I find myself constantly amazed, too often in a negative way. Self-absorbed people lost in the reflective screen of their mobiles, busy texting or staring mute at the screen and all to often in the most inconvenient of places, like walking up the stairs of the subway like a zombie, the sidewalk, in the middle of the street ….
Posters that advertise shows like “Glee”, what the hell is that? I gave up my TV years ago, I have enough of my own reality to contend with, thank you very much.
The economy is in the tank after 30+ years of trickle down economics, the trickle it turns out to be is the errant drop of piss that lands on you after the rich are finished with the job and putting it back in their pants. The government is run by two corrupt parties that are opposite sides of the same coin, that coin happens to be in the pocket of the wealthy and your concerns about jobs, climate change, the environment, your mortgage or the future of your children means nothing.
Change you can believe in happens to be the few coins rattling in the paper cup you shake at passerby’s on Fifth Avenue carrying their shopping bags, shades of Barbara Kruger’s “I shop therefore I am.”
We live in an increasing national security state which the Stasi would admire because here in America people not only don’t care that the state data mines phone calls, emails, etc but they put their status on Facebook with glee, maybe that is what glee is?
The internet supposedly helped spawn the Arab Spring but here in the U.S. our over abundance of technology keeps us in a state of constant arousal, hyped and overfed with images, marketing and obedience. Is there an app for that?
What happened to any real dissent about the issues that face us? Even those have been co-opted, you can wear your dissent carrying your WNYC bag while you shop at Whole Foods buying local produce or fair trade goods because it is only through the expense of capital that your voice will be heard, NOT.
So where does this leave art? In too many cases narcissism reigns supreme. It’s about me, me posing in a girlscout uniform while two buildings burn in the background or in the remaking or more branding of an older performance artist redoing her work.
That’s the industry though, the monster that absorbs everything indiscriminately. It is somehow appropriate that the blob oozed through the projection booth of the movie theatre and swallowed those less attentive. Me, I prefer to imagine myself a little latter as Steve McQueen trying to outrun the Nazi’s on my motorcycle.
I remember when I first moved to New York in the late 80’s catching James Rosenquist in an interview describing art as “an abstract mental garden for people to live, think, work and exist in.” Yeah, that is what art does for me and I say art with a small a.
I had a studio visit with an artist about ten years older than I a few years after that when I was struggling with a series of new works that questioned my taste and ideas of beauty. He casually said “it looks like Art with a capital A” and then gave me a knowing glance. That glance withered me but in a good way. Art with a capital A is the academy, is the approval given to one by the culture like the kitchen ratings now becoming ubiquitous on restaurants in New York City. Over thought, over worked, over consumed and about as nutritional as a McDonald’s hamburger, McCulture. The late stages of consumerist capitalism where all that matters is market, market, market.
But that is only one side of the culture. See I have this garden in my studio, I don’t intend to keep it a secret. In it I work out all kinds of ideas, mostly my concern is about the nature of images.
I’ve been reading Joseph Leo Koerner’s “The Reformation of the Image” a book dealing with images within the nascent Lutheran Church. Highly recommended. These lines popped up- pg 148 “How exactly are words less deceptive and more communicative than images? Pg 150 “Do words teach more effectively than images simply because their content can be rephrased in other words?” They are rhetorically asked in line of the argument Koerner is making but they struck me and I took note of them.
Because when I read the second line I realized for myself at least that is one of the ways I approach my ideas about images. Take Manet’s “Le déjeuner sur l'herbe” isn’t this a rephrasing of Titian? Or Picasso’s late copies of Velázquez’s “las maninas”?
It is out of some personal torment of love that drives me, my personal need to deal with as Paul Valery stated-
“A pleasure which sometimes goes so deep as to make us suppose we have a direct understanding of the object that causes it; a pleasure which arouses the intelligence, defies it, and makes it love its defeat; still more, a pleasure that can stimulate the strange need to produce or reproduce the thing, event, object, or state to which it seems attached, and which thus becomes a source of activity without any definite end, capable of imposing a discipline, a zeal, a torment on a whole lifetime, and of filling it, sometimes to overflowing -- such a pleasure presents a singularly specious enigma, which could scarcely escape the attention or the clutches of the metaphysical hydra.”
So enough death art for me, no need for clownish sailors on the high seas or celebrity portraits that only reaffirm the worst of our narcissistic tendencies. I’ll look elsewhere thank you, reality outside of McCulture has more to offer.