Geezer Throwdown!

Dave Hickey’s recent SVA speech seems to have ticked off Charlie Finch. And in grand fashion Charlie comes out swinging – “bulbous phony,” “fraud,” “vulgar vanity by association,” “Mr. Lazy” and those are the tamer associations. I love stuff like this because it means the frayed edges of the art world are coming loose. When middle aged men start swaggering and attempting “displays of aggression” someone’s territory is being challenged. I’m not quite sure what this beef is all about, but Charlie is all over the boards – chest thumping, tearing down trees and charging. I get that Dave is taken with himself, but I really enjoyed what he had to say about art, art institutions, and artists in the speech. (The omnipresent James Kalm recorded it and SVA has it available on itunes.) Dave’s contention is that the institutionalization of art has created a culture of conformity – something I agree with. In fact Charlie has said similar things himself. But Dave is stuck back in the 60s and 70s aesthetically, and Charlie seems to have a kind of contrarian contemporary aesthetic. Whatever…someone’s back fur is bristling.

The other part of the story is that James Kalm and SVA got into a bit of dustup over his posting of the speech. The institution was worried about the content being mishandled in some way, either through a copyright thing or a deal they had with Hickey or fuck all…who knows? Then James Kalm’s video went VIRAL in a big way (mainly because of the content of the speech.) I think Dave is onto the discontent many of us are feeling right now. But I don’t think his invocation of the “40 year rule” is quite good enough. He states that Rauschenberg recommended that artists go back 40 years (2 generations) and steal to make new work. But today even if you go back 60 years you only get to the ABEX guys and that stuff is still being done to death. I prefer the caveat to the 40 year rule – which is go back to before things didn’t suck and start looking for something that may be of help. I have my preferences as many of you regular readers know.

I also have to ask why James continues to insist that what he is doing is an art project? Why not just claim the badge of reporter and be proud and happy about those accomplishments – there is very little history of great reporting in the art world, and in my eyes James is breaking new ground doing just that. One need not be an artist to do fantastic things for art. Why must all of life become art? Why can’t we just live a bit without bounding ourselves in pretensions of Postmodern interpretation? Oh well…I guess by any other name…

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