Re: [-empyre-] Lonely Planet Art : abstraction, metadata, place

dear David and -empyreans-

This is such a wonderful close reading of two terrific bodies of work, Andrea Geyer's "Spiral Lands" on the Navajo/Ute/Hopi/Zuni tribal lands in what is now southwest US; and  David Aradeon's 'Movement of  
>Forms, Antecedents of Afro-Brazilian Spaces'.  I also loved these two scenarios and explored them slowly, letting them unfold; in Spiral I almost found that I could take in the work best by actually videoing it, like creating a film out of some very densely layered stills and subtitles.  Surely each artist (Aradeon and Geyer) took pains to set up a complete sort of 'study hall' around a certain sense of place.  This seemed intensely beautiful to me in the sense that Elaine Scarry writes about:  beauty as a greeting, a greeting that calls you into a dynamic relationship with it, causing you to desire to replicate it in your own mind and hands, and of which replication, your own life is called into account, into reflection, into an engaged response.  

Indeed David puts it just so:  "I'd like to propose that this abstraction is not the  
>curator's job, but the artist's. Schmidt demonstrates this, and the  
>best work in this context, like Aradeon's, shows that artists can do  
>it very well."


>There's been discussion here already about the lack of metadata. While  
>I agree that national categories are not the main issue, I still  
>haven't heard any compelling reason for omitting such info, especially  
>when the origins of the works are so geo-spatially random, and  
>especially when place has provided such a vital and rich theme for  
>conceptual work. Perhaps it's unsurprising then, that some of the most  
>engrossing works were locative; one felt no lack of metadata since the  
>data itself was geographic - such as Andrea Geyer's 'Spiral Lands',  
>comprising documentation (ethnography, landscape photography,  
>social/oral history, legal critique and personal memoir), really an  
>extensive psychogeography of a site subject to land claims by Native  
>Americans. On one panel she reproduced an American Indian Theory of  
>'Justice as Indigenism', an 8-step plan written in the conditional  
>voice, rather than as demands, giving the work a nice hypothetical or  
>speculative bent. Geyer also provided metadata, publishing a printed  
>magazine of extensive footnotes from her research.
>The real stand-out in this category was David Aradeon's 'Movement of  
>Forms, Antecedents of Afro-Brazilian Spaces' (2007). This work charts  
>some crossings of West African slave cultures with those of Latin  
>America (particularly Brazilian), an itinerary now well enough trodden  
>by anthropologists, ethnomusicologists, artists and even popularised  
>by mainstream documentarists. (Notwithstanding the attribution worries  
>voiced here by Lucio,) it's refreshing and enlightening to see this  
>intercontinental story told in a non-linear and non-anthropocentric  
>language. Instead, in these photographs the figures and trappings of  
>worship, or celebration, or architectural tropes, play and communicate  
>with distant correspondants. The horizontal vitrine sets up an  
>ethnological sort of viewing; small informative details give somehow  
>ample political context to these migrations of forms borrowed,  
>exchanged, transplanted - a planned revolt in Bahia in the 19th  
>Century, for instance, inspiring the repatriation of "dangerous  
>Africans" including Muslims from Benin and Nigeria. The formal  
>groupings suggest sproutings off in other directions - a colonial  
>faÃade crumbles to reveal the (presumably) indigenous (mud)  
>architecture over which it had been rendered; its Portuguese-style  
>detailing - and the juxtaposition ? reminds me of the old town centre  
>of Phuket (Thailand).
>Aradeon shows how very rich history can be without didactic forms of  
>hard data. Like a history of ideas that floats above black-letter  
>history, his histories of forms move across time and space with a  
>rhythm of their own. There is no sentimental synthesis or conclusion  
>to these visual correspondences, nor capitulation to the fantasy of  
>some immemorial fraternity. In the foreground is the movement of  
>correspondence itself, each sequence an index of the valency and  
>adaptability of cultural forms. While the individual syllables of  
>Aradeon's visual language are documentary, his phrases are more like   
>life-for-an-interested-observer than any attempted mimetic record. It  
>occurs to me that the supposedly 'representational' ideal is what  
>nation-states already do with their demography, cultural marketing,  
>etc; and that the curators, in seeking to liberate the art from (and  
>deny) these national frameworks, are in fact performing a kind of  
>abstraction thereof - an abstraction of place - since the work all  
>emerges from some locative reality or other. (Again, it needn't be  
>defined nationally, but could be ethnic, religious, diasporic,  
>whatever.) I'd like to propose that this abstraction is not the  
>curator's job, but the artist's. Schmidt demonstrates this, and the  
>best work in this context, like Aradeon's, shows that artists can do  
>it very well.
>Dr David Teh
>Independent Curator/Writer/Teacher
>Bangkok, Thailand
>m. +66 (0)84 673 7178
>w. |
>empyre forum


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