THE ART- & CULTURE INDUSTRY'S
READYMADE DEFINITIONS OF ART
the Recipe for Art World Success
entertainment/spectacle & infantilisation
- the Global Standardisation, Homogenisation
and Hollowing out of Art & Culture
The majority of works which have over the last few decades emerged in the public realm follow the same recipe / a small number of strategies, which, if followed and applied, enable full participation in the global art- and culture industry and can lead to extraordinary levels of success.
These strategies represent a powerful belief system that the Culture Industry has successfully defined, promoted and cemented into public consciousness as absolute givens - readymade definitions of art.
Today they dominate, control, shape -and thus censor- art shown in the public realm to a near-total degree - and consequently shape the public's expectation of what art is, or rather: what art or artistic freedom should look like.
These readymade definitions are summarised in the matrix below.
Their global promotion and acceptance has led to an unprecedented homogenisation and standardisation of artworks and artists, undermining individual autonomy and artistic freedom, and have led to the hollowing out of art and culture and a stillstand in their development since the 1970s.
Autonomous art which does not comply with these strategies is sidelined -and effectively censored- from the public-, and is instead pushed into the private and invisible underground realm. (for more on the question 'What is autonomous art?' go here.)
ART INDUSTRY STRATEGY 1
The contemporary art work illustrates one extremely
simple thought by being a SPECTACLE and by creating
an AIR OF GRAVITAS for itself. It does this through:
A political / social / sexual content
B reference to art from the past
C merging of art and everyday life
( democratic / non-elitist / relatable / not intimidating )
( anyone can do it / anyone can 'get it' )
These works are neither art nor 'real world' as they must only purport to have meaning / efficacy as agents in the real world; they have no actual efficacy or meaning - which is an essential requirement ensuring that the work continues to belong to the realm of art.
SPECTACLE only is achieved through:
D many of the same object,
E mega size of the art object or
F obscenely expensive materials
(E / F are the contemporary / capitalist version of 'elitist' art; only those with success in the (art) world can make E / F)
The air of gravitas and the spectacle distract from the vacuity of the works.
SPECTACLE, PSEUDO-MEANING AND INFANTILISATION
Strategies for Success in the Contemporary Art and Culture Industry
Controlling and Standardising / Homogenising Art that emerges in the PUBLIC Realm
ART INDUSTRY STRATEGY 1
The contemporary art work illustrates one extremely
simple thought by being a SPECTACLE and by creating
an AIR OF GRAVITAS for itself. It does this through:
A the total equivalence of art and everyday life / the obliteration of any distance between art and everyday life (framed as the democratisation of art)
B daily news / political / social / sexual content
C repetition of/superficial reference to art & culture from the past
audience aimed at: art professionals/anyone
anyone can do it/'get it'/judge it
B and C carry the 'meaning' aspect of the role of art within the contemporary art discourse. An air of meaning, gravitas, autonomy and intellect is transferred to the contemporary work (and audience) from B and C.
A is driven by the demand for a democratisation of art, artist, and audience. A has, seemingly once and for all, answered/abolished the question ‘what is art?’. B, fulfilling the demand for political correctness, gained power as a consequence of A, but today outperforms A. The emotive spectacle of the themes of B is equated with gravitas and meaning. As a mere reference/sign for something embodying gravitas, these works are neither art nor 'real world' - they only purport to have meaning or efficacy as (political) agents in the real world. They have no actual efficacy, meaning or agency. Their ‘pseudo-ness’ / pseudo-efficacy and therefore (political) impotence, is an essential requirement, ensuring that the work continues to belong to the realm of art. The same logic is applied by museums which can today promote the superiority of reproductions of artworks made in the past over the originals (used as mere reference points) without attracting any criticism (Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam).
The works’ very impotence is the hallmark of the work belonging to the realm of art. This pseudo-efficacy and impotence are cemented into public consciousness as expressions of what ‘political agency’ and ‘artistic freedom’ look like. By declaring A, art of the present, art of the past and aspects of life become impotent.
VISUAL /MATERIAL SPECTACLE only is achieved through:
D many of the same object,
E mega size of the art object or
F obscenely expensive materials (or gestures)
(E / F are the contemporary/capitalist version of 'elitist' art; only those with success in the (art) world can make E and F. Ownership of artworks is reserved to those who have achieved extreme economic success.)
The air of gravitas and the spectacle distract from the vacuity and impotence of the works.
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ART INDUSTRY STRATEGY 2
The contemporary art work illustrates one extremely simple thought by being a SPECTACLE only and
by explicitly NOT creating an air of gravitas for itself:
G infantilisation of artist, art object and audience
H explicit emphasis on the banal / entertainment / play / having fun / making a joke / being a clown etc.
audience aimed at : 'the masses'
ultra-democratic / ultra anti-elitist / relatable / not intimidating / everyone can do it / 'get it' / judge it
Strategy 2 is the culmination of the success of strategy 1. These works do not purport to have meaning or efficacy and emphasize that the work looks simple and stupid intentionally. The artwork is designed to function exactly like a joke, a playground or an Instagram background. Culture is now defined as what 'the masses' do; critical judgment is replaced with public opinion. This strategy requires the narrative and portrayal of the discipline of art and of art professionals/the cultural 'elite' as abusive perpetrators, from which the infantile/playful artwork -allegedly- liberates a suppressed population. Under the cover of an alleged 'democratisation' of art this fundamental reframing of the role and content of art according to entirely art external standards is by now deeply embedded in government policymaking, school curricula, etc.
This strategy is promoted/produced by and of interest to major art institutions, galleries, museums as well as global art fairs and events, seeking to entertain and attract record visitor numbers and maximum media attention. Powered and justified by the ideology of A, strategy G and H provide content for consumption by the masses who are sold the belief that participation in entertaining artworks and gift shop merchandise is equated with ownership of art. This industry’s global success has developed hand in hand with city tourism, low budget flights, Air B&B and the impact of the nature of content circulation on the internet. The merging of the art-, entertainment and tourism industry is sold as an extension of the boundary of art. Strategy 2 produces vast financial profits for large art institutions. Works shown in and thus sanctioned by these institutions, in turn, have an increased market value and are consequently also of interest to individual investors / the increasing number of the super-rich.
The industrial-scale of the promotion of art as entertainment serves as a definition of what art is / what it is for. This definition is accepted globally.
The vacuity of these works is treated as meaningful.
from the demand for a 'DEMOCRATISATION OF ART'
to the establishment of a global (PSEUDO-) 'CULTURAL DEMOCRACY'
I invite readers to refer to this matrix - the summary of the global contemporary art world- when looking at contemporary art shows. Click here to download/print the one-page pdf:
The above strategies, pre-sanctioned and accepted as readymade definitions of art, act as simple signifiers indicating to an audience / to investors without knowledge of art that what they are presented with belongs to the realm of art - by default. Accepted as standards for the production and judgment of art globally, they do not only determine and control art production and reception worldwide but effectively act as censorship, sidelining and suppressing any truly autonomous quest and innovation outside of their predefined remit.
The questions "What is art?", "Is it art?", or "Can the boundary of art be extended?", have thus been abolished - and with them the true autonomy, self-determination and freedom of artist, art, art critic and audience. (Without the idea of a boundary -and without art history as a standard and measure-there is no freedom in art.)
The above questions are, according to the logic of this industry, obsolete. The spectacle of a now entirely arbitrary and literal 'Anything Goes' has replaced the quest for difference and the new. As the perpetual repetition of the ever same strategies and the absence of true difference have been accepted and imbibed by artists and critics alike, they are, logically, met with a near-total critical silence.
No single person or group has, of course, wilfully decided to design the above strategies. Instead, they have emerged, manifested and cemented themselves as the 'foundations' of contemporary art (and of art of the future) as the result of a kind of logic of 'natural' selection by success - where 'success' of an artwork is exclusively defined as market success. The economic model and logic have replaced culture.
No conscious knowledge of these strategies is required; they are (and must be) excessively simple and understood at a glance.
Artists who work outside of the above strategies struggle to emerge in the public realm. The art professional pursuit of intellectual and complex work, developed slowly and with an understanding and knowledge of art history, concerned with the development and renewal of art in the continued and radical pursuit of the question "What is art?" in ever-changing circumstances, taking into account fundamental paradigm shifts over the last 150 years in science, is branded 'elitist' and is thus suppressed. Art today must be equated with nothing but everyday life in order for it to be 'democratic' - and for it to attract and entertain the masses.
Conversely, 'spicing a work up' by adding one of the above strategies (for example a controversial political theme) heightens -if not guarantees- one's chances of success.
Artists who follow at least one, if not several, or even all of the above strategies reach outright obscene levels of success within the contemporary art world ( see Ai Wei Wei).
Only a handful of reactions to works following the strategies outlined above are possible :
1. "I like it."
2. "I don't like it."
3. "It reminds me of ... ."
4. "That's fun(ny) !"
5. "Wow! (That's huge!)"
and in response to works with socio-political content:
6. "That's interesting."
After that, there is simply nothing else to say.
Except for, maybe:
7. "Shall we have coffee now?"
The above reactions sum up the level and depth of cultural activities globally. The art market's strategies trap art in this form in the present, without any possibility of development or a sense of future.
If we subtract all those works which follow the above strategies from the contemporary art world - WHAT ARE WE LEFT WITH?
Exported and accepted globally, the above strategies represent a new form of colonialism contributing to the effacement of local cultures and identities worldwide.
A dangerous vacuum is created in the public realm.
Strategy 1A and 1B are driven by the call for a democratisation of and political correctness in art, which is mirrored by the total obliteration of any distance between art and everyday life.
(Pseudo-) democratisation of and political correctness in art are key forces which have made today's standardisation, homogenisation and infantilisation of artists, art and audience possible, and -paradoxically- undermine artistic autonomy, self-determination, and freedom. (For a detailed analysis of the anti-democratic impact of the (pseudo-)democratisation of the Culture Industry, fuelling populist/fascist tendencies and contributing to the rise of the far-right, click here.)
Both, strategy 1 and 2 (except for 1C), demand works which function as 'click-bait', and are spread and perpetuated by the algorithmic logic of content promotion on the internet, which in itself proliferates the demand for non-complex, non-intellectual content. Thus a kind of 'Trumpism' of culture has developed, where excessive levels of (media) attention are almost exclusively awarded to works which are equally excessively emotive, simple, infantile, stupid, rudimentary, outright morally obscene and so on. The spectacle of in any way provocative content attracts the highest number of 'hits' or visitors, which in turn attracts art 'critics' and art journalists who thus perpetuate the narrative of their success - without drawing attention to, or even noticing, the actual absolute vacuity and impotence of form and content. The art and culture sections in newspapers and art magazines worldwide are filled with this vacuity.
Our relationship to and understanding of art history and its role in the production and reception of art in this process have been fundamentally redefined.
Strategy 1C (reference to art and culture of the past) only purports to pay respect to art and culture of the past. Focus is placed on the (superficial) meaning transfer from works of the past to the vacuous contemporary work. At the same time, art history and knowledge of art history are reframed and suppressed as elitist, undemocratic and therefore unacceptable. Total oblivion of the highest achievements of the past is necessary in order for the audience, art critics and young art students and so on to accept, imbibe, consume and produce low-level vacuous contemporary artworks and shallow critique. Oblivion of the past shields audience and consumers from the fact that what they are presented with is merely the perpetual repetition and recycling of works made in the past and a small handful of by now completely hackneyed recipes.
Luxury brands and artists alike (ab)use a mere reference to art and culture of the past to bestow their products with an air of cultivation, significance, intellect, and uniqueness. Today's Culture Industry, having fully merged with tourist-, entertainment- and fashion industries, not only recklessly exploits, but also distorts and reshapes past achievements, hollowing them out in the process, while at the same time suppressing any room for new development in art.
The actual quality, complexity, and intellect embodied by artworks made in the past are a hindrance to mass production/ the mass market, are consequently distracted from, suppressed and ultimately destroyed by the Culture Industry.
The reproduction of the artwork and the original are treated as equal. The medium -a specific choice by the artist- is deemed irrelevant and therefore, exchangeable. The quality of the original -and any possibility of a perception of this quality by the audience- is suppressed.
An epitome of the cultural abuse and prostitution of art made in the past is the fate suffered by van Gogh at the hands of the Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam. This museum presents Van Gogh's paintings as a mere reference to the quality of his works (strategy 1C) and the myth/story that has been created. Whilst purporting to honour, promote and protect his legacy, this museum is focussed single-mindedly on preventing the audience from being able to perceive the quality of the original work in order to be able to shamelessly turn his work into global merchandise.
Giant blow-ups of details of self-portraits on the walls behind the small original paintings in glass cases make it impossible to look at the originals. Large and continuously changing video screens of van Gogh cartoons, as well as the large blow-ups of van Gogh self-portraits as selfie background walls throughout the museum ram not only the entertainment value but also an (alleged) equivalence with -if not superiority of- the reproduction over the original down the audience's throats. By the time the visitor reaches the gift shop, the apron, mug, wristwatch or tote bag carrying sunflower and bandaged-ear motives have been raised to the level of the original artwork. They now embody the same quality as the -by now invisible and permutated- 'original'. The redefinition of the art experience as entertainment, the redefinition of the role of the audience as consumers of entertainment, together with the gift shop merchandise create a (fake) sense of ownership.
Sold in a city -incidentally world-famous for its red-light district and legalised narcotic drugs- these everyday objects, bestowed with an empty air of cultivation, are mere shadows of human achievements - and the saddest trophies and symbols of our degraded humanity.
'Old Towns' in major cities all over the world suffer the same fate and are made to play the same role as the 'Old Masters'.
At the other end of the spectrum reference to art of the past is used to turn everyday items into exclusive and obscenely expensive commodities for the increasing, yet exclusive and small, number of the super-rich, feeding into the belief systems and logic which is required to establish luxury brands. The actual material ownership of artworks is exclusive to the rich.
The close 'collaboration' of artists with luxury brands heightens their respective profiles and economic success - such as the artist world-famous for enlarging toys and kitsch objects, decorating Vuitton luxury handbags with images of paintings by the 'Old Masters'. The fashion industry utilises this meaning transfer - which is incredibly easy and highly effective within the Culture Industry.
Rembrandt's paintings shown in the stores of a famous footballer's fashion-designing wife upgrade fashion to high culture - in turn, high culture becomes fashion. Pop culture and high art merge simply when a famous pop diva wriggles her bare bottom in front of historic paintings in the Musée du Louvre - a gesture democratically broadcast to all on YouTube, and justified and accepted by the overriding demand for political correctness, gender- and racial equality and the democratisation in and of art ( strategy 1A) - and is consequently discussed globally with all seriousness by so-called art critics and journalists.
Artists quoting famous artworks made in the past are almost guaranteed to receive attention, if not critical acclaim. The art world's favourite here is undoubtedly the seemingly inexhaustible magnetism of any reference to human excrement - again dragging 'The Fountain', one of the intellectually most outstanding and potent works in the history of art, down to its darkest, most base and low-level shadow.
Today's Culture Industry exploits and hollows out the highest achievements in art and culture of the past, freezes the present by locking art into an unprecedented standardisation of art / the perpetual repetition of the above strategies, and prevents any true development of art in the future.
All of this goes hand-in-hand with the absence and suppression of innovation and development - and a near-total critical silence.
Just for how long can we go on drawing on the meaning, power, essence and intellectual capital of the past - without producing any cultural and intellectual value of our own time? How far can we go in hollowing out art and culture before this vacuum implodes? How much cultural fast food can societies worldwide consume before we realise the degree to which we have all become unwell in the process?
The dangerous implications of the contemporary Art- and Culture Industry for individuals and society cannot be stressed enough. By undermining true autonomy and freedom it has evolved into a most successful industry of mass manipulation, which at its core is deeply anti-democratic.
Artists who, in the name of political correctness and democratisation, purport to be political, have the most detrimental effect. By commodifying the most serious issues of our time, such as climate change, the suffering of refugees or the efforts of political dissidents, and by commodifying democratisation itself, their works are not only impotent as art and as political agents, but they cement this very pseudo-ness and impotence into public consciousness as definitions of what art is, what political agency or artistic freedom and autonomy look like.
Surely a Ralph Rugoff, curator of the Venice Biennale 2019, for example, would vehemently deny that this mega show has a negative impact on core principles of democracy. And surely, if one was to meet the individual R. Rugoff, one would most likely find that he is indeed a nice person who truly believes that he is promoting art and artistic freedom.
Yet a central problem here is the refusal, or at best inability, of agents in the contemporary art world to look at and to understand the situation on the whole. ON THE WHOLE, it simply cannot be denied that the strategies summarised in the matrix above exert near-total control over artists, curators, critics, journalists, audience and art in the public realm.
When looking at the art world industry on the whole it is undeniable that a Rugoff is a passive player who acts according to predetermined rules.
This situation in the art world has direct parallels to how, as a society, we respond to the exploitation and destruction of natural resources and therefore the very foundations for life on this planet. The trees in my garden still look absolutely fine! Daffodils still flower in spring! Whilst at the same time we know that the Amazon Rain Forest is disappearing at an alarming rate and that our climate is nearing total collapse. We cling to and look for comfort in, the detail in order to avoid looking at the harsh reality and the crisis on/of the Whole.
We passionately believe that in both realms, in Nature and in Culture, it is our duty and necessary with urgency that we take our complacent gaze away from comforting, isolated detail -this or that individual artist who still manages to make work which we like- or the beautiful garden patch outside my window.
It is high time -in both realms- that we take into view the situation and the crisis that is affecting the Whole. We need to understand that the detail emerges from the whole, is comprised and shaped by the whole. And that anything less than addressing and understanding this situation, on the whole, is not only futile but perpetuating its destruction.
Addressing this crisis of the detail and the whole and the search for wholeness is the task of our time. T.W. Adorno spoke of the tension between "das Besondere" und "das Allgemeine" (that which is special/ individual and that which is common/general). It is reflected in the collapse of the insect population worldwide and the climate on the whole, and finds its expression in the search in science for a unified model of our understanding of the workings of Nature, the link between the realm of the infinitely small (quantum physics) and the infinitely large (relativity).
Both, the destruction of Nature and of Culture, are driven by the same forces. Lions and elephants in Nature are as much under threat as is the free and truly autonomous individual. They are, and must never cease to be, paragons for true freedom and dignity.
In both realms we must find a radically new approach, requiring a fundamental, radical review, and sacrifice old and destructive practices. As our environmental consciousness is slowly evolving, the simultaneous crisis in culture however still remains hidden as if in plain sight.
We urgently need to review the powerful conditions under which art is made today, understand fully how they control and shape any outcomes. We need to radically reject the Culture Industry's standards and reinstate the realm of art and art education as guardians, paragons, and proponents of freedom, self-determination, and autonomy.
In order for nothing to hamper the total success of these market strategies clear rules and requirements have evolved:
The Art and Culture Industry requires and promotes
artworks that are EASY in every aspect - art must be easily conceived, easily produced / re-producible, and easily received
the total replacement of art internal with art external standards
art which is no longer art - it must always be something else
the abolishment of the question "what is art?" / the total abolishment of the question whether something is art, or not
works which neither require nor trigger a discussion about art
the total abandonment and obliteration of (knowledge of) art history and its standards
an ideal of the artist/art critic/art journalist and an audience as someone who is (equally) oblivious of and disinterested in art history and its standards
the abolishment of 'autonomous art' which is now deemed to be boring, irrelevant and thus obsolete
the abolishment of the idea that an artwork could transcend the present moment, embody a timeless, universal quality and could thus to be of relevance for future generations, replaced with the idea of artworks which only play a momentary role, do not seek to transcend time, do not make a connection with the past, nor seek to provide a cultural value to future generations
the total oblivion of the highest standards set by art of the past
the limitation of awareness of art history to most recent works which have already been produced according to the rules of this very Culture Industry
the total replacement of critical judgment with public opinion ( which is in turn shaped by what is presented as art in the public realm by this very industry)
critics and journalists who have imbibed the industry's standards and enthusiastically promote work that is made according to them
abolishment of the relevance of art production as a private activity (that only has an effect on the public with delay), replaced with the idea that the art's primary role is to be a public activity
the total (pseudo-) democratisation of art production deemed as 'politically correct'
the merging of all realms with art to the point of total congruency: art is everyday life, artworks are everyday objects, art is entertainment, art is fashion, art is politics, etc.
replacement of art with 'research'
replacement of the individual artist with 'collaboration' of everyone (including the refugee, the political activist, the audience, the critic etc. "Everyone is an artist."
the total replacement of the artist with the general audience
the total obliteration of the role of intellectual thought
the branding of intellectual thought and professional knowledge as 'elitist' and undemocratic
artists and students who prioritise career ambitions over ambition within the work (business replaces work)
art schools which are run first and foremost as businesses operating as key players within the so-called 'creative industries'
art schools which measure their own success by the number of 'stars' that emerge from their school, and measure the student's success exclusively as their ability to function and be successful within the market / by the amount of media attention a work can attract
students who are only superficially aware, if not oblivious, of art history
students with career ambitions, who believe in the authority of high profile award schemes - which judge works in the degree of compliance with the strategies outlined in the matrix above.
institutions/museums which place marketing value above cultural value (and those who do reap vast financial rewards).
institutions/museums which -in the name of accessibility and democratisation of art- present reproductions of artworks from the past as equal or even superior to the originals, thus opening up vast marketing potential ( Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam).
museum directors and senior staff with business acumen and marketing skills, and no knowledge of art history
museum architecture and content focussed on spectacle (spectacularly large spaces, requiring equally spectacularly big, or spectacularly stupid, entertaining, infantile or expensive works ( Turbine Hall, Tate Modern.)
"It is in the difference itself - in divergence- that hope is concentrated."
- 'T.W. Adorno
The 58th Venice Biennale, which has opened in May 2019 and has been curated by Ralph Rugoff, and the article below itself, are perfect illustrations of the strategies summarised in the above Matrix:
Strategy 2 merging with Strategy 1:
Superflex's Hyundai commission in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall:
The Museum as Playground / The Audience Plays
article published on OCTOBER 3, 2017 by Rachel Spence
The Infantilisation of art work, gallery and audience is portrayed as having the power to change the world [!]. Or so the art journalist Rachel Spence assures us in her article in the Financial Times. Spence tells her readers not only that the metal bars holding the large swings in the Turbine Hall are in fact reminiscent of doorways in Hammershoi paintings [ apparently the swings are innately connected to the history of painting (reference to art of the past / strategy 1b), and that the stripes on the cosy carpet for the visitors to lie on are a reference to sterling notes and represents "a mischievous nod to the UK’s isolationist tendency"(strategy 1a), but the art journalist here even perpetuates the artist's and the Tate's stupefying claim that "the 'collective power' used to set the swings in motion can “potentially change the world”. [!]
"[...] At intervals, the bars morph into doorway-like openings whose presence sounds a deeper note. From Renaissance Annunciations to the mysterious interiors of Danish 19th-century painter Vilhelm Hammershøi, thresholds in art always possess a numinous quality. Here, they remind me of lines by the American poet and activist Adrienne Rich, when she wrote: “The fact of a doorframe/means there is something to hold/on to with both hands” in a poem which goes on to lament the suffering of the dispossessed and powerless. [...] social conscience is the presiding anima of Superflex’s work. [...] One Two Three Swing!” is more than just a playground. It is a metaphor for the collective endeavour that is essential if we are to build a happier, healthier world. [...] It’s no coincidence that the swings, though they do soar upwards if you are a sole rider, are designed for three people: a number which demands a genuine spirit of co-operation. [...] The carpet’s joyful stripes are woven out of the same hues as those found on sterling notes. This mischievous nod to the UK’s isolationist tendency" [...] a quiet insistence on the importance of joint effort. "
Meaning is attached to the blindingly meaningless. The more meaningless - the more meaningful something is portrayed to be - or so we are told over and over and over again - by artists, galleries, museums, art journalists, critics and so on. Despite the blindingly obvious emptiness and breathtaking stupidity of both -the works and Rachel Spence's article- they go completely unchallenged in the public realm.
The young Scottish artist cancels her exhibition and invites the visitors to interact with the empty gallery ( A merging of artwork and life to the point of total congruency):
An empty gallery has been unveiled as the latest work by an artist who "canceled" her exhibition at one of Glasgow's leading venues. Marlie Mul asked for no exhibition to be held in the Gallery of Modern Art. People are being invited to "visit and interact with the space" - and suggest alternative uses for the gallery during the five months set aside for the show. Gallery 1 at Goma will lie empty from Friday until the end of October. Visitors will instead be greeted by 21 billboards advertising the cancellation of the exhibition by the Dutch artist. "So far, it's looking like we'll have some life drawing classes, yoga sessions, artist film screenings and I even think my daughter's got Bounce and Rhyme scheduled in."We might even get a carpet bowls session on the go."
The female artist lines the 'Pavilion of Humanity' at the Venice Biennale with 27.000 silk ties.
A everyday objects (relatable)
B air of gravity: feminist intention and reference to Trump
(although both have to be pointed out verbally)
D spectacle: arrange MANY of the same everyday object neatly in the gallery space
(only an artist would do this kind of thing with ties / this 'MANY of' signifies that the artist is after all set apart from the everyday person. And ... many of the same thing really must mean something. 27.000 ties must mean more than one tie, or twenty, or 1000. There appears to be the hope that perhaps meaning increases by number or kilogram. The audience is expected to go "Wow!" on entering the room. With this brief effect, the work has exhausted itself. The one and only thing that this activity actually achieves is the inclusion in a major art event that guarantees media attention and publicity. As far as we can see this work has not attracted any criticism. There is a very strong impression that the artist has neither any interest in nor knowledge of art. Her own work is plucked as if out of nowhere, produced in a vacuum. The audience inhabits this same vacuum.
Newspaper coverage of this spectacularly vacuous work by Michal Cole is at hand to fill the void that the work presents by talking mainly about the artist's bad experiences with men and how long it took to sew together the ties. This kind of coverage is accepted as normal.
The artist Cornelia Parker in an exhibition entitled 'News at Seven (Chilling)' 2017 shows blackboards (in white picture frames) onto which she had made 5 to 8 year-old children scribble news headlines.
a) political content
g) literal infantilisation by letting children make the work
Incidentally, the Cornelia Parker has been a Turner prize winner and was declared 'this year's official election artist' in the UK in 2017.
Jan Dalley, writing for the Financial Times, calls the above work "a powerful choice by the curators" :
Havanna im "Kunstfieber" - The 13th Biennial in Havanna
A perfect example of the effect of "Art for All"
- First-year art students make better works than this:
Just what is the audience supposed to think about an exhibit like this? It is nothing but clutter:
aspiring Prime Minister doing what he knows works best in politics:
Entertainment by Clowns has replaced politics
A link to a facebook post by Avaaz - who have obviously understood how best to win a political argument. The content of this message is as serious - and the form as entertaining and infantile- as it gets. The total congruency of the joke and political argument / of entertainment, infantilisation, and politics, is a threat to the very democracy which this clip seeks to promote and protect:
simple illustrations of daily news have replaced art
Political correctness itself is accepted as a definition of what art is.
Art or discourse about art is absent from the media coverage - a fact which goes unnoticed as art internal standards have been fully replaced by art external criteria.
The commodification of political correctness and (pseudo-)democratisation, spearheaded and promoted by the Culture Industry as absolute standards in every area of life, simply sells. (screenshot from The Guardian 05/2019)
RECYCLING THE OLD MASTERS - literally:
screenshot from The Guardian
The Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei has achieved superstardom BECAUSE he follows a combination of ALL the strategies outlined in the matrix above.
His starting point is always a) (political content) which is then combined with one or several of the strategies from b-h. He combines a) portraits of political activists standing up for free speech with f) by making them out of lego bricks. 'Make many of': thousands of hand-made ceramic sunflower seeds in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern. Ai Wei Wei poses and has himself photographed as the drowned refugee toddler Alan Kurdi (a).
A, B & E: gold-plated reproductions and re-inventions of artifacts (animal heads) from Chinese art history. Here is a quote from the press release which accompanied the recent sale of the latter at auction for a record $ 43 million:
"As the recreation of an older work, they achieve "glorious aesthetic coherence" and make a comment on authenticity. The fake is invested with the power to revive the past.[...] The marriage that is made - troubled, yet oddly serene - offers a lustrous exhibition of what might be a brighter, less confused and more beautiful future."
Ai Wei Wei - strategy 1C: art of the past is quoted and (ab-)used to bestow an air of gravitas on the empty contemporary work (screenshot from the German FAZ, 05/2019):
Ai Wei Wei, posing here as the drowned toddler Alan Kurdi, is celebrated for the infantilisation/ degradation of some of the most serious issues of our time, turning political content into empty spectacle. The obvious obscenity -and the absence of art- of these acts is widely accepted (and celebrated - as art).
"Those who thrive in this world are the ones who understand that it is about spectacle and not substance. Spectacle is the central feature of the media and substance is peripheral. Fascism is all about symbol, sensation and spectacle. By creating a political world of spectacle, as opposed to a world of substance, you actually create outlets and openings for fascism." George Monbiot, The Guardian
facebook post 05/2019
The Venice Biennale 2019 - a textbook illustration of the strategies summarised in the above matrix.
The most serious issues of our time - climate change, refugee crises, pollution , commodified and turned into emotional spectacle and entertainment, numbing and degrading their true -existential- nature and urgency:
Making something small really really big - always a popular choice by artist and curators from the small repertoire of pre-determined art world recipes:
The Culture Industry absorbs and hollows out the highest achievements of the past, and transforms them into empty spectacle & entertainment - whether Beyonce dances in the Louvre, Rembrandt is shown in Victoria Beckham's fashion store, vast 3d video shows of van Gogh paintings tour the world, or recent proposals turn Notre Dame's rooftop into a swimming pool... the list of examples is endless.
The Culture Industry hollows out our cultural past and present, and freezes art fin the ever same repetition of today's standards, preventing the development of a new future.
Political correctness replaces art -
art itself is never discussed - all an 'art work' needs to do is fulfil the demand for political correctness, gender equality, (pseudo)-democratisation or function as spectacle and/or entertainment:
Two examples from the Scottish National Gallery which can only be described as parody and would be funny, provoking laughs if they were the content of a comedy on the Edinburgh Fringe:
The National Gallery of Scotland, in connection with a photography exhibition, now offers inspiring new courses: "Dementia Friendly Poetry Workshops" [!!!] and "BYOB's" - "Bring Your Own Baby (age 0-1)". On the Scottish National Gallery website we read:
“Join writer Marjorie Gill for this relaxed and playful workshop, exploring our exhibition of childhood photography through words and language. During the workshop, we will be inspired by images and poetry that explore childhood and there will be the option to create a new piece of writing either individually or as part of a group. Suitable for anyone affected by dementia and carers, friends or family-members.”
"Join us at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery for a fun, relaxed morning planned especially with parents and carers of young children in mind. Enjoy special offers and family-friendly facilities in the café and sign up for one of our short buggy/baby-friendly art tours for adults. Gurgling, laughing, crying or screaming welcome as well as lots of informal chat. We’ll even bring some spare nappies! Places for tours limited, sign-up on the day. Enter through Portrait Gallery main entrance."
It is not possible to lower the standards of a major cultural institution any further. This example of institutionalised cultural dementia in the name of democratisation of art and culture is not an exception but represents the new norm. It is mass-hypnosis on a global scale.
An article published in the German newspaper Die Zeit about an artist who has chosen the name 'Happelmann' (Jumping Jack) and has been given "the honour" to represent Germany at the Venice Biennial 2019. A perfect example for the infantilisation of artist, artwork and audience, mirrored and promoted in this article by the journalist Tobias Timm:
Whoever thinks that art and artists in the West are less standardised should think twice.
Once art students -world wide- leave their respective art schools, the palettes and oil paint will have been replaced by refugee boats, mega vaginas, swings and mega slides, countless replicas of all aspects of everyday life, etc - the highly standardised and homogenised stuff and empty spectacle that is sold to us as art at global mega events such as the Venice Biennale. Still there is no public discourse questioning today's 'artistic freedom'. I seem to be alone in thinking that all of this is deeply troubling.
"Whoever makes critically and unflinchingly conscious use of the means of administration and its institution is still in a position to realise something which would be different from merely administrated culture. The minimal differences from the ever-constant which are open to him define for him -no matter how hopelessly- the difference concerning the totality;
it is, however, in the difference itself - in divergence- that hope is concentrated."
-T.W.Adorno, The Culture Industry
"Those who thrive in this world are the ones who understand that it is about spectacle and not substance. Spectacle is the central feature of the media and substance is peripheral. Fascism is all about symbol, sensation and spectacle. So by creating a political world of spectacle, as opposed to a world of substance, you actually create outlets and openings for fascism.
The rise of the far right across the world to some extent is the result of the complete degradation of journalism [the complete degradation of art and culture]. Good reporting [serious artistic enquiry] requires real depth, it requires knowledge, it requires research, it requires time, it requires money. Sure there are still some great journalists [artists], but they work at the margins. Whereas the journalists [contemporary artists] whose work is central are the ones who do the least actual journalism [original, autonomous and self-determined work]. They are the ones who mouth pre-existing positions. In the extreme case they are the news readers who read somebody else's script."
- George Monbiot, journalist at The Guardian
"The Culture Industry perpetually cheats its consumers of what it perpetually promises. The promissory note which, with its plots and staging, it draws on pleasure is endlessly prolonged; the promise, which is actually all 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 it sought to escape."
-T.W.Adorno, Minima Moralia