Responding to Beth and Steven’s excellent proposal, (”Couldn’t we rethink this a bit?”) though not, lamentably, in the form of a comment — the idea of expanding the conference format via modern technology is exciting and full of promise…
Archive for the ‘Sessions’ Category
Coinciding with the much-discussed LACMA exhibition (see below; eventually traveling to Nuremberg and Berlin), curator Stephanie Barron and Lutz Koepnick chaired a session on Art of the Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures…
Claudia Mesch argued against the cliched position that each of the two Germany was devoted to a single style, “dutifully imported from its corresponding superpower”; i.e., Socialist Realism in the DDR and abstraction in the BRD. She highlighted the Western tradition of critical realism, precisely positioning the figurative work of Baselitz and Schoenebeck, caught between the Scylla of the Western celebrity icon and the Charybdis of the Eastern socialist icon. Later, linking the post-1973 crisis in the economy to a parallel crisis in the working class at the level of representation in painting, she found B. & S.’s colleagues Johannes Grützke and Wolfgang Mattheuer continuing the model of the realistically critical artist. Mattheuer took aim at the worker-hero, and Grützke at the middle-class consumer.
April Eisman followed the political and aesthetic twists and turns of Bernhard Heisig’s early East German career, leading up to his eventual role representing the DDR in Documenta, Venice, et al. Reviewing the debates on formalism of 1948 and 1951 and the repercussions of post-Khrushchev, post-Wall state repositioning, she destroyed any simplistic idea of East Germany as a land of socialist realism. Artists and commissars engaged in a good deal of back-and-forth about the right relations between artist, style and socialist public. Heisig’s Hotel Deutschland murals were seen by functionaries as a troublesome “invasion of modernism,” but both sides did agree on the need to properly educate the public.
Jess Atwood-Gibson treated Duesseldorf’s Zero Group, arguing against the view of Mack, Piene and Uecker as simply affirmative and politically disengaged. She reviewed a number of examples of the group’s zippy detournement of the techniques of spectacle — a billboard, hand stamps, an alarm clock punning on Zero and “Stunde Null” — before interpreting this not only as an attitude toward capitalism, but also (boldly!) as a displacement of the political aesthetics of the socialist East. This was followed by a treatment of the problems of individual vs. group artistic models, and Documenta capo Werner Haftmann’s extreme reluctance to include the group in the 1964 show on account of his zealous anti-collectivist ideology. Haftmann finally relented and included them, but only with a “passive-aggressive wall label” blaming their inclusion on co-organizer Arnold Bode.
Colin Lang considered the case of Imi Knoebel’s 1968 sculpture Room 19. Knoebel had come out of Darmstadt with a Bauhaus-style background in design by modules — foreign both to the norms of the Duesseldorf academy and the particularities of Joseph Beuys’s pedagogy. So Knoebel and Imi Giese took over the (literal) Room 19, an annex to Beuys’s class, as a space in which to creatively recharge from the strain of dealing with Beuys and his student throng. The modular, reconfigurable wood piece works not only as an example of the deductive structure [cf. Stella, Buren - often ostensibly de-auraticized], but also as an example of the architecture of memory [hence, very auratic indeed!].
I have decided that I am the Dawn Weiner of conference-goers. Maybe I’m Ugly Betty (who is decidedly nicer than Dawn, but still out of sync). I am the CAA attendee that all the serious panelists hate: I walk in an out of panels, I type on my laptop when in the audience, I walk hurriedly down the halls, my nose in the conference program, nearly running into everyone my path. I am proud to say, however, that my cell phone has not gone off once during the entire conference. More than I can say for a surprising amount of other attendees. What is up with that? Have we not learned to turn phones off during public presentations?? Still?
Allyson Drucker, a correspondent for the Art History Newsletter, has reviewed two Thursday sessions: “Renaissance and/or Early Modern: Naming and/or Knowing the Past” and “Eighteenth-Century Art, Decorative Arts, and Architecture: Shattering the Nineteenth-Century Image of the Eighteenth Century.” I look forward to reading a few more posts from the art-history website, run by Jonathan Lackman of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, who has covered the past few CAA conferences.
So the parking was better this morning, but the little convenience only made me miss the spirit of yesterday, of all those immigrants moments away from becoming citizens, of the end of long, painful journies. The stories of the hall yesterday gave the conference a vitality that it lacks today.
Congratulations New Citizens!!! We are happy you can join us.
That said, however, there was a sort of spirit this morning. I witnessed a couple of great talks that really cheered me up. Matthew Biro from the University of Michigan’s talk on the Bechers and Andreas Gursky was stellar, pointing out the changes in how the Bechers approached their work over time and how Gursky is a logical extension of their teaching. What a clear, well put together presentation, my notes on the talk unfolded like an outline and then were pulled tight at the end. We all could take a lesson from this guy.
Encouraged by the warm climate and the postmodern architecture in Los Angeles, conference organizers have recently decided that the 2010 CAA annual conference will be in Dubai, and they’re are already hard at work at next year’s sessions. Here are some samples of panels that have already been accepted:
The Merleau-Ponty effect in high modernism: Greenberg and Fried’s secret love affair with phenomenology in the underground café culture of 1950s Manhattan. (or, “Was that really Clement Greenberg in that photo of a Happening at the Franklin Furnace?”)
A Paradigmatic Paradigm shift; from Diderot to Baudrillard and back again in seconds on Second Life (this panel will be presented as a webcast only, streaming live from the book fair)
Hands off my object fetish: touching the curve, stroking the brush, and redefining the tactile in the realm of supraphysicality.
Dismantling Discursivity in the 21st Century: Sanctioning the myopia of an iconographic taxonomy of signs and analogons (signalagons) in pictorial representation.
Impacted Colon: The Role of Paper Titles in Signaling Political Affiliation, Disciplinary Adherence, and Career Aspiration.
Untouching Site/Sight: privileging smell, dissembling the somatic, and recannonizing the metasenses.
I’m in bed with my laptop and a glass of water, currently experiencing a poverty of riches.
Here’s what I’d like to see this morning:
The Networked Nineteenth Century
Water Is Power: African Art History
Baroque Anatomy: Motives and Methods
The Americanization of Neoclassicism in Latin America
Photography and Architecture: Shaping a New Dialogue
Land Use in Contemporary Art
I admit I’ve wandered from the path this morning. While usually keeping to Contemporary Art like the silly person I am, I chose instead to attend a talk by Samuel Edgerton on Renaissance Perspective. The best talk I’ve been to so far, it laid out the history of perspective as born of theological and medieval concerns and rooted in a sort of divine rather than secular geometry. Galileo’s studies in art, interpretations by Alberti of Brunelleschi’s religious impulses, aided his science and enabled his great intuitive leaps. The implication of the talk was to give us a full view of the Rennaissance and to break down some false markers between the medieval divine and more secular advances in society. This was an amazing talk, the kind of thing that makes wandering around this building in a morning haze a wonderous thing.
Wow. It was standing-room-only at the panel “Land Use in Contemporary Art”, organized by University of Nevada, Las Vegas’s Kirsten Swenson - and there appeared to be so little standing room available that people in the back kept leaning on the light switch, cutting the room’s illumination. An apt metaphor for some of the panelists’ explorations of place, unassimilability, discomfort, delay, and technological takeover. Also beautifully poetic was the fact that at least two panelists mentioned sites and projects in rural Nevada - a state whose infrastructure is taking an apocalyptic nosedive. “Everyone in Las Vegas is losing their shirts right now,” an insider confided right before the panel began. To quote fellow Nevadan Dave Hickey, “Quelle fuckin’ surprise.”
The Society of Contemporary Art Historians, a new CAA affiliated society founded this year under the leadership of a DC-based trio of younger scholars, packed the house for a lively set of position papers. Topic A: “What is Contemporary Art History?” chaired by Suzanne Hudson and Alexander Dumbadze.
Pamela M. Lee spoke of the scholar’s pressure to “get there first” in staking a claim to the terra nova of contemporary art, and of the subfield’s particular problems of method. For instance: When does a stack of press releases become a reception history? What happens when once-pressing topics simply lose their urgency from year to year? Is the field too subject to the cruel whims of fashion?
For perspective, she cited Leo Steinberg who, in 1962, took compassion on the “plight” of the then-bewildered public. It took about seven years, Steinberg observed at that time, for an artist to shift from enfant terrible to elder statesman. [Seven years - practically medieval! -ed.]
She raised the programmatic question: has postmodernism been too quickly exiled to the dustbin of theory’s history? Is postmodernism not, in fact, an important symptom of the present? She observed that when Jameson and Lyotard were interrogating the “neoliberal,’ i.e. Reagan and Thatcher, they addressed much that is now synonymous with the contemporary.
Miwon Kwon addressed the methodological split between chronologically- and geographically-subdivided fields, from her perspective advising students at UCLA. For instance, should projects in Turkish, Chinese, and Japanese contemporary art be grouped with “contemporary” or national programs, both, or neither?
She reflected on the problem of “the present.” Is this term nothing more than a scarcely credible euphemism for the ahistorical, anti-historical, presentist, amnesiac or exclusively (i.e., non-historically) theoretical? Let us hope not, but to put it more concretely: can you convince a roomful of kids born in 1990 that the 1940s are a part of the present? One’s ability to do so, and conviction thereof, declines continuously and remorselessly.
Also: how does a work made yesterday inform what we know about the past, or what we think we already know about the past? Contemporary art history works best, per Kwon, when it is deconstructive of “contemporary,” “art,” and “history.” We have to keep our eyes on the life of artworks in the present– no matter when they were made. That is contemporary art history.
Richard Meyer turned to the precedent of Alfred Barr. Writing in 1941, Barr wondered: Will students of the contemporary get the same attention as Sumerian archaeologists? At least, Barr mused, they can air-mail Maillol, Breton, Stieglitz, et al. Too late, however, wrote Barr, for the then-recently-deceased Klee or Vuillard.
But there is a catch. How, Meyer queried, would it be possible to reconcile Barr’s breezy theoretical optimism about air-mailing Maillol with his practical frustration at actually trying to deal with the cantankerous, when not totally insufferable, Frank Lloyd Wright on a real-world project.
Grant Kester recalled the theoretical position-taking of the nineteenth century; more specifically, that of Herder and Schnaase. How, they asked, could then-contemporary audiences understand and empathize with the artifacts, made by culturally remote peoples, that were then flooding into European consciousness?
Schnaase’s model posited an active, originary artist in opposition to a passive consumer-reader of works. This logocentric scheme, of course, was basically an apparatus for the validation and legitimization of the transcendentally-disinterested and publicly useful critic.
The structural threat to this scheme arises from the specter of an unregulated hermeneutic and multiple claims of authority, which tend to undermine claims of critical detachment. Today, presumably, we need to do better. But Kester warned of the ever-present tendency to import generic reception models from critical and literary theory into the study of visual art. The task at hand is to develop more nuanced and appropriate theories of reception. [Expect to find wide agreement on that point -ed.]
Olu Oguibe was unable to attend.