Page 15 - Studio International - July August 1973
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gives rise to a web, but a different web, of   (The empiricism of de Antonio's camera and   achieves a characterological symbolism, through
           perceptions and meanings shared by film-makers   sound is in the service of this dialectical   the emphasis on comparison from respondent
           bound by similar relationships to an art form   reflection. The aspiration of documentary   to respondent on given points coupled with a
           whose primary function is commercial      neutrality and supra-historical validity, and the   correlative de-emphasis on long takes,
           exploitation through the widest possible   correlative shibboleth of irrepressible   individual respondent continuity within an
           exhibition of multiple prints.            subjectivism, which characterize the cinema   interview, and psychological speculation. (He
             Rare is the artist who is fully cognizant of   Write documentarian and their films, are   uses perhaps one twentieth of his interview
           these abstract interpretive tools. Emile de   dilemmas of positivism which de Antonio, as a   footage.) All respondents represent themselves
           Antonio, a social critic of received dogmas,   marxist, has coolly rejected as falsely premised.)   concretely in their relationship to the art world,
           mores, and political ideologies, is such an   The collage technique which he employs is a   but simultaneously they epitomize, even
           artist and thereby earns the right to call his film   materialist artistic strategy for binding together   inadvertently, the components of that gerund,
           a personal recollection of the art world of the   empirical observations, manifest 'object   `painting'. This effect of abstraction through
           194os, 5os, and 6os. Personal, not because it   matter,' in order that the relationships among   epitomization is heightened when the
           is subjective, selective, or tendentious, but   them, latent 'subject matter', emerge clearly   characters are comic in their actions and their
           personal because it is an explication of one   and concretely as facts of historical life. (In   speech. The clapboard, 'Leo Castelli, Take
           gerund by the cognition arising within another.   this way he avoids the Platonic error pervading   One', is a minor example. But Philip Johnson
           That is, it is a recollection of unique art by   `social' or realistic cinema which proceeds from   emerges through his puffery as the unwitting
           reproducible, ineluctably commercial, art.   a reliance on the object-image ontological   ideologist of the ruling class stating tendentious
           His presence in the film is more than a simple   identity to what Georg Lukacs calls 'a theory   assertions as Platonic truths, like the business
           iconic reference to the adjective, 'personal'. It   of the artistic imitation of "ideas","Art and   about the universality of the 'itch to emulate' in
           is bound up with the idea that the film-maker   Objective Truth,' Writer and Critic, p 41.)   our society. Robert Scull is the Balzacian
           gains his understanding within the activity of   De Antonio does not, cannot, photograph a   bourgeois who exploits his stable of young
           film-making itself.                       `social relation', a 'social law', or even a simple   artists in their studios and then construes his
             But in Painters Painting the opposition   gerund, such as 'painting'. He simply pieces   patronage romantically as the story of the
           between painting and film-making is not so   together a concrete human content to achieve a   patron of the arts who helps the struggling
           crude as all that, nor the personal nature of the   truthful structural scale.      artist by ameliorating his poverty — rather than
           recollection so mechanistically marxist. In fact   His real subject matter, what perhaps is fair   exploiting it. Poons in his rebuttal to Scull:
           the opposite is the case, because de Antonio   to call the dynamics of whole social systems,   what ? The ingrate ? The independent artiste?
           has been able to see in the problems of painting   only emerges through the operation of the   Another ideology ?' de Antonio does not even
           and the pronouncements of painters analogs of   collage technique on his empirical 'object   spare himself in this regard and makes the
           issues in his own work as a film-maker.   matter'. It is the relationships among the parts,   nature of his personal involvement in Painters
            He begins to deal with these analogs very   the shots, which his movie is about. Hence the   Painting more ambiguous by cut — from the
           early in the film. Subject matter is a case in   feeling of kinship between his art and New York   Scull-Poons debate to himself playing Scull to
           point. De Antonio's films are too easy to see,   painting. Hence the placement near the film's   Andy Warhol's Poons:
           and have too often been seen — and Painters   beginning of Barnett Newman's discussion of   Warhol : de, you made me a painter.'
           Painting will be no exception — as essentially   the problematic nature of 'object matter' for   de Antonio : Now cut . . . The real things.'
           formally neutral vessels for the documentation   painting and his assertion that scale is achieved   Perhaps what de Antonio told Warhol, the
          of historical subject matter. Viewers separate   through content. (The assertion is repeated as a   commercial artist of the fifties, was that painting
          the content from its mode of presentation,   voice-over — Newman being now deceased — as   in its fullest sense was commercial art too, being
           which is untenable. (Sartre points out that facts   the film's final image. The picture shows   enmeshed in commercial relations, and much
           have no truth or falsity but as they are   spectators among the paintings in the    better paid at that.
           interrelated through some structured      Metropolitan. Quite literally they serve as   Besides the construing of painting as a
           perception, and we have already noted that   human measures of the paintings' scale.)   complex of activities and relations, the
           perception arises through alienative practice,   In the same way Larry Poons appears near   materialist practice of collage, and the Brechtian
          the gerunds.) When de Antonio's films are not   the film's conclusion in the only art-making   characterological treatment of real persons,
           perceived as formally neutral, viewers and   participle in the film. Another analog for   there is yet a fourth dimension to Painters
          reviewers report the obverse perception, that   film-making, Poons is 'editing' a painting and he   Painting. That is an internal excellence which is
          they are propagandistic. Of course neither   places his hands before his eyes in the familiar   based of course in part on de Antonio's
          perception is correct.                     gestural metaphor of the motion picture   control of the epistemological and aesthetic
            That this film in particular, concerning an   director at work, framing his subject.   elements in his work. But also it is based on his
          avant garde which casually ignored by the    In another sequence Jules Olitski discusses   established practice of serendipitous discovery
          overwhelming majority of the population of   cropping paintings while Mary Lampson's   and skilful exploitation of fortuities within the
           the United States, might be a mere presentation   microphone, recording what Olitski is saying,   vast quantity of material his cameraman, Ed
          of content not only flies in the face of the   intrudes from the right edge of the screen. It too   Emschwiller, exposes. (De Antonio neither
          economics of motion pictures but also ignores   could have been cropped.             shoots film nor records sound himself.)
          the battle of this very avant garde to gain   The loss of control of paintings to museums   In Painters Painting's synthetic collage we
          recognition for an art in which new, more   and through dealers, all discussed in the film,   have the best use of a camera pan we are likely
          complex relations of content and structure   mirrors the film-makers' traditional loss of print   to see in 1973. It begins on a wall and, travelling
          exist. Furthermore a selection of New York   control to distributors.                right, crosses Robert Rauschenberg's Rebus,
          art-world gossip and criticism, besides being   There is yet another dimension to this   continues onto the white wall to the right of the
          relatively unsaleable, would be a stupid picture.   personal recollection, the Brechtian   painting. On the sound-track de Antonio has
          Rather in Painters Painting, and in all his half   dimension, for de Antonio, though a   cut together Henry Geldzahler calling Rebus
          dozen political films, de Antonio has been   documentary film-maker, is nonetheless a   (1955) a puzzle, an anthology of possibilities
          interested in making reflections of aspects of   leading exponent of Brechtian caricature,ras   which was proto-Pop, and Rauschenberg
          American society, the structural           revelatory of the dynamics of society as   himself explaining that he used the coloured
           interrelatedness, the strategies, tactics, and   Lukacsian structural analysis. Again this is   comic section of the newspaper in Rebus as an
          techniques, which can be perceived rationally.   involved with de Antonio's cutting, by which he    `on-going surface' on which to paint, and his
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