Evolution in Reverse: The Darwinism of Critique

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN you put a group of young budding artists in a room of art? After a few hours, it looks a lot like this:

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Monkeys As Judges of Art / Gabriel von Max / 1889 / oil on canvas / 33.5″ × 42.1″

A perfect depiction of art school critique class!

Could it be that art critique is actually evolution in reverse!?!??!?

If only we knew what these monkeys were thinking

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A Visit to the Artist’s Studio / Gabriel von Max / oil on canvas / 34.6″ x 48.8″

These guys seem to know something we don’t:

Throw on some time-period clothes and stand in front of a painting and viola! They almost look completely evolved! The Monkey Connosuiers / Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps / 1837 / oil on canvas / 18" x 25"
Throw on some time-period clothes, stand in front of a painting and viola! Evolution! The Monkey Connoisseurs / Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps / 1837 / oil on canvas / 18″ x 25″

And yet what of Congo?

One of the hundreds of paintings by the chimp named Congo
One of hundreds of paintings by the chimp named Congo, whose work has been described as “lyrical abstract impressionism” (Wikipedia)

Perhaps Congo was the catalyst for the questioning of authorship and authenticity of the ‘artist’ that ensued post 1950 and which evolved into the postmodernist era.

Some unknown and uncredited monkey doing the artists work for him. I just hope he's getting paid decently. The Monkey Painter / Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps / mid-1800's / oil on canvas
Some unknown and un-credited monkey doing the artist’s work for him. I just hope he’s getting paid decently. The Monkey Painter / Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps / mid-1800s / oil on canvas

Evolution or devolution, we humans continue painting, as always.

Currently on view at the Louvre! And is the artist's name coincidental? The Monkey Painter / Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin / 1740 / oil on canvas / 29" x 24"
Currently on view at the Louvre! Is the artist’s name coincidental? The Monkey Painter / Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin / 1740 / oil on canvas / 29″ x 24″
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iSelves is Plural for iSelf

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WITHIN MY ERRATICALLY EXPANDING BODY of work utilizing mirrors I have constructed 12 small sculptures into a series dubbed iSelves 1-12. Each stand-alone piece is titled iSelf # (i.e. iSelf 1, iSelf 2 etc.), the name (obviously) referencing the common-place contemporary technological device known as the iPhone. Each sculpture consists of a mirror on which is drawn in paint marker specific phrases and/or designs hinting at various underlying themes or ‘messages’. Graffiti and graffiti art come to mind via the paint marker medium–and yet who in their right mind would vandalize an iPhone? The size of each mirror (3″ x 6″) roughly corresponds to the size of the latest iPhone (which to date is about to be the iPhone 8; when I began the project months ago it was version 6; and we can deduce that permutation 12 is not far off). 12 is a number which commonly signifies completion (12 months in a year, 12 as a unit of time, 12 zodiac signs, 12 apostles). Each mirror is grasped by a life-size wooden mannequin hand which stands upright when placed on a flat surface.

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Top and center of each mirror is a black oval delineated by a thin white line; this stands in for the camera eye which is a universal feature of all smart phones (the all-seeing eye of Sauron?). The smart phone’s camera eye is the mirror through which the wielder can ‘see’ oneself via taking a selfie. Yet in the world of iSelves, the all-seeing eye is just a representation and reference–a mimesis which does not deliver. The mirroring capability of the camera has been swapped for a literal mirror. The mirror image that is produced via selfie on an iPhone is a contrived self-awareness that is fixed and experienced after the fact, whereas a real mirror image can only be experienced in real time and cannot be ‘captured’. Because the iSelves are ‘art’ and not ‘technology’, the ‘user’ is not the active wielder but rather the receptive viewer. Wielding and viewing are different modals of experience which place the individual at different exclusive centers of awareness. The receptive viewer is ultimately not in control of how one experiences what one is seeing, and when confronting an iSelf, they cannot avoid immediately seeing themselves in the mirror. However, their mirror image is fragmented and partially blocked by the drawn-on designs–the grasping of their image-identity is inhibited. Paradoxically, I would argue that art has greater potential for true self-awareness than technology.

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Each iSelf is a permutation of the overall concept, much as each successive iPhone is an ‘updated’ version of the previous one. This brings into question the concept of ‘originality’: is the first iPhone the ‘original’ iPhone, or is each iPhone its own original? More unsettling concerns and questions are unleashed: Is each iSelf an ‘original’ in and of itself–even though the form (format, formula) and the concept (conception) are roughly the same? Does this scheme open up a space for ‘original reproduction’ ad infinitum? In the world of the iSelf, can there be any true ‘original’ if the substrate is a mirror, which by the virtue of its nature, is different every time it is perceived?

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Though iSelves 1-12 are best experienced in real time and space, below are photographic images of them. This of course removes the mirror function which is central to the pieces–yet I believe implicit ‘messages’ can still be delivered and perceived via photographic reproduction. However irresponsible or hyperreal this representation of the art might be, I believe their agency translates well on screen. Inhibitions and implications abound, see for yourself what each iSelf does for you.

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Additionally, I would like to propose an idea for a looped soundclip: the iTone. Ideally the iTone would mimic the mono-repertoire of the seagulls in Finding Nemoexcept instead of repeating “Mine! Mine! Mine!…” over and over, the mantra would be “I! I! I! I! I….“.  Wouldn’t you want this as your ringtone?

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And in case you were wondering if “you think you’ve seen a film on you’re fucking telephone?”, David Lynch has the answer: