“going further back from the overhead opening there is a wall surrounding the court with a door in each side. behind that wall is a passage which circles the courtyard. in the innermost wall of the passage slot-like windows look into a dark area of undetermined size which is obviously open. the viewer becomes aware that the ground s/he has just walked across and presumed to be solid is undermined.” – mary miss

27/07/2012 § Leave a comment

mary miss, perimeters/pavilions/decoys  (1978)

 

toward the center of the field there is a slight mound, a swelling in the earth, which is the only warning given for the presence of the work.  closer to it, the large square face of the pit can be seen, as can the ends of the ladder that is needed to descend into the excavation.  the work itself is thus entirely below grade: half atrium, half tunnel, the boundary between outside and in, a delicate structure of wooden posts and beams.  the work, perimeters/pavilions/decoys (1978) by mary miss, is of course a sculpture or, more precisely, an earthwork.

over the last ten years [essay published in 1979] rather surprising things have come to be called sculpture: narrow corridors with tv monitors at the end; large photographs documenting country hikes; mirrors placed at strange angles in ordinary rooms; temporary lines cut into the floor of the desert.  nothing, it would seems, could possibly give to such a motley of effort the right to lay claim to whatever one might mean by the category of sculpture.  unless, that is the category can be made to become almost infinitely malleable.

the critical operations that have accompanied post-war american art have largely worked in the service of this manipulation.  in the hands of this criticism, categories like sculpture and painting have been kneaded and stretched and twisted in an extraordinary demonstration of elasticity, a display of the way a cultural term can be extended to include just about anything.  and though this pulling and stretching of a term such as sculpture is overtly performed in the name of vanguard aesthetics – the ideology of the new – its covert message is that of historicism.  the new is made comfortable by being made familiar, since it is seen as having gradually evolved from the forms of the past.  historicism works on the new and different to diminish newness and mitigate difference.  it makes a place for change in our experience by evoking the model of evolution, so that the man who now is can be accepted as being different from the child he once was, by simultaneously being seen – through the unseeable action of the telos – as the same.  and we are comforted b this perception of sameness, this strategy for reducing anything foreign in either time or space, to what we already know and are.

no sooner had minimal sculpture appeared on the horizon of the aesthetic experience of the 1960s, than criticism began to construct a paternity for this work, a set of constructivist fathers who could legitimize and thereby authenticate the strangeness of these objects.  plastic? inert geometries? factory production? – none of this was really strange, as the ghosts of gabo and tatlin and lissitzky could be called in to testify.  never mind that the content of the one had nothing to do with, was in fact the exact opposite of, the content of the other.  never mind that gabo’s celluloid was the sign of lucidity and intellection, while judd’s plastic-tinged-with-dayglow spoke the hip patois of california.  it did not matter that constructivist forms were innteded as visual proof of the immutable logic and coherence of universal geometries, while their seeming counterparts in minimalism were demonstrably contingent – denoting a universe held together not by mind but by guy wires, or glue, or the accidents of gravity.  the rage to historicize simply swept these differences aside.

- scuplture in the expanded field by rosalind krauss [text]

 

people of minneapolis (and the upper mid-west in general): drop everything and go to the walker art center  right now.  rolu’s residency at the walker’s open field comes to a close this weekend.  go check out their expanding field of projects.

 

happy friday

a young hare

 

 

notes:

[title]     today’s title comes from mary miss’ perimeters/pavilions/decoys project description available on her website.  check out this amazing project and others!

[image]     while you can find today’s image and others from the perimeters/pavilions/decoys on mary miss’ website i originally came across this project from the tumblr et après ça, la ville.

[text]     Krauss, Rosalind. “Sculpture in the Expanded Field.” On Landscape Urbanism. Ed. Dean Almy. Austin, TX: Center for American Architecture and Design, University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, 2007. 34-35. Print.

[more historical loops]     this essay brings to mind an older ayh post asking the question: were we ever modern?

 

“all the artistic preparations of the photographer and the design of in the positioning of the model to the contrary, the viewer feels an irresistible compulsion to seek the tiny spark of accident, the here and now. in such a picture, that spark has, as it were, burned through the person in the image with reality, finding the indiscernible place in the condition of that long past minute where the future is nesting, even today, so eloquently that we looking back can discover it.” – walter benjamin [1]

20/07/2012 § Leave a comment

photography by joann verburg
top to bottom:
secrets: iraq (1991)
petty rivalries (1991)
secrets: south bronx (1991)

 

this approach, this diverse investigation of different series over long periods of time, defines a way of working that, while uncommon, is consonant with verburg’s ultimate subject: the creation of nontheatrical space that functions as a threshold to experience.  as john szarkowski wrote in 1990, “her pictures describe spaces and moments suspended in the reverie that precedes action.  like a leyden jar, they are containers of potential.” [2]

verburg learned this balancing act in the 1970’s an exciting time for photographers with artistic ambitions.  in 1976 she graduated with a master’s degree from the rochester institute of technology, a school known for its brilliant technical training in photography, and entered an art world rife with energy and promise, bursting with new forms.  at long last the institution of the traditional fine arts – the museums, galleries, and private collectors that had been flirting with photography as a collectible art since its invention but had been deterred by the promiscuity of the machine-made medium – were embracing photography with fervor.

the uncollectible and unsalable nature of then-contemporary practices of performance, installation art, and conceptual art had led galleries and collectors and soon after, museums to prints and photographs.  from the 1960s onward many of the artists making work that challenged the traditional modes of production and reception of art began to rely on photography to document their performances; site-specific piece-they took pictures of themselves or employed photographers to document their performances and installations according to specific instructions.  others, including william wegman, vito acconci, robert cumming, and dan graham, used photography to investigate the meanings of the medium, often calling into question the veracity of the photograph as a document; john baldessari’s ‘choosing: green beans’ (1972) is one such work, an unnecessary photographic documentation of a ridiculous game involving fresh green beans, as is william anastasi’s ‘nine polaroid photographs of a mirror’ (1967), in which photography is reduced to its most basic operations, recording and embodying its own processes.

the publication, in 1977, of susan sontag’s ‘on photography’, previously published in serial form in the new york review of books, clinched an audience of american intellectuals for the medium and instigated a vein of photographic criticism rooted in the critical writings of roland barthes and walter benjamin, who regarded the medium less as an art form or medium of individual expression than as a purveyor of cultural values.  this brand of critique prevailed in american academic circles for the next twenty years, throughly integrating itself into contemporary photographic practice and thought, and has only recently receded as the dominant critical mode.  the other highly influential voice was that of szarkowski, at the time the director of the department of photography at the museum of modern art, whose beautifully written and utterly accessible ‘looking at photographs’ (1977), a selection of one hundred photographs from the museum’s collection, each picture accompanied by a short analysis and appreciation, stimulated interest in photography outside academic circles and commanded a review by sontag in the january 20, 1977 issue of the new york review of books.  in opposition to benjamin and barthes, szarkowski regarded photography primarily as an expressive picture-making process based on the act of selection.  although these two positions represented differences of emphasis rather than opposite poles, since neither completely denied the ideas in the other.  sontag and szarkowski became for the american photographic audience the figureheads for these two views of photography.  proponents of each camp regarded each other with mutual suspicion, if not hostility, generating a dichotomy of thought that stimulated more debate about the varieties of creative photographic work than had happened at any time in the medium’s history since its invention.

- present tense by susan kismaric [3]

 

the image contains time

a young hare

 

 

notes:

[1]     today’s walter benjamin quote comes from the always inspirational and informative american suburban x post of alan trachtenberg’s essay ‘through a glass, darkly: photography and cultural memory’.

[2]     susan’s footnote reads: John Szarkowski, wall text for New Photography 6: Paul D’Amato, Carl Pope, JoAnn Verburg at The Musuem of Modern Art, New York, October 18, 1990 – January 8, 1991.

[3]     Kismaric, Susan, and JoAnn Verburg. Present Tense: Photographs by JoAnn Verburg. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2007. P: 12 – 14. Print.

[more present tenses]     today’s post was inspired by recent ayh posts namely one on paola di pietri and michael wesely.

“the representation of the metropolis in various media has had at its disposal one particularly privileged instrument since its beginnings: photography. generated by technological apparatuses dating from the period of the expansion of the great cities, images of paris, berlin, new york and tokyo and of the inhabited continuums of the first, second, and thirds worlds have entered our memory and our imagination by way of photography.”

22/06/2012 § 1 Comment

roman bezjak, deli palyaudvar budapest  (2009)

 

landscape photography, aerial photographs, and photographs of buildings and of the people living in big cities constitute a principle vehicle for information that makes us aware of the built and human reality that is the modern metropolis.

photography’s technical and aesthetic development has been the evolution of different sensibilities in relation to the representation of architecture, to the point where it has become impossible in recent years to separate our understanding of modern architecture from the mediating role that photographers have assumed in this understanding.  the manipulation of the objects captured by the camera – framing, composition, and detail – have decisively influenced our perception of the works of architecture photographed.  it is impossible to imagine a history of the 20th century architecture that would not refer to specific architectural photographers.  even our direct experience of the built object cannot escape the mediation of photography.  it would thus be meaningless to evoke some manichaean idea of a direct, honest, authentic experience of buildings, against which to set the manipulated perverse other of the photographic image.

the same is true of the city. not only is the possibility of accumulating direct personal experiences problematic in places in which one has not lived for a long time, but our gaze has been constructed and our imagination shaped by photography.  of course, we also have literature, painting, video, film, but the imprint of the photographic (that ‘minor art’ as pierre bourdieu would have it) continues to be primordial for our visual experience of the city.  during the years of the metropolitan project, of its theorization and of the propaganda presenting the great city as the indispensable motor force of modernization, photography played a decisive role.  the photomontages of paul citroen, man ray, geogre grosz, and john heartfield set out the accumulation and juxtaposition of great architectonic objects as a way of explaining the experience of the big city.

as rosalind krauss has shown, photography operates in semiological terms not as an icon but as an index.  photography’s referent has no immediate relation, as a figure, to the forms produced by photography.  no formal analogy makes transmission of the photographic message possible.  rather this occurs through the physical proximity of the signified and its photographic signifier.  when we look at photographs, we do not see cities – still less with photomontages.  we see only images, static framed prints.  yet by way of the photographic image, we receive signals, physical impulses that steer in a particular direction the construction of an imaginary that we establish as that of a specific place or city.  because we have already seen or are going to see some of these places, we consume this semiological mechanism of communication, and the memories that we accumulate through direct experience, through narratives, or through the simple accumulation of new signals produce our imagination of the city.

after world war ii, photography developed a system of signs completely different from that of the density of the photomontage.  we could call this the humanist sensibility of urban narratives constructed from images of anonymous individuals in settings devoid of architectonic grandiloquence.  ‘the family of man,’ an exhibition organized by edward steichen at the museum of modern art in new york in 1955, was produced after the magnum photo agency had initiated the ‘existentialist’ reading of the city and landscape (which reached its apotheosis in robert frank’s 1962 book ‘the americans’).  yet the phenomenon that interests me here dates from the 1970s, with the inauguration of quite another sensibility that directed yet another gaze on the big cities.

empty, abandoned space in which a series of occurrence have taken place seems to subjugate the eye of the urban photographer.  such urban space, which i will denote by the french expression ‘terrain vague’ assumes the status of fascination, the most solvent sign with which to indicate what cities are and what our experience of them is.  as does any other aesthetic product, photography communicates not only the perceptions that we may accumulate of these kinds of spaces, but also the affects, experiences that pass from the physical to the psychic, converting the vehicle of the photographic image into the medium through which we form value judgments about these seen or imagined places.

 

-ignasi de sola-morales, terrain vague [1]

 

terrain vague

a young hare

 

 

notes:

[1]     de Sola-Morales, Ignasi. “Terrain Vague.” On Landscape Urbanism. Ed. Dean Almy. Austin, TX: Center for American Architecture and Design, University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, 2007. 108-09. Print.

[image]     today’s image comes from the always great – betonbabe.  while the work of roman bejzak might not fit neatly into ignasi de sola-morales definition of terrain vague, his work seems to stem from a similar interest in photographing the city.  in this case, there is a vague nature to the image.  without knowing more about the context, a metro station in budapest, or the time period, three years ago, this photograph takes on many potential stories.

“the time lag may arise because the agent of change is initially technical — like the development of the arch, oil paint, air-conditioning, digital representation — and time to experiment is required for the consequences of each new method of production to suggest aesthetic possibility” – david heymann

08/06/2012 § Leave a comment

photograph:  alfred stieglitz, for the blind man, no. 2 (1917)
art:  marcel duchamp, fountain (1917)

 

that said, it is not an empty history, and, weirdly enough, the concept has a few singular masterpieces.  of these, the most familiar (in academic and cultural discourse it remains un-flushable) and usefully notorious is fountain, by marcel duchamp.  prior to being an artwork, fountain was, of course, a urinal (there were four versions), never flushed, turned on its back, and visibly signed by duchamp, though not using his own name.  low-flow though it may be, fountain was not, of course, conceived with sustainability in mind, but what it shares with the potential for sustainable aesthetics is pretty startling (and for the following breakdown i am indebted to william camfield’s marcel duchamp fountain).

very briefly: fountain was intended as a test of principles, challenging an existing orthodoxy not merely of taste, but of valuation.  here the terms of aesthetic understanding do not arise from form alone, but from the relationship of form to a constitutional act of valuing that is essentially invisible.  most powerfully, with fountain, the potential for an aesthetic arises from a carefully calculated indifference to aesthetics.  is there any other consciously made object out there that is closer, as an analogy, to how a sustainable construction could potentially operate aesthetically?

- excerpt from david heymann’s essay “an un-flushable urinal: thoughts on the aesthetic potential of sustainability” (via design observer)

 

center for the potential of sustainable aesthetics

a young hare

 

 

notes:

[title + image]     both today’s title and the image were borrowed from the david heymann’s design observer article “an un-flushable urinal: thoughts on the aesthetic potential of sustainability”.

[more]     if you’d like to read more on this topic and sustainability in architecture, david’s article is actually part of a series of papers presented at a symposium this past january titled beyondLEED.  several of the white papers are now available on their website, beyondLEED.

“the city’s denizens remain submerged in a pristine cityscape characterized by transparency, honesty and efficiency. in playtime, the modern ideal appears at its logical end. everything is modular, as the city appears composed by a series of standardized units; there is seemingly complete equality in daily life.” – matt fajkus

04/06/2012 § 1 Comment

film still: jacques tati, playtime (1967)

 

more glass.  more people.  less reflections.

the latest issue of pastelgram was recently released.  above an image and excerpt from one of the features written by matt fajkus.  austinites can get pastelgrams at domy books and champion contemporary.  houstonites can find it at domy books and art palace.  fort worthians – buy it at the modern art museum.  marfans can get a copy of pastelgrams at the marfa book company.  or just have a copy mailed to you.  i don’t care how you get it.  just read it!

 

worktime

a young hare

 

 

notes:

[title + image]     to read more of matt fajkus’s musing on playtime and get a glimpse of the latest issue, visit pastelgram’s website.

“at the same time that arguments for generating a homeostatic synthesis between art and science were made, another movement was generating a unique mixture of patterns, intuition, technology, symmetry, and pop culture: op art.” [1]

31/05/2012 § 2 Comments

bridget riley, white disks (1964)

….  for others, both its power and its danger lie in the sometimes pleasurable, sometimes unnerving effects that it generated.  either way, it was quickly and successfully dismissed by the art establishment as a superficial, misplaced, and dangerous gimmick.  by ignoring the categorical disparity between two areas of knowledge, reason and sensation, it allegedly denied art’s ability to act as a foil, if not an antidote to the rampant technological utopianism of the time. further, the work’s quick appropriation by the culture industry – op’s eye-bending graphics appeared on fifth avenue dresses and head shop posters in greenwich village – served to reinforce the criticism that they were both superficial and scientifically suspect.  [2]

 

complex not complicated

a young hare

 

 

notes:

[1]     Andersen, Paul, and David L. Salomon. The Architecture of Patterns. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2010. 81. Print.

[2]     ibid

[image]     for more of bridget riley’s work click here.

“the experience which i am attempting to describe by one tentative approach after another is very precise and is immediately recognizable. but it exists at a level of perception and feeling which is probably preverbal – hence, very much, the difficulty of writing about it.” [1]

13/01/2012 § 5 Comments

michael kenna, forest edge, hokuto, hokkaido, japan (2004)

 

“life is not a walk across an open field” -

russian proverb

shelf of a field, green, within easy reach, the grass on it not yet high, papered with blue sky through which yellow has grown to make pure green, the surface colour of what the basin of the world contains, attendant field, shelf between sky and sea, fronted with a curtain of printed trees, friable at its edges, the corners of it rounded, answering the sun with heat, shelf on a wall through which from time to time a cuckoo is audible, shelf on which she keeps the invisible and intangible jars of her pleasure, field that i have always known, i am lying raised up on one elbow wondering whether in any direction i can see beyond where you stop.  the wire around you is the horizon.

remember what it was like to be sung to sleep.  if you are fortunate, the memory will be more recent than childhood.  the repeated lines of words and music are like paths.  these paths are circular and the rings they make are linked together like those of a chain.  you walk along these paths and are led by them in circles.  the field upon which you walk and upon which the chain is laid is the song.

into the silence, which was also at times a roar, of my thoughts and questions forever returning to myself to search there for an explanation of my life and its purpose, into this concentrated tiny hub of dense silent noise, came the cackle of a hen from a nearby back garden, and at that moment that cackle, its distinct sharp-edged existence beneath a blue sky with white clouds, induced in me an intense awareness of freedom.  the noise of the hen, which i could not even see, was an event (like a dog running or an artichoke flowering) in a field which until then had been awaiting a first event in order to become itself realisable.  i knew that in that field i could listen to all sounds, all music.

from the city centre there are two ways back to the satellite city in which i live: the main road with a lot of traffic, and a side road which goes over a level crossing.  the second is quicker unless you have to wait for a train at the crossing.  during the spring and early summer i invariably take the side road, and i find myself hoping that the level crossing will be shut.  in the angle between the railway lines and the road there is field, surrounded on its other two sides by trees.  the grass is tall in the field and in the evening when the sun is low, the green of the grass divides into light and dark grains of colour – as might happen to a bunch of parsley if lit up by the beam of a powerful lamp at night.  blackbirds hid in the grass and rise up from it.  their coming and going remains quite unaffected by the trains.

this field affords me considerable pleasure.  why then do i not sometimes walk there – it is quite near my flat – instead of relying on being stopped there by the closed level crossing?  it is a question of contingencies overlapping.  the events which take place in the field – two birds chasing one another, a cloud crossing the sun and changing the colour of the green – acquire a special significance because they occur during the minute or two during which i am obliged to wait.  it is as though these minutes fill a certain area of time which exactly fits the spatial area of the field.  time and space conjoin.

- john berger [2]

 

walking in a field

a young hare

 

 

notes:

[1]     berger, john. about looking. new york: pantheon, 1980: p. 192 – 193. print.

[2]     ibid

“this experience added to my skepticism about the evidence for alleged links between orientations of ancient monuments and astronomical phenomena, for confirming alignments will pleasingly lock right into place if the desired answer is already known.” [1]

11/01/2012 § Leave a comment

chris engman, two squares (2007)

shannon ebner, ampersand (2009)

zander olsen, no mans land (2004)

 

when mappings become evidence, questions of validity promptly arise.  even the simple registration of a mapping in relation to an image may be dubious, a result of alignment-to-please.  i once noticed this effect vividly when trying to align the edge of a large plate for a landscape sculpture toward a due-north marker some distance away.  it was easy to attain exact alignment simply by tilting my head one way or another, a method of instantaneous adjustment of +/- 3 degrees without ever having to move the big heavy plate.  similar parallax effects occur in reading analog gauges.  this experience added to my skepticism about the evidence for alleged links between orientations of ancient monuments and astronomical phenomena, for confirming alignments will pleasingly lock right into place if the desired answer is already known.   even professional land surveyors, in mapping the same piece of land, sometimes produce divergent results depending upon their client’s interests.  mappings become more credible if constructed independently of a favored result.  not all clients, however, wish to finance disinterested measurements and mappings.

- edward tufte [2]

 

astronomical accidents

a young hare

 

 

notes:

[1]     tufte, edward r. beautiful evidence. cheshire, ct: graphics press, 2006. 29. print.

[2]     ibid

“no one has ever been modern. modernity has never begun. there has never been a modern world. the use of the past perfect tense is important here, for it is a matter of a retrospective sentiment, of a rereading of our history. i am not saying that we are entering a new era; on the contrary we no longer have to continue the headlong flight of the post-post-postmodernists…” – bruno latour [1]

22/08/2011 § 1 Comment

architect unknown, church of the intercession on the nerl (1158)

frederic chaubin, institute of robotics & technical cybernetics – st. petersburg (1987)

 

… we are no longer obliged to cling to the avant-garde of the avant-garde; we no longer seek to be even cleverer, ever more critical, even deeper into the ‘era of suspicion’.  no, instead we discover that we have never begun to enter the modern era.

 

have we ever been modern?

a young hare

 

 

notes:

[title and text]     Latour, BrunoWe Have Never Been Modern. New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993. Print.

 

“returning to the building program, it becomes apparent that these individual boxes, much like the compartments of a bento box, do not necessitate a particular program – bedroom or laundry room, rice or pickled radish. while each building has been demarcated with a particular program in the plans of the complex, these are by no means definitive, as earlier renditions of the plan indicate.”

22/08/2011 § Leave a comment

nicolas allinder, diagrams of moriyama house (2010)

 

chopsticks at the ready, moriyama house is a bento box with individual pristine and paper-thin containers carefully laid out on the table of a tokyo block.  in contrast, imagine the traditional japanese house as a bento box in its pre-consumption state, well-stacked and organized in a perceptibly rational and efficient manner.  ryue nishizawa’s moriyama house is a fragmented set of simple, unadorned structures whose interior space and program, much like a skyscraper, is unapparent from the exterior.  therefore in order to understand the moriyama house, one must focus on the layout, each individual building’s program, and the structure and envelope of the buildings.

 

pre- or post-consumption?

a young hare

 

 

notes:

[title, images and text]    all come from an analysis of the moriyama house produced by nicolas allinder.

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