Thursday, 17 March 2016

Artists Against The Modern Art Market Capitalist Merry-Go-Round, Anyone?

You, RTomens, 2016
Reading Where Have All The Art Punks Gone? in The Guardian this morning I was reminded of our conversation in the Bookart Bookshop on Saturday and the topic of art movements that cropped up, LJ bemoaning the lack of them. She's right, but such romantic yearnings based on old (very old) times ignore the seeming impossibility of a movement today. Why? Because this is the age of individualism in the broader, social sense of failure to provide housing for the vast group of non-middle classes and, of course, this thing I'm engaged in now, tapping at the keys, speaking for (OK and largely to) myself.

Journalist Hannah Ellis-Petersen (council house born and bred, I'm sure) uses the term hypercapitalism in quotes, perhaps because she's part of the problem? I don't know her, so I shouldn't say it, should I?  Those who see wrong but know they benefit from it must add quotes to sensitive terminology to distance themselves just a little from it, right?

Hypercapitalism is right. We're all being shafted one way or another, some with more devastating effect than others. If I speak of the art world, I do so knowing full well that it's not nearly as important as where or how we live. Bear that in mind. Art is capital in this big bad world. Meanwhile, most of us carry on regardless, untainted, as much as some of us would like to be, by money. It would take a powerful movement to resist the corrosive effects of having to survive in a capitalist society yet make an impact on it somehow. A movement based on what? Anti-capitalism? Yes, but how would it distance itself from the other anti-capitalist movement, the one which, after initial exposure with marches and sit-ins on Wall Street and elsewhere already seems like a spent force?

Artists Against Capitalism? Too Political, as if wishing to wave paint brushes at banks and depict the downtrodden, beautifully rendered in oils, perhaps. That's been done anyway. A movement of like-minded artists sounds like an oxymoron to start with. We can't even imagine what an 'artist' does today. By the way, is there a new Pictures Generation being born? I sense there may be, just by the amount of pictures I'm seeing, as opposed to 'events', conceptualism etc. I expect to see this reflected in next year's Turner Prize, where three of the five finalists will have created pictures, of some kind. You read it here first. Or, when if I'm wrong, you can look back and mock.

'But look beyond the traditional spaces and what emerges are a group of Generation Y artists who are arguably more avant garde than ever. There is now a growing movement working fluidly with both physical objects and digital platforms such as social media websites, and creating work that reappropriates and even hijacks the corporate, tech and art worlds from the inside out. “Using art to find some agency in all the bullshit,” as one artist bluntly phrased it.' (Where have All The Art Punks Gone?).

Oh, that one. Crawling inside the belly of the beast with a view to poisoning it is an old idea. Rather, appropriating the beast's language and symbols, or détournement ("turning expressions of the capitalist system and its media culture against itself") as it was known, is old. But the modern exponents, via technology, can go further than merely altering images, of course. Therein lies the danger; they become so like that which they would undermine as to be indistinguishable from it. Besides, the obvious question is: once the enemy's means of communication have been used, where next? Continue making anti-corporate art that looks just like what you're supposedly against? Well, it gets you to The Venice Biennale, I suppose.

This talk of appropriating corporate technological communication and all that reminds me of former council house dwellers sat in their nouveau riche piles saying "I'll never forget my roots" whilst trying desperately to destroy every single one of them. To obviously stand apart from that which you despise is probably not fashionable. Aspiring is everything. Everyone wants to be middle class, right? No artist willingly displays signs of being anti-bourgeois in their attitude or means of production, surely? Unlike brutalist architecture, art brut is not fashionable. Yet, ironically, it shares similar traits with what are deemed sexy concrete blocks nowadays in that it's where the alienated class dwell. How could art brut be applauded? Since when has the real underdog, the untrained, working class, artist been welcomed on the merry-go-round of contemporary art capitalism? Like the luxury apartments of London, it's a no-go zone except for those with the right credentials.

The idea of 'Punk Art' springing from groomed students is laughable anyway. It's like expecting three-chord sonic phlegm from musos steeped in theory and raised on Mahavishnu Orchestra albums. The only difference being that 'Generation Y' can knowingly cultivate 'outsiderness' with ease, sensing that it's as good a way as any to garner media attention in papers like The Guardian. Post-blah-blah, the Blank Cheque Art generation may face the same slim odds as their predecessors when it comes to 'making it', but schooled in hypercapitalist art theory, they can sure as hell fake it.

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