words for the online world
Pinky lives in a hotel
Between Simonetta[I] and the 3 Women[II] stretches a childish[III] gaze[IV].
Open pores[V] line their yielding[VI] profiles.
As if in a coma[VII], or another such example[VIII], the five women experience the passing of an imperceptible moment[IX] of disinterested beauty[X].
As Archer[XI] knew before them, truth[XII] is located in Between; in Liminality[XIII].
The women’s mimetic[XIV] body-swapping[XV] mirrors the myth-swapping[XVI] that occurred at a moment of rationality[XVII], albeit in reverse[XVIII].
Rather than becoming individuals[XIX], their affinity[XX] points to a mimesis of rationalization[XXI], as well as to sex[XXII].
An overheard commentary[XXIII] reveals the women in a state of transition[XXIV].
It appears they favour[XXV] a dilution of connecting parts[XXVI] rather than “the thing as a whole.”[XXVII]
But is it not the Artwork[XXVIII] that points[XXIX] to that vacant[XXX] hotel[XXXI]-stare? (Conceptual artists were not the most unlikely[XXXII] to enter crisis[XXXIII])
As the aphorism[XXXIV] goes, modern art may be interesting[XXXV], but not interesting enough[XXXVI] to retain interest[XXXVII].
[I] The piece Between Simonetta from 2011, is about the human eye’s threshold to perceive movement. The digital movement of the profiles here is too slow for the eye to perceive. No matter how hard the viewer tries, she will never catch the moment when the profile aligns with Bottacelli’s Simonetta; the true moment of beauty. It will always be too late; it has always slipped from grasp.
[II] The film 3 Women is about the concept of the interesting. Pinky meets Millie when she lands a job at Millie’s workplace, an aquatic rehabilitation center. Pinky has timid and childish characteristics and quickly becomes captivated by the confidence and grace of Millie.
[III] Although her age is 19, Pinky’s manners describe her as a child half that. Her attention is constantly directed outside herself and she is governed solely by her infatuation with Millie.
[IV] Pinky watches Millie with a captivated gaze. All is described in her gaze.
[V] Pinky is a porous person. She is open to being affected and changed by others; led by their idiosyncrasies. She is abstracted from her place of origin, and seems to lead a transient existence without belongings, a home, friends, family, desires, goals, special interests or any other relations generally useful for describing a person’s place in the world.
[VI] Yielding is related to porousness as they both regard a blending of boundaries. An interested subject yields to that which they find interesting in the hopes to absorb it and merge into one.
[VII] At a point in the film, after Pinky moves in with Millie, Millie gets angry with her and brings home Ed and the two have sex. Pinky is traumatized by this event and jumps off the balcony into a shallow swimming pool. She is taken to hospital where she remains in a coma for several weeks. After she awakens, Millie has takes her home, and it becomes clear Pinky’s character has changed completely. She has adopted many of Millie’s characteristics and manners. Pinky has transformed into Millie - albeit with perversions. Millie grows more annoyed. She is also attracted by difference, and cannot find someone exactly like herself interesting.
[VIII] Twilight, New Years Eve, meditation, ghosts, refugees, undocumented immigrants, transgendered and intersex persons, weddings, magicians, mediators, churches, hotels, airports, train stations, borders, revolutions, wars, times of rapid technological growth.
[IX] The two digital paintings mirror one another, side-by-side. As the women gaze at each other, their profile lines slowly transform into the other until they swap facial features completely. According to the mechanics there must be a moment when they look identical, perfect mirror images of perfect beauty, but the moment is imperceptible to the naked eye.
[X] Immanuel Kant sets beauty and interest in opposition. Taste in the beautiful is said to be the only relation to the feeling of pleasure that is disinterested, and thus set apart from the agreeable and the good, “…for, with it, no interest, whether of sense or reason, extorts approval.”
[XI] In the 1997 film Face/Off, Sean Archer, an FBI agent, undergoes facial-transplant surgery to assume the identity and physical appearance of a terrorist, Caster Troy, while Caster is in a coma. When Caster awakes he realizes he is missing his face and demands the doctor adhere Archer’s face on him. As the actors swap roles the viewer must assign the new appearances to their memory of the original character, creating a disjuncture between the image, the ideal and memory.
[XII] Between Simonetta is truthful because it assigns beauty a liminal space. Beauty takes its place between a subject and an object in the space of imagination - in between mimesis and rationality. It never rests; it never lands, for it takes no objective form. It is never captured, nor laid to rest, for it can never be still. It is that just beyond or just behind the present; just missed; just out of reach.
[XIII] Liminality is a space of disorientation. During the middle-stage of rituals, individuals stand at a threshold between their previous way of structuring their identity, time or community, and a new way. It is the period of disruption of an individual’s, or a society’s course of identification with a certain object.
[XIV] Some people, like Theodor Adorno, believe art is the last refuge of mimetic behavior. For them art is a combination of mimesis and rationality; it is the rational construction of mimesis. When an artwork is viewed what is seen is the infinite reflection between mimesis and rationality.
[XV] During the Enlightenment society changed bodies; from a body unified with its subjectivity, to an objectified body, separated from its subjectivity. The new body-type is an object of nature, and the new mind-type is the engine of rationality. Mind now controls nature.
[XVI] Liminality is a period of myth-swapping, when one myth is replaced with another. Enlightenment provides as an example. Here the myth of the mimetic human whose primary identification was with nature, changed to the myth of the rational human separated from nature whereby nature became an object to control.
[XVIII] Pinky goes through the Enlightenment transformation in reverse. First, she recognizes herself as separate from her idolized object, Millie. But, after a traumatic accident and a liminal period of induced coma, she enters a stage of primary mimesis, in which she exists as a part of Millie, separate just enough to deny that she is separate.
[XIX] It is only by encountering something more interesting than ourselves that we become individuals. By the end of the 19th century, the boulevards of Paris were full of spectators and spectacles. Everyone was out in their finest attire, looking at one another in the hopes of seeing someone more interesting than themselves, and in turn be that someone more interesting for another. Painters turned their attention away from historical and biblical subjects towards depictions of bohemians, dandies, baronesses, barmaids, clergymen, gypsies, and themselves.
[XX] Post-coma, Pinky and Millie have affinity – they share the being of the object that is ‘Millie’. Caster and Archer have affinity – they share the object that is their facial appearance.
[XXI] Modern art is the mimesis of rationalization. The modern artist is unable to separate her animal being from rationality. She cannot identify rationality as something exterior to her consciousness. This mimesis is taken to its climax by the conceptual artists of the 1960s and subsequently falls into crisis.
[XXII] The only sanctioned places where one can be mimetic, that is where one can act non-rationally, is in religion, cults, sex, and art. After the critique of religion and cultism in Western society, all that is left is sex and art.
[XXIII] The bridge of the nose must come in a bit further, the chin must come out a little, the eyes a little more closed… and.. and…and… it’s over, it passed, it went, I missed it, it moved too much. Now she descends back into ugliness.
[XXIV] The demand of conceptual artists like Donald Judd was for art to be understood as a tool for transition. It was to signify the movement of meaning according the mimetic impulse of interest. It was clear to them that human beings were led by the idea of their own potentiality. Movement towards that which incited wonder, surprise and progress governed Western society. Progress relied upon the provability of the improbable.
[XXV] Favour is for interest, for liking. “An object of inclination, and one which a law of reason imposes upon our desire,” Kant insists, “leaves us no freedom to turn anything into an object of pleasure. All interest presupposes a want, or calls one forth: and being a ground determining approval, deprives the judgment on the object of it’s freedom.” By this account Pinky does not favour Millie; she finds her beautiful. The pleasure she feels from encountering Millie is both rational and irrational. She attempts to rationalize her pleasure in saying, “It just seems like she [Millie] does everything right,” but she is clearly dragged into infatuation by irrational forces. ‘Doing everything right’ is a claim of agreeability (not requiring rationality, as demonstrated also in animals) and goodness (not requiring irrationality, as in “good is good for every rational being in general”). Beauty is the only relation of representations to the feeling of pleasure for human beings only, i.e., for beings at once animal and rational.
[XXVI] “They are not diluted by an inherited format, variations of a form, mild contrasts and connecting parts and areas. European art had to represent a space and it’s contents as well as have sufficient unity and aesthetic interest. Abstract painting before 1946 and most subsequent painting kept the representational subordination of the whole to it’s parts. In the new work the shape, image, color and surface are single and not partial and scattered. There aren’t’ any neutral or moderate areas or parts, any connections or transitional areas.” – Donald Judd, Specific Objects (1965)
[XXVII] “It isn’t necessary for a work to have a lot of things to look at, to compare, analyze one by one, contemplate. The thing as a whole, it’s quality as a whole, is what is interesting. The main things are alone and are more intense clear and powerful.” (Ibid)
[XXVIII] Robert Barry, Artwork (1970)
It is always changing
It has order
It doesn’t have a specific place
It’s boundaries are not fixed
It affects other things
It is affected by other things
It may be accessible but go unnoticed
Part of it may also be part of something else
Some of it is familiar
Some of it is strange
Knowing of it changes it.
[XXIX] All conceptual art is just pointing at things.
[XXX] Pinky represents a tabula rasa, a state of open, ever-absorbing, vacant blankness.
[XXXI] Pinky lives in a hotel.
[XXXII] Conceptual artists were invested in making art interesting, which meant they celebrated the concept of the ‘unlikely’. All things in the world most unlikely to be considered art were brought to the studio where a rational process was undertaken to prove that they could in fact be imbued with artistic meaning.
[XXXIII] The collapse of conceptual art was considered by Benjamin as the crisis of mimesis. (Perhaps it is not over yet).
[XXXIV] Aphorisms. We can use speech as an example in order to show that the interesting is located between rationality and irrationality. “There are some ideas that are so wrong that only an insane person can believe in them.” This is probable and provable, but so obviously so that it looses relevance and interest. “There are some ideas that are so wrong that only a dog can believe in them.” This is not probable or provable. In fact it has been proven that dogs cannot have ideas. “There are some ideas that are so wrong that only a very intelligent person can believe in them.” This proposes a challenge to our common sense. It has a small probability of being true, according to our common sense, but if it were to be proved, it would produce great significance and interest. Indeed, George Orwell spent his writing career proving this improbable statement.
[XXXV] What makes a theory interesting is it’s presentation of a plausible proof for what appears to be least probable. This is true for artistic theory as it is for the field of science. Attention should not be directed toward the obvious, the probable, the predictable, as the results will surely bore viewers. After all, our interest in a certain artwork, book, theory or scientific finding is an anticipation of a possible profit from an intellectual investment.
[XXXVI] “Oddity and madness are not interesting in and of themselves,” Epstein writes, “but only in that kind of madness that has it’s own method, “a mind of it’s own”…”. (Epstein, 82) Mimesis must ultimately be governed by rationality. “Your theory is crazy, but it’s not crazy enough to be interesting” (82) In other words, it’s not crazy enough to be considered having it’s own logic.
[XXXVII] Mikhail Epstein wrote an essay about the interesting. In it he notes that the contemporary meaning of interesting (as curious, attracting attention) has only been used in English since the late eighteenth century. It evolved from the earlier sense of the word interest as a financial term. Low probability, high return; high probability, low return. The mechanism that produces the greatest return is rationality, provability - if the stock is unlikely to go up in value, yet it proves to do just that.