[-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 62, Issue 4

Gerry Coulter gcoulter at ubishops.ca
Sat Jan 9 04:33:43 EST 2010

I think what we want art to do does not matter. Art will do what it wants. When we speak of "wanting art to do something" it probably is not an artist speaking. If it is, it is probably a frustrated one. Papers write us and paintings paint us as surely as the television watches us and the book reads us.

Its nice when art is viral though...



From: empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au] On Behalf Of Johanna Drucker [drucker at gseis.ucla.edu]
Sent: January 8, 2010 8:27 AM
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 62, Issue 4


These comments, and Cynthia's statement "What do we want art to DO?" seem really to the point.

John Haber:
 However, these approaches, like indeed good old
irony, describe how art by its nature slips out from its apparent or
intended closed structures.  That describes what went wrong, but also
offers grounds for admiration and hope.

David Heckman:
To fold this back into a discussion of art, I think art can help us introduce the interval back into daily life.  It doesn't necessarily tell us what to do with that interval, but it reminds us that there can and should be interruptions in what otherwise might be a monotonous, automatic flow of life.  Even the various "movements" are primarily concerned thinking about the various aspects of work (the concept, the process, the materials, the product, the thinking about art, etc).   As "art" (artifice), art implies a tension with those things that aren't art (the What-would-have-happened-if-you-hadn't-made-art-or-hadn't-made-it-in-this-way).

I have a question for John, re the nice succinct and useful summary of the history of the 1970s and postmodern critical turns. I share your sense that the 1970s were a crucial turning point, they even self-identified that way with the adoption of postmodern as the rubric (I date postmodern art criticism pretty much from the Pictures Exhibition, the writings of Douglas Crimp, Craig Owens, and others). But the term in play in that era was "contingency" -- a way to resituate artworks within their various networks of signs, power relations, politics, meanings, poststructuralist "play" etc. This was all extremely useful -- especially realizing that in my experience, at least, art theory in the 1970s was still being taught as a version of Greenberg (!) unquestioned, at least in art school (I was at CCAC from 1970-73). But I don't think the word complicit was ever used in those contexts -- the theoretical discussion arose so much from the poststructuralist reworking of signs through the Derridian différance and so on -- and of course the really important feminist theory, queer studies, post-colonial discourses -- all of which thoroughly dismantled autonomy (and "purity" -- though these are not synonymous). So I'm curious to know if anyone can cite a use of the term complicit in 1970s or 1980s literature? I'd really like to know.

Thanks, again, for all these rich and fascinating and wonderfully varied posts.

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