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February 26, 2007

Comments

deSelby

Nice piece.

Franklin

I still can't decide whether to spend my time on this book. To its credit, she at least seems like she's talking about what artists are actually doing, as opposed to starting with an a priori theory. On the other hand, she seems as unwilling to judge work as any other accomplice to the contemporary art industrial complex. That some late-modernists get it in the neck along the way is not sufficient to entice me.

J@simpleposie

Why not read it - as opposed to starting with an a priori theory?

J@simpleposie

I didn't mean that to sound snippy - I thought JL's review was compelling enough to give Sweet Dreams a second read.

JL

Hi Franklin,

I'm sure there's plenty in the book that you'd disagree with, and I've no doubt that Drucker's theoretical perspective wouldn't be to your taste. On the other hand, part of what's valuable about her book is the way she combines elements that you don't often see together, which to some degree means no one (or very few) are going to be entirely comfortable with it. More than getting people in the neck, Drucker's trying to clear some ground, get rid of some stale debates and ossified thinking, and, as you say, pay attention to what artists are doing. In that, her book can be valuable to a lot of people who even still might disagree with her on other issues.

Thanks for the kind words, deSelby and J.

Franklin

Fair enough. I'll borrow JL's copy when he's done with it.

ahab

It's not good debating strategy to admit such a thing, but I cannot understand the first three sentences of that quote on Cecily Brown (no more than I could upon a first read of it on some versions of pastoral some days ago). If the rest of the book reads so ambiguous and oblique I can be sure it will be a book I will abandon, and one which I must therefore preempt by avoidance.

But just as honestly, I find the convergence of populism and pomoism is so very confusing, and also admit that I wish I could understand it well enough to appreciate it's actuality - I can't shed the worry that I must be missing some key concept that will let me in.

Yet there is nothing more important than the actual, which I can always fully appreciate, and which neither pop nor "the contemporary art industrial complex" care a whit about.

Bunny Smedley

Ahab's got a point.

On one hand, when JL writes about a new book in these terms, it seems perverse to pause, even for a single reflective moment, in sending off the relevant Amazon order.

And yet ... on the other hand, I've got to admit that I found those quoted passages massively hard going, that I found Drucker's comments on that Cecily Brown painting both hilariously excessive and bizarrely unsuited to what I could see of the work itself, and that the mere mention of "what might politely [almost more than anything else I love JL's unfailing good manners!] be called non-teleological, materialist sociology of a structuralist bent characterististic of the visual studies field in which [Drucker] works" makes my generally pretty tepid blood run ice-cold.

What to do? Oh, what the hell, I'm sure I'll buy the thing, if only for the reasons Ahab spells out so succinctly, but I can't say I'll be standing by the front door counting the moments until the post arrives each morning - and I'm not sure, at the end of a long day, that I'll be up to the task of grappling with that prose, those abstract concepts, that whole ideological orientation.

A final point: if everyone who thought deeply about art wrote as lucidly and elegantly as JL, or indeed was as honest as Ahab, the world would be a better, albeit unrecognisable place!

JL

What to do?

Head to the library, I think. I should note that while I'm enjoying the book, and finding it useful in waking me from my dogmatic slumbers, I can't honestly recommend that anyone with a distaste for academic art theory pay money for the book. She's arguing against current theories, but it is, if I may borrow from the lingo, an immanent critique. I'd also recommend only skimming the "Critical Histories" chapter--it's in there mostly for academic credibility purposes, I think, and doesn't contain much that can't be gleaned elsewhere in the book while also having the densest theoretical sections. The book can be appreciated very highly, however, as a challenge, and possible source of use.

Thanks to all for commenting--and thanks for the compliments, Bunny. I think we all can agree that if all art critics wrote like you, the field would not be in the crises so many say it is.

Bunny Smedley

Since we'll soon be celebrating the anniversary of my last bit of actual public writing, it's certainly clear that if more art critics wrote like me, the field would look - well, different, certainly - but, well, minimalism is not without its austere charms. Anyway, thanks for the kind words, JL.

Meanwhile, thanks also for the tips on which bits to skim or skip ... somehow I know I will feel less shoddy about this now that I've had some sort of official sanction!

martin

i want to read a book by bunny smedley.

JL

i want to read a book by bunny smedley.

So do I. Multiple books.

Bunny Smedley

Well, if we're making up wish lists, I'd very much like to read a book by JL. Multiple books. On multiple topics, too, not just this dreary 'art' business.

JL

Well, thank you, Bunny, but you see, I'm a mess when it comes to longer forms. Anything longer than a blog post and I start tripping over my own feet.

Arthur  Whitman

Hey. thats still better than I can do.

JL

You do fine, man. And it's not like I've been tearing it up around here prior to the past two days.

Bunny Smedley

I'm a mess when it comes to longer forms. Anything longer than a blog post and I start tripping over my own feet.

Maybe, but certainly your longer 'blog posts' (like Franklin's) are really something very different from the usual scrappy, inconsequential and unconsidered space-filler that phrase tends to imply. And once we've established that - well, it's perfectly possible to write a beautiful, important book out of 1,000-word chapters. Elegant concision has a lot going for it. In other words, I'm not giving up my dream of owning a JL book just yet.

(Also, as I should have said earlier, thanks both to JL and to Martin. It's a nice thought, anyway.)

Franklin

Ditto on books, verily, multi-book contracts, for JL and Bunny.

And thank you to Bunny.

JL

Books are too hard. I'm lazy.

ahab

So, it's unanimous - your (collective) first book will be an anthology.

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