Thursday, April 16, 2009

The virtues of ambiguity: or, why I'm still not giving up art

After a hectic two days drinking with sailors, wandering round archaeological sites, and being menaced by gun-toting, DOC-hating farmers in the far north - more details of those escapades in a future blog post, and in a chapter of Smithyland - Skyler and I suddenly found ourselves in Hamilton on a grey and drizzly Easter Sunday.

Luckily for us, a large new show had just opened at the Waikato Museum and Art Gallery. The gallery's main exhibition space has been given over to a potted history of the Waikato Society of Arts, an organisation which has enriched the culture of cow country for over seventy years. The WSA has always been a determinedly pro-am body, and the exhibition includes work by little-known as well as famous artists. One work has been selected to represent each year of the WSA's existence, so that visitors can travel from the 1930s, when bad imitations of bad Goldies were the order of the day, to the noughties, when the work being produced in the Waikato seems both various and adventurous. There are many delights along the way - Tom Gardiner's massive and very seventies abstract diptych filled with Maddoxian crosses and slabs of brutalist grey is particularly exciting - but the highlight of the show, for me at least, is the emergence of two more Ted Bracey canvases from the gallery vaults.

Bracey's North Island System, No. 1 seems to be one of a series of works he painted near the end of the years he spent in the Waikato in the second half of the sixties. It's a bright painting, full of cold blues and blustery whites, but I neglected it in favour of October No. 4, a large work which has the same unnerving beauty of the two Waikato paintings hanging downstairs.

In October No. 4, the artist has once again stripped his landscape down to essentials: a white line, a black line, a rippling field of deep, darkening green, and a bank of sky the colour of week-old snow. It is difficult to appreciate October No. 4 in reproduction, because the size of the canvas and the nuanced way Bracey uses his limited palette give the work much of its ambiguous power. Like the Waikato paintings downstairs, October No. 4 is capable of conjuring a mood of warmth and security, or a mood of unease. Is Bracey painting a green and pleasant land of dairy farms and scenic reserves, or a landscape which has been left undifferentiated by the ravages of the axe and the fire? Is the line in the foreground a river, running languidly through the landscape, or a road pushed through in an aggressively straight line?

One person who will probably not be visiting the Waikato Museum and Art Gallery to answer these questions is Jared Davidson, a member of the Garage Collective and the author of 'Give up Art and Save the Starving?', a polemic which has attracted criticism on this site and at Christchurch poet and theorist Ross Brighton's blog. In a recent comment on this blog, Jared registered his displeasure with my post about my encounter with Ted Bracey's Waikato paintings:

You saw some landscape in the gallery which spurred you into thought and art talk drivel. You seem to have changed your mind on how you felt about them. You asked some questions about whether this individual knew any colonial history of the area. Did you get a response?

Did Ted answer you back with a defiant yes? Or no? I doubt it. Why? Because as an artist, Ted doesn't have to make those kind of statements. Ted's status as the revered genius allows him to transcend everyday unpleasantries, and allow you to ask such important questions about, say, does this landscape have any meaning whatsoever? Hurrah for art! Hurrah for Ted, and his nothingness!


Jared's comments reflect his belief that artists should end their 'individualist' and 'subjective' ways, and instead dedicate themselves to 'collective' political activity aimed at bringing down the capitalist system. Artists should get out of their studios and galleries, and on to the barricades. If they must continue to produce art, it should reflect their 'social commitment' by clearly communicating an anti-capitalist message.

For all of the radical rhetoric it's wrapped up in, Jared's response to my post about Ted Bracey betrays a very old and very common misapprehension of art. Like the art dealer who is guided by value rather than taste, and the TV viewer who grumps 'what does that mean?' when confronted by Hamish Keith extolling the virtues of a McCahon or Woollaston canvas, Jared is mystified by the recalcitrance of art. He wishes that Ted Bracey would come out with a clear message – that he would shout a 'yes' or 'no', in the manner of a propaganda poster or an ad for detergent.

As EP Thompson was fond of pointing out, though, a poster and a painting are two different things. If we want to engage with an artwork, we often need to put aside the idea that it is supposed to communicate an unambiguous political message to as wide an audience as possible. We must treat a recalcitrant painting or poem not as a failed attempt to communicate simply and clearly, but as an attempt to gets us thinking in a creative, contemplative, dialogic manner - as something that can open our minds to new possibilities, rather than communicate what we already understand.

Ted Bracey's paintings speak powerfully of the connection that he felt with the Waikato landscape - a connection that seems to have been rooted in his rejection of the ugliness of urban American society, and which relied upon his memories of a childhood in the Hampshire Downs. Bracey's vision of an agrarian paradise probably owed a great deal to the Romantic tradition, which has been an important source of social critique in England ever since William Blake wrote poems like 'London'. Bracey's praise for life in the Waikato might remind us of the young Wordsworth's discovery of permanent, non-human values in nature, or of William Morris' counterposition of rural English communities to the ugly chaos of industrial Victorian cities.

Yet Bracey's vision cannot be accepted unproblematically, because it glosses over the fact that the Waikato landscape, like the landscape of post-enclosure England, is an artificial creation, predicated on the dispossession of the people who once lived there. There is an ugliness that aches under the beauty of Bracey's canvases. I have suggested that Bracey is aware of that ugliness - that it lurks at the edge of his vision, and finds its way into his paintings, creating their ambiguity.

I've argued that the condition of being in love with the 'beauty' of a landscape and yet being uneasily aware of the history that lurks under that beauty is very common in the culture of a postcolonial society like New Zealand. I grew up on a dairy farm, and was bombarded by the media, by the tourist industry, and by the backs of wheet bix packets with images that showed the levelled forests and cleared-out highlands of New Zealand as a 'clean green paradise' of sheep and dairy farms. It's not easy to expurgate such images, without expurgating a part of one's own heritage, and one's way of seeing.

I think that many Pakeha feel, today, that they exist in a sort of uneasy twilight zone, caught as they are between a desire to acknowledge the injustices done to Maori and an awareness that they cannot disown their own history. The political right attempts to dispel the Pakeha’s feeling of unease with assimilationist rhetoric about how 'we're all New Zealanders now'; the far left often tries to banish the same unease with simplistic rhetoric about working class unity, and criticism of Maori nationalism as a distraction from 'workers' issues'.

I think that Ted Bracey's paintings are powerful works because they do not dispel the ambiguity of feeling which is the part of the heritage of Pakeha. If Bracey had denied his emotional reaction to the Waikato landscape, and covered his canvases with some politically correct slogan about the theft of Maori land, then he may have created effective posters, but he would have failed to make art. By letting his conflicting feelings into his Waikato paintings, he captured something of the truth of Pakeha experience, and also created a space where viewers can dialogue with him and develop their own thoughts, rather than have a pre-prepared political meaning shoved down their throats.

I don't think the recalcitrance and ambiguity of art like Bracey's renders it politically impotent. In fact, I think that the subtle way artists like Bracey work is just as important to left-wing politics as the work of poster makers and orators. Historically, the New Zealand left has been weak in the areas of theory and analysis, particularly as they pertain to local experience. Too many activists have been dissuaded from thinking about issues like Maori nationalism and the nature of Pakeha experience because they have been supplied with readymade slogans by politicians and poster makers. By encouraging us to think for ourselves, artists like Bracey open a space beyond political rhetoric where creative analysis can be done and new concepts can be coined.

I don't know how Ted Bracey's paintings will affect my political thinking, as I'm still struggling with them, but I want to use another artist to give an example of the way that seemingly recondite canvases can have a palpable political effect on their viewer. Back in 2007 I looked at a series of new works by the Nga Puhi painter Shane Cotton. Cotton had placed a series of somewhat cryptic images - the stylised face of the Nga Puhi warlord Hongi Hika, smoked heads from the period of the Musket Wars, a variety of exotic birds, and several antique planes - on his large, mostly empty canvases. On a number of the canvases, the objects looked as though they were falling off the edge of a cliff, into a vast chasm. Some of Cotton's birds appeared to be floating in the chasm, but other objects looked like they were plummeting.

When they were considered in the context of his earlier work, Cotton's paintings looked to me like allusions to the Maori experience of colonisation and modernity in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I found Cotton's portraits of Hongi Hika, a figure who straddled the divide between pre-contact Maori society and modern New Zealand, particularly fascinating, because they eschewed the cliches that many artists and historians have used when depicting the man. Cotton portrayed Hongi Hika as a man of great mana, not a mindless murderer, but he also contextualised the chief, and suggested that he was, for all his power and exploits, a man whose actions were determined by his historical circumstances. Hongi was struggling to guide his people through their encounter with European power, but the methods which he used were often ill-suited to his task. I was very impressed by the way Cotton's paintings seemed to honour Hongi Hika without idealising him or taking him out of his historical context. At the time I encountered Cotton's paintings I was working at the Auckland museum, and I was also involved in the response to the so-called 'anti-terror' raid on Ruatoki and the arrest of the 'Urewera 14'. At work, amongst friends and relatives, and at protest marches and pickets, the air was full of arguments about Maori and Tuhoe nationalism, and about the correct Pakeha response to those phenomena. These arguments were particularly pungent for me, because I was working amongst Maori and Pasifika staff in the Maori Court of the museum, and was often asked by visitors to the museum about my attitude to the arrests and to Maori leaders like Tame Iti, presumably because I would be able to supply an informed 'Pakeha' view of these matters.

I wasn't sure, though, how to relate my support for the right of Maori and Tuhoe to tino rangatiratanga with my attitude toward Pakeha history and culture. On the one hand, I was becoming more and more aware, through discussions with Maori and my own research, of the details of the oppression that Pakeha had visited upon the indigenous people of Aotearoa. On the other hand, I didn't think that simply dismissing Pakeha culture and history as worthless did anything to help educate the public about the past, or to build a movement against contemporary expressions of the oppression of Maori like the police raids that netted the Urewera 14. For obvious reasons, I couldn't agree with the Maori who told me that Pakeha should all get on a boat and head back to Europe.

Shane Cotton's paintings helped me to find a more balanced approach to Pakeha history and culture, because they proved to me that it was possible to show respect for an ancestor without idealising him. Hongi Hika was a man responsible for the invasion of the rohe of half a dozen iwi and the slaughter of thousands of people, yet Cotton was able to show him as an explicable, if not entirely sympathetic figure. Thanks partly to Cotton, I've come to the view that Pakeha culture and history have to be acknowledged and contextualised, rather than merely condemned - that there is no point, in other words, of telling Pakeha that they should live in a permanent state of shame about their past. I now take the view that it is not Pakeha culture per se but the attempts of Pakeha to make their culture the only acceptable one for New Zealanders that must be countered by the left. In an article about the debate over the New Zealand flag, for instance, I argued that it is unrealistic to expect Pakeha New Zealanders to abandon their old flag, and identify with the tino rangatiratanga banner, but that it is unacceptable for them to claim that their banner represents the first people of Aotearoa. I argued, therefore, for the use of both flags, to remind us all of the messy and two-sided history of this country.

Of course, my response the paintings that Shane Cotton exhibited back in 2007 was and is subjective, and the political conclusions that the paintings eventually prompted in me may not be shared by many others. Cotton's paintings do not make straightforward statements about Nga Puhi or Pakeha history, and our relationship to that history. They do not make straightforward statements about anything. They are enigmatic assemblages of images designed to work on parts of the brain that are untouched by prosaic, logical discourse. We bring our own meanings, our own needs and preoccupations, to our encounter with them, and take away an experience which is our own. The popularity of Cotton's art amongst members of his own Nga Puhi iwi - many of whom are the sort of working class New Zealanders without an education in art who, according to Jared Davidson, are not able to appreciate complex, enigmatic, allusive paintings - is a testimony to the power of his methodology. An encounter with an artist like Shane Cotton or Ted Bracey can be an equal, reciprocal one, in the way that an encounter with a poster can never be.

24 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations. You are a true servant of the bourgeoisie.

12:28 pm  
Blogger Ross Brighton said...

I think there's a misunderstanding of Jared's position, or at the least a vast oversimplification. On my blog Jared expresses a fondness for both Dada and Fluxus, the both of which exhibit strong anti-memetic impuses.
On a completely different note, there's an excellent essay on NZ landscape painting in Parallax 1.3 by Francis Pound.

8:35 pm  
Blogger dave said...

Well in the socialist father land that some of us dream of, I am sure that as his dose of necessary labour Maps would be democratically assigned the task of running up and down the stairs at the Hamilton gallery to check on the changing meanings in worthy art works.
He would have a job title along the lines of "commissar of decadence". This would be a highly prized skill because by then many new historical layers would have been put down in the swamps and caves.
There would be the post-Hide age of Auckland where 100s of Maori laid down their lives for two constituencies. This was represented in new art forms consisting of plastic bottles full of marbles.
There would be the battle of Mount Albert where Maps and his troops rallied to route the neofashistas from the public halls of the shire. This also threw up new art forms as the engagement resembled a ragged game of touch rugby captured on mixed mobiles and posted on youtoo. There would be the age of occupations where new unions run by magnificent militant youth expropriated the Steel works and stormed the Citigroup bunker. This was captured by the insurgents, who proudly proclaimed their art of insurgency.

All of this would require an expert curator to prise apart any vestiges of ambiguity for the rest of us now marching into the new dawn in our fresh dungarees and stick on mokos.

It would be a case of from Maps according to his ability and to Maps according to his needs.

But it would be a compassionate society, were once his necessary labour requirement was fulfilled, Maps would be free to indulge new needs and write his book on Smithy too, after all Smithy was a half-Marxist and maybe if he was still alive he would be a real antipodean socialist and give his life for his art.
Smithy would be half decadent half insurgent and a TV serious would be spun out of the book.

10:43 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

good commentary maps - I was down in Hamilton playing chess - I have been there before but it didn't occur to me they actually had an art gallery!
Hamilton is a very attractive city - with nice houses and some great treed areas. And the river is great...

When I went down last year I was following a river and I said to myself - 'that is a river - a bloody long river! what's it doing here!? - no wonder the road is so dangerously narrow - this bloody river - couldn't they have diverted it? - what river is it in any case?'

Then it dawned on me - it was the Waikato!!

Ross - I agree - jared has been reduced - simplified - seems maps and he are the 'twain' that 'shall never meet' now...

re Parallax - I have that issue and two others - it's actually a great mag for the time - even for now. and ted jenner is in it - he is having a book of his launched soon by Titus Books...In early May I think...

12:57 am  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

dave - amusing - of course this interpretation is map's - in a Derridaen world there are an infinite number of ways of looking at any art work - all equally valid.

[Giovanni and other PM's will (un)
a-s-sert this to be true or (relatively) un-tru-e...]

Cotton looks to be doing some great art though...whatever it is about... Leigh Davis said he was no good...or to that effect...

Bracey is hard to see from the reproductions - he looks - well to me - not as interesting as McCahon.

1:05 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you love the workers...give up art

As for how to dismantle symbolic culture itself...I want to live in a city at present, for various reasons. Language, art, etc. are also interesting, even indispensable given the present conditions. But in a disalienated world would these compensations or consolations be necessary or interesting? No!

the technological system always promises solutions to problems it has created. "Just a little more technological advance and all will be fine." What a lie that is, and has been from the beginning. Art is technology.

Art is always about "something hidden." But does it help us connect with that hidden something? I think it moves us away from it.

End art today!

10:04 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, according to the Bible, we were once perfect, and then rebelled against God, resulting in sin, suffering, degeneration, and death. Evolution, has it completely the other way around. We start from pond-scum, and godless random processes, shaped by suffering and death, slowly build us toward perfection.

Art will vanish when Christ returns.

1:57 pm  
Blogger Ross Brighton said...

both of those presuppose a concrete narrative trajectory, an idea of "progress" - things are far more complex. And if Marcel Duchamp can't destroy art, then Christ's got his work cut out for him. Maybe he should just give up and play chess. or dominoes.

2:18 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Ross - God plays chess! Or dice! Neils Bhors' exhortation to Einstein: "Stop telling God what to do!"

Chess - that noble waste of time! Actually chess is in itself an art (some say a science or sport even)- and for very strong players - there is big money to be earnt the present world champion of chess Anand is a millionaire!

Many chess fanatics do nothing else almost but play chess - Karpov and Korchoi carried on playing a tense match while a hurricane raged around the building they were in! Ask a chess player how the world is and he will tell you about his latest idea in the English variation of the Najdorf Defence to the Sicilian...

There is a place for play and for art (or art is a kind of elevated play) - maps is fundamentally right (a bit tough on jared maybe) - I always said jarad interested me - BUT - I fall away when people get too fanatical and want to give up art or whatever - there are many ways - it is not clear how jarad - inspired as he no doubt is - would be able to implement a radical new policy of active art or whatever...

A lot of the bitterness of socialists and anarchists etc (Or even the whingers who get on Fair GO) comes from what is called by Dr Wayne Dyer "The Justice Trap" (in his book 'Your Erroneous Zones' (not erogenous!) - as he points out there is no justice in reality...for thousands of years "progress" (however we might define that illusive concept) has been an illusion - but a pleasant one! There are no guarantees either of spiritual or material advance - we can each of us just live life...art is a great pleasure as is chess as is science - knowledge - reading etc and of course sex and eating and so on...

Even science is a game ... wonderful as it all is!

Those who fall into the justice trap are failing to acknowledge the way the real world is...

Personally " - having fought the Bosche in two world wars I have ceased to care...and now I only hunger for where it's at."

9:26 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ngaa mihi nui ki a koe Maps, ki ngaa hoa katoa.
Pai rawe te tuhinga nei! He maarama, he hohonu, he paarekareka ki a taatou, ngaa taangata o eenei motu e whakaaro ana e paa ana ki too maatou nohanga ki roto i ngaa aahuatanga o te peehitanga o te reo Maaori, o te ao Maaori katoa.

Good one Maps!
A great bit of writing: lucid, deep and interesting for all of us people in these islands who are chewing over the issues involved in living where the Maori language and Maori world general continues to struggle to survive, much less thrive, under the weight of the colonising culture.
Naa,
Airihi.

4:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi again Maps.

You wrote:
"For obvious reasons,I couldn't agree with the Maori who told me that Pakeha should all get on a boat and head back to Europe."
The Pieds Noirs (European settlers) in Algeria, who after being in Algeria for pretty much the same length of time that Pakeha had been in Aotearoa, had to all get on a boat and head back to Europe.
They suffered dislocation and felt miserable in the south of France. They had been unlucky enough to be the pawns in the colonisation of a people who had the strength to kick them out. How indignant they were when Algerians told them they should give up the fruits of conquest and go back to the country their grandparents and great grand parents and left. It wasn't their fault they were born with a colonial spoon in their mouth.
"You think we should learn Arabic? You must be joking! I'm too busy writing "The Outsider!", a study of an alienated Algerian."

Naa,
Airihi.

4:56 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kia ora anoo Maps.

I haven't seen the Cotton paintings of Hongi Hika. I'll look for them.
Have you read Dorothy Urlich's bio of Hongi? (Hongi Hika, warrior chief
by Dorothy Urlich Cloher
Published in 2003, Viking (Auckland, N.Z, New York). I found it fascinating.
Urlich-Cloher is a descendant of Hongi(she was a Mercy nun and taught my sister at St Mary's in Auckland) and writes with the cool objectivity of the academic historian. I was particulary struck by an missionary account of conversations with Hongi and other northern rangatira about "te ao hurihuri' --the modern/changing world. Hongi conceded that inter iwi war would have to be abandoned but he hated the thought of living in a world without the excitement of war. (Shades of Mussolini!).
He would, he said, even contemplate giving it away but.... there were just two or three expeditions that he had to finish before that.
I might have got the details wrong as I don't have the book here now.

Naa,

Airihi.

5:08 pm  
Blogger Ross Brighton said...

Richard-
I was refering to Duchamp's leaving of the art world to play chess full-time.

5:49 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

Hi all,

I'll try to keep this short, and hope not too antagonise or offend. It will probably be my last post, as it's all quite taxing on the brain/fingers!

Regardless of how we all feel about art, what it means to us individually or collectively, what it could or couldn't be, could art and politics be separate etc etc — rhetoric and opinion aside, for me, what art really comes down to is INTENT. In this way, art could be understood in terms of an activity de-institutionalised and practiced by all, removed from the pillars of the gallery and based back in everyday, creative life. That art has become institutionalised and privileged as an activity to be practiced only by a few is essentially the problem myself, and others, have with current art practice.

From 'The Assault on Culture' by Stewart Home:

The use of term ‘art’, which distinguishes itself between different musics, literature, crafts, activities etc emerged in the seventeenth-century at the same time as the concept of science. Before this, the term artist was used to describe cooks, shoe-makers, crafts-people and so forth.

When the term art emerged with its modern usage, it was an attempt on the part of the aristocracy to hold up the values of their class as objects of ‘irrational reverence’. Thus art was equated with truth, and this truth was the world view of the aristocracy, a world view which would shortly be overthrown by the rising bourgeois (upper or ruling) class. As a class, the bourgeoisie wished to assimilate the ‘life’ of the declining aristocracy... (and) when it appropriated the concept of art it simultaneously transformed it. Thus beauty more or less ceased to be equated with truth, and became associated with individual taste. As art developed, ‘the insistence on form and knowledge of form’ and ‘individualism’ were added to lend ‘authority’ to art as a ‘particular mental set of the new ruling class’.

Thus, rather than having a universal validity, art is a process that occurs within bourgeois society and which leads to an ‘irrational reverence for activities which suit bourgeois needs’. This process posits ‘the objective superiority of those things singled out as art, and thereby, the superiority of the form of life which celebrates them, and the social group which is implicated’. This boils down to an assertion that bourgeois society, and the ruling class within it, is somehow committed to a superior form of knowledge."

Now you can agree or disagree with that statement, but it does have value in describing how art has become separate from everyday acts or intentions.

I wanted to leave off with an example (rather dated now, I must admit) of creative act/s formulised by the women's art movement, or in particular, Mierle Laderman Ukeles which could start to illustrate the idea of life and art being one and the same, therefore denying the privilege and hierarchy that currently exists in the art world:

"The chores that accompanied the raising of children became meaningful as she refused to define her domestic role as being anything more than a neutral work-system. Thus, by rejecting the standard "housewife" ideal, Ukeles hoped to revive the idea of housework as a functional endeavor—a ritualistic series of activities that maintain the hygiene of the family unit. Thus, she intended to confront the apprehension and anxiety of falling into a role and of being handed a social image she abhorred. Rather than disavowing her existential dilemma, Ukeles chose to "perform" housework as a maintenance system—a literal art of work existing in real time.

Having read the Freudian historian Norman 0. Brown some years earlier, the artist was able to identify her struggle between housewife and artist as resembling the familiar life-against-death conflict used in psychoanalysis. By accepting the reality of her situation as a necessary role in maintaining the household, she discovered the reality of maintenance as a means to the survival of personal freedom, art and all other social institutions. In other words, maintenance art was a necessary part of the human condition. Through this approach to the problem, Ukeles began to extend the references in her work outside of a purely feminist content in order to reveal the conditions of work, and the stereotypes handed to maintenance workers on all levels, whether in public, private, or corporate enterprises. Her mode of "doing" art became a series of actions that acknowledged the basic human operations that supported various institutions and perpetuated the idea of culture. In the course of redefining her own domestic role, she caught the meaning of art as action, art as gesture, art as circumstance within an appointed system or any designated structure."

In solidarity,
Jared Davidson

1:48 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

I should note that by 'intent' I mean that art could be understood as intent being acted out. Whether this intent is a painting, a poem, a propaganda poster, making a cup of tea, street sweeping, changing a nappy or living life etc etc and whether this intent or act is carried out by the cultural worker, 'artist', mother or cleaning women should be irrelevant. In this way we can 'give up art' and cherish all acts of life, by all walks of life. That this challenges the status of art as high culture should illustrate it's position.

Cheers
Jared Davidson

2:07 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Ross - that's right he did - and Beuys did a work - something such as "The Silence of Duchamp is a Lie (or some other term - "Overrated?")"

In fact Duchamp was quite a strong chess player. And chess has a hypnotic power to absorb - so I am glad I was not a great chess player or very strong as I would have been tempted to be a professional...

I see it as a hobby - but I play only competitive chess - so I am a serious player but not too much ... I hope!

I started as I read Alice Through the Looking Glass when I was 9 or so and it is based (somewhat) on the moves in a chess game...

10:53 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Jared - I am very interested in what you are doing and your ideas and your ideals.

Maps has his agenda and is very astute - but you have some interesting ideas - I can also see how the "art establishment" have co-opted art (because it sells for big money and can be displayed to others for enhancing one's bourgeois sense of being "cultured" etc) and also the dealer galleries ... but I am reluctant to throw the baby out with bath water yet...

But your interest in art as life etc interests me very much.

One other counterattack might come form those who start their own businesses and sell art and artifacts because but involve many people. Or as many as possible (one of the ideals or ideas also of Morris I think.)

Or working class based art collectives.
A lot of possibilities to enhance the creativity of the people... as happened when The Russian revolution started and also in China in the 50s to the 60s and the 70s. The great power and creativity of the people was seen through their new involvement in art and theatre etc and rejection of the old rubbish... but slowly it all corrupted...

But this doesn't necessarily have to happen always...

I commend your strength of purpose and your ideals.

Richard

11:12 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

jared - thanks for the link to the article about Mierle Laderman Ukeles
- fascinating - that is great example of what you are pointing towards.

I would like to read that compilation.

Regards.

11:38 pm  
Blogger Ross Brighton said...

George Perec's "Life: A User's Manual" (La Vie: Une Mode D'Emploi) is also a restrictive Oulipo work based on the Knight's Problem, and the corresponding movements around the chess-board.

12:06 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Ross - I have that book - I knew he was moving around the rooms of the hotel - I forgot it was based on the knight's problem strangely - some years before I heard of Perec - I thought of writing a novel along quite similar lines (but nothing to do with chess - I had lost interest in chess by then) - at least I was to have several people in two flats (to be set in France in one of those working class high rise places) - one would be destroyed by an aircraft crash killing everyone and the other would parallel it - and I would have the thoughts of the people (later also Last Exit to Brooklyn had an influence on this idea -the atmosphere of that book more than any formal connection)) moving from person to person - but also of those just as they died or leading up to - but I didn't get beyond the idea of it - then I found Perec's book some years later (maps - who like Jack Ross finds everything - put me onto him of course - but there is also a poet called Tony Folari who is obsessed by the Oulipos as is the poet / writer ex punk rocker Richard von Sturmer (I mean he is influenced by them))).

But I have never solved the knights tour - I mean it's easy to do if you mark each square (as the knight "lands" on it) as you do it - but to "visualise" it (the kind of process a chess player does during an actual game) it's just - well it's probably a waste of time ... but some people love those kinds of problems - like "how many squares are there on a chess board" and the problem's answer depends on mathematical formula. But while I have seen the answer - as a formula - but I cant see how it is derived...

But Perec, Robbe-Grillet, Borges, Cortazar, Eco, Beckett, Calvino and Hesse are some of my favourite writers... if you want interesting, challenging and strange try to get Jack Ross's books such as his "Nights with Giodorno Bruno" (I reviewed that) "Atlantis" and "EMO" either from the library or Titus Books; also Alan Brunton (I reviewed his "Moonshine"; and the poetry of Scott Hamilton and also Bill Direen - Ted Jenner and David Lyndon Brown are launching their books at the Fordes Bar, 122 Anzac Avenue, Auckland Central, Friday May the 1st from 6.30 pm...they are two "way out and of it" & challenging writers...

2:17 pm  
Blogger Ross Brighton said...

I've been meaning to read Jack's Novels, and I'n a big Brunton fan. Also Borges, but then who isn't? Beckett is like unto a God for me. I Collect Alan Loney's Hawk and Black Light books so I know/own a lot of those NZ chaps, but they're pricey - unfortunately i'm down in Christchurch so I won't be there.

Most of what I'm into is American and European "way out and of it & challenging writers", like Paul Celan, Heiner Muller, The Dadaists, surrealists, Fluxus, Black Mountain, New York School; THen Language & associated poetries, especially the Canadians like Steve McCaffery, Karen Mac Cormick bpNichol and Christian Bok - the last of whom owes a lot to the Oulipo - Check out his Eunoia if you haven't already.

2:27 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Ross - I like all (or most of) of those I've seen Bok's stuff but I don't like it - but I do like McCaffery (his "exploded poem" is one I like) and some others of the language poets etc There is that other writer from Canada who does some crazy stuff - Goldsmith... or Gold something - he started UbuWeb...

I have met Loney - he is in Aussie now - he knew Ted Jenner well ...

3:01 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Hi Arihi,

thanks for the comments. I was actually reading Urlich's biography of Hongi Hika a couple of weeks ago, when I was up in the far North researching a Kendrick Smithyman poem which refers to the battle where Hongi received his death wound:
http://www.smithymanonline.auckland.ac.nz/document?wid=762&page=0&action=searchresult&target=

There seems a certain pathos around Hongi in his final days - perhaps history had eventually passed him by. In retrospect it seems hard to believe that he did not attempt to occupy or somehow administer all the lands he conquered.

11:18 am  
Blogger so you tell me said...

"An encounter with an artist like Shane Cotton or Ted Bracey can be an equal, reciprocal one, in the way that an encounter with a poster can never be." Who's the idealist.. your comfort zone is a dream of dropped poses and at best is simply the rantings of a specialist rewiring his perfect instrument of destruction.

On another note my experience of Ted Bracey was that of a viscous bureaucrat, someone responsible for leading creativity up its own arse, hegemonically sealed, i don't dispute the fact of his paintings or what you see in them, just to point out that your tone is nothing more than a willed for projection, it doesn't actually make it so. You are flailing in the grasps of significance as much as any of the Garage radicals.. you need each other...

12:30 pm  

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