Monday, June 30, 2008

Having Left Las Vegas

Robert Delaunay - Joie de vivre, 1930

Musique Du Jour: Colours, Hot Chip

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Tenth Gate

Salvador Dalí - Illumined Pleasures, 1929

Musique Du Jour: White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane

Nine Gates

Dale Frank - a selection from the Transient Ischaemic Attack Painting series, 2005

Musique Du Jour: Spontaneous Sound, Christopher Tree

Addendum XII

To Have Done With The Judgement Of Others

Pain or damage don't end the world. Or despair - or fucking beatings. The world ends when you're dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man . . . and give some back.

Al Swearengen (Ian McShane), Deadwood

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Fairest Corpses Of All

Vanessa Beecroft - VB 43.005.te., 200o

This place that Proust slowly, anxiously comes to occupy anew every time he awakens: from that place, as soon as my eyes are open, I can no longer escape. Not that I am nailed down by it, since after all I can not only move, shift, but I can also move it, shift it, change its place. The only thing is this: I cannot move without it. I cannot leave it here where it is, so that I, myself, may go elsewhere; I can hide in the morning under the covers, make myself as small as possible, I can even let myself melt under the sun at the beach - it will always be there. Where I am. It is here, irreparably: it is never elsewhere. My body, it's the opposite of a utopia: that which is never under different skies. It is the absolute place, the little fragment of space where I am, literally, embodied [faire corps].

And what if by chance I lived with it, in a kind of worn familiarity, as with a shadow, or as with those everyday things that ultimately I no longer see, that life had grayed out, like those chimneys, those roofs that line the sky every night in front of my window? Still, every morning: same presence, same wounds. In front of my eyes the same unavoidable images are drawn, imposed by the mirror: thin face, slouching shoulders, myopic gaze, no more hair - not handsome at all. And it is in this ugly shell of my head, in this cage I do not like, that I will have to reveal myself and walk around; through this grill I must speak, look and be looked at; under this skin I will have to rot.

My body: it is the place without recourse to which I am condemned. And actually I think it is against this body (as if to erase it) that all these utopias have come into being. The prestige of utopia - to what does utopia owe its beauty, its marvel? Utopia is a place outside of all places, but it is a place where I will have a body without body, a body that will be beautiful, limpid, transparent, luminous, speedy, colossal in its power, infinite in its duration. Untethered, invisible, protected - always transfigured. It may very well be that the first utopia, the one most deeply rooted in the hearts of men, is precisely the utopia of an incorporeal body.

Michel Foucault

Musique Du Jour: Model, Alexander Balanescu Quartet (Kraftwerk)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Gentlemen Prefer Bondage

Pierre et Gilles - Nina Hagen, 1993

Musique Du Jour: Venus in Furs, The Velvet Underground

Thursday, June 26, 2008

When White Was The New Black

Adolphe Gottlieb - Man Looking at Woman, 1949

Musique Du Jour: Play That Funky Music, White Boy, Sly and the Family Stone

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Kiss My Art

Constantin Brancusi - The Kiss, 1907

Musique Du Jour: The Kiss, Michael Nyman

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Six Images In Search Of An Exhibition XV

Smarter Than Your Average Simian

Dan'l Baboon (Kimba), 1960s

Planet of the Apes, 1968

2001, A Space Odyssey, 1968

Tarzan (Disney), 1999

King Kong, 2005

Space Chimps, 2008

Musique Du Jour: Captured (King Kong soundtrack), John Barry

From My Notebook

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

When Camille Met Auguste: Part Two

Camille Claudel - La Valse (detail), 1889-95

[Claudel] remained confident that in time her talent would be publicly recognised. Time, though, was running out. At her age, Rodin hadn't made much more progress socially, nor acquired many more graces. But women reached a social zenith that lasted as long as their youthful beauty; men seemed ever more attractive as they aged. The asset Claudel might have parlayed into professional opportunities was diminishing, while Rodin's artistic success was beginning to glow with a sexual aura.

. . .

Rodin's identity after the 1880s merged aesthetics with sexuality. He believed that his art and his virility came from the same source, and so did his contemporaries.

. . .

The marks of vigorous modelling Rodin left in clay, or the swift signs on paper, his ability to combine human figures in endlessly new permutations, the sheer quantity of his output and, above all, the erotic themes of his sculpture, all became indistinguishable from his personal sexuality. No one seemed able to write about Rodin's work, least of all Rodin himself, without using sexual metaphors. Language conflated nature, masculinity, and creativity. Bourdelle called his teacher "the great penetrator of human forms," and the different ways we might read that epithet today all meant the same things then.

. . .

Rodin's meanings empowered [his] avant-garde audience, enhanced their identity, freed them from ordinary bourgeois social constraints, and gave women - among them, of course, Camille Claudel - a newly positive belief in their own potential.

Rodins' work, however, carried different sexual meanings to other audiences. Nor were the formal messages of his sculpture immune, even among their intended audience, from the social values then prevailing in Europe. To anyone not versed in the elaborate terminology and sophistication of the art world, and to more than a few intellectuals once they stopped talking aesthetics, the figure of a headless, limbless woman with her legs splayed was nothing but a cunt.

Auguste Rodin - Iris, 1890

When he represented women, Rodin sedulously separated all signs of agency, individuality, or thought from any signs of sexuality. Far from guaranteeing a complete potency, women's gender was understood as a biological limitation. In Rodin's work, sexuality promises to unite men, but differentiates among women. Rodin treated upper-class women as portraits and his hired models as anonymous sexual creatures. Of course, what woman would want to pay to be represented by her genitalia? But isn't that the point? No woman whose class or economic situation allowed her any control over Rodin's production would tolerate this interpretation of other women for herself, because she understood the current derogatory implications of those representations all too clearly, despite their formal beauty. And no amount of social power then available to any woman could make her into a Thinker.

. . .

Rodin could not fundamentally alter Claudel's problem. Both in her professional carer and in her personal life, she still had to choose between the rigidly distinct options of respectability or sexuality. But she refused to choose. Unwilling or unable to understand her situation, Claudel persisted in her utopian desire to live outside the matrimonial laws of patriarchy and, at the same time, to practice the traditionally elite art of sculpture with perfect liberty.

. . .

This situation was not Rodin's personal responsibility; nor were Claudel's individual decisions. On the contrary, no one artist, not even the world's greatest living artist (as he began to be so often called) could affect gender roles in any significant way. Both Rodin and Claudel played out mythic roles they could neither determine nor alter. Rodin's turned on his talent...Hers overwhelmed her.

. . .

Only in her sculpture itself did she manoeuvre around social expectations. Even in her wok she seemed preoccupied with her own gender inasmuch as the majority of her figures represent women. Yet her version of gender is different - different from Rodin's, from that of his more sexually conservative peers, and from the earlier work of notable women sculptors, such as Marcello, or Harriet Hosmer. More importantly, in her sculptures of women we can discern no clear boundary between sexual and asexual...She represented the very young and the very old, the exultant and the despairing, the destitute and the wealthy. She sculpted women alone and in groups, meditative or addressing each other. None is the object of pity, sentimentality, or jest.

. . .

Claudel, whose work escaped the rules of femininity, succumbed to their retributions in her life. After her break with Rodin around 1893, she became increasingly reclusive and paranoid. Although critics like Gustave Kahn and the ever-loyal Morhardt, along with her brother, the poet Paul Claudel, wrote in her favour, and though the dealer Eugene Blot promoted what she produced as best he could through exhibitions and editions, she produces less and less, especially after 1905. She shut herself in an unkempt studio, collected cats, annoyed the neighbours. She raved about Rodin, accused him of stealing her ideas, of maligning her, of spying on her. The imbalance in their relationship had been magnified into madness. She had become merely an episode in his private life, whereas he had become a specter that haunted her and made her unable to distinguish between past and present, between her career and her psyche.

On March 2, 1913, Claudel's father died. His support of her had never wavered. Three days later, her brother Paul obtained a certificate from a doctor that authorised him, under an 1839 French law, to incarcerate his sister against her will. On March 10, Camille Claudel was seized in her studio and confined to an asylum for the insane. In asylums she remained for the rest of her life, first at Ville-Evrard and then at Monedevergues, near Avignon. She pleaded by letter to be released, but to no avail. Her mother answered one letter by writing to Claudel's doctor, "She has all the vices, I don't want to see her again." Claudel died in 1943 after thirty years of imprisonment.

Camille Claudel - The Age of Maturity, c. 1893-99

From Myths of Creation: Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin by Anne Higonnet

Musique Du Jour: Tristan and Isolde, Richard Wagner

From My Notebook

Saturday, June 21, 2008

When Camille Met Auguste: Part One

Camille Claudel, 1884 (photographer unknown)

Auguste Rodin, 1893 (photographed by Nadar)

When Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin met in 1883 or 1883, she had already demonstrated artistic talent. Born in 1864, she had begun to model clay around 1876 without any encouragement. Since then, she had enlisted the support of her father, Louis-Prosper, and her brother Paul, and antagonised both her mother Louis and her sister, also called Louise. She had been noticed by a local sculptor, Alfred Boucher, and had managed to get herself to Paris, centre of the European art world, in order to obtain the training necessary for a career in sculpture. She knew what she wanted, but the professional art world offered few opportunities for women. The École des Beaux-Arts, that most prestigious school of all, did not admit women. They were also excluded in practice, if not in theory, from full participation in the raucous, bawdy life of productive sculpture studios. Undaunted, Claudel joined other ambitious young women who rented their own studios and attended the respectable but cloistered Académie Colarossi. There was no tradition of women sculptors to inspire them; they didn't even imagine one, so fully did they believe in their ability to belong to the art world as they knew it.

. . .

No one wonders...why Claudel was attracted to Rodin. He represented not only the success she desired, but also the success of desire. She wanted to be a sculptor in her own right, and every young artist then took the interest of an eminent senior artist as a good sign that one day he or she would be famous. In the case of a woman, however, it was also a form of success in itself to be sexually desired by a successful man, so much so that feminine desire consisted at least partly in the desire to be desired. Nor does anyone wonder why Rodin was drawn to Claudel, although for different reasons. She was a beautiful young woman who was willing to have an affair without demanding the usual bourgeois feminine rewards of marriage, a household, children, and social status. She freely gave herself as the object of his desire.

. . .

Banished from her parent's home when they discovered the sexual aspect of her ties to Rodin, Claudel lived and worked for much of this time in a decrepit villa called the Folie Neubourg on the Boulevard d'Italie. Apparently Rodin paid the rent and her expenses. No trace of any regular salary survives even though she was performing exactly the same kind of tasks with which he had earned his living in earlier years. She modeled parts of the works that he signed, probably some of the small figures in his Gates of Hell (still unfinished at his death), almost certainly the hands and feet of his 1886 Burghers of Calais: two of the monumental projects that made him famous. She carved some of his marbles, for she had the gift of the craft, which he did not. In addition, she posed for several of his sculptures, an extremely time-consuming task that was normally a paid profession, and that kept her away from her own sculpture. No records were kept of how she spent her time, or who was working on which pieces at exactly what stage of their development.

. . .

Nevertheless, we have now - and their contemporaries had then - a mode of interpretation to fall back on by default. In the absence of evidence, art historians have assumed that she imitated him, and that her achievement consisted in executing his ideas. The absence in Claudel's case has been extreme. For a very long time most of Claudel's surviving works remained in private, uncatalogued collections. The few traces of her production were scattered, if not lost, whereas Rodin hoarded every conceivable bit of information pertinent to himself and passed it on to a permanently staffed institution. The profession of art history has always measured the chronology and value of the unknown by the scale of what it does know. On occasion, this attitude has taken the extreme form of automatically attributing works produced during the period of Rodin's and Claudel's affair to Rodin . . . Claudel's retreat to the private world of Folie Neubourg allowed the public to imagine her work according to its habits.

. . .

Claudel worked in seclusion on the assumption - shared at least theoretically by her contemporaries - that artistic genius came from within an individual and would be recognised in proportion to its intrinsic merit. It was perhaps the surest sign of Claudel's provincial and feminine upbringing that she could not gauge how fully, in practice, any artistic career depended on institutions, social connections, financial self-promotion, and a strategically chosen stylistic position. Nor did she understand that for the men who controlled a public art world, her professional reputation would never emerge from under their interpretation of her private life. In their eyes, her sexuality eclipsed her work because she was a woman and therefore, according to their acquired expectations, an innately sexual rather than intellectual being. They had become aware of her sexuality as the object of Rodin's desire; therefore her story could exist only as part of his story.

From Myths of Creation: Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin by Anne Higonnet

Musique Du Jour: Dracula (soundtrack), Wojciech Kilar

From My Notebook

Friday, June 20, 2008

Planning Paris: Part One

Sebastian Munster (attributed) - Lutetia, vulgari nomine Paris, urbs Gallia maxima (Paris), from Cosmographia, 1569

Paris, 2008

'Begin at the beginning,' the King said, very gravely, 'and go on till you come to the end: then stop.'

From Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Typically, at the beginning of their courtship, a pair of lovers will spend inordinate amounts of time quizzing each other (usually to a chorus of disingenuously flirtatious glances) about their pasts. My question is: Why should things be any different with a city one has fallen in love with?

As I begin planning my next trip to Paris, my mind is pleasantly agitated by what I have learned about it (I want to say "her" - perhaps next time I will) from books and, more powerfully, by my memories of her (there - I've said it!) from previous trysts. One nourishes; the other arouses. One conjures her through the eyes of strangers; the other by means of fragrant reveries.

I feel for the person who is unable - or, even worse, unwilling - to lavish a city with affectionate, immoderate curiosity. I pity them because every question they fail to ask is yet another faltering step in what should be a mutual seduction.

C'est la vie? . . . Not for me.

Musique Du Jour: My Favourite Letter is U, Uni and Her Ukelele (aka Heather Marie Ellison)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Who The Hell Is Tula Ellice Finklea?

Cyd Charisse, born Tula Ellice Finklea (1922-2008) in Singin' in the Rain, 1952 - d. Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly

MGM didn't know what they had with Cyd, did they?

Gene Kelly

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Fistful Of Levinas

Oscar Muñoz (b. 1951) - Line of Destiny, 2006 (single screen projection)

1. The object which presents itself to the thinker determines the thinker. But it determines the thinker without touching the thinker, without weighing down on him; in such a manner that the thinker submits to the imposed content of thought ‘in good grace’, as if he had anticipated the object right down to the surprises it holds in store for knowledge.

2. [Every] loss of time, every lapse, holds on to itself, or is recuperated in the memory, finds itself again, or is reconstructed; it adheres to an ensemble through the agency of memory or historiography. Consciousness in reminiscence glorifies the ultimate resilience of presence. The time of consciousness lends itself to [self-] representation – this is more strongly synchrony that diachrony.

3. To represent is not simply to render present ‘again’, it is to fetch back to the present itself an actual perception which is flowing away . . . to fetch back to the instantaneity of thought everything which seems independent of it.

4. The Same, in its relation to Alterity, refuses what is exterior to its own instant, to its identity in order to rediscover in that free-floating instant . . . as conferred sense, as a noema, everything which had been rejected.

5. Admittedly, the self which conducts its thoughts becomes (or, more exactly, ages) in the time in which are spread out its [the self’s] successive thoughts throughout which the self thinks in the present. But this becoming does not appear on the level of representation.

Emmanuel Levinas

Musique Du Jour: Pendulum Music, Steve Reich

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hey, Who's Winning?

Brian and Stewie patrol the streets of Iraq in 'Saving Private Brian' (Family Guy, Ep. 4, Season Five, 2006)

Musique Du Jour: When Johnny Comes Marching Home, The Civil War

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Build It And They Will Muse (Redux)

Nike Savvas - Atomic: full of love, full of wonder, 2005

. . . in all time
Calm or convuls'd - in breeze, or gale, or storm,
Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime
Dark-heaving; - boundless, endless, and sublime -
The image of Eternity . . .

Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it "creative observation". Creative viewing.

William S. Burroughs

Expressing what exists is an endless task.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Musique Du Jour: Across the Universe, Fiona Apple