fragments

Cuore di mamma (1969)

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In Salvator Samperi‘s Cuore Di Mamma the children are psychotic. Their mute and divorced mother is a zombie watching TV all day, stacking books and failing to react to her children terrorizing their caregivers. At random, she stalks a young man, following him to a group of other young people. They are extreme Left wing terrorists with vague ideas, clearly parodies of the Situationist types. It’s a less sentimental version of what Godard did to Maoists in La chinoise (1967) and the speechifying gives way to clown-theatre and bad, awkward folk singing. After a few challenges they accept her and she goes with them, blowing things up. They clearly mirror her psychotic children, who also mouth endless political rants (the children are more coherent and lucid than the adult revolutionaries). (more…)

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Modern antiques and artificial eternity

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“The atrophy of individual culture through the hypertrophy of objective culture is one reason for the bitter hatred which the preachers of the most extreme individualism, above all Nietzsche, harbor against the metropolis.” Simmel

Charles Baudelaire by Frantisek KupkaBaudelaire casts the city and the modern as a kind of paradox. History is the transitory stretched out in eternity. The modern or contemporary consists of the most ephemeral aspect of the wastage of time’s passing. To be a great modern artist is to capture this excess as though it were eternal rather than to trap it within the cliches of the Historical or Classical. To be modern is to live within the specific gaits and gestures of one’s time, that is, to prepare to be an antique. The painter “makes it his business to extract from fashion whatever element it may contain of poetry within history, to distill the eternal from the transitory.” But the modern individual is no more than an animated antique. Their external life is all artifice, but this is the very material that constitutes them and which the artist captures (an artist only captures artifice and this is the ‘truth’ or the ‘soul’ of the matter). And from this matter Baudelaire spins more paradoxes: the nobility proper to artifice; the savagery found in civilization; the evil devoid of any spirituality. And each member of this trinity finds itself diagrammed out upon the body of the city and its inhabitants with their “emaciated flesh of consumption or the rounded contours of obesity, that hideous health of the slothful.” (more…)

The Montreal Biennale; or, why are Momus and Canadian Art retarded?

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A throwaway

Please note: I don’t write about any of these articles because they are particularly interesting, but because they are symptomatic of the state of discourse on art in the country.

While biennials tend to be tombstones for recent art trends, Momus’ Saelan Twerdy suggests that this one might be different. He contextualizes it with his nausea about Brexit and the Trumpocalypse, cast here as the two beasts proclaiming the end of globalization and wonders if, since contemporary art has been defined in terms of this now (speculatively) moribund process, it has cachet any more. The Montreal Biennale is then interpreted as a symptom of the uncertainty about the continuity of the contemporary. Curator Philippe Pirotte (and his three advisors Corey McCorkle, Aseman Sabet, and Kitty Scott) position this instance of the Montreal biennial against the previous future obsessed variant and other contemporary (CON) or post-contemporary (PC) concerned models around the globe. Twerdy suggests that maintenance of the contemporary model has been a rear-guard action by the establishment since the financial crash of 2008 [this is rather vulgar Marxist historicism]. With the present ‘unbearable’ and the future unclear, “Pirotte seems to argue for abdicating such responsibilities, calling for a deeper look into the past as a remedy for present-ism and for an ethos of pleasure and hedonism in place of political moralizing.” This is manifested in a handful of post-contemporary works in the show. Embracing Jean Genet’s The Balcony as a model, a choice the author thinks is very out of step with CON/PC aesthetics, what results is “a dense and sensual exhibition that, though indeed often perverse, is far from nihilistic.” [He doesn’t explain or develop the conditions or consequences of the last part of this remark.] (more…)

some bagatelles on the misanthropy of art I: of sentimental activists and the question of taste

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Even if we admit that, as patron and inhabitant, his perspective on and memory of the project would differ from those of others, nonetheless, on the cusp of talking his nation into war, why did Hitler feel compelled to write about the aesthetic pain caused by ugly light fixtures?

Hitler at Home (25-26)

Of course, we all know that few people are more hateful, spiteful, envious, paranoid, weak, ignorant, underhanded, double-faced, narcissistic, and dull than artists. The whole social history of art, were one to seriously write one (and no one has bothered to), would consist of little more than listing these litanies of loathing and, depending on the author’s level of perversity, categorizing them with great care and attention to detail. This is not an insult. The worst one can say for hatred is that it is too close to love, too close to being smitten with some trivial element of the world. One ought – and this is the only ethical or moral sentiment of these essays – to hate far better than that.

That art is regarded as an affirmation of life and humanity, if not their ultimate affirmation, is a commonplace. It is also patently false. And this falseness, which is also a kind of artifice, is occasionally drawn up into a moral conundrum about the dangers of aesthetics. Panic mongering about the danger of aestheticized violence or exoticized otherness have been fairly lucrative intellectual industries in academia and the art industry over the past few decades. And art, as a program for objectifying intensities, has duly exploited such pusillanimous squealing.

To take a trivial but local example: Ottawa art galleries (lately at least) seem to display a penchant for bien pensant art-as-therapy. The few commercial galleries, generally stocking landscapes etc., are balanced by artist-run centres and other state supported galleries who tend to organize their seasons around displaying their political fantasies. Amidst all of these was a small commercial exhibit by Jonathan Hobin featuring photographs of various miserable looking children in what is now fashionably considered racist garb with anime sized tears running down their puckered cheeks. The tears are fake, of course, and kitsch plays a crucial role.

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