Saturday, July 19, 2008

mute copy

Perhaps Damien Hirst's in vitro installations satirise the reification implicit in Mark Wallinger's copy of Brian Haw's "Stop the War" stalls. Or vice versa. It's easy to read into these works ideas that aren't intended, as per Rorschach inkblots, because they are inconclusive.

Our contempories in the visual arts are not just the children of Saatchi, but of a vast spectacle growing out of several grand institutions: universities, museums and their trusts, publishing houses. The equivalent institutions in Paris had, in recent memory, produced a new international style, not in the visual arts but in literature; Alain Badiou talks about "a French philosophical moment of the second half of the 20th century which, toute proportion gardée, bears comparison to the examples of classical Greece and enlightenment Germany." The British institutions sought to mimic this.

The work of the British Artists is coloured by its reproducibility via art spectacle as much as commodities are marked by their reproducibility via the commodity market. In a way there was only one sort of work conceived at a high level of abstraction; talked about essentially in vague terms; only contingently materialised in a different way: as art in London, as literature in Paris.

Given this parallel each can be understood as an indirect criticism of the other. The success of the Republic's doctors of thought rested on a fetishisation of the individual genius, and an evaluation of content following from it: consequently on an implied expressionism absent from the manifest content of their work. Likewise the British Artists derived their sales pitch from their university work: reproducing its style but without any particular content. The British version is a mute copy.

It is as if in response to the Beatles' success the French made stars of four young men who were dressed exactly as the Beatles, but unable to conjure music from their plywood instruments instead insolently chewed gum.


Le Colonel Chabert said...

is there satire? i dunno. 'sensation' was apt: there is an open provision of experience, artists acting as elective surgery specialists for the sensibility. you don't even need the celebrity publicity - tho we have it and can't ignore it - to know from this art that the artists are cheerful striving 'yuppies', entertainment business successes, aloof from the work, calculating.

kathy acker said it was not until she had read anti-oedipus that she had a theoretical language to describe what she'd been doing. the saatchi system masters are all working from theoretical plans from the start. it doesn't mean they end controlling the signification, as you say. but that they intend this is a stark feature of a lot of the work. and just because "it shows" you get a 'sensation' that some kind of comment goes with the selfawareness. the empty comment. the mere empty form of art. one thinks artness cant get emptier than the 'fountain' but they prove it can. you mention vautrin. a predecessor of recycled pomo pirate kings. its hard to pinpoint where the border that was crossed is.

catmint said...

"is there satire?"

Probably no. There's a posture of having appraised the situation better than standard, which would also characterise satire, plus a degree of vagueness. You can make it out as a kind of satire, if you're prepared to squint a bit.

catmint said...

yeah, I think your appraisal's about right

Le Colonel Chabert said...

a better title for the exhibit:


but that it was Sensation! reveals that there is this psood-enthused professional reception context, cynical/naive, that maintains itself and that is still there and important for the pieces to function it, to play off as their foils; so while they are all in relation to film and television - its all about this struggle with film and television, first trying to incorporate and subordinate it, then vying, trying to degrade it by being and valorising what it lacks - they seem to ignore that, and that that is their problem and condition.

Le Colonel Chabert said...

"conceptual" For the first, it needs to be a real carcass, but for the restoration, it really might as well have been replaced by a very realistic plastic shark.

catmint said...

"Artists and conservators have different opinions about what's important: the original artwork or the original intention," remarked Hirst. "I come from a conceptual art background, so I think it should be the intention. It's the same piece."

It's important for Steve Cohen's shark to be registered as THE Hirst shark. A different kind of neo romanticism might have found the shark's decay poetic. It's too much Hirst's logo I suppose. The shark decaying would be like Colonel Sanders going bald.

catmint said...

The gist of this arts thing was I was going to offer so restrained praise to Mark Wallinger's bear suit thing:

"To the man on the Clapham omnibus, it might just look like what it is - another man dressed in a pantomime bear suit. But, say the experts, the star entry for this year's Turner Prize exhibition, unveiled yesterday, is a work of art in the greatest traditions of Michelangelo and Caravaggio."

catmint said...

...some muted praise:

that it mixes up two contrasting types of pastoralisation:

1. pantomime is to do with the popular classes and their ageless semi-barbaric traditions

2. arts conoisseurship is to do with the upper classes and their infinitely complex mores

Benjamin quotes an opinion on Kafka where the terminology is "powers above" "powers below"

some examples from Goya:

powers above

powers below

I thought at first Wallinger's thing might be a prologue of sorts to a type of art that would be bound to horrify the middle classes. On the other hand maybe it just reflects middle class ideas.

I don't speak Spanish any better than I speak Italian but I think the Spanish word "majismos" which could stand in for "pastoralisation" is more flexible: it can refer to a fantasy on the upper classes as well as the lower.