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August 23, 2005

Never shake thy gory locks at me (a compendium)

Avaunt! and quit my sight! let the earth hide thee!
Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold;
Thou hast no speculation in those eyes
Which thou dost glare with!
... Hence, horrible shadow!
Unreal mockery, hence!
—William Shakespeare, Macbeth III.4

In partial response to questions broached over here, I offer below a few more or less appropriate textual selections, lovingly transcribed for you at length...

It all wound up too large, in fact, to fit in a single post, so here's a quick menu of the authors on offer:

Arthur Danto, from The Abuse of Beauty
Joseph Koerner, from "The Icon as Iconoclash"
David Freedberg, from The Power of Images
Luc Boltanski, from "The Fetus and the Image War"
Roland Barthes, from Camera Lucida
Margit Rosen, "Shooting the Dead"

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"Never shake thy gory locks at me (a compendium)"
Posted by Dan at 01:27 AM | Referenced URL's | Comments (1)

Arthur Danto

Excerpts from chapter 2 of Arthur Danto's The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art, "The Intractable Avant-Garde"

From Taste to Disgust
The narrative of aesthetic redemption assures us that sooner or later we will see all art as beautiful, however ugly it appeared at first. Try to see this as beautiful! becomes a sort of imperative for those who look at art that does not initially appear beautiful at all. Someone told me that she found beauty in the maggots infesting the severed and seemingly putrescent head of a cow, set in a glass display case by the young British artist Damien Hirst. It gives me a certain wicked pleasure to imagine Hirst's frustration if hers were the received view. He intended that it be found disgusting, which was the one aesthetically unredeemable quality acknowleded by Kant in the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment. Disgust was noticed by him as a mode of ugliness resistant to the kind of pleasure which even the most displeasing things—"the Furies, diseases, the devestations of war"—are capable of causing when represened as beautiful by works of art. "That which excites disgust [Ekel]," Kant writes, "Cannot be represented in accordance with nature without destroying all aesthetic satisfaction." The representation of a disgusting thing or substance has on us the same effect that the presentation of a distgusting thing or substance would itself have." Since the purpose of art is taken to be the production of pleasure, only the most perverse of artists would undertake to represent the disgusting, which cannot "in accordance with nature," produce pleasure in normal viewers.
I don't know what works of art, if any, Kant could have had in mind as disgusting, and he may have counted the very idea of disgusting art as incoherent: if a piece of mimesis was of something disgusting, it would itself be disgusting, contravening its status as art, which in its nature is meant to please. I have seen a sculpture from Nuremberg from the late Gothic era, where a figure, known as "The Prince of the World," which looks comely and strong from the front, is displayed in a state of wormy decay when seen from behind: the body is shown the way it would look decomposing in the grave. Such sights explain why we actually bury the dead. It is intended thus to be seen as revolting by normal viewers, and there can be no question of what is the intended function of showing bodily decay with the skill of a Nuremberg stone carver. It is not to give the viewer pleasure. It is, rather, to disgust the viewer, and in so doing, to act as a vanitas, reminding us through presentation that the flesh is corrupt, and its pleasures a distraction from our higher aspirations, namely to achieve everlasting blessedness and avoid eternal punishment. To show the human body as disgusting is certainly to violate good taste, but Christian artists were prepared to pay this price for what Christianity regards as our highest moral purpose. One has, I suppose, a choice between denying that it is art since it contravenes taste, as I surmise that Kant would have done; or to dismiss taste as he and his contemporaries understood it as too narrow a criterion for defining art. (49–52)

* * *

Abject Art
"Nothing is so much set against the beautiful as disgust," Kant wrote in his 1764 essay, Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime. The sublime is too large a topic to address at this point in my inquiry, but it is worth noting that in the pre-critical text, Kant deliciously observes that the antonym of the sublime is the silly, which suggests that the effect of Dada was less the abuse of beauty that the rejection of the sublime. But just possibly the disgusting, as logically connected to beauty through opposition can also have the connection with morality that beauty does. In the early 1990s, curators recognized a genre of contemproary art they designated "Abject Art," which may be what Jean Clair has primarily in mind. "The abject," writes the art historian Joseph Koerner, "is a novelty neither in the history of art nor in the attempts to write that history." Koerner cites, among other sources, a characteristically profound insight of Hegel: "The novelty of Christian and Romantic art consisted of taking the abject as its privileged object. Specifically, the tortured and crucified Christ, that ugliest of creatures in whom divine beauty became, through human evil, basest abjection." Rudolph Wittkower begins his great text on art and architecture in Italy after the Council of Trent by recording the decision of that coucil to display the wounds and agonies of the martyred, in order, through this display of affect, to elicit the sympathy of viewers and through that to strengthen threatened faith. "Even Christ must be shown 'afflicted, bleeding, spat upon, with his skin torn, wounded, deformed, pale and unsightly' if the subject calls for it." Hegel cites the art historian, Count von Rumohr on an earlier Byzantine tradition:
Accustomed to the sight of gruesome physical punishments, [they] pictured the Saviour on the Cross hanging down with the whole weight of his body, the lower part swollen, knees slackened and bent to the left, the bowed head struggling with the agony of a gruesome death. Thus what they had in view as their subect was physical suffering as such. [By contrast] the Italians were accustomed to give a comforting apperance to the face of the Saviour on the Cross, and so, as it seems, followed the idea of the victory of the spirit and not, as the Byzantines did, the succumbing of the body.
The tendency in the Renaissance to beautify the crucified Christ was in effect a move to classicize Christianity by returning the tortured body to a kind of athletic grace, denying the basic message of Christian teaching that salvation is attained through abject suffering. The aestheticism of the eighteenth century was a corollary of the rationalism of natural religion. It was Kant's stunning achievement to situate aesthetics in the critical architectonic as a form of judgment two small steps away from pure reason. Romanticism, as in the philosophy of Hegel, was a re-affirmation of the Baroque values of the Counter-Reformation. The problem with art, as Hegel saw it, lay in its ineradicable dependence upon sensuous presentation. As with the blood, the torn fleash, the shattered bones, the flayed skin, the broken bodies, the reduction of consciousness to pain and agony in Baroque representation. What Abject art has done is to seize upon the emblems of degradation as a way of crying out in the name of humanity. "For many in contemporary culture," the critic Hal Foster writes, "truth resides in the traumatic or abject subject, in the diseased or damaged body. Thus body is the evidentiary basis of important witnessings to truth, of necessary witnessings against power." (56–7)

* * *

What the disgusting and the abject—and for that matter the silly—help us understand is what a heavy shadow the concept of beauty cast over the philosophy of art. And because beauty became, in the eighteenth century especially, so bound up with the concept of taste, it obscured how wide and diverse the range of aesthetic qualities is. Disgust, for example, provokes the viewer to feel revolted by what the work of art that possesses it is about. It does so in just the same way that eroticism arouses the viewer to be sexually attracted to the subject of the work. These observations are slightly simple-minded, of course. It may take considerable interpretation to see what the fact that it is disgusting means in a work of art. The purposes of eroticism in a work or art may be to get the viewer to think about his or her inhibited personality or emotionally impovrished life. (59)

More: A small index of (more or less) related textual excerpts...

"Arthur Danto"
Posted by Dan at 01:21 AM | Referenced URL's | Comments (0)

Joseph Koerner

Excerpts from "The Icon as Iconoclash" by Joseph Koerner (published in Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion and Art)

Protestant iconoclasts took a special relish in breaking crucifixes.

Certainly, they smashed other church pictures with zeal. They vented great fury on effigies of the Virgin and the saints. Held to be invested with miraculous powers, and venerated in special cults, these exemplified for iconophobes both the idolatrous belief in pictures and an erroneous faith in intercessors: both as images and as personage, that is, the Virgin and the saints were an affront to the one unrespresentable God. The cult of the so-called Beautiful Maria of Regensburg stands advertised (documented?) by a large woodcut by Michael Ostendorfer. Ecstatic pilgrims crowd into a temporary wooden church containing an icon that, in 1519, was believed to have healed a man injured while demolishing the synagogue of the city's violently evicted Jews. Note the ruined building in the right background, remnants of a Jewish house of worship. The impression displayed in the present exhibition bears an indignant inscription by its original collector, the artist Albrecht Dürer, who laments the disgrace to God that such idolatry represents.

In the public performances of church cleansing, however, it was the removal, degradation, and destruction of crucifixes that held pride of place. Perhaps this was because the crucifix seemed to instance idolatry in its most primary form, as the worship of the image instead of God. Yet never is the ambivalence of iconoclasm more evident than when it strikes the image of Christ on the cross. (167–8)

* * *

In the rites of violence they improvised, iconoclasts seemed to relish their role as scoundrels. During carnival celebrations in Hildesheim in 1543, members if the tailors' guild hauled a much-venerated Christ statue from the church of St. Andreas into their drinking hall, where they ordered it to drink. Playing off its non-response, they began to taunt the effigy with words like those spoken by Christ's tormentors in Passion plays of the time: "Now how's he supposed to drink? Can't you see? He's been whipped, his blood is squirting out of him and he's holy and impotent, so he just can't do it." Then, after a pause that made muteness audible, the statue was "forced" to drink, and a cup was rudely tossed in its face. More rude still was the gesture of a burgher in Ulm in 1534, who shat into the mouth of a christ-effigy pulled from Our Lady's Gate. From a protest lodged against the tailors by the Bishop of Hildesheim we know that the "misused" Christ was a statue "which, for the remembrance of the bitter suffering he endured, showed [Christ] scourged, bloodily crowned, and with the cross on his shoulder." In other words, it was the sort of statue—grimly detailed, sometimes life-sized, sometimes with movable limbs—that might be used in staging Passion plays, and that became a special target of iconoclastic fury.

Perhaps the tailors were good at playing the bully because bullying is what men in drinking halls generally do best. Perhaps, though, they knew their roles because the had acted them already in church, in paraliturgical dramas, where the evil characters often got the best lines...

How, then, did Hildesheim's tailors understand the likeness between their iconoclastic acts and the crimes pinned upon the Jews. If such rites aimed to punish Christ's false image, if they fit a pattern of associating papal religion with renewing Christ's torment, why did they model retribution so overtly on the scandal of all scandals, Christ's murder by his own people? And might the effigy's inertness, configured as inaction by means of the mocking command "save yourself," have resembled Christ's stoic endurance? What a risky demonstration, behaving like villains and allowing the effigy to act like Christ! "By mocking and jeering his effigy," observed a Lutheran preacher in 1596 denouncing contemporary iconoclasm in Anhalt, "you tear open the holy wounds of Christ the Lord again and crucify him anew." (170–4)

* * *

At the center of the great machinery of Christian images stood the paradox of the cross: what to the rest of the world was the ultimate punishment—crucifiction as the most painful, public, and humiliating of deaths reserved for criminals, traitors, and slaves, as the "most crude and horrendous torure" (Cicero), the unspeakable "sign of shame" (Hebrews 12:2)—was for Christians the emblem of their God. There survives some evidence of how this paradox was received by non-Christians. On the walls of the Palatine in Rome, in the former barracks, someone scratched a crude caricature of a donkey-headed man crucified on the cross; below, a mocking inscription probably targets some Christians in the graffitist's midst: "Alexamene worships his god."

Augustine, seeking to reconcile the low literary style of the gospel texts (especially the Vulgate) to their divine content, argued that humble expression not only spoke to all men, but fitted Christ's incarnation as man. The humility of Christ's birth and life among the poor, and more so, his cruel death, formed a sermo humilis that ought to be preached in a humble way. The Bible's aesthetics are of the ugly not the beautiful. And its ontology of the image is based as much in dissimilarity as in resemblence [sic]: likeness and difference of man, of Satan, of christ, to God. Created in God's image ("resemblance in humility"), but tempted by Satan to be God's equal ("resemblance in equivalence"), man fell into sin ("resemblance in conflict"), was expelled into a world of dissimilarity (the world as "regio dissimilitudinis"), there to remain until one man, Christ (true "resemblence [sic] in equivalence"), through his crucifixion (which makes him dissimilar again), regains our blissful seat. The aesthetics of the ugly, whether Christian or modern, are a provisional, deceptive stage in a larger movement at the end of which truth, beauty, and power stand revealed. (190–1)

* * *

At the eve of Protestant iconoclasm, people reveled in grisly depictions of Christ's abject body, in which every bit of necrotic flesh stood artfully portrayed. Ubiquitous paintings and woodcuts of Christ's wounds and of the "arms" of his Passion, wounded images, even, of those wounds, in which the image of the cut is printed, painted over in red, and then physically slashed, give collections of fifteenth century prints the character of a chamber of horrors.

Karlsruhe's most famous artistic possession is such a thing: the large Crucifixion from Tauberbischofsheim by the painter who now goes by the disputed name Mathias Grünewald.

Everything that Christ became—hands and feet wrenched and dislocated by the nails; loin-cloth hyperbolically shredded; skin darkened by filth, gangrene, and congealed blood and bristling with thorns, each causing a specific infection; rib-cage collapsed in the suffocation that, were it not for the centurion's lance, would have killed Christ that much more painfully—becomes hyperbolically visible within the deprived visibility of a nighttime setting. For Christians of Grünewald's time, this spectacle would have aided their piety. The practice of religion consisted primarily in meditating on Christ's death by imaginative recollecting (on the basis of stories, pictures, or improvised fancy) its minute particulars. (193–6)

More: A small index of (more or less) related textual excerpts...

"Joseph Koerner"
Posted by Dan at 01:19 AM | Referenced URL's | Comments (0)

David Freedberg

Excerpts from chapter 4 of David Freedberg's The Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response, "Verisimilitude and Resemblance"

In the first chapel at Varallo, Adam and Eve stand amid an Edenic assemblage of animals in front of a rather unluxuriant tree; the nineteenth-century frescoes in the background are so bland and wooden that to most of us now the scene will not seem especially involving. But this is only a beginning. When we get to the charming scenes of the Dream of Saint Joseph nearby, and the Procession of the Magi, with their stuffed horses and matted coifs, the cumulative spell of the polychrome sculptures, which begin to merge with the painting of the background and sides, sets to work. With the chapel of the Massacre of the Innocents, the effect is irresistible. The figure of Herod may be wholy unconvincing, but we soon forget him as we perceive the horror of the rest of the scene. Here is a terrified mother with real hair and everyday beads: she sheds mucid tears as she exposes her fractured nipple beside the cruel and scarred executioner. The other grief-stricken mothers strain their heads back in anguish; while the vivid but violated bodies of the massacred babes relentlessly insist on the living grimness of the moment. This pitch of involvement is maintained in scenes like Giovanni d'Enrico's Crowning with Thorns and his and Morazzone's Ecce Homo. Such is the raw power of Christ's bloodied body, the poignancy of his downcast gaze, and his clotted hair, such is our shock at the cruel executioners with their bulging veins and terrifying goitered necks, that the perception of living presence extends to the painted figures in the background as well. By the time we come upon the final scenes of the Passion and the Burial, we grieve with the Marys and the Josephs, the John the Evangelist and the Nicodemus; they are sentient beings like ourselves; their pain is our own. And always the grilles prevent the ultimate verification of their fleshiness: but the suspension of final proof and the urge to verify makes the perception of the body as real still more acute.
No other class of Western imagery—except perhaps the large-scale waxworks which we will discuss below and sculptures such as those by Kienholz—offers the same deployment of every conceivable device to particularize, familiarize, and make vivid as do the sculptures of the sacri monti; few others have been so continuously and extensively preserved in settings of such unparalleled evocativeness; none provide such constant evidence of a function that has change little over five centuries.
...The striving for verisimilitude that is the subject of this chapter is nowhere seen as clearly as in the sacri monti, nor on so grand a sale. The statues are all painted in full color, with attention not only to the realism of clothing, as one might expect, but to the eyes and to other physiognomic features. Often, though by no means always, the hair was not just painted, it was real (or of a similarly fibrous substance). Faces grimace with exaggerated expressions; wounds and blood are vividly shown. The aim, of course, was to engage the spectator in a directly empathetic relation with the scene; and this is just what these shrines—which are devoid of relics or other such attractions—continue to do, as they always have for those who flocked to them. (196)

* * *

Everything about the tableaux in this and other sacri monti encourage this mode of involvement, to such a degree that even the two-dimensional paintings in the background acquire a presence that we perceive and respond to as living. We see the tender eight-year-old Christ surrounded by the hateful Pharisees, and the Massacre of the Innocents, again, where we spontaneously draw back from the bloodied bodies of the infants, and where the pain that registers on the faces of the distraught mothers becomes, perhaps only momentarily, the pain we feel ourselves. The distancing that results in aesthesis gives way to immersion in the plight of these others. Such empathy was the goal of meditation with the aid of images, but the scenes of the sacri monti, so explicitly bodied forth, are infinitely suggestive of the possibility of such response. Perhaps it is only skilled practitioners, only the most faithful, who may feel this way with (for example) engravings of the Crucifixion; but we do not have to be especially pious to be horrified at the puncturing of flesh that yields and bursts like our own.
The journey to the last of the chapels and the sanctuary in the little town at the summit of the mountain becomes increasingly compelling, the views ever more ravishing; and by the end every possible emotion has been engaged in the course of our participation in what, on the face of it, may seem mere representation. It might be argued that it is the natural beauty of all these sites that in the first place inclines the mind to contemplation, and prepares it for the kind of attention described here. But one should not mistake a necessary preliminary stage for that which actually produces the effect. While the splendor and isolation of the sites plays an undoubted role in inducing the receptive mind to pious response, it is the images themselves and their verisimilitude that actually channels attention and activates emotional engagement. The effects, of course, are cumulative, but they are directly the consequence of the sustained and continuing realism of the individual scenes. Only the most intellectual of people will have attempted to resist the automatic transition from seeing to empathy and involvement—and they will have resisted and attempted to deny some of the most fundamentally spontaneous elements of the relations between feeling and perception. (200–1)

* * *

Justin Martyr insisted that Christ was not at all beautiful or good looking. This he held to be in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy such as that of Isaiah 52:14 and 53:2–3: "His visage was marked more than any man . . . he hath no form or comeliness . . . and when we see him there is no beauty that we should desire him." Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Cyprian, and several other Church fathers all insist on this aspect of the way Christ looked, in other words, on his putative ugliness. But why?
Aside from the constant but here unconscious fear of desire, the clearest reason is articulated by Clement of Alexandria: admiration for Christ's looks would detract from his words. This is neither the first nor the last time that we find the valuation of spoken word over visual from, nor the fear that visual pleasure might somehow displace spiritual content. But there is another reason for the insistence on the unattractiveness of Christ's visage. It is to differentiate his representation from the frank beauty of Greco-Roman imagery and mutatis mutandis, of the classical gods. This is why Theodore the Lector could hold that the type of Christ with short, frizzy hair was more authentic than the long-haired one, which looked like Zeus (which might in any case, according to Theodore, seem to be more in keeping with Jesus' Jewish origins). One could hardly wish for a more trenchant example of the tension between authenticity and idealization. (211–2)

* * *

The Western locus classicus for the making of wax images occurs in Pliny the Elder. According to him, Lysistratus of Sicyon
was the first to obtain portraits by making a plaster mould of the actual features, and introduced the practice of taking from the plaster a wax cast on which he made the final corrections. He also first rendered likenesses with exactitude, for previous artists had only tried to make them as beautiful as possible.
In the explicit opposition between exactitude and beauty may be seen the origins of that attitude which, in the end, led to the denigration of the aesthetic quality of exact images in wax. But more common in Pliny's time was the allegation that however exact an image, it could never render the real personality of the sitter. Yet verisimilitude remained an imperative because only by means of it could an image substitute for the living and the dead. Although Pliny does not mention the funerary context, a host of other antique sources do. One of the fullest accounts is Appian's description of the exequies of Julius Caesar. A wax statue which could be turned to all sides ek mechanes showed the twenty-three wounds of the deceased emperor on all parts of his body, including his face. The crowd was so moved by this sight that they wailed loudly and burned down the Senate. (215–6)

* * *

In describing Piero Tacca's life-size wax bust of Archduke Cosimo (d. 1621), with its natural hair and eyes of crystal, Baldinucci recorded that it was so deceptively naturalistic that when the duke's bereaved mother came to see in it [sic] Tacca's studio she was unable to bear the sight of it and had to leave. It may be that this is little more than a retrospective eulogy on the skillful naturalism of the bust, and it might be argued that the response can be sufficiently understood in terms of the emotions of a mother at the reminder of her departed son; but this kind of response is compounded of other factors as well. the first has to do with the eyes: these are the features that are most capable of eliciting emotion in us. This is why the images that trouble us most are those in which the gaze of the represented most actively engages our attention. One has only to consider, for example, those arresting woodcuts of Christ's face where the gaze is so powerfully directed at us that we seem unable to evade it. I claim no more than empirical status for this observation, but it does seem to be borne out by experience. Most beholders of classical statuary will admit to being more than expectedly disturbed by statues in which they eyes are still painted in, or in which they are represented by flickering inserts of metal or crystal—although the peculiarly realistic waxwork without eyes may be just as deeply troubling as the statues with colored or crystalline eyes, precisely because where we fully expect eyes to be, they are awfully absent.
While this factor may account for the strength of our response to wax images such as the eighteenth-century busts illustrated in figs. 119 and 120, works like these suggest a disturbance that may well occur on a deeper cognitive level. We suspect the inertia of the material of which the image is made, but we cannot discard the impression of liveliness that it makes. The tension implicit in such a perception may, at the very least, cause anxiety; at the most it may cause a terror that is not assuaged by the consciousness of the manmade status of the image or object. Of course we may marvel at the skill of the maker, at mechanical contrivance, and the artistry that makes objects seem real; but at the same time, fear of the lifelike haunts the warring perceptions of the image as reflection and the image as reality. That tension may reach its peak in images of Christ, where his very representation is predicated on his Incarnation; but it is also engaged when we enter the wax museum. Indeed, it is here where we may most easily test all these empirical observations, for in such places we are now accustomed—as we are not always—to suspend aesthetic judgment or to discard it altogther; and thus we remove the restraints of detachment demanded by the a priori assessment of an object as art. In the realism of the waxworks we are still made to confront our fear of the lifelike. (220–1)

More: A small index of (more or less) related textual excerpts...

"David Freedberg"
Posted by Dan at 01:18 AM | Referenced URL's | Comments (0)

Luc Boltanski

Excerpt from "The Fetus and the Image War" by Luc Boltanski (published in Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion and Art, pages 78–9), trans. Sarah Clift

In 1965, the photograph of an eighteen-week-old fetus enclosed in the amniotic sac inside the womb was published on the cover of Life magazine. Taken by Swedish phtotgrapher Lennart Nilssom, this photograph is a milestone, and not only in the sense that it was the product of a technological innovation. It also marks access to the order of representation for a being who, up until then, had evaded this order. As such, the photo prefigures the progressive entry, some years later, of the fetus into a social order, which had ignored it up until then, acting as if it didn't exist.
How is it then that the fetus made its entry into society? By virtue of a series of technical, political, and symbolic operations which imparted a weight and a presence to this practically absent being that it had never known up until then, and through which it was endowed with new qualities.
The work of qualification of the fetus—that conferred presence on it—was, above all, the result of innovations which made it accessible to the senses. With the development of medical imagery and particularly of ultrasound, one can see the fetus in the womb, follow its evolution, know its sex well before its birth and, in certain cases, repair anomalies that it might be carrying. One can also hear the beating of the heart (and record it). As well, the development of cognitive psychology gives it capacities for communication, capacities, which until then had not been recognized as such. The parents are encouraged to touch it through the abdominal wall, in a way to familiarize themselves with it and, particularly in the case of the father, to allow him to get to know it. The fetus has become "a someone."
However, it is not only in becoming accessible to the senses that the fetus has entered into society in the course of the last thirty years. Its recently acquired social presence is also the result of its being placed at the center of two social conflicts or primary importance, the first revolving around the conditions of its destruction; the second around the conditions of its fabrication. In the course of these conflicts, it acquired a new weight with regard to practices, to techniques, to discourse, and perhaps above all, to juridical decisions. In these conflicts—which continue up to our time—the question of the representation of the fetus has occupied a central place.
The first conflict was provoked by the decriminalization and then the legalization of abortion in principle [sic] western countries. The opponents to such measures made extensive use of the photography of the fetus in order to support the position according to which, to abort is to kill an unborn infant. They either used photos—those of Nilsson or others—in order to celebrate the fetus insofar as it represents human life in gestation, in the womb, or they used photos of dead fetuses after abortion, often brandished at anti-abortion demonstrations, in order to dramatize their protest. Since from very early on, the dispute centered on the question of knowing whether the fetus was a "person" or not, the morphological similarity between the fetus and the infant that would have come into the world if the fetus had survived was used to prove that the fetus was indeed a person. Relying on the politics of human rights, they also made the demand that the life of this contested person be the object of protection on the part of the State.
To counter these arguments and to reduce the emotional effects that such photos could provoke, university academics with affiliation to pro-choice movements (sociologists, philosophers, jurists, historians of science, members of women's studies departments, etc.) undertook to decode the rhetoric of the opponents of abortion and to deconstruct the images that the latter utilized. This endeavor led them to attempt to divest the fetus of the presence and the status that it had recently acquired. Academics who engaged in this undertaking made frequent use of conceptual instruments borrowed either from the practice of deconstruction in the literary or philisophical arena, or from the new sociology of sciences. They took as their primary target the realism that the users of these photos claimed as their authority and, in so doing, adopted a constructivist position. They sought to demonstrate that, far from being "real," these images were artifacts and as a consequence were the instruments of an ideological propaganda, either because they decontextualized the fetus in isolating it from the womb (that is to say from the mother, whose presence was excluded from the images) or because these photos were the object of a technological coding (using electronic microscopes and techniques of digital imagery). What is more, it was argued that using artificial techniques in order to show that which is normally hidden, in fact amounted to producing an artifact.
Thus, the deconstruction of the images of the fetus triggered a deconstruction of the fetus itself. In using elements connected to the history of women and to the history of the sciences, these researchers thus insisted on the "historical character" of the fetus. Far from constituting a "natural being," eternal in its naturalness, or a "creature of God," as affirmed, among the opponents of abortion, who claimed religion as their authority, the fetus was, according to these pro-choice advocates, "in fact" only "a product of history."

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"Luc Boltanski"
Posted by Dan at 01:17 AM | Referenced URL's | Comments (0)

Roland Barthes

Excerpt from Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes, pages 78–80

In Photography, the presence of the thing (at a certain past moment) is never metaphoric; and in the case of animated beings, their life as well, except in the case of photographing corpses; and even so: if the photograph then becomes horrible, it is because it certifies, so to speak, that the corpse is alive, as corpse it is the living image of a dead thing. For the photograph's immobility is somehow the result of a perverse confusion between two concepts: the Real and the Live: by attesting that the object has been real, the photograph surreptitiously induces belief that it is alive, because of that delusion which makes us attribute to Reality an absolutely superior, somehow eternal value; but by shifting this reality to the past ("this-has-been"), the photograph suggests that it is already dead. Hence it would be better to say that Photography's inimitable feature (its noeme) is that someone has seen the referent (even if it is a matter of objects) in flesh and blood, or again in person. Photography, moreover, began, historically, as an art of the Person: of identity, of civil status, of what we might call, in all senses of the term, the body's formality. Here again, from a phenomenological viewpoint, the cinema begins to differ from the Photograph; for the (fictional) cinema combines two poses: the actor's "this-has-been" and the role's, so that (something I would not experience before a painting) I can never see or see again in a film certain actors whom I know to be dead without a kind of melancholy: the melancholy of Photography itself (I experience this same emotion listening to the recorded voices of dead singers).
I think again of the portrait of William Casby, "born a slave," photographed by Avedon. The noeme here is intense; for the man I see here has been a slave: he certifies that slavery has existed, not so far from us; and he certifies this not by historical testimony but by a new, somehow experiential order of proof, although it is the past which is in question—a proof no longer merely induced: the proof- according- to- St.- Thomas- seeking- to- touch- the- resurrected- Christ. I remember keeping for a long time a photograph I had cut out of a magazine—lost subsequently, like everything too carefully put away—which showed a slave market: the slavemaster, in a hat, standing; the slaves, in loincloths, sitting. I repeat: a photograph, not a drawing or engraving; for my horror and my fascination as a child came from this: that there was a certainty that such a thing had existed: not a question of exactitude, but of reality: the historian was no longer the mediator, slavery was given without mediation, the fact was established without method.

More: A small index of (more or less) related textual excerpts...

"Roland Barthes"
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Margit Rosen

Full text of "Shooting the Dead" by Margit Rosen (published in Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion and Art), pages 248–9)

The picture is a reproduction of a photo postcard. The photograph, taken around 1900, shows a "bludgeoned body of an African American male, propped in a rocking chair, blood-splattered clothes, white and dark paint applied to face and head, shadow of man using rod to prop up the vicitm's head." Sending out this postcard was the final act in a chain of cruelties. The card provides evidence of a lynching similar to those that took place almost every week in the USA in the late nineteenth century. Between 1882 and 1968, an estimated 4,742 African Americans met their deaths at the hands of lynch mobs. The postcards were cherished souvenirs. The US Postal Service first decided in 1908 that such material should not be sent openly.
The observer's horror, having read the image's description, is provoked on the level of the represented as well as on the level of representation. Through the screen of the photograph, perceived as a quasi-transparent medium of documentation in everyday life, the observer recognizes a dead person and the shadow of one of the murderers. Secondly, he or she realizes that the picture itself is a product made by one of the murderers or at least of one of their accomplices.
Those persons who made these pictures committed an iconoclastic act of desecration by painting the face of the corpse and sticking cotton on its head. They attacked the already lifeless body, the corpse, which can be defined as a transitory image representing the absent person. The derision of the material remains affects the murdered individual: corpse and absent person, sign and signified cannot be thought of separately. Even in the situation of death, the harm done to the body is harm done to the individual. Yet the depicted postcard not only provided documentation of this iconoclastic act carried out on the image of man; it was also made and staged for the sake of the photograph. the card thus provides information about the function of representation in the completion of humiliation and about the worship of images by murderers who profit from the power of visual representation.
Every photo of a corpse injures, in principle, the personal rights of the deceased who never gave their approval for the photo to be taken. The gaze remains unreturned. This becomes evident when the staging of the corpse offends its dignity. The act of photographing a victim is an act of total control. When the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer took Polaroid shots of his victims, he was not only producing trophies or fetishes: he was also using his power to determine the victim's form of presence by representation. The photographic act, therefore, had a significant role in the lynchings. The photos were souvenirs of the spectacle, proofs of power, as only a dominant group can proudly advertise their bloody deeds and means of facilitating the endless replay of anguish. "Even dead, the victims were without sanctuary."
Yet the photographer created an agent of his interests that has the potential to turn itself against him as condemning evidence of cruelty. André Bazin's statement that the image's essential function is to save man from death and oblivion likewise contains the significance of the photograph within the context of lynching: the existence of these pictures might, for the victim, become a sphere of post-mortal influence. For the picture shows the corpse, it preserves the "scandal of death," which is not made up of the absense of a person, but their physical remains in space. Photography facilitates the preservation of the presence of the murdered, the confrontation with the historical event that might result in a posthumous symbolical restoration of the integrity of the deceased.
The image of humiliation can be transformed into a tool of accusation; the image of absolute control is therefore not entirely controlled by its producers. Already in 1922, a black-owned newspaper in Topeka Kansas reprinted the photograph of a lynching that took place in Durant, Oklahoma and urged every other newspaper to do likewise, so that "the world may see and know what semi-barbarous America is doing." Also the curators of the carefully prepared exhibition Without Sanctuary, Lynching Photography in America used the photographs for socio-historical instruction: "the photographs provide an opportunity for dialogue among New Yorkers about a part of our past that is difficult for us to confront."
Yet the discussion surrounding the exhibit showed resistance to the pictures and the uses that were made of them. It reflected not only the deep ambivalence of the images, caused by the fact that the photographers who shot the dead were accomplices of the murderers who determined the humiliating perspective by staging the corpse. The discussion also considered the role that shocking photographs play in the formation of public consciousness of history. The New York Times, for example, warned of "The Perils of Growing comfortable with evil." [sic] There was not only criticism of reprinting the pictures in news magazines with little information, in which the original act of humiliation would be essentially repeated, but, also questioned was whether these photographs were, in principle, suitable "to sensitize to long-buried horrors of America's racial past."
Pictures that show the victims of violent acts are often percieved [sic] as dangerous objects whose effects can't be predicted: the spectator might adopt the perspective of the perpetrators, the photographs might be perceived as a fascinating creepy spectacle or they might simply benumb the horrified spectator, instead of informing him or her. The fear of the picture's power to shock emotions exists parallel to the fear that they could lose this power; that people could become accustomed to them without feeling anything. The horrifying images of the corpses, however, are linked, in contrast to textual historical sources, with the idea of the spectator losing all rationality and humanitarian values. The visual information the photograph displays, the concrete and individual events represented by the corpse as its most terrible evidence, remains suspicious.
Yet this kind of critique, which indeed reveals the ambivalent potential of photographic representation, relinquishes the possibilities of this medium. The photographs are more than just a tool to call public attention for historical events that might previously have been common knowledge for historians alone. They need to be contextualized, as does every historical source. If this precondition is fulfilled, as f.e. in Without Sanctuary, pictures such as the one depicted offer an additional layer of information by displaying the concrete, individual event with all its cruel details such as the desecration of the corpse. It fills a blind spot in the historical consciousness constituted by media such as film and photography. The idea of excluding images of horror, excluding photographs of corpses, is based on a misunderstanding of the performance of visual representation. It not only recreates presence, but also creates distance, which is the basic requirement of perception and reflection. Perseus doesn't defeat Medusa by closing his eyes. With the help of the mirror, the representation of her face, he is able to look at her.

More: A small index of (more or less) related textual excerpts...

"Margit Rosen"
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August 22, 2005

Monday, Monday

Just little of the this and that today, folks.

Two new

First, a pair of additions to the blogroll (your right, my left): A Comedy of Errors by Chicago duo Tom Burtonwood and Holly Holmes (who will be helping to kick off gescheidle's fall season in a couple weeks), and a blog from Chicago photographer Jonathan Gitelson.

A Shepherd I shall not want

Second, via the Other Group I see that that whole Kerry Skarbakka kerfluffle from earlier this summer has made the cut for the 8/21 edition of Chuck Shepherd's widely syndicated "News of the Weird". The outside scoop:

Artists Who Actually Went Too Far
The Thames Water company succeeded in pressuring artist Mark McGowan to abandon his project at the House Gallery in south London in July in which, to protest society's profligate use of water, he turned on House's faucet and planned not to turn it off for a year (wasting an estimated 3.9 million gallons). And in Chicago, it was only a couple of days after photographer Kerry Skarbakka announced his "Falling" project that he was pressured into abandoning it. Skarbakka said he was awed by the sight of people falling or jumping from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 and said he would, in tribute, repeatedly plunge four stories from Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art (but was quickly excoriated for poor taste). [New York Times, 7-28-05] [Chicago Sun-Times, 6-15-05]

Chuck's got the story more wrong than anyone yet.

Again, go read Skarbakka's statement on this project (which has not been "abandoned" and which was never intended as a "tribute" to those who jumped to their deaths on 9/11). Since my last post on this, Kerry's added some notes on the future of this now expanding work (in which Shepherd may now find himself playing a bit part):

These are the first images from that series entitled, "Life Goes On". These photographs, along with the other forms of documentation of the event, including e-mails, webblogs, film and the media's own accounts, are being developed into an exhibition tentatively called, "Ratings". The original intent behind the work has been overshadowed by controversy; which has opened a door to a much larger issue to investigate: the role of corporate media, its politics and effects of control on the public.

Up and out

Finally, a note to say that we'll be going silent here shortly, as I drive off to Colorado in the morning for my brother's nuptials and related family activities this coming weekend. (I don't like to bitch too much about gas prices, but I am totally stoked that they decided to climb to new heights in the week or two leading up to this trip.)

I hope to get a post up tonight that'll tide you over until my return, but I also want to get to bed by a decent hour, so we'll see what I can manage.

Posted below, in the meantime, is an invitation my brother asked me to design for the rehearsal dinner (with my mom's phone number redacted and light borders added to soften the clash factor against the yellow of the background). I think I kinda dig it myself. As you may notice, though, my own suggestions for the evening's musical talent seem to have been judiciously ignored.

Rehearsal dinner invite (front)
Rehearsal dinner invite (reverse)

No crashers, please, and I'll see you all anon.

"Monday, Monday"
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August 15, 2005

The Personal Is Political

In light of the ongoing onslaught of malt-based novelty beverages, the following seemed somewhat appropriate, taken from an introduction to the life of Max Ernst as told by Max Ernst (as quoted in Hans Richter's Dada: Art and Anti-art, page 156):

Cologne lies at the very edge of a wine-producing region. Beer country lies to the North, wine country to the South. Are we the product of what we drink? If so, it may not be without significance that Max has always preferred wine. When he was two years old, he secretly drank the dregs of several wine-glasses and then, taking his father by the hand, pointed to the trees in the garden and said, "Look, Pa, they're going round". When, in later life, he reflected on the Thirty Years' War, it occurred to him that this was a war between beer-drinkers and wine-drinkers. Perhaps he was right.

* * *

A different angle entirely: It tastes like candy...

"The Personal Is Political"
Posted by Dan at 07:50 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (4)

August 12, 2005

How's a boy get to be so damned fragile?

Before the Bears even hit half-time in their second preseason game tonight, Sexy Rexy went down for the season with a broken ankle. Color me shocked.

So much for lightning not striking twice in the same place.
Bears quarterback Rex Grossman, who missed the final 13 games of last season with a torn ACL in his right knee, broke his left ankle in Friday night's preseason game at St. Louis, an injury that will require surgery and sideline the 2003 first-round pick 3-4 months.
In a scene that was hauntingly similar to last season, Grossman was carted off the field with 11:08 left in the second quarter of Friday night's preseason game against the Rams in St. Louis with an injured left ankle.
After being spun down by linebacker Trev Albert while completing a 4-yard pass to tight end Darnell Sanders, Grossman was helped to his feet, limped a few steps towards the Bears sideline, motioned for a trainer, then sat back down on the turf, grasping his leg while grimacing in pain.
Bears trainers and doctors attended to Grossman for about five minutes before a cart took him into the locker room for X-rays.
The promising young quarterback injured his knee last season in a Week 3 loss at Minnesota, crippling a Bears offense that eventually finished last in the NFL in scoring and passing yards.

So it looks like it was the left leg this year. Don't say he doesn't like to mix things up.

And so it begins: who's it gonna be? Chad or Kyle or Kurt... Quite frankly, I've kind of lost interest already.

"How's a boy get to be so damned fragile?"
Posted by Dan at 09:38 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (2)

August 11, 2005

Give Me A Break!

4 out of 5 respondents surveyed failed to identify this man as the "real journalist" in a specially prepared photo lineup:

John Stossel, Tireless Libertarian Stud

The fifth changed her mind as soon she saw him in action.

* * *

Worry not your pretty little heads over the old "what is art?" question, Mr. Einspruch et alia.

You see, by power of internets, 20/20's John Stossel and the web team at ABC News have struck upon an objectively scientific means of answering that most insidious of aesthetic queries: 200 x 200 pixel jpegs.

My kid could do that...

(I just aced the quiz, myself. How'd you do?)

Stossel explains:

We ran a test.
On ABCNews.com, we showed four reproductions of art works that are considered masterpieces of modern art along with six pieces that will never make it into any museum. We asked viewers to decide which work was art and which was not.
We also conducted the test with New Yorkers at Manhattan Mall. We asked people to tell us which artworks they'd expect to see in a museum. We included copies of the famous paintings, plus some other items.

(It's far too rigorous a methodology for my tastes, but then I'm not a television journalist.)

The results (as no doubt predicted ahead of time by one John Stossel himself) were far from pretty: "John Stossel found that a lot of people can't" distinguish modern art from "child's play" (emphasis mine). Downright damning.

That "most" of the "real artists" surveyed selected "at least some" of the kids' paintings as art is supposed to be damning on its face as well. As is the fact that the most votes overall, far from going to the "famous" artworks (which are really nothing of the sort in any real sense), went to "a piece of framed fabric '20/20' bought at a thrift store for $5." Nevermind that this lowly thrift shop fabric was obviously selected because of its resemblence to some truly well known art. Some might call such a move deliberately misleading, but let's not get carried away here. (Really, though, why not just go for the soup can bought from the supermarket?)

Nevermind that the tiny sample size was stacked with mostly non-art images. Nevermind that the reproductions of the "modern masters'" works are laughably inadequate (especially when it comes to their Ellsworth Kelly sample). Nevermind that general opinion on someone like Twombly is hardly a settled matter. And nevermind that Stossel's M.O. rarely rises above the standard anecdotal strategies of gotcha journalism.

No, clearly there's something insidious going on in this decadent, elitist art world and it's costing you, dear citizen, big big bucks:

The politicians may say they're starved for funds, but they're still giving your hard-earned tax dollars to museums that exhibit these kinds of things.

* * *

Now that our moustachioed libertarian hero has denuded the out of control, pork barrel boondoggles that are our public museums, perhaps he can still find time to tackle our latest federal Energy, Transportation and Farm Bills. Not until he's done taking the FDA out back over serving size and a remarkable lack of enjoyable sunscreens, or courageously busting up the myth of gaydar, though.

Related: My TV proves that public education is utter bullshit, too.

"Give Me A Break!"
Posted by Dan at 04:46 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (5)

Fallacies Ain't Too Pretty, Neither

At Modern Kicks JL has offered some words on Arthur Danto's The Abuse of Beauty. Although I haven't read the book myself, I'll be damned if I'm about to let that keep me from weighing in.

According to JL, the crux of it is Danto's belief that, in his own words:

Beauty is an option for art and not a necessary condition. But it is not an option for life. It is a necessary condition for life as we would want to live it.

It's a sentiment I found myself initially inclined to agree with. However, on reflection, I'm growing increasingly dubious of the logic that follows from it, especially as Danto himself is apparently drawn to the patently strange conclusion that (again, Danto's words via JL):

...we may not lose a lot if artistic beauty were annihilated, whatever that means, because art has a number of other compensatory values, and artistic beauty is an incidental attribute in most of the world's artistic cultures.

It's enough to make me question the meaningfulness of the premise itself.

I'm no logician, so do pardon my awkwardness as I wrestle my way rather clumsily through the following...

Something just doesn't click here in terms of the respective scope of each half of Danto's equation. The more I think about it, the more the pair of questions lurking behind his proposition that beauty is incidental to art but necessary to life appear to be of different orders altogether: on the one hand we ask whether beauty is a necessary aspect of every specific instance of art, on the other whether beauty is a "necessary" part of the life we desire to live, considered in toto.

Danto would have us answer in the negative to the former and in the arfirmative to the latter, which answers strike me (again) as resonable, if debatable.

And yet, though beauty may indeed be a necessary part of any life well-lived, it does not thus hold that beauty must be integral or even party to every lived moment in its particularity. (In fact, I suspect one could make quite the case to the contrary, and think that the resulting proposition would be a far more appropriate parallel to the response to our other question.)

Likewise but in reverse, while we may concede that any given artifact need not be beautiful to qualify as art, it does not necessarily follow from this that art, generally considered, could exist without ever eliciting an experience of the beautiful. That is, I think you'd be hard pressed to show me a world in which beauty exists yet is never of more than peripheral significance when it comes to works of art.

Moreover, just as we accept that beauty is essential to the life "we would want to live" (and this seems to be begging the question a bit), I can't say that I would ever want to see this great amorphous entity we call "art" to exist with no recourse to the beautiful at all.

As JL suggests:

...let us do, as the philosophers say, a thought experiment. Picture youself walking through a great museum, one you know well—the Met, say, or the Art Institute of Chicago. Consider all of the different works from different cultures and times that you see as you pass. Now imagine all of the beautiful ones "annihilated"—whatever that means. Do you think a lot has been lost?

To state it plainly: beauty may not be necessary for art on the level of the particular, but neither is it always absent from art in general. (To conclude otherwise would, I believe, involve committing something in the realm of a distribution fallacy, though I may be talking out of my ass on this point.)

Quite honestly, the more I consider it, the more Danto's premise strikes me as all but meaningless (and, as a consequence, the more afraid I become that I've ultimately said nothing meaningful myself in the foregoing). One might, based on the very same assumptions set out above, invert Danto's quote to say that 'beauty is a possiblity in life but never a guarantee, while it is a necessary part of art as we wish it to be.' Would it then be prudent to determine that, 'we may not lose a lot from life if beauty were annihilated, because life has a number of other compensatory values, and beauty is an incidental attribute in most of our lives'?

I'll stop short of suggesting that the propositions Danto pairs for us have no consequential logical relation to one another whatsoever, but they are beginning to look a bit like apples and oranges to me. And, in any event, they hardly offer any sort of secure ground for concluding that beauty must always be incidental to art and that it may thus be "annihilated" with impunity.

("Whatever that means.")

Update: Franklin piles on, too.

"Fallacies Ain't Too Pretty, Neither"
Posted by Dan at 01:55 AM | Referenced URL's | Comments (4)

August 10, 2005

A Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God?

(Speaking of Aussies...)

A nice little 'WTF?!' story to start off your day.

Back in May, a cautionary tale apparently began making the internet rounds in the Muslim world, spreading via email and websites and eventually into the traditional media. The story was accompanied by this picture, a testimony as it were to the power of a vengeful God:

An Impious Meerkat

Sudanese journalist Nizar Usman shares a version of the tale:

The story I heard said was that a lady in Oman was reciting the Koran while her daughter is listening to an Arabic music channel known as al nojoom (meaning: stars). The mother asked the daughter to turn off the TV, furiously the girl threw the holy book, and she was immediately transferred into that creature. They said the girl is in the main hospital there, and her family refused to allow journalists to take more pics for her.
I heard about the story form my daughter (10 years of age), she heard it in her school. Then I read it in a notice board in front of the main gate of a mosque where there was a mammoth gathering. Then I read it in Alhayat daily news paper, the editor stood in between unable to believe or not. Actually what confused people here is that there are Quranic (Koran) verses saying that Allah—long ago—transferred some guilty people into monkeys and pigs.

Here's the story as found on alnilin.com (with a very rough translation via The Art Life):

This picture was a young Oman lady who was listening to music very loud, at that time her mother was there and was reading Quran Al krim and the young lady told her mother to stop reading the Quran Al Krim and told her mother you always read the Quran around me, but the mother did not listen what her daughter said. Then the young lady took the Kitab Quran Al krim from her mother and threw to the grown then the mother picked up the kitab Quran Al Krim and but in her chest and was quite. The young lady become dicey and sick at that moment after she threw it away and fail into the grown then GOD make her Animal that no one have seen in the world before "Maansha Allah."

Kinda f-ed up, huh?

And unsurprisingly, it all turns out to be a bit of a hoax, the image at the heart of it having been lifted from Australian artist Patricia Piccinini's website.

The photo is from documentation of The Leather Landscape, a work from a larger project titled We Are Family that was featured in the Aussie pavilion at the 2003 Venice Biennale.

Piccinini has posted a response to the hoax on her site:

Some of you might have seen this image of one of the creatures from 'The Leather Landscape' on a website or in an email.
This image was stolen from Patricia's website and used without her permission and against her wishes.
The image was accompanied a story that said that the creature was a woman who was cursed. This story is not true. It is a hoax, a fraud.
Patricia is very disturbed by this hoax. She has no connection with the person who first started the hoax. She does not know who made up the story.
Patricia is an artist. The image is a picture of an art work—a sculpture made from silicone rubber. It is about genetic engineering and our evolutionary links to animals. It is not intended to refer in any way to any religion or religious practice.
Patricia is deeply sympathetic towards anybody who has been upset or disturbed by the hoax. She is very unhappy that her work has been stolen and used in this way.

Ah, but here's the rub:

Though it would probably be reductive to view Piccinini's work solely in this light, her bizarre little creatures would seem to (by virtue of the whole Dr. Moreau monstrosity factor) offer up at least a bit of a cautionary narrative of their own. And I don't know that such a gloss on an old genre (a version as old as modernity itself) is entirely at odds with the brand of anti-modern urban legend that seems to have transported her artwork into this new milieu.

* * *


Piccinini's Nature's Little Helpers will show at Chelsea's Robert Miller Gallery this October. Roberta Fallon reviewed Piccinini's first show at Robert Miller back in 2004.

Fallon highlights the fact that Piccinini employs Ron Mueck and his technical crew to help fabricate her own hyperrealist sculptures, which is kind of interesting. I frankly find Piccinini's work far more intriguing and artful than Mueck's.

"A Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God?"
Posted by Dan at 10:44 AM | Referenced URL's | Comments (4)

August 9, 2005

'Let's hope this party never ends'

I'll try to get beyond such irrelevancies shortly, but for the time being, a mild diversion by way of Les Savy Fav.

Tim Harrington Unzipped


a) it would seem that this post is currently the top Google result for "The Sweat Descends"

b) judging from my site stats overnight, the Fav are huge Down Under (uh, that is, they're huge in Australia and Tasmania)


c) I've vowed to never spurn an Aussie's query

... I offer forth the following (as heard here):

The sweat descends
The sweaty scents
One cocksure fox in a house of hens
My mouth will water where the sweat descends
The sweat descends, sweet decadence
Let's hope this party never ends
A shiv in the ribs, some smoke in the hive
You live how you live I'll die how I...
Wake me up when we get to heaven
Let me sleep if we go to hell
Blame my mouth if the house is burning
Touch my tongue if you still can't tell
The sweat descends
My psyche bends
I'll never be the same again
This soul is twisted but the skin will mend
My tight, young skin covers up a sick palimpsest
Wake me up when we get to heaven
Let me sleep if we go to hell
Blame my mouth if the house is burning
Touch my tongue if you still can't tell
Make your mark on a darkened dance floor
Slip across the present tense
Press up against the skin you care for
Meet me where the sweat descends
Tim Harrington Unhinged

* * *

The photos above were lifted from Pitchfork's Intonation recap (scroll 2/3 down). Quite frankly, if these shots (alongside the rest from that recap) aren't enough to convince you that you need to see these guys live, then I'm afraid you're a lost cause.

The set began with bubbles (from a bubble machine) and dust (from a mosh pit) mixing as Les Savy Fav thrashed their way through "Tragic Monsters". And then Tim Harrington went to work. He whipped wet sponges at the crowd (when he wasn't busy stuffing them down his shorts). He wrapped tin foil around his head. He asked the fellas to yell if their balls ever felt sore after taking a dump. He tried making out with a guy and a girl in the VIP section. When the crowd surged forward, sending the VIPs running for cover and nearly cutting the set short, he got into the crowd and had the guys and girls on the ground making sex noises. He gave the mic over to some folks in the front row for some screaming. He engaged the crowd in some call-and-response action. He pulled an inflatable chair out on stage and sucked on a beer while the band played. He also poured beer down his tight red shorts. He worked his ample pot belly as if pot bellies were the sexiest things ever. He stripped down to a speedo, and then donned a sun hat and shawl.
But wait—there's more...

Related: Pitchfork has reported that Les Savy Fav are emerging from hiatus to go bass fishing in Japan (or something... I probably ought to reread that)

"'Let's hope this party never ends'"
Posted by Dan at 07:48 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (0)

August 1, 2005

Summer's Slow Drip

Rabbit rabbit, all.

Nothing terribly spectacular to share this stuffy Monday morn—just a couple quick hits of Chicago blog news:

Reluctant Adoptees?

Quite a while back, an emailer offered a heads up on a shiny new Chicago art blog. It's primed for the blogroll as soon as the proprieters (who appear to frequent the Art Letter message board) get beyond mere introductions:

We've been surviving summertime in Chicago, much like surviving winter, only in reverse. My friend Glitch and I held off starting this blog about art as long as we could. Will it be of any use? Interest? What salaciousness will flow? It's moot. We are here, among the hundreds of thousands. I will try to keep this blog on-topic to visual art, though sometimes diversions may sneak in. I hate that. But it happens.
It's the age of art blog journalism. Who doesn't want a piece of that?Expect the free exchange of ideas, thoughts &c. anon.

Indeed it is summer, so I suppose patience is in order, but consider this early link a bit of prodding encouragement.

Back From (gulp) Indiana?

Its been in the cards since February and now, as if to answer the question "where have you been?", Folding Chair has posted a brief testament to wedded bliss from somewhere backside of the Skyway.

If I understand how these things generally work, this doesn't likely portend an immediate return to Blogiana. But the post does offer a sign of life in any event.

(And again, these dog days of summer and all...)

"Summer's Slow Drip"
Posted by Dan at 11:14 AM | Referenced URL's | Comments (5)