Monday, September 29, 2014

Martin Luther's Reformation Meat Diet (moral constipation)

The following text is a kind of doggerel reimagining of Martin Luther's 99 theses, the set of aphorisms nailed to the church door that sparked the Reformation, which he wrote much of on the toilet (the rich ate too much meat). I only got as far as 69 theses, which seemed congruous with the more visceral age that they (slightly) reference. (In order to illustrate to the predominately illiterate masses what the Reformists thought of the clergy they put up images depicting peasants farting on their heads.) Some things never change.


 1. Bodily unnerved. Flesh describing flesh and its lack. Flesh trapped in its own self-definition, and the lack, no definition, exception. Proving the rule = equation. And equivocation... and just being sick of the whole sordid business. 
2. Convalescing as though I might merely digress, digression an operative function, a tangent, a touching line, but on a steeper or slippery slope, who can say?
3. Need in its myriad forms. Over-sensibility as insensible as that may seem at this juncture... couldn’t hear it, just didn’t quite read or register... didn’t sound right... whatever other expression means exactly the same as all those others... something like poetry: listing, the listing of tautologies, the simplest of devices.
4. It just so happened that it happened when it happened, and so every thing was quite cleared up: after the fact.
5. Daring you to pay for someone else’s self-indulgent paradox spiral... Some attempt towards content pinned to its side. 
6. Content that it might not be classified as either “art” or “critique” (def. the art of passing judgement) (hence art is devoid of judgement) (except on them what might attempt it).
7. I studied that face for a long time and drew a blank for a study, and that seemed to be exactly what she had been going for, namely the zeitgeist.
8. This account is not of the first person, nor any way in it, nor am I a faultless narrator, nor guilty, nor uninvested, though, invested admittedly without the possibility of gain... which is important...
9. There is no contemporary equivalent by which to set my stocks, though the market be rife with losses... They nonetheless could not have lost so much had they chosen to lose as I did.
10. Capital and its abstract: capital. Capital and its meta: capital. 
11. And so I explain my investment unwittingly, like most investors... like most stockbrokers, in point of fact, though we will not turn to them for the moral for a change, that time has passed. 
12. Now we are left with the reality of the physical consequences of our tacit complicity. 
13. The sky has changed and the fires have raged already, but not for her as she sits post-apocalypse like they never wrote or feared before. 
14. That was all that had been on notice for quite some time, the great manipulator, the arbiter and trend-setter for all of mediocrity. 
15. We were all obsessed with fame that weren’t, narcissism is surprisingly nihilistic.
16. The very real fear of history that all artists have, that will consume and subsume and will count for nothing as soon as it is accounted for. 
17. The moments when I felt the most like being afraid, all the apparitions available to me were not ghostly but bodily... realised it the other day while listening to the gentle rumble of my dentists stomach- that ghosts are forever breathing, that those hairs that stand up on the back of the neck are the inspiration of the living... 
18. That was the power of Dante’s Inferno: the utter mundanity. 
19. For all else your muse might protect you, the same one that might have you labelled an hysteric, the phallocentric equivalence of possession: the dispossessed, the exception. Of the birds... 
20. Friendless and unsung, it was until it was: there’s not a lot of times you get to say that, and that’s important: it was until it was. 
21. An underclass of thought: like you were always listening to pragmatic music. Everything had purpose, purpose was an end in itself... party drugs and purpose, antidepressants, industrial psychology: business as abstract right. 
22. Youth left yesterday with my sense of urgency. 
23. Still, I’ve been circling my own carcass. 
24. I was scattering breadcrumbs into the wind... of the birds, but not for them... though, they soon catch on... the prehistory in their mien... 
25. Men are afraid of emotions, women are their masters. 
26. Any man... when I get my hands on him... my grow... exponentially... in... value. 
27. As though the greatest courtship ever consummated was between scandal and heterogeneity. 
28. The dependent disciplines clamouring like private interest groups levying the politicians into public spending on military failures (economic successes). Feminism being a dependent discipline, wartime liberation. 
29. Intellectual repression and indiscriminate sexuality as a way to restore the balance from the hypocrisy of Victorian values. 
30. Anyone could fall in love with their love but their love. 
31. Sometimes all the wit of my (arbitrary) generation is focused on social mediation with the aged, selling a vacuous skill set back to the enfranchised, whom apparently lack facility with glib sexual puns, though they nevertheless profit by them. Youth is subsumed by its own corporate identity, suggested, though un-located by the corporeal. Holographic labour. YOLO. 
32. I would call this movement French Art, as movements always had some character who 
would name and thus reduce them to their provenance. Moving myself, into one, a practice (never to do). I would call it French Art in the same way that the French translation for French toast is “du pain perdu” or lost bread, thus the translation for French art would be “du peintre perdu” or lost painting. That was the power of Dante’s Inferno: the utter mundanity. 
33. This has particular resonance with the common language of art, which is more usually made in the aesthetic of contemporary art, meaning a decorative iconoclastic as against representational whilst referring to any essay by any French theorist or similar, and spouted in the language of translation, bearing its own aesthetic quite removed from the version originale. 
34. Not busy being an artist: an occupational hazard.
35. IDK. 
36. The anti-socialisation. Another definitive essay on why art should no longer be representational... like there are so many now it’s become its own genre.
37. Meantime visual culture is served only by graphic designers, and we call our counter(-) an exit strategy, where the only way out is in, because actually there is no way out, social media is merely another distraction from totalisation as opposed to the ultimate manifestation of it. 
38. There is no sacred life and so we speak to the profane to play out over a century of pseudo rebellion, and speak of how busy we are and how much we do, and whether or not things are professional or”resolved”. 
39. It’s a shame that I have nothing better to do than art. 
40. Remade corporeal, writ physical. 
41. These ludicrous forays into “knowledge creation,” whatever that ever meant. The words “knowledge” and “creation” altogether sound pornographic... probably is pornographic. 
42. Still looking for an answer to plot in its obvious absence, unless it were for someone else’s reserves and resources. 
43. One hundred different ways to drive oneself mad, or one hundred different ways to be mad, more presciently after the fact. 
44. After the face? =Better. After the face: sociopathy. After the face: plastic surgery. After the face: autism. After the face: the zeitgeist. 
45. Autism and sociopathy all dependent on whether one defines oneself as a genius from within or without. 
46. Both are necessary components to “the word,” which identifies (false) dichotomies and decimates pluralities, basically out of just being bone idle. 
47. The sociopath (often a poet) will use whatever is at hand, often the malleability of language itself, to create a better self-identity. 
48. Of course you are what you say. 
49. It’s entirely possible that I am a sociopath. 
50. I am at the very centre of my own horror. 
51. Yet, there is more at stake here: going down the rabbit-hole of State vs. Self-sponsored horror. 
52. If only I could write like I still believed in fiction or I still believed in fact. 
53. No such luck: just this end of history without end. 
54. Another violent dichotomy: the sentimentalists and the sociopaths... But who could say which side I came down on...? 
55. Like everyone else I just wanted to be in control like that, to be the one that didn’t care... or to love without fear... or to love without pain... No fear or pain for the sentimentalists, only sentiment. 
56. Defining the marginal for want of a worthy pursuit. 
57. Doubtless, doubtless in mind. 
58. Subtlety on a whim: echoing bolder statements with their latent absurdity. 
59. Do less work. Less work like you live, like you have. But living was just it. Every day complete at day’s end. Messing about in the ruins, wearing kaftans, the loudest laughter... so jolly excited was I that you were so much more fully integrated than I, that you never felt the need to adopt the mantle or the aesthetic of the rebel. 
60. I assumed you were conscious of your own absurdity as I was of mine. 
61. A savage mistake on my part, a brutalism I could not have committed wittingly. 
62. All the instruments you used to seduce, I had only ever used to stop the bleeding. 
63. I found myself without my instruments in times of surplus... or I found them localised as fond predictors of future crises/depression.
64. I couldn’t believe that you could ever think in another way, that there could be an entire lifetime in which abundance had so reigned. 
65. My birth and death having been waged between civil wars, like being replaced by like, passive hostility. 
66. The only upshot being the abandonment of the construction of thought and a destruction that might amount to wisdom. Wisdom and not purpose. 
67. I think we both knew enough to see what we wanted in the world and then create it, and in that way we became our own manifest destiny. 
68. ...Apt to shed pitiless tears as we go on in destruction and relative acts of creation with something like the motivation of a plague and associated deities. 

69. It all depends on how many people will listen to yours truly as to how digestible I prove. And Western Civilisation owes everything to constipation. In this lucky country I’ve been raised on Martin Luther’s reformation meat diet- with so many hours stolen by we the impotent rich in the name of contemplation, whilst locked in constipation, thinking about our next meal. But now I know better, you see… the trick with creating a religion is to offer a solution and leave it open-ended.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Legacies

Remotely, happy, just to be, remotely, happy, just to be: remotely. What is there to do? Imposing the idea that anything need be done at all... surrounded by them who would begrudge the disenfranchised the planned outcome of relaxation and simplicity, already achieved for ethic held above or simply concurrent to work ethic: everywhere a plantation. The debt cycle. The debt cycle and those that it perpetuates: circle jerks. That's how they do it, they reason against their own methods, adopt a mode of "professionalism" as against an enlightened nepotism, otherwise known as community. Those magisterially back-home writing anti-capitalist tracts qualified by neoliberal artist bios, this fashionable re-appropriation of the negation of the artist's position thrown up as fashionable, essentially meaningless newspeak. I was never one to join in.

Suffering from yet another post-MCAArtBar-existential-crisis (there are as many diagnoses as people)(getting laughed at as a "hipster" by people who just wanted to be my friend, the fundamental sadness of this mode of humanity, alienation of the young professional)... I went to the March in August, having planned to dress like a Young Liberal like I did last time (trying to make the crowd more appealing to a bourgeois audience, make it seem like indeed everyone is troubled by these changes) (joking at the time that we might even end up on the ABC news) (did end up on the ABC news...)(erstwhile the commercial channels trying best to perpetuate images of unsavoury types). This time I was on my own, asked repeatedly by members of the Socialist Alliance if it was my first protest, I can only assume due to my looks and mode of dress (silk, linen, wool), I was even questioned further as to my credentials ...whether I was an activist...? ...what was the last thing I did...? To which I replied that I helped collect signatures against the closure of women's homelessness services (wearing linen)...Then asked why I'm not active (in the Socialist Alliance?). As we walked through the city an older woman, apparently incensed by the demonstration, shouted something at me to chastise me for walking alone, as no doubt is supposed to be demeaning for a woman, to fail to be accompanied in public space (men's space). Having struggled through a weekend of having my person reflected back to me by the least perceptive of the prosaic and certain, I found myself like a child again wanting to communicate between all of it, feeling sad that I could not yet express myself well enough to reconcile these things... Buried myself in my past up until my island holiday, hanging out with my dad. I was raised around wealth, and have been pretty consistently treated like "the man" by my contemporaries for saying so, regardless of the fact that I have long supported myself, don't have much money, and don't want or need it. I have no problem displaying my own provenance and speaking to my experience... as difficult as it is, where everyone seems so determined to speak about how difficult they have had it... I know that I have had a relatively easy life. I feel as though running away from my past is the best way to be ruled by it... Everything before brought me here, like the anglo saxon apparently used to speak of the 'wyrd': bringing me through my biological history, the history of my soul right back to the point when I was formed out of stars. So I find myself parasitically accumulating modes of presentation... cheaper to buy things well-made from the past and look like money then to look like a revolutionary: with tangible benefits in terms of the way that I'm treated and in terms of who will listen to me when I argue for what I believe in... as depressing as that sometimes is. Every day a new costume, every minute a new being. Synesthesia as an evolutionary imperative… the wyrd equalling authorship, such as it is.

Back among the social class of my youth with the men folk, unable to relate to the defined set of prescriptions that amount to conversation amongst the women, occasioning talk about other peoples' relationships, or getting together a book of photographs of themselves... Focused-in on taste as an expression of purchased identity... I suppose I have always at least found some kind of synchronicity in the agency allowed business men, dealing in some unseen force, the structural elements of sheltered lives. Relaxing by the pool where the activities and nannies could take the children off of everyone's hands, drinking a beer and not a cocktail, even getting that wrong as far as the "ladies who lunch" go, determined to be a man and so "do"... Yeah right... My stepmother asked me what I was reading, to which I of course replied "an anthropology of Western economics."1 She turned it into a joke ("Oh I just finished reading that") and the men-folk laughed... but looked nervous... I felt as though they don't even know what to make of me now that I don't conform to any kind of "nerd" stereotype either... being reasonably attractive and turned-out has just made me the more invisible, something everyone wants to pretend doesn't exist, which I suppose, (in a world in which I am frequently harassed on the street for the way that I look, or maybe just for being a woman alone in public space that is men's space) is a kind of affirmation, a sense of my agency nullifying my gender, rendering me sexless, which is something supposed to be a woman's worst nightmare, which has actually always been a cherished ideal of mine. I keep feeling like Bartleby the Scrivener, as I seem to be going around in any number of circumstances and social groupings answering simply that: "I would prefer not to."2 Back to that book I was reading... David Graeber: "Formal male dress is designed to hide the body. Its sobriety seems intended efface its very individuality, rendering him abstract and, in a certain sense, invisible. Clothing for women, on the other hand, not only reveals more of the body (or at least revealing it): it transforms what is revealed into one of a collection of objects of adornment—body pots becoming equivalent, as such, to clothing, make up, and jewelry—that together define the wearer as a site, and by extension, as relatively concrete and material."3 The standardisation of the ideal female form and identity appears to have begun with feminist movements, which you will recall, coincided with the expansion of capitalism, women representing a massive increase in the workforce. The depictions of women changed from the exaggeration of a transient feminine ideal to a type that would facilitate women in their self-objectification, selling them the means of their own oppression. Just as studies have come to point out that "slut shaming" in American universities is predominately an extension of "class" disparities (with the female perpetrators often going so far as to say that women of a lower socio-economic status are "not classy," because of their sexual activity, whilst often being more experimental in their own "sex lives"), the bodies of women who do not conform to the thin, white ideal are constantly subject to discussion and derision, particularly by other women. This has everything to do with the white ruling class. The messages from the top down would have us believe that those who control the majority of the world's wealth are deserving of it; this even takes its form in the form of its female commodities. A "yoga body" is aspirational because it is supposed to be something achievable, to promote the idea that if you are not very thin it is through fault of your own, just as if you are unemployed and/or poor that is also your fault. No woman not already in possession of exaggerated proportions has ever looked at a Russ Meyer film or a Nikki Minaj video and thought that if they simply exercised enough they too could look like one of "those women." Thus, curvaceousness is sexualised, "othered" and indeed ghettoised, just as black women are sexualised, "othered" and ghettoised, though, why in these times it is still thought demeaning to be a sexual being and/or poor is anyone's guess... That a body type can still be purported to be transgressive in and of itself is an illustration of the extent to which women are still dehumanised by the mainstream media and indeed, the majority of the population. Even the experience of "the other" is controlled and manipulated using representations that are supposed to equate to balance, while being in reality hollow. Similarly feminist art often amounts only to a self-objectification ritual, just as performance art is ultimately an othering of self, where the foray into the production of beauty is a self-representation of a beingness so alienated from the agent's own form as to present the agent solely as their externality, what they are not; with Marina Abramovic its most asinine, and profoundly misogynistic, proponent: that a woman need not have anything to say but simply "be," while the invisible men work with their "concepts." Thus, Abramovic also perpetuates the cult of the wealthy, well-presented white woman, with a host of younger "performance artists" at her disposal to restage her early works as a vanity project, now with updated and perfectly manicured pubic hair. Speaking to experience, in order to be heard, a woman must abandon her own voice in favour of a structured and dispassionate argument, and is thus alienated from her own experience, unless she should choose to commodify it in service to providing the military-industrial complex with an aesthetic of self-reflexivity that it of course in no way contains or even condones.

I suppose I begrudge the performance of my own identity, the restrictions imposed by any idea of performance art, outside that allowed by the masculinist superstructures by them trying to reconcile their own tyranny, comforted slightly by the Vienna Aktionists, as Malcolm Green wrote of Nitsch: “...the body as proof of doing and authorship and the body as evidence against you.”4 If only these notions weren't such a fundamentally different proposition for the majority than for the minority (cis-gender, heterosexual, white men). I always related to that understanding of my "craft," unaware of the extent to which my work was interpreted by my gender, being myopically ruled by my guilt, trying to divest myself of the power that seemed like an accursed birthright. To want to have more power, to have more, to be better than other people has always seemed fairly mad to me, and it's something common to every different social grouping I've found myself among. Everywhere people creating a sense of identity through an arbitrary enmity they ascribe some other group... As much as I'm told by friends that I can't identify as a hipster because I don't have enough money, I really wonder why so much energy, both among artists and young professionals is directed in hatred of a perceived social group dictated by the countless, faceless masses employed in marketing which is necessarily adapted in support of the status quo. I don't have a problem with anyone employed in marketing either... we're most of us on the edge of poverty, here... If there has been anything made more clear over the past few years it's how few people actually have any control over the way things are, the death-drive of late capitalism. In fact, it seems quite unlikely that anyone around me is likely to come in to contact with any of the 1% that actually have control over the system, but it certainly never gets in the way if all the superficial derision. Even when being directly attacked for my life choices... in the case of the types of people I spent my youth trying to get away from, with this passive-aggressive talk of how "difficult" a life being an artist is, I have always thought that it was best not to take offence and to calmly state my case, not giving them anything to argue against and thereby reinforcing the "us and them" dichotomy that seems to reaffirm their right to be ignorant, which is a right I would never grant anyone, and no defence under the law, though obviously the law usually only applies to the property rights of the rich. (There is much talk of how men need to stand up in support of feminism, while the same shared responsibility is rarely spoken of in connection to things like racism and classicism, mostly because feminism is still such an elite cause. I realised when I was younger that the misandry that I was then developing could never be a response to misogyny because holding men to the lower standards that they have always themselves perpetuated is really no way to help the cause of women.) Change for the better will come when everyone is forced to justify their positions in terms of the effects that they have on the world around them, not when everyone is finally forced into the meaningless, pointless, alienating work that is the most respected in society because it keeps people from questioning why exactly such a small minority think themselves owed the vast majority of the world's resources. Poolside I simply said that actually it's a pretty fucking great life being an artist, drinking free at openings most nights and talking to interesting people, getting in places for free because I'm cool... Facetiousness may not get you very far in monetary terms or in any way understood by people who don't think very much about the nature of things, but it's always good for a laugh, and that to me is of the highest value.

1How I have been not-strictly-accurately describing David Graeber's Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value: the false coin of our own dreams, (New York: Palgrave, 2001).
2A reference to the wonderful short story of the same name written by Hermann Melville.
3Graeber, p.96.
4Malcolm Green Brus, Muehl, Nitsch, Schwarzkogler: writings of the Vienna Actionists, (London: Atlas Press, 1999), p.153.

Monday, September 8, 2014

(Closed) Letter to James Franco

Installation as part of "Converse" exhibition at NANA Contemporary Newcastle, curated by Eleanor Hanlon



Correspondence (presented in a folder) Folder: $150 or $50 ea.:

Name: Zoe M. Robertson
Title: Email to a Famous Artist (sent)
Medium: Typewritten words on paper.
Year/ date/ location: 2009 (2014) 

Name: Zoe M. Robertson
Title: Email to a (Male) Mentor (sent)
Medium: Typewritten words on paper.
Year/ date/ location: 2013 (2014)

Name: Z.O'Mahoney
Title: Letter to James Franco (unsent)
Medium: Typewritten words on paper.
Year/ date/ location: 22/5/2014-12/7/2014.

Content:

Dear James Franco,
 We would like to begin by stating that we are fans of your art, in which we do not distinguish between your acting work and in your capacity as “visual artist” (a problematic term and distinction in itself). In our capacity as cultural producers we were recently made aware of your recent work “James Franco: New Film Stills” through an article by Roberta Smith in The New York Times, widely distributed via social media (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/23/arts/design/james-franco-new-film-stills-arrives-at-pace-gallery.html?smid=fb-share&_r=). We were disappointed with the tenor of the aforementioned article, as we were about the cultural assumptions and superior tone underpinning it, not to mention wider discussions conflating your drag of Sherman with queer politics and thus queer politics with the performance of femininity. The queer interpretation of your donning of “women’s” clothes is not only egregious in conflating queer identity with historical means of demeaning people of same sex orientation (by relating them to women) but in the process undermining the queer reappropriation of said tropes as well as the notion of the performance of femininity in itself, ironically a performance so brilliantly brought to attention by Sherman’s drag. 
Focusing specifically on the content of the article in question, Smith makes the decision to ignore the convention of introducing the artist being spoken of with their full name and then subsequently referring to said artist by their surname by referring to Cindy Sherman the second time as “Ms. Sherman.” Perhaps Smith thus means to identify the work of Sherman inextricably with its location in the feminine, thus establishing a kind of essential or (heaven forbid) sacred feminine, precious and in need of defending from incursions from the necessarily stronger and more enfranchised masculine, or perhaps ignoring said convention was an oversight on Smith’s part. The overall tone of the review would point to seem to point to the former interpretation. In any event, whether male, female or other, we take exception to such a regression in an arena of public discourse that is unusually linguistically indiscriminate in its treatment of individuals as agents. 
The appropriation of Sherman work serves to remind the viewer of the capitalo-feminist reappropriation of Sherman as decider of her own destiny as the sexualised for a generation influenced by such bastions of female empowerment through buying stuff as “Sex and the City” and the musical output of BeyoncĂ©. In this way, as Australians are best placed to export passive repression and cultural apathy, women are well placed to teach men to define themselves within the confines of the seasonal colour palette, as artists might work, not as though they have lost sight of their own hypocrisy, as a journalist might.
We thus believe that this work of yours has acted brilliantly beyond the confines of the exhibition itself in activating and showcasing the ignorance and prejudice of the corrupt and cynical art establishment, exposing the absurdity of the professional classes of cultural producers, gallerist/curators and insider media, at its most spiteful and elitist. With a view to this we would like to share with you the fruits of our discussion on the topic when concluding that the reductio ad absurdum of art history as reperformed in response to the conservatism of the art market, we floated amongst ourselves that an excellent direction for your next work would be a repreformance of Andrea Fraser’s “Untitled” (2003), in which Fraser is paid by an art collector that he might participate in an artwork which involves said collector engaging in sexual intercourse with Fraser for a limited edition video (one out of five of which is in the possession of the collector himself). Fraser’s work, we feel, deals with the embodiment of femininity in a similar way to Sherman’s and thus has the potential to be handled in a similar way by an artist such as yourself, exploring —not the feminisation of masculine identity (with the increasing pressure for men to conform to an ideal body type, for men to also be objectified, as brilliantly personified utilising your persona as actor and “heartthrob”)— but the now similar infantilisation of masculinity, allowing that identity is established via a set of prescribed choices available for purchase through the mechanisations of capital. We believe that in acting thus the work of Sherman and potentially Fraser will be reactivated and not localised to the female agents that are its source, and the spirit of the original work/s may be restored. 
Z.O'Mahoney
Paintings: Name: Zoe M. Robertson Title: Poster for Performance Video (Schizogenetic Baptismal) Medium: Acrylic and spray paint on eco ply. Year/ date/ location: 2012-2013. Price: $175 Name: Zoe M. Robertson Title: Poster for Performance Video (Rampant Agency Cage: and other failures of language) Medium: Acrylic and spray paint on eco ply. Year/ date/ location: 2010-2013. Price: $175