Sunday, March 28, 2010

Rancière, and so on

At this moment I'm reading Jacques Rancière's The Future of the Image. It's just the beginning. It's too early to try to summarize what he says, but so far he is talking about complexity of the image. When we see, for example, the beginning of Bresson's Au hasard Balthazar, we primarily see the cinema's operations, rather than the donkey and the children appearing in it, he says. And such operations are not peculiar to cinema, but have a similarity to, for example, Flaubert's literature. Image works on two levels:producing "the likeness of an original;" producing "an alteration of resemblance." What Bresson's cinema shows itself as an interplay between "the sayable" and "the visible"  is an exemplary of the latter. "An alteration of resemblance" can be paraphrased as a  discrepancy or a dissemblance. Rancière sees this alteration is the imperative of today's art, and this imperative appears to lead artists to renounce the visible or to take an approach that literature does. But, this dialectic can be false, he explains: "what is contrasted with resemblance is not the operativeness of art, but material presence, the spirit made flesh, the absolutely other which is also absolutely the same."

Here's my poor operation:

Monday, March 22, 2010

a bit of acidity

Tino Sehgal's Kiss is contentious for some, not because of the work itself--in the context of art museum, it is called a living sculpture--but because of how the choreographer got money: he sold the rights to the performance itself. His "entrepreneurship" is mildly criticized, ironically, in America. Carol Kino's article appearing in The New York Times, March 10, 2010 describes a workshop at MoMA, which took place prior to Marina Abramović's exhibition:
There was a whiff of rebellion in the air at the MoMA workshop, for example, when Mr. Sehgal gestured at the glossy rosewood conference table before him. "This is a new touch," he said, his voice tinged with acid. "I'm not sure whether there's ever been such a salon around such a corporate table before." 
And as the talk turned to money, the acid splashed back toward Mr. Sehgal, who in his brief career--he is just 34--has started an approach to selling performance art that is both providing museums with a new way to take ownership of it and enriching himself.
I would say acidity also penetrates Kino's way of describing the workshop. According to him, Abramović reportedly seemed "genuinely" curious and asked Sehgal how he did it "in her heavily accented English." What does he want to emphasize in noting "heavily accented English?" I wonder if Kino tried to emphasize the fact that both Sehgal and Abramović are from Europe. Implication of the description might be, if I translate, "Though this lucky guy takes money from American institution, he speaks ill of corporate America. Moreover, his work much owes American performance art in the 1960s."
The article is mainly about MoMA's current shift in the way it treats performance art. There has been a big barrier between performance art and dance since the 1980s in America, as Helmut Ploebst wrote in his no wind no word, New choreography in the society of the spectacle (K. Kieser, 2001), which portrays 9 choreographers (including American Meg Stuart) who mainly work in Continental Europe, explains history of contemporary dance to theater-goers and was distributed by some "progressive" theaters in Continental Europe. So is between performance art and visual art in America, I guess. Generally, performance art may have been a hard sell in America. Though Kino is not particularly critical about the current trend that MoMA or Tate Modern has started collecting pieces of performance art, his attitude is rather ambiguous and I feel such an attitude is very much like The New York Times.
Neither do I know how an artist should be paid nor whether Sehgal is politically correct or wrong. As far as I know from art history, artists have to some extent been parasitic, for good, I could add. Artists have always needed a master. Even in Europe, it is a relatively rich (and touristic) city that can provide residency programs for young artists and hold interesting exhibitions, and good reviews often appear in some business newspapers rather than the left wing one.
One could say Sehgal adopted or mimicked the way big companies rent intellectual properties or privatize natural resources, but look at how pathetic the money he got is: it may survive him for an year or so, but cannot buy him even a decent house. I could add a pathetic joke: he should sell the documents associated with the contracts as an artwork in order to get some extra money.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Late Spring effect

Many appear to be on the attack against web 2.0, according to Michiko Kakutani's book review appearing in The New York Times, March 17, 2010. It goes like this: these days people, such as the climate deniers, are just cherry-picking only what they want to see to make their arguments; things are fragmented and we no longer share the same story; where is the objective reality?; they steal things from the Internet and making something out of these fragments without context, and they claim it their own creation... These criticisms are often combined with criticisms of so-called postmodern phenomena: deconstruction, bricolage, and cultural relativism.
I don't know if web 2.0 is to blame for all this, or if web 2.0 does evil, but I feel that many feel something is being broken. It's not new that people fear some kind of fragmentation. It seems to me, those who are on the attack fear their subjective world to be broken. They probably are kind of people who think that when the subject disappears, the world disappears. Or, they simply dislike that the others don't feel the way they feel when facing the reality, which is, I mean, the world which doesn't disappear even when I disappear: we no longer share the same feelings.
Don't they resemble my parents who seem sad when I laugh at a scene in a sentimental TV show which brings tears to my parents'eyes, and blame that I was born after 1968 and studied art? We are watching the same TV show anyway.
I'm a bit bored to hear the term "Rashomon effect," if it means there are many ways to view one thing, so I invent another term "Late Spring effect," which refers to a famous scene made by another great Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu, in which two men converse, sitting side by side in front of the dry garden: there is no water in this garden, but stones and pebbles suggests water flow. The garden symbolizes the reality they are facing. They have got old. They are talking about one of the men's daughter who is going to marry. They rarely face each other while they are talking:

I wonder whether we are talking that way, even when we are physically facing each other. Water may flow differently for each of the men, but the garden is autonomous from the men. The garden is, in a way, a server computer, in which my messages are stored, and you come to see my messages. The man whose daughter is going to marry actually has something to say to his daughter, but it is the other man sitting by him who reads the message ...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"You could always have an ocean ending(Yvonne Rainer)"

Last weekend I (re)visited those: Yvonne Rainer, A Film about a Woman Who..., Vito Acconci, Conversions, Undertone, and Pipilotti Rist's videos. The last words in Rainer's film, "You could always have ocean ending" may work to maintain the distance between the viewer and what the viewer sees, when the tone of the film has become to some extent sentimental in the end. This is a film about a woman who is "at sea," after all. What interests me is the tension between this attempt not to let the audience emphasize the character and the strong emotion that erupts as words of expression of bare emotion, and the operation: composition of the images, framing, placing, and the sound.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

not that the language determines things

At this moment I don't know who will read this. I think I'm going to get this started without noticing my friends and acquaintances. I'm going to write about things not too private. Imagining any one of you reading what I'm writing here may help me continue. To keep doing something has always been a problem. I'm going to write about several forms of arts, my response to some thinkers I'm interested in, with or without understanding them, my response to what the media bring in, and my surroundings, without becoming too revealing.
I like to write in English, but I'm not sure if you will like my English: English is my second language I'm still struggling to learn. My mother tongue is Japanese, but I don't want to limit my readers to Japanese speakers. And also...I'm almost about saying that I don't want to be caught in rules of Japanese language.
The way the most of Japanese speakers speak Japanese reflects how they live in the Japanese society. Uttering a sentence, I tend to labor to choose a word in accordance with my position and distance to you (if I'm superior to you, or inferior, if I'm speaking frankly, if I'm male or female...) rather than to deliver the "contents." For example, I'm forced to choose the first person pronoun from, usually, three or four options: 1. "watashi" or "watakushi" that means I'm speaking as an adult, a man with a certain occupation and I'm treating you as an adult, a man or woman with a certain occupation; 2. "ore" that means I'm speaking frankly, as a real man; 3. "boku" that means I'm acting here in a bit childlike way because I want to emphasize I'm not offensive to you. There are some more options, if I'm trying to be funny, or sarcastic, using the dialects or the historical one, since the people have ever invented many first person pronouns. If I'm writing in Japanese here, I may choose "watashi," the least noisy one.
Every day Japanese speakers bring much noise to me, and I guess it reveals how we actually communicate in using whatever language at its purest. We mostly use language not to inform certain contents, but just to keep in touch. Instead of saying "Can you hear me?" I could say "I had lunch in Hibiya Park because of this beautiful weather." I know where I had lunch does not matter at all to you, but saying "Can you hear me?" may put us in an awkward situation.
Moreover, in saying "I had lunch in Hibiya Park because of this beautiful weather" at a workplace, I could mean "Now I'm back in my workplace, but I don't want to be too polite. Let's be frank, man. By the way it's fine today and I had lunch in Hibiya Park:" when speaking in English, what I could mean is delivered as connotation, but when speaking Japanese, what I could mean is actually uttered as my choice of the first person pronoun or how to alter the end of the verb. In a way, I'm more revealing when speaking Japanese than when speaking English, with or without consciousness.
Having said that, I can make my words in Japanese less revealing and contain less noise as much as I can do so in English. For example, I can omit the first person pronoun if it is not confusing. It is a common practice to omit the first pronoun when either speaking or writing, despite the fact that the verbs don't indicate whether the subject is the first person or the second person or the third person (in Spanish, they sometimes omit the first person pronoun when saying "Tengo..." or "Hablo...," but the subject is clear because the verbs indicate the subject). Some say that Japanese language is illogical and not well-structured. Even a well-experienced Japanese-English translator said so. I think they are wrong. I can construct my Japanese writing in a way computer languages do. There are many well-structured Japanese writings penned by those who live in very Japanese society.
Any language reflects the way people live in any society. My problem actually is not with the rules of Japanese language, but with a certain way many Japanese speakers use the language, including those who argue that Japanese language is not logical, and that constitutes nature of Japanese people, especially when they are talking about art, philosophical matters, and politics.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama likes to use omoi, a noun which vaguely refers to thoughts, ideas, mind, hope, enthusiasm, and passion. He says this way: "Okinawans' omoi that they don't want to have another US military base in their land has to be considered." It's not omoi, I think. It's a demand. Okinawans are demanding to remove the military base from their land, instead of simply relocating the most dangerous base to somewhere else safer in their land. Hatoyama doesn't use certain words such as demand ("yokyu"), opinion ("iken"), and, especially, rights ("kenri"). Japan actually has the right to demand America to remove their military bases in Japan, which is even mentioned by The New York Times, but the majority of Japanese don't know that. The Japanese media don't talk about that, as if they are afraid that a debate whether Japan still needs US military base ruptures the people's notion of the Japanese politics. My opinion is that it is time for Japan to seek a way of keeping in good term with America without having US bases in Japan, but mine is not of the majority.
I'm not making political blogs, but I don't like the way the politicians and the media depoliticize things and that many calling it "our harmonious society." I don't like the translator who said Japanese language is not made for analytical thinking. I would rail against the notion that the Japanese language tends to avoid a "cut," such as disruption, provocation, and analysis.
One of the prominent advocate of such a notion may be Japanese psychiatrist Takeo Doi, who in the 1970s wrote The Anatomy of Dependence, a best-seller which describes Japanese mentality, using Japanese word amae, which can be translated as indulgence or dependence, used to describe acts such as that a child tries to cling to mother's breast. In this book he talks about a kind of motherly love that embraces what he perceives as the Japanese society, guided by Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which argues language determines our cognition. In a nutshell Doi argues that the existence of the word amae in Japanese society shows that motherly love is more prominent in Japanese society than in Western society, which is, I think, simply wrong: motherly love can play an important role in any society. The political implication of his book is serious. It is misguiding.
Neither am I psychiatrist nor linguist. I simply don't trust preachers and translators.