Tag Archives: Bradley Rubenstein

M/E/A/N/I/N/G: The Final Issue on A Year of Positive Thinking-9

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.

We began on December 5 and every other day since we have posted 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.

We have more installment, of our own thoughts at this time. But today, we take a break for a scrapbook.

Susan Bee and Mira Schor

***

From Susan Bee & Mira Schor, “Introduction,” M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists’ Writings, Theory, and Criticism (Duke University Press, 2000):

We felt, as we consider what we should name our publication, that meaning was the concept most discredited by the market-driven postmodernism that dominated art world discourse in the 1980s. While a journal such as October has staked out its title on the ground of a specific sense of history, M/E/A/N/I/N/G announced an ethical and philosophical dimension. But the slashes (technically, virgules) that separate M from E from A from N from I from N from G not only graphically indicate our connection to the influential contemporary poetry journal L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, they also break up the possibilities of an uninflected metaphysical belief in meaning. We put the concept back on the table of contemporary art discourse, but with a postmodern twist.

Some background details on how the first issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G came into being provide an example of how interventions into art discourse emerge from serendipitous sparks between personal histories and historical moments, and also of how artists, can, on a very small budget and from a space of obscurity, achieve a voice in a large, noisy art world.

The two of us first met when we were children through the acquaintance of our parents, Miriam and Sigmund Laufer and Resia and Ilya Schor, all of whom were artists and Jewish refugees from Europe who arrived in New York City in the 1940s. We met again in the late 1970s, as artists living and working in New York City.

Bee had a great deal of experience in publishing and book design.  She has designed, edited, and produced many small press and commercial publications as well as having designed L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, which was co-edited by her husband Charles Bernstein. In the early 1980s, Schor had begun to write about gender representation. In the fall of 1986, our disgust with the increasingly overhyped art scene was the final spur to publishing a journal. Over lunch near our studios in Tribeca, we just said, “let’s do it,” not unlike Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, deciding “let’s put on a show.”

 

Mira and Susan in Provincetown, MA, at St. Mary of the Harbor's Beach, 1984.

Mira and Susan in Provincetown, MA, at St. Mary of the Harbor’s Beach, 1984.

Mira and Susan, with issue #5, spring 1990, in the apartment of Mira's mother Resia, New York City

Mira and Susan, with issue #5, spring 1990, in the apartment of Mira’s mother Resia, New York City

Susan and Mira, photo by Sarah Wells, 1991

Susan and Mira, photo by Sarah Wells, 1991

We held a party to celebrate our final print issue, it was on Mira’s birthday, June 1, 1996. Here are some of our friends and contributors from the first ten years of M/E/A/N/I/N/G.

l. to r., Martha Wilson, Carolee Schneemann, and Emma Amos, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

l. to r., Martha Wilson, Carolee Schneemann, and Emma Amos, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996.

l. to r., NIna Felshin, Maureen Connor, and Emily Chen, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

l. to r., Nina Felshin, Maureen Connor, and Emily Cheng, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

Carolee Schneemann and David Humphrey, June 1996.

Carolee Schneemann and David Humphrey, June 1996.

Brad Freeman and Johanna Drucker, 1996.

Brad Freeman and Johanna Drucker, 1996.

Rudy Burckhardt and Charles Bernstein, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

Rudy Burckhardt and Charles Bernstein, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

David Diao and Mimi Gross, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

David Diao and Mimi Gross, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

Susan and Mira, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

Susan and Mira, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

We had a reception at Accola Griefen Gallery in New York December 15, 2011, to celebrate the 25th Anniversary issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G:

Mira and Susan, photo ©)Lawrence Schwarzwald

Mira and Susan, photo © Lawrence Schwartzwald

l. to r.,Tom McEvilley, Jerry Rothenberg, and Charles Bernstein, M/E/A/N/I/N/G 25th Anniversary party at Accola Griefen Gallery, December 15, 2011

l. to r.,Thomas McEvilley, Jerome Rothenberg, and Charles Bernstein, M/E/A/N/I/N/G 25th Anniversary party at Accola Griefen Gallery, December 15, 2011, photo ©Lawrence Schwartzwald

Bradley Rubenstein and Joan Waltemath, M/E/A/N/I/N/G 25th Anniversary party at Accola Griefen Gallery December 15, 2011

Bradley Rubenstein and Joan Waltemath, M/E/A/N/I/N/G 25th Anniversary party at Accola Griefen Gallery December 15, 2011, photo ©Lawrence Schwartzwald

Reception for 25th anniversary issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G, Accola Griefen Gallery, NYC, with Kat Griefen, Kriten Accola, Jackie Brookner, Bob Berlind, Toni Simon, Lenore Malen, Nancy Princenthal, and more, December 15, 2011

Reception for 25th anniversary issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G, Accola Griefen Gallery, Susan Bee and Mira Schor, with Kat Griefen, Kristen Accola, Mary Lucier, Jackie Brookner, Bob Berlind, Judith Linhares, Nancy Princenthal, Lenore Malen, Bradley Rubenstein, Hermine Ford, and more, December 15, 2011, photo ©Lawrence Schwartzwald

*

Time passes, but friendships and community continue.

From l. to r., Johanna Drucker, Susan Bee, Mimi Gross, and Mira Schor at the opening of "Views and Vignettes: The Work of Miriam Laufer," Susan's mother, at the Provincetown ARt Association and Museum, August 11, 2016

From l. to r., Johanna Drucker, Susan Bee, Mimi Gross, and Mira Schor at the opening of “Views and Vignettes: The Work of Miriam Laufer,” Susan’s mother, at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, August 11, 2016.

from l. to r., Mimi Gross, Susan Bee, and Mira Schor, at the opening of their show "Three Friends," at Tim's Used Books, Provincetown, August 19, 2016.

from l. to r., Mimi Gross, Susan Bee, and Mira Schor, at the opening of their show “Three Friends,” at Tim’s Used Books, Provincetown, August 19, 2016.

***

One more installment of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: The Final Issue on A Year of Positive Thinking will appear here this week with statements by Susan Bee and Mira Schor.

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-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

*

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

*

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?

sheila-pepe_glassceilingfantasy

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.

*

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.

*

Deborah Kass

year-final-issue-deb-kass-vote-hillary_42x42_2-copy

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

***

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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail

M/E/A/N/I/N/G: The Final Issue on A Year of Positive Thinking-1

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.

We published 20 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.

Our 25th anniversary issue came out in November 2011, sparked by the transformative moment of Occupy Wall Street. During the past year, we considered marking the 30th anniversary of our collaborative project by publishing a final issue in hard copy, a format we still cherish. Entropy and life intervened. Now, in the wake of the recent election, when the optimism of Occupy is dramatically reversed, we have decided to produce our final issue as a series of posts on A Year of Positive Thinking. Subsequently all the material will be permanently posted and archived on the M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online site.

We have asked some long-time contributors and some new friends to create images and write about where they place meaning today, as we stand weeks before the official inauguration of the right-wing government takeover that has so many of us depressed, terrified, grieving, angry, and trying to figure out what activism we can engage in and how we can balance our dedication to our art with our existence as citizens, local and global. In keeping with the contingency of the time, they have chosen to submit a text, a poem, an image or video clip, a painting, drawing, photograph, or collage, that expresses their views, desires, fears, and thoughts at this time. Hopefully, something that will burrow into people’s consciousness, appeal to their humor, educate, enrage, or inspire.

Because we have always focused our publication on a broad range of issues deeply relevant to the arts community, and because this is our final issue, we also have welcomed reflections on the impact of our entire project over thirty years, including our forums on meaning, on motherhood and art, on racism, on feminism, on resistance, on collaboration, on privacy, on trauma, and on art making over a lifetime from youth to older age. 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

*

Charles Bernstein: For M/E/A/N/I/N/G

bernstein-fire-and-ice

Charles Bernstein’s Pitch of Poetry, new essays, was published in 2016 by the University of Chicago Press. His most recent book of poems is Recalculating (Chicago, 2013). In 2010, Farrar, Straus & Giroux published All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems. Bernstein is Donald T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is the director of PennSound. More info here. Bernstein’s “For M/E/A/N/I/N/G,” about the crisis in art criticism in the mid-80s, was the first essay in the first issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G.

*

Johanna Drucker: Past Optimism and Illusions of Agency

The optimism of M/E/A/N/I/N/G was almost assumed, beginning as it did with the initial force of the Women’s Movement behind us, chronologically speaking. The stage had been set by the (truly) courageous work of Gloria Steinem, Germaine Greer, and the other women who had confronted the patriarchal culture directly, demanding fundamental rights. I was not one of those women marching in the 1970s, and the systematic consciousness-raising that had to proceed through the culture had its effect on me only slowly. One of the myths of artistic identity was exceptionalism. Somehow one would find one’s way on account of it, be exempt as well as distinct, and thus transcend the social processes of oppression or exclusion. Naiveté takes many forms. That was mine. But the shared illusion was optimism about agency—as if social forces could be detourned, contravened, or transcended through self-willed action, individual or collective. Our belief was founded on the notion that barriers and obstacles could be identified and addressed through activism. Our concept of agency was instrumental. We believed that focused and directed activity could have an effect. We even saw those effects in legislation and Supreme Court rulings.

Why did we imagine, then, that progress would always be forward in its drives? That battles once won would not have to be fought again? That was where we missed a deeper historical and cultural understanding. The asymmetries of gender are real. If we look globally, and across diverse areas of cultural life—medicine, education, health, civil rights, and financial opportunity—the right to self-determination is still far from guaranteed. Even in our own highly privileged environments, the asymmetries operate every day to position women differently from male colleagues at the same level of accomplishment, stature, and age. The means by which these symptomatic realities are enacted are not themselves fully apparent.

In the recent election, which will mark a major turning point in the history of the West, not just America as a failed experiment in maintaining the elements of society required for a viable social contract, we see how far we have not come. Not only because we did not elect a woman president, but because the rhetoric of misogyny, the backlash against women’s rights, and most fundamentally, rights over our bodies, is so stridently angry. Optimism is gone, at least for now, and the elegy to optimism must give rise to activism and support for the generations ahead. We know that, and yet, these moments have the feel of real tragedy, the broken figures of characters caught in the inevitability of forces against which we had thought we had some power.

Now we need to recognize that social forces have their own agency, own capacity for repressive and backlash actions. We who have so long critiqued Reason should not be surprised when it does not prevail. Our charge is to model our understanding of the workings of the social world differently than in the Newtonian mechanics of the past. The concept of agency has to be re-conceptualized within the forces of occulted and intractable conditions, as a systemic complexity to which we are subject, not merely—or even—self-directed participants. Illusions about agency make its actualization elusive. Much work lies ahead. M/E/A/N/I/N/G provided a start point, but now, with checks and impasses, the work to be done is less clear perhaps than it was when the struggles seemed identifiable and lines of conflict were able to be drawn with some certainty.

Johanna Drucker is an artist and writer known for her typographic work, innovative writing, and interest in the visual dimensions of language and knowledge. She has written and published widely on topics related to contemporary art, digital media, and aesthetics and is currently the Breslauer Professor in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA. Drucker’s text, “LES IMMATERIAUX: Long-term Effects of the Exhibition” appeared in the first issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G.  

*

Sharon Louden—Artists: Calling for a Mandate

Oceti Sakowin Camp, Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2016.

Oceti Sakowin Camp, Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2016.

As I write this essay on a plane from Minneapolis to Miami, I am looking forward to seeing all kinds of art this week. I carry with me the memories of my time with the incredible people I met at Oceti Sakowin Camp, Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota last week. Hyperallergic editor Hrag Vartanian had the idea to visit Standing Rock over the Thanksgiving holiday. We (with Veken Gueyikian and Vinson Valega) were there to support the water protectors, talk with artists, and stand in solidarity at the front lines of demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline. My perspective is one from an artist embraced in the strong and always welcoming artists’ community which I found at Standing Rock.

Artist Yatika Starr Fields (second from the left near his painting) poses with admirers of his work at Oceti Sakowin Camp, North Dakota.

Artist Yatika Starr Fields (second from the left near his painting) poses with admirers of his work at Oceti Sakowin Camp, North Dakota.

Entering the camp, I thought there may be some resistance to our visit. I couldn’t be more wrong about that initial trepidation. The actions and conversations that took place at the camp were coming from a peaceful, loving place. What the police and military were doing was not. They were systematically and aggressively taking human rights away from Native Americans.

As artists, some (if not most) of us have been misunderstood and not accepted most of our lives. And often times, we are censored. What I learned at Standing Rock was a reaffirmation of the strength of our community. Given our current political climate, there is a clear urgency to preserve creativity as a human right. Thus, I’m calling for a mandate that all artists share their wealth.

What does it mean to share “wealth” while so many of us are struggling? As artists, we are privileged and have a tremendous amount of assets that we often do not recognize. These assets include managing and bouncing back from failure, naturally creating things from nothing and sharing our most intimate truth in the way we know how. And we do it well by sharing it with others, in exhibitions, performances, or just in simple conversation. By showing up and being present in any situation, we become sources of validation for those seeking creativity. Because we carry so many assets within us, we can create opportunities for our fellow artists and the general public.

Our visit to Standing Rock reinforced that there will inevitably be human rights violations under a Trump presidency. We have a responsibility to our fellow artists to share every opportunity that is received. If you have an exhibition, why not suggest others to show with you? If you receive a grant, perhaps use the profits to create a project with others. If you can write about another artist’s work, do it and circulate it widely. If you can hire artists, pay them a living wage. Refer artists to others who can open doors for them or simply inquire about their work, which can go a long way. I know this fluid practice will be an example for others to be able to speak freely in a compromised society.

Surrounded by capitalism at the fairs and away from the kindness and strength of the Native artists in North Dakota, I’m reminded that anywhere there is creativity, it must be recognized. If all of us shared each other’s work, inevitably doors will open. At the end of the day, it’s the natural assets that all artists embody that will further our growth no matter what obstacles are put in front of us. This is an opportunity to use our power, which should never be underestimated.

Oceti Sakowin Camp, Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota, the day after Thanksgiving, November 25, 2016.

Oceti Sakowin Camp, Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota, the day after Thanksgiving, November 25, 2016.

Sharon Louden, “Windows” (detail) aluminum and steel screws, dimensions variable, at the Tweed Museum of Art, Duluth, MN.

Sharon Louden, “Windows” (detail) 2015. Aluminum and steel screws, dimensions variable, at the Tweed Museum of Art, Duluth, MN.

Sharon Louden is an artist, advocate for artists and editor of Living and Sustaining a Creative Life books.

*

Tatiana Istomina: Some thoughts on fear and permanence

It is hard for me personally to come to terms with the new American reality. Having lived in this country for thirteen years, I developed a sincere trust in the American democratic system and a belief that, despite many drawbacks, it continues to sustain basic ethical values. Such belief does not come easy to someone who, like I, was born in the Soviet Union and came of age at the start of Putin’s rule in the post-Soviet Russia. Lately I have found myself reverting to my Russian habits of coping with a horrible political climate – staying away from politically-oriented social media, avoiding reading or watching news, mentally blocking all thought about future, etc. It is easy to dismiss such an attitude as defeatist. However, for millions of people around the world it ensures their ability to go on with their lives despite the daily feelings of dread, depression or imminent danger. They learn to direct their energy away from active social or political engagement – which in many countries is pointless and mortally dangerous – to cultivating personal relationships, building families, cooperating on local projects, writing poetry or making art – in short, creating alternative worlds to their abhorrent reality. Such work needs to go on even in the darkest of times, to sustain the seeds of possible futures for when the society is ready to change. It is a quiet work, and the results may be difficult to detect, but this makes it all the more necessary. Perhaps it is not accidental that in Russian language, “to be silent” is an active verb.

Over the past three years I have worked on a project that used drawing and storytelling to explore various concepts of danger and fearfulness in American society. I invited different people to tell me a “scary” story about anything that concerned them in their lives or the life of the society, and to draw in response to another person’s narrative. I then reworked the stories and drawings into short films and released them online. The stories of many participants expressed not only their personal anxieties, but also the collective fears caused by major social and political problems in the country. As a result, the collection of “Scary Story” films has become a reflection of the psychological landscape of contemporary America, with its racial and economic tensions and polarized opinions on issues such as climate change, women’s rights, gun control, etc.

The video excerpt below may well be symptomatic of the mood of deep anxiety and uncertainty that has pervaded the country in recent years. “A happy guy’s story” narrated by James Biderman, with drawings by Barbara Westermann, was recorded in 2014, and released in 2015. More videos and information about Scary Stories may be found on the project’s website.

Tatiana Istomina is a Russian-born artist based in New York; she works with painting, drawing and video. She is also an art critic writing for several online and paper publications and for her blog, Metaleptic.

*

Toni Simon

Exhale the finite glow of our forgotten planet. If only we had a parachute of elastic carbon to forestall its demise.

To be without a backdrop when there’s no curtain, that’s the imitation. Too elusive to be apprehended by pursuing parables and forestalled by that very wicket that we tripped over to begin with.

We are back at the start with only a cart and a wheel.

toni-simon-earth_stars72

Toni Simon is a multimedia artist living in Brooklyn. Her illustrated book of prose poetry Earth After Earth was published by Lunar Chandelier Press in 2012. She is collaborating on a literary/visual project entitled Dear Air with poet Joanna Fuhrman.

***

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, Aviva Rahmani, Aziz+Cucher, Bailey Doogan, Beverly Naidus, Bradley Rubenstein, Christen Clifford, Deborah Kass, Erica Hunt, Faith Wilding, Hermine Ford, Jennifer Bartlett, Jenny Perlin, Joseph Nechvatal, Joy Garnett and Bill Jones, Joyce Kozloff, Judith Linhares, Kat Griefen, Kate Gilmore, Legacy Russell, Lenore Malen, Mary Garrard, Martha Wilson, Maureen Connor, Michelle Jaffé, Mimi Gross, Myrel Chernick, Noah Dillon, Noah Fischer, Peter Rostovsky, LigoranoReese, Rachel Owens, Rit Premnath, Robert C. Morgan, Robin Mitchell, Roger Denson, Sheila Pepe, Shirley Kaneda, Susanna Heller, Suzy Spence, Tamara Gonzalez and Chris Martin, Faith Wilding, William Villalongo, 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.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail