During college and graduate school, Jack Burnham’s books, Beyond Modern Sculpture (1968), The Structure of Art (1973), and The Great Western Salt Works (1974), influenced my thinking a lot. Nobody seems to discuss them today, but they contained powerful, original ideas based on acute visual observation and literary and aesthetic analysis. For structuralist-informed writings, they were also pretty lucid and readable, displaying the kind of engagement and humanity found in Claude Lévi-Strauss’s autobiography Tristes Tropiques, but in very few other examples of that genre.
Reading yesterday’s editions of Armageddon Multiplex News, I recalled Burnham’s discussions of Marcel Duchamp’s work, particularly the Ready-Mades and the Large Glass, and his narration (using chess terminology) of Duchamp’s “end-game of art” gambit.
I still think what Burnham wrote made sense and it triggered reconsideration of the question “what follows the End?
The answer I discern is nothing much.
Everything gets repeated, sometimes with mildly interesting, superficial variations. (This is especially evident in art, which leaves static visual evidence.)
Human nature continues, of course: good, evil, greed, sadism, indifference.
My civilization’s demise (for that’s what is happening right now) is simply followed by the another civilization’s rise and I don’t belong and won’t fit in the new place. The climate change shuck perpetrated by the bloody-minded on the narrow-minded and fearful, haunted that their place in the universe is too small, will span the two civilizations' boundaries. Like the best cons, the system is set on “persist” until all the money is extracted and collected.
The new boss isn’t the same as the old boss. He’s worse. If an arc of history exists (it doesn’t), it bends in this direction.
Art: This blog shows various sculptures by the modern American master, Kenneth Snelson, whose work is featured prominently in Beyond Modern Sculpture. The Joseph Beuys photo-offset postcard immediately above this note is from 1974 and translates: “Just let Jack Burnham eat something calmly, too.”