Saturday, May 12, 2012

The WASP: Make Art (part II)

The ethics of accessibility are wrapped up in the intersection of two facts – art, at its highest echelons, greatest, happens within a system; and art is popular and meaningful to everyone when given over to its most natural state, mediated to achieve universality.

Art within a system. It is esoteric. Or "What I admire most about Paul McCarthy." Difficult. Scatological. Squeezing ketchup like a child, and tossing about in a tub. He is, in fact, riffing off of extremely popular tools – video, street life, pornography.

Somehow McCarthy always strikes me as the ultimate “operator,” the Cal Arts professor, the deliberate charlatan. It’s important for me because the phrase, “Art happens with a system” were notes I took from a Swiss catalog from a brilliant exhibition entitled Lost Paradise. The Angel's Gaze.

The Angel’s Gaze (Juri Steiner). The catalog created or well “curated” a brilliant exhibition inspired by Paul Klee’s Angelus Novelus and the related Walter Benjamin essay written about the Klee work, about the “new angel,” looking ever backward at the horrors of history.

A Klee painting named «Angelus Novus» shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one perceives the angel of history. His face is towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
-  Walter Benjamin

McCarthy’s work for the exhibition was an oversized pile of what appeared to be fresh dog excrement.  It made the papers!:

Complex Shit, a giant inflatable dog turd, escaped from its moorings at the Zentrum Paul Klee last week and brought down a power line and broke a window before landing on the grounds of a children’s home 200 meters away, the Guardian reports. Although the unintended flight happened on July 31, details emerged only yesterday.

On the other hand Juri Steiner’s “art discourse happens with a system…” is nested, nested beautifully, within a broader rubric so well articulated in Lynne Conner in her writing about the history of performance and coupled within a must-read in our field Tepper’s Engaging Art: The Next Great Transformation of America's Cultural Life

The hierarchical idea of arts reception in which great art will automatically find its audience without mediation of any kind is behaviorally inaccurate… - Lynne Conner

Somehow, at some point, class and practice in America shifted art away from popular forms of reception. For the sake of propriety, people started to applaud. To applaud to keep them from participating. To contain heckling. To proscribe. To make quiet. In fact, to make certain people feel less welcome if they could not follow protocols.

Imagine Shakespeare. The Globe? Imagine The Doors...

...Imagine Duccio’s Maestà without popular reception? Without its first and foremost being paraded through the streets of Siena -- from the studio to the cathedral -- and before its eventual scattering to the western winds of distributed collections?


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