Monday, March 3, 2008

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen


Just at a time when I am having to face the implications of 'narrative content' here comes a rebroadcast of Studio 360 with Susan Sontag discussing experience (dislocated and direct) and the filmic/pictorial representation of experience. In this instance the experience is war. She refers to Jeff Wall's giant tableaus of carfully assembled images into something of a narrative, and how in her opinion this is what makes a work successful, narrative propulsion. I always thought of Jeff Wall's work to have more to do with spectacle (in a good way), and trapped attention a la cinema, but narrative, or the possibility of narrative, is the medium through which attention is trapped isn't it? Then again, perhaps I am transferring my own aims onto Mr. Wall's.

I am having to confront this especially now that I am moving into these figure paintings. In the still-lifes I aggressively rejected narrative or linear storytelling. It's a little easier to step away from that discussion when dealing with cups, books, and patterns. I was asked a lot whether there were social relationships being expressed in the still-lifes. I was working on having the narrative be the linking between looking and the mechanics of the picture. However, now with the "Cowboys" there is a story being hung on this strategy. The cowboys clearly want to get drunk (or are already) and kill each other! Not a very complex narrative. But still...

2 comments:

Michael said...

...just listened to the same program a few days ago.
Some thoughts...
I wonder if any "thing" can be separated from narrative. It would be necessary that an object be divorced from the cause-and-effect or interdependent relationship by which it comes into being. Given that any moment frozen still by capturing it in a painting or photograph has to exist within a narrative, the narrative is implicit in said image. Even if the narrative is limited to the choices of the artist brought to stasis by the finished work. No "thing" can come about without a cause and also without some effect being produced by its becoming a cause of its own. Narrative is an inescapable part of art making.

Matthew said...

I don't think a narrative is escapable. Decisions of any sort reveal something of a narrative into the person making the decision. Particularly artists making visual decisions reveal a lot about the process and perhaps politics of the artist. Because in visual art it is all out there for everyone to see and interpret.

The thing that I was rejecting though, was implanting a narrative into the arrangement of objects, or consciously personifying them. I didn't want to unfold a linear narrative with the objects. I didn't want the message of "momma pot protecting baby teacup" to overtake the patterns and spaces, the "Duccio and Uccello perspectives". I thought the social narratives were distracting to the real purpose of the painting. Which is pretty wrong headed in a way. Duccio and Uccello were telling two simultaneous narratives with their subjects and formal attitudes.It has generally been the case throughout the history of painting, and still happens with Jeff Wall and Kerry James Marshall. Both of whom I greatly admire.