Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Before there was cinema...

Today was the first project on pre-cinematic devices:
(See Jeri and Ryan's tricky little thaumatropes below)

    We WATCHED some 16mm film prints :
'Free Radicals'(1958/79) by Len Lye, 'Gently Down the Stream' (1986) by Su Friedrich & 'Abrasions'(1991) by Joel Schlemowitz  for inspiration and research towards our next project in hand scratched and etched film--experiments to be posted very soon.

+CHECK out this very interesting article by Polly Ullrich,
originally printed in the New ARt Examiner out of Chicago, called
THE WORKMANSHIP OF RISK: the re-emergence of handcraft in the post-modern age.
Looking forward to your comments!


M.Myser said...

In regards to the Handcrafted Article....

I think it is odd that we want to alleviate ourselves and our hand as a maker from artworks. It seems that art has always been a way to represent the world and not necessarily our own interaction or experience in the world. It seems like a waste of time to merely display the world when we can already see it in this way. Through my experience in art history it seemed that it was always more commendable to create something that was so lifelike--or better than real life--and never to show the artists own hand, brushstroke or experience in this world we are re-creating. I really enjoyed what Ullrich said about how the hand was "a sign of the individual...personal identity, and spiritual power." (pg. 44). It shows someone, and so much of that someone that is completely missed if we take the handmade out.

With the emergence--and more acceptance--of the handmade in postmodern art is seems that we gain a better understanding of how the artists feels and experiences the world which we inhabit. What do we gain by simply looking at a recreation of what we already see? To me, it seems better to see the world from someone else's perspective or experience and feel the world in a way that they do. We cannot learn from one another if we do not allow ourselves to feel what someone else feels. If you ask me....

Ryan Simpson said...

Even though I don't necessarily agree with his whole "handmade isn't really handmade" spiel (although I understand his point), in many ways, I find myself siding with the words of David Pye in his regards to the characteristics he
finds important in art-making, "individuality; variety; facility; close, tactile familiarity with a material; and an emphasis on an intimate visual range in experiencing an artwork." I think the embrace of viewing the artist and their artwork as individual (and individuals, respectively) is in part responsible for the influx of reception for the Beautiful Losers generation. I believe now, more than ever, one's individual perception of the world and their depiction of it may be held in higher regard than a straightforward, merely representative image...

Although the attributes Pye holds high certainly apply to hand-made and hand-processed films, I have always found it interesting that the majority of these films, such as the ones we created in class, function in negative space; we have to destroy emulsion in order to create an image.

It's not true for all films of similar style (namely Lem Lye's shining example Free Radicals), but I feel as if the majority of scratch these delve into dark, restless, and inherently gloomy material. Or at least have a cynical feel to them. Just a thought... does the method of creation always influence the material produced? Or the way the material is received? Just something in the back of my mind while reading this article!

sarah jane said...

I was a bit dubious about Mr. Pye too – which may be due in part to the way Ullrich presents his case: she says that he “casts a skeptical eye on the moralizing and sentimental aspects of the craft world”, but at the same time appears to indulge in overtly romanticizing his craft when he elevates the “workmanship of risk” above the “workmanship of certainty.” Where’s the purported subversion of dualism in THAT?? Just because you don’t use the word handmade doesn’t mean you’re not sentimentalizing, Pye. That said, I do like the idea of applying the question “Can the worker spoil the job at any moment” to art making, but I like it more as a useful tool to evaluate yourself (the worker) and your decision making process and as a way to challenge your comfortable ideas and practices than as an absolute the say Pye seems to see it: he says, “Only through the workmanship of risk, however, is it possible to reveal the sense of lilfe and moment-by-moment human decision that is recorded in the process of making.” ONLY through the workmanship of risk?? I’m not so sure.

Aside from this, Ullrich brings up some interesting intersections between post-modernism, handwork, authenticity and the construction of reality. With such cerebral hallmarks as pervasive cynical irony and "dematerialization", any relationship between post-modernism and craft work seems like it would have to have been a star-crossed-lovers type of affair. But Ullrich seems intent on making us believe in the possibility of a marriage between the two. She is careful to assure us that handwork "does not necessarily mean abandoning Conceptualism", which, now, eleven years after this article, is still a provoking question: how do you reconcile materials/process-based tendencies with a belief in the primacy of the idea? The author lists contemporary painters whose work apparently qualified as handwork, again reasserting that their work is "not a regressive revisiting of Modernist purity and formalism." The tone never borders on the defensive, but she does seem to be working hard to legitimize that claim, which makes sense considering the climate of the time – need I mention again the pervading cycnical irony? And I think it was ‘99 when the Stuckists started issuing manifestos and protesting the Turner Prize (some kinda “if it’s not painting, it’s not art” poppycock). Though we now have to be wary of a regressive revisiting of modernism AND post-, I’d like to think that at this point in time it’s taken for granted that OF COURSE the hand-made (or “workmanship of risk”) has a place in contemporary art, AND in contemporary art education.

nikki king said...

I found the handcrafted article to be very interesting. It is funny because I normally do not think about craft art and fine art as being in seperate categories. I have always just thought of art as being an universal thing regardless of the medium. I know this article is not specifically about the difference between the two because it does go into detail about how the two groups "share a common ground" but I just found that interesting. Going back to art being a universal entity, I believe that regardless of what medium you are working in and whether it is craft art or fine art it is all about the process one goes through to create a piece of art that is unique, interesting, etc. And, it is also about the artists perspective. It does not matter if the artist chooses to create something that recreates a realistic depiction of something or whether it is abstract. It should more be about the process in making the art and how the artist perceives what he/she is creating. Essentially, I think this article made me think about how the process of hand crafted art can begin as one thing but as the artist continues with the piece, how it can evolve and change over time. One could have the idea to do something but over the course of the craft the idea changes to something new and different. There were two quotes I especially liked:
"Art is about perception. Art tries to engage our whole being"
"The emphasis on artworks as special, handmade, precious objects conveying a peculiar, individual power rather than as attempts to replicate reality, began to take hold"
Anyway, that is all I have for now...

Anna Inverno said...

I appreciate the importance this article places on the process of creating an art piece. Though, I am not certain that the process in creating something ever ends. At least the relationship between the artist and the art piece is never a definite one. Also, the importance it places on time as an element in perceiving and constructing sculpture in contemporary art is also much appreciated.
There is a neglect to mention the prevalence of working class jobs such as construction, mechanics and assembly lines in contemporary art. I understand the relationship between the hand and the processes involved in those jobs much more than the crossover of crafts into the art world; thus, the confusion in art is more of the relationship between that which is utilitarian and that which is meant to be solely perceived.

Jeri said...


(I have more thoughts today so here's my post on this, finally.)

The part of the article that stood out to me the most was when it was talking about how the Japanese believe that the "best art shows austerity, humility, depth, simplicity, restraint, intuition, and imperfection," which was the opposite of the Greeks. Imperfection really screamed out, because experimental film seems to be a lot of this, yet is so intriguing to watch.

On another note, as an artist and filmmaker I think it's important to pay attention to whether you get any input when your piece is being displayed. For example, getting the chance to say, "This was all hand-scratched" or to use today's example, "This was submerged in seawater, only exposed underwater w/ all its creatures" gives the piece entirely different meaning. Or does the end product usually show such processes? I don't think it does, and while it is fascinating to hear about how films (and art in general, for that matter) are made, I also believe that the piece should speak for itself, because it will inevitably be shown without such explanations, and should still be interesting, regardless.

John Hebert said...

"Unashamed" celebration of the act of painting itself. The idea of being ashamed of a piece of art that you created is horrible, but in a lot of ways that is the way we are taught art growing up...."everything has to be perfect". The quote I really identified with in the arctile was Marguerite WIldenhain's
This intimate correlation of the quick perception of the eye with the inner conecpt of the heart and mind, and the sensitive training of the hand, this immediate reaction of all the capacities of a human being, will always be the aim of any training of a craftsman and artist. It is only the potency of these combined abilities that will give the artist the power to convey what he feels in his own personal way
The combination of the hands, heart and mind always show through in any piece of art or craft, and its those visible marks of the process which is becoming increasingly popular in our culture. Even if the hand made marks are not made clearly visible in the piece, there is a basic human interest learning about the process. Most major pictures released on DvD today contain behind the scenes footage, director commentary and a abundance of other information about the film. With the world being instantly connected with the internet the yearning for information is even greater.

I agree with Anna that their is a great importance in the hand crafted art created in working class jobs. I believe this hand crafted process is more important than ever, as computers continue to advance, hand craft oriented jobs that are traditionally carried out by humans are becoming automated. There will always be decision to be made by the mind, heart and hand in any process, even computer automated ones so there will always be some sense in art, but with the repetitive perfection of computers I think people will crave the visible hand made process in any work of art that makes it feel original.

yourpartnerincrime said...

I really dug on the Schlemowitz film, maybe because Sue Friedrich piece was in a language I don't understand, but Probably because the imagery and sound were so jarring that I got an adrenaline surge while watching the film. Len Lye is of course amazing as usual, but so formal that I found myself getting bored halfway through and closing my eyes so I could simply listen to the soundtrack.

I am still really quite uncertain of this whole modern/post-modern mode of defining and categorizing contemporary art these days. I once heard Kevin rice say in a recording where he was discussing me, that I hate the post modern. It was something like "oh yeah that's Hogan, He's cool, He hates the post modern..." but I still don't really know what is post modern as compared to modern or what ever else you might define it as.

Can anyone ever know what is or isn't?

existentialism is such a paradoxical trap; it seems infinitely confining and closed while at the same time enveloping everything in its dark, dense blackness.


pitan! Pitan!

C. Wallace said...

The major theme of this essay is an allienation from the "actual" world in contemporary western-dominated society, as perpetuated by pervading artistic products and approaches. Dating back to post-socratic greek tradition and the renaiscance, dominant modes of artistic interpretation-- that priviledge the cerebral significance of a work over its corporal composition-- are rooted in a binary model for mind and body. Polly Ullrich posits that current trends toward "handmade" methods equate to a rejection of what has come to be understood as the ultimate ramification of this model: an individual is doomed to navigate an impermeable scape of simulacrums; western ontological understanding of rootedness and understanding itself has become as arbitrary as any projection of illusory "reality" ever could be. She argues that artists are finding respite from this overwhelming paradigm in handcraft.
Ullrich incorporates David Pye's term, "the workmanship of risk," into her argument. It is: "'workmanship using any kind of technique or apparatus in which the quality of the result... depends on the judgement, dexterity, and care which the maker exercises as he works... can the worker spoil the job at any moment?'" (47) This sort of labor necessitates a corporal connection between product and maker. A handmade piece is composed literally of specific bits of matter coordinated in time, as are its maker and audience. Thus, an indexical time/matter thread between extrinsic and intrisic is established for all involved in a piece's exhibition, contingent on the actual collision of artist and artwork. This thread links people to something tangible beyond their own cognizances.
While I like Ullrich's proposition very much, its mechanism is the cause/effect paradigm. Since most purely electronic works of art, even, also depend on some kind of cause/effect reaction involving the artist, I have to conclude that, whatever anchoring handmade art provides us to the "real," it only does so more explicitly than art consructed through different processes.