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My lack of conviction in saying even the most obvious things, or the things I most believe in, works against me at times.

1. 10. 2011 // // Kategorie Randnotizen 2011

Seeing her walking like that I was reminded of those picketers in the United States, usually few in number, who circle round and round in the same spot, as if their protest were a kind of punishment.
– Sergio Chejfec, My Two Worlds

As has happened to me on other occasions, and continues happening to this day, the woman thought it reasonable to ignore me. Something about the way I speak must cause this; its probable that my lack of conviction in saying even the most obvious things, or the things I most believe in, works against me at times.
– Sergio Chejfec, My Two Worlds

When I arrived in Graz I was already reading the novel My Two Worlds by Sergio Chejfec, an Argentinean writer living in Brazil, and yet it wasnt until Thursday, four days later, that I noticed the extreme similarity between the title of the novel and the leitmotif of this years Steirischer Herbst which is of course Second Worlds. My Two Worlds and Second Worlds. A coincidence and, perhaps, also something in the air.

Chejfecs novel follows the author in an unnamed Brazilian city where he has just attended a literary conference, as he wanders aimlessly through a large park. It is an aimless book, brilliantly written and almost sick to death with melancholy. I have not finished it, so I do not yet know what Chejfecs two worlds might be, but my suspicion is that they are the world of literature and everything else. Or perhaps the world of long walks and everything else, since the narrator apparently spends the entire book walking and reflecting.

In a number of the posts over the past week, I have suggested a preference for something fragmented, confusing or mysterious (all words that could accurately be used to describe Chejfecs novel.) Perhaps the world is the one we know all too well and the second worlds are the ones we dont quite know yet, of which we can only catch a glimpse.

And now for a confession. In a previous post where I spoke of the Egyptian film The Night of Counting the Years, I said I found only two fragments of the film on the internet, and that watching these fragments allowed me to construct an imaginary version of the film in my head. At first this was true. My initial search turned up only the two fragments. But a later search, before I posted the final text, turned up the film in its entirety. I (perhaps mistakenly) chose to stay with the fragments, with my partial, fragmentary knowledge, instead of making the jump to something more complete. I cant say exactly why I chose to do this. The obvious reason was it was 3 a.m. and, when I discovered the entire film, it seemed too late to begin watching it. But I dont like that reason, since what is obvious is that my imagined film was alluring to me, and there was anxiety that I would be disappointed by the real thing. That my excitement around the fantasy made me wary of reality.

The second worlds the other worlds that we imagine, have a resonance that reality finds hard to match. But they are also set into motion by fragments, by notions, from that reality. There are many worlds, but catching only a glimpse of them makes their differences more potent, allows us to fill in the rest for ourselves. I love critical art but, as I have learned here in Graz, I am also hungry for mystery, for a way of doing and seeing things that I cant begin to completely understand. The coincidence of Chejfecs title is an arrow pointing towards something. If the book had been recommended to me as research for my visit to Second Worlds, I would not have been nearly as struck by the similarity. What is striking is that for some reason, or for no reason, it just happened. A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Im here to make you feel. Im not here to seduce you.

30. 9. 2011 // // Kategorie Randnotizen 2011

There was a work by Hermann Glettler I was completely fascinated by. I will try to describe it. The room looks unfinished. The floor is covered in overlapping carpets. Each carpet has one or more large perfectly formed holes cut out of it. Each hole is exactly the same size, larger than a man-hole cover, large enough to fall through. Under the holes the floor is covered in cheap plastic. Through the plastic you can half see the wooden floor. One entire wall is covered in a badly hung gray curtain. Another wall has a section removed from it and the section, a rectangle with a curved top, is carelessly propped up somewhere else. In the four corners of the room are small speakers. A Velvet Underground song is playing on repeat.

Every aspect of the installation looks like it was done on purpose and every aspect looks like a complete mistake. It all looks extremely amateur but I feel a strong vision behind every moment and gesture. There was a photo in the program of a small group of people sitting on the overlapping carpets, all watching something out of frame. Maybe the installation was simply the setting for a performance. Unlike most art experiences, I have limited information, which I believe in this case makes it all so much better.

Im reminded a line I wrote down in the dark the previous night. A sentence from the show Tales of the Bodiless: Im here to make you feel. Im not here to seduce you. Wandering across the floor of plastic and purposefully destroyed carpets, I definitely feel something. I feel the room is a mistake and I feel moved by it. I also know it is purposeful. I think that someone has managed to make art that doesnt feel like art and I am surprised how rare this is in the world.

I dont know who Hermann Glettler is and I was unable to read the German text about him in the catalog. I googled him and in all the images hes wearing a priest collar. I imagine some mad, artist-priest but that seems extremely unlikely. I am sure someone will read this text and then set me straight, explain the things I dont know. That there is a reasonable explanation for what I have seen. Below is the only image by Glettler I was able to find on the internet. It is entitled Without.

Hermann Glettler - Without, 2011 - Bedruckter Karton, 100 x 72 cm

Without a theme, under what other organizing principles might an exhibition be curated?

30. 9. 2011 // // Kategorie Randnotizen 2011

Placing a number of disparate artworks side by side under the umbrella of a single theme is, in one sense, a way of taming them. One possible meaning of this gesture is as follows: these artworks will no longer run wild in every direction, but will fall in line behind a single, guiding interpretation. This slightly unfair criticism of todays dominant curatorial approach leads me to wonder what other organizational principles might be used to generate a group exhibition. Some obvious possibilities come to mind. For example, a phone tree structure: the curator chooses one artist, who goes on to chose the next, who goes on the chose the next, etc. Or a simple principle in which a curator tries to put works of art together that are as different from one another as possible. (I think this would create a fascinating challenge, trying to define the various qualities of artistic difference that might be brought into play.) Or a curator invites a certain number of artists to participate in a show. Each of the artists is asked to propose an organizing principle that might be used. All of the artists then vote on the various suggestions and several organizing principles are selected. Each of the organizing principles gets its own room within the show and the artists can choose which of the rooms they would like to participate in. Of course many projects have been made along these lines. But I am certain there could be many other productive scenarios that might be imagined. The point is simply that there are other ways.

How an exhibition is organized does as much to generate its meaning as the individual works it contains, in the same way that media censorship today is predominantly structural. No one person decides what will or will not be in the news, and yet certain stories and approaches are systematically avoided or marginalized. (For example, the medias scant mention of the current Occupy Wall Street protests.) But one does not need to resort to cheap comparisons to the pathetic state of the American media in order to highlight the artistic shortcomings of the thematically organized exhibition model. One only has to realize how dominant it is, how it leaves little room for other approaches or other ways of thinking about art. If there is no room for productive chaos in art, no room for an expanding diversity of organizational principles, where else might one find such spaces?

The blue and the gold could catch the light

29. 9. 2011 // // Kategorie Randnotizen 2011

At the Volkskundemuseum I saw video of an amateur church theatre performance, I would guess from the fifties or sixties. I was mesmerized. In one section, a man wearing a handmade skeleton mask walked slowly across the stage, holding a metal arrow beside his head like a toy airplane. He then turned and walked slowly the other way, aiming the arrow at a girl in traditional dress. At first he was singing, then she took over the song. It was pure theatre: amateur, humane and precise. An allegory for death made more allegorical by my wondering where the people in the video were today, if they were all dead or a few were still hanging on. (There were children in the video who are most likely still alive.)

In the Hauntings exhibition there was a music video from Harappian Night Recordings followed by a video from Broadcast and The Focus Group. (Its strange watching music videos in an art gallery. The same thing I do at home on YouTube now done in a dark room but in public. In this instance with headphones on.) Trish Keenan, the singer from Broadcast, died of pneumonia this past January. It was the first time I had seen her on video since she had died and it took me to the core of the theme of hauntings more quickly, more sharply, than anything else. Trish Keenan is gone. Voices on old records are voices of the dead. Seeing her again I fell a little bit in love with her, the same way I had all those years ago when I first heard her sing.

In a presentation about Electronic voice phenomena (EVP) electronically generated noises that resemble speech, often thought to be voices from the beyond we hear a recording that rather clearly says: The blue and the gold could catch the light. The recording is described as one which took on a life of its own, that a lot of people heard and discussed, and Im reminded of record collectors, how they all get excited searching for the same rare record. Suddenly the recording and dissemination of EVPs reminds me of nothing more. The same obsessive attention to detail, information, sharing, community and exclusivity. Im open to anything. I find science tepid on these questions and it seems likely to me there is more. But the presentation mainly felt like lost people grasping at anything, recording the air and scouring the tapes, honing in on five or ten second excerpts, slicing away at any sound that might mirror our desires. Calling it doubt and questioning but more than anything wanting certainty. And of course, as is well documented, I also feel lost. So maybe I’m projecting. But I relate.