BOOKS. Morgan Fisher: Writings

by mousse

December 27~2012

This unprecedented anthology delivers what it says on the cover: writings by Morgan Fisher. All of them. The Los Angeles filmmaker and painter has always taken the greatest care in using language to frame his work—adhering in this sense to the conceptual tradition that the purpose of art practice, not to mention its outcome—the artwork, is in some need of clarification. The norms and the lexicon usually deemed intrinsic to the medium of painting and of moving image, are at the core of Fisher’s interest. Language is then the accompanying medium to question such norms. For instance: there are (to quote a press release from a 2007 show—written by Fisher, that goes without saying) “unspoken assumptions that limit paintings. These unspoken assumptions produced what I have called painting as usual […] I want […] to call them into questions and move painting beyond them. I want to make paintings that are not submissive.”

It takes one single paragraph to understand that Fisher values language a very great deal—and that he chooses words as precisely as he can.
If something isn’t clear enough (that is, clearly explained on the part of the writer), he painstakingly hones it: “When I say in the first note that the film is standard gauge on substandard, I am only repeating terms that were once in use. There was a time when 16mm film was called substandard. The prefix «sub» is logical because 16 is beyond 35. But when is added to «standard» it creates a word that even if correct in the narrow sense carries with it the whiff of the pejorative that is echoed in what Hollywood editors used to call 16mm film: spaghetti. So in the view of Hollywood, 16mm wasn’t just below, it was also beneath.” (Writing about his film Standard Gauge). Accurate reading. (Stefano Cernuschi)


Morgan Fisher: Writings
Sabine Folie and Susanne Titz, eds.
Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne 2012
280 pages, € 34