Friday, September 20, 2013

WEEK FOUR: Appropriation, The Pictures Generation, our first collage project!

 quotation, excerptation, framing, re-framing, stagine, re-staging, re-evaluation, variation, version, interpretation, imitation, approximation, re-enactment, prequel,  pastiche, paraphrase, parody, homage, mimicry,  echo, allusion, 

said Douglas Crimp,
in his seminal 1977 catalog essay PICTURES, in an attempt to describe contemporary artists' new postmodern relationship to images. An overview of many works from this period in multiple mediums were seen at The Metropolitan Museum of Art NYC in 2009 in an exhibition called The Pictures Generation. Their works challenged ideas of originality, drawing attention to relations between power, gender and creativity, consumerism, commodity value, the social sources and uses of art, the idea of spectacle over lived lived experience, i.e., the relationship of the simulacra to reality. Appropriation artists use many strategies to borrow or recycle elements of media and human made visual culture.  Inherent in our understanding is the concept that the newly created work often successfully recontextualizes whatever it borrows from. 
We ended the lecture by watching Dara Birnbaums landmark work in the history of video appropriation Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman  from 1978.

The main event this week was our first class critique on the 2D COLLAGE project!

by Raziel Scher

“Abandoned from context makes things hard to read” by Alicia Ramirez

I began the process by looking through my bedroom for sources. I found cardboard, purple fabric, some sketches of mine, an American Cinematographer magazine, and a HOME magazine. I cut the cardboard with a knife and with scissors, glued the piece of fabric to a piece of cardboard and then began flipping through the American Cinematographer magazine. The photos in the magazine were mostly movie stills so I cut the people/actors out of the stills and began arranging them with the sketches of people that I had done. I found a mirror in my room as well and decided I wanted to incorporate it. I used a hot glue gun for most of the pasting.
The original concept was to structure the collage from bottom to top as The Home, The Backyard, and The Heavens. I incorporated a map from LACMA with photos of beds I cut out from the HOME magazine. The beds represent dreams, which represent the subconscious, uniqueness or inner being of a person. The map was cut up, disorganized, and pasted amongst the beds. The idea was that mapping a person’s inner being, uniqueness, or subconscious thoughts would ultimately get you lost. One characteristic of modernism is that the artwork was an extension of the artist or in other words believing in the idea of authorship and originality. But the postmodern approach is that unavoidably artists will be too influenced by the other art and ideas around them to claim complete authorship over the works they create. Therefore, mapping the origin of the idea, the image, the lyric, or the thought is going to be just as difficult as trying to map out the origin of a person’s uniqueness. In “The Ecstasy of Influence” Jonathan Lethem explains how any one creation can have a complicated ancestry that does not lead back to a specific and certain moment of birth.  Lethem also expresses that humanity has pooled their ideas into a giant melting pot in which we continue to consume from making it even more difficult to trace anything back to it’s rightful birthplace. The only way our consumption has not used up these ideas is because we do not just walk away once we have consumed them. We digest and then expel these ideas back into the giant melting pot.
This image influenced my arranging of The Backyard. I have three figures with different items coming out of their rears. The woman on the left has hot air balloons below her rear representing the “full of hot air” expression. Is her “excretion” just an empty contribution? I placed a woman handing a man what looks to me like her clothing, but the photo is too nondescript to say, beneath the butt of the man in the middle. Essentially I wanted it to look as though whatever the woman was handing over to the man was actually the excretion from the man above. The woman on the right has sunlight coming out from her butt, which is shining on the garden below, representing the cyclical process of photosynthesis. This refers back to the melting pot as a place for us to plant ideas, fertilize them, and pick them.
The Heavens incorporates the mirror in which all the figures are going towards or reaching for as a way to show the importance that the audience and viewer hold in relation to the work. In The Gleaners and I one of the men interviewed, Jean Laplance, values the anti-ego, the other over the self, and the connection between the other and the self. It is never just about the self. I wanted the viewer to see their own reflection in the collage in order to place them directly in the mess.

On a side note, I now understand what I missed in the assignment. Appropriation has to do with critiquing the contexts that we are forced to believe in. I was not considering, but instead ignoring the context in which my sources began. I was too caught up in the world that I was trying to create on the cardboard that I just used the figures and images to fit in with MY story. There was no critique of the original sources that I was using, but instead just a lot of complicated representations and symbols of ideas influenced by the class. Overall my concept became too complicated. I was slightly aware of this while I was making the collage, but ignored the thought and became highly aware of it once class was over. It’s all a learning process.

             This collage is a collection of images appropriated through scanning and internet searching, which speak of the sublime experience.  The template of Jan Van Eyck’s altarpiece, “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” was used in order to bring together works from differing time periods and movements into one cohesive piece. Various Photoshop techniques were used in the collage, but mainly the magic eraser and the selection tool.  The concept of “The story of how you don’t exist,” is that abstract expressionists such as Rothko, figurative artists such as Haring, Chagall, and Guston, and contemporary artists Cattelan, Turrell, and Nick Cave are all telling the same story:  the story of how you don’t exist.  Ironically, the original Ghent altarpiece is telling the story of how you do exist as it captures Adam and Eve, Christ’s birth, figures from Heaven, and other biblical mythologies.
            Perhaps no piece of writing better encapsulates the idea of the absence of identity as Roland Barthes’, The Death of the Author.  Barthes writes, “Writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin.  Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost starting with the very identity of the body writing.”  I think that art exists in the same timeless and nameless space as Barthes’ description of writing.  The identity of the artist is secondary as is shown by the cohesiveness of the collage despite that the artists lived in different parts of the world at different times.  Images and ideas are used over and over again throughout history and belong to nobody in particular.  As is proposed by Agnes Varda in the film, The Gleaners and I, “You pick ideas, you pick images, you pick emotions from other people, and then you make it into a film."  Art gives birth to more art, and so on.  In 1936 Walter Benjamin spoke about how the earliest art work was made to enable ritual, and that mechanical reproduction in art was a movement away from art’s “dependence” on ritual.  Artists such as Nick Cave, whose work is a combination of costume and performance prove that in spite of (and perhaps because of) accelerated mechanical and technological reproduction, ritualistic art is as relevant today as in the early 1400’s, when Van Eyck created the much recycled and appropriated “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.”

Judd Schiffman, September18, 2013

Thank you everyone for all your thoughts and works!

PS. Here is our new text RECYCLED IMAGES (1991) written by William Wees, 
after which our course is named. Please read and maybe pay special attention to the interview with Bruce Conner!

PPS. new book alert!!!

1 comment:

Amanda Gostomski said...

"Inherent in our understanding is the concept that the newly created work often successfully recontextualizes whatever it borrows from."

In a world ruled by consumer pre-made good, do we really need another image added when we don't even fully understand the images around us to begin with? The artists of the photo generation, like Richard Prince Sherrie Levine, push this idea past collage into just presenting ready-made mages now recontextualized because of the "frame" put around it.

There seems to be a limit of tools (images, words, the alphabet) to construct new images with completely different "meanings". But endless possibilities of recontextualizing and exploring images, ideas, words. etc. already created. The "cutting" and "pasting" of the world around us, and recreating into another form, helps us distance and reevaluated these force-fed, capitalistic images.