Because this past week has been so crazy, I got up at 3 this morning to finish two exhibition write-ups, which I just turned in two days late, sorry Mousse.
But I’m excited because in four and a half hours I fly out to San Jose, California, where my eldest sister lives, to see Fleetwood Mac in concert with her, my Mom and my other sister. So it’ll be like fag family time.
Now I know this video isn’t Fleetwood Mac, but whatever, we all know everyone likes them because Stevie was such a great cokehead songwriter, and here you see her in such good form, being spontaneous and cute and shit.
So as long as my plane doesn’t crash into The Not-Coast midsection of our country, I’ll be wearing my metaphorical crystals and shawl and spinning around like a floating drug addict gypsy.
Grad school was a really traumatic experience for me. I studied textiles in undergrad, which is a lot of, you know, doing stuff with your hands, not necessarily with your mind. I spent four years on a loom and dying silk a rich red with crushed pregnant bugs instead of reading the shit they feed you in liberal arts degree programs.
So when I barely made it into Columbia’s MA program (I was put on the waiting list for a month), I was totally mismatched. I think I was only let in because I happened to be a good writer who, by luck and pluck, fell into writing art criticism for legitimate magazines. It was a miracle I was even on the campus since I had no idea what I was doing despite my feeble attempts to prepare myself over the preceding summer. I read a little bit of Krauss, of course, but nothing really equipped me for the onslaught of critical theory that was stuffed down my throat. For my first semester I signed up for the one lecture Krauss was teaching: the famous “PMS” class, “Modernism, Post-Modernism & Structuralism,” which looks at post-war developments in art through the sacrosanct deconstructionist tomes of Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida.
Of course being a critical dummy I didn’t know Derrida from Debbie Harry; I thought he was a dead artist I’d never heard of. So I was kinda fucked from the get-go when the first text I had to tackle was Barthes’ S/Z, which is interesting for the first twenty pages then becomes an indecipherable mess of linguistic analysis. This was followed by practically every book Barthes and Derrida ever wrote, one after another, like some kind of 80s academic boot camp from Hell. Moreover, both theorists work through every preceding theorist and philosopher ever, from Plato to Bataille, so it became a running joke among my good-natured classmates when I pronounced Hegel “Heigel” like some country bumpkin.
Despite killing my writing voice for years by overburdening it with grad school jargon, in the end the program was really helpful once I figured out how to make it my own. While critical theory can be very relevant to contemporary art, I think it has to be used really tactfully and discretely, and in ways that don’t resemble the robot writing of most academics, who more often than not take all the same essays from October, disassemble them, and put them all back together again as if it was something new and exciting and not totally redundant.
Behold Chloe Sevigny, looking like a dumb cow as she debates whether or not to eat that night. This shot was taken at the 2010 Brooklyn Ball at the Brooklyn Museum, where Jennifer Rubell, “food artist,” made some dripping cheese sculptures. Sounds like a nightmare to me; I actually don’t blame Sevigny for thinking twice, despite how fancy the food was.
This kind of reminds me of Janet Malcolm’s first impression of Robert Pincus-Witten in the 80s. At the time, he was teaching with Rosalind Krauss at the CUNY Graduate Center. Malcolm spied him at a fancy after party at Marian Goodman’s apartment, one of those affairs that writers like myself, poor and hungry (sometimes literally), live for. I once had the pleasure, a few years ago, to go to an after party for a Josef Strau exhibition at Greene Naftali, which I was really excited about since it was at Carol Greene’s townhouse. I rarely get invited to these things, even though I’m the life (or embarrassment) of every party. I got to ogle her Bernadette Corporation prints, eat her little gourmet pizzas and arugula salad, and hit on the bartenders, as well as meet people like Wade Guyton, who have no idea who I am. Regardless, it was nice to feel expensive for a New York Minute.
Anyways, Pincus-Witten had a few bitchy thoughts about Krauss, which is why we’re all here right? Bitching is the real intellectual currency of the art world, especially when intellectuals are doing the bitching. He notes to Malcolm:
“Ros…is a very attractive person, and…tends to attract a certain kind of stylishly intellectual student. Some of them are not particularly well-prepared. I myself am more interested in general cultural knowledge than in the interpretative skills of the new dispensation, under which the truth of Derrida, the truth of de Saussure - what have you - are replacing the truth of Greenberg. The kids who can do this deconstruction talk are doing the eighties’ equivalent of the fifties’ Greenbergian formalist talk. It disturbs me.
These kids still believe in a class struggle without realizing that they have made an a-priori judgment that capitalism and its fruits are evil. I’m not happy with that, so I’m considered an arch-conservative. And it shocks me, because these are such privileged kids.”
It’s funny how relevant this still is today. This anti-capitalist position is one I certainly ascribe to. I definitely consider myself something of a Marxist, even though I’ve never read Capital in its entirety (as Kaira Cabanas once told me, “Who does?”). But I also don’t think it’s difficult to feel that way. Who likes capitalism anyway? Of course we’re all a part of it, and feed into it like anyone else. Even Marxists go to The Gap for basics (or American Apparel, or whatever). But that doesn’t mean that just because you’re forced to be involved in a certain economic system you can’t still dislike and resent it at the same time. Just because “kids” are privileged, doesn’t mean they can’t be critical of that privilege, just so long as they’re self-aware enough of their social status. I think it’s real tricky to pin blame like this.
I do think, however, that Pincus-Witten was right when he claimed deconstruction was the new Greenbergian formalism. Krauss, particularly with her later-years focus on finding the “technical support” for postmodernist art, smells an awful lot like Greenberg, no? It’s a modernist impulse, ascribing methodologies and categories to work that’s supposed to defy the very thing.
What would Greenberg smell like? Rotting wood? Is that what Krauss’ loft smells like?
The next few blog posts will be devoted to Rosalind Krauss, queen cunt of Columbia; a brilliant, beautiful figure who was one of the few to really define the stakes of modernist (and really, postmodernist) art. This portrait of Krauss by Judy Olausen was posted on Facebook recently by George Baker (isn’t she stunning?), in reference to a New Yorker article featuring Krauss that I never knew about: Janet Malcolm’s “A Girl of the Zeitgeist,” from October 20, 1986, in which Krauss sounds off on Ingrid Sischy, the subject of the profile piece. Malcolm spends a lot of time detailing Krauss’ famed Greene Street loft, even down to the kind of teapot she served with. Who doesn’t like to know the decorating style and furniture choices of famous eggheads? Especially ones who, legend goes (as told to me by several Phds), would size up new students the first day of a seminar, ask them a question, and if she didn’t like their answer would promptly boot them from Columbia’s Phd program. Sassy!
This may sound like such ass-kissing, but I’m kissing it so hard. One Facebook commenter on the article lamented that Ros had invited her to her apartment simply to help fix her computer, rather than to discuss the finer points of Derrida’s hymen, or whatever, like other students of Krauss’ got to do. But I would fix Krauss’ internet in a heartbeat. I’d do it over and over again. I’d call Time Warner Cable and wait on hold for an hour while Krauss cut her toenails. I’ve always wanted to be her gay cabana bitch; I’d play some hideous underground disco from the 70s and repaint her walls white, until they were perfect (which would be never).
Because at the end of the day, she felt very strongly about the importance of visual art, as do I, so already we have so much in common, even if I’m not nearly as smart as she. And I’m sure I could get some snappy art-talk in edgewise between bouts of Taana Gardner and licking her floors clean.
So much to look forward to, Including Ros nastily shit-talking former editors of Artforum to Malcolm. Gossip Girl, 1980s artworld edition!
This is the stuff pop songs are made of: I fell in love with someone I know I shouldn’t have fallen in love with, the feeling was mutual for a while, then he soundly rejects me. Wrong person, right time. Dead-End Karaoke. The illogical nature of it is the killer; I knew better, but did it anyway. Solange’s new EP was made for me; it was even recorded in Red Hook. Downer album of the year.
So inconvenient, these things we call emotions, which reduce us to a babbling mess even though we’re too smart and rational for tears. There’s something very animal about crying. It’s so physiological. Like when you touch a hot oven and you recoil instinctively. Or when you’re hungry and have to take time out to feed your body, otherwise, you die. Love, though, is another thing entirely. It’s much more complicated, like speaking another language.
I was waiting for a friend the other night at the Brooklyn Inn, leaning my head on my hand while sipping a cocktail, looking at my reflection in a mirror. It’s a dark space so I couldn’t really see myself well, except for when the pedestrian traffic signals changed outside. I looked so sad, shaded in red, then white. I thought to myself, who is this person? The quintessential subject of an Edward Hopper painting, apparently.
In my defense though, I don’t think anyone has a handle on something so primal. Even Freud was a mess, analyzing other messes. Hypocritical really. But it’s even harder to admit feeling so strongly about something that’s so ultimately unhealthy for you. But rather than retreating to a position of cynical, jaded bitterness about matters of the heart, my new, hopeful mantra is: don’t feel less. Feel better, wiser.
ArtReview sent David Everitt Howe and I to review the Armory Fair in New York, which includes stalls by 200 galleries from over 30 countries. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun writing anything in my entire life. David and I are like the Statler and Waldorf of the art world. Check out what we came up with here:
Not published — probably for good reason — was initial impressions after walking around the fair with our friend Conrad Ventur. Conrad is the most famous person with whom I text, and he was a great third wheel. If you’re looking for more insight about things like the furniture and what people were wearing and how much champagne cost at the VIP opening, read on below.