If, indeed, the term “institutional critique” emerged as shorthand for “the critique of institutions,” today that catchphrase has been even further reduced by restrictive interpretations of its constituent parts: “institution” and “critique.” The practice of institutional critique is generally defined by its apparent object, “the institution,” which is, in turn, taken to refer primarily to established, organized sites for the presentation of art. As the flyer for the symposium at LACMA put it, institutional critique is art that exposes “the structures and logic of museums and art galleries.” “Critique” appears even less specific than “institution,” vacillating between a rather timid “exposing,” “reflecting,” or “revealing,” on the one hand, and visions of the revolutionary overthrow of the existing museological order on the other, with the institutional critic as a guerrilla fighter engaging in acts of subversion and sabotage, breaking through walls and floors and doors, provoking censorship, bringing down the powers that be. In either case, “art” and “artist” generally figure as antagonistically opposed to an “institution” that incorporates, coopts, commodifies, and otherwise misappropriates once - radical - and uninstitutionalized - practices. These representations can admittedly be found in the texts of critics associated with institutional critique. However, the idea that institutional critique opposes art to institution, or supposes that radical artistic practices can or ever did exist outside of the institution of art before being “institutionalized” by museums, is contradicted at every turn by the writings and work of Asher, Broodthaers, Buren, and Haacke. From Broodthaers’s announcement of his first gallery exhibition in 1964 - which he begins by confiding that “the idea of inventing something insincere finally crossed my mind” and then informing us that his dealer will “take thirty percent” - the critique of the apparatus that distributes, presents, and collects art has been inseparable from a critique of artistic practice itself. As Buren put it in “The Function of the Museum” in 1970, if “the Museum makes its ‘mark,’ imposes its ‘frame’… on everything that is exhibited in it, in a deep and indelible way,” it does so easily because “everything that the Museum shows is only considered and produced in view of being set in it.” In “The Function of the Studio” from the following year, he couldn’t be more clear, arguing that the “analysis of the art system must inevitably be carried on” by investigating both the studio and the museum “as customs, the ossifying customs of art.”
Jordan Larson wrote a piece in the LA Review of Books last month on contemporary fiction and magical realism that I’ve been mulling over. I just saw Her and am writing a lengthy review on it. There are an awful lot of movies about apocalypses coming out nowadays.
I was also at The Poetry Project tonight, and the poet Evelyn Reilly said something to the mutual feeling of doom we (those in the room) have for some reason in a rather flawed but a comfortable future (compared to WWI, etc). I started thinking about invisibility and rupture; that we can no longer recognize violence. That which we do see are moments of fantastical, artificial interruptions—allegorical, packaged. We, interrupting our fictions for some change, some feeling, because any violence is almost surreal, foreign, and textual1 to us. This has been interrupting my own writing recently: the splay of empty images who invite, comfortingly, a dull hypnosis.
There are two rough areas of being I see here: those whose informatic life activity goes largely uninterrupted and those whose informatic life activity is constantly rerouted, without consent, to a reminder of the body. These are those for whom text reveals intention of historical and contemporary hostilities towards female, dark, and non-normative bodies. The text reveals its other meanings through only a memory of bodies. This is what troubles me about text for the former kind: its erasure of bodies.
1 Textual: malleable, accessible, quantifiable, streamable.
A poem really needs some time to age. When I used to take them to readings young and green off the mornings, they lived and died with the audience of my memory or that thinned repetition where I barely remember the poem itself in favor of the scene it created.
Lately I’ve been writing poems at home, where the time and space is very DIY and very othered from the mass production of writing in morning for class at noon or a reading at night. I feel like I notice my verses, down to the crannies of my c’s and such, and one escapes innuendo. I’m in no rush to prove myself or the novelty of my work. My words are what they are and who they mean to me, and they can stay for as long as they’d like on alien-green notecards (or just the real stuffs of digital imagination). When they and I are ready, usually after a week or so, I reread and try to taste the same juices that placed them. The hours ensconce in memories. If I am lucky, there is the sweetness that made me once, there again.
The world is full of wishes that we have done something or the regret that we had done some thing. Is there any way to know that is not changing destinations. Is there any truth that can come out before you are either regretting the past or paralyzed by the future. The current present is the exchange between them on hyperdrive, because our brains are the carriers of past and the translators of the present into that. The present is the past is definitely in our head, and it is present until that shelf life of arbitrary measurement that reminds us of the passage of time, whatever that is in the culture that you or I practice. The practice of present is actually the practice of the near present, the past that is so close to us we would mistake it for our own skin. The collection of this option into the fold of general knowledge is troubling because living in the moment is scientifically a lie yet emotionally relevant. Living in the moment is interested, ironically, in living where the brain stops making the last in its little sensory factories of memory which make us. Yesterday and today we are the same and different people in the way that you can always occupy a different degree of a circle if you cut it right. Because cutting and marking are the good ways to infinity which is a concept and so too is everything getting there. We are all in our heads and the world is heading into us.