Sarah Morris



A Few Observations on Taste or Advertisements for Myself


Sociology is indeed a martial art. Bourdieu was extremely acute, and moreover funny. The bronze English edition of his book sits well when sandwiched between Pauline Kael and Jean-Luc Godard. But this does imply a master decoder and there is no objectivity or possibility of someone without predispositions. So all this unpacking of taste is an impossibly loaded activity consumed by taste. Of course, we all know this by now. The question is not whether issues of taste or referents, are functioning in art, but ultimately as producers, which ones are functioning, which directions are being taken up and what roles are being assumed. Taste is simply a  navigational tool. A way to make sense of how to proceed with the present and attempt to dispose or recuperate the past. It is time specific with no obligation to tell the truth about the past.  It could be said that the prevalent denial of its function within an art context is a sign of its fecundity. The multiple referents, which are chosen by the artist or the author, even in a state of denial, can be defined as social markers, and are as varied as an historical moment, an industry, a person, a type of persona, a repeated color, a subject, a methodology of production, in other words, a way of engaging with form and creating and communicating an identity. Political differences do exist and can be decoded in this spectrum of taste despite all claims to the contrary. All referents are inextricably linked to context, one’s own and the history of the subject’s, and set up certain possibilities and political realities. There follows the taste markers that I find myself repeatedly considering, questioning and attempting to transcend.


THE CONSPIRATORIAL. Looking constantly at all surfaces, events and people for traces of meaning and for elements that give clue to who is in control. The perversion of the documentary [a calcified format]. The idea of a system of networks, possibilities and interdependencies that stage meaning. The infiltration of these mainstream forms and the creation of systems of interpretation that are ambivalent and even possibly contradictory is achieved by playing with and investigating moments of failure towards its use and avoidance. The issue of taste implies an agenda. It requires its own “structure of meanings” to be distributed and perpetuated. A theory of taste has evolved where too much emphasis has been placed upon the notion of visual consumption and reception. To view things this way not only reduces the artist to a piece of expensive baggage [a luxury object] but more importantly proposes no model for social change or agency.


THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL. A simultaneous attraction towards loud color and its opposite. Art should always do at least two things: make people look good and play with the skepticism towards the institution. Just as you cannot avoid the political whether you are making beautiful loops and scribbles, using industrial materials, reusing pornography, or discussing craft – you cannot deny where things end up and how they are used, including how they are made intelligible by the artist. In other words, how things are produced is equally important to how things are consumed and how they are received. A yellow Lamborghini Miura, the interior of the Dulles International Airport, the Princess series of touch-tone phones, the red of an Olivetti Valentine, the book jacket of “Concrete Island”, the aqua-marine of the Chinese packets of Lesser Panda cigarettes, Lufthansa blankets and American airlines cocktail napkins could suffice.


THE MODULAR AND SERIAL REPETITION:. The idea of creating a form or business that can be operated remotely and infinitely as a precise system of referents and a system of critical detachment. The film industry, production templates, sports arenas, police psychologists,  Romy Schneider, The White House, Morris Lapidus, Watergate and Robert Towne. Establishing an operation as an artistic identity, Parallax, which is itself a referent to the idea of working for an operation where you might not know to what end your labor will be used. Interpretation is open. Diagrams of interconnections between various forces. To create a form that is continuously splintering, self-generating and beyond the individual. To create afterimages of capitalism and pre-images of new systems of control.


NO HAND. An idea must be able to be reproduced and distributed easily. Because to produce is to communicate a form, a discourse. The desire for the producer’s gesture should not be found in expressionism or a physical trace, unless there exists quotation exists. Dan Graham had his signature silk-screened in bright orange on the wall of his Whitney retrospective. Consumers or the public don’t simply dictate taste. In fact this is one of the biggest myths going. The idea of the artist being potentially responsible for a shift in behavior or a shift in referents at any moment means simply that the producer leads not follows. In other words, taste can develop, change and lead to new constellations not just simply recycle or replicate given predilections.


DAVID HICKS, JOAN DIDION, and J.G.BALLARD:. The idea of a person who creates public situations through arrangements of colors and objects in space, and most importantly, through their working method. Objects on the top of a table were treated with care by Hicks. An education through a series of small referents that discloses clues as to the preferences of the inhabitant and the fictions they propel. Hicks’ design of a bowling Alley in the White House and his Q4 bar on the QE2 are exemplary. All have an approach toward real estate, leisure time and prescriptions that imply a use of reality that goes beyond realism. A way of describing a city’s details that is materially based, political and fictional.


PHONE TIME:. Architecture as sites for cinematic fantasy. Or simply an excuse. I treat every city this way. People as portals into the city into which I enter into dialogues. Talking and conversations could be seen as a process. Sometimes they yield an image and sometimes they just inform the process of the films and paintings. An excuse to talk with others. Architecture, Design, Law, Politics, Film, etc are all considered valid terrain and useful not just as symbolic capital but actually informative in making art [especially when it involves their mistakes]. It is the overlaps of arenas that are instructive here. Not the boundaries. Making and collecting contacts, formerly know as a Rolodex, is an art form.


PRECIOUS:. Precious was the name of the small dog of one of the victim’s in “The Silence of the Lambs”. Unfortunately the dog survived. Things should at least appear easy. Preciousness is to be avoided in discourse, subject matter and materials. No films of the art materials of yesterday. No slow motion snails. No allegorical kitsch. No fetish of history. No death in art. Through a series of movements on the part of the artist a conversation occurs, a dialogue of meaning and possible interpretations. This could be certainly construed as a conversation. Not a presentation of states.


PUBLIC VERSUS PRIVATE. Everything is public, is yours for changing its meaning. As an artist you decide how and in what manner you are using this communication and to what end. What image are you? Are you replicating previous forms? Are you communicating images of the future? Are you simply churning the present? If you look at a building or an image you consume it, you occupy it, it doesn’t stay fixed in its meaning or use. Everything in public is in constant flux and constantly guarded precisely because of this vulnerability. Security therefore exists for a definite reason. Things have the potential for constant change. Obviously this does not just extend to the idea of physical place. It extends to all capital, intellectual or otherwise.


BUREAUCRATIC NIGHTMARES:. Playing for time, waiting for more information to unfold. This openness is diametrically opposed to the idea of clear boundaries between things, activities and professions. One could argue that the use value of art is under the domain of the artist. Not entirely but it is certainly a collaborative endeavor of intelligibility. For every discourse there becomes an audience. Robert Towne for me is a paradigm here, an adjustment to an existing script, a tweaking of reality; the script doctor evolves. Ways of working are not isolated. Engagement is always preferable and areas that seem compromised always have potential.



Morris, Sarah. "A Few Observations on Taste or Advertisements for Myself." Texte Zur Kunst 75 (2009): 71-74. Print.