Art is one of the ways that people communicate. It is difficult for me to imagine a serious person attacking any means of communication per se. Our real enemies are the ones who send us to die in pointless wars or to live lives which are reduced to drudgery, not the people who use other means of communication from those which we find most appropriate to the present situation. When these are attacked, a diversion has been established which only serves the interests of our real enemies.
However, due to the spread of mass literacy, to television and the transistor radio, our sensitivities have changed. The very complexity of this impact gives us a taste for simplicity, for an art which is based on the underlying images that an artist has always used to make his point. As with the cubists, we are asking for a new way of looking at things, but more totally, since we are more impatient and more anxious to go to the basic images. This explains the impact of Happenings, event pieces, mixed media films. We do not ask any more to speak magnificently of taking arms against a sea of troubles, we want to see it done. The art which most directly does this is the one which allows this immediacy, with a minimum of distractions.
Goodness only knows how the spread of psychedelic means, tastes, and insights will speed up this process. My own conjecture is that it will not change anything, only intensify a trend which is already there.
For the last ten years or so, artists have changed their media to suit this situation, to the point where the media have broken down in their traditional forms, and have become merely puristic points of reference. The idea has arisen, as if by spontaneous combustion throughout the entire world, that these points are arbitrary and only useful as critical tools, in saying that such-and-such a work is basically musical, but also poetry. This is the intermedial approach, to emphasize the dialectic between the media. A composer is a dead man unless he composes for all the media and for his world.
Does it not stand to reason, therefore, that having discovered the intermedia (which was, perhaps, only possible through approaching them by formal, even abstract means), the central problem is now not only the new formal one of learning to use them, but the new and more social one of what to use them for? Having discovered tools with an immediate impact, for what are we going to use them? If we assume, unlike McLuhan and others who have shed some light on the problem up until now, that there are dangerous forces at work in our world, isn´t it appropriate to ally ourselves against these, and to use what we really care about and love or hate as the new subject matter in our work? Could it be that the central problem of the next ten years or so, for all artists in all possible forms, is going to be less the still further discovery of new media and intermedia, but of the new discovery of ways to use what we care about both appropriately and explicitly? The old adage was never so true as now, that saying a thing is so don´t make it so. Simply talking about Viet Nam or the crisis in our Labor movements is no guarantee against sterility. We must find the ways to say what has to be said in the light of our new means of communicating. For this we will need new rostrums, organizations, criteria, sources of information. There is a great deal for us to do, perhaps more than ever. But we must now take the first steps.
August 3, 1966
Jillian McDonald is a Canadian artist who lives in Brooklyn and dreams of the North.
Solo shows and projects include the Esker Foundation in Calgary, Air Circulation and Moti Hasson in New York, The San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, Centre Clark in Montréal, and Hallwalls in Buffalo. Her work was featured in group exhibitions and festivals at The Chelsea Museum and The Whitney Museum’s Artport in New York, The Edith Russ Haus for Media Art in Germany, The International Biennial of Contemporary Art in Venezuela, The Sundance Film Festival in Utah, La Biennale de Montréal, and the Centre d’Art Contemporain de Basse-Normandie in France.
She was featured in a 2013 radio documentary by Paul Kennedy on CBC’s IDEAS, and reviewed in The New York Times, Art Papers, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, Border Crossings, and Canadian Art. Critical discussion appears in books including The Transatlantic Zombie (2015), by Sarah Juliet Lauro and Deconstructing Brad Pitt (2014), edited by Christopher Schaberg.
McDonald has received grants and commissions from The New York Foundation for the Arts, The Canada Council for the Arts, Turbulence, The Verizon Foundation, The New York State Council on the Arts, The Experimental Television Center, and Pace University. In 2012 she received the Glenfiddich Canadian Art Prize, and she has attended residencies at The Headlands Center for the Arts in California, Lilith Performance Studio in Sweden, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Workspace in New York, and Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta. In 2016 she is in residence at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Process Space on Governor’s Island, NYC; the Klondike Institue of Arts and Culture in Dawson City, The Yukon; and at Plug In ICA’s Summer Institute in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The World of Perception, 2010
digital c-print, 97-7/8 x 77-3/4 inches (framed)
The World of Perception, 2010 – detail
digital c-print, 97-7/8 x 77-3/4 inches (framed)
every… Nicholas Nixon’s Brown Sisters, 2004
digital C-print, 43-1/4 x 52-1/8 inches (framed)
Idris Khan transforms the conceptual art of appropriation into an elegant and substantial meditation on the act of creativity. Appropriating icons of literature, music, and art, Khan methodically layers his material, whether it is Beethoven’s symphony, Milton’s Paradise Lost, or Bernd and Hilla Becher’s stylized sculpture of water towers. The process allows the artist to tease out certain areas adjusting the source material so that the soul of the piece is manifested in Khan’s accreted interpretation. For example, in Struggling to Hear… After Ludwig van Beethoven Sonatas, 2005, Beethoven’s entire series of sonatas becomes a dense wall of near blackness; a virtual illustration of the composer’s deafness.
Khan’s work tests our experience of these other art forms; words and music are experienced sequentially, however the artist compresses time visually. Photographic iconography such as Bernd and Hilla Becher’s water tower series—a body of work based on the inherent nature of recurring form—layer upon one another and ultimately create a ghostly animation describing the ‘essence’ of the form rather than each individual tower.
every…William Turner postcard from Tate Britain, 2004
47-1/2 x 62-1/4 inches (framed)
every… Bernd and Hilla Becher Prison Type Gasholder, 2004
80 x 65 inches
Born in Birmingham in 1978, Khan lives and works in London. Solo exhibitions of his work have been mounted at the Gothenburg Konsthall, Sweden (2011), the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (2009), and K20, Düsseldorf (2008). His work has been exhibited at Forum d’art Contemporain, Luxembourg (2008), the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2006), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2006), and the Helsinki Kunsthalle (2005). His work is included in the collections of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, among others. Most recently, Khan was commissioned to design a permanent public monument for the new Memorial Park in Abu Dhabi. The sculpture will be unveiled in late November 2016.
Caravaggio… The final years, 2006. 101” x 68”