Thursday 27 September 2018

Amy Sillman at Camden Arts Centre

Great show of Amy Sillman's work at the Camden Arts Centre (Landline)! So delighted and honoured to be part of her zine!

Monday 24 September 2018

Sunday 23 September 2018

What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men? (Claire Dederer)

Interesting article on what are we, as audience members and consumers of art and culture, supposed to do in the face of male creators who are monsters, i.e. have done or said something horrible that troubles our relationship to their art.

In her discussion of Manhattan (Woody Allen), Claire Dederer makes use of terms by Heidegger to unpack the character of Tracy, who is presented by Allen as "good and pure in a way that the grown women in the film never can be".

She writes:
"Heidegger has this notion of dasein and vorhandensein. Dasein means conscious presence, an entity aware of its own mortality—e.g., almost every character in every Woody Allen movie ever except Tracy. Vorhandensein, on the other hand, is a being that exists in itself; it just is—like an object, or an animal. Or Tracy. She’s glorious simply by being: inert, object-like, vorhandensein. Like the great movie stars of old, she’s a face, as Isaac so famously states in his litany of reasons to go on living: “Groucho Marx and Willie Mays; those incredible apples and pears by Cézanne; the crabs at Sam Wo’s; uh, Tracy’s face.” (Watching the film for the first time in decades, I was struck by how much Isaac’s list sounded like a Facebook gratitude post.)"

Dederer fails to mention Heidegger's affinity and membership of the Nazi party. How do we pick and choose? Perhaps this is a simple oversight on Dederer's part or perhaps her focus is on the ways in which male artists or thinkers have treated women, but why make such a distinction? Yet, if her point is that we can still take pleasure in these works, then this use of Heidegger is appropriate - but it could still have done with some self-reflexive comment. 

Asking the question, "What do I do about the monster? Do I have a responsibility either way? To turn away, or to overcome my biographical distaste and watch, or read, or listen?", I am reminded by Barthes's essay, The Death of the Author, but with a different spin put on it. 

Friday 21 September 2018

Nussbaum on anger

Nussbaum proposes looking to the future instead of to the past to absorb the situation and event and to try to move forward, while admitting that it may include seeing to the punishment of the offender, however, "in a spirit that is deterrent rather than retaliatory." Nussbaum is not against anger as a whole, as she sees it along with fear in communication with hope and as a fuel to instantiate change and protest. Her problem is with anger that in the service of retaliation.

But is it not so that payback is sometimes feels right, good and just? Does seeing an offender behind bars not give us some relief, to feel, for example that through this punishment could come a reckoning of one's own wrongdoings? And what about the fact that an offender cannot repeat offence while locked away - does this not provide some sort of comfort? Maybe a revision of the prison system is to be called for in order, one that focuses less on the suffering of inmates and more on their growth. 

She uses Nelson Mandela's story as enlightening in the proactive and productive ways to materialise anger to work towards a more socially just future. 


Interview with Soon-Yi conducted by Daphne Merkin. Important and interesting to hear all sides to a complicated story with many perspectives, memories and conflicting accounts.

"“Mia wasn’t maternal to me from the get-go,” she says with some vehemence. Soon-Yi remembers, for instance, the first bath that Farrow gave her, in a Korean hotel room, as traumatic. “I’d never taken a bath by myself, because in the orphanage it was a big tub and we all got in it. Here, it was for a single person, and I was scared to get in the water by myself. So instead of doing what you would do with an infant — you know, maybe get into the water, put some toys in, put your arm in to show that you’re fine, it’s not dangerous — she just kind of threw me in.”"

Response by Dylan Farrow:

Thursday 20 September 2018

Martha Nussbaum on the Ezra Klein Show


We are born in monarchy (rather than democracy) - as babies we are aware of what is going on (mind) but we don’t have the capacity to move and get for ourselves what we need (body). As such, we have to make slaves out of the people around us. We need an all-giving caretaker who we can trust and boss them around, while at the same time being extremely dependent on them for affection and holding.

fear and love for one’s country and how we can be motivated by our fear instead of getting rid of it entirely. To be detached and without fear is to be without love

how to separate what is reasonable or not to fear - we must self-examine

how to preserve integrity in the face of terrible torment (e.g. the experience of war)… should we call for a return to or revival of stoicism?

Should we mistrust emotionality? (Buddhism? Stoics?) We should try to get rid of certain kinds of anger (but not the kind that fuels protest and politics)… how to do this? Stop loving. Nussbaum thinks this is taking it too far…

How to govern and discipline one’s emotions? What are positive (hope) and negative (retributive anger)? If emotions can be examined, they can be managed - is this true? Is this a call for a kind of national therapy in the hope of a productive democratic life?

How to learn what is worth caring about and not. Measure levels of anxiety based on proximity to the effects on one’s own life. How to deal with anxiety and learn whether it is something you have to live with or act against. WHAT ARE THE REALLY BIG PROBLEMS?

Can we manipulate emotions rationally? Emotions have ideas in them - e.g. compassion (it would be good if someone else’s suffering could stop) - moreover, we can manipulate compassion (propaganda) (e.g. photographs and documents around Roosevelt’s New Deal… no compassion because it was thought that poverty was to be blamed on the poor)

Cleanliness and disgust with regard to subordinating people as deeming them more like animals and not transcending their bodies as if we have risen above our animal bodies and others have not. Disgust as manufactured and taught when it comes to discriminating people within systems

MOTHERS AGAINST DRUNK DRIVERS - proactive movement to stop suffering for others rather than try to see to the death of drunk drivers (even though some acts of revenge make people “feel better”, i.e. death penalty)

fear and hope - uncertainty about the outcome even if probability is high or low - how does this make you act?

Sunday 16 September 2018

The Meyerowitz Stories

Absolutely adored this film! So apt at depicting the complexities of family dynamics and the sensitivities we grow up having because of early family experiences. Extremely charming.

The only thing I would say is that there was mostly a focus on the relationship between the brothers and the sons/father. I was so interested in and delighted by Jean, the daughter/sister character who is so subtle but so tender. She is given a spotlight moment and a monologue, yet, I felt that her relational experience to her father and brothers could have been further explored rather than tacked on as if to complete a checklist.

Saturday 15 September 2018

I am a knife - Jacqueline Rose

This article eloquently and with nuanced critique sums up in a productive way the current issues around sexual harassment. Critical of Kipnis, Rose uses psychoanalysis to look into recent books that address issues of rape, harassment, and female sexuality in order to present a thought-provoking argument on how to address the abuse of woman while leaving room for an explorative and liberating female sexuality.

She asks the question: "How can we acknowledge the viciousness of sexual harassment while leaving open the question of what sexuality at its wildest – most harmful and most exhilarating, sometimes both together – might be?"

"We need, then, to acknowledge the vagaries of human sexuality (which has always felt emancipatory to me); recognise its stubbornness once it has been locked in place (what the feminist Juliet Mitchell has described as the heavy undertow, the drag of sexual difference); insist that sexual harassment is unacceptable and must cease. Holding these apparently contradictory ideas in mind at the same time, moving on more than one front: for me this presents the greatest challenge raised by the present crisis. The tension between the various components of the issue perhaps helps us to understand why legal attempts to curtail harassment, as they have spread incrementally across campuses in the US, seem so often to be ineffective, to go awry, even to defeat themselves."

On Laura Kipnis's "wild diagnosis of ‘borderline personality disorder’" to Ludlow's accuser:

"One of its components, we are told, is ‘provocative or seductive behaviour’, at which point I find myself wanting to invoke Jane Gallop as an ally. Victimised andseductive. Far from being a sign of mental disturbance, this might instead be grounds for hope: it suggests that a woman’s ability to seduce hasn’t been completely quashed by ambient violence. Is it disordered, in a sexually disordered world, for a woman to feel something of both?"

And lastly, on Roxane Gay, having been gang raped at the age of 12:

"The legacy of that moment – above all a manic appetite that turned her body into a fortress against pain – is the subject of her memoir, Hunger, which was published last year: ‘If I was undesirable, I could keep more hurt away … My body could become so big it would never be broken again.’ "

Saturday 8 September 2018

Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art

Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art

The title of the exhibition Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art at the Tate Modern, London, alludes to an ontological approach to the definition of photography: in this case, its physical connection to light. While photography necessarily troubles a single, medium-specific approach to definition – the camera, the negative, or the print – this chronological exhibition deliberately identifies rays of light as the material content of photography, made explicit by an opening quote by Pierre Dubreil.

In the first few rooms in particular, the exhibition is organised so that photographs are compared to counterparts in other media, including painting, sculpture and later on installation. In some instances, this comparative approach is manifested through the graphic likening of, for example, a painting and a photograph, some of which are indeed homages to earlier abstract paintings. This is particularly apparent in Marta Hoepffner’s photographs from 1937 that directly quote Kandinsky’s oil compositions, and are hung adjacent to the painter’s Swinging (1925). Similarly German Lorca’s 1960 photograph entitled Mondrian Window is placed beside a painting by the painter. Also paired together are a painting by Georges Braque and Pierre Dubreil’s photograph Interpretation Picasso: The Railway, which directly refers, as does Lorca’s photograph, not only to a painter, but also to a distinct object. Through such instances of homage and explicit reference, it might be argued that the subsequent photographs must necessarily be viewed as figurative representations, albeit of abstract subject matter, thus forgoing the claim to their own status as abstract works. As a result of these formal quotations, the level of abstraction in these photographs is potentially undermined: despite communicating an abstract aesthetic, they behave as visually-likened renderings of the abstractions they seek to reflect.

Indeed the entire exhibition evokes the recurring question: how abstract is this photograph? The proposed marriage of photography and abstraction raises queries regarding the extent to which a photograph can be abstract at all. As a medium related to documentary, and as a technology that imprints light on photosensitive paper such that an object is indexically related to its image, how is photographic abstraction really abstract?[1]The exhibition’s answer to the problem is not to try to measure, by any scale, how abstract a photograph is, but rather to investigate its interaction with abstract methods, compositions, and to view the objects and environments of everyday life in abstract terms.

The second room is dedicated to a key figure in promoting such interactions, Alfred Stieglitz, whose journal Camera Work ran from 1903 to 1917, and consistently interrogated the medium by way of critical essays but also in the presentation of new photographic works. Stieglitz is credited as having facilitated European and American interaction, proposing that modernism, and particularly modernist photography, actively engage in transatlantic dialogue. Included in this room are a selection of Stieglitz’s Equivalent series, comprising photographs of cloud formations, as well as two photographs by Paul Strand taken in Connecticut in 1916, one of porch shadows and the other of crockery. A sculpture by Constantin Brancusi occupies a prime position in the room. This bronze and limestone sculpture of a bird, Maiastra(1911), not only calls forth Brancusi’s modernist and abstract oeuvre, but is also in conversation with Edward Steichen’s photograph, entitled Bird in Space(1926), displayed on the wall to its side, which documents another Brancusi sculpture of a bird, dramatically lit. While the wall text narrates that Brancusi, encouraged by Man Ray, took photographs of his own sculptures in his studio, these photographs are not present in the exhibition. The exclusion of Brancusi’s photographs thus bears the question: who counts as photographer? While Steichen’s photograph of Brancusi’s sculptural bird is, without too much probing, considered art photography, does the absence of Brancusi’s photography suggest that these images ought to be considered documents rather than art?[2]This debate surrounding the distinction of art vs. document is palpable throughout the exhibition, despite its hesitation to put forward an answer.

The exhibition then moves on to explore Moholy-Nagy’s ‘New Vision’ through the photographs he took from a worm or bird’s eye view that he described himself as ‘faulty’. These new perspectives, including aerial views, are something that the technology of photography enabled, and as such, visually signify as ‘modern,’ and are repeated in photographs by Aleksandr Rodchenko, Germaine Krull, Margaret Bourke-White and others by Moholy-Nagy himself. Accompanying this suggestion of a ‘new vision’ is also a selection of camera-less photography, such as photograms and rayograms (named by Man Ray after himself), which emphasize the initial curatorial argument of photography as light. The dematerialized aspect of photography is then re-engaged with the material via a section of the exhibition devoted to he human body as abstracted in photography, as manifested in works such as Bill Brandt’s East Sussex Coast(1960), Imogen Cunningham’s Triangles (1928), a selection of nudes by Brassaï (c.1933), André Kertész’s Distortion photographs (1933) and a photograph of a neck, wherein a head is tilted back, entitled Anatomies(1930) by Man Ray. In these cases, the frame is of utmost importance, fragmenting the body so that it is formally rendered as connected or touching shapes.

In a room titled, “Drawing with Light”, Nathan Lerner’s Light Tapestry (1939), Arthur Siegel’s Untitled (Motion-Light Study)(c. 1940), Sameer Makarius’s Luminogram (c.1950), and Harry Callahan’s Chicago (c. 1946, printed 1979-89 with a dye transfer) are seen in tandem with Jackson Pollock’s Number 23(1948, made with enamel on gesso on paper), returning us to the deliberate interplay of media, whereby exposure time dictates the visual markings of motion, suggesting that photography is both time-sensitive and kinetic, in a manner not dissimilar to action-painting. Furthermore, the advancement of photography’s potential gesture lends itself to older privileged conceptions of the artist’s hand as the source of artistic genius, a conception that is potentially antagonistic, and acting as a challenge to the perception of photography as a purely mechanical or objective medium.

Surface and texture are subsequently examined through Aaron Siskind’s nature and urban environmental studies, where found objects are rendered ready-made abstractions. Additionally, optical effects continue to serve an important role in a display of Op Art experiments from the 1960s (Bridget Riley and Gottfried Jäger), whereby the myth of photography as a truth-telling device is again violated, and new advances in technology allow for new terms of abstraction. As the exhibition comes to a close, colour adopts an increasing presence with the inclusion of cyanotypes (albeit a 19thcentury technology), and large scale prints, such as Stan Douglas’s digitally reengineered photographs. It is with this culmination, comprised of the large multi-media installation by Maya Rochat, that photography is strongly argued to be a medium that continues to push the boundaries of new technologies in a constant effort to alter and expand its own definition, to include, but extend beyond ‘light’.

[1]Rosalind Krauss, “Notes on the Index: Seventies Art in America”, October,Vol. 3 Spring 1977, pp. 68–81.
[2]See Walter Benjamin on art-as-photography and photography-as-art in“A Little History of Photography”, Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings Volume 2, 1927–1934. Translated by Rodney Livingstone and others, Eds. Michael W. Jennings, Howard Eiland and Gary Smith. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999, pp. 520.

Friday 7 September 2018

Guy Delisle - Shenzhen

As when I read comics by Gabrielle Bell, which are more confessional in terms of emotional states, reading the travelogue of Guy Delisle who reflects on his 3 month work trip to Shenzhen has been a rather charming experience. While he does discuss his emotional response to the city (which he struggles to connect to), his observations are at times very matter-of-fact, despite being undeniably nuanced and subjective given his difficult experience.

There is something extremely naive (in the best way) and delightful about these observations and the kinds of close reading of one's own life that accompanies autobiographical writing (and drawing), which has the taste of a child's encounter with new stimuli in the world, probably particularly in the context of culture shock during a solo trip. So far, really enjoying Delisle's book!