All great art is a form of complaint. - John Cage

Most anarchists are gentle people.
-Anna Zilboorg

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Play is a dirty word.

From 1995 to 1998, west coast photographer John Divola worked on a series of photographs of isolated houses in the desert in the Morongo Valley in Southern California.  In his introduction to Dogs Chasing My Car in the Desert he writes, “As I meandered through the desert, a dog would occasionally chase my car . . . .Sometime in 1996 I began to bring along a 35mm camera . . .” Of the artwork for which he is now internationally recognized, David Shrigley said: “I didn't think of my drawings as Fine Art until quite a long time after art school. . .” As Shrigley found application for his drawing style in the established fine art domain, John Waters broke from the popular medium of movies to the gallery setting with “Director’s Cut,” a collection of “re-directions” or “little movies,” photographs taken of films as they played on his television screen, which he then reworked into shortened footage rife with his own commentary.  Divola’s photographs of dogs were taken on the way to his scheduled shoots; Shrigley did not initially consider his drawings publishable.  Waters’s “re-directions” were pet projects devoted to a private interaction with pre-existing film imagery:  “I took my ‘little movie’ photographs for years without telling anybody.”
The projects referenced here, Dogs Chasing My Car in the Desert, The Book of Shrigley, and Director’s Cut, could be said to amount to no more than photos of dogs, doodling and a re-mixing of antiquated movies.  Yet the works yield insights into the nature of our existence and the rituals we employ to engage with and interpret our world, be it immediate, assimilated, or simulated.  Divola, Shrigley and Waters articulate varying degrees of self-consciousness within the act of observation, of seeing, of visual communication not simply between artist and art viewer, but between the artist and his subject.  Waters confesses, “I never watch a movie I love a second time around because I’m always afraid I’ll be disappointed.”  Shrigley says, “I have always kept a notebook to make drawings in ever since I was a child. I never really thought of it as art, it was more like keeping a diary.”  Divola writes:  “Contemplating a dog chasing a car invites any number of metaphors and juxtapositions: culture and nature, the domestic and the wild, love and hate, joy and fear, the heroic and the idiotic.”
The self-awareness that each artist attaches to his project is held in check by a force of spontaneity engendered by an engagement with a living other, an intuitive process, or the development of a virtual field.  Dogs Chasing My Car in the Desert, The Book of Shrigley, and Director’s Cut embody forms of play:  abandon, absurdity, irreverence, wickedness, wantonness, feral-ness.  While depicting playfulness, they also constitute in and of themselves playful acts.
In the case of each of the three artists whose work is mentioned here, none considered these particular projects central to their focus at the time of their inception.  These were peripheral projects, ancillaries to intended projects, to the work “at hand”.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Puppy" gained 8lbs in two weeks.

To finish one project or to start the next.  (Or to clean the car or finish taxes or go for a run.)  

Cammo and Exoskin - 3D Design student work.  Extra selves.

Monday, March 22, 2010

John Divola writes, “The desert is not empty. However, it is vacant enough to bestow a certain weight to whatever is present.”  Silence was a desert playground for the musician John Cage.  On August 29, 1952, he debuted the score 4’33” in which a segment of concert time was allotted for any chance sounds that might occur.  For four minutes and thirty-three seconds, 4’33” captured the ambient noise of an open air concert hall in Woodstock, New York.  In the three unscored movements, the audience heard the wind in the trees, the rain on the roof, the occasional turning of the pages of the blank score and, during the final “movement,” the sounds of its own disgruntlement.  Cage referred to 4’33” as “listening to a period of time when there aren’t any sounds being produced.”

The concert supported the Benefit Artists Welfare Fund and was attended by an audience open to contemporary art and the avant-garde.  Yet the audience did not share Cage’s willingness to engage a moment, a short passage of time, with a minimum of intention.  As Cage explained, "The essential meaning of silence is the giving up of intention."  Cage operated within the convention of a concert setting, but opened the moment to chance.  Of his experiments with the I Ching he said,

If you use, as I do, chance operations, you don’t have control except in the way of designing the questions which you ask.  That you can control.  I mean you can decide to ask certain questions and not others.  But if you use chance operations, you have no control over the answers, except the limits within which they operate.

In explaining the audience’s discomfort with 4’33”, Peter Gutman alludes to a basic human need for “the familiarity of repetition.”  Cage inverted the familiar setting of a classical concert by introducing a seeming silence where the audience expected orchestrated sound.  In fact, Cage did not consider 4’33” silent.  Rather, his composition argued against the very existence of silence.  In 1951 he had entered an anechoic chamber to experience the complete absence of noise only to discover the resonant sound of his own nervous and circulatory systems:  “Try as we may to make silence, we cannot.”


On the left, Finn's interpretation of a baby chick cupcake: robotchicken.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

New puppy.  5 months and 50 lbs.  Big puppy.