A fun book about the search for a lost Caravagio painting. Easy to read, engaging in its sketches of the main characters in the quest and the distinct...moreA fun book about the search for a lost Caravagio painting. Easy to read, engaging in its sketches of the main characters in the quest and the distinctly nerdy world of Art History. Everything about Caravagio's familiar, but it's not a bad introduction for those who want or need it. (less)
It's a bit difficult to figure out where to begin in describing this rich, multi-faceted gem. In part a biography of John Cage, Where the Heart Beats...moreIt's a bit difficult to figure out where to begin in describing this rich, multi-faceted gem. In part a biography of John Cage, Where the Heart Beats honors the composer/philosopher/sensei by understanding that his life took on meaning in large part because it inspired so many others to take themselves (not too) seriously, which is why the book's also a kind of group biography of those who either gathered around or shaped their journeys in response to Cage: Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg, Duchamp, the Fluxus artists among them. (I'd never really felt Rauschenberg before I read Larson on the white paintings. I get it now.) That points to another of Larson's achievements: providing quietly incisive "criticism" of works like 4'33 and a host of dance and performance pieces.
All of that's grounded in Larson's clear understanding of Cage's Buddhism, which developed in conversation with the brilliant teacher D.T. Suzuki and was in constant conversation with Huang Po and (though Larson doesn't emphasize this quite as much as I would have) the Tao Te Ching. Usually (and not inaccurately) cast as an engagement with the epistemology of perception, 4'33'' emerges as a manifestation of interpenetration, the sense that we're part of a field in which all beings occupy their own centers. By the time I finished, I was pretty much convinced that the art I love most deeply is part of an unfolding, and only rarely self-conscious, Buddhist tapestry. (I loved that Larson began with Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder and, while I wished she'd come back to them, the whole point is that she, like Cage, provides tools to use in whatever way we choose.)
Stylistically, Larson made the perfect choice in constructing her text around (italicized) quotes from Cage. Among many other things, Where the Heart Beats is as good an anthology of the master's parables as we're likely to get.
I'm officially finished reading books about contemporary performance art and/or "relational aesthetics." This isn't as horrible as last year's one-sta...moreI'm officially finished reading books about contemporary performance art and/or "relational aesthetics." This isn't as horrible as last year's one-star book Relational Aesthetics by Bourriaud, but it still makes for excruciating reading. Like B, Jackson's mired in a theoretical debate which allows her to (I'm not making this up) defend a book which she acknowledges as "pompous and badly written." The debates consist of the worst sort of posturing, composed of claims to superior political and aesthetic insight. Claire Bishop seems to be the worst offender, though why anyone would care about what she thinks is beyond me. Jackson's writing frequently matches abstract nouns with verbs that require a human subject. She uses the "editorial we" in ways that consistently make me say "what we, kimo sabe?"
What keeps the book form being one star is the descriptions of actual works of art, most notably a production of Waiting for Godot which took place in post-Katrina New Orleans. The things she's interested in--the relationship between art and the various networks which support it; the changing contours of genre--are important. I think I'm basically in agreement with most of her conclusions.
Aggravating book. I'm almost entirely in sympathy with Bourriaud's sense of what art could/should do in the contemporary world: build communities, enc...moreAggravating book. I'm almost entirely in sympathy with Bourriaud's sense of what art could/should do in the contemporary world: build communities, encourage interaction between artist and "audience", resist the reducation of culture to just another product on the K-Mart shelf. But the writing is unspeakable--the worst sort of French theoretical posturing--citing authority, playing inside baseball, smugly self-righteous about its judgments. Almost everything Bourriaud's suggesting has parallels in the jazz tradition. Of which he apparently has never heard. Grad students who need to defend themselves against theory will find this useful. Otherwise, read some Baldwin or Terry Eagleton.(less)