I confess to being the kind of person who reads the exhibit brochures you can pick up in art museums. What I notice right away is that while nominally written in English, the prose is in a distinct mode; it seems to come from some hiply Latinate planet in a far distant corner of the universe. Call it Critico-Deconstructivo.
Thirty-six years back in The Painted Word Tom Wolfe exposed the secret of modern art: ya gotta have a gimmick – a set of tony, professor-friendly phrases explaining your work – if ya wanna get ahead. The deadpan Wolfe summarized his thesis in these words, “Frankly, these days without a theory to go with it, I can’t see a painting.”
I got to thinking about all this recently when I checked out the “Portraiture Now: Asian American Portraits of Encounter” exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. There are some entrancing visual images in this exhibit, but the gallery seems to think it don’t mean a thing if ain’t got that curatorial zing. Each of the seven artists gets a little write-up explaining the significance of her work (six of the seven are youthful women) and then an Artist Statement in which the artist gets to explain it all again for you.
As I read these, it occurred to me that perhaps Kaze and I flubbed it when we did not opt for Critico-Deconstructivo prose in explaining our blog here are at 317am. I just read our 317am “About” message again, and, in comparison to these committed young women artists, we sound like two jovial uncles on holiday, musing merrily about writing, cats, and eternity as time flows on by. Where’s the gravitas, the vitally transgressive rebellion, the exposure of oppressive social structures in that?
So in hopes of coming up with a better schtick and more page views, I’ve mashed up various phrases pulled from the Artist Statements in “Portraits of Encounter” and slightly adapted the results around the edges for our own purposes. So here it is in draft, our new, hipper, more au courant statement explaining 317am to the world:
Keenly aware of distinctions in expectations for the appropriate behavior for men of a certain age, the artists’ collaborative known as Kaze and Ras have created a body of work that addresses feelings of awkwardness and transforms everyday activities into sites of confusion. We gravitate toward self-portraiture through norm-upending blogging as practice and process. In particular, we lean toward the idea of fragmentation within the self as being a fluid, evolving, and never-ending process.
Our work can also be viewed as investigation into different social constructs and subcultures as seen through black-and-white films, story fragments, cat-litter boxes, retweets, dance videos, steampunk fan fiction, and remaindered novels available online for 1 cent through used-book merchants. Briefly considered, 317am is subject to signification as a series of self-portraits that started out as simple convenience. Our selves were always available, and we did not need to give guidance to any model or pay obeisance to any gate-keeper. We found it easiest to be at once the taker and the taken.
So what do you think?