Culture

Monday, November 30, 2009

 

Slave
[There are no new waves, there is only] the ocean.
by Damien Crisp


Irrational / Slaves

Resistance is thought fully awake. Irrationality is the last point of
resistance in our society. Everything else can be reified, integrated,
communicated. Only irrationality is haunting.

The New York art world, the ocean, drowns art's resistance, its
possibility for awakened irrationality, but art will transcend its numbing
- the past decade of fun. Murakami's fat face will explode and his
colors for once will have emotion.

Art made to flow with everything - powerful as a market and
entertainment commodity - is otherwise powerless. It relinquishes art's
potential as a force of resistance, favoring the dependable consistent
veneer of porn over the turbulent subjective spiral into love.

Most people in the ocean are schizophrenic. Most hate the ocean and
love the ocean. Most enact its destructive gestures. Most curators,
artists and writers quietly desire their own version of a paradigm shift,
and most gallery workers who are otherwise devoted to a commercial
space whisper privately their anticipation for the market's collapse.
Some always resist and always want something else. Some desire
something else even as they try to grow up and accept the order.
Some people lose their desire in the ocean and turn stories of their
past resistances into conversations at gallery dinners. Others desire
nothing political, simply the attention that is there; our eyes. Change
would fuck with the gaze. The sense of cool, art's marriage to fashion,
is too light to pick up questions with political weight.

The ocean itself is haunted by a hallucination: finding its dead father
decaying in a gallery, under the structure of an ideal space, growing
like ivy across his corpse.

The ocean is not the pluralized morphing gel as it is often described -
with hundreds of scenes and just as many versions of 'good art'. If
there was no center in the ocean, artists would never become stars.
There is a space for every artist but the spaces are only identifiers
within an industry. Each space plays off of its relationship to a real
system, swimming between love and hate of the whole. The ocean's
fragments, it's spaces, play with infinite combinations in the spectrum
of desire - courting attention with rebellion, and/or ignoring attention
with utopian disconnect, and/or giving the system a reassuring
professional atmosphere, and/or constructing glamour, and/or
courting attention with a promise of theoretical-intellectual-critical
relevance.

Don't walk out of the ocean. Packing and leaving. It is the legacy of
the Unibomber that shows the futility of withdrawal from corrupt
systems. I haven't left New York because there is a war over real
estate; real estate linked in real time to art history.

Commercial Art / Machiavelian

In New York's relatively short history of art, economic upheaval marks
each new cycle. Financial meltdown brings experimentation. Periodic
death is a welcomed tourist. The failure of commercial galleries is
good news. The collapse of art markets is synonymous with oxygen:
thought and risk. Waiting. Money kills itself. Sitting here, writing this, I
know it isn't possible to kill the business of art with words.

Despite the ocean's recurring private desire for failure of each era's
economic boom, the culture of this economy pretends immortality. The
business surrounding contemporary art flaunts its arrogance by
mocking critiques as irrelevant, bitter, jealous, cynical and ignorant.
The current model of a commercial gallery and its effect on the broader
art world - the numbing of artwork by the professional incorporation of
art’s context - is not the only possibility. A new model would be born
with cracks in its ethical framework to count and alter, but the current
model is wholly destructive.

Money has always followed art but the strength of its influence comes
and goes. It writes periods of art history then disappears. Today,
money is a tryant in the ocean. The tyrant deludes us with a false
sense of immortality. Even now, in a city bleeding from massive
unemployment, the tyrant deludes us.

The gap between the lower classes and the upper-class is growing into
a physical barrier spilling across the collective space of New York's art
world. Shallow press coverage of what was an organic expansion of
the contemporary art market inspired financial institutions to focus
heavily on art as an investment for adventurous customers. Banks, a
new breed of art historians, created departments to advise their new
breed of collectors where to put their money. Dealers either spread
their legs or unzipped their pants.

Standing in a gallery, you can feel resistance in the artwork or you can
feel fabulous next to the art, or you can feel nothing. The etiquette of
professionalism often co-opted by galleries establishes a sort of
impersonated corporate atmosphere. It is a space for feeling fabulous
or feeling nothing. Resistance is veiled as a sleeping beauty.
Standing in a gallery, trying to look at artwork through this veil, you see
another screen of interference: an ethos of the wealthy.

You are standing in spaces that seem to be marriages of high end
boutiques and prestigious law firms. All signals flash intimidation.
Often you're confronted with the bright white space as container for a
string of blatant and subtle intimidations. The intimidations are
'money', and because they are 'money' they are 'insecurities'. The
need for these intimidations is a loss of faith in art - the insecurity that
art needs a gimmick. The most severely deformed viewers are gallery
workers trained in acting out the intimidations. For many who work in
the commercial art industry, the daily realization of a professional
screen between art and money kills their pleasure and kills their trust.
I feel the gap between the upper class and the lower classes when I’m
trying to look at artwork. I still see art. Still, I can look at art. Sometimes
I feel art. I go out to look and I still find work I can feel.

In the first decade of the 21st century, the contemporary art market
experienced its largest expansion in history. Safe in its bubble, the
business of art sharpened its internal logic. No longer quaint and
plural, dealing art is now as homogenized as any other corporate
profession. Commercial galleries’ standardized presentation and
standardized conduct are appeals to wealth - you can have faith in art
because we are professionals. The upper class has become the sector
of art’s audience with the only meaningful influence over art. An ethos
of the wealthy dictates taste and thought. Writers, curators, and
museums follow the commercial art world the way artists once followed
writers. The tragedy of this growing influence by financially driven
eyes is in the thorough incorporation of art's context. Art cannot
escape its context.

Domination / Universal


Galleries reintroduce the philosophy of the universal because the art
market is serious business now. Interpretations are too slippery.
Irrationality is too slippery. The art market needs an authoritative voice
communicating a universal understanding behind any work it values.
The tendency to over define artwork with press releases, statements
from ghost writers, controlled art reviews and catalogue essays blocks
the potential for multiplicity of understanding and what was once
irrational becomes marketable.

The philosophy of the universal is the re-birth of the author. A cynical
re-birth, the artist's voice is controlled and represented by a gallery's
voice. The re-birth has to be cynical because it is always false life -
always false because the author was born dead.
The viewer, aware or unaware, has forever shaped the meaning of
any artwork and, collectively, viewers multiply its meaning beyond
coherence; beyond unity of thought. . The role of a dealer, a dealer
seeking to act out the impossible re-birth of the author, is the role of a
conspirator subjugating an audience's perception.

Artists often facilitate the conspiracy: the fascist dream of universal
communication spun from an authoritative center. For these artists,
the commodity, the idea, has to be simple and so self-sustained it can
infinitely appear as sub-headlines on the covers of popular magazines.
The art market lavishes jewels and kisses on artists who work within
the flow; artists who relish without question the cold, numb, mirrored
surface of our empire of empty signs. Packaged as subverting
capitalism, these artists are given the pretense of resistance.

To relish, without question, such an empire - or state of reality - the
artist and art industry have to respect communication: the fascist, the
universal, the corporate, the rational. An easily communicated idea
is a responsible gesture. Artwork gains a seemingly utilitarian function
as a justification for investment because our world economy is based
on a whole program of corporatized modes of universal packaging
such as design, fashion and television.

Meaning is transmitted in one direction from manufacturer to consumer
as ingredients of the commodity, and the distinction between art and
modes of corporate persuasion disappears.


The Underground / The American Apparel Years


The union of art and fashion was a mistake. Everything is fabulous.
Often it feels like nothing.

The underground, once the breath of experimentation for art and
music and literature, is barely alive. It's potential recruits are seduced
by its imitators: magazines like Purple and Vice; retail shops like
American Apparel and Urban Outfitters; and commercial gallery
spaces dressed in either the codes of youth rebellion or the codes of a
historical avant-garde. None of these cultural sources feed new
experimentation. Instead, they delete the political and aesthetic
contexts of various past underground fragments to distill empty signs.
The idea of the underground has been shoplifted and redefined as a
pure style. Every sign pointing to the mystique of culture's historically
radical edge has been digested and emptied.

The mass appeal of an underground edge is not only co-opted as pure
style, it is co-opted as a business model: the process of a marginal
scene kissed into the spotlight.

The idea of an underground is abused by corporate desires. The idea
of the underground is abused by the kids themselves who once would
have constituted a fresh breath of air for experimental scenes, but now
re-enact its emptying.

'Underground artist' as a prescribed lifestyle choice is a symptom of
commercial art's numbing of resistance. Forgotten is the role of an
artist as a creator of trends, who - always seeking resistance -
abandons creations the moment they're consumed and dispersed as
formula. In the co-opted underground, the artist is imaged as the
ultimate follower of trends.

Seduced into a new corpse, the underground dies to flow with
everything else. Seriousness is discouraged. A mirage of the
underground keeps the possibility of a vital and real underground
buried so deep in the margins of culture the ocean is no longer capable
of remembering the underground's gifts of dissent and invention.
Art as a fun and fabulous nothing is the new tone of the new dead
underground. The tone permeates Brooklyn's alternative galleries,
Manhattan's commercial galleries, and media's image of the ocean.
The new dead underground compliments the leisurely ethos of the
wealthy dictating commercial art's context. Art as a clever product, as
a post-historical remix. Art as self-expression with a mass produced
similarity. Art as entertainment.

Art is torn the way reality is torn, torn by the difference between a life
lived and life lived on reality television. Poetry, substance, love and
experimentation are flickering in and out of consciousness, almost
dead. The human is erased.

 

*****

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