Tuesday, 2 October 2012

MFA [Notes on a First Seminar]

That thing where you spend the morning discussing in earnest the flawed brilliance of Michael Fried's seminal 1967 essay "Art and Objecthood" although you don't care, much, about the theatricality of mimimalist sculpture objects or about their makers, most of whom have ceased to "matter" now that we're no longer engaged in some critical, theological relationship with the state of modernity [which is not to say that we're not engaged in some critical theological relationship with the state of whatever else], and you're suddenly struck by the following passage, written by the late great Tony Smith, whoever the hell he was anyway:
When I was teaching at Cooper Union in the first year or two of the fifties, someone told me how I could get on to the unfinished Jersey Turnpike. I took three students and drove from somewhere in the Meadows to New Brunswick. It was a dark night and there were no lights or shoulder markers, lines, railings, or anything at all except the dark pavement moving through the landscape of the flats, rimmed by hills in the distance, but punctuated by stacks, towers, fumes and coloured lights. This drive was a revealing experience. The road and much of the landscape was artificial, and yet it couldn't be called a work of art. On the other hand, it did something for me that art had never done. At first I didn't know what it was, but its effect was to liberate me from many of the views I had had about art. It seemed that there had been a reality there that had not had any expression in art. The experience on the road was something mapped out but not socially recognised. I thought to myself, it ought to be clear that's the end of art. Most painting looks pretty pictorial after that. There is no way you can frame it, you just have to experience it. 
And you think, well, god knows that makes a lot of sense, but what took you so long to figure it out, sir? And anyway you're hungover from trolling a panel discussion where there was free beer in return for the barest of participation in some commercial online gallery's art-and-digital-culture launch event; and you don't care, much, about this stuff either, though it matters that we don't talk about "digital art" because it just sounds embarrassing, and the early mornings are new to you and the structured learning and all the people and the registers and the talking-about of stuff in [what is known as] a critical framework. So you skip out of college early and go back home to sleep, where you dream of
Being forced into some kind of coercive genderplay as a scullery maid in a Renfaire gone wrong with no safe words and a white t-shirt for a wimple/ and sneaking out of a ground floor window onto hands and knees & into the swollen darkness, a big round night, the smell of cooling asphalt and apples rotting on trees, gravel collaborating below you murmuring assent and advice// and then the dizzy greased run through the empty amusement park and into an inflatable funhouse long past its sell-by date/ and clammy with the sweat of others gone before, a little bit of asphyxiation by rubber and an airbag that punches your guts as you grind through the chubby wet cave// and the sudden, shot-from-a-gun feeling of cumming hard like you needed to/ suspended by a bungee cord with all the indifferently pink and blue and yellow fairground lights spinning beneath you/ and the jolt wakes you, or at least you think so, or at least you know you're dreaming/ & you realize then that art really is finished, or that maybe all forms of narrativising are pointless, and the weight of it has you crushed there under a tonne of wordlessness in the kind of crisp dumb torpor you find yourself in when passing-out wasted, your body in sick awe of what is greater and stronger than she/ 
And grasping at familiar narratives you grab your little bible of a smartphone and open up the blue book of Zuck where someone you hardly know has posted this:

And it all makes some terrible kind of sense to you, so you blog it all down earnestly like it were LiveJournal, or like it were a real conversation, or like it was gonna do a damn thing lying there on the two-dimensional page and/or hanging there in the four-dimensional ether, suspended until further notice in a virtual foreverhood far from the Jersey Turnpike as it was in the early 1950s or the Renfaire gone wrong or the swaying dill or the shot-from-a-gun feeling that woke you from your dream. And truly you can't think of anything redemptive about it except perhaps the sense of an audience that redeems the most meaningless thing from its abject objecthood, from being the tree that falls unseen in the forest,  though you - and all the people you know - live in fear that the tree that falls unseen and un-geotagged in the forest is the one unconquered free subject, the last and only thing worth talking about.