Attention! Criticism and its Distractions

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Rhizome contributor Orit Gat was invited to speak at Frieze Art Fair earlier this month. Audio from the panel, "Attention! Criticism and its Distractions," organized by Brian Dillon, is now available to download on the Frieze Foundation website.

Much of the panel's discussion refers to the essay Gat wrote for Rhizome last spring, "Screen. Image. Text":

The generations to come of age in the days of digital publishing and reading on screens have a much more complicated relationship with images. The human eye-brain system is capable of reading a large number of high quality images in a matter of split seconds, and this, alongside the hand-eye coordination—think about the pleasure of a touch screen versus inky newspaper pages—is rapidly developing to mirror our changing habits of consuming information. So much so that the contemporary heightened sensitivity to the way we read images can lead to an ability to, at times, ignore the quality of the images when inserted into a text, the way our brain glides over a typo in the flow of reading. The way we read images online is only one thing these magazines deal with in the process of publishing, but it is surely an element that dictates a large portion of the reading experience of these publications.

 

The first issue of the Illustrated London News (1842)

The endless discussions on the future of print bring up the contemporary fluency with images on a regular basis. Aside from the fact that digital publishing is often cheaper and always easier to disseminate, many consider the role of the image in digital publishing to be a key aspect in the contemporary experience of reading. The benefits of handheld devices are considered time and again, especially in relation to embedding a variety of image formats: slideshows, moving ...

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Frieze New York: The Art Outside the Tent

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Joshua Callaghan’s Two Dollar Umbrella (2011)

As far as art fairs go, Frieze New York was better than most: the booths were spacious, the tent well lit, and the amenities for visitors excellent. The quality of the work on view, too, was a vast improvement over the first round of fairs this past March; many of the participating galleries brought impressive pieces by both emerging and established artists.

Supplementing the art lining gallery booths inside were a host of works presented outdoors, organized by appointed curators: Frieze Projects, a series of site-specific commissions curated by Cecelia Alemani, and the Sculpture Park curated by Bard CCS director Tom Eccles—technically separate, though physically intermingling with the Frieze Projects commissions.

The Sculpture Park was largely composed of the sorts of dull, oversized abstraction typical of corporate plazas and civic commissions—inoffensive, vaguely industrial, often colourful (Katja Strunz, Gabriel Kuri) or shiny (Tomas Saraceno, Jeppe Hein.) In short: perfectly positioned to move swiftly from the fairgrounds at Randall’s Island to the backyard of some collector’s summer home. Indeed, each work was labelled not only with the artist’s name, title, and date, but also the gallery representing it—all of them participants in the fair—making it essentially an extension of select gallery booths.  

Others read merely as oversized gimmicks. For Subodh Gupta’s Et Tu Duchamp? (2009–2010), the artist translated Duchamp’s famous moustachioed reproduction of the Mona Lisa, L.H.O.O.Q., into three dimensions, casting it as a large-scale bronze. The title of Gupta’s work suggests that his intent was to replicate Duchamp’s gesture of comically appropriating a canonical work—in the twenty-first century, Duchamp is as recognizable as Da Vinci—but Et Tu Duchamp? is less a subversive violation of a masterpiece than a self-aggrandizing, one-note gag. Likewise, Joshua Callaghan’s Two Dollar Umbrella (2011) presents the titular object amplified to monumental proportions; with its loose spokes pointing skyward like Laocoön’s outstretched arm, Callaghan’s pathetic umbrella has its own odd pathos—given the overcast skies during much of the fair’s run, discarded umbrellas littering the city’s street were a common sight—but elevating an everyday inconvenience to the status of mythic tragedy is neither new nor compelling.

Works that engaged the setting more directly fared somewhat better...

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Report from Frieze New York

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The verdict from Frieze New York? Not so bad! While the city has experienced a rash of yawn-worthy art fairs — this year's Armory no exception — yesterday saw the impressively successful debut of Frieze Art Fair on New York's Randall's Island. Combining mainstays such as Gagosian with younger, more innovative galleries such as 47 Canal, T293, and Balice Hertling, Frieze NY offered a crowd-pleasing multifaceted, international approach. Some stand-out works below.

 

Stephen G Rhodes, "Untitled," 2012 at Overduin and Kite. All photographs by Marcus Cuffie

While I'm familiar with Rhodes' installation work through a recent solo exhibition at Metro Pictures in New York, this collages proves his two-dimensional work to be much more pared down and sensitive to detail. Rhodes, who splits his time between Berlin and New Orleans, has gathered materials around both of his studios, using spraypainted reliefs of New Orleans flora as a background to this composition. Although the most satisfying details of the piece are lost in this jpeg, Rhodes further layers his collage with text from Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, "'Whatever in creation exists without my knowledge exists without my consent.' -- Judge. GO OUTSIDE."

 

Keltie Ferris, "(*)", 2012 at Mitchell Innes and Nash

On view at Mitchelle Innes and Nash's booth is Keltie Ferris' large, graffiti-inspired paintings. While the term "graffiti-inspired" alone may be enough to turn many a viewer off, Ferris' paintings seem timely, and dare I say, internet-aware. With titles that frequently employ various combinations of punctuation marks, Ferris' paintings appear at once almost pixelated or digitally inspired as well as cognizant of delicate position that abstract painting occupies in 2012.

 

 Sarah Braman, "Untitled," 2012 at Mitchell Innes and Nash

Sarah Braman also kills it at Mitchell Innes and Nash...

 

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"In the Nostalgia District" by Lauren Cornell in Frieze Magazine's 20th Anniversary Issue

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Frieze has a massive new issue out celebrating its 20th anniversary with contributions from Bruce Sterling, Lynne Tillman, Kazys Varnelis, Simon Critchley, and Nina Power. Rhizome executive director Lauren Cornell also has an essay in the new issue: 

Since 2005, I’ve been the director of the online organization Rhizome, and have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about why ‘Internet’ is such a gauche word in contemporary art. Here are a few simple reasons I’ve come up with. First, medium-specificity is out of style and the word ‘Internet’ suggests a medium – something separate, something cyber – even though the term can really be used now to describe the experiences that come with an expanded culture and communications system, not just its underlying network protocols. However, this perception of the Internet as a separate artistic territory persists, with its roots planted firmly in the 1990s. In step with Clinton-era rhetoric around globalization, and excitement for new information technologies, the first Internet bubble swelled in the ’90s and burst in the early 2000s, as did patience with ambitious but under-resourced ‘net art’ exhibitions (read: faulty browsers and error signs). Quickly, it was all but abandoned by the art world save for a few ambitious museum media lounges. It’s important to note that much of this ’90s-era ‘net art’ was preoccupied with the technology itself, not with celebrating it, but considering and subverting it. This focus made it somewhat impenetrable for the non-technologically inclined and challenging to exhibit off-line. In the last few years, however, the field of art engaged with the Internet has expanded to being both about new tools and simply how we live our lives – the humanity on top, so to speak.

A second reason for the slow response is that, unlike other industries, such as music ...

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RECOMMENDED READING: Sarah Hromack on Paul Chan’s new publishing venture in Frieze

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No one mistakes a Kindle for a codex any more than they might an iPad for a canvas – that much is clear. Yet the impact of electronic publishing on the book itself is becoming increasingly relevant to the art world, where the recent advent of art e-book publishing has posed an entirely new set of challenges – technical, philosophical, political and otherwise – to the artist’s book.

In the autumn of 2010, artist Paul Chan launched a publishing venture, Badlands Unlimited, out of his Brooklyn studio as a means of negotiating the rapidly shifting relationship between physical and virtual methods of book production. Aided by a cohort of designers and developers, Chan has since published a small catalogue of books, DVDs and artist-designed ephemera, rendered in both digital and print forms. ‘We make books in the expanded field’, claims the company’s website, a deceptively simple mission statement that belies the implications of re-calibrating an entire process – and by proxy, the history of a genre – in order to broach the digital divide.

E-book publishing complicates the interplay between the image and virtual page; the limitations imposed by code and hardware alone necessitate a somewhat radical re-thinking of that relationship. For an image-heavy e-book to retain its visual legibility across platforms, its author must consider the image in service of the electronically produced book and not the other way around. Hallmarks of a well laid-out publication – a strong correlation between text and image; a sense of visual rhythm; considered choices in typeface, paper stock, printing and binding methods – are impossible to replicate in some cases, and in others elusive at best. Whereas the printed book bears its maker’s mark more readily, the e-book places a comparatively stringent set of limitations on the endeavour from the outset; software and hardware developers dictate the platforms and products that publishers have to negotiate with during the production process.

— EXCERPT FROM "OFF THE PAGE" BY SARAH HROMACK, FRIEZE ISSUE 139.

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