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thoughts run amuck, but there is not much to cleave from these spaces that have been emptied of all material matter after the man left the trap door open and i fell asunder, it was the pressure of losing his cerebral muse into the waves that she said would pull us under – now we have nothing to lose and there is a pounding in this heart that goes faster faster with expediency that rolls a wave of thunder that brought down the rain tonight keeping us neither wet nor dry – it is the devil, she cries, pounding the ground awake from below and we feel her ache – we scream her scream for why must we swirl into this dream of living when it goes out of control under steam and plows down too many innocent things, innocent dreams that were just beginning to breathe softer under her soft sheen producing golden rubs upon their round chins and pursed lips; we shall never understand this, this life that is full of happiness, yet it pulls some of us under until we become buried within a storm so devastating that we question reality – was it really just a blink – in this bed of stolen slumber we shall finally find what could never been seen ~

(Apologies – it has been forever since there was freedom to just write a bit of stream. I am a bit lost without having a paper to write, a lecture to watch or a chapter to read. This bit of breath (2 courses start soon) has me choking on air.)

“So long as the artist does not belong, in the most concrete sense, to one of the great historical classes of humanity, so long he cannot realize a social expression in all its public fullness. Which is to say, an expression for, and not against. The artist is greatest in affirmation.”

~ Robert Motherwell

It is interesting, searching Motherwell’s book this weekend for personal research, I stumbled upon the above quote. The quote reads as the artist equivalent to Judith Butler on defining gender and sex. It should really come as no surprise for Motherwell was a philosophy student first, artist second. I left notes in the margins pointing out echoes of Marx, Rousseau and Foucault.

“To express the felt nature of reality is the artist’s principal concern.” ~ Robert Motherwell

What is reality…really? Is it the artist’s reality or the reality of society, a certain faction that is addressed within said art? How is it that this goes expressed in art? What is the purpose of art if the artist’s concern is expression of Felt nature – are we involved in this feeling too? If we do not get moved, who failed who?

A thought to leave with you – actually two:

1) I recently watched The Examined Life which is a fascinating documentary featuring several of the philosophers mentioned in recent papers on this blog. žižek’s brief interview took place in a garbage facility. He spoke of consumption, i.e. overconsumption and our throw-a-way society. He felt that society is too quick to forget where all this garbage goes – we just throw and ‘poof’ it is gone from our mind. It had me thinking – it would be wonderful if school age children took a field trip to a local garbage facility to understand where everything is going. In this “wonderful world”, they then would visit an artist’s studio whose work is composed from garbage or found things….

2) Would it be wrong to have a Conceptional Art Museum with nothing in it?

(This blog post has been powered tonight by First Listen @NPR : Laura Marling.)

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6 Comments

  1. Angela: First off, I absolutely love your last question (though am curious as to what “wrong” would mean in this context). This morning I was listening to a poem talk on Bergvall’s Via and pondering again what I think about Conceptual art/poetry. When I first encountered Via, I found it disappointing—fascinating raw materials, carefully compiled, but not enough. The discussion in the poem talk is illuminating to me about why other thoughtful folk think it’s a wonderful work. I don’t know yet what I think.

    And now, I will veer off, as I would like to respond, to the extent I can, to what you most recently asked at Mark’s post, but, like you, I don’t want to burden that post further (though I hope Mark will weigh in, as his understanding of Ashbery is as deep as it is wide). So here I go: I have now sought out a definition of “transparency,” and this is the one that makes sense to me: “Transparency is operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed.” I think of the term, actually, as applicable to accounting and that sort of thing, that is, transparency means not cooking the books, not lying about what’s actually happening. I’m inclined to think its applicability to poetry is nil.

    I’m reading right now a book on modernist poetry, and the subject under discussion is Ezra Pound. Your question came to mind as I read the discussion of Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro.” Here are a couple passages that leapt out at me: “What makes Pound’s poem different and more difficult is that, without a main verb, it is unclear exactly in what relation the two statements stand to one another . . . . the point of the poem’s technique is that by cutting out so much it allows an endless, suggestive interplay between its two statements.” And then this: “The meaning is more like a seed, individually planted in the mind of every reader and continuing to grow. It never becomes an objective, common property, because that would require the relationship between the two lines to be summed up; it doesn’t illustrate some greater system of meaning, and it can’t be ‘framed’ in a single perspective, just as it can’t be put in the frame of a regular rhythm. It’s the indeterminate relation between the two lines that keeps it free and unique . . .”

    It’s this beautiful, infinite unfolding that I’m after when I read a poem. This revelation-without-end. So, to answer your question about Ashbery, I would say no, his poetry is not transparent. I might go further and say that no great poetry is transparent. Rather, a great poem keeps unfolding, without end. But then, what do I know?

    Reply
    • Susan ~ you are so kind to offer such a response to this rather rambling post. It is late, and I must be done for the night (could not even muster a proper dialogue on Dickinson — will have to revisit as I am letting your comment brew a bit. Transparency – not certain where I stand…again, perhaps the brain will function after a bit of sleep.

      Btw ~ I look forward to the Spotify link on your blog and will give a listen, thank you. I do believe I may have listened to one piece by him and rather enjoyed. ~ a

      Reply
      • Susan ~ I meant to get back to you sooner, and I fear this post will be of no worth for I have been at work all day. That said, I’m listening to Four Thousand Holes as I write and am lulled by its patterning – it inspired my mind to expand (though probably not enough to answer this in an intelligent manner as I ride the final note of the string as it quivers under the pressure of the peddle and fingers….)

        As for transparency, I am still tossed. Ashbery certainly is not easy to interpret, yet he is not holding out, all his cards are on the table – we just do not know the circumstance of each card drawn. I guess perhaps I do not understand transparency in regards to poetry. Do we ever read poems that actually walk us through what is happening, what they are observing – is that the only transparency, if we, the reader, are led by hand?

        Sigh…what is not transparent is whether Perloff really wants their to be readers of poetry beyond those of the academy…despite what she says ~

  2. Lots of sparkling thoughts in this post. Rauschenberg famously said that one can’t define art or life and that was why he “work[ed] in the gap between the two.” It’s a statement as cryptic as it is unforgettable. I think it is only (potentially) intelligible in light of questions such as yours. Different artists have different kinds of relationships to this working within the gap. Some act as though their work is about reality, others think their work is its own reality, there are those like Rauschenberg (very sophisticated, imo), and there are those like the so-called minimalists who create situations in which the viewer questions the nature of reality. Motherwell’s “felt” comment reminds me of Ashbery (since we’ve been talking about him). It has always seemed to me that reading Ashbery’s poetry creates a sensation of what consciousness feels like (and so I like what Susan has said above).

    A few years ago there was a major show about nothing at the Pompidou in France called “Voids”. Of course there was something in it: texts. Conceptual art cannot exist without text.

    Reply
    • Enjoy the Rauschenberg quote, Mark. I agree that Ashbery brings a sense of consciousness, yet many times I feel like I am riding a wave on his words, seeing his world yet connecting almost via a dreamlike state in my mind until there is a convergence of worlds in space/time, i.e. my time into his space. This is certainly a personal experience that has nothing to do with criticism or poetic understanding, but the reader as active participant willingly giving her mind over to his language.

      A bit perplexed with the text= conceptual art for if we use Rauschenberg as example, his rather famous Erased de Kooning was simply an erased de Kooning in a frame – no words involved –what am I missing? That said, in my mind the museum could still work for there is text in the art museum’s name….it was a bit of a joke, but now I rather like the idea. What if it had a catalogue with descriptions of each piece that could be on display, but is not…(you seriously do not need to answer, my brain is simply vomiting nonsense now….

      Reply
      • Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t imagine someone appreciating the erased de Kooning (unless they’re a nihilist) without some level of discourse involved. Not necessarily the written word, but some sort of thought process that’s beyond the purely visual. You think about the act in terms of drawing, the relationship of a young artist to an established older one, the fact that he had de Kooning’s skeptical approval, etc. The whole art of it is in thinking these things over. It’s not about void and silence but discourse. And people love to talk and read about the erased de Kooning. I doubt it would be much fun to look at.

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