Monday, July 6, 2009
On Koons & mass deception
From (Scene and Heard) Art Forum (Commenting on Jeff Koons' opening at London's Serpentine):
Jeff Koons knows how to make an entrance. Filmmaker Mike Figgis, former Royal Academy supremo Norman Rosenthal, and designer Stella McCartney were among the hordes that descended on the dapper artist as he arrived at the Serpentine Gallery on Wednesday for the opening of his first major survey in an English public space. With four children, two nannies, his wife, and his mother in tow (what is this? The von Trapps?), the ever-amiable Koons stepped aside for a fleeting chat. The artist may be known for his über-kitsch oeuvre, but he has emerged as a major spender on old masters and nineteenth-century European painting—not that he hasn’t invested in some twentieth-century works as well. “Dalí is very important to me,” he noted. But basking in such adulation, what did he consider his biggest mistake to be? “I don’t believe in mistakes,” came the diplomatic reply in between gentle interruptions from his bowler-hatted son.
Nothing against Koons, infallible master of glossymorous objects. But after reading the blurb, one gets the feeling of something bizarre going on at the level of culture. Let’s contrast the paragraph above with an excerpt from Adorno & Horkheimer’s Dialectics of Elightenment, p. 139:
The culture industry perpetually cheats its consumers of what it perpetually promises.1 The promissory note which, with its plots and staging, its draws on pleasure is endlessly prolonged; the promise, which is actually all of the spectacle consists of, is illusory: All it actually confirms is that the real point will never be reached, that the diner must be satisfied with the menu. In front of the appetite stimulated by all those brilliant names and images, there is finally set no more than a commendation of the depressing everyday world in sought of escape. The secret of aesthetic sublimation is its representation of fulfillment as a broken promise. The culture industry does not sublimate; it represses.
1Adorno would argue that with capitalism, goods are not produced to meet human needs and desires, but for the sake of profit and further capital. While production for exchange rather than use is a feature of most economic forms, exchange -not use- has become capitalism’s main mode of production.