michael j. morris

Ann Hamilton/Michael Mercil Seminar
6 January, 2009, 11:14 pm
Filed under: art, Grad School | Tags:

I am in a course this quarter being offered by Ann Hamilton and Michael Mercil through the art department. It is an interdisciplinary seminar that meets for three hours once a week at their studio here in Columbus. Very exciting. Below I wanted to offer a smattering of ideas, words, thoughts, etc., that came up for me tonight during the class. I hope that at some point I will get around to fleshing these things out, but maybe I won’t. It is my hope that others (you?) do. If there’s something or several things that grab your attention, or which you have thoughts to offer, please do:

-doing and (versus) responding (action/awareness, speaking/listening)

-How does the kind of work you make structure social exchange?

-Does money control artists/art?

-If the marketplace cares more about what things are than what they mean (or for what they are intended), does that free the artist to make whatever they want (whether or not it is purchased)?

-Selling/marketplace exchange: in dance, unlike in the visual arts, there is less of (no?) dichotomy between action and object. Unless of course the object is the body (objectification of the body). In that case, what is being sold? The name of the artist? The body of the dancer(s)? The interpersonal experience(s) between dancer and audience, choreographer and audience, choreographer and dancer? How distant is this from prostitution, the exchange of money for either a body or an experience with another person?

-Boundaries of action: action of process/action of performance

-“Reproducibility”- is anything, let alone dance, truly reproducible? Where does art (or anything else) exist most, in the thing itself, or in the experience of the thing? Can experience be reproduced? What is the value differentiation between a thing that is perceived to be “one of a kind” and a thing that is perceived to be “one of a series”?

If we think of art not as a thing, but as an experience of/with a thing, to what degree do we as artists concern ourselves with shaping that experience?

-What do we mean by “universal”? Is the visual somehow more universal than the literary? Or the kinetic? Or the kinesthetic?

-What do we call a thing? How does calling it that shape the way in which we think about it?

-Who is your/my audience? What is IT for? And what is the IT? Is it an object, an experience, a movement, a narrative, a message, etc.?

-Is there such a thing as “perfectible action”?

-Violence in art versus the “responsibility” of the artist. Does the artist have a responsibility to society/culture/everyone else?

-Does interactive art seek to liberate of manipulate experience?

-Why are art and “real life” positioned as mutually exclusive? In what way is art any less “real” than any other aspect of life?


These thoughts came out mostly as questions. I do hope that you offer me your answers.

3 Comments so far
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“-What do we mean by “universal”? Is the visual somehow more universal than the literary? Or the kinetic? Or the kinesthetic?”

Dear Michael, “universal” is that which is of my culture, my language, my class, my educational background, and my symbol systems. Just kidding. But so often I do think this is how the word is used.

“-Is there such a thing as “perfectible action”?”

In Laban Movement Analysis I came across more information about Laban’s work with industry this week. He looked at the efficiency in a person’s movement in an industrial setting. In the end, rather than determining the most perfectly “efficient” way to perform each movement, he concluded that each worker had their own physical signature, and the most productive ways of doing the work were not always the fastest, but rather the ways that fulfilled that person’s physical signature. I don’t think this directly answers your question, but seems to be good information to look at next to the question.

Lovely thoughts, thanks!


Comment by Mara

I love the Laban thoughts on efficient movement. Thanks for sharing them. In Anusara (the yoga I practice), there is the concept of the “Optimal Blueprint.” It is the most efficient way for each individual body to move and is unique to each body. The practice of yoga then becomes (among other things) the pursuit/discovery of this optimal blueprint and working towards it as “perfection” rather than an ideal proliferated by a specific technique.

I heard this term “perfectible action” in a lecture by Kaprow. he was describing the kinds of things demonstrated in his Happenings and Activities, and said that they were not to be perfectible actions. And I found myself, especially as a dancer familiar with repetition, keenly aware of the fact that every single time I repeat an action, it is different in that moment. Action being relegated to time, the idea of perfection seems to connote “perfect replicability.” This seems . . . impossible? Especially when speaking of action of the human body. This was the origin of my thought process on this subject.

Always love your comments. Thanks for reading and writing.

Comment by morrismichaelj

I’ve really got to read some of this Kaprow stuff you and Joshua are reading. Thanks for the “Optimal Blueprint” from Anusara Yoga. It’s beautiful, especially right now when I my knee is hurting, to think of the imperfections/inconsistencies of our bodies being integrated into that optimal blueprint.

Comment by Mara

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