”art as justification” is one of my least favorite things ever. Whenever I see something involving the exploitation, abusing, or killing animals, or honestly any inhumane or abhorrent behavior in the context of art, it makes me hate art. Fuck people who think they can do whatever they want and say it’s for a “greater good” because they are trying to make a statement with their art. Nobody cares, not enough people in the world are paying attention to what you do and it’s not going to change anything. The only people taking notice are other art world incestuous fuckwads closed off in their own little warped pseudo-philosophical bubble and the general public doesn’t know what the fuck you are doing or thinking. Whether it be these tigers or the Clifford Owens rape bullshit. You’re not going to change consciousness, nobody cares. Fuck you. Fuck art. Fuck the art world. You can’t do whatever you want just because you’re an artist. God fucking dammit. /cue vegans calling me a hypocrite
Article that inspired this:
An awareness of the built-in obsolescence of technology-based art affects how we approach single pieces. We begin to see them as on a continuum rather than as discrete objects. A ‘Tumblrization’ of art appreciation occurs where we spend less time with individual pieces of art. Instead, we scroll endlessly through curated collections. Art becomes less about lingering in front of and reflecting on a single work and more about a gestalt culminating in an idea.
3. Honesty & Immediacy
A stronger emphasis becomes placed on immediacy and honesty over self-awareness and critical acrobatics. A recent BBC article asked whether Occupy Wall Street (OWS) signaled the death of contemporary art, rejecting it as relying too much on interpretation, irony, and commercialization. Its audience becomes limited by overly complicated, convoluted explanations that alienate those who don’t actively participate in the art world, have art historical backgrounds, or don’t study art theory.
I wrote the above article to contribute to the DIGARTS conversation last week. Here are a couple of the bullet points I included in the list. Hop on over to TCP to check out the rest.
These common themes - rejection of commercialism, a return to unironic figurative painting, a focus on mass, collaborative subversion of mainstream imagery and above all art with a social purpose - would be evidence of the beginnings of a new style under any circumstance.
Mostly when I think about art in relation to Occupy Wall Street and actually having an effect I see it as pointless unless interventionist ie art as direct action or vice versa. Nobody cares about what art has to say about the movement in the way art exists today. Some stupid highfalutin metaphor or critical pseudo-philosophical gesture wrapped in an enigmatic abstraction that only someone who went to art school can figure out. Nobody gives a stupid fuck.
However – this article understands what is occurring in our culture right now and sees the important shift art is making because of it. We are trading awareness for immediacy, for something real rather than metaphorical or twice removed. We long for genuine feeling rather than the inadequate, yet safe, ironic distance from emotion.
OWS regardless of whether it feels represents the rupture, not of the digital traversing the physical, but of the desire for risk in the face of total failure. The embodiment of the gesture itself rather than the idea of the gesture.
We have become strangled by the insularity of a self-contained system and we dare embrace the inherent randomness of a future we can’t predict predicated on the collapse of an infrastructure that we cannot trust.
“It recognises there are in fact political stakes to our culture and our art - it’s not about would-be academics and novelists daydreaming and writing for a small specialised group, it has made central to the cultural discussion the possibility of action.”
This is the New Sincerity, where no longer are we muddled by excessive introspection and self-reflexivity that does nothing but stultify action and produce obscurantist explanation. Where we believe in action rather than convoluted ideas.
This is the era where we no longer have to reflect on the dominant forms that we saw as tyrannically obfuscating what we desired to communicate because we have exploded them all into a tangled confusing mess. We now must find an emergent form to be generated from the heap, an amorphous transformational form that gives rise to possibility rather than confusion or restriction.
It is certainly very clear what the artists involved are challenging: the world of the multi-millionaire concept artist, whose work is executed by what Crabapple calls “minions”; the white-walled gallery - with its air of non-committal, its preference for meaningless gesture, its reliance on interpretation by the viewer, and its extreme focus on commercialisation.
We will be wrong, we will be embarrassed, we will fail but we will own it and return from it stronger and more expressive. Our actions are too urgent to give time to interpretation or to worry about whether it is wrong or right. We must act or die not linger and reflect.
And whereas for example “Pop Art” would subvert cultural icons as an act by the artist (think Warhol, Marilyn, Campbell’s soup), here the subversion is done knowingly as a shared act between the artist and a mass audience that understands the concept of subverting icons as a normal cultural practice
We must all participate and we must not exclude anyone for their knowledge or lack there of. It is not a matter of what art means but how it acts and what it does. It is functional and deliberate but overflowing with feeling and purpose.
“Contemporary Art faces a potentially terminal crisis. Contemporary Art has sold itself as a non-specific, expanding, universal non-genre, much as neo-liberalism passed itself off as the natural state of things. The realisation that Contemporary Art is in fact a time-limited historical period, that can end, is a radical moment. But it’s an idea that’s gathering momentum.”
Contemporary art is a sham. We thought we saw in its criticality the way the world actually is but instead we saw a bullshit relativist pseudo-philosophy that obscures the world more behind armchair bloviating only allowing people who saw the world one way and one way only into its chambers. We have no need for such reflection when we are forced to act to survive.
Mitchell Whitelaw in his essay on the Post Screen and Transmateriality quotes Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht on his assessment of the “Presence culture” vs “Meaning culture”:
In the glowing rectangle paradigm functional generality is entirely dominant. The work considered here, on the other hand, revels more in the pleasures and practices of specificity - the clatter of servo-actuated wood or the play of light on this particular wall. In their push towards liveness (of interaction or data), performativity, their integration of sound, and their emphasis on evanescent materiality, these works evoke what Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht would call “presence culture” - that mode of apprehending the world which is characterised by fleeting but intense moments of being, and a sense of being part of the world of things, rather than outside it, looking in. Gumbrecht constructs presence in opposition to a dominant “meaning culture”, in which the essence of material things can be obtained only through interpretation. Gumbrecht describes the relationship between these poles as one of dynamic oscillation. “Presence phenomena” become “effects of” presence, “because we can only encounter them within a culture that is predominantly a meaning culture. … [T]hey are necessarily surrounded by, wrapped into, and perhaps even mediated by clouds and cushions of meaning”.
We are lifting our heads from the pillows of meaning and standing up to speak rather than lying in bed to appraise. To be sure, this shift that is occurring is exact what should occur – we learned to speak back to the works of art that we were exposed to rather than silently appreciating. However, that conversation became muddled in jargon and obscured our thoughts and become itself something stunted and paralyzing. Conversation became circular, infinitely regressive, inane, excessive. Awareness as response became another means of silent appreciation that muted us.
We will no longer justify our actions, hide behind meaning or explanation and run away from the fear of failure. We will put ourselves front and center and take credit for every action regardless of whether it means our own utter destruction.
Yeah so there are a ton of essays out there right now about the New Aesthetic. Lots of talk, little action. But I guess the action comes later, when we can all sit back and actually digest the arguments and make work / write more words.
So far, the best / clearest listing of different responses I’ve found is from Derek J. Kinsman here. Enjoy!