Monday, April 10, 2006

Benjaminian Blogstyle

Walter Benjamin was a blogger, remixologist, hypertextualist, and theoretical performer before any these terms saw the light of day. Back in the first half of the 20th century, when he was on fire with the discovery of what would eventually become critical theory, he was sampling and remixing all manner of images, texts, diagrams, poetry, etc. His Arcades project, which after years of anticipation is now available in English, could be viewed as the first significant precursor to theoretical performance in wild blogstyle. I first got turned on to this project and its "theory-as-performance" implications about 20 years ago when I read Susan Buck-Morss' "The Dialectics of Seeing" - a title I liked so much that I used it as one of the section titles to my CODEWORK installation now in the Denver Art Museum collection.

If I were to summon the spirit of Benjamin today, just for kicks, I would match up the following quote with the attached image as a way to keep the flow of my own theory performance going:

...if I specialize in a medium, then I would be fixing a ground for myself, a ground I would have to be digging myself out of, constantly, as one medium was substituted for another - so, then instead of turning toward 'ground' I would shift my attention and turn to 'instrument,' I would focus on myself as the instrument that acted on whatever ground was available.

Vito Acconci - "Steps Into Performance (And Out)"

UPDATE: The image above is from the last of three panels of a large offset lithograph by Robert Rauschenberg from 1968 titled Autobiography. This lower panel is represented by an enlarged photograph of Rauschenberg during his 1963 performance "Pelican," in which he wears rollerskates and a parachute on a wooden armature harnessed to his back. Rauschenberg was one of several performers and he also choreographed this performance. The work was commissioned by Alice Denney who also, as the US Vice-Commissioner, invited Rauschenberg, along with Jasper Johns, to represent the USA at the Venice Biennial in 1964, where Rauschenberg went on to win The Grand Prize. Here in Washington DC as a visiting artist tonight, I was lucky enough to have dinner with the 83-year-old Alice at her fascinating house-cum-gallery. She had some great stories to tell about Bob and all of the other artists who passed through and stayed in her home. More of these stories (in the same vein as my Nam June Paik stories), to come soon...including insights into the big DADA show at the National Gallery of Art and how I will now collaborate with my DC host Randall Packer in the first-ever performance art work in the National Gallery to take place as part of this same DADA exhibition on May 6th...)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mark - I was a non-student lurking in the audience at the AU talk - really enjoyed it and look forward to the NGA performance.

6:07 PM  

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