Christopher M. Taylor
Someone who senses himself rebuked by modernism's custody of seriousness may say, as if expressing a new freedom of the arts, that now anything can be exhibited and so tried as art. But that is just the problem, that perhaps all you can do with your work and works is to exhibit them, that all hope for acknowledgment by and of the self is to be foregone, and all authority in one's intentions, all belief in one's beliefs-stares of amusement and boredom replacing all acceptance and real rejection.
--Stanley Cavell, The World Viewed 
y slide projection pieces each consist in the projection of two separate slides, from two separate projectors, onto a wall to form a single picture. The slides are colored and marked by hand using colored acetate and masking tape. The projectors are set on stands approximately three-and-a-half feet high, and are placed one next to the other in plain view in the exhibition space-usually about fourteen feet away from the wall at which they project. As such, these are pictures (I often refer to them as "projected pictures", to be precise) supported by a number of material elements: the two slides, the light, the assorted mechanisms of the projectors, and the wall. Moreover, they are pictures the temporal dimensions of which seem to involve both the instantaneity of viewing a flat, vertical image; and the duration of watching the horizontal unfolding of an event (i.e., in being projected through the space between the projectors and the wall, the pictures are continuously being constituted through that space-a quality that is further emphasized when the seams and layers of the pictures are revealed by the movement of viewers within the beams of light). In each of these pieces it is my intention that they somehow acknowledge the significance of these conditions as constitutive of their medium. Stating my interests this way may immediately bring to mind Clement Greenberg's reductivist theories of modern art, whereby individual disciplines are said to search for the one essential and defining quality at the core of their respective practices. However, in exploring my medium, I find no singularity, no "ground zero", at its "core". Rather, I find division and dispersion.
- Rosalind Krauss, in her recent, A Voyage on the North Sea: Art in the Age of the Post-Medium Condition (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2000), recounts the notion of a medium as it was understood prior to its now almost inextricable association with Greenberg and with the literalness of some bare support in itself (e.g., the flat surface of painting). A medium had been viewed, she explains, as a complex of relationships between a support and a variety of elements that, among other things, articulate that support as a source of conventions for artistic expression. She calls this complex a "recursive structure", and she finds further that, in some of their earliest formulations (in Maurice Denis, for example) there was no suggestion that these structures were in any way given. They were invented.
- Krauss traces, from the 1960s to the present, various paths leading off from a loss of faith in Greenberg's essentialist doctrine of medium specificity. One path, no doubt the most familiar, leads to "installation art", a generic term for work that denies any disciplinary delimitation whatsoever, and intends to situate itself instead within a more generalized cultural field. A second path leads to practices that don't insist on any single, fixed center to their medium, but that do attempt, in what Krauss sees as a decidedly modernist fashion, to produce individual works that might nonetheless unify the medium's divided condition in a single aesthetic expression. She cites structuralist films, and the films of Richard Serra in particular, as examples of this kind of art.
- A third path, the one Krauss is most interested in (and the one along which I would most likely locate my own work), leads to art that demonstrates what she calls its "differential specificity". What this refers to is art that, like structuralist film, understands its medium as divided, but that, unlike structuralist film, it counts (without thereby unifying) its divided-ness as such as peculiar and necessary to its medium. The work of Marcel Broodthaers, and more recently that of James Coleman and William Kentridge, are her examples of this tendency.
- In positioning my own work against this theoretical field, I find it important to add just a few further thoughts concerning what the "articulation" of a medium may involve. Whatever they might look like in a particular piece (a grid, an arabesque, an oblique square, a palm frond appropriated from Matisse, etc.) I think of those features of my work that are intended to articulate something of my medium as acts of acknowledgment. Stanley Cavell, the American philosopher from whom Krauss draws a great deal in analyzing the issues summarized above, describes acts of acknowledgment (or, in a similar sense, acts of recognition) as gestures that don't call so much for verification as they do for further acknowledgement, since they themselves are not truly expressions of certainty. The value of these acts is not in the perceived precision with which they delineate some given object of knowledge. Their value is in the effectiveness with which they render something significant, serious. Thus, their value is further in their demand that they be judged, not quite as true or false, but as meaningful or frivolous. It is in this sense that I think of my work as counting-or as being capable of failing to count-for something.
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