Posts Tagged ‘art’

Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Hoarder

September 3, 2017

Recently this writer had the opportunity to interact with an installation occupying the fullness of a gallery dedicated to art (Pan:ic! Interactive Art Space by Al DiLorenzo). The installation itself was a super saturation of imagery and stimulation, one on top of another on top of another with the overabundance marked primarily by a complete and absolute lack of any style, voice or directive connection. It was akin to a hoarder’s domocile with visual/spatial imagery being compulsively warehoused, unable to be discarded. This installation took collection art to its next logical incarnation – hoarding. This “viewer” reminisced about the first installations experienced, as well as those only glimpsed through history archives (Duchamp would probably be one of the earliest, if not the earliest). Then there was the “sky light” structures of the 1970 where the “viewer” looked up to an opening that simply showed the sky. Many artists played with this in different manifestations. The 80’s found installations to be reproductions of intricately detailed everyday tableaux’s. Eventually the format expanded to whatever cohesive inclusion the installation artist desired (real or imagined) until the current one just witnessed. Following the installed trail of installation (the residue, the trace) one finds the earlier work exhibiting “direction” on the part of the installation organizer, to reproduction of experience, to self-conscious production or generation of experience, to the final abdication of any kind of control (the ability to discriminate and discard experience). Not surprising is this chronology and progression of development. Folks like Ranciere were consciously (or unconsciously) affected by the rather acerbic estimation of Arthur, “Beyond the Brillo Box,” Danto. From his “After the end of art”: “Art began with an “era of imitation, followed by an era of ideology, followed by our post-historical era in which, with qualification, anything goes… In our narrative, at first only mimesis was art, then several things were art but each tried to extinguish its competitors, and then, finally, it became apparent that there were no stylistic or philosophical constraints. There is no special way works of art have to be. And that is the present and, I should say, the final moment in the master narrative. It is the end of the story.” Today’s art (and that includes installation), is often affectionately referred to as art after the end of art (Ranciere’s Art regime). Fair enough this art historical thread of narration for what is/has been. Not to be quibbled with. But there is another insight for why and how installation became hoarding. One a bit more “Lacanian,” in a sense. To address this more anthropological take, we need to go way back in the way back machine of western culture to classical Greece. In spite of our blasé and passé belief that all there has been defined and redefined, much of its own contemporary “why” of art is not. Indeed, the Greeks themselves spent surplus energy just trying to define simple things, like “the good” (see Plato or Aristotle). One of the myths addressing this was that of Orpheus. Homer may have been real but the story of Orpheus embodied what to Plato was reality – the form of art (though Plato denigrated both). Especially in the story of Orpheus and Eurydice we find the repetition of Orpheus’ art in relation to task. Indeed, art follows this thread all the way to the present, though the present stresses the task as that of capitalist entrepreneur. With installation, from Duchamp on, we find some task involved with the experience of the installation. The installation originator formulated the experience for some specific “viewer” experience (How does an art gallery show differ from a wholesale coal repository? Take the time to appreciate the splendor of the eternally changing sky. Etc.). Amongst the art entrepreneur’s, Disney would have been most notorious. Art after the end of art finds not only a shift in what is presented, but a shift in the artist herself. No longer addressing a task in terms of relationship to those experiencing the work (social or otherwise) but rather a totally un-tasked “shared experience” (the culture of a shared economy?). We all know the art snob diatribe that now everyone is an artist. And in actual deed many institutions, both of art and social service, rely on this maxim to equivocate what is produced and its interpretation. Evidence from Pan:ic! shows that the artist is no longer engaged in terms of a task like Orpheus, but something else is on display. True, true, true that one of the cutting critiques of art in the late 90’s was that so much of it looked like homework. The artists felt tasked to produce it; evidence of the “post modern” position of the artist “solving” an art “problem” (there is such a thing?). With Pan:ic! we find the artist no longer bothering a task of what ever sort or relationship. Rather, we find the artist as one burdened with continuous art stimulation and experience (everyone is an artist implies everything is art). The “art show” itself becomes a way of “sharing” (the new, shared art economy?). In a “Lacanian” sense, the burden is the artist, what makes the artist an artist. The artist no longer interacts with the world for some or any purpose (art up to Brillo). After all, it is an “interactive” art space. Rather, as Pan:ic shows, the artist is now someone existentially burdened by a continuous stream of sensual, intellectual and visual stimulation – objects, and light, and texture, oh my! Much as junk mail, or spam, the hits just keep on coming. And we all know, it is such a task to sort, define, and chose to deal with this inundation of valuable stuff. Hoarding is just too convenient.


Creative Class Selfie

July 10, 2015

Air cartoon: Mr. and Mrs. Rhino taking a selfie with a selfie stick, one that their grandchildren that will not be will never see.

In the mail the other day came the Yale Literature Catalog of publications. There, on the second to the last page under the heading of general interest “new”, was a book we all have been anticipating, needing to see in print. “Culture Crash: the killing of the creative class” by Scott Timberg recounts “A near perfect storm of change has put countless artists, writers, dancers, and musicians out of work.” For Timberg the creative class is not just the professionals – the architects, musicians, graphic designers, photographers, writers, moviemakers, etc. – but also the demos of de facto curators and savants who owned and clerked bookstores, record shops, print media, etc. Timberg finds culture to be created by “the creative class’ which includes everyone associated in any way with art related endeavors – no matter at what phase of its production/reception. He writes “The arts – and indeed narrative of all kinds – can capture a time, a place, and a culture, and reflect something of the inner and outer lives of its people. “But the tale of our times,” Jaime O’Neill wrote in his piece on the silence of the new depression, “is mostly being told by our unwillingness to tell it.” (pg. 22) Timberg introduces O’Neill’s piece on pg. 17 with “Many of us, said Jaime O’Neill, a writer in northern California, are living in a depression. “It’s hard to make the word stick, however, because we haven’t developed the iconography yet.” He wrote in an essay that asked, “Where’s today’s Dorothea Lange?””

But it’s no surprise Dorothea Lange is not to be found. If you argue, as Timberg does, that the perfect storm of technology, corporate capitalism, and an economy of deliberate income inequality is driving the creative class to extinction, then Dorothea Lange also will be located on the endangered species list and just might not be around to create the needed iconography. And for whom?

It Is Where The Emphasis Is Placed That Accounts For The Difference

July 20, 2014

To the list of reasons for making art add “In Shklovsky’s view, law and fortuity were at output-input ends of the cognitive processor called art. He never used exactly these words, of course, but did claim that art was a processing device. What this device processed was art’s raw material, be it the experiential material of life or the semantic material of language. Why people needed art, Shklovsky theorized, was to experience that material anew. That experience involved seeing the lawfulness of the fortuitous and the fortuity of what we take for laws. He called the latter process defamiliarization; as to the former, the simplest example is rhymes.” (From the massive Spring 2014 Comics & Media issue of Critical Inquiry, an essay entitled “Charlie Chaplin and His Shadows: On Laws of Fortuity in Art” by Yuri Tsivian, pg. 71). Of course, flags immediately appear with question marks on them regarding what “art’s raw material” could be. Tsivian expands what he gives as Shklovsky’s components to include media, technology, brands, pop culture icon’s, etc. (“the semantic material of language”). The gist of his article gives a “rhyming” of real or imagined interpretations/understandings of Charlie Chaplin within his time that presented an expression of, or belief in, a Chaplin that was not exactly Chaplin at all (himself or what was portrayed in his films). These in turn were (potentially?) reciprocated by Chaplin within his later work. All of which very much reminded me of a friend’s work (what little I am aware of it) that seems likewise to follow or parallel this, save at a much more compressed manner and pace, very much involving “art’s raw materials” coupled with media (video, digital imaging, etc.) processed through the “lawfulness of fortuity” (the “rhyming” with images, media, etc. that are available and my friend’s intuitive integration within the work). Personally I’m becoming more interested in what Davis gives in the translation of Aristotle’s Poetics (Aristotle’s Poetics: The Poetry of Philosophy by Michael Davis 1992). Aristotle’s definition of man as being a mimetic animal (innately and intimately) and his (Aristotle’s) presented account of this precisely through the utilization of these parameters and manners were impressive. I know Michael Taussig emphasizes this, but anthropologically (not philosophically). But if one considers this innate capacity/necessity to imitate as the “processing device” by which we experience the world (something Lacan parallels), one is left with what Zizek describes as the parallax view – the pencil half submerged in a glass half filled with water appears split or broken when viewed. One and the same pencil? Is what we imagine and articulate conscientiously, or with reason, etc. (“the semantic material of language”) the same as everyday life (“the experiential material of life”)? In everyday life, consider how the Newark (Ohio) Farmers Market differs from the Granville (Ohio) Farmer’s Market. There is a difference present that is more than geographic. Just recently a conversation with a vendor who does both markets confirmed my own view in that she expressed the same assessment (without prompting). My experience is that in Newark, the interaction is akin to Jacques Ranciere’s description of Jacotot’s pedagogy in The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation. There, the teacher, the pupil, and the book ALL had something uniquely individual to say, express, or contribute (an imagining, different with each element). The book was the thing in common between teacher and pupil (a kind of fulcrum point). At the Newark market, the items offered by the vendor are analogous with “the book”. In Granville the buyer’s imagination reigns supreme, with the vendor and items offered either fulfilling this projection or falling short. This emphasis on the imagined world, and assessing whether what is actually present (the real world) meets the imaginer’s expectation/criteria conforms with the traditional pedagogy of the adjoining university, and what spawned its evolution. The preeminent feature/priority is self-awareness (in the tradition of Descartes), and how to make the world work for the subject (of the self-awareness), fulfill the subject’s projections. The projections, like the self-awareness itself, are all imagined (if one reads Aristotle by Davis’s account. This mis-identification of self-awareness is what makes for tragedy.). It isn’t that those at the Newark market are not self-aware. Rather, it is how they respond to, prioritize, or integrate this “imagining” that makes for difference. With Granville, it is the very priority by which all else is arranged hierarchically. It is where the emphasis is placed that accounts for the difference. Personally I integrate Zizek’s comprehension with Aristotle’s via the imagining of a Mobius strip. The cognitive processor, which defines art, is like the twist that makes the strip possible, makes for the union suit that unites north and south, making the two sides one. It is this simple twist that art provides, even better, that imitation supplies which reinforces “seeing the lawfulness of the fortuitous and the fortuity of what we take for laws.”

Hall Of Zombies

December 12, 2013

A recent foray through the 3D section of a college art department, one that grants a BFA, presented a stark and discernible contrast. The ceramics area was all alive with whimsical creations — creatures and humanoid figures, narrative and abstract shapes in bright and varied colors, textures and surfaces. These forms originated as base clay, eventually glazed, fired, etc. The sculpture production centered around detritus derived creations composed of the cast offs of consumer society – bottles, cans, plastic bags, furniture parts, tea bags, apparel, etc. These likewise were multicolored, textured and various in attempted forms. These pieces never managed to escape the trauma of their base material’s initial priority — that of promoting a commodity based and driven culture. The components’ original intended function was to signal fulfillment and happiness found within (the beverage, food, purchased acquisition, etc. that they originally contained and delivered). Any application to utilize this spent residue was in actuality a contestation of its original functional intent by design; akin to wrestling to undo the Bauhaus through utilizing its own signature designs to create Non-Bauhaus creations. In spite of itself, each piece became a struggle, not only to overcome the overwhelming “aura” of the component material employed but, more importantly, to imagine an “other” to the market compelled ontology that these materials insist on reproducing. Few succeeded in this no rules cage match. Unlike the ceramics area “alive with whimsical creations”, the sculpture trek turned into a flight down a hall of zombies.


June 16, 2013

The Spring 2013 Critical Inquiry offers an interesting extension of Barthes’ punctum. In an article entitled Another Punctum: Animation, Affect, and Ideology, Eric S. Jenkins (re)interprets Barthes’ insights with what is definitely not photography (but may employ it in the process) – animation. Barthes punctum is felt. That contributes more to understanding it than anything else. It is affective, much as the Proustian cookie. Something in the photograph “connects” with the viewer, touches the viewer, wounds or breaks the surface. This “something” is not necessarily the same thing for each viewer. It may be a trivial detail of clothing, or setting, or physical feature, gesture. But it is enough to make the viewer stop and reconsider their assessment and response to the image based on how the image now exists in the world as they (the viewer) know and experience it. Barthes also considers a second degree or level of the punctum, that of how the “traditional” photographic image connects with the viewer through the aspect of time, along the channel of finality – death. THAT, which I am looking at, was but is no more. Call it poignancy if you like, it is as affective as the initial connection with some individual element within the make-up of the image. Barthes dwells on the specific characteristic of mortality found with traditional photographs. Traditional must be stressed as so much could not be said for “photo-shopped”, manipulated images or moving “pictures” – film. Contemporary with the development of film was the development of animation, another type of moving picture. Jenkins realizes that folks respond affectively to animation, so there must be a punctum at play there somewhere. The classical Chinese ink painting theorists would describe this as the image needs a doorway, an entry into the painting. We would call it the point where there is a suspension of disbelief. Animation, animated subjects do not exist, have never been, share our world and experience only through the image, nothing more.

“The punctum of animation, although likewise a punctum of “Time,” is about life rather than death. Gertie [Winsor McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur, 1914] never lived, so her coming death is unlikely to incur a wounding melancholy. Instead, in animation’s punctum, the viewer senses as alive that which does not live. This sense of life is so potent, this prick so sharp, that even knowing otherwise sometimes cannot prevent the feeling that these characters live. For instance, in an oft-repeated anecdote, famed Warner Brothers animator Chuck Jones mentions to a child that he created Bugs Bunny. The child stubbornly denies his assertion, insisting, “’he draws pictures of Bugs Bunny,’” Jones might depict the character moving and expressing, but Bugs lives beyond the drawings. This child expresses animation’s punctum, sensing as alive that which exists only as image.” (Critical Inquiry Vol. 39 No. 3 pg. 585)

After the end of art (the post modern), what makes for art is greatly in flux. No fixed criteria exist to make this art or not. Everything can be art. Everything is not art. Classical aesthetic theory falls short when one considers popular culture as a fountainhead of art. It is squished flat when one considers the current inter relationship of the market and art. Because some “thing” (concrete or conceptual) has had its five minutes of fame, does that make it art? If some “thing” sells, does that make it art? The higher the price, the better the art? What makes for quality with art if we know that it is art to begin with? On pg. 583 Jenkins writes, “If the punctum is like the passage through a black hole, perhaps animation’s punctum can be envisioned as going through another hole, a rabbit’s hole, like Alice transported to a realm where cats talk, caterpillars smoke hookahs, and the Queen of Hearts barks orders for decapitation.”
Inadvertently, Jenkins himself opens a passage that helps answer some of these questions regarding what makes for art, what makes for quality. Allowing for such a bivalent interpretation of the punctum makes an aesthetic utilization possible. Without doubt or controversy, one of the most beloved manifestations of western art would be that produced by the “category” called the Impressionists. Yet what do we find here? We find individual artists who insisted on always “representing” something that already was (much as traditional photography). At the same time, we find a palette and style that belongs more with that of the Disney studios than the contemporary academic painters of the time. The affective response to Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party or Monet’s Haystack at Sunset near Giverny could be equally described by either Barthes’ or Jenkins’ punctum. The house barely appearing in the summer’s pre twilight haze, the woman holding the dog up, these are trivialities that draw me in. They are not Gertie, in that they never have been. They once were. And yet there is also the aspect of the colors and forms, so much in keeping with Jenkins description of animation. Were I to ever encounter life forms like Renoir’s or a landscape like Monet’s, it would be as Jenkins describes, “Temporal hallucination.” (pg. 584) The contribution to considerations of quality or existence (is it art?) that such an expanded interpretation of punctum provides would be along the lines that it once was (something experienced, shared, coexistent with actual experience) AND the acute sense “as alive that which does not live”. Much as the pre Socratics (and the pre Robert Redford’s) described life (philosophized about life) as a river, one that you cannot step into the same river twice. No! Not even once. Yet we all admit we do step into the river. So considerations of art, its being and quality, have to include what definitely was, as well as what we can never enter into, “sensing as alive that which exists only as image.”


May 11, 2013

Recent events continuously in the news brought Antigone to mind. “We’re better than that, aren’t we?” The jury is out on that and well it should be for western culture has maintained many of the same funerary dispositions prevalent at the time of Sophocles. Being one of “them” and having threatened “us” justifies Creon’s decree in the hearts of many.

“In a Critical Inquiry essay (The Idle Idol, or Why Abstract Art Ended Up Looking Like A Chinese Room) Robert Morris stumbles along, page after page considering theoretical explanations for the state of abstract art today (Morris has taken to making outdoor labyrinths). The last two pages are memorable. Here he dispenses with theory (though he knows that what he writes is still theory). He describes what he considers to be the current art scene in the NYC area where he resides (the real reason for the state of abstract art today). My own interpretation of his description would be that the scene is a group ethos without the “idol” of authorship. The individuals contribute to what is taking place within the group, with the entire group participating as well as experiencing (celebrating) the outcome ( the outcome being the participation or rather, the act of participating). Morris describes it as singing. Artists sometimes are curators or show organizers, and curators are considered as artists. There is a fluidity, a constant exchange and interaction with an emphasis on the connectivity of networking. It is curiously analogous to the chorus in ancient Greek tragedy (if you can stretch your imagination enough). It “sings” its art, its message, its ideas, etc. But there is no claim to individual ownership or origin. It is in a communal sense (much as the chorus embodies the community within Greek tragedy) with a heavy emphasis on networking and belonging (which can only be done by actively singing; singing along with everyone else, not counter, questioning or critiquing, but going with the flow). To sing with the chorus is to go with the flow, one way only. The chorus is univocal though it may be polyglot.” (this blog’s December 2009 post entitled Making The Signifier)

Antigone does not sing with the chorus.

Creon’s decree also encompasses memory and memorials. Brief and eerie glimpses of our un-advertised, un-celebrated selves tacitly materialize. Charon is to ferry Sandy Hook Elementary to the nether world to join the Kent State shooting site along with oh so many other tragedies by disappearing, “getting paved over” so that life can go on without the memory being indexed to any concrete material. In many parts of the world the tragedy itself is precisely memorialized by the preservation of just such material — the destruction, the trace, the residue of wrong. Here we want it to disappear, for a return to a normalcy that denies aberration, relegates it to a “them, they or those”, putting it outside the distribution of sense (for the abomination was so sense-less). Ai Wei Wei’s 5,000 names of children buried under earthquake rubble or Maya Lin’s list of names only half buried under the earth defy Creon’s convenient and easy bifurcation of what is to remain of Eteocles and Polyneices.

Begging For Answers

February 26, 2013

In 1992 Krzystof Wodiczko premiered Alien Stick, followed by variations and eventually Mouthpiece. These works exploited culture’s fascination with, and preference for, video imagery. Later Al Gore and Michael Moore presented us with film epics, alarming calls to action. Sadly, not much took place. Choose whichever trajectory you’d like, global warming or gun violence in the US, the two epics did not facilitate the needed change. Most of this can be attributed to what Wodiczko’s early work so successful utilized- culture’s fascination and romance with video. Reference Baudrillard on the nature and intimacy of simulacra within culture. Enough said. Though Alien Staff, and Mouthpiece made immediate and material introduction and reference to the subject of their video presentation, Michael and Al’s films did not. For any artist today interested in actual, in our time, change, the challenge seems to lie not in presenting/representing the subject matter in the imagery of film or video, but in calling attention to and embracing the actual subject material of their work, the social utilitarian raison d’etre of their art. Baudrillard’s simulacra is a copy of a copy without reference or need of an original. A gondola ride within the Venice of Las Vegas leaves no residue of the actual Venice slowly being submerged within the rising oceans produced by global warming. The question for any would be socially active artist today becomes “When does a simulacra disintegrate, urgently necessitating reference to the original in order to reestablish stability? What disrupts the simulacra experience, the virtual reverie, so profoundly and in such a way that the original must be resurrected, reaffirmed?” How can this be done?

Today’s News

January 9, 2012

            An article appeared today that generates a lot of speculative questions relevant in an odd way to understanding the aesthetics of visual culture after the end of art. In the “good ole days” it may have been considered as a human interest story. Currently it finds itself as a political news item. Waitress Offers Tip: Trackers Go Away written by Jessica Wehrman appears in the January 8 Columbus Dispatch. While serving lunch to one of the US senators from Ohio, a waitress noticed a man surreptitiously filming the senator as he dined. She tossed him out but he returned through an employee’s side entrance and once again continued filming using his phone (I guess “videoing” would be more accurate, yet this was totally digital, stored nowhere but rather only transferred in code). She confronted him, threatening to call police. In his haste to exit through the door, the waitress suffered an injury.

            Politics as usual. In this day and age of super pacs and lobbies (having the full constitutional rights of any individual citizen), trackers are equal opportunity muck rakers (or rather muck providers). They supply the data necessary for all those ads created in such bad taste. The amended US constitution guarantees the right to publish those ads. What’s questionable about that? No news there. Paparazzi have been sticking cameras in celebrities’ faces for as long as there has been dirt to be dug. Where’s the slant on the aesthetics of visual culture after the end of art?

            Speculate for an instant. Let your imagination roam. Just say that somehow something like this found itself before the US Supreme Court. Clear enough that one can pretty much disseminate just about anything, short of what could be deemed libelous or seditious. But this wasn’t a matter of publishing or distributing. The tracker was utilizing his hand held communication device to produce something, eventually to be reproduced. Consummate contortionist skills would still leave the strict constitutionalists looking like pretzels. Reproductive technologies during the time of the Constitution’s signing were all about printed (and disseminated) text and imagery. Producing the image was much as producing the word. Both originated from the pen of an author. Anecdotal accounts about the life drawing studio art pedagogy of Ingres had it that his students were required to study the live figure model on one floor, then had to go up to the studio on the next floor to draw what they had seen. In short, no recording devices were extensively employed at the time of our nation’s founders. The legalities of all this may be considered obtuse by legal scholars. But for students of visual culture, it is fascinating to grasp the distinction between the reliance on hand and memory with regard the art (and culture) of 200 years ago and the present emphasis on the utilization of reproductive technologies without any reliance on memory, let alone dexterity.  The intricacies (and distinctions in definition) of such cultural designations as space, person, or boundary become readily apparent without ever having to enter into any theoretical discourse.

The Centrality Of Security

December 27, 2011

            An acquaintance sent holiday greetings in the form of a forwarded email. It was from the OP Ed section of the 12-25-11 New York Times. In an article entitled A Victorian Christmas, Maureen Dowd looks at the life and writings of Charles Dickens through a contemporary lens (comparing the insecurity of his childhood “homeless” experience and society’s economic inequities, and the outcome on his writings, particularly his Christmas variations). Christmas for Dickens (according to Dowd) involved a reflection on what could have been, what didn’t occur, and what was. This led me to reflect on the times of Dickens’ writing, and what was contemporary to it. In other parts of the world was social upheaval. Slavery was on the verge of ending while industry was forming a proletariat. Marx was responding to this. Darwin was of that day. Historians like to say that the writings of Melville, Dickens, Flaubert and others give insight into the times, what moved the age, the workings of society and the individuals that comprised it.

            A punch line that arises in many angst permeated liberal discussions is that “the revolution took place, and we lost”. The joke relies on the lead up conversation advocating for some kind of radical social enterprise. To a limited extent, the “failed” upheavals in Europe and North America of the 1960’s lend credence to this form of gallows humor. Though lacking the enormous historic detachment (necessary for analysis) of events from over a century ago, most agree that something took place in the 60’s, that what occurred failed, that what didn’t occur was relegated to utopian aspirations, and that the outcome of failure led to what it is we have today. One could liken the resolution of that upheaval of a half century ago to the Father Knows Best TV sitcom of roughly that same time period. The upheaval was around how society “ought” to be structured. In the end, something in charge of society (father), as opposed to society itself (the family), determined what became priority and policy. The revolution took place and we lost. The outcome was of an accelerated social inequity, in earnings and worth as well as opportunity, resulting in the contemporary situation that Dowd connects with Dickens’ life and writing.

            Presently there is social upheaval recurring almost globally, with slow but continuous frequency. We do not have the luxury of chronological distance to assist us in grasping its significance or character. In an essay entitled What To Do With Pictures (October 138) David Joselit likens formatting to the art medium of today. Unlike the material mediums of previous art (paint, metal, paper, etc.), formatting permits digital operations in terms of actions and activity through the use of data. Underlying this insight is the consideration that the art of the last 50 years has shifted and become entwined with the market political economy of today. With the end of art, the “romantic” notion of ideas and utopias has been eschewed for the “realism” of economics. Folks created art for the Medici’s, the burghers of Antwerp, and the European bourgeoisie because ultimately it paid the bills (and sent the kids to college), not because it created new forms of knowledge (which version one subscribes to becomes a matter of formatting the data!). According to Joselit, omnipresent is current art’s involvement with market culture. One would look in vain today for writers or artists whose works reflect the “spirit of the age” (in the manner of the 19th century), in contradistinction to the driving force of the age. But then again, maybe that very collaboration is indicative of the spirit of current social upheaval. Analogous to the grammar of nouns and verbs, the art before the end of art was more concerned with nouns, the subjective elements. The art after the end of art is more concerned with the verbs, the action words that predicate a service economy. Perhaps the upheavals of today are about the disappearance of the subject, the emphasis on the predicate, the ultimate mobility and fluidity of labor totally and solely determined by market force. Symptomatic of this is the increasing pressure to always be connected via an individual mobile communication device, so that anywhere, at any time, the bearer is prepared to accommodate any needed change in activity or action required by the market (always available to be accessed or appropriated). A perfunctory review of some of the issues precipitating upheaval- job security, health care, housing as a “home”, reassurance of retirement consideration, the uncertainty of the everyday ecological environment, etc.- reveals the centrality of “security”. For the limited 1% determining priority and policy, security against terrorism and financial chaos supersedes the “security” issues of the 99%.

Imperialism’s Last Gasp

November 13, 2011

            This week economist Brad Bateman submitted an op ed piece in the NY Times (November 6, 2011) calling for a rethinking of Capitalism. He advocates for a more worldly and nuanced outlook (“types of capitalism” and “economic systems”). Now we’ve all read our Jameson and Negri, and their descriptions of late term capitalism. Those accounts of capitalism conjure up images of Saturn Devouring His Children by Goya. After all, you can claim to take the capitalism out of making a profit (most private institution’s of higher learning, such as those that employ Prof. Bateman, claim to be doing just that by declaring themselves not-for-profits, ostensibly to “profit education”) but you can’t take the making a profit out of capitalism.

            I wrote that to be able to say this. Recently, through back channels, it was brought to my attention that a certain art venue dear to my heart, one operated primarily through volunteer initiative and never actually earning a dime (always just enough to pay the bills), and a local artist very much into earning a profit and running a rather large scale, involved enterprise were potentially going belly up within months. Both of these ventures have been around for quite some time and were reasonably stable until the past year or two. Both could easily be considered icons of local art making/art presentation. Reasons for collapse can vary, but our recent depression- er, recession, probably plays no small part. It is curious to note that a Tsunami or war would contribute to the same outcome but that an economic crisis affects both the totally for profit capitalist enterprise as well as the anarchic, not for profit one. Big money going on strike for greater profit is an equal opportunity iconoclast.

            In his summation to Iconoclash (Latour/Weibel eds.), An End to the “End of Art”? On the Iconoclasm of Art, Peter Weibel traces the early Iconoclash of image making/images through to the more extensive enterprise (theoretical as well as material) of the modern era (19th century to the present). Within this history he claims the iconoclastic element to be inherent within the modern. This genetic makeup of modern art parts company with that of the late image iconophilia of science. Iconoclasm in modern art seeks to avoid iconoclash by always migrating to something/somewhere else (as the “avant garde” artists of NYC left Manhattan for the borough of Brooklyn, and beyond). “So modern art is iconoclastic and at the same time, as a consequence of this iconoclasm, it propagates a non-iconoclastic solution to the iconoclastic fallacy and trap.” (pg. 629) “This exhibition shows some escape routes and cornerstones not only for painting after the last picture, featuring possible paintings after the last painting, but above all art after the end of art; art produced by iconoclastic gestures aimed to end art. This art after the end of art opened the way to new practices of art. Modern art is constantly questioning its own raison d’etre. This self criticality can be interpreted as iconoclastic, but actually, it is the motor of its evolution and transformation.” (pg. 636)

            And yet the art, as art, never actually ends. “New practices” maintain the art, as art, as separation from the “useful” iconophilia of science. It is the separateness of art from other practices that established its value “as art” in the 18th century (when the differentiation of art, as Art, began, according to Ranciere. Prior to that, it was imagery and representation in service of hierarchy.). Analogously, as much could be said for the origins of the capitalism that professor Bateman says needs to be tweaked to adjust to current conditions. Many have linked the history of art and its evolution to the political economy. Just as within late term capitalism imperialism shape shifts to new practices and transformations, so likewise art (after the end of art) may only be the cultural manifestation of imperialism’s last gasp; late term capitalism’s need to maintain a non cumulative separateness of value within what would otherwise be only commodity.