Monday, November 28, 2016

CCS 506

When we were young we were told that Modernism should not be confused with Modernity or Modernization, that it is its own thing  -- discrete, autonomous.

 As we grew older we learned that Modernism is not unrelated to the political economic ambitions of Modernity and Modernization   -- that if Modernity is a system of beliefs and Modernization the means by which these beliefs are disseminated, then Modernism is Modernity’s PR department.

 Although the term Post-Modernism emerged after the Second World War, it did not enter the lexicon until the late-1970s, and many were unclear as to what it meant.

 For some, Post-Modernism meant multiple Modernisms -- the contemporary art of “non-Western” peoples. This notion of Post-Modernism implies a critique of Modernism’s positivist, (Western) imperial impulses -- the idea that artists (and markets) advance their mediums (performance art, capitalism) as new technologies present themselves, which are in turn commodified.

 For those indisposed to self-reflexivity, Post-Modernism is an attitude -- a cut-and-paste decorative kitsch where inclusivity is reduced to an assemblage of glib, free-floating signifiers that further alienate those who enter its buildings or stand before its art.

But whether it be Modernism or Post-Modernism, one thing is clear: both are unsustainable. And if this planet is to be spared, something has to give.

 In an effort to extricate myself from this unsustainability I have sought alternatives as to how I might proceed in what remains of my time on this shivering planet, and beyond. The question is, How far back do I go to begin (again)?

 After some thought I have decided that whatever changes I need to make, they must begin not in the way I think but through a reorientation of my entire body. It was Ghandi who said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world,” but many more have said it too.

 In welcoming members of UBCO’s Summer Indigenous Intensive to the Okanagan Valley, elder Richard Armstrong introduced us to Syilx cosmology -- the four kingdoms and how they enter his people at ground level during puberty rituals.

Around that time visiting artist Fahreen HaQ, whose exhibition opened at the Alternator, invited visitors to lie on a long white linen tablecloth on the pavement outside the gallery and commune with her before she served us dinner. Like the Syilx puberty ritual, information entered us at ground level, but in ways that made the familiar seem fresh.

 Also around that time visiting artist Carmen Papalia invited a group of us to join him, quite literally, on his Blind Field Shuttle, where we walk behind him, hands on the shoulders of those before us, as he taps out a path through a city he is unfamiliar with.

Together, these three events provided the sensoria I need to re-orient myself. But how to proceed from theseplaces -- this place? By what method could I engage in this world towards making more -- and less -- of it?

 A method through which this engagement could begin includes Luce Irigaray’s notion of “self-limitation,” which involves divesting the Self of those totalizing narcissistic tendencies that are associated with grand theories like capitalism, Marxism and Modernism. According to Irigaray, this is the only way to form a relationship with the Other.

 Another idea of Irigaray’s contests the commonly held notion of transcendence as a “vertical” system (towards one’s god). For Irigaray, transcendence exists on the “horizontal” plane between the Self and the Other. The god, in this instance, is that intersubjective meeting place that occurs on the horizontal plane.

With eyes and ears refreshed, I am now in the midst of a world whose reds carry a temperature, whose notes enter not only my ears but my sternum, whose words I can taste and whose gestures I can smell.

Call me Geppetto, but it is hoped that my exploration of this world of images and gestures, of injuries and celebrations, of fear and love will manifest in a book designed as much to be a puppet guidebook as a human companion. A book to walk with that includes the work of others. A collaborative book that, through blank pages like the one that follows this one, carries room for the reader-as-writer.


1. Marcel Duchamp Fountain (1917) Alfred Stieglitz photo

2. Shi Xinning Duchamp Retrospective Exhibition in China (2000-2001) Oil on canvas 100cm x 100cm

3.  Hiroshima Atomic Bomb explosion, Hiroshima Memorial Peace Museum

4. Shigeko Kubota Vagina Painting (Fluxus performance document) (1965)

5. Douglas Coupland Penguins and Slogans series (2014)

6. Susana Duffy Earth Tattoo

8. A Ghandi  8.B  Ghandi

10. Fahreen HaQ performance outside Alternator, Kelowna, Summer 2016 photo: Megan Bowers

11. Carmen Papalia Blind Field Shuttle document (2012) photo: Jordan Reznick

14. Meg Yamamoto Fictive Tree Rings II (2016) photo: Michael Turner

15. Carlo Chiostri “Le avventure di Pinocchio, storia di un burattino”, 1902

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