The newest episode of Bad at Sports, a podcast about contemporary art, is an interview with Jim Elkins about this past summer’s Stone Summer Theory Institute. Elkins, professor at the School of the Art Institute in Art History, Theory and Criticism and also in Visual and Critical Studies (my department), organizes the Theory Institute, a yearly conference that seeks to bring together theorists, critics, students, and etc to have conversations, every summer for the past 4 years.
I participated in this year’s seminar: Beyond the Aesthetic and the Anti-aesthetic, so listening to his interview is an interesting re-cap and experience for me. This summer’s conference explored the tension between the modernist idea of the aesthetic and the postmodern notion of the anti-aesthetic, a term coined by Hal Foster for his edited volume The Anti-Aesthetic written and edited in 1983 that has influenced many artists working since the 80s and today.
The interview is an interesting discussion of what happened at the seminar, contemporary art practices, and the possibilities of what’s to come. Also, to give myself some credit, Elkins discusses the youtube videos that I suggested we watch during one of the seminars: Double Rainbow and the parody Doublicious…
To listen to the podcast, click here to visit the Bad At Sports site to download it.
I am intrigued by Mona Hatoum‘s work – a Palestinian born in Lebanon artist who now lives and works in London and Berlin. Much of her work is very centered on the body and she has used her own body to create works. Two that I really love are Corps étranger (1994) and Deep Throat (1996). These installations made use of endoscopy – a medical procedure that uses an endoscope, a camera, to investigate the insides of the body.
Deep Throat exposes us to the innerworkings of the digestive tract. Deep Throat’s installation is a clean and proper place setting with the endoscopic video projected on a white plate.
(image found on NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2006/07/07/arts/07inou_CA0.html)
Corps étranger takes us on a journey of the surface and innards of the body. Corps étranger‘s installation is a large, white cylindrical structure that the viewer can enter. Inside the structure are the video projections. This installation plays with notions of exteriority and interiority through the video the viewer can watch and also the experience of moving in and out of the installation.
(image found on blog Contemporary Textile Practice Thoughts: http://ctpthoughts.blogspot.com/)
(image found on the blog Art Icono: http://phomul.canalblog.com/archives/2005/02/22/396249.html)
I went to Green Lantern Gallery this afternoon for the final day of David Moré’s exhibition Normal Bias. For the exhibition he was offering to make portraits of gallery visitors and passersby. Though, he was not drawing or painting these portraits, he was making them in sound.
I entered the gallery and he was in there. I told him that I had come for my portrait sitting. He told me, like for any other portrait, to sit in a chair that he had placed in the gallery. He told me that he was going to play for 7 minutes: 3.5 minutes per side of the tape he was recording on to. Then, he pushed record and started to play.
The chair that I was sitting in for my portrait was in a corner of the space and all of his “idiosyncratic and unconventional instruments” (to quote from the exhibition catalogue) surrounded me as an installation. He first started playing what seemed like a copper wire running along the length of one wall connected to a styrofoam box and some coils with a bow. It sounded not too unlike what a bow instrument, like a cello, would, but with a different quality. He then moved to a cymbal placed atop another styrofoam box, but before sitting down, shuffled a spring across the floor that rolled towards me and stopped right at my feet. He put his keys in the cymbal and started to play it with his bow while manipulating the angle of the cymbal. The sound started to get really big. The sound, not quite a drone, mesmerized me and I started to drift into another place – but then the tape stopped – side A had filled up.
For side B, he switched to a a dj stand looking set-up that had some electronic equipment. He started to play and then came out from behind and moved a speaker on the floor out from underneath a slinky hanging from a speaker contraption. He went back to playing. The speaker on the floor started to vibrate and something inside it started to dance, jumping with every vibration: it was cinnamon. I watched the cinnamon fountain up out of the speaker and then recede. I could smell it becoming stronger. Then, I closed me eyes and listened. I was using all senses: I could smell the cinnamon and almost taste it; my body was reverberating with the sound; I was listening fully to the instruments; I could watch Moré perform with the instruments and their movement. Side B then ended and so did my session. He gave me the tape to take with me.
So much of what I loved about this performance was the fully body experience. The portrait made for me was an embodied portrait, not a purely visual likeness of me. I wonder what to do with the tape now. If I played it for someone who could not see me, would they be able to tell what I looked like? Would hearing it provide an embodied experience of me, one that is not just optical?
I’ve found a few interesting lectures coming up as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival on art and the body in some form or another. One is on Rembrandt’s painting The Anatomy Lesson of Nicolaes Tulp – a painting that I have been interested in and have read on – to check this one out click here. Another is called “Beauty and Variation” and is about the body’s various manifestations and experiences because of them – to check this one out click here. Another is on the changing representations of the body in art, specifically focusing in this lecture on drawing – to check this one out click here.
There is also a panel discussion on Hollywood representations of disability – another area that I have been researching – to check this one out click here.
I’m also excited about the performance GIMP that brings together “a troupe of dancers with an array of bodies, abilities, and disabilities.” To check this one out click here.
Most of these events are either free (especially for students!) or have a small fee. Sign up for these great events!
painting by Riva Lehrer
An excerpt from Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment (1790) from Section 59: “Of beauty as the symbol of morality.”
(1) The beautiful pleases immediately (but only in reflective intuition, not like morality, in its concept). (2) It pleases apart from any interest (the morally good is indeed necessarily bound up with any interest, though not with one which precedes the judgment upon the satisfaction, but with one which is first produced by it). (3) The freedom of the imagination (and therefore the sensibility of our faculty) is represented in judging the beautiful as harmonious with the conformity to law of the understanding (in the moral judgment the freedom of the will is thought as the harmony of the latter with itself, according to universal laws of reason). (4) The subjective principle in judging the beautiful is represented as universal, i.e., as valid for every man, though not cognizable through any universal concept. (The objective principle of morality is also expounded as universal, i.e., for every subject and for every action of the same subject, and thus as cognizable by means of a universal concept). Hence the moral judgment is not susceptible of definite constitutive principles, but is possible only by grounding its maxims on these in their universality.
A reference to this analogy is usual even with the common understanding [of men], and we often describe beautiful objects of nature or art by names that seem to put a moral appreciation at their basis. We call buildings or trees majestic and magnificent, landscapes laughing and gay; even colors are called innocent, modest, tender, because they excite sensations which have something analogous to the consciousness of the state of mind brought about by moral judgments.
In this excerpt, we see beauty and morality bound up together. How can, does, or has this link affected our perception of anomalous bodies? Are those that are “ugly” immoral? It is important to flesh out this link between appearance and inherent good. Isn’t there a reason for the saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover”? It seems now that this now often used phrase, which apparently appeared in the 1940s, carries with it profound claims about beauty and morality. This phrase seems to work against Kant, or so it would appear.
So, what of us with anomalous bodies? How are we to be judged? Aesthetically? Morally? Conceptually?
I went to The Menagerie at the International Museum of Surgical Science last night put together by Death By Design, Co. So, here are a few pics!
Jeff is a zebra!
I have peacock feathers on my face!
And I saw two installations in the contemporary galleries there – part of the Anatomy in the Gallery series.
Carolyn Bernstein’s, Yew Tree Project
And, some discoveries!