Posts Tagged ‘blog matters’
You know, that commonplace: ““The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”
So I guess I’m grateful, in a manner of speaking.
A friend recently brought this to my attention: a simultaneous dissing and out-ing on Facebook. (See screengrab above.)
Curator Tang Fu Kuen clearly is not a fan of my work on this site. This is what he has to say: “An example of a bad sophomoric art blog that imagines it’s contributing intellectually to the SG visual art scene. He calls himself Louis Lardpants!”
I suppose a snarky one-liner is hardly much to get riled about, but that second statement got a little too personal for my taste.
To every critique (although this hardly counts), a rejoinder:
1. Disagreement is perfectly legit. After all, I pull no punches on this blog, so I can hardly expect my readers – and critics – to concur with my opinions, or even my approach. However, this needs to be said: my writing is NEVER about snap judgments, or personal vendettas. (Thank goodness I have few of those.)
It’s about ideas.
The primary impulse behind the direction that this blog has taken in the last year or so derives in large part from what I see as a deficit in critical articulations regarding local art, and local art historical canons: aside from the work of a handful of veteran scholars and foreign academics, there are, sad to say, but a few commentators and critics of Singapore art writing today who are possessed of lucid voices, a tendency to lateral reflection beyond those tired boundaries demarcating the facile notion of autonomy which cloaks the artistic object, and a familiarity with the critical praxis of the Anglo-American academy (since we are hardly heirs to an indigenous tradition of criticality).
In short, I DO view myself as “contributing intellectually to the SG visual art scene”, quote unquote.
That is not a defense, by the way. My work speaks for itself – any claims I muster on its behalf are necessarily inadequate, and the best recourse would simply be to the writing as such. Go read.
In that vein, I invite Mr. Tang – if he, or any acquaintances, happen to be reading this – to an exchange on the pages of this site: a frank, civil discussion of what art criticism and writing in Singapore is, can, and should be, or perhaps regarding any one or more of my reviews on this site, which he may have issues with. Zippy labels like “sophomoric”, while understandably fun, are hardly convincing – unless, of course, as a prelude to a more considered evaluation, which, unfortunately, does not seem to be the case here. I may have deployed a couple of those in my time, but only always as lead-in to careful analysis, and serious commentary.
As I recently mentioned to someone, I believe in reasoned judgment – but, more than that, I believe in dialogue.
The invitation to an exchange is, hopefully, ample demonstration of that fact.
And, hopefully, Mr. Tang, too, knows how to walk the walk. Otherwise his talk may not be worth much.
2. Now this is where the comments rankle. You’ll notice that he makes an allusion to my Facebook handle; indeed, “Louis Lardpants” is how I’m known on FB. (Feel free to look it up, but most of it is accessible only to people in my contact list.) That is quite CLEARLY a reference to – and a deliberate puncture of – the anonymity that I’ve maintained on this site thus far. Now, quite a few regular readers already know who I am, and those with whom I’m not personally acquainted will probably have been clandestinely apprised of the fact by those who are. It doesn’t matter. My identity isn’t a big secret, but the reviewing process being what it is – i.e. not always resulting in a positive verdict – it does save a lot of in-person hassle when I go to shows if I remain faceless. Which explains the continued charade.
I understand that Mr. Tang may have a beef with my opinions as they are expressed here, but surely my choice to remain anonymous should be considered personal, and to be respected as such ? (Even the exclamation mark – “He calls himself Louis Lardpants!” – seems to suggest mockery of that sobriquet, which is, I think, hitting below the belt somewhat.) Again, I stress that writing published on this site, and the critiques contained therein, are directed at (a) publicly expressed opinions, publicly exhibited works of art and publicly accessible exhibitions, and (b) institutions, or individuals as representatives of said institutions or in their capacity as professionals in the art world. In other words, I would NOT look up someone’s Facebook profile and post it on the pages of this blog, or on my own profile – especially not if a preference for anonymity is palpable. (“What bad art! And he/she calls him/herself XXX!”)
I don’t do that … but apparently others do.
Some of you are going to say that Mr. Tang’s comments were made on Facebook, and – privacy settings aside – only for the eyes of his contacts. I do wish to point out that if limited visibility was indeed a consideration here, these remarks would have been made using the Message function, or put on some form of limited setting – not out in the open on the wall of a profile, where word of it got back to me within an hour or so.
I suppose the only conclusion is that Mr. Tang intended for me to be publicly out-ed.
Which is why I decided to put this up here. If he does not wish to respect another’s privacy, then I guess I should feel no qualms about a direct address on an open forum like the present one: Mr. Tang, MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.
I definitely welcome a candid conversation about art matters, or my writing, or specifically regarding The Longue Duree … blog – but everything else is pretty much off limits.
I hope that much at least is taken to heart.
While I’m raiding the iPhoto library – a picture of yours truly.
Season’s greetings to friends, readers and general lurkers ! And a great big shoutout for having made 2011 so .. surprisingly rewarding. I mean it. Thank you. 谢谢. Terima kasih. நன்றி. शुक्रीया. ありがとうございます. 감사합니다. Danke schön. Merci beaucoup. Muchas gracias.
I’ve been getting requests to publicize, quote unquote, various arts-related events on this blog – mostly from corporate entities.
The interest is much appreciated, but the answer is a blanket “No”.
I certainly entertain invitations to view and/or review art exhibitions; I almost always make it a point to see the show in question, whether or not that ultimately translates into a review here.
I do not, however, dole out free “publicity” – at least not of the sort that precedes a viewing. The primary purpose of this site is to provide substantive, critical engagement with the visual arts in Singapore and (sometimes) beyond, not to provide yet another forum for press releases reproduced verbatim.
So feel free to send me an invite to see your show or visit your space, and I’ll definitely give it a review if I think it’s worth the effort – but free publicity constitutes a free lunch around here, and unfortunately this till is operational.
An apology to all my regular readers – and occasional visitors – out there.
This site has been woefully neglected of late. Aside from a couple of projects with firm deadlines, I’ve been unable to shake a general sense of .. febrility. It’s nothing serious enough to keep me from being productive, yet the constant, low-level symptoms – fatigue, a dry throat, a slight temperature – are debilitating enough to interfere with the functional rhythms of daily life …
Rest assured the pace of postings will pick up soon. In the meantime, an overdue mention of the 2nd arts bloggers meetup: attendance numbers dipped somewhat, but as it turned out that was a lil’ blessing in disguise – it became so much easier to have conversations ! Regulars Joyce, Joelyn and Corrie showed up, as did a couple of new faces like Kaishi, Dave and Tara. Oh, and of course, my faithful partner-in-crime, Pooja, who, happily enough, saw her lovely visage in an article on bookmaking which appeared in the Sunday papers (below). Never looking better …
Bookmaker, blogger and amie Pooja Makhijani. Image courtesy of Notabilia.
Also, the third bloggers’ meetup is confirmed:
The time: 8pm, 2nd November (Wed).
The place: our now regular dive, The Pigeonhole, 52/53 Duxton Rd.
Join us then !
Regular readers will notice that the tagline for this site has changed.
I started this blog with a pretty specific vision. (See my inaugural post on what I dub quotidianism.) While “the embodied everyday” was a very theoretically apropos description of those concerns, it started to seem a tad … purposeless, as the site began to take on a life of its own, quite distinct from any pre-determined frameworks I’d dreamed up for it. (My revisitation of the topic here.)
So anyways, I figured a slight tweaking was in order. As a statement, “articulations” is simultaneously broad and brief enough to suggest both thematic scope and critical concision, an elastic conjuncture of those centrifugal, often contradictory positions …
Of course there’s the rather cheesy pun – art-iculations indeed – but feel free to pretend that’s not there.
I began this blog under rather trying circumstances (which have yet to be fully resolved as of today).
Part of the driving impulse, however, was also to explore the fledgling field of what has been dubbed by cultural theory and the social sciences the “everyday.” Or, to put it even more precisely, this blog was, and is, an attempt to see how articulating the particulars of my own life, at its most prosaic, within the framework of certain theories of the ordinary and the quotidian might pan out. Frankly, it didn’t. I’d envisaged sketching out a fragmentary record of the theoretics and the poetics of lived moments, enmeshed in the synaesthetic operations of the sensorium (a.k.a the ‘embodied everyday’) … but I got sidetracked by more mundane stuff like writing exhibition reviews and blogging about meals. Not that those things necessarily detract from my stated aims – since the everyday is the point here – but trying to pass off the rojak approach as an intentional interrogation of a necessarily heterogeneous subject seems facile at best, and hopelessly misguided at worst.
The remaining part was simply sheer boredom.
In any case, I’ve recently started reading Kathleen Stewart‘s Ordinary Affects, ordered off The Book Depository (free international shipping deserves a shoutout here). Stewart, who teaches in the Anthropology department at the University of Texas at Austin, is by her own admission interested in “affect, the ordinary, worlding, the senses, and modes of ethnographic engagement driven by curiosity and attachment.” Ordinary Affects doesn’t purport to be a sustained, theoretical engagement with the prosaic, but its deliberately disjointed presentation of fragments and vignettes of disparate experience is certainly informed by the theoretical literature.
There’s a canny review of the book on Space and Culture.
I think Stewart’s introduction is worth reproducing at some length (minus footnotes and references), if only as a commonsensical mission statement of sorts for the study of everyday life.
(From Ordinary Affects, Kathleen Stewart, pp. 1-6.)
Ordinary Affects is an experiment, not a judgment. Committed not to demystification and uncovered truths that support a well-known picture of the world but to speculation, curiosity and the concrete, it tries to provoke attention to the forces that come into view as habit or shock, resonance or impact. Something throws itself together in a moment as an event and a sensation. A something both animated and inhabitable.
The book is set in a United States caught in a present that began some time ago. But it suggests that the terms neo-liberalism, advanced capitalism and globalization that index this emergent present, and the five or seven or ten characteristics used to summarize and define it in short-hand, do not, in themselves, begin to describe the situation we find ourselves in. The notion of a totalized system of which everything is always already somehow a part, is not helpful (to say the least) in the effort to approach a weighted and reeling present. This is not to say that the forces these systems try to name are not real and literally pressing. On the contrary, I am trying to bring them into view as a scene of immanent force, rather than leave them looking like dead effects imposed on an innocent world.
The ordinary is a shifting assemblage of practices and practical knowledges, a scene of both liveness and exhaustion, a dream of escape or of the simple life. Ordinary affects are the varied, surging capacities to affect and to be affected that give everyday life the quality of a continual motion of relations, scenes, contingencies and emergences. They’re things that happen. They happen in impulses, sensations, expectations, daydreams, encounters, and habits of relating, in strategies and their failures, in forms of persuasion, contagion, and compulsion, in modes of attention, attachment, and agency, and in publics and social worlds of all kinds that catch people up in something that feels like something.
Ordinary affects are public feelings that begin and end in broad circulation but they’re also the stuff that seemingly intimate lives are made of. They give circuits and flows the forms of a life. They can be experienced as a pleasure and a shock, as an empty pause or a dragging undertow, as a sensibility that snaps into place or a profound disorientation. They can be funny, perturbing, or traumatic. Rooted not in fixed conditions of possibility but in the actual lines of potential that a something coming together calls to mind and sets in motion, they can be seen as both the pressure points of events or banalities suffered and the trajectories that forces might take if they were to go unchecked. Akin to Raymond Williams’s structures of feeling, they are “social experiences in solution;” they “do not have to await definition, classification, or rationalization before they exert palpable pressures.” Like what Roland Barthes calls the “third meaning,” they are immanent, obtuse, and erratic, in contrast to the “obvious meaning” of semantic message and symbolic signification.5 They work not through “meanings” per.se. but in the way that they pick up density and texture as they move through bodies, dreams, dramas and social worldings of all kinds. Their significance lies in the intensities they build and in what thoughts and feelings they make possible. The question they beg is not what they might mean in an order of representations, or whether they are good or bad in an overarching scheme of things, but where they might go what potential modes of knowing, relating and attending to things are already somehow present in them in a state of potentiality and resonance.
Ordinary affects, then, are an animate circuit that conducts force and maps connections, routes and disjunctures. A kind of contact zone where the overdeterminations of circulations, events, conditions, technologies, and flows of power literally take place. To attend to ordinary affects is to trace how the potency of forces lies in their immanence to things that are both flighty and hard-wired, shifty and unsteady but palpable too. At once abstract and concrete, ordinary affects are more directly compelling than ideologies, and more fractious, multiplicitous, and unpredictable than symbolic meanings. They are not the kind of analytic object that can be laid out on a single, static plane of analysis and they don’t lend themselves to a perfect, three-tiered parallelism between analytic subject, concept, and world. They are, instead, a problem or question emergent in disparate scenes and incommensurate forms and registers. A tangle of potential connections. Literally moving things – things that are in motion and that are defined by their capacity to affect and to be affected – they have to be mapped through different, co-existing forms of composition, habituation and event. They can be “seen,” obtusely, in circuits and failed relays, in jumpy moves and the layered textures of a scene. They surge or become submerged. They point to the jump of something coming together for a minute and the spreading lines of resonance and connection that become possible and might snap into sense in some sharp or vague way.
Models of thinking that slide over the live surface of difference at work in the ordinary to bottom line arguments about “bigger” structures and underlying causes obscure the ways inwhich a reeling present is composed out of heterogeneous and non-coherent singularities. They miss how someone’s ordinary can endure, or sag, defeated. How it can shift in the face of events like a shift in the kid’s school schedule or the police at your door. How it can become a vague but compelling sense that something is happening or harden into little mythic kernels. How it can be carefully maintained as a prized possession or left to rot. How it can morph into a cold, dark edge, or give way to something unexpectedly hopeful.
This book tries to slow the quick jump to representational thinking and evaluative critique long enough to find ways of approaching the complex and uncertain objects that fascinate because they literally hit us or exert a pull on us. My effort is not to finally “know” them – to collect them into a good enough story of what’s going on – but to fashion some form of address that is adequate to their form. To find something to say about ordinary affects by performing some of the intensity and texture that makes them habitable and animate. This means building an idiosyncratic map of connections between a series of singularities. It means pointing always outward to an ordinary world whose forms of living are now being composed and suffered, rather than seeking the closure or clarity of a book’s interiority or riding a great rush of signs to a satisfying end. I am trying to create a contact zone for analysis.
The writing here has been a continuous, often maddening, effort to approach the intensities of the ordinary through a close ethnographic attention to pressure points and forms of attention and attachment. Ordinary Affects is written as an assemblage of disparate scenes that pull the course of the book into a tangle of trajectories, connections and disjunctures. Each scene begins the approach to the ordinary again, from an angle set off by the scene’s affects. And each scene is a tangent that performs the sensation that something is happening – something that needs attending to. From the perspective of ordinary affects, thought is patchy and material. It does not find magical closure or even seek it, perhaps only because it’s too busy just trying to imagine what’s going on.
I write not as a trusted guide carefully laying out the links between theoretical categories and the real world, but as a point of impact, curiosity, and encounter. I call myself “she” to mark the difference between this writerly identity and the kind of subject that arises as a daydream of simple presence. “She” is not so much a subject position or an agent in hot pursuit of something definitive as a point of contact. She gazes, imagines, senses, takes on, performs, and asserts not a flat and finished truth but some possibilities (and threats) that have come into view in the effort to become attuned to what a particular scene might offer.
From the perspective of ordinary affects, things like narrative and identity become tentative though forceful compositions of disparate and moving elements: the watching and waiting for an event to unfold, the details of scenes, the strange or predictable progression in which one thing leads to another, the still life that gives pause, the resonance that lingers, the lines along which signs rush and form relays, the layering of immanent experience, the dreams of rest or redemption or revenge. Forms of power and meaning become circuits lodged in singularities. They have to be followed through disparate scenes. They can gather themselves into what we think of as stories and selves. But they can also remain, or become again, dispersed, floating, recombining – regardless of what whole or what relay of rushing signs they might find themselves in for a while.
I recently stumbled onto a local arts & media blog. One of their contributors had written a review of an exhibition that seemed, in parts, almost a word-for-word duplication of my own review (which I’d posted a month earlier, on this site).
Now, how am I so sure this is indeed a case of intellectual theft, as opposed to intellectual paranoia ? The phrase in question really was an attempt on my part to apply Foucault’s rethinking of the ramifications of J. Bentham’s Panopticon to the works of certain contemporary artists – an idea which I’m positive few, if ANY, scholars have broached in published studies (at least with regard to the artists concerned). An idea or an observation – by which I mean exegesis – which has gained enough currency simply becomes part of an amorphous domain of intellectual consensus, from which academics and students freely draw upon; saying, for instance, that Andy Warhol’s art speaks to the rise of consumerism in postwar America is an established approach to his work, and likely isn’t going to get you rapped on the knuckles for unattributed pilfering. However, the ideas broached in my review don’t quite fall into that category. They were explored in my unpublished M.A. thesis on two modern Chinese artists, and what little usable scholarship on those guys I could find certainly didn’t cover the ground I did. In other words, a lot of my thinking on the subject is pretty original – pardon the hubris – and when it pops up elsewhere verbatim … well, is it surprising that alarm bells go off ?
So, please, dear reader, I don’t mind if you borrow an image or a thought, but do at least give me credit where it’s due.
Image from an article on plagiarism on Context over Dogma.