Nov 19, 2007

On the cover of Cluster Arts Magazine


I was invited to create the image for the cover of the first issue of Cluster Arts Magazine.

Usually in art magazines, the artist first creates an image, then a writer writes about it, and finally a designer lays out the image and text on the page. I thought it would be interesting to see what happens if this process is reversed. I proposed to editors Ana Cavic and Renee O'Drobinak that we commission a piece of text, have the magazine designer create a basic empty layout, and then I would use these two elements as inputs in my process - to create a "dot-to-dot" diagram using the same number of dots as words in the text.

Surprisingly, the editors said yes - and we created a cover image following this pattern. In the end, however, the editors opted for a simpler image without the words for the final cover... I hadn't really expected to be given the final say, but it was fun to try and I am pleased with the resulting cover.

Nov 10, 2007

Badiou speaking in New York


Alain Badiou is speaking at Law and Event, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Nov 11 & Nov 12. It's a public event. [link].


I went to Badiou's keynote this morning. He produced a handout entitled "A formalized presentation of the three meanings of negation", with the following symbols:

~ : negation

^ : and

v : or

[] : it is possible that...

P: a sentence

And this table

LogicsNon-ContradictionExcluded middle
Classical~(P ^ ~P)(P v ~P)
Intuonistic~(P ^ ~P)[] ~(P v ~P)
Para-consistent[](P ^ ~P)(P v ~P)

Goldsmiths MFA 2007 Update


Since moving back to NY, I've been in touch with various classmates from my MFA at Goldsmiths via Google Chat:

  • Erin Crowe is currently in Bahrain, where she mentioned that she has a great studio setup.

  • Frog Morris remains as nutty as ever. He told me has was happy with his new Goldsmiths degree, and even more happy it was behind him. Pretty much how I feel.

  • Lawman Lok is back in China, said he is happy to be home, though missing the folks from Goldsmiths.

  • Yaron Lapid showed me some new work he is making. Along with Chia En, he is in a screening at Whitechapel Gallery.

I also visited the websites of my Goldsmiths MFA Fine Art 2007 classmates (see the links in the sidebar of this blog). The video artists seem to have been particularly active since our degree show. Here's some links to various people with shows:

  • Tu Pei Shih lists screenings in Amsterdam, London, Weimar, Spain, Sweden, France and the Netherlands... a global effort.

  • Chia En Jao has also managed no less than seven shows since the MFA show in July, along with Alexandra Navratil.

  • Paul Allsopp and Andy Weir have an upcoming show in Brighton, Fri Nov 23rd 6-9pm, Permanent Gallery. Their work has also toured the world since our show, going to London, Paris, Istanbul and Vienna.

  • Jorg Obergfell is having a show at the White Cross Gallery, and another at Seven Seven (see his website for details). He is also heading off to be an Artist in Residence in Seoul. I can just picture Jorg climbing sculptures in Seoul.

  • Hillel Roman is back in Isreal, judging from his website, which lists two upcoming shows there (but doesn't give dates or details).

  • Yohei Yashi and Maria-Brigita Karantzi are in the upcoming Bloomberg New Contemporaries show in Manchester, November 23.

Quite a few people haven't put up websites yet, or their sites are not updated - if you start a website or blog, let me know! Or if you know if news or updates, add a comment - or drop me an email (jonmeyer at gmail).

Nov 8, 2007

Mariko Mori at Deitch


Went to an art opening at Deitch Projects by Mariko Mori.

The wall text proudly announced that Tom Na H-iu (the glowing orb above) is connected via the Internet directly to the world's largest observatory in Japan, and that the piece is a live visualization of the neutrino data from that lab.

Whenever I see art visualizing data from the Internet, I think of Natalie Jeremijenko's famous Live Wire project from 1997.

Natalie's piece showed data that everyone could directly relate to (the amount of traffic over the network in an office, corresponding to how busy everyone is). The visualization was very simple: The amount of network traffic controls the speed of a stepper motor. A clear single variable, shown using one dimension of movement. The visualization made perfect sense: the more traffic, the more the wire dances about. Yet it was also surprising, revealing a usually hidden dimension of our daily cycle.

Unfortunately, when most artists make Internet data visualizations, they do what Mariko did. She took a piece of data we are so unfamiliar with that nobody could tell the difference between real and made up data. Then she presented it using a visualization so abstract it needed wall text to explain it. At that point, why not make it up? Nobody will call you on it.

The piece was beautiful, but all the wall text about neutrinos and live Internet data was just a way to prop the work up with some pseudo-scientific claims. Better to just to say "we made a giant ten foot tall Lava lamp."

Nov 7, 2007

Remediality and Adorno


Tonight we relaunched Remediality, a critical theory reading group I run. It's the first New York session since 2005 (we ran several sessions at Goldsmiths earlier this year, they proved quite popular).

Present were: Spiros, Ryan, Emanuel, Tom, Friedrich and myself.

We read from chapter 1 of Horkheimer & Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment, first published in 1944.

As Ryan succinctly put it, H+A argue that the Enlightenment is baaad. Linked with this, they offer a somewhat romantic view of the primitive pluralism that came before the Enlightenment. A few of their passing shots against Enlightenment and logos:

"Enlightenment is totalitarian."

"Only thought which does violence to itself is hard enough to shatter myths."

"Bourgeois society is ruled by equivalence. It makes dissimilar things comparable by reducing them to abstract quantities. For the Enlightenment, anything which cannot be resolved into numbers, and ultimately into one, is illusion; modern positivism consigns it to poetry."

Horkheimer and Adorno make a connection between art, magic and mana (life force) - suggesting that art is a form of magic.

"Just as the sorcerer begins the ceremony by marking out from all its its surroundings the place in which the sacred forces are to come into play, each work of art is closed off from reality by its own circumference. The very renunciation of external effects by which art is distinguished from magical sympathy binds art only more deeply to the heritage of magic. This renunciation places the pure image in opposition to corporeal existence, the elements of which the image sublates within itself. It is in the nature of the work of art, of aesthetic illusion, to be what was experienced as a new and terrible event in the magic of primitives: the appearance of the whole in the particular. The work of art constantly reenacts the duplication by which the thing appeared as something spiritual, a manifestation of mana. That constitutes its aura."

Art as transcendental, as pure image, as aesthetic illusion, aura - is it just me, or is this the groundwork for the modernist Greenbergian world order that was to follow?

If people want the full text, I have it as a PDF file...

Nov 6, 2007

Setup a home studio


I've installed a small studio in my home as a stop-gap until I find a longer term solution. See this post for a longer story on building the studio.

Nov 5, 2007

Making a home art studio


The photo above shows the raw lumber I ordered to setup a home art studio.

While I was looking for a full time studio, I decided to setup a home studio in my apartment. The apartment is a rental, with clean walls / floors, so we installed some temporary walls and floors in one room, to make a usable studio and avoid ruining the building fabric. The room is 8' x 14', with two North-facing windows, which is tiny for a studio, but it's a good stop-gap.

Ordering the wood was a NY experience. I went to the folks at Metropolitan lumber on Spring Street, explained my needs, said it had to be under $300. They obliged.

An hour later four sheets of 4x8x.5 ply, three sheets of Masonite hardboard, and five 2x4s were hand delivered to our 3rd floor walkup.

Here you can see it being assembled:

The first thing I did was put down a large dropcloth on the floor (to absorb any liquid / paint that gets through the cracks in the masonite). Then I put the three 4x8 masonite sheets on top of the dropcloth, attaching them to each other using some Gorilla tape on their undersides.

I screwed five 2x4x8 posts against the original walls, with one large bolt per post, so when they are removed they won't leave a big mark.

Next, I screwed the 4x8 ply sheets in place against the 2x4 posts. Applied some jointing compound and paint - and its done:

Update: I've since found a larger space, but having somewhere at home too comes in super-handy.

Nov 1, 2007

Jill Moser, Louis Cameron


Kate and I trawled the galleries Thursday night. Among other shows, we saw paintings by Jill Moser and Louis Cameron.

Jill Moser's work is all about the quality of the surface - her paintings are very smooth, almost like polished plaster. The paint sits beneath the surface - she relies heavily on absorption, and it's surprising to see this level of expressiveness with such a smooth surface. The smoothness makes the images look almost like prints, but it's clear they are not. I found the images quite affectful, tantalizing.

The text for the show described Moser's work using words like "lucid", "indeterminate", "velvety void". Moser herself quotes the abstract expressionist pioneer Philip Guston. The text, like her work, seemed tentative - not a loud argument, but nuanced.

Louis Cameron combines minimalism with consumer culture in his work, which is confident and bold. I could immediately sense where he was coming from.

Cameron has a system for generating his works based upon the color charts of consumer products like M&Ms. As with the images themselves, this approach is very "now" and thought out.

I'm a fan of minimalism, so I was naturally disposed to like Cameron's paintings. However, when I approached one of his tile images, I found the surface disappointing: it seemed overly manufactured, almost molded, there was a lot of texture but not much depth. I saw little variation in the tiles, little sense of his struggling with the constraints or uncertainty of a process. I sensed an artist fully in charge, following a process whose outcome was certain and predictable.

My reactions? Moser's work is beautiful to look at, but my immediate response was to think she was regurgitating abstract expressionism. How is this new? And although Cameron's work is less visually provocative, he did appear to be proposing a clear critique.

Kate and I vigorously debated this. Afterwards, and with a few days reflecting, I've changed my mind.

In Cameron's tile paintings, yes, the critique is very direct. But consumer candy seems such a safe subject to attack, I now wonder if this isn't simply checkbox criticism. And the statistics he chose to represent also seem arbitrary: "the percentage of color in the color code of a product" is presented as though this is a meaningful quantity, but all it really tells us is that candy manufacturers like bright colors.

With Moser's work, her positioning is a more vague. However, likening her images to abstract expressionism is also too fast: There are many things she is doing that don't follow the rules of abstract expressionism. For example, she creates a central element, rather than using all of the canvas equally. And the smooth surface she uses seems quite in contrast to the vigorous thick impasto of many abstract expressionists. Her tentative imagery and text left room for me as a viewer to fill in more later, to revisit the images in my head and rethink what made them tick.

In the end, it is Moser's images that I keep returning to.

Halloween 2007


If you want to see the Halloween parade up 6th Avenue, a good tip is to be in the parade! Just put on some funky costumes, go to 6th Avenue and Spring street at 7pm on October 31st, and exercise a bit of patience...

Kate's Jellyfish outfit received lot's of "Jellyfish!" catcalls (bizarre). The folks behind us in the parade had fantastic costumes (see above). Nobody knew what my outfit was about. Kate described it as a "Barney/Cremaster-like figure", though this reference was lost on several people we met. Next year I'll go as a ghost...

At 10th street, we climbed the huge clocktower at Jefferson Market Library to visit Basil Twist and his giant spider puppet. We were all blown in the wind, but it's an amazing view. Basil has been puppeteering in the parade for over a decade (he gave us VIP passes, which was nice). He remarked that this year was the largest parade he'd seen yet.

Basil pointed to the street lights from around 8th street to 14th, observing that they are an antique design, and are much dimmer than the rest of the lights on 6th Avenue. Looking down, I could see how dark that part of the parade was, and the old curved street lights. It's fantastic when someone with a special relationship to the city points out a tiny detail like that. You realize how much you miss, immersed in it all.