Matt Smith Chavez

30 Sep

Matt Smith Chavez

You can get a better sense of Matt’s process on Instagram. He also reviews lots of art and interviews artists on his blog.

Michelle Ott

29 Sep

Michelle Ott

From her series of photographs, Antarctica With/Without.

Big hollow man

27 Sep

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It’s still the ’80s in this house. Still trying to figure out how to get big hair…


23 Sep

Baka man playing the Anghbindi (Earth Bow):

Baka women playing the river like a drum:

(Thanks, Diego!)

Jason Koxvold

20 Sep

Jason Koxvold

Faulkner says

18 Sep

Faulkner: At one time I thought the most important thing was talent. I think now that the young man or the young woman must possess or teach himself, train himself, in infinite patience, which is to try and to try and to try until it comes right. That is, to throw away anything that is false no matter how much he might love that page or that paragraph. The most important thing is insight, that is, curiosity – to wonder, to mull, and to muse why it is that man does what he does. And if you have that, then I don’t think the talent makes much difference.

Audience: How would you suggest that he get this insight? Through experience?

Faulkner: Yes, and then the greatest part of experience is in the books, to read. To watch people, to never judge people. To watch people, what they do, without intolerance. Simply to learn why it is they did what they did.

Faulkner at Virginia

Oscar Wilde says

16 Sep

If a man approaches a work of art with any desire to exercise authority over it and the artist, he approaches it in such a spirit that he cannot receive any artistic impression from it at all. The work of art is to dominate the spectator: the spectator is not to dominate the work of art. The spectator is to be receptive. And the more completely he can suppress his own …prejudices, his own absurd ideas of what Art should be, or should not be, the more likely he is to understand and appreciate the work of art in question.

Oscar Wilde

A nugget presented at one of our first classes. We did not read the rest, but a glance at the parts pertaining to art results in this:

An individual who has to make things for the use of others, and with reference to their wants and their wishes, does not work with interest, and consequently cannot put into his work what is best in him. Whenever a community or a powerful section of a community, or a government of any kind, attempts to dictate to the artist what he is to do, Art either entirely vanishes, or becomes stereotyped, or degenerates into a low and ignoble form of craft…

For an educated person’s ideas of Art are drawn naturally from what Art has been, whereas the new work of art is beautiful by being what Art has never been; and to measure it by the standard of the past is to measure it by a standard on the rejection of which its real perfection depends.

I don’t recommend the entire piece. As brilliant as Wilde was as a dramatist, I’ve not yet come across a piece of his prose that isn’t a bit trying. But that last bit is insightful, and bears on the question of how art is evaluated in a pragmatic and non-ideal world with institutions and individual biases and blindspots.


12 Sep

Aesthetics means nothing. There is no such thing as a beautiful or non-beautiful thing. There is art that works and art that doesn’t. It’s about whether a work can touch people. Six months ago I was at a demonstration in Paris about Bosnia and some students had made huge balloons. The balloons were really ugly, but they made one of the best pieces I have ever seen in my life. It as perfect for this day. Now if I’d seen them in a museum I would have said that they were really ugly, but in the streets against the grey sky and all the people around, they were fantastic. Perhaps there’s no such thing as a good or bad piece, rather it’s about whether a piece can work at one given moment, about whether it can move us and speak to us. I don’t believe in aesthetics, but then I don’t think anybody does.

Christian Boltanski

This quote reminded me of a part of our theory class last week, in which the idea of good/bad art came up. I confess that I hate the words “good” and “bad” – it’s a bit of a pet peeve that has developed through years of arguing with music nerds who insist that there is such a thing as “good” music (their definition usually precludes most of mainstream pop music). Over the course of many conversations it has become obvious that “good” and “bad” are simply stand-ins for some subjective set of metrics that the speakers either is incapable of or has not spent the time to articulate to himself.

I will say it like this: if these two words were purged entirely from the English vocabulary, I don’t think anybody would experience a single negative effect. They are the vaguest, least contentful yet most loaded words we use on a consistent basis. The philosophy student in me hates the fact that in casual conversation we absolutely neglect to define these terms. If you ever find yourself using “good” or “bad” in relation to people or artwork, you may want to ask yourself what the hell you actually mean, because you certainly aren’t putting it in expressive terms. We all should try to – I will try to – never use those infernal words again.

All that aside, we talked about the ways in which art is evaluated – through critical discourse, through financial performance, through popularity with the masses, through some sort of cultural minting as it passes through museums, and of course through your own personal intentions and goals for the work. I can’t say that we came to any solid conclusions, except perhaps that you can’t expect your work to be evaluated solely on its merits, not that there is an uniform set of metrics to begin with. We are all still living in a world of marketing babble and money money money. I suppose that is no news flash.

Zhang Ke Chun

10 Sep

Zhang Ke Chun

(via Michael David Murphy)

Dwarf Empire

8 Sep

Sanna de Wilde

The World Eco Garden of Butterflies and the Dwarf Empire – is situated in the mountains of southern China near the new city of Kunming. Created in 2009, it is a tourist attraction boasting two daily performances by 100 dwarves, who live and work in an elaborate fantasy world ruled by an emperor and empress.

De Wilde’s book will be divided into three main sections: her photographs of the little people, their photographs of her, and two foldout posters featuring individual portraits of the performers alongside biographical information – names, dates, places of birth, heights. “Their height is the thing that most informs their lives,” she says, “so it seemed incredibly important to include it.” Likewise, she has included what she calls “anti-postcards” (her images of “the daily reality of life in the park”), as well as an insert of images created by her subjects in response to the question: how would you ideally like to be seen?”

Inside China’s Dwarf Empire

Thanks, Bill!