Alex McQuilkin + Skye Sweetnam Present: Commodity Dreamgirl vs. Imaginary Superstar [For Edna V. Harris]

It is precisely the ruse of the body as an artefact that can show the obsessive commodification and self-representation of the female body as a new positioning strategy, which can also be summoned in the expression by Rebecca Schneider – as the strategy of “explicit bodies’. (Schneider, 1997). This is a strategy of tactic subjectivity, through which ways of contemporary production of the body, and ways of its representation, can be disclosed. The spectacle is artificially put on as a carefully chosen and opulent dress. It is also exaggerated and forced in its repetition, reduced to the empty essence of a pose - which, at the same time, represents the most radical strategy of the latter. [Source]

The dreamgirl promises sexual fulfillment, but as an icon or symbol, she cannot deliver; she is forever recreating the lust to buy again, in the hope of attaining fulfillment. [Source]

Wrap me up- so superficial
Tied up nicely with a bow
Don't I look pretty?
Doesn't bark- bites really hard
You make your mark
Cover up the scar
Superficial [Source]

Her work evokes an uncomfortable, undeniable blend of contempt and empathy, as her teenage protagonists (played by her) desperately flaunt their sexual desire, their desirability and their romantic wish for death. [Source]

So I brought my art books and I'm like, 'Can you turn this picture of a wolf eating a girl into a guitar riff?' and they're like, 'Okay, let's try it.' So a lot of it is high concept; a lot of it rocks, like Nine Inch Nails meets Britney Spears. I can dance to it. [Source]

I love Pop music. Music is a big thing for me and I carefully follow popular culture now -- but I certainly feel lucky that when I was 13 to 17, the Seattle Grunge Rock scene existed. It felt like it was making a difference and it never felt bubble-gum. It felt serious. [Source]

They were thinking, 'We don't have a credible name in this business because all we do is take young girls and write hit songs for them,' and they just worked with Korn on their record so they were like, 'We're trying to do something different.' So I'm like, Oh my God, finally somebody who understands. [Source]

I paint and draw. Those are still my favorite things to do, but I was interested primarily in video. [Source]

I love multimedia -- the video, the acting part; they even have a book publishing part in their company; I'm even into comics and all that kind of stuff, so they really work well for the multimedia. [Source]

Is this last image a still from this video?

Dont try to label me hypocrite
Cause I will do what I want to
Some will say that I'm counterfeit
But I will be who I want to

Some will look at me and vomit
But I will look how I want to
Some will hear me and not get it
But I will say what I want to

Don't try to label me hypocrite

I will do what I want to [Source]

I mean, the art is me, in that it’s my art and making first-person art is the only thing that makes sense to me right now. People are always asking whether I am suicidal and whether I tried to commit suicide, and that’s not what my art is about. It’s not therapy for me. I hate how people get stuck on the "me" as a person and then don’t see the work itself. [Source]

Class - Pieper [redux] - Leisure

A recent comment raised questions about the relationship of leisure and class:

"I am very glad to see the "Social Class" tag on the list. I don't think I've read much on LeisureArts about the relationship between the leisure and class. How does the leisure time of the British upper class gambling in Monte Carlo relate to a taxi driver taking a quick nap somewhere in Caribbean?...It is obviously much easier for the wealthy to have and enjoy leisure time. [Read the entire comment]"

The answer is complicated and we'll only offer a sketch of a response (sorry it took so long by the way):

Leisure is not simply the opposite of work. Neither of the two examples above necessarily embodies leisure. We're using the term as we detailed in this post: Jesuits - Leisure - Josef Pieper. You'll note the distinction Pieper makes between idleness and leisure. To be simply "not at work" or to have "free time," does not mean you are engaged in leisure. Pieper: "...since leisure is not necessarily present in all the external things like 'breaks,' 'time off,' 'weekend,' 'vacation,' and so on..."

The leisure that Pieper writes about is a kind of stillness, a receptivity to the world:

"Leisure is not the attitude of the one who intervenes but of one who opens himself [sic] "


"Leisure is a form of stillness that is the necessary preparation for accepting reality...Leisure is the disposition of receptive understanding, of contemplative beholding, and immersion - in the real."

Pieper delves into the political dimension of the commenter's question by calling for "de-proletarianization." Pieper defines being proletarian as "being bound to the working-process." Thus, promoting leisure is by design antagonistic to social class rather than an embrace of its privileges. Pieper's notion of leisure opposes what he describes as "the total world of work" which can be seen as colonizing so called "leisure time." (The example of gambling in Monte Carlo is an instance of the logic of structured, non-contemplative leisure time and NOT leisure itself.)

LeisureArts is especially interested in the way Pieper describes philosophy's pre-eminent role in leisure. He claims " is the nature of the philosophical act, to transcend the world of work." Philosophy with its connection to wonder, and its "useless" and everyday character as Pieper describes it, serves as a quick model of what we think we're doing here at LeisureArts.

"To philosophize means to remove oneself, not from the things of the everyday world, but from their usual meanings...this is not motivated from some decision to think 'differently' from the way most people is exactly here, in this inner experience, that philosophy has its beginning: in the experience of wonder."


"If someone needs the 'unusual' to be moved to astonishment, that person has lost the ability to respond rightly to the wondrous..."

It's rather old fashioned and romantic, Pieper compares the uselessness of philosophy to the uselessness of love. Maybe it's just what we need in such jaded times - the times of what Pieper calls "pseudo-philosophers" those who "will never be disturbed." To be open, to make oneself available, to be vulnerable to being astonished is not only a requirement of philosophy and leisure. It is also a requirement of love and as schmaltzy as that may sound to cynics, LeisureArts echoes this from Raoul Vaneigem:

"People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive about the refusal of constraints - such people have a corpse in their mouth."

LeisureArts scored 10 out of 100.

Work Ethic

desires accomplishment, determined, hard working, goal oriented, can forget to eat and sleep when focused on work, achiever, success driven, perfectionist, motivated, does things by the book, meets obligations on time, disciplinarian, planner, ambitious, responsible, purposeful, self-controlled, workaholic, over-achiever, focused, not afraid of a high stress job, likes the security of working for a company, good trouble-shooter, was mature at a young age, does not give up until the work is done, logical, wants to be capable and competent

*for a low score assume the opposite of the above

Allan Kaprow - Refusal/Un-Artist - Keith Tilford

Keith Tilford, in a brilliant guest essay whose first portion is hosted at Long Sunday, asks How No Can You Go? We lost a good portion of our Saturday morning reading through it and its second part hosted on Tilford's blog Metastable Equilibrium. It's well worth taking the time to read.

We'd like to use Tilford's essay as "a point of departure more than anything else" as he describes his treatment of Mario Tronti's essay "The Strategy of Refusal." In his "departure," Tilford thinks through practices of refusal and their generative possibilities. Regular readers of this blog (to our astonishment, such creatures exist) will immediately recognize how germane this is to LeisureArts. What follows is our incomplete and possibly incoherent attempt to ask, "How no can you go?"

Against Tronti, Tilford seeks to dispense with a class based analysis of refusal. "To say this does not mean denying that there are classes, or that there is a ruling class; only that refusal, resistance – what composes and calls for them - are not reducible to the antagonisms of a class division." This enables us to think in terms of what we have called elsewhere - political proximities. We developed politics of proximity as a way to create a place/space based configuration of Donna Haraway's "affinity politics" - which itself was seen as an escape from identity politics. These impulses to moved beyond sedimentary, or essentialist subject formations are the sort of thing Tilford wants to take into account in his update of Tronti.

While laying out the overlapping histories and aspirations of his reading of worker's movements (mostly those in Italy) and conceptual art, Tilford delves into the problematics of these sedimentarities, or what he describes as "institutional nomination" when these antagonistic identities are recognized and named as such. Via a perspective indebted to Deleuze and Guattari, he argues that, "A minority may create a model for itself in order to survive, but it is a model which it does not depend on..." This is a treatment of antagonistic identities as a process rather than discrete, (permanently) stable products, he notes " would appear as necessary to proceed from the knowledge that such solidifications are also the mark of a very real production of social subjects who continue to resist such solidification."

This leads us to a central concern of ours regarding Tilford's analysis and the field of invisibility and refusal. How much do the artists (especially Rirkrit Tiravanija, Aleksandra Mir, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres) cited by Tilford really "resist" institutional nomination? Do their operations and procedures of refusal actually square with this astute statement offered in Tilford's essay? We remain somewhat suspicious:

"Whatever name is given to such procedures, refusal then becomes synonymous with invention...It might also be asked how new and complex strategies of refusal can potentially count as an art not merely for those who might designate it as being such within the field of art, but for anyone who, engaged in struggle, seizes hold of opportunities within the empty unrepresentable spaces covered over in capitalism, so as to channel their own desire toward something and somewhere other than here."

The most fruitful line of thinking here rests on the distinction between art and an art. LeisureArts exists at the interstice of this fine distinction and aims to proliferate practices that might be described as an art over those that are described as art proper. We see this as placing these practices in the realm of affinity, and proximity, as mentioned earlier, rather than identity. It follows that this is itself an act of refusing institutional inscription, a desire to remain "empty."

We believe Tilford is correct in citing Duchamp as being an important model of refusal, but he problematically characterizes Duchamp's intellectual inheritors as finding " was relevant to take an anti-art stance and perform a constant restaging of the matter and means of artistic practice." The appropriate legacy of refusal is not "anti-art," which ends up enacting the State/worker problematic he finds in Tronti's work: "...the categories of ‘worker’ and ‘party’ seem to end up installing themselves within the very representations that the workers would have intended to overthrow..." A better model, we believe, is Allan Kaprow's "un-artist." Writing about anti-art, Kaprow notes: "You cannot be against art when art invites its own destruction..." He offers us the "un-artist" asking that we "give up all references to being artists of any kind whatever." This un-artist reconfigures the subjective formation of an artist identity, echoing the "resistance as effect" and "antagonism as consequence" operations mentioned by Tilford.

Another concern of ours is Tilford's treatment of "institutional critique." It's a bit confusing because he describes "the exodus from the studio and exhibition space" represented by the work of Mir and Tiravanija as an example of a refinement of institutional critique. We think this works against his succinct employment of Adrian Piper's "meta-art" which in many ways resonates with Kaprow. To our mind Mir (whose work we enjoy) and Tiravanija (whose work is completely undeserving of being propped up by the cadre of critics that champion him), refuses only the institution of art in the most facile way - bring art to life and life to art in a didactic sense only. Challenging the physical apparatus of art institutions and leaving the ideological frame unchallenged (Piper calls for examining the ideological genesis of work) seems like a minor refusal, not the sort of radical refusal Tilford is writing about.

Skipping ahead to Tilford's exploration of "anorectic subjectivities" as theorized by Maurizio Lazzarato (for a feminist take on the refusal of the anorectic see Susan Bordo's essay "Anorexia Nervosa: Psychopathology as the Crystallisation of Culture" and Elizabaeth Grosz's "Psychoanalysis and Psychical Topographies") we find this question:

"And what of ‘artistic practices’ within the new situations generated through globalization and the proliferation of institutions? What, if anything, is art supposed to do under such circumstances and how might it benefit from refusal – from its own ‘anorexia’?"

This question brings us back to Kaprow's conceptualization of the un-artist. One of the keys here, of course is being specific about the difference between refusal and opposition. Refusal is a kind of escape, shifting the terms of discussion, leaving the scene, and not a direct engagement. It is not possible to dispense with art completely, but Kaprow, is aware of this, noting:

"...the idea of art cannot easily be gotten rid of (even if one wisely never utter the word). But it is possible to slyly shift the whole un-artistic operation away from where the arts customarily congregate, to become, for instance, an account executive, an ecologist, a stunt rider, a politician, a beach bum. In these different capacities...[art] would operate indirectly as a stored code that, instead of programming a specific course of behavior, would facilitate an attitude of deliberate playfulness toward all professionalizing activities well beyond art [emphasis mine]."

It is this broader aim of un-artistic activity and the steadfast refusal of a professional art identity that many "relational" artists and their variants have yet to sufficiently explore. The call by Kaprow is clear "Artists of the world, drop out! You have nothing to lose but your professions!" Clearly the champions of relational aesthetics and its practitioners have no intention of answering that call.

In this vein, Tilford quotes Andrea Fraser, who in a recent Artforum essay arrives at the position Kaprow explored some forty years earlier saying that institutional escape is "only what, at any given moment, does not exist as an object of artistic discourses and practices" and "It is artists – as much as museums or the market – who, in their very efforts to escape the institution of art, have driven its expansion." The difference here is that the sort of escape Fraser is mentioning in the latter statement, is the kind Rirkrit Tiravanija and other "relational" artists engage in. They merely import art discourse into the social field and vice versa without a wholesale re-working of the conceptual schema, of "saying no" as Tilford puts it:

"Saying no – or more appropriately, just refusing in general (however it might be decided to do so) - becomes the means to invest new forms of affirmation, new ways in which to grab hold of the gaps and run with them."

How no can you go? Few have come closer than Kaprow in their direct exploration of this question. He cut to the heart of things: "Once the task of the artist was to make good art; now it is to avoid making art of any kind." That's about as no as you can go.

Robert Stebbins - Amateur - Greg Sholette

RELATED POST: Gregory Sholette - Creative Dark Matter - Carlos Basualdo

We're going to bring together a couple of scholars whose work operates in quite disparate arenas - Greg Sholette and Robert Stebbins. Specifically, we're going to frame the general field of Stebbins' research with an essay by Sholette (which was called to our attention by Temporary Services): "Dark Matter, Activist Art and the Counter-Public Sphere: MAVN Conference, and the Battles Lost"

Stebbins is known for his work on Serious Leisure which outlines the features of serious leisure, project based leisure, and casual leisure. These summaries are borrowed from the site linked to in the previous sentence:

Casual leisure involves immediate, short-lived, pleasurable activity requiring little to no effort or training.

Project based leisure may require planning, knowledge/skill, and effort, but it is carried out in finite or occasional instances.

Serious leisure is the systematic pursuit of an activity that is substantial, interesting, and fulfilling. It is distinguished from casual leisure by these six features:

"1) need to persevere at the activity, 2) availability of a leisure career, 3) need to put in effort to gain skill and knowledge, 4) realization of various special benefits, 5) unique ethos and social world, and 6) an attractive personal and social identity."

Those who engage in such serious leisure are amateurs. This term, along with dilettante, is something we here at LeisureArts embrace. We have been actively seeking to overturn the negative cultural connotations of these terms. The book 21st Century Leisure, which we've mentioned before, summarizes Stebbins' description of the characteristics of the amateur (from his book Amateurs: On the Margin between Work and Leisure which we haven't been able to track down yet) as follows:
  • A long-term commitment to developing appropriate skills
  • A high standard of performance
  • Devloping the skill for the experience rather than to make a living
  • Having a "career" of participation
  • Constructing a set of values, resource expenditures, and schedules around the activity
  • Employing symbols of commitment in social environments
  • Becoming involved in communities engaged in the same activity
  • Identifying the self with the activity, sometimes even more than with occupation
  • Always accepting the challenge of increasing one's skill level
This leads us to Sholette's essay which analyzes the political and economic dimension of the "creative dark matter" created by various kinds of amateurs relative to the institutions of "high culture."

"Like its astronomical cousin, creative dark matter also makes up the bulk of the artistic activity produced in our post-industrial society. However, this type of dark matter is invisible primarily to those who lay claim to the management and interpretation of culture - the critics, art historians, collectors, dealers, museums, curators and arts administrators. It includes informal practices such as home-crafts, makeshift memorials, amateur photography (and pornography), Sunday-painters, self-published newsletters and fan-zines, Internet art galleries -- all work made and circulated in the shadows of the formal art world. Yet, just as the physical universe is dependent on its dark matter and energy, so too is the art world dependent on its shadow creativity. [emphasis ours] It needs it in much the same way certain developing countries depend on their shadow or informal economies."

Sholette, in a move we strongly support, thinks through the impact of flattening the hierarchy of value between professional and amateur practice. Despite the rhetoric around the collapse between pop and high culture, the reality is that pop culture, and by extension, amateur practices, are not on an equal playing field in art discourse. Such practices have been accepted as source material for "real" cultural activity, but the work of amateurs in and of itself is still relegated to the backwaters of kitsch and irony. Sholette points to this privileging and cuts to the heart of the matter:

"...without an army of allegedly lesser talents to serve as a contrast, the few highly successful artists would be impossible to privilege. A class conscious and materialist analysis begins by turning this equation on its head and asks: what would become of the economic and ideological foundations of the bourgeois art world if this larger mass of excluded practices were to be given equal consideration as art? Nor should this question be dismissed as the domain of sociologists and anthropologists. Radical scholars and artists must take that inversion as a starting point and move to the next stage of analysis: the linking of dark matter to those artists who self-consciously work outside and/or against the parameters of the mainstream art world for reasons of political and social critique."

We have a minor quibble with Sholette here. It might just be a problem of ambiguity of interpretation - is the emphasis of his question regarding excluded practices that they be given equal consideration as art? or is it that excluded practices be given equal consideration as art? We at LeisureArts prefer the latter, wanting to consider these practices as thoughtfully and seriously as one would when considering something framed as art.

Sholette moves on to a rather extensive analysis that is beyond the scope of a blog post, but moves toward calling for, via Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge, the construction of a "counter-public" sphere :

"Where then are the historians of darkness? What tools will they require to move beyond a mere description of these shadows and dark practices and towards the construction of a counter-public sphere?"

LeisureArts, a subdomain of Dilettante Ventures, a staunch advocate of everyday practices and embracing the amateur, seeks to answer this call.

For a recent example of amateur/professional struggles with regard to arts criticism, you can look to the hostilities exchanged between bloggers and mainstream media arts critics:

Where it all started.
The Art Fag City perspective is here, here, and here.
Art Soldier's take.
High Low & in between's thoughts.

Food - Leisure Studies - Escape

Currently reading Key Concepts in Leisure Studies by David E Harris.

We've created a "tag cloud" of chapter titles as they relate to LeisureArts (once again, this post just doesn't look right via most feeds):

Adding Leisure Values - Articulation - Authenticity - Bodies - Cultural Capital - Disciplinary Apparatuses - Disneyfication - Ecstasy - Education as Leisure - Effects Analysis - Escape - Ethnography - Fantasy - Figurationalism - Food - Functionalism - Gazes - Gender - Gramscianism - Heritage - Hyperreality - Identities - Ideology - Illegal Leisure - Leisure Policy - McDonaldization - Narratives - Pleasures - Pornography - Postmodernism - Posts - Race and Leisure - Semiotics - Shopping - Social Class - Virtual Leisure - Visitor Interpretation - Work-Leisure Relationships -Youth Subcultures

Tags link to the first functional site listed from a Google search.

Policy - Art - Professionalization

The Différance Engine, in the post Arts Inclusion as Surveillance, critiques a 2001 report by Arts Council England that develops policy and implementation guidelines for "socially inclusive" practice in arts programming. The post offers a strong indictment of the report, but the spirit of the critique can be employed more broadly to "professionalization" in the arts as well- think here of the codification of professional policies and procedures in curatorial studies or art historical methodologies. In such regulatory ensembles "...the arts are treated as tools within a wider behavioural regulatory mechanism..." or participants are "...tasked to ensure that individual desire conforms to public policy." For the record, The Différance Engine has some serious theoretical chops and is worth reading regularly.

The Différance Engine has updated with: Arts Inclusion as Professionalisation

Economies - LeisureArts - Exchange

LeisureArts is returning to the scene of the crime - The Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake, IL. As we detail in our Pork Rally post, we lost a cooking competition at that very site, but we can't resist returning.

We will be a participant in the 3rd annual All-Night Flea Market. Bring a flashlight because the flea market runs from 5pm to 5am! This event is hosted by the same people who hold the All-Night Flea Market in Wheaton, IL at the Du Page County Fairgrounds which was selected as one of the top 10 flea markets in the world.

Look for the LeisureArts table and say hello.

All-Night Antique Market
Saturday, May 27th
5:00 p.m. - 5 a.m.
Admission: $4.00
Lake County Fairgrounds
Approx. 4 miles west of I-94 on Rt 120&45

Jacques Rancière - LeisureArts/Claire Bishop (again?) - Friedrich Schiller

In our ongoing research for thinking through leisure, rather than work as the basis for art practice and for the construction of culture, we have been reading through 21st Century Leisure by John R. Kelly and Valeria J. Freysinger. There is a chapter on the relationship between leisure and the arts which has a pretty unsophisticated understanding of contemporary art, but has some useful material nonetheless. This quote was the most noteworthy:

"Art creates what 'might be' or even what 'ought to be.' It is always playful rather than limited to accepted existence. What is necessary for such creative art is more than time. It is a total environment that enables playful activity - activity done for the experience rather than for a predetermined outcome. Leisure, from this perspective, is necessary, for the creation of art. Friedrich Schiller believed that people are most human when they are at play, when they engage in creative activity for its own sake. Creative activity, then, is not a luxury, but is central to what it means to be human...It is a shared vision of what life is and might become. It is a dialectic of being and becoming. And leisure is the possibility of such creative activity."

An interesting note relative to this:

Jacques Rancière, whom Claire Bishop cited as providing the theoretical framework for her much discussed essay in Artforum, had this to say about Schiller:

"I think that this statement [concerning free-play and the cessation of activity, or - leisure] has to be reinvestigated, far beyond the usual interpretations that see in it an irenic dream of humanity reconciled by the cult of Beauty and the artistic education of the lower classes. Such a reinvestigation has to grapple with the heart of the paradox, which, I think, is not the paradoxical statement of a single thinker but a contradiction constitutive of a whole regime of identification of art and of its "politics". The paradox can be summarized as follows: there is a specific aesthetic experience that is an experience of suspension, of withdrawal of power. And this experience of suspension is the principle of two seemingly contradictory things: an edifice of art as such, the autonomization of a "self-contained" sphere of art and the identification of that power of "self-containment" with the framing of a new form of collective life."

He goes on to explore in MUCH greater detail several "regimes" that constitute the field for analyzing this paradox. It's confusing because he says there are three, but names four. Maybe a problem in translation?

1. The regime of identification (a "meta" regime apparently) - comprised of "modes of production of objects or of interrelation of actions; forms of visibility of these manners of making and doing ; and manners of conceptualizing these practices and these modes of visibility." Essentially, what makes art possible.
2. The ethical regime of images - concerns itself with the "truth" of images and the effect they have on individuals.
3. A representational regime of the arts - forms of expression as interfacing with skills, raw materials, and the appropriate relationship to subject.
4. The aesthetic regime of art (what appears to be the crux of Bishop's theoretical position) - which is a regime of autonomy, but he cautions, "Because the 'aesthetic autonomy' is not, as the "modernist" paradigm has it, the autonomy of the work of art as such. It is the autonomy of a form of experience."

This material found in: Aesthetics and Politics: Rethinking the Link which is available on-line thanks to 16 Beaver. It's worth the time, especially if you want a better understanding of Bishop's argument.

You are a fox! Dec. 26, 1978 [For Ace Frehley]

Fan letter found inside Ace Frehley solo album.

Amy Jean Porter - West Town Gallery Network - Matthew Northridge

LeisureArts hit the West Town Gallery Network this weekend. The network is comprised of most of our favorite spaces in Chicago. Some quick notes:

Lisa Boyle Gallery:
Amy Jean Porter's Tiny Horses Say What is a continuation of what is described as a "new style in animal taxonomy." The work depicts various horse breeds in a variety of whimsical colors and settings. Porter has done similar work juxtaposing North American bird species with hip-hop quotes, and North African birds speaking French and English. It's clever and funny with just enough substance and sustained attention to keep it from being frivolous. Odd note: The work depicting horses in urban settings had particular resonance for us. Perhaps others who have taken the brown line past the Noble Horse Theater near the Sedgwick stop and have seen the horses milling about nearby will understand why.

Gallery 40000:
Unfortunately, David Coyle's Blood On Your Saddle which featured paintings oscillating between figuration and abstraction, fell short for us. Presumably their installation was supposed to engender some kind of dialogue among the work, but it read more like monologues placed side by side, rather than a conversation. Maybe if there had been more oscillation between modes of painting within each work rather than among it, something more compelling might have happened. The video piece, It's not you, it's me was more successful. The sound for the video had a creepy, droning, edge to it that was a nice counterpoint to the often ridiculous personas adopted by the "protagonist." Maybe we missed it, but just a hint of audio legibility could have worked more effectively to evoke the "art of ending relationships" as the gallery describes it.
Corbett vs. Dempsey:
Wonderland and Other Reveries comprises a selection of paintings from two bodies of work spanning 10 years by Margot Bergman. In Other Reveries Bergman alters thrift store paintings "just enough to draw out a portrait latent in the image" according to the gallery. We don't believe in the idea of latent images awaiting discovery in these paintings, but the work is engaging nonetheless. It's actually the consistent imposition of another visual logic rather than unveiling a hidden one that makes the work something to engage. The Wonderland paintings were mostly unremarkable, but did provide for a savvy move by the gallerists. A small painting (Twilight) hanging in the office area of the gallery was a kind of perspectival vanishing point of the two bodies of work. The Wonderland paintings and the Other Reveries paintings "converged" into this point in which the characters from Wonderland were applied to what appeared to be a thrift store painting, thus serving as a perfect, unassuming synthesis.

Booster and Seven:
Very strange show. J. Patrick Walsh III's Endo Gainer was a disparate series of gestures and ideas that were ambitious curatorially and artistically, but never really came together. It was, perhaps, intended given the explanation of the show's title as referencing "opposite physical contortions." The installation of the show was nice, but confounding. There was an arrangement of inkjet prints and drawings that made sense grouped together, but each item was for sale individually and they just didn't have the gravitas (yes, we just wrote gravitas) to stand on their own. Similarly, what appeared to be one floor piece, actually turned out to be two floor pieces butted up against each other. We loved the McGuire twins wall drawing which takes a pair of cultural icons now mostly obscure and worked to evoke a tweaking of the ubiquitous "Andre the Giant" stickers/projects. It was appropriate that they were rendered in a fragile, ephemeral manner that reinforced their relegation to pop culture history and stood in contrast to their enormous physical presence as bodies. All in all, the works in the show were enhanced by the curatorial arrangement, too enhanced. Most relied heavily on the false coherence created by grouping them.

Fraction Workspace:
Jungle Tender, the window exhibition of Lauren Frances Adams and Stacey L. Kirby, was overshadowed by the group show inside which exemplified everything we like about most of the galleries in the West Town network - loose, gritty, eclectic, and fun. Kirby did set up an interesting relationship between her installation and a postcard pinned to the wall inside the gallery. There was a pushpin marking the location where she had submerged saltlicks in an estuary in North Carolina. The postcard, which is normally used as a trace of one's travel, had a pushpin placed on the image depicted on it creating yet another articulation of location relative to the installation. All of this was made more complex by the fact that the artist will send postcards to viewers (who pay the asking price of $5) from the locale denoted by the postcard. Heady, and not the focus of the work, but she gets credit for instigating it nonetheless.

Western Exhibitions:
The strongest work of the gallery crawl was Matthew Northridge's Further Afield - six small, framed, collages of buildings floating in white voids. The work sets up a consideration of the building/landscape and mark/page relationship. By utilizing aerial views and mostly blank pages, we're presented with buildings that are legible not by marking the land, as is the usual visual reading, but are marked themselves by the negative space created by removing them from their context. The work suffered a bit from its installation. We would have liked to see those six pieces occupying the entire gallery, thus mimicking the visual strategy employed by Northridge - dwarfing the collages as the buildings are by the page. It would have been especially nice to see them this way so that we could be spared the overwrought, slapdash, "sk8ter boi" aesthetic of Pedro Velez's GODFUCK. We would've also been happy to not see Carroll & Gaydos' wannabe-edgy Plantfucker. GODFUCK? Plantfucker? YAWNfucked! (Bad at Sports has our back on this one. See episode34) Both of those were disappointing choices for Western Exhibitions which is our favorite exhibition space in the city.

Slacker - LeisureArts - Bricoleur

Over a decade has passed since the publication of Patrick Durkee's essay "Slackspace: The Politics of Waste" which appeared in Prosthetic Territories: Politics and Hypertechnologies Gabriel Brahm Jr. & Mark Driscoll eds. We have never seen the essay cited in print and an internet search finds scant mention of it as well. We think it's partially due to the essay being a poor fit for the volume it was published in. It is a shame to have so little discussion of a pretty remarkable work.

Durkee provides a theoretical framework for discussing slackers and the social networks they inhabit which he refers to as slackspace. He provides a political subtext (a dubious notion of "political" however) for their activities. He calls this "a politics of waste." In a passage that served as the outline of LeisureArts' own practice he writes:

"By slacking off from the obligation to produce and consume, slackers interrupt the infiltration of social space by commodity culture. Piecing together styles of living, forms of community and personal identities, out of both the material and ideological waste of the postwar United States, the slacker's practice of ostentatiously doing very little illustrates the possibilities of resistance left to a culture in which the logic of the commodity relentlessly colonizes social space."

There is an obvious parallel here to the notion of the bricoleur mentioned in an earlier post. To further the comparison of slacker as bricoleur, we find Durkee discussing the function of conspiracy theories and pop culture mythologies in slackspace:

"...slackers represent the larger society around them through a bricolage of narratives and characters that bear at best only a peripheral significance to actual events...the instrumental function of knowledge is not valued particularly highly, but their fantatsic attempts to make meaning of waste represent something more significant than simple fantasy: the attempt to produce from within slackspace a cognitive map of the world using only the waste materials at hand."

Slackers and slacking are obviously tied to notions of leisure. Durkee briefly outlines Thorstein Veblen's discussion of leisure and then moves on to the Frankfurt School and situationist critique of leisure. Essentially, leisure has been subsumed in the logic of work it no longer stands "over and above" work, but is a mirror of it. We'd like to add that the same is true of art, it is inextricably bound to the logic of production and labor. LeisureArts was founded to try to find a way to escape from that logic, to shift from artwork to artleisure.

Durkee's essay complicates our dream of escape by citing de Certeau to claim escape is not possible, "...resistance in this atmosphere in which escape is not possible...[involves] a style of inhabiting social space that deforms and obstructs the commodifying tendency of its structure. Such styles are the tactics of slack." He provides this gem of a quote from the movie Slacker:

"I may live badly, but at least I don't have to work to do it."

Durkee claims that slacking moves beyond merely avoiding work, but avoiding leisure as well. We should note that he is talking about the spectacular form of leisure described by Debord and others. This "abstention from leisure" requires a "practice of studied laziness" (which might be the quickest summary of LeisureArts ideology). Durkee offers a warning about the transient nature of this resistance and its impact on slacker social relations. The communities formed by slack are bound by slack, which is to say, "bound for rapid dissolution." All victories are temporary. The proliferation of slacker subcultures and affinity networks is nearly boundless, but Durkee warns, "although slacking off may produce endless local instances of noncommodified social relations, it cannot envision modes of association that truly challenge the economic structures that produce slackspace as their waste." Thus we see that the politics of waste are not politics in any real sense, a kind of slacker activism that doesn't really see the task through. LeisureArts is an attempt to explore the generative possibilities of "studied laziness" and to test whether "ostentatiously doing very little" can lead to new modes of resistance.

Grant Kester - Artforum - Claire Bishop [The Continuing Saga]

Related LeisureArts posts:
The Social Turn - Claire Bishop - Response to LeisureArts
Claire Bishop - Aesthetic/Ethical - Critical Modalities
Maria Lind - Tactical/Agnostic - Ted Purves
ARTFORUM - New Art Practices - Cross Pollination

Oddly enough, Artforum has been making its way to us in subscription form without our instigation. An anonymous donor must have paid for the magazine to be delivered to us (We pay for our own subscription to Cabinet, but would gladly accept a subscription to US Weekly). We were never sure if this was an act of friendship or aggression, a gesture of good will or a taunt. However it was intended, it has provided material for many posts, particularly regarding Claire Bishop and the implications and fallout from her piece, "The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents."

The saga continues. In the May 2006 issue, Grant Kester writes a scathing letter in response to the aforementioned article. He rightly highlights Bishop's own complicity in reinforcing the division between ethical and aesthetic critical/artistic positions. Of course Kester, in his book Conversation Pieces: Community + Communication in Modern Art, has his own set of contradictions when he valorises didacticism (although he would reject that designation) over the "shocking" impulse of the avant garde. He takes issue with the critic who presumes to decode these "difficult" works for a bewildered public. Although his critique of the mythos of avant garde art is welcome, it is less than satisfying to offer the "informed" artist to replace the critic as he seems to do in discussing Adrian Piper (much more can be said here, but blog space requires we move on).

He continues to challenge the privileged perspective of the critic in the Artforum letter by somewhat unfairly offering that "What Bishop seeks is an art practice that will continually reaffirm and flatter her self-perception as an acute critic..." He moves on to discuss Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's "paranoid knowing,' condemning Bishop as an example of " who views any attempt to work productively within a given system as unforgivably naive and complicit..." This might be an accurate analysis of how Bishop positions the work of Oda Projesi, and especially Maria Lind's critical treatment of it, but identifying her with a "paranoid" sensibility however well articulated by Sedgwick, is rather hyperbolic.

Kester hits his high note when offering this of Bishop, "While otherwise quite keen to question the limits of discursive systems of meaning in her criticism, she exhibits an unseemly enthusiasm for policing the boundaries of legitimate art practice."

Claire Bishop begins her response to Kester's letter by offering this shocking dismissal, "...he finds in my essay what he wants to read, rather than what I actually say." Did a huge portion of the critical oeuvre of the late 20th century pass Bishop by (Iser, Barthes, Foucault, Fish, or see this post of ours that touches on authorial intention with regard to Duchamp)? She's far too intelligent and well read to have made such an astounding claim. It is no simple task to determine what she "actually" says, and choosing to offer herself as the final arbiter on the matter feeds into Kester's "self-perception as an acute critic" accusation.

As an answer to Kester's claim that she seems interested in policing boundary distinctions between aesthetic and activist work, Bishop offers that she cited Oda Projesi and Jeremy Deller and that they "...clearly occupy a blurred territory between these poles..." This is true, but she doesn't mention that she lauds Deller over Oda Projesi because his project leans toward the aesthetic end of that pole while Oda Projesi's leans toward the activist.

Bishop then moves to her unfair treatment of Kester by saying, "He considers thinking and writing in depth about art, and using theory to elaborate ideas, as a way to intimidate others and 'flatter' oneself as a critic." She cites Kester's "populist" approach as something that bolsters her "philosophical antihumanism." She seems to be saying that either Kester has not written in depth about art, or that he is hypocritically guilty of self-flattery. Neither seems true to us. We are quite sympathetic to Bishop's aim to move beyond liberal humanist criticism, but don't share that working towards populist critical positions is inherently oppositional toward that goal.

What is most striking to us, though, is something we originally raise here and here concerning something Kester doesn't quite have an answer for, and something Bishop unsatisfactorily addresses. In closing his book, Kester asks these questions (which are the "big" questions haunting all of this as we've written about and something Ted Purves gets at in his generous comments here):

"Why bother trying to explain this work to an art historical and critical establishment that has so often treated it with indifference, if not disdain?"


"What is to be gained by defining this work as art?"

Kester offers only a passing answer to the first question in closing his book, noting a pragmatic reason for art critical/historical engagement with these projects - no one else writes about them. The second question remains largely unanswered, but Kester does seem to agree with Bishop that viewing these activities as art is important. He closes his letter to Artforum lamenting that "critics like Bishop" too readily challenge "the ontic status of this work as art qua art." The question remains, what do we gain by framing these activities in this manner? Bishop's only answer seems to be that we have more grist for the critical mill, more "artistic gestures" that we can determine to be either "good art," "bland art," or "pleasantly innocuous art." Offering those sorts of distinctions sounds an awful lot like an "enthusiasm for policing the boundaries of legitimate art practice." We wish something a little more interesting was at stake.

Evo Morales - May Day - Día Sin Inmigrantes

It was a fantastic May Day here in Chicago. We made the march and returned home to see this news as well.