Tentatively, Convenience's Reviews > Blitzkunst

Blitzkunst by Ginny Lloyd
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really liked it
bookshelves: art, crime

Writing a review of this bk opens a can of worms larger than the corpse they feed on. 54 artists were photographed by Ginny Lloyd & given questionnaires to answer. One question is: "Have you ever done anything illegal to survive as an artist?" I'm interested in the question since I'm a proponent of CRIMINAL SANITY & I'm interested in the responses of these people in particular since they're mostly (or entirely) people who were extremely active in the 'mail art' of the 1970s & '80s & were, as such, people that I either knew of or had direct contact w/.

HOWEVER, I think Lloyd doesn't go far enuf. Despite the superficially 'revolutionary' appearance of her bk, I think she's still stuck in old ideas of little or no value to me. The questionnaire is mostly concerned w/ being an "artist", making "art", & the "art world". As far as I'm concerned, this kind of thinking is the refuge of the unimaginative. "Art" is old baggage best thrown out of the hot air balloon to enable the creative person to soar. Monty Cantsin / Istvan Kantor, one of my closest friends & collaborators as of the time this bk came out, answered: "I HATE QUESTIONNAIRES I'M NOT AN ARTIST". Genesis P-Orridge answers the question: "What is the general acceptance of your art form in the art world?" by writing: "easy to rip off".

Carl Loeffler's introduction offers the most promise:

"The future will look upon the late twentieth century as one of the most revolutionary and impactful periods in the history of civilization. The coming decades will produce cultural change that will affect every aspect of life and perhaps nowhere is this sense of revolution given greater expression than in the visual arts. Historically speaking, a similar revolutionary sense occurred during the Renaissance during which artists produced expressive monuments reflective of the new knowledge of the era. BLITZKUNST, a unique volume edited by Ginny Lloyd, is an extraordinary inquiry into the creative pioneers of our contemporary era."

Great. But why concentrate on the "visual arts" & are these so-called artists primarily 'visual artists'? I think not - & that's what makes them important. The emphasis on "visual arts" is precisely the baggage that keeps this bk mired in the conceptual mud.

Judith A. Hoffberg was (is still?) the editor of Umbrella magazine. This was one of the central documents of mail art activity in the world. She writes in her intro: "Mingled with the mail artists are those who use rubber stamps, lasers, music, bookworks, copy machines, printing presses and etching presses, and every medium in-between." That's all well & good but by the 1980s it was probably pretty clear to the most future-seeing of these folks that the medium cd be whatever was available for the purpose. Rubber Stamps are no more important than Paintings. They're each co-optable as objects that can be turned into commodities.

The 'mail art' that was (& still is) important to me WAS/IS NOT the 'mail art' that fetishized particular mediums - like artists stamps. In fact, it wasn't "mail art" AT ALL. It was communication that used the mails as a means for international networking. IT WAS TRICKSTER. Many of us used the mails to develop elaborate alternate personalities. We used 'fake' names, intermediate mailers, we played pranks, we got other people involved, we got involved with other people. The purpose wasn't to send out endless stupid repetitive collages that marked our 'style', it was to engage other people in stimulating questioning of the world, TO CONSPIRE AGAINST THE RULING ORDERS. Forget 'mail art'. So many 'mail artists' just wanted to piss on as many fire hydrants.. uh, I mean mail art shows, as they cd. They had no concern w/ quality - only w/ quantity. They were like GoodReads people who read 2 bks & have 2,000 'friends'.

Hoffberg goes on to praise Lloyd's foto-portraiture. Lloyd used a technique where she developed the pictures by brushing on the developer - thusly selectively exposing the picture & showing brush strokes. That's nice. I'd seen the technique before this bk came out - used in a portrait of me by my girlfriend Sally Hutchins. She was a student at the MD Inst College of Art at the time. I doubt that she invented the technique. Hoffberg wrote: "Just as the artists have experimented, so has the photographer, and she has come up with something vital, something fascinating and something enduring." "She has come up with"? Ok, maybe Hoffberg hadn't seen the technique used before. I was impressed when I 1st saw it used by Sally so I can understand Hoffberg's liking it. But, then again, a really creative photographer might've used a DIFFERENT TECHNIQUE FOR EVERY FOTO - this particular technique isn't necessarily worth using throughout an entire bk.

Anyway, w/ those criticisms aside, this is still a very good bk. I'm giving it a 4 star rating 'despite myself', despite my aversion to the banality of the art context, despite my aversion to Lloyd having been a Johns Hopkins student, despite my aversion to her obvious pursuit of 'success' in the art world. Just the question regarding the illegal saves it. I remember when I 1st heard of COUM Transmissions around 1977. A friend showed me a tiny piece in Flash Art magazine in wch COUM pronounced crime as high art. Given that I was preoccupied w/ thinking of myself as a psychopath at the time, I was glad to see that others were on approximately the same page. Ultimately, Lloyd's bk doesn't really delve into the heart of the psychopathology of total resistance to normal society, but BLITZKUNST at least preserves a taste of some of its fringes.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
April 11, 2008 – Shelved
April 11, 2008 – Shelved as: art
April 11, 2008 – Shelved as: crime

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