Kevin Hamilton: "Healing Brush Tool"

For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality,when the perishable has been clothed wit the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." "Where , O Death, is your victory? Where , O Death, is your sting?"

I Corinthians 15: 53-55


Anonymous said...

Kevin has raised a fascinating point here-- how easily comes the
subjective reverie under the guise of a 'healing' transformation.

"Is my Rocky Mountain High a poison to me as well, a changing agent within me, that I exist in those spaces as someone who benefits from
genocide? I think so. But it's hard to get my modern mind around - I
fall so easily into displacing the evil done by attending to my own
positive or negative transformation."

Kevin Hamilton

and his ironic smile can be seen turning up at the edges of his
wonderfully tart, deadpan images:


with, beneath the image, a quote in very proper undertaker-style
capitals, from First Corinthians:

'...oh Death, Where is Thy Sting?"

For some time now whenever I"ve come across Joseph Beuy's extravagant
debris I 've wondered, was he serious? was he deadpan and tart like
Kevin or is he really imagining himself some kind of faith healer? or
something, pharmakonian-chameloning, 'tweening between frames 55 and
166 as it were, a bit of a slip?

So was very happy tonight when E-flux Journal hit my inbox tonight,
with a new trenchant essay by Jan Verwoert . who deftly brings into
play a related set of questions about
''healing" and genocide-- , even, a flip/ of perpetrator and victim,
in the work of Joseph Beuys, possibly the most notorious practitioner
of artist-as-shaman in the post war period.. The full article is
here: http://e-flux.com/journal/view/12

Just for a moment we see with what ease the proximity of possible
redemption slides into a mess (is the road to hell paved with
Patagonia?) To quote Kevin Hamilton again:

"We can look, for example, to the function of the Colorado Rockies as a
pharmakon for white Americans, seeking a pastoral remedy from their
urban/suburban lives.

As a modern skeptic, I can divide the poison from the remedy, and see
how what heals me there in my fancy hiking boots is what kills the
place and the people displaced by white settlement. I'm racist without
meaning to be - sounds like the definition of white guilt.

But what if that's too subjective for the pharmakon? Can I look at how
what's healing me is also a poison to me, in addition to looking at it
as a poison to someone else?"

There's this strange event Joseph Beuys staged, "I Like America and It
Likes Me" in which he moved into a gallery in New York with a coyote
for awhile, claiming to be 'both sufferer and healer": Jan writes:

"In fact, he [Beuys] continued to dwell on one particularly
irresolvable ambiguity at the heart of the Messianic: to the extent
that the Messiah of the Christian tradition redeems humanity by
taking its suffering upon himself, he becomes both victim and
savior, both sufferer and healer. It was precisely this double role
that Beuys took on in the performance I Like America and America
Likes Me of 1974. The performance began (if the reports are to be
believed) with Beuys being picked up at the airport in New York by
an ambulance and transported to the René Block Gallery. There he
spent three days with a coyote and, wrapped in a felt blanket and
holding a walking stick upside down like a shepherd’s crook, played
the shamanistic healer and messianic shepherd. As the patient or
victim of an unspecified accident, he had arranged to have himself
delivered to a space where he would then turn himself into the healer.

Again, the crucial question is: who is claiming to heal whom of what
(and by virtue of what authority)? Since patient and healer are the
same person, one obvious way to understand the performance is as an
attempt at self-healing. In this sense, Kuspit’s interpretation of
Beuys trying, as a German, to heal German culture by tapping
mythical sources of energy (represented here by the coyote) would
seem justified. However, the highly problematic question that this
interpretation leaves unanswered is: by what right does this German
claim to be not only healer, but also patient and sufferer (if not
even victim)? Victim of whom? Why would a German—in the historical
wake of Germany’s responsibility for the crimes of the Holocaust and
its instigation of two world wars—ever be entitled to play that role
on an international stage? Beuys’ statements on the performance are
no help: “I believe I made contact with the psychological trauma
point of the United States’ energy constellation: the whole American
trauma with the Indian, the Red Man.”11 (The symptoms of the
American trauma, according to Beuys, manifest themselves in the
alienated culture of capitalism, represented in the performance by
issues of The Wall Street Journal spread out on the floor on which,
as he recounts, the coyote urinated now and again.) Despite the
change of geographical context the problem with this scenario of
trauma and healing remains the same. By interpreting the trauma of
the genocide committed against the Native American population as a
trauma for the modern United States caused by this genocide, Beuys
essentially declares perpetrators to be victims. In this picture,
the supposedly painful alienation of the United States from its
roots is given the same status as the suffering of the victims of
genocide, which fall out of the picture entirely. Though surely
unintentional (and nevertheless effective), murder is equated with a
regrettable destruction of nature. The historical victims have no
voice here. The coyote cannot complain.

Almost inescapably, one feels compelled to read this constellation
as a parable of the German situation and the exchange of roles as
the expression of Beuys’ notoriously unclear position in relation to
the historic role and guilt of his own generation. Benjamin Buchloh
articulated this criticism with all possible harshness. In his essay
“Beuys: The Twilight of the Idol,” Buchloh in principle accused
Beuys of deliberately blurring the historical facts by mythologizing
the concepts of suffering and healing, thus of avoiding the question
of responsibility." (Jan Verwoert)

and the reference to Buchloh is: Benjamin Buchloh, “Beuys: The
Twilight of the Idol,” originally published in Artforum 18, no. 5
(1980): 35–43; quoted here from Joseph Beuys: Mapping the Legacy,
ed.Gene Ray (New York: D.A.P., 2001), 199–211.

One wonders if surely the title "I Like America and It Likes Me"
points out a trickster element-- after all the coyote is the mythic
trickster out here in the West. So such a statement as "I believe I
made contact with the psychological trauma point of the United States'
energy constellation..." has this wild
lunatic fringe Americana quality about it (like some ham radio
operator communicating with the Virgin Mary) and not by accident,
no? The "Red Man"? It's such a zoned out comment, so out-there
racist (like who the hell are you to make contact with the Red
Man??!! You gotta admire the chutzpah.