Sunday, October 18, 2015

Varieties of pathological self-loathing. Hal Foster. (updating) more for the book.
Some of these speculations can be tested against Life Style by Bruce Mau, a compendium of projects by the Canadian designer who came to prominence with Zone Magazine and Books in the late 1980s. With a distinguished series of publications in classical and vanguard philosophy and history, this imprint is also known for "Bruce Mau Design," whose luscious covers with sumptuous images in saturated colors and layered pages with inventive fonts in cinematic sequencing have greatly influenced North American publish- ing. Sometimes Mau seems to design the publications to be scanned, and despite his frequent denials in Life Style he tends to treat the book as a design contract more than an intellectual medium.

...Yet for all the Situationist lingo of contemporary designers like Mau, they don't "detourn" much; more than critics of spectacle, they are its surfers (which is indeed a favorite figure in their discourse), with "the status of the artist [and] the pay- check of the businessman." "So where does my work fit in?" Mau asks. "What is my relationship to this happy, smiling monster? Where is the freedom in this regime? Do I follow Timothy Leary and 'tune in, turn on, drop out?' What actions can I commit that not be absorbed? Can I outperform the system? Can I win?" Is he kidding?
The discussion of Bruce Mau takes up the last five pages of the essay, with no mention of Foster as the founding editor at Zone and still on the masthead, as one of four.

Found via an interview with Douglas Crimp.
The Buren piece turned out to be my take on the current animus toward design, for example in Hal Foster’s book Design and Crime (2002). I juxtaposed the stories of my two first jobs in New York. One was working at the Guggenheim, the other is something people in the art world would not know about: I worked very briefly for the fashion designer Charles James. He was the greatest American couturier in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. I was hired to help him organize his papers to write his memoirs, which he never did. If you were in the fashion world and I told you I worked for Charles James, your eyes would pop out of your head. It would be like saying I was working for Balenciaga or Christian Dior. Charles James was the American equivalent of a Balenciaga or a Dior, and in fact both of those designers revered James. He was also revered by people in the art world. My discussion of James focuses ultimately on his decor for a house that Phillip Johnson designed in 1949-50 for Jean and Dominique de Menil, the Houston art patrons (the Menil Collection is one of the great museums of modern art in America). Johnson designed a Miesian-style modernist house, but James created an over-the-top, queeny decor for the interior. It was so extreme that Johnson actually disavowed the house. So this chapter of my memoir is largely about decor and modernism, about what I call “the decorative unconscious” of modernism. 
So what I’m attempting to do is to use these stories about myself as a way of thinking about issues in contemporary art – with a particular emphasis on the queering of art discourse, in this case, unmasking the fear of the feminine, the fear of the effeminate, in high modernist discourse, which is now represented by the journal October.
Crimp and Foster are equally perverse. Crimp was one of the founding editors of October. He argues as a man in a black leather jacket, for "the feminine", citing Daniel Buren and his friendship with Yvonne Rainer, the puritan moralist of postmodern dance.

I saw Longo give the fascist salute playing with Rhys Chatham at one of Longo's openings at Metro Pictures in the mid 80s. Someone threw a beer at him and a few others booed. I remember a teacher and critic walking into a group show at Metro a couple of years before and rasping, "This is fascism!" and storming out.  It cleared my head. I knew he was right but I wasn't sure how.

Foster quotes Adolf Loos attacking Art Nouveau
Each room formed a symphony of colors, complete in itself. Walls, wall coverings, furniture, and materials were made to harmonize in the most artful ways. Each household item had its own specific place and was integrated with the others in the most wonderful combinations. The architect has forgotten nothing, absolutely nothing. Cigar ashtrays, cutlery, light switches - everything, everything was made by him.
This Gesamtkunstwerk does more than combine architecture, art, and craft; it commingles subject and object: "the individuality of the owner was expressed in every ornament, every form, every nail." For the Art Nouveau designer this is perfection: "You are complete!" he exults to the owner. But the owner is not so sure: this completion "taxed [his] brain." Rather than a sanctuary from modern stress, his Art Nouveau interior is another expression of it: "The happy man suddenly felt deeply, deeply unhappy ... He was precluded from all future living and striving, developing and desiring. He thought, this is what it means to learn to go about life with one's own corpse. Yes indeed. He is finished. He is complete!"
No mention of A Rebours, or why Viennese kitsch is death while Catalan Modernism is not.

Crimp is the one of the curators of MoMA PS1's Greater New York for 2015.  I'd thought he was the only curator but the other curators seem to be following his lead: it's an exercise in nostalgia for Crimp's heyday. The younger artists, born in the 80s, seem chosen for cribbing from his past, and the older ones are secondary figures if that, though a few are good to see. Recently I saw Robert Kushner interviewed, informally, as an old friend, by the man who walked out of the Metro show in disgust.

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