Breaking free from the Art System


I want to post a second comment I left on CLCLARK’s blog on Luhmann’s system theory, Systems Serve only Themselves. This has been a concern of mine for some time, expressed in several previous posts.

I see several problems with art as an autopoitec system. The first being, that ‘art’ is an artificial construct. For this, it might be enough if it were more narrowly defined, say… “Euro/Anglo Art.” It’s been a project of art history to treat art as a universal—even while concentrating almost exclusively on European traditions until the assimilating of Japanese, Chinese, African and “primitive” styles by European artists forced the door open to the rest of the world. This greater inclusiveness, however, was more in the nature of colonizing the European idea of art as a universal, drawing on products, which, in their own cultures, served a wide range of activities, and were in no way part of something, neither their makers nor those  who these objects served, thought of as belonging to an autonomous system analogous to a Western idea of ‘art,’ a process not unlike the transformation imposed on European religious objects in the development of the idea (or system) of art in the West.

Also, as autopoitic systems are differentiated from their environment, but subject and responsive to outside perturbations, these responses can be absorbed in their development. With organisms, other forms can be physically absorbed and incorporated: viruses, mitochondria. The point I’d make here, is that what we mean by ‘art,’ is not just a system responding to other systems, but one—perhaps even more than any other—that has incorporated them into its DNA. The Western ‘art system’ co-evolved with capitalism, patriarchal institutions, hierarchical value coding, in such a way that these are more than external systems that use or perturb it, but are embedded in its generative structures.  This is what informs my question about finding a place as an artist—outside that system. Escape from the controlling subject: “Art.” Deteritorializaion from the master subject and its self-cloning powers. Thinking of Deleuze… escape from the root, to the rhizome!


Everything that’s Wrong with the “Art World”

Fuck the capitalist gallery to investor pipeline–those who own it, and those who seek to profit from it. What is both so irksome, and revealing–is how this pitch is aimed, not at those who love art, or the art… but ‘investors,’ those who, by turning art into a capitalist commodity, eviscerate it’s value as art, as set up a gatekeeping system, that functions, not as means to select the best, but to exclude all but the smallest fraction of art and artists, precisely to raise the monetary value of what the system lets in. What this has to do with aesthetic value is purely accidental.

Skip the guesswork. Here’s three things to look for in an emerging artist:

Saatchi Art


Galleries, Museums, and The Great Art Frameup


It’s increasingly clear to me that the way museums display works of art (and most galleries), alters them as surely as if the curators took brush and paint and wrote messages of ownership across them. What we see in a museum is filtered propaganda, honoring the structures of power, wealth, and those who control it, drawing life from the art and using it like a drug to induce a state of awe and subservience, not for the art, but the invisible powers that assembled the display. How grateful we must be, that all this was gathered for us in the marble halls of these mausoleums–a gesture of largess from the wealthy investors for us to view. Where would we be without them! As though the artists (who in their lifetimes, would have been lucky if they could afford entrance), were mere labor, expendable, like the workers who tunneled under the Hudson… 14 of whom died in its construction…and not a one of them named, ‘Holland.’

As though this art would not exist, certainly not for us, but for these glorious prisons.

What is wrong with this picture, is not the fault of the museums and it’s keepers… they are merely playing the roles assigned to them–cleaner and less bloodstained, but comparable, nonetheless, to the police and soldiers, prison guards and executioners of this Empire of Money and Death.

Impossible to imagine in these cathedrals of art, that there might be an other way–where people don’t surrender their creative lives for adulthood, and art flows from the lives of the people, present everywhere and in everything we do and make. Where artists don’t have to compete for the one spot in ten thousand where they can live by their art, and everyone can have works of art beside them, not just the wealthy.


Capitalism controls our very imagination–that we cannot believe anything else can exist. How then, as artists, can we let ourselves serve these robotic masters!

No Revolution without Art! No Art without Revolution!


The Most Relevant Art Today Is Taking Place Outside the Art World

Read article here –>  Artsy Editorial

“When artists operate outside the gallery space, whether because their work functions best there, or because they are forced to, they are both creating valuable art and making the limitations of traditional art institutions visible—physically, historically, and conceptually. Perhaps such work can even change those institutions, those structures of looking. Perhaps it can change society at large. And that’s unceasingly relevant.”

Artists! Wake up!

For how long have I been saying this? The author sees the symptom but refuses to name the disease. Of course he does: he’s a part of the system! “But of course galleries need to make a profit….la la la ” The very structure of capitalism turns art into commodity and erases all other values. The whole damn system is rotten! Artists have to be creative in more than making art; we need turn our creative energy to imagining another reality, another world!

Artists who seek commercial success, without thinking about how this system works, are complicit in their own exploitation.
Artists–become activists, become a revolutionary force!
In today’s art market, objects are created and judged like stocks. Illustration by Victor Juhasz, 2016. ©VICTOR JUHASZ

#476 Something Left Was Red

17″x 14″ Mixed Media: Charcoal, Ink, Acrylic, Collage on Bristol Paper. This makes the 4th in this series. I like the sense of depth I get from the multiple layers. Laying down areas of charcoal, rubbing over to blur the lines, create gray areas, than dark lines on top of that, repeating, than brushing in white acrylic. In the 3rd piece, (#475) I tore up a photo of women factory workers from early in the 20th Century, glued them to the sheet of paper, and worked around and over them. The curled edges added greatly to that sense of depth. In the piece below, I glued on some pieces of a water color that I thought had failed, but it didn’t work. I had to cover almost all of it over, leaving just a hint of color. I added some red to draw attention to it and give the piece a focal point.
I have 11 more sheets of paper in that pad. I don’t know that I’ll end up with 15 of them, but I’ll keep working along these lines until I feel like I’m repeating myself… as long as I can keep them evolving. They make a strong impression, lined up together on the wall.

The titles are just words I find running through my head as I’m working.

#476 Some Left is Red


#447 Subsummation of the Human.

This comes as a feeling that pressed to become a thought, or a thought that sought to become an image. I sketched a face in soluble ink. Efaced with watercolor. Still there. Subsummed

#447 Subsumation of the Human
#447 10×8″ water soluble ink, India ink, water color.

I seldom do figurative art. Not in my finished pieces. I draw the human figure… obsessively, from bones to flesh and back to bones–images of the human. But that isn’t what they are–the drawings. It isn’t there, the human, and in my finished work, what is human remains, not quite invisible, most often as little more than an unintended suggestion. Broken into fragments. Or traces and debris of our passing.

That isn’t a plan. I’m not rendering some idea I have… I don’t know what it is, other than it emerges from some primal conflict, deeply, inexorably personal. It permeates my art–how I work, how I think about it. I know that it has to do with how or why I spend so much of my private, internal conversation explaining, justifying–as though I stand before some perpetual tribunal–that has demanded, without asking (I just know)–that I’m called to account for what I make, for the very need I have to make art, in these conversations where I go endlessly back to the beginning. Do I even have a right to call it… art? To permit myself…?

How this is connected with using the human figure, I don’t know, but I know that it is. Had I all the years of a younger man ahead of me, I don’t think that a lifetime of analysis would be sufficient to uncover what lies buried, something powerful enough to have kept me away from the one thing I’ve always wanted to do–for almost 40 years.
But it’s more than personal… or should I say, more than my private demons. As though this most private struggle has reformed itself into the one subject central to everything I make. How I can feel human figures in the most abstract pieces that come from my hand. Has become their struggle. Something pressing to emerge, pressing toward freedom. Or is it the subsummation of the human back into that state from whence we came? My not distant death linking itself to the coming extinction of our species?

Everything Wrong with Art & Capitalism

Experts expect a ‘severe correction’, particularly in contemporary and American art, after years of spiraling prices and celebrity and luxury obsession

Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz
Musician Alicia Keys, right, and her husband Swizz Beatz look at an installation by artist Gabriel Dawe, in Miami. Photograph: Lynne Sladky/AP

Art Market in ‘Mania’ Phase, from the Guardian. Including this report and all its links

For my other posts on Art & Capitalism, alternatives to the market/gallery system, click HERE and scroll down.

Revolution now!