Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Starting at the Start

Nils Folke Anderson:
Shall we start with how we started?

Molly Stevens:
Yes. I think it started first with the possibility of a show.
Then we had to come up with an idea.

Right, we met to talk in the park. It was a sunny day and we had sandwiches and lots of people were hanging out. We had a great, fun conversation without ever settling into a specific concept of what we wanted to do, but just arrived at many points of commonality, common interests, artists we both liked, and a general sense that it would be interesting to see where the conversation would lead in terms of a show.., and that the concept would form as a conversation, like THAT conversation; unfold easily and over time. Or not necessarily easily, but progressively, across time and space.

But there was Le Corbusier. You had told me about how the architect once derided European cities because they didn't follow a rational, formal plan.

I have the quote right here.
Man walks in a straight line because he has a goal and knows where he is going […]. The pack-donkey meanders along, meditates a little in his scatter brained and distracted fashion, he zigzags in order to avoid the large stones, or to ease the climb, or to gain a little shade; he takes the line of least resistance. […] The Pack-Donkey’s Way is responsible for the plan of every continental city; including Paris, unfortunately.

Le Corbusier, The City of Tomorrow and Its Planning, 1929

I had just read an essay by Catherine Ingraham, from her "Burdens of Linearity" and had read the quote there. As someone who admires both Le Corbusier and donkeys it immediately struck me as interesting terrain.

Tangent: The interest in Le Corbusier is in the purity of form? The interest in donkeys is obvious.

The interest is from various encounters with his work, the buildings, the writings etc. For example, there's a book called Chromophobia in which Le Corbusier is taken to task for helping proliferate a love for pure white in architecture, and he's quoted from an early diary entry when he's traveling in Greece, talking about the beauty of white marble columns, but what he's observing in the quote, it turns out, is the light on the columns, and this complicates the "purity" idea. He's appreciating white as a reflective surface.

So I guess my interest is partly in the dissonance between the treatment I often encounter of his work and my own experience of it.

You mean, it's treated as...

NFA: pure, ideal, utopian, Modern, but he's constantly bumping into the messy world.

Right. For example, that Chapel in Ronchamp is pretty much kookie, not rectilinear. Although I’m certain he was aware that he was breaking away from his early convictions with this and other later work.


That said, if I were to put it in a sentence, I'd say the show will emerge from conversation, in a pack-donkey-like way. Also, I'm personally interested in artwork that emerges in this way too. That is, through process, through a certain surrender of rational, linear thought.

Definitely, feeling one's way along.

At the same time, I think it's important that the show include “rectilinearity” as a possible outcome of feeling one's way.

Exactly, and also as a means to feel one's way.

(Image: The chapel of Notre Dame du Haut, designed by Le Corbusier, 1955.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Donkey Trail

Straight from the Donkey's mouth:
I've been on this path for a while now, with these sacks on my back. This morning I tripped on a rock. So I’ll just stop in front of this one right here. Come to think of it, if I go this way, it’s still up. Nice roses. Ouch.
Donkey Trail: an exhibition being developed by Nils Folke Anderson and Molly Stevens, opening May 2010 at Slag Gallery in New York. Maturing until then right here at the Donkey Trail blog and on Art on My Mind.