Title: The spectacle of Technologie
Author: Bruce Grenville, 1992
Published in Jack Goldstein, (1992) Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon

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Jack Goldstein

Bruce Grenville


Conventional wisdom locates the work of Jack Goldstein in the context of avant-garde art produced in New York in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. In the critical literature, his work is most often linked to that of Robert Longo, Sherrie Levine, Cindy Sherman, Thomas Lawson, AlIan McCollum, or, more recently, to the so-called Neo-Geo artists, such as Ashley Bickerton, Peter Halley and Philip Taaffe, artists who have, to a greater or lesser degree, relied heavily on a strategy of appropriation and cultural critique. lt is true that Goldstein, in his work of the past twenty years, has explored some of the principal issues in the discourse surrounding representation, identity, appropriation, technology, death and the spectacle in contemporary society, but it is increasingly difficult to situate him convincingly within that Post-Pop Tradition of cultural Intervention.

The challenge to avoid being framed by conventional narratives of identity has been a consistent element in Goldstein's work and finds its most immediate form in his written aphorisms, most notably Totems, 1990, a boxed book which contains more than 100 pages of them. Goldstein has generated the text on a computer employing a sophisticated software that allows the user visually to manipulate the text so as to create geometric shapes or emblematic forms. There is a compelling play between the reading of the totemic form as a traditional, symbolic narrative of identity and the more contemporary notion of identity as contained within the corporate logo, that is to say, the reduction of identity to a formal sign. A similar dialectic is formed in the conflict between the reading of the text as a personal, and therefore, authentic narrative of identity and the overriding consciousness of the aphorism as a form of writing that relies heavily on received ideas and clichés.

In this essay I want to reassemble the aphorisms that have traditionally attended the reading of Goldstein's work so as to propose a somewhat different configuration. A cursory glance at the critical commentary in the Selected Chronology which accompanies this catalogue will reveal the wide range of critical writing that has attended and addressed the production of Goldstein's work. These writings have successfully confronted many of the fundamental issues raised by his work and have convincingly situated his activities within a viable history of production. Two of the principal essays are Douglas Crimp's Pictures, which placed Goldstein within the context of the new critical photography which surfaced in the 1970s, and Jean Fisher's Jack Goldstein: Feuer, Körper, Licht, which identified Goldstein's work as a philosophical treatise on being.(1) These essays established basic parameters for the interpretation of Goldstein's work and have had a significant impact on most subsequent writing.

This catalogue essay has a two-fold function: on the one hand it establishes a general chronology of production for Goldstein's work, while on the other, it is intended to focus specifically on his repeated use of the image of technology and his identification of technology as a continuum in which one must act. The image of technology has occupied a prominent position in Goldstein's work throughout his career. From the early performances and films of the 1 970s, through the sound recordings to the paintings of the 1980s, he has consistently referenced technology both as an image and as an integral part of the work's production.

Today it is virtually impossible to acknowledge the singular presence and impact of technology in the western world. We use the term to refer to activities as diverse as reproductive technologies (including in vitro fertilization, surrogacy, embryo transfer, artificial wombs, cloning), medico- and bio-technologies (including implants, organ transplants, genetic mapping), the technology of warfare (including smart bombs, remote sensing, logistic-based strategies), cybenetics and robotics, communication technologies, food technologies, art technologies - the list is endless.

Many attempts have been made to establish an adequate definition of technology, but, considering its pervasive role, most definitions seem lacking. Contemporary technology is traditionally linked to science and narratives of progress, but that has not always been the case. The German philosopher Martin Heidegger, for example, looked to the Greeks and their use of the term techné as a process of bringing forth or revealing. He lamented the loss of this ideal and the subsequent transformation of technology into a strategy for gaining ascendancy over nature . (2) Others, such as French philosopher Michel Foucault, have linked the rise of technology to a process of rationalizing, disciplining and surveying the body that emerged during the 18th century in conjunction with the new consciousness of the individual and the body. (3) More recently, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari have used the metaphor of the machine to characterize the pervasive impact of technological thought on modern society. Desiring machines, binary machines, bachelor machines, social machines. Deleuze and Guattari took great pains to identify technology as a form of social structure rather than a history of mechanical development. They proposed that technology might be compared to an abstract machine which " organizes the dominant utterances and the established order of a society, the dominant languages and knowledge, conformist actions and feelings, the segments which prevail over others. The abstract machine of overcoding ensures the homogenization of different segments, their convertibility, their translatability; it regulates the passages from one side to the other and the prevailing force under which this takes place. " (4)

A broad, culturally based interpretation of technology would acknowledge it as both an ideological effect and a formal activity that involves the presence of a mechanical/electro-magnetic/conceptual intemediary standing between the individual and his or her apprehension of the world. Technology is thus understood as a rationalizing and systematic representation of the world. Within this interpretation, technology acts to transform or translate our relationship to the world and to order the world by its own internal demands.

The 1970s: Performances, Films and Sound Recordings

In his perforrnances of the early 1970s, Goldstein adopted a strategy that spoke to the notion of presence and absence at a variety of levels. Most of the performances, for example, were intentionally presented without an audience. They took place either in the artist's studio or at anonymous sites in and around Los Angeles - A highway at night, A street at night, A hill overlooking a freeway. This paradoxical Situation not only heightened the pervasive sense of absence already present in the narrative of the work, but also allowed Goldstein to challenge the traditional relationship between presence and meaning. In the performances of this period, the primary figure was given a presence only at a moment of technological intervention:

A street at night, Los Angeles (1971). A figure, dressed in white, runs repeatedly back and forth across a busy street, but is visible only in the occasional glancing light of passing cars. The action itself takes precedence over the body, locating intervals or spaces within the stream of traffic, through which it develops its own internal, almost mechanical, rhythm.

The artist's studio, Los Angeles (1971). A figure, lying on the floor of a dark room, is completely bound by an electrical cord that terminates in a light bulb above the heart. The light, flashing on and off in synchrony vvith the heartbeat, translates subjectivity into an objective index.

The role of technology in these works is, in a literal sense, very closely aligned to that described by Heidegger as "a revealing" or "a bringing forth". The light of an automobile, a pulsing beacon, an amplified sound or a spotlight reveals the subject but simultaneously reduces it, as Goldstein indicates in his performance descriptions, to an "anonymous objective impulse" or "mechanical rhythm". In representing the body in this manner, Goldstein is able simultaneously to mark its presence and absence.

In his work of this period, Goldstein often employs the use of two common strategies of representation that play on the notion of presence and absence: the trace and, to a lesser degree, the index. The index is a sign that is physically imprinted with the characteristics of its referent - a footprint, a fingerprint, a photogram. As such it is a sign which simultaneously acknowledges the original presence of its referent and its current absence. Several of Goldstein's earliest performances and films rely on an indexical strategy in order to heighten this sense of presence and absence:

A flight of steps, Los Angeles (1971). A figure, dressed in white, lies on a step in the path of a second man who leaves a footprint on the reclining body. The footprint is an image simultaneuusly anonymous and personal, marking the residue of a presence.

The artist's studio, Los Angeles (1971). One figure is hidden behind a board propped against a wall, while a second man throws rocks at the board in order to locate the other's position. The resounding of the rocks, their marks and final positions on the floor function as objective indices of the unseen man. (5)

The trace is similar to the index, but there is a more complex relationship to the original referent because the trace is at once a repetition and an erasure. In his 1974 film The Portrait of Père Tanguy, Goldstein traced a reproduction of the famous Vincent van Gogh painting of the same name. While on the one hand Goldstein's presence is affirmed by the mark which he makes on the paper, on the other, his sense of selfhood or individual identity is called into question by the fact that he is merely tracing an image produced by another individual, an image originally intended to assert van Gogh's individuality and sense of selfhood. The repetition is compounded by the fact that the tracing is, in fact, a tracing of a reproduction so that we are faced with a seemingly endless trail of doubling and disappearance.

Many Minimalist artists of the 1970s placed a similar emphasis on duration, repetition and bodily presence in their work, and Goldstein's interest in performance and film may be linked to their activities. However, his interest in giving a priority to absence, and his use of technology (however elementary) set him apart from the predominant Minimalist and Post-Minimalist artists and filmakers of that period, such as Richard Serra, Robert Mortis, Michael Snow and athers. Instead, Goldstein may be linked to a different group of artists, which could include John Baldessarri, Ed Ruscha, Robert Longo, David Salle, Thomas Lawson and others who combined a Pop Art interest in the appropriation of images from contemporary culture with a Minimalist concern for temporality and situation.

This attention to temporality and situation combined with an increasing interest in appropriation is most clearly evident in Goldstein's performances and films from this period. In the 1976 performance Body Contortionist, Goldstein defined a formal role for the audience by placing it approximately twenty-five feet from the performance area. In the distance, a professional body contortionist presented a series of configurations. As she finished, the spotlight faded and her image was replaced by the projection of short 16 mm films. The effect and structure are similar to that of the 1977 performance Tvvo Fencers, in which professional fencers enacted a bout set to music traditionally used in movies to create a sense of action and drama. Following the match, the spotlight faded and the music was replayed without the fencers. Once again the audience was placed at a considerable distance from the event.

Where the earlier performances relied heavily on the building of a narrative that played presence against absence, the newer works placed considerably less emphasis on presence, especially presence as it is linked to notions of originality, authenticity and unified meaning. The traditional emphasis on the artist as the origin and meaning of the work is undermined by the use of professional performers who act out predetermined movements. So too, the use of sound recordings, films and special effects lighting creates a highly mediated atmosphere. In the performances of the early 1970s, Goldstein sought to heighten the general sense of absence by producing the work vvithout an audience; in contrast, the new performances acknowledge the role of the audience in creating a successful spectacle. Viewers must be both passive and distant from the principal events so that they might more readily absorb the effects as an image.

In the work of this period, Goldstein expands the role of technology through the direct use of sound recordings, films and lighting. Despite the fact that these are rudimentary and ubiquitous forms of technology, they nevertheless effectively heighten the sense of distance between the viewer and the subject by evoking the subject as a mediated image rather than a corporeal object or event.

One of the most important and revealing works from this time is The Jump, a film/performance in which Goldstein transformed a film image of a high diver by using a rotoscopic animation technique. (6) Goldstein then re-shot the animated film through a special effects lens that disperses the image into jewellike facets. In both the film and the performance, the image of the jump is repeated every twenty-six seconds. In this manner the subject is identified as a tracing and retracing in which any sense of an originary subject is completely effaced.

In the mid-to-late 1970s, Goldstein began to produce sound recordings which were composed of found sound effects drawn from special effects libraries. For the most part they are commonplace sounds used in mass media to conjure up an archetypal image. Some of these recordings were used as the sound component for Goldstein's performances, such as The Murder, Two Fencers and Sound Performance, but the majority were produced as independent works. With this body of work, Goldstein explored the complex relationship between sound and image and played on the ability of sound to dislocate or frame an object in relation to its origins:

Sound is the space that frames an image as image from its object.
Sound is the time of image that locates the spectator outside.
Sound is the silence of image that limits the image as finite.
Sound is the distance of image that defines dark from light.
Sound is the memory of image that dislocates the ohgin from its object.
Sound is the location of image that fixes the image in time. (7)

Again the figure of technology appears not only as an integral part of the formal process - an elaborate process of recording and re-recording - but also as a subject within most of the recordings: an airplane landing, bombs falling, a clock ticking, a train running, an ocean liner heard from a distance. However, it is the manner in which these recordings are able to produce an immediate equation between the sound and an image that is the most compelling aspect of this work. The music that is used in the performance, Two Fencers, for example, recalls an image of drama and conflict from Saturday afternoon movies. Significantly, it is an image of drama and conflict that is evoked, rather than a specific event that occurs in real time and space. In this manner Goldstein reaffirms his intent to give a priority to the incorporeal image and to align technology with that sense of incorporeality: "Art, until very recently, has always dealt with facticity, something that was very real, something that was experienced. What I'm dealing with is much more like a dream reality or an artificial reality, a reality that you can control because it's not based upon physical contact. Like watching TV. I can get involved with that visually, vicariously, because I'm not going to suffer the consequences. " (8)

Despite the fact that the majority of Goldstein's sound recordings summon images of disaster and death, there is also a simultaneous offer of comfort in the realization of our distance from that threat of danger Here technology becomes a buffer which safely shields the listener from disaster, allowing him or her to experience death as an effect. This sense of awe in the face of potentially catastrophic events marks the entry of the sublime into Goldstein's work. Its entry here is somewhat parenthetic, for it is more clearly evident in the paintings which follow, but it is important to acknowledge that the sublime, in Goldstein's work, is closely connected to a process of appropriation and the spectacle, both of which have been fundamental elements in Goldstein's work to this time.

The notion of the sublime has varied significantly over the years but Edmund Burke's late 18th-century treatise still stands as a basic structure around which historical and contemporary models of the sublime are built. (9) Eighteenth and 19th-century notions of the sublime were generally associated with majesty, gloom and dread. (10) Grand mountain views provided an exemplary image of majesty, while broad vistas and seemingly infinite spaces provoked a sense of awe and humility. Terror and dread also played an important role in any interpretation of the sublime; earthquakes, roaring cataracts, fires, storms, volcanoes and lightning revealed the mighty power of nature and reaffirmed the insignificance of the viewer in the face of this divine force. There has been, within all notions of the sublime, an acknowledgement that the sublime encompasses a desire for transcendence, either through a mystic union with nature or through the embrace of death.

The 1980s: Paintings

In the late 1970s, Goldstein produced a series of paintings which emerged from a body of earlier photographic and photo-collage works. As a seriies they were united by their use of an image of a tiny figure floating in a large field of color. In Untitled,1979 (for exampie, three spacemen float in a vast black void. Separated by the framing devices which divide each of the panels, these figures are cut off not only from each other, but from their life support apparatus. lf the vast, open landscapes of the west and the craggy river landscapes of the east were identified as sublime subjects for many 19th-century American and Canadian painters, then Goldstein proposes that, in the late 20th century, outer space, with its infinite expanses and unknown dangers, has taken on the same sublime connotations. Most would agree that there are few images more sublime than the opening scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey or the image of the exploding Challenger space shuttle. I would remind you, however, that it is the image that is sublime rather than the technological object or apparatus.

As well, the scale of Goldstein's paintings from this period recalls the work of some of the American Abstract Expressionists of the 1950s. (11) Like their predecessors, the Abstract Expressionists extended to viewers an offer of transcendence, with the implied condition that they renounce their corporeal body. Speaking of the work from this period, Goldstein indicated that it was, to a certain degree, aligned with that of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman:

I can look at Pollock, Rothko, and Newman now and I think of myself as a literal interpretation of that work - a representational and not an abstract interpretation. The Europeans dealt with a very practical kind of space whereas the Americans dealt vvith A mataphysical space: it was theatrical, above the physical, transcendental. (12)

A related image appears in Untitled,1980, where a minuscule figure parachutes from a jet. Once again the figure is dwarfed by the dramatic scale of the three-panel canvas and, to a lesser degree, the image of the airplane. Here, and in Untitled, 1981 - a tiny image of a burning building cropped and placed against a black field - or Untitled,1981 - an image of an airplane falling from the sky in a hail of flak and tracers - Goldstein looks to the image of war as an alternative image of the sublime; we "seek spirituality through technology" and "act out spirituality through war. " (13) There is in each of these works a coolness and sense of detachment which echo that of his earlier recordings and films. The paintings now incorporate the use of an airbrush which eliminates the traditional equation betvveen the painted surface and the artist's hand, while the images are more arbitrarily cropped and framed so as to confirm their appropriation. They are, in short, without personality or presence (at least according to conventional notions of painting), and yet they convey a sense of sublimity and dramatic effect that is at times overwhelming.

This dramatic effect - present in Goldstein's paintings despite the fact that the image and its emotional impact are so obviously fabricated - introduces the spectacle as a vital component of the work's meaning. In discussing the work of Robert Longo (one of Goldstein's contemporaries who, like Goldstein, was interested in the public fascination with images of war and conflict), the American critic Hal Foster spoke of the spectacle and its relationship to the real and the hyperreal:

... unlike a typical representation which works via our faith in its realism, spectacle operates via our fascination with the hyperreal, with perfect images that make us 'whole' at the price of delusion, of submission. We become locked in its logic because spectacle both effects the loss of the real and provides us with the fetishistic images necessary to deny or assuage this loss. Our fascination with spectacle is thus even more total than it is with commodity. (14)

In Goldstein's work the emphasis that he places on technology and its representation is brought about by the realization that in the contemporary world personal identity and social relations have for the most part been guided by the images produced within the realm of technology. These hyperrreal, perfect images make us whole again, provide us with a unity and a dynamic narrative of identity. Whether it is a national identity provided by war and a concomitant sense of technical superiority (a process made only too apparent during the recent war in Iraq), or a physical identity provided within the context of science and its narrative of liberation from the corporeal body, or a natural identity produced within a representation of ecological responsibility: whatever the impetus for the making of the picture, the end result is a spectacular image which plays on our desire for completeness and provides us with an otherwise unobtainable, cohesive identity.

With regard to this notion of the spectacle, there is an interesting parallel in Goldstein's work of this period with the activities of the Situationist International, a group of European artists and writers who, from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, sought to develop a strategy which would transform everyday life through the intervention of art. (15) Guy Debord was one of the principal figures in the SI and his 1967 publication, Society of the Spectacle , became one of the fundamental documents for this movement. For Debord, the spectacle is both an allegorical figure for the representation of late capitalism and an active force in the destruction of society:

In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.... The images detached from every aspect of life fuse in a common stream in which the unity of this life can no longer be re-established.... The spectacle in general, as the concrete inversion of life, is the autonomous movement of the non-living .(16)

The SI also encouraged a dynamic form of appropriation which they called "détoumement", in which they used previously existing images from film, posters, newspapers, comic books, sound recordings, radio broadcasts, etc. and deflected or tumed them in a different direction so as to reveal their active role in perpetuating the society of the spectacle.

Many of the parallels between Goldstein's practice and that of the SI have to do with the rise of mass media and changing notions of subjecthood, yet there remains a fundamental difference - Debord and the SI saw the spectacle as a force which threatened to consume society and would continue to do so until the workers who had been alienated under its effects rose up and liberated themselves and instituted an "anti-statist dictatorship of the proletariat in which power was democratically exercised by autonomous workers' councils. " (17) Goldstein lays no claims to an anarchistic or liberatory effect that could be gained through an interpretation of his works instead he identifies technology and its manifestation vvithin the sublime and the spectacle as nothing more than an expression of desire. Those who seek to transcend technology or those who seek to overcome it only reaffirm the desiring mechanisms already present in technology. In acknowledging it as an expression of desire, Goldstein removes technology from its traditional link to science and aligns it with those related forms of desiring which have also been prevalent in the late 20th century-bureaucratic desire, fascist desire, capitalist desire, etc.

In the early 1980s Goldstein shifted away from images of the sublime as manifest in mechanico-technologies toward an expression of the sublime in nature. Untitled,1983, Untitled, 1983 and Untitled, 1985, for example, offer dynamic images which express nature's sublime character and cataclysmic power. Our sense of the immanent force of nature is heightened by the extraordinary scale of these paintings and their stark simplicity But these are not sublime images of nature comparable to those produced by 19th-century American landscape painters, such as Albert Bierstadt or Frederick Edwin Church, for these paintings are the product an elaborate, technologically based process which results in the calculated production of a spectacular image. To begin with, each image is an appropriated image garnered from a magazine or book. The image is then cropped or manipulated to establish its basic form. This cropping is evident in Untitled, 1983, in the blue band which stretches across the base of the canvas and eliminates the lower portion of the lightning image. In Untitled, 1983, and Untitled, the use of a squared canvas and the severe cropping of the picture with luminous bands of color prevent us from reading the image of the eclipse or the volcanoes within the tradition of landscape painting. This sense of distancing from the original subject is heightened by Goldstein's use of a process of production which calls for the source photograph to be mechanically enlarged, segmented and then painted using an intricate airbrush technique. The end result is an image of nature which is overwhelming in its technical perfection and utterly compelling in its representation. lt is, in short, the spectacle of nature, brought to us through the agency of technology.

In the mid-1980s, Goldstein shifted his attention to seemingly nonreferential images. The painting Untitled, 1986, in its use of a simple figure/ground composition and high key color, recalls some of the nonreferential paintings of the Post-Painterly Abstractionists, but at the same time the image is uncannily familiar, for it invokes the type of popular photographs that are reproduced in scientific magazines and joumals to represent subjects captured through an electro-magnetic imaging process. (18) This shift from the monumental scale of Goldstein's images of a sublime and monumental nature to the microscopic imaging which is contained in the paintings from this period is not as extreme as it might first appear. The common subject in all of Goldstein's paintings is the recurrent use of technologically generated imaging processes that create a formal distance between the original subject and its representation, and the recognition of the role of technology in creating a contemporary notion of the sublime as spectacle. More than ever, it is the technology which has come to constitute the sublime rather than the subject of the image. We are drawn to the new infinite spaces and the unknown dangers of contemporary technology.

Goldstein's emphasis on the imaging process becomes even more apparent in a subsequent body of work which employed similar electro-magnetically produced images, but which referenced a photo/filmic imaging process by laying sprocket-like shapes across the principal image. Untitled, 1987, offers a compelling example of his work from this period. In this painting, Goldstein moves away from a direct reference to filmic representation and instead uses an abstract shape which, like the earlier cropping devices, successfully acts to block our entry into the space of the image. In doing so, the wholeness and unity of the principal image are interrupted and our faith in the spectacle is undermined.

At this time Goldstein began to emphasize consistently the physical depth of his work by painting the sides so that the image appeared hard and impenetrable. This heightened the reading of the painting as an object and the image as a construct. Such an interpretation was further supported by the framing of the principal image with intense stripes of color. Like the sprocket shapes, they had no direct narrative relationship to the image but rather they called attention to its abstract character. Here Goldstein draws a significant link between technology and geometry. The cool, hard edges and forms constitute a hyperreal geometry that aligns itself with contemporary technology to produce a spectacie of death.

Death has been a constant subject in Goldstein's work from his earliest performances to the present, but only in this current work is death no longer linked to a cause and effect the war, the lightning, the volcano, the earthquake, the drowning, etc. In these current paintings, the geometric references and the use of computer-generated imagery completely withdraw the painting from the realm of the corporeal and confine it to a hyperreal space of simulation and technology. Within the postmodern world, death is no longer recognized as a condition of being, but as a strategy of deterrence and a denial of being.

This perception of death as a form of deterrence is most clearly manifest in a work such as Untitled, 1988 in which the painting evokes the image of a body which has been scanned and transformed into a digital representation. Contemporary bio-technology rejects death as a condition of being and instead encourages its denial at all costs. And this constitutes one of the fundamental contradictions within the narrative of contemporary technology, for technology extends the offer of transcendence through its sublime narrative of limitless Expansion and liberation, but it does so without acknowledging the fundamental role of death within any manifestation of the sublime. Goldstein's comprehension of this crisis is most clearly manifest in paintings such as Untitled, 1987, and Untitled, 1989.

The 1980s: A Conclusion

In the past year Goldstein has sought to return to the corporeal body, first through a return to images of a sublime nature as evident in the volcano and lightning image of Untitled, 1990, but more significantly, in a recent group of paintings in which he offers an image of the body that speaks to its sublime mortality. In Untitled, 1990, the principal subject is that of the skin of a child magnified and digitalized through a computerized rendering process. The resulting image is uncanny in the Freudian sense that it marks the return of that which has been repressed or is dreaded. lf, within technology, the corporeal body has been repressed, then its bizarre return in Goldstein's work as a phantasmic body, framed within an elaborote, abstract architecture, is a return which is at once unsettling and reassuring.

lt is this pervasive sense of an unresolved tension that has characterized Goldstein's work of the past twenty years and that frames ist copmlex association with technology. For Goldstein proposes that one of the few viable positions for the individual within the late modern world is to move within technology, so that we may constantly interrupt it at those moments when it seeks to solidify, to form an abstract machine which "organizes the dominant utterances and the established order of a society." Goldstein moves within technology by tracing and retracing its image so that the sense of identity and selfhood that was previously guaranteed by our unmediated alignment with that image is now cast into doubt by the realization that this doubied and redoubled image is nothing more or less than an image - the representation of a desired state of being.

Goldstein differs from most of his peers in that his relationship to technology is not one in which he seeks to transcend it, to interiorize it, or to identify a subjective voice to counteract it. He is careful to avoid building a traditional critique; instead he proposes that technology is a continuum of desire - a pure and empty form without a defined content or limits. Through his work, he detaches technology from its traditional links to science and narratives of exploration, liberation and progress, and points to its alignment with related forms of desiring - fascism, capitalism, consumerism. Goldstein's reiationship to technology cannot be reduced to a simple binary response-for or against, true or false, good or bad. Technology is not an object to be altered or a content to be studied and critiqued, but instead it is a continuum in which one must act. Technology is desire - it is a desire for anonymity and objectivity, for the reproducible and the infinite, for the spectacular and the sublime, for the incorporeal and the phantasmic - and it is this desire which is the subject of Goldstein's work.


1. Douglas Crimp's Pictures was first pulished in conjunction with a 1977 group exhibition of the same name organized by Crimp for Artists Space, New York. The text itself was reprinted in revised form several times, and in many ways it became a manifesto for the emergence of the new critical photography which surfaced in the 1970s. In the 1979 version of the essay (published in October no.8), Goldstein was aligned with a group of artists who had emerged within the concems of Minimalism in the 1970s, but sought to reach beyond those strategies. Like the Minimalist predecessors, Goldstein refused to restrict himself to a single medium, preferring instead to move between performance, film, sound recording and photography. Like the Minimalists, he also challenged the rigid, high Modernist emphasis on identifying the fundamental charactehstics of a specific medium and instead chose to blur the boundaries between media. But, where the Minimalists placed a strong emphasis on physical presence and the "duration of experience," Goldstein and his peers seemed to reverse the priorities of the Minimalists by "making of the literal Situation and duration of the performed event a tableau whose presence and temporality are utterly psychologized: performance becomes just one of a number of ways of 'stagingÕ, a picture" (p.77). In the instance of Goldstein, Crimp indicated that his performances differed considerably from those of his predecessors; for example, his performances did not rely on his own presence, but rather, relied on the presence of actors who staged the performance. Crimp cautioned that Goldstein's performances and films were not to be understood as a re-presentation of a prior event, but rather as "the presentation of an event in such a manner and at such a distance that it is apprehended as a representation - representation not, however, conceived es the re-presentation of that which is prior, but as the unavoidable condition of intelligibility of even that which is present" (p.77). Or, to put it another way, Crimp proposed that a representation was not necessarily an illegitimate transcription of a real world, but rather was a legitimate, if not unavoidable, condition of presence in the world. Crimp valued this play on presence and absence as a fundamental characteristic of Goldstein's work and that of his peers. This concern with presence and absence was to be seen in the simultaneous tracing and effacement of the image in the film/performance The Jump (1978), in those films which offered the impression of a completed gesture or action (a German Shepherd growls and barks on cue, the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lion roars and tosses its head) with the realization that it was a fragment of a larger whole, or in the performances such as Two Fencers (1977) in which the performers are at first present and then, following the defeat of one fencer, they are absented from the stage while the background music, appropriated from Hollywood soundtracks, was replayed. Presence and absence, representation and the real, these were the axes around which Crimp's interpretation of Goldstein's work pivoted.

In 1985 Jean Fisher published Jack Goldstein: Feuer, Körper, Licht, an essay on Goldstein's work for a major retrospective exhibition at the Städtische Galerie Erlangen, Federal Republic of Germany. She offered a comprehensive analysis of his work from the early performances to the current paintings. Like Crimp, Fisher too relied heavily on the notion of presence and absence as an armature for the interpretation of Goldstein's work. In her introduction she proposed that Goldstein's work leads us "...into the labyrinth of dualities that inscribe Western metaphysical thought: light/darkness; day/night; here/there; life/death; mind/body; masculine/feminine.... At the center of this skein of redoubled differences is presence/absence - the problem of location of the identity of Being, the essence of selfhood." Hovvever this was only the starting point for her discussion, for she went on to frame Goldstein's work within the broader terms of a search for identity, a speculation on the metaphysics of the sublime, a challenge to the technological ethos, a philosophical inquiry into the order of language and appearance, a manifestation of the uncanny, an enactment of the spectacle, and finally, a critique of the Modern subject. Fisher's comprehensive analysis has subsequently set the parameters for most critical writings on Goldstein.

2.See Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology (New York: Garland Publishers, 1977).

3. See, for example, Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Vintage Book, 1973).

4. Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogues, trans. Hugh
Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (London: The Athlone Press, 1987), 129.

5. Other performance descriptions are listed in Jack Goldstein: Selected Chronology which accompanies this catalogue. All were written by the artist.

6. Rotoscopy is a commercial film technique used to trace over live-action footage to make an animation.

7. Jack Goldstein, Aphorisms (1975-1984) as published in Jack Goldstein: Feuer. Körper, Licht (Städtische Galerie Erlangen, Erlangen, 1985), no page numbers.

8. Michael Newman, "Michael Newman Talks to Jack Goldstein," ZG, 3 (1981), no page numbers.

9. Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (New York: Garland Publishers, 1971).

10. Barbara Novak. Nature and Culture: Amerian Landscape and Painting, 1825-1875 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980). For a discussion of concepts of the sublime, see chapter 3, "Sound and Silence: Changing Concepts of the Sublime."

11. See for example. Barnett Newman, "The Sublime is Now," TigerÕs Eye 1 (15 December 1948): 51-53

12. Newman, "Michael Newman Talks to Jack Goldstein"

13. RoseLee Goldberg. "Post-TV Art," Portfolio 14 (July/August, 1982), 78.

14. Hal Foster, Recodings: Art, Spectacle, Cultural Politics (Seattle: Bay Press, 1985), 83.

1 5. Elizabeth Sussman ed, On the Passage of a few people through a rather brief moment in time: the Situationist lnternational, 1957-1972, (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1989)

16. Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle (Detroit: Black & White, 1977), Theses 1 and 2.

17. Sussman, On the Passage of a few people..., 26.

18. Electro-magnetic imaging devices allow for the production of images that were previously unavailable or unimagined. When examining unidentified images produced within this technology, it is virtually impossible to distinguish between microscopic, macroscopic or telescopic images. The deliberate choice of high key colors and the devices used to frame the images finds its origin in a long history of representation, rather than a world of new ideas. Thus it appears that the dynamic images which are reproduced in popular science and similar magazines are less concerned with conveying scientific data than they are with establishing a powerful self-image for scientific research.

19. Sigmund Freud, "The Uncanny," Studies in Parapsychology, Philip Rieff ed. (New York: Urizen Books. 1978).