Bjarne Melgaard: the physiology of the artist in the studio. At Gavin Brown, October 2013.

A word, first, about the press release. I have championed anti-formalism for a long time, and lost that battle–it persists, but, really, only to a formalist would Bjarne Melgaard’s art look like “a last-chance idea of beauty”, part of a “depressing downward spiral”, “anti-aesthetic”, making “perversion of the notion of the artist”, and only to an idealist defensive Christian would working in the natural world be an irrelevance, invisible and grotesque. Nor do I think the Pink Panther can possibly represent a “beserking of aesthetic cancellation”—he’s a good looking guy! Even the “subversive” critical language we use reflects our ideological premises, Melgaard, I do not believe, is expending all this energy simply to confront formalism. (Oh, hell, why do I bother, the art world speaks formspeak, and always will).

My interest in Bjarne Melgaard is targeted, and cuts a narrow path through the whole gamut of his work. Some work he does for cultures or subcultures that do not interest me, and then there are aspects of his work that interest. I came to Melgaard late, and with surprise. I saw a canvas he made in tribute to Mary Boone at last Spring’s Gramercy Art Fair. The way he took a full, apparently real dress, perhaps a suit Boone might have worn in early 80s iconic pictures, and stuck it on canvas, reminded me of similar work I had written about, done by a much less well known artist, in the 1980s, who did “portraits” of people by asking them for a distinctive article of clothing, and then mounting it in a kind of lifesize collage on canvas (odd, Melgaard had shown this kind of painting before, never caught my eye until he hung something on it). This too seemed like a very direct example, in contemporary art, of a votive work of art.

That is, the canvas was an honorific, it offered thanks to, it honored Mary Boone, and did so (even it with required mockery) by assembling some of her signature looks, and making a shrine of them. It is the kind of thing that might be left in a chapel devoted to the cult of Mary, if it ever comes to that. There are some of these canvases in the current show at Gavin Brown. Their ground consists of a kind of faux painting, sometimes with borrowed imagery, all bright and colorful. And then the suit it attached, or a dress. And then, in these pieces, there is a mid level of some support, which holds a rack of handbags. This strikes me as an extension of the votive idea. It is suggested that a place in the canvas, because of the suit being there, has become more valued than other places. And then others come by, or Melgaard makes another pass of the work, and wants to add to his honor, and stamps on another bag, and another, and so the votives pile up, like they would at any shrine.

In ancient times, a votive took the form of a small statue left at a site, to thank the god and continue praying to him, after one has gone. In modern Catholicism, a lit candle plays that role. At sites of healing, votives may take the form of silver body parts, in a practice very deep in history, to thank the god for healing this or that ailment, or asking for continued coverage, after one has gone. Since votives sometimes did not work, intercessionary helpers of the gods were invented so you could ask them too for help. What this suit on a painting seems to ask is continued protection from the gods of the art world, and then the additional offerings, more bags, are added up, to continue to ask for protection. This is, in my reading, votive art: and this sort of agency in contemporary art is very rare. For this, Melgaard is a kind of case study for me.

The fact that these votives were left in the ‘inner sanctum’ of a triple space exhibition reinforces this idea. A votive suggests humility and deference. An unsure, somewhat humble, worried, nervous person needs to leave votives: they need the reinforcement too (whenever Paulie, in The Sopranos, for example, began to talk up his superstitious fears, Tony would shoot back, “Stop talking like an old woman”—there it is). I suppose this is the quality of Melgaard’s work that is so appealing (apart from the woof side to this warp, his bad boy sexual exhibitionism): his fragility, his unsureness in himself. It feels quite human.

But, then, why arrange his exhibition as it is? This is the challenge, to understand the floorplan, and then its contents. As you enter the Gavin Brown space, you move left from the administrative offices, into the first gallery. In the context of the exhibition, it acts like a foyer. In the middle of this foyer is a large statue of the Pink Panther, the cartoon character created by Fritz Freleng and made famous as the mascot of the bumbling pink panther seeker (the pink panther is actually a missing diamond), Inspector Clouseau, played classically by Peter Sellers. As a statue type, this one is monumental. It is centralized, people take pictures around it (so did I). It stands in the middle of a room, the walls of which are covered in two types of art: a painted mural of black shark fins, and two prints of film stills with captions, setting, perhaps, themes for what’s to come.

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This sort of statue is too large to be a cult statue. It cannot serve as a study, or a beautiful work of art per se. It gave off, for me, a Paul McCarthy Tomato Head vibe,

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and, then, too, a Damien Hirst vibe.

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And, even more precisely, likely because of its loopy legs, a Jonathan Borofsky vibe,

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there is a name I have not thought of in a while (there was a time when you could not go to any city anywhere without running into one). In all these cases, however, it was the custom of the artist to place what might be called a thesis statue out front, to play as it were an overture of themes to come. They were not statues, per se, but models of themes to come: same thing here. But at the gateway to the proceedings, which would meander in, it also marks a boundary, it guards the borderline, it wards off intrusion from the unknowing and the profane. Like a secretary who lets no one see him, unless, it has about it too a certain “keep it light, keep it gay….love it!” Carmen Gia vibe (love Roger Bart, but I’m looking at Mercury in the background)

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In this capacity, the Pink Panther is a protector of the private space of the
artist from the slings and arrows of the world, as represented by the black shark
fins on the wall. He is sploshed with paint to only remind us that paint is the
blood of the art world body and will be messed with and shed. Both of the
seemingly minimal and banal film stills put off expectations of bad boyness,
and apologize in advance for any issues that might arise. Melgaard, like I
said, has his bad boy moments, but not here. He is a monster only sometimes

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And then we enter the first gallery. The fact that couches are set in a circle around a table covered in books, and papers, one of which is the press release for the exhibition (very nice to read the press release in the middle of the exhibition), and that there are empty containers of drinks around, suggests that the installation seeks to recreate a studio situation. We are on a fictional studio visit, the artist, by this mess, makes a physical representation of the apology for the mess which would come at this point in entrée into the studio. This is a welcoming, homey experience: though one could not sit down and rest or lounge among the magazines (which is where one might learn some things about the denizen of the den: I am so rude now to snap photos of books and such during visits, might even steal a Milano).

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The place, too, is a mess. Several pink panthers stand around the perimeter of the couch circles, and the wider spaces opening up beyond it. All are made by repeated cast off of clothing onto clothes horses, that is, hatstands, or coatracks, but in the form of the pink panther. Or, more accurately, smaller Pink Panther statues, made of stuffed animal fur, which may have at one point stood independently as art or collectible, but over time, in the imaginary scenario of the life of this fictive studio, came to have clothes tossed over them, and then to be covered in clothes, and then too covered in other objects, with other makeshift devices made to keep them up. As such, these statues serve a servant or butler role: they are helpers, intermediaries, they also patrol the boundaries of the space, but to serve it. The fact that more of them over time are needed signifies greater need, a slipping away of self-control. As works of art, they are mascots, but then set upon, taken advantage of, run down on, overdone with, abused, buried, succumbing to the fashion mania of the host.

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They remind me again of Blackamoor torchieres, still collectible

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(This, Moor with Emerald Cluster, by Balthasar Permoser, 17th century, Dresden’s Green Vault)

Off behind the main couch one of the helper statues has, in a moment of esprit, the kind of whimsical idea that pops up in the mind of someone making a nest of personal space like this (I have seen many examples of such private space oddities over the years, the thing people put in their rec rooms!), one stuffed animal is propped up on top of a oversized Pepto Bismal bottle, laid on its side. Maybe it was a property used in an advertisement, or a set display in a store (again, imagining the artistic life here, but I always covet theatre lobby advertising standees), maybe it was made by him, for some purpose. Perhaps someone in conversation joked that they can’t stand the Pink Panther because it reminds them of that awful tasting medicine (I no longer use it). Maybe a joke was made as to the fact that pink panther in slang means a gay cougar, an older man going after younger (that, or a straight man who feigns gayness to pull in women: this from Urban Dictionary), and in silly double talk this idea emerged. It has that spontaneous, improvised quality (it is this quality that I valued in a small show I did in 1993 called Tabloid (and Melgaard is a tabloid not a pop artist), and especially liked the spontaneous ideas of the artist Dan Asher, with whom I did an impromptu studio visit in the stairwell of a Soho building as he pulled elements of his artwork for my exhibition out of shopping bag and showed me what he wanted to do, holding it up just so, he wanted to comment on the Anita Hill trial by having a fire hose drop on the floor out of a bright Fire House cover, with other attachments, and I said, great, do it! this, two days before the show opened, best little five minute studio visit I ever had!). Melgaard seems to create with that same borderline silly but bold spontaneous glee, and that is always an appealing quality in contemporary art (even if in this case both the mascot and the medicine are a bit dated). The fact that a video is lodged in the bottle, making it into a kind of wishing well of viewing, forcing visitors to sit on the gallery floor and watch, is nice too, it is inviting (though I did not watch long enough to view the video).

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I especially liked, and noted on my FB page, that a little girl sat down to watch the video, and on the floor. Sitting on the floor: it is not someone one gets to do too often in a gallery. It was nice, relaxing, it reinforced the fact that this was a fictional representation of an artist’s studio (and don’t get me started on the lamps).

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And, more than that, a nest. A nest is a distinct type of domestic space, often created by artists. Neat freaks, and citizens of the world of 90 degrees, will not create nests. But some people need to have at less than arm’s length a circle of touchable objects, tokens, souvenirs, collectibles with private meaning, favorite stoop sale buys, little objects picked up in daily life, whimsies, and on and on (clearly, I am a nest maker, always have been), and in Melgaard I recognize a real nest maker. The notion here is proxemics: how comfortable are you in the world? And do you create your cordon of perfection in geometric finery, or in mess and figurative imagery? Do you sweep the floors to keep clear watch of the floorboards at all points, having to know that they are unencumbered, or do you encircle yourself with little objects and fussy presences, to block all that out? We all create comfort, but in different ways. It would be too categorical by far to claim that Melgaard’s approach is automatically associated with age, gayness, or even gender: the distinction cuts across all categories. But this is where we are: in a nest.

A special aspect of a nest is that the confabulation of metaphors that lattice over it, making it real, are situated at an altitude that is introverted away from the big bad world of business and modern life: one descends in a nest to schematic and even motif level understanding of the world, that is an allegorical or symbolic state of being. More, most nests replace rational thought with magical thinking, as the rationalists call it, but straight up practical magic, if we are talking about world culture. In a nest, simple everyday objects become enchanted once again: they become charms, good luck tokens, apotropaic devices, palladia of one’s life (I went so deep into a SAHD nest with my little ones that I began to half believe stories I told them to enchant their days, to the extent that I might have believed that some bad things happened in the household because, one year, horrors, the Christmas tree toppled from its stand, bad luck).This condition is represented in story by cursed places, which enchant objects. Beauty and the Beast applies

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Or, better, the Cocteau original

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The main problem with nesting elements in a work of art is that the meaning attached to any act of insertion, addition to the ensemble, etc. is so micro as to be invisible and impossible to read by others. In the work of Michelangelo, which scholars have found to be filled with secret mutterings under his breath, the word devised is sfogo, letting off steams, and scholarship has done much to ferret out these micro meanings (in his Last Judgment he’s sending all his political enemies to hell; Turner’s paintings have also been treated thus), but contemporary artists, careless of posterity, protective of trade secrets, are so little inclined to reveal the secretest meanings of their micro practices, even though I am 100% certain that these little whisperings permeate all their work. So, here, you are faced with perusal with no meaning. It creates a sense of chaos, when, once, there was order and meaning

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In some vignettes, choice of doll may help. This (below) appears to be a Planet of the Apes figure, in a uniform of a Che Guevara cast, he holds weapons, he presides as a terrorist or revolutionary, he seems to imprison some others, so, there is a hint, but only that (the key thing is that in a nest the artist is creating meaning in each vignette, day by day, whether we see it or not)

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The word DOPE comes up a lot in these dollhouse vignettes. In this one, DOPE is chained to a tiny black crucifix. Could it be possible that Melgaard in this far corner of his privatest nesting makes a small memorial to a friend who died of an overdose? Meublomancy, or moving about pieces of furniture to make a statement of mood, or honor a memory, is something I have seen human beings do: I would not put it past him (I like that there are rocks in the room, that’s fun).

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And then there is the part of the nest where hobbying is done, odd behavior, usually involving some degrading craftwork, in which one gets carried away, and things go overboard. And that would be the doll houses. And then too what looks like an addition to the dollhouses, a little forest of trees made next door. In the dollhouse, are all sorts of curious little tableaux, room after room, moving wildly from silly to serious, from gentle to disrespectful, with surprising less obscenity than I might have hoped for. It’s fun. Since during SAHD days I got to making Halloween decorations with little stuffed Draculas and such, these I like, though Melgaard bloodies them for other reasons,

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At the same time, it would be a mistake to reduce all current manifestation of lore to Pop art, I have no doubt, from a quick perusal of this strange forest, that Melgaard believes in witchcraft, and has put up many a voodoo doll to ward them off (though that tiny picture on a table makes me think it’s him, and this might be mommy)

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One imagines, again in the fictive space of the exhibition as studio, that a great deal of time was idled away on this ritual behavior. This is the kind of worry work done to pass the time, to signal devotion, to subject oneself to a greater god or an obsession. It is the kind of little thing people get caught up in all the time. One would make a serious mistake to, again, categorize this behavior as ‘gay’ or as ‘psycho,’ or as ‘older mannish,’ as again I have seen examples of this kind of obsessive-compulsive ritualized behavior in all walks of life (in popular culture, however, it is clearly classified as psycho, a subject I have written extensively on Melgaard does risk self-stereotyping himself). It’s just that, very often Melgaard does some quite fun things with it, he makes of a ritualized non-art behavior, a semblance of art. (In truth the level on which most tableaux are imagined is still adult, Melgaard does not venture into the deeper turf that kids might, making tents and forts with the furniture, hiding in secret worlds).

And one of the special aspects of a nest is that eventually it succumbs to entropy, and to overddoneness. A space that starts out relatively spare will end up getting cluttered: a collection that begins in discrimination will end in overindulgent excess. Always happens. Worse, as, in real life, such nests are collected over the course of a long period of time, if, for example, one lives in one place for more than a decade, the present mind, preoccupied with the necessary little excitements of the current collectings, will forget, lose track of, lose control over and lose sight of past cultivations of things and collectibles, nesters are not good bureaucrats, living entirely in a guarded present, and the nest will begin to tumor with what I call “ghettos,” piles of junk and bags of stored items and heaps of this or that that just falls off the map, and becomes random clutter (however much I sought over the years to rid my space of ghettos, I never could quite entirely do so). There does come a time when careful arrangements, with meaning, degenerate, by the pressure of overdoneness, into garbage, and you cannot tell anymore if this is meaningful or meaningless, and Melgaard pushed it there too

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The evidence of overdoneness in an artist’s studio would be past works of art, now in or on the way to storage, and I see evidence of these here; and then pockets of collecting, or hobbying with collectibles, that then gets out of control and becomes obsessive. Melgaard has tried to create both these kinds of works, set, imaginarily, in different points in time, relative to the central lounging, today, in the couch areas. By being draped, he states that the stuffed pink panther ‘statues,’ playing the role here of jejune figurative decorative arts such as “Blackamoor” torch bearers or art deco statuary, above, have been there some time (in real life, they have not been, they were created as a part of an installation installed in a short period of time, but they are ‘staged’ to look like they have been there a longer time than the couches). And they even hold books to comment on their plight, heard of, haven’t read this one, probably should

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And then the ‘art’ on the walls of this studio, some of it may be ‘new’ art, and some of it may be ‘bad old art.’  I suspect that the ‘new’ art are the intriguing curtains. There are a few curtains, all of them activated by fans. Veiling was often used in the ancient world to keep the cult communication between art object and god just between cult and god: it was secret communication, not privy to all. Art as veiling, art as a curtain, suggests a similarly evasive cultic purpose (curtains themselves of course mean something, in movies, hiding behinds, or shower curtains; Mike Kelley made some use of curtains in Day is Done (2005)). This is art that screams, I don’t want to show that to you now: it says, in its very nature, I’m not ready to show this to you yet. It’s wonderful, how often I have heard that in a studio visit: and Melgaard has made of it, in physical residue of curtaining, blown by a breeze, a record of that evasion. I really liked these curtains, and will study them again (see background of above shot of Pink Panther on Pepto bottle).

And then there are a host of strangely framed, oddly surfaced, ‘portraits’ of the pink panther. The strange frames derive in recent art from Ashley Bickerton’s voodoo paintings, and what it states is that the portraits are in fact kind of contemporary classic portraits, icons, or cult figures, with a kind of thematic frame specific to the image.

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The fact that these works are hung salon style emphasizes that they look over a ‘public’ space and also that they have found a place in accommodation of changes coming in after them, they have been skied. The rocksalt surface has a cheap aura that makes them embarrassingly gaudy, in bad taste, but in neo expressionistic style, seems to provide a ground upon which different formulations of the appearance of the Pink Panther could be derived—which gives the drawing authority. This kind of ‘bad painting’ I have looked at for years (in the current Mike Kelley show I see that he made one-off paintings of this sort as properties for his installations and performances, so this background subordinated role for painting as part of the mix may derive ultimately from Kelley). In the temporal logic of this exhibition as studio, however, these sad things, almost in the manner of what in the 1990s was called abject art, are the kind of old work apologized for, that artists will say to you, if you spy it on the walls, off to the side, and ask, what’s this?, will say, oh I don’t do that anymore, I was experimenting, and so you are apologized away from them (and there is yet another kind of candicolored daub that seems even less exalted, but fun). If this is so, I have to hand it to Melgaard again: he has found another relational wrinkle to give an extra little twist to performative ritualized post-painting, and it is so true to a situation in the arts today that I again love it.

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Overall, what the fictive studio suggests is an artist who has become trapped and sunk deep down in his nest. His present life is being consumed by the entropy of his past life: the clothes and mess pile up, all the old art is hanging around, choking him, making him sick (thus the pepto?), his little hobbies have gotten totally out of control, and maybe now he is taking out his impatience at its obsession on it, turning against his own former passion. He’s, in short, a mess, but he still has hope: the nest needs a cleaning out, and an airing out, a purge (and maybe this exhibit is it). For all of this, Melgaard creates a very warm, friendly, true to life atmosphere, materializing the various relations in time and space that surround the consumer-in-present of the living person.

In the broader scheme of the triple space as a kind of shrine, however, this middle gallery, is the treasure chamber, filled with offerings, with tributes, with repeated ‘stabs’ at making art that lives up to his feelings for whatever is behind the last door, in the inner sanctum.

I went through this exhibit with my daughter: she is now 17, we had fun picking through the motifs and ideas of the dollhouse and its forest, I enjoyed the more arty side of things. But we went back and forth. When I stepped with her into the inner sanctum, I said, maybe I will view this alone. It is not that I think she does not know what a penis is. That is not possible after, what, third grade, in public school? But just not the sort of thing a father wants to tour with a daughter. Three large banners of gay porn stars brandishing their big members festoon the gallery (banners again, a Kelley thing, and curtained): turns out they are all stars who committed suicide, so that is a downer. And then the votives with fashion, and, indeed, when I came back out, I said to my daughter, forgetting the penises, “you might want to see the fashion work in the other room.” These works are situated closest to the inner sanctum, because he views them as being as close as he might get to his ideals. They are votives, but with an extra wish to be coverings placed on the icon or cult figure itself. They are works of art that want to be more than works of art: they are intensely idealistic, they, these canvases, are the ark of the convenant of Melgaard’s pact with himself to be his best in art through emulation of goddesses he adores. As works of art, they have a much denser, more intense feeling, than the Pink Panther images: and it is of interest that the Panther vanishes as you enter in: meaning that he was in fact a mascot of the cult, a guardian figure, a servant, a symbol for self, but not the object of the devotion—only an intercessionary art form, assisting Melgaard in maintaining the mood and drive required to get to one’s ideal.

How dense?: consider one large canvas, supporting an Eckhaus Latta pantsuit, hung on a hanger as an effigy on its face. The painting has an underlayer of abstraction, but, then, over that, a lattice of black figurative paint. The fact that in this layering figuration overrules abstraction makes Melgaard an expressionist, as seeing figures is a register of a higher level of fear. The black lattice of cartooning also hosts opportunities for seeing other faces: these either remain embedded in the mesh, or pop out, in the form of small auxilliary outlier canvases, attached to the whole. The lattice’s pervasiveness also signals persistence and heaviness, they have been with him a long time. In this case, there is one such physiognomy off to the lower left of the main canvas, to reinforce its power, and, more ominous, as a form of embodiment, suggesting that the pantsuit may not be enough to bring its wearer back, placed as the square head on the figure, re-embodying its wearer a second time, but this time as a rather unforgiving looking monster. The canvas is also intensified by collage elements, pictures, duct taped to the canvas, and then written passages, perhaps manifestos, likely mad letters, never sent, black taped to the canvas, each kind of tape intensifying the fixity of the conjuring, to make it more likely to happen. (Here, too, in a very stressful time, I went through a ‘duct tape’ phase, even duct taped over my wallet, so—I know).

I have written before of how contemporary painting is only comprehensible in the context of a broader field of imagery, derived from popular culture. The Mad Scrapbook is one of the most enduring symbols of a psycho, or at least of an artist under emotional duress: please, understand, do not dismiss these extraneous influences, as here, in this painting, is a classic example of a mad scrapbook, with all of its secret magical activities of reinforcement and intensification, right here in a canvas of contemporary painting. This is modern art, but ancient cult: and I classify this as a votive array, designed to keep whoever the lost subject of it is alive and living in the present with one, forever more. As a work of art, this is not that different from the mad scrapbook translated to wall mural I discerned in the lousy Japanese movie Sadako (see earlier note in my blog, August 2013)

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The same elements are included in another canvas, though perhaps the black suit kept as a votive here enticed Melgaard to be freer with the black lattice of figuration, suffice with one statement, attached with black tape, but then there are a few added auxiliary paintings, of apotropaic, animating, embodying purpose.

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Undoubtedly the main event, in terms of quality of art, in the inner sanctum, is a double canvas of a distinctly more cheerful cast, with a rich pattern of physiognomic figuration, derived from the auxiliary paintings (these seem executed by a simple method of suggestion with outline framing splotches of paint pressed down on until they either elicit a physiognomy, or remain abstract (the same borderline Carroll Dunham explores in his art). But here again, the suit is hung directly on the canvas, it is an effigy: given a head by auxiliary painting, it is further embodied, and made real to the observer. This canvas reveals its density by the fact that it comes with a few additional auxiliary faces, patrolling its perimeter. Also, its votive leavings are much denser and more intense: a series of bags, and photos, presumably of loves, pinups, whatever, of gay male nudes, sometimes scribbled on, and a dense interleaving of imagery throughout, a few extra pieces of clothing stuck in now and then, depending on how the emotions go. Again, in my reading, all of these painterly devices are magical applications designed, in the manner of ancient shrine cult, to bring the subject into presence, to embody him/her, if they don’t work, then they are intensified, then repeated, building up, made more dense, so that the maker of the shrine can be convinced of his power or possession of the lost object—and always with the sharks circling around (and how odd it is for a painter to characterize the wall a painting is hung on as having antipathy to the art, it is an element of Deleuze and Guattari paranoid space indeed). Because again this is in my view of mad scrapbook made 3D in painting, because it conveys the rules of operation of the magic universe of the frustrated nest, this is an authentic 21st century work of contemporary art, exemplifying a place in spirit where so many people now live, in our frightening world. I happen to think it is a very good work of contemporary art, I walked away from it thinking maybe I just saw a classic I will remember, like I still remember Kelley’s Arena from Metro Pictures in 1990

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This inner sanctum is also the room of fear and desire: the desire by a self-described middle-aged faggot (his word, I don’t see it to be exclusively about that) to be acknowledged for his devotion to Boone and others, or fashion in general, and his fear perhaps that because of his sexuality and his desire it might end badly for him after all (I can’t speak to the Norwegian aspect of the art, though, without striking me as particularly superstitious, I did date a Norwegian American once). It is not, after all, a very uplifting message: but, again, it is honest, for nests are made by souls in a state of perpetual worry that they will die too young, that their lives will become a tragedy, that they will not make it to their goal, and then all this art and this stuff (look around, they will say), so cherished by them, offerings in their cult of ideals to be a great artist or a great fashion designer or a great whatever, will be looked upon as ‘junk’ by outsiders, even their spouses, after they are gone, and forthwith delivered by the unfeeling world into the dumpster out on the street. Here, again, Melgaard is a very honest guy, there is very little posturing in his art, it is an unscripted, completely exposing confession of his deepest fears as an artist: and how ironic that he has made that his art, well, that sometimes does happen, but not by the artist himself. But Melgaard saves no face, and that is rare not only in art, but in human beings.

For all of this, I do not see Melgaard as a bad boy (but we do love our clichés), or as a pervert (because he plays with dolls), or a ‘gay artist,’ or as any of the labels those who know not the inner lives of artists want to pin on him, I see him as just a nice guy with some problems, who is just honest about the possibility that he may be a mess. He is one of the most honest artists I have seen in quite some time, I think this is the vibe that people are picking up in him. For that, not for his craziness (though Walter Robinson describes a completely different side of him at another exhibition I did not see and maybe do not care to see), I admit to have taken a liking to Bjarne Melgaard’s art, in any case, I liked this exhibition very much.

PS a completion of this treatment would require a full study of the iconology of the Pink Panther, and a careful room by room search-study of the dollhouse and the forest, do not have time for this now.

PS 2. The artist from the 1980s I remembered, who worked with lifesize, real fashion, I am sure Melgaard has no knowledge of, as she never achieved “fame,” but she did ask me to write a few words on her work, so I can give her a shout out in the context of It’s Been Done, that is, the idea of hanging clothes on art. Her name is Hedy Kleinman. I do not have an example of her work because I have not archived my essay of it yet.

Disclaimer: this POV-review is based on thoughts had during rounds, supported by theory, without consultation with the artist or the gallery. October 18, 2013

A visit to a fictive universe: the root of the art of Michael Day Jackson, Hauser and Wirth, October, 2013

Forthcoming, I will offer a review of Mike Kelley’s show at PS 1: it was enlightening for several reasons. But I will mention two points here, as, in reflection, they inform my response to Michael Day Jackson at Hauser and Wirth. First, the Mike Kelley that I know, the Mike Kelley of the New York art galleries, and his career as viewed in New York, is not the Mike Kelley that the curator of the show likes: she likes a different Mike Kelley, the California Performance Artist Mike Kelley. I don’t care for the California performance artist Mike Kelley, I like the Mike Kelley I saw at Metro Pictures and at the Whitney and in New York. In a show so big, showing 250 freaking works, that is how it is: it is no longer possible to like everything an artist does, you have to live with what you do not like, and work with what you do. You have to accept, in maturity, a partial, discrete view of what you get from him, and reject the rest.
Second, in the curatorial emphasis on the performance artist Mike Kelley, the exhibition attempted to invoke his performance installations and in that I learned some things. One saw that, from the first, Kelley was interested in gesamtkunstwerk, total works of art that filled up an entire space, so that it created a ‘fictive space’ for the performance to happen and make sense in. This set up often included drawings, and even, to my surprise, certain one-off types of painting, I will now call this genre of ‘bad painting,’ possibly invented by Kelley, since they called some objects “performative objects,” “performative painting,” painting in the background, as property, as set design, to reinforce something else going on in the performance. And I like, and was delighted to see, Kelley’s performative paintings, I will write a separate piece on them as I may think they might be a missing link in the prehistory or unwritten history of the origins of 1980s style ‘bad painting.’

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But both these points are relevant in reviewing Michael Day Jackson at Hauser and Wirth. I first acquainted myself with the show through the imposing press release, all the usual stuff about technique, and the virtual world of ether we live in, trying to make a case for him as another twist in the age of mechanical reproduction artists of the era. I did not like what I saw, or rather read. Then I go see the show, and was surprised.  Sure, there was still stuff I hated, but there was also some other work that I really liked. In former days, I might have tried to reconcile the two: no more, now I live with what I go for, and cast out what I reject. Nor will I be so dishonest to admit that I dislike the mega gallery: in fact, mega galleries remind me of kunstvereins or kunsthalls in Germany, and I liked their large public building posture, and that artists occupied used cultural space by creating ideas off of vibes of prior use. Hauser and Wirth has not created bigness for bigness sake, they have created a space big enough to host some of the developments of art space in the Euro or global context, so foreign to the fussy formalism of the American white cube (but I am not so anti white cube anymore either).

The stairs at Hauser and Wirth give the game away. Where would one ever enter a space on stairs like that: only in a public building? only at a museum, a theater, even at the opera. That I stopped to snap photos of my friends is a behavioral index, my body knew where it was, if my mind was resistant. I was on the steps of the Met, or of some other place.

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At present, I will say that these steps lead me into a theater, where space is fictive, where space shifts under one’s feet, where the white cube, apparently intact, has been suborned by a fictive purpose. I felt this, if did not articulate it, as we came in. On first encounter, we came up against the scholar’s rock reproduction that Jackson had made of the original in the lobby of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, you can read all about the how to in the press release. If I was meant to be put off by its unreality, as a copy, I was not. In such an encounter, in an uncertain, possibly event “touristic” space, everything is an experience, and, as such, real

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But then I spied on the upper wall, above the entrance, I think, an arm

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A severed arm (with bearded jaw attached), done in a rubbery way, clearly derived from the mannequin artists and their interests, in the 1990s (Kiki Smith, Charles Ray, the Chapman’s, Damien Hirst, a taste let into the art world, by the way, to use a simplistic rubric, by Mike Kelley himself, when he curated The Uncanny, at Sonsbeek, in 1993, the terrific catalog for it being a primer for the mannequin interests of the time, and that moment). This work, Hand to Mouth (2013), is subtitled After Naumann, a reference I at present don’t get: however, artists are always making references to other artists, it’s a kind of heuristic address that denies deeper meaning. As a motif in art, something hung up in the rafters like that, almost invisible, is rare. In the 19th century, a work that high up would be said to have been “skied,” in the salon, and such a skying was a humiliation for an artist. But it is also true that the salon style hanging, and the Italian quadreria style of hanging, meant that some works were skied: it is also possible that an aesthetic of not being looked at was cultivated as much as being looked at. This capacity of a work of art to not-be-looked-at is not something us tidy Americans like, our optical nerves always patrolling the boundary for dirty invasives, but the Euro mind is more lax about. For me, I immediately associated this with broader visual culture: a severed hand or arm, with an apparent life of its own, for it does seem to claw its way, is a zombie movie motif, commonly used, now made fun of; for it to come in over the transom, as it were, lends it a big bad wolf quality, that it comes from on high, and from out beyond the EXIT, also signals home invasion. What this odd piece, oddly place, signals is that something else is going on here: Jackson has his mainstream discourse, see the press release, but there are also other precincts of his thought, irreconcilable with, invasive of, his other discourses. While it would not seem to be healthy to have simultaneously in mind two discourses, the one attacking the other, my experience is this is also reality today: you may talk to people of things, but have a whole other host of things on one’s mind that they are just not interested in.

My sense that there was a separate discourse for distinct works going on, in a discrete arrangement of conflicting grounds under the exhibit, was verified by this work, Trophy (2013)

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On one level, this is classic mannequin art, and has a “history” now in contemporary art, and since I like that discourse, this is fine by me. But then: two things. Again, in the post-art culture-at-large world of the internet, it no longer suffices to interpret art through art world terms alone. Art has a foot in other cultural trends too. That the heads are arrayed sequentially relates them to any number of anatomical displays on shelves, used to make a genetic or racial point. So, as Blumenbach of Germany in 1820 devised his Five Races theory by setting the skull of a Caucasian (and he invented that name because he thought the Caucasians, i.e. the Circassian maids, were the most beautiful, therefore the most elemental people in the world), next to a Mongol (Asian) skull, and next to a Negroid (skull) etc.

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These nefarious displays passed as science, then passed into a pseudoscience with the Nazis. But they are a broad trope with a deep history, so much so that Mel Brooks could play with it to get a laugh in Young Frankenstein, as skulls six months dead, to six days dead, then morphs to freshly dead….Marty Feldman.

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So, skulls in a row: it signifies pseudoscience. Such things would be made only by a believer, and if in pseudoscience, that means an occult sort of mind. The fact that the walls of this one gallery are paneled, isolates it as a separate place, a different fictive ground. We are not in the white cube anymore: these cannot be appraised simply as formal works of art. They are storied works of art, with a deep genealogy (in the Foucauldian sense) in the history of the culture. In short, they are neo-conceptual art: art of concept framed with acknowledgement of the cultural migrations that brought the idea and object together here, as art. Even Kiki Smith got her start by arranging on pedestals lab jars of 12 bodily fluids, I reviewed that work, at Fawbush, I think, in 1990?, lined up just like this (a later shot from the Whitney).

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Having established that by arrangement and spatial presentation we have moved into a pseudo world, it becomes apparent that they are sequentially arranged, to represent a degeneration from face to skull, or, read the other way, a regeneration from skull to face. This is a sequential presentation of seven stages of skull and head growth, representing either degeneration or regeneration. This particular motif is common in gothic stories: and in its realistic form, was made the signature device of horror in the Hammer horror movies of the 1950s and 1960s, where by dissolve to different properties, the head of Dracula was shown to dissolve into dust, or, vice versa, dust or ash of Dracula, was shown to revivify into flesh.

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This is not real science, this is folklore: but prior to 1800 this in fact was science based on palinogenetic theory, that life can generate from miasma of the muck of nature. It was believed as science up until the middle of the 19th century, it served as the authority for supporting folklores of such occult generations. Since then, it has an afterlife in a genre of fiction, and, apparently, art. The fact that “we” don’t believe in it anymore, does not make it entirely unreal, culturally. As such, this work is a statement by Jackson that in his art he seeks to give form to his perceived generation from occult origins.

The punchline, as it were, of this piece, is the last “head” on the right: it is a stump of tree root. In this instance, then, this young man degenerates back to his origins, and they are vegetable, roots. While possibly simply a pun on “searching for your roots,” if one stays in the world of the pseudoscience in which these ideas occulty thrived, the fact that this figure degenerates into plant is meaningful, in a very occult way

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Leonardo da Vinci thought the world was a macrocosm of the microcosm of the body. He liked to compare veins and arteries and trees and roots. Archimboldo made this macro-microcosm occult idea into a literal image, in his physiognomic perceptions of allegorical root folk.

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It is also true that Da Vincian scientific theory spread, and, even when rejected, trickled down into folk beliefs. In the Rhineland valley, witchcraft thrived side by side with traditional herbal arts. Many woman harmlessly practicing the latter were burned for the former. Others practiced harmfully, and drifted into witchcraft. There was, however, it is fair to say, in mitteleuropa, a Rhineland voodoo, and that world was vegetable. The mandrake plant was the original voodoo doll of this Europe as the dark continent (and, in a kind of deconstructive-reconstructive reworking of Euro influence on my European Americaness, I more often than not see Europe today as USA East, and old Europe as the real “dark continent,” a land of witches and voodoo). The mandrake plant was the original voodoo doll of that world. This is because the mandrake roots were thought to look like a little human being.

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Actual museum examples of amulets made from them are shown in Lucinda Dixon’s
wonderful scholarship on Hieronymous Bosch, many of the nuances of his work
being undecipherable without such antique pharmaceutical knowledge.

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According to Dixon, mandrake was used by the monks of St. Anthony to soothe, if not cure, patients with ergot poisoning, got from eating rotten rye bread, or a St Anthony’s fire of hands, arms, legs and feet: a sensation of burning in the limbs. Sometimes a cloak would be soaked in mandrake to cool off the tortured burning souls. The mandrake unfortunately also caused fearsome hallucinations, and the monsters in Grunewald’s Isenheim altarpiece, experienced by the green man, a typical representation of the effects of ergot poisoning, are seen by those with it (I think that monster lower right is a root hallucinated as a monster). This from Isenheim,

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There is also a sensation of flying, which, using Feather and Tarr theory of treating
mental illness, show them images of hallucination to reestablish equilibrium
between inner and outer, Bosch made use of to soothe suffering viewers of his
healing arts (and Dixon shows where Bosch quotes mandrake too).

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I will also point out, perhaps to more precisely claim a gateway function for Jackson’s severed arm piece, that to advertise their abbey as an ergot hospital the kindly monks hung severed limbs on the front of the front door and gates, as votives of thanks, for suffering relieved. (This from Andree Hayum’s wonderful book, The Isenheim Altarpiece: God’s Medicine and the Painter’s Vision, the question being, if historical art was quasi-medical, why not contemporary?)

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But mandrake, while itself used medicinally, also had an occult life. The fact that it was born from the last ejaculate of a hanged man, meant that it had an unsteady vitality. (This idea has roots in Euro folklore going back to Roman times: apparently, just as the young who die are pissed off that they are dead, because they have so much life left in them, and so their souls angrily jump into any nearby body, to live again ( a variation of this was used in the Ju On movies, so it is all but universal traditional belief)—and this is why the Romans took such care to purify and exorcise soldiers who had fought in battles surrounded by dying young man, including having them circumambulate the city in apotropaic paths to have rose petals thrown on them, and possibly why even today we do less for our veterans than we might—but it was thought that if the hanged man was young then at his dying a burst of wasted youth would bounce out of him, and so that went into, in the form of his last ejaculate (I assume the hanged man’s pants were pulled down to expedite this posthumous insemination), a mandrake, and why, too, most curiously, pregnant women would gather round a hanging, to grab hold of the dead man in his last twitches (oddly, the Dinka tribe in the Sudan also initiated warriors by having them bite into the last twitching of a severed bull’s leg, in a custom going back, some say, to ancient Egypt, to give them a special vitality), to get that energy. So, the mandrake was a hanged man’s amulet, a repository of that special wasted vitality.

At the same time, for this reason, it could said that the mandrake was also a member of the race of the undead: a kind of coffin birth (as a plant born by the sperm of a dead man has some parallels to a baby posthumously born by propulsion by decomposing gas emissions from the uterus of dead mother).The Hand of Glory is a close cousin to the mandrake, as a talisman, but it is a severed hand of the dead, used in necromancy, to seek out the murderer, it is rare, however, in film, this from The Wicker Man

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It is rich, weird history.

By some means, Jackson has stumbled into it. (The means, I suggest, is just young-person anxiety about death, which is quite a different thing than older person anxiety about death (young person death anxiety also fueled post Sgt Pepper Beatles music), here is Me Dead at 39 (2013), a Native American style burial, up in the trees (which still relates)

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By making the last distillation of his series of head a root, he posits that he is, in descent, a mandrake being, a vegetable person (and then this goes off into a whole other occult field). Then, across the chamber (for it is now a chamber, not a gallery), there is a series of tall vitrines, carrying in them strange bodies. The first one, looks like a Frankenstein figure (Muscles, 2013)

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This is almost a direct visual quote from popular culture (the release says the Bodies exhibit, but also, again, Kiki Smith), but again in particular the scientifically minded early Hammer Frankenstein movies, I am thinking in particularly here of Revenge of Frankenstein, where, watching them, as a kid, I wondered, where’s the Frankenstein? as they were so scientifically-minded indeed.

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But this one by Jackson is made of mud, or earth, or mineral, he is not flesh,
here: he is some sort of magical/metaphorical being (a voodoo doll could of
course be made of earth held together by spittle). In the next chamber, Jackson
has actually (inadvertently) suspended, in full figure, a mandrake being,
representing the veinous system in a metaphorical DaVincian way by roots
(Veins, 2013)

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This links the Frankenstein story and occult or alchemical theory: as, indeed, historically, it was, Mary Shelley taking the story from the historical lore of a 17th German alchemist, whose name escapes me at the moment. But he would be more likely to have used earth, plant and spit, than electricity, in making his monster. This is the mandrake, then, nominated as the ur-form of Frankenstein, a kind of ur-Euro vegetable people, pre-modern, folkloric, grounded in herbal lore, and a belief in living in harmony with nature. I commented on it as such on my FB page, as a work of art, I love it and will file it in my memory bank alongside of Hirst’s fish tanks (in my particular brand of neopaganism, this is all but an instant icon). Again, occult theory believed that vegetable beings preceded animal beings, and that too is why there are some vegetable beings, and shelllike architecture in Bosch too, for he was a believer. Setting the sequence in motion, the plant being then grows cartilage and bone, approaching the human (Nerves, 2013: these titles suggest Jackson may support this work in a simple mechanistic model)

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And then from leafage, grows skin. This loose skin, while not entirely clear in my mind, reminded me of St Bartholomew, skinned as a martyr, holding his skin in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment, (and, I found out later, it is called Bartholomew (2013))

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We humans, it says, are just a rubber cover over vegetation: perhaps it is time to go back. The fact that Michelangelo, in a gesture not yet entirely explained to my satisfaction, decided to do a self-portrait of himself on that shed skin held by the skinned saint, inspired me to honor the theory and the origin of the theory in a pre-modern Euro land, and take a selfie in the folds of the skin being set in like a slipcover over plant life

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(And what should I call this selfie, extracted from a Jackson?  “Reflections on my Great Great Great Great Great Great Grandfather Hans who was probably one of those ignorant superstitious peasants like you see in Frankenstein movies so who do I think I am?” (2013))

One of my companions pointed out that each vitrine had a star chamber above: and that too would make perfect sense as Cornelius Agrippa, the once-shunned alchemist who in the last 40 years has gathered a lot of attention to him, combined vegetable medicine (which, by the way, lead to modern medicine) with star magic, to insist that any spell, to work, had to be said under such and such a constellation, at such and such a time, so that it was astrologically charged, so these are quite thoroughly thought through works of art (this is a bit too coincidental not to have meaning)

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So it is all there: in this fictive chamber, Jackson had enlisted mannequin art, but gone beyond the 1993 popular-culture based discourse of the Uncanny, and gone beyond Hirstian medical nihilism, to explore the root of the interest in body systems in the mandrake-alchemical-occult-magic history of premodern Europe. One suspects that such art can only come alive in the temporal-spatial context of a “culture” of interest in these issues, in time as well as space, and the culture in which it stands is one part art world, some part popular gothic fiction and movies, some part historical fiction, and some part real occult history, including Bosch and Grunewald. Because I happen to, from time to time, wander down these paths, to seek out a redemptive salvage for my German roots (my mother was a Schmitz, we emigrated from Trier in 1848, the same year Karl Marx left town), beneath and before the collapse of Germany into the Nazi nightmare, I value any art which raises such very difficult cultural issues. It is unclear to me why this same genealogy would be of interest to Jackson: perhaps he harbors notions of roots suspended on the discredited hyphen in the 19th century derivation of the Anglo-Saxon (in fact, Daniel Sykes’ DNA studies have determined that, in DNA, there is no such thing as an Anglo-Saxon, or rather that less than 5% of the English people are Anglo-Saxon), generally, he strikes me as a typical modern mechanical technocrat, as 99% of us are, but, in any case, how could I not like a work that addressed issues that for the most part I have to keep hidden and nurse in the bottom of my brain lest others think I am engaged in some sort of regressive search for Robert Bly Wildman roots in the past. The press release does not reference any such themes, talking its artspeak on materials and “themes,” but I require specifics.

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(Jackson’s system theory of the body, in fact, sounds like a modernday throwback to occult layer theory, so its OK).

But my point is, this work stands alone, it is discrete: then, the severed arm-jaw on the wall above, entering the main gallery, indicates: those ideas can only enter the main gallery through sinister means, but they may in time repair.

And then the rest of the exhibition (except for more Hirst-like Kiefer-like links to the root idea as here (I just like any art having to do with trees and roots, it’s a “thing” of mine, can’t help it, this a “detail” from Study Collection, 2013)

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was of little interest to me. I viewed all of the wall works as adjunct to the main event a reproduction of the Burghers of Calais set to walking circles on the moon (Magnificent Desolation, 2013). I did not review them as art, because, thanks to Kelley, I see them as “performative paintings,” that is, properties, in a larger context, creators of setting, to ta-da to the main event, in the middle of the gallery: they set the stage, they defer, they probably don’t look like much alone. I don’t review them.

Since I was put in an occult frame of mind by the other work, I mentioned maybe the Burghers on the moon was an arty way to refer to the notion that the moon walks were faked by Stanley Kubrick. Maybe that was a reference to the total conspiracy theory fictional world that so many people, in the age of internet, are now free to live in (heck, 40% of Americans are still convinced that Obama is Muslim). Or maybe this is what France looks like, from the bottom of a Rhineland mandrake root. In any case, I left it, I don’t review it, I’d seen enough: like in a museum, I pass on by. And that is how it works with the mega galleries (or mini museums, if you will): you take or leave, you pick and choose. You review according to the trail an interest creates in the mind, in a space large enough to accommodate diverse trails, and leave go any other issues you are not into. This is the only way to save yourself from the ever shallower world of surface meaning that the internet is creating for us (a vast wading pool exactly two feet deep which now stretches over the whole planet). In a flight from this shallowness, maybe a new avant garde will be made? (if the world is all a wiki now, then true self exists only deep in the “proprietary” internet behind a firewall of “friends”?). In this approach, which I term relational-physiological, I reject the kind of categorical-holistic art-business-oriented (who cares about the art business, really?) approach which reviews the whole show as a sign of value, the kind of tacit formalism, for example, Jerry Saltz made use of to incidentally trash the show because he is worried about megagalleries (though on another level, I totally agree with him). Yeah, I hated it too–but part of it, I really liked, and I really liked it for—very particular reasons. That is how the world is now, in 2013 A.D.: the art world better get used to it.

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Disclaimer: this “review” written based on thoughts I had during rounds, without subsequent research to vet or align my thoughts with what the artist was thinking, to make sure I was “right”. For that reason, this is a POVview, not a “professional” i.e. market-oriented review. That comes later. October 17, 2013.

 

The five stages of falling into art: some thoughts on the white cube and the homepage

In recent thoughts, thinking about structure, and life in the polymorph, I have posited that though humans live in waking life, it is not so waking anymore. Most of us, in one way or another, now sleepwalk. This we do by participating ritualistically in the seasons of our own particular specialized field or world. In a dream, there are five stages between laying your head on your pillow, and falling asleep. I have gone through these. There is the static, which represents your eyes closed, the entoptic field of floaters, on which surface, you may impress thoughts of the day, and worry about this and that. In this state, you are still awake.

Then at some point the static takes on a deeper character. It drops down some, and in it your mind is filled with odd half awake half asleep thoughts, characterized by a rational-like marking, with sigils, and symbols, and codes, and letters, but which are in fact irrational. I call this the glass onion, as in its lettering or symbolizing, it is slowly peeling away the last resistances of wakefulness, mimicking thinking, but undermining it, and this ushers you down to the next phase.

In the third face, things like this reach a bottom out, or a plateau point, in any case, they become dense, the flickering discursiveness of the glass onion is replaced by a stilled, single lattice, which overcasts your mind, and hangs there, sometimes for some time, ominously, it is as if you are being held down, and forced to calm yourself, to prepare for your journey. I have experienced many a strange hypnagogic state in which an image lattices over the inside of eye scope and just hangs there, ominously, for some time.

And then, fourth, is the pinch, this is when the space activates again, only now it pinches, it pulls you down, it draws you in, like water down a drain, and in this concentration, and movement, you are at least carried down the drain to sleep. This is the wormhole phase.

And so, five, is the breakthrough, when you are no longer conscious, there is no trace of consciousness, and the dreaming brain takes over and you are in dream. Deep REM sleep.

In terms of entering the art world, it is clear that the purpose of a field or world around art is linked to priming the viewer for reception. The art world exists in the world, and the world is static. Any entry into the art world however brings with it a regularity of seeing things, and visual style, and a ritual, annually enacted, repeatedly, and so you get in a rhythm, and it kind of prepares you for art, for ‘falling asleep’ in art. This is the static TV of the art world. There is also a static TV field stage for the fashion world, and any other world, all with their little rituals that lift you away from the everyday.

And then, below that, is the glass onion. This consists of the sigils and symbols, the abstracted ways of communicating, the half language and half image. It occurs to me now, and this is a major breakthrough for me, as I have protested the persistence of the white cube for 20 years, that is the job of the white cube to act as the static which then acts as the stage on which conceptual art related pieces can behave in the form of abbreviated consciousness, in the language of the glass onion.
And then when at last you zero in on one gallery, then that installation serves as the lattice, which stops everything without, and makes you being to almost dream the particular art. It just hangs there.

And then there is the wormhole pinch. Well, the pinch occurs in art when you ‘fall into it’ and experience it in a way that is self-reflecting and makes a point on you, to make you think differently about things. It is rare the art that can pinch you toward sleep
Finally, true art is the waking equivalent of falling asleep, of dreaming, it is when you are going with it, in its world, and letting it flow over you, effortlessly, with no reason of one’s own.

The last two stages of the imposition of this model over the art world are at present a bit tenuous. But the first elements, these are insights worth consideration. Any review, from this point of view, should ‘fall asleep’ with the art, and follow the process of falling asleep. In terms of agency, this progression results in the agency of the self being compromised by an artist and then submitting oneself entirely to the world of the artist, to let them for a time be the creative spirit that motivates the world (as dream itself is apparently self-generating, without effort). In this regard, too, truly successful art is a return to childhood in that by abdication to an artist to momentarily or for a time control and create the world you submit yourself to him/her and thus relieve yourself of the pressure of having to plan and act in the world, you can just play, so it is like that.

According to this model, rounds, the routines and rituals of the art world, are as important to the process of seeing and knowing contemporary art as the artwork themselves. If you do not belong to the art world, it is unlikely you will participate in its rythms of ritual, if you do not submit yourself to the static of the white cube repeatedly represented to you, it is unlikely you will be able to communicate in that half dreamy semaphore heuristic that the art world has devised for this type of communication. If you cannot read the code of the glass onion, no key will be found to cause it to cease, a hang there as a lattice. And then there will be no pinch, and no submission to dream in art.

Thus a full oneirographic review of art demands mention of the field trends, the gallery as part of other galleries, the gallery itself, contact with the code, the appraisal of the glass onion, the compression or stilling in a lattice, the hanging there of the lattice, the arrival and experience of the pinch, and then the falling down into a dream, and complete submission to it, understood without understanding.

This takes then from my Uecker review (see previous), a sequence, sequentially reported on, as I go through. My reviews have to take this form. I GO THROUGH, and in doing so, I FALL ASLEEP in art and dream it.

It also occurs to me that the internet, seeing things online, accentuates, then blunts, this process. Because there is a visual likeness between the average internet page, the spray of google search pages and google image pages, a tumblr tumble, and a gallery, it may be that the internet per se presents itself as a substitute field that replaces but in a short changed way the ritual aspect of the art. Then, there is a decided emphasis on the white cube. You tend to see more of the static, and are forced then, by this foregrounding typical of photographs, to decipher the meaning, or see it only as a code. Since the images stay at that level, as “installation views,” this tends to arrest perception at the level of the glass onion. It is rare when things zero in in detail on a particular work, and let you lattice in it, to arrive at a place of lower gravity. I have noted that perhaps in compensation for this sense of lacking, I tend to exert a retrogressive force against virtual images and want them to be real. I want the picture to be a picture of real thing, and so for Marc Quinn at Venice even though I knew his statue was inflatable to accommodate easier shipping in the real world, seeing it online I wanted it to be stone, and even though I know that it is inflated, I look at an image of it, and I see it still as stone. The same thing happens with Rudolph Stingels piece at the Palazzo Grassi. I read that it was all photocopy, but for all that I still reviewed it as if it was all real carpet. I wanted it to be real carpet, because I was mentally compensating for its lack of presence. Odd. So, then it is extremely aware that presentation of art online can let one at least fall to sleep with the art. Online represents insomnia, something about it never allows you to fall into the work. This surfacing, this refusal to shut up the thoughts of the day, this superficiality, accounts for the fact that art as conceptualized in galleries does not register too well as art online, but that a new sort of art has surfaced to accommodate the weakness of the online presentation, what I call Wow Art. Wow art is pop art, but formatted with freakishness and oddness and wowness designed to get it a click, in the jungle of internet image bombardment. A gallery work of art will not do, except as part of a code in the glass onion. To create a facsimilie of falling asleep art on the surface of the glass onion, wow art accomodates with freakshow wonders.

The intermedial relations of Pop Art were newspapers, magazines, TV, movies, radio, billboards and advertising over all. The intermedial relations of Post Pop art were still those, and then specialization and niches of all, including cable tv, MTV, the demise of the newspaper, the proliferation of magazines, the collapse of network TV etc.

Wow Art is the art of the intermedial relations superceded by the internet, all of the above gradually being gobbled up by the internet, newspapers, magazines, tv, radio, billboards, advertising, plus other internet-special forms like feeds and the like. In this new intermedial climate, a new kind of art is needed. The main problem with the internet right now is that it lacks a sense of field, and feels disjunt, its glass onion is perpetual, and ongoing, but then constantly interfered with by advertising. Also, since the computer grew up in a previous intermedial age as a personal tool the attempt by the public media to impose advertising on it seems to compromise a sense of entitlement to personal and private that is part of the internet culture. Finally, the internet, while there are deep proprietary places, becomes increasingly fixated on traffic, and, in doing so, is glutting with redundancy, getting stuffed with patch writing mill writing, endlessly superficial, and a flattening and shallowing out that actually cuts it off from art, arresting us forever with an insomnia in the static of every day life.