July 30, 2015

7/28/15 – Ceci n’est pas une rose

Artist: Rose E. DeSloover

Location: Whistlestop Diner (formerly Mae’s)


RED – Breakfast burrito, coffee (cream)

SRS – French toast, eggs over hard, sausage patties, coffee (cream)

Before I even get to the artist part, let me say that breakfast was a major letdown. Mae’s was a great breakfast place, and somehow got bought out behind my back, and now it is crap food. Feh, I say.

Luckily, Rose DeSloover is as lovely as ever, and no amount of disappointing breakfast food can possibly diminish that. We’ve been working together to develop an essay that will act as the foundational text portion of a publication collecting her works – I’m really excited to see what she decides to pair with my words. She encouraged me to share it, where appropriate, so I think I’ll post the introduction here; for the rest, you’ll have to wait and see, just like me.

The World According to Rose

To be an artist requires a refusal to accept the world whole.

The dominant order of things reflects an organizational paradigm that is perhaps useful to the most people at once (or perhaps is extremely useful to just a few people, at the expense of many), but artists are people who are consciously or unconsciously aware that the dominant order is not the only order. Artists seek another. This rearranging can take many forms; the artist is a kind of filter, with lived experience and exposure providing the input, but becoming changed or distorted or crystallized in their examination.

The average person accepts rules as they are indoctrinated with them (the psychological term for these patterns of thought and behavior is schema); the artist seems instinctively to question why these are the rules. They may break or reverse rules, to see what happens. Often they come up with their own set of rules. To understand art in general, or a piece of art in particular, one must first understand that the decisions an artist makes are not arbitrary; they are simply made within a schema that is not collectively understood. Artists see a problem and devise a solution, according to the rules that they have created to govern their process. These rules may often attempt to dismantle the “real” rules—it can create a real tension in the viewer, to try and make room in their own set of schema for a new and disruptive idea.

I believe this shattering of the world as a seamless whole is the work of most artists, but some choose to address it more directly and consciously than others. Rose E. DeSloover is a conceptual artist who takes nothing for granted, engaging in a constant examination, sorting, and reshuffling of the world through its found objects. This focus on the trace evidence in the collective cultural output of objects puts DeSloover very much in the way of philosopher Walter Benjamin, whose unfinished master work The Arcades Project (Passagenwerk), is the subject of much academic speculation and interpretation—including an intensive six-week seminar in 2001, of which DeSloover was the sole participating artist, among an international coterie of Benjamin scholars.

My inclination is to say that one might consider Benjamin to be DeSloover’s “patron saint.” This characterization is interesting, taken in light of DeSloover’s original calling as a nun—a vocation that she left after 14 years, to more freely pursue her artistic practice. As much as the guiding principles of Benjamin’s philosophy, or the sets of rules that she creates to govern her practice, DeSloover’s dedicated collection of evidence underscores a kind of faith. DeSloover’s faith seems to be an echo of the faith that Benjamin brought to The Arcades Project—the faith that all these pieces add up to something, a force that DeSloover sometimes characterizes as “synchronicity.”

Faith that in the end, even a world taken apart can be made whole once more.

We talked a bit about promotion, and self-promotion. Rose mentioned Nick Sousanis, who departed Detroit to pursue graduate school at Columbia, and has been having all kinds of success with his debut graphic novel, Unflattening–a sort of philosophical comic (I can see why he and Rose are friends). I’m sorry to have missed his recent reading at Book Beat here in Detroit, and looking forward to getting out to Green Brain comics to see if I can pick up a copy for myself. It promises to be a dense and engaging read.

Even when the food for body is not so good, I can always count on a lot of solid food for thought, when I meet with Rose.

Leave a Reply