THE M.A.G. SPECIAL EDITION :: JIM LEFTWICH ::


The Road of Excess Leads to the Palace of Excess


In 1969, the conceptualist Douglas Heubler wrote: The world is full of
objects, more or less interesting. I do not wish to add any more. Thirty-two
years later, and (my estimate) a few million objects later, there are still
too few objects in the world. I am thinking, as I presume Heubler was
thinking, of those objects which might be considered as works of art. There
probably are enough truck tires zip drives wristwatches handguns cell phones
toothbrushes checkbooks Wal-Marts paper clips New York Cities. Enough
useful, sensible stuff, in other words, to keep us busy quickly killing
ourselves and destroying the planet. Louise Nevelson, sculptor and early
practitioner of installation art, said in 1976: I want a lot of quality in a
lot of quantity. I want quantity in extreme excess and comparable debate
concerning its quality (for those concerned to debate such matters).

My tendencies towards the minimal are strong enough. Absence, silence, and
nothingness loom large. Their allure is centrifugal. A refusal of the
center, an annihilation of the center. My tendencies towards excess are
equally strong. The center for me is certainly wherever I am; for you it is
as certainly wherever you are. Consider Black Elk's mythic world mountain at
the center of the world in South Dakota, or Guillevic's the middle is
everywhere - / and I'm in it. The center is identity writ large. It is self:
perception, possession, power. The world is that which has been in some
sense experienced. The world as we know it. Experience is perceived as
property. Or experience as perceived is property. The owner is at the
center.

The urge towards the minimal removes or ceases moving. It either reduces to
fundamentals: quarks for the physical world, economics for human
interaction, ideas for art: consider Klein's empty gallery, Kosuth's texts
on gallery walls, Asher's air installations, Turrell's light installations.
On and on: less and less and less is more. Or it refuses production: the
metaphor if not the actuality of playing chess. Neo-hesychasm. All that is
discarded becomes an enormously turbulent array, a centrifugal chaotic
aggregate. This detritus is the playground and the alchemical laboratory of
excess. It is the opposite of the minimal but is inevitably generated by the
minimal. Its signature is the fragment. Destabilization is its norm. "I
contain multitudes" might be its motto. The I as center is singular, a
fiction. The multitudes explode the I. Whitman's container is no container
at all; it is the environment of an absent center. It isn't true that we
aggrandize ourselves by making objects; the opposite is true: we empty
ourselves, absent ourselves. Fifteen years or so ago, I worked for some time
on a still unfinished poem entitled "Margins". Its last lines are: The
recipe as brief as simple air. / Make more than you will ever need. I'm
still working on the project.

3.8.01 / 3.12.01

m.a.g.