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Posts Tagged ‘minimalism’

The Return of the (Feline) Repressed

July 17, 2013 | by

It is no accident that cats dominate the Internet. Their cute antics erupt on our screens with the persistence of repressed material rising to the surface—because they are repressed material: the feline precursors repressed by Official Art History. 

Until now, our knee-jerk anthropocentrism has blinded us to something any kitten could see. An entire movement—Minimalism—was in fact actually made for cats.* Minimalist icons are in fact cat toys and litter boxes.  

In his famous study of copycats, Harold Bloom caterwauled about the “anxiety of influence” that spurs artists to strongly misread (i.e. forget to credit) their influences, while they nevertheless betray them with all kinds of clues, tracking litter all over the place. With the Minimalists, we have discovered a feline influence so pervasive and so obvious; it is unbelievable that the Academy has never figured it out.

What follows is a much needed pedagogical intervention to demystify misreadings of Minimalism that have circulated—and even been funded—by respectable institutions. So much discourse has been generated—and how wrong everyone has been.

Some of our findings:

Judd_Cats

Donald Judd’s Litter Box, the initial red flag, strangely neglected by piles of scholarship. In Judd’s 1965 essay “Specific Objects” (specific objects for cats!), he meows about an art that is “neither painting nor sculpture.” He howled at “relational composition,” noting, “Objects are depersonalized, art should no longer express human emotion.” His subtext? Art should instead be a potty for pussycats! Read More »

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“An Egoless Practice”: Tantric Art

April 3, 2012 | by

Bikaner, 2002, 14

It could be a cult classic: the debut edition of Siglio Press’s Tantra Song—one of the only books to survey the elusive tradition of abstract Tantric painting from Rajasthan, India—sold out in a swift six weeks. Rendered by hand on found pieces of paper and used primarily for meditation, the works depict deities as geometric, vividly hued shapes and mark a clear departure from Tantric art’s better-known figurative styles. They also resonate uncannily with lineages of twentieth-century art—from the Bauhaus and Russian Constructivism to Minimalism—as well as with much painting today. Rarely have the ancient and the modern come together so fluidly.

For nearly three decades, the renowned French poet Franck André Jamme has collected these visual communiqués, and it hasn’t been easy: in 1985 he survived a fatal bus accident while traveling to visit Hindu tantrikas in Jaipur. In Tantra Song, Jamme assembles some of the most pulsating works he’s acquired, while unpacking his experiential knowledge of Tantra’s cosmology.

Western views of Tantra tend toward hyperbole. (The New York Times recently published an article, “Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here,” noting, “Early in the twentieth century, the founders of modern yoga worked hard to remove the Tantric stain.”) Jamme’s book serves as a corrective to this slant and sheds significant light on the deep historical roots—and fruits—of the practice. Siglio will release a second edition of the book on April 19. Jamme and I recently discussed these anonymously made paintings, the altered states they induce, and their timeless aesthetics.

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Helen Simpson on ‘In-Flight Entertainment’

February 28, 2012 | by

Helen Simpson. Photo by Derek Thomson.

I met Helen Simpson for a genial pub lunch near Dartmouth Park in North London on the day she received the American edition of In-Flight Entertainment: Stories. She was evidently quite pleased by the book’s spare but elegant design, which looks through an airplane window onto a locket of cerulean sky. I’m tempted to draw comparisons to her stories, many of which peek at other people’s blitheness, or cruelty, or dreams of escape. But nothing in Simpson’s fiction is quite as peaceful as that glimpse of blue. She is perhaps best known for the characterization of contemporary motherhood in her collections, but many of the stories in In-Flight Entertainment confront the prospect of climate change.

Your collections are never quite themed, but they do feel very painstakingly designed. Was that true for In-Flight Entertainment?

In-Flight Entertainment is my little climate-change suite, I suppose. But there are fifteen stories in it, and only five are about climate change. My only rule is to write about what’s interesting to me at the time. It’s a great subject, but it’s very hard to dramatize or to make particular, and not to hector, not to moralize.

There are plenty of experts in these stories. There’s Jeremy in the title story as well as amateur researchers like Angelika in “The Tipping Point” and G in “Diary of an Interesting Year.” They don’t seem to benefit from their knowledge.

Well, it alienates people from them. That’s the trouble. Did you ever watch that episode of The Simpsons shortly after Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth came out?  It is spoofed as An Irritating Truth. It is an irritating truth and no one wants to hear someone sounding off about it, and particularly not when they’re about to go on holiday.

Stories are good for uncomfortable things, for uncomfortable subjects. They’re not generally relaxing. Novels are more relaxing. You just give up to the novel, you go into its bath, you submit to it. You don’t with a story. You’re more alert as a reader, and more critical. If it doesn’t grab you by the second sentence, it’s done. Whereas with a novel, people will give it a couple of chapters before they abandon it. Read More »

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