Yart Sale

            The stuff of art (the actual thing itself), the theory of art, and integration into actual community comprise the trifecta of art credibility. Hitting all three means the artist definitely is on to something. Do it within your life time and you are living the dream. Art histories and anthropological texts are filled with cultural accounts of artwork fitting within that description. But today, having 1,000 plus friends following your production doesn’t add up to integration into actual community.

            Midway down the road of my residence is a hunt club that has a tradition of a giant flea market every year at this time. Everything from survivalist essentials and Amish offerings to high powered automatic rifles and gentrified gardening gear can be found there. The surrounding access roads are clogged with the cholesterol of garage and yard sales (I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether this is the good kind or not). It is an Ohio end of summer ritual, the exchange of money for stuff and stuff for money. This year I chose to participate. As a lark, amidst the flotsam and jetsam of mediocre but priceless detritus, I interspersed some older art works that resist leaving home like the current generation of college graduates. There were some large pieces for enticement, and some smaller ones for low key market humor. I was very surprised by the reaction of the not ready for gallery hop crowd. They got it. Works that had been officially dismissed by those whose DNA encoded calling it was to know art created great fun and social bonding. It reminded me of a set of essays that appeared in the past October 136 (Spring 2011).

            Yves-Alain Bois introduces these essays about Julian Schnabel’s 2010 art film, Miral. I say art film as opposed to other films since the standard of justification for its existence isn’t found in the millions it made on opening weekend or its ability to knock off some other box office over achiever. If you can afford to make art, you can afford to make an art film. The essays are responses to the film’s opening in the form of letters or critiques. In one, Rabbi Irwin Kula likens the film to Clayton Christensen’s disruptive innovation theory calling it “a disruptive innovative peacemaking – a process that is driven by people on the ground who share the intimate stories of their lives rather than politicians and diplomats who argue about principles and interests.” (pg. 209) Earlier Rabbi Kula paraphrased Christensen stating that “We need Disruptive Diplomatic Innovations: methods and processes of peacemaking and diplomacy that are more accessible, usable, and cheaper, that may not seem as powerful to the experts as the existing methods and processes but that may well be good enough to get the job done.” (pg. 206)

            The response of folks not out looking for art, not supporting their networking artists, not fulfilling some higher calling to create and understand art through theory and academic discourse struck me as the third element of the trifecta of credibility. This aspect is consciously elided by most producers since it is so easy to dismiss community as indefinable (virtual or actual? By choice or compulsion? Out of economic necessity or aesthetic need?). Disruptive innovation processes disarm this dismissal by making the experience “more accessible, usable, and cheaper.” It makes for a kind of Zizek short circuit whereby the chances of actually achieving the trifecta become possible.

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