Wednesday, July 30, 2008

dutch visual artist ralf kwaaknijd: the purpose of art is controversy & the hidden in plain sight series 2

the reason that kwaaknijd is being sued by citizens rights' organizations such as the french citoyens contre la contresurveillance is that his unobtrusive hidden-in-plain-sight works are actually being monitored and filmed on a 24/7 basis. the (digital) videorecordings reveal amongst others the general public's reaction to the discovery -for instance- that the object they just sat on is ART. But also the general public's nondiscovery of the object as a work of art.

kwaaknijd uses the footages in a synthesis apotheosis of his hidden-in-plain-sight series, to confront both art experts and the general public with the increasing cryptogenetic content and appearance of modern art, where only the text tags on the wall tell us what is art and what not.

however, for obvious reasons, the videoregistration of the using of the toilets in his carefully painted and designed pub(l)ic art space / hidden in plain sight xxiii is a privacy violation in the eyes of citoyens contre la contresurveillance (cccs).

ralf kwaaknijd - pub(l)ic art space / hidden in plain sight xxiii (2001, louvre paris)

but cccs also fights the enregistration of say, people trying to clean up the debris in rectangular spatial composition with debris / hidden in plain sight xlvii , and then finding out the debris won't budge (since it is glued to the floor) and then noticing the small sign on the wall saying: don't sit on the artwork, do not touch - above the attributal tag with title and artist.

ralf kwaaknijd - rectangular spatial composition with debris / hidden in plain sight xlvii (2008, louvre, paris)

kwaaknijd has repeatedly stated that he is glad with the law suits, since he considers the purpose of art to be to create controversy. art to kwaaknijd is only worthwile as

`anything to shake up the rusted beliefs and mindsets of the public and the art world in particular. we must continuously create new synapses in the brains, faster than our forebears, or we will end up like our forebears and mess up our world. forget esthetics, forget beauty, forget understanding. we must act art, to disrupt and regroup'.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

dutch visual artist ralf kwaaknijd: the purpose of art is controversy & the hidden in plain sight series

i've been trying to reach the infamous dutch artist ralf kwaaknijd for comments on the controversy over his work, but it seems he is very busy working on his new installation series, which is taking him around the world to leading museums of modern art.

one of his best known series hidden in plain sight still is surrounded with controversy and even law suits from concerned citizens' rights organizations.

let me reproduce some of these `hidden in plain sight' works here, first without commentary.

ralf kwaaknijd, rectangular spatial composition / hidden in plain sight ix

ralf kwaaknijd, rectangular spatial composition / hidden in plain sight ix (2006, stedelijk museum amsterdam)

ralf kwaaknijd - pub(l)ic art space / hidden in plain sight xxiii (2001, louvre paris)

ralf kwaaknijd, pub(l)ic art space / hidden in plain sight xxiii (2001, louvre paris)

ralf kwaaknijd - reflectionary interactive surface composition / hidden in plain sight xxix (2006, stedelijk museum amsterdam)

ralf kwaaknijd, reflectionary interactive surface composition / hidden in plain sight xxix (2006, stedelijk museum amsterdam)

ralf kwaaknijd - rectangular spatial-flat composition with brick background / hidden in plain sight xiv  (2004, bonnefantenmuseum, maastricht)

ralf kwaaknijd, rectangular spatial-flat composition with brick background / hidden in plain sight xiv (2004, bonnefantenmuseum, maastricht)

ralf kwaaknijd - rectangular spatial composition with debris / hidden in plain sight xlvii (2008, louvre, paris)

ralf kwaaknijd rectangular spatial composition with debris / hidden in plain sight xlvii (2008, louvre, paris)

the one below is perhaps a forgery, as stated in an earlier post:

ralf kwaaknijd, paradise snake

ralf kwaaknijd, paradise snake / hidden in plain sight xxxiv (2005, centre pompidou paris)

the purpose of art? a purpose of art? artificial porpoise?

so, alain badiou considers art a domain where important truths arise.

perhaps he agrees with my perception of a purpose of (my) art: deconstruction of existing clichés. a more positive way of saying this would be: the creation of images beyond what is solidified-as-cliché, in order to express and touch inner/outer Reality.

... lighten up! a little humor could work like a torch to dry cinder, i hope.

purpose of art? purpose of life? purpose of love? truth is, i haven't got the foggiest. you?

frank waaldijk, self portrait as unorthodox thinker

self portrait as unorthodox thinker (2005, mixed media on paper)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

sonsbeek 2008 (2): procession and `grandeur'

to be fair, perhaps i should give some more background to my previous post. here you can read an interview with anna tilroe, the curator of sonsbeek 2008.

(her theme is `grandeur'...why do these things need a theme? call me negative, but i cannot help thinking that this is a combination of entertainmentlike advertisinglike promotion. let's all collectively do something arty about ... suggestions anyone? do i hear grandeur? fabulous, thanx a bundle.)

first her take on this procession business:

Tilroe: ‘The reason I called it a procession is that I wanted to get away from the idea of a spectacle - it's not a parade or a carnival. For me, a procession is something that demands a considerable effort. It really demands something of someone to take part in it. I've nothing against an event in itself, you could define an event as a break-through. The art is literally carried by various groups in society, which we've called bearer guilds. They display the art to the public: look, this is art, make of it what you like but we've engaged ourselves with it. The educational nature of this undertaking, the information they receive about the work of art and the encounter between the bearer guild and the artist are important here. The guilds have to know what they are carrying, what they are engaging with. So far there are several initiatives for bearer guilds, consisting for example of allotment gardeners, policemen, and cultural bureaucrats. '

sorry. it still doesn't make any sense to me at all. but anna tilroe also says some interesting things, i reproduce some questions and answers from the interview mentioned above:

Question: Alain Badiou argues that art is not without obligations, but a domain that generates new and important truths. There are, he says, four domains in which certain ‘truth procedures' occur: politics, love, science and art. For this reason, art has an educational and ethical task. You believe in this, too, but is it not a naive thought in today's neo-liberal economy, in which the world of art is largely determined by the art market?

Tilroe: ‘The international art world hangs together through mutual connections and these are not free of big commercial interests. The art world is completely sick, it is nothing but an art market. I'll just have to see how I can keep aloof from this. But what the market has to offer is not everything. I'm trying to resist this. I recognise its dominance, to be sure, but there's more. There are enough artists who succeed in keeping their distance from the art market.'


Question: To conclude, isn't it so that the wish to unite art and life remains an insatiable desire? In the Netherlands we're plagued by a real boom in social art projects, and didn't you also once say that artist themselves have almost nothing to contribute since what reigns is the curator's concept?

Tilroe: ‘I agree, but my exhibition is different. It's not art in the neighbourhood, it's a celebration of art. Works of art are special; I would only go so along to a certain extent with the idea that ‘art is life'. I can already anticipate the criticism: I'm making art into a fetish, objectifying it, making art something sacred. But I think you have to keep trying to rescue art from the flows of capital that it has now become part of, and from Richard Florida's notion of the Creative Industry. The work of art is being celebrated in Grandeur not because it is an expensive object, not because it is the plaything of the elite, not because it is something that has a sacred status. But because it represents the human imagination.'

so, at least i think i could have an interesting conversation with ms. tilroe (perhaps boring for her, me being so out of the loop of modern art worlds). there is hope yet in art for those who don't wish to join the general advertising/entertainment/capital flow.

Friday, July 25, 2008

example: sonsbeek 2008, the procession (advertising, the bane of modern art 4)

like multatuli, i do not have to go out and look for examples. if i stay at home and lock the doors, i still cannot escape them.

about 3/4 yr ago i was contacted by slak, an organization in the area arnhem/nijmegen that rents out subsidized studios to professional artists. slak announced that sonsbeek 2008, the 5-annual(?) open air sculpture exhibition in sonsbeek park arnhem, would be accompanied by a Procession...


well, because processions are becoming the fashion in modern art. there had been a procession in ... and also in ... and they had been a huge cultural and artistic success.

*but what the mahogany is the meaning of this `procession'?

well, to show that art is supported by the people, the procession will feature the exhibited sculptures carried by `guilds' through the streets of arnhem, before their placement in the park for exhibit. guilds of course, you uneducated artist, were what we had in medieval times, when processions were popular. And so it all makes sense, you see?

*but what do you need me for?

well, it would seem most appropriate if the artists of slak would form a guild, to carry one of the sculptures through arnhem. of course, a guild is more than just a labour gang. the guild will adopt their art work, meet its maker, and organize meetings around it, and take care of it in years to come, etc, you understand?

*ok, so let me get this straight. i'm a professional visual artist, but you are not interested in my work. instead you have some `star' visual artists, and to promote and advertise their work in a carnivalesque need me? oh, i see, that makes sense. but only if you think that art is entertainment. and then of course, satellite entertainers will enjoy their part (even if small) in the Grand Event. well...good luck...i hope...


let's see what the website has to say:

The Procession
Art carried by the people

It is unique that at Sonsbeek 2008 the inhabitants of a city carried works of art through the streets in a magnificent Procession. An event that states that art needs the support of many in order to acquire a real meaning in society. But the idea of the Procession is also a celebration, a festive way of presenting art as the symbol of human imagination.

On Sunday June 8, 2008 this Procession took place amidst the decor of the old innercity of Arnhem.


to me this is a perfect example of advertising winning out over art (at least what i call art). the advertising for art (that's what this procession nonsense is about) is surrounded with the same bla bla that art is surrounded with, and then pronounced art itself. the artistic success is measured in terms of advertising and entertainment terms. serious professional visual artists are even expected to join in for free, for the good cause of art i suppose (or because it will give them exposure...?).

let's all arty party...would you hold my sculpture there, then i can dosido around this painting...and take your brush and swing it wide, paint your partner side by side...

sonsbeek 2008, procession

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

advertising & art 3: conflicting purposes

again and again my thoughts come back to the question: what is the purpose of art?

to be honest, i don't know. in its generality the question even seems unanswerable. of course many people claim some authorative knowledge on this question. i seldom find their answers convincing. the question to me only makes sense on a personal level. then it first becomes: what do i see as the purpose of art? and later, as an artist, the addition: what do i see as the purpose of my art?

in order to explain why i consider advertising the bane of modern art, i should explain what i see as the purpose of modern art. i phrased it a little mystically in the previous post, but even on a personal level i see hardly another way than this mystical phrasing. but perhaps a few more words will help, who knows.

to me, visual art's unique possibilities lie in the opening and widening and deepening of our perceptions of reality. for me personally, i connect this with spirituality in the sense that i believe visual art can help experience spirituality, can help develop human(e) concern for the well-being of others and other living creatures. but visual art can also reveal -brutally, one might think at first glance- la condition humaine: the level of our collective spiritual (un)wellness. as well as the harshness of nature, our fragile existence, our limited role in this universe, etc. etc.

so whatever the precise form or formulation, visual art for me has as its purpose the deconstruction of old clichés -after all most of these stereotypes in my eyes are hampering our progress by cluttering up our brain and heart in the same way as our predecessors, and look what state the world is in because of their and our doings along these stereotypes. the methods, images, contexts etc. used can vary greatly from artist to artist, and from artwork to artwork. one artist might, like goya, depict the horrors of certain types of human behaviour, in order to open our eyes to this behaviour, in order to make us realize: this is what you get when you think and act along these current stereotypes. another artist might depict loving scenes, going beyond what is the current cliché of love, in order to remind us that spiritual love between people is not only possible but even something that deep in our heart many of us crave. yet another artist might go for aesthetic abstract beauty, yet another for unsettling bodily/sensory sensations in some sort of installation.

francisco de goya, los desastres de la guerra

francisco de goya, los desastres de la guerra[one of 80 prints]

therefore, the purpose of advertising to me seems diametrically opposed to the purpose of art.

the ultimate purpose of advertising is to increase sales, i think. the advertising approach to this purpose seems to me to be this: reinforce existing clichés and stereotypes, and then tie these clichés to the product/concept/brand you wish to sell. just look at the simply awful gender stereotyping in advertising (because sex sells? reinforcing stereotypical gender roles makes people happy?), look at all the fake and superficial youth-and-happiness imagery.

now why should i worry about advertising in connection to art?

firstly, it seems to me that increasingly, the purposes of artists and other people in the art world are verging towards the purposes of advertising. (increase sales, to do so first achieve brand recognition, to achieve brand recognition first introduce suitable existing stereotypes, and reinforce them in some `new' (albeit shallow) fashion, then repeat them over and over and over.)

secondly, it seems people are spending more and more time looking at ads, and discussing them, to the point where i'm starting to believe that people derive some sort of personal meaning-to-life from these ads. then, when they see art, they look at art in the same way and if the clichés of an artwork are not as readily scooped up as in advertising, well then people are puzzled, disappointed and distracted and will seldom spend some more time trying to `get' it.

so which of the two approaches to imagery is winning out? that's why i consider advertising to be the bane of modern art. pretty soon modern art will be a branch of advertising, if this isn't already the case.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

advertising, the bane of modern art 2

before continuing the thread, first an image - absolute necessity for an art blog:

georgia o'keeffe, black place ii

georgia o'keeffe, black place ii

from the metropolitan museum website:

--The Black Place was the name O'Keeffe gave to one of her favorite painting sites, located in the Bisti Badlands in Navajo country, about 150 miles northwest of her home in Ghost Ranch. It was a stretch of desolate gray and black hills that the artist said looked from a distance like "a mile of elephants." Isolated far off the road and away from all civilization, O'Keeffe made several camping trips there in the 1940s, with her assistant Maria Chabot. Writing to Stieglitz in 1944, the year Black Place II was made, Chabot described in words what O'Keeffe captured in paint: "… the black hills—black and grey and silver with arroyos of white sand curving around them—pink and white strata running through them. They flow downward, one below the next. Incredible stillness!" (Maria Chabot—Georgia O'Keeffe: Correspondence 1941–1949, 2003, p. 193).--

incredible stillness. yes, that about captures it, what i mean with advertising being the bane of modern art. incredible stillness, does it even still exist? it is in every case the very antithesis of advertising.

but in my opinion, only from that place of incredible stillness can come what i call great art.

the bane of art: advertising 1

due to a trojan horse on my computer (a variant of vundo) i have spent quite some part of the last three days behind the screen trying to fix my computer system.

finally, i succeeded. no more silly popup-screens advertising for battleknight, mobile telephones, and a host of other products. google available again. the computer again on reasonable cruising speed (still not warp speed, but anyway).

but it makes one wonder, doesn't it? why should anyone want to advertise so badly that they are willing to disrupt millions of computer systems, and saddle their owners up with hours of work - if even successful?

in some follow-up posts i would like to examine this phenomenon of advertising more closely (it already was part topic of some previous posts). the more i think about it, the more i'm convinced that modern advertising is the bane of modern art.

Monday, July 7, 2008

quality & art 15: digital fabrication 3

crystal skull, british museum

crystal skull, british museum

let's face it, fellow visual artists: digital fabrication is one of many upcoming technological developments that will shake the paradigms of art...without changing the essence of art, but with farreaching consequences for artists' practice, income, distribution etcetera.

will these technological developments help us? i should say so, on many levels. but i see drawbacks too. these drawbacks have to do especially with what i perceive as the proliferating superficiality of `professional' imagery. some possible reasons for this that i see are:

  1. new technology brings previously difficult to master technical "visual art" effects into the reach of everyone. this encourages people to produce many otherwise shallow images with these effects, where previously these types of images were only produced by artists with a deep technical but also deep artistic development.
  2. the new (digital) generation of professional imagery-makers for the general public (advertisements, video clips, movies) pays more attention to the technological effects, than to the deepening of the imagery itself. therefore the images are often of a shaming cliché nature, covered by a predictable sauce of technical/digital effects.
  3. superficial doll-like `perfection', in other words, to cover mediocre visual ideas. a nice(?) example of this is the absolutely ridiculous `crystal skull' which is used in the latest indiana jones movie (indiana jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull). the thing is so obviously made out of some sort of plastic, it is truly amazing that a movie with such a budget for digital/technical effects cannot even achieve anything close to a crystal skull. and, even more ominous, few seems to notice...! although: see here [it is interesting to note that there are hardly any pictures on the internet of the skull-prop used, it seems the movie company is aware of the fakeness the prop radiates. wouldn't it be interesting if in the meantime they had a crystal skull counter further criticism. it also strikes me that digital fabrication would be a nice way to produce such a fake-looking skull from real crystal...] and oh yes, another interesting thing: there are many `old' crystal skulls in far all have been found to be 19th/20th century fakes, as far as i can make out from the internet. at least they look like they're made of crystal - probably because they are.

well, in order not to become too pessimistic, even with the above drawbacks, i can see some sort of parallel with the music world. if digital fabrication becomes widespread reality, then artists will have more ways to realize their ideas, more ways to develop their art. also, the artworks themselves become reproducible, bringing them into the home of anyone wishing to pay a modest sum for the digital blueprint (or copying the blueprint from a friend...).

will my house not become overfull? will any visual artist be able to still generate enough income? will the market be swamped by mona lisas, davids, jeff koons's [wow, these are easy to produce yourself, just click `enlarge' on the blueprint of your home china figurines]? i don't know.

i just wish i had a digital fabricator the size of a large barn...but i will settle for a digital painting machine / paintprinter (yes, a machine that really paints, but which is controlled digitally, although i would definitely need a paintpad / digital canvas and a digital brush, perhaps even real paint, i don't know how to solve the kinesthetic problems).