Professors, writers, artists, curators, and graduate students exchanging their ideas about contemporary art and culture at this year’s College Art Association conference in New York, lent some insight and reflection on the progress of this ever-in-the-making collection catalogue that the Walker Art Center is in the midst of producing.
My session itinerary included presentations related to digital publishing, to new new media and social networks, to archiving contemporary art, and to performativity (a catalogue “chapter” we’re now composing).
-Are We Standing at a Digital Divide in Art Publishing: On the topic of online vs. print publishing, eastofborneo.org founder, Thomas Lawson, presented the collaborative art journal/multimedia archive; Chad Coerver, Director of Publications, Graphic Design, and Web at SFMOMA (a fellow Getty OSCI grantee) talked about the making of their online catalogue of Rauschenberg holdings, asking what it means to show artworks that were never meant to be shown this way, what we can do online that we cannot do in print, and the challenge of publishing to user platforms that continue to change; Art Journal’s Editor-in-Chief, Katy Siegel, unveiled their new website and noted, in her discussion of the nature of changing scholarship, the increase of submissions that veered from traditional essay formats—more interviews, panel dialogues, collaborative discussions, etc. (as Jerry Saltz put it: “we already have the one speaking to the many, but I’m also interested in the 5,000-headed beast, the many speaking to one another”).
- Critical Histories: Regarding the influence of contemporary art writing on contemporary art history, Artforum’s Tim Griffin raised the question of how publications resist reinforcing clichés and stereotypes, Thomas Crow spoke on the critic’s acceptance and legitimacy within the academy (on the contemporary becoming a subject of art history as bound up in the evolution of art criticism), and Carrie Lambert Beatty responded to the critic/historian dilemma (critic’s lack of perspective and historian’s not in the moment) by proposing a scholarship “aware of its adjustments but isn’t obsessed with the next best thing.”
- Oral Histories & the Archive: With the rise in video and audio recordings used to relay a moment in history or to document and conserve artworks, presenters (including Ann Butler on the Art Spaces Archives Project (AS-AP), Michelle Elligot on MoMA’s Oral History Project, and Sandra Q. Firmin on the exhibition Artpark: 1974–1984) addressed how this media can expand—discursively, qualitatively—on what is found in traditional archival documents. Interesting remarks were then brought up about the framing of these recordings (cameraperson’s perspective, off-camera prep, re-takes, interview questions, etc.), the interviewee’s editorial influence, and—as these first-person accounts are made public by art institutions— the treatment of factual discrepancies.
- Globalization: Iftikhar Dadi critiqued how non-western cultural practices have been represented in exhibition contexts as if smoothly translated into a globalized world to evince a false structure of integration that isn’t calculable under such terms. Dadi recalled Andreas Huyssen’s studies on globalization as contributing to a total change in the art history of modernism (reminding that “there’s no such thing as ‘art’ itself – it only has meaning through its legitimization by institutions”). In the Q&A, there were debates on the possibilities of comprehending third languages inherent to translation, of meta-world-art historical narratives and universalities, and of clear concepts existing through infinite voices and architectures of open-endedness.
- Re-curating: New Practices in Exhibition Making: With endless ways to show an artist’s oeuvre, a curatorial penchant for re-curating exhibitions has brought new perspectives on original presentations. Leigh Markopoulos from California College of the Arts cited the example of last year’s traveling retrospective exhibition of Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Specific Objects without Specific Form that was installed in each of six venues according to how various invited artists were influenced by Gonzalez-Torres’ work; Reesa Greenberg referred to Alexander Dorner’s and El Lissitzky’s flexibleAbstract Cabinets (1926-28) to illustrate her point about history not occurring in discrete temporal moments; Shannon Jackson presented her experience of Rimini Protokoll’s Call Cutta in a Box performed in various cities (including Minneapolis last Fall), asking what it means to re-curate the event (and in this case, the people) according to the epigenesis of these projects migrating through different contexts and to experiences of intercultural travel and politics.
- Live Art/Museum Object: Relating to the development of our online catalogue chapter on performativity (which includes in-depth research on artworks by Tino Sehgal, Yves Klein, Helio Oiticica, Eiko & Koma, and Trisha Brown), in Kaira Cabañas’ talk, Exhibiting the Invisible, she critiqued art institutions’ depiction of ephemeral and participatory works, focusing on Yves Klein’s Le Vide (1958); Matthew Breatore’s talk, The Live and the Archive: Methods of Display of Performance Re-creation addressed the conservation of performance through documentation as re-performance by discussing Marina Abramovic’s work in the Guggenheim’s Seven Easy Pieces (2005) exhibition; and in Yasmil Raymond’s talk, Collecting Situations: Repetition, Habit, and Presence as an Institutional Model, she spoke about works by Franz Erhard Walther and Tino Sehgal in support of museal formats transitioning from spaces of permanent containing to those of permanent becoming.
- Parallel Practices: When the Mind isn’t Focused on Art : After a couple of days spent listening to people read papers about performance, a highlight was walking into this packed and swelteringly hot conference ballroom to experience Janine Antoni’s enactment of the movement meditation, 5Rhythms. Rather than just tell in words what she does while not in the studio, Antoni clipped a mic to her tank top, stepped in front of the table of six presenters, and performed her dancing flow throughout the aisles, responding in motion to our bodies in the space. Unfortunately I missed Vija Celmins, Petah Coyne, and Robert Gober’s presentations (coming in there a little late after starting to nod off in the session downstairs on Copyright), but did listen to Philip Taafe talk about the time he spends walking through the streets, preferring the live present, taking in expressions. He mentioned that lately it’s become a much stranger experience for him as most who pass by are with their heads down talking or typing on their iPhones—Taafe doesn’t have a cell phone or computer—and ended by asking, “what happened to learning how to use scissors instead of punching keys.”
Could be an interesting question for one of our next online catalogue chapters…