Recently the kind folks at my gym installed (a good art verb) flat screens in front of every cardio machine. So I’m trying to find a channel with some music that will help me to keep up with the wildly spinning belt that is constantly threatening me with the terror of fast painful removal and twisted flesh and bone. I find the “Dance” channel and this video is playing. I stop channel surfing for two reasons – one is probably instantly obvious to you, the other is because of the beat – which was right in time with my struggling foot falls. This video was followed one after another by similar fare. At the end of my work out I realized that I had missed out on something in life. Who knew that struggling in the studio would amount to a lot of unseen work and writing about Postmodernism on a blog? I had no idea that cheesey music and fitness could enflame so many hard bodies – dance instruction and techno looks really good in comparison. Immediately, I flashed back to a party that an artist friend threw a few years ago. A lovely young woman – after having a look around the room – asked me if this (she flourished a wrist wave) is what artists looked like. Perplexed, I asked what she meant. She said that she usually went only to “industry” parties (fashion), and in comparison, everyone here looked extremely ordinary. I apologized for our lax physical states, and postulated that we had to work hard on developing our personalities, and if that failed – which it invariably does – have you met artists lately?, we had to work on our art. I would have been insulted if I had thought she was being arch in any way, but the truth is, her life was that life, and this life was something she hadn’t experienced before. She was on a hero journey of the lower depths – like Dante. I hope she made it back to the land of the Postmodern.
Later that afternoon I thought about those workout videos as I was easing into a latte. It wasn’t just the music that had created this world of desire, but it was the lens. There are none of us (I apologize if you’re not one of us) in these videos, and if there are, they are in the backgrounds spinning the music or adjusting the lighting. And this is what I call the tyranny of the lens. Perfection photographs better. The gods are mathematically more equal to the golden mean – they merge with the perfection of mathematics that single point perspective demands. When Brunelleschi made his discovery he could hardly have known what it would mean in the 21st Century. We Postmoderns are completely at a loss to understand that important event, because it is the reality we experience in every day life. And as technology has become more and more prevalent that tyranny has become our comfort. We expect the world to look like what we experience in our lens based culture. Popular Culture drives this familiarity and focuses our desires in its frozen angles and flat perspectives. This video music is based on radio friendly hits from years ago, updated with a beat so you’ll shake your arse on the dance floor, or buy a product from a cellular phone company or wear a certain brand of clothing – I don’t know, you name it – all in time to the beat. But it is the lens that guides this video “life” – not the life of our eyes. We look to the videos, the TV shows, the magazine photos, the reproductions – in order to see what things should look like, how we should behave, but mostly, how we should see. I thought that is probably why so much art made today is so unsatisfying to actually encounter with one’s eyes – it looks much, much better in reproduction.
David Hockney describes the problems with the lens best-
“… the principal point, I suppose, is that the major problem with traditional perspective, as it was developed in fifteenth-century European painting and persists to this day in the approach of most standard photography, is that it stops time. For perspective to be fixed, time has stopped and hence space has become frozen, petrified. Perspective takes away the body for the viewer. You have a fixed point, you have no movement; in short, you are not there, really. That is the problem. Photography hankers after the condition of the neutral observer. But there is no such thing as a neutral observer. For something to be seen, it has to be looked at by somebody, and any true and real depiction should be an account of the experience of that looking. In that sense it must deeply involve an observer whose body somehow has to be brought back in.” “A Visit With David and Stanley” (1987) Lawrence Weschler
I’m not going to offer a critique of the socio-sexual- politico implications of the video above. Nor will I expand on Hockney’s quote though I will in other posts. I’ll leave the immediate stuff to you guys. There’s enough Postmodern outrage and politically incorrect activity going on in the clip for a couple of coffee crits. If you want to dance, well, I’ll leave that to you as well. There were a few of us jumping about while I was writing this – the feed pumping through the speakers – altogether we are ungainly, irregular and distinctly mathematically impolitic. Which brings me back to my afternoon workout of dance videos. Let’s just say as an artist I will always miss out, that’s the job, but thank goodness I have so many good looking friends!