I’m the King of Jubilee Jumbles

artist Nayland Blake natters on about art and other things

Posts Tagged ‘making things

In the alley…

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Written by naylandblake

April 22, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Scary Oatmeal…

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More puttering around the office. Just a few weeks left to the school year, and there’s a lot to get done.

Efforts at drawing last night yielded little in the way of results. Let’s hope that tonight is better.

Written by naylandblake

April 21, 2009 at 4:34 pm

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Eye opener.

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Current Book: Louis Menand – American Studies

Last night I read “The Long Shadow of James B. Conant” an essay from the above mentioned book. I case you don’t know who Conant was (I didn’t), He served as Harvard university’s president from 1933 to ’59 and was intimately involved with the creation of two items that certainly had a great deal to do with shaping my consciousness: the atom bomb and the SAT. As fascinating as that info is what really caught my eye in the essay was Menand’s capsule history of US university ideology in the twentieth century. It’s notable for its weaving together of demographic and political explanations for the rise and fall of notions like meritocracy. All of this may seem pretty opaque but it touches on a private theory of mine regarding the rise of MFA programs and departments of arts practice within liberal arts institutions during the Seventies.

At mid century College education was being touted as a “unifying force” in american society; a way codify and pass on democratic values in a society without a central religion, and with atomizing family and class structures. This was the prevailing view for the postwar generation and colleges based their curriculum around inculcating the values that were felt to be necessary for future captains of industry and government. All of this made sense while the economy was expanding but by the early seventies the US was faced for the first time since the turn of the century with a generation of people who could not expect to have a higher standard of living than their parents had. How to stop them from tearing down the society in their frustration? Train them to be artists. Why? Because in the arts, people luxuriate in a split consciousness not found any where else in society.

By being involved in the arts in American today one is able to assert something for perhaps the the first time in western history: that what one does for a living is distinct from what one is. In other words, I’m working as a waiter, but I’m an Actor. The nature of this assertion made it possible for large numbers of people to make peace with their downward mobility because they had been offered something in exchange: a notion of self as separate and untouched by occupation. And so there rose an “artist lifestyle” that valorized living in discarded commercial spaces, wearing thrift shop clothes, working in food service jobs, etc, etc. Things that twenty years earlier would have been regarded as the mark of a hobo, not of a boho.

Today most colleges have some sort of arts major and can we say that we are better off? Do we have better art, music, theater? a better society? I’m the product of such a system and I can’t say that I don’t feel subtly duped in some way, like I’ve been handed a box of milk duds and pushed to the sidelines.

Take a look at the Menand’s essay, which offers other delights, such as a prose style I can only sigh after. It actually doesn’t assert any of the things that I have just put out here, but it does provide a very different way of thinking about the supposed “culture wars on American campuses”

Written by naylandblake

December 18, 2003 at 10:02 am

Sometimes I worry….

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…about not posting enough. The past week has provided two states of being: feeling ill, thus too limp to reflect and type or doing stuff, in which case there is no time to type. The result? A week slips by with nothing. So now finally some time is wrested from the job, which allows for a quick update. here’s some of what’s been happening:
1. I’ve attended three plays Lee Bruer’s new production of “A Doll’s House”, Cabaret, Wonderful Town. All through the great graciousness of my friends who offered me tickets.
2. I’ve spent weekend in bed convulsed by coughing to the extent that I thought I had ripped a muscle.
3. I haven’t played any Pikmin.
4. I purchased two bookshelves at Crate and Barrel.
5. I watched the people’s court.
6. I compiled a list of people I needed to contact, calls I needed to return, projects I needed to nudge forward…and despaired.
7. I had a number of exchanges and attempted to apologize for my boorish behavior.
8. I organized a still life of t-shirts and ribbons in the back room of my gallery so that it could be photographed for an ad in artforum.
9. I’ve eaten BBQ ribs on several occasions.
10. I’ve drawn.
11. I’ve spoken to my therapist about submissiveness.
12. A friend graciously came by and fixed the desktop machine, if by “fix” one means walking me though another clean install.
13. The buzzing, counfounding strains of NPR have woken me every morning, and the self reflexiveness of Adult Swim has droned me to sleep each night.
14. I’ve fretted about my filing system, and the extreme amout of facial hair left around my wash basin.
15. My family hasn’t called, nor have I called them.
16. I have found myself unable to decide between a dead or fake christmas tree.

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December 17, 2003 at 4:40 pm

It’s official….

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Written by naylandblake

December 4, 2003 at 12:59 pm

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Five more questions – courtesy of Thor

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What, if anything, have you learned from your students, and/or the process of teaching?

Teaching continually confronts me with the dilemmas in my own process. When I talk to my students about their difficulties, their stopping places and moments of fear, I am able to see the similarities in my own situation. So from listening to the ways my students talk about what they do I have become a better reader of work. I’ve also learned not to spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not they like me. When I first started teaching I wanted to be every student’s best pal. That’s as bad as your parents trying to hang around with you all the time. Now I have better boundries around it all and it makes it easier for ervery one to relax.

What don’t you like about the art world? Are there frauds? Name names.

1. I don’t like the generalization “art world” as it lumps together many people who don’t neccisarily belong together : artists, certain writers, dealers, collectors, museum people, some notion of a public. We don’t talk about the “baseball world”. That being said, for purposes of answering the question I’ll talk about the group of people around the New York art market.
2. I don’t like assumed concensus, people who come to opinions without thinking about them. One of the galling things about being in the market is the unspoken assumption that everyone is on the same side.
3. I don’t like openings, which are really about people demonstrating to you that they showed up rather than anyone looking at the work in any real way. I go to very few, and when I have them I try to find some way to subvert them by doing a performance or something similar.
4. I don’t like the proliferation of prizes, art fairs and Biennials, for the same reason I dislike circuit parties.
5. I dislike the cult of youth that pervades the art world these days. It messes up my students, and it’s fair to say that art making is one of the things that you get better at the longer you do it. Do we want every field to have the emotional pitch of women’s gymnastics?

As for frauds; first let me say that I think it’s heartening that folks still worry about this. It means that on a deep level people want something important from art, given the way we have come to accept fraud in so many other fields as a matter of course. But in this case I think it’s hard to define fraud. On the part of artists I would say that there are failures, failures of nerve, imagination, growth, feeling. When someone tries to present these as not being faliures then I suppose you have a situation of fraud. For example, I think that for many years now David Salle has been treading water. His most recent show at Gagosian in New York was accompanied by an article in the New York Times that was full of praise for the development of the work. This I suppose was fradulent, in that it was intellectually dishonest. But when you try to talk about this as legal fraud you run up against a problem: who has been injured? The people who bought the pictures? The people who came to look at them? Also let me say that even if we could talk about fraud here the biggest art fraud in history could have gotten away with less in a life time than a VP at Enron could make off with in a week.
Here’s a clearer case: Thomas Kinkaide – the self proclaimed painter of light. Here is someone who has set up a huge business that traffics in asserted, simplified emotionality. It seems to me to be at its heart cynical and manipulitive of its audience on a level that Jeff Koons could only pretend to.

“me and my work”
“the types of work I enjoy”
“in terms of work”
“making work and seeing others make work”
Why not:
“me and my art”
“the types of art I enjoy”
“in terms of art”
“making art and seeing others make art”
Why this choice of words? Is this simply the vernacular from the “art world” that you’ve absorbed? What would Freud have to say about this? Discuss.

Two reasons: when I use “art” people tend to think only of my visual stuff, whereas I think of everything I do; sculpting, writing, teaching, lecturing, DJing, publishing, etc. as all being part of the same thing :”making work”. Secondly, “my art” just sounds too naff. I make things that make sense to me and then hopefully they will be useful for other folks as well. To the extent that they are then they become art.

Name some things that you personally “find really useful in a cultural sense.”
The plays of Richard Foreman – the books of Kathy Acker, Djuna Barnes, Samuel Delaney and Charles Dickens – the films of John Waters, Jack Smith and Terry Gilliam – the Music of Sun Ra, Patty Smith and the Velvet Underground – notebooks of Hokousai – the tattoos of Don Ed Hardy – the sock money – as a sculptor I wish I had invented it, and I still aspire to come up with something like it: a sculpture that just about anyone can make, that is ubiquitous and anonymous.

Who put the ram in the ramalamadingdong?

You know you did, dude.

Written by naylandblake

November 30, 2003 at 10:18 am

Protected: LJ interview

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Written by naylandblake

November 25, 2003 at 9:21 pm