“this essay originally appeared in Thermidor Magazine, 2017, and can be found in Content minded, Vol 1. under the Major PDFs section”.
When discussing the conceptual linkages Foucault may or may not have to the Right, especially in its more traditionalist and dissident forms, one must contemplate an example of where the modern Right has produced a conceptual framework that is in line with Foucauldian thinking. One that can accommodate the postmodern bracketing of the trans-historical subject, the formalist, humanist, entity that posits subjectivity as a constant, a post-enlightenment view of the subject that Foucault disagrees with in many ways. We also need a theory of power on the Right that can come to terms with, and even work within the Postmodern, and ever-shifting position modern society finds itself in, especially regarding power relations. There is a question of Foucault’s postmodernism itself, but for the purpose of clarity, let us assume that Foucault more than likely did possess concepts and dispositions that would categorize him as “postmodern”. One must look deep into the modern Right wing to find such a framework of power, and what better expresses this framework than what has been termed “The Cathedral” by Silicon Valley computer scientist and amateur political theorist Curtis Yarvin, or as He is known mostly by his Pseudonym “Mencius Moldbug”. Continue reading “The Foucauldian Cathedral.”→
Here is a full version of my critical art exhibit review of 2019-2020’s “Abortion is Normal” at the Arsenal contemporary. Included are all three parts and extended citations. The review is archived here. Enjoy everyone (part 4 will be coming soon).
When you grow up as an Italian in Ontario, or perhaps the child of any fist-gen ethnic group in Canada, you get a lot of weird things hanging around you that anglofied “normies” don’t. The multicultural experience hits home in little trinkets here and there, finding stale candies with Arabic and Cantonese labels on them, going to my Grandparent’s house and hearing a mix of Hindi and Polish on the outdoor garden radio because the switcher broke in the early 90s, etc. that or Nonno forgot to change the station after the Italian or Spanish hour of programming was over.
Perhaps this was just me, but a lot of the time I spent as a kid was pretty much exploring the woods and abandoned houses with my Father, tourist trinket shops on Clifton hill, train stations my Nonno took me to to train-spot, Family picnics at the park, etc. A lot of time was simply spent alone, I never really hung out with friends outside of school, apart from a few once in awhile. Hence the curse of being an only child, you are often alone, but are molded by it, and the trade off is you can focus on growth in various ways when being accustomed to the company of adults at an earlier age. I often spend time alone or with my Father’s friends and workers, I always felt more at home around older people. However, the alone is something that is incredibly difficult to be comfortable in; great works and life-pursuits can be cultivated from being accustomed to long stretches of loneliness and solitude, for it is the primary condition of almost every artist and thinker, or any creative life-passion. Even a scientist before the age of hyper-compartmentalization needed to slip into a mode of prolonged solitude, like meditation, to cultivate that stillness of the mind. When you enter this mode of being in solitude, it is like a clear as glass pond, not even the faintest ripple disturbs the equilibrium of the surface.
But back to the main thrust of this little communique….I spent a large amount of time around the Niagara region’s locations, some abandoned a time ago, some forgotten, others filled with crowds but only that which produces a profound distance within nearness of others (like tourist traps). These are the sources of Nostalgia in my Millennial nostalgia-poisoned mind, and a lot of them are fading away quickly, or newer faces make up the character of those places. It is often the place of a memory or Proustian “virtual time” which sticks with you more than people. I came across this clip of Clifton Hill at its peak in 1999 and it almost brought a tear to my eye. Visiting the Hill in 99 that summer was almost magical, new years that year was something else (think to that last scene in the film “Strange Days”). Now you see videos of empty tourist spots, desolate streets, closed up shops.
It is from this source of abandonment in North America’s squalid and crumbling post-industrial heartlands that I contend the artist must find direct inspiration. To gaze upon the wreckage of history, but a wreckage that is immediately around you, and hold the soot in you hands with sombre reverence; The extreme localism of the artist within the space of the work of art is something that is not just lacking, but even derided as parochial, or even “implicitly reactionary” in the globalist art world. Of course, POC artists from around the world can express their locality and unique experiences within the work of art, but this aesthetic localism is ultimately reduced to a token, or is selected and curated as to only conform to western moralistic and ideological standards. ID-POL ultimately colonizes and reduces the local down to a flattened state of art in service of rigid ideological categories, and so the POC artist helps this process of colonization and globalization of culture (which is really Americanization, or New York-ification by any other name).
But again I find myself trailing off into politics. In North America this aesthetic localism becomes difficult, or rather, in Canada it is more difficult still. Everyone knows what “Americana” is, and everyone can sense the regionalism of each American territory has its own unique flavor and color. Canada has always struggled with this question of identity, and given the vastness of the Canadian wilderness, the landscape artist found solace in this dangerous, but exciting untouched land. This is why there is such an attachment to the land itself, rather than the landmarks of a thing such as “Canadiana” as opposed to the landmarks of Americana.
This is what I am attempting to get at in my work, with explicating it here in the written word, and in the works of art themselves. The Locality of a place influences the artist in the profoundest and deepest of ways. The internationalization, the “wordlessness” of contemporary art has in many ways sapped art of its vitality. For it is not the “worldless” reality of the spiritual, but the worldlessness of modernity Arendt talks about. art that is vacant of the local and of the grounded/rooted, appealing to cosmopolitan sensibilities only. The artist must confront their immediate environment, for good or for bad. And this is why i believe it is of the utmost necessity to do so, even if one grows up in a post-industrial North American wasteland, endless bedroom communities and abandoned industrial parks. But in these locations one finds a serene beauty, even within the vacancy and loss of what once was.
This is what constitutes a supreme paradox of the landscape in art. The landscape appeals to almost everyone on some level, and appears universal in scope. It can be placed in every gallery and home, and will fit any context throughout the history of art. Faces in the portrait wed portraiture to a particular time, a people and region, or rather, it becomes more apparent in portraiture. But the landscape is a universal art genre that hides its rootedness within. The landscape therefore is always-already a slippery entity, neither postmodern nor modern. Despite its universal appeal and reach, it retains this unique character like nothing else. Every little nook and cranny of the landscape painting is filled with a locality, a time and place. Even the imaginative or re-arranged landscape denotes a referent to something beyond the mind of the artist. It is also within it that representation was the first to bleed into abstraction, for the patterns of nature were exploded, or hyper-focused into (like Franz Klein’s projector images, vs. Frankenthaler’s washes of vast landmarks) creating this sense of a luminous air, and areal perspective imbued with light.
But to tie this in to personal experience. A foundational activity when I was young, being an only child and kind of a lonely one at that, was my Father taking me to various abandoned buildings and industrial parks. He would sometimes get contracts to seal them up and fill in various holes left by shipped-off industrial equipment (to China), so after work he would take me and show me around the place. We found all sorts of things with friends, even various abandoned buildings adjacent to forested areas just ripe to explore. In hindsight this was partially dangerous considering I could have fell into pits with chemicals in them in some places (my Mother never found out of course until later!), but I appreciate my Father giving me a bit more of a rugged upbringing than what others i grew up with were used to.
This gave me a deep sense of locality from an early age. I would often find myself questioning why i stood in certain spots, and if I were to see them again. I even feel a deep longing when certain places I ventured into as a kid around the Niagara region are gone. like the video 2000 store my Aunt and I would rent movies from, or the old junk tool shop my Grandfather would frequent for odds and ends that had a massive table in the middle filled to the brim with random hardware store oddities you had to dig through (its now a comic books store, the horror).
The point being is that a viable aesthetics of existence for the artist must be in part to find what is teeming with significance around them. There is this documentary about a “perambulator” in London, a person who walks and finds significance in the smallest of things around them, from abandoned buildings, local history, etc. As i have argued before, Urbex (urban exploration) is a viable art form for our era obsessed with both nostalgia and collapse, for its weds these two neurotic impulses together. What once was and what would be simply is, the aesthetic act of walking through the throw-away ruins so many invest their lives in. I believe i strongly identify with such an aesthetic having grown up in a post-industrial area, perhaps not as poverty-stricken (but it will get there) as others, one that is essentially a giant heaping region of bedroom/retirement communities and little else besides the one tourist trap. I get the movie channels and well not a very big TV watcher, I am fascinated by small budget Can-cinema indie films, often from the National Film Board (which I mentioned in another Lamentation piece). Ones that depict precariat life at the bottom, always small towns adjacent to the borders of nature, and wasting away industrial parks, almost symbolically so. Films without a clear progression of plot, but rather the big long now of exploring life in theses places that hyper-modernity left behind.
Awhile ago I promised myself to always work on a life long mission, to depict the wasted and abandoned places around me, like Hopper in the 21st century, whatever that will be. But the artist or anyone that possesses an avid aesthetic eye, the “inner eye of vision” as Morris Graves called it, can appreciate the sombre beauty of such realities in the post-industrial North American and European landscape. To find a calmness and stillness in such places around you, to explore their depths in even the smallest of details as told by those around you, this is the beauty of locality that must be cultivated.
thumbnail studies for a larger piece on Merritton, St. Catharines. 2014.
Two weeks ago we covered a somewhat well-known painting by Morris Graves, and the review touched upon his inner impulse towards art making that possessed a metaphysical aesthetic naturalism. here we have a popular Graves work that really captures both of his earlier an later works, and represents a cut-off point between the works made that were filled with anxiety and political-worldly frustrations, and the latter half of his life spent in deep meditative contemplation of the natural world. Graves spent his life in nature, in a constant state of purposeful isolation, and for this reason, he and his fellow Northwest visionary school artists tapped into a deep vein in the American unconscious, that of the rugged individual “going back” to the natural world. Continue reading “Modern Art Madness #26: Morris graves “Hibernation”, Anprim life made into art.”→
Every once in awhile you stumble across a monolithic piece of contemporary art that is cemented in a past and a present that goes beyond the fleeting moment of merely the now. Cai Guo-Qiang is certainly contemporary in his art-making, expanding the limits of certain materials, combining the plastic arts, painting, part performances, etc. But his work is grounded in a sense of tradition and philosophic insight that aims at an elucidation of motifs and emotions that seems almost out of this world, yet brought on by this world, Samsara. Continue reading “Modern Art Madness #25: Violence and the Sacred, Cai Guo-Qiang’s Unmanned Nature”.”→
The Northwest school of visionary art does not get nearly enough attention it deserves in Neo E-hippie, new age, Jungian, etc. alternative circles that revolve around spiritual art and art practices. Achieving much fame in the 50s and 60s (Mark Tobey even represented America at the Venice Bienniale one year), they seem to have petered out in memory over time, being overshadowed by the AB-EX painters they inspired. Morris Graves and the Northwest school was one of the first true mystical art collective in the American new world, and thus were grand eclectics in their influences from mysticism and theological schools world-wide, but in particular from the orient, as many of them would travel of Japan, India and other locations.
Morris graves stands as one of the least cosmopolitan of his fellow Northwest artists, although he certainly possessed a deep care about the affairs of the world. He exhibited an intense reclusive regionalism in his art, taking direct influence from the natural habitat around him. Graves famously depicting small animals, birds especially, flowers and other creatures from the biosphere, and imbuing them with supreme mystical significance, even giving these depictions a subtle, almost fleeting narrative quality to them. Continue reading “Modern Art Madness Week II, Saturday: Morris Graves “Dove of the Inner Eye”.”→
Paul Klee stands along with a choice few other modern artists of the early and later 20th century to express a spirituality, or the closest modern art can touch the spirit without heading back into ritual. What Kandinsky called “inner necessity” was Klee’s driving force to create works of lyrical and musical whimsicality. In 1914 Klee visited Tunisia, and did a few stunning studies that has much significance in his work, significance that not only bridges lyrical abstraction and representation, but a profound regionalism and weddedness to the earth that produced such stunning pictures. Continue reading “Modern Art Madness Week II, Thursday: Preternatural light, Paul Klee in Tunisia.”→