Re: Arguments (was chicago film archive)

From: Tony Conrad (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Jan 04 2007 - 19:08:17 PST

Hi Chuck---------

No problem! But both Bernie and Anthony are good friends of mine, and I
was put off by the ad hominem pickiness that is evident even in your
defensive rejoinder below.

Shall we make fantasy lists of why the "middle aged" couple left? For my
part, I think they were under the thrall of Bernie's post-hypnotic
suggestion, and they actually hallucinated Bernie watching them leave.
Then Bernie was making up the whole episode so he could believe that he
was there.

Like you (I presume, from your account), I saw both "Dora" and
"Argument" back in the 70s, and found them wonderful; I asked Anthony a
year ago why they too were not being seen. Of course, "Line" (which I
was the first in the US to rent) is more profoundly legible than the
other films, in the present discursive climate of the art world. I think
it's cool that Anthony's work (which he sidestepped for so long in his
need to "make a living")(what do you do for a living? did you get a
teaching position before they dried up?) is finally returning his

I've seen astute social criticism voiced in both of these artists' work,
which is why I expressed my interest in keeping the discussion on a
higher plane than flaming someone for how they earn a living or the
literary premise of their story about two impressive events.

But I should hew to my own cry, here, and suggest why I feel that your
analysis of (the present reception of) McCall's work is inaccurate. It
is far too simple to assess "Line" as "formalist". What is more cogent
today is that "Line" is a social intervention; that it takes place in
and among the viewership, and anounces the "apparatus" not so much as a
formal system as a totemic mystery, with an ability to cast a thrall
over the viewership. Its partition of the thickened space invites
momentary difference to appear among the viewers. That is, "Line" (in
the sense of Bourriaud's relational aesthetics) articulates a
micro-utopian schema, using singularly economical means.

By comparison, the (admittedly interesting) oppositional politics of the
other films is today generally well-rehearsed. I do think that there are
ways in which the other films could also be productively revisited from
a (perhaps) anachronistic perspective, but I am not sure that would lead
to increasingly trenchant social understandings. Perhaps Branden Joseph
has undertaken this project; I have not read his book about McCall.

So did everybody who does have a job go to the CAE Defense Fund site and
make a contribution?


Quoting Chuck Kleinhans <email suppressed>:

> On Jan 3, 2007, at 2:29 PM, Tony Conrad wrote:
> > your petty sour grapes smear of McCall?
> >
> > ------------t0ny
> 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
> Dora--1979)
> 5. since 1979 he has run a small design business
> 6. he appears to have produced no new high culture artworld work from
> 1979-2003
> 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
> >> 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
> >> 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>.

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