Author: Michael Corris  
Posted: 22.01.2003; 11:16:03
Topic: Question 6
Msg #: 640 (in response to 428)
Prev/Next: 639/641
Reads: 64038

1. On Travesty: "Travesty and its cognates is an (initially) asymmetrical relation that depends upon the aspected likeness of what is travestied to what travesties it. I say ‘initially’ asymmetrical as in fact the relation can turn quasi ‘symmetrical’. The initial target of a travesty (or copy or etc.) can in certain circumstances reverse things – refuse the role of object travestied and travesty back via one of its hitherto unseen aspects. And so on." (A&L)

MC: If travesty is more than a one way street, it would be helpful to have some examples of the phenomenon of reversal to hand. Might you supply one or two, preferably w.r.t. your own practice(s) since 1979?

2. "The objective of the work (Homes from Homes I and II) was among other things, to create such possible circumstances of symmetry, and thus to create a disorder or a new order that might bear upon any attempted historical view – retrospect – of Art & Language work."

MC: The point is not to get someone to "like" the work (whatever that might mean). The point to is enable someone (spectator, participant, collaborator) to grasp the work as it is, on its own terms, in order to understand its complexity and significance. This is another embarrassing tautology: the work is the work is the work. Or, "the experience you just had" is the point of the work. Does the authority of "Homes from Homes I and II" rest on the ability of the project to undermine the power of the conventional museological narrative to explain more convincingly than any other story the origin(s) and development of artistic practice? As the so-called "conventional museological narrative" is so widely internalized by artists, critics, curators (as, indeed, are the prevailing "subservise" responses to this claim to power), what kind of "difference" is being ratified here? It seems to me that there is a very real danger that "Homes from Homes I and II" is like a great self-satisfied pat on the back. In other words: the impression I get from it is one of consolation. (Why shouldn’t artists be entitled to self-consolation? Why do we generally assume that self-consolation is always a dubious partner to the stereotypical forms of self-confessional art?)

3. ". . . a refusal of – or a malingering difficulty for – the museology of contemporary art presumption: that the institution provides context. Of course, it does, but the relations that compose the structure of the work are such that at least to raise the question what are the limits of (our) work’s capacities to be self-contextualising?"

MC: Is there a point where the attitude of "malingering" yields diminishing terms? I suppose what I am saying is: malingering sounds so utterly generic now. Like "subversive", "critical", or that horrible journalistic phrase that crops out in every third-rate artist’s press release: "the work questions such-and-such. . ." Clearly, in most cases, it does nothing of the sort. What is does do is rehearse a certain entrenched and entirely predictable critical pose. Do not misread this remark as a plea for "newness." I mean for you to explain in more detail how you intend to take the dialectical aspect of "reversal" seriously in this context.

4. "What we also witnessed, particularly in New York, was a growing throng of more or less useless Art & Languagists, possessed of all the charm of suburban converts to a U.S. pressure group who squabbled to take turns as the harbingers of half-baked political virtue."

MC: This ought to be carved in stone, really. It’s beyond disdain, disapproval, principled refutation; it’s in the realm of travesty. It’s also, need I say, a legacy of modernism (along with the possibility of improvement — self-, social-, the cultural heights, etc.). That is didn’t work out to your satisfaction then is no grounds to defame it in its current manifestation(s). It is also not the case that the valuation of that practice takes place in the absence of critical thought, self-reflection, corrections, etc. Ooops, there I go again, rising to that old bait!

5. The "robustness" of A&L’s projects may be constrasted profitably with the attempt, on the part of Reinhardt, to decontextualize art to the point of "transcendence." That’s the conceit, anyway, of the "Voices of Silence." I think both projects are two sides of the same coin. Both projects are products of a highly Romantic imagination. The "rural idyll" is a cheeky way of saying the art and the life fit hand-in-glove.

6. I have no problem with painting. My last public exhibition (1996) was of paintings. I hope my next one will include paintings, too. Perhaps the word I should have used is "reactionist." Perhaps a moratorium on all these reifications of painting and its culture promise should be called. Clearly, one is no more able to talk of "painting" sensibly than one is able to talk of "conceptual art" sensibly. "Some painting . . .", "some conceptual art.
Michael Corris (


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