from The Margins: “Authenticity Obsession, or Conceptualism as Minstrel Show”

Ken Chen’s, essay.

I read this, at first, racing through out of excietment for what I was finding… but had to stop. To begin again, more slowly. Some–much of this was painful, in a multiplicity of ways–where do I come from, afterall, if not from the colonizers? It took me almost two hours. I need to read this again.


Vanessa Place — Gone With the Wind

Vanessa Place Gone With the Wind.

In reading her her defense, it’s important to keep in mind that what a work is, and its intended goals, are always divergent: the work is always more than its intentions, or its interpretations. In this case, her stated purposes, however elegantly argued, can never be more than another one of an infinite number of possible interpretations, in this case, these stated goals are stripped of aesthetic insulation (not parody), and meant to participate in the ‘real world.’ There seems to be a not entirely explicit argument that the harm this work might cause is more than counter balanced by the unacknowledged (if not invisible) mastery it exposes… that is, exposes if you substitute her argument for the thing itself.
Many years ago (1971) there was a performance artist, Chris Burden who had a friend shoot him with a 22 rifle, I believe in the hand. His explanation was that shooting someone was ‘as American as apple pie.’
My reaction at the time was to ask how this would have been different had the friend been directed to shoot him in the heart, or had he himself gone out on the street, declaring this to be a performance, the central goal of which, was to erase the distinction between the aesthetic intention and its real world consequences. It seems clear to me, that in erasing the lines between the aesthetic and the real, subsuming the later in the former, we have annihilated human meaning on both levels, pretending to a god-like stance, as something akin to a pure act of nature, like an earthquake or lightning strike. In the face of this, those powerful lawyerly arguments sound to me as nothing more than defense of exactly this, on the grounds that, because the social conditions being appropriated are themselves presented to us as meta-human realities, it is justified to imitate them, even to creating the same kind of harm. Or maybe there is no implied justification, but rather, an assertion of art as pure nihilism.
I read her explanation. I am not convinced.

Is there a Capitalist Aesthetics?

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.