Panorama view of exhibition in Jedlitschka Gallery, Zurich.

Panorama view of exhibition in Jedlitschka Gallery, Zurich.

09 December 2012

End of the World? Nah, it's only a renowned international art exhibition!

Now the English version of my essay in comic form for the cultural magazine Saiten, St.Gallen, Switzerland. Dezember 2012.





Click on image to enlarge.

02 December 2012

The Next Documenta Should be VISUAL!


I always liked Jens Hoffman's image for his critique of documenta. I have made one myself for my thoughts about it and all big international shows. Please spread it around!

01 December 2012

Mark Staff Brandl --- Weltuntergang? Nein, Kunst! End of the World? No, it's Art.

Mein Aufsatz in Comic/sequenzieller Kunst-Form. Für Saiten, Kultur Zeitschrift St. Gallen, Schweiz. My Essay in comic form for the cultural magazine Saiten, St.Gallen, Switzerland. Dezember 2012.

(Click image to enlarge)

English translation:
End of the World? Nah, it's only a renowned international art exhibition!
We have the wrong invitation card! Apocalypses, art show openings, --- they look so much alike...

SAITEN asked me if I could talk about 3 "Art Shows that Should be Thrown Away" from the year 2012 (for their End of the World December issue). Instead, I will suggest art ideas from 3 shows for this.

1. I was a part of dOCUMENTA 13 (thanks to Critical Art Ensemble), in Kassel germany. It was fun, much better, e.g., than the anti-painting, puritanical documenta X. However, dOC 13 was still anti-visual. Nothing to SEE!

We nees VISUAL ART in the visual artworld. Not only TEXT TEXT TEXT
TEXT TEXT TEXT TEXT TEXT TEXT TEXT TEXT TEXT. I wish for a wonderful apocalypse of the TEXT-dominance of art.

2.Peter Doig, London., makes painting for people who hate this discipline. I wish for a fantastic apocalypse of such pureposefully feeble painting.

3. Last & least. Rirkrit Tirivanija presented as art a soup dinner in the Grand Palais, Paris. 

I wish for a refreshing apocalypse of such silly "my-assistants-will-make-a-stupid-event-for-the-rich-art-patrons-Spectaclism" art.

In conclusion: there are some apocalypses that are desirable.

29 November 2012

The Artworld Pyramid Shift


"There has been a shift in the functions of the various strata in the art work in recent decades. Something far stranger than a power realignment alone has been happening in the art world. Earlier, historical changes were relatively transparent transpositions of domination. Novel now is the seeming shift of interest, of focus --- almost of aesthetic object."

Way back in 1997 I wrote these words in an essay which was published in Switzerland in German and English as a part of a small book on contemporary art. The book was not that important, but I think some of my points are even more relevant to the art scene of today. I will excerpt and rewrite parts of it here for discussion.

In the history of art, the weight of influence and determining power has often shifted this way or that. Predominance has transferred from church to patron to galleries, sometimes to museums, in some places to collectors, every once in a while to artists themselves. There have been short-term moguls, such as John Ruskin in the late 1800s, or Clement Greenberg in the 40s, 50s and early 60s of this century. At times these people may be powerful enough, such as in the case of Greenberg, not only to draw attention to specific artists and away from others, but even to determine what is accepted as art at all.

If one envisions the art world as a layered pyramid, there is a slip of levels and their roles. Let us delineate a possible pyramidal illustration. The (1) artists make (2) aesthetic objects in their (3) manner (4) exhibition curators (institutional or not) put these in (5) exhibitions they organize. These artworks, and artists, may or may not -but usually at some point must be - taken on by (6) gallerists in their (7) galleries. where they are hopefully bought by (8) collectors and put in their (9) collections. Ultimately with enough acceptance the art works wind up being put by (10) museum directors in (11) museums. At least that is the diagram most of us have in our minds. Independent of the fact that this model is relatively new and rather specifically so-called late-capitalistic and predominantly American, that it now mutates is intriguing.

This change may have been happening slowly over quite a length of time. With Picasso, Duchamp, Warhol and later Beuys, however important their art, the focus tended to shift to the person, or rather to an image of each that had more to do with the drives of publicity and fashion than with humanism. Within our current pyramid or hierarchy of artworld functions. it seems that the true stars are the exhibition organizers. The Harald Szeemanns, Hans-Ulrich Obrists, Jean-Christophe Ammanns etc. I do not intend to plaintively deplore their success. I am in fact a fan of the work of several of the exhibition-maker superstars. Their influence has often been refreshing. and is certainly preferable to a narrow thralldom under someone like Greenberg. My design is to comment on our general cultural context. The point is not only that these exhibition curators have the spotlight, or even that they have become more original and creative than earlier organizers, but that all tiers of my hypothetical diagram sketched above have clearly slipped a notch or two.

The exhibition curators are in effect now the artists. Their exhibitions are the works of art, populated by artists who assume the position previously held by periods or styles or movements. The creator is the curator. the artist an aspect of the work. This continues across the board. Museums often act like galleries. Gallerists seem uncertain as to what it is they do --- having functions stolen from them on both sides. By the logic of this model they would become public service exhibitions privately funded by the gallerist. Most disconcerting is that although visitor numbers are increasing, the number of collectors is certainly not vastly growing. This makes one wonder what kind of effect the experience of blockbuster shows actually has on the viewers. In the 60s and 70s at the expanded exhibition's birth. It was thought such exposure to good art would be enough alone to enlarge the understanding public.



This exigency raises the question of what is to be done within it, through it. after it, or even against it. How can this situation be enlisted into the service of art? As in any situation. its "cash value" is important, to use William James' term. That is, what good is it, what can be done with it? Let us consider our state pragmatically. In the real world, no situation has been ideal for art or the artist. Whether working for the king, church, state, merchants, whatever. How do art aficionados react, given the new hierarchy?

One choice has been to ignore the circumstances, practicing the old tried and true ostrich tact, denying history, saying it was ever thus so. Mapping culture as nature is a popular approach of atavistic style mimics. Or alternately one can cynically get on the bandwagon, a prevalent stance in much Neo-Conceptual art today. A careerist achievement of success as its own and only goal has even been promoted by some theorists. This amounts simply to sophistry, to train to win with no concern for why. True thinkers such as Socrates have criticized this know-nothing stance since 400 B.C. Wanting to convince people, without caring what you speak or paint about, or where you are going, seems to be an historically repeating infirmity of weak wills. A third reaction, and perhaps the most effective one, is to simply live in conditions as given, but to pry a little content in whenever possible. Not blatantly heroic perhaps, but nonetheless admirable. This has been a tenable option at many times and in many locations. Goya, for example can be seen in this light. The final and best reaction of all is to strive to make a very material itself of the situation, to incorporate it and force it to be creative by using art's ontological and metaphoric expansiveness. This should not, however; be the only material. Creative interpolation is called for, doorways of opportunity for new and necessary experiences of art. If we have no positive comprehension, then we will simply be the blind purposefully misleading the blind.

How does this concretely apply to us now? What shall be done? I have only a very few suggestions. For one, there is a collapse of roles? Well then, collapse your own roles, define yourself. In fact probably ones varied plural selves, "each of those creatures called one's self," in E. E. Cummings' words. Be "multiapplicable," depending on and following the nature of your thought. Be an artist, curator, writer, thinker, activator and more. When proper interpretation is valued, a more dialectical relationship with experience results. Mikhail Bakhtin has stressed the way that expressions not only reflect controlling interests but more importantly can be made disruptive. thereby unshackling alternative views. This comes about, he states, by developing a "polyphonic"' or "dialogic" form, utilizing varied and not subordinated points of view. A concern for context and meaning permits one as well to allow multiple approaches to retain their quirky individuality.

In addition, we need to reinstate a positive historical memory, yet one without a melodramatic "burden of the past." As Elaine A. King rightly points out, "an acute case of historical amnesia" is one of the factors killing art today." A historical consciousness operating against the amnesiac academy, rather than promoting it as history painting did. Plainly, the lack of any real acknowledgement of the past serves now chiefly to allow the continuous re-sale of the same few, stale notions as "cutting edge." If I go into a Kunsthalle one more time an see a bar stretched across the display space, on which "found" items of clothing are hung on hangers wall-to-wall I'll regurgitate. I've now seen that five times, each claimed to be shocking and new and cutting edge. Furthermore, stop yer whinin', but increase yer criticizin'. Yes, all artworld denizens have a tendency to whimper about their difficulties. It is hard, for almost all of us, not just artists. However, not all critique is bellyaching. In our Prozac-framed culture, very often even justified analysis and protest are immediately labeled as "whining." Have the gumption to speak openly and clearly about what you perceive of as objectionable. As my father said, if you have no enemies, then you have never spoken clearly enough. Not everyone needs to, or can, be fond of you and your ideas.



When I wrote these words, in their original form, I meant it as a call to artists to become curators themselves. Instead, the opposite has happened. The roles have shifted farther and solidified more densely. In German a new word has been forged to legitimize the situation. Historians, curators, organizers, critics, museum educators and so on call themselves as a group "Kunstvermittler." They even give themselves art awards for this "Vermittlung" activity. They frequently ask me to translate this into English. Fortunately, it cannot be done. And laudably, Raphael Rubinstein at Art in America assures me that such a term has been actively combated by better writers on art in the English-language world. For your information, that word could be framed as "art-intermediary" or "art broker" or "art middleman" or even "art procurer." Most of these, especially the last term, reveal more of the truth of the situation than the "Vermittler" would like, far more than the rather self-flattering connotations of the German neologism.

Now I am asking you: what more can we do now in this situation? To pragmatically exist in it, but also to criticize it, cure it or use it as material?

03 September 2012

Meanwhile, Installation by Mark Staff Brandl



A 28 minute documentary video of the painting installation created in 2011 at the Peoria Contemporary Art Center by Mark Staff Brandl, Gary Scoles and Th. Emil Homerin.

09 July 2012

Brandl: Podographs Ausstellung Artikel

Ein schöner, kürzer Artikel an meiner Ausstellung in St. Mangen ist in der St. Galler Tagblatt heute, von Brigitte Schmid-Gugler. A nice, short article on my exhibition in St. Mangen is in the St. Gallen newspaper today, by Brigitte Schmid-Gugler. Danke


06 July 2012

Mark Staff Brandl in dOCUMENTA 13



 Mark Staff Brandl an der dOCUMENTA 13
Im Rahmen des Critical Art Ensembles Winning Hearts and Minds präsentiert Künstler und Kunsthistoriker Mark Staff Brandl eine Performance-Vorlesung der hybriden Art.
Künstler und Publikum Selbstbemächtigung. Reinschauen und zuhören!

«Ein Blitz-Crashkurs in Kunstgeschichte» – das volle Programm von der Vorgeschichte zur Postmoderne in nur einer Stunde. Mit Bildern. – Werden Sie in Lichtgeschwindigkeit zum Expert!
Donnerstag, 12. Juli, 12–13 Uhr im Hauptbahnhof (KulturBahnhof) Kassel, dOCUMENTA 13

Mark Staff Brandl in dOCUMENTA 13!


 As a part of Critical Art Ensemble's Winning Hearts and Minds, Brandl, artist and PhD art historian , will present a hybrid performative lecture event in the Hauptbahnhof.
Artist and viewer empowerment. Come see and hear!

"A Quicky Crash Course in Art History," the entire history of art from the Prehistoric through Postmodernism in one hour with pictures — become an expert with lightning speed!
Thursday 12th July 12:00 -1:00 pm in the Hauptbahnhof (KulturBahnhof) in Kassel.

26 June 2012

Mark Staff Brandl: Time Lines

These are my most recent "Quicky Art History" time lines which I use to teach surveys of art history. I hope you find them interesting and useful.


23 May 2012

Brandl: Experience as the Foundation for Art: "If you've paid for it, it's yours."



One point I feel I have to make regularly to young artists might also be of interest to others.

As several readers may know, one of my "Sharkpack" points has always been to emphasize to individuals that you are responsible as an artist --- for your career as Paul Klein demands, for your belief in yourself and your own criticality as Wesley Kimler emphasizes --- and my most well-known point, you are responsible for your own thoughts, your own theoretical inspirations your own interpretation of history. As part of that, I have a saying: "If you've paid for it, it's yours."

I don't mean that monetarily, but experientially. In the sense that Blues musicians so accurately speak of "paying your dues." If you have paid them, then what derives from them is yours. Don't believe any of this "you can't do this or that now" --- everything has already been done, in a certain sense, yet NOTHING has been done in YOUR way yet. Make it personal and its yours. Even worse than "that can't be done now" are the proscriptive, veiled, commands like "you as an artist must do what is current" or however the clichéd statements go. That is an appeal to fashion in the worst sense. If you try to "be with it" you will always be one step behind, anyway. Do better. Make it personal. Then it will always be current, YOUR current, and interesting to others. We humans are always interested in real human expressions of what it is to be alive. Take for your own life, what you have paid your dues for. Personal experience is the foundation of all true expression. (Note: I do not mean nostalgia in any way --- that is believing some specific point in the past was the only worthwhile thing and dreaming about it sentimentally. I mean a real use of what you have, what knowledge (in all senses) you have inherited, worked through, lived through. "If you've paid for it, it's yours." And it will in many ways be unique to you.

03 January 2012

Podcast of and from the Venice Biennale 2011, the Accademia Museum and the Museo Correr





A Venice Biennale 2011 extravaganza. Mark Staff Brandl is in the City of St. Mark. Brandl, the Central European Bureau and VaporettoShark, traverses and discusses his way through this huge international festival with sporadic assistance from Peter Stobbe, Claudia Tolusso, Manuela Gritsch, Elisabeth Payer, Tamara Remus, Lucas Malsch, Adam Vogt, Sarah Rohner, Johanna Gschwend, Marc Bless, Manuel Ackermann, Chandra Marquart and others from the Art Academy of Liechtenstein. He covers many of the national pavilions at the Giardini park, discusses much of the Centrale and even works his way through all of the massive Arsenale. Furthermore, at the end Dr. Mark and Dr. Peter visit and discuss some thrilling old paintings at the Accademia, the wonderful Venetian Museum and go to a retrospective of Julian Schnabel in the Museo Correr, located in the Piazza San Marco. Whew. Viva la Serenissima!



This is the 54th incarnation of this show, probably the most important contemporary art exhibition. It takes place once every two years, the first Biennale being held in 1895. The Exhibition this year, titled ILLUMInations was curated by Bice Curiger; it is the largest yet, spreading over 108,000 square feet between the Giardini and the Arsenale, and features 83 artists from all over the world. The Accademia art museum is situated on the south bank of the Grand Canal, within the sestiere of Dorsoduro. It was founded in 1750 and contains among a huge number of others, works by Bellini, Guardi, Giorgione, Pietro Longhi, Lorenzo Lotto, Mantegna, Tiepolo, Titian, Veronese, Vasari, and Mark's great favorite: Tintoretto. The Museo Correr is the civic museum of Venice and extends along the south side of the Piazza. It holds art, documents, artifacts, and maps that chart the history of Venice across the centuries. It has also has shown one person exhibitions of contemporary artist such as Anselm Kieffer, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, and Enzo Cucci.