Stefan Zeyen, About Contempt, 2015. ABOUT CONTEMPT is a tribute to a movie, shot in an empty white art gallery. There are no actors, dialogues or sets, just the camera movement, the editing and the musical score. ↩
In About Contempt Stefan Zeyen gives us what should be the perfect work of conceptual art. A work devoid of priori signifier, devoid of narrative, devoid of the human. The objective eye of the camera seems to wander hazardously through the white cube. But with Georges Delerue’s well-known melodramatic score our cinematographic memory is soon mobilised, despite the abstraction set up by the gallery market space. Instead, the video is split by our memories of a story. Zeyen delves precisely into the interstice that is spared between the moving-image and its non-narrative referent. If we are to recall Godard’s Contempt, we find that the classical narrative of the romantic estrangement was constantly disrupted. In fact, the very melodramatic soundtrack seemed to be the only narrative element of the movie – the camera moved independently, the story suffered numerous ellipsis and the dialogues were often covered up by the omnipresent soundtrack. Actually, not quite. In the apartment scenes of Godard’s film, it was the minimalistic white apartment that expressed the characters’ struggle. Their acting seemed otherwise artificial, detached. As in Zeyen’s video, the narrative found itself enhanced through its containment into a closed space. Here, not only are the characters absent but so are the bright colours of the furniture : leaving only the anthropophagic white emptiness. It is the space itself that reflects the filmic emotions. It so appears that the camera eye is not so technical after all. Exploring the “sheets” of our cinematographic past, it seeks to find what is at stake behind the indifference – indistinctly Bardot’s terrible indifference and the gallery’s – and by doing so, it reintroduces another kind of narrative. It is through the hallucinatory piano score and the wandering camera, that we slowly let ourselves take over by the power of melodrama – the white cube’s intruder. We eventually find ourselves wondering: why so much contempt? - Jade de Cock de Rameyen ↩
Andrew Bracey Reconfigure Print (Rakes Progress), 2015-16. William Hogarth enjoyed huge popularity with his engravings (1732) based on his series of paintings, The Harlot’s Progress (1731), leading to many people to legally copy and sell their own versions. Whilst Hogarth made a new series of prints (1735) from The Rakes Progress paintings (1733) and received advanced payment from subscribers, numerous prints by various other printers were put onto the market. Hogarth timed his release of Rakes Progress for 25 June 1735 to coincide with the day parliament passed The Engraving Copyright Act of 1734, prompted in a large part by the copies produced of his two ‘Progress’ series, which became illegal on that day. This act morphed and expanded almost immediately after becoming law and to this day has continued to do so. Copyright law has been tested, challenged and pushed by artists’ appropriation of material extensively over the last century. In this time The Rakes Progress has inspired a wealth of adaptions across the arts, becoming a ballet, a film, an opera and other works of art by figures such as David Hockney. Reconfigure Gifs (Rakes Progress) are studies made for a series of screenprints I am currently making that feature a geometric, abstract composition that mirrors and connects to Hogarth’s original etchings. My version hovers in, and comes from the same space as Hogarth’s Rake’s Progress, but also opens up something completely distinct and different, perhaps to a place of the midpoint? ↩
[… and 1 another 2 thing 3]
08 04 2015
For some time I have been thinking about the idea of putting a show together that addressed the potential of objects to communicate something of their creator. This seems possibly a bit obvious, but more specifically that the manipulation of materials used in a work could be capable of transmitting psychophysically to an audience. I had read in Shozo Sato’s Sumi-E: The Art of Japanese Brush Painting that through x-ray analysis on a molecular level of ancient Chinese and Japanese calligraphic masterpieces, it had been possible to reveal the effects of the artists hand on the behaviour of the carbon particles in the sumi ink. If ki (energy or spirit) is present during the creation of a work, the carbon particles in the sumi are found to align with the hanzi or kanji I created. As a natural conductor of electricity, carbon is an ideal material to react to the slightest electrical change in the body. A phenomenon not evident at the hand of you or I.
As a student and teacher of ki aikido for eighteen years I experienced that when mind and body come together naturally, all of our actions are marked by the effortless exchange of ki passing through the body. Any attempt to hold on to or keep this feeling, results in tension, a loss of co-ordination and ki. Once we have become aware of the correct feeling, like meditation, our habit should be to acknowledge it but not try to make it our own. In short, it is not ours to keep. In early stages of practice, it was tempting to think that I was responsible for the successful performance of a technique. Gradually, I realised that this wasn’t the case, and that ‘it happens’ and I was merely present in the exchange. It was one thing to read about this in Eastern literature, but another to experience it. By and by, ki develops as a by-product of an ever refined process of letting go. This is perfectly captured in a Japanese proverb that says, “the perfect man employs his mind as a mirror. It grasps nothing, it refuses nothing. It receives but does not keep.” and a poem that says of wild geese flying over a lake, “The wild geese do not intend to cast their reflection, and the water has no mind to retain their image.” (Watts 1995).
15 07 2014
Experiencing this sense of flow in studio practice is often regarded as elusive, momentary and something that comes in or to us. But what happens when our mind and the body come together, and attention shifts from the head towards the centre of the body (hara)? Rather than regarding this ‘happening’ as a rare occurrence that comes to us, we have the ability to develop it. The flow is not attainable by the few, it is available to us all, just not on a plate.
02 05 2009
Everyone sees, but Artist’s note.
17 11 2014
The world that we inhabit is a world of the conventional, where we can agree upon the appearance of an object by committee. This is useful. Indeed this is how we relate to everything and get on with our daily lives. It becomes consensual, a synecdoche. However, whatever properties we attribute to a drawing for example, don’t tell us the full story and are certainly not intrinsic. What the drawing is, is simultaneously what it appears to be, and everything that is does not appear to be.
12 12 2012
I am interested in dynamic systems such as chaos theory that are highly responsive to initial conditions, where small differences in initial conditions resulting in widely divergent outcomes, despite the adoption of deterministic or mechanistic systems. While my work is the result of very particular processes, I am not interested in these being the primary means of understanding a work, a way in, if you like. D.T Suzuki says in Zen and Japanese Culture:
“When purpose is too much in evidence in a work of art, so called art is no longer there, it becomes a machine or an advertisement. Beauty runs a way, ugly human hands become all together too visible.” II
19 05 2016
Reading through Steve’s blog there were two things that struck me. Firstly, that unlike a text or novel, one is reading from now backwards, and secondly was his comment "I am worthy of offering my attentiveness to that which is worthy of attention" (Sunday, 27 September 2015 Midpointness, day 10). To take up the first point, getting a sense that each entry is in some part explained or situated through the previous day’s commentary lends it an almost karmic tone. I suppose I have picked up on this, as I am open to the possibility, and have attempted to suggest its presence, in several text works of my own, including Nov ‘07–May ‘09 (detail) which has already featured as part of this project, and more recently in The New Desk (CakeJournal, Issue I 2016), a work that reflects upon a childhood experience. The words used to recount the experience are suggested to have their origin in books, thoughts and other recollections experienced subsequent to the event itself, but also suggests that the event was instrumental in contributing to current (at the time of writing) habituated behaviour.
The second point about worthiness, this raises two further issues. Firstly, it suggests a sense of what we think we deserve, typically linked with the desire for something or someone. Consider for a moment, whether we deserve some good fortune or are able to acquire something we desire, as a result of no action on our part. When I have asked people their view on this, the response usually takes the following form; a pause, then a mild sense of embarrassment, and finally a categorical “no”. Using the example of deliberate and complicit deception strategies in advertising, Artist David Raymond Conroy’s 2013 talk I know that fantasies are full of lies a articulates this point very well. What on earth would we do if we got what we wanted, surely disappointment? Advertising taps into our habituated behaviour and allows us remain just as we are, in a suspended state of deferral. Getting what we want however, would mark some sort of catharsis, which would then force us to have to ‘move on’ and directly feel the neurosis that created the need for worthiness in the first place, even more pointedly. Catastrophe. Secondly, Steve’s quote hints at deserving in relation to an external agency. But, whom or what are we trying to please? A god, peer group or family? It also suggests the act of ‘setting’ an intention, as distinct from having an intention, an incantation perhaps or reminiscent of many forms of mindfulness practice, where “you are what you think”. Is Steve’s comment directed at himself or externally? One is an act of self-affirmation and the other faith, based on conviction rather than proof.
A creative centre is a place of potential and imminence, of no intrinsic qualities and character. We live in a world where out of necessity it is useful to act through convention, by committee, but it exists as a series of phenomena that come into being in dependence upon being named by the mind, or dependent arising in Tibetan Buddhism. How can we then talk about this position, directly or obliquely, through allusion or metaphor? In Detour and Access (2004), Francois Jullien explores the many ways in which through the use of metaphor and inference, speech grants access to subtler meanings. He suggests that this results in a more expanded and open system of communication. In this scenario, we are each simultaneously at the (our) centre, and therefore free to realise meaning in dependence upon, rather than bear witness to any absolute meaning. In turn this gives rise to an opportunity to reflect on one’s own cultural determinants through otherness.
08 06 2016
At the John Hoyland symposium at Chelsea School of Art recently, I was reminded of Alexis Harding’s work, particularly in relation to thinking about a sense of presentness. I think far from being with, one is without. Sally O’Reilly (2008) suggests that “the painting is flagged up as painted, as past tense, as evidence.” […] “Through their ironic submission to gravity, both Ader and Harding replace a moment of true collapse with a fictional or manufactured one, pre-empting nature, as it were.” This is no longer a witnessed event. The effect of this shift in temporality simply reaffirms the post-eventness of the work and the impossibility of bringing the viewer into the fray. Consequently, the sense of emotional risk is minimised and one is left feeling safe.
My sister in law told me that she fast-forwarded the video tape of Fatal Attraction to get the measure of all of the nasty bits prior to watching the film in its entirety.
16 08 2011
07 08 2015
Creativity in my practice has necessitated a stepping back, to create situations or a space in which an audience may enter the work, creating a space of potential and not particularity. Perhaps this gap is the space and where the art happens. The rationale in my practice has been to explore issues of process and dynamic systems such as chaos theory that are highly responsive to initial conditions, through canvas, paper and word. Small differences in initial conditions are shown to result in widely divergent outcomes, despite the adoption of deterministic or mechanistic systems. The process of repetition leading either to ambiguity or articulation. Decisions about process are made in advance in order to enable a sense of non-involvement or disinterestedness on my part, similar to what Jullien (2004) refers to as a state of blandness. His use of the word is particular, and suffers in translation, leaving us with a deep rooted and habituated sense of negativity towards notions of emptiness in Western culture. Here we value opposites, distinctiveness and difference. In ancient China the mind that was able to register the slightest nuance in appearance or value was highly praised. Jullien states that:
“Blandness: that phase when different flavours no longer stand in opposition to each other but, rather, abide within plenitude. It provides access to the undifferentiated foundation of all things and so is valuable to us; its neutrality manifests the potential inherent in the Centre. At this stage, the real is no longer blocked in partial and too obvious manifestations; the concrete becomes discrete, open to transformation.
The blandness of things evokes in us inner detachment. But this quality is also a virtue, especially in our relations with others, because it guarantees authenticity. It must also lie at the root of our personality, for it alone allows us to possess all aptitudes simultaneously and to summon the appropriate one in any given situation.” c
02 07 2010
I think what Steve and Andrew are proposing though this project is very ordinary. People are scared of being ordinary as it suggests invisibility, that one day we will die and no one will remember us. Actually being ordinary is frightening for another reason. It is a fear of how extraordinary it might feel. To be so absent as to allow the fullness of experience to come in to our lives, unedited, complete. There is a fear that such a state would lead to our drowning. The Ego doesn’t like the sound of this proposition, so it asserts itself. This project acknowledges fully the extraordinariness of the day to day. To live a life without precedents, wouldn’t that be something.
12 09 2011
In the West we like to be able to feel stuff, touch the edges. You know how unnerving it is when you think there is a step and there isn’t, so you trip over. The particularity I mentioned about Western culture is about this. We like to know where the edges are, even if it is vicariously. This is a form of security blanket, I suppose. We like to read about people having a shit time, so that we can say, “oh, so that’s what having a shit time is like, that’s really interesting”. Having a shit time ourselves, well that’s a whole different matter. That’s just shit, and certainly not interesting.
19 09 2011
The only real issue is how we deal with the notion of death in any sense of the word. It is easy to focus on those crossroads moments when a decision needs to be made that will have a major bearing on the rest of our lives. These are seen as the significant moments, but every step leading to that point is as important. In this sense we experience births and deaths all of the time but we only attach significance to certain ones. Perhaps this is because such experiences are more ‘felt’.
16 11 2014
(randomly select and play any section for 4 minutes 33 seconds)
02 01 2012
4’ 33” is John Cage’s most famous work. Contrary to traditional modes of performance, attention is shifted from performer to the audience. Ambient sounds otherwise ignored or inaudible become the work. A single shared experience is now transformed into as many as those that comprise the audience. This is a work ‘in the midst’, in parenthesis, between what occurs before and after; each sound the effect of its own cause, and so on.
14 01 2016
“Jullien in Schroder (2005) notes that “sound delivered to its fullest extent leaves us with nothing to anticipate, nothing to look forward to. Our very being thus finds itself filled to the brim. In contrast, the least fully rendered sounds are the most promising, in that they have not been fully expressed, externalized, by the instrument in question, whether zither string or voice. And it is thus that they manage to sustain (as formulated in this lovely expression) a ‘lingering’ or a ‘leftover’ tone (yiyin)” (66, 67). These tones, which remain “heavy with promise,” are highly prized and become the basis of both tuning and performance. Aesthetically, it is important that the promise lies equally at beginning and end: music is “caught,” Jullien writes, between “two aspirations”--”to refrain from even beginning to play or to allow the last notes to deepen into the inaudible” (75). Put another way, music is enfolded in promise, and performance is in the middle, here, now.” III
Zen Bones, Alan Watts
(play from 45 minutes 41 seconds)
Comedian Jackie Vernon classic Vacation Slide Show routine
11 06 2016
Sato, S., 2010. Sumi-E: The Art of Japanese Brush Painting. Tuttle Shokai Inc; Har/DVD edition
Watts. A., 1995. Talking Zen. New York: Weatherhill Inc
Conroy, David. Raymond., (4 June 2013) I know that fantasies are full of lies (Take II), Nottingham Contemporary
Jullien., F., (2004). Detour and Access: Strategies of Meaning in China and Greece. New York: MIT Press
Colour, Emotion, Non-Figuration: John Hoyland Revisited, 2016. Symposium. Chelsea College of Arts
Dawn Chorus © Sean Townsend 2010, Publisher: Freesound Project. https://www.freesound.org/people/sean.townsend/sounds/98371/ [accessed 16 11 2014]
Artlurkercom. (2016). http://www.artlurker.com/2008/07/feature-the-collapse-in-painting-by-sally-oreilly/ [accessed 08 06 2016]
Jullien, F., 2004. In Praise of Blandness: Proceeding from Chinese Thought and Aesthetics, Massachusetts, CA & London: Zone Books. p.24
I Hanzi and kanji are the different Chinese and Japanese pronunciations of 漢字 character sets.
II Suzuki., D.T., 1970. Zen and Japanese Culture. New Jersey, USA: Princeton University Press
III Schroeder, Steven (2005) "Review of “In Praise of Blandness: Proceeding from Chinese Thought and Aesthetics”," Essays in Philosophy: Vol. 6: Iss. 1, Article 29
IV - CLXVIII Pilling collected from Louise’s sweater
Morrad + McArthur, Mid point ness, 2016 Mid point ness: Wave farm radio NYC...and the live 1-hour per month slot with Sydney and London: Annie Morrad and Ian McArthur live at opposite ends of the planet. They compose and play collaborative sound work and live performances through the use of digital software Mixlr and Skype. For live events McArthur broadcasts electronic sounds, field recordings and live mixing. Morrad plays live improvised alto and tenor saxophone against these. For their recorded sound work the starting points vary from being concept driven to 'I've got this idea...'. Therefore; it’s mid-point is a physical space somewhere in the ether/atmosphere between NYC, Sydney and London. Later: When using ‘Skype’ as a third element, there is a point or space between sounds. This manifests itself through its lack of stability. It imparts uncontrolled and irrepressible aspects. This includes glitches, repeats, sound drop and time delays, becoming a third element, unseen and volatile, almost another musician but unlike another musician: unpredictable. It’s this space that holds intrigue and will be explored later... ↩
About the contributors: Steve Dutton and Andrew Bracey are UK based artists and curators. The Midpointness Blog project will be a four part monthly contribution to ThIS Blog. This is Part 2. We would like to thank the artist contributors so far: Kate Buckley, Simón Granell, Annie Morrad & Ian McArthur, David Reed and Stefan Zeyen.