Oct '11 - May '13
Last Friday, Nov 30, I went through this semester's 2D Design crit (as an elective) that might be my last crit I've ever done in Cranbrook (crits for Second-years in Architecture are not advisable anymore. Fair enough, it's time to work… We should be in the spot where we don't need anymore crit, according to Bill), showing the progress of my on-going Gallery A project so far. I utilized several modes of presentation (website—on an iPad, Moleskin sketchbook, and map) in order to figure things out—what is it actually I am making here? If this is post-rationalization, these are the modes I use to rationalize this project.
Erica Mahinay (a fellow elective from Painting) wrote my review. Not even I could situate this work better for the time being. So without further ado, nor heavy editing from my part, here she comes:
Gallery A: 7 a.m.
Farid Rakun by Erica Mahinay
I have a confession. Time is my excuse… but still, as is the case with any confession, I am
embarrassed. The story is as follows: I walk into the Brooklyn Museum accompanied by a peer from the painting department. We are on our annual department trip to New York, and we have three days and too much to see. We arrive at the museum with the intention to view two exhibitions within a little over an hour: Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe and Materializing “Six-Years”: Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art. The first, a visually opulent experience and the other, a visually dry and content dense display of works that addresses Conceptual art from 1966-1973. “…like a mouthful of sawdust […] a lot of what is in the show is similarly dry and technocratic. There are charts, maps, magazines, exhibition catalogs and pages of dense verbiage.(1)“
Immediately, it is clear that a choice must be made between the two exhibitions. I take one look around the Lucy Lippard exhibition, and with the thought “this is going to take WAY too much work”, I turn my heels. Not to discredit the Mickalene Thomas exhibition, but this scenario is embarrassing because I chose visual pleasure over an important
exhibition—an exhibition which presents the rise of Conceptualism, as seen (and supported) by one person- critic, curator, and writer Lucy R. Lippard. An exhibition which presents a history through nearly ninety artists, including Bruce Nauman, Vito Acconci, Sol LeWitt, Martha Rosler, and Ed Ruscha.
I approach Farid’s grouping of objects organized in a totemic fashion, and before even naming them, I recognize the task at hand. In their physicality, they are minimal and clearly presented as objects to be interacted with. They seem to dismiss their own presence, and instead insist on a purpose beyond their physical objectness. Visually, the work is underwhelming in a familiar way, harkening back to that dryness I encountered at the Brooklyn Museum. With this history as precedent, I am instantly aware that it is not in the visual experience of the work that I will find satisfaction or meaning. The work is
asking me to approach it through the lens of dematerialized art, mapping, hypertext, rule-based art, and deauthoring.
It is information that I am asked to contend with: a moleskin sketchbook used to present photographic documentation and saved receipts; an ipad displaying a website which, in a non-linear fashion, reveals the intent of the project and provides 50 days of documentation (as of yet); A pre-packaged colored pencil set, which acts as a framing device, and portable unit for which to house a familiar Cranbrook Academy of Art campus map that are usually distributed to visitors and new students bymeans of our friendly administrative staff. The full spectrum of colored pencils has been used to draw lines throughout the map, indicating paths and locations of found detritus collected and then
displayed at a single site—Gallery A.
Within the same lineage as Robert Rauchenberg’s erasure of a Willem de Kooning drawing, Yves Klein’s “empty gallery”, On Kawara’s daily date paintings, Joseph Kosuth’s Photostat Art as Idea as Idea and Ed Ruscha’s books, Farid’s Gallery A: 7 a.m. turns away from art as product, embracing art as action.
Out of a plethora of visual art experiments of the late 1960s, which now can be neatly categorized as Conceptual art, Land art, Happenings, Performance, Process art, Activist art, etc., came the concept of “dematerialization”, proposed by Lucy Lippard as a way to reveal a collective motivation across this multitude of approaches. In her 1968 essay, she
As more and more work is designed in the studio
but executed elsewhere by professional
craftsmen, as the object becomes merely the end
product, a number of artists are losing interest in
the physical evolution of the work of art. The
studio is again becoming a study. Such a trend
appears to be provoking a profound
dematerialization of art, especially art as object,
and if it continues to prevail, it may result in the
object’s becoming wholly obsolete.(2)
With very little interest in a finished “product”, Farid collects scraps of wood and paper, VHS covers, envelopes, etc. I understand the process of collecting as an act he has created and taken on in a ritualistic manner. Waking each day in order to complete his task of collecting studio detritus, and sticking to a 7 a.m. routine. He then documents,
displays and presents the detritus publicly. Through a process of decoding the information presented (a hybrid of physical and digital hypertext) I follow a non-linear network of information, and at some point I find a kind-of beginning. The work has
originated from a submitted proposal—A promise from the artist, with guidelines to a task, which will be carried out by the artist himself. In accepting his a proposal a contract between artist and institution was formed. In this initial promise, Farid states:
This submission is made to challenge the
imagination, and “engineered” way of thinking,
in which sets of goals are usually pre-established
in order to ease the process of value assessment
and judgment. I dare everyone—students,
faculties, employees, jurors, and most
importantly, myself—to let go of our
presumptions, and therefore visual prejudices
and aesthetic discriminations we do everyday
It is in an effort to see different translation of the
well-worn term carpe diem.”(3)
With this statement Farid has outlined his (academic)year-long goal to seize the day, but to seize it through structure, ritual, obligation, and servitude. Farid’s challenge and promise aligns with Roland Barthes’s notion of the “death of the author” (and the “birth of the reader”), which is connected to the critique of exclusive and elitist cultural values maintained by the art market and mainstream art institutions. To borrow Lippard’s
words, this critique is considered an “attack on the notion of originality, … an attack on the genius theory, the hitherto most cherished aspect of patriarchal, ruling-class art.”(4) This act of deauthoring becomes a move towards criticalgenerosity and an effort to democratize art, and through this, the work gains the language of the gift.
Seize the day: The Gift and Obligation
“Let’s consider the following works drawn from
the Work Ethic exhibition. On a typewritten
piece of paper, Alison Knowles humbly suggests
(or sternly demands, depending on how one
interprets the statement), “Make a salad.” Piero
Manzoni builds a pedestal for viewers to stand art. Yoko Ono instructs her audience members
to cut off pieces of her dress and take the scraps
away with them. Eleanor Antin notarizes her
plan to leave a group meeting immediately if she
fails to address certain persons from behind
them […] Claiming that artworks such as these
engage the logic of the gift is not to say that they
are literally gifts. Few of them, indeed, appear
to satisfy the conventional definition of the gift
as a voluntary act of generosity, even a
sacrificial offering, that harbors no expectation
of return in kind or of personal gain on the part
of the giver.”(5)
In these instances, and in the instance of Gallery A: 7 a.m., the work operates like a gift in complex ways—presenting explicit and implicit demands and challenges, creating an obligation. There is no such thing as the free gift. There is no such thing as entirely disinterested or uncalculated giving. Marcel Mauss reveals that in giving under the
pretense of the uncalculated or disinterested gift, ”… what creates the obligation to give is that giving creates obligations.”(6) This leads to questions regarding the obligations this kind of work imposes on an audience, and how the audience is expected or required to reciprocate.
It is possible that this obligation compels me to reciprocate by giving the work the attention required in order to explore each pathway, and consider each piece of the whole. In my attempt to dissect all the information, I am left continually trying to match up the information provided- to follow the map- to source the receipts to their original location, to follow the colored-pencil-path of the detritus and take a second-hand journey from studio to site, but this exploration as viewer/reader journey leads from one dead end to another. My excitement about the work is in understanding that this is a path the artist has taken- a path that is part ritual and part obligation. For me, the information provided is not a journey, but is rather evidence and an assurance that artist has carried out an action as promised. I am provided with no key to the colorpencil-coded pathway, the logic of map seems to be only for the artist, and for the audience, becomes evidence of action. Despite its set up, this work is not about my dissection as a means to gain new information about the source of the objects- this map is a task the artist has given himself and has completed (or rather is in the midst of completing). In his servitude, Farid has either maintained or developed an idiosyncratic and highly personal system of logic. I am at a loss for many of the decisions being made. How is the specific detritus selected- one piece of trash discerned from another piece of trash? What is the logic behind how the
photographs are being arranged (seemingly in a kind of grid) on the opposite side of the Gallery A wall? Additionally, the 3 modes of presentation (possibly 4 if we consider the actual site of Gallery A) pose the question of where the work ultimately should exist. Although these are questions are left unanswered, for me, there is a larger point of crisis
in the work.
The strength of Farid’s Gallery A: 7 a.m. is in its rigorous conceptual ambition, but it is also in this rigor that the work undercuts itself. The work asks me to go through a process of dissecting a complex network - which in itself becomes detritus. After going through a laborious process of sifting through each link, I find myself understanding little more than at the beginning. Maybe the issue is not that I learn nothing, but rather that in this long journey, I learn too much too soon. If I ask at which point do I understand the heart and core of the work’s meaning? My answer, is that most of the meaning becomes clear to me at the beginning of the journey- with the promise of an action to be carried out. At this moment I am given the gift of imagining an outcome. But unlike most promises, I am surprised that the value rests in the promise and not its execution.
(1) Ken Johson, Planter of the Seeds Of Mind-Expanding Conceptualism, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/19/arts/design/lucy-r-lippard-and-conceptual-art-at-brooklyn-museum.html, October 18, 2012.
(2) Suzanne Lacey, Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art, Bay Press,1995.
(3) Farid Rakun, 7 a.m. Gallery A Submission 2012
(4) Suzanne Lacey, Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art, Bay Press, 1995.
(5) Helen Molesworth, Work Ethic, Baltimor Museum of Art, 2003.
(6) Helen Molesworth, Work Ethic, Baltimor Museum of Art, 2003.
A school blog on Arch Dept, Cranbrook Academy of Art. By farid rakun, admitted Fall 2011.