Friday, January 29, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
After artists like Duchamp and Levine, “stealing” images is not the controversy it once was. Still, appropriation always brings up the question of originality, and we keep discussing it even though appropriation has been fairly common for the last century. When is appropriation appropriate? When is copyrighting a problem? What does original even mean?
Appropriation is especially relevant to printmaking because of the ease at which we can reproduce images. Over the last century artists like Warhol, Rauschenburg, and Robert Prince have become famous for their use of appropriated imagery in a print context. They exemplify a use of appropriated imagery to comment on the cultural environment at the time. I think this is when appropriation is most successful in conveying a message because it allows the artist to more directly comment on and alter something that we are familiar with. Currently in printmaking it is common (and quite acceptable) to remix appropriated images in with a variety of processes and other images to create unique prints. Anytime you take an image off google images, or a photograph from a magazine and use it in you art, you are appropriating. It’s hard to avoid when so much imagery is so easily accessible, but it also makes me think about the reasons for appropriating. Is it better to take my own pictures than to copy and paste off the internet? Does it matter?
I came across an artist in my research who appropriates in a different way. Krzysztof Wodiczko makes large-scale videos, which he then projects on to national monuments and significant architectural sites to explore how these monuments reflect the past and our memory of it. In this case it is the actual monuments he is appropriating.
After spending 6 hours doing perspective drawings in a massive, cold, marble church, I was often relieved to not have to focus strictly on a particular subject. I would start with a certain mark, whatever came to mind at the time, and see where it took me. I didn't have a plan. I played with light and dark marks, accumulation of marks, frantic marks, careful marks, etc. I've always been a perfectionist, which gets frustrating when I'm wanting to sketch something specific like a figure or specific object. I get too stuck in the realistic. This exercise was incredibly satisfying and liberating in that I didn't have to worry about it being a "good" sketch. (and, of course, that shouldn't be what sketchbooking is about anyway). It didn't have to represent anything in particular. Yet, I still liked the end result most of the time.
Sometimes I was slow and careful, and other times I was fast and gestural. My first sketch, done in micron pen, I felt focused mostly on the detail of the figure. The green pastel and the blue marker, on the other hand, were able to emphasize the movement and hint at a narrative. The girl in blue seems to hint at more of a sexuality, where as the gestural brown figure focuses on the twirling, dancing, movement.
Here's a delegation of doodles, starting with the word dream. First, I found a person to draw what they associated with a word on the card, then delegated the topic for the sketch by having them choose a word for the next person. And then repeated several more times. (Since it's hard to read them, the words were dream, paleontology, elephant, rhubarb, and submarine)
Delegation takes many forms in art-making, often transforming the process into a collective operation. We got to experience this first-hand when Allison Smith came to visit, by participating in a range of tasks such as research, dissecting a parachute, or making a pattern.
While thinking about this, I began to wonder what the role of 'delegator' means for the concept of an artist - or how often they are a type of manager for the implementation of their ideas? Also, what about everyone involved in the art-making process compared to the often singular term 'artist' (apologies for all the scary quotes)? Is the focus the participation of a community or reaching some specific end? Or what about delegation of tasks to machines?
Anyways, here's a link to a neat example of delegation by Stephanie Syjuco. http://www.stephaniesyjuco.com/p_counterfeit_crochet.html
Art as commodity. Is art ever free from the constraints of a market economy and the gallery setting? Crafted into the very bones of the art “industry” is a gallery structured value system, and it shapes the way art is made, valued, and considered – whether we like it or not. Despite rebellion and attempted subversion of the gallery and art market as determiner, owner, and distributor of art, it lives on. Its selections influence what the public define as “good” art – art worthy of garnering “close to the GNP of some Caribbean or African states,” as critic Robert Hughes dryly states in a 2004 speech to the Royal Academy. In innocuously molding the rubric for determining what is “good” art or art worthy of commodification (of course, one in the same), these institutions wield a mighty hand in qualifying what constitutes art. In order to survive as artists, we are pressured to conform and to make art within these standards in order to even attempt to support ourselves.
Kinda sad, right? Isn’t art about something bigger? When we dream of the biggest things to ourselves, do we ever start thinking about what the dividends will be? Does your hand turn to the brush, to the micron, to absent minded doodles because the cash register Cha-ching! sounded first in your head? For me, the truest things are always pure. It’s true that art can be defined however you want it to be. You decide the value of things. You act on your impulses or through self-made rules and make, make, make. Regardless, we can’t ignore the permeating structure of art as commodity. Commodity spreads. If it’s hot, everyone wants it – on their t-shirts, on their coffee mugs, in their living room. Value goes up. Hype carries it up farther. We look to the (art) stars and wonder if we could be them if we too shot for the moon. It makes it hard to be an original voice, to be true to oneself as a creative entity. But mostly it just raises a lot of questions that perhaps can’t be answered about how art is to be defined and valued, considered, priced, about art’s “place” in the world. It lays down a transparent grid of restrictions. Like slamming into that glass door that looked open, it’s a little embarrassing and it kinda hurts. You’re making something that finally feels real and true and then you forget the grid is there and suddenly BAM! it’s the institution you’ve ingested speaking in your voice: Is what I’m making even good? Despite how we may feel about it, art’s role as commodity influences how art is valued and defined. Perhaps the best we can do is be aware of it or play in it, to overturn what philosopher Michel Foucault calls these “regimes of truth.” Once we understand the system, we can act within it to free ourselves… (spread the word!)
on the left: objects drawn with right and then left hand
on the left: a strand of spaghetti thrown onto the wall every time I made spaghetti last semester.
PAINTING FOR THE WIND
Make a hole in a purse full of seeds and put the purse where there is wind.
The concept of setting up parameters for making art is a pretty accessible way to make work. The top two examples are from Yoko Ono's display at the 2009 Venice Biennale. There was a wall filled with type-written instructions. Here, the text stands alone as a conceptual piece.
Jana Harper had an exhibit in Florence,Italy last spring with a series of "games" that she created while spending a month in an area outside of Florence. “Game One: Assemble the tiniest bouquet. Ever.” “Game Eight: Sit under an olive tree and try and catch the flowers as they fall.” “Game Eleven: Try and draw the wind the way it feels on your body.” The exhibit showed text paired with an image documenting the "game." In an adjacent room, there was a table with a book where visitors were implored to write down a "game" from their own imagination.
Setting parameters such as "make a drawing a day" allow us to maintain discipline while allowing creative juices to flow. Sometimes starting with rules and words is an easier jumping-off point since we are such verbally-based creatures of habit.