conversations public and private

posted in: Blog, Collaboration, Writings | 0

here is how i gloss your response [see posts by sonya blesofsky and jack rees below] as a series of questions: 1) what gives our art-making logic? 2) what makes one’s own work consistently engaging? 3)what is it that makes jury-rigged forms so compelling? initially, number three engages my attention, maybe because the logic of a response in (and to) pictures is so undefined (read: open ended).

i agree: that which is cobbled together smartly, is often oddly compelling. My shorthand for this is kluge: the quick fix, the temporary solution constructed from material at hand that ends up “working.” what i find compelling about a good kluge is the way it marries things that in other, more considered, frames would not be part of the same solution—elegance and awkwardness, form and idea, necessity and impermanence.

one example might be drawn from the etymology of jury-rigged: a temporary mast erected on a ship when the permanent mast is no longer functional (WordOrigins.org). in this situation the revised object must function under great stress yet all involved understand it to be only as functional as needs be—life saving necessity meets just good enough.

form and idea are, of course, often married in art yet in a kluge, allow for what might be called category shifting which is a singular mark of distinction. the picture you selected of the water bottles hanging from the seat rack of a motor bike is a case in point. in that circumstance, hanging the bottles from their tops is a satisfying kluge, unexpected but just “right.” one admires the solution because the idea is good, novel, and ad hoc while the form is pleasing.

so as not to beat a dead horse, i would make an analogous argument argument for elegance and awkwardness yet; to my mind, these deserve special consideration. our visual world is so cluttered with crafted yet meaningless objects that one is tempted to depend on a lack of craft (or even the semblance of a lack of sophisticating in making) as a way to call attention to the handmade object. the implicit claim is: this work means something simply because it is not “polished.” sadly, the implication does not hold up to scrutiny. not polished is not polished and significance, though inexorably tied to form, is not automatically present by virtue of an object being hand-made.

in this context, i wonder at your seeming pride in removing alchemy from the mix. why is it that magic and transparency are contradictory? seems to me the trick is to present in the objects we make, a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts—just like a good kluge.

a private conversation in public (sort of)

posted in: Blog, Collaboration | 0

sometimes art is an image, sometimes it is a conversation, always it is an experience. in the case of the current show at plug i found my way to the experience through a conversation. It was with one of the exhibiting artists, sonya blesofsky, and it helped me both see and situate the work.

to anyone who has been around the art scene in kansas city for more than a couple of years, sonya’s piece, an installation in the window at plug, is going to look familiar—maybe even disconcertingly so. fact is there are both formal and procedural similarities to the work tammi kennedy was exhibiting ten years ago. (has it really been that long?)

this does not disqualify sonya’s work as worthy of consideration. to make the art in “artwork” about who got there first, is to confuse the world of making with the world of selling. We must guard against such conflations.

i also think we should guard against taking the word of artists on their work at face value. artists have a way of talking about whatever interests them at the moment which usually, in my experience, obfuscates rather than clarifys (of which i am also guilty). be that as it may, it was through an exchange with sonya that I began to really look at the work.

early in the conversation sonya remarked how her process involves a lot of research before she begins fabrication—at which point she produced a photograph on her phone of a jumble of furniture in a storefront window, the product of a catastrophic flood in the west bottoms. this was the first bit of information to encourage a reinspection of the furniture-like shapes that comprise her piece. in this circumstance, the visual context conveyed by a bit of information, proved decisive as the motivation for a careful inspection.

later in the conversation she remarked, insisted really, that in making the work, she endeavored to remain as ignorant of engineering as possible. ?warning bells? why this contradiction? why insist knowledge in one domain is advantageous while knowledge in another is undesirable? it smells to me of a peculiarly american strain of anti-intellectualism where intuition is posited as a kind of direct knowing, unsullied by the hard work required to actually arrive at knowledge through information. more to the point it ignores the ways that tutored intuitions are thicker than untutored intuitions.

sadly, our conversation was interrupted. happily, sonya has agreed to continue our exchange in public on the plug blog. so, whataboutit sonya, in what circumstance is ignorance a virtue?