Tuesday, March 29, 2011


the scene as I arrived

 In Berlin for a few days last week and was lucky enough to be able to catch the opening of Cyprien Gaillard's new show at Kunstwerk entitled "The Recovery of Discovery."  The "show" consists of a ziggurat of stacked boxes of beer.  I was told that there were approximately 70,000 beers making up the pyramid at the beginning of the night.  I say at the beginning, because by the time I arrived at 7 people were getting into it, and the bottles were already lining up against the walls.  One entered the installation by proceeding down one of several hallways that opened up into a large atrium.  Halfway down the hallway the cigarette smoke literally slapped you in the face, and upon entering the space one encountered a gracious public climbing, mingling, smoking, and yes - drinking.  You could open any box you wanted and just pull a beer out.  Some were already empty and being used as trash bins and ashtrays.  There was no real method to the opening of the boxes, but patterns developed near the top and around the sides.  The pyramid became steeper as the night went on with the first rows of boxes being decimated.  Women's high-heels went through the cardboard as did peoples' legs as they descended stepping into partially opened boxes.  I never saw any casualties though, and it must be said that the whole scene was quite civilized during the time I was there (which was too long).  It was the first opening I've ever been to where there was no danger of running out of booze.  This in itself presents another interesting situation, as I'm not sure if or when the installation closed (2am?).  On opening night one could drink all you wanted for free, but starting the next day the visitor to the space would have to pay 5 euro to sit and drink (as much as he wanted presumably, still a good deal!).  As this goes on the structure is not only destroyed, but consumed.  As much by our own vice as our willingness to engage with it and one another.

Gaillard, mostly known at least in the US for his Desniansky Raion video- (a collaboration with the musician Koudlam), is a good artist.  And despite the absurdity of this project, it conceptually fits into his oeuvre.  I was told that originally the beer used was to be from Cambodia - Angkor brand beer.  This of course referring to the ancient city and pyramids of Angkor wat, however, the logistics of this did not work out and hence the beer came from Turkey - Efes Beer, plan B.  The ancient Greek city of Ephesus,  the ruins of which are now in present day Turkey, was home to the Temple of Artemis.  The temple was not a pyramid, but probably rather looked like the Parthenon.  At any rate, it was destroyed and rebuilt numerous times - you can read about it here.   So in a way, conceptually at least, the Efes beer works a little better, though no one wants to erect Greek Columns out of beer.  (The beer company did custom make the boxes for this occasion.)  Presumably then, Gaillard's pyramid will be "rebuilt" at times as it is being destroyed.  I left around 10pm, the crowd was larger, louder, and smokier, yet there was hardly a dent made in the ziggurat.  I wonder how it looked later that night?  I did not return after the dinner.  Anyway, there are plenty of videos of this thing on youtube.  And I'm sure the net will keep us posted on its destruction.
One more thing of interest though was how this project could have happened at all.  I was discussing with my girlfriend how this would never fly in the states - especially publicly funded, which if I understand correctly parts of this were.  The beer alone cost 35.000 euro.  That's a nice gift to a city that doesn't seem to have any problems drinking beer - but then again it is Europe. . .
Cyprien on top of his ziggurat getting harassed by some random kids early in the night.
There were kids everywhere though, and some had beers.
View from the top

Sonny gritting her teeth and drinking warm beer like a good Fräulein should.
(She actually has better pics of all this.  Check FB)

A proper opening.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Got the panels up and on the wall.  Man, it only took a week, a handsaw, no level, 10 trips to the hardware store, one broken drill, a stud finder that didn't work, 30 holes in the wall, some huge snowflakes, and some really bad radio!  Well tomorrow I'll make the drawing, my supplies arrive, and then it's time to start the 24/7 painting marathon before Sonny arrives next week and we head to Berlin.  That gives me 6.5 days to get down the whole under-painting.  With the simplicity of the new image I'm making this is now possible.  Cheerio!

Altered States and Creative Production

some mulling I did a while back. . .   

Problems of the Self: Pure Subjectivity without Content and Creative Production

According to Hegel the work of art is bifurcated into idea (content) and the materialization of the idea into a certain form.  The content and form are so closely tied together that it makes no difference as to whether we evaluate the work in relation to one or the other.  Embodied in the very production of [i]both of these characteristics is the artist’s own subjectivity without content, that is the self as producer.  As Giorgio Agamben points out, the evaluation of a work of art occurs then on two levels, the creation of the aesthetic judgment and the identification of the viewer with the artist’s subjectivity.   Obviously the self is tied to any mode of production, but also it seems that the self is inherently tied to the finished product once completed.  What are the implications of this?  Does this phenomenon distract from the idea of a work of art?

The spectator of an artwork receives everything that may be in it through aesthetic representation.  Embodied in this aesthetic representation is the artist’s own free creative principle or subjectivity, which rises like a pane of glass in between the viewer and the work filtering all that is being received.

      The spectator sees himself as other in the work of art, his being-for himself as being-outside-himself; and in the pure creative subjectivity at work in the work of art, he does not in any way recover a determinate content and a concrete measure of his existence, but recovers simply his own self in the form of absolute alienation, and he can possess himself only inside this split.

Regardless of whether such a violent schism exists between spectator, object, and maker, the point is well made that there is an alienation that occurs in trying to grasp the subjectivity of the artist’s own being in relation to what is created.  The artist himself must be aware of this, but cannot consciously appropriate it in an honest way, and must remain open to the materials and form that his own subjectivity might take.

What happens to the artist who, having become a tabula rasa in relation both to the matter and to the form of art’s production, discovers that no content is now immediately identified with his innermost consciousness?  This is not a problem and is the reductive nature of art production.  The artist’s innermost subjectivity has no content.  Agamben connects this back to Hegel’s Lectures on Aesthetics in which a notion of the artist’s production as self-annulling is posited.  The artist knows that his own artistic subjectivity is of absolute essence for which all subject matter is indifferent.  However this artistic subjectivity separated from content is so abstract that it destroys all content through its constant attempt at transcending and manifesting itself.  Posed with this problem the artist is in a constant state of negotiating the paradox presented by having no content and the need for content.  The production of art is therefore an annihilation of the self through the superimposition of content onto a work.  In this respect art is a negation in that it is only able to achieve its true purpose of representing man’s highest truth of being in the world by the act of reflection.  However, it seems that this type of thinking quickly falls into a sort of romantic nihilism. 

The antinomy of art production as seeking to define the self while nullifying the self has been dealt with in many interesting ways.  Two artists whose work indirectly addresses this problem are the late Henri Michaux and Matt Mullican.  Both attempt to get at a more “pure” form of creative production through outside means of stimulation: hallucinogens in the case of Michaux and hypnosis for Mullican.  Both methods are an endeavor to turn the form of subjectivity with no content into the content of the work through the backdoor mode of the subconscious.
Henri Michaux, Mescaline Drawing,  c. 1950's

Henri Michaux is an artist opposed to a static idea of the self.  Already a prolific writer and visual artist by the early 1950’s, after a tragic accident leading to the death of his wife, Michaux embarks on a series of drawings and paintings executed while under the influence of mescaline.  The drawings capture what Michaux called vibrations.  The imperceptible being perceived is recorded.  The drawings are complex and dense with information – line upon line converging, tangling, weaving, and feeling.  The lines make up landscapes of a sort.  There is no doubt that they are interesting.  However, most of the best works seem to take on a similar form.  There exists a chasm, a split, in the composition of almost all of the early drawings.  A subconscious repetition occurs perhaps metaphorically splitting between selves or dividing the viewer from the artist. .  . This tear, while interesting, becomes incredibly redundant and holds the work back from any kind of progress. . .

Deleuze and Guattari and the problem of drugs and causality:  “The more incapable people are of grasping a specific causality in extension, the more they pretend to understand the phenomenon in question.  There is no doubt that an assemblage never contains a causal infrastructure.  It does have, however, and to the highest degree, an abstract line of creative or specific causality, its line of flight or of deterritorialization. . .It is our belief that the issue of drugs can be understood only at the level where desire directly invests perception, and perception becomes molecular at the same time as the imperceptible is perceived.”  The unconscious is that which is hidden from the system of perception. . .[ii]

Michaux’s warning, You will no longer be master of our speeds, you will get stuck in a mad race between the imperceptible and perception, a race all the more circular now that everything is relative. – miserable miracle.

Matt Mullican and hypnosis.  Consciousness while in a trance . . . Responsibility?  Mullican always making a tape line divide between himself and the audience.  Repeating his actions from past performances.  Progress?  Accentuating the schism that occurs between viewer and maker.

Does this attempt what Agamben warns about – making mere form into content, turning the artistic inner subjectivity into the content – reaching the subconscious is a way around this, but even this does not work.  The same motions and actions appear over and over again – stuck in their own intangibility.  Why does one’s inner subjectivity want to repeat conger up the same forms continuously.  Does the artist truly need the content side of the work?  Yes!  These modes of production are not viable or sustainable.  An attempt to reach pure subjectivism without content leads in circles because of this subjectivity’s need to actualize and surpass itself, the result of which is repetition. .  .

[i] Giorgio Agamben, The Man Without Content trans. Georgia Albert, Stanford University Press, 1999.
[ii] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, capitalism and schizophrenia,  University of Minnesota Press, 1987; p. 284.

Friday, March 11, 2011

a little paint

Feeling a little better after today's work.  Spent most of the day finagling around with my hanging system, sanding for 5 hours, and then finally putting the first base coat on at midnight.  Though I have to say that I'm impressed with the expensive enamel that I bought.  It has good coverage, and I was pleased to find that one can was able to coat the entire front and sides of my panels plus the cleats.  Some more sanding and another few coats and these should make a sexy painting surface. Anyway, feels good simply to be putting paint on something finally.  Hanging these things on the wall will be another story.  Tomorrow's task is to mount them to the cleat while still on the floor and then sand down any discrepancies before they go on the wall.  The other problem is that I'm not sure how thick that studio wall is and where the studs are, have to wait on the technician for the art center, who is sick today, to get me the stud finder?  Need to try and get these on the wall by Saturday afternoon and then work on the drawing Sunday in order to stay on schedule.

Snowed most of the day - big wet juicy flakes that just hypnotized you when you watched them fall.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


And it begins!
Why does the tape measure not begin at 0?
Doing it the old fashioned way.  
These little babies are coming along, please hang straight and proper.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011


sandnes harbor

stair shop
Northern light.

saw a guy in a tiny efficiency in this building going crazy on a treadmill the other night.