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Investigations: The Expanded Field of Writing in the Works of Robert Morris

 | 
Katia Schneller
, 
Noura Wedell

III. Displacing Genres

Role Play in the Writings of Robert Morris

Valérie Mavridorakis

Texte intégral

  • 1 Robert Morris, “Professional Rules,” 1997, in Have I Reasons: Work and Writings, 1993-2007, 2008, (...)

Is there at least something like a ‘family resemblance’ among these works? If so, I would like to meet the other relatives. What thematic gene links such apparently disparate family members? Could it be that they share a kind of questioning of certain rules that, in some way yet to be determined, make the noses, as it were, of these works resemble one another? But I see no rules that have been questioned.1

1Such are the questions that, among many others, Robert Morris addresses to his reader as well as to himself in his article “Professional Rules,” published in 1997. They are, as we can hear, tinted with irony, if not self-irony.

  • 2 Vladimir Jankélévitch, L’Ironie (Paris: Flammarion, 1964), p. 37. Our translation.

2If the melancholic dimension of Morris’ work has often been pointed out, the ironic register in which it is expressed offers an approach that is no less illuminating. And if, as Jankélévitch writes, “irony affirms the right to a refined and almost imponderable “amateurism” that touches all keyboards in turn,”2 it allows us to grasp the multiple new developments in Morris’ work from an angle that is no less unifying than paradoxically logical: the ironical dialectic, in fact, implies the lability, autoreflexivity, and comedy of a subject quick to turn against himself. Contradiction is his ethos, the arabesque his preferred motif. Univocity, norms, immediate rationality, serve as foils.

  • 3 David Antin, “Have Mind, Will Travel,” in Robert Morris The Mind/Body Problem, ex. cat., 1994, p.  (...)
  • 4 Linda Hutcheon, Irony’s Edge. The Theory and Politics of Irony (London/New York: Routledge, 1995), (...)
  • 5 Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose: Including the Author’s Postscript (San Diego: Harvest, 1994), p (...)

3It is David Antin, in particular, who, in his text, “Have Mind, Will Travel,” published in 1994, points to an ironic strategy that recurs throughout Morris’ texts and discursive processes. In so doing, Antin remarks upon the extent to which “Irony is a difficult figure to control, perhaps impossible. Once its presence is located in an artist’s work, it threatens to appear everywhere within it, casting the possibility of doubt over any and every assertion or representation the artist makes.”3 Playing with ambiguity, the ironist naturally runs the risk of finding himself misinterpreted. Wishing to enter into his game, his reader, reciprocally, runs that of being mistaken. On this matter, Lynda Hutcheon goes one step further: “irony is ‘risky business’: there is no guarantee that the interpreter will ‘get’ the irony in the same way as it was intented.”4 Or, as Eco remarked: the quality (and the risk) of irony is that “there is always someone who takes ironic discourse seriously.”5

4It is therefore with the required prudence that I, in turn, wish to examine several ironic procedures in certain texts by Morris, whether their targets are the palinodes of the art of his time, his own recantations, or more broadly, the historical context. An array of characters, a few of whom seem to be the author’s doubles, evolve in those texts, texts that emblematize a theater where roles are exchanged and identities blurred.

Three Characters In Search of Artists

  • 6 See Robert Morris, “The Art of Existence. Three Extra-Visual Artists: Works in Process,” 1971, pp. (...)
  • 7 See Philippe Hamon, “Typologie de l’ironie,” in L’Ironie littéraire. Essai sur les formes de l’écr (...)

5Until January 1971, when “The Art of Existence. Three Extra-Visual Artists: Works in Process”6 appeared in Artforum, Morris had, to my knowledge, published only theoretical texts that one could characterize, rather rapidly, as “serious,” that is, borrowing from the criteria proposed by Philippe Hamon, assertive, persuasive, argumentative, referring more or less to canonical works and sources.7 These articles accompanied the development of his work and bore witness to the evolution of his artistic and aesthetic preoccupations. The artist Morris wrote them, signed them, published them, but he did not appear within.

  • 8 Robert Morris, “A Method for Sorting Cows,” [1961] 1967, pp. 180-181.

6An autobiographical motif arises indirectly in his writing, with the publication of “A Method for Sorting Cows” in Art and Literature in 1967.8 And its publishing context provides for some situational irony. Indeed, this tribute to the ability of cattleworkers breaks quite strikingly, by its trivial factuality, with the other poetic or theoretical texts that figure in the table of contents in the avant-garde magazine. Compared to the contributions of Eleanor Antin, Hubert Damisch, Fernand Léger, or Jean Rhys, to cite but a few, Morris’ description of cow triage appears even more abrupt as the journal does not mention that a recording of his text had been aired in the performance Arizona, which premiered at the Judson Memorial Church in New York, June 23rd, 1963. There is nothing, either, to indicate its autobiographical component, Morris having frequently been present at such events during his childhood, when he accompanied his father to the Kansas City stockyards. But perhaps I am inclined to overinterpret the contextual, if not political, irony of the realist intrusion of a proletariat led astray by the Western, into the inner circle of international culture that is Art and Literature. Let us gage that the contrast of tone and content this text deals into the magazine would not have displeased its author…

  • 9 Robert Morris, “The Art of Existence. Three Extra-Visual Artists: Works in Process,” 1971, in Cont (...)
  • 10 Robert Smithson, “The Monuments of Passaic,” Artforum, vol. 7, no. 4 (December 1967), reprinted in (...)

7Be that as it may, it was with “The Art of Existence” four years later that the game of irony really began. Quite often commented upon, this text puts a rhetorical strategy into action that is altogether singular in the field of artists’s writings of the same period. In it, Morris adopts the genre of the report, in the first person singular. He recounts his visit to three art students engaged in ambitious experimental projects on extra-sensory phenomena. For some time, Morris himself had been focusing on processual installations as attested, notably, by his Continuous Project Altered Daily at the Leo Castelli Warehouse in 1969; his earthworks, shown at the Leo Castelli Gallery in February 1970; and, that same year, his solo show at the Whitney Museum which included monumental “evolutive” sculptures. He was also thinking about projects in nature, or outside. It is therefore plausible that he was interested at the time in research on environments that were “very visually pared down,”9 and that required, on the part of the spectator, the experience of a certain duration, as he expounded and problematized at length in the introduction and the conclusion of his essay. As an art school professor (principally at Hunter College), it would not be very surprising that Morris had gotten wind of projects undertaken in confidentiality in the Midwest and on the West Coast by unknown artists. Up to this point, the argumentation is altogether coherent. As for the genre, that of the report, it had already been exploited by others, notably Robert Smithson, in his famous “The Monuments of Passaic.”10

8However, as we know, these unknown radical artists, who are seeking at all cost to preserve the “extra-visual” character of their art to the point of a reluctance to see images of them published, are fictional. Morris’ trip is an invention, the plans and drawings that accompany the text are proofs fabricated by the artist, who had applied himself to varying the handwritten elements and graphic styles. The author skillfully constructs his narrative by a piecemeal dispensation of clues: the neutrality of his point of view shifts during the course of his experiences, which are described in great detail. Through these experiences, he goes from the status of witness to that of guinea pig. First of all, Morris witnesses the capture of the light of the sun, orchestrated by Marvin Blaine, from his observatory, set up inside a hill in Ohio. His second excursion, this time to San Diego, takes him to the laboratory of one Jason Taub, virtuoso of electromagnetic energy and radio frequencies. He appears, to tell the truth, more puzzled by the abstruse scientific explanations of this “engineer-creator” than by the “extra-auditive” perceptions the latter allows him to test. The third round finds him in the studio of a young Doctor Strangelove, practically blind, moreover, after several failed attempts to paint with acid. When this Robert Dayton invites him to enter his “gas chamber” to experience the effects of his immaterial art, Morris admits to not feeling at ease. He later declares having left this extreme sensory episode “exhausted,” no doubt as much by the dubious humor of Dayton as by the effect of the gases that had been administered to him. At this point, the account of his visits to these experimental “monuments” of the burgeoning 1970s has become crazy enough, if not grotesque, that even an ill-informed reader would have some doubts about its veracity and would acknowledge it as parody.

  • 11 On May 4, 1970, Kent State University in Ohio became the theatre of protests and demonstrations ag (...)
  • 12 Robert Morris, “The Art of Existence. Three Extra-Visual Artists: Works in Process,” 1971, reprint (...)
  • 13 Neither Michael Heizer nor Robert Barry are mentioned in the text, but here, the former’s use of r (...)
  • 14 M.N. Edwards wrote from Madison, Connecticut. In the same section, another reader, Herman Rowan, o (...)
  • 15 9 in a Warehouse, Leo Castelli Warehouse, February-April 1969.
  • 16 Robert Morris, “Letters,” 1971, p. 8.

9But why would he have chosen such an oblique discursive mode, and what is the target of this parody? Answering this question is problematic in principle. I will trace but a few hypotheses. It is true that Blaine and his friends ironize Joseph Kosuth’s “art as art as art,” which they transform, after being witness to the repression at Kent State University,11 into “pig art as art as art.” “It was explained that they were going to consider ‘what they were able to do to the pig as their art,’”12 writes Morris. It is true that, in comparison to Blaine’s knowledge and archaeological methods, Michael Heizer’s kindred preoccupations provide but a pale reflection. Likewise, the works of Michael Asher and Bruce Nauman, which illustrate the first pages of Morris’ article, seem timid in comparison to Taub and Dayton’s objectives.13 The parody, however, operates here in complicity with the majority of its referents, since Morris is also working on similar projects: he has been thinking about his observatory for several years and will complete it a few months later, on the occasion of Sonsbeek 71. Why would he mock his own orientations? Clearly, the object of the parody is probably not its real target. A mysterious reader’s reaction, a certain Mark N. Edwards, in the March issue of Artforum14, might perhaps enlighten us. He writes to the editor: Morris develops his career by stealing from other artists. He had done it two years earlier, with the exhibition 9 in a Warehouse15 at Castelli, and he is doing it again with this article. Morris’ response, published after this aggressive charge, is laconic: “Mr. Edwards is evidently into rescuing damsels in distress. I’m not.”16 Did Edwards really exist or was he just a new intermediary in an apparatus that was meant to make Morris’ detractors the real victims of his parody? In this case, Blaine, Taub, and Dayton would be quite justified in joining the ranks of the real artists hostile to Morris’ directional reversals. With “The Art of Existence,” Morris might well be answering them in a tone of sarcastic auto-derision.

  • 17 Robert Morris, “The Art of Existence. Three Extra-Visual Artists: Works in Process,” 1971, reprint (...)
  • 18 The “Newsletter” number 3 of the New Art Association in Artforum, vol. 9, no. 3 (November 1970), p (...)
  • 19 Morris closed his solo show at the Whitney Museum (Robert Morris. Recent Works, April-May 1970) tw (...)

10But this is only one aspect, for the political dimension of the text proves equally complicated. In fact, its irony might also verge on satire if we focus on the radical arguments of the partisans of the overcoming of art that Morris depicts there. All three refuse to compromise with the institution, promising themselves, as did Blaine (a friend of whose was killed at Kent State University), to destroy their works in order to preserve them, or moving, like Taub, toward scientific projects more and more distanced from any artistic value, or finally, concluding the encounter with “Screw the MOMA”17 in the case of Dayton. With Morris, being a member of the Art Workers Coalition and, among other militant activities, co-organizer of the New York Art Strike in May 1970, which protested the collusion of museums with hawkish governmental politics, the positions attributed to his fictive artists might just be the reflection of the polemics agitating the general assemblies and art schools of the period.18 Although he closed his exhibitions prematurely or retracted his works from the American Pavilion of the Venice Biennale, Morris, himself, did not quite choose desertion.19

  • 20 See Gail R. Scott, “Robert Morris,” in A Report on the Art and Technology Program of the Los Angel (...)
  • 21 See Jean-Pierre Criqui, “On Robert Morris and the Issue of Writing: a Note Full of Holes,” in Robe (...)

11But the account of his participation in the Art & Technology program at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which he completed in 1971, appears almost worthy of the research of his three playacting artists. Morris had envisaged the creation of an outdoor environmental space whose thermal situation would be modified, causing the visitors to pass from hot to cold through devices hidden in the ground. LACMA was in charge of finding an isolated piece of land of about one square mile. The shooting of two films from a helicopter, one in color, the other in infra-red, was planned… These tribulations seem just as flavorful as those related in “The Art of Existence:” the museum team revealed itself to be imperturbably tenacious, the artist resolutely megalomaniac, the different companies approached (most of which supply high-tech equipment to the army), inexorably discouraged by the cost of the project. Reading A Report on the Art and Technology Program of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art 1967-1971,20 one could think that Morris had deliberately nudged his project toward failure and driven the museum into a corner. Although he is acting from within the artistic institution, Morris neither submits to its authority, nor adopt its liberal utopias—in any case not the utopia of an angelic communion of art and cutting-edge industry. Does this mean, as Jean-Pierre Criqui suggests,21 that Blaine, Taub, and Dayton play the role of heteronyms, in part? Or are they to be likened to three archetypes reflecting their author in different ways? I see them, rather, as extremist figures, outrageously synthesizing the debates raging at the time.

The Artist as Héautontimoruménos

  • 22 Robert Morris, “The Art of Existence. Three Extra-Visual Artists: Works in Process,” 1971, in Cont (...)
  • 23 See Christophe Cherix, ed., Robert Morris, estampes et multiples 1952-1998: catalogue raisonné, (G (...)
  • 24 It is worth noting that Morris has admitted to regretting this image. See W.J.T. Mitchell, “Golden (...)

12But how should we understand the violence that progressively insinuates itself in the text, culminating in fine with the gas chambers invoked by the final protagonist, whose “Screw the MOMA” ends with “but see what you can do for me at Auschwitz!”?22 The chilling cynicism of this formulation and its stupefying provocation brutally return all of the artistic considerations presented by the text to the tragedy of history. A borderline irony that we find, for example, in the Five War Memorial prints (1970): a portfolio of five alugraphs, completed in reaction to the invasion of Cambodia, in which Morris imagines monuments to the dead, each more symbolically violent than the last (Trench with Chlorine Gaz; Infantry Archive—To Be Walked on Barefoot, because, apparently, in that monument one had to walk on a plaza made of transparent boxes with cadavers in them; ½ Mile Concrete Star With Names; Crater with Smoke; Scattered Atomic Waste).23 Scathing and desperate, this irony filters through the rest of his work, reaching a peak, no doubt, in the famous 1974 poster announcing Morris’ double exhibition at Castelli and Sonnabend, showing the artist as the perfect sadomasochistic icon, his torso oiled and in chains, wearing a German Army helmet.24

  • 25 For a historical analysis of the forms and philosophies of irony, see Schoentjes’s invaluable work (...)
  • 26 Robert Morris, “Robert Morris Replies to Roger Denson (Or Is That a Mouse in My Paragone?),” in Ro (...)
  • 27 Friedrich Schlegel, “Kritische Fragmente (108),” [1797], trans. Peter Firchow, “Critical Fragments (...)

13“The Art of Existence,” we realize, multiplies the levels of irony to the point of blurring its goals. All the more so as Morris’ persona is presented in the role of an eirôn, questioning his interlocutors while remaining withdrawn.25 “Robert Morris Replies to Roger Denson (Or Is That a Mouse in My Paragone?),” published in 1993 in the first collection of his writings,26 connects him more to the romantic ironist (all idealism set aside) who, out of his contradictions and of chaos, fashions an aesthetic and a philosophy of everything and its opposite. Let us recall that, according to Friedrich Schlegel, “[irony] is the freest of all licenses, for by its means one transcends oneself […]. It is a very good sign when the harmonious bores are at a loss about how they should react to this continuous self-parody, when they fluctuate endlessly between belief and disbelief until they get dizzy and take what is meant as a joke seriously and what is meant seriously as a joke.”27

  • 28 For another perspective on this text, see Richard J. Williams, “The Krazy Kat Problem,” Art Histor (...)

14In his text, Morris reacts to thirteen interminable questions submitted to him by the critic Roger Denson.28 They seem somewhat of a chore, calling upon their addressee to reconstruct, from a cavalier perspective, a career perceived as erratic. If Denson did not actually exist, we could take this questionnaire to be a pastiche of the art of the interview, in which the critic tries to put his intelligence of the artworks on display by getting his interlocutor to confirm the analyses he has himself prompted. The answer is a play for which Morris sets up the scene: it is reminiscent of an asylum; “incomprehensible” constructions are underway; the ground is strewn with materials (plywood, steel, dirt, grease); mirrors are balanced precariously on top of these; fragments of bodies overwhelm the whole; a cacophony of voices and construction noises contribute to the chaos, with occasional silhouettes passing by, carrying objects, or fighting one with another.

15A retrospective of Morris’ work, as exhaustive as it is anarchic, in which characters inspired by the world of illustrator George Herriman do battle (Fig. 51). In this unpublished performance, it is the old Vox (maker of sound pieces) who, in a monologue almost as dizzying as that of Molly Bloom, inveighs against an Ignatz occupied, as is customary, by the arrangement of his bricks. Helped by Ignatz and Krazy Kat, Vox attempts to force all of Morris’ doppelgängers to punch customs tickets (do they want to cross the border of posterity?) all the while calling them names: a dozen characters who, in turn, incarnate Morris as a minimalist, a performer, an “anti-formist,” an earth-artist, a blind draftsman, a cataclysmic painter, etc. And to add another twist to this already complex text, two of these characters are presented as female.

51. Krazy Kat panel, Patrick McDonnell, Karen O’Connell and Georgia Riley de Havenon, Krazy Kat. The Comic Art of George Herriman, New York, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2004.

51. Krazy Kat panel, Patrick McDonnell, Karen O’Connell and Georgia Riley de Havenon, Krazy Kat. The Comic Art of George Herriman, New York, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2004.

16Through the course of all this, Blaine, Taub, and Dayton reappear in the memory of the main actor (Vox) who learns that they are working together on a grandiose temple of vapor in Pittsburgh, in comparison to which Morris’ real-life Steam (created for the first time in 1967 at Western Washington University in Bellingham) is something of a miniature—once again the vastness of their enterprise, as if seen through a carnival mirror, has stretched beyond any possible coincidence with reality.

  • 29 See Sigmund Freud, “Psychopathic Characters on the Stage,” [1942], in Sigmund Freud. Writings on A (...)
  • 30 See Patrick McDonnell, Karen O’Connell, Georgia Riley de Havenon, Krazy Kat: The Comic Art of Geor (...)

17The scattered “I”s of this figure of the schizoid artist are gathered here, but naturally not reconciled, in what Freud would have called a psychopathological drama.29 This dramaturgical answer only adds confusion to the ridiculed questions of an already confused critic. We know that the cartoon by Herriman, himself an unrepentant ironist,30 rests on an equally psychopathological love triangle. The androgynous cat is infatuated with an egotistical mouse. The latter disdains the cat’s affection and throws bricks at it obsessively. Their unfortunate addressee, blinded by his feelings, interprets the bricks as symbols of affection. A dog, the guardian of the law and secretly infatuated with Krazy Kat, tries to protect him from Ignatz by putting himself between them regularly. Their relation is pandemoniac nonsense.

  • 31 Charles Baudelaire, “L’héautontimorouménos,” in Œuvres complètes I (Paris: Gallimard, “Bibliothèqu (...)
  • 32 Friedrich Schlegel, “Ideas (69),” trans. Peter Firchow, in Philosophical Fragments (Minneapolis: U (...)

18What does Ignatz represent in Morris’ text? His outraged conscience? The critic, ready to throw new bricks while he prepares his large Guggenheim retrospective? What is most interesting here is that the self-reflexive function of irony is running full tilt. And to such an extent that the artist multiplies to become his own target and thus his own executioner, “the wound and the dagger!,” “the blow and the cheek!,” “the members and the wheel,” “the sinister mirror / In which the vixen looks.”31 The screaming voice of irony covers the whole scene, condemning the victim to laughing at his own fragmentation. Before the curtain falls, Vox expires under the assault of the other characters in a final scramble. “Irony is the clear consciousness of eternal agility, of an infinitely teeming chaos,”32 we could conclude with Schlegel. The masks that Morris often puts on, both in the literal and the metaphoric sense, the mirrors and the labyrinths that punctuate his whole oeuvre, do they not suggest a delectation for doubling that paradoxically signals a cohesive identity?

  • 33 Robert Morris, “From a Chomskian Couch: The Imperialistic Unconscious,” 2003, pp. 678-694, reprint (...)

19If the use of irony recurs in Morris’ writings, it is a text published in 2003 in Critical Inquiry that might synthesize the few points we have taken up here. “From a Chomskian Couch: The Imperialistic Unconscious”33 lays out a new setting, that of the office of Doctor Chomsky, a psychoanalyst on whose couch the artist is stretched, in what is doubtless his most authentic role.

20The session is less a matter of treating a supposed schizophrenia than the trauma incurred after 9/11. A political therapist appropriate to the circumstances, Dr. Chomsky expresses himself, quite loquaciously, by quoting his own books. Morris answers his rejoinders by developing upon the role played by the United States in the violence of contemporary history, based on a series of notions he invents (“Mega Image” or MEGIG; “American Phenomenological Awe” or AMPHENA; “American Art of the Imperialistic Unconscious” or IMPUNC; “Art Installation of the Spectacle” or INARSE, etc.) whose recurring acronyms blur the reader’s experience, once again, and not without sadism.

21The subsequent question of knowing how art participates in an imperialist unconscious particular to American culture evokes the background of the texts previously mentioned: the Vietnam war for “The Art of Existence;” the first Gulf War, after which “R. Morris Replies to Roger Denson” was written.

  • 34 Ibid., p. 173.

22Analyzing the underlying ideology of most of the artistic orientations in which he had himself been engaged since the 1960s, unified by a tropism toward monumentality and the spectacular, Morris includes himself in this essay, which is, for once, eminently collective, by shifting to the first person plural. A generational “we” accentuates the melancholy of his reflection, and seems to turn irony into a politeness of despair. His tragic consciousness of history, which had incongruously torn apart the parody of 1971 and has spread through his work ever since, is the subject of his cure. “Is this a critique or a confession?” the analyst asks him. “Is there a difference?”34 replies Morris.

  • 35 See also Robert Morris, “Size Matters,” 2000, pp. 474-487.

23Certainly, many American artists, naive but sincere in their past struggles, unconsciously nourished an ideology of national domination. Their works serve these demonstrations of power, achieved, notably, by excessive scale,35 in a more innocent manner than when expressed in architecture or public space. Plunged into his somber reflections on a century of “unimaginable violence,” Morris is not afraid to establish parallels between the grandiose American monuments and the staging of the grandeur of the Third Reich; two of his illustrations juxtapose the beams of light symbolizing the twin towers absent from the nocturnal Manhattan skyline, as sublime Jacob’s ladders, and Hitler himself, whose silhouette is cut into luminous columns at a celebration of the National Socialist party, in Nuremberg, 1936.

  • 36 In this text, page 692, Morris literally cites “Robert Morris Replies to Roger Denson (Or Is That (...)
  • 37 W.J.T. Mitchell, “Golden Memories. W.J.T. Mitchell Talks with Robert Morris,” op. cit., p. 89.

24How can art dissociate itself from the open nationalism that emerged after 9/11, asks a Morris-Krazy Kat overwhelmed by the rubble of the Twin Towers?36 How should one struggle against the effects of IMPUNC, this imperialist unconscious pushing art toward the spectacular, inscribing it into the present of entertainment and, therewith, instilling oblivion? The only answer seems to be to exacerbate historical consciousness. “Memory is the trace of a wave goodbye made with a slightly clenched fist. Memory is politics. Memory is a loss. Memory is hunger,”37 as he once declared.

25For Morris, the exercise of memory is never without pain. The incessant exigency of justification and explanation fueled by the arabesques of his oeuvre can hardly be painless either. Beyond his strictly theoretical writings, his ironic strategies become formidable critical weapons: first, they allow him to point out the limits of what his immediate contemporaries propose, without excluding his own suggestions. In this respect, irony deconstructs the comedy of illusions. Furthermore, these strategies furnish the critical conditions of the plastic lability of his work, from then on impossible to assign to any single fixed form. And finally, their overview opens a gap towards the untimely. This is how irony becomes a weapon against the forgetting of history.

Notes

1 Robert Morris, “Professional Rules,” 1997, in Have I Reasons: Work and Writings, 1993-2007, 2008, p. 71.

2 Vladimir Jankélévitch, L’Ironie (Paris: Flammarion, 1964), p. 37. Our translation.

3 David Antin, “Have Mind, Will Travel,” in Robert Morris The Mind/Body Problem, ex. cat., 1994, p. 40.

4 Linda Hutcheon, Irony’s Edge. The Theory and Politics of Irony (London/New York: Routledge, 1995), p. 11.

5 Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose: Including the Author’s Postscript (San Diego: Harvest, 1994), p. 355.

6 See Robert Morris, “The Art of Existence. Three Extra-Visual Artists: Works in Process,” 1971, pp. 28-33, reprinted in Robert Morris, Continuous Project Altered Daily: The Writings of Robert Morris, 1993, pp. 95-118.

7 See Philippe Hamon, “Typologie de l’ironie,” in L’Ironie littéraire. Essai sur les formes de l’écriture oblique (Paris: Hachette, 1996), pp. 43-108.

8 Robert Morris, “A Method for Sorting Cows,” [1961] 1967, pp. 180-181.

9 Robert Morris, “The Art of Existence. Three Extra-Visual Artists: Works in Process,” 1971, in Continuous Project Altered Daily: The Writings of Robert Morris, 1993, p. 95.

10 Robert Smithson, “The Monuments of Passaic,” Artforum, vol. 7, no. 4 (December 1967), reprinted in Jack Flam, ed., Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings (Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 1996, pp. 68-74).

11 On May 4, 1970, Kent State University in Ohio became the theatre of protests and demonstrations against the United States’ invasion of Cambodia, protests which were violently repressed. Four students were killed and nine others were severely wounded by the National Guard, who opened fire on the protesters.

12 Robert Morris, “The Art of Existence. Three Extra-Visual Artists: Works in Process,” 1971, reprinted in Continuous Project Altered Daily: The Writings of Robert Morris, 1993, p. 104.

13 Neither Michael Heizer nor Robert Barry are mentioned in the text, but here, the former’s use of radio frequencies (in the exhibition January 5-31, 1969 organized by Seth Siegelaub, for example) and volatile gases is immediately brought to mind.

14 M.N. Edwards wrote from Madison, Connecticut. In the same section, another reader, Herman Rowan, of Minneapolis, attacks Morris’ opinions on the static and decorative art object. See “Letters,” 1971, p. 8.

15 9 in a Warehouse, Leo Castelli Warehouse, February-April 1969.

16 Robert Morris, “Letters,” 1971, p. 8.

17 Robert Morris, “The Art of Existence. Three Extra-Visual Artists: Works in Process,” 1971, reprinted in Continuous Project Altered Daily: The Writings of Robert Morris, 1993, p. 116.

18 The “Newsletter” number 3 of the New Art Association in Artforum, vol. 9, no. 3 (November 1970), p. 39, proclaims, for example: “We are against the confinement of the esthetic experience to isolated, heavily guarded, disinfected objects contemplated under conditions of benign satisfaction. […] We are against the use of museums by self-interested wealth for its own prestige and financial aggrandizement, and the subservience of museum directors and curators to those interests.” See also “The Artists and Politics: A symposium,” Artforum, vol. 9, no. 1 (September 1970), pp. 35-39.

19 Morris closed his solo show at the Whitney Museum (Robert Morris. Recent Works, April-May 1970) two weeks earlier than planned in order to protest against the politics of the American government in Vietnam, the murderous suppression of the Kent State University protests, and the way museum institutions were run. A bit earlier, he had opted for the closing of the group show Using Walls at the Jewish Museum for the same reasons. He was one of the organizers, with Poppy Johnson, of the “strike against racism, war, and repression” (New York Art Strike) on May 22, 1970, orchestrated by the artistic community, which forced museums to close for one day in protest against the Vietnam War, the invasion of Cambodia, the repression at Kent State University, and censorship in museums. This strike was followed by the boycott of the Venice Biennale, on July 14, 1970, by 26 artists, including Morris, who decided to retract their works from the American Pavilion.

20 See Gail R. Scott, “Robert Morris,” in A Report on the Art and Technology Program of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art 1967-1971 (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1971), pp. 238-240.

21 See Jean-Pierre Criqui, “On Robert Morris and the Issue of Writing: a Note Full of Holes,” in Robert Morris. The Mind/Body Problem, ex. cat., 1994, pp. 80-87.

22 Robert Morris, “The Art of Existence. Three Extra-Visual Artists: Works in Process,” 1971, in Continuous Project Altered Daily: The Writings of Robert Morris, 1993, p. 116.

23 See Christophe Cherix, ed., Robert Morris, estampes et multiples 1952-1998: catalogue raisonné, (Genève/Chatou: Cabinet des estampes/Centre national de l’estampe et de l’art imprimé, 1999), pp. 32-36.

24 It is worth noting that Morris has admitted to regretting this image. See W.J.T. Mitchell, “Golden Memories. W.J.T. Mitchell Talks with Robert Morris,” Artforum, vol. 32, no. 8 (April 1994), p. 87.

25 For a historical analysis of the forms and philosophies of irony, see Schoentjes’s invaluable work. Pierre Schoentjes, Poétique de l’ironie (Paris: Seuil, 2001).

26 Robert Morris, “Robert Morris Replies to Roger Denson (Or Is That a Mouse in My Paragone?),” in Robert Morris, Continuous Project Altered Daily: The Writings of Robert Morris, 1993.

27 Friedrich Schlegel, “Kritische Fragmente (108),” [1797], trans. Peter Firchow, “Critical Fragments (108),” in Philosophical Fragments (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), p. 13.

28 For another perspective on this text, see Richard J. Williams, “The Krazy Kat Problem,” Art History, vol. 20, no. 1 (March 1997), pp. 168-174.

29 See Sigmund Freud, “Psychopathic Characters on the Stage,” [1942], in Sigmund Freud. Writings on Art and Literature (Meridian: Stanford University Press, 1997), pp. 87-93.

30 See Patrick McDonnell, Karen O’Connell, Georgia Riley de Havenon, Krazy Kat: The Comic Art of George Herriman (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2004).

31 Charles Baudelaire, “L’héautontimorouménos,” in Œuvres complètes I (Paris: Gallimard, “Bibliothèque de la Pléiade,” 1975), pp. 78-79, trans. William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954).

32 Friedrich Schlegel, “Ideas (69),” trans. Peter Firchow, in Philosophical Fragments (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), p. 100.

33 Robert Morris, “From a Chomskian Couch: The Imperialistic Unconscious,” 2003, pp. 678-694, reprinted in Robert Morris. Have I Reasons. Work and Writings, 1993-2007, 2008, pp. 171-185. This text is linked to the exhibition Robert Morris: American Beauty and Noam’s Vertigo, Joseloff Gallery, University of Hartford, October-December 2002.

34 Ibid., p. 173.

35 See also Robert Morris, “Size Matters,” 2000, pp. 474-487.

36 In this text, page 692, Morris literally cites “Robert Morris Replies to Roger Denson (Or Is That a Mouse in My Paragone?),” op. cit.

37 W.J.T. Mitchell, “Golden Memories. W.J.T. Mitchell Talks with Robert Morris,” op. cit., p. 89.

Table des illustrations

Titre 51. Krazy Kat panel, Patrick McDonnell, Karen O’Connell and Georgia Riley de Havenon, Krazy Kat. The Comic Art of George Herriman, New York, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2004.
URL http://books.openedition.org/enseditions/docannexe/image/3840/img-1.jpg
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Auteur

Associate professor in art history, Haute École d'Art et Design in Geneva.

© ENS Éditions, 2015

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