07 August 2008

Putting the boot in

Unreal Nature, in a post called "Sensibilities Long Forgotten" which responds to JSBlog's "Recommended miscellany #2" which, in turn, references the Things Magazine website, makes backward linkage to a three way difference of opinion on the nature of history (here, here, here, here, here, here and here) and also to its own philosophical considerations of the "why did the chicken" joke genre, not to mention other references to chickens and "boogers" (really, trust me, you do not want to know) too numerous to mention.

Got all that? Please, do try to keep up! (And stop snivelling that you're confused; what else do you expect if you will insist on reading stuff from Planet Heyward??)

Anyroad, getting back to "Sensibilities Long Forgotten" ... close to the end, there is a photograph of what seems to be a set of traffic cones across three quarters of a road but, on following it back to its Things Magazine origin, turns out to be a French racecourse. For anyone still reading, we've almost reached the point. Hang in there...

The line of cones reminds me, irresistibly, of Eleanor Antin's postcard sequence and book*, 100 Boots. If you've never seen it, this is a comic visual psychomyth about displacement and return (amongst other things – and, of course, only in my own perception) in which the boots of the title march on an epic journey across the continental US. There are fifty one images, each created as a mailed postcard, serving as frames in a storyboard of the boots' migration; the complete work now belongs to MoMA. who also have other examples of her work. I'd love to link you to a web site where you can see 100 Boots in its entirety, but there doesn't seem to be any such animal ... the best I can do is refer you to half of the set at Barbara Krakow Gallery (click the small ones to get larger views) and suggest that you scour the web for others which can be found scattered here and there.

Much as I like and admire 100 Boots, and Antin's other work too, my real favourite is her persona work – sequences in which she adopts personæ and then proceeds to document them. These personæ include "Eleanora Antinova" and "The King of Solana Beach".

Her most famous persona is that of Eleanora Antinova, the tragically overlooked black ballerina of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Appearing as Antinova in scripted and non-scripted performances for over a decade, Antin has blurred the distinction between her identity and that of her character. In the process, she has created a rich body of work detailing the multiple facets of her beloved Antinova, including a fictitious memoir and numerous films, photographs, installations, performances, and drawings. (PBS, Art:21, "Eleanor Antin, biography")

Similarly, in ‘The King of Solana Beach’ (1974–5), Antin becomes the self-appointed ruler of Solana Beach in Southern California, a guise that allows her to construct an idealized male self while also involving herself in the travails of community life. The black and white photographs document some of the King’s daily adventures, listening to his subjects’ concerns and dispensing sage advice. A tragicomic sentiment reigns throughout, for the King is also a buffoon (a ‘poor player’), and ultimately powerless to protect his realm (from a development scheme). (Aaron Schuster, "Eleanor Antin" in Frieze, Issue 106, April 2007.)

In this admiration for Antin's personæ I find myself in opposition to my friend and sparring partner, artist-photographer Rachelle Aaronson (who, I should mention, did education work related to Antin and whose help was crucial to the writing of this post). Rachelle and I share a fascination with the filmic in still images, but I tend to focus that fascination on the live screen of the human face, Rachelle on the iconic. More, probably, on our differences another time.

Returning to lines of things, such as boots and cones, I love constructed linear works whether they be Richard Long's walks, Andy Goldsworthy's lines of leaves, or (returning full circle to Unreal Nature) Julie Heyward's Red Line. Or, for that matter, the many linear persona investigations of Duane Michals, such as Chance Meeting.


  • Eleanor Antin, 100 boots. 1999, Philadelphia, PA: Running Press. 0762404574
  • 7 comments:

    Julie Heyward said...

    Antin is interesting -- I like her ideas.

    Goldsworthy doesn't really fit in with your other examples, though. He's about fool-the-eye. The others are about sequencing or repetition. Like the food stain that inevitably appears on the front of all your favorite clothes, or like branding (the McDonalds golden arches, everywhere).

    -Julie

    Felix Grant said...

    I take your pont, Julie, but nevertheless disagree.

    The common strand for me is not repetition or sequencing but different manifestations of the line itself. All of them (all of you) are "taking a line for a walk" in the old art school phrase.

    Goldsworthy's biggest line, of course, is the Storm King wall ... but lines as landscape mark making appear throughout many instances of his work - the lines of red leaves being both the closest to your own Red Line and also (though much less so) to your emphasis on repetition.

    I didn't include Martin Hill because I thought you might find his lines less convincing than Goldsworthy's, though his
    Fine Line
    is an even bigger and more conceptual line than even Long's works.

    Julie Heyward said...

    You thought right -- I find Hill's pieces to be too disconnected.

    You have not mentioned Harold. The greatest line artist, ever.

    Felix said...

    What can I say?

    Harold (or Harald Purplovitch Crayonov, to name him by his least known performative persona) changes everything. He lifts "taking a line for a walk" to heights of literality undreamt of by my exemplars, making the concept utterly concrete.

    The quintessential Warteschlangkeit of his being is in itself the characterisic which generates his Lebenwelt from his initial core cogito upon which, ergo, his sum depends. What other linejockey could say as much?

    "De moi le pourpre, je gribouillai et donnai à d'endurer de de la naissance: me le signale sans dimension dans ses terror à la fin de la ligne, moi enduré ses terror de la Gomme" as Saussure might have said but, alas, did not although Russell Hoban came close.

    But the crucial, clinching argument has to be what Ursula Nordström has indelibly immortalised as "la partie de la forêt"!

    I now see ... how shall I express it? ... what might the Turks might call "Yanlış nin benim yan".

    Julie Heyward said...

    You find purple to be strangely exciting, no?

    Yes! I can hear it in your voice.

    [Somebody dial 911 and have them send a squad car to Felix's house. He's stuck his finger in the electrical outlet. Again. ]

    Felix said...

    Purple is as purple does, I always say.

    Rachelle Aaronson said...

    I have never been so disturbed as when seeing Antin`s work in Bristol, apart from the Boots, which I succesfully delivered into a mail art project @Arnolfini: colourful, thought provoking and energising work by young people.

    Felix, I have colour copies of the work that the y/p did, will show you @ our next meet.