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Tuesday, March 9, 2010
All turned and bit.
After biting, they were asked to quickly make a sketch of the quickly diminishing bite mark. Next, the drawing of the bite mark was diagrammed; its main features keyed.
Lastly, the class was asked to describe the formal properties of the mark and its taste.
Here is the composite class list- the formal properties of the human bite mark:
the thickness of bites
a normal bite
the spaces between individual ridges
temporariness and its color shifts
a forced scale dictated by physiology
How the bite tasted:
soft clean girl taste
tasted of opportunity
The students concluded that if we had licked the skin we would have had a much more specific sense of what the recipient tasted like but most did not even consider the tongue an option. The co-teacher asserted that the tongue is an unstable organ, in this context. It was glaringly absent in our descriptions and our actions. We realized that even within the absurd parameters of this exercise, protocols existed. Furthermore, distinctions were generated by the specific category of the sexual bite. It is a 'limited bite' or one may also categorize it as an "ethical bite". The lover only bites as hard as the other lover can take. They must parse out, must weigh in unequal parts their desire to devour or mark and their lover's threshold for pain as pleasure. How civil is this bite? And are these marks categorically sentimental? I remember your mouth was here that night. The biter is a sap.
Our report from the pedagogical fields, thanks for listening. We made our investigation empirical instead of simply theoretical. Here is the body we have-tasted and not consumed.
p.s. correction: The biter may or may not be a sap. The happy recipient is the sap; lost in a revery after a glimpse of the mark. Some call this sort of mark a hickee...how to spell that?
The unwritten rule is that this word is only spoken, formed by the mouth and never the scribing hand. I'm with the ones who think there is dignity in eschewing the word hickee and calling any mouth made mark "a bruise'. I am not with the ones who forget themselves and bit too hard (and through), their recipient nursing a human bite wound in the emergency room.
Most human bites, at least those requiring medical attention, occur between 4-6 pm. But I'm not going to call it the Human Bite Happy Hour, even if it occurs at the same time as dusk and cheap drinks. Its a couple of hours where everything is coming undone; all of the institutions of the day folding.
Perhaps most of these bites were swapped between children after a terrible day at school and before a terrible supper with papa and mama and brother.
Adults use beer to forget work. Children bite like puppies to forget school? I like this logic.
I will bite food. I will bite humans. I will bite the bedclothes. To forget hunger and work. To forget school. To remember that I am an animal. A mouth full of hair or fruit. -mwb
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Another excerpt from the daily course readings:
"I am only interested in what’s not mine. The law of men. The law of the cannibal."
I will become a bit more streamlined here, as we are coming very close to the time of departure and I feel that much remains to be done to prepare.
Please know that we are being extremely flexible in our notions of Cannibal. Primarily, this class will be focusing on the devouring nature of colonialism and/or the aggressor and the objects it takes down with it. It will rise out of this position, to also figure in on the devoured's appetite reconstructed and active.
The Manifesto Antropofago (1928)
A Politics of Tears: The Museum of Useless Efforts, Marfa, TX
Mary Walling Blackburn
Cannibal Girls Trailer (1973)
The Prelude The Gardenpath by Tracey Rose (2003)
Bas Jan Ader THE ARTIST AS CONSUMER OF EXTREME COMFORT, 1968/2003
LISTENING: Please listen to the animal grunts on the audio track of Michelle Larcher de Brito playing tennis
Photograph by Julia Sherman
Painting on display at the US Border Patrol Museum in El Paso, Texas
The below selections should encourage you to consider how the works at the Chinati Foundation continue to both survive and be extended into contemporary practice. The Hannah Wilke film and the Ana Mendieta works are intended to point towards the practices that existed next to Oldenberg and Andre at a certain moment. What happens when Mendieta and Wilke become part of the conversation about American Minimalism in the 1970's? What if we imagine them at Chinati? ( ed-What is we imagine Dia funding Nancy Holt to buy the ruins of a catskill resort, dedicated to her best pal artists, who just happen to be the best artists making Land Art at the time. Almost all of them are women. Her husband is included.)
READING: Everyday Life and the Culture of the Thing (Toward the Formulation of the Question)
Author(s): Boris Arvatov and Christina Kiaer
Source: October, Vol. 81 (Summer, 1997)
SEE (don't read):
Wilke's Rosebud (1976) (a beautiful example of minimalism and feminism dovetailing)
Singh, Freeman, and Lowe initially constructed Hello Meth Lab in the Sun (2007) for Ballroom Marfa.Think about it in relationship to the Ilya Kabakov's School No. 6 (1993) at Chinati
21 ANTHROPOMETRIC MODULES MADE FROM HUMAN FAECES BY THE PEOPLE OF SULABH INTERNATIONAL, INDIA (2007) Sierra references Judd's boxes and addends.
Ana Mendieta's graceful slide and the blood remain. Trauma is reduced to a brief gesture.
Mendieta was the wife of Carl Andre, whose work poems 1958-1972 is on display
glance at the Puerto Rican Light (for Dan Flavin) again.
Allora and Calzadilla's 'tribute' to Flavin consists of a fluorescent tube powered by a generator that was charged in Puerto Rico and transported to New York City. When the generator runs out of juice the tube goes dark and stays dark. Puerto Rico, as an unincorporated territory of the United States it is subject to US jurisdiction and sovereignty but its citizens are not protected by the US constitution. They are at the whim of the US in regards to the allocation of resources and suffrage. For Dan.
Photograph by Julia Sherman
Our class visited the Chinati Foundation on Friday, June 5th, 2009. One student opted out half through the tour. She said something to the effect that she had her fill. Fill of what? There are a number of answers.
Some people in town asked: 'why even bring the class to Chinati?' There reasons were extremely personal. One woman explained herself: "Donald Judd was very rude to locals. He would not greet us on the street. Just walked on by." (Here street pleasantries are the norm.) Another woman felt protective of Chinati. It was a site of pilgrimage for her (vulnerable, sacred and beautiful) and she was afraid that the critical lens of our classroom would unnecessarily disrupt the space. Another claimed that it was the 'least interesting thing in the area. What about the border?' So many objections before we even crossed the threshold.
I had written about the racial ecology and the institutions that bound it for Afterall a year before in an article entitled "A Politic of Tears: The Museum of Useless Efforts. Marfa, TX." It seemed negligent to gather students here and not visit a site that clearly impacts the town, region, and arguably, has shaped contemporary art production. It seemed they needed to suss out for themselves the dimensions of what Chinati communicated and what it concealed in regards to the object, the viewer, the conservator, the curator, the janitor...and additionally: the legions of ghosts, ranging from the prisoners of war kept here during WWII to the senior citizens briefly housed here, from the stationed chemical brigade to the international artists in residents sequestered on the grounds, from the original troops brought to mediate Pancho Villa's border crossings to the locals who can see Chinati and have never been inside.
The students went inside. They went into the sheds which featured Donald Judd's boxes. There they seemed to be eking out the ruptures in what one student deemed 'the master narrative': One student was preoccupied with a dead spider, another took a photograph of a rubber bin left to collect leaking rain water. Yet, by the end of the course, two students had structured their final project around this visit to Chinati. As young artists, they would not hesitate to make space for themselves within a site that seemed already so bound to a specific demographic and time. Megan focused on the transfer of ownership: how could this be hers instead of theirs? Julia focused on a perversion of the tour: how could the existing narrative include her?
If we had more time in Marfa, I would have liked to have gone on five different tours throughout the duration of our class, each led by a different student, each time the work falling apart and recollecting itself again and again. It has those capabilities.
Photograph by Julia Sherman
Saturday, November 14, 2009
The Mutinous Classroom read Summer Rain by Marguerite Duras. This was in spite of the fact that it was out of print. It was difficult to find six copies in NYC. Eventually five were found and one was xeroxed. This scarcity is the indexical finger; an indexical finger pointing towards an American neglect (literary, academic, distributory). Keeping classes small allows for the mobilization of limited resources; a work is not discluded because it isn't marketed.
Summer Rain, in short, is the story of an immigrant family that refuses to be schooled. This is a pedagogical love story about how it feels to be in love with refusal.
REPORTER: Perhaps some particular circumstance or incident, madam… if you could recall even one detail, one small thing… that sticks in your mind…
FATHER: What about the scissors, they might do…
MOTHER: Aye, that’s right… wait a minute…
Mother remembers it perfectly.
MOTHER: Aye, one day, the boy is three years or something, he comes to me crying and shouting: I can’t find my scissors I can’t find my scissors… And I say that there’s nothing to it but to think where you’ve left them. The boy says: I can’t think I can’t think. Then I say: Well that’s all we need now. What do you mean you can’t think? Then the boy answers: I can’t think, because if I think, I’ll think I’ve thrown them out of the window.
Silence. An atmosphere of emptiness.
REPORTER: I’m sorry, madam, but… no matter how intelligent you are, how could you have guessed your son’s extraordinariness from this?
MOTHER: Well now I don’t understand a word you’re saying, sir. This is getting a bit dull.
The reporter sighs. Silence. Pondering. Then the reporter speaks. More and more, he takes on the parents’ mannerisms.
REPORTER: I only mean, madam, that your story about the scissors has nothing at all to do with the case at hand, that is the rejection of the school system…
FATHER: We’re not so stupid either, my wife and I, so take care what you say, sir.
Many dismiss Duras' work out of hand: the cover illustrations are embarrassing; the fact that it is her script for Hiroshima Mon Amour is glossed over, and focus remains on the overblown and indulgent cinematic remake of her autobiographical novella The Lover. The nature of Duras work, the way it manages to employ the temporal rhythms of trauma to structure the narrative and the language, or absence thereof, moves against the very act of excerpt (despite my inclusion above). Generally, her novels 'break down' if one tries to read them in fits and starts. They are slender and demand to be read from beginning to end without stopping, or not at all. Generally the novels could be likened as literary equivalents of Blanchot's Writing the Disaster, a philosophical meditation on the psychological structure of the catastrophe we call the twentieth century: impact. destruction. disappearance. And in the wake? Bands of ghosts and bands of mercenaries.
I can’t think, because if I think, I’ll think I’ve thrown them out of the window.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Photographs by Julia Sherman
While in Marfa, the students were housed in a collection of restored air streams parked at El Cosmico, a hotel of sorts lodged between open road and the Border Patrol Headquarters. Liz Lambert, owner of El Cosmico, was on board with the experimental nature of Anhoek, and graciously offered to allow the students barter labor towards boarding costs.
They dug holes and planted trees.
After these morning chores at El Cosmico, students tended Sandra Harper's garden in exchange for vegetables they prepared together at night, perhaps in El Cosmico's outdoor kitchen.
I lived in a small house on the other side of the Border Patrol Headquarters and across from the obsolete Fort D.A. Russell. I left the students to themselves for the evenings. Students and teachers require a space where the performance of pupil and pedagogue is dispelled. In other words, if one person is in charge of ordering others' days, there must be a release from that system, no matter how dedicated to student-directed learning. Does this position miss out on a pedagogy forged in a shared teacher-student consumption of whiskey, bonfires, and slow dancing? This formula is workable in say a David Lee Roth sort of way. But if I was interested in a pedagogy based on the sense one might have of a musician, today I'll choose Karen Dalton, native american 60's folk singer. The Karen Dalton Method, if we just read the names of her slender discography at face value, would herald slowness (In My Own Time, 1971) and disloyalty to ideology (It's So Hard to Tell Who's Going To Love You the Best, 1969). It is hard to tell who's going to love you the best, author or sweetheart.
From where I slept, wrote and read, I could hear the Border Patrol's outside PA system broadcasting directives to BP who had left the building but hadn't yet hit the parking lot. The students were awash in these very same sounds: a specific set of directions, heard but not followed.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The discussion began and deviated from the readings for the course: Marguerite Duras' Summer Rain, Ranciere's The Ignorant Schoolmaster, Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Chris Kraus's I Love Dick.
A main concern of schooling: How do we have data move through space?
For example, the chalkboard equals classroom. Just by applying chalkboard paint to a surface you are communicating that this object is also a surface of learning. It is possible just with that coat of paint. It moves learning beyond the institution because we do not want the same lesson over and over again. The classroom has escaped itself, but when do you need to have it gathered back into its source? There is an ebb and flow of something moving into and out of its space.
Is the goal recollection, or is the goal to ingest it–– to have it inside you in some way?
I have this image of painting in the bathtub. It is really beautiful to think about what kind of spaces you can record, knowing it is impermanent. So that is related to this context of memory, when you need to write in order to think. Sometimes, I think the most ephemeral thoughts are the strongest because they don't have to take themselves seriously.
It feels self-conscious to me. I can dive into certain moments without stepping outside. The two moments that I felt most comfortably inhabiting were the female writers, Duras and Kraus, because they are more of this strange memory. Where everything is happening at once and all the new tangents are linking up. The other readings felt too dogmatic. It actually said in the introduction to Ranciere, "Maybe you’re creating the structure by speaking it. If you think you can liberate someone, maybe you are already belittling them.”
Belittling them because you frame the person who has been designated as “the unliberated” as one that has a lack or a need and YOU, you’re THE ONE with the authority to liberate them. [laughter]
The assumption is that these people won't be able to teach themselves.
Who needs to be taught?
Is it that you are saying there already exists in the world a structure that is inherently flawed in the moment that someone believes they can teach someone else something? Suddenly there is the one that knows and the one that doesn't know.
With Duras, it is of course very simple: she never respects or believes in ‘the one that knows.’ ‘The one that knows’ never knows as far as she’s concerned, and ‘the one that doesn't know’, that’s the one to listen to. And it is also that Duras doesn't know. Is there a moment when we feel liberated by another telling us what they do know?
What does it really mean to know? Just because you know, doesn't mean you can teach it.
Talking about teachers teaching things, not necessarily things they already know. That seems more of an elementary school, high school phenomenon. You don't see that in college.
Not in art school. Not in a critique. Not in a studio class.
I can only speak for myself, but when I am teaching at an art school and it is time for me to critique, I don't think it is my responsibility or my position to critique form, a space of knowing. I think my job is to do as much as I can to orchestrate the entire room, to have everyone else talk more than me about that object and have them give the maker as much feedback as possible about the association that it stirs in them. As the teacher, it is about how I can work the classroom to be this sort of vital collective voice. That is my perspective.
I think that is an exception. The critique as a moment where a teacher does not speak from a place of knowing.
But knowing, that is how most critiques are supposed to be run, right?
There is the classic image in my mind of the teacher coming up and ripping a drawing off the wall, and saying, "THAT'S NOT CORRECT?" " WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT IS???!!!!!"
Is that good then because they are teaching from a space of not knowing? What does this mean to call for not knowing? What we mean, I think, is that we want the power dynamic to be: I never come at this from the notion of having the final word. We still want teßachers to have data. We still want to think that the professor has had more time to study it than we had.
For example: biology in high school. When you are dissecting, that’s the moment where you want the person to know more than you. You want the person to say "Oh, no, you were supposed to take out the spleen, but you took out the heart". So you want that moment, and you’re not harmed by it. If you are in a Humanities situation, it isn't the spleen or the heart. The observation is "that line that you drew, I don't see the commitment in that line!" Where would you have seen commitment in the line? Is the pressure in my hand? What happens in that moment, when that student presses that space?
How do you do evaluation if you don't know? Evaluations are such a big part of education, grades. How does a teacher who doesn't know a subject evaluate someone’s work? By effort?
How do we know there is effort? We've all seen work where someone has really put a lot of time–– elaborate sketches of women being torn apart by dragons, like in Heavy Metal comic. We say, "There was so much work there, look at the abdominal muscles well defined!" But, we don't value it.
Because that work isn't vulnerable, because it is a reproduction of something we already know. Dragons tear up women. We are saying to an art student, tell me something I don't already know. Make me feel something I have never felt. Make me feel aware. I think that is a lot of the demands that we are making. That is why it gets so intimate. We are also saying your intimacy is not my intimacy. What you consider a risk is not what I consider a risk. There becomes this real push and pull.
What happens when education is not art based? What kind of risk can a science teacher ask a science student take? Years ago, I sent a little card in the shape of a palm with a diagram indicating what each line represented within the palm reading. I sent it to a person who taught med students dissection at a medical school. I wrote in it, “You are welcome to try this out with your students. They can look at the corpse and see if the medical record aligns with the palm reading.” I was being glib, but he took it literally. He brought it in. They read the palms of the corpses then decided that this was not the ethical thing to do. There was too much of the comical there. What is the risk of reading the palm of the corpse?
Or how do you feel that you have really learned something? Like with the dissection example, maybe it would be better if everyone felt they were pioneering that dissection. One student who’s leading the discussion for the day says: "Does anyone know what this is? Let's all figure it out. Lets look at things and find out.”
That is amazing and insane. It is amazing to imagine.
Maybe they just become totally isolated and decide it was a toe, and the next group says "but it’s not a toe, we called it...!". So there could be problems. Maybe that would be really exciting.
Maybe they go on wikipedia and decide: 'it’s a heart!'
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
At the now moribund Black Mountain School, a landmark in American educational experiments, students initially ate meals described by Michael Rumaker as ' a salad of bananas and hot dogs.' Eventually, the system for feeding the school shifted. Students were required to work on the college farm which provided most of the school’s food.
At Deep Springs College, an all male school in the Mojave desert, students divide their time between ranching and scholarly pursuits. The campus is isolated; ranching underscores the demand for self-sufficiency and the complications of stewardship. In Chicago, sculptors Jim Elniski and Frances Whitread have been asking: "what if each institution has to grow its own food?" Whitread conducts a sculpture course within the School of the Art Institute of Chicago that begins with teaching students how to grow their own greens. Determining whether these agricultural acts fall within the sculptural or ecological appears to be a matter of framing and self-persuasion. Despite the fact that the majority of the 15 students who have attended three sessions of the Anhoek School, are categorically artists, the relationship to this garden is not intended to be sculptural, even within the broader rubric of relational aesthetics. We aren't set up for that approach, as it would require fields, school to be continuously in session, and a full-time farmer. We have to borrow others' gardens.
In Marfa, students spent the mornings gardening and their afternoons in class. Food from the garden was prepared by students for a shared lunch before the afternoon meeting/field trip. The work in the garden was guided by Farmstand Marfa's Sandra Harper. The students were bartering their labor in the garden for the food they cooked at lunch and dinner. However, this garden could not provide all of the ingredients we have become accustomed to integrating. The dishes were supplemented by the local supermarkets and Sandra Harper's larder.
My pedagogical intention was for students to uses their time in the garden to think through ideas without a myriad of distractions. They could incorporate the manner in which repetitive work sustained over short periods can sometimes strip superfluous chatter from conscious thought .
Besides allowing the woman working to hone in on and follow a deeper and more complex idea, it was another way of defraying the cost of the schooling for the students. It is difficult to think of anything else if food is what you are after. So as much as I get an absurdist pleasure in the notion of a lunch of bananas and hot dogs, the reality doesn't measure up. This problem, of combining food and art, reminds me of Gordan Matta Clark's less celebrated work "Pig". Down by the East River, he roasted a pig, serving up the half-cooked pork with bread. It was a sandwich afterall and the event was fun for awhile. Then people got sick.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Four months later, Julia posts something on the Internet along the lines of "You will look great with short hair" and asks those reading to send her the clippings. I am struck by the stealth tactic: flattery, and then request.
Julia has begun an investigation around hair and gender and the forms that tip the material and the sex towards and away from one another. I wonder if her fascination started with the woman in the barbershop in the desert or did it start before that? Will there be a through line? Before the class, she apprenticed with a shoemaker and made a singular shoe. After the class, she apprentices with a wig maker. She is gravitating towards the end of bodies to what avail?
Later Julia writes: " I started out only wanting to make wigs with Orthodox Jews, but then I decided to expand the project. Yesterday I had my first lesson with the wig-makers for the Metropolitan Opera. It was great. It is a lot like crocheting, but more tedious. I think I am getting the hang of it. I am going to work with a woman in Boro Park who styles wigs for the Orthodox women in that area as well. I am anticipating some kind of sculptural project coming out of this, but I am not sure exactly what that will look like. The topic is so loaded..."
Photograph by Julia Sherman
Sunday, November 8, 2009
On one half lies a dirt plot studded with homemade cement headstones and the stick remains of rotted wooden markers, and a broken down shed with several empty beer cans resting on their side at the threshold of miles of ranch lands. The other half of the cemetery is markedly different; well-maintained store-bought headstones rest amongst grass and trees. The surnames on the broken and barren side are primarily Spanish, while the surnames on the other are primarily Anglo. Pronghorn antelope come to graze, wandering through either side. When they are ready to return to the plains they do not leap over the barbed wire fences but slide under the lowest wire; coyotes sometimes lie in wait at these thresholds, attacking their prey as they lay midway between one space and the next.
The class employs an old archaeological surveying technique, arranging themselves in an even line with roughly ten feet between each student. They slowly traverse the deserted graveyard, calling out any detail of interest: "Broken cross." "Plastic flower." "Homemade Grave." "Wire." "Wire. again." And so on. A cadence begins to take hold. It describes its institutional neglect, its makeshift graves, its desolation. Later, a friend in town tells me she cannot find her relatives' graves because the wooden markers have rotted and the burial map has been lost. I had requested the students to select a grave for themselves and draw it. I asked them to go through several writing exercises. Five months later, I am questioning whether these investigations, at the very least, recognized this fraught space as something to respectfully be made record of or if these interventions are as blasphemous as say... Mark Twain's riding of his horse through Hawaiian burial grounds. Twain's casual description is brazen; I forget, was he on his way to the ocean?
AH-Marfa '09 begins in front of the El Paso Airport, where the city has erected a 34-foot statue made of 18 tons of bronze. Four of the five students for this inaugural session have flown into the airport from Chicago, Providence, Los Angeles and New York City. The fifth is driving her uncle's truck from New Mexico.
The airport is formally calling this sculpture "The Equestrian." However, it was commissioned as and is referred to in the airport literature as a depiction of Don Juan Onate, a 17th century Spanish Conquistador, husband of the illegitimate granddaughter of Monteczuma, and first governor of New Mexico.
In October of 1598, a skirmish erupted when the occupying Spanish military demanded supplies essential to the Acoma people surviving the winter. The Acoma resisted; thirteen Spaniards were killed, and amongst them Don Juan Onate's nephew. In 1599, Onate retaliated; his soldiers killed 800 villagers. The remaining 500 women and children were enslaved, and by Don Juan's decree, the left foot of every surviving Acoma man over the age of twenty-five was amputated.
Eighty left feet were separated from the leg.
The left? Why the left?
Stacked or strewn?
In Espanola, New Mexico, at the Onate Monument and Visitor Center, the right foot of another Don Onate statue was removed with an electric saw. The thin scar of the repairing weld is barely detectable- the foot, starfish-like, appears regenerated. The events that set the cut and weld in motion occurred over 400 years ago, but like a wake, these incidents reverberate, pulsing towards the shore of the Present.
Photograph by Julia Sherman (AH-Marfa '09)
Thursday, March 5, 2009
In Marfa, summer nights possess what feels to be an excess of light because the prairies/ranch lands retain the day's glow and foremost, are situated at the Western edge of a time zone. The Marfa Lights, a natural phenomenon, sometimes gather in the darkness, forming erratic patterns in a range of tones and intensities. A viewing center, designed by a Marfa high school class, suggests a reliable vantage point. But it is too bright now- lit up by the lamps in the restrooms- and some describe the benefits of the former empty dirt lot and its darkness.
The county next to us is the darkest county in the lower 48. The night sky glows brighter, there.
Light as a form that transgresses/embodies/ touches upon the spiritual, terrestrial, aesthetic, and monetary coalesce at our site.
Is their another reading we are missing out on? Is there another kind of flame in Marfa with another use and function- something that falls outside of the natural and cultural spectacles embodied in Flavin's lights and Marfa's lights? Is it just lovely or is there complications in its illumination? What light is missing? What is the sound of light? Is that a form to posses as well? Who pays for all of this light all of the time?
photograph by Julia Sherman (AH-Marfa,'09)