This is an archive of the ArtCat Zine, 2007-2009. Please visit our new project, IDIOM.
Anthony McCall and Andrew Tyndall's 1978 film essay Argument, is many things; a deconstruction of print advertising, a critique of the dominant construction of masculinity, and a flabby, navel-gazing manifesto of frustrated ambitions, to name but a few. If its subject matter feels ever so slightly outdated, its formal strategies remain striking, none more so than its juxtaposition of sections of text and voiceover that begin in congruence before diverging at key moments.
Watching it today, however, one does get the sense that the film's purported radicalism seems tailor made to fit in and around those very aspects of masculine identity that are lacking in the lives of the artists under discussion. The choice to make art here involves the deprivation of precisely those components of upwardly mobile masculinity that are ostensibly up for reexamination. But diagram is not the same as critique, and, - perhaps this is where the film remains most disappointingly contemporary - artists today still seem to believe that its okay to want the politically retrograde so long as one understands it to be so. McCall and Tyndall seem to find no tension in demanding that the world pay a living wage for them to perform their avant-garde experiments. Which begs the question, what kind of avant-gardist expects to be well paid?
One might also wonder what the Anthony McCall of today would say to the 1978 model and vice versa. The newer version is speaking tonight, at the Whitney.