Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Aesthetics of Decay

"Not to preserve art but to use art to keep the image of the earth alive. " - states the introduction to the second floor of the exhibition After Nature at the New Museum. This gives me an intriguing thought of the future role art could and might play within the larger spectrum of things within cultural, social, global issues. Exploring this exhibition , After Nature, presented to me a conversation in which was being approached from many different "languages", but also in which the conversation was being directed towards a spectacle of sorts. The idea of the end of nature or say the possibilities of what could be after nature is, to me, what feeds this current or specific discussion of natural "realities."

The exhibition approaches many fantasy like scenarios of what our world(earth) could look like post a devastating or astronomic conclusion to nature a la "Mad Max". Key to the exhibition is the fantasy like approach to much of the work. The idea that we, as "self" directive creatures, can have the vast imagination and in a sense desire to construct fantasies of events and scenarios in which all we know to be is in danger of extinction or is extinct is fascinating. This brings me to think of how popular media, for the most part, addresses many issues of global destruction, killer viruses, massive killings, etc. We are fascinated by our decay. I'm just playing with thoughts here , but I am driven to think that the way we think about ourselves , our bodies, say that we are immortal, that we will decay, and that there is nothing we can do about it, may have some influence over the way we perceive the potential and realistic decay of our home, Earth. It's a far stretch but then again one to give thought to.

We nurture that which we feel needs help to grow. But we are asked to make decisions about pulling plugs when there is little or nothing that can be done. Why then are we fascinated with exploring, as in this exhibition, the potentials for an "after" when we still haven't reached a conclusive position with the prevention of any of these fantasies to become realities. The conversation does porduce a n awareness. It makes us think beyond a far and away issue and brings it home to something to think about today. But as the begining quote from the exhibition states, I believe art can begining to function as not only participator in larger conversations but as contributor.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Of Grass and Life.

How potent can a physical point of view be? As a participator in visual culture, I often question how distorted my one particular opinion or point of view may be. It is often I find that influential conversation may drive images or art works further beyond in potency and commentary than the initial approach to making the work suggested. It is then that I find fascinating the stark and emptiness in landscapes and yet how potent it can become within discourse.

To me Landscapes are something that I find particularly hard to comment on. Perhaps its living in a big city all my life, perhaps is the lack of anything floral in my parents house growing up, or even the fact that every weekend I was dragged to a country club to play golf for four hours on endless "scapes" of manicured grass. It is this particular landscape, the golf course, however which I found helped build an idea of a potent and very loaded terrain. The walls of the club house are decorated with endless photgraphs of grass. Picture after picture of grass, close ups, long shots, even aerial shots depicting the golf course just outside the walls. I used to think these photos were the most boring images I had ever seen, however in retrospect I find them fascinating. Whom ever took the photos was merely documenting the golf course so that the participators of such "field" could worship their glorious private and expensive meeting grounds within the club house, aka church o' golf. I can't get more excited politically than this. There is a quote in "Truth and Landscape" that states; "Although we are not as naive as we once were about the acuracy of the pictures, we continue to value them initially as reminders of what is out there, of what is distinct from us." The photographs of the grass, which is trimmed to perfect height every morning at 4am, are reminders to the club memebrs of their turf however they are also if ever where encountered by an outside audience reminders of a landscape which is unatainable by many social and economical limitations. These photgraphs of grass are not just documentation, they are worship objects.

"Beauty in Photography" states; " There must be another before there can be love. Eden becomes the object of our desire only after we are cast out." The politics are heavy in these photos, they were comissioned with a purpose. I began to think about the landscape and how much of the defacing of the American landscape via developement was influencing photgraphers and their work. A friend used to say something to me when I was a teenager in regards to dating; "How can you miss someone, if they never go away?" So I ask, when was nature missed, if not until it was basically eliminated from our lives? The reaction was "natural" to begin to address the fact that the landscape was being transformed and it no longer looked like before. The essay talks about desire, about constructing realities of one's desire, of Eden, with pleassure. I mean what a perfect description of a country club but a temple of selfish worship.

Non the less landscapes I can approach as expected visual comments. Yes they are out there, yes they are beautiful, and yes they can be potent in content. However it is the approach to the work about landscapes that makes this interesting to me. The context in whcih the photograph or artwork was made from is valuable information to the dialogue a landscape image can participate in. There is grass outside my house, however it is the context of the grass depicted within the walls of the club house which make those particular landscapes stand above any photos of my fornt yard. It is the intent in whcih they were made and the purpose they serve. I respect some though behind production. It is a easy road to merely rely on content to follow production. A conversation is a multiple direction street and therefore the photgraphers influence upon an image can be as significant as the audience.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sometimes a pretty picture is just a pretty picture, right?

I contemplated for a while on Subhankar Banerjee's work tonight. I kept thinking to myself after the lecture, were I heard him speak tonight, and after reading the essays by Finis Dunaway and Kelley E. Wilder on his work that I was missing something. I must be missing something because I'm lost here and have no idea what the big deal is. I'm being blunt yes, however I kept questioning many things and in the end I feel it was productive for me to question and this is why I chose to post true to my observations.

The first image of the lecture was of a polar bear eating the carcass of another polar bear. The image was striking, interesting, violent yet sympathetic. I thought to myself based on the readings this is going to be an amazing display of images and yes, this would draw attention to Washington. But then the energy died out. I was confused. I recall seeing a collection of images of the world from above. I cant really recall what this exhibition or collection of images was titled but it was at Millennium park, displayed outside. It was strange. Anyways this is what I kept reminding myself of as the images of aerial shot landscapes scrolled through the big projector. Then I though of Planet Earth the documentary special on the discovery channel, I think, which Disney is ripping off soon with their own version of it called Earth. There seems to be a trend here and really, the images just maintained an expected allure of what I would expect from a general Polar Ice Caps Google search. I understand I'm being highly critical here but based on the arguments made on the readings and the whole controversy surrounding the exhibiting of these photos, I was from the begining, a little confused at was going on.

So I got to thinking about the audience of this work. The Smithsonian, Capitol Hill, Republicans, etc. The people engaged in the conversation of these images were not your typical art engaging crowd. I really find it interesting that these photos could be approached a la NEA four. Would Senator Helms find this work a threat?
I questioned would Mr. Banerjeer have considered his photographs political if there had not been such a reaction to them? What about if he had not juxtaposed text with them? Would these images be considered political by anyone if they had not been brought up in politics by a politician in Washington? Context here is very important. The images are political and received such a reaction because a politician said they were proof of something much greater than a pure aesthetic exploration. The thing about aesthetics is that they never exist without filters. There's politics to the saying ; " Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." By extension I take this to mean also Beauty fuunctions within the realms of convenience and realtive goals.

I suppose many of these questions could be best answered by the artist himself, which Ill have the opportunity to discuss with in class tomorrow. I look forward to what Mr. Banerjeer has to say and to gain more insight on his practice. I find it fascinating that he is a scientist and that he is practicing visual communication with training in other fields. I find it is a very important component in contemporary culture to be multilingual on many levels to better grasp understandings and construct critical and progressive conversations on issues at hand.

I would like to add a panel form a project I'm currently working on. It serves relevant to the polar bear initiative of Banerjeers first trip to the arctic. Though it is a work in progress, I gained some thought in how I'm approaching it and comfort in how I'm approaching the work from this exposure to Banajeer.

I must stress however that a pretty picture sometimes is just a pretty picture. Felix Gonzalez Torrez once said "to be alive is to be political." To that I say everything is political, even beauty, but there is always other ways and in many aspects more critical ways to approach the political.