Sunday, March 21, 2004

Note taking:

There's something odd about the position of narrative in 20th century philosophy and esthetics. It goes underground.
But when it appears or reappears it does so in eccentric ways. The best art of the modernism was never entirely abstract. Visuality -is that even a word?- without mimesis or narrative falls almost literally flat. And architecture is narrative: you have to walk in and around it. Mondrian's best work is his last and least resolved. 'Broadway Boogie Woogie' and 'Victory Boogie Woogie' are rough edged and indecisive, and the indecision is their strength. They are more rigorous for that, not less. In general I say that Klee was the 'best' maker of pure abstraction because he was the only artist to create abstract forms that worked as metaphor. His grids of color, so handmade, so idiosyncratic, seem to depict the same world as his cities and flowers. Still when I saw the Malevich show last year a few of the works had the same sense of depth, of almost narrative depth of late Mondrian. The sort of depth that stands outside of a school of art or thinking. I'd never thought of Malevich as outside of the Russian school- Suprematism /Constructivism- in the same way as Mondrian stands outside De Stijl. I'd never thought the work escaped the idea in such a way, and I was wrong.

Dieter Roth went from graphic design to an all over producer of things, of stuff, of crap, and that's not necessarily an insult.
Design is a bastardization of the creative impulse. I'd love to see a study of the growth of design and the concomitant decay of the idea -of the meaning- of craft. [As an aside to an aside: couldn't we begin a description/history of the philosophical/esthetic -and therefore moral- failings of outsourcing with the first outsourcing of the authorship of a presidential speech? Is that not odd in a democracy? Or is that what democracy now means: to be inarticulate?]

But Roth's freedom from craft is also his limitation (see above.) In the childishness of his self absorption he bumps into the limits of bourgeois sensibility. That's the point. But the question remains how articulately did he do it? What is there to separate him from others like himself? That he was first? That's enough for Constructivism and De Stijl but it's not enough for Mondrian or Malevich. His work is about narrative without exhibiting the rigor that is necessary for it to succeed as a philosophical esthetic and moral counterpoint to idealism. The explicit choice for narrative, in the 20th century -for a philosophical defense of narrative- is most often linked with a choice, contra order, for chaos. And that's a false dichotomy.

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