Last week, as a part of the text Storytelling, I’ve posted an image of the piece Untitled (Ass) (2007) by Larry Jonhson. During a Skype meeting with the curators Julia Grosse and Yvette Mutamba in the class of Alya Sebti, I remembered how theorist Lee Edelman interpreted this image in the book Sex, or The Unbearable (2014).
“…But the comedy, however dark, implicit in normativity’s violence lies, as Johnson’s image shows, in the reduplication of negativity by the violence meant to erase it. The result…is that perverse enjoyment (the penetration or stimulation of the ass) and the reaction against it (the effort to erase the asshole as the site of enjoyment) can look exactly the same.” (p. 32)
Grosse and Mutamba in conversation with Alya Sebti and her class mentioned their attempt to re-narrate art history from an African approach/perspective. Their aim is to facilitate excess to information through time and create a new way of reaching to art history by using new terminologies rather than being trapped in the categorizations of the white art historians. As Sebti later described, their tactic is never to reject the existence of such a canon, rather using, say, maybe the same words by taking a critical distance and re-evaluating it. Reminiscent of the duality of the eraser in Johnson’s work, it is is a calm yet vigorous transgression within the existing norms. Another method to unlearn and delink…
Last Friday we visited the open studios of Alya Sebti’s and Ben Katchor’s classes. Although the disciplines were different from each other, performativity was in the core. Students of the curating class Curating/Translating the Polyphony of Voices created stations that I’d like to call ‘thought installations’, which you could talk to them about what they have discussed throughout the week. In a way, the act of sharing ideas transformed into a performance. The students of the class Comics in Performance performed their stories via using the techniques such as shadow theater.
Normally I write essays, reviews, flash fiction and some poem-like texts. So, I was reading online posts such as “how to write a great blog post” etc. In several sources, number 1 is to find a title that would attract attention. Therefore, I desperately try my best this time. What could be a better title than the one that includes the words p0rn0graphy, Pokemon, Pieta and Prada?
(Wow, the software of the blog just gave an error: "Illegal content found: blacklisted word "p0rn0" ! Seriously? Therefore, I've changed the word and used "zero" instead of 0. Otherwise I'm not allowed to post images.)
Well, my intention was to continue on yesterday’s blog, however today, I’ve decided to share my observations and some news. I'm feeling Weltschmerz and I don't want to bitch about heteronormative neo-liberal nation states, but other bizarre encounters.
Yesterday, the conversation between Nora Schultz and Alya Sebti took place at Galerie 5020. During the conversation around the notions of center-periphery, getting rid of the norms in the language and some doubts about the importance of education, a new(ish) term upcycling was brought up. The video below by Nora Schultz will help you to understand the story behind:
After the talk, the director Hildegund Amanshauser announced the first Stammtisch of the Academy: Bar Mediterraneo. There is no direct translation of "Stammtisch". According to Wikipedia it is '"an informal group meeting held on a regular basis, and also the usually large, often round table around which the group meets. A Stammtisch is not a structured meeting, but rather a friendly get-together."
Then I arrived my small room at the Mozart Studenthenheim and saw the small carpet of my neighbor's that made me think: What are the criterias of calling somewhere home, especially in the times we are going through? What if it is just a word on a carpet?
Oral story telling is an ancient tradition that has been being performed from Ancient India to China, from Northern Africa to Europe. Throughout the history various performance styles have been generated. At the old square Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakesh, every evening oral story tellers set up their installation with ostrich eggs, feathers, all kinds of spices and objects to present a one-man-live-act of the story… Yesterday, Ben Katchor gave another example from Japan called Kamishibai – a frame box attached to a bicycle holds the stacked up drawings that is narrated by the performer (please check the post of the previous day to watch the video). Puppet theater or Hacivat and Karagöz from Ottoman Empire are other examples of performing stories.
Alya Sebti and the students discussing case studies
How to look at things to form a narration, which words to use and how to place them in the work have been discussed in the classes The Notion of Subject Matter (Ahlam Shibli), Comics in Performance (Ben Katchor) and Curating/Translating the Polyphony of Voices (Alya Sebti). For instance, if you would like to tell a story with a camera, how do you do it? Would you imagine a photo book with texts or would you prefer not having informative texts at all? How would you perform the text alongside the drawings or where exactly would you position the text? The class of Sebti travels around similar concerns from a theoretical perspective by focusing on unwritten histories of othereds and finding the words to describe neglected cultures in the spaces of contemporary art.
Before moving forward with the conversations at Sebti’s class, I would like to mention the comic The Imaginary War Crimes Tribunal performed by Katchor at Museum der Moderne Salzburg the other day – originally published on Metropolis Magazine – depicting a game addict. The game is based on shooting ‘Arabic men’ randomly, who are all considered as enemy without exception. All of a sudden, the so-called enemy points the gun back to the game player and he dies (I mean that is the complicated part of the story: is it real or virtual?). The story continues with the after effects of this death. Some months ago, Democracy Now published an interview with researcher Lydia Wilson about the interviews that the researcher conducted with imprisoned ISIS members in Kirkuk, Iraq. Although not approving ISIS’s position, Wilson pointed out a very important aspect of what is going on in Iraq and Syria, reminiscent of the comic of Katchor’s:
“There was this driving anger against Americans, against the occupation—but not in terms of this ideology that we see coming out of the ISIS official publications or through social media. It was anger—it was much more personal. It was much more about their own childhoods and adolescences, that they had been blocked from having a normal life because, as they saw it, of the American occupation.”
So, may we say that the gaze and anger is turning back to where it is originally coming from? Can the methodology of undoing be another way of dealing with power? How about re-writing and re-narrating or unpacking the luggage and re-packing with a new order as Ferdiansyah Thajib from the collective KUNCI explained during a Skype meeting with Sebti’s class? What Larry Johnson's Untitled (Ass) (2007) has to do with it?
To be continued….
On the third day, I feel like the character in Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle (1958) in fastforward. Writing a blog about classes taught by different artists from various backgrounds; capturing certain moments that would narrate talks and events, besides the daily acts surrounding the Fortress, call two things to my mind: Impressionism and surfing on Internet. As an impressionist I catch a glimpse of light, or say, I’m the nerd surfer constantly clicking on links and opening new windows, indefatigably scanning the screen…
The due of yesterday for the classes of Ahlam Shibli and Ben Katchor was to ‘look at things’. As Katchor pointed out in yesterday’s talk with Varda Caivano at Museum der Moderne Salzburg, a shoemaker’s approach to a certain space would differ from a baker. In a similar fashion, yesterday Shibli asked the students to go to sites without a camera, to be able to focus on details released from the pressure of pressing the shutter. In that way, the survey becomes more significant rather than immediately taking the photo, she thinks.
I visited Katchor’s class today. The artists explained why they chose that spot to draw and described their emotions and observations with text in their comics. Here are some notes:
-Do they start from left to right or right to leftt?
(I was thinking: what about top to bottom or vise versa?)
-Where to structure the text?
-How the text changes the information?
-the picture falling back into the realm of text
-Sometimes one has to explain what is going on behind the scenes.
-urgency of finishing and not losing yourself in details
(Katchor mentioned different approaches to detail in the classical paintings of Southern and Northern Europe. In the South the details are indicated. The artists tried to get the bigger picture before they went deeper, whereas, in the North, aggregation of details was more significant.)
-Why do I want to tell my story/show in this particular way?
-drawing within a drawing
-let the drawing fall into a landscape.
One of the artists attending to the class asked a question in her comic. As far as I remember it was like: “Why do people like views? Is it a form of ownership?” This morning, I was thinking something similar, when I’ve decided to act as a tourist before rushing to the Fortress and had a coffee at Café Tomaselli. Two years ago, when I was in Salzburg for Jennifer Allen’s writing class, someone recommended me to sit at the terrace of that particular café. I was pondering: why do people feel attracted by this terrace? Being on the second floor of the building doesn’t change the view; because of the buildings around, you still gaze down the same street. However, the perception changes as you look from above − slightly like a bird’s view or a drone’s. Funny enough, as I wanted to read more of the text The Postcolonial Constellation: Contemporary Art in A State of Permanent Transition by Okwui Enwezor that is being discussed in Alya Sebti’s class, I was looking at my screen rather than enjoying (!) the view…
Katchor’s class is called Comics in Performance. Before digging into performativity in comics and storytelling, please watch the video below Children in Old Japan 1959 Kamishibai that the artist showed at the class.
(Tomorrow: What would be the relation between gaze, notions such as 'forgetting, undoing, polyphony of voices' discussed in Sebti's class and the comic The Imaginary War Crimes Tribunal, originally created for Metropolis Magazine that Katchor performed in yesterday's talk?)
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