This week, we rounded up some of the best long form essays about making connections. Can we relate to a stranger with a half-a-million dollar leather fetish? Find links between conceptual art and net art? Or figure out what the heck a hollow leg has to do with a rubber band ball? Well, thankfully there’s the weekend ahead to figure that out.
Malcolm Harris, “So You Want to Be a #Longreads Superstar?”, The New Inquiry
Harris drives home an argument about how longreads are all about exhibitionism. “The #longreads hashtag was supposed to be about the viability of the proud and enduring essay on the web,” he states matter-of-factly. But many are nothing more than straightforward confessionals; as a prime example, Harris talks at length about Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger’s recently popular longreads about his $638,412.97 leather fetish.
There may be an awful lot of “look at me and my own personal brand of weirdness” in the genre, but Harris has hope for its continued popularity:
“We have navel-gazers and exhibitionists, accidentally useful careerists and some surprisingly insightful scumbags; we have partisans and journalists and scholars and crackpots all pursuing different understandings of the truth.”
That’s great and all, but it still sucks that we wanted the future, and we got Thought Catalog instead. : (
Caitlin Jones, “Conceptual Blind Spots”, Mousse
We linked to this essay earlier this week, but Jones’ argument that conceptual art is haunting contemporary art to the detriment of internet-based art deserves another mention. Conceptual art of the 1960s and 70s introduced discussions about systems, language, and the dematerialized art object that continue to dominate contemporary art today. But art critics and scholars continue to write about art today as if it needs to relate to conceptual art, if it’s to have any merit at all.
Jones doesn’t buy into that version of art history. For her, conceptual art is just one of “a broad range of influences. Influences that due to our increasingly digital and accessible world have never been easier to research and access.” She’s right, of course, to point out that the best way to discuss art is in terms of the context of its making, and its appropriate influences. Surely, some artists are looking back at Bruce Nauman and the like, but only looking to the Nauman crew for evaluating art-making today doesn’t tell the full story.
“Our new reality levels the playing field,” Jones concludes in her essay. ”It’s time our scholarship and criticism did so too.” I swore I heard trumpets playing, welcoming such a common-sense verdict.
B. Wurtz, “History Works”, Triple Canopy
In Triple Canopy’s latest issue, sculptor B. Wurtz’s artist project intersperses text, image, and video. Finding connections between these elements is hard, and often cryptic. Clicking through from a rubber band ball in space to “I understand that you have a hollow leg. So where did you buy your shoes?” doesn’t make sense.
“Metal Sculpture”, a video in the project, helps to make some sense out of these connections. It shows B. Wurtz sitting at a desk demonstrating how to make a sculpture out of some metal rods. Those four rods sit on the desk, before taking them out to build something that looks like an upside-down umbrella.
“I found these four metal objects and I realized they make a real interesting sculpture….This one moves a lot…you can put it like this, or if you turn it like this, then you can push this in, and hold it in place.”
These four separate pieces are fine on their own, but by playing with them like tinker toys, B. Wurtz figures out how to make an entirely new, and utterly strange object out of these parts.
Like the rest of the images and text in the Triple Canopy project, these parts require a bit of contemplation—an overall slowness—to figure out how they fit together. Sometimes the text goes along with the images, and sometimes they don’t. The rewards of figuring out even a few of the connections makes such an exercise well worth it.