A DANGEROUS SCHISM

ART IN THE PUBLIC AND ART IN THE PRIVATE REALM

creating the vacuum in contemporary art

and:

"We have star artists, star gallerists and 

star curators, star collectors and mega exhibitions. 

Yet we do not have star critics."

- Wolfgang Ullrich

 

We would like to highlight the essay "Between Decor and Discourse" by the German art historian, author and cultural scientist Wolfgang Ullrich. We believe that this essay deserves special attention as it illustrates how the crisis in contemporary art and culture, though in essence visible to all, is actively distracted from and hidden in plain sight.

The following is our analysis, followed by a copy of an email exchange with Wolfgang Ullrich, as well as some of our reader's comments. To jump to the emails click here

 

The original essay in German can be accessed here: https://www.perlentaucher.de/essay/wolfgang-ullrich-ueber-kuratoren-und-kunstmarktkunst.html

 

A translation of Ullrich's text is attached at the bottom of this page. To jump to the text in English click here.

Ullrich's essay reveals how deeply entrenched he is in the powerful logic, language and mechanisms of today's Culture Industry, how he consequently exclusively measures with standards from within this system - and therefore misses essential aspects outside of it which define the situation of contemporary art on the wholeIt shows how the spread of the inner logic of the Culture Industry today envelops (and contaminates) the public realm of art and culture to a near-total degree, and thus increasingly eliminates the possibility, not only of a sharp critical distance, but also of a potential change of the current status quo.

Whilst it shows how the art world logic and standards are all-pervading, all-enveloping and nothing outside of it is deemed to be of relevance, Ullrich, however, does not simply tacitly ignore art which does not comply with the standards of the contemporary art world. Instead he explicitly notes the existence of 'autonomous art', but then goes on to judge it with art-world-internal criteria, and even acknowledges it's sidelining from the contemporary art world. Ullrich effectively acknowledges that a censorship is curtailing contemporary art.

 

His argument is tautological: as this censorship affects only autonomous art (art which does not comply with art world criteria and standards), which is therefore by the contemporary art world seen as boring and ultimately obsolete, therefore autonomous art -and its censorship- are deemed irrelevant by Ullrich - and are therefore excluded from his final analysis of the future of art schools and of the future of art history . Not only is autonomous art effectively censored, but this censorship itself is distracted from, sidelined and made invisible and in Ullrich's final analysis actively written out of the future of art history. This is extraordinary.

 

By mentioning autonomous art and its censoring Ullrich purports to deal with the issue of the sidelining of 'autonomous' art. Yet he does not allow any serious questions or analysis to arise from this issue. He simply sweeps it aside. 

 

By sidelining 'autonomous art', and by sidelining/excluding this censorship itself from the discourse, the problem of the Culture Industry's near-total control over art and culture is pushed into a position of irrelevance and is muted in the public discourse.

Art defined by the Culture Industry's standards dominates and controls the public realm overground; autonomous art diverging from and operating outside of these standards, is pushed underground into seclusion and isolation in the private realm. THIS separation of art in the public and private realm -with both following mutually incompatible standards- is the real and dramatic schism which characterises art and culture today. 

 

Ullrich is correct in claiming that an irreconcilable divide or "cold war" is taking place, but not between decor and discourse, but between the art in the public and art in the private realm.

We have summarised the Culture Industry's strategies that control art that can emerge in the public realm in a matrix (see link below). Ullrich's distinction between "decor and discourse" -art as market, decor, luxury goods on the one hand and art as socio-political activism and discourse driven by curators on the other- are merely different subcategories of one and the same art market strategy and fit smoothly into this scheme:

 

The obliteration of autonomous art from the public realm is pushing art, as a meaningful agent with the power to drive and develop fundamental questions at the forefront of our time, and with it art as a discipline, to the brink of extinction.  It is this suppression of autonomous art which is producing a vacuum - the now empty horror and spectacle show of 'contemporary art and culture' - devoid of intellect, devoid of truly individual and original thought and work, emptied of all knowledge of art and art history, disconnected from the foundations of our culture and incapable of producing works with value for future generations.

(The idea of what autonomous art -and artistic freedom- are has become confused and muddled in the contemporary debate. For the artistunderground definition of autonomous art and artistic freedom/'Kunstfreiheitgo here.)

The combination of lucid insight and dramatic oversight in Ullrich's essay is extremely puzzling. Is it an oversight or actually an active attempt to silence any art that does not play along with the narrow rules of the contemporary art world game? Ullrich's essay is riddled with contradictions which do not clarify the issues raised but instead confuse and distract; he accurately outlines some of the most critical problems in the contemporary art world, but then ultimately always argues in favour of its strategies: 

  • Ullrich's answers his own question "[...] does this not mean in turn that artists who continue to work along art-specific criteria, who continue to strive for the most logical continuation or deconstruction of a form or problem in art history, who are focussed on the history of art, rather than the art market and politics, and on other artists rather than oligarchs and curators, receive less attention and appreciation for their work is lost?"- by giving this kind of work not only less but no attention. (He does not extend his analysis to the question of why there is this critical silence - but instead silences any questions of this kind himself.)

  • Ullrich wonders why there is no expression of protest and anger at the sidelining of autonomous art, but again quotes criteria and reasons from within the art world: autonomous art is boring, uncool and thus ultimately irrelevant and obsolete. 

  • Ullrich correctly points out some of the agents who fail to critically analyse the apparent extreme divergence of positions in art and criticises their "conservative character" (art magazines and art institutions who simply accept the current status quo as they see their role in representing, accepting -and thus effectively marketing- ANYthing) but then he acts exactly like those agents himself.

  • Ullrich claims to have left his job at university because of a "kind of professionalism that has little to do with artistic skill" and because of "standards of other areas [which] have entered the world of art” [which is a correct observation], but then measures with those very same external standards. 

  • He correctly notes that art which does not fit into formula of 'decor and discourse' DOES exist, and he correctly describes that this art is thus sidelined - but then goes on to sideline and exclude this very art entirely from his final analysis of the future of art and art schools.

  • He correctly highlights the 'invisibility' of the split between the art market and 'autonomous art' - and then erases this schism himself by declaring it irrelevant for the future of art.

  • He notes that in the contemporary art world "we have star artists but no star critics"- and then goes on to not be a star critic himself.

Ullrich's essay illustrates the fact that today the 'art critic' has been replaced by the 'social critic' / the 'cultural scientist' with dramatic consequences for art.

 

It is not a meaningless coincidence that 'cultural studies' as a science emerged in the early 1960s - at the same time when the introduction of serial production and readymades into artistic practice, as well as the call for a democratisation of art and art production ("Everyone is an artist"),  laid the foundation for the now accepted standard definition of art which equates art with everyday life.

 

As the core concern of 'cultural science' is the examination of everyday life (Alltagspraxis), and art is now very much everyday life, the analysis and critique of art -up until the 1960's the exclusive concern of art critics only- has been taken over by this art-external discipline. This is yet another facet of the many degrees and ways in which art-external forces have completely replaced art-internal forces and standards. Serial production, readymades, and the democratisation of and political correctness in art (a term coincidentally first coined in the 1970s) and gender- and racial equality - which have become standards for art in their own right- provide the ideological foundation, explanation and excuse for rampant capitalist practices which have now eroded art to the point of its near-complete annihilation within the public realm. The replacement of art critics with cultural scientists has played a key role in this development. 

Ullrich's acknowledges in an email exchange (see below) that "You are right in pointing out that I often write less about art itself than its circumstances and contexts. The boom in art-sociological writing (kunstsoziologische Texte) over the last few decades may well be a consequence of the vacuum which I diagnose in my text about the schism." 

In fact art-sociological writing and cultural science as such - when trying to address the realm of art- are active agents within the art industry. The 'boom in art-sociological writing' is simultaneously a driver and a consequence of the vacuum. 

This vacuum is the one aspect of the 'blind spot' which keeps this crisis hidden in plain sight.

 

As the "Superkunstjahr 2017' is celebrated by the art world, one sadly has to note that the art critic, let alone the 'star art critic', have become an extinct species.

 

Exchange with Wolfgang Ullrich

the original texts in German are shown first, followed by their translation

Milena Burzywoda

https://www.perlentaucher.de/essay/wolfgang-ullrich-ueber-kuratoren-und-kunstmarktkunst.html

"Mir scheint, dass dieser -sehr interessante Artikel- doch leider in vielen Punkten falsch liegt. Die Behauptung zum Beispiel, dass "sicher [...] niemand [mehr] offiziell kundtun [wird], aus der Kunst auszutreten", und dass das nur einmal mit Beuys geschah, stimmt natuerlich nicht. Jemand anders hatte ein schwarzes Quadrat gemalt, ein anderer Kuenstler spielte lieber Schach, oder wieder ein anderer lotete das Ende von Kunst als die Grenze aus, in der eine Ansammlung einzelner Pinselstriche die eigene lebendige Wahrnehmung so wiedergibt, dass der Begriff vom 'Bild', und damit von Kunst, in jedem einzelnen Farbfleck vor seinem eigenen Abgrund steht, aber dann doch auf magische Weise irgendwie dort gehalten wird. Dies sind unterschiedliche Beispiele, aber sind immer dann am interessantesten, wenn sie nicht nur eine aeusserliche Deklaration an die Kunstwelt sind, sondern im Werk selbst immer wieder die Grenze ausloten, an der der Begriff der Kunst nicht mehr fasst, wo jeder einzelne Kuenstler das Ende der Kunst beruehrt, durch das Werk selber misst, und diesen Versuch an sich auch durch sein Werk deklariert. Ich moechte behaupten, dass jedes Kunstwerk von Bedeutung in unserer westlichen Kultur sich exakt auf dieser Grenze bewegt. [postscript: letzteren Satz wuerde ich gerne zuruecknehmen oder zumindest anders formulieren.] Manche fragen sich, ob das ueberhaupt geht, die Kunst ganz hinter sich zu lassen, und versuchen daher weit ueber diese Grenze hinaus zu springen, so wie etwa mit einem Pissoir, von dem es zunaechst nicht so aussah, als wuerde es ihm gelingen, auf der hiesigen Seite und damit Kunst zu bleiben. Dann aber, mit der Zeit, wechselte dieser Gegenstand wieder die Seite, und hat es dann irgendwie geschafft, genau um diesen Punkt unendlich zu oszillieren.

Es ist genau diese Auslotung, dieses Oszillieren auf der Grenze, die das Feld beschreibt, was der Autor hier als 'autonome Kunst' und damit irrelevant abtut, und ist eines der zentralen und einenden Merkmale der besten Werke westlicher Kunst, deren Kraft zeitlos ist und uns daher unendlich fasziniert und beschaeftigt.

Das wirkliche Schisma unserer Zeit ist nicht zwischen Diskurs und Dekor, wie im obigen Artikel beschrieben, sondern zwischen denen, die das Ausloten der Grenze von Kunst nicht mehr interessiert, oder die ueberhaupt nicht einmal mehr davon wissen, sich gar nicht einmal mehr daran erinnern - und denen, die sich weiter genau daran abarbeiten.

 

Da jedoch der Kunstmarkt heute die oeffentliche Wahrnehmung aus reinem Eigeninteresse kontrolliert und manipuliert, treten Versuche dieser sogenannten autonomen Kuenstler nicht mehr zutage. Sie sind auch zu langsam, um diesen Markt bedienen zu koennen, denn diese Art von Arbeit erfordert Zeit, Hingabe, Konzentration, tiefes Studium ihrer Themen, und sie bewegt sich auch immer viel zu nah am Scheitern, um genuegend Ware fuer den Markt abwerfen zu koennen. Die heutige Kunstwelt / die Oeffentlichkeit, schliesst daher diese Art von Arbeit aus.

 

Diese 'autonomen' Kuenstler, denen die zeitgenoessische Kunstwelt nicht den Kontext bietet, den ihre Arbeit selber erfordert, entscheiden sich dazu, in Isolation, fern vom oeffentlichen sogenannten 'Diskurs', quasi im Untergrund zu arbeiten. DIES ist das eigentliche und dramatischste Schisma unserer Zeit: die Aufspaltung in oeffentliches und nicht-oeffentliches Kunstschaffen, over- and underground. Oben eine total veraeusserlichte Themenwahl. Unten das akute Bewusstsein, dass man die Themen der Kunst nicht willkuerlich von aussen entscheiden oder erfinden kann, sondern in sich selbst vorfindet. Die Abwesenheit dieser privaten, ‘autonomen’ Arbeiten in der Oeffentlichkeit entstellt das Bild unserer Kultur.

Die Aufteilung in Dekor oder Diskurs sind schlichtweg nur unterschiedliche Faktionen im oberen Feld, und daher ist diese Unterscheidung unwesentlich. Wer auch glaubt, auf irgendetwas was in den letzten 50 Jahren in der zeitgenoessischen Kunst produziert worden ist, eine Theorie aufbauen zu koennen, der ist auf dem Holzweg. Fuer die Kunst sind diese Jahrzehnte eine tote Zeit und was dort im Grossen und Ganzen entstand, liefert nur sandiges Fundament. Ich denke, es ist vielmehr dringend von Noeten, ein paar Schritte zurueckzugehen, zur Kunst in den 60er Jahren, als die Einführung von Serienproduktion und Readymades in das künstlerische Schaffen, sowie der Ruf nach einer Demokratisierung des Kunstschaffens (“Jeder Mensch ist ein Künstler”) das perfekte Gedankengut lieferten, das bis heute zur Rechtfertigung immer weiter auswuchernder kapitalistischer Praktiken dient, die die Krise produziert haben in dem sich unsere heutige Kunst und Kultur befindet. Von dort muss man neu anknuepfen.

Der Kunstboom hat mit seiner stellaren Höhe im 'Superkunstjahr 2017' den Ground Zero der Kultur erreicht. Nur wenn wir begreifen, dass wir hier eine Grenze erreicht haben, dann ist dies vielleicht auch eine Chance."

translation:

Milena Burzywoda

It seems to me that this -very interesting- article is, unfortunately, wrong in several points: the assertion, for example, that “certainly no one will ever officially announce again to be resigning from art”, and that this has only happened once with Beuys is, of course, not true. Somebody else had painted a black square, another person preferred to play chess, a different artist explored and sounded out the end of art as the very limit where a collection of individual brush strokes reflected his own living perception in a way that the notion of 'image', and thus of art, in each single brushstroke stood before its own abyss, but was/is then magically somehow held right there.

 

These are different examples, but are always most interesting when they are not an external declaration to the art world, but instead sound out the limit of art within the work itself, the very point at which the concept of art no longer holds, where every single artist touches the end of art, measures it through the work itself, and declares this attempt itself through their work.

 

I would like to argue that every artwork of importance in our Western culture walks exactly on this fine line along this boundary. 

 

Someone wondered whether it could be at all possible to leave art behind, and thus tried to take a leap far beyond this boundary, such as with the urinal, which at first did not seem to succeed at staying on this side and therefore art. Then, however, this object changed sides, and then somehow managed to infinitely oscillate around this very limit.

 

It is exactly this sounding out, the oscillation around this very boundary or limit of art, which describes the field which the author here denounces as ‘autonomous’ and thus irrelevant, and it is one of the most central and uniting characteristics of the best works of Western art the power of which is timeless and therefore fascinates and engages us endlessly.

 

The real schism of our time does not lie between ‘decor and discourse’, as described in Ulrich's article, but between those who have absolutely no interest in exploring the limit of art, who no longer even know of it, no longer even remember it - and those who continue to work hard with focus on exactly this limit.

​However, as the art market -out of sheer self-interest- controls and manipulates the public perception, the endeavours of these so-called autonomous artists no longer surface in the public realm. Their work also develops too slowly for it to be able to feed this market as it requires time, dedication, concentration, the in-depth study of its themes and is also always too close to potential failure for it to be able to yield the amount of produce that the market demands. This work is thus entirely excluded from the public realm.

 

Autonomous artists, who feel that the contemporary art world does not provide the kind of context which their work requires, therefore, decide to work in isolation, far from the public ‘discourse’ - underground. THIS is the actual and dramatic schism of our time: the split into public and private art production, over- and underground. Above the selection of themes is completely externalised. Below there is an acute awareness that the subject matters of art cannot be arbitrarily invented or decided on from the outside, but that they are instead found in one's own within. The absence of these private, autonomous works from the public realm distorts our culture.

 

'Decor and discourse' are merely different factions in the upper realm and this division is therefore completely unessential. Whoever believes that new art theory can be built on what has been produced over the last 50 years in art is on the wrong track. These decades have been a completely dead time for art and what has been produced during this period, on the whole, can only make for very sandy foundations. 

Instead I think that it is urgently necessary to take a few steps back - to art in the 1960s when serial production and ready-mades were introduced into art production, and the call for a democratisation of artistic creation (“Everyone is an artist”) supplied the perfect ideology which is to this day (ab)used as a justification of rampant capitalist practices, leading to the crisis in art and culture we witness today. We need to reconnect and re-depart from there.

The art boom with its alleged stellar height in the “Superkunstjahr 2017” has hit rock bottom of culture. Only if we realise that we have thus reached a limit then this can perhaps also be a a new beginning.

https://ideenfreiheit.wordpress.com/2017/07/19/deko-und-diskurs/

Milena Burzywoda, 27. JULI 2017

Danke fuer den Artikel, den ich mit grossem Interesse gelesen habe. Dass die Kunstwelt heute angetrieben wird von Kraeften, die an sich nichts mehr mit Kunst zu tun haben scheint mir mit einer der wichtigsten Punkte, der bislang in der oeffentlichen Debatte kaum wahrgenommen worden ist. Dennoch glaube ich, dass Sie die Lage nicht ganz klar sehen, dass Sie etwas uebersehen, und das hat damit zu tun, dass die eigentliche und wirklich dramatischste, folgenreichste Aufspaltung, die sich vor allem in den letzten 20 Jahren vollzogen hat, die Aufspaltung zwischen oeffentlichem und privaten Kunst-Schaffen ist, quasi in ein ‚Oben‘ und „Unten‘, wobei das Schisma, das Sie beschreiben, exklusiv im ‚oberen‘ Bereich stattfindet. Und dort ist meiner Meinung nach die Unterscheidung in die eine oder andere Faktion eigentlich gar nicht so wichtig.

 

Ich glaube Sie gehen fehl, weil Sie vom dem Begriff einer ‚autonomen Kunst‘ ausgehen, der jedoch das, was diesen ‚underground‘ Bereich, den Sie nicht sehen, nicht greift. Dass Sie diesen Bereich nicht wahrnehmen, hat genau mit dieser Aufspaltung zu tun: das, was in der nicht-oeffentlich Sphaere stattfindet tritt logischerweise nicht zutage. Ich moechte Sie auch daran erinnern, dass Sie selber nicht kuenstlerisch arbeiten, Sie also nicht aus dieser Perspektive denken und sehen koennen.

 

Die Notwendigkeit des Kuenstlers, in den Untergrund zu gehen, sich selbst und die eigene Arbeit nicht mehr der Oeffentlichkeit preiszugeben hat damit zu tun, dass diese Kuenstler konsequent und konzentriert sich wirklich den fundamentalen Fragen unserer Zeit zuwenden – und nicht nur scheinbar und oberflaechlich wie dieser ganze Quatsch, den man heute als ‚politically correct‘ und daher als Kunst bezeichnet. Quantenphysik, Informationsrevolution, Topologie, Kosmologie sind nur einige der Themen, denen sich Kuenstler in Tiefe und Konzentration zuwenden, weil dort die tiefsten Umwaelzungen stattfinden, die unser Verstaendnis von der Natur unserer Realitaet kontinuierlich und auf dramatischste Weise neu in Frage gestellt werden.

 

Diese tiefe, auf Wissen und konzentriertem Studium basierte Auseinandersetzung veraendert das eigene Weltbild, die eigene Sprache und wirft damit neue Moeglichkeiten der Fragestellung in der kuenstlerischen Arbeit auf. Die eigene Arbeit UND die Geschichte der Kunst sind gemeinsam ein festes Gedankengebaeude oder -system, eine Art ‚Maschine‘ durch die man Fragen aus anderen Bereichen filtern lassen kann, und auf diese Weise nicht nur die Auseinandersetzung mit den oben genannten Themen vertiefen, sondern umgekehrt die eigene kuenstlerische Arbeit messen kann. Dabei ist die Frage nach Standards essentiell, auch Standards, die in der Kunstgeschichte von bestimmten Werken gesetzt wurden. Greift  der Begriff ‚autonome Kunst‘ diese Art von Aktivitaet ?

 

Das Publikum und der oeffentliche Diskurs finden auf einem Niveau statt, das schlichtweg nicht dazu ausgestattet ist, diese Art von Arbeit ueberhaupt zu rezipieren. Der oeffentliche Raum ist dermassen kontaminiert, dass es auch gar nicht ratsam ist, das Auftauchen nach Oben zu wagen. ‚Underground artists‘ haben wenig Hoffnung, dass sich an dieser Lage etwas fundamental aendern wird. Ich schreibe ihnen also quasi von „Unten‘, unendlich gelangweilt davon, was in der oberen Sphaere fuer ein Spektakel stattfindet. Sagen Sie mir nicht, dass es diesen unteren Bereich nicht gibt – ich befinde mich mittendrin.

translation:

Milena Burzywoda

Dear Mr. Ullrich,

Thank you for the article which I have read with great interest. The fact that the art world today is driven by forces which have no longer got anything to do with art itself seems to me to be one of the most important points raised - and is a fact which so far has received hardly any attention in the public debate. Nevertheless I believe that you are not seeing the situation clearly, that you are overseeing something, which is to do with the fact that actually, the most dramatic schism which has occurred over the last 20 years is the schism between public and private art production; a split into a realm 'above' and a realm 'below', whereas the schism which you describe exclusively happens within the upper / the public realm. And within this realm, the distinction between this or that faction, in my opinion, is not really important.

 

I think you are misled in your analysis because your argument is based on a conception of 'autonomous art' which does not fathom the nature of the works which are made within this 'underground' realm. The fact that you do not take note of this realm is, of course, a result of this very schism: whatever goes on in the private realm does logically not surface in the public realm. I would also like to remind you that you are not an artist yourself, thus you cannot think and see things from this perspective.

The necessity of the artist to go underground, to withhold him/herself and his/her work from the public is linked to the fact that these artists concentrate on and work consistently along the really fundamental questions of our time - unlike all the superficial and make-belief nonsense which is today labelled 'politically correct' and therefore as art. Quantum physics, information revolution, topology, cosmology - these are just some of the themes which ['underground'] artists explore in-depth and with utmost concentration because this is where the deepest revolutions take place which continuously question and challenge our understanding of the nature of reality. The deep involvement with these themes, knowledge-based and focussed study, shapes and changes one's own world view and language -thus enables new possibilities of questioning within one's artistic work.

 

One's own work and the history of art together are a firm edifice of ideas or system of thought, a kind of 'machine' through which one can filter questions from other fields, and through which one can not only deepen one's understanding but also measure one's own artistic work. I this context the notion of standards is essential, including standards which have been set by certain artworks throughout the history of art. Could/should this kind of activity could be called 'autonomous art' -?

The audience and the public discourse are taking place on a level which is simply not equipped to even receive work of this nature. The public realm is contaminated to a degree that it is not even advisable for an artist to try to risk 'surfacing' within the upper realm. Underground artists have little hope that this situation could fundamentally change. I thus write to you from 'underground', endlessly bored by the spectacle in the upper realm. Please do not tell me that this realm does not exist - as I am right inside it.

 

 

https://ideenfreiheit.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/stellungnahme-zu-siegerkunst/comment-page-1/#comment-1867

Milena Burzywoda, 21. 09. 2017

Mit vielen Ihrer sehr interessanten Texte gibt es fuer mich ein Grundproblem:

 

dass Sie auf KunstMARKTbewegungen reagieren, die kein Fundament fuer Kunst liefern, sondern die Moeglichkeit fuer Kunst untergraben. Ihre Texte fuellen das Vakuum der beschrieben Arbeiten mit Gesellschafts- aber nicht mit Kunsttheorie oder gar Kritik – damit untermauern Sie letztendlich deren ohnehin schon ueberwaeltigenden Erfolg.

 

Sie beschreiben viele Mechanismen so glasklar (und das ist hilfreich und oft erhellend) aber Sie versaeumen es letztendlich, eine Position zu beziehen – genau DAS waere in dieser Zeit so dringend von Noeten! Kunst und Kultur sind in einer Krise, und Sie sehen das, aber Sie benennen sie nicht; Sie schreiben drumrum. Ist ein Kunstkritiker / Kulturwissenschaftler denn wirklich nur eine neutrale Huelle durch die man egal welche Inhalte hindurchspuelt, ohne dass sie selber eine eigene Kontur hat? WARUM KLAGEN SIE NICHT AN? Sie haben selber die kritische Stille diagnostiziert mit der der zeitgenoessischen Kunst und dem Kunstmarkt begegnet wird. Warum beziehen Sie nicht selbst Stellung? Sie beschreiben doch selbst, wie disillusioniert Sie vom Kunstbetrieb an der Akademie waren – aber setzen Sie wirklich etwas dagegen? Oder habe ich da etwas ueberlesen? In ihrem Perlentaucher Artikel „Zwischen Deko und Dikurs‘ schrieben Sie, dass es Star Kuenstler gibt, aber keine Star Kritiker. Da wuenschte ich mir, dass Sie sich einmal selber an der Nase ziehen. Sie haben doch die Mittel!

 translation: 

With many of your very interesting texts I see one fundamental problem:

 

that you react to movements on the art MARKET, which do not offer foundations for art, but instead actually undermine the potential for art. Your texts fill the vacuum of the described works with SOCIAL- but NOT with ART THEORY or even critique - thus you reinforce their already overwhelming success.

 

You describe many mechanisms lucidly (which is helpful and enlightening), but ultimately you fail to take a clear position - which is exactly what is so badly needed today! WHY DO YOU NOT CRITICISE? You yourself have diagnosed the critical silence in the face of contemporary art and the art market. Why do you not take a stand? You have described yourself how disillusioned you were after working at an art school for many years - but are you actually doing something against this situation? You do have the means! Or have I overseen something here? In your essay "Between Decor and Discourse" published in 'Perlentaucher' you say that today we have star artists, but no star critics. Well - look who's talking! 

Wolfgang Ullrich, 26. 09. 2017

Liebe Frau Burzywoda,

vielen Dank für Ihre Kommentare, Ihre Anregungen und Ihre Kritik! – Ich versuche nochmal in aller Kürze, meine Position zu klären, die es durchaus gibt, auch wenn Sie offenbar das Gegenteil wahrnehmen. Aber hat und braucht man nicht schon eine Position, wenn man auch nur Entwicklungen beschreiben will? Das setzt immerhin voraus, dass man gewisse Phänomene in Beziehung zueinander bringt, dass man einen Plot dafür findet und damit natürlich auch eine Deutung vorschlägt. Im Begriff „Siegerkunst“ steckt ein solcher Plot – die These der Rearistokratisierung des Kunstbetriebs -, und im Begriff „Schisma“ steckt auch ein Plot – die Unterstellung, verschiedene Teile des Kunstbetriebs würden sich in entgegengesetzte Richtungen entwickeln und eine leere Mitte zurücklassen. Mir ist aber gerade wichtig, dass mit solchen Beschreibungen und Plots keine eindeutige Bewertung vorgenommen wird. Das wäre so, als würde ein Autor am Ende seiner Geschichte den Zeigefinger heben und selbst die Moral verkünden. Natürlich muss man, um den Plot spannend zu inszenieren, die Sympathien des Publikums lenken, aber sich letztlich viel mehr um Komplexität als um Eindeutigkeit bemühen. Man muss anerkennen, dass sich die einen über die Rearistokratisierung oder das Schisma freuen, andere es hingegen schrecklich finden. Ich bin auch nicht so sehr Betroffener, dass ich zu einer eindeutigen Antwort überhaupt fähig wäre, vielmehr sehe ich es auch deshalb als meine Aufgabe an, ein differenziertes Bild zu liefern. 

Für meine Schisma-These ist entscheidend, dass die (autonome) Kunst von verschiedenen Seiten her gleichsam übernommen wird, sie also eine Fremdbestimmung erfährt, die dazu führt, dass der Begriff ‚Kunst‘ selbst eine Aushöhlung erfährt und so irgendwann gar nicht mehr gebraucht wird. Die eine Übernahme passiert auf dem Markt – durch die Sammler, Galeristen, Auktionatoren, denen es gelingt, Werke so teuer zu verkaufen, dass sie mehr über den Preis als über eine andere formale oder inhaltliche Eigenschaft definiert sind. Die andere Übernahme passiert durch Kuratoren, die die Kunst so stark als Medium nutzen, um bestimmte Themen zu besetzen oder Identitätspolitiken zu treiben, dass das ebenfalls die Wahrnehmung und Erfahrung der betroffenen Werke mehr prägt als jede Setzung, die von den Künstlern selbst vorgenommen wurde. In beiden Fällen wird das, was von außen an die Kunst herangetragen wird – Preis oder Politik -, vom Publikum letztlich als stärker, als realer empfunden als die Kunst selbst. Das kann man nun entweder als Aggression der Bereiche ‚Wirtschaft‘ und ‚Politik‘, aber auch als Zeichen einer Schwäche der Kunst – oder einer Erschöpfung des Paradigmas der Autonomie – deuten. In keinem Fall aber würde ich von Zensur sprechen. Denn das unterstellt, jemand würde absichtlich etwas unterdrücken – aus Angst, es könnte sonst zu stark werden. Eben das aber kann ich nicht sehen, das hieße, die autonome Kunst zu heroisiere

Wolfgang Ullrich

​​

translation:

Dear Mrs. Burzywoda,

Many thanks for your comments, your suggestions and your criticism! – I will try again, very briefly, to clarify my position - which does indeed exist, even though you are apparently perceiving the contrary. But does one not have and already need a position even if one only wants to describe developments? This presupposes at least that certain phenomena are set in relation to each other, that one finds a plot for them - and one therefore naturally proposes an interpretation. The term „Siegerkunst“ ['Success Art' or 'Art of Victors'] implies such a plot – the thesis of the re-aristocratisation of the art world - and in the word 'schisma' a plot is implied as well – the claim that different parts of the art world are developing in opposing directions and are leaving an empty middle behind. It is very important to me to not just offer a singular definitive judgement with these descriptions and plots - which would be as if an author at the end of telling his story would point the moral finger and explain the moral of the story himself. Of course one has to, in order to stage the plot in an exciting manner, direct the sympathies of the audience, but ultimately the aim must be complexity rather than definitiveness. One has to accept that some rejoice in the re-aristocratisation or the schism, and that others however regard this as a terrible development. I am also not so much personally affected and am therefore not capable of giving definitive answers. I rather see my role in providing a differentiated picture.

 

For my schism-thesis, it is crucial that (autonomous) art is taken over from different sides, and is defined by external forces which leads to a hollowing out of the concept of 'art' - which is eventually no longer needed. Part of this take-over happens on the market - through collectors, gallerists and auctioneers, who manage to sell the works at such expensive rates that in the end the works are defined by price, rather than any formal aspect or the work's content. The other takeover is driven by curators who use art as a medium to define certain subject matters or to pursue identity politics to such a degree that, again, this dominates the perception and experience of these works more than the proposition by the artists themselves. In both cases that which is brought into art from the outside - price or politics- is perceived by the audience as much stronger and more real than the art itself. This can be interpreted as aggression from the realm of economy or politics, but also as a sign of the weakness of art, or as the exhaustion of the paradigm of autonomy. Under no circumstances would I call this censorship as this would suggest that someone would intentionally suppress something - out of fear that it could become too powerful. But exactly this I cannot see, as it would imply that autonomous art is heroised.

 

 

 

 

Milena Burzywoda, 27. 09.2017

Lieber Herr Ullrich,

Ich danke Ihnen fuer Ihre Antwort. Was ich meiner ausfuehrlicheren Antwort vorausschicken moechte ist dies:

Was ich schlichtweg nicht verstehe, ist wie Kritiker und Menschen wie Sie – gebildet, erfahren, intelligent usw.- sich NICHT vor den meisten Werken der zeitgenoessischen ‚Dekorkunst‘ oder gar ‚Siegerkunst‘ zu Tode langweilen, oder Sie sich ebenso nicht daran zu stoeren scheinen, dass ‚Diskurskuenstler‘ schlichtweg nichts zu sagen haben, und vom Vakuum Ihrer eigenen Position ablenken, indem sie es mit Bezug auf emotionale Krisenherde im Weltgeschehen fuellen und damit auf obzoenste Weise das Leiden anderer zu ihren eigenen reinen Kunstmarktzwecken ausbeuten. Hat jemals jemand untersucht inwiefern Fluechtlinge davon profitieren, dass Sie zum Beispiel in Venedig zum Lampenbauen angestellt, mit anderen Worten: MISSBRAUCHT werden? Es sollte einmal jemand hingehen und die Effektivitaet dieser weltweiten Kunstpraxis im Hinblick auf ihre soziale und politische Wirksamkeit hin zu ueberpruefen. Ich habe KEINEN Zweifel, dass das Resultat so schockierend wie offensichtlich waere.


Warum stellen Sie dies nicht in Frage? Ist dies fuer Sie in der Tat fraglos? Glauben Sie wirklich die ‚Diskurskunst‘ hat eine soziale Wirksamkeit im Hinblick auf Ihre angeblichen Inhalte?

DIe meisten Arbeiten, die heute den Kunstmarkt, die Feuilletons, die Museen usw. dominieren sind einfach atemberaubend dumm, oder so tief wie ein kurzer Witz. Wie kann es sein, dass das anscheinend kaum jemanden stoert? Dass es SIE nicht stoert?! Letztlich faellt ja fuer Unzaehlige sehr viel Profit ab – anders kann man sich das einfach nicht erklaeren.

Sie schreiben: „In keinem Fall aber würde ich von Zensur sprechen. Denn das unterstellt, jemand würde absichtlich etwas unterdrücken – aus Angst, es könnte sonst zu stark werden. Eben das aber kann ich nicht sehen, das hieße, die autonome Kunst zu heroisieren.“

Ich glaube nicht, dass irgendwer aus Angst sogenannte ‚autonome Kunst‘ unterdrueckt; daher kann auch von einer Heroisierung keine Rede sein.

 

Es ist vielmehr so, dass ein oekonomisches Modell ein kulturelles ersetzt, ohne dass letzteres ueberhaupt noch wahrgenommen wird. Dazu gehoert die Verdraengung von Kunstgeschichte - nur in Vergessenheit der Fundamente, auf der unsere Kultur steht, kann man sich mit dem zufrieden geben, was heute produziert wird.

Dieser aktive Trend zu Geschichtsvergessenheit wird in vielfaeltiger Weise gefoerdert, die hier alle auszufuehren zu weit fuehren wuerde. Das dramatische Senken von Standards, Wissen und Ambition innerhalb der Kunst in einer Welt von nie zuvor dagewesener Komplexitaet ist eine Tatsache, die unbedingt im Bereich von Kunst und Kultur Aufmerksamkeit erhalten muesste. In der Politik sind wir mit ganz aehnlichen Faktoren konfrontiert, wo ein Rueckzug aus der Komplexitaet der Weltzusammenhaenge es vermag, politischer schwarz-weiss Malerei – und damitTrump, Brexit usw.- Rueckenwind zu geben.

Sie gehen also hin und sagen Sie wollen nicht werten. Aber Sie werten doch: und zwar mit exklusiv kunstmarktinternen Kriterien! Sie schliessen sogenannte ‚autonome Kunst‘ komplett aus Ihrer Analyse der Zukunft von Kunst und Kunstschulen aus – begruendet mit Kriterien, die rein dem Kunstmarkt entstammen. Und das ist KEINE ZENSUR?

„[…] wird vom Publikum letztlich als stärker, als realer empfunden als die Kunst selbst.“

Das Publikum, um das gebuhlt wird, bestimmt in der Tat die heutigen Standards fuer Kunst. Und da der Grossteil dieses Publikums weder Interesse an, noch Wissen um Kunst hat, muss das Publikum mit Kunst bedient werden, die ohne Kunst auskommt.

Und genau so findet das ja auch heute statt. Aber SIE, und alle Ihre Kollegen – Kunsthistoriker, Kuenstler, Akademiker usw. – wie kann es sein, dass Leute wie Sie nicht die Arme ueber dem Kopf zusammenschlagen angesichts der sagenhaft niedrigen Standards der Arbeiten. Dass der extreme oekonomische Erfolg des heutigen Kunstmarkts von Oligarchen, Investoren, Auktionshaeusern usw, begruesst und gefoerdert wird, kann man DENEN nicht vorwerfen. Aber IHNEN werfe ich das vor. Und ich verstehe es schlichtweg nicht und ich hoffe noch sehr, dass Sie bald ein Buch schreiben in dem Sie mir DAS schluessig erklaeren.


Milena Burzywoda​

​​

milena burzywoda27. SEPTEMBER 2017  

 

Sie schreiben „Autonome Kunst verstand sich ja immer als Alternative, Parallele, Jenseits zur realen Welt – als Fiktion -, aber eben das erscheint heute vielen eher als Schwäche, als Zeichen von Impotenz.“ Diese Definition ist mir absolut fremd, unverstaendlich und ist schlichtweg falsch. Es scheint mir, dass der Begriff ‚autonome Kunst‘ offenbar dringend einer Klaerung aus der Sicht praktierender Kuenstler bedarf, die nicht am Kunstmarkt teilnehmen. Artistunderground wird sich in der naechsten Zeit genau damit beschaeftigen.

 

translation:

You write "Autonomous art has always understood itself to be an alternative or parallel [reality], a realm beyond the real world -a fiction-,  but exactly that is by many today seen as its weakness, as a sign of its impotence." This definition is completely alien to me and is outright wrong. It seems to me that the term 'autonomous art' obviously and urgently needs to be clarified by practising artists who are not taking part in the art market. Artistunderground will endeavour to do exactly this in the near future.​​

 

Wolfgang Ullrich, 28. 09. 2017

Liebe Frau Burzywoda,

danke für Ihre Kommentare! Das Buch, das Sie sich wünschen, werde ich wohl nicht schreiben. Aber einiges von dem, was Sie anmahnen, habe ich bereits geschrieben. So etwa einen Text, in dem ich sehr kritisch über einige Arbeiten urteile, die sich mit dem Thema ‚Migration‘ befassen – darunter auch Eliassons „Green Light“: https://ideenfreiheit.wordpress.com/2016/06/20/essay-kunst-fluechtlinge-gewissensdienstleistung-statt-empathie/


In einem Radiobeitrag stelle ich die Wirksamkeit von politischer Kunst wie der des ‚Zentrums für politische Schönheit‘ infrage: https://ideenfreiheit.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/ist-politische-aktionskunst-der-bessere-protest/


Und in meinem neuen Buch („Wahre Meisterwerte“) gibt es etliche Passagen, die sich kritisch mit politischer Kunst und ihrem Bekenntnischarakter befassen – u.a. diese hier: http://www.focus.de/kultur/medien/kultur-wenn-kunst-zum-brandbeschleuniger-wird_id_7595414.html

Auch über Künstler, die sich in der Tradition autonomer Kunst sehen, habe ich verschiedentlich geschrieben, u.a. über David Hockney, Jonathan Meese, Thomas Huber, Anton Henning. Dabei versuche ich durchaus, nicht nur mit vom Kunstmarkt vorgegebenen Kriterien zu arbeiten. Ich bleibe jedoch dabei, dass es zumindest eine Krise des Paradigmas ‚autonome Kunst‘ gibt – und empfinde es als zu vorschnell, die Schuld daran nur dem Markt und den Kuratoren zu geben. Und so wenig ich von Zensur sprechen will, so wenig auch von Verdrängung, wie Sie’s nun machen, was wiederum suggeriert, dass es einen aktiven Widerstand gegen autonome Kunst und ihre Geschichte gibt. Den kann ich aber nicht erkennen. Vielmehr scheinen mir viele Künstler selbst Zweifel zu haben, ob Autonomie nicht ‚zu wenig‘ ist. Künstler wie Meese oder Huber sind hier große Ausnahmen, ihnen gelingt es noch, eine eigene Welt zu schaffen und zu behaupten – um den Preis, dass auch sie sich sehr schwer tun, genügend Ausstellungsmöglichkeiten zu bekommen. Und viele, die noch jünger und weniger bekannt sind, haben es noch schwerer. Aber nicht weil man sie aktiv bekämpft, sondern weil man einer Siegerkunst oder einer Kuratorenkunst offenbar mehr ‚thrill‘ zutraut, mehr ‚Wirklichkeit‘, ist sie doch teuer oder aktuell, also vermeintlich ‚mehr‘ als nur Fiktion. Es ginge wohl darum, wieder bewusster zu machen, was Fiktion alles kann.

Übrigens entspricht es nicht meinem Selbstverständnis, nur über Kunst zu schreiben, die ich interessant und wichtig finde. Gerade auch das, was ich langweilig oder gar missglückt finde, reizt mich als Beobachter und Theoretiker. Allerdings – da haben Sie recht – schreibe ich dann oft auch weniger über die Kunst selbst als über ihre Umstände und Kontexte. Der Boom kunstsoziologischer Texte in den letzten Jahren ist also vielleicht selbst Folge jenes Vakuums, das ich in meinem Schisma-Text diagnostiziere.

Wolfgang Ullrich

 

 

 

translation

Dear Mrs. Burzywoda,

Thank you for your comments! I somehow do not think that I will be writing the book which you are wishing for. But parts of what you call for I have already written. For example a text in which I very critically examine works which deal with the subject matter of migration, for example Olafur Eliassons "Green Light https://ideenfreiheit.wordpress.com/2016/06/20/essay-kunst-fluechtlinge-gewissensdienstleistung-statt empathie/).

 

In a radio interview I question the effectiveness of political art as well as of the "Zentrum fuer politische Schoenheit' [Centre For Political Beauty' in Berlin] (https://ideenfreiheit.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/ist-politische-aktionskunst-der-bessere-protest/).

 

In my latest book "Wahre Meisterwerke" ("True Masterpieces") there are countless passages which deal critically with political art and its confessional character, for example here: http://www.focus.de/kultur/medien/kultur-wenn-kunst-zum-brandbeschleuniger-wird_id_7595414.html.

I have also occasionally written about artists who see themselves as representatives of autonomous art such as David Hockney, Jonathan Meese, Thomas Huber, Anton Henning. I definitively try to not only work with criteria given by the art-market; however I still think that there is at least a crisis of the paradigm of 'autonomous art' - and deem it to be hasty to blame only the market and curators. And as little as I want to speak of censorship I also do not want to call it 'sidelining', as you do, as this would suggest that there is an active resistance against autonomous art and its history. I do not see this happening at all. To the contrary it is the artists themselves who seem to doubt whether autonomy is enough. Artists such as Meese and Huber are great exceptions to this, as they still manage to create and claim their own worlds  - at a cost as they, too, struggle to find enough opportunities to show their work. But not because they are actively opposed, but because "Siegerkunst" [art of victors] or curatorial art is believed to  have more of a 'thrill' , more 'reality', because it is expensive, or contemporary, and therefore allegedly more than mere 'fiction'. Perhaps the aim must be to highlight again what fiction can achieve.

Besides it is part of my self-understanding to not only write about art which I find interesting and important. Especially that which I find boring or even unsuccessful excites me as an observer and theorist. However- and in this respect you are right- I do often write less about art than about its circumstances and contexts. The boom in art-sociological writing over the last few years is thus perhaps a consequence of the very vacuum which I diagnose in my schism-text.

Wolfgang Ullrich

Milena Burzywoda, 5. OKTOBER 2017

Sehr geehrter Herr Ullrich,

Ich schaffe es einfach nicht, Ihre oben erwaehnten Essays, z.Bsp. den ueber Kunst mit Fluechtlingen (https://ideenfreiheit.wordpress.com/2016/06/20/essay-kunst-fluechtlinge-gewissensdienstleistung-statt empathie/) mit den Inhalten von „Dekor und Diskurs“ in Einklang zu bringen.

 

Wenn ich das richtig sehe, so haben sie den Text ueber ‚Fluechtlingskunst‘ im Jahr vor dem Dekor Essay geschrieben. In ersterem dekonstruieren Sie -und erklaeren als wirkungslos- den einen der zwei der Pole (Diskurs), auf den Sie dann aber wieder in letzterem Essay Ihre Analyse der Zukunft von Kunst und Kunstschulen aufbauen. Sie nehmen also in letzterem Ihre eigene Einsicht ueber die soziale und politische (Un-)Wirksamkeit von Fluechtlingskunst wieder komplett zurueck. WARUM? Sie sehen, dass diese Kunst nur so tut, als haette Sie Wirkung in der 'realen' Welt, aber weil sie grossen Markterfolg hat, akzeptieren Sie sie letztendlich. Sie messen wieder mit KunstMARKTkriterien.

 

Ist das nicht genauso, als wuerden Sie, oder jemand, sagen: „Plastik ist sagenhaft erfolgreich auf dem Markt und in unserer Umwelt, gar bis in die Fundamente unseres Daseins, bis hin zur Infiltrierung von Wasser mit ‚plastic micro beads‘ und dadurch unserer Nahrungskette – und darueber freuen sich so sooo viele, weil es macht ja Geld, und Geld ist real, und Wasser auch! Daher kann man auf gar keinen Fall Plastik als katastrophal darstellen!“

Man muss ja schliesslich „ein differenziertes Bild“ liefern !??? Really?

Das fatale an dieser Art der Praesentation der Situation von Kunst und Kultur, die meiner Meinung nach genauso ernst ist wie der Abgrund vor dem wir durch unsere aktive Naturzerstoerung stehen ist, dass Sie damit die Ernstheit der Lage verschleiern.

Beide Pole -Dekor und Diskurs- die Sie als fundamental tragend fuer ihre Analyse der Zukunft von Kunst und Kunstschulen darstellen, sind reine Scheinwelten.

Es sei denn, man zaehlt das Geld dazu, das natuerlich SEHR reale Wirksamkeit hat. Aber ist das die Ebene auf der wir jetzt die Situation unserer Kultur diskutieren wollen? Die Trumps dieser Welt sehen das ja genau so. Und mit aus diesem Grund sind wir ja genau in dieser mehr als besorgniserregenden Lage.

Die Unschaerfe der Begriffe im zeitgenoessischen Diskurs, die auf purem Schein aufgebaute zeitgenoesschische ‚Kunst‘ -entweder explizit schoener teurer Schein (Dekor), oder scheinbar politisch, scheinbar sozial wirksam, und daher scheinbar real- verlangt unbedingt einer Klaerung- dieser Schein an sich, so offensichtlich er auch ist, muss blossgestellt werden. Das wuerde dann endlich ein wirklich „differenziertes Bild“ liefern.

Das Verstaendis dessen was ‚autonome‘ Kunst ist, oder sein koennte, ist direkt verknuepft mit unserer Auffassung dessen, was es bedeutet, sich in der kuenstlerischen Arbeit mit ‚Realitaet‘ zu befassen.

Im Moment ist die Definition von Begriffen wie „Realitaet‘ , ‚Relevanz‘ , ‚Wirksamkeit“, „Fiktion“ usw. den Rezeptoren der zeitgenoessischen Kunstwelt ueberlassen (schlechte Kunstkritiker, oberflaechlich arbeitende und schlichtweg faule Journalisten, Kuratorengeschwafel usw.). Ist Ihnen einmal aufgefallen, dass dies alles Begriffe sind, fuer die sich diese Kunst/Kuenstler selbst ueberhaupt NICHT interessiert/interessieren! Mir faellt nicht eine einzige zeitgenoessische Arbeit ein, die sich damit auseinandersetzen wuerde! Ist das nicht merkwuerdig? Es wird hingegen einfach ALLES von vorneherein als Realitaet vorausgesetzt- eben wegen der nun totalen Kongruenz von Kunst und Leben, die nun der heutige Standard ist.

Die Gleichsetzung von Kunst mit Realitaet macht das, was als Kunst so produziert wird also dennoch nicht real (nicht im 'wirklichen Leben' wirksam) eben WEIL es dann DOCH Kunst sein soll.


Der KunstMARKT braucht genau diese Art von 'Kunst', daher ist es auch gar nicht wuenschenswert, dass  Kuenstler irgendwann wirklich zu reinen sozialen und politischen Aktivisten in der 'realen' Welt werden und somit echte Wirksamkeit erlangen. Der Kunstmarkt braucht die Realitaetsleere der Arbeiten die -weder Kunst noch Wirklichkeit; nur als leere Huellen funktionieren koennen.

Die Gleichzeitigkeit von dem Verschleiern und Ignorieren der Begriffe 'Realitaet‘ , ‚Relevanz‘ , ‚Wirksamkeit“, „Fiktion“ usw. (und damit natuerlich ihrer Inhalte und potentiellen Fragen) und dem Verdraengen der sogenannten „autonomen Kunst“ aus der oeffentlichen Kunstwelt ist also nicht zufaellig.

Die aeussere Kontur der von der Oeffentlichkeit abwesenden autonomen Kunst ist damit klar umrissen.​​​​​​​​

translation:

Dear Mr Ullrich,

I somehow struggle to square up the essays you’ve mentioned in your previous email (for example the one about art with refugees https://ideenfreiheit.wordpress.com/2016/06/20/essay-kunst-fluechtlinge gewissensdienstleistung-statt empathie/) with the contents of ‘Decor and Discourse’.

 

If I understand this correctly you had written the essay about 'refugee art’ in the year before ‘Decor and Discourse’. In the former you deconstruct -and declare as ineffective- one of the two poles (discourse), but later on you base your analysis of the future of art and art schools partly on this very pole. Effectively you retract from your insights regarding the social and political IN-effectiveness of ‘refugee art’. WHY? You do see that this kind of art only purports to have an effect in the ‘real’ world, yet as it is successful on the art MARKET you ultimately accept it. Again you are measuring with art MARKET criteria.

 

Is this not as if you, or someone, would be saying “Plastic is extraordinarily successful on the market and in our environment, down to the foundations of our existence, to the infiltration of our water with plastic micro beads and thus our food-chain- and this delights so many, because it makes a lot of money, and money is real, and water, too! Thus under no circumstances can one claim that plastic is a catastrophe!”

 

As one is obliged to give a "differentiated view"!??? Really?

 

The dramatic consequence of this kind of depiction of the situation of art and culture, which in my opinion is as serious as the abyss which we face as a result of our active destruction of Nature, is that it totally obscures the graveness of the situation.

BOTH POLES -Decor and Discourse- which you portray as being fundamental for the future of art and art schools, are purely the realm of empty make-belief [Scheinwelten].

Unless one adds money to the equation, which of course has got VERY real effectiveness. But is this the kind of level on which we want to discuss the state of our culture? The Trumps of this world certainly seem to think so, and this is of course one of the reasons why we find ourselves in this more than worrying situation.

Contemporary ‘art’ is pure make-belief [reiner Schein] - either purely decorative appearance [schoener Schein], or political / social appearance and thus pseudo-effectiveness- thus it is purely a make-belief reality. There is a lack of precision in the contemporary discourse which urgently needs to be clarified, and this 'pseudo-ness' itself, however obvious it may be, needs to be exposed. This would at long last provide a “differentiated picture”.

Our understanding of what ‘autonomous art' is, or could be, is directly related to our understanding of what it means for an artist and his/her work to be dealing with 'reality’.

Currently the definition of terms such as ‘reality’, ‘relevance’, ‘effectiveness’, ‘fiction’ etc. is left to the receivers / the audience of contemporary art (bad art critics, lazy and superficial journalists, curators' waffle etc.). Have you noticed that contemporary art and artists today show no interest whatsoever in these terms? I cannot think of one contemporary artwork which would be concerned with these. Isn’t this strange? Yet EVERYTHING in contemporary art is presupposed as being ‘reality'- exactly because the by now near total congruence of art and life is today's new standard.

Yet to equate art with everyday life does not make that which is produced as art real (does not make it effective in ‘real life’) exactly BECAUSE it is in the end again supposed to be ART. The art MARKET needs exactly this kind of ‘art’; thus it is not desirable for artists to actually become socio-political activists with proper agency and effectiveness in the ‘real’ world. The art market needs art that is devoid of reality, art which functions best when - neither art nor reality- is a mere empty shell.

The simultaneousness of the obscuring of terms such as ‘reality’, ‘relevance’, ‘effectiveness’, ‘fiction’ and so on (and thus of their contents and the questions they could potentially raise) and of the sidelining of so-called 'autonomous art’ from the public realm of art did not simply occur by chance.

The outer contour of 'autonomous art’, which is missing from the public realm, is thus clearly outlined.

a response by one of our readers:

R. Rhys 

'AUTONOMOUS' ARTISTS  AND ART CRITICS, 14.10.2017

Thank you for translating / sharing Ullrich's essay and your communication with him, both of which raise a number of not only interesting but important questions.

 

Ullrich writes that he has "occasionally written about artists who see themselves as representatives of autonomous art, such as David Hockney, Jonathan Meese, Thomas Huber, Anton Henning.”

 

I have known Huber’s work for a very long time and, of course, am (all too) familiar with Hockney, too. Meese and Henning, I had to look up on the Google-Machine.  My God…. What is really going on here ? Ullrich regards THESE artists as representative of the truly independent artist, free from the market ? These people are terrible!  And Huber, in particular, has been successful since at least the early 1980s, so I don’t see that he struggles to find an opportunity to show his work.  (Eight one-person shows in 2017, including five in public institutions).  

 

There is an enormous gulf here between what these “writers-on-art” consider important and what some others (“artists-who-write”) consider important.  The same gulf seems to exist in an assessment of those who “struggle to find opportunities” and those who REALLY struggle to find even two people who might actually have any understanding of what they are up to, of their situation and so on.  How can such a gulf exist ?  How can Ullrich’s understanding of such things be so wrong ?

 

Reading Danto (and Thierry de Duve) it becomes clear that Greenberg was really outstanding, but only up to the late 1950s.  (He stopped writing in 1960, apparently).  He provided a theoretical basis for the New York School painters, but as they were eclipsed so too was he.  Now it’s clear that we lack a Greenberg….  (Even de Duve is a fan of Eric Cameron).  If it were even possible to theorise contemporary art - to find enough in it to start with from which any theory could be constructed - we don’t seem to have the person who could do that.  Those who might be able to seem to have gone off in the wrong direction.  And seem, like Malik, to be wedded to the market anyway, in exactly the wrong way.  (I think Greenberg was not, but I might be wrong about that).

Looks like Ullrich sees his job as commenting on what is there, rather than guiding what could come later on.  He is describing, rather than prescribing.  He cannot see beyond the present situation, but can describe it to some extent.  (Which is good).  Art schools would, from that limited point of view, continue to promote the same work as is seen in the art fairs and The Turn Prize Exhibitions, for no other possibility could be imagined.

 

But is this the critics’ fault ?  Greenberg was able to develop his point of view as New York School painting itself developed. Now the critic finds himself, or herself, surrounded by work which is not developing in quality at all, but merely growing in quantity day by day.  Is the theoretical aspect dependent upon the produced work ?  (The opposite of physics, where the theory produces the experiments that produce the results).  Is this in a sense a double bind, from which it is difficult to escape, both for the critics and the artists, each dependent upon the other, each, perhaps, looking to the other for some sort of progress ?  

 

Doesn’t this suggest, ultimately, that there would never be, could never be, any development from inside the art world ? That something that looked like progress could only come from outside it ?  That the state of stasis that the art world, and art, and artists, are in might actually be much worse than we ever imagined ?  That it really is all just stuck ?  Going around in circles endlessly ?

R. Rhys 

PRIVATE VS. PUBLIC  26.09.2017

A comment regarding the article by Wolfgang Ullrich on the 'star artist but no star critics' page. I imagine that the author is trapped in the thought that art must be shown in order to be at all ‘successful’ IN ANY SENSE AT ALL. The curator, or the gallerist - two types which he seems to set in opposition to each other and also set in exclusion of all other types who might have a similar role, such as the artist himself / herself - must first of all choose to show the work.  Without this first step - from outsiders - he cannot imagine art work having any value.  (Although, of course, for a long time Cézanne, for example, was the only one to see Cézanne’s paintings and they certainly had a function, and a value, for him.  Here Ullrichs shows his concern for the ‘public’ aspect of the work).  He then imagines that the work must also be for sale (it is on show so that it can also be for sale), and, to be successful, it must ultimately be sold, either really sold to an oligarch, or ‘virtually’ sold to a curator, albeit for only a month, or so.  The work must still be ‘sold’ in some way to someone.  Someone - some other authority - must choose it in some demonstrable way and thus stamp it with their authority.  The work must be authorised in order for it to function properly.  The notion that the work already had an ‘author,’ who ‘authorised it’ by choosing to make it, to think about it and so on, has been lost in this argument.  

 

In Ullrich’s set of authorisations lies a problem - the work can be authorised by one group if it’s by someone famous and will increase in value, or by the other group if it can be assessed in terms of its political correctness (for example).  If the work does not fall into these categories it cannot be assessed, because no one has the knowledge to assess it anymore.  It can be assessed financially, or politically, but not as art.  It can be assessed as a public thing, having a public function, but not as a private thing, having a private function.  Ullrich seems to view the activity of making art itself as public.  In that he is, of course, exactly what I think the art world itself is… abandoning the private and thinking only of the public.  

 

In that art goes out of the window, but so does the very notion of the artist who works for themselves, underground. That is, for these people, simply an impossibility."

 

 

 

The following is an amended google translation of Wolfgang Ullrich's essay

Wolfgang Ullrich, 17.07.2017

"Between Decor and Discourse- Regarding the near Future of Art Colleges"

the original in German can be accessed here:

https://www.perlentaucher.de/essay/wolfgang-ullrich-ueber-kuratoren-und-kunstmarktkunst.html

(highlights by au)

 

"A schism is taking place in art: art made for curators which satisfies the need for distinctiveness of the discourse elites and works for the market, satisfying oligarchs, are drifting apart to a degree that the [hitherto] shared term 'art' no longer applies. Surely this schism will not develop in a way that this cold war between them turns into a 'hot' war. To the contrary: the further they drift apart, the less they have to say to each other. In the end, the two sides hardly take note of each other.

"The next 'super art year’ [Superkunstjahr] is supposed to take place in 2027 when the Documenta will take place again, as well as the Venice Biennial, the sculpture projects in Münster, the Art Basel and countless other fairs, biennials, events. However, I doubt whether we will actually talk of a 'Super Art Year' [Superkunstjahr] in 2027 - in the same way we do this year, and did ten years ago, in 2007. (1997, twenty years ago, if I remember this correctly, the concept of the 'Superkunstjahr' had not yet been in use; it is quite a young term and not yet hackneyed.) The term 'Superkunstjahr' emerged when the visual arts began to appear more and more frequently on front pages and in the main news sections and stopped being merely the concern of insiders. Instead, the long-lasting boom in the art market, as well as the ever-growing curatorial mega-events, have ensured that the visual arts have received more attention than ever before, and thus became associated with attributes such as 'super'. According to art dealers, almost one billion euros were spent at the Art Basel this year, and the Documenta this year hopes, for the first time, to attract more than one million visitors. Whether it is an auction record for a painting or the most photogenic and shrill works of a biennial: visual art has become the subject of mass media; by now we have star artists, star gallerists and star curators, star collectors and mega exhibitions. Yet we do not have star critics. 

It is exactly these changes which make me doubt whether in ten years time another ‘Superkunstjahr’ will be announced. Even if, or especially because, prices at mega fairs increase and the curatorial messages on mega-events are going to be even louder and more politically charged than today, it is quite possible that it will no longer be possible to identify a Superkunstjahr, for the simple reason that the Documenta and Art Basel - curatorial and commercial events - will no longer be perceived as art events. In fact, it seems to me conceivable that a schism within the visual arts will occur because everything that could still be conceived as 'art’ will evolve and drift further and further apart. A schism where individual parts of the art world will split off, become institutionally independent and no longer relate to each other.

​Already in this current 'Superkunstjahr' the new works of Damien Hirst, artificially patinated bronzes simulating ancient treasures at the Fondation Pinault in Venice, are reminiscent of props in fantasy films rather than references to art history -evidence of habit and laziness rather than of meaning- and are supposed to be art as much as the workshops for refugees, which Olafur Eliasson organises as a biennial participant in the same city, where lamps are being made and lectures and discussions on current topics are held together with NGOs. Whoever looks at both from the outside and analyses the respective origins and backgrounds, would never come up with the idea of ​​assigning them to the same genre - and especially not art.

Increasingly statements are made which perhaps one day will be appreciated as prophecies of an art schism. This is what Massimiliano Gioni, who had himself been the artistic director of the Venice Biennale in 2013, said of the Hirst exhibition and the Athens edition of Documenta, which opened at the same time: "A prime example of the divergent conceptions of art which are increasingly drifting apart.” On the one hand, there will be celebrity culture, market, visual entertainment, and on the other an idea of ​​art as politics and [social] engagement, which is not free of an excess of moralism and contradictions.” 1

 

A prerequisite for a schism, however, is that influential conceptions of art do not only strongly distinguish themselves from each other, but also that that, which according to one faction is great art, exactly for this reason is not art at all according to the other faction. In the next step, we reach a point at which for one group something is art simply because the other faction does not accept it as art. It is then only a question of time until opposing factions either try to exclude each other from the art world, or until a new concept unites a new group, or even ceases to care whether their representatives are still associated with 'art’. ​According to Tim Sommer, the chief editor of the art magazine Art, a conflict situation is already apparent. Thus it represents an "absurd mechanism of the curator-age" that "commercial success is today [...] rather hindering" for artists who want to show at a biennale or documenta. 2 They are regarded as corrupted, for, as far as they have an affinity with the market and a ‘victor mentality’ [Siegermentalitaet] they are not deemed to have the ability to put themselves in the shoes of minorities or underprivileged milieus, to be able to make art that satisfies the socio-political demands of most curators.​

On the other hand, the days when the participation on a documenta paved the way to good art galleries and large art fairs and almost inevitably resulted in market success are now over. On the contrary, in some curated events, preference is given to artists who work with performance, participatory projects or temporary installations and who do not have any commodifiable works on offer and thus explicitly offer nothing to collectors and investors. Already in 2013, the art theorist and curator Robert Fleck spoke quite drastically of a "cold war" between the representatives of the art market art on the one hand, and the representatives of the world of the biennials as well as art associations on the other. 3 "

The fact that this war is not only cold, but also quiet and hardly visible, is due above all to the conservative character of institutions. Magazines such as ‘Art', in spite of their insight into the drifting apart and incompatibility of different artistic conceptions, continue to devote themselves to the general representation of everything that happens in the art world. Many museums and galleries also try to have multi-million dollar art celebrities in their programme, as much as non-commercial art activists - they feel responsible for everyone who, more or less successfully, acts in the name of art.​ Equally art academies no longer select applicants just because they represent a particular conception of art. In principle, one could also get a place at an academy if one declared that one wants to become rich and famous with art, just as if one were to apply on the grounds that one is against capitalism and strives to change society with the means of art. But how much longer will these institutions still be able to uphold and defend their claim to be able to represent all positions? What would be the point in art schools insisting that they still want to and can cover the entire spectrum of artistic concepts? In fact, they may even be the first institutions in which the schism of art manifests itself. Since they are in competition with each other, they are in any case under pressure to form a marked profile which must be as distinctive as possible. What would then be more self-evident than a specialisation in one or the other kind of art? 

But regardless of this, the first step towards a schism could also come from a private sector. It is perfectly conceivable that, for example, Damien Hirst or Takashi Murakami, both of whom have for a long time represented younger artists with their companies, can further professionalise their businesses by offering professional training themselves. They could join forces with celebrities from other luxury sectors - with the entrepreneur and collector Steven A. Cohen or the fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier - and found a global school label, with the purpose of teaching students in the interests and mentality of the super-rich in different cultures. Thus it would be much easier than hitherto possible to develop furniture, sculptures, carpets, dishes, pictures, jewellery, home accessories, yachts, watches and events specifically for this target group. The school could have branches in New York, Tokyo, Shanghai, London, Paris, Berlin and Dubai. Perhaps it would be organised as a franchise system which leaves the individual branches room for cultural-specific demands. In any case, it would involve a multi-year special training, the fees would amount to a six-digit sum, but scholarships could also be offered. A number of renowned lecturers would prepare the students for their later activities, such as Mike Meiré, Katharina Grosse, Marc Jacobs, Wade Guyton and Gigi Hadid. The lectures would deal with the history of commissioned art [Auftragskunst], ceremonial sciences, theories of luxury and the economies of extravagance, and would explore how the distinctive power of status symbols can be increased. Not only would such a school lead to a dramatic reduction in the number of applicants at state art academies, but would, in turn, encourage them to specialise as well. Professorships, which will thus become vacant, and which had hitherto been devoted to painting or sculpture, would be frequently redefined. They could now be called “Space and Body", ’Artivism’, ‘Temporary Installation’ or ‘Participatory Strategies’. These would be complemented by more and more seminars on the history of curated art, teaching of crowdfunding strategies and the writing of project proposals, forms of political aesthetics as well as the stylistic means of provocation and resistance. 

 

Soon it will no longer be possible to -and no one will want to- change from one type of university to the other. Above all, it will be obvious that, in order to achieve success in the world of exclusive-expensive lifestyles, very different talents are needed than those required to be invited to a biennial or documenta in order to be noticed with politically explosive work. In the former case, one has to present oneself as a smart and polyglot business person, able to withstand the pressures in globalised businesses, in the latter, it is necessary to absorb theoretical texts and curatorial concepts, to enjoy making 'site-specific’ work and to develop well-communicated projects. ​State colleges will also try to differentiate themselves as clearly as possible from one another - and increasingly so as competition among them continues to grow as a result of the falling number of applicants. Some will consistently train artists and curators together, others will declare the boundaries between free and applied art as permeable, and will open up classes in sculpture to designers (and vice versa), or subordinate their teaching program to a term such as 'staging', in which everything, from room installation to web design, is treated equally.

 

The various changes could be summarised by the fact that the ideal of an autonomy of art has been surrendered.​ One sees the promise of more relevance by linking art with other areas which will enrich art through the social functions of those fields. 

 

In fact, the intense and broad attention that has been given to art for the last roughly two decades, and which produced such terms as ‘super art year', is also above all due to a charge with meaning which comes from outside of art. 

 

This kind of art appears strong and provocative because it costs much more than almost anything else, especially because it represents above all other power and wealth and supports the 'victors' of society or because it negotiates current and controversial topics and thus even deliberately interferes with political discourse. Climate change, refugee crisis, poverty, food speculation, sustainability - all of this is suddenly the subject of art, too.​

For many, this marks an increase in the significance of art which has made such a close connection with the "real world" - money and politics. A sceptic, on the other hand, might ask whether this is not instead evidence of mistrust in art, or even a weakness, when external criteria such as their price or political relevance are the crucial factors, deciding whether and to what degree an artistic work attracts attention at all. 

And does this not mean in turn that artists who continue to work along art-specific criteria, who continue to strive for the most logical continuation or deconstruction of a form or problem in art history, who are focussed on the history of art, rather than the art market and politics, and on other artists rather than oligarchs and curators, receive less attention and appreciation for their work is lost?"

To the extent that the art colleges will continue to drift apart even further in the coming years, this development will also intensify the fact that art is directed by criteria which are alien to it. Whereas this may create great career opportunities for graduates who in the past might have struggled to achieve any success in art, this will mean that others, who in the past had been regarded as particularly talented, will now receive hardly any resonance.

Anyone who wants to make art above else - paint, make videos or do photography - and thus claims to be autonomous, must increasingly expect to be considered boring, old-fashioned, and innocuous. Where is the thrill, how will something be cool and relevant, if it is neither spectacularly expensive nor sociopolitically relevant? If the avant-garde believed that it was enough to find a new style to change the world, many others who acted in the name of art might have been convinced that its main objective was to purify, to stir, to enchant, to elevate people - none of this plays any great role anymore. At least it is not enough to have success. 

​One glance at this year's double Documenta suffices to see that there is hardly any art to be seen that embodies the spirit of autonomy and simply wants to be art. Many, such as Austrian art critic Sabine B. Vogel, even say that "there is a lot of commitment, archives, props of experiences, research material - but hardly any art in the art historical sense". 

 

Perhaps art in the tradition of autonomous art (which still exists), is not selected because it does not suit the curatorial concept and is generally perceived as deficient, or perhaps because artists who consider themselves as independent have no desire, or might even run counter to their pride and their understanding of the freedom of art, having to agree everything and to submit their own work to the "regime" of curators, as the art theorist Stefan Heidenreich put it in a text in which he reckons sharply with the new rulers holding power in the art world. 5

One can speculate on how art would have developed or which artists would have become known, if strong curators had already been around a hundred years ago. Would a Max Beckmann or a Piet Mondrian have allowed himself to adapt their works to a curatorial concept or even to act on behalf of a curator? In the same way, one can ask whether these artists - and many others - would not have had a problem, if their works back then had been traded for millions of dollars, to then largely disappear into private collections from which they only emergence occasionally as loans? Would they not have been right in worrying that their works were only being talked about because they were expensive or because they were part of a mega event, and not because they formulate an independent worldview or inspire insight and understanding which is only attainable through the means of art?

It is almost irrelevant whether it was easier back then to be autonomous as an artist, either because of the absence of strong external forces influencing the art scene, or whether these forces could not develop because the artist's ethos of autonomy still inviolably stood fast.

 

Today, however, it is becoming clearer from year to year and from event to event that an art understood as autonomous is under threat to get lost between two poles, which attract almost all attention and therefore also develop the dynamics to become increasingly independent and drift further apart.

For a long time, I myself belonged to those who suspiciously responded to invocations of autonomy and liked to criticise excesses of autonomous aspirations; I deplored many of them as artist's gluttony, and therefore wished art a little more grounding: orientation in other areas

 

In 2007, in the last Super Art Year, I wrote about the constraints of autonomy as a norm, and criticised that due to the dogma of autonomy education in art colleges was "one-sided”.Thus, for fear of overloading and instrumentalising art, at art colleges "nothing is conveyed that could help elsewhere. An academy is rather a vacuum - a space in which freedom has assumed life-threatening dimensions and where people are deliberately brought up to be idiosyncratists, to produce the fetish 'art' as purely as possible ". 6

Today I believe that even back then this was not true and I myself was too one-sided in my perception. We must thus not discuss in how far the autonomy of art which has become a status symbol damages art, but instead why autonomous art is no longer attractive. 

 

The fact that the assessment of art according to external criteria is hardly seen as a problem, that its de-autonomisation does not lead to complaints or even protests, shows how much the ideal of autonomy has exhausted itself. 

 

Instead of debating the merits and disadvantages of autonomous art, theorists and critics are divided at the most into different camps within the course of the cold war into market art and curatorial art. The fact that we re-encounter well-known distinctions between 'liberals' and ‘leftists’, between ‘rich’ and ‘poor’, ‘white’ and ‘black’ revives the familiar rhetoric of class struggle, yet everything that is independent of these poles is pushed to the sidelines of attention.
 

An example of this development is a dispute which was triggered by a painting by the American painter Dana Schutz in spring 2017 when it was exhibited at the Whitney Biennale in New York. A famous photo documenting the brutal murder of a black teenager driven by racial hatred in 1955 had served as a model. Schutz translated the black-and-white photo into her gestural, colourful painting, which at the same time represents a self-conscious concern with the stylistic repertoire of classical modernism - from Amadeo Modigliani to Francis Bacon. Whilst Schutz had been successful with this for a long time this time there were protests.

In an open letter, written by the artist Hannah Black and co-signed by many other artists, it is granted that Schulz may feel the White “shame" about the event, but was ultimately criticised for not correctly representing this, but on the contrary for perpetuating the violence of whites against blacks as the photograph used as the raw material for a painting is part of an art enterprise that is about "profit and fun". 7 


Here, therefore, it is not acknowledged that the artist is part of an art-historical tradition in which it is normal to transform images of real events into a language of form and thus to postulate artistic autonomy. Instead the argument is purely moral and political and the debate not only shortened to the subject matter of the picture but at the same time in the sense of the cold war, protests against art which is successful on the market: is the choice of the photographic model not quite insensitive or even cynical if money is made with it? So instead of discussing painting, the evaluation of the painting is dominated by those art external criteria like 'politics' and 'market'. Or, as the art critic Kolja Reichert observes, this is not about the "freedom" of art, but about its "responsibility". 8

 

Various reasons led to my decision in 2015, after 18 years of working at several art colleges, to quit my status as a civil servant in order to be able to work as a freelancer instead. One of these reasons was a growing sense of alienation. Although I never had the ambition to be able to identify with what went on at art colleges, I had felt for a number of years that I was equally not fundamentally opposed to it, and at the most doubted the meaning of individual practices and forms of work. In the end, however, I found it increasingly difficult to interest myself in anything at all that was discussed and fabricated there. In fact, much of it seemed too plain, too commodified, too sterile, or I found it to be hypersensitive and self-indulgent. Either way, I sensed a kind of professionalism that has little to do with artistic skill, but which rather reveals the fact that standards of other areas have entered the world of art. It is the professionalism of businessmen who do not want to leave anything up to chance or the professionalism of people who understand themselves as advocates or even as missionaries of a topic and who therefore do not want to leave any gaps.

I explicitly do not say all of this as a cultural pessimist, especially since (as I have indicated) I did not regard the time, when one indulged full of pathos in the autonomy of art, as a better time. However, I prefer to observe the development with a little more distance, and perhaps therefore also wonder about the speed the changes in the art industry have assumed in recent years. It seems hardly possible to follow and fathom all of what is going on. But perhaps it is also part of these changes that, at least for some areas which are still (and perhaps not for much longer) regarded as 'art', theory, critique and discourse in general no longer play a significant role. Not the least because of this a schism might be unavoidable. But how will such a schism take place? Certainly, no one will officially declare an exit from art. This happened only once: Joseph Beuys did in 1985, one year before his death. Even in his case, this was already the rejection of an autonomous and self-distinguishing art. But instead of charging these with external meanings, he wanted to draw attention to the many creative forces beyond the art world. He wanted to foster these forces and thus increase the self-confidence of the people, which seemed to him far more important than any kind of a continuation of the classical genres of art.

In the future, instead of explicitly turning their backs on art, many of them will simply quietly sneak away, or, more likely, neglect their contacts in the art world, refer less to art, and will certainly cease to confess to it. For them, it is much more exciting to transgress borders, to be represented as an artists at a fair for luxury goods, or to work together with a watchmaker, or to participate in an event which aims to enforce political demands or which is protected by the police. Everywhere outside of the traditional art world the promise of more efficacy, and even power, lures the artist.

 

Autonomous art in comparison merely appears as a euphemism for impotence which one can dispense with, without having to think about it oneself and without having to explicitly decide against it.

Surely, the schism is not going to develop in a way that the cold will turn into a 'hot' war. On the contrary, the further one drifts apart, the less one has to say to each other. In the end one hardly takes any notice of the other. War, however - whether cold or hot - presupposes that one aims and fights for, and wants to take control of, the same thing. Yet what would an artist working for the super-rich want to take away from an ex-colleague who collaborates with activists? And why should someone who, from the point of view of art, aims at ecology or immigration policy, see his/her fellow students as competitors if they design handbags or illustrate the life story of a successful start-up entrepreneur in his villa? So far they all, no matter which direction their work may take, study at the same art schools. But I'm not sure this will still be the case in 2027. Actually, no, I do not think it will. 

Wolfgang Ullrich 



The text is based on a speech held on July 14, 2017 at the Hamburg University of Fine Arts. More about Wolfgang Ullrich at ideenfreiheit.de .

1 . N Zit Michael Hübl: "Melancholy of leisure and of collaboration of cursory observations on the state of art between participation and high-minded.";. In: Kunstforum International 247 (2017), pp. 74-85, here p. 82.

2 Tim Sommer: "A life like a painting", in: db mobile 6/2017, pp 63-65, here p 65th

3 Robert Fleck: The art system in the 21st century. Museums, Artists, Collectors, Galleries , Vienna 2013, pp. 21f.

4 Sabine B. Vogel: "The End of Art?", In: The press of 9 July 2017 on http://diepresse.com/home/kultur/kunst/5248948/Das-Ende-der-Kunst.

5 Stefan Heidenreich: "Complete the curators!", In: The time 26/2017 from 22 June 2017, at http://www.zeit.de/2017/26/ausstellungen-kuratoren-kuenstler-macht/komplettansicht.

6 Wolfgang Ullrich: "How autonomous is autonomy", in: Ders .: Wanted: Art! Phantom picture of a joker , Berlin 2007, p. 47-70, here p. 61.

7http://blackcontemporaryart.tumblr.com/post/158661755087/submission-please-read-share-hannah-blacks.

8 Kolja Reichert: "Long live the art, only what? And why?" In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of May 9, 2017: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/kunst/plaedoyer-fuer- one-aesthetic-contentious-in-the-art 15004578.html

Culture is only true when implicitly critical,

and the mind which forgets this revenges itself in the critics it breeds." 

- T.W. Adorno

 

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