Monday, July 14, 2008

Apropos academic perversity and the absolute bourgeois.
Jeff Wall
Tim Clark, being tried in absentia: [scroll down at bit]
Thomas Struth


Thomas Struth, The Hirose Family, Hiroshima


The Smith Family, Fife, Scotland


Jeff Wall The Flooded Grave, Transparency in lightbox
228.5 x 282 (90" x 111") Details here

Struth's portraits, his best work, aren't perverse at all but humane in expressing an honest conservatism, slightly sad, with no pretense of radicality except in the sense perhaps that honesty is radical. Although he sees behind poses and postures he renders his subjects' humanity, not just their function, and this has the effect of humanizing the status quo. He's as respectful of his subjects as they are of themselves and most often they return that respect; even the arrogant ones express pride partly at being photographed. At the very least they return a gaze. A few show both arrogance and feigned indifference and these works suffer from a lack of cooperation, literally of communication and thus collaboration. The subjects look as if at themselves in a mirror. Most of these are Americans.

There's a control-freak quality to Clark's language and to Wall's photo-constructions; it began to bother me first in Clark. Both claim to represent the world, as we all do in our speech, but there's a hyper-determinism that's not so much conservative as brilliantly reactionary [a few years ago I would never have thought of linking those two words] in the sense that hypocrisy is reactive. But maybe it's just a contradiction heightened to the point of an electric buzz. Struth is less conflicted: he's warmer. I began to feel aware of this, and that I was beginning to tire of pure contradiction as a theme, only in the past few years. I've always hated Borges as an illustrator and a fascist, but I need to read Nabokov. I've read enough of him to recognize crystalline language but in the context of the literary academy it's a form of art. I've always hated conceptualism, but there is such a thing as the poetry of ideas. I'm growing tired of that, just as I've begun to realize that it's always been my major interest.

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