How to look at a friend: How a friend looks
Coast Unclear Seeks Rained Parade
a. Centrifugal knowledge
c. Mediation and making
a. Friendship as privacy
b. Echo and origins, privacy interrupted
a. political/ethical stakes of humor
b. Humor as relational, but also distancing
c. Humor, irony, sincerit
a. Property, transgression, privacy (i dunno what this means, but maybe makes sense)
b. Being collected
c. Tension of private relations as subject to collection??
d. Thinking too of Benjamin on collecting… not sure if relevant ->chaos/memory/passion but also the nature of care towards a
Should we start here? Do we need to add something about the process of art making or mediation, or is that covered in the studio/narration part?
I dont remember what we said about that?
Me neither! But I think maybe when we talk about narrating, producing we try to bring it back to painting a bit?
Yes, painting. About time - contemporariness. Like maybe on painting and time, about a group and style? Is that important
Running to bathroom brb!
Me too. Back.
Can we imagine an intimate friendship between the two likenesses of close friends? Do these paintings speak to one another—giggling, listening, gossiping, passing time when no one is looking? A ludicrous thought probably. Chatting in her studio, the painter and her friend-cum-subject sit at the feet of a portrait of another mutual friend, tuned into the kind of listener this last sitter would be; his imagined opinion chiming into the present party’s conversation. The room reverberates with a playful echo, it is filled with the odd comfort of an incessant doubling. Echo can never be a hero, but she’ll have the last word.
One always encounters oneself as split in the world’s mirrors, in acts of conversation and in imaging technologies. About narcissism: not some absolute detachment, but the necessary turn inward when the world asks you to take a position and narrate. A scattered and contingent narcissism. Here there is no resolution. Though one may desire reconciliation or even destruction, the double persists. And desire is itself always displaced and doubled (are we ever completely sure what it is that we want?). All this said, there nevertheless remains contact and intimacy: an intimacy that cannot be thought apart from the public and is thereby interrupted and repeated. Narcissism is in this sense intertwined with the moment of interpellation: a function of being called into subjecthood from an outside, its designation as pathology disturbed.
A representation is preferable to the real thing. LL: once painted, the subject I became was, in my mind, more desirable than the person I am. This is another kind of splicing that leaves the self in two and opens it up to interminable publicness. While having the private portion of yourself externalized and depersonalized may feel like the most distancing instance, there is a difference between the thing and the thing represented. A remainder that resists translation; the shifting part of subjecthood no one has access to, not even the person who is being represented. Maybe intimacy is guaranteed on the basis of this massive distance.
Let us track (put in the work!) the surplus we’re pointing to, the surplus that intimacy seems to piggyback on. This is, to a degree, where the auratic quality of the portrait springs from. We hope to avoid uncritically extolling such terms and qualities (like Benjamin, we see no easy virtue to be found in the aura’s preservation or waning) and the centrifugal motion of Chloe Wise’s series cannibalizes this preciousness in the mechanic sense. One portrait is nested within and displaced onto another and each canvas is discernibly housed in her studio: objects gathered in one space only to be moved outward. The series sets equivocal boundaries between insides and outsides, forcing these positions to negotiate their terms of intelligibility—what it means to be on the inside or to be an observer looking in and the slippage between both places.
Friendship is hard work. AG: My friend is the one who I try to love with absolute certainty. I must not question this love, act as if there were no conditions for its realization. But the truth is the friend never ceases to surprise me, excite me, piss me off. Our friendship twists and turns and the friend will always keep me on my toes. The sitters’ relationship to the artist is held onto in protective terms, a singular relation whose reproduction may not be desired. Portraiture ruptures particularity, externalizing the intimate relationship for the world to see. And then there is the act of painting itself: an intimate labor of love, but one that is ultimately situated within the recurring grammars of creative practice, a set of seemingly entrenched myths and histories. The studio too centralizes some sort of intimacy, a private space of thought and reproduction. But it’s very privacy depends on an externalization of this intimacy into a public and a market.
AG: Here are a series of assertions and losses of intimacy that can’t ever be secured.
LL: You need one to veer its head to fully realize the pleasure of the other : the pleasure of privacy is contingent on exhibitionism. I don’t even know what my privacy looks like because it’s deeply dependent on the image I’ve conjured of myself not being looked at. I want to walk in on myself in a deeply private moment. And I want to let you in on that too.
Isn’t the idea of letting the friend in really beautiful? And scary. As mentioned, it means contending with a vulnerability that we don’t fully have access to. And it also implies the possibility of asking said friend to leave and shutting the door. Let’s think about the different, not always intentional, strategies used to negotiate these paradoxes.
“I encounter millions of bodies in my life; of these millions, I may desire some hundreds; but of these hundreds, I love one.” -Barthes
One may hold onto the belief that friendships spring from a natural distillation; that those millions who don’t otherwise want to love you are also those whom you would never love. Put in this way, friendship feels like a neat curatorial process. The truth is, though, one’s friends become a kind of style of their private self: My bad taste turned outward. Bad jokes become the language friends share in, the established limits they feel comfortable transgressing together. The watching crowd, others who wouldn’t get it. In Wise’s series this notion is almost literalized: those who may want to participate in the sitter and artist’s world (or who have no desire to, looking upon it with contempt and derision) cannot cross the mediating line. One can only approximate the intimacy of it all through ownership, the artist and cast seem to suggest. Cost of membership is high.
The problem with bad taste is once you’re aware of it, it very quickly becomes elitist. At the same time, submitting to typically elitist conventions and normative ways of being seems hopeless. Privacy and community are incredibly important, but they can’t be enacted as totally impassable. Humor, and belonging more generally, always have an aesthetic dimension. But these are never just aesthetic categories. And what about love?
AG: I maintain that there’s some sincerity in humor and I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.
LL: It’s weird because we’re having this private conversation but I’m v aware of its potential for mistranslation.
Loreta Lamargese and Adam Gill, 2018