Category Archives: film

Run to See “I Am Not Your Negro”

When Raoul Peck‘s new film I Am Not Your Negro began, hardly a minute or two into it, I thought, Everyone in America must see this film, it must be shown in schools, it must be required viewing. I still think so, but as the film progressed I began to doubt if the film could reach racists of all stripes–those who would admit to being racists and those who don’t–who must be reached or we hope can be reached if the country is to move forward in the direction of justice. This doubt is not because the film isn’t good, rather it is because it is so good: it is formally complex and in that way rhetorically complex as well, although the line through is direct and radiantly clear, and it is an open question whether the kind of cinematic complexity of non-linear montage praised by Walter Benjamin, Guy Debord, Jean-Luc Godard,and others for their ability to break into blind acceptance of political norms can function when popular news culture is so degraded.

I Am Not Your Negro is not a conventional documentary film by any means. It is a film essay using the words of James Baldwin to reflect upon the historical Civil Rights movement and the continued status of blacks in America, in which past (historical news footage and film clips taken from the history of popular culture since the beginning of recorded cinema) and present (violent and disturbing news coverage from Ferguson as well as lyrical footage of New York City and other landscapes from Baldwin’s narrative) fluidly intermingle. The narrative–established around an unfinished work in which Baldwin hoped to address the history of the Civil Rights movement, and more deeply the basis of our country in racism, through the lives and the deaths of three men, Medgar Evers, Malcom X, and Martin Luther King Jr., all major figures in the Civil Rights movement, all assassinated, all personal friends of James Baldwin–moves with a kind of forward motion, but the complexity of the montage creates a equally complex mirror for the citizen who must understand how she is implicated.

This little moment of doubt does not diminish my belief that this is a film that must be seen by everyone, powerful and beautiful. It is a treasure trove of  important historical footage: a TV talk show hosted by Kenneth B. Clark, with Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Baldwin himself, where Malcom X attacked King as an Uncle Tom; Baldwin speaking to a West Indian Group in London in 1969; the famed debate between James Baldwin v. William F. Buckley Jr. at Cambridge University on the question: “Is the American Dream at the expense of the American Negro?”, Baldwin’s notable appearance on The Dick Cavett Show; a TV morning news talk show on the eve of the March on Washington in 1963, including, in addition to James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Charlton Heston (yes!), and Joseph Mankiewicz–among other things we get a glimpse at how much serious discourse on important issues took place on network television in the 60s.


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At the center of the film is Baldwin himself, speaking. He is an intensely compelling figure, as eloquent at Shakespeare and as riveting a performer as the greatest actors in the history of film and theater, in what he says but also in how his intonations, the expressions of his face, his slight elegant body carry and amplify the power of his words. Each word rings like the bell of a Medieval Cathedral, crystal clear,  eloquent, passionate,  dismissive, razor-sharp, with a powerful use of a unique intonation and pauses that are living demonstrations of a brain sorting through complex and emotionally charged thought to find the most eloquent formulation possible, all from one of the most remarkable looking of men, a vivid expressive face, a slight small gay male body.

The script for the film is exclusively Baldwin’s own writing, taken from many sources, listed in the final credits for the film. I would love to have the script with all the sources clearly indicated. [I have not yet had a chance to see this book but it sounds like it is what I am wishing for.] This would be a uniquely useful teaching tool, to be able to show the movie and have an accompanying textbook of the script, annotated with historical context for each writing, with a timeline placing his literary and political writing into a historical timeline, something that the film does impressionistically and synecdotally, through an inspired usage of very diverse film clips.

Thinking of all the different clips and photos, it occurs to me that it may be important to say this film is the anti-Ken Burns: no offense to Burns’ signature style, but this blows through pan and scan. You never feel comforted by the formulaic.

The narration of Baldwin’s text is by Samuel L. Jackson. Since I have long been familiar with Baldwin’s own voice and intonations, it was at first a bit trying to hear his words read in a precise yet somewhat uniformly mournful tone by Jackson, a voice which pales in comparison to Baldwin’s powerful use of cadence and his entire physical affect, but the words are so true to our current situation that the narration is more powerful than the reader.

The film has so much to teach about race relations in the United States not just historically but today. In recent months some have been surprised to find that there are so many organized groups of Neo-Nazis all around the country, so it is revelatory, again, to see pictures of young white men in the South openly carrying swastikas in the 1950s and 60s. The film brings terrifying recent footage of militarized police presences together with the police violence of the 1950s and ’60s–the police weren’t as padded and militarized in their dress and equipment as now but they were just as violent–and the film also reminds us of just how violent a decade the 1960s was. This reminder is complex and troubling: on the one hand we survived that time period and during it, as a result of struggle and strategy, there was some distinct movement towards voting rights and opportunity, though at the time Baldwin, like Malcom X, warned against believing any of that was anything more than window dressing, that any of it truly addressed the underlying foundation of the country in racism, slavery, and oppression. Nevertheless, as someone who came of age in terms of political awareness during the ’60s and ’70s, there was still a governmental structure that eventually, under great pressure, grudgingly, responded. But then the doubt comes, which is affecting us all: is there anything left today in the halls of government and private power of that even grudging decency and respect for constitutional rights.

Looking at the archival footage of civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s, including the actions of the children of Birmingham in 1963, you get a strong sense of the strength that comes from knowing who you are and what you are fighting for, and from carefully considered and organized education and training of all participants no matter their age, lifted by song and inspired by eloquent political and religious speech, including that of Baldwin himself, song and speech which resonate to this day.

I literally ran in the street to make the 4PM showing at the Film society of Lincoln Center yesterday. I advise you to run too. Everyone must see this film.

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M/E/A/N/I/N/G: The Final Issue on A Year of Positive Thinking-8

The first issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A Journal of Contemporary Art Issues, was published in December 1986. M/E/A/N/I/N/G is a collaboration between two artists, Susan Bee and Mira Schor, both painters with expanded interests in writing and politics, and an extended community of artists, art critics, historians, theorists, and poets, whom we sought to engage in discourse and to give a voice to.

For our 30th anniversary and final issue, we have asked some long-time contributors and some new friends to create images and write about where they place meaning today. As ever, we have encouraged artists and writers to feel free to speak to the concerns that have the most meaning to them right now.

Every other day from December 5 until we are done, a grouping of contributions will appear on A Year of Positive Thinking. We invite you to live through this time with all of us in a spirit of impromptu improvisation and passionate care for our futures.

Susan Bee and Mira Schor

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Erica Hunt

For M/E/A/N/I/N/G

Was there ever more blinding noise set to panic?

Was there ever more thunder than thunder muted?

Is it lightning that strikes the public stare?
Is it lightning that sticks public fascination to calamity?
to siren’s sight-obliterating call?

Is it thunder or thirst that severs thirst from throat?
the sound disconnected from the picture?

Is thirst recollected by rain?

We wake up, waking, woke
to thunder outside
the house, inside, it was already
raining.

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Writing Life / November 2016

this labor is not silent

but requires collaboration between clamor and music

found in rustling. Not makeshift, you are its prototype

an advanced draft. Sense

applied to warm skin. Uncanned mannequin

against gun robot. Stand.

Tricks in a picture. Stand.

Name the ruse of normal in criminal bracket.

Stand. Duet with double optics, then

stand to its left. If the ground is too hot to tolerate long,

improvise and stand. But

stand.

Erica Hunt, poet, and essayist, once wrote “no shade to lie down in the lullaby banks” foreshadowing the November 2016 election. She is Parsons Family Professor of Creative Writing at Long Island University, Brooklyn campus.

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Noah Fischer: We Are Called to Fight

It turns out that the campaign advisors, though trafficking in next-level untruths, made one claim on America that isn’t exactly a lie. They dug something up that was long-rotting un­der the floorboards: an invention of race that split the white working class from black people (and people of color in general) in order to lay the economic cornerstone of the American Dream. This rotting thing proved extremely effective.

Wounds never healed and debt was never paid and meanwhile the monster kept eating. It began to gobble up the white middle class too, capturing hundreds of millions into odious debts securitized by mega-firms. It gobbled the Dream right up. And just when the 99% were about to wake up, it jumped into the middle of the political process and cast out a thick web of lies branching out from the invention of race and steeped in its pain. That is why we choke on language now bursting with harmful triggers, each concept certain to stab one group or the other. This is how Trump rises. We now need a deeper language and an art that includes new tunnels and pathways.

The last weeks have shown us that Trumpism is threatened by artists. It was no mistake that the last alt-right propaganda meme on the eve of the election accused performance artist Marina Abramović of devil worship (#spiritcooking). Then the cast of “Hamilton” stepped up to the moment from their stage. Brandon Victor Dixon is the actor who plays Aaron Burr who shot the father of the 1%, Alexander Hamilton. So it’s fitting that he challenged Pence. And in response The Predator-in-Chief himself tweeted that “the theater must always be a safe and special space…Apologize!” This meant: you will not be safe as long as you are free. The specialness of your industry is predicated on you shutting the fuck up.

Friends, this is a declaration of war. Because “shut the fuck up” is echoing around the globe from Russia to Israel to Poland to India. A webs of lies and a dredged corpse is poisoning our language and a “shut the fuck up” to those who try to rehabilitate it equals a war against meaning, and we are called to fight.

And there can only be one answer: preparations to join together and fight. Art practice will be our boot camp. Because if you watch Victor Dixon in his moment of protest, you will see the generously flowing movements and rich pronunciation of a trained actor-warrior. And if you go on the streets in protest, you will see that the empowered public voice and public body and paintings and songs are needed on this stage too. Even more, it’s by developing a personal relationship to intuitive beauty that one sustains the struggle. It’s by understanding the deeper logic of artistic time that we can speak truth to power even after the play had ended, after the exhibition is down, and the next day too. It’s by committing to artistic experiment that a certain risk be­comes possible.

The stakes are high. To normalize what’s coming may be the riskiest path. If we do not fight, we could lose every­thing. Or more specifically: We artists will have much to offer the 1% who will thrive under this and any regime, and nothing to offer our comrades whose survival depends on solidarity. We have come too far to calculate that “probably me and my friends will be fine.” We learned too much about the history of power accumulation and its reliance on the privilege of silence. We know too much about the common work of emancipation.

Noah Fischer works at the crossroads between economic and social inequity and art practice and its institutions. His sculpture, drawing, performance, writing, and organizing practice fluctuate between object making and direct action as well as an ongoing theatrical collaboration with Berlin-based andcompany&Co. He is the initiating member of Occupy Museums and a member of GULF/ Gulf Labor and his collaborative work has been seen both with and without invitation at MoMA, Guggenheim, Brooklyn Museum, ZKM, and Venice, Athens, and Berlin Biennales among other venues.

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Julie Harrison

Julie Harrison, “War (Series),” 2014. Archival pigment print, 17" x 42

Julie Harrison, “War (Series),” 2014. Archival pigment print, 17″ x 42

Julie Harrison, “War (Series),” 2014. Archival pigment print, 17" x 42"

Julie Harrison, “War (Series),” 2014. Archival pigment print, 17″ x 42″

On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations signed the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS in Paris. This Declaration established 30 Articles that spell out what it means for the entire “human family” to be entitled to dignity, equality and inalienable rights. It is the foundation for freedom, justice and peace in the world, and has been translated into over 500 languages.

The United States has a history of violating human rights, and perhaps we can frame our work towards change as such (it doesn’t just begin with Trump, although he and his ilk will most certainly exacerbate it).

In reality (using the language written in the Declaration):

  • We are not all born free and equal in dignity and rights.
  • We are not without distinctions of race, color, sex, language, religion, opinion, origin, property, birth or other status.
  • We do not all have the right to life, liberty and security of person.
  • Some of us are held in slavery or servitude.
  • Some are subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
  • We do not all have equal protection of the law.
  • Some are subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
  • We are all being subjected to arbitrary interference with our privacy.
  • Some are not allowed the right to seek our country’s asylum from persecution.
  • Everyone does not have the freedom to manifest their religion or belief.
  • Everyone does not have the right to peaceful assembly and association.
  • Everyone does not have the right to equal pay for equal work.
  • Everyone who works does not has the right to a just and favorable remuneration.
  • Everyone does not have the right to an adequate standard of living.
  • Everyone does not have the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, and old age.
  • Parenthood and childhood are not entitled to special care and assistance.
  • All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, do not enjoy the same social protection.
  • Education is not directed to the full development of the human person.
  • Education does not promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups.
  • Everyone does not have the right to freely participate in cultural life, arts and scientific advancement.

I recognize that we operate within degrees of this or that. But if we continue to believe that human rights abuses are THEIR problem (that OTHER country), not ours, then we have not fully understood what human rights are.

Happy 68th Anniversary to the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.

Julie Harrison is a visual artist, social justice advocate, avid adventurer, bohemian mother, and amateur political pundit from New York City.

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Roger Denson: The Individual Is No Longer Invisible In There

I can’t recall an election being more about identity. That is in terms of one’s personal identity, one’s view of what identity means, and how one’s identity is a vehicle for or a hindrance to social and cultural mobility. Ironically, I found myself coming full circle, back to the early 1990s. That this circling should intersect with the “last” M/E/A/N/I/N/G publication is doubly ironic, in that my first contribution to the May 1994 issue is a commentary I called, “The Indivisible Individual Invisible In There,” what then seemed a newly emergent anti-essentialist approach to identity.

In that work I began to integrate the writing of Anthony Appiah, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Judith Butler into my own positions on the debate of the new identity art being made in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This was an art made in the shadow of the neoconservative backlash to 1960s reforms and revolutions overseen by Reagan and Bush I. My targets were the mythologies of race, gender and sexuality, which had become ensnared in static and rigid ideological paradigms by even the most well-meaning activists leading our liberation movements. What had been fresh and vital to the defense of universal civil rights in the 1960s and 1970s came to seem stalled and stunted by the 1990s as artists and writers sought greater individuality and less ideological boundaries to move through in life and art.

Of course there had been earlier anti-essentialists who debunked the boundaries, if not the biological organs and makeup of difference. But Franz Boas and Margaret Mead in anthropology, W.E.B. DuBois in sociology, and Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir in philosophy and political theory spoke in bygone languages that a generation of Structuralists had deactivated — or so we thought. Appiah, Gates and Butler showed us these earlier modernists in fact held out the counterpoints to the notion of essence still relatively unknown within the sphere of radical identity liberation movements that deferred to traditional boundaries of racial, gender, sexual, class and ideological categories. Appiah, Gates and Butler brought just the right reframing to the anti-essentialist notions of the former Existentialist generation to make the individualism that the 1980s culture celebrated consistent with the new evidence from DNA studies that the world was not composed of static races that we had ‘arrived at’ and ‘occupy’, but rather that we ‘move through’ in ‘frequencies’ of identities and generations as we branch out and mutate with ceaseless migration and mixing of racial, ethnic, cultural and biological genetic types.

Even more than attempting to spread the diversity model paradigm, I was concerned with what such a model meant for the liberation movements that proliferated since the 1960s, yet were hardly finished with their work of securing parity for diverse populations in the 1990s. Black power, feminism and gay rights were still struggling movements, and the paradigms of classical fixed identities motivated millions. To now say that we weren’t biologically black, women and gay, that we were only culturally and consensually so, seemed at the time a dangerous deflation of those movements and even a denial of what they had achieved in the name of liberty. Yet it was because discrimination flagrantly continued despite the new empowerment movements that I wrote in M/E/A/N/I/N/G #15:

There is little doubt that identities like “man,” “woman,” “black,” “white,” “yellow,” “red,” “straight,” “gay,” “bourgeois,” and “proletariat,” are in crisis. Although these ancient identities have motivated and sustained the emancipation and empowerment movements of recent decades, we may at times find such traditional identities limiting our personal development. Nonetheless, for many the practice of shedding traditional identification with an assumed racial, ethnic, engendered, sexual, or economic class “jumps the gun,” particularly if an achievement of parity is still forthcoming. While some feel the time for a deconstruction of traditional identity along the lines of race, gender, ethnicity, economic status, and ideology has come, others, especially those who espouse an activist identity informed by feminism, black power, Native Americanism, or gay rights, the impetus to dissolve traditional identity and move beyond it poses a reactionary threat.

Fast-forward to 2016 and the end of what may be the most divisive US Presidential campaign since the 1960s. Divisive because the demographics of diverse populations made themselves heard throughout and in the outcome of the campaign. Despite that the liberation movements for women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, native Americans and LGBT peoples have still to secure unquestionable social recognition in the institutions of the US, the once-identity-phobic public has become so keenly sensitive to the slights to one’s self-identification that all sides have become intent on silencing opposition in the media, and especially social media. And this silencing was wished from all sides, not just the reactionary far right or the intransigent far left.

If I come to focus now on my own identifications and misidentifications during the 2016 campaign, it is to ensure that the record maintains its individualist center amid all the swirling identity tropes that rely on general allegiances. For while it’s true that some of the accusations here about to be counted are merely rhetorical and inflamed — the illogic of the impoverished ploys of one-upping an opponent in a debate otherwise being lost for being devoid of principles, issues and causes — the disparagements are rooted in the reality of individuals attempting to silence one another. Still, I raise them to illustrate to what degree we have made a mockery of essentialist identities, cultures and their politics — even if we don’t realize we are expressing (self) mockery.

The point is not to focus on me and what I do and don’t believe, but to consider to what degree identity has evolved from being mythologized as a static essence to being rendered a contingency in constant evolution. The matter is more than one of identifying with or against the perceived identities that our antagonists pin on us. It is a matter of recognizing that the slippages that intervene between one’s own self-identification and the perceived identities being pinned on us are increasingly the effect of identity politics having become fully integrated into mainstream media, if not popular consciousness and expression. It is also instructive of the conceptual divide that exists between the essentialists (racists, misogynists, xenophobes, homophobes, and just plain folks identifying according to their conditioning) and the truly democratic anti-essentialists who understand that identity and identification are relative to innumerable and even unidentifiable differences between us.

It is also a matter that the rush to identify others, either habitually or intently, is too often motivated by the drive to gain personal and collective political leverage over perceived opponents. As witnessed below, a common attempt to acquire and maintain that leverage is by publicly recalling the fears of those who have been discriminated and persecuted and tagging their opponent with participating in that discrimination and persecution. Whether the accusations are true or false, the leverage is sought and maintained by resorting to the clichés of reverse racism and sexism, and that all too often render the formerly abused the newly emergent abuser. This is my point in the account below, for which I will leave to the reader the judgment whether or not this writer has been judiciously or injudiciously tagged by his critics below.

And so it is that in this year of fractious accounts of grievances, for largely rhetorical reasons, I have been called an Islamophobe and closet Zionist because I haven’t criticized Israel’s treatment of Arabs virulently enough. On the other side of the coin, I was called anti-Semitic because I condemned the Israeli eviction of Palestinians from centuries-old family land to make room for Jewish settlements. I’ve been called anti-Christian because I support a woman’s right to reproductive rights and because I denounced Christians who bombed abortion clinics. I’ve been called a religious fanatic because I consider atheists to make the same epistemologically unsound pronouncement about the unknown that religious make. I’ve been called misogynist because I believe that women too often undermine their own rights by conceding to, even supporting, patriarchal social and gender codes. I’ve been called a hater of heterosexual men because I was critical of a recently deceased famous straight male performer who was accused of raping a teenage girl. I was called a member of the oligarchical 1% because I didn’t support a Socialist-Independent presidential candidate. I was called a Communist because I didn’t support an oligarch for President. I was called a white racist because my candidate was deemed a conspirator to the commercial and lengthy imprisonment of blacks for nonviolent crimes. I was called a self-hating white because that same candidate was willing to promote the advancement of non-whites economically and politically at the (perceived) expense of whites. I was called a self-hating fag because that candidate was late to embrace gay marriage. I was called an imperialist colonizer because that candidate didn’t speak out on the Dakota Access Pipeline conflict. And I was called anti-American, because I support the Lakota and other tribes opposing the pipeline at the cost of jobs.

Again, this is not to dwell on my circumstance but to rather legitimize the emerging view that it can only be one’s own shifting circumstance in relation to all other shifting circumstances around us that we can trust, however humbly, to reframe defining ourselves and others according to an individual-centric model of identity. A model that is entirely relative to the individual-centric identities of others, yet no less self-defining. Is this or is this not the contingency-based relativist and anti-essentialist intersectional paradigm of identity and functionality that we sought since the 1960s? And can we use this paradigm as the building blocks, each different from the next, of use in rebuilding a democratic society with pragmatic capabilities to expand beyond prejudice and marginalization?

Roger Denson is a regular contributor of art and cultural criticism to Huffington Post since 2010. His feature articles and reviews have appeared in Parkett (Zurich); Artscribe International (London); Bijutsu Techo (Tokyo); Art in America; Artbyte; Arts Magazine; Art Experience; M/E/A/N/I/N/G; Acme Journal; and Journal of Contemporary Art (all New York);  Duke University’s Cultural Politics (Durham, NC and London); Flash Art; Contemporanea (Milan); Trans>Arts, Culture,  Media (Buenos Aires and New York); and Kunstlerhaus Bethanien (Berlin). He is the author of the forthcoming monograph, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde: The Sonata of Consciousness, 2017 (Bodhana Arts, Mumbai).

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Robert C. Morgan: The Presence of M/E/A/N/I/N/G

The future is a conundrum, a misguided erudition of how we think things should be, but never are. It is easier to know the past; and by knowing the past, to be rehearsed in memories of thoughts gone by, which were once believed to be true. The present is perhaps the most difficult, the high wire between Points A and B, the resounding tight rope on which we may find ourselves suspended, the still transition between past and future. This is what makes the present so ironic and so difficult to perceive, to grasp and to understand.

In the 90s, I recall writing book reviews for M/E/A/N/I/N/G. This was something I enjoyed as it kept me focused on the academic side of art. But in addition to the reviews, there were other occasions that proved deeply meaningful. At the time I was too involved with the mystique of conceptual art and was looking for a way to think and to write from another direction. This happened in a brief contribution I made in one of the forums organized by the editors. My statement raised questions about the marketing of art, which in those days, were not discussed. It would eventually lead to my book, “El Fin del Mundo del Arte,” initially published in Spanish and then later the same year in English.

Through this forum, I found a way to connect with my changing sensibilities at the time. I found the courage to reject the trends of academic art writing and begin questioning the assumptions on which I was making critical judgments.

Printed publications, like M/E/A/N/I/N/G, were more likely to be seen and read in the 90s than they are today. It was a different era in art where the approach to theory and feminism seem to follow a very different course. I suppose I would call it more “open-ended” to the extent that writers were given the permission to open their minds and pursue a line of thought that was both personal and theoretical, which, of course, was something artist-writers need to do. It was a magazine that opened doors and allowed fresh ideas to move from the margins into the mainstream. There was an internal presence in M/E/A/N/I/N/G, consciously put forth by the editors. The language of the podium was removed from the premises and given back to artists interested in changing sensibilities that would enrich not only the beleaguered past and future but would put us squarely within the present. M/E/A/N/I/N/G became a harbinger for artists concerned with political change and who needed a forum by which to engage with one another on issues of discrepancy, of discrimination, of civil and human rights that are, unfortunately, still with us today.

Robert C. Morgan holds a Master of Fine Arts degree and a Ph.D. in Art History. He divides his career between painting and writing.  He has lectured widely, curated numerous exhibitions (other than his own work), and has written literally hundreds of critical essays. He was awarded the first Arcale prize in International Art Criticism in Salamanca, and, in 2011, was inducted into the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, Salzburg.

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Jenny Perlin

Jenny Perlin, Still image from Inks, 16mm film loop, b/w, 5 seconds, 2014. Courtesy the artist and Simon Preston Gallery, New York

Jenny Perlin, Still image from “Inks,” 16mm film loop, b/w, 5 seconds, 2014. Courtesy the artist and Simon Preston Gallery, New York

“Silences and repetitions are rejected as a failure of language when they are experienced as oblivious holes or as the utterance of the same thing twice or more. WE SHOULD NOT STAMMER, so goes the reasoning, for we only make our way successfully in life when we speak in a continuous articulate flow. True. After many years of confusions, of suppressed voice and INARTICULATE SOUNDS, holes, blanks, black-outs, jump-cuts, out-of-focus visions, I FINALLY SAY NO: yes, sounds are sounds and should above all be released as sounds. Everything is in the releasing. There is no score to follow, no hidden dimension from the visuals to disclose, and endless thread to weave anew.” —Trinh T. Minh-Ha,“Holes in the Sound Wall,” from When the Moon Waxes Red: Representation, Gender, and Cultural Politics, Routledge, New York, 1991

“We must acknowledge that we began [in cinema] like literary people, that we’re not sufficiently literate in existing sounds and don’t distinguish among them. If […] you go to the Donbass, then all you’ll hear [at first] is one uninterrupted roar and noise—that’s the first impression. But this wasn’t my first time in the Donbass; I studied these sounds and saw that, yes, we really are domestic, and for us these sounds are “noise”—but for the worker in the Donbass every sound has a specific meaning; for him there are no “noises.” And if it seems to you, comrades, who know all the scales perfectly, that I am at this moment emitting pure noise, then I can assure you that I am [producing] no noise whatsoever.” —Dziga Vertov, spoken at the Kiev preview of “Enthusiasm,” RGALI f. 2091, op. 2, d 417, 1. 59, in John MacKay, “Disorganized Noise: Enthusiasm and the Ear of the Collective,” Kinokultura # 7, January 2005

“The optical thought the optical dance to the sound of the river of your soul The flowers of a mind The dance of handwriting and the song of flowers and the white of the clouds and the blue of the sky–Sometimes it is dark and you see in the darkness nothing but your own feeling your own movements your own pulse and the rapture of your heart your blood this is what you see–what goes with the music–The Stars the Heaven the Darkness and the Light of your own love your own heart The Light of your mind, The Dancing Light of your blood–and your feeling.” —Oskar Fischinger, on Motion Painting No. 1, from Center for Visual Music’s Fischinger Texts: Film Notes.

“CHINESE CURIOS”
‘These are days when no one should rely unduly on his “competence.” Strength lies in improvisation. All the decisive blows are struck left-handed.’”—Walter Benjamin, from One-Way Street and other Writings, NLB, London, 1979

Jenny Perlin is an artist working in Brooklyn. Her practice in 16mm film, video, and drawing works with and against the documentary tradition, incorporating innovative stylistic techniques to emphasize issues of truth, misunderstanding, and personal history. Her projects look closely at ways in which social machinations are reflected in the smallest fragments of daily life. Perlin’s films often combine handwritten text and drawn images and embrace the technical contingencies of analog technologies.

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Altoon Sultan

—“I am here to wonder.” Goethe

 It is difficult to understand how to respond to the political shock that descended on so many of us in early November. Where to turn, how to think, what to do? For me, it is necessary to go towards what I find essential, which is paying attention to the small moments that bring joy and beauty and surprise: winter sunlight reaching far into a room, highlighting the delicate serrated edge of a seed head; a tiny snail crossing an immensity of leaf; bright light illuminating a plastic tank; the taste of a garden tomato warmed by the sun; a tangle of tree roots pushing against city pavement; the emergence of a seedling, still a miracle to me. To slow down and notice everyday things provides sense and spirit and calm to emotional chaos.

 —“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” Henry Miller

 I walk in the woods, taking the same path several times a week, and each time it is different in feeling and in light, each time there are things to see that I hadn’t noticed before: a bit of moss, a fluff of seeds, a leaf dangling from a spider’s thread, all marvels.

—“I think what one should do is write in an ordinary way and make the writing seem extraordinary. One should write, too, about what is ordinary and see the extraordinary behind it.”    Jean Rhys

 And there is art, my own and the sweep of art history. In my painting and sculpture I too attempt, like Jean Rhys, to transform the ordinary and overlooked; details of farm machinery––panels and bolts, light and shadow crossing metal and plastic surfaces––become complex formal compositions. When I was a younger artist I felt the need to make large dramatic paintings, but now I value intimacy and close looking. And I value being part of a very long tradition of picture making by Homo sapiens going back 40,000 years, when humans painted in caves, making images of remarkable sensitivity. We don’t know the purpose of these paintings, but to me they indicate a need to recreate the world, to make something beautiful from nothing. Across millennia peoples have made images and have decorated objects, not from necessity but from desire. One of my deepest pleasures is to wander the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC for hours, crossing the globe, visiting favorite objects and discovering new ones. I’ve long felt that art-making was an essential part of being human but was nevertheless startled to read the following while writing this piece; it appears in the NY Review of Books, November 24th issue, in a review about brain science by the early pre-history professor Steven Mithen. He asks “what gave us ‘the Homo sapiens advantage’?”

It wasn’t brain size because the Neanderthals matched Homo sapiens. My guess is that it may have been another invention: perhaps symbolic art that could extend the power of those 86 billion neurons.…

I am part of a tradition of making; I am part of the world. In paying close attention to both, I find meaning.

altoon-dewdrops-on-hosta-with-snailnew

Altoon Sultan lives on an old hill farm in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, where she makes art and tends her garden.

***

Two more installments of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: The Final Issue on A Year of Positive Thinking will appear here this week. Contributors will include Susan Bee, Mira Schor, and more.

M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A History
We published 20 print issues biannually over ten years from 1986-1996. In 2000, M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists’ Writings, Theory, and Criticism was published by Duke University Press. In 2002 we began to publish M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online and have published six online issues. Issue #6 is a link to the digital reissue of all of the original twenty hard copy issues of the journal. The M/E/A/N/I/N/G archive from 1986 to 2002 is in the collection of the Beinecke Library at Yale University.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail

M/E/A/N/I/N/G: The Final Issue on A Year of Positive Thinking-7

The first issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A Journal of Contemporary Art Issues, was published in December 1986. M/E/A/N/I/N/G is a collaboration between two artists, Susan Bee and Mira Schor, both painters with expanded interests in writing and politics, and an extended community of artists, art critics, historians, theorists, and poets, whom we sought to engage in discourse and to give a voice to.

For our 30th anniversary and final issue, we have asked some long-time contributors and some new friends to create images and write about where they place meaning today. As ever, we have encouraged artists and writers to feel free to speak to the concerns that have the most meaning to them right now.

Every other day from December 5 until we are done, a grouping of contributions will appear on A Year of Positive Thinking. We invite you to live through this time with all of us in a spirit of impromptu improvisation and passionate care for our futures.

Susan Bee and Mira Schor

*

Note to email subscribers: the videos in this post can only be viewed if you are online, they will not run in your email program.

*

LigoranoReese

nora-ligorano-marshall-reese-dmeaning

ligoranomesostic3dec18_cx

 

Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese collaborate as LigoranoReese. Their body of work includes  public events, videos, sculptures, installations and  limited edition multiples. They installed their most recent installation The American Dream Project in Cleveland and Philadelphia during the political conventions.

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Joy Garnett and Bill Jones: “No”

Joy Garnett, “Yellow Scarf,” 2016. Oil on canvas, 12x9 inches

Joy Garnett, “Yellow Scarf,” 2016. Oil on canvas, 12×9 inches

Video: Bill Jones, No, no. 2016, music video animation (1:16 minutes)

Joy Garnett is a painter and writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Her most recent solo exhibitions were held at Slag Contemporary in Brooklyn, NY and Platform Gallery, Seattle, WA. Bill Jones is an artist and performer who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.  Jones was a seminal figure in the Vancouver School of conceptual photography along with such artists as Rodney Graham, Ian Wallace and Jeff Wall. 

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Aviva Rahmani: Blowin’ in the Wind

No. NO. NO!

No. NO. NO!

About hope or solace now, I know very little.
After 50 odd years of an art practice, I still believe the answers are in art.

This is the fast phase of climate change, accelerating geometrically.
The planet will adjust to over-consumption dispassionately.

In 2007, for the “Weather Report,” show at BMCA, the paleoecologist Jim White and I used regular recordable desktop sharing sessions over a period of several months to analyze stress on global biogeography (the aggregation of living and non-living systems in the landscape, and their relationships to each other). In a series of maps, using Google Earth and Photoshop, we layered that information with data about population concentration, resource depletion, and the probable effects of increased climate change on those regions, with particular attention to sources of fresh water, or as a threat to human populations from sea level rise or extreme weather. Our conversations were about what elements needed to be prioritized based on scale and drama of impact, for example when drought leads to geopolitical disruption in Egypt or the Sudan, due to competitive conflicts over water loss, or how sea level rise in Bangladesh or the Gulf of Mexico would lead to a likely trajectory of massive human migrations to other parts of the globe, as I drew real time into the maps on the screen. This applied raw material into a transdisciplinary complex adaptive model (a way to study disparate agents in relationship to each other based on how complexity theory works) to determine predictive results (i.e., subsequent events in Sudan and Egypt).

In 2015, I realized the only solution to impending global ecosystem disaster was to stop using fossil fuels immediately. So then I designed The Blued Trees Symphony, copyrighted installations in miles of proposed natural gas corridors, intended to challenge eminent domain takings with sonified biogeographic sculpture.

I knew it would be hard to be the kind of artist I intended to be, but I didn’t know how many ways I could trip over myself. The confusions I feel are more complicated now than they were fifty years ago.

I thought more people would respond when we all yelled, “fire!”

I pay more attention than ever now to formalism.
The sun still sets and rises with exquisite clouds.
Indigenous practices inspire me.

If I’d known how much writing it takes to survive as an artist, I would have paid more attention to grammar when I was eleven.

I detest banality but realize in retrospect how often it has seduced me.

Sometimes I cry.

I still love snow as much as I did when I was three.
Small joys, blessings and miracles give meaning to life.
The grand surges of joy and inspiration make life worthwhile.

I wish travel were easier. I’m writing on a late flight from Denver to New York City. The pilot just asked us to please tell him how the crew could make our flight more enjoyable. I think he has to be kidding. Let me count the ways. Let’s start with isolating the man with the bad head cold sneezing in the seat next to me and calming the crying baby.

So, I’m coming to the end of my life, in a handful of years or a couple decades. I intend to go out as fiercely as I came in.

Beauty and love will always stir me.

We are all grasping at straws in a tornado now.
I think we must be like bamboo bending in the wind, trusting our roots in common soil.

Thank you both for making this frame for our thoughts to be shared.

Aviva Rahmani’s The Blued Trees Symphony was awarded a 2016 Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). Her “Trigger Points/ Tipping Points,” premiered at the 2007 Venice Biennale, and contributed to Gulf to Gulf (2009- present), a NYFA sponsored project accessed from 85 countries. Rahmani is an Affiliate with INSTAAR, University of Colorado at Boulder.

 

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Aziz + Cucher

Aziz + Cucher, Some People, tapestry

Aziz + Cucher, “Some People,” cotton tapestry, 74” x 124”

Aziz + Cucher, Some People, tapestry, detail

Aziz + Cucher, Some People, tapestry, detail

Aziz + Cucher, Some People, detail

Aziz + Cucher, “Some People,” tapestry, detail

In 2002 we had a sort of epiphany when we encountered the first of two extraordinary tapestry exhibitions at the MET called Tapestry in the Renaissance, a survey of northern european tapestry production between 1460-1560, curated by Thomas Campbell. This show opened our eyes to the rich tradition of pictorial storytelling embodied in these woven masterpieces, and it challenged us to conceive of ways in which our own practice as artists in the XXI century might embrace allegorical narrative and materiality as a way to represent contemporary battlefields and geopolitical conflict.

Aziz + CucherAnthony Aziz (b.Lunenburg, MA) and Sammy Cucher (b.Lima, Peru). Anthony and Sammy have been living and working together since meeting as graduate students in 1990 at the San Francisco Art Institute. Their projects have been exhibited and published widely, including shows at The New Museum, New York; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Photographer’s Gallery, London; Fondation Cartier, Paris; Nationalgalerie Berlin; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Aziz + Cucher are recipients of a 2015 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Digital and Electronic Art. They are both members of the Fine Arts Faculty at Parsons School of Design /The New School in New York City and recently were artists in residence at the Frans Masereel Centrum in Belgium where they worked on a series of prints as well as a set of digitally woven tapestries in collaboration with Magnolia Editions based in Oakland, CA.

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Erik Moskowitz + Amanda Trager

Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada is a location that is central to our lives. We have spent time there each summer since 1999. Over the years we’ve created narratives that utilize the location but we have not, up until now, referenced Cape Breton explicitly in our works. Erik originally came there in the mid-70s with his family and an extended community that included creative luminaries such as Joan Jonas, Philip Glass, Richard Serra, JoAnne Akalaitis and Rudy Wurlitzer, all friends and collaborators from the downtown art world in New York City.

Until the 1970s many families in Cape Breton, with twenty or so children, lived without modern plumbing and electricity. It is still fairly common for people to raise crops, fish, trap and hunt for sustenance, build their own structures and heat their homes in winter by hauling wood from family lots. Because of Cape Breton’s remoteness, its local traditions have abided to a remarkable degree — until recently.

Due to the ever-increasing need-for-speed of neo-liberalism, global trade and environmental degradation, the days of traditional living are waning. High-speed internet (widely introduced just four years ago) and world-class golf courses augur a move towards homogenization, materialism and hierarchy. Moreover, the summer artist community’s post-minimalist practice — Modernism’s last act — also appears to be terminal in its urgency and agency.

It appears that we are at a tipping point.

Witnessing this change and conveying what Cape Breton and its people mean to us now carries an urgency that we could not have anticipated before the horrible realities of Trump’s rise. In moments of gratitude and in our worst nightmares it exists as a place of refuge. The generation of artists and back-to-the landers that arrived there in the ‘60s and ‘70s might have thought of Cape Breton as an emergency escape hatch, but that idea has now perhaps been subsumed by the contemporary world-order.

We’re moved to consider Cape Breton Island within the realm of the symbolic, and to consider its alternatives within a speculative framework. If we can agree that the current situation feels like science fiction, we can then posit that a science fiction has the imaginative capacity to define answers to the planetary dilemmas we currently face.

In this we are guided by the science fiction of Octavia Butler and her reformulations of kinship structures. While anticipating how various oppressions increasingly structure lives and worlds, she simultaneously delineates emancipatory understandings of family that upset the usual barriers presented by race, gender, class, and age.

Discovering and developing connections between these disparate narratives constitutes the work of this project, offering possibilities for re-considerations of the role of culture in spiritual and emotional survival beyond the maintenance of bare life. Because expression is necessary to survival, not an addendum to it. Feeling already flung into an era of rapid destabilization on many fronts, this sentiment must now be considered within the context of a long view, and with a hopeful eye towards imagining identity in terms of dispersion and dissolution.

Erik Moskowtiz + Amanda Trager, Island, video still (work in progress)

Erik Moskowitz + Amanda Trager, “Island,” video still (work in progress)

Erik Moskowitz + Amanda Trager, "Afro-Surrealist chart," 2016

Erik Moskowitz + Amanda Trager, “Afro-Surrealist chart,” 2016

Erik Moskowitz and Amanda Trager are collaborators who make film and installation works. Both were born and raised in New York City. Their work has been shown at venues that include the Centre Pompidou, Participant, Inc, Museo Reina Sophia, Beirut Art Center and Haus Der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin.

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Michelle Jaffé: Soul Junk

Who’s in Control? © Michelle Jaffé 2013-2016 from Michelle Jaffé on Vimeo

Who Makes That Choice? © Michelle Jaffé 2013-2016 from Michelle Jaffé on Vimeo

SOUL JUNK is a 1, 2 or 3-channel video / audio installation that explores raw emotions, power & intent conveyed & betrayed by the human voice & facial expression. SJ places people inside a mind at work.

To view these works in full screen mode please go here for “Who’s in Control?” and here for “Who Makes That Choice?”

Emotionally raw confessions about family trauma are juxtaposed with observations about the cocksure attitudes of those in power.  Authority is assumed to be right.  However, just because it holds the seat of power, does not make it so. In Soul Junk, I was compelled to move through my own understanding of power structures & an individual’s power grab in the age of the selfie. How those systems get played out in the family, through power brokers, government, and corporations.  I process narcissistic & patriarchal behavior through the rhythm of my own lens in an effort to understand the political, economic and ethical landscape of our time. Those in power often prevail at the expense of individuals, families, & communities.

When & where are the borders between terror, abuse & negligence blurred & crossed? How do personal behavior, corporate & national interests, & armed terrorist groups drive politics? I expose my pain, doubts & frustration in an effort to make sense of the world we live in and to stimulate conversation for change. Soul Junk is a catalyst for social justice.

Michelle Jaffé creates sculpture, sound and video installations, immersing people in an experience that transforms their sensory awareness. These participatory encounters create a moment where a synaptic shift in attitude is possible and new neural connections can be made. Her work has been exhibited at Duke University- Power Plant,  Beall Center for Art + Technology at UC Irvine,  NYCEMF,  Morlan Gallery at Transylvania University, KY, Bosi Contemporary, NY and UICA, Grand Rapids.  Solo exhibitions  at Bosi Contemporary,  Wald & Po Kim Gallery, Susan Berko-Conde Gallery, Brooklyn College, Harvestworks Digital Media in NY, among others. Since 2008, Jaffé has been a fiscally sponsored artist of the New York Foundation for the Arts.

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Hermine Ford

Nov. 22, 2016

Dear Mira and Susan,

Today I had lunch with Mira and saw some shows together in Chelsea. The kind of day that old friends who are artists often share. Did it feel “normal”? No. We talked about the art we were looking at, we talked about how neighborhoods have changed. We talked about growing older. And we talked about the election. We looked back over other “the worst of times” in our lives: WWII, the assassinations of JFK and MLK…both felt like the end of America. And of course 9/11. As an artist I need to do my work in order to be coherent and functional in other areas of my life. I need also to feel my friends, my community around me. I hope that my work makes a contribution to them, but I can’t depend on that. I need to choose when I will participate in group actions to defend democracy, and I need to make a more specific contribution by volunteering to help open the swinging door that would enable very young people to walk into my world of reading, writing, making art, a doorway into a big wide world full of adventure and deep beauty, and through which I may have the privilege of entering their world. This is my survival plan for myself and I am grateful to M/E/A/N/I/N/G for always having provided a place where these kinds of musings can be shared.

Love,

Hermine

Hermine Ford, “Yellow Star,” 2016. Oil on cotton muslin on panel, 33 1/2 x 41 in.

Hermine Ford, “Yellow Star,” 2016. Oil on cotton muslin on panel,
33 1/2″ x 41″

Hermine Ford grew up in NYC. Her childhood neighborhood was 23 St. down 2nd Ave. to Houston St and points east. She lives and works in NYC with extended stays in rural Canada and Rome. All three locations, in an annual roundelay, inform her work.

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Further installments of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: The Final Issue on A Year of Positive Thinking will appear here every other day. Contributors will include Altoon Sultan, Erica Hunt, Jenny Perlin, Julie Harrison, Noah Fischer, Robert C. Morgan, Roger Denson, Susan Bee, Mira Schor, and more. If you are interested in this series and don’t want to miss any of it, please subscribe to A Year of Positive Thinking during this period, by clicking on subscribe at the upper right of the blog online, making sure to verify your email when prompted.

M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A History
We published 20 print issues biannually over ten years from 1986-1996. In 2000, M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists’ Writings, Theory, and Criticism was published by Duke University Press. In 2002 we began to publish M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online and have published six online issues. Issue #6 is a link to the digital reissue of all of the original twenty hard copy issues of the journal. The M/E/A/N/I/N/G archive from 1986 to 2002 is in the collection of the Beinecke Library at Yale University.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail

M/E/A/N/I/N/G: The Final Issue on A Year of Positive Thinking-6

The first issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A Journal of Contemporary Art Issues, was published in December 1986. M/E/A/N/I/N/G is a collaboration between two artists, Susan Bee and Mira Schor, both painters with expanded interests in writing and politics, and an extended community of artists, art critics, historians, theorists, and poets, whom we sought to engage in discourse and to give a voice to.

For our 30th anniversary and final issue, we have asked some long-time contributors and some new friends to create images and write about where they place meaning today. As ever, we have encouraged artists and writers to feel free to speak to the concerns that have the most meaning to them right now.

Every other day from December 5 until we are done, a grouping of contributions will appear on A Year of Positive Thinking. We invite you to live through this time with all of us in a spirit of impromptu improvisation and passionate care for our futures.

Susan Bee and Mira Schor

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Note to email subscribers: the videos in this post can only be viewed if you are online, they will not run in your email program.

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Noah Dillon

2016 was a very difficult year. Each day’s news has been something horrifying, including intensifying effects from global warming, Syrian carnage, economic turmoil in Europe, refugee crises, authoritarianism in China and the Philippines, parts of Latin America suffering civil catastrophe. In the US, a white power presidency was voted into office. My cat and mom are dying, and a friend has terminal cancer. My sense of self continued to be a mess. I hurt people’s feelings, and had my feelings hurt.

The day after the election, my friend Brian Dunning, who runs a science blog and podcast called Skeptoid, sent out a solicitation for donations. He wrote:

“From the election results, we can infer that about half the American population is (at worst) openly hostile to, or (at best) ignorant or dismissive of, these science facts:

  • Anthropogenic global warming is real and a threat.
  • Vaccines are important and do not cause autism.
  • Gay conversion therapy does not work.
  • Evolution is the scientific theory explaining the diversity of species.”

I would, I think reasonably, add:

  • Partial-birth abortions are a myth
  • Trickle-down economics is magical thinking
  • Trade is good and is not the cause of working class decline
  • Crime and demographic data do not show white Americans under threat by black and brown youth, or a broad rise in crime generally
  • Immigration is an essential good
  • Elections are rigged by statehouses and wealthy super PAC donors, not poor voters
  • Authoritarian police states do not keep people safe from anything, least of all the state itself

One place I find meaning is in meaning itself. As far as I can tell, truth has been in a precarious civil position for a long time, with its value waxing and waning. Maybe cynicism and ideological closedness, rigidity, onanism are ascendant—they feel that way. Although it was most evident recently in the deluge of Trumpian trolling, this problem is pervasive on both the left and right: dissenting or even qualifying voices are suspected of being paid shills for George Soros or the Kochs, consensus is regarded as an oppressive imposition on personal freedom of disbelief, complex problems are constricted down into absurd dichotomies, the moral imperative to focus first on materially and spiritually enriching oneself reigns, and so on. These are huge problems!

(The president-elect seems to embody them perfectly: he is paranoiac, believes in a completely alternate reality, speaks out of both sides of his mouth while wielding a club, and seems most interested in himself, while promising that each supporter’s personal individual desires will be fulfilled. Although he played the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” his message on the campaign trail was that he will make it possible for people, certain people, to have everything they want. He is the vile man of our era.)

Reliable and true information is essential to a functioning democracy, and likewise the ability to openly, skeptically, systematically hear new information, test it, and accept it, reject it, qualify it, contextualize it, remain uncertain of it. That’s really hard to do, and we’ve been encouraged to eschew it, or use it selectively. The insistence on meaning and truth, even in spite of its incompatibility with our beliefs, is really essential.

Agreement about facts ought to lead to moral policies and objectives. Moralizing in the absence of fact, conversely, I think, is tilting at windmills. There are some extremely difficult problems facing the world right at this moment. Really horrifying terrible problems. Only by knowing what they actually are—honestly—and openly approaching possible solutions, or at least mechanisms for harm reduction, can they be solved.

Knowing what the world is, and what its problems and solutions are, means a lot.

Photo by Davina Semo, 2016

Photo by Davina Semo, 2016

Noah Dillon is an artist and writer living and working in New York.

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Felix Bernstein and Gabe Rubin

Transitions are always hauntingly incomplete. The badly transitioned, like Frankenstein’s monster, is the site of ridicule and fetish. The transition that does not work, or does not work out, is ridiculed since according to Derrida, “it is always non-work that is stigmatized.” To manage this, the awkward transition must be streamlined into disciplinary criteria of excellence, the good hybrid—the body without organs who can parody gender, whilst emphasizing precarity, matter, ethics; while remaining virtual, ironic, mutable; and self-critically recognizing that this is all “neoliberal,” and meant to be surpassed. When Gabe’s voice started changing, we were unable to find the joy in the “radical de-skilling” at play, which vis-à-vis the queer art of failure seems to be an ineradicable avant-garde norm. But the horrific core of Gothic hauntings and romantic nostalgia powered us through.

In our recent videos “Landslide” and “There Are Worse Things”—Gabe hangs onto the cracked, destroyed, pseudo soprano boy voice; Felix repeats, layers, and amplifies his voice to the point of erosion. The point between visible and invisible; layered and bare; maximal and minimal lies between us—through which, we critique, imitate, and clone each other’s failed ‘realness.’

Like Dorian Gray, we all carry the portrait of the un-sexy rotting corpse inside ourselves, a picture that is continually ghosted by others. Loss in an age of “photogenic” tolerance comes when you can’t transform your vulnerability into an Instagram ready look. Ghosts of course show up on camera. But today’s specter is the unphotogenic ghost, or the suffering that cannot be rallied around vis-à-vis an Instagram campaign with a catchy Hashtag. These are our ghosts: of the poorly transitioned, the creaturely, the unnoticed, and the barely visible.

Felix Bernstein is the author of Notes on Post-Conceptual Poetry (Insert Blanc Press) and Burn Book (Nightboat). His writing has been featured in Poetry MagazineHyperallergic, and Texte Zur Kunst. With Gabe Rubin, he presented the shows Bieber Bathos Elegy at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and Transition Incomplete at MOCA Los Angeles.  
 
Gabe Rubin is a musician, performer, and artist. His work has been shown at MIX NYC, the Brooklyn Film Festival, and MOCA Los Angeles. He recently performed in Jill Kroesen’s Collecting Injustices, Unnecessary Suffering at the Whitney Museum of American Art and Cecilia Corrigan’s Motherland at Issue Project Room. 

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Elaine Angelopoulos:

What is Meaning? How do I make art and perform activism now?

Meaning as a noun has often felt obstructive but significant in making a statement.

Since the election, I have found myself starting to come to several conclusions, and have felt the need to participate in political activism differently than I have in the past. My art methodology seems more in tune with chaotic times like these: I have a work structure that allows diverse modes of creativity, conceptualism, object, content, and interaction with the greater world.

Meaning as an adjective allows more flexibility to the way I express myself, because it doesn’t require art as a concrete series of works that appear consistent. The paternalistic cultural taboos I experienced during my childhood and challenged during my adolescence in the 1970s, were not self-identified as feminist or queer until my early adulthood in the 1990s, largely because of the socially phobic strife between movements under the cold war theater and the narrow strains of the singular narratives in the canons of art, humanities, and the sciences.

My own work as a studio artist was comprised of drawings, objects, and installations that were more formally abstract and devoid of narrative or political content. My collective projects and performance works were more welcoming of accumulative objects and conformed toward a more subjective approach toward content. The work I started to do in the late 2000’s started to delve into the messiness of aesthetics, memory, personal narrative, and greater narratives, and the lessons that intersect through time and space. We embody these lessons like layers of skin within an onion and we forget they are there until we peel it back to see how different they are from one another (all within moments before they are enfolded back into a neat package within ourselves).

The power of meaningful activism is often short lived in a collective group form unless there is a long-term definitive set of strategies in place that maintains multiple modes of progress. But both forms of activism work in tandem to one another, just as art that requires daily exploration in the studio complements the more utilized forms and symbols that sustain directed feelings and reactions to particular differences in the political theater. I have been finding meaning in the everyday, even now in the post-election period. This is where the answers for change dwell. We can create incremental moments of intervention against racist and sexist slurs in public places by overcoming our silent stand and by stepping in and offering ourselves as direct allies to those being attacked. Confront rhetoric and misinformation by speaking up in conversation to those who attempt to incite fear or normalcy in the current political climate.

If we are any smarter, perhaps we ought to go beyond the metaphorical references of “taking a stab at it,” which one may associate with Melville’s Moby Dick. Though this slang term originates from the 1800s, we can make the correlation to today, where we are stabbing at a giant whale that may eventually overwhelm and consume us. Somewhere between the phenomena we call art and dialogue, one hopes that not too many layers of time require a peel back to find answers to the “politics in our rooms.”[1]

[1] Referencing Gregg Bordowitz’s public moving image project, “The Politics in the Room,” created by the LUX Associate Artists Programme, in 2009.

This video piece was composed in 2008 from documentation shot at the 9th Annual Dyke March in New York City from late June 2001. This media was used for a performance work in 2010 under the pseudonym of “Activista,” a persona that is part of the ensemble of “The Nested Selves.”

Elaine Angelopoulos lives and works in New York City. She is an artist with an interdisciplinary approach that bridges her studio practice with audience participation. Angelopoulos received a Franklin Furnace Fund/Jerome Fellowship in 2014/15.  Recently, her work was included in the Labin Art Express Biennial, “Utopia=Reality,” in Croatia; and in “Project for Revolution in New York,” at the Tompkins County Public Library in Ithaca, NY. Angelopoulos wrote a chapter about her work in Poetic Biopolitics, (I.B. Tauris, 2016). She has been a participant in numerous art collectives. She is a staff member at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts.

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Alexandria Smith

“what had happened wuz” is a painting that evokes how I've been feeling at this tense and scary time. It was created during my time as Virginia A. Myers Visiting Artist in Printmaking at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA during the 2016 Democratic caucuses and is still very relevant. I recently participated in the New Museum’s seminal event Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter. BWA for BLM is an underground collective that focuses on the interdependence of care and action, invisibility and visibility, self-defense and self-determination, and desire and possibility in order to highlight and renounce pervasive conditions of racism through the arts. Alexandria Smith, what had happened wuz, 2016, oil on panel, 24” x 24”

Alexandria Smith, “what had happened wuz,” 2016. Oil on panel, 24” x 24.”

“what had happened wuz” is a painting that evokes how I’ve been feeling at this tense and scary time. It was created during my time as Virginia A. Myers Visiting Artist in Printmaking at the University of Iowa, during the 2016 Democratic caucuses and is still very relevant. I recently participated in the New Museum’s seminal event Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter. BWA for BLM is an underground collective that focuses on the interdependence of care and action, invisibility and visibility, self-defense and self-determination, and desire and possibility in order to highlight and renounce pervasive conditions of racism through the arts.

Alexandria Smith has a BFA from Syracuse University, MA from NYU, and MFA from Parsons The New School for Design. Smith is the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Grant, Skowhegan Fellowship, Virginia A. Myers Fellowship at the University of Iowa, an A.I.R. Gallery Fellowship, and the Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship. Recent exhibitions include a solo show at Scaramouche Gallery, a commission for the Schomburg Center, a group show, “Black Pulp,” at Yale University and International Print Center NY, and in 2017, a solo exhibit at The Union for Contemporary Art, Omaha, NE. Smith has been featured in the Huffington Post: “Alexandria Smith’s Adorably Grotesque Cartoons Explore What Little Girls Are Made Of.” She lives in Brooklyn, NY, and Wellesley, MA, where she is Assistant Professor of Studio Art at Wellesley College.

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Joyce Kozloff

In light of the devastating election returns, I could not write a statement that said more than the eloquent words expressed by many others. Nor could I make an image to express those feelings, so this is some silly stuff I found on eBay. Globalism?

joyce-kozloff-year-final-issue-unnamed

Joyce Kozloff is an artist and political activist who lives in New York.

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Tamara Gonzalez and Chris Martin

Tamara Gonzalez, “Untitled” and “Love 2010” from “Christmas in July”

Tamara Gonzalez, “Untitled” and “Love 2010” from “Christmas in July”

I found this photo of two old paintings of Tamara’s. It made me think that in dark times – keep your eyes and heart open. —Chris Martin

Tamara Gonzales and Chris Martin are living and making art in Brooklyn and the Catskills in New York.

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Legacy Russell: AN ANATOMY OF MOURNING

Grief is positive!
GRIEF IS NEGATIVE
Grief is proactive!
GRIEF IS PARALYSING
Grief is productive!
GRIEF IS CAPITALIST
Grief is reproductive!
GRIEF IS STERILE
Grief is useful, it galvanises me!
GRIEF IS LABOUR, UNPAID
Grief is movement!
GRIEF IS STANDING STILL
Grief is progressive!
GRIEF IS FASCIST
Grief is helpful!”
GRIEF IS COERCIVE
Grief is public!
GRIEF IS PRIVATE
Grief is active!
GRIEF IS LAZY
Grief is strong!
GRIEF IS WEAK
Grief is proud!
GRIEF IS SHAMEFUL
Grief is empowering!
GRIEF IS FEARFUL
Grief is realistic!
GRIEF IS DELUSIONAL
Grief is radical!
GRIEF IS COUNTERREVOLUTIONARY
Grief is relief, I am relieved to grieve!
GRIEF IS EXHAUSTING, I AM FUCKING EXHAUSTED
Grief is collective!
GRIEF IS LONELY
Grief is truthful, it is honest!
GRIEF IS A LIAR, IT IS FRAUDULENT
Grief is calling your MP!
GRIEF IS HANGING UP
Grief is voting down ballot!
GRIEF IS NOT VOTING
Grief is self-care!
GRIEF IS HARMFUL
Grief is pragmatic!
GRIEF IS INEFFICIENT
Grief is volunteering!
GRIEF IS SELFISH
Grief is hopeful!
GRIEF IS CYNICAL
Grief is writing letters!
GRIEF IS WITHOUT LANGUAGE
Grief is speech!
GRIEF IS SPEECHLESS
Grief is showing up!
GRIEF IS STAYING HOME
Grief is relevant!
GRIEF IS IRRELEVANT
Grief is visible!
GRIEF IS INVISIBLE
Grief is a riot!
GRIEF IS A PARADE

Legacy Russell is a writer, artist, and cultural producer. Born and raised in NYC’s East Village she is the UK Gallery Relations Lead for the online platform Artsy. Her work can be found in a variety of publications: BOMB, The White Review, Rhizome, DIS, The Society Pages, Guernica, Berfrois and beyond. Holding an MRes of Visual Culture with Distinction at Goldsmiths College of University of London, her academic and creative work focuses on gender, performance, digital selfdom, idolatry, and new media ritual. Her first book Glitch Feminism will be published by Verso in 2017. Twitter: @legacyrussell | Instagram @ellerustle. |

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Nancy K. Miller: Trump and his cabinet meet their fate

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Nancy K. Miller teaches in the English and Comparative Literature Programs at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her most recent book is the memoir Breathless: An American Girl in Paris.

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Further installments of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: The Final Issue on A Year of Positive Thinking will appear here every other day. Contributors will include Altoon Sultan, Aziz+Cucher, Aviva Rahmani, Erica Hunt, Erik Moskowitz + Amanda Trager, Hermine Ford, Jenny Perlin, Joy Garnett and Bill Jones, Julie Harrison, Kat Griefen, LigoranoReeese, Michelle Jaffé, Noah Fischer, Robert C. Morgan, Roger Denson, Susan Bee, Mira Schor, and more. If you are interested in this series and don’t want to miss any of it, please subscribe to A Year of Positive Thinking during this period, by clicking on subscribe at the upper right of the blog online, making sure to verify your email when prompted.

M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A History
We published 20 print issues biannually over ten years from 1986-1996. In 2000, M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists’ Writings, Theory, and Criticism was published by Duke University Press. In 2002 we began to publish M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online and have published six online issues. Issue #6 is a link to the digital reissue of all of the original twenty hard copy issues of the journal. The M/E/A/N/I/N/G archive from 1986 to 2002 is in the collection of the Beinecke Library at Yale University.

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M/E/A/N/I/N/G: The Final Issue on A Year of Positive Thinking-3

The first issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A Journal of Contemporary Art Issues, was published in December 1986. M/E/A/N/I/N/G is a collaboration between two artists, Susan Bee and Mira Schor, both painters with expanded interests in writing and politics, and an extended community of artists, art critics, historians, theorists, and poets, whom we sought to engage in discourse and to give a voice to.

For our 30th anniversary and final issue, we have asked some long-time contributors and some new friends to create images and write about where they place meaning today. As ever, we have encouraged artists and writers to feel free to speak to the concerns that have the most meaning to them right now.

Every other day from December 5 until we are done, a grouping of contributions will appear on A Year of Positive Thinking. We invite you to live through this time with all of us in a spirit of impromptu improvisation and passionate care for our futures.

Susan Bee and Mira Schor

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Sheila Pepe: The United States of Calvin

In 1856, one-time pastor and faculty of the Harvard Divinity School Ralph Waldo Emerson published English Traits. As an introduction to a text that exhaustively conveys all favorable traits of the Englishman, Emerson a champion anglophile, asserts the precision of race as not only historic, but also plainly scientific. “It is race, is it not?,” Emerson asks, “that puts the hundred millions of India under the dominion of a remote island in the north of Europe.” His answer is yes. No wonder he was late to the idea of abolition.

Less than seventy-five years later, in 1928, the Harvard Theological Review (Vol. 21, No.3, Jul., pp.163-195) publishes Kemper Fullerton’s “Calvinism and Capitalism.” Within these thirty-two pages many ends are achieved. Most important is, as the title conveys, building a finer point upon Max Weber’s ideas connecting “Protestantism and money making.” For Fullerton the Protestantism key to leadership in modern American Capitalism is specifically Calvinism. Lutheranism doesn’t quite make the grade. Catholicism would catapult us back into the Middle Ages, as Catholics cling to professions in the handicrafts, rather than that of financier, industrialist, or technical expert. Consider the year it was published. In 1928 New York Governor, Catholic and reformer Al Smith was running for president. Wall Street was riding high and Prohibition, which Smith ran against, was in full swing. The Republicans had failed to reapportion Congress and the Electoral College after the 1920 census (which had registered a 15 percent increase in the urban population). Smith lost to Herbert Hoover in a landslide. Many ascribed the loss to the three “P’s” – Prosperity, Prejudice, and Prohibition.

Both the Puritans of Boston Bay Colony and the Dutch Reformed traders of New Amsterdam were Calvinist-based communities. Both built secular societies that were completely religious by design. That is, they believed that man lay bare in the unmediated presence of God. That each individual had an obligation to that God to live a highly disciplined life persistently in pursuit of good works in a secular world. Good work was not social work, rather productive, profitable work. “The Calvinist practised (sic) self-discipline not even to secure assurance (that he was elected for salvation); he practised it for the glory of God, and in the practise of it assurance came.” As Fullerton argues, this is the perfect platform for modern capitalism. Tireless money making at the expense of others is not bad, but there were limits – flagrant avarice was not seen as appropriately ascetic.

As founding father and Boston-born Ben Franklin would say, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” This seems a benign enough aphorism for his young America, even while fueled by a mandate from heaven. What the good humor and simplicity belies is that this country wasn’t simply founded by oligarchs, but by a religious oligarchy that squarely placed duty to God in the secular commons. This is not new; it simply persists.

As we look to find ways to change the damage done in this last presidential election, let’s consider U.S. values as a set of religiously formulated dictates, not the least of which is, for example, the construction of race in the service of making money for the glory of God. No one is out of the loop on this one – whether or not there was or is a “God” in your life. We might wonder where exactly the separation of church and state is in this country, and if the toleration of difference in the service of commerce is adequate expression of civil rights.

It’s time to ask again, and hopefully for the last time: What is this secular church that calls itself America?

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Sheila Pepe, “Glass Ceiling Fantasy,” 2006. Charcoal + chalk on grey paper

Sheila Pepe lives and works in Brooklyn. She is a resident of the Sharpe-Walentas Program. Pepe is working on an exhibition and book with Gilbert Vicario, Chief Curator of the Phoenix Museum, AZ.

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Joseph Nechvatal

Joseph Nechvatal, Portrait of the 45th President of the United States, 11/2016 (dimensions variable)

Joseph Nechvatal, Portrait of the 45th President of the United States, 11/2016 (dimensions variable)

For this digital painting entitled Portrait of the 45th President of the United States, I have taken an official Wikipedia photo portrait of Donald Trump and buried it in visual noise, denying his presence to a large degree. The idea is to visually refuse to acknowledge him clearly as president. To stop reproducing him and his brand as presidential. To resist and oppose him with noise.

Joseph Nechvatal’s computer-robotic assisted paintings and computer software animations are shown regularly in galleries and museums. Towards an Immersive Intelligence: Essays on the Work of Art in the Age of Computer Technology and Virtual Reality (1993-2006) was published by Edgewise Press in 2009. In 2011, Immersion Into Noise was published by the University of Michigan Library. His collected critical art reviews at Hyperallergic can be accessed here.

Martha Wilson as Donald Trump: Politics and Performance Art are One and the Same.

Grace Exhibition Space May 29; Smack Mellon, July 31, 2016; Creative Time Summit/Transformer party, October 13, 2016; P.P.O.W “Inauguration” exhibition, October 28; Tara benefit November 6, 2016.

Enter to Queen, “We are the Champions”

Hello America! People keep asking me how I’m going to make America great again. How I’m going to make America safe again. It’s you and me baby—we’re going to do this together.

It’s the coming of the solid state
When we’ll all be together again
Just like—I can’t remember when
We’ll have paradise on Earth at last

It’s the coming of the solid state
Instantaneous control’s what it takes
No more dropouts to spoil the view
Our society will be so cute!

It’s the coming of the solid state
When morality follows interest rates
Making money’s a right God-given
Here’s to Calvin—is it Coolidge or –ism?

(Put on glasses)

I don’t care if you record me talking about grabbing women’s pussies; however, I never let photos be taken of me wearing glasses. I don’t want to look like a 4-eyed egghead LOSER. But this performance is in the artworld, which does not count.

Hi! I am Martha Wilson, an artist and an arts administrator dressed up like Donald J. Trump. In all my previous performances, I have endeavored to go completely into Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush and Tipper Gore’s brains, so see what it’s like in there. But I had to turn off Donald’s speech to the Republican National Convention. I am here today wearing both personae to say a few words about how I have seen the relationship of art and politics evolve during the last 50 years.

In the 1960s, the Vietnam War was like a black curtain hanging behind everything. The cultural scene was one of protest, with marches, sit-ins, teach-ins, tax protests, non-violent and violent confrontations of ideas. Kent State was perhaps the nadir of this time, when the National Guard shot and killed students. People left America for Canada; I was one of those. It was a time when neither side would listen to the complaints of the other; our society was truly divided.

The 1970s saw Watergate go down. This is when Richard Nixon’s dirty tricks were exposed; he had to take responsibility and was impeached. The way this happened was that Robert Redford, a successful actor, paid Washington Post journalists Woodward and Bernstein to research and publish what the administration was up to.

In the artworld, artists of the 1970s were inventing postmodernism, becoming socially conscious, and invading the commercial gallery scene with temporary installations and video. Performance art, too, was entering the mainstream through the bar scene. There was recognition that the artworld was a white place: artists who were white were engendering dialogue through friendship with artists of color; Jenny Holzer’s friendship and collaboration with Lady Pink comes to mind.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected. Although as President of the Screen Actors Guild, he started out as a liberal, after he married Nancy, she persuaded him it was politically smarter to be conservative. He in turn chartered Frank Hodsoll with shutting down the National Endowment for the Arts, the agency put in place by Richard Nixon to fund the arts. In the beginning the NEA and the U.S. Information Agency were seen as a way to project America’s cultural hegemony (Abstract Expressionists had fled Europe as a result of World War II). We were better at art than anyone else, plus Abstract Expressionist art kept its mouth shut. However, when Franklin Furnace tried to send politically explicit artist book works to South America through the U.S. Information Agency, they were rejected. Later, the agency itself was killed off.

Back to Frank Hodsoll: the first thing he did was kill off the NEA’s Critics Fellowships. We, the arts organizations, did not see that the goal would be to kill off artists’ fellowships as well, and later to “professionalize” the art spaces.

The Culture Wars began in the late 1980s with the furor caused by Robert Mapplethorpe’s show, “The Perfect Moment,” as it traveled. Dennis Barrie, Director of the Cincinnati Center for Contemporary Art, lost his job as a result of his decision to take this show containing explicit images of S & M practice. The Culture Wars were fought over sexuality as a legitimate subject of contemporary art. After a lawsuit brought by “the NEA Four” Karen Finley, John Fleck, Holly Hughes and Tim Miller made it all the way to the Supreme Court, the arts community lost—the Court installed “community standards of decency” over artists’ First Amendment right to free expression.

This brings us to the 1990s, and the notion that no tax dollars should be paid for “obscene art.” This decade is when the Internet became widely accessible and artists started looking at surveillance instead of sexuality as the locus of threat. Meanwhile, the locus of the Culture Wars changed too, from art to a more granular and local series of battles over women’s reproductive choice; “balance” of equal numbers of radical and conservative views on university faculties; free speech granted to corporations; and Super Pac money allowed to influence public thought.

As Donald, I represent a beacon of hope for the white working class because I am so rich nobody can buy me. I represent their desire to shake up the binary political system–or just fuck things up. I let the barking dogs of racism, sexism and xenophobia run free. Meanwhile, Republican donors and party leaders are getting behind me because I WON… the nomination. They figure, as in the case of Bush vs. Gore, they can still control the political outcome of my presidency.

(Take off glasses)

Tit for tat and tat for tit
Politics is made of this
You give me this
I’ll give you that
And we’ll both smile

Publicity’s our strategy
And due to public memory
Which lapses so conveniently
In a few years

We can raise a family
No scandal’s bad enough to flee
The United States is still all milk and honey
Toooo meeeeee!

I will make America great again. I will make America hate again. I will make America white again. I have already made politics and performance art one and the same.

Good luck!

year_final-issue-martha-wilson-thump_wilson-final

Martha Wilson is a pioneering feminist artist and art space director, who over the past four decades created innovative photographic and video works that explore her female subjectivity. She has been described by New York Times critic Holland Cotter as one of “the half-dozen most important people for art in downtown Manhattan in the 1970s.” In 1976 she founded Franklin Furnace, an artist-run space that champions the exploration, promotion and preservation of artist books, temporary installation, performance art, as well as online works. She is represented by P.P.O.W Gallery in New York.

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Deborah Kass

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Destroyed by the election and have nothing to say about anything yet. Too hard to process the current reality. Other than experiencing sheer terror, incredible sadness, and grief.

Deborah Kass is an artist whose paintings examine the intersection of art history, popular culture and the self. Kass’s work has been shown nationally and internationally. The Andy Warhol Museum presented “Deborah Kass, Before and Happily Ever After, Mid- Career Retrospective” in 2012, accompanied by a catalogue published by Rizzoli. Her monumental sculpture OY/YO located in Brooklyn Bridge Park became an instant icon, appearing on the front page of the New York Times and was a beloved destination in NYC. In 2014, Kass was inducted into the New York Foundation for the Arts Hall of Fame. Kass’s work is represented by the Paul Kasmin Gallery.

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Bradley Rubenstein: It’s Not Blood, It’s Red

11/22/2016

Dear Susan and Mira,

Thank you so much for inviting me to contribute a thought or two for this, your final issue, of M/E/A/N/I/N/G.

As artists, we come into our practice largely by finding, and in some ways imitating, figures from whom we imagine we might model ourselves. Barnett Newman’s concept of the “citizen artist” has always loomed large for me, and, I believe, his example might have been in your minds when you started M/E/A/N/I/N/G. His writings, letters to editors, and sometimes even his work (Lace Curtain for Mayor Daley, 1968) reflected a mind attuned to both aesthetics and the delicate fabric of society. Of course there are other examples, both historical and contemporary, who saw their work as part of a larger practice. Jacques-Louis David, Eugène Delacroix, Alexander Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova, and Ana Mendieta come to mind.

Does the artist occupy a large role in the body politic? It is somewhat paradoxical that, in the age of Twitter and Instagram, media that privilege the image over the printed word, fewer works of art transcend the ocean of random images. Deborah Kass’s Vote Trump (2016) print edition, despite its complex appropriational historical context, remains one of the few iconic visual works from this election cycle to capture the attention of the public; iconic because it combined a complex historically informed sensibility with graphic effect. To be honest there are no other images that come to mind because, I fear, our current academic culture is not developing a student body willing to engage in public discourse, perhaps due to our trigger-warning, microaggression-fearing culture of safe spaces that has begun to privilege isolation and the cult of victimization over political action and social participation. It might be cautionary to remind younger artists that there is a difference between censorship and persecution (like having your press destroyed, or being imprisoned) and merely being actively ignored. There are artists in other countries who could remind us of this difference if only they weren’t busy being tortured at the moment; Iran, for example, doesn’t have many judgement-free zones.

This is not to say that we should just throw up our hands and admit creative failure. Rather, we might take stock of our time and be attentive, and when necessary, active in our role. When you asked me to contribute to your final issue I was unsure of what I might write, draw, or print that would encapsulate the many disparate thoughts that I have regarding art and culture at the moment. A truckload of ideas were sketched out, discarded. I went back to Newman’s letters hoping for some inspiration, direction. In the end I came to realize that sometimes just being present, and supporting one’s fellow artist-citizens when called upon, might be the most important form of resistance there is. If there is one message that we might take away from 30 years of M/E/A/N/I/N/G, it is that “if you can still read this there is hope.”

With best regards,

Bradley Rubenstein

Bradley Rubenstein is a painter and writer who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

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Lenore Malen: What Now?

It was a summer of total anxiety and compulsive poll watching and now shock, despair, fear, along with remorse for what I’ve failed to see and failed to do.

A couple of years ago when politics were as usual I wrote a short essay for the Brooklyn Rail on the subject: “What is Art?” Quoting Leon Golub, I said: “If you are extremely worried about the state of the world and believe that art with its myriad of contradictions can’t stand up to it, think of Golub’s book Do Paintings Bite? in which he writes: “Art retains a residual optimism in the very freedom to tell.”  “Last week one of my students said to me: “Now we have a real reason for making art.”  Yes, but in truth, it is only art.

A hope and a plea: Take action immediately in whatever ways we can, each of us, so that the very worst doesn’t happen here, can’t be normalized, doesn’t last.  At the same time be worried about climate, race relations and other grave divisions here, the tinderbox of the Middle East, North Korea, Britain, France, Turkey, and everywhere — everything at once.  Stay in touch.

I’m very sad to think of this as the last issue of M/E/A/N/I/NG, which, when it began, was the only journal especially devoted to contemporary artists in their studios, and has continued to function as such for so many years. It’s a totally unique publication, not academic, not literary, but rather a voice for practicing visual artists — unedited, uncensored in any way.

Reversal from Lenore Malen on Vimeo. Reversal: The central scene of a 3-channel installation. A United Nations address to the human species by a horse character declaring a list of atrocities exacted on non-human animals by humans.

Lenore Malen uses the lens of history and humor to explore utopian longings, dystopic aftermaths, and the sciences and technologies that inform them. Recently her explorations have focused on ecology, on cultural myths, and on the unstable boundaries between humans and animals. She teaches in the MFA Fine Arts Program at Parsons The New School. Her show Scenes From Paradise will be on view at Studio 10, 56 Bogart St., Bushwick, NY, January 6, 2017–February 5, 2017.

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Peter Rostovsky 

peter-rostovsky-green-curtain-painting-small

Peter Rostovsky, Green Curtain, 2013, 78 x 50 in., oil on linen.

The curtain is a barrier. It demarcates time: the closing of a chapter, the beginning of another. For ancient painters and modern philosophers, it has served as a metaphor for representation—a surface that always promises a depth that is not there. For others, like me, it is perhaps an adequate symbol of this dark moment, that feels like the end, but could be—if we make it so—a new beginning, too. Like many, I lurk on the boundary, stretched over its threshold and balanced on this uncertainty, constantly reviewing the program notes, and guessing the next act.

Peter Rostovsky is a Russian-born artist who works in painting, sculpture, installation, and digital art. His work has been shown in the United States and abroad and has been exhibited at The Walker Art Center, MCA Santa Barbara, PS1/MOMA, Artpace, The Santa Monica Museum of Art, The ICA Philadelphia, the Blanton Museum of Art, S.M.A.K., and private galleries. Rostovsky also writes art criticism under the pen name David Geers. Focusing on the convergence of art, politics and technology, his writing has appeared in October, Fillip, Bomb, The Third Rail Quarterly, The Brooklyn Rail and Frieze.

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Further installments of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: The Final Issue on A Year of Positive Thinking will appear here every other day. Contributors will include Alexandria Smith, Altoon Sultan, Ann McCoy, Aziz+Cucher, Aviva Rahmani, Bailey Doogan, Erica Hunt, Faith Wilding, Hermine Ford, Jennifer Bartlett, Jenny Perlin, Joy Garnett and Bill Jones, Joyce Kozloff, Judith Linhares, Julie Harrison, Kat Griefen, Kate Gilmore, Legacy Russell, LigoranoReeese, Mary Garrard, Maureen Connor, Michelle Jaffé, Mimi Gross, Myrel Chernick, Noah Dillon, Noah Fischer,  LigoranoReese, Rachel Owens, Robert C. Morgan, Robin Mitchell, Roger Denson, Susanna Heller, Suzy Spence, Tamara Gonzalez and Chris Martin, Susan Bee, Mira Schor, and more. If you are interested in this series and don’t want to miss any of it, please subscribe to A Year of Positive Thinking during this period, by clicking on subscribe at the upper right of the blog online, making sure to verify your email when prompted.

M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A History
We published 20 print issues biannually over ten years from 1986-1996. In 2000, M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists’ Writings, Theory, and Criticism was published by Duke University Press. In 2002 we began to publish M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online and have published six online issues. Issue #6 is a link to the digital reissue of all of the original twenty hard copy issues of the journal. The M/E/A/N/I/N/G archive from 1986 to 2002 is in the collection of the Beinecke Library at Yale University.

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