Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Distributed Anomalies

I am struck by Google's announcement this morning  - or some reporter's discovery - that they will offer high-definition tours of various art galleries, mostly clustered for now on the East Coast. This promises to break down museum walls, and expose their collections to a vastly larger and more varied audience of viewers.

For certain pieces, the online viewer will be privileged to inspect the work from an extremely close-up vantage, perhaps taking time beyond what might be comfortable in the actual museum. One imagines students and art historians now having the chance to brush up their sense of that piece they might already know about. One imagines the viewing public enriched.

Over the weekend, result of the usual random confluences which determine any life's path, I traveled into downtown LA to immerse myself in the "Suprasensorial" exhibit at the Geffen Temporary Contemporary and now seemingly permanent extension of the MOCA. This installation featured flashback pieces brought north from the more Southerly and more Latin Americas. These represented by now historic attempts to break down the wall between appreciator and artist: to remove the object from its frame.

In what could only be called a literalistic rendition, museum visitors were even invited to immerse themselves in a swimming pool, bathed also in light and video. Right beyond this piece's wall, I tried to follow a gallery talk about the exhibit; above the din of swimming children splashing over the wall, and through the ever-dropping transmission of a portable wireless sound system, my head swam and promised to ache.

It could have been a useful talk, but the flashing catalog of images from the original installations at least gave me solid grounding in what I was about to experience. These were conceptual conjectures thrown to me, and nothing much of talent to them. Nothing much outside the heads of their creators and so I would be the artist, the actual creator. I would make of my own experience something other from everyday living.

For those my age, there was nothing new about these retro works. The term "contemporary" was bizarrely shifted, as I wandered among neon and schematic "rooms" filled with primary colors, in fashions once so favored through Plexiglas gels along 70's lines. Yellowing CRT screens would react to my presence or I could penetrate the rain storm of hanging vinyl strings. Just another day in the life. Even boring in its way, in contrast to a contemporary shopping complex.

What has happened to such art? Had it always been displaced to South America, and would the notion of releasing art from its framed containment now remain itself framed in a perpetuated state of coming into being?

All art is now performance art, right? And the audience has the right to remain passive, despite and because of all the interactive technologies, so called, deploying themselves across the planet. Participatory art will always remain stillborn. Or anonymous.

Time was that gonzo theater audiences might be dragged out into the street as part of the show. I even remember a literal net being cast over those of us in an "audience." Animal offal revealed by hatchet blows, blood dripping from A.I.R. loft's over-sheetrocked walls back when they themselves, these lofts, blurred the boundaries between art and work and life.

Down in New York's new SoHo, I remember visiting a video installation within which was the actual living object of the realtime display. I watched him languidly wiping his ass, glad that there was no smell which escaped the space-capsule-sized enclosure where he carried on his day-to-day.

And so Google now allows and even encourages us to stay as far from the fray as possible, and who would argue that this is not wondrous and grand. That we may appreciate those things once reserved for the higher classes, just as we may freely download classic music and displace the money-making back up onto the stage where it belongs. Disclosing only as much of our secret desires as might be repaid by  marketing placements on our screens.

Rupert Murdoch wants to place the stopper back into the online free download drain now to reserve his exclusive profits. You will pay to look under his tent for special morsels: salacious gossip or privileged news.

Even as the walls come down all around and about us, reminding us of what happened once so long ago when Chinese students spilled out from their academies. Following on the inspiration of that anonymous tank-boy way back on Tiananmen containment square,we thought all the walls would topple.

Tunisia, Egypt with Russia looking longingly on, but never here. Never where the performance art has now infected government and we wait to be administered to. While the action spills out into the streets elsewhere over the globe. Instigated by homebound tweets and Facebook outrage. Empowered.

And we wait. We want our entertainment now. We want our education free, along with libertarian unbound information. But what will we do with it? Will we only watch? Will we only arise when the radiation which knows no boundaries, the CAT scans which accumulate without record beyond our faulty recall, the endless ways that we can and must and will find to probe for to burn away to endlessly power and slap with the label green those things which derail all promises of eternity.

Snow storms blanket our sleeping recumbent receptive and ever reclusive minds. Unbound. Snowbound. Rebounding main. There would be an awakening, but that we are all so receptive to it.

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