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August 31st, 2007

shamelessly subjective post from the farther margins of London [Aug. 31st, 2007|04:06 am]
I find greater and greater depths in that German slogan “Alle Menschen sind Ausländer, fast überall.” We increasingly form subcultures of one, and the border starts at our skin. And yet of course we are completely inserted into definable social groups and categories—anyone who doubts this has only to look at some of the online communities in which people describe and photograph the details of what their day was like. The days not only fall into easily recognizable niches, the styles and strategies of the photographs take on shapes and visual shorthands that are defined by the online community itself. And yet we are seeing, in a very real sense, the lives of others. And the lives are both naively and cannily presented—people seem born with marketing skills or a disinclination to use them, and it has been so ever since the age of the earliest folk tales. Probably we can trace it back to the Paleolithic caves, and forward to parallels in all sentient life higher than the paramecium.

Well, not really, but it sounds really good. Makes a fellow sound smart when he says some fool thing like that.

I am writing this in London, in lieu of the many posts I ought to be writing about my recent experience in Scotland, courtesy of the Glenfiddich artists in residence program. But the experience is still too new and I am savoring the pleasure of, for once, not having to write on deadline and fall back on clichés, quick mental shorthand, or just plain getting things wrong and apologizing afterward. We live, as I said, in interlinked small subcultures, and things said as praise in one can be taken as a slight or an insult in another. It’s what makes the lives of professional niche marketers so difficult. Communities have their quirks, and some communities cultivate even quirkier subcommunities.

So I would rather ease into the subject of how it comes to be that a rather ambitious international artist residency comes to be in the neighborhood of Dufftown and Aberlour and the tourist-defined Malt Whisky Trail.

I would like to begin my tactics of delay, in fact, by discussing a topic that is one of the recurring subthemes of the joculum.livejournal blog (I say this just in case I absentmindedly copy the whole thread to counterforces.blogspot later): namely, coincidence. Some of the coincidences I’ve encountered may not be so coincidental: the U.S. artist in residence I was primarily expected to discuss, Romeo Alaeff, lived in Atlanta ten years ago before returning to New York (where he grew up) and got to know Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, whom I also knew. And her husband Christian Rattemeyer, equally well known in the international art world and now an assistant curator at MoMA, recommended Romeo to the curator then helping to assemble the Glenfiddich artists’ program The global art world is a small place. We can go on to imagine cause and effect from there on out, thought none of it may have happened the way we imagine.

But it’s slightly ridiculous that Romeo’s relatives from Dallas should be visiting for the opening of the art show and that the U.S. brand ambassador coordinating the press trip lives in Dallas (which is an advantage in reminding the New York headquarters of William Grant and Sons that its programming sometimes trends towards the Manhattan-centric…an advantage that is also used by art magazines operating outside the historic centers). There were still other aspects tending to bond our little group in ways that a truly smart event planner would have foreseen and organized accordingly. But it would have required so much prior research for a tour that seems to have been pulled together based on other organizing principles that I can’t imagine this hypothetical person having done that.

In fact, it seems as bizarrely accidental as my awarding first place in Lafayette, Louisiana’s First Southern Open Biennial to a woman whose son shows with Kate MacGarry Gallery in London, then being greeted at Predrag Paidic’s show in Finsbury Park by a woman who grew up in Houma, Louisiana, and went to college in Lafayette. I had gone to Pajdic’s show, which got top spot in this week’s Time Out (London), because it includes work by Atlanta artists Evan Levy and Benita Carr (showing here as the Infinity Project).

There is much to be said about subcommunities’ interconnections that are based on shared perceptions rather than coincidences. The novelists, by and large, have done a better job than the visual artists in terms of capturing the subtle tones of emotion and past experience that bond together subgroups that have nothing obvious in common. But some of the videos in Pajdic’s show do an excellent job in this regard, and some of the work by the artists in the Glenfiddich program do the same thing.

But that’s the topic I set out to delay writing about, now, isn’t it? Rest assured that formal essays are in the works. As I said at the beginning, I often regret off-the-top-of-the-head typings in the throes of jet lag, so I hope I won’t have to offer apologies tomorrow for something rashly posted today.

And juggzy, while I am at it, so sorry I arrived in striking distance of Oxford just as you decamped with difficulty to Worcester.

Longtime readers of this blog will know that I don’t write my posts as informal injokes except for the ones for John Crowley and his readers, so obviously this too is a strategy,. Stay tuned for serious developments. (I hope.)
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