This needle of the world #2

Clarification - Paul Klee, 1932, oil on canvas


Realism(s) #17, or: blanc merité

OPALKA 1965 / 1 - ∞ [detail] - Roman Opalka, 1965-2011, acrylic on canvas


In 1965, Roman Opalka started counting from one to infinity, recording every number on a series of 196 x 135 cm canvases. Since 1972, each new grey canvas was gradually whitened by approx. 1% each time, and by 2008 the paintings consisted entirely of white upon white. Opalka painted into this void for three years before completing the work at the only possible point: his death, on August 6th, 2011. An obituary in the bourgeois press, perhaps impressed by the almost mechanical rationality of this exercise, noted: 'Some critics saw his project as a sort of suicide, and he did not altogether dispute that.'




As the AV festival continues, so does the 744-hour Radio Boredcast — listening infrequently, I've heard more than a few unexpected sounds amidst the diverse noise. Some highlights from the slow cinema weekend: the Saturday/Sunday triple-bill of The Turin Horse, Two Years at Sea and Century of Birthing; the Pig Iron shot from Benning's Milwaukee/Duisberg (best seen in tandem with a trip to the SSI blast furnace at South Gare); Susan Stenger's Full Circle; Torsten Lauschmann and this. Also, Lumière's Acontecimientos 2011 has been published — some addenda to my list: Julia Holter's FACT mix; Grouper's Violet Replacement European dates; and, re: inflexion points, Paul Mason's LSE lecture, Notes on the Inorganic part III, and Our Operaismo [pdf].

No comment #7


Whitley Bay, walking between the boarded up sea-front buildings. Something has finished here, we agree. Something is over. But at least they haven't begun the regeneration yet. They're going to turn it into a cultural quarter. Imagine that! A cultural quarter, where there was once the funfair and golden sands.

It was the same in the city. W. was unimpressed by the regeneration of the quayside, with its so-called public art. Public art is invariably a form of marketing for property development, he says. It's inevitably the forerunner of gentrification.

W. is an enemy of art. We ought to fine artists rather than subsidise them, he says. They ought to be subject to systematic purges. He's never doubted we need some kind of Cultural Revolution.

The real art of the city is industrial, of course, W. says. Spiller's Wharf. The High Bridge. The four storeys of the flax mill in the Ouseburn Valley...

W. likes to imagine the people of the city, the old working class, coming to reclaim the quayside. What need did anchor-smiths and salt-panners have for a cultural quarter? Why can't the descendants of the keelmen, of the rope-makers and wagon-drivers, come and retake the new ghettoes for the rich? In his imagination, W. says, a great army of Geordies storm along the river, smashing the public art and tearing down the new buildings.

--Lars Iyer, Dogma, 2012, p.73-4. Image: the John Heartfield exhibition at Side Gallery, Newcastle. Sadly, the very impressive Spiller's Mill was demolished a few months ago: by the time I got there, nothing was left.