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ET SATAN CONDUIT LE BAL by Paul Henrickson, © 2007 Jeff Koons: HANGING HEART Increasingly, it seems, over the past

several decades, news items, especially out of the United States, have focused on the bizarre, that is, the joining of one image to another one which logical connection seemed, to say the least, was obscure. The sale at auction of Jeff Koon’s “Hanging Heart” which sold for $23,600,000. might be considered such a bizarre event. Certainly if that kind of money came into my life I would consider it a bizarre event. Now, having said that, I recall having been instructed by a 16 year-old, twentyfive years my junior, that having been stuck by a poisonous Crown of Thorns Star Fish one simply, and beautifully, reverses the process and turns the animal upside down and allows the starfish to suck out the poison. The use of the source of a threat as the cure for the same threat also seems rather bizarre, but that is the way it was. On the other hand, and from another point of view, it might appear to be a part of a normal organic process such as our uses for salt, one as a preservative of dead meat and, two, in smaller amounts, as an enhancer of taste. A Crown of Thorns Starfish. These measure 14” sometimes My gosh!, but that explanation, that demonstration of an organic process with the star fish was a revelation. This Micronesian sixteen year-old also calmed my fears when, greatly startled, I warned him of a shark not 10 feet from where the boy stood waist deep in water covering the reef. He was not concerned for he told me “That one is afraid of people.” “Oh”, I replied, “I hope the shark knows that”. I did not pursue the matter further to ask that if he is afraid of people what is the shark was doing so close to two of them? I really am at a loss to explain what these examples might have to do with one Timothy McVeigh, out of protest for the murders of fetuses bombs an abortion clinic. As if his “conceptual statement” indicated that killing other human beings is bad before the birth of the individual, but acceptable when he does it after they have been born into this world. I do not know how the theory of organic processes might work in this connection. But I am able to turn the discussion in the direction of suggesting that a work of art might also bear some social responsibilities There is something NOT acceptable with the notion that because a work is labeled a work of art it is, thereby, exempt from any moral obligations. I once knew a perennial New York socialite who, for reasons I am unable to explain unzipped his fly at table as an example of a “conceptual event” and peed onto the platter of asparagus. It has forever altered my vision of asparagus. Perhaps he wanted those assembled at table in this fifth avenue apartment to realize there was a similarity between a rod of asparagus and his semi-occult appendage. Some additionally disciplined intellectual analysis needs doing. Of course there is the example of Gandhi having drunk his own urine, but that was his own and the organic relationship seemed somewhat more in evidence than with my friend and the platter of asparagus. Except! …returning now to the question of an organic relationship between Timothy and the bomb…there may be a clarifying factor if some how, one wonders why there were two other unexploded bombs fond in the building after the one McVeigh delivered went off and caused the deaths of 168 people. Our current society seems content not to have the existence of those other two bombs explained preferring to avoid having to consider the morality of an off-balanced individual having been trained by our efficient armed services into being a previously prepared and ready explanation for the event. Something not unlike “The Manchurian Candidate”. There are times when art may be more effective in explaining events than reason and at this time I bow to Tom Lehrer who had shown himself to be extremely clever at this. This link is for a musical ditty composed, arranged and sung by the Harvard mathematician (or was it M.I.T?) Tom

Lehrer. While he, too, is pocking some serious critical fun at our social values, some four decades ago or more, there is considerable humor, wry though it may be, and wit, evident in phrase after phrase verbal and musical and so the entire piece both entertains and instructs us as well as moving us to a level of helpless concern …all responses he successfully elicits from us which, I think, Jeff Koons does not. That something is. I believe, an arrangement, a composition, a specially focused organization that takes us from one level to another. I have not identified that quality in the work of Jeff Koons. There is no doubt that the world has given him every opportunity and, in that process, deprived hundreds of others. The Oklahoma City bombing was in 1995 and McVeigh is now executed, erased from the national consciousness and absolved of guilt, and it was, after all, only 6 years later that another 3,000 people died at the Twin Towers where it is also thought other explosive devices were planted in advance …a job much better done and with a significantly greater human yield of corpses….thus the title of this piece “Et Satan Conduit La Bal” a phrase taken from Gounod’s opera “Faust” and, I hope, the similarity between that seduction and that of the Manchurian brought to focus. In this connection one might well check out the cultural roots of Saatchi’s Galleries behaviors regarding its operations which could appear to be the actions of a cultural fifth column who might well have taken a phrase out of Breznjev’s observation that one should not underestimate the power of an image. Nor, for that matter, the influence of associates, and the values placed on personality development by the military…and as for the military, I should be very interested to hear Colin Powell’s comments on the conceptual conflicts this engendered in his mind when confronted with the reports coming out on El Graib and the subsequent efforts to make a heroine out of that female soldier England and even more recently in connection with the Blackwater operations where the Iraqi families of Blackwater slaughter are suing in the United States. All this might make it appear as though our value structure has experienced a crack…or two. But, it might be asked, what has all this to do with Jeff Koons? Well, look at his work and at who it is who supports it and at what cost and then ask “Why?” A decade ago I was acquainted with a couple where the mother, thinking her son might be gay, thought the best way to cure him was to seduce him. One might wonder whether there weren’t mixed motives in that decision. It is thought that Mrs. Pushkin had the same thought for Rudolph Nureyev. And I, at 21, was rebuked by the husband of a woman of 63 for not having had sex with her as an earlier associate at the school had done. That behavior simply hadn’t been my view of a husband’s role. To repay me for my indifference she told the rest of the town that I was gay and that I didn’t care who knew it. Well, a guy doesn’t have much chance in denying it, or not, does he? It just goes to show the lengths to which some ladies will go to express their disappointment. This, all of the above, is, I believe, a part of what the Hopis call KOYANISQATSI…a world out of joint. Now we find that eight and nine year-olds are accused of rape by an eleven year old…and the arresting officers believe it! It seems that one is damned if one does and damned if one doesn’t. And living in a convent or monastery is no security these days either. It has been said that art reflects the time from which it emerges, a concept which certainly raises interesting questions as to what other art may have been produced during any of the period one has traditionally studied for it is obvious to nearly all today that not all types of aesthetic production reach the level of a million dollar approval. One wonders what such off-beat Rococo notions may have been…….. My, my!! A totally new field for economic exploitation! One comment published regarding the sale of Koon’s (bleeding) heart indicated that the writer thought the work in “bad taste”, a heuristic comment if there ever was one…opening up a whole range of additional comments. In general, matters of “taste” are matters of social preference and, in general, the expression of “good

taste” is a matter of social agreement. In the area of what are generally considered the “creative” arts the significant works are NOT the works that abide by the prevailing contemporary taste. “Good taste” in mid 19th Century France did not include the efforts of Eduard Monet and this condemnation was dully reflected in many critical comments published at the time. “Good taste” might be detected a century later when the works of Dane Clark might be placed beside Monet’s work when the observer might also learn something about the difference between “good taste” and aesthetic perception. Dane Clark: “Spring in Santa Fe” Dane Clark “Park” Claude Monet: Impression Philip Guston: untitled In short, there is something just a little disturbing, “off-center”, “not right”, or “questionable” about truly creative works of art. They seem to provocatively on our sensibilities. If there is creativity involved it is that, as observers, we are not bored. Of course, that may all depend upon level and sort of expectation residing in the observer. quite work likely the

We might generate a thought by considering the proposition that the use of metaphor, a visual metaphor, seems to progressively disappear from the Clark where the metaphor seems to be “spring blossoms are pretty” to the Guston where the metaphor seems to be “how should I organize these sguiggles”. and all of this might raise the question as to the role of metaphor in visual art, or, for that matter, in theatre. Greta Gabo with Munch’s “Scream” (is there a metaphor here?) I suppose something might be said for Koons in that he seems to reintroduce metaphor into the visual art format, however, debased that reintroduction might be. I suppose, at the very most it might be said of Koons IHow Ho How pointedly and how often might it be necessary to show us how very intellectually and aesthetically commonplace the American bourgeois culture may be a matter for debate. But such a debate, I think, would end up at least with the agreement that all such attempts had been futile because there had been no challenging alternative in the offing. The national consensus seems to be that the everyday art reviews appearing in the newspapers as well as in some art journals belong in the same section as entertainment. Granted, that considering the complexity of some of the ideas under discussion, and involved in art criticism, the daily or weekly newspaper can hardly provide a platform for the exercise of subtlety. Newspaper editors are generally very stodgy and do not tolerate a difference of opinion regarding the nature of their readership and protect their self-image with ready assertions of generosity and patience where the more correct description would be timidity and ignorance. Would it be too risky to state that Koons ‘ work is banal? It is there, in place (and must be noticed(?), but so what? Along the same lines, is it important that we now know Koons is circumcised? Jeff Koons and wife. As for economic reality and what passes for art world event we are informed that: Consumer confidence is at a two-year low, oil prices at an all-time high, a million or more sub-prime mortgagees are facing eviction from their homes in the coming year, and banks, brokerages, and bond-rating companies are sinking under a flood of bad debt. But in the art world, the party's just getting started -- and this could be the

year the market breaks the $1 billion mark. My comment is: and just what, I ask, does all this interest mean in terms of the qualities of the work involved? The Manchurian Satan seems to be at it again! “Hanging Heart” is just a gig shiny red metal heart-shaped form with a gold bow attached…does it, perhaps, have some relationship with the fate of a two year-old girl who was cruelly treated and whose body was stuffed in a blue plastic container set adrift in Galveston Bay? No relationship that we think we might draw with any certainty, yet, if I apply the criterion for art criticism that I have applied elsewhere I might try to say that Koons is purposefully trying to get the rest of us to understand is that the things we cherish, or tell each other we cherish, exist only in certain realities that are outside of ourselves. The ideal of the concept does not flourish within. Caring is reduced to a paper greeting card and my “blue diamond is bigger than yours”. To the extent that Koons may be revealing to us how utterly and cynically empty he is, and the rest of us as a result, we need only to appraise his work. What can be said for sure is that finding evidence of a creative use and manipulation of material does not exist in his realm of operation and his conceptual realm is bankrupt despite the @23,000,000 some strange person, whose ego needed some artificial assistance, paid for it, or there was another social goal. Koons is not alone, there is Henk Hofstra in the Netherlands painting a road blue in metaphoric memory of what once was a canal, or so they tell us. The Arts Journal announcement that published this photograph also referred to the role of metaphor. Now, it would seem, it is required to determine the quality of the metaphor. I suppose, in the case of “The Blue Road” it is important to know that it required 14,000 litres of paint to accomplish it. What other artist would count the ounces it required to accomplish a task? ….or that one might even consider it a “task”? “Featuring 1000 metres of road painted blue and the phrase "Water is Life" written in eight-metre-high letters across it, the Blue Road is reminiscent of the waterway that used to be where the road is now. It's a memorial to nature, but it's also just plain awe-inspiring. There's even a few cool tidbits along the road, like a sinking car.”(from the Arts Journal announcement)` This is without doubt an “awe-inspiring” use of rhetoric to underscore degeneration and the impoverishment of, to use a popular contemporary word, “concept”. We are not told where the other half of the 75,000 euros came from that this project cost, perhaps it was Hofstra’s investment in his own career, in which case some serious questions aught to be answered as to why the Municipality would authorize such a devastating subsidy at a time when there are areas in the world where there is no water and 75,000 Euros might have provided some for parts of Africa. That might have been a worthy concept to subsidize. Let us hear from those awed-individuals on the Municipal Board who voted for this project. Back to Dane Clark. It is not my intention to degrade Dane Clark’s aesthetic focus. My intention is to point out that his focus is different from that which Monet displays in the work above and to try to make the point even clearer it might not be difficult for the reader to make the aesthetic jump, from the Monet to the Guston work…and from there to others. Having made this leap, then, will probably mean that the observer has seen that the Clarks deal with a more decorative (socially acceptable?) view of the outside world and Monet and Guston are dealing more directly with the material pigment in hand which are creative artistic concerns…not social, not polite, not empty of intelligent analysis. Hirst's New York show is a spectacular success. Hymn, one of the pieces in the show, is bought by Charles Saatchi for ?1 million. But Humbrol, a toy firm based in Hull, considers legal action over the piece, which it claims is a replica on a larger scale of its Young Scientist Anatomy Set, which sells for ?14.99. To fend off legal action, Hirst makes a 'goodwill' payment to the commercial sculptor who designed the set. Damien Hirst : “Hymn” While I believe, the materials are much alike, plastic, that is, the concepts are

very different between the Hirst and the Jimenez but I will need to time to gently figure out what they are. Note: Luis Jimenez, 65, a successful but often controversial New Mexican sculptor whose work has been displayed at the Smithsonian and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, died June 13 in what authorities are calling an industrial accident at his studio in Hondo, N.M. Part of a sculpture was being moved with a hoist when it came loose and struck the artist, pinning him against a steel support, said the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department. He was taken to the Lincoln County Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead. . Jimenez:“Pieta” the toy Hirst: Valium Ishihara: test for color blindness Now, I have to admit that there are more visual experiences in the offing in the Hirst than in the Ishihara, and both Ishihara and Hirst were probably aware of what they themselves were doing the main difference here in these works being brought together is to further demonstrate the importance of recognizing the “why” of something’s existence. The Ishihara had a closely defined purpose in its attempt to measure the tolerances in human vision. The Hirst was simply interested in providing a stimulous for a visual experience…a roller coaster ride, as it were, breathtaking (look closely at “Valium”) at the time and thrilling in remembrance. The one is science, the other is art. Hirst is, regrettably, an inconstant lover and seems to prefer size (mine is bigger than yours) over the quality of the concept.. Warhol: ‘Green Car Crash” a sycophant Warhol was not, perhaps, a highly paid court jester probably. Either way is he worth 71-72million? Tracey Emin’s “The Unmade Bed” reportedly her own bed together with all the accumulation of human detritus. Two art students have caused a stir at the controversial Turner Prize show in London by staging a semi-naked pillow fight on one of the exhibits and pouring vodka over it. Jian Jun Xi, 37, and Yuan Cai, 43, said they were "visual artists" attempting to make Tracey Emin's work more interesting . Tracey Emin out of her bed, but looking like she might go back in. Now, if it is conceptual art one is considering, it would seem that at some point distinctions might have to be drawn…if only to be able to determine where one’s thoughts really were. All in all, then, what I am attempting to describe is a scene not unlike that described in Gounod’s opera “Faust” where “the father of lies” has stirred up the unthinking passionate masses into a frenzy. This is the best stage direction and acting I have seen of that scene and was performed by Bryn Terfel a video clip which I include here for those who would enjoy a conceptual elaboration of the ideas (concepts?) the expressive arts have been able to engender. Hopefully, the reader will be able to transfer some of the aesthetic experience from the video clip to the process he uses to understand other plastic arts. Bryn Terfel Conceptual art requires quite a different mode of thinking . one better acquainted with the art of punning, a kind of secret, obscure and scurrilous language, of great interest to the barely educated and one that is generally unrewarding to those accustomed to a disciplined thought process. Yet, there is value in it, a value that is often undetected by its practitioners or their admirers but one that is there none the less and the mental exercise that is required to unearth this material can be rewarding. Such a one is, I believe, Doris Cross. Doris represents, at least from my point of view, a mind which, when left in a

state of abeyance, remains open to information not otherwise available. It is, perhaps, similar to that state which some refer to as “regression”. I tend to think of it in that light. In any event. Doris has described her work process in that way and the results often suggest that information, not otherwise directed comes through about which she claims to have known nothing, such as Greek mythology and medieval defenses. I believe she didn’t know anything about them. Why such information appears to have emerged in her work through the technique of mind absenteeism I do not know. Perhaps such interpretations are all merely a factor of the observer’s mental work, or, as some have believed in the past, it is the way the Gods communicate with man. In any event her efforts are not unlike those of the Essenes in her attempting to take an existing language and employing it unconventionally (and destructive of the intent of the original language) to say something other than what it had said before. • Redefining the uses to which material can be put seems to me to be very much a part of the creative artist’s function. Doris may have fallen into such a course by accident through her having felt incapable of achievement in the more traditionally defined ways and the fact that she generally had difficulty, both mechanical (anatomical) and psychological, in communicating verbally her process of destroying the structure of vocabulary and meaning may have been, for her, a therapeutic if not also a retributional action. Whatever its origin we now have a new thought item…an item that does require us to think about its appearance in our world. This demand upon us is not made by the work of Rafael Labro, or, if it is, I have not been able to detect what it might be, except he is, for me, a fake. He can make an appeal only to the ignorant and the corrupt which may be the reason he gained the support of both businesses and politicians. This, below, is a work by the French "artist" Raphael Labro, now exhibiting in Malta, who got the President, other politicians and church people to come to the opening. There were also about 12 - 15 businesses which sponsored him. I couldn't even get my bank to do that. I feel sorry for Malta, but then, it is following the rest of the world, and, if one can’t be real, one can, at least, be fashionable. RR A painting by the French Artist Raphgael Labro A painting by the French Artist Raphael Labro, presently appearing to create a stir on this Mediterranean island. When I was in Santa Fe and asked the director of the Governor's Gallery (a gallery out side the governor's office which had a good space if I might have a show there. He came to my house to see my work (and later congratulated himself on that generosity for as Director of the Governor's Gallery he felt I should have gone to him) and as the interview went I asked him how works for exhibition were selected. He said there was a committee of three (That sounds like real democratic procedure) when I asked who they were he told me he was one, the secretary to the governor's wife, and the third was the governor's wife. I asked what their art qualifications were for making this sort of decision and he replied he had had a course in Art Appreciation, the secretary had an MBA and the governor's wife was the governor's wife. This shows Clara Apodaca, the wife of the then Governor Jerry Apodaca instructing Georgia O’Keeffe. This is not the same gubernatorial administration I referred to above. Allan Pearson was the Director of the Governor’s Gallery at the time O’Keeffe exhibited and James Rutherford was the Director at the time I mentioned. I am no longer certain who the Governor was at that time. It may have been the one who used to speed through town on very important missions. He was Republican, Apodaca, of course, a Democrat, but in the United States it is increasingly

difficult to tell the difference. I think the body language very instructive in this image and I hope illustrates one of the moral distinctions between artists and politicians. If nothing else, the value of art criticism lies in its ability to raise thought processes in the reader. A most cynical friend of mine grows passionate over the useless and awesome seriousness with which the professions…all of them… are viewed and “art” is included. My viewpoint is different and I sense that with 6 billion inhabitants on earth and all that potential mental activity we need to develop more venues for its dissipation or experience an implosion.