PAINTING AS A RADICAL ACT: ENRICO BAJ AND JEAN BAUDRILLARD

_ B. Gerry Coulter Sayı 179, Eylül 2008

Only painting which itself succeeds in beings a monstrous act succeeds in resolving and in reabsorbing the monstrosity of our lives, only painting that succeeds in becoming a mythic operator also succeeds in resolving the monstrosity of the social and of the social order, and in this Baj's painting succeeds admirably (Baudrillard, 2001). The Italian artist Enrico Baj, who died in 2003, was a truly radical artist - not simply in terms of his adherence to a "critical" politics (his subject matter), but in his use of materials. Baj is also interesting because he was one of a very few contemporary artists who appealed to Jean Baudrillard. We owe a debt in the English speaking world to Gary Genosko, who, in his The Uncollected Baudrillard, found two almost unknown papers in which Baudrillard's thought and Baj's painting meet (see Baudrillard 2001 and Baj 2001). In this essay I revisit these encounters, alongside of images of Baj's art, in order to explore the radicality of his painting. Constellated with festoons, decorations, starry fragments of mirror, and scattered signs, these paintings display Baj's virtuosity. He plays with these signs at random, endowing them with some of the humour and freedom they have lost in being used as signals.

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BİR GÜNCEL TEORİ BİÇİMİ OLARAK FOTOĞRAF: DÜNYAYI BİRAZ DAHA GİZEMLİ VE AZ ANLAŞILIR KILMAK

_ B. Gerry Coulter Sayı 167, Mart 2008

Fotoğrafın güncel bağlamdaki tüm gücünü anlayabilmek için, teorinin rolünü ve iyi teori ile iyi fotoğrafın ortak özelliklerini anlamalıyız. Teori ve fotoğraf günümüzde birçok ortak amaç ve yöntemi paylaşmaktadır - ve her ikisi de bizi şiirsel ve gizemli düşüncenin sınırlarına doğru çekme potansiyeline sahiptir. Bu makale fotoğrafın kendisini, bir düşünme biçimi olarak, en iyi güncel teoriye denk olduğunu kabul etmeye davet etmektedir. Böylelikle, fotoğrafçıları da yaşadığımız zamanın köklü belirsizliği bağlamında, bir fotoğrafın ne olabileceğine dair düşünmeye çağırmaktadır. Bu makaleye teorinin günümüzdeki rolünü inceleyerek başlayacağım, ve sonra güncel teorik bağlamın fotoğraf için ne ima ettiğini inceleyeceğim. Fotoğrafın güncel teorinin isteklerine yanıt vermesinin bir sonucu, onun fotoğraflanan nesneyi kendi halinde ve olduğu gibi kabul etmesidir. Bu, makalenin sonunda da değindiğim gibi, estetik ve "sanatsal fotoğraf" için büyük bir problem teşkil etmektedir. Bir araya gelen bu hikayeleri, teorinin istemlerine fotoğrafın yanıt verişinin örnekleri olarak sunarken, paragraflar arasındaki Baudrillard, Reid [4] ve Alexander'in fotoğrafları kendi adlarına konuşacaklardır. Bu makale, fotoğraf mecrasını irdelerken, Jean Baudrillard'nın özne ve nesne üzerine düşüncelerinin birçoğundan yararlanmaktadır.

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BAUDRILLARD IN THE DESERT SEND SEPARATE J-PEGS

_ B. Gerry Coulter Sayı 157, Aralık 2007

Given Baudrillard's love for the vast open spaces of the deserts of sand and rock it is not surprising that "desert" was a significant concept in his work. A recent book on the Sahara (which features the superb photographs of Philippe Bourseiller, 2004), has captivated my own love of desert spaces and carried them along with Baudrillard's thought to this writing. It is, in the end, to the impossible desert that I travel to continue the impossible mourning of Baudrillard for this publication (see also Victoria Alexander, 2007). The desert is the scene of the world's ultimate reversibility - the return to dust. To mourn is also to celebrate the desert of death. Baudrillard believed that reversibility is our only source of enjoyment and so death too (as the reversal of life) must be enjoyed. This thought lies at the core of what we may call Baudrillard's "desert philosophy" - a radical surpassing of what is normally meant by "desert" in Western thought. Bourseiller's photographs and Baudrillard's concepts combine to reveal the poetic splendor of the desert.The attempt to banish the desert is also an important part of the failed attempt to exile the inhuman. Humanists, who have held Western philosophy and the university hostage for centuries, fear the deserts of the earth and their primordial qualities. The desert is "respectful of the inhuman" - it is more like "other worlds and the constellations" than anything else on earth (see Baudrillard, Cool Memories I: 28). An important aspect of achieving escape velocity from humanist philosophy's refusal of the inhuman (and the urban deserts in which even this ideology begins to deteriorate) involves a return to the desert.

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THROUGH A BAUDRILLARDIAN LENS: KELLY REID'S PHOTOGRAPHY

_ B. Gerry Coulter Sayı 109, Kasım 2006

Jean Baudrillard’s photographs exist for him as an alternative to writing but they also share at least one thing in common with his writings – they are a way of thinking the world against Truth, Meaning, the Paradigm, or the Real in favour of the unintelligible and the enigmatic. Like his writings, Baudrillard’s photographs share the space of theory – and the point of theory for Baudrillard is to challenge the real. Further, a Baudrillardian photograph, whatever else it is, rebukes aesthetics and theories of scientific objectivity for assessing the photograph.

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TAKING A LONGER LOOK AT THE ART OF LISA YUSKAVAGE

_ B. Gerry Coulter Sayı 193, Şubat 2009

Lisa Yuskavage (47) is an American painter from Philadelphia who took her MFA at Yale in 1986. Since the early 1990s she has enjoyed increasing success in the art world: several solo shows in prestigious venues in recent years; her works reside in top collections (including MOMA, New York); and recently her paintings have topped the one million dollar mark at auction [The work Honeymoon (1988), sold for $1,024,000 at Sotheby's (New York) on May 10, 2006]. By any reasonable standard for "art world success" Yuskavage's star shines bright. I think her work is a success which is very much deserved as much for the discussions it has generated as for what is skillfully enacts on its canvases (oil on linen). The "truth" about the art of Lisa Yuskavage is that there is no one "True" way to read it. Her ambiguous work generates multiple and intersecting interpretations simultaneously. It seems that no one who is exposed to her art is left without an opinion and I am no exception. This is precisely the strength of her work - it accomplishes one of arts most vital functions - it forces us look at it from more than one viewpoint. At a time when so much contemporary art fails to spark thoughtful dialogue Yuskavage makes paintings that tell us a great deal about ourselves. What I (or you) think about her art says as much to the world about ourselves and our limitations as it does about what she paints.

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ALL IS NOT AS IT APPEARS: THE PAINTINGS OF EDWARD HOPPER

_ B. Gerry Coulter Sayı 181, Kasım 2008

Lisa Yuskavage (47) is an American painter from Philadelphia who took her MFA at Yale in 1986. Since the early 1990s she has enjoyed increasing success in the art world: several solo shows in prestigious venues in recent years; her works reside in top collections (including MOMA, New York); and recently her paintings have topped the one million dollar mark at auction [The work Honeymoon (1988), sold for $1,024,000 at Sotheby's (New York) on May 10, 2006]. By any reasonable standard for "art world success" Yuskavage's star shines bright. I think her work is a success which is very much deserved as much for the discussions it has generated as for what is skillfully enacts on its canvases (oil on linen). The "truth" about the art of Lisa Yuskavage is that there is no one "True" way to read it. Her ambiguous work generates multiple and intersecting interpretations simultaneously. It seems that no one who is exposed to her art is left without an opinion and I am no exception. This is precisely the strength of her work - it accomplishes one of arts most vital functions - it forces us look at it from more than one viewpoint. At a time when so much contemporary art fails to spark thoughtful dialogue Yuskavage makes paintings that tell us a great deal about ourselves. What I (or you) think about her art says as much to the world about ourselves and our limitations as it does about what she paints. This essay is the result of my own examination of her art and how its thought provoking nature speaks so well to our time.

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THE PHOTOGRAPH AS A FORM OF CONTEMPORARY THEORY: MAKING THE WORLD A LITTLE MORE ENIGMATIC AND UNINTELLIGIBLE.

_ B. Gerry Coulter Sayı 177, Haziran 2008

To understand photography's full power in the contemporary context we must understand the role of theory and the shared characteristics of good theory and good photography. Theory and photography share, at the contemporary moment, many of the same goals and procedures - and both have the potential to take us towards the limits of poetic and enigmatic thought. This paper challenges photography to accept its place as a form of thought equivalent to the best kind of contemporary theory. As such, it challenges photographers to rethink what a photograph can be in the context of the radical uncertainty of our times. I begin with an examination of the role of theory today and then move to an examination of the implications of the contemporary theoretical context for photography. One of the implications of photography rising to the demands of contemporary theory at the present moment is that it must respect the object on its own terms. This, as I argue toward the end of this paper, presents a devastating problem for aesthetics and so called "art photography". While I tell these converging stories examples of photography that answers the call of theory (images by Baudrillard, Reid [4] and Alexander), appear between paragraphs and are allowed to speak for themselves. This paper applies many of the thoughts of Jean Baudrillard on subject and object while making its challenge to the photographic medium.

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