In reading some of the essays and criticism on HYPERALERGIC, an idea began to form… don’t know where to begin with it. I mean, the idea that there is an aesthetic force to capitalism that has been internalized, infusing and corrupting the machinery that guides artistic vision & produces art. I mean something more and other than marketing–how the utterly corrupted gallery to investor pipeline determines what and who will be recognized and rewarded, and who and what will be rejected. Yes, that’s a part of it–in as much as artists are influenced by their belief that this is the, or even ‘a,’ measure of success; I’m thinking of something deeper, placing capitalism in the operational place in the visionary machinery occupied by kitsch for Clement Greenberg. There was clearly something I was reacting to in Greenberg—his capitalist historicism–the idea of progress in art and how it serves to first exploit and than erase everything and everyone outside the privileged circle.
I’ll have to give this more thought.
In HYPERALERGIC, The Living, Small-Scale Portraits of Alice Neel
I’m not depressed now but I am deeply disturbed. I don’t know which is harder, living in this fucked up mess we’ve made for ourselves while depressed, where at least one’s subjective state seems of a piece with what is around us, or being of a ‘normal’ mind… or whatever you call it, and not having a clue how to reconcile the contradiction between feeling emotionally at home in the world, and yet profoundly alienated and out of sync. I walk down the street in Center City with a huge chip on my shoulder. I see business men in their Brooks Brothers suits and I want to punch them in their faces, knock the fucking iPhones from their soft puffy hands and stomp on them. I don’t know what to do with what I see–all these people going about their business with neither curiosity or awareness of anything or anyone outside the suffocatingly narrow closest of their self-constructed reality.
I sat on a wall in Love Park eating my falafel sandwich. Near by, a somewhat scruffy man dressed in black, suit jacket with tails, a stove pipe hat sat playing a violin. His case open for change. A man came by with a fancy camera and took his picture. He seemed to be looking for urban exotica. He turned and left. I wanted to run after him and shout in his face–if you’re gonna take pictures of street musicians for fucks sake, leave a dollar in their case! –but i couldn’t get the messy falafel wrapped up quickly enough and he disappeared. I told the violinist, he should put a sign in his case–that if you’re going to take photos, leave some damn change!. I gave him a dollar and bottle of water I’d gotten, but hadn’t opened yet.
The Consolation of Philosophy. I’m not a philosopher. But I like to think about stuff. I like to think about… about how to be able to find ways of understanding my personal, intimate, most subjective feelings/experiences… in such a way that I can fit them into a more inclusive meaning. Being one who is periodically subject (right word) to depression… interesting… was going to say, “significant depressions” … though ‘insignificance’ is more the root of their… whatever.
But this habit…compulsion, of writing about, and describing, and thinking about… has, while it has never made the depressions less miserable or shortened their duration… it has probably saved my life more than once. And late in my stay on the planet–helped to make them, again, while no less pleasant–something akin to the rhythm of waking and sleep… the depression being… what? A waking nightmare, that I know I will awake from.
Surfing the mind… the Big Wave can kill you. but you gotta do it. And you get better at it. And you never know…
I have only to wire one more piece, and I’m ready to make a list of the art with numbers (and titles, if they have them), and I’m ready to take everything to O.U.R. Gallery for Saturday’s opening. Pulling everything out where I could see it—anticipating having it on display, set me to thinking about making art—and having it seen by others, how the pleasure from the first, and the unquenchable desire represented by the second—are irreconcilable. I think the latter is a good example of what Lacan meant by jouissance.
Would that I were capable of trashing each new piece on completion I think I would be the happier for it. I can’t suppress that wish—that my work be seen, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if it would only stop there, but wanting others to see what I do is impossibly entangled, no matter how I try to deny it, put it out of my head, starve the thought—with the malignant desire for … recognition. There… I said it.
I know perfectly well that this is a desire that can never be satisfied, because it externalizes something–seeks to answer a question that can only come from within oneself. Are these things that I make… are they any good? Do they have value? But no matter what anyone might say—not the highest praise from the most respected source can satisfy, because no one but one’s self can be a just judge of one’s own work. And all the worse—what prideful pleasure one might take from such praise, has to be resisted, shaken off, because if it takes hold, it will surely corrupt… turn a bitter poison to the soul. This is so, I suspect, because in seeking approval and confirmation for the work, we cannot separate that from seeking approval and confirmation for our own being… the creative work becomes a vehicle for our salvation. If only I can succeed, I will be saved! If only I can make a work of art worthy of (…. ? …. ) — But worthy of what? Of posterity? Like Hazlitt’s essay on fame? One might have believed that when it seemed there would be no end to human history until some divine resolution. Look how that—as an aesthetic idea—has dominated literary … oh, and musical production–that need for final resolution, the conclusion that wraps it all up and closes the book. How fragile that illusion has become—who put any serious stock in the idea of posterity in this age of thermonuclear weapons, global climate change, decimation of biodiversity, governance by the stupidest most self-serving and delusional of the species?
… and it never was more than an illusion, one that served the gatekeepers of class and privilege well… while keeping all but the tiniest minority locked out, controlled, suppressed. Like all the versions of paradise after death.
If I were writing in Hazlitt’s time, I’d be thinking about how to wrap this up…searching for that fine conclusion—for closure (there’s the word I was looking for! Closure)… but in a time so near the end, there can be no closure. Everything in medias res.