Friday, February 17, 2006

Recap/some thoughts on Matthew Goulish's lecture, School of the Art Institute, 2/16

I first heard about Matthew Goulish and his work through Jesse who had published his Parisitology lecture in an issue of Antennae. I think it was about two years ago, in the same auditorium in the School of the Art Institute, that I saw Goulish perform the same piece, a hybrid form of writing that incorporates processes of memory, association and research into a presentation involving A/V support and the premise of the lecture format as a conceptual jumping off point.

Last night Goulish read in this auditorium again, to share four sections of a work in progress over his recent sabbatical, a lecture drawn from a work based on his friend, the artist Lawrence Steger (not sure if I have the spelling right there). This Lawrence Steger Remix I believe it was called was prefaced by a few statements. First, that this work was connected indirectly to history, but directly connected to memory. That it was a project of writing through and around the texts, memories and performances of LS in memory of LS who died too young in 1999. Goulish reassured us that it was OK if we didn’t know who LS was, that he had worked in invisible ways.

We are introduced to Lawrence the person through a letter he has written a friend in which he voices his worries with the complications of a life made tenuous by art.. lack of money, food, work. He talks of “feeling the pang s of non-ownership” as he finds some work off the IRS’s radar painting the condos of yuppies next door. “They work in real estate. In Lincoln Park no less. I think we’re the same age or maybe I’m a year or two older.” That doubt or that sense of comparison at least seems to come to the fore in one’s thirties, when LS was writing.

Goulish credits Steger’s work as “a force captured by juxtaposition,” of disparate things conjured into stunning relation. One can easily see that this homage and their friendship extends into that shared artistic prime mover, as Goulish’s own work, this one and others, are masterful feats of juxtaposition, threads that connect the world without the tidy artifice of closure. G’s text spends some time looking at the parallels and relationships between Steger’s “invisible labor,” under the table income earned to survive but not jeopardize his medical support, and his “invisible performance,” ephemeral, Fluxus-inspired installations and performances in unusual venues. “It’s not the kind of thing one comes to see” he admonishes Goulish at one point when he’s expressed interest in coming to see a cabaret solar system of balloons Steger tells him he’s installed above dance floor of a night club.

The text also explores the notion of invisibility as it pertains to the performance instruction texts of Yoko Ono, whose work was very important to Steger. I don’t have the quote here, but her piece from Grapefruit that instructs the reader/performer to count 1000 suns in the sky and make a tuna fish sandwich comes to bear on G’s exploration of what is “visible” and what is “invisible.” “To quote Yoko is to quote a gesture beyond possession.” Even though this isn’t quite halfway through the content and duration of the piece, I’ll leave off here. Because this is Goulish’s purpose with the arc of it all, “to converse with Lawrence without possessing him.”

It’s a mighty act to conjure the dead back into the world of the living. I can see why so many spiritual traditions have their own versions of this attempt. Is art a singular spiritual tradition? Because Goulish is without question successful in this task. He is successful by not paring a life down to the commonly austere talking points of more formal memorial. His reach is lyrical, absurd, pedestrian, philosophical, and locates itself within the first, second and third person in the process of making its spectacular prism.


At 3:34 AM, Blogger James said...

Thank you for the update! Sounded like a great evening. I enjoyed Mr. Goulish's piece in Antennae.

Hi, Kerri. Hi, Jesse.

All best,
James Wagner

At 3:39 AM, Blogger James said...

If that's Dave P., hello to you as well. (2+2 is still hard for me).



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