Minnesota Museum of the Mississippi

We've linked to this site from the get go, but thought it might be time to be a little more emphatic about directing traffic in its direction. From their mission statement:

The Minnesota Museum of the Mississippi is an institution devoted to the protection and documentation of curious natural and man-made phenomena.

Be sure to check out the Pancakes Across America exhibit. At some point LeisureArts hopes to delve into the amazing array of pancake related activities in the art world and beyond. Also of note, Garden Delights: Concrete Curiosities and Accumulations which provides a guide to unusual and/or inspired gardens throughout the midwest. Finally, the (1999) experiment - A marathon tour of every mile of the Chicago L system on one train fare - is also worth a look, if not an updated attempt and report by someone.

Oh and speaking of the Mississippi, a friend of ours recently completed an 1800 mile trek down said river in a 30 something year old pontoon boat. Details of the adventure (and many other adventures of hers) can be found here: Cubicle Escapee. The amount of material (photos load slowly, but hang in there) can be overwhelming, but you won't be disappointed, especially if you've ever yearned of quitting cubicle life and hitting the road (and frankly if you haven't yearned for that, you are a broken human being).

Roberta Smith Gets Served!

A rare re-blog here at LeisureArts (relevant to many current blog discussions):

Via Catherine Liu at Don't Ask Me! - The unbearable banality of art journalism

"Museums as engines of social change? This is either totally dishonest museum adminstrator flattery...or else it is extremely lazy thinking."

Lifelike Art/Artlike Art - Kaprow - Elitism/Populism

This post is a kind of response to the discussion oozing across the art blogosphere (among other places it's here, here, here, and here).

In the essay "The Real Experiment," Allan Kaprow lays out what he believes are the two avant-garde strands of Western art - artlike art and lifelike art. He summarizes:

Simplistically put, artlike art holds that art is separate from life and everything else, whereas lifelike art holds that art is connected to life and everything else. In other words, there is art at the service of art and art at the service of life. The maker of artlike art tends to be a specialist; the maker of lifelike art, a generalist.


The root message of artlike art is separateness and specialness; and the corresponding one of all lifelike art is connectedness and wide-angle awareness.

LeisureArts situates itself a bit outside of this dichotomy. We're not all that interested in "art" in the first place, but if we had to choose, it would certainly be the lifelike camp. This camp doesn't concern itself so much with which conceptual category a particular activity falls into, but rather what this activity does, how it resonates within a personal or social milieu, whether it makes one laugh. Lifelike art "...is a weaving of meaning-making activity with any or all parts of our lives...This definition shifts the model for art from the special history of the field to a broad terrain embracing not only lifelike art but religious, philosophical, scientific, and social/personalexploration."

Artlike art is the realm of the "mainstream" avant-garde and "...artists in this tradition have tended to see their work as engaged in a professional dialogue, one art gesture responding to a previous one, and so forth." It is, therefore, a closed conversation, one open only to those who have been fully inculcated by the various institutions of artlike art.

These same institutions also try to colonize the realm of lifelike art, often to the dismay of artlike art proponents. They often feel like it trivializes their "serious" work. Of course from our perspective, these institutions trivialize life by transforming it into mere art. As Kaprow says, "These institutions 'frame' lifelike art right out of life into art (more or less ineptly at that)." Or even more succinctly, "...achieving a respected place in a museum or opera house nowadays may be flattering, but it is pointless, because it reframes lifework as conventional art."

One of the confusing points here (especially for many of the proponents of artlike art in the various blog discussions mentioned above) is that many people equate having standards with elitism. They also falsely believe that what Kaprow calls lifelike art is basically an "anything goes" philosophy, or really an "everything is good" philosophy. The thing is, one can be for standards and against elitism. And Kaprow's lifelike art can be for the breakdown of boundaries and a more inclusive idea of what may be art (or as we would put it - what may be considered in the manner of art), without saying everything is art or that it is worthwhile art. Elitism is really not about standards, but about expecting a de facto position of authority or special consideration merely because one is an artist, curator, gallerist or other self-important art professional. We at LeisureArts are happy to be plebs!

Allan Kaprow - Refusal/Un-artist
Beautiful Privacy - Kaprow - Fame

Augustine - Collecting - Mark C. Taylor

Mark C. Taylor, in his book The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture, provides a nice quote of Augustine's conceptualization of thinking as collecting (this quote is a modified translation of Rex Warner's translation):

By the act of thought we are, as it were, collecting together things which the memory did contain, though in a disorganized and scattered way, and by giving them our close attention we are arranging for them to be as it were stored up ready to hand in the same memory where previously they lay hidden, neglected, and dispersed, so that now they will come forward to the mind that has become familiar with them....In fact, what one is doing is collecting them from their dispersal. Hence the derivation of the word "to think." For cogo (to collect) and cogito (to think) are in the same relation to each other as ago and agito, facio, and factio. But the mind has appropriated to itself this word (thinking), so that it is only correct to say "think" of things which are "re-collected" in the mind, not the things that are re-collected elsewhere.

If we move beyond the mind's appropriation and allow this collecting and recollecting to happen materially, we can see collecting as a practice. Thus, to select objects from the world, to gather them together from the "disorganized and scattered" flux of material culture is to think. This provides a nice way to discuss various activities of collecting beyond the usual mania/neurosis and mindless consumerist explanations.

Taylor's book, by the way, has nothing to do with this line of thinking. It is worthy of extensive commentary beyond the scope of our time constraints. A review is here.

Philosophy - LeisureArts - Passion

A rather unfashionable topic, one we're loathe to talk about due to its hokey connotations, is spirituality. Yes, that's right, we're going to risk evoking images of crystals, aura readings, and other trappings of white middle class new age culture, in order to briefly offer up Robert C. Solomon's Spirituality for the Skeptic: The Thoughtful Love of Life. We mentioned his Joy of Philosophy before, and this new book is a revision/expansion of the themes in that volume.

Spirituality for the Skeptic is an attempt to develop what Solomon calls "naturalized spirituality," a vision of spirituality that is not uncritical or antiscientific. The book has become a core theoretical text for LeisureArts, particularly for Solomon's brilliant defense of passion and its complementary, rather than oppositional, relation with reason. His notion is a veritable checklist of LeisureArts thematics. The everyday practice we're trying to theorize and embody here resonates with his quick summary of what sort of spirituality he is writing about:

"Spirituality means to me the grand and thoughtful passions of life and life lived in accordance with those grand thoughts and passions. Spirituality embraces love, trust, reverence, and wisdom, as well as the most terrifying aspects of life, tragedy, and death. Thinking of spirituality just in terms of our terrifying realization of loss of control and impending death is morbid, but thinking of spirituality only in terms of joy or bliss is simple-minded, a way of (not) thinking that is rightly summarized as 'la-di-da.' If it is passion that constitutes human spirituality, it must be the whole spectrum of human passions - and thoughtful passions - that we must consider. Thus when I have to summarize naturalized spirituality in a single phrase, it is this: the thoughtful love of life."

Note: We admire Solomon's penchant for adopting topics that are unpopular in academe - see this excerpt of a review of In Defense of Sentimentality to get a clearer picture.

Popular Skill Search Inventory

According to Yahoo!'s Buzz Log, these are the top 20 "how to" questions on the web. The items marked green are ones we are especially skilled at; the yellow ones are items that we are merely proficient in, or do infrequently; and the red ones are items we either don't know how to do, or never engage in despite knowing how.

1. How to Tie a Tie
2. How to Write a Resume
3. How to Draw
4. How to Lose Weight
5. How to Get Pregnant
6. How to Kiss
7. How to Draw Anime
8. How to Gain Weight
9. How to Make Money
10. How to Play Guitar
11. How to Write a Bibliography
12. How to Play Poker
13. How to Write a Cover Letter
14. How to Dance
15. How to Start a Business
16. How to Levitate
17. How to Build a Deck
18. How to Make Coffee
19. How to Write a Book
20. How to Flirt

We did not sing, we did not sail...[LeisureArts' official bird]

The Dilettante Ventures empire has been crippled by technical issues. We will be up and running again very soon...