|portrait of a single drop, 2003|
swiss artist urs fischer has finally reached the aesthetic abode of $taR*tist. his credentials are impeccable: a post-conceptualist (in its bland global version) + a (post) neo-dadaist ("post" stands for mainstreamization). this is a unique moment of art/stasis of history whereby a booming art market constitutes fischer's context and ticket to glory.
& fischer's art is quite legible. to put it in platonic: fischer's ascension to art-heaven requires aesthetic signs already arthoodicated by the market.
i'd like to discuss some clear $taR*tist features: 1- $tarject production, 2- dramartization, 3- fetishism & 4-impunity.
1- $tar*tist-art is a processing/industry. to make art in this case means to turn raw & barely processed materials (pigments, metals, wood, marble, metal, raw canvases, paper, etc) into finished $tar* objects, or $tarjects, i.e., *paintings*, *sculptures*, *installations*, etc. the midwife of this art/parturition is the quinary sector of the art industry complex: art + de$ing = art-without-artists, i.e., de$igned by $tar*tists & realized by subcontracted specialists.
art, as the autarchic practice that dominated the aesthetic discourse & practice of the last four hundred years in the west, is no more. instead, we have contemporary art, a new division of labor between unskilled $tar*tists and skilled artisans.
$tar*tists don't make art. they de$ign $tarjects.
non-making has nothing to do with art-phobia. as opposed to the unskilled global artisans of today, $tar*tists take advantage of a reverse form of alienation. being separated from the manufacture process of art/making is essential for $tar*tists to bask in the glory of ae$theticity. why? craft work is a form of intense labor supported & sublated by de$ign! imagine the proud pre-capitalist artisan on the guild (now disinvested & withdrawn from the rights & privileges of authorship) whose labor becomes the very ground upon which the $tartist builds ae$theticity (i.e., de$ing, production and selling of $tarjects).
all $tar*tists are de$igners.
what about de$ign? first, forget about the "idea" behind the art --as if $arjects were that ideological. what's unique about de$ign is the process of $upply to finance the production of $tarjects. we're not in the 1960's. conceptual interventions can help build prestige, but not ae$theticity.
de$ign is a new form of artproduction with a visible trademark. let's take a look at this process:1- de$ign, as blueprint, whereby the $tartist suggests a certain "X." 2- manufacture, the artisan proceeds to make raw materials into finished "Xs" under the "guidance" of the $tartist. what's interesting about the manufacture is that (a) the $tartist actually is not qualified (nor needs) to make/do "X," (b) the artisan's work IS the work, (c) the artisan's input remains invisible. 3- ae$thetiticy, "X" is exhibited but not as "X." at the end of the process "X" ----> $tarject (the trademark of the ottoniels, pardos, weiweis, hirsts & koons of the world).
let's come back to (c) above. the reason "X" doesn't qualify as $tarject (though there are no real differences between them) is --precisely-- the mark of the artisan's input. the division between them reflects the very tenets of the culture:
"X" is material, "$tarject" is symbolic.
$tarjects are extraordinary products (no matter how massively produced). they are conspicuously exhibited, bought & sold, collected by museums and finally arthoodicated by the artmarket. $tarjects's functional value is to be what they are (this redundancy points to their void).
$tar*tists have achieved the impossible: they are überdisciplinary! whether wood carver, carpenter, tailor, furrier, blacksmith, glassblower, furniture maker, even architect. next time you see an $tarject don't forget, it's the work of underpaid artisans --"underpaid" means that the subcontracted work IS the work, everything else is a quanary import of $tarjects.
2- dramartization: since 2011 fischer makes (appropriated + meltable) sculptures. the meltable and appropriated is, conceptually speaking, part of the drama. an empty fold that we label ae$tethicity.
for example, untitled of the YES series (MOCA 2011) reproduces giambologna's the rape of the sabine women in silvery wax. fischer's copy is --as giambologna's-- 20 feet tall, with little candles at the fingertips of the female, a process of liquefaction begins @ the opening and ends @ the close of the show. the piece's destruction is thus programmed, its materiality conceived as a hypermyriorama for the sake of art history's canon.
a symbolic fold of its own void. take for instance its equivalent in "live" news. "live" means "useless" as when reporting is done from the scene after everyone involved has gone home. what's the value? entertainment. how so? "live" punches up the newscast. wear the right kind of news glasses.
fischer's dramartization has very little to do with art history and/or its imminent irrelevance --as untitled obliquely seems to suggest. untitled's mise-en-scène points at its own idle redundancy.
3- fetishi$m: for duchamp objects are trouvé (found) but fischer's $tarjects require a fetishi$tic manipulation. the difference between feti$hism and the old marxist fetishism is that the former --as opposed to the latter-- hides nothing. oddly, feti$hism shamelessly points to its own pleonastic void. said differently, $tarjects don't "mask" arthoodication, on the contrary! one can paraphrase leibniz's identity law as such:
$tarjects & arthoodication are a binity.
take fischer's necrophonia, where a naked model as part of the installation. what is the relation of part-to-whole of this $tarject? is the model a "part" of the whole just as a handle is a part of the mug? one cannot ignore the issue of "presence" here & how this gerrymandered manipulation presents itself as that which is not. $tarjects play at suggesting remainders --in this case a symbolic adjunction for ae$theticity's sake, which is obviously desirable-- but banana, pencil, tic-tac hide nothing. we take them at face value --even though we think we don't. how so? the market hands the glasses for free at the entrance of the show! which is why fischer and his audience are aware that we've passed the point of presenting a banana as a banana (the old metonymic paradigm of a warhol, when irony was the prevalent category). with post-conceptualism, the arthoodicated banana ("X") IS the $tarject. you shouldn't need more than that.
one would retort that there is nothing about fischer's banana that's so unique (other than we happen to know it's a $tarject © fischer. granted, but then one is not wearing post-conceptualist glasses).
4- impunity: why are we having this discussion? because of fischer's "impunity," which lies in his optimal manipulation of ae$theticity.
"impunity" means immunity from omission and oblivion, i.e., the market's vouching for its candidate's suitability. it means guaranteed inclusion & legitimation (of urs fischer as $tar*tist).
fischer's optimal ae$theticity is sufficient for impunity.
so, we advance the following associative property as conclusion: contemporary art is an art of impunity.