This summer, I contributed to the Guggenheim’s Museum The Take, a blog launched in conjunction to the online and multi-sited venue exhibition YouTube Play. A Biennial of Creative Video (October 22-24, 2010). The exhibition’s related blog featured entries by guest writers considered experts in film, video, and Internet culture. My contribution, “The New Video-Maker: Art Museums,” focused on video content produced by art institutions.
Image: Museo Tamayo’s new online magazine www.rufino.mx, launched in the spring.
Joseph del Pesco recently invited me to participate in Artists Space’s Webcast, a curatorial initiative for making internet- and computer-based cultural content. For this, he invites artists, designers and other curators to participate in two kinds of platforms: one is Typecast, in which new typefaces are commissioned and made available for free (there are five to date, including a beautiful design by Mungo Thompson); the second one is the self-explanatory Youtube Commentary, for which voice-overs are made for videos drawn from this ever-growing online collection. My contribution was in this latter platform. I selected a video clip from P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia, and took it as an excuse to speak about Tom Cruise, as a scene to reflect on fan culture, and simply as a moment to consider degrees of insanity, all of which are embedded on Youtube.
This is the fourth and final video documenting the events organized in conjunction to the exhibition Archaeology of Longing at Kadist Art Foundation in Paris. I’ll continue making videos for Sideshows, but probably less regularly. Anyway, the video here shows excerpts from a lecture on boredom conducted by Lars Svendsen. The video is less than ten minutes, so it’s really just a fragment of an hours-long program, including a Q&A session with the public, which was interesting if a bit contentious—the lack of a psychoanalytic approach in his presentation was questioned. Lars’ response, “I don’t trust Freud.”
Indeed, in his book, A Philosophy of Boredom, Lars does not approach boredom with a psychoanalytic eye. Yet, while his exploratory investigation is not a psychoanalytic in a materialist sense, it still combines research drawn from the history of ideas to popular culture. It looks at boredom from many different sides, and, in its mix of philosophical references to literature to music, it succeeds in introducing one to the complexity that is, what the author deems, a modern condition of humankind. The book is organized in four sections—the problem, the stories, the phenomenology and the ethics of boredom. The video here combines at least a reference to the first two parts, including a brief mention of the typologies of boredom, and a bit of the importance around boredom and the making, or lack thereof, of meaning.
It was Tom Cruz who pointed me to Lars’ book, which he had reviewed for a journal some years ago. We took it upon ourselves to also analyze some of the works Lars had mentioned there, Crash and American Psycho among them. One piece that made a significant impact on me was Alberto Moravia’s Boredom from 1960. In this novel, Dino, a young, aristocrat painter can own anything except what he thinks is the genuine love from his disaffected model and lover. The search for meaning and impossibility of possessing certain things, which Dino represents, are the very characteristics of boredom.
In Archaeology of Longing, displayed were several copies of Moravia’s novel in different translations: a copy in the Italian, La Noia; in French L’ennui; the first English edition called The Empty Canvas and the most recent simply titled Boredom. The idea was not only to declare object as source in the exhibition. It was also to suggest that each translation offered a new interpretation.
The lecture “A Philosophy on Boredom” by Lars Svendsen took place on the afternoon of November 1, 2008 at Kadist Art Foundation in Paris, France. The book, “A Philosophy on Boredom,” was originally published in Norway in 1999; its first English translation was published in 2004 by Reaktion Books.
Originally in French, Gustave Affeulpin’s The so-called utopia of the centre beaubourg (1976) is a fictional report on the construction and operations of an art center underneath the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, France. Built in tandem with the museum that is internationally known as the “Pompidou”—native Parisians mostly refer to it simply as “Beaubourg”—the underground center that Affeulpin describes is not a copy but a double. Decidedly, not mimicking. Instead, co-existing. To present culture in its most incisive form, the infrastructure and organizing principles of this, the other center, must be collectively decided upon its public and its program progressively unfold in time, at the vision and inertia, so to say, of its constituents. Affeulpin uses the pseudonym “Albert Meister” to write a piece of fiction as a documentary account. The book is a vivid report on the life of a cultural place, and the inner-workings and mostly failings of an endeavor closer to a utopia blueprint than a concrete place.
The English translation of The so-called utopia of the centre beaubourg, this version subtitled with the tag-line “An Interpretation,” was done by visual artist Luca Frei. Luca’s version includes notes and images, in-between lines and as illustrations, on the construction of the Pompidou and the first publication of Affeulpin’s book. And, as the subtitle he tags on to the original suggests, his is not a straight transliteration of a text from one language to another. The published work claims to be a new work. Intentionality here is crucial. While the book remains a work by Affeulpin, its current manifestation—in English, in print, in distribution and discussion—is made by Luca, highlighting while raising a bit of speculation around appropriation, literary, and citationality, literally.
The so-called utopia of the centre beaubourg – An interpretation was co-published in 2007 by Book Works and CASCO, Office for Art, Theory and Design, Utrecht. The video here documents Luca Frei reading selected passages in the book, a program held on September 18, 2008 in conjunction to the Archaeology of Longing at Kadist Art Foundation in Paris.
When I asked him to talk about André Breton’s 1946 lecture in Haiti, the 83-year old Gérald Bloncourt said that he couldn’t exactly recall the details. “I was busy,” he added, “and preoccupied, carrying a gun in my pocket and guarding my friend Jacques Stephan Alexis, whose task that day was assassinating Lescot.”
Considered more a dictator than simply president, Elie Lescot was among those listening to Breton speak about surrealism. Pierre Mabille had organized that conference. And that Lescot was in the audience was not by chance. It was somewhat of a political affair. A surrealist himself and also a practicing doctor, Mabille was the French cultural attaché in Haiti. This was one of a series of conferences by Breton before his return to France, where he had fled from during World War II. Anyway, the plans to assassinate Lescot that day failed, and the young Haitian poets in charge of it escaped. Mabille, who was friendly with Stephan Alexis and Bloncourt arranged their protection, and immediately after brokered Bloncourt’s political exile in France.
This summer, when I arrived to the doorsteps of Gérald Bloncourt’s home in Paris, he knew I wanted to speak with him about something related. In articles describing that lecture, Breton’s presentation was figured as a catalyst to the revolution that ensued immediately after. His speech had been published immediately after in La Ruche, a Haitian newspaper edited by the poet Rene Depestre among others. At the government confiscation of that La Ruche issue and the imprisonment of its editors, what began as student protests ended in a larger demonstrations that led to the exile of many intellectuals.
It was actually while initially investigating the historic artist’s studio La Ruche in Montparnasse that I learned about the newspaper La Ruche. Things fell into place right after that. Gérald Bloncourt had just co-authored with Michael Löwy, Messagers de la Tempête. André Breton et la Révolution de janvier 1946 en Haïti (2007) a book published by Les Temps des Cerises in Paris—a copy of which I kindly obtained through the artist collective Société Réaliste. Having dealt with other types of doubles in the Archaeology of Longing, I invited Bloncourt to narrate the events surrounding that Breton lecture. Afterwards, he also read some of his poetry. This video is a recording of his talk, which was celebrated on the evening of September 18, 2008 in Paris.
In one of the drawings by Emma Hedditch that is part of the exhibition Archaeology of Longing, there are two characters depicted in profile. One is lying down on the ground, or, well, at the edge of the paper; the other one is just above, leaning towards the first. Both figured with short hair, and barely rendered with soft pencil and minimal lines, their sexuality is left ambiguous. They appear, however, in a moment of intimacy, the hand of one slightly peeking in underneath the other’s shirt. Their thoughts and speech encircled in bubbles lightly drawn over their heads. “We have been thinking about longing as a part of capitalist thinking which reflects in all our relations. Longing is connected to ideas and feelings of scarcity.” This is some of what a character says to the other.
As part of this exhibition, Emma also performed a work along the lines of this drawing; video documentation is here included. The performance took place on the evening of September 18, 2008, at the Musée de Montmartre in Paris, which is the vicinity of the exhibition host and organizer Kadist Art Foundation. Aside from Emma’s performance, the evening program also included a reading by Luca Frei of his The so-called utopia of the centre beaubourg—An interpretation, and a narration by Gérald Bloncourt of the events surrounding a lecture by Andre Bréton in 1946 Haiti. I will soon write about these presentations, too.
One of the galleries at the Musée de Montmartre inspired the decision to make the program there. It is the room (that is at most 18 square meters) dedicated to The Paris Commune of 1871, which started in Montmartre, and to the construction of the Sacre Coeur, which sits atop its hill. Condensed in this small gallery are items about the rise and fall of a historic political event led by working class struggle, along with documentation of the construction of its anti-monument, this was a basilica built, accordinging to David Harvey, to “expiate the crimes of the communards.” Disenchantment is at the heart of this display. The break of the spell that is the political awakening of the commune is the first sign of this, and the appreciation of a monument about but yet against their struggle follows next.
But, as I said, there are other reasons for choosing this museum as venue. Tucked in a quiet shaded street at the top of the Montmartre hill, the building that houses the museum was once the home of Auguste Renoir. In his Paris Des Avant-Gardes, Alain Rustenholz also tells that it is here where Renoir settled to paint Le Moulin de la Galette (1876). It was also the home of Émile Bernard and Raoul Duffy, and in 1906, of Suzanne Valadon and her son. She was the reason for why Erik Satie lived next door. In choosing this venue, I wanted to reactive the artistic life of this place with a live event and an artistic community, rather than through display and tourism.
Special thanks to Danièle Rousseau-Aicardi and Isabelle Ducatez at the Musée de Montmartre for collaborating with Kadist Art Foundation and hosting the program of September 18th, including Emma Hedditch’s performance.
As if weren’t enough, right after the travel adventure in Oaxaca, I headed on a road trip to central Mexico. The trip was to and through the Sierra Gorda in the state of Queretaro, the natural habitat of over 400 different butterflies, among many other species. The first Franciscan missions directed by Father Junipero Serra took place in this region. During a period of eight years during the late eighteenth century, Father Serra founded five missions, today considered by Unesco a World Heritage Site. From here he headed to Alta California (what is known today as the states of Baja California in Mexico and California in the USA). There he directed the creation of various missions, including those of San Diego, Carmel and San Francisco among others. Having grown in Baja California, Mexico and having traveled extensively throughout my life to its border state of California, USA, the visit and architectural tours in the Sierra Gorda became a cultural journey to far and somewhat unfamiliar territories.
For its cultural history, but certainly more for its flora and fauna, the Sierra Gorda is a magical place. There is meeting of culture and nature that is unique to the region. This meeting place is constructed even as a dream: just north of Queretaro, is the site of Xilitla in the state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, where the artist, art collector and patron Edward James (1907-1984) built his home and the surrealist garden known as Las Pozas, a construction begun in the 1940s and today open to the public. Last year, Princeton Architectural Press published Surreal Eden, a beautiful and informative book about Edward James and Las Pozas, and, today, the New York Times’ T Magazine published Dream Works, an article about the acquisition and future of this garden. The youtube.com video link, above, is a documentary by BBC about Las Pozas, and one in a series of videos about extraordinary gardens worldwide.
On this site, Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy publishes informal texts about visual art and culture. She uses this space to introduce, mostly by way of anecdote, things that are influential to her curatorial practice. You can just scroll along this page; go to Passing Sideshows for an archive of published entries; search for a topic, place, or interest of your liking; and subscribe to the RSS feed to be in sync. These are some links to other blogs and sites.