Friday, January 24, 2014

how do you write da rite?


aLfReDo tRifF

in art you can do veritable magic.

i'm talking about the official sanction of the ceremonial, cultish, faddish, devotion of experiencing art.  

how do you?


(...) This cheekily titled outing is devoted to a clique of artists who reengineered art over the past fifteen years or so. They created the most influential stylistic strain to emerge in art since the early seventies. Their impact can be seen in countless exhibitions.
above is the write/part,

here is the rite/part,

"a clique of artists who reengineered art"  (they did it again and better!)
"the most influential stylistic strain to emerge in art" (a required hyperbole, please, don't take it literally)
"since the early seventies" (saltz wrote this piece more than 30 years since the early 70s)
"their impact can be seen" ("seeing is believing," the market breeds credulity)
"countless exhibitions" (innumerable? a required approximation, please, don't take it literally)

now, how do you arthoodicate your write da rite?

undo it!
That process of canon-building has been destructive in other ways, too. Although this anti-movement began as an excellent palace coup staged by savvy artists, a legion of sheeplike curators has embraced it with a vengeance. For years these annoyingly insular professionals have participated in one another’s panels, schmoozed in hotel lobbies, curated each other’s artists into exhibitions, and written impenetrable texts for one another’s redundant shows. Twenty essays in the “anyspacewhatever” catalogue are by curators! Many of these people have become the weak link in the art-world chain, and they really need to go.
got it?  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

the sudden WalmArtization of art

the armory show, new york, a typical fair where aisle arrangement is 
essential to the enjoyment of the spectacle (maximization goal: merchandise experience)

aLfReDo tRifF

have you not connected the dots yet? we're living the WalmArtization of art.

come, let's walk the through the aisles of any of today's many art fairs, filled with this aura of prominence: expen$ive art  from all over the world & populated by sophisticated visitors. notice that the aisle/grid arrangement of the galleries is not that far apart from Walmart's (neat, well ordered, straight, spacious enough for three people to pass each other comfortably, with visible and clear signage display).

granted, there is a difference in the type & status of the merchandise being sold. did we call art  "merchandise"? comparing Miami Art Basel with Walmart may seem --to any art cognoscenti-- a crude distortion. of course, there are differences.

a walmart gallery (maximization goal: merchandise display)

let's take the art/market side of the equation. the art market, 

* represses --while selling-- the idea of art as commodity,
* favors objects of entertainment and specular pleasure,
* sets rhythms of fashion as ritual recurrences of the always new,
* promotes a culture of self-congratulatory hypnosis, 
* reintroduces mythic and cultic elements to modern secular time (i.,e, contemporary art has no past no future)

the difference is that we treat art as this very particular form of investment (i.e., original, rare, sophisticated). contemporary art is a respected, eminent kind of commodity.

on the other hand, Walmart is the largest global multinational retail, thus a trusted, respected, eminent corporation. 

the "art" part of Walmart which for long figured, latently, as a quasi suffix can now be officially announced:

welcome to WalmArt!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

culture as a form of brainwashing


aLfReDo tRifF

in this epoch of the art fairs & biennials, art becomes a medium for sale and tourism.

this new form of art presentation can be problematized: how many of these events are really about what one naively calls art? we're ready to ask, can art be art independent of art's cultural spectacle?

before the art fair/art biennial paradigm the art object's physicality was primary. now a mere nominal referent. what matters is not art but its supererogatory cult**ural spectacle. what we call art today is spectacle excess. what audiences around the world experience is the cult* (of the as if) of art. coming back to plato, this new paradigm brings back the mimesis phenomenon only that "there is no reality anymore," as jean baudrillard would've said (i.e., art IS the new reality = the hyperreal).   

art is a cultural cluster of stereotyped experiences courtesy of the art market.

this Mona Lisa you take for granted is not the physical Mona Lisa*

let's say that the constant presentation of the art object within these new contexts (the fairs and the biennials) modifies the quality of art's overall perception. art is not (anymore) this particular thing imbued with aesthetic values (what we learned in art history), but a ceremonial cluster arthoodicating & selling art commodities.

if "great" art is dictated by the establishment via arthoodication, then culture becomes a form of brainwashing.  


_____________________ 

*for example, physical presence is still relevant for the art object's identity, but it's not as significant. today, the majority of people that have seen the Mona Lisa have not seen the physical Mona Lisa. one could argue that to have an HD image of 780p/1080p of the Mona Lisa is enough for your average experience. after the digital revolution "experience" is in need of revision from the relational/aesthetics's presence paradigm.

in other words, the physical Mona Lisa is to art what gold reserve is to the Federal Reserve. as close to presence itself. one could argue that even ca$h reserves stored physically in a bank vault are less primary (paper can be printed, gold needs to be extracted and it's rare).

Monday, January 6, 2014

James Franco's selfie cogitations

Aren't we all exhibitionists?

Find here Mr. James Franco's musings on the topic of the selfie:
Selfies are something new to me, but as I have become increasingly addicted to Instagram, I have been accused of posting too many of them. I was called out on the “Today” show, and have even been called the selfie king. Maybe this is so, but only because I’ve learned that the selfie is one of the most popular ways to post — and garner the most likes from followers.
I find diverting Mr. Franco's admission of his addiction to Instagram, but his is a half-assed reason, particularly if coming from a Ph.D. candidate @ Yale for, what is it? English Lit.?

Franco is not alone.

But that wouldn't be fair without a bit of background. Selfies are not new. In art we have this genre known as "self-portrait."

Rembrandt had close to 100 selfies to document his entire life.

Modern photographers indulged in selfies: 

The theatrical selfie: Gertrud Arndt (1930's)
A favorite of mine: Lee Friedlander (1997)

The metaphysical selfie: Francesa Woodman (late 1970's?)

They created portrait documents that negotiated self-image with stylistic concerns.  

What's new now is the empty narcissism and the endless cacophony.

In 1967, way before the selfie fever, Guy Debord proposed: Reified man advertises the proof of his intimacy with the commodity.

How does "reification" happen? 
Under the shimmering diversions of the spectacle, banalization dominates modern society ... at every point where the developed consumption of commodities has seemingly multiplied the roles and objects to choose from. (III, 59).
(A propos, Franco belongs in a luminous cluster of Hollywood entities held together by film industry/market energy. It's called a *star*).

Debord addresses Franco almost by name:
The celebrity, the spectacular representation of a living human being, embodies this banality by embodying the image of a possible role. (...)  They embody the inaccessible result of social labor by dramatizing its by-products magically projected above it as its goal: power and vacations, decision and consumption, which are the beginning and end of an undiscussed process. (III, 60).
 Indeed, we crave this "projection" of inaccessibility. Here is the magic part:
(...) the spectacle (...) takes up all that existed in human activity in a fluid state so as to possess it in a congealed state ... (II, 35).
Let's contrast the former with some of Franco's cogitations:
 I can see which posts don’t get attention or make me lose followers: those with photos of art projects; videos telling the haters to go away (in not so many words); and photos with poems. (Warning: Post your own, and you’ll see how fast people become poetry specialists and offer critiques like “I hate you, you should die.”)
How does one know someone pays attention? How many people could check out Franco's Instagram posts (and like them, hate them --or neither) without leaving a trace? Attention (even from haters) could mean circulation!

Franco is right, but does he care WHY poetry & art posts automatically become a distant second to a vapid selfie?

Here the actor has a difficult time explaining himself:
But a well-stocked collection of selfies seems to get attention. And attention seems to be the name of the game when it comes to social networking. In this age of too much information at a click of a button, the power to attract viewers amid the sea of things to read and watch is power indeed. It’s what the movie studios want for their products, it’s what professional writers want for their work, it’s what newspapers want — hell, it’s what everyone wants: attention. Attention is power. And if you are someone people are interested in, then the selfie provides something very powerful, from the most privileged perspective possible.
"Most privileged perspective possible?"

Undoubtedly privileged.

Since when is media spectacle truth-preserving? 

Besides, Franco's attention = power formula is too simplistic. Not all attention matters the same, and not all attention is by far a proof of power because quantity alone doesn't cut it.

Here's Debord again addressing "quantitative triviality":
(...) spectacular abundance (...) develops into a struggle of vaporous qualities meant to stimulate loyalty to quantitative triviality. This resurrects false archaic oppositions (...)  which serve to raise the vulgar hierarchic ranks of consumption to a preposterous ontological superiority. Wherever there is abundant consumption, a major spectacular opposition (...) comes to the fore among the false roles (...) things rule and are young; things confront and replace one another. (III, 62)
As Debord would have it the magic of reification happens not because of some cluelessness on behalf of Franco's Instagram visitors. It is the overall spectacle (of which Franco is merely an infinitesimal fighting for attention) which stupefies people into conformism, isolation, petty surveillance, boredom and repetitive malicious gossip.

Is this sort of power worth it?

You are ≈ horizontal & you feel... tired? bored? stoned? 

The saddest part is that Franco doesn't seem completely clueless.
Of course, the self-portrait is an easy target for charges of self-involvement, but, in a visual culture, the selfie quickly and easily shows, not tells, how you’re feeling, where you are, what you’re doing. 
 Really?

My work after Bangerz clearly places me along Wagner's Oper und Drama