Tuesday 16 November 2010

(un) Becoming Mme Maigret, .... more thoughts - overtaken by events:

Since writing the below I bought  Simenon et Maigret passent a table by Courtine, which changes everything - there is no need for any sentimetal reflection on this barbaric, revolting and indigetsitble period of culinary history as we find it in Mme Maigret's cooking, that of the Maigret's friend the Dr Pardon or the Brasserie Dauphine. Mme M, Simenon remarks in one story, has nothing to say in the vening as nothing interesing has happened to her during the day!! Depressing but gripping nonetheless.....

There is a lot more to say about Walid Raad, see previous post, and about the commodity form in progressivism since Documenta 11, but my main activity throughout 2010 has been reading in their entirety Georges Simenon's Maigret novels and novellas: I am currently about 6000 pages through nearly 10000 and it has been an unalloyed pleasure, which does not mean without contrariety, as well as a framework for repositioning ideas about the visual. But for a kick off here is a picture I made in 1959 of the bird market in Paris, Ektachrome slide, 6 by 6 cm, Rolleicord VB, digitally restored:

And another of the Quai more or less opposite Maigret's headquarters: 

These photographs illustrate some attachment of mine to the city which, despite my being very tired of Paris-as-such, enables me to engage Simenon with great gusto, and to move from having read a few of the novels, some of them such as Pietr le letton very carefully, to taking my time over all of them. 

I carried on making what became hundreds of pictures of Paris from the 1960s to the 1990s when the terminal modernisation of the 19th, 12th and 11th Arrondissements and their once complex combination of ancient street plan and density with friche, together with the birth of digital photography, killed most of the interest that I had in the city and in photography as well. I will put up some of these in due course, but suffice it to say that reading Simenon, the Parisian and the provincial stories, reactivates this imprinting of my images in myself, and not as nostalgia; rather, as a reactualising in the here and now, sufficient to this process of reading and not to a generalised and unproductive melancholia. 

Today I was yet again taken aback by the complexity of Simenon's embededness in his culture and how his attachment to Maigret enables him to construct some kind of a hermeneutic of change and stasis, of the enigmatically complex relations of persons and things. This was at the beginning of the 1950  Les mémoires de Maigret in which Simenon put's into his creation's mouth a first person account of his being written as a character. In a sense it is an autobiography of Simenon in his role as Maigret's author, shifting from an arrogant but disingenuous timidity in facing his creation to a blatant arrogance and finally a fond intimacy - the intimacy of a certain introjection, the moment when Maigret notes that it is Simeon who dresses like Maigret rather than being his dresser, so as to speak. It's an object lesson in the elaboration of obsession, one that throws some light in my own with the artist J A D Ingres. But Simenon's simple gesture of pretence, of suspending the suspension of fiction's truthfulness, is stunningly disarming. It works almost too well, as if one is thrown into a day dream. 

And, seen from one angle, that of Mme Maigret who becomes a reader in her reading of the novels as they appear over thirty years, I came to realise that the perfect reader was always and already she, in her imagined intimacy with her fond but ever absent spouse. She defends Simenon against Maigret's waspish discontents with his construction; you could say that her behaviour elaborates the reader as a bride of the text. Curiously a space of Barthes' writing begins to appear in THIS literature a decade before it began to appear in his own.

I think I might write Mme Maigret's  cook book, unless someone has already done so, but it would encourage an epidemic of acidity if widely used, it would make Delia Smith read as a crash diet.

Sunday 14 November 2010


I suppose that I would never go out around the galleries, and lord knows I am lazy about this anyway, sometimes I do not even walk round the corner to the Whitechapel or Raven Row, were it not for the thrill of possible disappointment, which is more often an impulse to critical activity than is the comfort of canonical satisfaction. But that is not a rule, it's just that to acknowledge it, for me, gives a reason to go out. At the Whitechapel, just the other day, or maybe weeks ago, I was disappointed by Walid Raad's show, and this disappointment was one with the art world as such, no less.

Just the other day, after seeing Raad's show, I was walking down Praed Street on my way to Paddington and on the corner of Star Street which, even three decades ago, was once a scene of squalor and bottom of the heap prostitution - one could see the environment of some of Doris Lessing's early stories -, this happened, and it happened despite the cleansing powers of gentrification and, ironically, not a stone's throw from the Serpentine's Centre for Possible Studies:

A rather battered and basic red metal wheelchair was being pushed by a young man, seemingly down and out, and the passenger was a young black man, possibly in his 20s, with Down's syndrome, and not well at all; an older man, equally down and out, stopped the two as he came towards them and they exchanged some pleasantries, wild gesticulations and laughter. They seemed happy. One of those new 'mid-price' Bentleys - which have been legion since Blair and Brown fully unleashed the altogether other and viler squalor of bonus culture - suddenly found it could not mount the pavement to manoeuvre round a bus and the driver - for a moment - became a portrait by Francis Bacon or, rather Lovis Corinth (the better painter) This Bentley, I saw, was the Art World, in all its well heeled clumsiness, and I thought that it was also Raad's work in its confronting of the world we glimpse in it. This was an allegorical insight, and it concerned also a certain type of work that invites us not only to admire it  but to agree with it as well.

Or precisely this is what I found in the Whitechapel: and this having immensely admired and enjoyed Raad - Atlas installations here and there over the years; that I was expected to agree with it because it is concerned with conflict and admire it because of its endless reflexivity and self regard. A few years ago I set some first year art students a project to try not to be self-reflective/reflexive, and it had a high failure rate, more non-submissions than you could imagine, and this underscores now the way in which the reflexive in Raad is purely commodity, rather quaint and a little coy. In Adorno's terms, Kitsch, especially his reflections on being a successful artist. I don't mind that, artists being successful, up to the point where our involvement in their success makes us frightened to step out of the Bentley, for at that point art becomes a kind of blackmail.... an art of counter reformation, an art whose beauty, if the artist has another kind of luck, will not depend upon its messages.

The archive, cabins on the Parisian Zone in 1942-43 photographed and numbered by the City authorities at the request of the Nazi occupiers - a fiction numbered - a life reduced to its nuisance value, not bare, just outside the fascist plans.

more to follow....

here is an image that shows an element of my own relation to the Middle East and Africa, it is a towel over a century old that I suspect one of my grandparents nicked while on holiday in Luxor ... they were natives of Alexandria,,,

Saturday 13 November 2010

The whole blog from my website up to now!!

Please browse the Blog, not much of it is supposed to be just topical

11 November 2010

Long Live Revolutionary Violence, Down with the Running Dogs of British Capitalism, Paper Tigers (lib-dems?) and all manner of time honoured slogans.
What a relief that some of the press published comments on the near-miss sacking of Millbank to the effect that the real violence comes from the destroyers, the venal hacks of British parliamentary 'representation', the vain and shallow leaders of the political class. But I sat out the student demo yesterday against the destruction of the education system in - of all places - the Kenneth Clark theatre at the Courtauld Institute - camp screams of how could you? from stage left.

Well I could because I wanted to form part of an audience for the films of two great French artists of impeccable left, critical and revolutionary standing - Gérard Fromanger and Jacques Monory, hosted by Sarah Wilson in the context of the launch of her very interesting and important book The Visual World of French Theory, (Yale 2010). This is a proper division of labour, I guess as both artists were present and both have been of importance for me. Fromanger's pouring of red with Godard, a little tale of spilled paint, remains tremendous, a great piece of 60s thinking to go with Baldessari and even, perhaps, Louise Bourgeois in its utterly simple but ideologically complex materialism, its giving to see. But also it honours a long tradition of revolutionary imagery, going back over two centuries, concerning the pouring of blood both in the colouring of the Tricolor out of the white flag of the Bourbons, and the bloodiness of the republican flag itself in the age of the colonial violence inflicted in its shadows.

BUT more so given the moment; and the histories of Fromanger's work, the conjunction of two historical moments of redness - the film and the burning placards at Millbank - was something I am happy to have witnessed; it nicely suits my current sense of historical time. You might say, to quote Hopkins, that 'it is of the comfort of the resurrection'... but in this case the resurrection of an idea, of a politics of distribution that can only re-emerge in the heat of the moment.

Then I went to Osborne Samuel to see this exibition of absurdly neglected art, some of the very best painting and construction made in this country in the 60s, 70s 80s. The cover is Jeffery Steele.

Southsea, early 1980s, not far from where I lived, old bellows camera 6 by 9c Ektachrome

9 November 2010

Emblems and some thoughts on procedure.
On the first page of my site I think about not doing research any longer and of trying to work more emblematically. At some very general level this means a more active, or actively resigned mode of working with the enigma. Again this fits almost too neatly with my ideas of endless revision and incompletion as, even as one tries to generate enigmas, things one once found clear enough turn around themselves and become strange. Here is the dust jacket for a book that I helped to prepare over the mid 80s and which came out in 1987. it contains some early translations of Jacques Rancière's articles from Les révoltes logiques as well as other important texts by Alain Cottereau, Alain Faure, Alain Dalotel and Jean-Claude Freiermuth on the people's movements of the end of the Second Empire in France and the paris Commune (tous les garçons s'apellent Alain, it seems).

The images on the cover, all of which I gave to the editor at Routledge, seemed a pretty straightforward representation of the materials in the book, but now they need re-reading and this I will set out to do. I will read them as the problem of the emblem rather than as a late Marxising declaration of a social truth. If this was our intention in assembling them from various archives, the presse, the catalogues of the 1867 Exposition Universelle, the police records of the Second Empire and the working class press, sometimes preserved in the police fles of individuals, covering figures of mass entertainment, plebeian feminism - the image is dense, figuratively and aurally, I was to find only quite recently that the ensemble was to be survived and elaborated for out own own time by a rather different confugruation of popular struggles. It is in effect this redundancy, this fading of a certain historical validity, a rather rapid and striking process, that turns the image made on this cover over into beoming an emblem. It becomes impenetrable as it looses sense.

But here is a more recent emblem, made out of much older material, older in my experience of the images that is to say, rather than in terms of the century of their production. This one had been made over the last couple of years as a part of the project Losing (loosing) Myself. Having initially set Ribera, Warhol and Chairman Mao in dialogue with one another, as well as with Dan Dare, the Mekon and the Incredible String Band, I now find that I can no longer explain this gesture, that it has unlocked a mystery of the self suspended in its histories. One is possessed, not possessing... More on this on the Now page of gai-savoir before long

12th of October 2010

The Dream of Education.....on the precipices....the image...

The short essay that I am re-printing here was written for the degree show catalogue of graduating students in the Fine Art programme at Middlesex University in the summer of 2009. I had taught these students in their first year before setting off to Goldsmiths, and they made contact with me to memorialise, I guess, the year-long experiment in which we had so happily engaged. For me too the piece is a memorial, as it marks my last (in effect thirty-seventh) year of undergraduate teaching - a long period over the whole of which I must have engaged with the first year studio students in a succession of departments of Fine Art. The following is a short historical background, but an unashamedly personal one...

In the beginning, in England between 1969 and 1970, we were engaged in the first two years of the implementation of the Coldstream Report of 1960, which laid down that 20% of an art student's education should be made up of theoretical and historical knowledge. The staffing of this requirement led to a huge insufflation of young, barely equipped academics like myself into the art schools, then based in the municipal Polytechnics and - in my view - gave rise to the establishment of the actual professions of art and design history in the UK. It was all an accident, the profession of art history and its critical components, the social history of art and eventually visual culture. It's also funny now to think of movements like Art-Language as manifestations of a verbalising of the artwork that the Coldstream report had itself predicted and eventually enforced.
My first attempts to communicate art history to these young students, beginning to be taken with Fluxus, or avant-garde musical procedure, which was vitally active at Portsmouth, met with a stunning setback. If things went well enough when teaching with a musician philosopher like Gavin Bryars or painter such as Jeffery Steele, my more or less state of the art combination of post-Windian intellectual art history and Levi-Strauss fell beside the road. Effectively I had nothing to say from within this little inter-discipline, although it worked for students in History or Cultural Studies.
Suffice it to say that this fabulous 20% - which was intended to found the training of the art student in a scientific certainty - rather threw us into a dreadful and potentially creative aporetic. 20% of what, precisely and, once measured 20% about what? What was a surplus of fact, for example? What was history and what was theory? And how could facts, histories and theories remain stable as gender questions, so-called 'French theory', marxian, Freudian, deconstructive, post-colonial methodologies emerged as guiding forces in conflict and palimpsest, transforming notions of fact and knowledge and knowing, while performance and video art and time-based work also moved to the centre of international practices and attention?
I think that the answers to these questions were generally simple and destructive: they resolved into the massive development of the twin disciplines or dispositifs of professionalism on the one hand and syllabus on the other, intertwining to outface the student as the category of ignorance made flesh. And so the absurdity of these questions, in the first place, was set aside in never responding to them other than as problems of professional élan and syllabus formation. Yet misrecognised as an aporetic, their potential for the development of interesting and significant gestures for the acquisition and formation of knowledges was astonishing.
I can't say that I ever subjected them to much more than a practical and non-systematic critique, eventually finding that my own pedagogy shifted nearer and nearer to the image than the word or to allowing the image to emerge in the word as its critical potential - that is in resigning to an unfinished and unfinishable subjectivation that made syllabus impossible; more and more impossible even as it came to be more rigorously enforced by bureaucratic systems of 'quality control’ in the 1980s and 90s. The odd thing was that the 20% had already become the site of an interesting and sometimes violent struggle, with studio students making witty and radical claims to 23% or 39% or 80% or all of their work to be judged as history and theory. History and theory became the terrain of conflict over and for innovation and political transformation. In this way the uses of the word and the idea of research began to figure ever more vividly as practices within the field of the visible that we call art practice; 'practice based research' was taking shape in advance of inevitable bureaucratic moves to harmonise it with stultified norms of academic procedure that mark out own days.
When I first read Jacques Rancière's Le maître ignorant I came to realise that I could describe the shift in my own teaching, the desire to remain in the romance of the hedge-school that the studio could pretend to be - as a search for the equivalence of ingorances as a starting point for teaching. That in the first instance the student and the teacher might exchange a mutual perplexity and that this would proceed from the enunciation rather than the syllabus. Were the syllabus to take form, - and this is an experiment we began to engage in Leeds in the late 90s -, it would do so from the differences between these enunciations rather than from the prescription of a common project. A series of singularities would map an eventual project as the place of a palimpsest of enunciations that are necessarily in-common and in-difference, the syllabus would become a gesture rather than a plan.
I guess that the most difficult challenge here was to refigure assessment as the non-prejudicial measure of shifting enunciations from the first to the latest, of conversation and temporary collectivities rather than the achievement of a goal; no goal, no objective, no aim. The strangest thing was that the very critique of the mystified artist on which so much of 70s to 90s pedagogy and art practice had been built also foundered. For it now became evident that the mystified 'I' was the only reasonable starting point, and that it had to be born, to be carried and to be ever refigured if aesthetics and politics alike were belong to one another without the brutality of a determined and instrumental relation.
What follows was a reflection on this long and attaching process that I miss:

167. Artistic education of the public. If the same motif has not been treated in a hundred different ways by various masters, the public never learns to get beyond interest in the material alone; but once it has come to be familiar with the motif from numerous versions of it, and thus no longer feels the charm of novelty and anticipation, it will then be able to grasp and enjoy the nuances and subtle new inventions in the way it is treated. (F Nietzsche, Human, all too human, 'From the Souls of Artists and Writers')

If what Nietzsche writes in Human, all too human has some value for us, maybe it’s to do with how we can twist and pervert it slightly to ask a question about what we have been doing over the years - the years we all spent in an art school. For if the artistic education of the public is an effect of art’s own unfolding and infolding, of the repetitions that alone give rise to differences, it’s not easy to get to grips with what it is that art education is, other than that it’s not artistic; or that the art student is not the public, or comes from an element of the public whose artistic education has so completely failed the s/he wants only to engage in those repetitions that allow this seeing to occur. So over the years in art education, and this is its singularity, we've been repeating ourselves in a series of new beginnings, or beginnings that at least we hope to be new, without ever hoping too much, beginnings that inevitably set out from something that has already been well and truly started.

In some ways this is a terrible fate, to be so cut off from the spectacle of art that you see it as your work, as the rough terrain that requires all your judgement to make it over, laboriously, into being seen. It’s a profession but it is also a sentence, a sentence to engage in a certain seriousness of life, whether you feel that it is serious or not, because you engage in showing things and in a making visible - I don't know of any more serious seriousness even when it skips and hops, or dances. If this is a responsibility, it really is an odd one, as it straddles a relation to the obvious, - that what is already there will anyway be seen or felt or heard -, whatever; and to the arcane, for whatever you do, even if it passes almost unnoticed, prepares for some adjustment of and in the world and ways it will appear.
It’s an alibi, also, if things are getting too hard, and this alibi becomes more evident when the economic structures of luxury, these eaters up of art for artistic pleasures, are daily collapsing around us. Nietzsche again:

‘To aspire to honour [here] means: "to make oneself superior and to wish this superiority to be publicly acknowledged." If the former is lacking and the latter nonetheless still demanded, one speaks of vanity. If the latter is lacking and its absence not regretted, one speaks of pride.’

Frightening enough, this; first you have an education that is, above all, not artistic. And then the art world - which is very often an artistic world - demands both pride and vanity as attributes of what it recognises as being art, as of the person who makes it. Here is another question about how education unfolds in the peculiar relation between art and its publics. The rift between the idea that anyone could be an artist, and our knowing that only a few individuals wish to be one, is quite different from that between the idea that not everyone is prepared to see art and its place in the world, and our knowledge that so many are ready to declare themselves art lovers. For a start, art outlives art lovers, but artists don't, they are born and die together. In that way art and the artistic finally belong together, and it would be vanity to think otherwise. Here, in the degree show, we - you - have ridden this vanity like a tiger in supposing that despite all the odds against us, we can overcome everything that is artistic and more than that, we rode the tiger as if it were nothing more than a lightly tripping, fair-ground beast.

********* ******** ********

Fight the Closure of Philosophy at Middlesex

an open letter to the administration

Dear Vice-Chancellor and colleagues,

I fear that I hardly need to say more to than that your already notorious announcement that you will terminate the teaching of philosophy at Middlesex will do no more than bring public shame and opprobrium upon you. There is little point in dwelling on the distinguished history of the subject at Middlesex nor on the exceptionally brutal treatment of a group of staff, my some time colleagues and actual friends. For I cannot imagine any way to persuade you to reverse such a decision other than to insist that it is one which only underlines your bankruptcy as leaders of a once major institution.

Yours etc

Adrian Rifkin
Professor of Art Writing
2 May 2010

Wednesday, August 19th 2009
5:44 PM
Painting - some desperately old fashioned problems.. notes on beginning a discussion

No one has to stand up for brushmarks, there are plenty of them in the world, in history and being made now, and they can stand up for themselves, they can be perfomances, installations, they can strike post colonial attitudes and leftist or queer notes too, and they can also be very reactionary and stupid. Dunque, it's not so odd to think about them, and recently I have had reason to spend some time wandering the streets with brushmarks on my mind.

In fact of these two works, one the Eye of a Cape Hunting Dog, and the other a page from the notebooks of Bracha Ettinger who recently had an exhibition at the Freud Museum (curated by Griselda Pollock), only the first has 'real' brushmarks, but they are both at the centre of my wandering reflections. They are both artists whose work I know well and over many years, and it was only last week that I thought about them in one breath. It was at Mark's studio where I had gone to see some new paintings, life size images of prize bulls made on a huge, white coloured canvas - the ground is actually reddish, but worked with many glazes and rubbings through. In these he takes the techniques used in the eye to an immense scale, a concentration on the image quite different from that, say, in his cases of birds from the natural History Museum or tropical animals from its storage. It seems improbable that he could complete even one in a few moths, yet there are already three of them in quite a short time. This is to say that his work on the canvas is rapid and experimental, and reveals something about the limits and possibility of figuration even as it pretends to engage in it - a bull is a bull is a bull, curly mane and immense testicles and all, but the to an fro of the viewer to the canvas is a puzzling trajectory, its not like going to and fro in front either of a Monet or a Richter or a painter who works in pixel like units, later Close or ... I forget his name it will come back ...(Dan Hays) so it is not a now you see it now you don't, but rather a question about what is there at all, perhaps something in relation to Richter to do with what is a surface as a form of work, or a Ryman. The initial model might be van der Weyden, but that does not work, rather van der Weyden stays in bein,g down to the last moment of craquelure - see the deposition on Google Earth from the Prado. It's more a very evident why, about why these endless inventions of marks in sizes and energies all made somehow out of the wrong brush, need a row of prize bulls to come into being. In a way the bulls are a kind of Derridian object, great différance machines, and they split the work into an unlikeness to itself, as distinct from Tobey who only ever achieved a terrible sameness in his pursuit of subtle difference. (I might say here that the attempt to do different things is often the high road to entropy - for instance Kippenberger for me is one of the most boring artists ever, other than when he tries to make two similar paintings.) The odd thing at the moment remains how these temporally imense images of Mark's, which do not settle in the time of viewing, also seem to belong to a great radition of jobbing artists.

Freud Museum Installation

Nothing could be more different in Bracha whose technique is the slow discovery of a relation between mark and image that sometimes unfolds over years of making, years of making quite small paintings, in which the theme of Eurydice plays the role that, for example, dead birds of paradise, play in Mark's, or, currently, bulls. And this is uncannily autonomous of the origins of the Eurydicean in her work, which pertain to the destruction of Eropean Jewry. I have watched her painting, in attention and distraction,(she and I - as maker and viewer) talking, looking at other work, listening, or rapt alone, drawing in thought from her notebooks, records of encounters in clinical practice, waiting for the painting to find an end, alongside other works that accumulate in her studio. But much as I go to her work looking for what I know of their length, their time, their depth, they always, almost always, take me in the here and now. I do not mean their effect is immediate but rather that there is a suspense of being a self in looking at them, a strange trapping in side to side rythms that must be to do with the way in which time and depth vanish on the surface. This is to say that the subject here also disappears, but differently to Mark's and in an inverse relation to the time and manner of making. The suspense in here and now may, of course, be expected from an analyst, I guess.

And this is not to engage in an ethics of the image, just a beginning in thinking how the image can take me unaware, of the ways of being unaware. I needed to start writing about these two again, and next something on Bracha and Doris Lessing. At the same time I have to challenge myself to deal with the matter of her theoretical work in the painting, for I am always inclined to feel that I see nothing but a surface.

Monday, April 13th 2009
3:13 PM
Weekend reading and thoughts..

Just leafing through some blogs and obituaries on the late Henri Meschonnic, whose astonishing and rich work on language, poetics and a huge range of issues in Jewish histories has made almost no impact at all on cultural or film or whatever studies in England, though there seem to be nests of followers in the USA. I guess that this is because we are very settled in the patterns of contained and well trodden academic adventure that so suit the larger academy and its systems of recognition and communication, the oily seas of a certain self-satisfaction, in which I too am a bather. But when I set aside my own well-worked uses of certain phrases of Julia Kristeva on chora, thetic cuts and so forth, or Adorno, and start a drift through his thinking on rhythm, I then have to rework much of what I was wanting to write, am writing or have written, small but absorbing adjustments, challenges to the patterns built up and holding me. I first resorted to him in a piece I did for Bracha Ettinger's exhibition at the Drawing gallery in New York, in which i wanted to think about her outside the painfully obvious framework of 'Jewish thought', and his critique of this notion in his Utopie du juif enabled me to do this. I'm about to post a PDF of this essay on the Art page of my website, so please feel free to download it.

Just read a stunning rebuttal by him of the use of the word Shoah by Hollywood cinema and Claude Lanzmann alike. I've never been able to use the word, despite my admiration for much of Lanzmann's film, I detest his authoritarian and absolute control of its values, and attempts to surveille the morality of all of us through the high ground it gave to him, or that he took with it. Amongst other things, in a complex argument, Meschonnic poured scorn on Lanzmann's using the word because he does not know what it means - and as a Hebraist, rejects the co-option of a Hebrew word to solve the naming of a nazi massacre.

Here are some lines in French from the blog:

Ce qui accroît le scandale. Car le mot "Shoah" n'a pas du tout, en hébreu, de "connotation religieuse", et il ne désigne pas "également" un cataclysme et il ne renvoie pas "aussi à l'idée de "catastrophe naturelle"". Le mot n'a rien à voir avec le massacre, il n'introduit pas non plus du "providentiel".

Le scandale, que la médiatisation du mot rend inaudible, est que c'est un mot qui, dans la Bible où il se rencontre treize fois, désigne une tempête, un orage et les ravages - deux fois dans Job - laissés par la tempête dévastatrice. Un phénomène naturel, simplement.

It's interesting to cmpare with Agamben's critique of the word in his Remnants of Auschwitz. You can find Meschonnic on here:


To me this is of huge poltical importance in the contemporary world, especially if you are, as I am, and most of my life since the Eichmann trial, concerned with the Zionist appropriation of the murder of the European Jews and what it means to appropriate a murder as a disaster... and as a political tool in international politics. But there is enough of a literature on that and no doubt, even in just writing this, I will be tracked down by some US university chaser of bad Jews in the world and added to that distinguished bibliography.

Anyway a kind of visual counterpart of this critique is to be found in Eyal Sivan's great documentary, Route 181, the section where we see a haircut in a Plaestinian barber shop and the participants talking about the loss of their land and homes, and the memory time of Lanzmann's famous sequence returns as the multiple return of of repressed narratives, as well as narratologies - which Lanzmann himself had helped to invent. Sivan both ruins and enshrines Lanzmann in one magnificent gesture in the present, that the Fienkelkraut's of the world took this as a sign of Sivan being a self hating Jew! Google for the riveting legal procedures that followed in France. Anyway, again, i just want to tack these together for now as a kind of Easter message of my own,

belli amici di tutti paise

a very happy spring, or autumn...

...reading Meshonnic and watching Sivan - check out his film For the sake of the people, the film on the complexiteds of the tranformation of the Eastern block in out time.

Monday, April 13th 2009
2:47 PM

Writing for Wound, at the request of my part time muse, Ken Pratt, author of the Trajector Art fair in Brussels.

It's Easter Monday and I decide to try writing here again, oh the despair and boredom of all the other blogs I read, however fascinating they might be. I write whole ones in my head, exciting, polemical, resolving things going round in my thoughts, and then that all vanishes. I need to write another piece for Wound Magazine, the second I did I will put up here, I like writing for Wound because it seems like the most inappropriate outlet I can find right now. The space between its successfully sexual, hyper-glossy commercialism and intellectual ambition is one that I find quite comfortable, a space where it's possible to work on little negations wihtout succumbing to moralism. Actually, I'll paste it her, right now,

It's called Waiting for Frieze, and Ill start writing another entry...on something more serious

Waiting for Frieze...
Writing on Frieze for Wound, for Wound on Frieze, it sounds like saying the same thing twice, twice times the luxury edition, does it make two or is it nothing more than one? Luxury squared = luxury and nothing more, one VIP is as good as another. There is a difference. mind you. Wound does not have to try to be more interesting than Frieze, it always is. Better graphics, cleverer layout, frankly venal in its combination of art and fashion, it resurrects the scent of a long-lost sin, a sin that predates the society of the spectacle, of VIP lounges sponsored by crumbling banks and autumnally tasteful sculpture parks. Wound's sin is a sin of excess rather than simple but vulgar greed; of an excess which may be the only cure for a society such as this; excess as a fantasm rather than as something you can have. In these pages we consume very little, just an idea, a relation to excess as a mechanism of desire. Wound is not a realist magazine, but Frieze is a realist fair. Pay for Wound and excess drifts out of sight. Pay for Frieze and it hits you in the face, cluttered, conservative, predictable and struggling for a cultural density that money can never buy. Frieze is never more than too much. Writing on Frieze for Wound, then, is an import-export business, of one kind of feeling into another, and maybe not back again in the same guise, at all.

Last year, I write this waiting to set out for this year, Frieze bored me silly. Everything I liked in it had been there the year before. There are some drawings by Kentridge , things of Whiteread, conventional but beautiful and, at first glance still surprising; and load and loads of gear that I quite liked and made me swerve over for a longer look; and then the other stuff that always crops up on Waddington, high end classics that are there to make you unconfident about the present and give you a glimpse of lasting value, the whole thing interspersed with some exquisite new exercises in the use of packing tape from Thomas Hirschorn. (This year, as I swerve around all over again, he will be using transparent tape as well, and it is this that takes me aback and thrills me, rather than the over-empathetic and phatic politics of disaster. They have become too literal, too much as if he is forgetting something once felt in the vortex of his success). This jumble is the figure of Frieze's crazy and uncontrollable conservatism, and little on the fringe does more than underline this too. Does it matter if Martha Rosler inspects the drains and services, or is she just wasting her time? Does it matter if we sit down with a brilliant group of thinkers to do a radio programme for an audience of perhaps no-one on, Cornelius Cardew? Or if Boris Groys or Judith Willimason make a 'keynote' speech?
In the end I don't much care, because my expectations are not so high, but last year this is what I enjoyed the most. It was outside, on the road, and I noticed it as I was going home.

Just on the Inner Circle, across the the gates that lead to the Frieze pavilion, is standing a group of young people, dressed to signify art/student/Hoxton-bohemia-of-our-days, clustered against the railings. They fall somewhere between George Segal, Paul Thek and the Chapman Brothers as an idea for a sculpture. (The highlight of this year's Frieze, the Chapman's new disaster in a glass box sculpture, majestic, profound, obsessional, Bosch drained of libidinous pleasures, like Pasolini at his greatest, free from even the glimmer of art-as-redemption, out of place on White Cube's stand, which jostles yesterday's entrenched trivia with today's public - you know who I mean.)

Anyway, by the kerb is standing a single man, late 30s and unutterably well dressed in cashmere and cords, brogues and a shirt that I have only seen in an Italian outlet in Montreal - certainly not in the Jermyn Street of our times, nor on the pages of Wound. He is calm under his beautifully casual hair, and gazes raptly at the sky, clutching a few leaflets agains his v-neck, just high enough to frame his silk foulard. An immense car draws up beside him, the rear door precisely positioned. A chauffeur steps out, turns around the vehicle and opens the door wide. The man has neither stirred nor changed the direction of his gaze nor aknowledged the presence of the car by even a flicker of his eyes, but even so he sits gracefully on the rear seat, the door is closed, and as he still gazes rapt at the blue sky, the car draws away. The Hoxton bohèmes see this and they are aghast. Thet have registered unspeakable wealth and entitlement worn as if it were nothing but a social grace, so engrained that the whole world turns around it. On the short width of a pavement they have gazed into the gulf, the abyss of social difference, the difference that Frieze as an art fair bridges even as it digs it ever deeper. They drift away, disconsolate, perhaps realising that not only do they have to share their world with his, but that maybe even they are getting it on his account.

This year I wonder if he lost some money in the crash. His look reminded me a bit of Robert Merrill's poetry, beauty a little stifled by wealth. But I wonder to what extent his quotidian happiness might have given rise to the terrors and destruction of military machine in the Chapman's vision. If it did, then the world is not much changed from three or four or five centuries ago, so all is well for art. Business as usual. This year I wonder if the little group came again and, if they did, what they would have felt about David Haines' wonderful drawing on show at Strina from Sao Paolo; the world circuits again, English artist, working in Amsterdam, finding a public in Brazil - where, perhaps, his manifest codes of scally sexual fascinations, spit, smelly sneakers, pissed jeans in graffitied toilets, the slimy trout gasping for oxygen, mean less, so that the strange perfume of his drawing itself can overwhelm you? If they did see it would it have withered their trendy straightness?

The staggeringly beautiful and finely musceld Italian rent in the the Caprice café excited me for a moment - his v-neck even finer than Mr Merrill, detailed with his hours of workout, but in the end I didn't like his brand of chewing gum. The Maître d' greeted me so sweetly that I took him for a long lost friend and was about to peck him on each cheek before caution prompted me to ask if we knew one another. 'No', he said, 'I was trying to help you'... Still under the blow of Haines' utopia of the senses, I turned him down. Now I regret it, though the beer, for a change, was real Bud.

David Haines, Adidas Boys

9:10 PM
Art now, or some of it.... revised 11/11/10

Odd short visit to Paris where I seldom go any more. Convinced myself that it is a provincial backwater, but maybe because I no longer want to spend my nights in the Keller, or waste afternoons trailing round the bars and saunas, packing a bit, or even a lot of writing between these daily rounds. Paris is just an affect of my getting older, but even then, autonomously, it has too many art exhibitions. I want to see the Picasso shows, but I went to see Jermey Deller at the Palais de Tokyo - where the food is great and the eaters genuine bobo. I like going there because of the way it has been made a ruin in the redesign as a trendy space. When I was a teenager I saw the Musée National d'Art Moderne there, beautifully hung on the curving walls, and fine in the art deco interior, in its own time a tendy space in an amazingly conservative national culture. Put together by Jean Cassou with a sense of daring that was more difficult than any of our generation had to have, but then he was in the Resistance, it outfaced the anti-modernity that preceded Pompidou's rightist modernism. For Hans Ulruch Obrist, unlike Cassou, it was made for him to play in and not against. I'm pleased that I knew it then and I'm pleased that it changed like this.

Deller has always puzzled me a bit, feeling I ought to admire him but finding the whole thing a bit nul. His consecration at the Palais de Tokyo came to my attention via a bath time reading of Les Inrockuptibles, so I made my way there to discover that he is a nerd, a classic nerd and even a great nerd, the curator artist needs to be a nerd to put all that together, from the modern political banners to the drawings by prisoners and the photographs of casual art or street art or informal art of everyday decoration, whatver it is called. The idea seems to be to collect and to make visible. One could argue that he is a sort of Rancière-like curator, voicing the unvoiced and splitting the visible with the unseen and the unheard. One could also say that he is a rather outmoded populist who has a certain contempt for the viewer's capacity to have an autonomous experience of the everyday. What matters is his collection and collecting, and that we witness it, and in this way he is a rather regressive figure of making art - I should say that I go for the second view, while wanting to play with the first because it would make a more noble and interesting piece by me. That said, it does touch me to the extent that it makes sense of a certain experience, and the bit I liked best was the French rock section, for the simple reason that I recalled my flipper days at pin ball machines in seedy cafés near the Gare du Montparnasse and the 8mm juke boxes of the early 60s.
Nicole Paquin, Mon mari c'est Frankenstein - I must have spent a fortune on this scoppitone in 1963:

But here I am, challenged to say much about Deller at all. He does a good enough job of transmitting stuff that might be overlooked, but his only contribution is to do it in Galleries like this. In the end I much prefer the Kabakovs, who do make complex art as well as collecting a lot of stuff, and I prefer the old Radio Ballads which also undertook a complex transformation of the vernacular into a new form.

Saturday, September 27th 2008
7:43 PM

This is the usual menace, this is the usual thing. Now I have nothing to say, frozen before the endless blogging of bloggers everywhere, the uselss, overloaded verbosity. What kind of a nerd am I going to be? Political, the old Maoist unrepentant rages on about the evils of capitalism and its inevitable crisis, even a stupid banker who had assimilated even a just a word or two of Marx could know that this kind of thing happens and that, after all the lamentations and negative equity, someone ends up better off for the orgy of the destruction of productive forces.... Or I could do the Callas versus Sutherland scene down to the last note, and rage against the Anna Netrebko's near total lack of consonants - no singer without good consonants is a good singer - and moan about how her partnership with him does seem to have ruined Rolando Villazon, almost the greatest tenor for 70 years. I could say how I hate Jeff Wall and Bill Viola and prefer to write on little known artists whom I love, rather than rush into the crowded field of the contemporary canons of the quasi-radical. I could register near my infinite admiration for Julia Kristeva, limited by by disappointment at certain aspects of her Euro-centric feelings that I share yet that I want to shed. At a risk. Or I could go on and on about being a non-Zionist(Jew), and hurl missiles at the remaining bastions of bigotry and heteronormatvity the world over while reading the Waste Land in my bath, with the overlapping sound of some techno from my study - not in compressed sound, of course.This is an mp3 free household, in principle, mp3 somehow goes with the most right wing government in England since Pitt the younger, the Blair years with their venality, vanity and unquestioned, impenetrable narcissism and lying - but then I would have to qualify my use of the word narcissism in terms of early and late Freud as well as Lacan and Green, and that would tear me away from my obsessive reading of world detective fiction. This summer I did Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden, Southern Italy, Portsmouth and the East Midlands, and I still prefer reading Colette to Proust and the Incredible String Band to the Stones. Is there an interdisciplinarity of nerdism??? Will that save me then??

Wednesday, July 30th 2008
10:44 AM

Paris, Les Deux Saules, 1970s