Saturday, March 29, 2014

Art As War

Dr Strangelove (1964)
From time to time, as tensions rise in one part of the world of another, someone will bring up the idea replacing war with art. I had a friend who took that idea and ran with it. He wanted to top ICBMs with "art-heads." So for instance, his suggestion was that when diplomacy broke down, and it was time for action, that a group of artists would be at the ready to sculpt, paint, code, cook, whatever - a response, calculated to shaping events. Their art, rather than atomic payloads, would then be loaded onto missiles that would be fired into the enemy combatants. Culture "artwar," fought by means of conceptual bunker busters, new aesthetic daisy cutters, and social practice fat man and little boys. My friend's idea was absurd but attractive. An actualization of artistic avant-gardist pretension. Artists as actual shock troops. It occurred to me today, remembering my friends idea, thinking of Crimea, Syria, Afghanistan, et al, that we are already fighting wars by means of art; that intercontinental missiles, loaded with cultural content are flying over head. Movies are the nukes - weapons of mass-illumination. Music is another artistic weapon of mass-reproduction. Contemporary visual art, is a wholly conventional form of artfare - targeted mostly at elites.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Art, Then Disruptive Technology.

A year or so ago, right around the time of the Armory art fair, I began to think of the international art fairs in a new way,  rather than market strategies or some such, I began to imagine them as a "disruptive technology." We tend to think of technology as discrete gadgets. Smartphones are technologies. Driverless automobiles are technologies. The internet is a technology. Art fairs are too; they are a cultural technology, and they are upending the artworld. But BE WARNED: This is most definitely NOT another screed about how money is destroying art. If art has a single attribute that separates it from all other commodities, it is that it is the "ultimate commodity." Art has no upward price limit; that men (it's always men) will spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a piece of cloth dabbed with paint, by some guy who lived in a coal miner's hut is amazing - but it is not the subject of this post. The wackiness of the secondary market has been with us long enough that I it no longer fits under the definition of technology as "everything that doesn't work yet." Art Fairs don't work yet.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Critical Analytics: Show Us The Territory, And We Will Find Our Own Way.

Ed Winkleman (looking for leadership?); William Powhida, Turning in Circles (2014) detail
"Truth emerges more readily from error than from confusion." - Francis Bacon
I avoid the academic practice of starting essays with a quote from a great thinker because more often than not the quote is obscure and it does less to illuminate the topic of the essay it hangs above, and more to reflect glory from the great thinker,on to the less-great author of the essay. But that Francis Bacon quote goes a long way to sum up my reaction to a post the gallerist Ed Winkleman wrote on his blog called, "Looking for Leaders..." Ed argues that the flood of speculative cash has thrown the artworld is in a "death spiral" and its up to artists to lead us out of the trap. I Liked Ed's post a lot, even though I found myself strongly disagreeing with its key points. First, that the source of the artworld's problems are auctions, and second, that artists can lead the way to fixing those problems. "Someone will chime in to suggest all we need is enough idealistic dealers who dig in their heels" Ed predicted, "show quality work without compromising, and they'll begin to change how things are heading." But so far, all the responses I've seen have been along the lines that everyone needs to do their part. I don't agree with that either. Right now we are at least twice removed from truth; probably the most we should hope for is to move to an environment of error from the state of confusion we inhabit. Ed's post is a move in that direction. But I don't think leadership is what we lack at all, artists need good data.