Thursday, June 11, 2009


My write up of The Gilt show Before Dust has been lambasted as too difficult. Am I overly obscure?


Pearl said...

from an outsider/surfing in pov, yep, a lot of complex syntax and $10 words so it feels like a grad thesis. For example, my Simple English translation...

This show covers a lot of aspects including grotesqueness vs. freedom/constraint. This is clear, from Zhong Hao Chen's figurative work focussing on western consumption thru Shannon Williamson’s fictional specimens and case studies. Sexuality and its relationship to power is examined in the work of Oscar Enberg. He works through the ruins of the western tradition, reanimating the corpses of Shakespeare and performance theorists Stanislavski and Laban. By reparsing and deforming them they are reborn and can be seen freshly.

(for what it's worth.)

Ross Brighton said...

Thanks for the feedback Pearl, but I'm not sure I agree. There's a lot of material I address that Isn't there, such as the scatological aspects of Chen's work.
Also there is no oposition between the Grotesque and Freedom/restraint - I'm not sure where the restraint comes from. And questions of subjectivity and humanism aren't covered. And being "seen freshly" i think is completely at odds with Enberg's project.
If I may reiterate two statements I made in the Artbash comments stream:
"The thing with linguistic communication is that when one is operating in a certain field, one (to a greater or lesser degree) uses the language of that field's subculture. One would never attack a scientist for using scientific language, so why do the same with writing about art? One has to use the appropriate vocabulary to express certain Ideas"; and "I use difficult language to deal with difficult ideas, and often difficult works, and feel that to do less would not do justice to either my readings of said works, or the works themselves".

Pearl said...

"One has to use the appropriate vocabulary to express certain Ideas"

fair enough.

I don't have the jargon myself so I can't unpack it. I get dits and dashes where you have content in the review. I'm too far removed to piece the syntax together again.

restating here helps as I'm not a member of Artbash and would have to register to see the comment thread.

"I use difficult language to deal with difficult ideas"

can umbrella concepts be said simply and densely without being reductionist?

knowing practically zip about you, I expect you share the idea that language is always a matter of access, power, group and common points of reference.

maybe that speaker-reader distance was the issue more than the direct/obscure aspect? an imposing a motivation of being deliberately hard rather than presuming you're being only as complex as necessary to suit the subject?

not claiming to know, just dropping more pennies...

Ross Brighton said...

Ok the elaboration that I posted over there follows:

""The folds of flesh operate as points of contact and problematized sites of difference, where the differentiation between bodies and their constitutive parts are complicated by contact and penetration, rupture and permutation, and the conventional notion of body as site for autonomous subjectivity is erased."
The folds in the surfaces of the work's subjects complicate identification of what is part/whole (difference/differentiation). This, as what is represented is clearly bodily, complicates the idea of the body as site for "autonomous subjectivity", i.e. the self, ego, "I".
see also The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque by Gilles Deleuze.
"problemisation of the ego through unimtentionality".
The project of Fluxus artists such as Cage and Mac Low, in their use of chance operations etc, was to distance themselves from the idea of art as expression of the self/ego, as a dictation by the visionary artist to the lesser people of their genius. Thus Gaby Montejo's distancing of himself from direct control of the works production, through using media that cannot be fully controled (fire, light, photosensitve paper), works in a similar way.
"deformative action of rebirth".
This is a difficult one, as Oscar Enberg's work is tortuously complex, part of an ongion project, and maddeningly hermetic. The ongoing project utilises the work of shakespere, and the characters of performance theorists Stanislavski and Laban, with little or no respect for the original works, to put ideas of subjectivity, meaning, masculinity and violence through a series of torturous interrogations. In each work the pair of opposing subjects are born again as new combinatory characters (as can be seen in the works). The use of the word "deformance" is also a subtle nod to the work of Lisa Samuels and Jerome McGann on "Deformance and Interpretation" in the field of Literary Criticism, which is my background.
The Samuels article is available here (though is quite difficult):".

I do think I'm being only as complex as necessary.

Another comment I made that may be helpful:
" ...I didn't elaborate on the Adorno thing becasue of word count, and because I like to think (possibly naively) that other people read like I do - If there's an interesting reference go look it up, even if it's just on wikipedia.

I think the lack of conclusion in my writing comes from a fear of writing like some critics - for example Mark Williams, who wrote the catalogue essay for Tony De Lautour's recent show at the Physics Room. As scholarship it's ok, but he keeps reading Tony's work so hard, forcing really concrete, specific meaning out of it, making it fit with some theory of Tony as a expressor of Pakeha post-colonial angst (an idea not without merit), which does a disservice to Tony as an artist by reducing him to a painter whose work does this, and nothing more. I really hope that I don't do that."

Anonymous said...

Holey mackeroney. You can't just go invented your own language and expect us poor weebles to understand it. It all depends on who you want to talk to. A complex idea can be expressed through metaphor or image or simple juxtaposition. Or you can use a hyper-language like yours. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you don't care if anyone understands you. Cuts to the function on language I suppose,

Ross Brighton said...

Believe me, I'm not making up my own language (though that woudl be fun).

I'm not sure if I agree that "A complex idea can be expressed through metaphor or image or simple juxtaposition" - some can, some can't. I suppose I'm not shying away from complexity, as I believe that Difficult often means rewarding, and you get out what you put in effort wise. At least I hope so.
If you want to know more about anything involved, don't hesitate to ask.