Friday, July 29, 2011

Coming Out of the Cornell Closet

Coming Out of the
Cornell Closet

“A large box is handily made
of what is necessary to replace
any substance. Suppose an
example is necessary, the
plainer it is made the more
reason there is for some
outward recognition that
there is a result.”—Gertrude
Stein, “A Box,” Tender Buttons

Cornell’s boxes aren’t necessarily closets—they don’t enclose, they open up things. They bring about an outward recognition of things—like Barthes’ obtuse filmic third meanings.

So that Cornell’s “Rose Hobart” is a surreal readymade montage box—very much like Brian Frye says in his review:

“In Rose Hobart, Cornell holds Hobart in a state of semi-suspension, turning the film itself into a sort of box. She moves her hands, shifts her gaze, gestures briefly, smiles enigmatically, perhaps steps slightly to the side, and little more. The world appears as a sort of strange theatre, staged for her alone.”

Some critics see Cornell’s boxes as closets—while others see his boxes like Stein saw boxes in Tender Buttons. As “an increase,” “the other,” an “outward recognition,” a “singular arrangement to make four necessary,” as a “doubling,” as “winged,” as “a choice,” as a “spark brighter,” as a “result hardly more than ever.”

Rather than seeing Cornell as a “mystic closet-case” as some critics do—why not think of “Rose Hobart” & Cornell’s readymade surreal boxes as closets opening up? An opening-up of the immediacy of perception—interacting with the world as essential for creative production, releasing us from habitual modes of seeing & opening up a more primordial vision, rather than a closeted closing down?

A common view of Cornell as a “voyeur” stargazing in the closet with his boxes of “found objects”— trapping, capturing, framing & holding their captives tightly away from the world. This POV heightens the sense that some critics have of Cornell as a nostalgic closet-case dreamer trapped in the past & detached from world.

The alternate view of Stein and Ashbery is that Cornell opens up “the unbiased seeing of childhood” again—releasing us from our preconceived biased closeted outlook on experience. This POV comports Cornell as an early classic surrealist—who continues his Surrealist Group “Irrational Enlargement” research into the eclipsing & stargazing at what’s going on around us, sweethearts...

Whichever way you wanna go—it’s up to you.

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