Letters Volume 32 no.2 November/December 2017

The Attack on Derek Guthrie

Dear Daniel,

Who is Joe?
When I taught logic I recommended students master the informal fallacies because they are likely to persuade more people than sound reasoning. Cynical, I suppose, but also the way things are. Honest argument is not very popular.
Joe says you and Derek are “rusty” and “not connected”. These are two of the most persuasive ad hominems used in current art politics. I am sure they will resonate with those who are “well connected”. But asserting these terms does not auto-demonstrate any falsehood or even deficiency in what any person says.
Joe does make one point though, not just about the NAE, but the whole predicament of our time. It is difficult to find stuff worthy of championing in what Darby Bannard identified as “the art glut” thirty years ago in a diatribe he wrote for ARTS. Like Darby, Joe seems to recognize not everything proffered as worthy in the art scene really is, that the pluralistic assumption that everything is equal is not true to our experience of art. Good for Joe.
But he drops the ball when he advocates finding something to champion in whatever is supposed to be hot stuff, if for no other reason than to at least avoid negativity. That is a soft substitute for conviction. The “business” of the NAE is not to champion, but to illuminate whatever it chooses to look at.
And then he complains about spelling. He used “see’s” as a verb and verbs don’t take the possessive. One walks treacherous ground when they publicly criticize someone else’s use of English. It is too damn complicated a language to reliably get right on one’s own.
John Link
10/09/2017

 

HELLO NEW YORK

Hello Daniel,
Thank you very much for sending me the issue.
I will tell people to subscribe to the magazine. It is important that you will be able to continue your work.
If you need someone in New York to write on a regular basis, be it reviews or articles, please do not hesitate to ask me. I do not need any financial compensation and would be more than happy to be of help.
Have a great evening.
Kind regards,
Jimi Dams
21/09/2017

 

ST. IVES IS THRIVING

Dear Derek,

We met briefly outside Tate St Ives during Ken Turner’s performance on Saturday.
I’m writing because I’m saddened that you feel that the St Ives art scene is frozen and wanted to give you some examples of artist-led activity happening at Porthmeor Studios, which is where I’m based. In the past month Porthmeor has hosted ‘MONO’, an evening of 16 short artist films curated by Rafal Zajko; ‘Flexing Around’ a performance by Ilker Cinarel featuring opera singer Jesse James Giuliani; ‘Can you see being friends with an object for years?’ showing textile and design work of Sarah Johnson, Joe Townshend, oB wear and a woven plane; ‘Hex on the Beach’, an exhibition by artists from Anchor and Trewarveneth Studios in Newlyn; an exhibition by Katie Schwab & the Chy an Creet artists & makers, and a public talk with artist Danny Fox.
They were all great events and I hope you can join in the future. There is a Facebook page which keeps up-to-date with information about what’s on here: https://www.facebook.com/PorthmeorStudios/
Kind regards
Simon Bayliss
23/09/2017

 

THE DUCHAMP EXPERIMENT

Dear Editor

My response to Mikos Legrady’s piece on Marcel Duchamp “Plight” left me somewhat agreeing with the tone of his thought, but I acknowledge this may better be accomplished to view the legacy of Duchamp in retrospection.
Marcel’s “Plight” was not his, but ours.
In retrospection of the Dadaist movement, Duchamp stood outside the larger locus of artists that continued to make plastic/retinal art. It is Duchamp’s move away, his strategic or thought-out exit from so-called visual art that created his “stir” in the first place. It all happened in built up time. That Duchamp had been a successful, recognized painter [Nude Descending] underscores the attention or new “success of discussion” he achieved, although never, in his words, sought it. I wonder. That his performance had an ancillary life to modern art, shadowing art, not really in involved in the historical issues that permeated the art scene through out the twentieth century, but always walking to the shy outside of discussion, as lone scene maker with his more involved friends, [Man Ray, Breton, Picabia, et al..] tipping his toe in the pools of art, glancing in and out, blowing kisses and pushing his wispy mystery. As a ghost who’s time was coming on… but walking in the distance. But personally, his exit was far more given to critical response than any entrance he ever made.
The narrative attention that the Duchamp received, it’s weight of coverage and critic’s response, all the speculation as to his open ended “meaning” has the same glorification and pondering of sex in outer space. To me, the attention Duchamp received was not unlike the legitimization of a certain cynical position that was qualified as myth making , replete of substance, living in our passing minds and staying oh so seductive and glibly fascinating but– what is it. ??? OH dream on culture vultures!
Now Duchamp, in a sixties movie, blithely, quietly admits he lost too many friends on the battle fields of Europe in WW1. Fine, modernism failed to replace the traditional culture of Europe in all it’s promise, as in technology, government, religion, politics, culture and this failure was beyond words and no longer could he participate in what the world that recognizes as art. His work, especially his readymades, represent a protest, although late in declaration, to the tragic loss of life that he could not abide…or intellectually process given his now defunct, self deduced “cultural vocabulary”. That indeed maybe the context in which we may see Duchamp, as the rest of the Dadaists in one form or another. How ever, that context had no legs in the USA or should have had none realistically or historically. Indeed we fought war , but fortunately not here. This notion of a total loss of culture and it’s outrage spawned was not available in the American field of cultural purview, as we did not experience as such as horrible reality. But here was this man of mystery, beloved [?] who was the object of such critical, unresolved, attention that the aura around him shone above the limited works of art that he actually advanced. And after that, he played chess… for years, as a cultural expression. But tell this to the other artists of WW1, tell Hemingway, Picasso, Wilford Owen or Remarque, Boccioni, Nevinson, Sargent or Kennington or Dix or Grosz or Beckman or the hundreds of artists that manage to survive the war and suffered and courageously continued to create. Tell them of Duchamp. Tell them. Go ahead, I say.
Yet the speculators wrote on. Sixties artists conveniently glommed on. And there was no limit to the mythology and critical preponderance they could manufacture and from out of that …. Many recognized movements were substantiated –but when we actually return to man himself… not really that much– but much made out of him. And it is this “formula of thought compiled” that is actually what we think of when we think of Duchamp. Not his work, his “story” created in print or legend.
In Duchamp’s very self serving conscious decision of laying off the actual construction of art and at the “compassion of composition” around him, his support, we see the roots of any art movement that was created mostly in our minds and not on Earth. This grew steadily as America drifted further from Europe, especially after WW2 as America was directing it’s getaway from Europe, ironically with many transplanted Europeans, not to mention Duchamp.
In retrospect, we can see the history of western twentieth century art as Duchamp’s shadow “was eased” into the mainstream, a rationalization process that created a de-substantialization of– plasticity/ thing making/mark making/form making/sensuality/sentient self aware art as actually created on Earth —to just ideas. Here is where it gets seductive and tricky and murky— given to suggestion and directed focus…. the ideas are not literature or philosophy or even performance but a referential or inferential found object of attention “extant” , intentionally random or for that non- matter.. only an idea, as ideated as a urinal or bicycle wheel can be “what ever labeled”. And how fleeting is that by nature? Can it be captivated? This is an actual “issue” that is not realistically ever broached to the extent it plods on in an unknown mind of detached phantasms un-loosed. Ask any art student or performance artist or art historian, however thinking, thinking. Ask the Gallerists, curators, academics… grant writers…who else? The mainstream press…. And off it goes, wandering into history…..for all to take advantage of.
What the activity around Duchamp has created was the legitimizing of a certain historical cynical fork in the road of modern art history. Those who plod on with Duchamp, fail to realize that the anti art stance is actually non existent. That they themselves, and I admit a certain fascination with the mythology of Marcel, are in no position of actually evaluate this un-position because of the institutionalized piled up Duchamp myth as an agreed upon “reality of art”, an aesthetic grounded, which it is not, plainly NOT a given, and never has been. This so called legacy is not based on his work but of his told story, built up in time to conveniently and pragmatically match the needs of any artist or critic that needed substantiation. This critical stance has been endlessly appropriated to substantiate numerous art tendencies, many immensely popular since WW2, especially in the United States. Where “make it so” becomes art. This process to my mind has radically and tragically placed the institution of art in the realm, although many other processes were at work, of not necessarily IMPORTANT. This is a vast departure from human history. This is a breakaway we are still in the process of rectifying one way or another. One can ask one self- is post modernism just post Art? How do we need art? What can art tell us now, in it’s institutional decampment, it’s defanging, it’s Duchampian dither? Did Duchamp actually free you? To what?
To understand this point one must ask oneself– what is the effect “Duchamp” has had on our art thinking? Almost an impossible task in view of this electronic day and age. The real question maybe, through default, did the ghosts of Duchamp get their way? Up for debate.
Al Jirikowic
09/2017

Volume 32 no.2 November/December 2017 pp 3-5

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