Although suicide might be an appropriate subject for the holidays, the documentation of the new tapestry started on the last post, will continue after this break. Real tragedies intervene.
Today, I’m posting images of the creatures of La Laguna. Frozen in time, the simple, worn concrete shapes evoke so much charm and joy in being, seemingly, unaffected by the gravity of life.
Our new studio in San Gabriel is near the mission and Vincent Lugo Park where you can find La Laguna. The last project of Benjamin Dominguez, La Laguna of San Gabriel was completed in 1965 when he was seventy. After designing children’s parks in the Whittier Narrows and Garden Grove, La Laguna is an accumulation of his best creatures: Minnie the whale; Stella the starfish; Ozzie the octopus; and Flipper, Speedy, and Peanut the dolphins.
Listed on the California Registry of Historic Places, it is important as a part of California’s Chicano heritage. The increased visibility of Chicano art and heritage came hand-in-hand with efforts to better conditions for farm workers and improve civil rights. To learn more about the park and to donate toward its current rehabilitation, see Friends of La Laguna.
Small trial quilt experimenting with ink-jet prints on fabric and padding (sold at auction benefit for the Ivanhoe School).
Everything is in disarray, moving studios. When everything is in chaos, it’s easier to plan new projects as current projects sit wraithlike wrapped in plastic sheeting.
Planning a new tapestry that will include ink-jet prints collaged with other fabrics in a pattern of internalized dissonance. Parts of the tapestry will be padded, decor for the psych ward. The subject, again, is the therapatized self. The Happiness Addict hooked on cats in a state of psychosis.
The Suicide (or self-annihilating) tapestry will be documented as it develops. A film may follow.
Monuments give symbolic expression to larger cultural, political, or historic movements. They leave a record, a built archive. The scale of the mausoleum, obelisk, or statue speaks of power and dominion. Financial power determines political power even as it grows more center-less, unattached to place, “hyper-abstract.” Monuments are superfluous now that power’s dominion is Everywhere and Nowhere.
The proposed public works, Monuments to the Failed Future, are phantasmagorical, bloated, and irrational. These monuments are taken out of the built environment and are placed into the space of a mythic America. The chosen sites are accessible only through dreams. These landscapes reflect a psychic terrain of inarticulate loneliness and a regressive form of freedom.
The dream of addiction and recovery rises above the trees.
Tatlin’s Model for a Monument to the Third International, 1920, was the first monument to declare itself “to the future!” Political desire was reflected in Constructivist designs: “every object, created by artists today, must enter into life as an active force, organizing man’s consciousness, acting on him psychologically, and generating within him an upsurge of energy.” (A. Vesnin, Kredo, 1922)
Capitalism also once promoted a political ideology of abundance for all, “a chicken in every pot,” well-being for the masses. But corporate personhood and unregulated profit-machines destroyed that promise as much as the Soviet party systems did in consolidating power and privilege for the few.
Today, the pace of our lives are ever-accelerating, having moved from industrial to cognitive labor. We are self-proclamation machines broadcasting through social branding and networking. Our fifteen minutes have withered to bytes. This rapid acceleration is progressing at an ever quickening pace leaving no time for dreams, contemplation, or reasonable doubt. Emotion has taken over all aspects of our public lives. In turn, we suffer from panic attacks, attention deficit disorders, depression, and burn-out. Pharmacology offers the only solution.
The Monument to the Triumph of Illusion over Reality is in its first stage. The model is in flux and mutable. But what can be said now is, it wants to relieve you of your depression and anxiety. Unaggressive, it’s emotionally absorbent, energy dispersing, and soft. Made of used t-shirts, it is worn enough to be comfortable, anxiety over choice is eliminated. Undemanding, it exists to soothe and comfort.
A sign given emotional weight by the scale and depth of the upholstered text, layered in golden debris. Some golden chunks will have detached and landed along the base of the structure. A hole on the top right needs repair.
It is unwieldy and heavy, kept upright by archaic, rickety engineering. Sandbags will keep the entire wobbly apparatus from falling face down. The emotional and physical are interchangeable.
holey America, 2005, acrylic yarn and rubber bands
The utopian dream that the industrial revolution, secular humanism, and Freudian psychoanalysis promised: a rational society concerned with the well-being of its weakest members, this was the Modern project born of the French Revolution. Now, Utopia has become the sad, embarrassing uncle with Alzheimer’s and a penchant for impolite speech, his scent of dysfunction nearly intolerable. Like book collectors and grammarians, contemplating a utopian future is for the antique academician.
Unlimited campaign spending by secretive, outside groups protected by tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status, a consequence of Citizen’s United, undermines democracy. Unregulated global capitalism thrives. The masses, far from representing a rational society, are easily manipulated by emotion and false narratives. Industrial modernity as mass salvation has been betrayed by its own success.
“This dream has repeatedly turned into a nightmare, leading to catastrophes of war, exploitation, dictatorship, and technological destruction. To continue this dream into the future, impervious to the ecological dangers, would be nothing less than suicidal. But these catastrophic effects need to be criticized in the name of the democratic, utopian hope to which the dream gave expression, not as a rejection of it.”
Susan Buck-Morss, Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West, MIT Press, 2002
How it started: letters in relief, white-on-white, but lacking the symmetry of the Modernist grid.
The irregular line of the text is imperfect, somewhat unruly, too independent, falling below manufacturer’s standards. The failure to plan ahead and fit the words onto the banner lies entirely with the artist. This effort is sub-par, childish, and inadequate.
“Feel better” is a standardized reaction to negative emotions, a cliché, part of the “slang of our culture” (Lionel Trilling). The text is too large, billboard-sized, exhorting readers to action. This unwieldy object tries to affect emotional change. The inadequacies of this text to conform to higher standards subsumes its ability to accomplish that which it demands.
Today, in the studio, FEEL BETTEr is partly layered in texture, paint, and golden chunks. Emotional currency is translated into golden “rocks.” Value, scarcity, and emotion collide.
Gustav Klimt, “Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” 1907, Neue Galerie, New York
I took part in the Debutantes for a Better Society Spring Ball at Danceteria in 1984. It was a leaderless, carnivalesque performance to an end of innocence. Not a seminal, era-defining show of important artists, just a bunch of heroin-addicted club kids and young artists trying to hang onto an improvised sense of freedom.
This announcement is classic, tongue-in-cheek Pop. I like everything about it: its straightforward language; faux William Morris pattern; glossy card stock; and cheap, one-color, off-register printing job. This invitation snickers at its little joke. But the joke, it turns out, is on us. The streets of Manhattan would clean up as rents rose. Corporate, material, careerist, the art world followed the money.
This is my Open Studio where works-in-progress and various contributing flotsam and jetsam from the future that is now, from the Better Society today will be documented. All I want to say is, “Hello World!”
(The site host filled in this title for the initial post: “Hello World!” The rules of success are blindly followed, Baudelaire’s automaton is the ghost in the machine.)