It's only a paper moon
curated by Giovanni Iovane
from 08.05.2009 to 03.07.2009
Marco Di Giovanni
Jeffrey T Y Lee
It’s only a paper moon is a song written in 1933 that has since been used for a host of jazz improvisations and has been performed by literally dozens of famous artists, from Nat King Cole to Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby and, more recently Lena Zavaroni and Ute Lemper.
It was from this song’s title that the movie director Peter Bogdanovich drew the inspiration for the title of his 1973 film Paper Moon (praised by Orson Welles for its title as well as its contents). And even one of the instalments of the Deep Space Nine series of the television evergreen Star Trek was named It’s Only a Paper Moon.
As in the case of so many other popular songs, the lyrics do not mean so very much in themselves. And yet several revealing statements can be found using the sampling technique:
I never feel a thing is real
Mmm, mm, mm, mm
Say It’s only a paper moon / Sailing over a cardboard sea / But it wouldn’t be make-believe / If you believed in me
These are statements – especially the first two – that illustrate and record the idiosyncratic language of art.
Two centuries ago, the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge proposed the “willing suspension of disbelief” in favour of artistic experience.
For many contemporary artists, this suspension of disbelief has a dual value, concerning both the value of representation and a form of active critique of the “orientations” of information (and so of belief and of common sense).
That expression “mmm, mm, mm, mm” is a sort of post-minimal response, both to the nature of what we see and to the authentic expression of an unease or of a difference in views (which is similar, but obviously has a rather different value from the dubious “mmm, mm” of the cryptic codified messaging used in chats).
It’s Only a Paper Moon seemed to us to be an appropriate title, adopting a gentle design approach, for an exhibition of “works about paper and on paper” that offers a variety of different examples to indicate linguistic processes, exercises in style (such as the original practice of d’après, meaning “inspired by”), humorous reformulations of perception and cutting social commentary.
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