Sunday, September 14, 2014

faux consciousness


From one of Matt Collings's 'Diary' columns, c. 2007:

"Ideas are the false idols of current fashion in art. They exist so people in art circles can feel comfortable with political issues they don't really believe in, to make up for feeling uncomfortable with art. Art bores them but they don't realize it. [...]

"With the usual shallow market art you know exactly where you are. You know it's elitist and decadent. The pain is for the outsiders who don't understand, unless they're rich outsiders who can be pseudoinsiders by paying -- they can skip the 'understanding' square on the board and go straight to 'feel good about yourself,' maybe even pick up a 'boss everyone else around' card on the way."
The first part gave me a part-shudder/part-chuckle of recognition, if only because it describes about 2/3s of my grad-school art history professors.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

media freaks, ii



















"Marshall McLuhan's distinctions between 'hot' and 'cool' media, and his notion of the television-created 'global village,' seem to be without much meaning, except on a trivial level. (If anything, thbe spread of wider comminication nets tends to bring about the disintegration of larger socities into fragmentary ethnic and primordial units.) But there are real consequences for the cohenence of a culture in the relative weights of print anfd the visual in the formation of knowledge. The print media allow for self-pacing and dialgue in comprehening an argument or in reflecting on an image. Print not only emphasizes the cognitive and the symbolic but is also, most imprtantly, the necessary mode for conceptual thought. The visual media -- I mean here film and television -- impose their pace on the viewer and, in emphasizing images rather than words, invite not conceptualization but dramatization.In the emphasis televison news places on disasters and human tragedies, it invites not purgation or understanding but sentimentality and pity, emotions that are quickly exhausted, and a pseudo-ritual in pseudo-participatio in the events. And, as the mode is inevitably one of overdramaitzation, the responses soon become either stilted or bored."

- Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1976), pp. 107-108

* * * *

Have long heard of Bell's book; and, finally reading it now, have to wonder what all the honoraries were for. A simple (yet incisive) core thesis, reiterated again and again, to the point of redundancy. And swathed in pages of sweeping cultural generalizations that are constanl;y fatiguing in their lack of nuance.

And, despite his merits, McLuhan's a fairly easy target.If his metaphors and conceptualizations seem off the mark; well at least he deserves the credit for venturing into territory that no one before him thought worth critiquing, etc.. Still, I have to admit that Bell's bit cited above proved exceptionally prescient; considering how things have played out since,*

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

* Except for "ethnic" and "primordial" [sic, 2x], substitute maybe ideological and (extremely) localized.

Friday, April 18, 2014

beide realismen



MK: In the preface to your 1971 portfolio of editions, Grafik des Kapitalistischen Realismus, you described Capitalist Realism as explicitly political, a form of social intervention, and expressed disappointment in the participating artists later ‘fleeing’ to the fine arts. Do you still hold this perspective?

RB: When I published Grafik des Kapitalistischen Realismus,...we already had some distance from this term. It was a concept of the mid-‘60s, after the Berlin Wall had been erected. Nevertheless, it was important for me to have a section in the book in which images of works of artists of the Kapitalistischer Realismus were juxtaposed with works from East German artists who worked in the style of Socialist Realism. This was a very interesting confrontation, done for the first time. And it demonstrated that Capitalist Realism was also a kind of political statement. So yes, I expressed disappointment that the artists from the West by then seemed to have fled to the fine arts, seemed to have given up their inimitable position. That this worry was without reason, however, became evident in the later works from the ‘80s and ‘90s of Brehmer and Polke, and most certainly in Richter’s Baader-Meinhof cycle, October 18, 1977.

From an interview with gallerist René Block, Artforum, April 2014

Monday, September 30, 2013

climbing mount moribund







IB: Have you always known that those things are what you want to make? Or that this is the space you want to make work in?

AS: I've always been extremely drawn to things that were problematic. I liked painting because supposedly painting was dead, and I liked the idea of being a female and painting because everyone was saying that painting was a male language. Or I like the idea of formalism, which seemed verboten when I went to art school.

IB: You didn't necessarily like them because you wanted to resuscitate them, you just wanted to figure out why they were in the place they were.

AS: Yes, because difficulty is interesting.

IB: You are a contrarian.

AS: Not a contrarian, a scrapper.

IB: What turns you on about that?

AS: To go into the middle of a knot is a form of integrity to me -- and to investigate the area that seems like the worst thing you could do is kind of exciting.


Amy Sillman, interviewed by Ian Berry, c. 2007

Monday, September 23, 2013

whither autonomy?




Julian Stallabrass, in Art Incorporated (2004):
“It is an old worry, found in modernism as well as postmodernism, though in different forms. Fernand Léger stood before the machine exhibits of the Paris Fair in 1924, marveling at how such immaculate productions outshined the poor, self-conscious efforts of artists. The argument that art is no longer possible because the world of products is saturated with aesthetics is the postmodern variant of the same anxiety; a modernist dream of the merging of art and life has apparently also been realized, though less in synthesis than the surrender of the weaker party.

While the issue of art’s separation from or mergence with commodity culture has a long history, during the 1990s there was an intensification of the forces involved – many of them old features of capitalism – that contributed to the dominance of a triumphant consumer culture not just over art but over all other cultural production. Commodities seemed to become even less like functional objects and more like evanescent cultural moves within a sophisticated, self-referential game. Brand names hopped between products unrelated in all but name, while advertising churned over reference, self-reference, and meta-reference in an accelerating consumption devouring of old and new cultural attachments. The greatest profit continued to be made not in industry but in services, data-processing, and finance, and the success of those sectors was most associated with the neoliberal economies, especially in the U.S. ...Continental Europe moved to embrace the neoliberal model, sugar-coated though it was through much of the mid- and late 1990s with nominally social democratic governance. Like commodification itself, the neoliberal model widened its ambit and deepened its hold.”

Perhaps the most concise and compact description of the conflicts inherent in postmodernist art that I’ve encountered so far, getting at what so many accounts and authors have tend to sidestep or dance around over the years. Squarely addressing something that began to nag at me nearly twenty years ago when I undertook my graduate studies, an unease that began to set in as I tucked further into the matter of modern and contemporary art history. And why I often found myself annoyed with so many accounts of the triumph of Pop Art and its continuing legacy, because this sort of thing – I sensed even then – constituted the slippery underside of the argument. Even worse that the decree was usually coupled with a smug middle-class smugness that intimated that – thank goodness – art was no longer something so lofty of important, it now having been relegated to the back seat or – in more generous accounts – at least held an equal (though peripheral) footing. Nothing that one had to take so seriously anymore, not since it’d been put in itself more proper place by the more pervasive consumer culture, which now operated as a sort of ersatz common culture. In that respect, Donald Kuspit’s (wretch) argument about the “end of art” came across as the artworld equivalent of Fukuyama’s thesis about the “end of history.” Complete with the bit about centuries of boredom following in its wake.

The bit about Léger’s anxiety: It’s an ever-more-common misgiving, something that I encountered only recently (in an interview with Pierre Huyghe, perhaps?); that art can effectively only embarrass itself when it tries to compete with the contemporary realm of Spectacular culture. Why? Because it’s fated to come off as chintzy and meager by comparison. It’ll never have anything remotely like the same degree of money or industrial collaborative resources behind it, so its production values will always be (at best) modest and limited it ambition. Doesn’t matter how much Matthew Barney has Hugo Boss in his corner or whatever.

Not that’s necessarily a bad thing, mind you. Despite all appearances, big, bloated, bombastic art usually makes for the worst, most feeble type of art (and usually comes off as a bit fascist at the same time). And the entertainment industry seems increasingly incapable of making a big-budget film that isn’t a tiresome waste of time and money, that isn’t total shit. So perhaps better to try and think through what’s really at stake in the whole matter.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013





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