I am obsessed at the moment with the concept of nostalgia. So I’ll throw out a few random thoughts, and we’ll see if this goes anywhere. Dave Hickey left us the idea of the 40 year rule. Now in the past a generation existed over 20 years – so we’re talking about the passing of time through 2 generations – and this would be enough for the past to be forgotten and become a source to use as innovation. [Think of Rauschenberg’s use of DaDa – Twombly’s use of the “Return to Order”.] What isn’t equated in this 40 year rule is our era’s computer programming and the electronic world where all times, all eras [especially since the 1960s], exist all at once. The end of history means that there is no passing of time. Nothing separates the past from the present.
Our light speed era traffics in the idea that technology is the driving force of the Avant Garde – it’s an avant garde aimed at the fastest part of our society – the economy. Most of the “innovation” in the art world over the last 30 years [since the crash of 1987] has been done on the business side. Art itself seems to be caught in a loop. The true innovators of our current art scene were Colin de Land, Pat Hearn, Matthew Marks and Paul Morris. In 1994 they presented the first “art fair” at the Gramercy Hotel which restarted the busted and broke New York gallery scene. [de Land, Hearn information] This moment occurred at the start of the internet revolution and the Neo-Liberal economic revolution. And within a few years these changes caused a shift to the understanding, production, dissemination and importance of art – all across our culture.
If you’re on instagram you can trip through the past so quickly it’s astounding. The thing is – so much of this past is being made right here in the present. Much of the contemporary painting we see could rest comfortably in any part of the Post War era. The art repeats, repeats, and repeats again losing its physical connection to the past each time it repeats. Think of bit coin – an abstraction of an abstraction of currency which is based on an abstracted reality of a real world “valued” object such as land or gold or precious gems. Every time we abstract some thing, some process or style, we strip away part of its physicality, part of its temporality – the thing gets lighter and faster on its way to being a concept. And this speed begins to strip the past of meaning by removing its physicality, its context and its innovation, creating a ground for our nostalgic ruminations.
I’ll leave you with my friend Paul Corio’s good rebuttal to an older post here on Henri: “A reverential look at the past is not an abdication of the responsibility to make an art suitable for our own era. For the best artists, it’s a place to begin. Great artists will use it to create something that looks fresh, and the weak artists (always the majority) will use it to create something that looks nostalgic and retro.”