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January 18, 2005

Here and There

Yet another online run-down.

Artists, Submit

At Anaba, Martin urges artists nationwide to submit their proposals for the 2006 Whitney Biennial:

I would love it if artbloggers across the country cut and pasted this information onto their own blogs- no need to link, Tyler - and we can send the curators a message that we want to see more than simply a reflection of the Chelsea market. E-mail the information to your artist friends! Post it at your local art center! Submission is free, you'll get a cool rejection letter, and who knows - maybe someone will actually slip through the NYC filter of money and connections.
All submissions to be considered for exhibition in the Biennial should include the artist's biography or resume, a brief description of the proposed work, and between six and eight images. Recommended formats for images include slides, computer printouts, digital images on a CD_ROM, audio CDs, or VHS videotapes. We do not accept original artworks in the submission package.
Submissions may be sent to:
Biennial Coordinator
Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10021

Martin's already got his proposal prepared, how about you?

Van Harrison Heads West

At panel-house, Terence Hannum tells us of Van Harrison's departure for LA, closing with this familiar refrain:

Is it a larger matter of pride to say that Chicago sustained an environment that cultivated Van Harrison/1R or that some day, if that day comes, Chicago sustains the future VH/1R's? As with all disappearances that befall Chicago's art "community", and it appears as if every era has theirs (though it feels as if they are growing closer together), some reflection is required. In my review of Josh Mannis and Anna Mayer at artLedge I alluded to these coastal migrations of spaces as well as closures. To be honest I have little faith much will change or that much reflection will be given. If we read back to FGA or look back to the 1970s here in Chicago a certain trope becomes clear. I think it is endemic to Chicago to be ignorant of what it has until whatever it is goes bankrupt, closes, flees, or grows tired of being ignored.

For an apt illustration of the phenomenon, observe the link-rot on the two-year-old site's own links page. To be fair, I'd imagine these sort of closures and disappearances are not limited to Chicago. Then again, the pathology Hannum notes as endemic to the city stretches beyond the narrow corridors of its contemporary art scene.

Engaging Judgment

At Modern Kicks, Miguel stands by his man:

I don't necessarily embrace as fully developed a Kantian position as I've sometimes articulated - I like it, but I'm not wedded to it. That said, the skepticism toward judgement I think I see hinted at in Timothy's posts (and Dan's comment) worries me a bit. As the "ethics of engagement" line suggests, judgement, whatever its problems, is what we've got to work with here.

I'm not so sure I see "the skepticism toward judgment" in Quigley's post myself. If anything, I see an affirmation of the need for judgment, perhaps with a recognition of the skepticism that in a certain respect attends our historical moment:

The value of criticism goes beyond the ethics of engagement. If that were all that were at stake we would be dealing with little more than abstract moralizing. But surely it's the effects that matter since the one who is critiqued is able to see more clearly how the work is actually being received. Nor is that process itself straightforward and direct. Understanding the response of the critic itself entails interpretation and assessment. So everyone involved is caught up in a delicate exchange involving perception, response, articulation, and (yes…) judgment. This enables all involved to sharpen their wits and refine their practice, whether it be expression through an artistic medium or engagement and understanding through the medium of ordinary language.
This is the very first step we must take in order for there to be any hope of creating a lively and productive critical environment. But it's not sufficient. There are too many other obstacles in place that must also be examined and dismantled.

Hoping to probe the middle ground between a Danto–Belting posthistorical mishmash and a Greenbergian historical determinism, Miguel also hits us with a reading assignment:

No one seems to like the enervating aspects of Danto's pluralism, the nominalism of Morris Weitz's art-is-what-the-artworld-says-it-is position. But there isn't a lot of support for another determinist choo-choo train [a phrase Rosalind Krauss levels at Greenberg], either, even if anyone knew how to get one going. Again, I don't have any answers. But one thing I think might be interesting along these lines might be to read Jean-Francois Lyotard's "Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?" over against Greenberg's "Avant-Garde and Kitsch" with an eye toward comparing the animating strategies of the two essays.

Both essays are anthologized (the former, I believe, in excerpt, the latter in its entirety) in Art in Theory 1900-2000. (And, for what it's worth, both appear in my obsolete edition of Art in Theory 1900-1990 as well, so no need to upgrade just for this.) Greenberg's essay can also be read online. As far as I can tell Lyotard's isn't online, but with Amazon's Search Inside feature in effect, the enterprising reader can read the entire thing there.

No excuses now, folks. Read up, and remember to bring your notes to class.

"Here and There"
Posted by Dan at 04:20 PM


Well, remember, I only said "hinted" at. I think you're right that the thrust of the second post in particular, describing the "ethics of engagement." I think what we are reacting to (very) slightly differently is the willingness to walk on that ground (um, speaking nonfoundationally, of course!). I think, perhaps, I'm just slightly more inclined to gravitate to it as the origin - ah, let me see, faculty, or just topic, suited to the discussion.

Hm, the Greenberg/Lyotard thing is one I've thought of for a long time, without ever exploring seriously. I think my copy of J-F's essay has been lost over the years, but I can search around. I would be interested in hearing other's thoughts.

Posted by: Miguel Sánchez on January 18, 2005 at 06:18 PM

Good gravy, you guys are making my head hurt. Hold up while I go dig up a few of my old college textbooks to decode all those essays you referenced.

Posted by: Todd W. on January 18, 2005 at 08:45 PM

Mmmmm... gravy.

The following was mostly written with my hindquarters, as I haven't read either essay in some time. So, working from a partial remembrance of selective readings...

I recall being struck by how easily Greenberg's distinction between an open, experimental avant-garde and a retrograde kitsch (relying on closed, prefabricated forms) translates, at the level of discourse, into postmodern injunctions against "closure" or determinism in favor of a more open and unresolved interrogation (though, at their most reasonable, there's little that's truly and exclusively "postmodern" about such demands).

At any rate, I associate the latter with Lyotard, among others; he championed the incommensurable, the disunified. And indeed, Lyotard's conception of the postmodern as the Modern in its nascent state levels in some respects with Greenberg's scheme (in its privileging of a trailblazing avant-garde over the staid decadence that follows). Of course from there, their accounts part ways in a dramatic manner, but we can see how easily Greenberg's critique of kitsch can be allied with a rejection of academicism or ossifying Modernism.

What am I trying to say? Haven't a clue beyond a more or less vague sense that both engage in similar strategies of revolutionary rhetoric. Common strategy or common thread? Common source?

On the flip side, in what ways do they differ (beyond the obvious)? Can Greenberg's sense of history be seen in terms of a Marxist or Hegelian dialectic? Lyotard's as something more along the lines of a Nietzschean eternal return? Yeah, and can I stop before I get even more out of my depth? (I'll undoubtedly regret this blathering in the morning.)

I really need to hit up both essays with some fresh eyes and get back to you. While I'm at it, I think I'll reread Donald Kuspit's essay The Dialectic of Decadence: Between Advance and Decline in Art. I can't recall too much from it off-hand (beyond the plentiful Judd-bashing), but think it might just be appropriate to the topic.

(By the way: I often use Google to check my spelling on the fly. The top Google result for "Nietzschean"? "The Onion: Area Mom Freaking Out For No Reason Again.")

Hmmm... bedtime.

Posted by: Dan on January 19, 2005 at 03:32 AM

Despite all appearances, I do intend to follow up on all this. It's just been one of those weeks. You've definitely hit on some of the points that made me think of putting the two together, though. I'll see if I can think of anything else to say.

Posted by: Miguel Sánchez on January 21, 2005 at 06:03 PM

I was led here from Miguel's post today. This is one of the problems with comment sections -- they tend to be easily overlooked when they don't feed into a news aggregator or email alerts. Sorry I'm late in following up. I'm off to class...back in the next day or two with some comments.

Posted by: tq on January 24, 2005 at 04:26 PM

I'm going to comment on Greenberg and some of the issues raised here at asymptote this weekend. I'd also like to review my notes and see if I can contribute something useful. 1939 in New York was a very different intellectual climate from Lyotard's Paris of the '70s. But both Greenberg and Lyotard claimed they were working (in different ways) from Kantian assumptions about modernity, critique, and (in Lyotard's case) the sublime. More on that later...

Posted by: tq on January 27, 2005 at 06:53 AM

Referenced in this post:

Anaba: Feneonsters
Anaba: Whitney Biennial
Art in Theory 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas—Charles Harrison and Paul Wood
Art in Theory 1900-2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas—Charles Harrison and Paul Wood
Art in Theory 1900-2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas—Search Inside
Asymptote: Critical Engagement
Clement Greenberg: Avant-Garde and Kitsch
Modern Kicks: train in vain
Panel-house: 'In The Shallows' Melissa Oresky @ Van Harrison Gallery—Terence J. Hannum
Panel-house: Links
They All Fall Down : Richard Nickel's Struggle to Save America's Architecture—Richard Cahan
Van Harrison Gallery
WTTW: Chicago Stories—The Richard Nickel Story
Whitney Museum of American Art: Biennial