Monday, May 20, 2013

Jeff Koons, Gazing Ball / Narcissism and Video: Rosalind Krauss, Petra Cortright

This past week felt like five weeks in one.  I’m sure you all know how that must feel sometimes.  It’s a great feeling but it can also make you feel like you are vibrating between teleportations, all fuzzed up and having to check that all your body parts are in tact.  This is my way of excusing what is to come below which is a mash up of things seen, read and thought about.  Many of the below deserve a more thorough reflection but at this moment they are a pile of raw input that my brain is too frizzed to put into nice packages.  Until I am able to do a better job at articulating in depth on some of the below, bare with me, and I hope one or two of these things will shake your brains or eyeballs as well. 

Jeff Koons, Gazing Ball, David Zwirner New York, NY

How many times is a girl going to write about Jeff Koons?  As many as it takes.  His latest showing at David Zwirner on 19th street is amazes.  Entitled Gazing Ball, it is the first solo show of new works by Koons in a decade and it consists of white plaster sculptures and each possesses a bright metallic reflective blue ball.  Simple yes, but as always the craftsmanship and the quality control for these pieces is mind tingling.  The bulk of the works are re-casts of already existing ancient sculptures that are figurative.  Nude women with missing limbs, half man/half animal gods with giant cracks, lots of drapery and reclining.  In addition there are newly created works like a small fountain, a mailbox, and other decidedly familiar things.  These are smoother and more banal but in contrast to the re-created classicism it all seems to bounce nicely off each other. 

The figures and objects are interesting to see but the thing that captivates is the metallic blue ball.  It’s a signature form of perfect blue that Koons seems to have invented and the perfection of a shape and of a color seems like an exercise in human capacity.  Buildings and architecture seem easy in contrast to the some of Koons’ work because of the conceptual purposes of form.  This series is not as monumental as some of his past works, but that’s also a reason I like it so much.  It posses a formulaic obviousness but the end results are not just impressive, they are alluring and magnetic. 

Around the corner, a few blocks away, is another Koons showing at Gagosian and to be frank, it’s a hall of hits that makes Koons seem like an over-priced, over-sized souvenir shop.  Go see it if you have never seen these works but if you want to get a sense of Koons in a possibly deeper and definitely more considered way stick to Zwirner, you will not be disappointed.  This is especially true for anyone who poo-poos Koons.  I’m not saying it will change your mind but it is one of the best presentations of his work and sadly, that has been lacking with his work of late and has made him a very large target for the disgruntled. 

Narcissism and Video: Rosalind Krauss, Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism and Petra Cortright, DRK PRA

I have been thinking about video a lot and also about narcissism, two things that are bound together since video’s hand held inception.  I have been thinking about it in terms of myself in my very cursory, highly hobby use of it and luckily I have a friend smarter then me (which they all are) who sent me a link for Rosalind Krauss’ essay Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism, 1976, in which she writes about the title’s subject and frames it in discussing video artists of that time, who were some of the first to explore the potential of this form.  The essay is brief and at points concise and it feels a bit distant, due to when it was originally written, but there are definitely some core things that are still very relevant and challenging to think about today. 

Some statements in this that I found interesting were:

Self-encapsulation -the body or psyche as its own surround- is everywhere to be found in the corpus of video art.

…One could say that if the reflexiveness of modernist art is a dedoublment or doubling back in order to locate the object (and thus the objective conditions of one’s experience), the mirror reflection of absolute feedback is a process of bracketing out the object.  This is why it seems inappropriate to speak of a physical medium in relation to video.  For the object (the electronic equipment and its capabilities) has become merely an appurtenance.  And instead, video’s real medium is a psychological situation, the very terms of which are to withdraw attention from an external object -an Other- and invest in the Self.  Therefore, it is not just any psychological condition one is speaking of.  Rather it is the condition of someone who has, in Freud’s words, “abandoned the investment of objects with libido and transformed object-libido into ego-libido.” And that is the specific condition of narcissism.

Krauss goes into further detail and refers to Jacques Lacan and various other artists and philosophical references but the core of the video being a medium and tool that enables and is actually a device of narcissism is interestingly investigated, even in it’s early usages.

The whole narcissism/video idea was again peeked when I watched a video by internet mistress Petra Cortright and her video, DRK PRA, which I saw linked on Sex Magazine’s site (this site makes me happy the internet exists).  In the video there is vertical segments of Cortright’s face and there is an absinthe fairy green filter to the image.  You only see a sliver of the face, an eye, half of a mouth.  There is disjointed music playing with a female’s voice singing and Cortright is lip-syncing to the song.  As she is doing this, the segments undulate not in frame but by Cortright’s movements.  It is all very sexy and she knows it and there is a seduction most certainly occurring.  The frankness of her knowledge of her allure mixed with the visuals that makes it feel both arty and throwaway is interesting to see and to puzzle out.  Ideas of beauty, sex, youth, and fantasy are all a part of this whole art and life thing.  How does something like Cortright’s video just reflect this impulse or is it about the potential of medium, of video, of internet?  Does it talk about narcissism and voyeurism or is it just getting to the core of animal basics?  I myself am unsure but the piece is a piece and I know I may not be the intended target but I definitely want to make out with the girl in the video, not the artist as she actually is, but this hallucination of her presented self. 

Narcissism and the Internet Age is a dissertation paper present with sparkles on it.  It’s deep but also obvious and that’s what intrigues me about the alignment of the two.  Maybe the thing is that narcissism is no longer something that is negative. Maybe this is happening because the way in which humans communicate and interact with each other has changed in ways that have deformed or evolved the way this occurs and the necessities behind it.  Maybe echoing back onto yourself and mirroring yourself is not about isolated delusion but a source of comfort.  That’s probably all silly to propose but all I know is that self-reference, self-review, and self-obsession is something that many people do including myself.  Being honest about the why and the how may not change if it matters but keeping it real by admitting it, is the only way we can (possibly) prevent self-immolation in our evolution.