional, parasitic and elite status in society,
he must demonstrate artist’s indispensability and exclusiveness,
he must demonstrate the dependability of audience upon him,
he must demonstrate that no one but the artist can do art.

Therefore, art must appear to be complex, pretentious, profound,
serious, intellectual, inspired, skillful, significant, theatrical,
It must appear to be caluable as commodity so as to provide the
artist with an income.
To raise its value (artist’s income and patrons profit), art is made
to appear rare, limited in quantity and therefore obtainable and
accessible only to the social elite and institutions.

 

FLUXUS ART-AMUSEMENT
To establish artist’s nonprofessional status in society,
he must demonstrate artist’s dispensability and inclusiveness,
he must demonstrate the selfsufficiency of the audience,
he must demonstrate that anything can be art and anyone can do it.

Therefore, art-amusement must be simple, amusing, upretentious,

concerned with insignificances, require no skill or countless
rehersals, have no commodity or institutional value.
The value of art-amusement must be lowered by making it unlimited,
massproduced, obtainable by all and eventually produced by all.

Fluxus art-amusement is the rear-guard without any pretention
or urge to participate in the competition of “one-upmanship” with
the avant-garde. It strives for the monostructural and nontheatrical
qualities of simple natural event, a game or a gag. It is the fusion
of Spikes Jones Vaudeville, gag, children’s games and Duchamp.

Tagged with: , , ,

The real question is: How good does art have to be to qualify as karaoke?

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 01/20/2013

How Good Does Karaoke Have to Be to Qualify as Art? – Dan Kois

“Karaoke makes regular people rock stars, and rock stars regular people,” explained Caryn Brooks, the communications director for Portland’s mayor. Sometimes the singers are actual rock stars. Brooks has a vivid memory of the time in the late ’90s when, at the original Chopsticks, she saw Elliott Smith sing Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.”

…We looked at Brophy, who shrugged. A tall young man in a puffy jacket swayed up onto the stage, then kicked into the lyrics — but instead of imitating Jack White’s rock ’n’ roll keen, he sang in a rhythm-and-blues croon. The song was instantly transformed from dirty garage rock to bedroom soul. It sounded incredible, as if the song were written that way in the first place. When it was over, Justin bowed, accepting our applause, then replaced the microphone in its stand and walked out the door, never to return.

“Here’s the important thing to remember about Portland,” she said. “No one’s here to get rich. Unlike everywhere else in America. There’s a critical mass here of people here following their passions. Oh, it’s my turn, hold on.” She polished off her beer, jogged up to the stage and began what was, by a wide measure, the most amazing song I heard in my Portland karaoke odyssey: “Prisencolinensinainciusol,” a 1972 epic written in gibberish by the Italian performer Adriano Celentano, supposedly to mimic how English sounds to the Italian ear. It is like four minutes of “Jabberwocky” with a Continental accent and a mod beat. The karaoke version is a Baby Ketten original, of course. Addie nailed every syllable, then high-fived her fellow Kettens all the way back to our table. “So, yeah,” she said. “People from Portland do stuff like that.”

Portland isn’t just the capital of karaoke, I was realizing. The Japanese influence, the small-business climate and the abundance of bands don’t really matter. Portland is the capital of America’s small ponds. It’s a city devoted to chasing that feeling — the feeling of doing something you love, just for a moment, and being recognized for it, no matter how obscure or unnecessary or ludicrous it might seem to the straight world. It is the capital of taking frivolity seriously, of being silly as if it’s your job.

Tagged with: , , ,

All we have to do is look around: toward a local social practice syllabus – Or, an idiosyncratic “arty party” field guide to Vermont.

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 01/18/2013

[What follows below is my sketch of a syllabus I felt obligated to offer after ranting on facebook about the state of social practice education. But first, the rant…]

Morning rant:

So, yesterday I saw a status update soliciting ideas for a social practice syllabus and it continues to blow my mind how unbelievably predictable the suggestions were. Foucault, Bishop, de Certeau, Nancy, Mouffe, Jackson, Habermas, Rosler, yadda yadda yadda…

What does it say about the state of education that there is such homogeneity? Sure, we can agree on some common/core texts,but isn’t *anyone* else suspicious about this? Can we really believe that the same laundry list of thinkers passed around from grad school syllabus to grad school syllabus enriches our understanding of social practice? Is everyone so (ahem) lazy? And how can academics otherwise inclined to be critical of universal narratives so readily agree on one for social practice? The global sameness of suburbanization is problematic, but reading (always *reading*) name brand theorists from school to school is essential?

I meet person after person in the field that have a really narrow point of reference clearly gleaned from “syllabus syndrome.” And why is it almost always readings? Or activist and art projects? Why not parents, neighbors, bakers, mechanics, baristas, programmers, bar tenders, clergy, restaurateurs? Do non-academics (that are not activists) have *anything* to offer social practice (other than as a grist mill for “collaboration”)? Should we tell folks to just read through AAAARG.org, check out the Creative Time Summit videos and call it a day?

All we have to do is look around: toward a local social practice syllabus. 

art-is-cheap-bread-puppet.gif.pagespeed.ce.vUz36WBvnW_large

Let us begin, ironically enough, with quotes from three non-Vermonters:

“The concepts and insights of the ecologists are of great usefulness in our predicament, and we can hardly escape the need to speak of “ecology” and “ecosystems.” But the terms themselves are culturally sterile. They come from the juiceless, abstract intellectuality of the universities which was invented to disconnect, displace, and disembody the mind. The real names of the environment are the names of rivers and river valleys; creeks, ridges, and mountains; towns and cities; lakes, woodlands, lanes roads, creatures, and people.” – Wendell Berry

“Our task is to build cultural fortresses to protect our emerging nativeness. They must be strong enough to hold at bay the powers of consumerism, the powers of greed and envy and pride. One of the most effective ways for this to come about would be for our universities to assume the awesome responsibility to both validate and educate those who want to be homecomers — not necessarily to go home but to go someplace and dig in and begin the long search and experiment to become native.”  – Wes Jackson

“The word ‘topophilia’ is a neologism, useful in that it can be defined broadly to include all of the human being’s affective ties with the material environment. These differ greatly in intensity, subtlety, and mode of expression. The response to environment may be primarily aesthetic: it may vary from the fleeting pleasure one gets from a view to the equally fleeting but far more intense sense of beauty that is suddenly revealed. The response may be tactile, a delight in the feel of air, water, earth. More permanent and less easy to express are the feelings that one has toward a place because it is home, the locus of memories, and the means of gaining a livelihood.” – Yi-Fu Tuan

LongTrail-revised02op

What is social practice? An immediate answer might be “who cares?” A nicer way to put that might be “why start with a definition?” Perhaps, we should just start looking around at what people are doing here, right next to us. What threads connect these actions? What connects them to each other and to this place? Is social practice something that happens elsewhere? In art school? In big cities? By people with degrees? In some abstract, placeless, uprooted, cosmopolitan “everywhere?”

Another answer to that first question might be “haven’t we got it all wrong?” Or why start with social practice in the first place? Might the term be just a “juiceless” invention akin to how Wendell Berry characterizes “ecology?” What if we started with a homecoming? What if we began by building “cultural fortresses” as Wes Jackson suggests here in the Green Mountain State? What if we walked The Long Trail and sailed Lake Champlain to begin the “long search and experiment to become native?”

Contemporary art sometimes deals with the idea of site-specificity (sometimes art is made for a specific location and not for display in a relatively generic gallery space) and this course intends to be site-specific itself. Or to borrow a term of winemaking, this course hopes to explore social practice through the “terroir” of Vermont (The Viticulture FAQ & Glossary defines terroir as “The total, inter-related environment wherein a grapevine is cultivated for the purpose of making wine. Key factors include, but are not limited to, cultivar type, soil, climate, vineyard location, planting density, training system, pruning philosophy & the cultural and social milieu wherein the whole enterprise takes place.”). Through this we might cultivate our own “topophilia” as Yi-Fu Tuan describes above.

But let’s circle back to that first question. Here is how a friend (Ted Purves) of mine defines it for the institutional needs of his art school:

“The field focuses on topics such as aesthetics, ethics, collaboration, persona, media strategies, and social activism, issues that are central to artworks and projects that cross into public and social spheres.

These varied forms of public strategy are linked critically through theories of relational art, social formation, pluralism, and democracy. Artists working within these modalities either choose to co-create their work with a specific audience or propose critical interventions within existing social systems that inspire debate or catalyze social exchange.”

As it stands now social practice is mostly a variation on that theme, although sometimes it is called by other names (socially engaged art, relational aesthetics, new genre art). And it also is institutionally confined to art schools, departments, and programs. Another important approach this course takes is to break social practice free from art and academia. This means finding issues of community, collaboration, democracy, ethics, and aesthetics (to name a very few of its themes) at play in the lives of a wide range of people beyond the customary triumvirate of artists, activists, and academics. We will look at parents, neighbors, bakers, baristas, bartenders, clergy, restaurateurs and all sorts of other folks to see what, if anything the idea of social practice might do to connect, or understand, their activities.

This course takes several books as “spirit guides” for its structural sensibility.  Of course reading them would help contextualize things, but the titles themselves might be enough: Making It Up as We Go Along by Chris Mercogliano and We Make the Road by Walking by Myles Horton and Paulo Freire

What follows below then is a set of suggestions as to where we might begin “making it up” and where to begin to “make the road by walking.” It will be left to students to find the blind spots, dead ends, outright stupidities, and to co-create our experience together in the classroom and beyond. There is some stuff specifically envisioned as “art,” but not much. There is some “theory,” but really just a few links to thinkers associated with Vermont (ex. Dewey, Miller, and Bookchin). There is still a huge gap to be filled – everyday people (of which many of the people highlighted are, but in some ways they are still exceptional in that they are not working stiffs, or stay at home moms. So a constant focus would be to look at home and next door, not just on the web, at a museum or nonprofit, or in the library.

vermont-state-seal

Stuff to read, listen to, or watch

A Citizen’s Guide To Vermont Town Meeting

Weekly Standard: Our Town Meetings

The Vermont Papers: Recreating Democracy on a Human Scale
by Frank Bryan, John McClaughry

Whiteness in Vermont

Vermont and the Imaginative Geographies of American Whiteness – Robert M. Vanderbeck

Decentralizing Educational Authority [one of many essays found at Paths of Learning – a repository of work by Ron Miller]

Tal Birdsey, Head Teacher, North Branch School – Ripton, VT

A ROOM FOR LEARNING: The Making of a School in Vermont

Art, community and agriculture are one at Fable Farm where workers read and tell stories as they plant and dig, is a community-supported vegetable farm near Silver Lake in Barnard [see Fable Farm link below also]

Gov. Shumlin Sends Chick-fil-A a Message for Eat More Kale 

Chicken Chain Says Stop, but T-Shirt Maker Balks

The Bread Bike

Hippie Havens: It was 40 years ago today…the “forever young” generation reflects on life in Vermont’s first communes

Vermont’s epicurean evolution: How 1960s hippies took Vermont farmhouse cooking to today’s artisanal heights

Back to the Land: Communes in Vermont

Author Traces History Of The Back-To-The-Land Movement

Life on a Vermont commune: Poet Verandah Porche remembers back-to-the land living

Learn how Helen and Scott Nearing became completely self-sufficient while homesteading in Vermont.

Living The Good Life with Helen and Scott Nearing [Bullfrog Films clip]

At The End Of A Good Life: Scott Nearing’s dignified death, like his life, sets an inspiring example for all of us – Helen Nearing

The (written) philosophy of George Schenk [the embodied is below – see American Flatbread]

Murray Bookchin:  social anarchism, ecology and education

Murray Bookchin, GRUMPY OLD MAN – Bob Black

John Dewey and informal education

Interview with the Luddite – Kirkpatrick Sale is a leader of the Neo-Luddites.

The Frog Run: Words and Wildness in the Vermont Woods – John Elder

Architecture 101: No permits, no parents, no clients, plenty of plywood for architect Sellers and friends

The Prickly Mountain gang

The Revolution That Never Quite Was: The Vermont enclave Prickly Mountain was built as an antiestablishment utopia—and that’s what it still is.

Of paleontology and excellence in Vermont architecture

Stuck in Vermont 87: Warren 4th of July Parade

kale

Stuff to visit, look at, and discuss

ReSOURCE:
ReSOURCE retail shops provide job and life-skills training, essential household items to families and individuals in crisis, and prevent tons of material from ending up in our landfills each year. These stores also find new homes for major appliances, computers, electronics, furniture, and industrial surplus materials, which are used by the community as arts, crafts, and educational supplies

The Clothes Exchange:
The Clothes Exchange is a mission driven social enterprise dedicated to turning clothing into cash for community benefit…For every event, The Burlington Clothes Exchange selects a new nonprofit to partner with who receives event proceeds; in 2011 our May event raised $70,000 for Spectrum and 9 other local nonprofits. In total, The Exchange has raised more than a quarter of a million dollars for nonprofits in Chittenden County.

Outright Vermont:
Outright Vermont (Outright) was founded in 1989 following the release of a 1988 national youth risk survey showing that gay and lesbian youth in particular had very high rates of depression and suicide. A group of community activists gathered to form Outright, which began as a “once a week” support group. Our Friday Night support group has continued ever since, every Friday over the past 20 years. Today, Outright is a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQQ) ‘queer’ youth center and statewide advocacy organization.

The Mission of Outright is to build safe, healthy, and supportive environments for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth (ages 13-22). Our goal is to make Vermont the safest, most supportive and empowering state for queer youth in the United States of America.

RU12?:
RU12? was founded in 1999 by two students at the University of Vermont who believed that Vermont needed a multi-generational queer space open to people of all ages, races and genders.

RU12? is now the largest LGBTQ organization in Vermont, and the only LGBTQ community center in the state. RU12? is located in the Champlain Mill (20 Winooski Falls Way) in Winooski.

RU12? has many programs and services including the SafeSpace Anti-Violence Support Line, a HIV Prevention program that includes HIV testing, social/support groups, programming for LGBTQA Families, LGBT Elders, and the Transgender Community Wellness Program, a drop-in center and meeting space, lending library, David Bohnett CyberCenter, and more.

The Vermont Youth Conservation Corps:
The Vermont Youth Conservation Corps is a nonprofit youth, leadership, service, conservation, and education organization that instills in individuals the values of personal responsibility, hard work, education, and respect for the environment. This is accomplished by using conservation projects as the vehicle for learning in an intense environment.
Each year, the VYCC hires young people ages 16-24 who work and study together under adult leadership to complete high-priority conservation projects such as state park management, trail maintenance, and backcountry construction. Through the performance of this important work, young people expand their job and leadership skills and develop personal values, ethics, and an awareness of social, political, and environmental issues. All VYCC jobs are characterized by comprehensive and intensive training, close supervision, and extensive opportunities for individual learning and personal growth.

Center for Whole Communities:
Few places in America regularly bring together leaders of different race, class, profession and ideology to find shared purpose and renew their collective strength. Center for Whole Communities is a land-based leadership development organization. We foster the innovative and collaborative responses from different sectors of the environmental and social movements that are necessary to address the complexity of today’s challenges. While nurturing in our alumni multi-disciplinary responses to challenges such as climate change and building economically competitive and equitable communities, our leadership programs directly confront the fragmentation that exists in American society around politics, race, class and privilege.

350.org:
350.org is building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. Our online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions are led from the bottom up by thousands of volunteer organizers in over 188 countries.

350 means climate safety. To preserve our planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 392 parts per million to below 350 ppm. But 350 is more than a number—it’s a symbol of where we need to head as a planet.

350.org works hard to organize in a new way—everywhere at once, using online tools to facilitate strategic offline action. We want to be a laboratory for the best ways to strengthen the climate movement and catalyze transformation around the world.

Women’s Center At UVM:
The Women’s Center is a place to build community, make new friends, access all kinds of resources and services, and learn more about the work that we do in service of building an inclusive and safe campus.

If you’re looking to get involved or are struggling with a personal issue, the Women’s Center is here to help you out. We provide advocacy services, empower women and their allies to use their voices, raise awareness about the critical issues facing women, and highlight their many accomplishments. Stop by to check our our resources & programs!

Intervale:
Our mission is to strengthen community food systems. Since 1988, we’ve been dedicated to improving farm viability, promoting sustainable land use and engaging our community in the food system. We’re helping to build a community food system that honors producers, values good food and enhances quality of life for Burlington and beyond!

Rural Vermont:
Our Vision is for a Vermont local food system which is self-reliant and based on reverence for the earth. It builds living soils which nurture animals and people with wholesome, natural products supporting healthy, thriving farms and communities. These communities in turn work to encourage and support current and future farmers, continuing our Vermont heritage. This abundant and generous way of life celebrates our diversity and interdependence.

nofa logo smaller

NOFA VT:
The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont is a nonprofit association of farmers, gardeners, and consumers working to promote an economically viable and ecologically sound Vermont food system for the benefit of current and future generations.

NOFA Vermont was founded in Putney in 1971, making it one of the oldest organic farming associations in the United States. Today, we are proud to have over 1300 members throughout the state and to certify over 580 farms and processors to the USDA National Organic Program Standards. We are passionate about increasing the acreage of certified organic land in Vermont while also increasing the access of local organic food to all Vermonters. All our programs strive to meet these goals, whether it involves working with schools to bring local foods into the cafeteria or providing business planning services to farmers to ensure their businesses stay viable. Whether you are a Vermonter who gardens, farms, eats local food, or enjoys our rural communities, NOFA Vermont welcomes you.

Fable Farm:
Fable Farm is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Organic Farming Project located in Barnard, Vermont in the Upper Valley Region of the Green Mountains. During the growing season, Fable Farm cultivates a mosaic of farmland peppered throughout our hillside village. We also host weekly community gatherings during pickup hours for Fable Farm CSA members which are open to the public.

Cedar Circle Farm:
Growing for a sustainable future. Annuals & perennials, certified organic bedding plants, vegetables & berries. Our educational mission is to raise public awareness about the importance of local organic agriculture, increase access to quality organic produce for low-income people, and establish models for farm-appropriate alternative energy strategies, and train next-generation farmers. We cultivate 40-acres using certified organic practices on conserved land along the Connecticut River in East Thetford, Vermont, just minutes from Norwich, Vermont, and Hanover, New Hampshire.

A family friendly public farm, we offer a cafe’, farmstand, workshops, festivals, guided farm tours, teaching gardens, a self-guided farm tour, wagon rides, and pick your own berries, pumpkins, herbs and flowers.

Bread and Butter Farm:
Burger Night started innocently in 2011 as a way for us to promote that we were raising grass-fed beef. We thought it sounded like fun to grill some burgers on a Friday afternoon for our Farm Store customers to let them try out the beef. The very first event we held, 150 people showed up! We were blown away. It hasn’t stopped since. We have been amazed with the response and have done everything we can to keep up with the lively demand, serve the highest quality, delicious food, and provide a great space for the community gathering that is a great support for our community farm.

At Burger Night we serve a full meal that comes almost entirely from our farm. We raise the cows who provide the beef (look around, they are grazing all summer – they move around a lot to pastures near to the barn and event, and then some very far flung fields), we bake the buns, we grow the veggies for the salads, we bake the cookies for dessert (we haven’t figured out how to produce chocolate yet…). Our own Chris Dorman brings amazing bands each week to liven up the event. We love the connection between food and music and Burger Night has become a perfect combo!

Our farm is a great place for everyone to come and participate in a meal on a real, working farm. We take pride in knowing that kids are running around free playing in the gardens, in the fields, on the mulch piles and hay bales and having a blast outdoors.

Numina Wilderness School:
Numina is a group of Addison County, VT educators who are dedicated to finding each person’s spark of genius or divinity, the “numen” in Latin, and encouraging it to flame. Numina Wilderness School brings that fire alive in Nature through Mentorship, After-School and Day-long ongoing programming for kids and adults.
Mission: To teach people of all ages how to understand nature while helping them find connection to their calling in this life. We do that by introducing people to their natural neighbors. The Plants, Animals, the four directions, the night, the stars, fire, themselves, each other and all things natural.

The Walden Project:
The Walden Project is a public school program serving students in grades 10-12.  Run out of Vergennes Union High School with support and guidance from The Willowell Foundation, The Walden project provides students a rigorous curriculum that emphasizes writing, philosophy, environmental studies, while supporting student centered-inquiry.  The program is modeled on Henry David Thoreau’s sojourn to Walden Pond where he immersed himself in his ecology to deepen his sense of self, society, and the natural world. To that end, students are encouraged to follow and pursue their own areas of interest with support and guidance from the staff.

The Walden Project is not school in the traditional sense. It is a community of students and teachers who use this former farmland for what the founder calls a “great, living template for education.” They spend three days a week outdoors, through fall, bitter winter, and spring. On Tuesdays, for Field Sociology class and writing, the students visit government offices, nonprofit organizations, and other institutions in Burlington, a college town of 40,000 located 20 miles away. On Fridays, they work at internships in their areas of interest, such as Web design or photography.

The Schoolhouse Learning Center:
The Schoolhouse Learning Center is an accredited elementary school and licensed childcare center that has provided quality programs for over 40 years. Schoolhouse programs nurture each child’s innate curiosity and encourage independence of mind and resourcefulness. Families are invited to be a part of Schoolhouse programs and are a vital part of the community. Our educational philosophy and values are founded upon five Core Concepts: Trust, Sharing, Responsibility, Respect and Belonging.

The Bellwether School:
We view education from a holistic perspective which means, first, we are concerned with the whole child – emotional, social, physical, moral, spiritual, artistic and creative as well as intellectual dimensions of their development – and second, that every child’s life is connected to wider contexts of experience – peers, family, community, culture, and the natural world.

Like all progressive educators, we see children as natural learners and honor that principle. We recognize that children come to the classroom with many gifts, multiple intelligences and languages, full potential, uniqueness, and natural curiosity. We strive to design a learning environment and to use teaching practices that support children’s characteristic ways of exploring, discovering, and constructing their knowledge of the world. Teachers draw forth the intrinsic motivation of each child so that learning becomes an interactive process that values imagination, creativity, and joy, fostering a love of learning. Instead of dividing up the mind and the body, science and the humanities, action and thought, intelligence and emotion, holistic education seeks to bring these together. In this way, we foster the values of both independence of each learner and interdependence of all subjects as well as all aspects of life. Holistic education seeks to foster a sense of connection to both the natural world and the human community; we feel this approach cultivates social as well as ecological responsibility, a compassionate sense of wonder, and genuine self-understanding.

Yestermorrow Design/Build School:
Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Warren, Vermont offers over 150 hands-on courses per year in design, construction, woodworking, and architectural craft including a variety of courses concentrating in sustainable design and green building. Operating as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization since 1980, Yestermorrow is one of the only design/build schools in the country, teaching both design and construction skills. Our 1-day to 3-week hands-on courses are taught by top architects, builders, and craftspeople from across the country.

A crucial aspect of our continued success derives from the supportive spirit of the community around us.

In turn, we are committed to improving and contributing to our local community. We do this through offering our time and skill in building a variety of projects in collaboration with local non-profits, schools, and other organizations that contribute to the well being of our community. Our mission is best met when we can pair our efforts with those who can most benefit from them.

There are numerous examples of work the school created over the years throughout the Mad River Valley and beyond. Some of the more notable ones include the Wheeler Brook picnic pavillion, the “Snail” bus shelter in East Warren, the bandstand at the farmers market in Waitsfield, the play structure at the Verd-Mont trailer park, and a trail shelter for the Mad River Path. Aside from the more visible examples of our work, we regularly create cabinetry, concrete countertops, small cob walls and buildings, timber frames, decks, renovations, treehouses and other building projects that may not be obvious to the general public. Additionally, we create structures that are trucked from the school to their final destination.  Click here to view a slideshow of many of our community projects.

cochran's

Cochran’s Ski Area:
In the summer of 1998, Cochran’s Ski Area became a non-profit organization with a mission “to provide area youth and families with affordable skiing and snowboarding, lessons and race training, in the Cochran tradition.” Cochran’s is the nation’s first IRS 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt ski area. “No child will be denied the opportunity to ski or ride”.

Vergennes Laundry:
Located in a former Laundromat, Vergennes Laundry in Vermont is an example of community enterprise at its best. Julianne Jones raised the seed money through Kickstarter and offers $500 memberships, redeemable in pastries.

Jones and her French husband, Didier Murat, opened Vergennes Laundry in 2010, creating an all-white interior featuring concrete, wood, and white-painted paneled walls that allow the food and the customers (and the wood-burning bread oven) to dictate the atmosphere. Jones was inspired by Scandinavian design when she created the interiors, “especially Aalto; and on the French side, Prouvé, Perriand, and le Corbusier (all through my architecture studies at Middlebury and in Copenhagen).” The bakery was built by hand: Murat made the counters, the cases, the shelving, and the wooden tables, while Jones’ mother sewed the aprons and napkins out of rustic linen.

pane e salute:
(the same people also do: la garagista and arlette & janvier studio/due)
osteria pane e salute is a farm restaurant founded sixteen years ago on SlowFood principles.  Our kitchen is inspired by our landscape with a focus on local, homegrown, and natively wild.  Our  wine list is also inspired by terroir with the mission to compile a living archive of regional, indigenous Italian varietals.  When you come to dine with us, we intend for you to savor your dishes, wine, and company.  Our aim is to preserve the experience of sharing a meal and the elegance of hospitality, and to take the time to appreciate both.  Our restaurant is not designed for those in a hurry.  We invite you to enjoy your evening with us…

American Flatbread:
American Flatbread began as a gift to friends and a leap of faith. It probably began in Gladys Ford’s kitchen, where her grandson George watched as she cooked with a wood fire.

One summer night, George built his first primitive wood fired oven of field stone from his land. He guessed it wouldn’t be capable of baking a loaf of bread so he attempted to make a flatbread. The original stone oven raised more questions than it answered: would it get hot enough? would the bread stick? would the food taste good?
To everyone’s surprise, it worked, and the bread was good.

Larger ovens followed.  In 1987, a ten-ton oven was built on the outdoor patio at Tucker Hill Lodge, and we baked under the stars.  The following year, a new oven was built which incorportated ideas from the traditional clay ovens of rural Quebec, most notably the earthen dome signature to American Flatbread ovens today.

American Flatbread is a return to bread’s roots. We have reached back to the very beginning of bread baking and used the same artisan methods: simple, wholesome ingredients shaped by hands of thoughtful caring people, baked in a primitive wood-fired earthen oven.

The nature of the bread we eat — from the way the grain is grown, harvested, milled, mixed, and baked to how it is administered and policed; from how it is hoarded or shared to whether its production enriches or enslaves — will shape our own nature and the destiny of our culture.

It is the mission of American Flatbread to provide good, flavorful, nutritious food that gives both joy and health, and to share this food with others in ways sustainable to all.

Old Brick Store:
The Old Brick Store is a mission driven community supported enterprise.  Our mission is to provide Convenience with a Conscience.  We want to be more than just a convenience store—we want to be a full service grocery store, offering all the essentials to our neighbors.  We offer fresh produce, fresh bread, local meats and cheeses, sustainable products and organic products, as well as conventional options.

The Adamant Cooperative:
The Adamant Co-op doesn’t fit neatly into any category. Since its founding in 1935 it has served the surrounding area as grocery store, post office, art studio and home of the infamous Black Fly Festival.  The Co-op is the hub of a vibrant community, joining us together as we stop for conversation while picking up our mail, volunteer in staffing the store, leave notes for each other in the community box, pick up a gallon of milk, or indulge in a quick chocolate fix. Surrounded by waterfalls and ponds, and next to the Adamant Music School and QuarryWorks Theatre, the Co-op is a wonderful destination for a meandering bike ride or drive.

The Co-op sells basic groceries and an eclectic combination of foods to suit the varied tastes of the neighborhood: an impressive selection of wines, one of the best selections of chocolates west of Switzerland, fresh baked cakes and pastries,  Or scrumptious take out meals, and a wide array of local products such as syrup and honey, home made pickles, prize winning eggs from farms down the road, jams, and local seasonal produce. You’ll find a request clipboard hanging from a wooden supporting beam–if we don’t have it, just ask.

Janet Macleod’s studio is above the store and she is always glad to show visitors around.

In summer our screen porch is a wonderful place to sit and watch the local goings on, check email with our free WiFi, or attend one of our Friday Night Cookout & Music evenings. Sodom Pond, across the road, (yes Sodom, the village was once so named, inspired by the disreputable goings on at the old quarry) is home for a rich bird, beaver and turtle population.

Barnard General Store:
The Barnard General Store was established in 1832 and stands as one of the longest running General Stores in Vermont. The Barnard Community Trust has been formed as a local, non-profit organization committed to finding a way to save our much loved and much needed Barnard General Store. Our larger mission is to promote and enable the Town of Barnard to maintain and enhance its rural quality of life in a positive and sustainable way.

Woodstock Farmer’s Market:
The Farmers’ Market is a very busy, crazy, year round market of fantastic food. We’re really hard to describe—we serve our local community great food that ranges from take-out prepared dinners and lunches to regular stuff like milk and eggs to fresh organic produce to fresh meats and everything in between. Our vision for the Market has always been to make great food accessible to everyone. We all love food and love to cook but we’re not snobby about it. In fact, we don’t consider ourselves “gourmet,” because it implies exclusivity, and we believe that anyone can create great food. Most of the time one just needs a little help…a recipe perhaps; the best, freshest ingredients you can find; or just an outgoing and friendly staffer to help out with an idea.

I think what sets us apart is that we really take this job of “bringing the food to the people” very seriously. We’re concerned about the process: what we charge for our products, what ingredients we use in our food, how clean we are, who our vendors and farmers are, where our fruits, vegetables and ingredients come from and how we treat each other and our guests.

And what’s really cool about the Market is that each and every person in a decision- making capacity lives and breathes food and service. From Brandon, our produce leader, who has been a restaurant chef for most of his professional life, to Melanie in our Grocery Department, who is our Tex-Mex expert, growing up in a food-loving family in El Paso. It’s a simple passion for food and you can feel it every time you step into the store.

Even more important these days though is actually knowing where your food comes from…and we make it point of making sure our guests know. From smart local buying to great signage, you know and trust that we are the preeminent farm to table grocer. We love supporting our local food chain and think it’s one of the most important things we can do for our community.

Maglianero:
Through Maglianero we’re creating an experience with both local
prominence and global relevance. In our hometown of Burlington,
Vermont, USA, we are developing, testing, and sharing the ideas that serve the continuum of needs of the Modern Mobility Movement:

Farm-direct, hand-crafted coffees-the fuel for the ride.

A café/collaborative space/commuter hub-the center of community
interaction, education, and creativity.

A responsibly-sourced, durably crafted and built, commuter-centric cycling apparel brand-stylish, functional, year round protection from the elements.

Cobb Hill Cohousing:
Cobb Hill is a community of people who want to explore the challenge of living in ways that are materially sufficient, socially and ecologically responsible, and satisfying to the soul.

Situated in rural Hartland, Vermont, we try to practice sustainable land management—ecological farming and forestry, energy efficiency, and minimization of waste.  We are also developing the skills of community: sharing, responsibility, compassion, communication, consensus building, conflict resolution, appreciation of diversity and love.   We believe that these skills are necessary to bring the larger society to sustainability and sufficiency, and we want to learn them to the best of our ability.

Some of our Enterprises:


Longhouse:
Longhouse, Publishers & Booksellers, was established in 1971 by the poet and editor, Bob Arnold. Joined by Susan in 1974, we have published hundreds of folders, chapbooks, broadsides, anthologies and small edition books by mimeograph, letterpress, photocopy and off-set…Integrating our bookselling and publishing business with a working and family life, Bob Arnold makes a living as a stonemason as shown in his authored book On Stone published by Origin Press. We also provide building and landscaping/caretaking services including dog & cat boarding!

Unitarian Church of Montpelier:
Originally called the Church of the Messiah, the Unitarian Church of Montpelier has been a Unitarian church since it was built in the mid-1800s.

The church was designed by Thomas Silloway, the architect of the present Vermont State House and many Universalist churches around New England. Dedicated on January 25, 1866, the church is the oldest standing church in Montpelier, and is the only church in Montpelier that has its original organ, a Stevens tracker organ. The building and the organ are used regularly for services and concerts. Many community organizations hold public events and meetings at the church.

All Souls Interfaith Gathering:

All Souls Interfaith Gathering is a seeker’s destination, a safe haven for exploring spiritual and human values. Our commitment is to express love toward all through lifting spirit in music, inspirational words, community service and environmental stewardship.

We are a nondenominational community that welcomes everyone – at whatever point a person may be in his or her spiritual journey. Our goal is to offer each person an opportunity to forge a personal connection with the Divine Source – by any name He or She is called.

Our journey together began on April 11, 1999. At that time the pattern for our Sunday Evensong Service began to unfold. Music plays a major role in “Evensong” because we believe that it provides a special spiritual connection. Along with music, the services combine spiritual readings and reflections on world issues and personal values, as well as Christian, Jewish, Islam, Buddhists, Hindu, Taoist and Native American beliefs and sacred texts.

Spiritual healing is quietly woven throughout the Evensong Service, Healing and Prayer services, classes, and in one-on-one conversation and counseling.

The Bread and Puppet Theater:
The Bread and Puppet Theater was founded in 1963 by Peter Schumann on New York City’s Lower East Side. Besides rod-puppet and hand puppet shows for children, the concerns of the first productions were rents, rats, police, and other problems of the neighborhood. More complex theater pieces followed, in which sculpture, music, dance and language were equal partners. The puppets grew bigger and bigger. Annual presentations for Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and Memorial Day often included children and adults from the community as participants. Many performances were done in the street. During the Vietnam War, Bread and puppet staged block-long processions and pageants involving hundreds of people.

In 1974 Bread and Puppet moved to a farm in Glover in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. The 140-year old hay barn was transformed into a museum for veteran puppets. Our Domestic Resurrection Circus, a two day outdoor festival of puppetry shows, was presented annually through 1998

Eat More Kale:
Bo Muller-Moore is a father, former teacher and runs a small business out of his home in Montpelier, Vt. He makes shirts that have simple messages — ‘Cheese’ was the first he made, then he was asked by a local farmer to make another that said ‘Eat More Kale.’

The River of Light Lantern Parade:
The River of Light is Waterbury’s Community Lantern Procession.  In December 2010, artists Gowri Savoor and Angelo Arnold worked with school art teacher MK Monley and the pupils of Thatcher Brook Primary School in Waterbury, VT to create over 150 willow and tissue paper lanterns for our inaugural event. Spectators of all ages lined the parade route in support of the parade which was led by Burlington’s street Samba band, Sambatucada. The procession was also joined by artists from Central Vermont, who created larger-scale lanterns during a special one-day workshop. And of course none of this would have been possible without our crew of hard-working volunteers.

Warren 4th of July Parade:
Some say Warren, Vermont’s 4th of July is the ‘greatest independence day celebration anywhere’. It’s hard to argue when all of the Mad River Valley gets together to celebrate some serious independence, Vermont-style. Always on the 4th of July, this full day of festivities, quixotic parade, buddy badge contest, music, and food is recommended for ages 1 month to 110 years old!

The Tunbridge World’s Fair:
The Tunbridge World’s Fair is an annual event held in mid-September in Tunbridge, Vermont. The annual fair continues to this day with demonstrations of farming and agricultural traditions and culture, working antique displays, horse and ox pulling, horse racing, cattle and horse shows, junior exhibits, floral and 4-H exhibits, contra dancing, gymkhana, and many free shows.

ticonderoga-drawing

Shelburne Museum:
Located in Vermont’s scenic Lake Champlain Valley, Shelburne Museum is one of the finest, most diverse, and unconventional museums of art and Americana. Over 150,000 works are exhibited in a remarkable setting of 39 exhibition buildings, 25 of which are historic and were relocated to the Museum grounds.

Impressionist paintings, folk art, quilts and textiles, decorative arts, furniture, American paintings, and a dazzling array of 17th-to 20th-century artifacts are on view. Shelburne is home to the finest museum collections of 19th-century American folk art, quilts, 19th- and 20th-century decoys, and carriages.

Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888-1960) was a pioneering collector of American folk art and founded Shelburne Museum in 1947. The daughter of H.O. and Louisine Havemeyer, important collectors of European and Asian art, she exercised an independent eye and passion for art, artifacts, and architecture celebrating a distinctly American aesthetic.

When creating the Museum she took the imaginative step of collecting 18th- and 19th-century buildings from New England and New York in which to display the Museum’s holdings, relocating 20 historic structures to Shelburne. These include houses, barns, a meeting house, a one-room schoolhouse, a lighthouse, a jail, a general store, a covered bridge, and the 220-foot steamboat Ticonderoga.

Mrs. Webb sought to create “an educational project, varied and alive.” What visitors experience at Shelburne is unique: remarkable collections exhibited in a village-like setting of historic New England architecture, accented by a landscape that includes over 400 lilacs, a circular formal garden, herb and heirloom vegetable gardens, and perennial gardens.

The Museum’s collections, educational programs, special events, workshops, activities, and special exhibitions constantly offer new perspectives on four centuries of art and material culture, assuring visitors a museum experience unlike any other.

Rokeby Museum:
Perched on a hill overlooking the Champlain Valley, Rokeby Museum provides an intimate record of two centuries of Vermont family life and agriculture. The house and farm nurtured and survived the growing up and growing old of four generations of Robinsons—a remarkable family of Quakers, farmers, abolitionists, authors, and artists.

Today, listed as a National Historic Landmark, the site tells two stories simultaneously — of the Robinsons in particular, and more broadly, of Vermont and New England social history from the 1790s to 1961.

Rokeby Museum is one of the best-documented Underground Railroad sites in the country. It was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in recognition of its outstanding history in 1997.

Rowland Thomas and Rachel Gilpin Robinson were devout Quakers and radical abolitionists, and they harbored many fugitive slaves at their family home and farm during the decades of the 1830s and 1840s. Among the thousands of letters in the family’s correspondence collection are several that mention fugitive slaves by name and in some detail.

Labor of Love:
Vermont Works for Women is proud to present Labor of Love, an exhibit of photos and interview excerpts that recognizes and honors 29 women who are passionate about their work, who are an inspiration to others, and who exemplify excellence in their field. The honorees – who are an inspiration to others and who exemplify excellence in their fields – come from all parts of Vermont. They are farmers, doctors, tattoo artists, college presidents, electricians, and general store clerks. They hail from Newport to Vernon. They are young and young-at-heart, well-known and not.

[from the LeisureArts archive] – A David Robbins Trifecta – The Art/Life Conundrum Solved!

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 01/08/2013

[This is a three in one post of material (in reverse order)  I did for LeisureArts on David Robbins. Although I might choose another word than “production,” I think Robbins asks a question that still needs much contemplation – “who are we when we pursue a larger field of production, some of which is art?”]

An initial stab at a semiotic square [David Robbins]

Note that “High Entertainment” is a category Robbins describes as “…works and artifacts that retain fine art’s complex ambitions for the culture while eschewing the specialized language of fine art in favor of mass accessibility – [it] can be manifested in games, toys, fashion, public sculpture, books, hoaxes, indeed in any product that has contact with the public.” p. 311

Art/Life – David Robbins – LeisureArts

The old art/life distinction.

The “triangulation” theory of David Robbins.

This notion is worked out in various ways throughout his book The Velvet Grind, but the essay “On Talent” spells things out pretty directly:

That something might stand outside art and report on it, comment on it, editorialize about it in an iconic language of its own – this was, and apparently still is, disorienting. The reason, I submit, is that it instantiates a complication of the modernist dialogue between life and art. Talent suggests that the old binary model has been superseded by a triangulated model whose points are life, art, and entertainment – a competing communication system no less madly self-sustaining, self-referential, and self-celebratory than art. “Showbiz” adds another category that’s neither Art nor Life. p.24

Robbins’s triangulation is an important step to finding new forms and languages for what he calls “imaginative practice” – creative, funny, thoughtful forms of invention that are not art. We at LesiureArts find Robbins incredibly useful [We hope to write more, but being the slackers that we are, this might be as far as we get]. He also writes about inventing experience which he distinguishes from producing culture. This is a welcome relief from all of the talk about cultural production, as invented experience resonates nicely with John Dewey’s aesthetic theory which is in dire need of being read by the legions of curators and artists who are reinventing the wheel of experience based practices.

The LeisureArts modified model.

As we mentioned, the triangulation theory is an important step, but LeisureArts is interested in expanding the terrain of inventive practices and theory to cover a host of other activities that Robbins’s triangle can’t account for. That leads to the above modification. In leisure, we have a broad field of activities that fall in between the various oppositions, some closer to one vertex or the other, but the field itself exists in a kind of equipoise (ideally). Adding leisure to the model allows for the inventiveness of car customizers, tea cozy makers, coat hanger collectors, home cooks, and others to mingle on equal footing with so called “high” forms of culture be it entertainment or art.

David Robbins – The Velvet Grind

Some excerpts:

…the pertinent question is no longer “what infinite variety of materials, strategies, concerns might we include in the context of art?” It isn’t “what might we map onto the coordinates of art?” These were the questions of modernism. The more contemporary question – tomorrow’s question – is “who are we when we pursue a larger field of production, some of which is art?” (p.29)

The maximum site of invention, now, is one that forces the culture of criticality into direct and continuous contact with its strongest and most radical cultural alternative, the culture that thrives despite art’s low regard for it, the culture, ladies and gentleman, that actually expresses respect for lives conventionally led, the culture that doesn’t need art: entertainment. (p.167)

For (A Broad) Social Practice – A Reply to Daniel Tucker – Bring on the Arty Party

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 12/03/2012

The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest recently launched a blog and this piece caught my eye: Against Social Practice – Daniel Tucker

The title is somewhat misleading as Tucker is not arguing against social practice per se, but the way it is being institutionalized. I also have reservations about the professionalization of social practice, but for very different reasons. He opens with a troubling assertion about the rise of social practice programs and the connection to neoliberalism:

Education in an era of the neoliberalization of capitalism has placed a premium on choice. The opening up of new markets is key to this expanded choice, exemplified in charter school expansion at the primary and secondary level, the growth in distance and online higher education, and newly specialized affective fields like social practice art, social justice, social entrepreneurship and community partnerships in higher education. Realistically, all of these examples produce new choices at the expense of old choices.

What I would note here is that there needs to be a healthy skepticism towards this zero sum assertion. Some new choices may well come at “the expense” of others, but it isn’t necessarily so. More importantly, we need to asses the qualitative dimensions of those choices. It may well be that social practice programs siphon students from say (sympathetic) sculpture programs, but this might also entail opening access to those sculpture programs for students that are a better fit. It may also be that social practice will turn out to be better suited to ask certain types of questions or explore certain types of experience and thus the “expense” incurred by older forms could be justified.

Tucker then worries, “Far from a conservative cry to preserve the past, I am concerned that our educational choices have already been made for us by forces more human and corrupt than any mythical market could concoct.” This begs the question – Have the previous educational choices somehow been exempt from this corrupting influence? If so, how? And if not, Why are we holding social practice programs to a higher standard?

He then moves on to a series of questions and issues that he feels social practice programs need address before winning his support. He acknowledges that these programs might be uniquely situated to foster “specific conversations that deal with the ethics, logistics and aesthetics of organizing people,” yet cautions, “the traditions of art have a lot to teach social practice, as they have mastered the translation of the social into material resolutions that provide necessary and different points of entry into complex ideas.” Maybe. But it is curious that there are so many who feel dissatisfied with this alleged “mastery.” Perhaps he is right that this new academic “market” is merely a neoliberal consumer choice, but that seems implausible. It certainly is cynical to dismiss the apparent desire of these students to find a better home for their curiosity than what the traditional art disciplines offer – are all of them chasing an art world trend? most of them? Or could it be that the arts are not the masters of translation Tucker imagines?

My foremost concern though is with the limitations he sets out for the field of social practice. Obviously we all bring competing agendas into this discussion around such a burgeoning field. But I feel Tucker’s questions, as interesting as they may be, are symptomatic of a deep desire to prescribe an intellectualist and activist agenda for social practice:

Can it retain the gains of the past movements for educational representation while moving beyond representation to a politics of redistribution? Can it respect truly complex social world from which it borrows and in which it intervenes without relegating the social to an image—a fixed commodified version of the everyday? Can it experiment with social relations in a way that builds new insights into what we can do together that acknowledge the inherently political nature of that act, while also proposing (socially or materially) ways to work through inadequate politics of the past?

I have argued again and again that there may well be incredible opportunities to address these sorts of questions in social practice programs, but it would be a mistake to desire to limit ourselves to them. There certainly are, and will continue to be, people who have no interest in such questions. They may not have any interest in antagonism as a social form, maybe they want to make people happy- gasp! I hope we can reserve a place for fun, sweetness, and love amid all the smashing of capitalists. I don’t like the idea of a litmus test or the obligation to make every walk a dérive. The “the old academy” Tucker invokes certainly has its strengths, but one of its biggest shortcomings is the narrow band of  human experience it has focused on – the intellectual. There is more to being human than being book/theory “smart.” And rather than settle for the truly “false choices” of exploring the world from different positions along that narrow band, I argue for a social practice filled with activists and intellectuals, but also party people, hippies, malcontents, and maybe even a few capitalists. In short, I argue for the social practice program that many in the academy and the critical establishment fear.

Addendum to: Who counts, or should count, as a “meaning maker?” – The problem with “cultural production.”

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 11/14/2012

Socially engaged art at UCSD provides food for thought in La Jolla – Will Bowen

The article above is quite timely given my recent post – Who counts, or should count, as a “meaning maker?” – The problem with “cultural production.” It illustrates some of the issues I raised in that post (and many others) and might be interesting to break down. I will acknowledge at the outset that this article no doubt presents a caricature of surely more nuanced and complicated thinking by the people cited. The quotes presented though are in no way outliers – there is an academic orthodoxy around social practice (and art in general) and this material is emblematic.

First we have Michelle Hyun offering her definition of socially engaged art:

“Art that is made from the social mediation of social relations. It’s closer to real-life experience than regular art and often has a protest or politic aspect to it.”

The first part of the definition is puzzling in that all art involves the mediation of social relations. So it must be that it is social mediation of those relations that is essential, but I’m not particularly clear on what that even means. In the second part, she makes a claim that it is also “closer” to real life than “regular” art and this begs the questions – does painting or sculpture exist in real life? closer in content? closer in form? and what is “regular” art?

Next we have the author of the article providing a definition:

“…socially engaged art is work that has a social meaning, purpose, or motivation, and is meant to call attention to some facts about society or encourage a change in perspective or behavior. Socially engaged art can be anything from text, poetics, image, performance, theater, film, activity or demonstration, etc.”

This really doesn’t clear much up – As we still can’t seem to eliminate painting, or at least, didactic painting given that socially engaged art can be “image” and given that painting certainly has “social meaning” and “purpose, or motivation.” If we leave it here, socially engaged art is starting to sound like a new name for activist, or political art.

Next up is Mariana Wardwell:

“Socially-engaged art is inbred by a political-economic condition and it acts to intervene in, displace, and dislocate the political environment where it is produced.”

I love this definition as it embodies many of the clichés of contemporary art education. As I mentioned in the above linked post, in many corners of academe we find an incessant call to do things like “intervene in, displace, and dislocate.” The hegemonic noose is tightening around the definition of socially engaged art (or social practice) with every new paragraph in the article.

Ricardo Dominguez:

“To be effective, socially-engaged art must have a bit of ‘toxicity’ about it, meaning that it cannot be easily digested, assimilated, or appropriated by the dominant political structures. It must make them a little sick!”

Now that its aims have been sufficiently circumscribed, we move on to having its methods penned in as well. The only way to be “effective” is apparently to re-employ the strategies of the avant garde, something which was supposed to be out of fashion and or/critiqued into oblivion. Few artists and critics today openly advocate a return to that model of art making, yet it permeates much of what they say and do – their rhetoric betrays them. Notice here though that we find the ambition scaled back and maybe this is the thing that distinguishes the contemporary sensibility from the old avant garde. No longer is the aim to shock but merely “make them a little sick.”

In using the ideas offered so far, it appears that art projects cannot be “socially engaged” if they: are convivial, lack overt political content, disdain critique, embrace “the political environment where it is produced,” or otherwise fail to be properly radical in ambition.

Here, the author is quoting Nato Thompson:

“Living as Form (The Nomadic Version) is an opportunity to cast a wide net and ask: How do we make sense of this work? and in turn, How do we make sense of the world we find ourselves in? ‘Living as Form (The Nomadic Version)’ will provide a broad look at a vast array of practices that appear with increasing regularity in fields ranging from theater to activism, and urban planning to visual art.

Again as I point out in Who counts, or should count, as a “meaning maker?” – The problem with “cultural production.”, there are indeed a “vast array of practices” out in the world, but they are not to be found exclusively in art or its academic cousins. The fields cited here fall pretty neatly within the confines of the education industrial complex and leave out diverse practices and constituencies. It would be instructive to find out who the “we” is mentioned in the two questions above – especially this question –  “How do we make sense of the world we find ourselves in?” It appears the “we” speaks of activists/intellectuals/artists of a particular stripe which is fine, but for a field with such grandiose ambition, it seems important to make sure to acknowledge that this is a very small, and rarefied “we.”

I’ll return to yet another post for another angle on this – Common Culture – Paul Willis Some key quotes in case you don’t care to follow the link:

“In general the arts establishment connives to keep alive the myth of the special, creative individual artist holding out against  passive mass consumerism, so helping to maintain a self-interested view of elite creativity…Against this we insist that there is a vibrant symbolic life and symbolic creativity in everyday life, everyday activity and expression – even if it is sometimes invisible, looked down on or spurned.”

“There can be a final unwillingness and limit even in subversive or alternative movements towards an arts democracy. They may have escaped the physical institutions and academies, but not always their conventionswe don’t want to start where ‘art’ thinks is ‘here’, from within its perspectives, definitions and institutions.[emphasis mine]“

“Ordinary people have not needed an avant-gardism to remind them of rupture. What they have needed but never received is better and freer materials for building security and coherence in their lives.”

Who counts, or should count, as a “meaning maker?” – The problem with “cultural production.” – One side of of a facebook conversation on art and culture

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 11/12/2012

An addendum to this post is now here.

[The following is my end of a multi-participant and mutli-themed conversation. I did not include the names or comments of others (save for a few unattributed quotations) as I did not ask for their permission. The content is essentially unedited.]

*** – The language I prefer to use in describing what you call “antiquated infrastructure” is more in line with Sholette (and Baudrillard). Perhaps art is an exploded star (maybe in the 60s) and like astronomical ones, what we are seeing now is just the last light to reach us from that “long gone” event…

“the madness of making things matter” is a really lovely phrase although I wonder a bit about who you see engaged in such a thing. As you probably know I am quite skeptical about folks that utilize the label “cultural producers” being engaged much in making things matter. Or rather to whom and for whom does it matter?

I feel like despite your half-hearted attempt to leave art behind (at least as you hint at in the comments here), you still want to reserve a place for some sort of special individual (or collective). Someone who stands out as a “meaning maker” or “cultural producer,” thus merely shifting the dynastic reigns to a newly labelled vanguard.

Oh ***, I know you don’t care one whit what my “point” is, but I appreciate you pretending to. It is true that a certain kind of skepticism is my disposition, and that skepticism generally finds its manifestation at (perceived) claims of specialness, elitism, etc. I support radically democratic culture making (pretty sure you do too) and thus find the term ‘cultural producers’ a bit weird. Who is *not* a cultural producer? Who *doesn’t* “make meaning?” I guess radical inclusivity is my point and thus the idea that critics (radical or otherwise) should be writing about activist art true enough, but why do we keep limiting ourselves to the most obvious forms of meaning making, and while obvious, also the least accessible to vast segments of the population?

So again when you say:
“That is why I use the phrase “cultural producers” only as a way to imply forms of culture making outside the tight constraints of an art infrastructure.”

I have to wonder why, given your curatorial history, it seems you want to look outside the art *infrastructure*, but not outside *art* (or activism when you stretch a bit). It gives the distinct impression that “cultural producer” is just a euphemism for smart art/activist types, but does not appear to include car customizers, church knitting circles and the like. I mean if we’re really looking at culture, not *intellectual* culture, not *urban* culture, not *activist* culture, etc. Why does everything done in the name of cultural production feel so constrained?

There is indeed an “entire other universe” being ignored (but not necessarily the one you speak of) and my “point” is to be vigilant in calling that out.

I am certainly not against being interested in one thing over another either. The reason I spout off (aside from having no life) on these issues periodically is that there is a HUGE disconnect in the art world between what people say they support and what they *actually* support. I mean your **** show didn’t cast a wide net (at least from where I sit). It explored a well worn groove, an interesting one, but very few surprises (of course I’m also guilty of considering the title too literally – wanting something beyond its aim, hoping to have seen an exhibition of people living creatively, whose lives explore the art of living more than the art of living (as art)). Time and again, curators claim to be interested in everyday life, the ordinary, cultural production, etc. – yet whenever they put an event together art/activist types are almost all they include (unless one of the artist/activist types brings in some non-art person). So if the statement were everyday life – as interpreted by artist intellectuals, or cultural production as generated by artist intellectuals or others they deem interesting, or *** – as practiced by art/activist types, then it would at least be honest…

So, what *do* I want?

…more grandmothers, more South Dakotans, more gearheads, more fan fiction writers, more karaoke queens, more street performers, more Sunday painters, more NASCAR fans, more tailgating, more collectors (of barf bags, not art), more gardeners (not “radical” ones), more lipdub dreamers, more Civil War re-enactors, more whirlygig makers, more surfers, more conservatives, more stand-up comics, more DJs (not Spooky!!!!), more roadside Americana, more people who have never been to college, more fiddlers, more people who have never left their hometown, more taxidermists, more people who don’t give a shit about art aside from liking pretty pictures, more of all the crazy, delightful people making (and doing things) that mean something, more folks engaged in, as you put it, “the madness of making things matter.”

Not only would critics of art from other disciplines be interesting so too would artists. One of the reasons I gave up on undergraduate art education was that everybody was busy making stuff without any foundation to drive it – except art. They were all living in an art school bubble (not unlike a Fox News bubble). Making art completely within the framework of art and only questioning it within its own terms.

Sure there were other courses than studio ones, but they were those dumbed down “math for artists” sorts of classes. I would love an art world in which there was no such thing as an undergraduate art degree. Art created from a vantage point of something in the world other than art would be so much healthier and relevant than the inbred mess we have now.

And don’t bother telling me how art education has changed, how people read from urban planning, architecture, etc. The professionalization of art, the specialization, still has a very tight grip. Look at how successful Claire Bishop has been at having people take seriously her efforts to reign in social practice, to bring it back to the fold, to let all the old ideas and frameworks be the starting point – criticality being the greatest bugaboo. Oh how the art world LOVES its criticality! Looking to other academic disiciplines, is fine (as **** suggests) but let’s not confine ourselves to academia.

Surely we can hope for a more interesting and diverse art world than one dependent on academic experts, one that includes pleasure (not “jouissance”), one that thrives in places like Galveston, TX, or Butte, MT, one that thrives outside cities, one that ordinary people (ordinary people are the sort of people that wouldn’t ask “what is an *ordinary* person?”) want to see, one that doesn’t always have to interrogate, deconstruct, critique, or examine, one that is radically inclusive, democratic, local, and in which critics are one, very small part.

Steven Wright vs. Stephen Wright – Double Ontology, Escaping the Art World – Baudrillard & Kaprow and Abbott & Costello

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 10/23/2012

 

[Cue video to 7:06 – 7:32]

“But it is no longer a question of either maps or territory. Something has disappeared: the sovereign difference between them that was the abstraction’s charm. For it is the difference which forms the poetry of the map and the charm of the territory, the magic of the concept and the charm of the real. This representational imaginary, which both culminates in and is engulfed by the cartographer’s mad project of an ideal coextensivity between the map and the territory, disappears with simulation, whose operation is nuclear and genetic, and no longer specular and discursive. With it goes all of metaphysics. No more mirror of being and appearances, of the real and its concept; no more imaginary coextensivity: rather, genetic miniaturization is the dimension of simulation.”

[From that other comedic genius, Jean Baudrillard]

“…the idea of art cannot easily be gotten rid of (even if one wisely never utter the word). But it is possible to slyly shift the whole un-artistic operation away from where the arts customarily congregate, to become, for instance, an account executive, an ecologist, a stunt rider, a politician, a beach bum. In these different capacities…[art] would operate indirectly as a stored code that, instead of programming a specific course of behavior, would facilitate an attitude of deliberate playfulness toward all professionalizing activities well beyond art. Signal scrambling, perhaps. Something like those venerable baseball aficionados in the vaudeville act that began, “Who’s on first?”

[Kaprow invoking comedy]

 

[signal scrambling]

“Use the country itself, as its own map”: operating on the 1:1 scale – Stephen Wright

…They seem to be seeking to escape performative and ontological capture as art altogether. It is certainly possible to describe them as having a double ontology; but it seems more closely in keeping with their self-understanding to argue that this is not an ontological issue at all, but rather a question of the extent to which they are informed by a certain coefficient of art. Informed by artistic self-understanding, not framed as art.

[see Kaprow’s “stored code” above]

This may be a way to renegotiate the asymmetrical relationship between art and memory. Though both are constructs, art long focused on shaping and reshaping memory’s matrix-like status — in other words, art stemmed from memory, yet somehow managed to scale memory down and thereby to hold it at a distance. The practices I have briefly described, and countless others today, have come to challenge this scalar bias and instead, increasingly, to operate on the 1:1 scale, no longer distinguishable from their object on the basis of scale and thus of use. Such full-scale aesthetics may make it possible to force memory to the fore as a dimension of the historical present, and as such, fully political.

[see Baudrillard’s “mad project” above]

I love Steven and Stephen (talk about double ontology!!!), but I think Steven’s distillation wins in this instance. I also think Stephen cites terribly insufficient examples of “escape.”  And the challenge to ontology itself offered by Baudrillard should at least, when talking of maps and territories, be addressed if only to engender the silly confusion of a theoretical vaudeville.

David Robbins – The Problems of Art – Inventing Contexts

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 06/29/2012

“Forming Fun” – Hans Ulrich Obrist with David Robbins

It’s more about inventing a context. It’s not about bringing things into art, that Duchampian thing. Instead it’s about making a new context for cultural production and presentation. I’m not really interested in the problems of art anymore.

Tagged with: , , ,

Susan Buck-Morss – Aesthetics Freed From Art

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 06/04/2012

Aesthetics after the End of Art: An Interview with Susan Buck-Morss

But again, why is “art” privileged as the object of such experience? I really don’t know what the word means any more. Aesthetics, however, seems to me more important than ever. “Aesthetics after art,” you might call it.

Richard Shusterman – Aesthetics – Art of Living

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 05/15/2012

Breaking Out of the White Cube – Suzi Gablik interviewing Richard Shusterman

There’s so much room for art in the practice of living, in how we organize our lives and how we improve them, that the idea of confining art to what we hang on walls is a pathetic failure of theoretical as well as artistic imagination.

Why Relying On Professional Artists Is A Bad Idea – Outsourcing Creativity

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 05/06/2012

from The Outsourced Life – NY Times

The bad news in this case is the capacity of the service market, with all its expertise, to sap self-confidence in our own capacities and those of friends and family. The professional nameologist finds a more auspicious name than we can recall from our family tree. The professional potty trainer does the job better than the bumbling parent or helpful grandparent. Jimmy’s Art Supply sells a better Spanish mission replica kit than your child can build for that school project from paint, glue and a Kleenex box. Our amateur versions of life seem to us all the poorer by comparison. [emphasis mine]

More Tailgating, Less Curating.

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 02/27/2010

More Tailgating, Less Curating. – a little something for Bad at Sports.

Tagged with: , , , , ,

Art Work Redux – Temporary Services – Basic Income vs. Workfare

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 02/22/2010

There is much to like in this interview with Temporary Services. They do a good bit to qualify their ambition for their recent project Art Work, but the message is still muddled to me. They clearly have larger ambitions for economic justice than establishing what they consider just compensation for artists, but likely due to speaking from their personal experience the larger ambition seems to lose its way.

I certainly support the rehabilitation of  their art-centric focus expressed here:

“Our concern is about creating a new language and methodology around art *and other creative fields* that sees this output as essential to the daily life of humans.”

And:

“In general, we want to get rid of the idea of work for everyone. We believe that people from all fields can work together in order to create an environment that takes care of everyone and is not dependent on the outdated model of Capitalism. ”

My concern is that there isn’t much “new language” used in discussing these ideas. They seem to speak in pretty conventional leftist terms – especially around the idea of exploitation. They’re absolutely right that the commercial gallery system limits how “art can be conceived,” but this is true of any art context of which the commercial is just one.  That is what makes it a context in the first place. It is only by accepting the primacy of that context and its measures of success that these arguments have weight. The charge of exploitation is a complicated matter. There are a VAST number of artists supporting themselves fully or partially in commercial galleries. Maybe they mean commercial galleries in Chelsea or other Art Forum/frieze sorts of galleries? There are artists thriving in commercial galleries in Mobile, AL – Taos, NM – Galveston, TX – Brunswick, GA  – and many other ‘off the map’ locations. Additionally, there are many Chelsea artists who don’t feel exploited at all (some of whom have only marginal economic success with their work). Are we to know better than they do whether they are “exploited?” Certainly Temporary Services has provided rich documentation of many who do feel exploited, but let’s not pretend it is anything other than a polemic (yet one I am very sympathetic to).

When asked to imagine what working full time outside an art/commerce model, we get into the muddiest waters with regard to larger notions of economic justice/freedom. They look to the Works Progress Administration which I think is good in that it was not exclusively for artists, but I offer the counter-example of a Basic Income/Participation Income model as that does not emphasize the productivist values of work and employment. Work should not be the organizing principle of society which is what I thought Temporary Services was getting at in mentioning getting rid of the idea of work.

We need less work, less labor, and more emphasis on generating wealth outside of an economic rubric. I think we’re basically on the same page here, but they focus on the plight of artists far more than I care for. In fact, I rarely see anyone lament the sorry state of arts funding other than arts professionals and wannabes. It makes one pause to see a group (here I am not speaking specifically about TS) proclaim over and over how important what they do is, yet decry the fact that no one else seems to recognize this. Maybe that should tell them a bit about how much value they actually offer. If I were to be concerned about one group being justly compensated for what they do, it would be stay at home moms or adult caregivers, not artists. This singling out, of course, is pointless though.

TS says, “but we could do this exclusively if we were actually paid well for what we do. We have to have other jobs.”  To this I say yes, welcome to the real world where people routinely get paid to do something they don’t like in order to facilitate pursuing things they actually enjoy. There are plenty of car customizers, gardeners, jugglers, SCA types, etc. that would love to be freed from the obligation to work. I support this fully, but rather than the WPA, or selecting artists for special treatment due to their self-perceived value to society, we need to rethink fundamental assumptions about work and leisure. While I applaud the effort and dedication Temporary Services brings to exploring ideas around art and economics, I can’t help but be disappointed at how easily the discussion falls into the trap of productivist, and often elitist thinking.

Related material here.

Thoreau – Art/Life

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 02/06/2010

The true poem is not that which the public read. There is always  a poem not printed on paper, coincident with the production of this, stereotyped in the poet’s life. It is what he has become through his work. Not how is the idea expressed in stone, or on canvass or paper, is the question, but how far it has obtained form and expression in the life of the artist. His true work will not stand in any prince’s gallery. [italics in original; bold emphasis mine] – H. D. Thoreau in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

Common Culture – Paul Willis

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 12/10/2009

From Common Culture: Symbolic work at play in the everyday cultures of the young by Paul Willis:

“In general the arts establishment connives to keep alive the myth of the special, creative individual artist holding out against  passive mass consumerism, so helping to maintain a self-interested view of elite creativity…Against this we insist that there is a vibrant symbolic life and symbolic creativity in everyday life, everyday activity and expression – even if it is sometimes invisible, looked down on or spurned.”

“There can be a final unwillingness and limit even in subversive or alternative movements towards an arts democracy. They may have escaped the physical institutions and academies, but not always their conventions…we don’t want to start where ‘art’ thinks is ‘here’, from within its perspectives, definitions and institutions.[emphasis mine]”

“We argue for symbolic creativity as an integral (‘ordinary’) part of the human condition, not as inanimate peaks (popular or remote) rising above its mists.”

“Art is taken as the only field of qualitative symbolic activity…We insist, against this, that imagination is not extra to daily life, something to be supplied from disembodied art.”

“…young people feel more themselves in leisure than they do at work. Though only ‘fun’ and apparently inconsequential, it’s actually where their creative symbolic abilities are most at play. ”

“The fact that many texts may be classified as intrinsically banal, contrived and formalistic must be put against the possibility that their  living reception [emphasis mine]is the opposite of these things.”

“Why shouldn’t bedroom decoration and personal styles, combinations of others’ ‘productions’, be viewed along with creative writing or song and music composition as fields of aesthetic realization?”

“Ordinary people have not needed an avant-gardism to remind them of rupture. What they have needed but never received is better and freer materials for building security and coherence in their lives.”

“The simple truth is that it must now be recognized that the coming together of coherence and identity in common culture occurs in surprising, blasphemous and alienated ways seen from old-fashioned Marxist rectitudes – in leisure not work [emphasis mine], through commodities not political parties, privately not collectively.”

What is so refreshing about this book is that it is filled with the actual accounts of lived responses to culture rather than the usual empty academic  pronouncements about how culture is processed and taken up. Rather than opine, Willis listens.

Art Work – Leisure

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 12/02/2009

UPDATE: More here.

These comments pertain to the recent release of Art Work by Temporary Services. They apply to the project as a whole, but a link to them was left on Julia Bryan-Wilson’s essay “Art Versus Work” as it is a central organizing essay. I apologize in advance for the scatter-shot nature of the response. I level these criticisms and objections with great admiration of, and humility toward,  Art Work, its organizers, and its contributors even if I don’t always maintain that tone.

Anything but work: Call Me a Slacker – NEVER a Worker.

“My father taught me to work; he did not teach me to love it. I never did like to work, and I don’t deny it. I’d rather read, tell stories, crack jokes, talk, laugh – anything but work.” – Abraham Lincoln

Julia Bryan-Wilson does an admirable job presenting a historical overview and theoretical foundation for those who embrace the notion of the artist as worker. What leaves me a bit cold, not just in her piece, but in Art Work as a whole, is the lack of any substantive dissent from this notion. At the very least, a sketch of some counter-theorizations, and a survey of key figures advocating against the valorization of work and labor would be useful. The slackers, quitters, idlers, loafers, drop outs, and leisure theorists have their own history, many providing a scathing critique of the lefts embrace of the proletarianization of human activity. I, being one of these good for nothings myself, hope to provide just such a sketch, but it will remain just a sketch as anything more would feel too much like work, and I’d rather read, tell stories, crack jokes, talk, laugh…

On work, labor, and old man Marx

“I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused
by the belief that work is virtuous…” – Bertrand Russell

Julia Bryan-Wilson writes, “Drawing on Marx’s theoretical work, and prompted by a desire to make art legitimate, necessary, and meaningful, artists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries tried to erode the distinction between art and labor by insisting that their actions, and the products of those actions, were indeed work.” The idea that calling what you do “work” makes it “legitimate” or “meaningful” is the crux of the problem I have with much of what one finds in Art Work. This sort of thinking is everywhere on the left and Marx does in fact provide the theoretical mirror in which many self-identified “cultural workers” (I always shudder at this phrase) see themselves. Jean Baudrillard, the still mostly Marxist incarnation of which Bryan-Wilson cites, moved very quickly into a position not easily integrated within her piece or this newspaper as a whole. In his book The Mirror of Production he writes “The critical theory of the mode of production does not touch the principle of production.” That is to say that Marxist analysis too readily embraces the terms of the debate and therefore provides a mere functional critique, one that Baudrillard might note, “…deciphers the functioning of the system of political economy; but at the same time it reproduces it as model.”

Like Baudrillard I see a certain kind of of Marxist theoretical fundamentalism at work here. Art, like everything else in life apparently, becomes just another form of work. The proponents of artist unions and art workers appear to see labor and production everywhere and thus we find ourselves talking of wages, compensation, and professional practices. Let’s keep in mind though that just as the id, ego, and superego are organizing myths of psychoanalysis, Marxism has its own myths. Mapping the world using these specialized tools is certainly useful in certain contexts, but I’d just like to keep in mind that they are specialized, very partial, and historically bound views and that they are maps after all. Or to return to Baudrillard in reference to Marxism:

“Historical materialism, dialectics, modes of production, labor power – through these concepts Marxist theory has sought to shatter the abstract universality of the concepts of bourgeois thought…Yet Marxism in turn universalizes them with a ‘critical’ imperialism as ferocious as the other’s.”

“…Thus, to be logical the concept of history must itself be regarded as historical, turn back on itself…Instead, in Marxism history is transhistoricized: it redoubles on itself and is universalized.”

“As soon as they [critical concepts] are constituted as universal they cease to be analytical and the religion of meaning begins [or what we called theoretical fundamentalism].”

Giles Gunn, not writing specifically about Marxism puts it this way, “Theory of this sort is always in danger of reifying itself – or, what amounts to the same thing, of treating everything it touches as mere epiphenomena of its own idioms. [emphasis mine]” So where does that leave us? What does employing these terms do? It seems many contributors here find them liberating. I feel it gives too much ground, too readily cedes a particular view of what is important about what artists do. I’m not sure that Baudrillard doesn’t have this one right:

“Failing to conceive of a mode of social wealth other than that founded on labor and production, Marxism no longer furnishes in the long run a real alternative to capitalism.”

And:

“And in this Marxism assists in the cunning of capital. It convinces men [sic] that they are alienated by the sale of their labor power, thus censoring the much more radical hypothesis that they might be alienated as labor power, as the ‘inalienable’ power of creating value by their labor. [entire quote in italics in the original]”

I see in Bryan-Wilson’s apparent acceptance of Marx a failure of imagination of sorts, one that leads us reductively to seeing the world through a narrow, economic prism. Much like the psychoanalyst sees libidinal drives and frustrated sexuality in everything from their morning coffee to flower arrangements, many in Art Work, see money, labor, and production everywhere. This strikes me as unhealthy and teeters dangerously close to the history of conceptual imperialism employed by Western ethnographers when they interpreted other cultures through their own cultural matrix and mistook this reading as transcription rather than translation. Baudrillard, again in The Mirror of Production is helpful here:

“…it [Western culture] reflected on itself in the universal, and thus all other cultures were entered in its museum as vestiges of its own image. It ‘estheticized’ them, reinterpreted them on its own model, and thus precluded the radical interrogation these ‘different’ cultures implied for it.”

Continuing:

“In the kindest yet most radical way the world has ever seen, they have placed these objects [so called primitive art] in a museum by implanting them in an esthetic category. But these objects are not art at all. And, precisely their non-esthetic character could at last have been the starting point for a radical perspective on (and not an internal critical perspective leading to a broadened reproduction of) Western culture.”

If we substitute “esthetic” with “economic” it should become clear why this is pertinent. By seeing something that looks like what the West calls economic exchange or labor and calling it such, we miss the opportunity to observe something deeply challenging to the very premise of economy, value, and work. To extrapolate then, we should think long and hard about how readily we want to place art within the conceptual spreadsheet of capitalist vocabulary, or as Baudrillard would say, its mirror – Marxist vocabulary.

Art work or Art leisure?

“…with art-relaxing art comes to you with a greater simplicity clearness beauty reality feelingness and life.” – Gilbert and George

“…there is no art without laziness.” – Mladen Stilinovic

Leisure, Joseph Pieper, the “intellectual worker,” and de-proletarianization

“Leisure has had a bad press. For the puritan it is the source of vice; for the egalitarian a sign of privilege. The Marxist regards leisure as the unjust surplus, enjoyed by the few at the expense of the many.” – Roger Scruton

“Work does not make you rich; it only makes you bent over.” – Russian proverb

One doesn’t have to look very far to find alternatives to the worship of work. Josef Pieper’s book Leisure, The Basis of Culture provides a road map to rethinking many of the founding assumptions of Art Work. Tackling head on what he calls the culture of “total work,” Pieper argues for leisure as an organizing principle for culture. He is especially scornful of the notion of the “intellectual worker” from which the easy leap to “art worker” should be obvious. He writes, “…the takeover…of intellectual action…and its exclusive possession by the realm of ‘total work’…the most recent phase of a whole series of conquests made by the ‘imperial figure’ of the ‘Worker.’ And the concepts of intellectual worker and intellectual work…make the fact of that conquest especially clear and especially challenging to our times.”

He goes on to provide a historical summary of how the idea of effort, work, and labor came to be equated with knowing and how this transformation omitted the very basis of intellectus, the passive, listening, visionary, effortless dimension of knowing at the expense of ratio, the mostly discursive, active form. As he describes it, many in this publication seem to have followed this same path of over-valuing effort and difficulty. So in Art Work it becomes clear that “…not only the wage earner, the hand-worker, and the proletarian are workers; even the learned man, the student, are workers; they too are drawn into the social system and its distribution of labor. the intellectual worker…is a functionary in the total world of work, he may be called a ‘specialist,’ he is still a functionary…nobody is granted a ‘free zone’ of intellectual activity…” In this I sense a sad resignation to proletarianization, but what if we sought rather de-proletarianization?

Pieper defines being proletarian as “being bound to the working-process.” This he argues leads one to become a “spiritually impoverished functionary” – and it is this that rings loudly when I see one embrace the term art worker. For once again it seems like a failure of imagination, a spiritual failure (knowing full well how unfashionable that must seem) to adopt, if even tactically, the rhetoric of total work, or “to fall into line as ready functionaries for the collective working-state.” What is the alternative? Rather than expanding the reach of work, its colonization of existence, its imperial nature, perhaps it is better to tame it, refuse it (to the extent one can), and most easily, reject its measures. As Pieper says de-proletarianization “would consist in making available for the working person a meaningful kind of activity that is not work – in other words, by opening up an area of true leisure.”

Slack

Another prism through which to read all of this is through the “paradoxes of slackerdom” – an online conference I co-organized with Stephen Wright here. In its own way that (international) conversation stands as a kind of rejoinder to this one, or at least a necessary supplement. I urge those who have found their way here to look not only at it, but at the legions of lazy sods, slackers,  and others that reject work altogether as the (only) measure of human worthiness – those that seek  to define their lives relative to, and in, leisure – what Paul Willis calls “the hidden continent of the informal.”

Carrol Dunham – He Said She Said – Review

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 11/02/2009

tree11Our show at He Said – She Said featuring Carroll Dunham received this review.