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The Present Body, The Absent Body, And the Formless- Uros Cvoro

The Present Body, The Absent Body, And the Formless- Uros Cvoro

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Published by: Karie on Sep 14, 2009
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The Present Body, the Absent Body, and the FormlessAuthor(s): Uros CvoroSource:
Art Journal,
Vol. 61, No. 4 (Winter, 2002), pp. 55-63Published by: College Art AssociationStable URL:
Accessed: 11/09/2009 01:39
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=caa.Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with thescholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform thatpromotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.
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 Art Journal.
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RachelWhiteread,House,1993-94.Concrete.Front view.Courtesyof theartist,Artangel,andLuhringAugustine. Photograph:StephenWhite.
The PresenitheAbseniand theFo
I.MostnotablySusanBest,"The Traceand theBody,"nAnthonyBond,ed.,Trace,exh. cat.(Liverpool: LiverpoolBiennialofContemporaryArtin association with TateGallery, 1999),172-77.2.Charles Harrison and PaulWood, eds.,ArtnTheory1900-1990:AnAnthologyfChangingdeas(Oxford, Eng.,andCambridge,Mass.:Blackwell,1993),s.v."GeorgesBataille,"74-75. Batailleused thematerialistpositionof theinformeochallengetheauthorityofthe theories of Andr6Breton,who wasseenby manyasthe mostprominent figure/theoristof the Surrealist move-ment aswell asitsallegedleader.3.Yve-Alain BoisandRosalindE.Krauss,Formless-A User'sGuide(NewYork:ZoneBooks,1997).4. Thispointis also raisedbyCharles Merewetherin "ALastingImpression,"nTrace,ee n. I.
Rachel Whiteread'sHousewasalwaysa troublesome work. Its constructionin1993inLondon'sEastEndneighborhoodof Bowopenedamajor publicdebate.Manyconcernswere raisedanew,includingcomplaints againstthe state of hous-ingandagainst right-wingconservativeracism,issues about thehistoryof thelocalcommunityand a lost"wayof life." Its destructionthree months lateronlyfurther fueledtheexisting complaintsas well astheongoing "publicsculptureaesthetics"controversythathad surroundeditswell-publicizedlife.Materializedasapalpableimprintofabsence,House lsoseeminglymaterializedburningissuesinBritishpolitics,imprintingitselfonto thepublicconsciousness.Whilemuchof thepublicfurorthataccompaniedHouseanished withthe work almosta decadeago,it remains everpresentin the arena ofcontemporaryarttheory,albeiton adifferentnote. ThequestionsthatHouse aised about thearticulation ofmemoryasadisplacementofpastintopresent,thetracingUros Cvoroofabsence, and the dialogue between the viewer's body andthematerialityof theobjectremain aspertinentas everfor
Body,
anyseriousstudyofsculptureandmemory.It is in this contextBothatIproposeto revisitHouse,ith thehopeofproductively
tBody,
reopeningsome of thesequestions.This accountof Houses adisruptionofmaterialspace
rnimess
throughsolidification contests anassumptionthat somerecentanalysesof the work make.' WhatIwish to take to taskinthisinvestigationistheunquestioned assumptionthat House itheracted as asymbolicsubstitute for thebodyof the viewer-aninverted,disruptedbody-orrepresentedthe absence of the domesticbody.In thisanalysis,thereductive humanistperspectivethatisbroughttobearon Housealwaysreturnsinto thesymboliceconomyof thebody.The result ofsuchanapproachtotheworkoverlooks,inmyview,theconceptualpotentialof House o dislocate theoppositionsofwork/beholder, text/reader,andobject/subject.Itis inthis con-textthat,by working throughtheoretical models of the trace andtheformless,I will linkWhiteread's work to a materialoperationofsigndeferral that contestsitsvery materialityas fixedlocationand show how it hasthecapacitytodecom-posetheverycoherenceof formonwhichthe materialityofHouse as beenthoughttodepend.Iintendto indicate how House ssaults thecategorytowhichthesubjectofbodyhas been attached andinfact excludes thebodyaltogether.Thestrategyofputtingthe formless to work is not a new one.GeorgesBatailleoriginally employedittoopposeAndre Breton's historical materialismwithamore basicmaterialism,amaterialismthat was devoid of form-the formless.2However,in more recentwritings,theformless has beenbroughttoprominencebyYve-AlainBoisand Rosalind Kraussasawayofretroactivelydisruptingthestructuralbinaryinthehistoryof modernismthat has been usedtointerpretartasa fundamentaloppositionbetween form andcontent.3BoisandKrauss nsert theformless into thehistoryof modernism inorder todisrupttheunityand sta-bilityofvisualspaceinthe modernistinterpretative gridforart that assimilatesthe "semanticregisters"ofobjectsconstitutedthroughtheform/contentopposi-tion. Boisand Kraussdetach the traceof the formless fromthe visualform,thusunderminingtheproximityofthe trace to the formand thepossibilityof thetracebeingabsorbedbythe form. Theirpointisthatifthe trace of theformless isinde-pendentofthe visualform,it willeschew thebinary logicof form andcontent.4
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