It is Tuesday January 11. I would like to do some writing about the first class. I was glad to see all the new faces even though it is on line and not in person. I forgot to say where I am…that is in Guelph, near the Boathouse and Royal City Park…a good location in covid.
You all had interesting items..quite unique to each of us. Some of us chose manufactured items like Brennan’s older video camera and Celeste’s disco ball and others chose living things like Alexa’s tooth-like plant. I liked Bella’s necklace and the symbolic…reference to Wes Anderson and the Latin phrase which is a compelling one- “I struggle and emerge”. Not only was there a movie reference but also records with Sophia’s album..Wings- Back to the Egg. Must look for Faith’s favourite book The Road. One of my favourite books from high school and after was Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. Kayla’s learning the Korean language is notable. Nathan’s item, the times table, connected us all to his home schooled daughter’s work and memories of elementary school tasks. If someone from Mars came upon this collection of items what would they say about us?
I wondered what it was about plants that made them the chosen items more than once. Maybe they are like pets in covid. They keep us company.
It occurred to me that we humans engage with all these items in different ways: we use eyes, ears, voices. We use the whole body to carry a video recorder or to make a necklace. With plants we may engage sight and smell and touch. We poke the dirt checking to see if the plant needs water. Sometimes we talk to them, dust them, we use the whole body to reposition them in a location that helps them to thrive. For Diane, the mushrooms may take her to the woods and to new outdoor places for an on-going investigation. All of these selected items lead to other connections for us as individuals and for us as a kind of collective. Will any of these items appear later in the course as we move through it?
I like the idea that the grade is about engaging with the technology, expanding ideas and imagination. I am not remembering how to add an image to the blog.
Notes on Sol Lewitt Jan. 12/22
Lewitt means that with his conceptual art, all the decisions about the work are made before he begins the piece. When I do projects, I often have a rudimentary idea of where I want to go with the work. I allow for changes in direction as I go along. I let the medium and the process of working inform my project. In other words, there can be surprises as I am making the art work. For Lewitt, “the idea becomes the machine that makes the art”. He knows exactly where he is going when he sets out to actualize the piece. His experimenting may occur in the initial phase because he uses a variety of sources to determine his plan for a piece- he says “all types of mental processes”. In the example we saw in virtual class (Wall Drawing No. 652 Continuous Forms IMA), he used primary colours plus grey. He also repeated dots and lines. He makes all the decisions before he begins to make the project a reality. His concept is form and rules. The instructions for his work…the idea, are so precise and clear that he can have other artists work on one of his projects such that it will evolve as he envisioned it. His idea generates a map that other artists can follow closely.
What does the artist’s actual hand have to do with the final work in a conceptual art context? The artist’s hand is not revered as it has been in other styles of art. For example, in an abstract art course, I was told not to remove any paint marks on the sides of the canvas as this is part of the history of the artist’s work on the piece. It may have to do with authenicity. The artist’s hand/body in abstract work is key. Lewitt regards the idea as the most important thing. Actualizing the idea is not essential, so the artist’s hand is not important. Further, any artists’s hand can create the actual piece once the idea is formulated. He says the idea is purposeless so not only is the hand of the artist not important but the idea is not theoretical. It is to be mentally interesting. He describes the development of the idea as intuitive, objective and subjective and the concept is form and rules intended to engage the mind. The centrality of the idea frees the maker of the skill of the artist as a craftsman.
Notes on Yoko Ono Jan 13/22
The boundaries of Yoko Ono’s performance -reading from The Grapefruit Book seem limitless. She uses canvas in a few of her ideas, as a visual artist might. She uses easily found objects like a paper bag and from nature-seeds. She adds to these two items, the wind creating a delightful image. She uses more of our natural world in her prompt to look at the sun until it becomes a square. Her materials are readily found, sometimes, anywhere and by anyone and they don’t require financial expense…seeing shadows together until they become one, or listening to your heartbeat, or touching the earth with your bare feet. Sometimes her suggestions for engaging the imagination require another person -shaking hands through a hole in a large canvas or inviting friends to a spot. She suggests a task for noticing one’s state of mind, again with at hand items. She suggests making a list of sad things in your life represented by one colour of pebble, happy things in your life being a different coloured pebble and asks the listener or reader to count and compare the two numbers. She suggests other ideas that may improve mental health like “don’t say anything negative” for varying lengths of time and see how you feel. Another salve for mental health might be “don’t classify things”. The following prompt engages movement, sight, touch and smell, -burn everything you fear and then anoint the fire with a fragrance. When I was thinking she hadn’t dealt with outer space I read one of her last prompts..”think of people close to you as planets. Watch them orbit and shine”. She made use of two elements, earth and air(wind) but not fire and water.
I have not listed all of the prompts she gave. This list is limited by my memory, ability to write quickly and the prompts that intrigued me. I am really impressed by the fact that many of prompts may be beyond culture or capitalism. Maybe they are within her culture/religion if she is Shinto or she was influenced by it. My understanding is that there is a reverence for the natural world, that it is sacred. I have seen the wishes on trees in Japan at the shrines. I remember them from one of the shrines for children where I spent some time. The prompts are positive and uplifting, you can do some alone or with one other or with more than one which allows for connection not only to the natural world but to people. It seems to be this was the artist’s intention. The prompts remind you to notice, maybe experience the world in a time of innocence.
Notes on Bruce Bauman
One of Bauman’s work is Poke in the Eye, Nose, Ear. I would say these are every day actions or banal. Most people can do these 3 things or any one of them. He frames this piece as art partly because of the technology he used which was a slow motion video. He mentions John Cage who made use of time and music. Cage reminded him of the value of stretching out time. By using this slowing down the camera speed, he remarks on the how the camera shows the light on his skin and how the skin looks like a landscape, a thing of beauty. The framing challenges my view of his actions. I think of parents saying “don’t do that or your face may stay like that”. Toddlers may investigate this way. Bauman’s use of the slow motion camera makes this kind of exploration legitimate and elevates it. Though he is distorting the face, it does become a landscape.
Another of Bauman’s pieces is “Setting a Good Corner”. It is a more recent work. With this piece, the artist does a video. He digs a hole and puts in 1 of three pieces of railway ties- like standing stones to mark the corner. This arrangement can be seen as banal. It is not remarkable. It is an everyday sort of thing. It is the kind of thing that ranchers do on a regular basis and it takes skill. He draws attention to the idea of the corner. He makes me notice it. I notice it has its own beauty. He highlights the process of corner-making that is making something everyday into a work of art. He highlights the idea that there is art in the everyday and that there can be much skill in the making of everyday items. He doesn’t like repetition and prefers efficiency. The corner does seem efficient and if not done accurately the fence will not be stable.