Commentaries - January 2008
When I am in my painting," Jackson Pollock once wrote, "I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It's only after a sort of 'get acquainted' period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own."
Much later John Yau wrote a poem that consisted of variations on this statement. It's called "830 Fireplace Road":
"When I am in my painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing"
When aware of what I am in my painting, I'm not aware
When I am my painting, I'm not aware of what I am
When what, what when, what of, when in, I'm not painting my I
When painting, I am in what I'm doing, not doing what I am
When doing what I am, I'm not in my painting
When I am of my painting, I'm not aware of when, of what
Of what I'm doing, I am not aware, I'm painting
Of what, when, my, I, painting, in painting
When of, of what, in when, in what painting
Not aware, not in, not of, not doing, I'm in my I
In my am, not am in my, not of when I am, of what
Painting "what" when I am, of when I am, doing, painting.
When painting, I'm not doing. I am in my doing. I am painting.
Somewhat general thoughts on a modernist teaching apt for the modern text, starting with a too-rough but still helpful distinction between history and literature:
History doesn’t teach that history teaches. Modernism is a topic but it is also a mode in which the recitation of what history teaches is ironized. The conventional denotative pedagogy (teacher points to text and then to object in the world, saying: “This is what it means”) is not up to the challenge of permitting the performance of this self-reflexivity. In modernism’s materials must at least implicitly be a meta-pedagogy. During the era since the emergence of digital media and ubiquitous connectivity — and as its effect on the delivery of materials to the classroom but also its storage outside it becomes profound — the irony of the lecture on modernism has become increasingly obvious and disabling.
The problem will be to define or at least describe an unironic alternative.