COMMENTS BY READERS
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In our current global-capitalism money rules and subsequently rules the art. Artists themselves are somewhat to blame, as within the market place they are all individually in direct competition with each other - too many artists and too few crumbs on the table. Being an autonomous artist who is white, male, pale and stale, with no particular political, ecological, identity or gender issues to promote, all I can do is believe in my path and what I do. Unfortunately believe cannot be proven, other than its financial value in the market. With artists, galleries, dealers, museums, institutions and state-art gatekeepers, it is all very circular. One elite being replaced by another, and will continue as long as the capitalist social construct exists.
I wonder whether you are aware of the work of Saul Bellow? One of the great Canadians and a great writer. In ‘Herzog,’ which is maybe his masterpiece, he describes how, in 1950s America, some politicians wanted to appear the same as their constituents, wanted to embrace the voters in a kind of amorphous mass, where everyone was the same and everyone was together. Bellow described this state as ‘potato love.’
Contemporary art is no different to what Bellow described in the 1960s as already happening in America in the 1950s. Soft mashy-mushy pulped potato squished all-embracing extended no-problems-at-all lurve.
Bellow won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1976. In the 70-minute address he gave to an audience in Stockholm, Sweden, Bellow called on writers to be "beacons for civilization and awaken it from intellectual torpor.”
Well…. That worked, eh ?
The audience today is the market. There is no audience which is not a part of the market. There is no ‘disinterested’ audience. Any audience is automatically financially engaged with the work.
The market is the audience. There is no market which is not the audience. There is no market which is beyond the audience. The market is the ‘totality’ of the audience. (The market is every possible aspect of the audience). There is no audience which is beyond the market.
The artist is the audience. The artist is simply an ‘expression’ of the audience, of every possible aspect of the audience. The artist is, therefore, simply an ‘expression’ of the market.
The audience is the artist. The audience ‘creates’ the work as the audience is the market. The market ‘creates’ everything. Nothing is created which is not created by the market.
The artist is the market.
Some thoughts regarding the diagram on the 'At the Core of the Crisis' page.
“Reference to art of the past which is regarded as non-traditional: so here mainly reference to / copying of strategies used in the recent past such as provocation, super-sizing, serial production, ready-mades etc. which help to create a spectacle. Here no interest is shown in the history of art before the 20th century (as earlier art is less effective as art industry strategies.)”
It occurs to me that one crucial characteristic of this ‘earlier art’ is precisely that it does not appear to ‘include,’ within itself, any art market strategy at all. It is not simply that this work is not produced according to a strategy (although we would have to admit that a landscape, or still life, was and is still produced according to certain constraints, rules, traditions, et cetera), BUT that it does not INCLUDE any strategy within it.
By contrast, contemporary art has, built into it from the very beginning, a strategy of some sort. The strategy is not merely ‘behind’ the work, producing it, but it is a part of what the work is, an element of its structure as well as a part of its meaning. The strategy itself is visible as an element in the work. The contemporary work participates in the contemporary art world not simply by its having been made according to a (recognisable) strategy, and thus immediately and easily fits in with the strategy-oriented marketplace, but it carries this strategy within itself as a part of how it produces a meaning. It promotes the chosen strategy itself. It has been ‘signed in’ to the art world through its agreement to abide by the art world’s rules, and it does so by announcing those rules, or some of them, as a part of what the art work itself is.
Perhaps, in earlier art, it was simply not possible to assert an agreement of this type. The painting of a landscape would seem so normal that it would not manage to signify an agreement with any traditions. These traditions would themselves have appeared to be invisible. Anything of that kind would be overlooked.
The contemporary art work appears to advertise and promote a strategy which is a part of what it actually is. Like advertising, in a way. The art work is an advertisement for the mechanisms which have produced it and the mode by which it will be consumed. (An analogy could be made with Jeff Koons’ work with Louis Vuitton, for example - the strategies might as well have their own logos). A strategy, in this sense, works in the same way as a sponsor, but as a sponsor whose name appears in the art work, like the name of a company on a footballer’s shirt.
So production folds into reception, with the one generating and engineering the other, seamlessly, endlessly. But still there must be some form of separation between these two. One is, after all, an activity and the other is a reception mechanism for that activity. (One comes from one place and the other is 'universal', one from one person, and the other from multitudes. At least in theory…). The folding in makes it very difficult to understand who is to blame in it all, who is guilty, who complicit, but there are still these two things which fold into each other. So neat is the folding that it can appear to be one thing.
In a sense this is also a ‘vertical’ difference, an illusion of a schism, but more like a mirroring, a reflection, or, perhaps more accurately a deeply dependent relationship, like an addict and a dealer, but one in which sometimes the dealer is the addict and vice versa.
A symbiotic relationship between two terms, in which it is impossible to say which has priority, which came first, which drives the other and so on, but where there always must be these two terms. The impression of a dichotomy must be upheld in order to distract from and hide the total agreement.
This must necessitate a ‘guarding’ of this vertical line, not only between the two modes of art production, which you outline in the diagram, but also between the activity of art production on the one hand, and the reception mechanism, on the other. Both, or rather: all seemingly opposing parties have a vested interest in maintaining this division between the two terms, at all costs, yet the opposition itself is today clearly a fabrication, a lie, a division created where none actually exists.
Any suggestion that there is not a clear distinction to be made between these two sides is a danger to both camps. The illusion of independence, for both parties, must be maintained.
The artist must perpetuate the notion that the work is created ‘by them,’ autonomously, and the art world must perpetuate the notion that it is neutral, scholarly even, a mere mechanism designed to find the best artists and promote them in the best possible way so that their work reaches the widest possible audience. The more successful an artist becomes, of course, the more difficult it will be to see what the role of the market will be in their work, for the emphasis will be on the artist. And yet, in this extreme case, the market appears to dominate as never before. We should find this very strange, but we don’t seem to. For all the apparent power and independence Jeff Koons, or Damian Hirst must have, their work actually is dictated by the market.
Meanwhile … at any time the art world can resurrect some artist and promote them, in order to re-establish the appearance of the art world. (I see this in the recent case of Phyllida Barlow and the older woman who just won the Turner Prize. Suddenly the art world looks like it is interested in 70 year old women ! ). In the case of such a reinvention the nature of the vertical division is made to appear to be different, although, of course, it stays the same. I imagine that there are many tricks of this nature in play in the art world all the time.
When the art world comes across the Underground Artist then this vertical division is shown not to exist, or cannot be installed by the art world. The mirror-relationship cannot be established. Dependency - that of addict and dealer - does not hold. The art world backs away, for it cannot function as it would like. Its pretences cannot be established and maintained…. Rather than a false schism being installed a real schism is shown to exist. No good !
The fabricated schism must be a functioning lie. It is, probably, just one aspect of Guy Debord’s ‘spectacle.’ "
I am glad to see that you are highlighting how the market "contaminates" the art world and any art work that appears in it. I have observed this myself for some time and am very worried. There just seems no way out; as soon as a work is sold and enters into this exchange, its own power to some degree (maybe not completely) evaporates.
The culture industry is all-embracing. It reaches everywhere…into anything that can be produced. I want to ask if it reaches into what can be imagined as well. What if the work, made 'underground' as you call it, is also infected ?
One interesting aspect to this are the questions of ‘when’ and ‘why.’ How much time does the culture industry require and at what moment, on what occasion (occasioned by what instance, of what type), does it choose to take up some work ? Apart from the obvious answers, such as plucking a likely candidate for success straight out of art school, for what reason and according to what sense of timing does the culture industry choose, perhaps quite suddenly, to pick one artist and promote them ? That is to recognise that that particular artist’s work can be accommodated, embraced, absorbed and profited from? What are the triggers? And how is the timing considered? The same with older artists who have been pretty dormant for some time and are then suddenly ‘taken up’ at a certain point, but more importantly of genuine underground artists). There are ‘events’ in this process… machinations. As the culture industry ‘resets’ itself so that it might accommodate the next set of works…?
And what if the artist who is chosen already has these signs in their work that it can be absorbed ? So the contemporary work is not only made according to those strategies, but manifests these same strategies within it, promotes them and so on. That such work, easily accommodated, is actually advertising itself, from the beginning, as being work that can be easily accommodated ? That it not only lacks any ‘resistance', but that it is actively advertising its availability as a willing participant in the culture industry ? That these very strategies are, in fact, carried as badges saying ‘choose me, for I will not cause you any problems’ ? I wonder if it would be possible to try to list these ‘steps’ in the process achieved by the culture industry. ?
INSTITUTE FOR NEW ARTISTIC THINKING
"A few days ago, when visiting the blog 'Ideenfreiheit', I discovered the link to the page of your project artistunderground. Some of the contributions on this page, but above all the idea of your initiative surprised me very positively.
Many of us artists complain about our situation and the current development of art, but very few are willing to address it, let alone do anything about it. This experience I already made in the late nineties, when I was in Milan to implement the project / talk Una discussione - Rozmowa https://ifnat.net/2015/01/25/una-discussione-ein-gesprach-rasgovor-rozmowa-a-conversation/. I am very happy to see that other artists also recognise the seriousness of our situation. And instead of remaining passive, take initiative and clearly position themselves against this development with their projects.
I would like to publish your text 'The contemporary art crisis' as a contribution to the IFNAT project https://ifnat.net/category/diskussion/ and in this way popularise the artistunderground project. The IFNAT project (Institute for New Artistic Thinking) is an exchange forum on the current state of the art that was initiated to support the development of new thinking and independent discourse. This project is not just about criticising the art scene, but about the independence of the art discourse. It is important that as artists we lead the discourse ourselves. More information on this project can be found in the short introductory text Retaining Artistic Freedom: https://ifnat.net/2015/01/10/das-institut-fur-neues-kunstlerisches-denken/#more-67 "
THE AI WEI WEI BUSINESS IS DISGUSTING
Just saw the article you highlighted on the 'rare voices of dissent' page about AI Wei Wei's latest show in NY. The Ai Wei Wei business is disgusting. What, exactly, could it possibly mean that one ‘dedicates’ an exhibition to refugees ? What does that act entail ? Merely saying, in fact, that “this exhibition is dedicated to refugees.” What does that add up to ? A mere gesture, one that cannot possibly be criticised, and therefore one that lies outside the sphere of art altogether, for all art should always be criticisable in every respect. It is a gesture that says “this work has been made for these people” ? That is hardly possible, of course…. A millionaire artist, showing in New York, is not making work for refugees trapped in a containment camp in Turkey. Even the notion of making a ‘dedication’ here is highly suspect.
The exhibition is entitled “Ai Wei ei: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.” What does that actually mean in the context of the refugee crisis ? That if the refugees had had good fences (or borders, of course) they would not have become refugees in the first place ? That, having become refugees, they are welcome in certain countries - but not others - because those countries have good fences, or borders ? That Ai Wei Wei is a good neighbour because he builds cage-like structures and security-screens in New York ? None of which are actually ‘fences’ at all and none of which mark out the boundary of any particular pice of land in any way. The whole thing is simply confused. Actually it would seem that good neighbours - very good neighbours - would have no fences at all. They wouldn’t need them. The phrase makes no sense, particularly in America, where, in the suburbs especially, the gardens of houses very often have no fences around them at all. But the neighbours, being good neighbours, respect each other’s land. The correct phrase ought to be “no fences prove that the neighbours are good to each other.” Although, of course, they might not be at all good to foreigners… to Muslims, or people with dark skin. Even the title of the exhibition is highly suspect.
And the work…. To copy a little-known Duchamp work and place it in Washington Square, where Duchamp played chess and insert it into a cage under an arch…. WHAT has that to do with anything, save for Ai Wei Wei’s admiration for Duchamp? Even the work in the exhibition is highly suspect. It is also interesting that Ai Wei Wei is still playing on his ‘outsider’ status. Not so much like an international businessman complaining about jet-lag, but more like the Queen of England complaining that she cannot go out anywhere because she has nothing to wear…. Even Ai Wei Wei’s positioning of himself is highly suspect.
'AUTONOMOUS' ARTISTS AND ART CRITICS
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. (see 'the schism and vacuum in art' page)
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 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 ?
PRIVATE VS. PUBLIC 26.09.2017
A comment regarding the article by Wolfgang Ullrich on the 'the schism and vacuum in art' 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. It is, for these people, simply an impossibility.
THE PROBLEM WITH ART CRITICS
On your 'recommended reading' page you mention Suhail Malik's book 'On The Necessity Of An Exit From Contemporary Art'. Whilst the title sounds promising I would like to point out that Malik in the past has written about (and for) some of the worst artists that have ever breathed air and moved about at the same time. Jake and Dinos Chapman, for example. I find that these people -art critics, art historians and so on- whose role it should be to bring clarity into the art world crisis described on this website, that they end up championing the wrong artists. I suppose that that is an indication of something very fundamental going on… somewhere. Perhaps it’s not enough to say that it is simply a question of the great divorce between these people and the actual business of making art, certainly a truth complicated by the fact that they can often deal very well with the art of the past, but not the art of the present. Some sort of gulf opens up between these very intelligent people and contemporary art. (Sometimes I have wondered if it is simply a question of them having to write about, for example, the Chapman brothers, because they can’t find anything better to discuss). What is the nature of this gulf ? It is sort of at the heart of the whole debate, for in that space between lies the choices of the curators, the collectors and the writers on art. Is it actually a question of belief ? Is it only belief that sews the whole thing together, like in the auction houses, where ‘confidence’ is king ? Is it as simple, in the end, as that ?
Quote: “Gillick captures well a common sense of contemporary art as irreducibly complex, non-particular and indeterminate, whose cogency as an aestheticopolitical undertaking is given by Ranciére’s logic of art, which can then be understood to give an exact, precise and lucid account of contemporary art in its criterialess heterogeneity.” (Malik, who is clearly, from the videos, a friend of Gillick’s). Gillick ? Liam Gillick ? Surely you are joking, Mr. Malik ? Unfortunately not. Here is, for example, Gillick’s watch collection (not far removed from Louis Vuitton, in fact):
Malik himself appears to be too closely tied to the very structures he endeavours to analyse. I am still looking forward to reading his book, but I am not too hopeful as to whether it will actually offer a truly radical departure - despite its title.
HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT 11.09.2017
I am very much in agreement with much of what is said on this website and am relieved to see that at long last a discussion about the situation in contemporary art is BEGINNING to take place. I would like to make a point regarding the fact that the crisis you describe is 'hidden as if in plain sight.'
According to Kant one judges by comparison. But in contemporary art today we are in a situation in which everything is produced to the same standard, in which a single notion of what art can be - and how it can work - dominates.
Where is there any other standard to be found which would show that this contemporary work is in fact unambitious, that this same standard is flawed ?
(The situation is analogous to a totalitarian state in which no opposition, no alternative, is allowed, or is evident).
I would answer, immediately, that this standard is to be discovered in the past (or perhaps, hopefully, in the work by those artists who work, as you describe, 'underground)', but the contemporary artist does not think of the past in that way. The contemporary artist seems to only consider that the past is a region to be plundered, wantonly, and that it cannot exist for any other purpose. The work of the past has no real function, has nothing really to offer, but is instead merely a resource. (Considering, for example, Douglas Gordon’s recent ‘Black Burns’ in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, I would imagine that the contemporary artist, like Gordon, considers the techniques of the past - stone carving in this case - to be mere resources, too, with no special quality or significance at all - just another ‘thing’ to be exploited).
This situation is SO obvious, yet hidden to most - BECAUSE of a complete absence of standards. They have no standard by which to judge the art activity other than the single standard which now applies in that domain. And whatever that standard might be - quite possibly one that allows for the art work to be described as “interesting” and nothing more - has clearly been generated by this domain and generated by it relatively recently.
(Since 1964, according to A. Danto, author of "The End of Art", but perhaps 1974 would be a fairer estimate). (I recently discovered to my horror that in 1963 Donald Judd had written that “A work needs only to be interesting.’ Judd, ‘Specific Objects,’ 1965, page 77.)
So the standard according to which the work is made - and judged - is generated by those who are making the work (as in the past), but now, mysteriously, this standard is set at a level which is not challenging but instead ‘convenient’ for those who are now at work. It is this convenience that is so mysterious for me. Why would anyone want to do something that is easy to do ? Why would anyone want to prepare and eat only cheese sandwiches ?
This idea that the poor standard is “hidden in plain sight,” unseen by the masses, has something to do with an ability to see any other standard. This means that these other standards are “hidden” too, even if they are also freely available. The past is hidden. It can’t be the past’s fault, can it ? Or the fault of the national galleries around the world….
The book publishers and postcard producers…. It’s not exactly censorship, but it works as if it were censorship. It is people choosing to curtail something, to limit their horizons, make the world easier, in fact, all in the interests of making something which is easy to make, to sell so that a position can be acquired in this domain as a result.
A cynic might wonder, perhaps legitimately, whether there is any difference in an artist - or any other worker in the cultural field, such as a film director, or poet - choosing the refugee crisis and another choosing the life style of some Hollywood actor. Each is a simple choice to ‘use’ something in the world in order to make something which will have an 'impact'. To be ‘interesting.’ (There’s not much difference between a Warhol of a Campbell’s soup can and a Marilyn Monroe, after all, is there ?) But, in the end, is there really a difference between the subject matter of the refugees and the subject matter of celebrity culture ? Especially when each is handled in the same sort of way by the cultural workers ? Isn’t it all, in fact, seamless ? That there is a continuity between some magazine article about what actresses wore to some event and some artist making refugees build stupid lamps ?
It is in the acceptance of it all that we should look. The unquestioning acceptance of all of this. In a world in which acceptance rules those who question accepted codes are bound to be outsiders, are bound to find themselves without a position on the diagram.
ART AND ORIGIN 23.08.2017
It seems to me that in order to define new standards in art we must remind ourselves of its origin, its very source and first emergence - in us individually and on a collective level in the distant past. Questions like "What is art ? Who is it for ? What is its purpose?" from this point of view lead to answers which are necessarily incompatible with most of what is currently produced in the contemporary art world.
What we call 'art' is something that spontaneously comes from inside, from a wordless place that can only be sensed, described and explored in a completely wordless manner. In this sense - regarding its very source and most inner origin- art is completely disconnected from the external world. This even applies when a person depicts the external world, is carving the image of an animal on bone, or paints the image of a king, or an apple or a black square or depicts some machine on glass.
What is absolutely crucial in all of this is that these activities are driven from within and in turn feed and nourish something within - again in a nameless, wordless manner. Art is something that one can sense even as a child, as a realm that is completely different from everything else. Those who sense that they are inclined in this way from an early age (and at that point even without knowing of any examples to follow) know that that this is not really something that can be called choice. 'Art' arrives within as the central point in ones life, around which everything else revolves and crucially -and cruelly- against which everything else is measured. There are works of art without which I cannot imagine my own existence. Even having visited them only a few and precious times, they continue to nourish me - they become 'inner' works, something that I can hold up to myself in silence inside - a space that I can enter. This kind of art shakes us to our core - deeply - and we may never be able to explain exactly why and how this happens. These experiences are not fleeting, but stay with us for the rest of our days. They inspire a search for more of this kind of thing and experience, and some of us search for these in their own within. For reasons that we cannot explain, some people find something completely unique, that can only come through this one individual. The hard work it takes to hold on to this inner vision and to crystallise it in the external world can at times be elating and bliss, but for long or probably even most parts it is nothing but humbling and hardship.
The measure, the standard for ones own art activity comes from the high standards of art works by others and from the horizon, the potential that one senses within. Any external appraisal and criticism is therefore only superficial and thus irrelevant, and ill equipped when trying to add to the problems and questions explored.
It seems to me that the question regarding the nature, role, meaning and purpose of art should be approached in this kind of way - which currently never reaches the public discourse, as it is entirely externalised, as are the art works which now dominate the headlines.
"IT WAS NOT MADE FOR THOSE WHO SELL OIL OR SARDINES."
- G. W. Leibniz, ca. 1674, on his calculating machine.
"I am glad to have come across artistunderground! I would like to add a small observation to its content.
A while ago I started to ‘read' Kant. (Somewhere I read that one does not read Kant, but translates his work instead.) Each individual sentence is breakfast, lunch and dinner and snacks in-between for at least one week. Such dense material! Only the tiniest handful of people each generation since Kant conceived of his philosophy have actually read his works. Kant's audience is - in comparison to the whole of society - negligible. Yet the impact! The history of philosophy is the story of that which is not taken note of and ignored by 'the masses'. Yet it beats away at the core of society like its heart, ensuring that a deep, meaningful and subtle quest for an understanding of our existence does not stop. The institutions which are responsible for its beat -universities, colleges, philosophical societies- which create and hold a space for thoughts of a philosophical nature still to this day appear to be successful at what they are doing.
Yet for some reason the institutions that are responsible for doing the same in art are dramatically failing. Cultural cardiac arrest! Apparently pleasing 'the masses' - which appears to be of paramount importance today- but at the cost of those thoughts and works of a subtle, complex and intelligent nature which move culture forward on a fundamental level. I think it is the obsession in our politically correct and democratic societies with the eradication of what is now conveniently labelled 'elitism' that is leading to a dramatic if not fatal erosion of substance, quality and dignity in art.
I also believe that in order to speak to the 'masses', i.e. the whole of society this would best be achieved not by artistic activity commenting on the daily news or by serving purely consumerist and capitalist driven contents and agents, but instead by artists redefining for themselves what is absolutely fundamental and universal to art and the nature of reality in the 21st century. Only by going back to the search for what is fundamental can we achieve work that might eventually truly speak to everyone."
"I like the idea of “subtracting” the strategies of the art world and seeing what’s left. The residue. I feel that this is almost what I am trying to do in my own work. Take away / leave out all the assumptions about art and see what is left at the end - after painstakingly trying to answer, or even just to carefully observe, the questions and problems that present themselves within the work. This has got nothing to do with a mere formalism or hiding in purely aesthetic considerations which are often associated with the term 'autonomous art' and therefore discredited as being ineffective or irrelevant.
My work is driven by questions that I believe to be most relevant in our time - which are not dealt with at all in contemporary art. So the residue ... what is left in my work 'does not look like art', nor like anything I have seen before, which is very exciting. And it IS beginning to look pretty solid. I work in private and my work has no audience. I agree, the art world is a negative force, and the natural process of the work's emergence must be protected from it at any cost.
With regard to painting I think that it has (secretly) been stuck in repetition for a very long time now. (I would go back to Frank Stella’s 1959 paintings as the last really important paintings, although I would also note that Reinhardt began his series of black paintings in the same year). That’s a long time without any real innovation. In fact almost everything that has happened since then has been done by ignoring Stella’s achievement (and Reinhardt’s). Damian Hirst’s spot paintings can only be seen as a sort of joke about those sort of works from the 1920s to the 1950s. Not even a footnote ! But a little joke. It begins to look like a sad history, in fact. One only of pretending. The strategies of painters are perhaps all negative. Perhaps they are to do with not doing things, not taking account of things, ignoring things and so on. While more generally in the art world the strategies are about doing things, such as paying some attention to politics, even when the results are pretty stupid. Maybe this explains why painting can still appear to have some bravery attached to it, even if that bravery is based upon weak foundations ? The painters carry on painting in the face of all sorts of problems, either because they don’t know of them, or because they don’t care, or because they are actually brave ? Anyway, it all begins to look suspicious."
"I think that Karl Marx meant that religion was an opiate precisely in the sense that, for the majority, it was vacuous, for they were not really devotees, but instead people who just wanted to get through their day. Art for devotees, of course, is a very different matter. The question might now be “just how many true devotees are there these days ?“ None of my colleagues at the art college I used to teach at were interested in art by my standards. Nor did they even know much about it. And they clearly didn’t think about it, either. I don’t mind devotees. In fact I would welcome fanatics. But just where are they ?"
"The Documenta this year is a disgrace! This image of the *****n* giraffe ... Sweet Jesus ! It is as if someone had asked a nine-year-old what they think could go in a museum of contemporary art... It’s actually less interesting than the Dali painting of a burning giraffe. (And I don’t just mean here “less interesting in terms of giraffe-based art” - a sub-category which surely deserves its own collectors and its own museum.). ******g Hell. Why can’t people see that this is just stupid ?"