A few words about status quo artworld... Ben Davis at Artnet published the first (and second - more in another update) of three important essays last week: State of the Culture, Part I: Museums, ‘Experiences,’ and the Year of Big Fun Art; [LINK]. Ben was my editor at Artinfo before I switched to Brooklyn Rail for the duration of OWS and some months after Occupy was crushed, while Occupy with Art was still active. Ben's writing is consistently insightful, neatly balancing macro-analysis with close-reading. I consider his personal views to be ethically compelled. Given the challenging dynamics coursing through politics and economy, global to local, the concerning trends in technology, the tricky Social and scary military operations, from hacks to threat-levels, and how all these phenomena merge in our shared dimension of experiential Now, the persistent question aired across most interactive media is How should the individual [I] and collective [We] respond?" Obviously, this is a complex conundrum, and the question itself is a sign of confusion - if I/We knew what to do, we would already be doing whatever what-to-do is. To understate, the situation indicates a protocol breakdown, or to put it in the contemporary vernacular, disruption. It is probably a good idea then to take a moment and evaluate the situation, before doing anything, because the situation is complicated, confusing and overall disruptive. We might ask some basic questions during our pause, and reflect on the circumstance. Has this difficult situation been caused or induced by someone or -thing? Why? Is everyone being affected by the situation equally? How precisely do the effects vary from person-to-person and across the collective We? Can we establish an instructive and verifiable timeline/history for the moment? Can we recognize historical patterns that indicate our current situation is like others in the past? And so on. In this post I will briefly stipulate my current approach to making art, which is derivative of a process similar to the one I outlined above. The documentation I have been posting the past several months constitutes my response to the status quo, which is not in fact reactive at all. I am acting as a free radical in contra-position to the state of the culture, which I have determined to be significantly corrupt, misguided and destructive, distorting both short- and long-term schematics and projections. The most powerful forces (pre-)determining the outcomes and shaping narratives prevalent in the artworld are not conducive, I believe, to best outcomes for this artist, or for people collectively. These driving forces mostly serve the interests of a tiny fractional subset of society, and fluff its whims. But I do not have to - yet - submit to the proscribed top-down/+ all-directionally enforced program, and therefore am diligently pursuing what I believe to be the correct course of action, relative to what's happening now.
The first phase of my doctoral art production is nearly complete, and should wrap in the first few days of 2018. I have shared the progression, cataloguing the creative sequence here in this blog. I have chosen not to share he documentation across social media and other platforms. It is not a fanatical privacy I am embracing, much less advocating. I have not prevented a few (trusted) others from publishing in their data streams their encounters with the work. That said, my auto-sequestration approach is fairly thorough. The AFH platform is limited extensively from what it has been since the circa Y2K launch of Art for Humans. The massive AFH twitterfeed stream is off. No AFH Facebook pipeline is sluicing content on the daily. I only post to AFH YouTube in order to post here. The AFH Tumblr array is a fallow garden. The Wiki is hacked and gone. The archives and legacy URLs are barely maintained online or shifted offline. AFH SEO operations are nearly non-existent. Why?
I won't answer that directly for the moment. For context, though, I will recommend a second recent article, published in e-flux Journal, titled "Productive Withdrawals: Art Strikes, Art Worlds, and Art as a Practice of Freedom," written by Kuba Szreder. I would characterize my recommendation of this essay as qualified or partial. The text covers some territory I inhabited in real time, and post-facto reformulates the actual reality with an ideologically colored fabrication. Nonetheless, Szreder at least is honest about the biases driving the reformation of the events (e.g., OWS Arts & Culture) and, I would argue, the others described and discussed in the essay. Further, the author offers excellent observations and conditional analysis pertinent to the artist in our status quo. The following paragraphs contains a sample of these contradictory matters:
[See footnotes in the original (LINK)]
Szreder's arguments are consistent with a volume of similar critiques and deconstructions framed as solutions for art in service of activism, resistance, etc., that do not actually include art itself, and instead, deny, minimize and/or erase its objective value, as well as the individual's role in creating it. The building blocks of the argument are modular and constitute a code of bias which is designed to resist the puncturing of its falsity in the way that good propaganda is designed. I won't voluntarily waste any more of my time and energy fighting faux-revolutionary fiction posing as the antidote for cultural disease or a call to aesthetic arms against Capital, Fascism, Racism, the Right, Corporatacracy, Patriarchy, Empire, etc., especially if the agent of that fiction refuses even to acknowledge art's existential value, as such, outside of its misuse by the worst elements in Civilization. Art predates these conceptions. As for my stance, one can think of relevant geopolitical phenomena that resonate (e.g., Israel/Tibet/Taiwan...) - why engage with the opponent whose prime tactic requires one's invisibility or erasure? The scenario can only generate first comedy, then tragedy. First the Invisible Man cries "I am here!" When he is still ignored, he must prove his presence, which almost inevitably manifests in tragic action. Even if the impetus - proving presence, and arguably the Present - is very much a basic artistic one.
The false binary [FUN/ERASURE], mapped in the articles cited above, is effectively superimposed on artistic production. The drivers of the phenomenon include a diverse mix of players, institutions, media and explicit and implicit impulses. The false binary originates from linked but separate spheres of compulsion and its management axiom presumes or assumes the artist must comply in the imaginary middle to one or the other. In short the artist is faced with an US/Them identity option. Both conceptions in the binary are fundamentally fictional propositions, involving consumption/displacement subtexts that function as an operative database for agents of both syndicates. This actuality is not readily apparent to casual observers in any case. The causality of immersion is one feature of both fictions, for instance, and either syndicate has ready rationales to justify immersion absent choice (one example, reinforced by its advocates as neo-virtuosity: shared means is redirected to apply to a movement that embodies forcible upheaval, disenfranchisement, a cataclysmic migration in story-packets, positive or negative in tone, depending on the agency). Whereas one agency roots its rationale in Property, the other fixates on the negation of Self, except to serve an ideologically detached and uprooted Mass. The presumptions are ancient, but they are propagated as a formal currency constantly subverting choice, and more specifically, expressive freedom as a sign of liberation in choice, which is actionable free choice. Art is, after many wars against tyranny, the greatest potential medium of choice, the highest version of free speech, as it were, if we accept couching art in linguistic constructs (I do not). In sum, art is hard enough to make and preserve in the best of circumstances. Art-making/preserving on the run is a doomed enterprise. "Precarious" is insufficient to describe the features of despair that attend the proposition of a mobile, immaterial "art." Suggesting otherwise borders on gallows humor and foxhole prayers, the stuff of nihilism, cynicism and pretense within desperation.
My soon-to-be 6 year-old son makes a virtual "painting" in Photoshop. How is this a collective function? Who owns the file, which is not exactly the same as the art? Although initially one might be dismissive of the connection between "Snake of Blood" and the essays linked above, and the content/context for art and artists they chronicle, the fact of my son's art practice is absolutely critical to the status quo. Discerning the emergent features of creativity for his generation is hardly an exercise in the Obvious, any more than it is a matter of Temperament, Taste or Beauty, the Sublime or Abject, the Unconscious. The art of the future is no more the purview of derivative dogma, psychoanalysis, scarcity, utility, or any other of countless immaterial definitions. Neither is the new art a function of the numerically categorical, which is to say, the Genre of Determinism. There never was a finite selection for artistic creation, and that fact has nothing to do with craft or representation, means/meaning and value(s). "It is what it is" echoes a certain divinity, but this proclamation is insufficient to encompass everything possible, and specifically, that which in reality exists. Which does not even touch on the question of Time. An artworld that is busy with other stuff is to an extent oblivious, and frivolous, and certain to fail in its implicit mandate to serve humanity. Basically, the most important immaterial collective activity boils down to establishing what matters, in a hierarchy of time-release priorities, reinforced by creations that help us and me envision, or visualize, realization through a program emerging from our mutually agreeable priorities. Such a program balances the conception>objective equation, and, speaking from experience, often consists of one fun time/thing after another, for all intents & purposes ad infinitum.