Salt Dragon

I already disliked Chris Burden. His more recent concept art is the same as everything else you’ll find in Chelsea these days, and I’ve always been kind of disgusted in how he implicated his live audiences in the violence he organized against himself (inviting a volunteer to participate in a performance and then informing them that they are to push pins into his flesh in a mid-70s work comes to mind), but given the “stunt” he played the first time he appeared on television, I have no idea why anyone gives this creep the time of day (jk, it’s super obvious).

What follows is the description Burden composed for his ‘72 performance T.V. Hijack:

On January 14 I was asked to do a piece on a local television station by Phyllis Lutjeans. After several proposals were censored by the station or by Phyllis, I agreed to an interview situation. I arrived at the station with my own video crew so that could have my own tape. While the taping was in progress, I requested that the show be transmitted live. Since the station was not broadcasting at the time, they complied. In the course of the interview, Phyllis asked me to talk about some of the pieces I had thought of doing. I demonstrated a T.V. Hijack. Holding a knife at her throat, I threatened her life if the station stopped live transmission. I told her that I had planned to make her perform obscene acts. At the end of the recording, I asked for the tape of the show. I unwound the reel and destroyed the show by dousing the tape with acetone. The station manager was irate, and I offered him my tape which included the show and its destruction, but he refused.

– (Chris Burden, Beyond the Limits, ed. by Peter Noever, MAK, Ostfildern: Cantz 1996, p. 132)

later comment by Lutjeans confirms that T.V. Hijack was not staged, and that she was terrified for her life. Perhaps because a handful of images are all that remain of T.V. Hijack it has been easy for the art world to forget what constituted the work (the New Museum certainly makes no mention of it in their current retrospective), and to even praise it as part of his genre-breaking oeuvre. Arts writer Nick Stillman comments:

TV Hijack is a declaration of agency. Burden got to do a performance live on TV after all, and he didn’t adjust it to fit a homogenizing TV frame. The medium was borrowed but the message was his.

– Stillman, east of borneo

And he’s right. And art receiving publics have loved such declarations from male artists for centuries. Caravaggio breaking from the well-lit compositions of his contemporaries, David breaking from the academy, Delacroix from David, and ad infinitum. And there’s more than a little precedence for doing it through images of women with embedded threats of violence and rape (Picasso and Gauguin immediately come to mind). As far as I am aware, there is no precedence for such a declaration through literally threatening a woman with violence and rape. And today we are celebrating this artist with a retrospective at a premier art institution. Give yourself a pat on the back Art World, you have a lot to be proud of.

Photo documentation of T.V. Hijack, Burden with a knife at Lutjean’s throat,below the cut.

If you are posting works of art online which other people might potentially find threatening, please tag it in a manner such that those who might wish to avoid it can. In a gallery setting where individuals choose to go see the art this isn’t quite so acute an issue, but people do not have particularly tight control over what appears on their dashboards. Please give people a choice as to whether or not they want to see threats of violence or rape (as with the Jenny Holzer plaques presently circulating).

I was also fortunate in having been raised by a father who was passionate about the importance of history. I followed his example and – contrary to my professor’s earlier judgment – was astounded to discover a trove of material, a heritage so rich it took my breath away: autobiographies, biographies, efforts to compile a coherent history of women, along with novels, essays, and poetry and, most crucial for me, images by women artists completely unfamiliar to me. I was soon haunting used bookstores, gradually assembling a library of books by and about women, which I pored over.

In Jane Austen’s 1803 novel, Northanger Abbey, the character Catherine Morland states, in response to another character’s comment that she is fond of history: “I wish I were too, I read it a little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all – it is very tiresome.” I would imagine that many women feel this way. But if the history books were filled with the activities of women, I would bet their lack of interest would give wat to the same excitement I experienced when I first began my research.

Early on, I became convinced that because I found this information, it fell to me to represent it in a way that could reach the widest possible audience. At that point, I began to see myself as being in service to a larger purpose; that is, as having the obligation of using my talent on behalf of teaching women’s history through art. This idea came easily to me because of my childhood, which was marked by my parents’ radical politics and their deeply held belief in the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, which means “to heal or repair the world.” In fact, I had been raised with the notion that everyone has an obligation to make a contribution to better our world, and that such a commitment leads to a meaningful and valuable life.

Judy Chicago,Introduction to The Dinner Party: From Creation to Preservation (New York: Merrel Publishers Ltd., 2007) 11-12.

nodamncatnodamncradle:

Can we all take a minute and appreciate that hundreds of years ago a person poured hours of hard work into painting cherubs making human fart bubbles. 

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So, this image has crossed my dash several times today, and each time I have been increasingly suspicious. At first glance this looks like a baroque painting – the nude, the putti, the ambiguous interior/exterior space are conventional baroque elements – but several aspects are off. First, the light looks artificial, there is no indication of the reds, oranges, or yellows one associates with an oil lamp, a candle, or the sun as one would have in a baroque painting. Second, the figures are rendered with almost photographic clarity, in a linear style out of step with baroque painting (think Rubens). Third, baroque and humor certainly aren’t mutually exclusive terms, but I have never seen scatalogical varieties employed in baroque painting (prints are a whole other game). Finally, the bubble wand strikes me as anachronistic (though I suppose 16th century bubble wands are not impossible).
A reverse image search later, and I find myself here, at the website of Latvian artist Arthur Berzinsh. A brief perusal of his portfolio pages confirms my suspicion that he is indeed some variant on the postmodern pop-surrealist. [TW “artistic portrayals” of rape] Additionally he is a gross misogynist, no doubt moments away from being championed by Hi-Fructose magazine. Also, he is an antisemite (romantic portrayals of Nazis are gross).
Can we all take a minute and consider that today, a man poured hours into painting a sexualized nude woman being groped by children who also happen to be making human fart bubbles in a style meant to look as if it had been created hundreds of years ago and that this reflects something about gendered power relations as produced in the West?
Your Friendly Neighborhood Art Historian,
Saltdragon
[Edit] Can we take a minute and consider that, at this time, nearly 40,000 tumblr users were taken in by this image?
[Edit] I feel silly in learning that this image looks photographic, because, in fact it is a photograph (well, a photomanipulation). Doesn’t change anything though.

nodamncatnodamncradle:

Can we all take a minute and appreciate that hundreds of years ago a person poured hours of hard work into painting cherubs making human fart bubbles. 

///////////////////////////////////////

So, this image has crossed my dash several times today, and each time I have been increasingly suspicious. At first glance this looks like a baroque painting – the nude, the putti, the ambiguous interior/exterior space are conventional baroque elements – but several aspects are off. First, the light looks artificial, there is no indication of the reds, oranges, or yellows one associates with an oil lamp, a candle, or the sun as one would have in a baroque painting. Second, the figures are rendered with almost photographic clarity, in a linear style out of step with baroque painting (think Rubens). Third, baroque and humor certainly aren’t mutually exclusive terms, but I have never seen scatalogical varieties employed in baroque painting (prints are a whole other game). Finally, the bubble wand strikes me as anachronistic (though I suppose 16th century bubble wands are not impossible).

A reverse image search later, and I find myself here, at the website of Latvian artist Arthur Berzinsh. A brief perusal of his portfolio pages confirms my suspicion that he is indeed some variant on the postmodern pop-surrealist. [TW “artistic portrayals” of rape] Additionally he is a gross misogynist, no doubt moments away from being championed by Hi-Fructose magazine. Also, he is an antisemite (romantic portrayals of Nazis are gross).

Can we all take a minute and consider that today, a man poured hours into painting a sexualized nude woman being groped by children who also happen to be making human fart bubbles in a style meant to look as if it had been created hundreds of years ago and that this reflects something about gendered power relations as produced in the West?

Your Friendly Neighborhood Art Historian,

Saltdragon

[Edit] Can we take a minute and consider that, at this time, nearly 40,000 tumblr users were taken in by this image?

[Edit] I feel silly in learning that this image looks photographic, because, in fact it is a photograph (well, a photomanipulation). Doesn’t change anything though.

An intelligent and witty commentary on the language of the Art World – what it is, how it works, where it comes from. And here is Hyperallergic’s response (well, Mostafa Heddaya’s response) on some of the disturbing implications of the language.

Apologies…

…everyone for the Macdonald sisters rapid-fire posting. Had to get them out there and I really didn’t feel like messing with the queue. At least you now get to bask in the glow of almost all of their known work in one handy place! And you probably didn’t even know that was something you wanted (you totally want it now, right?)! Because you probably didn’t know the Macdonald sisters existed and were awesome artists! They were awesome!

Assorted post-1900 design, by Margaret and Frances Macdonald – sisters, artists, collaborators, vanguards of both Scottish and international Art Nouveau.

Preparatory watercolors after 1900, by Frances and Margaret Macdonald – sisters, artists, collaborators, vanguards of both Scottish and international Art Nouveau.

Late watercolors by Frances Macdonald – innovator of Art Nouveau in Scotland and internationally.

Watercolors from the post-collaborative years by Frances Macdonald – innovator of Art Nouveau in Scotland and internationally.