[-empyre-] Onomasticities

Michael Angelo Tata, PhD mtata at ipublishingllc.com
Thu Jan 14 10:59:54 EST 2010

Hi, Johanna et al!
First off, I must say that I enjoyed David’s re-branding post immensely.  In particular, the trope of re-branding is absolutely loaded—especially within the context of Business Art and the fraught relationship between art and advertising.  I know that Johanna is quite interested in the history of the graphic arts, and, from my firsthand experience as a writer for various NYC ad agencies, can testify to the critical connection between (re)branding and Creative Departments, where graphic artists, writers and creative directors oversee the presentation and perfection of concepts to the public.  Here, the wild, varied orthographies of Dada and Surrealism become so many Banners, newsletters and billboards, Breton and company achieving a complicity with a future throwaway culture in which Kiki of Montparnasse sells violins, and where Rrose Sélavy’s perfume bottles are the hit of Bloomingdales.  
Within this context, the word ‘concept’ looms large, calling to mind first and foremost the Hegelian identification of the idea as realized concept.  For me, this notion recalls the realized concepts of Conceptual art, the one art form which has filtered through this dialogue as the place where theory and praxis meet, however dissonantly (although, here, the idea is not so much an ideal, in the Hegelian sense, but is more of what results when concept confronts world/reality through irruptive event).  Everything from Hans Haacke’s Shapolsky et al to those fab Jenny Holzer diodes quietly assaulting slot machine junkies and high-hair mafia princesses at Las Vegas’ McCarran airport in the 80s as they retrieve pink suitcases from the baggage claim.  And then, of course, there is the perennial and pervasive use of the word in ad agencies, which are largely concept-driven, even when we see them via Darren Stevens on Bewitched.  Here, ‘concept’ is both noun and verb, something one develops and the very act of development or conception itself.  “How are you concepting that?” is a question that still makes me laugh when I hear it, the same response I emit to the use of ‘party’ as an action verb by Eddie Murphy or others (“My girl wants to party all the time, party all the time, party all the time…”).  
But the concept is very much at stake for all of us on this forum, whether we are Sally Jane’s Over-identification Squad, or a Donald Judd box humming purple notes in the corner.  Of all aesthetic movements, it is conceptual art which works the hardest to expose complicities—Chris Burden’s excavation of La La Land’s MOCA is a paradigmatic instance.  And yet it is also the zone of the conceptual where important complicities flower in their own right, so many of them social, sexual —the marriage of Jeff Koons to La Cicciolina, or the relationship between Björk and Mathew Barney.  The work these connections have created truly amazes me, all those racy photos of La Cicciolina with her glass dildoes, and the potential work that Matthew and Björk will perform with fauns, satyrs, and Cremasters if, unlike the Koons, they make it.

Michael Angelo Tata, PhD  347.776.1931-USA


Date: Tue, 12 Jan 2010 03:36:05 -0800
From: david.chirot at gmail.com
To: empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 62, Issue 13

I don't really think of what i am questioning as being part of a "moral conscience" per se--i think of it as a looking into the functions and functioning of language, which might include also a language which is in itself a form of silence.

An area which i have been writing about in the last couple of years more and more is that of the Literature of the No. This involves several writers and several examples of methods and "appearances" of the No. These are unwritten works which in themselves refuse to be written, while creating a space which nonetheless exists as a an area in which the writings while unwritten have effects in their own of writing--this is just one aspect--

In a sense, i am concerned, interested in a way with the call to the spaces of art which claim with some degree actually, paradoxically, to a morality, of a moral nature--to not be concerned with being the moral conscience of a culture-- 

The political analogy is not necessarily silence at all, but on the contrary, a continuing functioning of writing which claims to a certain form of "moral high ground" as/for art in that it is in a sense "above" such questions--
What interests me are the questions which Pierre Vidal-Naquet raises re language and other issues within a culture's existence which are effected by the practice of torture (in his case)--when it is practised by a society as it is now by the American society.  How has this affected the language itself?--What do the contradictions between what a culture purports to be for itself and what it actually does open up as spaces of various kinds of silence and writing?

What spaces do they open up for forms of invisibility of the most visible events,actions language uses, while at the same time how are other areas made suddenly more visible in order to lessen the visibility of others, and how do these in turn effect the ways the language is used not only towards the events themselves, but towards a continually spreading "cancer" which a society makes invisible to itself in order to focus on other areas which it assumes are 'distant" from the "diseased areas."

These questions are not necessarily "moral;" they pertain as much to human psychology --and how humans use language to function psychologically when facing various events, actions, questions--

For example, one may examine language uses in terms of constructing denials, or in constructing refusals--and from there, asking oneself what are some of the differences among these--?

Art has always had, i think, quite a wide area of its activities taking place in areas in which it has had nothing to do with the moral conscience of a society at all. I think in the last few decades, the question of "the ethical" has been one which as introduced "moral conscience" under a different set of names, words; again this has been area long open to writing, literature, culture--both of questioning the ethical and of in turn shifting this aspect of writing again into other terms which are those considered to be "in our time," whatever time that might be.

In a paradoxical way, I have often found that writers, cultural workers, who most often call for art, or areas of art,  not to be a moral conscience, have just as many sets of ethical concerns as any other, and to pass as many judgments as any other--

That ethical concern may appear very much as the area which Joanna points to--even the words "being tasked with being the moral conscience of a culture" may also be an expression of a form of ethics, morality, simply saying, that perhaps one need be "tasked" with an alternative "for a change," although the predominate mode today in the US is already really one of this nature. In large part, it might be the attitude in which the most "power" of a kind today resides--

I am not interested in "tasking" art to be a moral conscience; what i am interested in simply is asking as many questions possible and learning of as many exaaples of possible, of the ways in which language functions in the society i live in at present, in the situation in which it exists at present--

I also very much am interested in spaces which are not "tasked" in the sense that all too often from al too many differerent directions, each with varying degrees of power in varying institutions, one is being tasked to function, think, act, behave, write make art--in short, to live--in a much wider wider variety of ways than one is aware of, so many of them rendered invisible by opacities which in turn demand transparences--and transparencies which are created to enforce opacities--

One of the first things noticed as a child for myself was that language and actions are often essayed to be forced to correspond when in fact most of the time they do not--the lives of language and the lives of persons are very often at variance--in order to make them appear to correspond--how are language and action used to make it at least appear so?  Or, if they not appear so, how to justify this--and so on and on and on--inolving all manner of subtractions and additions, appearances, disappearnces misinformations disinformation rebranding all the techniques involved in the study of what Jacques Ellul calls "Propagandes" (singular in the English translation of his classic work on the subject--)

For, at what level are not many of the uses of language not variations on "propagandes"--

The question of an Outside, the question of the No, of disappearance-all are questions which find one as quickly as one finds them, by "chance" or-vocation--or any way which questions choose to "arise"--via reading Mallarme for example alongside yet another book on the JFK assasination and its myriad conspiracies, solutions, coincidences--and then turning to say Maykovky's How are verse made?--poetries which erupt out of the most peculiar places . . .asking questions, all of them--

On Mon, Jan 11, 2010 at 5:12 PM, Johanna Drucker <drucker at gseis.ucla.edu> wrote:


Much different. I agree.

I do want to make a space for art that is not tasked with being the
moral conscience of the culture too.


On Jan 11, 2010, at 4:09 PM, John Haber wrote:

> The analogy to rebranding is very interesting indeed, in an excellent
> post.  Let me ask more about it, though.  Now, to me it's only an
> analogy, and of course whatever venting we may wish to have about
> torture and Israeli policy aren't instantly illuminating regarding art
> except as a kind of red flag.  (Hey, there's injustice in the
> world, so
> don't let it happen in this realm.)  Indeed, it could actually
> disguise
> the problem, by suggesting distinct realms after all, which the whole
> problematic of complicity in art is supposed to question.  Thus, my
> question would be this:  if the political analogy is silence, then
> does
> that open possibilities for art, in which making visible is part of
> the
> game?  Now, I realize that acknowledging something, as argued well,
> doesn't make it go away.  But it's still different from silence.
> John
> _______________________________________________
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> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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