Arguments (was chicago film archive)

From: Chuck Kleinhans (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Jan 04 2007 - 15:09:17 PST

On Jan 3, 2007, at 2:29 PM, Tony Conrad wrote:

> your petty sour grapes smear of McCall?
> ------------t0ny


You've misread or misunderstood what I said about McCall. What I
said was factual and descriptive:

1. that Argument (made with Andrew Tydall) is a strong critique of
the high culture artworld
2. that the recitation of the economics of the project follows after
something that Godard did a few years earlier
3. that his current reputation as an artist in the gallery and museum
artworld is as a formalist
4. that this (3) is accomplished by erasing his politically active
past (as in Argument and in a later collaboration, Sigmund Freud's
5. since 1979 he has run a small design business
6. he appears to have produced no new high culture artworld work from

I don't see how these facts can be taken as a "smear"--I made no
interpretation of them but just reported them. What's wrong with that?

My criticism was directed at the framing and selective interpretation
of McCall's work to turn him into a high culture artworld formalist
installation artist.

When McCall and Tyndall first made Argument they saw it as an
intervention in the NYC (in particular) experimental film artworld
and arranged a set of screenings in which the film was show, but then
the makers were present for an extended discussion of the issues
raised by the film with the audience. They did some shows around the
country on the same basis.

That activist stance, aimed at creating political discussion and
debate, is lost when the film (on video) is shown today with no
discussion following.

I fail to see how the term "sour grapes" applies here. I've never
aspired to be an artist recognized in the gallery/museum artworld; I
don't begrudge McCall his recognition as an artist. I'm just
pointing out that the gatekeepers are sanitizing McCall's previous
politics, selecting only part of his creative output, and obscuring
their own financial interest in promoting an exclusively formalist
version of McCall.

My complaint with Bernie is:

1. he uses "middle aged" as a pejorative; I assume he is "young"
since I've never heard anyone over 35 use "middle aged" as an
automatic negative

2. He presumes to determine class by surface appearance

3. He believes he can read minds and motivations of other people. He
presumes this couple left because they couldn't take the radical
message. This is fantasy. I can think of other plausible reasons
for their departure such as:

a. they received a text message from the babysitter saying junior
just hurt himself.
b. they decided to go to the CAE talk instead
c. the funny tasting calimari at dinner was causing gastric distress,
and they don't want to projectile vomit on the people sitting in
front of them.
d. they liked Argument's message but detested its self-righteous
harangue style
e. after a a few minutes they realized they'd heard it all before


> Quoting Chuck Kleinhans <email suppressed>:
>> On Jan 3, 2007, at 7:39 AM, Bernard Roddy wrote:
>>> There was a screening a couple months ago of that Anthony McCall
>>> (SIC) “Argument” something or other film, not the “Line Describing
>>> a Cone” thing, and those guys were focused, hard-hitting, on-
>>> target. I was standing in back at Chicago Filmmakers and some
>>> point-black radical voiceover rhetoric drove a middle-aged middle-
>>> class couple right out of the theater. It tore me up that down the
>>> street, at Mess Hall, a couple members of Critical Art Ensemble
>>> were giving a talk at that very moment. I could not decide,
>>> watched the start of the film, left to find the street-level
>>> storefront packed to the windows, gave it up, returned for the
>>> final quarter of the film.
>> I take it Bernie is a young whippersnapper who is also clairvoyant
>> since he can determine someone's class from just looking at them--
>> nice trick, how do you do it? And what is your class, young fella?
>> And Bernie can also read minds, knowing exactly what caused a couple
>> to doesn't seem possible to him that they left to see CAE
>> before he did. It must be quite reassuring to know what motivates
>> others with such certainty.
>>> I’d love to see that film in full, but CAE is current. No benches
>>> in photographs. The dead are beautiful, but to await death like
>>> this . . life itself risks being sacrificed in these machinations
>>> for prime plots in the graveyard.
>>> That McCall (SIC) film closes with the filmmaker reading off a
>>> list of all their expenses and sources of support for the project,
>>> who turned them down for funding, how expenses compared with those
>>> of other productions, what their own backgrounds and qualifications
>>> were, etc. Could such a film receive serious critical attention
>>> today?
>> That list is copied from Godard. Or if you feel charitable, it's an
>> homage. Well, the film did receive "critical attention" from Chicago
>> Filmmakers.
>> But if you take a look at the recent critical work on McCall, such as
>> The Works of Anthony McCall, ed. Christopher Eamon, you find a
>> complete erasure of McCall's radical political/ideological critique
>> of the artworld. He's now been safely ensconced in the gallery and
>> museum artworld as a formalist, after denouncing it in Argument.
>> The book's editor, Christopher Eamon, is a “private curator” for the
>> wealthy Kramlich couple who collect media art (including McCall, one
>> assumes). It also appears that shows presenting McCall's work at MOMA
>> and SFMMA were under their auspices (in other words, they paid for
>> the shows which will increase the market value of their private
>> holdings, which will provide them or their estate a tax break down
>> the line if they donate it to the museums,) So the publication of the
>> book is directly tied to the market value of part of the Kramlich
>> collection.
>> And after delivering the scorched earth denunciation of artistic
>> formalism in Argument, what did McCall do? He has had a commercial
>> design business in NYC since 1979: Narrative Rooms, which has an
>> attractive website (they are big on designing art oriented
>> websites). He seems to have produced no new (high artworld) art
>> from 1979-2003.
>> Yeah, Vertov was interested in that bench, but neither he nor Lenin
>> were sitting on the sidelines of history.
>> Chuck "Don't trust me, I'm over 30" Kleinhans
>> Eugene
>> __________________________________________________________________
>> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.