Media Seduction

The Dec/Jan issue of Interview is chock full of Art World hero making. If you want to have a peek at how reputations are made and maintained this is a good place to begin. The lengthy first  section begins with a statement about art and life as it is playing out in the middle of the current sweaty economic downturn.

“The art market is a likely hiding place for that fugitive $4 Trillion [the amount of money pulled out of hedge funds – supposedly]-and the money will be happier for it…[Art]’s something you can believe in. Something that gets you off. Something you can watch or play. And it’s something that not only speaks to who you are, but that transforms you into who you want to be.”

Wow. That is a sales pitch! It’s goes on to make the case for an over-achieving art market filled with collectible artists that will appreciate in value over the coming years. This is followed by gushy, chatty interviews with current art stars, and a get-to-know-ya section of the up and coming – all featuring splashy fashion photog pictures of the intense looking characters (the clothes they are wearing for the shoots are credited – Gap, Mark Jacobs, Diesel Jeans, Hugo Boss.) They are depicted as rebels within the system dressed in the forward looking fashions approved by the industry implying both social edginess and market conformity – Auteurs. The set is wrapped up with sugary articles about the gallerists and collectors who affirm the worth of the art and artists that the magazine has chosen to present. This is the publicity strategy for the art world first honed in the 1960s. 

A great example of polishing the brass in a swift soft sell is presented in the following passage describing the artist Kelley Walker.

“Perhaps no artist deals so strategically and systematically with pop culture…[Walker] is something of a post-pop wizard, using a copy, cut, and re-print technique that involves an Epson ink jet printer and screen-printing. The result is a series of pop images-somehow violent, hilarious, spontaneous, and overdetermined all at once. Most famously, Walker has screen-printed paintings based on photos similar to those used by Andy Warhol in his Race Riot works, smearing the images with chocolate.”

The author lays out the artist’s pedigree – Warhol, appropriation, Postmodernist conventions and the academic use of non-art materials all pointing to collect-ability. In the press release for the current show these conventions are delineated like a checklist:

Highly conceptual and visually provocative, Kelley Walker’s work tackles some of today’s most complex debates around issues of circulation and reproduction, authenticity and authorship, and the banality and conventions of the image. Showing a particular interest in the changes brought about by the use of computers, Walker has been investigating the ways in which images can be sampled, altered, disseminated and then re-appropriated.”

Another really telling moment in the interview is when he reveals a need to communicate, almost the way in which an advertising focus group would work. “Sometimes I’ll present a work to the public and listen to the responses- then pull it back, shape it, and put it back out.” The audience is an integral part of the art-making process for this artist, just as it is for Jeff Koons (see previous post on the Middle Brow.) Contextual communication is the conceptual appropriator’s forte – the work lives or dies through that communication. The work must appeal, must be understood, must create the context for its understanding through the audience’s involvement.  These sorts of techniques are part and parcel of our Postmodern world, the Middle Brow and Popular Culture. The entire Interview issue carries on this media marketing tradition as it seeks to ensure continuity, sale-ability and acceptance of the workings of the market itself. Over and over we are assured that contemporary art is the perfect investment vehicle. In fact the magazine itself has created the context for that assurance! Have a look for yourself – it’s a Pop Culture gold mine.

The Discussion Spreads

It seems others have gotten involved in discussing Popular Culture and its workings in the art world. I saw this article on Art Info and this article on Edward Winkleman’s blog. We have already touched on some of these ideas in our post entitled the Hero Myth. We briefly discussed the way artists can be and have been marketed. We pointed out the similarities between the way Hollywood markets their heroes and how the art world follows suit. Linda Yablonsky’s piece has some interesting insider takes on the star system and Edward’s post is interesting because of the comments left by other artists. A while back I read a fascinating book by Robert Greene called the “Art of Seduction.” The book is a history of, well basically, publicity – how one builds a reputation and how one might capitalize on one’s own personality.

Today we have reached the ultimate point in the evolution of seduction. Now more than ever, force or brutality of any kind is discouraged. All areas of social life require the ability to persuade people in a way that does not offend or impose itself. Forms of seduction can be found everywhere, blending male and female strategies. Advertisements insinuate, the soft sell dominates. If we are to change people’s opinions-and affecting opinion is basic to seduction-we must act in subtle, subliminal ways. Today no political campaign can work without seduction. Since the era of John F. Kennedy, political figures are required to have a degree of charisma, a fascinating presence, or they will lose their audience’s attention, which is half the battle. The film world and media create a galaxy of seductive stars and images. We are saturated in the seductive. But even if much has changed in degree and scope, the essence of seduction is constant: never be forceful or direct; instead, use pleasure as bait, playing on people’s emotions, stirring desire and confusion, inducing psychological surrender. In seduction as it is practiced today, the methods of Cleopatra still hold.

The book makes clear that for EVERY personality there are ways to seduce and problems that must be overcome. As an example – here is a summary of a chapter that has probably been memorized by every ambitious gallerist with an eye on the Gagosian prize:

SOFT SEDUCTION: HOW TO SELL ANYTHING TO THE MASSES

The less you seem to be selling something-including yourself-the better. By being too obvious in your pitch, you will raise suspicion; you will also bore your audience, an unforgivable sin. Instead, make your approach soft, seductive and insidious. Soft: be indirect. Create news and events for the media to pick up, spreading your name in a way that seems spontaneous, not hard or calculated. Seductive: keep it entertaining. Your name and image are bathed in positive associations; you are selling pleasure and promise. Insidious: aim at the unconscious, using images that linger in the mind, placing your message in the visuals. Frame what you are selling as part of a new trend, and it will become one. It is almost impossible to resist the soft seduction.

These techniques have been and continue to be at play in the art world 24/7. One can still see them hard at work even as the art economy dries up. Maybe we’ll begin to see a new more earnest type of artist rather than the POMO dandies or maybe a return to primary archetypes – the toothless, earless, syphilitic crazy. Whatever it is you can be sure that it will be packaged, promoted and promulgated according to the rules of the new electronic media world we live in! First the bits of flash in the fashion mags, followed by breathless reviews of shows, a well-placed media blurb by the gallerist or collector that confirms the quality of the work through its sale-ability, and finally, the one-on-one interview with the artist published in an upscale lifestyle magazine. We’ve seen it a million times and we’ll see it a million more. The New New is always hard at work!

Popular Culture – The Middle Brow

The precondition for kitsch, a condition without which kitsch would be impossible, is the availability close at hand of a fully matured cultural tradition, whose discoveries, acquisitions, and perfected self-consciousness kitsch can take advantage of for its own ends. It borrows from it devices, tricks, stratagems, rules of thumb, themes, converts them into a system, and discards the rest. It draws its life blood, so to speak, from this reservoir of accumulated experience. This is what is really meant when it is said that the popular art and literature of today were once the daring, esoteric art and literature of yesterday. Of course, no such thing is true. What is meant is that when enough time has elapsed the new is looted for new “twists,” which are then watered down and served up as kitsch. Self-evidently, all kitsch is academic; and conversely, all that’s academic is kitsch. For what is called the academic as such no longer has an independent existence, but has become the stuffed-shirt “front” for kitsch. The methods of industrialism displace the handicrafts. Clement Greenberg “Avant Garde and Kitsch

My work will use everything that it can to communicate. It will use any trick; it’ll do anything – absolutely anything – to communicate and win the viewer over. Even the most unsophisticated people are not threatened by it; they aren’t threatened that this is something they have no understanding of. They can look at it and they can participate with it. Jeff Koons

…the story here is about catering to a much larger public than the small elite who used to define a country’s mores…The new mass culture has become the most important culture because, in a democratic age, quantity trumps quality. How many listen matters more than who listens.  Fareed Zakaria  – The Post American World

During the fin-de-siècle of the 20th Century artists were determined to be seen as the new communicators of an advanced culture. In their self conscious attempts to appear connected to the history of Modern Art and their own fast-changing electronic times artists began to appropriate the deluge of information and imagery that was reaching a critical mass in the Popular Culture industry. The combination of electronic imagery and the academization of art history meant that making art became a self referential enterprise, one in which its history was reformulated as a giant Pop Culture entertainment. This media friendly barrage of images and pop-theoretics has opened up institutional pocketbooks and advanced the profitability of the corporate art world. As “difficult” art has become more accessible to the masses “advanced” art has changed its practices preferring to move away from innovation in order to embrace controversy  –  for instance, look to the practical differences between Picasso’s or Matisse’s stylistic innovations versus Koon’s or Serrano’s pornographic representations. One is about style change the other is about creating recognition or communication. This change of focus from innovation to controversy has a great deal to do with art and markets, the marriage of Surrealism with popular imagery, the end of avant garde practice and the rise of Postmodernism. Middle Brow culture is now so pervasive and ubiquitous in our society that it has taken over the focus of advanced art-making and has expanded the demographics of those who participate in the culture itself.

Museums have led the way in this march to the middle with blockbuster shows of formerly avant garde works of art. In these shows the difficult becomes accessible as the theoretical work is “synergized” with the products made for sale and the “selling” of the show itself. Advertising levels difficult aesthetic concepts into sound-bytes and buzz words. It also promises an “experience” of culture much as one would experience a thrill ride at Disney World. With each new blockbuster enterprise the theoretical lines between what the work means and the meaning of the products sold begins to disappear. A good example of this is the Metropolitan Museum’s (I’m not picking on the Met – this goes for most all of these institutions) penchant for placing seller kiosks at the end of each exhibition. After making your way through the show you emerge into a room filled with memorobilia of the experience – catalogues, key chains, scarves, plates, post cards, playing cards, greeting cards, jewelry, and assorted bits and bobs usually displaying one or more of the works from the exhibition. Suddenly the imagery of the visual work has been extended into the realm of saleable reproductions making that image the focus of a product, an accessible idea or concept. This extends the exchange value of the one-off by separating the imagery from the object.

Separating the image from the object opens a different dialog about the meaning of the image itself. Additionally, breaking up the imagery from the object makes money in the same way the corporate raider sells off the assets of the takeover target – the parts are worth more than the whole. Meaning becomes fuzzy as aesthetics and marketing merge in the selling of the product itself. The shopping process goes somewhat like this – you, as a spectator of the show, essentially have been browsing and shopping while taking in the exhibit. This idea is something with which we POMO citizens are very much at ease. To see art, or for that matter any object, as a part of the process to purchasing would have been considered a Low experience, but this is no longer the case. Art as commerce has none of the low connotations that used to be associated with the monetary valuation of things. The concept of “exchange value” has become so large and encompassing in our everyday lives that every economic, political or cultural transaction is now part and parcel of the workings of this aspect of Popular Culture itself. We no longer look to distinguish how we might experience Art. We accept that it must “communicate” as a desirable product to everyone immediately. 

Popular Culture is Middle Brow, because it rarely rises above being an entertainment, a product for sale or some sort of memorabilia of an experience. Now there are shades, gradations of involvement within the middle brow – from low to high – that detail nuanced engagements or in your face confrontations, but its main reason for existence in all its forms comes down to its exchange value. This is different than either High or Low culture, both of which offer a real critique of the theoretics of culture, politics, and economics. High and Low are contra-forces to the Middle Brow, a rebellion, or in the extreme, a revolution. They emerge from a personal necessity, an artistic stance. High or Low define a moment when concepts clash or freedom manifests itself physically. The Middle Brow, on the other hand, is the status quo. It may indeed offer a critique of itself, but it does so while offering itself as a market commodity. It stays within the confines of the theoretics of Middle Brow Culture itself – its value lies in the fact that it is self-perpetuating, self-regulating and self-organizing.  Middle Brow critique wages its changes through popularity and audience size. It prefers to renegotiate known precedents rather than dismantle or change concepts. Ultimately these critiques and upgrades are actions of compliance, adherence and integration, and part and parcel of the flow of capital and the stability of markets. It is the rule of commerce that guides the changes within Middle Brow Popular Culture.

The Illusion of Change

Popular Culture’s illusions of innovation are constantly promoted and disseminated to the public in order to reboot taste and fashion or to create larger market share. There is always the promise of the New. Popular Culture especially in the Middle Brow is always “new.” In order to maintain this marketing illusion it must constantly erase the recent collective memory – “…that’s so last week” – which it will revive again sometime later as nostalgia – the reworking of junk bonds, the musical hits of the 90s, a return to elegance in fashion. Popular Culture is always returning to things it destroyed and discarded. The endless forgetting of historic meaning and original purposes generates something we call the New New – which is really a reformulated recontextualized precedent. The changes of fashion in Middle Brow culture have always been administered in this organized way, and this manner of contextualization is now the intellectual technique most used in the academies and corporate institutions that support culture itself. It is nothing more than an illusion of change or innovation. Acceptance is the ultimate goal by those who determine culture in the Middle Brow and market acceptance fosters imperative connections between statistical economics and Popular Culture. More is always better and how one gets more is always on the table. This quantitative commercial imperative has proven to be problematic for the cherished concept of an advanced culture, particluarly in the Art World, where the idea of the masterpiece or the singular art object, the one-off is connected to achievement and greatness. 

For the Art world this is where Postmodernist theoretics comes in. POMO institutes both a critique and a re-classification of culture focusing mainly on the contextual interpretation of meanings behind that culture. For the painter or the sculptor ALL culture is fair game – a vast resource for recombination.

For the postmodernist, art was a cluster of images and materials to be manipulated. The fragmentation of modern life was not a bad thing, in fact it was liberating. The aesthetic attributes of quality, artistic integrity, and beauty were held to be meaningless – products of outmoded meta-narratives. Artists sought to redefine art and “the artist” in a way that emphasized multiplicity of style and viewpoint. The postmodern artists appropriated symbols and images freely in the creation of eclectic art.” WHAT IS CRITICAL POSTMODERN ART? By Leonard Koscianski (2002)

Postmodernism did away with the avant garde, the masterwork and even the making of art to create a new type of post-artist, the Auteur. 21st Century mannerism is born. Postmodernism exists only as technique, a professional method used in the practice of one’s profession. It is a theoretical tool that allows Middle Brow imperatives to retain and maintain their connection to Popular Culture market economies of all kinds. Art becomes a media spectacle, an experience for commodification and an entertainment – something that anyone can participate in – it communicates.

The Postmodern artist works within these systems of commerce and culture. He critiques the system as he perpetuates those very systems. The Postmodernist doesn’t develop theoretics, doesn’t offer a competing system, doesn’t innovate against the grain, doesn’t challenge the systems. The Middle Brow artist becomes the embodiment of Greenberg’s idea that the once historic New can be constantly looted or mined to create the New New. For instance contemporary Abstract Painting has lapsed into a mannered reclassification of its short history, it feeds endlessly on itself – the geometric, the hard edge, or the expressionist – you name it, each new Auteur customizes the previous innovation without changing the initial premise of the primary visual innovation. Ultimately we find ourselves standing before a highly mannered very polished professional art object that has little meaning outside of its historical contextual relationships and the fetishized materiality of its making – a customization of a reproduction of an established theoretical visual idea. The Auteur makes art for a marketplace, for institutions, the artist makes work for himself and posterity. We are in the realm of a new Kitsch based on market acceptance and modeled after the morphing digital download – an electronic kitsch.

In the end the new art world and art economy is based on Zakaria’s dictum “how many is more important than who.” Is it any wonder that ambitious artists raised in the electronic media world, schooled in POMO institutions and let loose in the corporate art markets gravitate to the Middle Brow Pop Culture world that grounds this entire enterprise? We will look into these practices in the coming posts when we discuss the differences between style and brand. 

Popular Culture – High and Low

A society, as it becomes less and less able, in the course of its development, to justify the inevitability of its particular forms, breaks up the accepted notions upon which artists and writers must depend in large part for communication with their audiences. It becomes difficult to assume anything. All the verities involved by religion, authority, tradition, style, are thrown into question, and the writer or artist is no longer able to estimate the response of his audience to the symbols and references with which he works. In the past such a state of affairs has usually resolved itself into a motionless Alexandrianism, an academicism in which the really important issues are left untouched because they involve controversy, and in which creative activity dwindles to virtuosity in the small details of form, all larger questions being decided by the precedent of the old masters. The same themes are mechanically varied in a hundred different works, and yet nothing new [bold is mine] is produced: Statius, mandarin verse, Roman sculpture, Beaux-Arts painting, neo-republican architecture. – Clement Greenberg, Avant Garde and Kitsch

In today’s art world we must ask – how do we define what is high or low? These cultural boundaries, since the death of the avant garde in the early 60s, have been blurred, and in some cases, erased entirely. Art in the hands of the Postmodernists is contingent on the never ending contextual flow of Popular Culture, which in itself is tied to precedent, production and proliferation. It is the essence and play between High and Low that Postmodernism no longer understands or exploits. Postmodernism and its parasitic relationship with Popular culture is mired in the middle brow – neither one nor the other, neither fish nor fowl. Where does this failure of artistic intention come from and how did we arrive here?

First let’s tackle the idea of Low art. This is fairly simple and always has been. This is the art of the out-class, and by out-class I mean the disenfranchised, the waylaid, the darker and meaner parts of society. Low art is about “sex, drugs and rock & roll” – not as it is relayed to us in Pop movies or TV, but in the physical sense of Eros and Thanatos, life and death. I define this further as Rough Trade, the hard parts of culture, the unrefined emotional parts of existence that lie close to the bone. Low art generates from the body and indulges in what Freud defined as the id. It is the forbidden visual, the angry declaration and the dark magic of existence. This is where Picasso’s exploitation of Primitivism came from, it is where Monet’s break down of visual mechanics begins, it is DeKooning’s gestural urges and Pollock’s drips, and it is Caravaggio’s prostitutes and peachy bits of Rough Trade transformed into saints and martyrs. The Low is not art – it is libido, it is present, urgent, immediate, but mostly it is a dissent from artistic norms.

The High is defined through a two-fold transformative process. The first part of the process is the encounter with one’s own being, one’s own experience of life. The High interprets and explicates one’s emotional and intellectual understanding of lived experience. It is similar to Low culture in its close reading of life, but the High has a necessary critical element that allows for deeper involvement in the visual processes that create meaning. Perhaps more importantly, it is a confrontation and break with the history of other High culture. The High must encompass both a continuity and a transformation of traditional cultural forms as it defines new experiences of understanding. In order to attain the High one must assimilate and understand the past and confront that collective memory from a new perspective. High culture is more than being a part of one’s time or one’s attitude (like Low culture.) Anyone can express their feelings or explain ideas, but for art to be High culture one must push those ideas beyond the known and accepted tropes and solutions of previous visual solutions. One must overcome the strong artists, the transformative artists – the artists of precedent. High culture is not immediately accessible – it is not outwardly apparent what it is. High culture does not set out to deliberately obscure meaning, but rather, its provocation of historical precedent creates a “strangeness” or “discomfort”. Understanding and acceptance are not necessarily apparent. New visual meanings are revealed in the work as one confronts the break with history. High art obsolesces the previous idea, the previous meaning, and the strong historical precedent. It is new.

Michele - Last JudgmentBecause Low culture has a similar power of immediacy and dissent it makes a great starting place for the critique that must be engendered by new High culture. Advanced western visual culture has typically applied this combination of High and Low since the Renaissance. The rediscovery of the high culture of ancient Greece and Rome prompted an historical artistic reevaluation, and a new visual culture based on the human figure emerged allowing artists to put their finger in the eye of the institutional medievalist art of the time. The new High culture would re-examine the purposes of classical art and meld it to their times helping to define a new and dangerous emerging humanism. The debates that raged around Michelangelo’s transgressive frescos are a wonderful case in point, as many of those institutional authorities were aghast at the nudity and not-so-closeted homo-eroticism of his work – Biagio da Cesena “…that it was a most dishonest act in such a respectable place to have painted so many naked figures immodestly revealing their shameful parts, that it was not a work for a papal chapel but for a bathhouse or house of ill-fame.” In the detail on the left Michele strikes back at Biagio with a refined graffiti – he paints this man’s portrait with the ears of a jackass and a snake devouring his genitals – an infamy he will endure for all time. These sorts of Low images were often scratched or drawn on the walls of Rome to ridicule and deride. Michele’s feelings about his critic couldn’t be clearer, his use of Roman Classicism and the always contemporary Low in his highly refined manner makes these frescos a priceless critique of the High art of the day. When High and Low come together as both a moment in a life and a sharp critique of precedent it creates a new visual power and an historic visual change in the art world.

We can see this process unfold in the work of other great artists as well. But for the moment, let’s discuss Monet’s visual transgression. Now normally we don’t believe that Monet was ever transgressive. His work, after all, has come to be seen as being about a facile visual beauty. However when Monet began his work he was deconstructing the idea of vision, the need for a “refined” subject matter and the entrenched academy. The institutional critics were ruthless, because his challenge was real. In this work Monet uses an element of the Low and the rough to develop his style of painting. MonetHis art took him out of the studio and away from lens based depiction. He worked “en plein aire”, he worked directly from nature, but mostly, he painted everyday life, the common. It was a labour of sight and vision that captured the passing of time and light in crude strokes and blobs. There was nothing transformative about his subjects, nothing refined in his technique, and yet, he upended the institution. The Low for Monet is his visual critique engendered in his break with the  academic optical hackery that ruled the Salons and galleries – his work was an intense observation of the mundane life around him – a personal statement of fact. Most all of the greats had this vision of High and Low, the historic and the transgressive in their work.

Today we do not use High and Low in the same way. The High and the Low become gradations of the vast sea of commerce known as the middle. Formerly Low things like Pornography, Tattoos, blue jeans, graffiti, or electric guitars are now fuzzy fashion statements. High ideals like rebellion, thought, vision, iconoclasm or dissent are taught as professional courses at universities. The idea of struggle or clash with power structures or institutional ideas of any kind is reworked as a kind of Research or Development – a corporate necessity for creating the New New. A creeping Professionalism has infected both the High and the Low. To Illustrate consider the MTA’s proposal to raise advertising money on the subway. Basically it allows corporations to cover a subway car in whatever imagery it chooses. “In the future, when able to be sold as a single package, these strategies will create a dramatic new symbiotic station advertising product that will command a premium above any other display sold on its own. Such a premium package will generate an additional $1 million per year in advertising revenues for the MTA from the Shuttle alone. If this test at Grand Central/Times Square stations is successful, other high-traffic stations could easily be included for similar sales packages.” Nowhere in this release is the precedent for this advertising “idea” acknowledged. If it were then there might be trouble. The MTA would have to confront their own historic critique against grafitti – “eyesore”, “illegal act”, “affront to hard working New Yorkers” – all of it would have to be addressed. In the 70s and 80s graffiti artists covered the decrepit subway cars in exactly the same way only they did it as a dissent, a personal artistic statement. Today’s corporate graffiti only wants your money while it levels out the personal statement and the idea of the individual. This is what Popular Culture expects. Postmodernism in its efforts to re-contextualize the entire lens-based world is forever reinterpreting the middle brow. It panders to the middle in a desperate attempt to be liked and appreciated from the get-go. It offers no real critique of ideas, but only a tarted-up version of cultural acceptance. The middle is where Popular Culture resides. It levels out the sharp edges of culture to appeal to masses of paying customers, and it is the paying customer that drives the economic imperative underlying Kitsch as explained by Greenberg.

High and Low as we once experienced them have been lost to us. The new corporate paradigm that drives the art world is awash in Kitsch – the middle brow. What is needed today is a new understanding of High and Low, a rediscovery of what those concepts mean.

We will continue this discussion in the next post: Popular Culture – Middle Brow.

Infected Gripes

A while back the art magazine “Modern Painters” had a change of ownership. Now I always used to enjoy getting my subscription – I could be sure that there would be an article or two on modern painters. After the change over that didn’t seem to be the case any longer, and because of that, I let my subscription lapse a few months ago. The one thing I did miss was reading Matthew Colling’s column each month. So I recently purchased the October 2008 issue in hopes that things might have changed with the magazine. Collings is in fine form and that is a lot of fun. But there isn’t one fucking article on painting. Well maybe that’s not entirely fair, there is an article on an Iraqi muralist whose bravery and determination to create beauty is inspiring. And aside from the show reviews in the back, you’d be hard pressed to find a word about modern painters anywhere. Ok, I understand that art is more than painting, that it can and does encompass anything an artist does, but if that’s the case, then why the magazine title? Is it meant to be ironic, sarcastic, controversial, spiteful or all of the above? When the new regime took over were they holding on to the name so as not to confuse subscribers? Why not call the magazine “Modern Artists” or “Modern Painters…Not” or “Painters – written in that red circle with the line through it – Magazine”. Wassupwidat?

Last week I trundled through Chelsea looking for something to see, something to write about or something that might pique my interest. Basically what happened was that I got to hang out with a friend, chat about nothing special, and eat lunch at an overcrowded diner. Crickey mate, there is a weird vibe going on in the galleries at the moment. It feels like the 90s when things were drying up fast. You could almost hear the sound of commerce being sucked out of the area. The cherry on top of this gooey mess was the Lari Pittman show at Gladstone. These Postmodern puzzles looked to be out of ideas. They were really well made, fantastically showy collaged imagery, but nothing more than studio product made for the well-healed collector. I really admire the production of these sorts of pieces, they look expensive, professional and slick. Its a level of professional polish I will never attain, but so what? It ain’t my thing. So I went back to my studio to tinker a bit.

To top it all off I have a nasty cold. Boo fuckin’ hoo. So this coming week we all take a collective deep breath and go to the polls here in the US. Whatever the outcome at the polls, it is generally acknowledged that this country will have to face a few demons of its own making. How deeply and effectively we confront those demons will play out over the next 4 years. What we are are witnessing for sure, is the end of something in our culture, and it won’t go without a fight. It’s going to get nasty, especially among the citizenry, but there is a growing intellectual dissent forming. Will we be able to create something new? I remain suspect, because the change that will have to happen is going to have to come from outside the systems in place. New ideas must challenge the entrenched cronyism and incestuous relationships that have developed over the last 40 years or more. Whether politics, economics or art the Postmodern world controls it all assimilating anyone and anything into its systems, institutions and academies. Real thought, new ideas and change will have to come from somewhere else, and it will have to convince a worn out culture that things can be different. Otherwise, no matter who is in charge, it will be more of the same. As David Hockney has said, ‘Exciting times lie ahead!”

Update

Just a quick mention of a couple of things.

The fabulous Jackie Saccoccio has put together an ongoing collaborative show for the Art Production Fund at 15 Wooster Street-

BlueBalls examines the transitory nature of the creative moment, the acquisitive character of the viewer and the curious longing that occurs between the two. 15 artists have been invited to self-install and work atop one anotherʼs pieces in staggered time frames. Poised behind a glass façade, this collaborative artist project will transform weekly as the next round of artists amplifies the collective. This accumulation can be viewed only from the street.

The show continues throughout November!

The irrepressible Michael Zahn is currently showing at PS1 in a show curated by Phong Bui entitled Minus Space. Minus Space is a collective of abstractionists, and there are a lot of interesting ideas being thrown about by the collective – they have one of the best sites for art and ideas on the net. For this show Michael has replicated the Macintosh Trash Can in 3D and installed it in the notorious PS1 Basement – computer programs come to life and the boundaries between avatars, icons and aesthetics gets a bit hazy! The show is chock full of recent reductive abstraction and interesting ideas. It runs through January 19th.