Time

Time is a buzzword lately, it seems. From Art Journal to PST, from the New York Times to my very own blog, everyone in the art world seems to be talking about time. Anyone who has read this blog knows that I am an advocate, and a constant seeker of, free time to think and experiment outside of the confines of our culture’s obsession with “productivity.” Joe Scanlan, in “Free Time: An Introduction,” in last summer’s Art Journal, defines free time as “a strangely private, fiercely guarded realm for artists, a state of mind quite different from leisure… much of our best work would not get made without the vague, inexplicable, sideways approach to working that free time affords.” Including time spent among colleagues, seeing shows, at lectures, and reading or thinking, Scanlan’s explanation of free time is the best I’ve seen an certainly encompasses the kind of think-space I’ve talked about previously. A point that I would never have thought to consider, however, despite my near-obsession with the idea of viewership, is Scanlon’s point of free time’s usual association with viewers rather than makers of art works.

Despite the inherent latency in the idea of viewership, much recent scholarship as been devoted to the activation of the viewer as co-participant in meaning formation. A dialectic approach has not only been a part of much modern theory, but is also considered in so much recent art making. Scanlon points out that we are more comfortable with the idea of our own productivity in either role, “Even in their free time and with no obvious material benefit, viewers of art, like artists, would seem to prefer nebulous effort–productivity–over obvious leisure.” An active society, we are constantly seeking and expounding our own influence upon the world, even in would-be passive roles. “The audience” for the movie-maker, “the consumer” for the industrialist, “the viewer” for the artist. So, what becomes of non-productive time–how can we redefine free time and protect it from being re-figured as part of productivity and therefor encumbered with a use-value, and instead allowing it to be completely without use or value despite the value of free time to the artistic process?

As someone who has spent time in school, time working, and time unemployed, I actually find time to be quite relative. When I’m busy, I seem to be able to fit more into my schedule, when I’m free I seem never to have time to see anyone or do anything. In the same vein, when I am working or in school, time spent not pursuing that goal is free time and allowed to be such, whereas when I am unemployed, as I am now, I seem never to have free time. Without the separation from a ‘goal’ and allowing my life to be my goal, ie pursuing art and child-rearing rather than working for someone else, I have been unable to allow myself that free think-space that I know is so necessary to my craft. Because of the lack of outside validation in these endeavors, I find it difficult to say no to any favors or tasks requested of me. In this way, as John Baldessari implied in his talk at the Hammer, naming oneself an artist is really the first step to becoming an artist. Allowing that label to be validation in itself, to validate the need for free time and space, is the first step toward claiming the real space and time an artist truly needs in order to create, space and time that do not need to have “use-value” but can rather just be useful to you.

 

A New Year, A New Blog

Welcome to 2012 everyone, it has started off a little rough, but with so much art to see around LA this year, how can we go anywhere but up? Plus, we’ve had beautiful weather all week, I was able to check out Now Dig This at the Hammer before it closed, and my 2 1/2 year old twins had insightful and interested comments to make on the art, doesn’t get much better! So, as we start the new year, I am also starting a new blog at LA-Art-Theory.com - the new site will give me an outlet for my more theoretical writing as well as reviews and comments on art occurrences in Los Angeles and allow this site to become more focused on photography and the process of making art. There may be some overlapping posts here and there but I think the separation will bring greater fluidity and comprehensiveness to my writing in both arenas.

Speaking of the art-making process, I also want to direct you to a new site focused on artist emergence and the culture of art-making created by artist, designer, historian, and theorist, Dr. Jill Thayer (full disclosure, we were doctoral colleagues at CGU!). Her blog can be found at http://jillthayer.wordpress.com/ and offers wonderful insight into the process of becoming an artist and the roads to finding success in this crazy career.

As an artist one of my greatest struggles is finding time to reflect and time to experiment, really just TIME. In our world, and definitely in my world as a mother, one is expected to be able to think and do multiple tasks at once, often carving up the day into 5-10 minute increments in which to perform tasks. Art doesn’t really work that way.

How many times have those of us who spent time in art school walked past someone’s studio to find them staring off into the distance, how many aborted works litter the floors of studios (and sometimes the base layers of new works), how many dog-eared texts clutter the artist’s shelves and work-spaces? So often I hear “a child could have done that” when the uninformed look at certain art pieces, but really, the art is in the inspiration, the thought to create the work. Anyone can paint by numbers.

My goal for the new year is to give myself more think-space, to allow my mind to wander and allow my pen to do the same (or lens or paintbrush, etc.). I will make mistakes, I will tear up my art, I will read more poetry, I will write down more of my own thoughts. There are a million obstacles to this resolve, but right now I’m saying that several straight hours once a week is better than 20 minutes a day and that I’m going to do everything in my power to claim that time because art is more than the market, it is a personal outlet without which I cannot function as well in all areas of my life, it is a way to communicate with others that I have never been able to replicate in one on one contact, and it is a spark, an inspiration that I hope to pass on to my children every day of their lives.

What are YOUR art goals this year?

In Praise of the Kunsthalle/ pt. 3

In the last two parts of this series on technology in the museum and the role of the Kunsthalle, we talked about the issues facing museums today as art and audiences both change to incorporate new media and a greater interest in interactive experience. Today I’d like to talk specifically about the Kunsthalle. As I mentioned in the first post on this topic, we are lucky in Los Angeles to have a lovely example of this non-collecting type of museum, the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Although it is not a perfect solution, the non-collecting museum model is ideally suited for today’s interdisciplinary, multi-sensory, interactive art world.

The difficulties of being a non-collecting museum are several. First, it can be difficult to get funding, and to amass a following with no reciprocal benefit to loans. On teh other hand, not being tied to a collection means not spending a huge part of your budget on preservation and freedom from the rigorous and often controversial deaccession/acquisition process. Small non-collecting museums are free to mix periods and foci and to engage new and unknown curators and artists. The small size of most Kunsthalles also means they have the ability to engage with a more diverse community and offer exhibition specific programming more readily. The size also allows viewers to create a connection between specific pieces as active participants. Rather than conflating periods and styles, viewers are able to focus on one area or aspect of art. Also, the small and dedicated space allows for greater customization of the environment to the exhibition such as in the case of Michael Asher’s installation that encompassed the Santa Monica Museum in theory and physically by literally re-installing every wall ever used in exhibition. In the catalogue for this exhibit, the director of SMMOA, Elsa Longhauser, expressed the, quite correct, insight, “the Kunsthalle collects ideas, not objects.”

Michael Asher at SMMOA

There are some wonderful books out there that express ideas on how to change the museum model itself, such as The Participatory Museum, they lay out plans to incorporate evolving ideas of audience participation. Here, though, I am focused not on changing the museum model itself, but rather on adding another kind of institution to the conversation. Rather than attempting to be all for all, museums should focus on collaboration and support of alternative spaces like Kunsthalles, for and not-for profit galleries, and university museums, as well as public and web-based projects.

Collaborations between small and large institutions allow for an escape from the bureaucracy while encouraging access to a larger maintained collection and ability to collect important works. Also, it gives greater exposure to both institutions and pools advertising expenses to boot. Artists, lay critics, and burgeoning collectors would have greater opportunities to contribute to a dialogue that has a further-reaching impact. The collecting museum has an opportunity to hear back from their consumers and to access new ideas and works as they emerge.

So, why not just introduce, or further finance and support, a participatory element to the traditional fine art museum? After all, they already are encouraging certain amounts of audience participation as we discussed in part one of this series, through web programming, family and on-site programming, tours, and events. The art museum is not really equipped to change exhibitions and gather information quickly enough to stay on top of trends in the art world. Events and workshops tend to either be outside of the collection and exhibitions themselves or to be weighed down by the historical canon imposed by most institutional curators. The fact of the museum’s existence as an art museum with the background and intimidation that entails makes it very difficult for viewers to change their mode of reaction from receivership to one of participatory practice. This is especially true if one expects a viewer to take on a certain role within certain areas of the museum and another in different rooms and halls. For example, a child given free reign in the “Children’s gallery,” allowed to manipulate and engage play objects, will have a hard time keeping their hands quiet when they are abruptly thrown into a typical gallery. Even as an adult, I have been extremely hesitant to touch computers or interactive displays in the museum space, such as currently accompanies the lovely display of Carrie Mae Weems’ work in the Getty’s photography galleries, because I have been so trained toward passive viewership.

Carrie Mae Weems, From Here I Watched the World Go By and I Cried, 1995

Museums have an important role as keepers of our cultural history. The need for participatory experiences and accessible spaces to show and engage with current trends and new works does not negate the need for access to traditional works with historical foci. Rather than try to expand to both ends of the spectrum, traditional fine art museums would be better served trying to expand their ability to offer public access to their collections. The role, expertise, and value of a traditional cultural institution is in its collection and its ability to preserve the objects it owns. Educating the public and offering access in innovative ways might be a better focus for museum administrators than trying to be both a depository and a harbinger.

 

In Praise of the Kunsthalle/ pt. 2

In my last blog post I talked about the issues facing museums in the digital age and began to bring up the possibilities of the Kunsthalle as part of the solution. I first started thinking about these possibilities a while ago, and we are so lucky here in LA to see this happening already in the form of Pacific Standard Time. Art institutions are coming together to address the facets of a period of art production in a specific time and place, and we see through this collaboration the possibilities of utilizing the different museums and galleries and their individual qualities (some large, some small, some collecting institutions, some not, some offering products for sale, some non-profit, etc.) to fully engage the topic and to  meet the needs of a diverse viewership. In today’s follow-up, we’ll talk more about the specific topic of art experience and technology.

Several questions plague museums whose focus is not period specific but rather are trying to incorporate a wide variety of modern and old-master works. For instance, how do we display art that is theoretical and not object-focused, and how can we do this alongside and in-comparison-to object oriented works? The exhibitions space needs to be flexible and smaller with greater engagement of educators, and the ability to include text and other materials suitable to specifics objects while not imposing too much textuality on the inherent visuality of the works. Also, how can we allow art of the moment to interact with the great works? The need for engagement and knowledge of contemporary and living artists, art communication and conversations is imperative. At the same time, museums must have the ability and environment to preserve great works, and the financial and institutional wherewithal to borrow historic pieces. These two qualities are extremely difficult to bring together in one institution, some might say impossible, and really, were a single institution to attempt both, they most likely would be unable to maintain both missions simultaneously. Hence the need for collaboration between art spaces large and small with a variety of missions, I believe Los Angeles, especially with PST, is at the forefront of this kind of collaborative effort.

Additionally, how do we allow viewers greater control and the ability to interact with their environment while still emphasizing the object-hood of art works? Smaller and more exhibition-focused spaces can be manipulated and maneuvered in different ways by different viewers. The ability to converse and educate within the space is aided by fewer visitors as a time. Many large museums have established web interfaces to encourage individualized exploration of the collection, but relying solely on a web-presence diminishes the object-hood of the works. Institutions must allow the exhibition to be the focus, rather than the individual works, allowing the viewer to navigate based on a conceptual focus rather than on the traditional flow imposed by Cartesian works would encourage an individualized experience within the space itself. Unfortunately smaller exhibition spaces are often more focused on the commodification of the works, galleries, etc. and can’t have the same breadth of focus as traditional museums, therein lies the need for the Kunsthalle.

Alongside the object nature of works of art, ideally the museum supports a community of creators (of meaning as well as visual material) rather than purely imposing meaning on objects. The best museums encourage a community around the museum space. Events focused not only on the works and the exhibit, but also on aspects of the exhibit that will draw a diverse and engaged audience that will be able to and encouraged to share their varied expertise. Where are the limits and boundaries of art works? Can we engage science, anthropology, literature, film, cultural or linguistic theory? Viewers should be addressed as active participants in meaning rather than empty vials to be filled with knowledge from the all-hallowed canon of art history. This is a major break with the tradition of the museum but it is essential in today’s world. Meaning negotiation is a far more effective tool for community engagement than lay viewership. This is aided by exposure to works produced in a period of interactivity and extreme shared experience alongside works produced within an era of Cartesian perspective.

Can we do all of this in a way that is not overwhelming to the viewer and to the individual works? Again, the key here is to work on a smaller scale. The fewer objects that are directly in contact with one another, the more easily the viewer can make connections and meaning and the less likely it is that the works will conflict with one another as we move beyond the purely visual into areas of multi-sensory experience. This luxury of experience is only available when the museum’s mission moves beyond the collection and toward the community, and that can only be done in collaboration with smaller and less object-stagnated exhibitions spaces such as Kunsthalles. In our next installment we’ll discuss the Kunsthalle and it’s place in today’s interdisciplinary and interactive art world.

 

In Praise of the Kunsthalle/ pt. 1

These are a few random thoughts I’ve had in thinking about the role of the museum, and especially the Kunsthalle, the non-collecting museum, in the United States, but Los Angeles more specifically. Our city is lucky to claim a wonderful Kunsthalle in the Santa Monica Museum of Art located at Bergamot Station. The museum is at the forefront of experimentation with viewer engagement in part because they have the flexibility to incorporate and encourage new ideas/artists/curators/media/concepts given their freedom from the collection and all the maintenance, preservation, and display obligations that go along with that archival mission.

The history of the museum is essentially object-focused. In today’s world much has been written on museum engagement and the need for further interactivity between viewer and object. Some proposed solutions to the problem of lay viewers that have been used in traditional museum settings include digital methodologies through interactive web sites, computerized aspects of exhibitions, digital collection archives, and computer rooms within the space of the museum and exhibition. Another method of engagement has been the use of docents, tours, and family days as well as other activity focused events in the museum space. Some museums are also experimenting with mixing media and discipline by adding music tot he gallery, video, or sculpture to the exhibition space. This is usually done by creating art for the space rather than figuring the space around art, an initiative that is being heavily considered right now with the resurgence of conceptual and installation art from the 1960s and 70s with Pacific Standard Time event here in Los Angeles.

The underlying issue that has not been addressed is the problem of the work (mostly traditional art works) being created within a Cartesian tradition – meant to be simply viewed. This does not work in today’s society where, although the visual is still our primary mode of information acquisition, we are use to a greater interactivity with the media. In the age of technology, reproduction, internet usage, and international access, we are accustomed to forming our own experience. This is in direct opposition to the function of the art museum that is focused on object permanence, appreciation of an intended experience, and education about the intended experience.

Museums today have to contend with the fact that we have access to most of the great works in our very homes. How to establish the importance of the physical experience of a work is an essential question for museum’s especially as it becomes more and more expensive and time-consuming to visit these ever-expanding cultural ivory-towers. Within the museum walls, works created by artists that were meant to be engaged by the viewer physically are presented in such a way that viewers cannot be close to them and are not encouraged to interact in ways that will change or alter the work, despite this being the intention of the artist. Is the museum’s function that of preservation or of exposure? The museum needs to be able to collect, preserve, and display our past but what if their ability to preserve the object is at odds with the ability to preserve the intention of the artist and the piece? What is the art object without the context and artists’ impulse?

When we look at modern art, often people assert, I could have done that! The value of much modern and contemporary art is not in the physical form but rather in the intention of the artist, the impulse of creation. This is destroyed sometimes in teh need to maintain the object itself. I have written about this specific piece in previous blog posts especially having to do with Duchamp’s work but want to also consider the several installation works of Felix Gonzalez-Toerres, asking visitors to take a piece of his stack of paper (or candy), in essence, destroying the work as they experience the work. Duchamp is quotes as saying, “too great an importance [has been] given tot he retinal. Since Courbet, it’s been believed that painting is addressed to the retina. That was everyone’s error. The retinal shudder! Before, painting had other functions: it could be religious, philosophical moral.” In the end, the modern museum has to lump all these functions in together, to allow solely visual access to works and limited access even at that. So, how does the slow-moving institutional machine of the art museum re-center their mission of being a conduit to art for the general public and reconcile that with their concurrent mission of collections and preservation – in the end, they must turn to a collaboration with the Kunsthalle. In the next part, we will see how the issue of technology functions within the museum and finally consider the benefits and limitations of the Kunsthalle itself.

For an interesting blog on Gonzalez-Torres from a viewership point of view, check out http://momentc.blogspot.com/2011/01/felix-gonzalez-torres.html

If you are interested in Santa Monica Museum of Art – www.smmoa.org

Felix Gonzalez Torres - Untitled (Lover Boys), 1991Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (Passport), 1991

 

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (Passport), 1991

Ice Cube celebrates Eames, is Ray enough for women at PST?

Pacific Standard Time organizers just released the third in their “celebrate” series of video advertisements for the event, this one shows Ice Cube talking about what there is to love in Los Angeles and specifically Charles and Ray Eames’ Case study House #8, “The Eames House.” Other videos in the series include Jason Schwartzman celebrates John Baldessari, and Anthony Kiedis celebrates Ed Ruscha. These videos are charming, funny, and bring art into a mainstream context… but… they all honor white male artists and allow men to do all the honoring. Although a bevy of diversity might seem too constructed or forced, this absence seems conspicuous, especially when utilized to advertise an event that intends to, and does reasonably well, present the LA art scene in its entirety.

To see the videos click here: http://www.pacificstandardtime.org/videos

In response to the PST festival and its advertising, performance artist and filmmaker, Susan Mogul, created this ad as a spook of the “celebrate” posters:

In a recent lecture at the Orange County Museum, Mogul questioned the way PST fetishizes feminist work from the 1970s, forcing artists into frames of what they once were, forgetting any emergence or growth that may have happened in the ensuing years. While the initiative has brought focus to many artists who should have seen greater glory in the first place, for others, they feel as though they are going backwards rather than forwards, with galleries and museums solely interested in their early works or works that supported a constructed idea of LA art or 70′s art or feminist art, etc. Sometimes I wonder if the worst thing for an artist is to become famous – they end up stuck in an aesthetic, if they try to move forward they have everyone in their life, their dealers and supporters, forcing them back to what was successful, and their very creativity becomes a schtick.

But, you say, the most recent commercial celebrates Charles and RAY Eames… Ray was a woman! Well, try looking up “Ray Eames” almost every reference will include Charles. In fact, if you look up Ray, excluding Charles in the search, you only get about 400k hits, whereas if you look up Charles, excluding Ray, you still get almost 3 million. In this duo, Charles is often presented as the icon, with Ray the designer. Obviously, Ray is an important artist in her own right, in her position as collaborator with her husband, and through her own theory and design work, but is she really enough to represent the many women artists and viewer/enthusiasts who are a part of PST?

If you are interested in shows that include many women artists as part of PST, check these out:

Los Angeles Goes Live: Performance Art in Southern California 1970-1983 (LACE) http://www.pacificstandardtime.org/exhibitions?id=los-angeles-goes-live-performance-art-in-southern-california-1970-1983

The Alchemy of June Schwarcz: Enamel Vessels from the Forrest L. Merrill Collection (Craft and Folk Art Museum) http://www.pacificstandardtime.org/exhibitions?id=the-alchemy-of-june-schwarcz-enamel-vessels-from-the-forrest-l-merrill-collection

Sympathetic Seeing: Esther McCoy and the Hart of American Modernist Architecture and Design (MAK Center) http://www.pacificstandardtime.org/exhibitions?id=sympathetic-seeing-esther-mccoy-and-the-heart-of-american-modernist-architecture-and-design

Maria Nordman Filmroom: Smoke 1967-Present (LACMA) http://www.pacificstandardtime.org/exhibitions?id=maria-nordman-filmroom-smoke-1967-present

Beatrice Wood: Career Woman-Drawings, Paintings, Vessels, and Objects (SMMOA) http://www.pacificstandardtime.org/exhibitions?id=beatrice-wood-career-woman-drawings-paintings-vessels-and-objects

Doin’ it in Public: Feminism and Art at the Woman’s Building (Otis) http://www.pacificstandardtime.org/exhibitions?id=doin-it-in-public-feminism-and-art-at-the-woman-s-building

It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles, 1969-1973, Part 2: Helene Winer at Pomona (Pomona Museum) http://www.pacificstandardtime.org/exhibitions?id=it-happened-at-pomona-art-at-the-edge-of-los-angeles-1969-1973-part-2-helene-winer-at-pomona

She Accepts the Proposition: Women Gallerists and the Redefinition of Art in Los Angeles, 1967-1978 (Crossroads School) http://www.pacificstandardtime.org/exhibitions?id=she-accepts-the-proposition-six-women-gallerists-and-the-redefinition-of-art-in-los-angeles-1967-1977

There are many more shows also that illuminate underrepresented artists working in Los Angeles, to see more, check out www.pacificstandardtime.org/exhibitions

This article is from september, but includes interesting thoughts on how attempting to prove their worth and incorporate so much is giving the audience a sense of “trying too hard”…   http://blogs.laweekly.com/stylecouncil/2011/09/is_pacific_standard_time_tryin.php

what PST shows have struck you as most successful?

 

 


Manipulations pt. 2 Weegee at MOCA

This post has unfortunately been long delayed but I am eager to talk a little about Weegee’s work on Hollywood currently on display at MOCA grand avenue in LA. The shows provides a glimpse into the quintessential-New York photographer’s take on/over Hollywood in the 1940s and 50s through photographs, film clips, posters, articles, and, of course, his book, Naked Hollywood. As usual, MOCA takes on a big cohesive subject and does a wonderful job presenting it from several different angles. The curatorial effort by USC art historian Richard Meyer allows the viewer to focus not only on the works presented but also gives a glimpse into the historical and cultural context and contemporary milieu of Weegee’s experience in Hollywood. Yes, this is the goal of most museum exhibitions, but No, this is not usually accomplished. In this case, and I think it was specifically due to the collaboration between scholar and and contemporary art institution, this ideal was fully realized.

Briefly, because if you want to know more about the photographer’s history you should pick up Meyer’s book Weegee and Naked City, Weegee was a pseudonym for the photographer Arthur Fellig, born in Ukraine and who moved to the United States in about 1909. Best known as a newspaper photographer notoriously first on the scene to photograph the most gruesome of crimes in New York, Weegee’s known work also includes many photojournalistic prints documenting the city’s street life in the 1930s and 40s. The part of his life that has been lesser known, until now, was his role as filmmaker, muse, and interloper in 1940′s Hollywoodland. The MOCA exhibition focuses mostly on small (8×10) black and white prints, some grossly manipulated, some seemingly straight but through the lens of Weegee’s gritty realism never appearing to be fully realistic. We are also presented with posters for films such as Dr. Strangelove, for which Weegee acted as set photographer and inspiration for Seller’s Dr.’s heavily accented voice, and the film version of Naked City, inspired by his first book of photographs. Clips from Weegee’s own 16mm films accompany these better known works and incorporate a more surreal version of his photographed reality. We also find his book, Naked Hollywood, as an addendum to the show, with supporting documentations of its publication and reception as well as articles and reproductions of his prints in major magazines intended for varied audiences from the photographic hobbyist to the fashionista. This, in particular, emphasized the cultural and technological precedence for his manipulations.

Looking at black and white 8×10 manipulations of popular celebrities in today’s world of overwhelmingly large and heavily manipulated prints, it is difficult to understand how they would have been read by an audience expecting glamour and reverence, tradition and realism. Today we see these as quaint caricatures, and Weegee himself even called them “Caricatures,” but the innovation isn’t truly understood by the modern viewer. Because photography is taken for granted now as a manipulate-able media, we don’t see the attack on one’s viewing expectations and assumptions that a contemporary would have experienced.  Weegee focused on the viewers and consumers of popular culture as much as he did on the celebrity culture itself, and I wonder whether his point is to establish the unreality of this world because of his respect and understanding of the expectations of those consumers? His caricatures were not meant to be quaint depictions of stars’ known features, a manipulation of reality, but rather to point out the true reality of the “celebrity,” that the myth of their being is the “real” for consumers of hollywood culture. The real of marilyn monroe is her lips, the extremes of her body, the real of bette davis is the bulge of her eyes, the myth is their being real in any other way, he depicts in his manipulations a real so much more real because of its extremes. The use of photography in this way is ideal, because the real and the unreal become so blurred in the early years of photographic manipulation (before the ability to manipulate every image came standard on your desktop computer).

I haven’t read Meyer’s book on Weegee yet or the show’s catalogue, but I am eager to do so. A good exhibitions should make you want to know more and more about the subject matter, not necessarily leave you feeling completely sated. The show approaches Weegee as a photographer but also allows him to stand in for theoretical questions, and that is what makes it definitely worth seeing.

Naked Hollywood: Weegee in Los Angeles
MOCA Los Angeles – Grand Avenue
Nov 13, 2011-Feb 27, 2012

http://www.moca.org/

KCET article that talks about, among other things, the place for Weegee in the museum (something MOCA explores often with such exhibitions as WACK! and Art in the Streets) – http://www.kcet.org/updaily/socal_focus/arts-culture/naked-hollywood-weegee-in-hollywood-at-moca.html

Meyer & Lee book, Weegee and Naked City http://www.amazon.com/Weegee-Defining-Moments-American-Photography/dp/0520255909

New York Crime Scene

Weegee image of Bette Davis

 

Weegee working out of the back of his car

manipulations

Just got home from the members’ opening of Kenneth Anger “Icons” and Weegee “Naked Hollywood” at MOCA Los Angeles. I was really only very familiar with Weegee’s work on New York crime scenes before tonight and after seeing the amazing manipulations he was doing in the 50′s in Hollywood, I have many questions buzzing around my mind. Most importantly, how does a modern audience view pre-digital manipulations in photography in light of our associations with manipulative ease via photoshop and other digital platforms? Also, how do contemporary audiences consume delicate, small, black and white images after years being confronted by aggressive large-scale color photography?

More concrete thoughts tomorrow!

Kenneth Anger on theramin @moca tonight-

http://yfrog.com/masukz

thoughts on Weegee in Hollywood-

http://www.laobserved.com/intell/2011/11/weegees_hollywood.php

weegee, marilyn

 

Interesting article on Egyptian Feminist

Usually I like to do my own writing on this blog, but in lieu of my recent post on Cinderella Feminism, I want to share this. New York Times just posted an interesting article on an Egyptian feminist who realized her personal freedom by posting nude pictures of herself online causing an uproar in Egyptian politics. Check it out:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/18/world/middleeast/aliaa-magda-elmahdy-egypts-nude-blogger-stirs-partisan-waters.html?_r=2

Photo on blog post by Aliaa Magda Elmahdy

What do you think of this form of feminism?

Cinderella Feminist

Monday evening I attending a lecture given by Cheri Gaulke and Denise Uyehara at Pomona College about their work as collaborative feminist performance artists (not collaborating together but both being a part of collective art groups at one point in their careers). The next morning I was so inspired by the idea of women working together to pursue an aesthetic approach to advancing the social and political equality of women, that I decided to talk to my daughter about being a feminist. She is two years old. It went something like this:

Me: “Gretchen, are you a feminist?”
Gretchen: “am I a feminist?”
Me: “Yes, are you a feminist?”
Gretchen: quiet contemplation… “No, i’m not a feminist”
Me: “Well, being a feminist really just means that you think boys and girls are equal to one another, do you think boys and girls can do the same things?”
Gretchen: “yes… Mommy, I’m a Cinderella Feminist!”

Cindy Sherman, "Untitled #276/ Cinderella"

I cracked up, but then I started thinking. The idea of a Cinderella feminist was pretty adorable, because really, to a 2 year old, these are just two of the roles one might play in the infinite storeroom of props and scenarios that constitute the world around them. In another way, it made me truly think of today’s young women who embrace the very same institutions that women once fought against, young marriage, family, staying home with children, and yes, dressing provocatively seemingly for the benefit of surrounding men. Really, though, there is a distinct difference in the way women today embrace these formerly stifling conventions, today they own it, and (theoretically) are pursuing their own paths which just so happen to entail these roles rather than having these roles foisted upon them without option or opinion.

At the same time, however, gender stereotypes are so intrinsic in our culture and mindset that perhaps it is only the presumption of choice that has changed, not really the ability to choose. Women dress provocatively claiming to be taking control of their own sexuality when really they are still playing to a male fantasy of female sexuality. But, really, how do we know? Gender and sexuality are so interwoven and so difficult to see objectively that it is difficult to know even what choice IS anymore. Can there really be free will when we are enveloped in a culture so early and so completely?

Sacred Naked Nature Girls, "Power Play" from Untitled Flesh, 1996

Denise Uyehara, a founding member of Sacred Naked Nature Girls talked about James Luna being criticized for appropriating Native American culture and the humour in that, given that he himself is Native American. This was an interesting thought — just because one is a member of a certain culture, is it given that they are “authentic” in their use and understanding of cultural elements, that they have authority and right to those images? Even if they are utilizing images that adhere to the same cultural stereotype other members of the culture might lobby against? Just because a woman is a woman, is she authorized to make herself into a sexual stereotype?

Gaulke talked about her early years as a feminist in the 70′s and mentioned her frustration that “women were ‘in the closet’ about being women, not wanting to draw attention to the fact that they are women.” This reminded me of something Jane Livingston said during a discussion panel at the Getty a couple weeks ago between 3 female curators. Livingston was asked about being a woman curator at an institution widely criticized for its predominant focus on male artists (she was the 20th century curator at LACMA in the 70′s), and she replied, “it just didn’t occur to us.” Claiming that they just weren’t conscious of the lack of women in their repertoire, the three proceeded to discuss exclusively male artists and to show a general lack of interest or knowledge of female artists working during this time period. To be a professional in the art world at that time, women had to deny their femininity, to see “objectively” by perpetuating the status quo of male dominance. I really wonder if much has changed. In order to be seen as unbiased, we have moved back toward a status quo that makes women perpetuate the very same cultural stereotypes they once fought against, in order to be claim equality women have reclaimed their own chains under the guise of choice and emancipation.

How do you see feminism today? Are feminism and professionalism mutually exclusive ideologies? Is there a role for feminism in art NOW? Are YOU a cinderella feminist?