Einstein’s Dreams

Each of this dreams/essays are so poignant because they exaggerate what we already do as people everyday, the time makes actions absolute.  The Nows and the Laters, everyone lives on a spectrum somewhere between them, oscillating in reaction to circumstance. But is this how life would really be if you could live forever? You wonder how long you would last if you could live forever.  I suspect not very long. One time can bleed into the other. If you lived forever than would time be relative. To what would you compare it to? My forever to your forever? My time as a now vs my time as a later? But if everyone lived forever how would we ever know our past and who we are.  The past, present and future would all be one. Maybe we’d all be catatonic watching centuries go by before taking a sip of water to remember the taste of nothing. We could all be the same together or the same alone. Is there a sense of self without time? Without a past or a future? And if time is shorter is your sense of self stronger?  In all of this it is perspective that pervades. Everything is the end or beginning or somewhere on the line. In a world with no sense of future each moment is the end of the world and that is paralyzingly fearful or the ultimate freedom to dissolve into the senses. Does time even matter in the end? Are you trapped or are you free? Nothing means nothing, or nothing can mean everything.

Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees

I’ve always admired the obsessed: whether it’s an artist, a scientist, or a historian.  These people that encircle the “periphery of the body of knowledge” as Irwin calls it.  To me there’s something very noble in the complete dedication in pursuit of an answer and it is people like this, and the questions that they ask, that propel our world further.

It was interesting to read the chapters The Dots and The Discs as case-studies of Irwin’s different obsessions and see how his different questions and answers informed one another.  Looking back on his work, like in the Whitney Retrospective, you can see a line that ties everything together.  How without knowing it, in the end he was going deeper and deeper into something. In the beginning of The Dots, Irwin stresses that Weschler be careful in how he ties together the narrative of Irwin’s work so as not to give the impression that he had a clear trajectory.  Irwin wants other young artist’s to be aware that his path was formed by intuition and at the time he had no clear idea of where he was going. He was led by questions and some, like the post-disc experiments, weren’t resolved. It is this pursuit in darkness, that in my opinion, really defines a great researcher.  It is very risky, and failure is probable, but it is where real progress is made.  I have a new found respect and admiration for Robert Irwin after reading Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees and as someone that I think is just starting to find their own questions it was inspirational and affirming.

I found this quote particularly poignant:

“All these researchers in their own ways are engaged in the process of inquiry, and the most salient feature of inquiry is its open-endedness.  It is pursued for no reason whatsoever; it is the project of the passionately curious.  The wilderness is stalked by explorers without maps and without any particular goals: their principal compass is their reason.” 

Defining Art – F is for Fake

Every discussion boils down to the definitions that it employs There must be a common consensus on what is “real”, what is “fake”, what is “art”, what is “technology”.  But who gets to decide what is defined?  How can you? This past week the subject matter of two of my classes Recurring Concepts in Art and Nothing have overlapped. I’ve been reading a lot about the Dada movement, readymades, and what are considered radical innovations in the art world and see this wonderful dance at play between artists and the institutional art world (also the general public).  When Duchamp submitted the Fountain to the Society of Independent Artists’ salon in NY, which claimed they would accept art that was paid for, it was rejected.  It was considered a joke.  The Fountain now resides in the SFMoMa.

Somewhere along the way what was a statement, that was received as a joke, turned into an approved seminal piece of art. It was not the academy that decided what art is but the artist. However the academy, the art world, still remains as the authority.  And yet you still have your audience that sees an upside urinal with scribbles on it, says I could do that, and dismisses it’s relevance and existence as a piece of art.

 

F for Fake approaches these concepts of real and fake and art and authority in a very playful and successful way.  You observe these concepts through the looking glass of the concepts themselves.  The way how it shows how art can feed off and aggrandize itself is quite marvelous. I love the quote the quote that fake and frauds are old but what’s new are the experts, the authority.  That it is these experts that are ‘god’s gift to the fakers’.  And where everything gets interesting is where the money comes in “value depends on opinion, opinion, depends on the experts, a fakery makes fools of the experts so in the end who is the expert or the faker’.

This brought back to something we discussed in Recurring Concepts in Art. There was the Fountain (After Duchamp) by Sherrie Levine.  This was purposeful imitation art, imitation art from the beginning.  Sherrie Levine made another Fountain but with conscious changes, and you can read what you want into those changes: it being made by woman, in bronze, each its own comment on the original and it’s reception and the current state of the art world.

But the next piece we talked about by Sherrie Levine I found so surprising.  It was a photo of a famous photo.  I couldn’t believe that this had been accepted by the art world as art.  Yet Sherrie Levine was already famous as an imitation artist when this was made and so the it was less controversially accepted as art.

Elmyr de Hory’s work initially passed it off as real and only once caught, made an art of imitation itself.  Elmyr de Hory states that he only sold fakes first because no one would buy his original art.  So were Sherrie Levine’s original pieces different and successful enough to than warrant later a full acceptance of an imitation? Sherrie Levine made a whole series of Walker Evans photos which was then acquired by the Evans estate to prevent their sale and then she officially donated them.  They are now all owned by the MET.  So her work defined as imitation from the beginning but pure imitation, didn’t make money, but was easily accepted by the art world as real art because of the way the idea was presented. I wonder what would happen if one of those pieces sold now? Would it be able to? It’s been accepted as it’s own thing now, art in it’s own right and now a piece of history. But again how can you define the value of this? Who could? And what would it be in relation to the Walter Evan’s originals.

 

Emyr de Hory’s work on the other hand was sold for money, sold for way more money, and approved by galleries and museums as authentic before becoming ‘ a profound embarrassment for them all.   His mastery of painting and his skill allowed his paintings to be, for a time, indistinguishable from these ‘genius masters’, but no there was no value in the skill itself. He then tried to make it as an imitation artist once his story had been revealed but it seems he was ahead of his time. Perhaps he was too late in making imitation part of his statement.  If he had revealed the forgeries himself before being discovered as some grand coup d’etat of the art world and experts and authenticity maybe he could have sold it as performance piece himself.  He committed suicide upon hearing he was being extradited to France on charges of Fraud.

F for Fake truly shows how fragile and illusory these  definitions are.  How we create value, build it up, burn it down.  It shows how much of art or really life can be about the sell, the story, the reception, instead of the actual product itself.  Emyr de Hory seemed to excuse himself by saying he was making beautiful pieces that they enjoyed, and this story reveals how much enjoyment really came only from the perceived value.