Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lucy Lippard Has Something to Say

After Lucy Lippard's lecture last Thursday at SVA about landscape photography and the phenomenology of place, people stuck around for a ten-minute question and answer session. A lot of the questions that people had were internet-related. This shouldn't have come as a shock; the plethora of photographs available on the internet contributes in a big way to how we take them as documents that shape (or distort) how we think about place, and it was understandable that people would be curious to hear what Lippard had to say about it. The shoulder-shrugging tone of her responses was owed partly to the sort of things people asked (a lot of messy, hard-to-follow non-questions ending with "What do you think about that?") and partly to the fact that Lippard is not an internet person. I would obviously be stoked, for example, to learn that she was reading this (I can be uselessly starstruck when I see someone I really look up to in person, and was characteristically so when I asked for her permission to post the photo I took of her), but I don't think it's going to happen.
Lippard's not being "an internet person" could have something to do with her age (I hasten to add that she is very young in spirit, etc.). One might additionally detect a mild technophobia from her residing in rural New Mexico or from her general fondness for the countryside. I'm also fairly convinced that internet content can potentially develop in people short, fickle attention spans that are poorly adapted to the breadth of what interests Lippard and the depth of what she has to say. 
Sadly, almost no one is immune to this [SQUIRREL!]. I'm not a technophobe, but I can totally relate to people who are chagrined by how the most widely-read art journalism consists mainly of short, punchy paragraphs with fewer details about an artist and his or her work than what the author did at the opening and what famous people the author talked to. I'm pretty sure the most popular section of the Artforum website is Scene and Herd, and while I'm sure that the writers and editors in that department are very nice people, this is a bummer. A lot of blogging is written by people who just want to meander along about their own unique views of the world and not distinctly about art, and it doesn't seem right to some.
What's funny is that this is exactly what Lucy Lippard does. A couple of times on Thursday, Lippard asserted that she was not an art critic and described her writing as "just me rambling" (if that was false modesty, then I, for one, was fooled). A lot of Lippard's writing is direct and polemical, but a lot of it can indeed take the form of a list of art works that she has thematically clustered together to expound upon. This was certainly the form her lecture took, which did not at all seem boring or indulgent, notwithstanding whatever prejudices I might have had disposing me to believe that what I'd be hearing would be interesting and thoughtful.
My fear of associating with a kind of personality or reporting style that I took to be indulgent inhibited me from writing about art on a blog for a long time. This is an attitude I've started to outgrow. Sharing thoughts that are very personal or idiosyncratic can be indulgent in many cases, but it can also lead to insights that are worth hearing.

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