Friday, February 26, 2016

"When does mastery of the game turn into mastery of the player by the game?"

A paragraph from Scott Watson's essay "Three Masks for Al Neil", first published in The Capilano Review 2.1 (Fall 1989):

Whenever he talked about “art” it was as an entrepreneur who stood outside a game that was already “fixed”. He understands the amorality and gangsterism of the art world and sees himself as a poor player. He realized that it would be through some sort of “construction” that related him to whoever – Rauschenberg, Wols, Bataille – that a context would be provided for the legitimization of the collages. The point was, was it worth it? When does mastery of the game turn into mastery of the player by the game? The works relied on a delicate mastery of energies. The look of them reflected this tension between a refined modulation of delicate distinctions and forces of wreckage, ruin and struggle. Another way to put it is that they relied on a balance between the real and the fake. The “context” of art history was “fake”, the autobiography “real”; aesthetic manipulation of the materials for effect was “fake”; registration of acceptance and resistance to “what’s going on” was “real”.

Al Neil, Player Piano, 1984, ink, water colour, photocopies, and collage on paper. Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Gift of Scott Watson. Photograph: Teresa Healy


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