The line between assimilation and artistic freedom.

Homogenizing. It’s already happening. Genres and styles are beginning to blend and appropriate one another. So do we fight homogenization? It sounds dirty. Homogenize. It sounds like emasculated countries are forced to conform to the ideals of the emasculator, but, perhaps these cultural blends aren’t always as violent and dangerous as one would think.

I grew up in the western world. I am a kid from a small town in Iowa. I live in a country that is and has been considered a driving world power for years. Even as I write this I am sitting in a room that was built on land that was once cultivated by the natives who lived here. America is pretty bad at allowing culture to be preserved. We are the assimilators. My countries culture has been forced on the culture’s of many.

 

but art tho…

While I’d like to say, “tell America to fuck off with their assimilation bullshit.” Perhaps there are artists from other parts of the world who truly dig a specific technique that is employed only in American art. What is exchange and what is appropriation? What is artistic freedom, and what is assimilation? Where are these lines?

 

I want to know!

Globalization… beware

 

The art world is expanding says Robin Cembalest. In a video titled the globalization of Art, Cembalest discusses the increase in biennials. She claims that, now, there are so many biennials that no one can go to them all, and if you do, it’s because it is your job: “go to all the biennials.” This is wonderful. There is much to gain from this globalization. Many countries that were once considered out of the  art loop are able to gain recognition on a global scale. Artists from Pakistan and other countries that were once ignored have their shot at the gallery, but there must be some sacrifice… right? What are some of the problems that are making their way out of the woodwork because of this globalization.

 

Critics haven’t changed, so, artists are pressured to.

Cembalest suggests that there is a pressure that exists at biennials. Artists interested in making a deal are often influenced into changing their art so it can be viewed in a gallery. More and more at theses biennials, artists are changing their work in order to cut a deal.

 

Enforcing a national identity.

At the end of the ARTnews video Robin Cembalest is asked what parts of ther world should American’s be paying attention to right now. She responds, “everyone is watching China, and everyone is watching India.” The question makes me feel strange. What parts of the world should we be watching? Perhaps nationalism is being enforced through biennials. While attempting to construct a global conciousness, we are telling ourselves that art from place to place is different. While each country has its own unique history, I think, more and more, Artists are being influenced by one another through the internet to create borderless and art. Art that all can interpret regardless of cultural or national identity. In the Postmodern (if this era is not, in fact, dead) we are becoming aware of realativity and circumstance. Ethics is circumstancial. Religion is circumstancial. Governments are realative. Authority is relative. Our grasp of reality is even considered to be a relative construct. In this age of transglobal relativitey, artists seem to be stressing individual interpretation over derived intent. If we do away with national identity in art, perhaps we can begin to truly understand one another as global citizens.

 

This post is not meant to instruct artists how to make art. This post is only attempting to grasp the sacrifices that are made at biennials and how to respond to this new state of globalization. I do not wish that all art look the same. I do not wish to enforce national identity through art. I just want art. Excess of it. And I want artists to feel free. I don’t want artists to change there work in order to try to appeal to art critics. Perhaps soon these problems will fade, but it appears that doors only open when others are closed… whatever that means… here’s the video:

http://bigthink.com/videos/the-globalization-of-art

Takashi Murakami and the Superflat

While I never watched much anime when I was young, many of my friends did. In fact, a few of my friends obsessed over it. When they were over, they would tell me of the stories that they had seen on the tube. Many of them stayed up late to watch Toonami on Cartoon network where they would be able to catch a half hour of Dragon Ball Z. As they grew older, they fell away from the genre. I, on the other hand, have started to grow fonder to the artform. I am not alone either. There are many American young adults and adults who study and critique anime and manga.

The anime fanbase intrigues me. Somehow Anime and Manga’s demographic isn’t exactly specific. Adults and children both can get together and bond over Dragonball or Princess Mononoke. Why is this?

Takashi Murakami, a prominent Japanese graphic artist delves into the infantilization of characters in Japanese art in his art series titled “Little Boy” where he employs his classic Superflat aesthetic– the aesthetic he gave name to in his Superflat manifesto. An artblogger on the web blog Post Bubble Culture explains this aesthetic and movement in his blog  titled “Pop Psychosis” He explains that Murakami’s artwork suggests Japanese anime and manga’s cute ‘kawaii’ style is a result of WWII. The country of Japan was completely emasculated after WWII by the laws that the United States had put in place. Many died in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Tokyo after the United States bombings. Murakami suggests that anime and kawaii imagery is a result of the escapist mentality that followed the war.

In his work, Murakami paints mushroom clouds with cute kawaii styled eyes. The internet blogger asks his readers if this style could be misinterpreted by a western audience. If so does it help or hinder Superflat arts statement about WWII?

While Murakami’s art is executed in a cute style, I am drawn closer to it because of its depictions of war. It gives me an eerie feeling that I cannot shake. I mean look:

Is this not terrifying? Everything about it is sharp. Even the colors are vibrant, bold, and in your face. What do you think? Is the Superflat aesthetic’s confrontation with WWII problematic? Could this be passed off as simply a formalist work, or are transglobal audiences pulled into inquiry because of the Superflat aesthetics contradictory cutsie and violent nature?

Questions for Nicholas Bourriaud

Before I can begin to understand Nicholas Bourriaud’s definition of Altermodernism, I must have a few questions answered:

Q: If Post-modernism is dead, when did it die and what should be written on its epitaph?

“What is postmodernism?” This notorious question has been dodged by students and artists alike for decades. David Foster Wallace avoided this question at all costs, and he is, arguably the epitome of postmodern authors. When did this become an easier question to answer? If it still cannot be answered, how can we be so damn sure that a new period of art exists? There seems to be a pretty clear shift from Modernism into Postmodernism. The rise of mass media seemed to usher in the era of relative truth, yet still, it appears that when anyone asks the question, what is postmodernism, everyone shrugs and says “no fair.” If this period is dead, define it in a phrase. What can we write on its tombstone?

 

Q: Can Altermodernism fit within the realm of the Postmodern?

It appears to me that we don’t even need the label Altermodernism. In his comic Nicholas Bourriaud defines Altermodernism as art on a Trans-global scale. Is this art anything more than this: transglobal? Why claim that Postmodernism is dead? Transglobal art is aware of relative experience is it not? What is fundamentally different in their two MO’s? Please I would really love to know?

 

Q: Why not Metamodernism?

In an article written by Seth Abramson of the Huffingtonpost he very clearly defines the difference between Postmodernism and what he believes to be Meta. In this article he stresses the necessary components of Postmodernism and why we are moving in a different direction. He claims the age of the internet is making way to this new era of rejecting distance. If Postmodernism was about the distance between irony and sincerity, cynicism and naivete, then Metamodernism collapses these distances. Artists create art on a global scale in order to create positive change in world communities.

Q: I find the argument for Metamodernism more compelling. Can you open my eyes? 

It’s hard for me to believe another modernist manifesto can be written without discussing the internet! The internet has changed EVERYTHING. It has affected everything from popular culture to social discourse. We have apps like tinder that allow us to meet strangers we are sexually attracted to. Uber is crushing taxi drivers everywhere. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are United States presidential candidates. I refuse to believe that the art that is being created today is not influenced by the transglobal monster that is the internet! Not until someone can explain it to me.

Nicholas. I want to believe. Please… please…

 

Link to Metamodernist ponderings from huffpost: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/seth-abramson/metamodernism-the-basics_b_5973184.html

Revisions to AP Art History

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A fairly recent article in The Atlantic caught my eye for its relevance to our course. The governing body of the AP Exams, the College Board, is revising its curriculum to be inclusive and globally focused. I’m sure you guys remember the AP exams fondly…Anyhow, the board invited a group of art historians to narrow down the comprehensive history of art around the world to a list of 250 works. Of the 250, according to board,

Roughly 65 percent of the course content is still art considered within the Western tradition. Now, 35 percent—around 87 artworks—come from “other artistic traditions.”

Is 35% too much, too little, just right? This is, of course, highly debatable, but as indicated by the choice of words, “other artistic traditions,” the selection of what these “other” artistic traditions are may be as revealing as their percentages of representation.

The article does a nice job of giving context to AP board’s revisions. The art world, especially museums – arbiters of taste and “good” art – are notoriously white at the staffing level. A whopping 79% of those who self-identify as “curators” are white non-hispanic. The articles also discusses both historical (Gorilla Girls!) and more recent efforts of institutions toward diversifying themselves in areas of exhibition, acquisition and staffing. One particular interesting example is Denver Art Museum’s upcoming exhibition, “Women of Abstract Expressionism.” In our class we’ve been guilty of referring to Abstract Expressionism as monolithic entity comprised of iconic white artists whose established standards for art has unwittingly excluded the varied expressions of other groups of artists for subsequent generations. It’s important to remember that seemingly stable histories, especially those that we anchor our critique on, can also be more complex than we think.

One last point that I want to focus on is the AP’s decision to continuously change the curriculum of 250 works so that the list is up-to-date with our shifting cultural values. This makes me reflect on the purpose and longevity of artistic canons, and by extension, the longevity of a course like ours. We’ll suppose that this curricular change is successful and that passing AP students will gain proficiency in these works. If more and more high school graduates are entering college with an expanded notion of art history, would we be preaching to the choir with courses such as ours?

Questions to ponder and to respond to in the comments section:

What are the benefits and drawbacks of establishing a core of 250 works for ALL students in the country?

I recall that some of you have taken AP Art History in high school. How was your experience?

For everyone: would these changes significantly impact your understanding of art going into college? Would you have even made different decisions about where to go to college and what classes you took in college?

 

Kung Fu – Motion Videos

Similar to Jayna’s post, I was also looking at one of my favorite art blogs Colossal. I found a video titled “The Physics of Kung Fu Brought to Life Through Motion Capture Visualizations” by Tobias Gremmler. This first caught my interest due to the curiosity I have in the Chinese martial art. In class we talked about visual art being created in Eastern countries but we never really talked about the hundreds of fighting styles that show up in artists 2D work. Gremmler was able to capture this art form in an entirely new light through motion sequence shots. There are various animations the artists uses to turn the movement into structure and closer look at the physics of kung fu.

After watching the video I started to look at the lines created by the motion of the kung fu and how similar they looked to ink. (You might be rolling your eyes saying “just because this is a video about a Chinese martial art does not mean we should associate it with ink”). But seriously during the first half of the video, the colors created in the video the dark blacks and whites and the seemingly brush stroke quality of each motion leads me to think this. I researched the artist, Tobias Gremmler and there is not much information on him. He is a German artist but has studied and given lectures/workshops in Hong Kong, China. This specific video was commissioned by International Guoshu Association for an Kung Fu exhibition, initiated by Hing Chao. The exhibition focuses on the legacy of Hakka martial arts in Hong Kong. The Kung Fu Masters whose motions has been captured are: Master Wong Yiu Kau (Variation 1-3) and Master Li Shek Lin (Variation 3,4).

The image above on the left was included on his website but the interpenetration on the side was in German, but that looks like a classic ink gesture drawing to me. The image on the right is of a still from the video showing the gestured strokes through the HD camera. These similarities are striking to me. I wonder if the artist was intentional about making the video look like ink paintings because of the depiction of the art form. Could we have put this video in our gallery along with Zheng Chongbin? This artists is not Chinese or actually using ink at all does that matter?

Social Media Helps Boost the Arts, But at What Cost?

Writer Stephanie Mlot talks about the impact that social media has on art in the modern day. She starts with “it could be argued that social media is the next great form of art” this is a pretty stunning statement, to me at least. I do not agree with this claim, as she brings up the example of instagram and it’s impact. It is really hard for me to see instagram or other social networks as an art form. Do you think instagram, twitter, pinterest… are art forms?

I can definitely see instagram as a place to show art, but it is not art itself. Although I do agree that the Internet and social media have changed the way art organizations stage performances, showcase exhibits, engage audiences, sell tickets, and raise funds. Although many changes have been made due to technological advances, most art organizations believe technology is “very important” to their organization, it’s even making art a more participatory experience. Many of these organizations have embraced social media and have begun using their tools to promote work. Although set-backs do follow this progress. Unfiltered public criticism is a big issue because it is so hard to filter out all the criticism in such an open and free form of communication.

I really can’t decide whether social media and the internet are good or bad. I can’t help but think of Ai weiwei and his frequent use of twitter. When he began to use twitter to get info the public needed to know out into the open,  was a huge step for him as an artist/activist. Ai weiwei uses twitter a lot and from what I’ve seen it’s been for good. Content is unlimited on the internet, people post, share, tweet, retweet all kinds of art daily and this has created an unrealistic expectation for many art organizations. It has created the expectation of free digital content. In my opinion, and from what I picked up in this article, the internet and social media is great for aspiring artists, and bad for organizations associated with the art world.

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2413832,00.asp

 

A Throw of the Dice

In response to “a throw of the dice”, the author commented on the gambles that artists take in order to either gain some acclaim, and sometimes that they can go as far to damage their reputation as a living and working artist. This means going to far on a concept that might bring them some backlash or pursuing an idea that might simply be too bizarre for the public. At any rate, the artist must do something to stick out from the rest, to keep their work interesting and appealing. This can really drive their process forward. On the flip side of the coin, there are critics that can also do things that might be irrational or say things that go beyond our understanding and not have quite the same repercussions. The critics can speak out against some work and say negative comments towards it without quite as much backlash. What the author in this article suggests is that critics can unrightfully make a claim against someone’s work, and have it be not quite as big of a gamble to their own reputation.

The author dives into how this is directly related into what the artist Sarah Meyohas is working with in her art. A body of work she is currently working on is titled “AMEN Properties, Inc. on January 19, 2016” where she uses the stock market to making thin black lines from oil on a canvas. The work is approached minimally and by chance. It is through the gambles that we take with our own money that dictate the visual nature of these works.

I suppose so it goes with a lot of our own work, art and life in general. It is a gamble and we have to be willing to take those risks to move beyond our own knowing. We must do challenge what has already been placed before us and do something different, something exciting, whatever that may be. However, there is a draw back to doing such things. We know at the end of the day we need a place to live, clothes to wear and food to eat. This is accomplished through the means of money. The whole world as we know it currently is a system fueled on the distribution and exchange of some type of currency. Money plays such a huge part in within our capitalist society. This can be problematic, however, because it makes even our creative mindsets attune to the notion of money. We are working towards getting the work criticized so that the work can gain attention and things can be sold. I would propose that this is not a solution that will drive an art movement forward, and certainly not artistic experimentation. Let’s throw the die, but not worry so much as to where it lands.