tom moody

Archive for the ‘art as criticism’ Category

reptilian oculus

The new, alien-spaceship transit hub at the World Trade Center is called "the Oculus." The classical oculus dome is rounded in shape and has a human-like "pupil" opening at the top to admit light. The WTC's oculus has a long, narrow slit opening, kind of like a crocodile's eye. Given all the suppositions about 9/11, conspiracies, and possible reptilian influence, this is a bit spooky. Is the starchitect Santiago Calatrava ... one of them?

reptilian_eye_watercolor_by_neilrabi-500

oculus500

images from the internet

- tom moody

April 16th, 2016 at 7:47 pm

Posted in art as criticism

NYC, where the inaction is

Joe Milutis, in his book Failure, a Writer's Life, asks a very qood question. Why is NYC still a place for recognition/validation of immaterial experiments that could theoretically happen anywhere? Let's let Milutis ask it:

No, I must ignore Darger and Kuchar in order to take on bigger game: the psychic space of New York City itself. Paradoxically for a city with no evident need of such, it has helped turn the world‘s attention to non-figurative atmospheres and other unprofitable immaterialities. Its literary and art worlds are premiere generators of virtual work, but it has also served as a brick-and-mortar filter that has compromised what could be an atmospherically, even cosmically expansive virtual canon. If for [William Carlos] Williams, “the local in a full sense is the freeing agency of all thought, in that it is everywhere accessible to all,“ and if, with the Internet, every “local“ is now suffused with the knowledge and activity that was once only constrained to the metropoles, why is it that New York City remains one of the best places to get recognition for one‘s unliterary ambience mapping, situationist periplum plumbing, and virtual world any-place-whatevering? Is this where the “inaction“ is? Even Robert Smithson, who celebrated his hometown Passaic as the new eternal city and explored the distinctly anonymous pleasures of the non-site in the most far flung nowheresvilles, always needed to set out from Port Authority. Is failure determined by one‘s failure to connect with the machinations of such an urban authority (as with [Marcia] Nardi) or is one more failed when one does not create new literary capital in alternative centers, hopefully where the rent is cheaper (as did Williams)? Why assert a center of cultural or uncultural capital when, owing to the virtual powers of the Internet, the center does not hold?

As a painter I always felt I needed to be here because people required physical proof of the paintings. Am sure many galleries have been dismayed when that work from LA that looked so good in jpegs was finally uncrated, Whereas, if the artist lived in the metro area, the gallery could say, "get out of here, wannabe." Now, after taking the trouble to move back here again (20 years ago), and doing other things besides just painting, I don't want to leave. It means something if the resident tastemakers don't get your work here, whereas it didn't matter if it sailed over the head of some small-pond doyen(ne). You want a certain critical mass to judge your failures (and successes). There's also the possibility that some young turk critic will enjoy challenging the resident tastemakers, whereas the leadership changes more slowly in a smaller scene. As for alternative centers, it should be remembered that Donald Judd swung a mighty compass in NY before putting Marfa on the map. But, yeah, at the end of the day, I'd say force of habit plays a large role in NY's hegemony, and the city doesn't deserve to have a culture since it's more interested these days in providing pieds-à-terre for foreign kleptocrats.

- tom moody

January 1st, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Posted in art as criticism

Joe Milutis on dump.fm as failed writing

Am about halfway through Joe Milutis' book, Failure, a Writer's Life, which treats the subject of failed literature or non-literature. As in, the necessity and difficulties of adducing a theory for the vast amount of productive writing that falls outside the narrow spectrum of literature: cranks and obsessives such as Charles Fort, real-life versions of Borges' Funes the Memorious, database-compilers on and offline, etc.
I would add J.G. Ballard's favorite non-literature: office memoranda. Also books by authors who have lost and never regained publishers after being hyped as "towering talents for our age." (Several good science fiction authors fall in that category.)
Occasionally the analysis crosses over into failed art or non-art (visual as opposed to writing). Clement Greenberg once noted that we don't have a theory for failed art. Would rather read about someone like Francis Picabia, who was considered a great Dadaist who then produced decades of terrible paintings (until those terrible paintings were reassessed -- and the jury's still out) than Milutis' example of Ryan Trecartin, who, although a terrible artist, is considered a smashing success by every contemporary curator you could name.
Our interests intersect with Milutis' analysis of dump.fm [I made a pdf excerpt -- hope that's OK]. Dump is half-art, half-writing, all "failed" or "non-". The same curators who can talk you to death about Trecartin's carnivalesque inversion of blah-blah are deathly silent about Dump. Words simply fail them.
Milutis rolls up his sleeves and does the work and gets it about 85% right. An excerpt:

Dump.fm, a continuous stream of user-created or repurposed web junk, is based on the premise of “talking with images”: one can, for example, take the url of one participant‘s post, and immediately splice it with another url, with an eye to immediate commerce with images, the surprise combination, or the visual pun, rather than image-authorship strictly conceived. It is isomorphic with Flarf, in that the hastily recontextualized and modified gifs and jpgs, exchanged in a real-time semianonymous community, tend towards the cute, the cloying, the un-P.C., the “not O.K.” Yet because it is a free-floating environment, rather than a stand-alone net art “object,” it has developed in ways that complexify any notion of coherent approaches and specific ontological properties, accommodating methods and uses that do not fit under the rubric of a manifesto. [wikipedia flarf link added]

And another:

Nevertheless, in their embrace of real-time, spontaneous discourse with digital junk, Dump.fm users espouse an ambiguous relation to the enforced scarcities of the art world. On the one hand, because Dump.fm values spontaneous participation but also because, for better or for worse, it much of the time gets taken over as a teenage chat rumpus room, there is little patience with work that attempts to be too crafty, or that doesn‘t deal with bottom-barrel internet grotesques for freak-show gawking, or that seems to come from anyone over twenty with any art world cred. One racks up more “likes” in the dump rating system if the dump is a quick turn-over of another dump, rather than something painstakingly composed in Photoshop or AfterEffects: more cred for projectile than for project. There‘s a whole “genre” of dump participant who rarely, if ever, composes or recomposes images, but instead merely posts asignifying snaps from his or her webcam, exerting casual presence as a dump star, as if trying to win the slow bicycle race of artistic inactivity and unambition.

And:

Like the chat function, the webcam functions as a territorializing machine within this more deterritorialized space. That is, the webcam has an indexical function—the presence of the person behind the camera cannot easily be faked; and because no one looks over twenty-one, the frequent use of webcam stills forces unstated rules about who can participate and how. Similarly, the use or overuse of the chat function—sometimes overriding the site's raison d'être of “talking with images” for long stretches of time—tends to create boundaries, subgroups, and rivalries that would not be as evident or easy to maintain if the commerce were merely with recycled web-junk.

Milutis over-rates dump's art world connections. Am flattered to be described as a "participating éminence gris" but at this point dump does more for me than vice versa. Ditto Ryder Ripps, who rarely participates anymore in his own creation. As noted above, the part of the art world that could valorize dump through writing and analysis has been busy with far easier subjects.

- tom moody

December 29th, 2015 at 11:24 am

Posted in art as criticism

dis explained

Artforum covered DIS Magazine last year and gushed:

What DIS had discovered -- but what much of the art world still didn’t know -- was that exclusivity had become obsolete. “Cool” wasn’t cool -- the old downtown underground had lost its appeal. The goal was no longer to subvert the mainstream, but to refashion it in subversion’s own image. To be sure, DIS’s impact was more to rebrand cool rather than to actually obliterate social and aesthetic hierarchies, but its rebranding was not without worldly consequence. On the heels of a downtown era defined by Ryan McGinley’s vampire sidekicks and Purple’s aging pornographers, the culture propelled by DIS and affiliated parties like GHE20G0TH1K felt like a life-affirming, gender-fluid, multiracial utopia -- the legatee, in some ways, of earlier art-music-nightlife moments, from disco to the Club Kids, but filtered through the Internet era’s more expansive potential for commingling.

In the article, Artforum reprinted a photo of the DIS staff, posing as annoying hipsters, barefoot and wearing beige casualwear.
On the present blog, this self-aware (yet somehow utopian?) image was paired yesterday with a photo of people riding a conferencebike. Sincere-sincere downscale corporate culture meets fake-sincere, with fake-sincere (yet somehow utopian) coming out rather the worst for the comparison, I thought.
In the chat that follows, dis explainer (name changed to protect the innocent) accuses this blog of not getting that DIS is playing double-head-fake, 6th dimensional taste chess. Read and learn:

dis explainer that dis photo had me dying
tommoody that was in artforum!
tommoody at least online
dis explainer which part
tommoody it was an essay about Dis
dis explainer with those 2 images next to each other?
tommoody no just the Dis staff
dis explainer oh yeah
dis explainer well that's an old photo
dis explainer from like 2010
dis explainer old hat
tommoody i don't care if it's old - it's still stupid
dis explainer i think it's self aware [explanations of irony mechanics omitted for brevity]

Artforum describes DIS as a "magazine" (obviously with an "art" component) and recites its "origin myth":

In late 2009, a year after the crash, a group of friends working in various corners of New York’s culture industry saw their freelance work dry up. Suddenly, they had a lot of time on their hands, and the idea emerged through an email chain to start a digital magazine. “It was an interesting moment,” Lauren Boyle told me in a recent interview. “People were still afraid of tweeting too much! At that time, DAZED, ID, Interview—they weren’t picking up the people we were interested in. We started organizing the community a little bit.”

Lauren and her partner, Marco Roso, an artist who sidelined in advertising, would host big evening meetings at their house on Hooper Street in South Williamsburg. The meetings would mist into parties, and the parties would morph into photo shoots. Eventually, the meetings/parties/shoots were whittled down to a core group of seven, including, in addition to Roso and Boyle: Solomon Chase, who had been doing fashion styling for print and TV; David Toro, a research assistant and art handler; Nick Scholl, a web developer who for years served as the magazine’s webmaster; Patrik Sandberg, a writer; and Samuel Adrian Massey III, a product developer.

Four of the founding editors had attended art school and had chosen to live in New York City over pursuing traditional art careers. “If I had wanted to paint,” said Boyle, “I would have gone to Philadelphia or Baltimore or Berlin.” Roso, who was a bit older and had an established art practice, moved to New York from Spain after spending eight years burning through various artist residencies. “When I lived in Europe, my life was just linked to grants—one grant after another. You hit a point where you go through all the grants.” Not that Roso thought artists in America were much better off—they were dependent on the gallery system. In New York, though, you could find freelance work in fashion or advertising while pursuing art on the side.

The editors decided to organize as an LLC rather than as a nonprofit because they didn’t want to rely on donors or grant-giving bodies. Instead, they nursed the dream that some day their magazine would make money.

So it's barefoot-people-but-not-really running a magazine-but-not-really. People could have differing ideals for how an arty quasi-magazine should present itself, however. Back to the chat with dis explainer (redacted for brevity):

tommoody you can't do barefoot and say it's a joke
dis explainer joke isn't the right word
tommoody i like when magazine staffs were ugly people behind the scenes
tommoody journalists didn't make themselves part of the story
tommoody indulge in narcissism
dis explainer dis magazine was never about journalism, or even blogging.
tommoody i thought it was a magazine
tommoody with stories, etc
dis explainer it's a magazine in the same way saturday night live is a tv show
tommoody mad magazine's staff called themselves "the usual gang of idiots"
dis explainer it's more a culture, a group of people making shit.. an evolving collective
tommoody yeah but barefoot and beige clothes --- YUCK
tommoody it's not funny
tommoody and it was written about in Artforum
dis explainer so because u think barefoot is dumb or gauche or something that means...?
dis explainer that artforum shouldn't write about it
tommoody artforum anoints their hokey statement as "art"
dis explainer so what?
tommoody so i paired it with a conferencebike
tommoody i prefer the conference bike as a goofy corporate statement
dis explainer because i thought the pairing was a lighthearted commentary making fun of when satirizing corny consumer culture gets serious.. not a vitriolic debasement of "taste".. something which you of all people should know really is a fluid thing
tommoody "a lighthearted commentary making fun of when satirizing corny consumer culture gets serious" - that sounds right
tommoody but at the expense of Dis, too
dis explainer so don't become a dick about it saying who deserves what based on the fact u dont like something as trite as pastels
tommoody i'm not being a dick by disliking the Dis schtick
tommoody i have that right

Update: minor corrections to who-said-what

- tom moody

December 18th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Posted in art as criticism

managementspeak lesson 002

Photo0042

"We are working to build a whole new way to bank" (photo of sign in lobby). Translation:

"We're giving up half our Manhattan storefront space because we can make more $$ subletting it. We're automating every customer service that hasn't already been digitized. We're moving some of our employees to another retail branch, firing some, and keeping a skeleton staff."

- tom moody

December 17th, 2015 at 1:39 pm

table monitor

table_monitor

hat tip rene abythe

- tom moody

December 17th, 2015 at 10:20 am

group photos

dis_conferencebike

hat tip maxlabor

- tom moody

December 17th, 2015 at 10:20 am

Posted in art as criticism

tardigrade (with logo)

rhizome_tardigrade500

What that logo needed was an ugly, arty monster.

- tom moody

November 8th, 2015 at 7:27 am

self-convo re: stars and hearts

cred_accrual2

- tom moody

November 4th, 2015 at 9:26 am

Rhizome is all messed up

The art and technology website Rhizome.org hired a fancy ad agency to redesign their site and links are breaking all over.
Good thing I saved all my comments in that ring binder a while back because the archive where they're collected has disappeared.
Comments aren't gone, they're incorporated as text into individual posts but they're no longer tied to individual users or compiled in a separate database.
The fancy ad agency is Wieden+Kennedy -- they do Coca Cola and the like. You can really tell. This is a suit's idea of what art is supposed to look like. Cra-a-a-zy upside down fonts and self-consciously glitched out captions. Pass the bong, said the account executive.
But the design flaws, such as content-obscuring menus, are just unprofessional. An earnest amateur who cared about the site would have done a more conscientious job.
Possibly this was done "pro bono" -- by an intern who had never heard of Rhizome three weeks ago.*
Just an example of the carnage: this interview Cory Arcangel did with me is now an impenetrable block of type, with no paragraph breaks or other formatting. (Caution: links to Rhizome posts have been crashing my browser.) Fortunately the Wayback Machine has a readable version.

Rhizome's digital conservator Dragan Espenschied has his work cut out for him: restoring functionality to his employer's website. Dragan, old internet friend, let me know if I can help -- I can make pages in HTML where links don't break and the pages don't crash.

A friend sent me this graphic from Zuckerbergland:

1446517705994-dumpfm-tommoody-rhizome_readability

*Update: Rhizome's announcement of the redesign states that "this process, which involved a year of intensive discussion, design, and development, was enabled and led by the visionaries at Wieden+Kennedy New York, and built by our excellent Senior Developer, Matthew Conlen, with crucial support from developer Max Nanis." Dear visionaries, can you help me find Nasty Nets in the Artbase? It doesn't come up when I search the words "nasty" or "nets."

- tom moody

November 3rd, 2015 at 7:06 pm