Monday, January 25, 2010

Finished my essay

Returning Art to the Big Picture: The Implications of Fan Culture for 21st Century Art

Now to get started on my next one. Phew! I'd really love to hear your comments, so please post them here.


  1. WOW! You have become a very creative wordsmith! I am impressed!

    That Old Woman

  2. Hey. Stumbled across your essay because of the link in the comments at AFC. Read it straight through right away. It's great. It really puts into words some of the thoughts I've been wrestling with as of late. Well put and attentively captured. I plugged it on my blog, since you don't like to. If you think I'm shooting you down in Swedish just hit the translate link. Thanks a bunch.


  3. Hi Olof! I'm glad that the essay resonated with you, and am totally flattered by your <3. :D

  4. Also came from AFC. Really like that you are trying to find a path forward. Question about fandom: is the future project all about reaction to popular life/culture or is the artist the beginner of a fan culture?

  5. Hi Amos,
    Great question. My current thought on the artist's relation to fandoms is that right now, reaction is what's most important. If fine art wants to stay out of becoming its own isolated fandom, then artists need to observe, interact with, and respond to other fandoms more than anything. I don't think that it would necessarily be a bad thing were an artist to form a fandom, however; in fact, it's probably inevitable. But it seems unhealthy if a content-creating group ignores most sources of cultural content save for itself, and relies on an outdated model of culture for gathering anything else.

    I'm working up several ideas for my next written piece about the economics behind this method of art making, however I'm still looking for more solid info about the boom/bust in 07-08. If you or anyone else has recommendations for articles to read about some of the auctions going on then (especially the big Hirst ones), I'd appreciate any links you may have.

  6. Maybe you know of it already but there's a great documentary, "The Great Contemporary Art Bubble", about the time the bubble bust, and about Hirst and Sothesby's in particular. They showed it on Swedish public service TV last year but I'm not sure where you can view it over there. It's made by Ben Lewis and you can find the trailer and som info on his site. Good luck.

  7. In your essay's so-called break with Nash, you suggest that "There is no longer a common culture" even though it is quite obvious we all have somehow managed to possess many similar gadgets like laptops, cell phones, smart phones, high-definition televisions, automobiles, movies on compact discs, etcetera, and seemingly endless copies of popular books. The perceived importance of the digital age, as you mention it in your essay just before the reference negating the existence of a common culture, does nothing more than attempt to fool us into thinking we'll somehow find a magic potion leading us to the answers for our questions. Deviant Art satisfies this last assertion even through your own statement: "artificial structure -- all artists know what the characters should look like, and so can test the flexibility of the personas and settings that fans bring to the web." Oh, but here the character is on the street! There! See him! His face is long, his beard is scraggly, his shirt is plaid with holes in the pockets! And his dirty, grimy shoes have not shoestrings! And near him, another man who parades down the sidewalk in an Armani suit! He performs a card trick for the man in a plaid shirt and he succeeds in swindling the poor man out of his only dollar! What a crime!

    Culture, of course, involves much more than just objects. It involves language, routine, rituals, repetition, customs, processes, traditions, history, stories, myths, legends, mystery, songs, economics, morals and ethics. And such concepts, we know, are under the influences from the expanding universe.

    Now, of course, one could try to accuse me here of being off topic, as Ms. P. Johnson had done some time earlier, but it is likely she, or Tom Moody, had felt challenged ("attacked" as it was suggested) by my language, hence the reference you make in your essay that states how in "Postmodern art's current obsession with its endgame, it loses its ability to examine culture because it becomes its own fandom." Of course, I am not off topic here and "fandom", as you present it, despises challenge. The internet again provides us with the artificial feeling that we can avoid being challenged. Still, to think of it in another way, anyone familiar with experiences in office work, computers and laptops could be thought of as furnished extensions of office furniture, and where the input information goes afterwards is then difficult to say. Groys, of course, suggested it could be God, but his was only a suggestion. Perhaps it's not God but our boss.

  8. Hello Joel,

    Thanks for the look. I would like to clarify that I'm not trying to 'fool' anyone, I'm just trying to work out what's going on based on what I see and read. I think that it's reasonable to assume that I might see technology as a magic potion that would answer questions about the future of art; it has historically. Take Impressionism and the rise of photography, for instance. One really significant thing about photography is it changed how we looked at and depicted the world, regardless of whether you were using photographs or not. I see an increasingly large number of fandoms and groups in the world. I see physical communities becoming less and less attached. I also see the Internet and its forums and blogs and personal websites and social media sites, and I'm trying to make an inference.

    With regard to culture, not everyone recognizes the man with the beard or the man in the Armani suit. Homeless people and villains don't look like that in every regional population's imagination. When many people fill in characters like that with their imaginations, they use models that they have encountered in culture; for instance, I see your homeless man as some weird mutation of R. Crumb's Mr. Natural. Objects certainly pervade culture and I wouldn't want to make the argument that culture is that fractured (yet). I gauess what I'm talking about is what people spend their time on, especially their leisure time.

    The internet does allow fandoms to feel unchallenged; that's a good observation. Is the Internet a kind of boss, as we sift through content to produce god-knows-what kind of output? I'd buy it.

  9. Mr. Hypothete,

    Interesting, thoughtful reply, and the way in which your imagination formulated an image that seemed to mimic R. Crumb's Mr. Natural was revealing, humorous. A more detailed description may provoke further, different references, but I shall spare you the exercise for it could be an endless one.

    Although you may have felt I was suggesting you were trying to fool someone, that's not what I meant, rather the problem lies in ourselves and how we perceive the world around us (the concept of trompe l'oeil just one of perhaps several.) Our own minds are capable of fooling our very "selves", with, it would seem, little assistance from the outside world (The Bernard Madoff case serves as an excellent example.) Thus we must constantly test and retest our own assertions as we move along in this weird, strange world, otherwise, it seems to me, we are more likely to feel we have become stuck, static. Such a process, I admit, is not an easy one to navigate and it quite naturally takes time, a thing which we really cannot accelerate or slow down.

    As it relates to your reference about Impressionism and photography, I agree it has changed the way we see our world, but, in doing so, it has also dramatically expanded the output of imitations and has made authenticity a much more difficult thing to decipher (Ms. P. Johnson has recently touched on this problem with her write-up about the Degas ballerina in Edmonton, Alberta.) Additionally, Walter Benjamin, a fairly familiar philosopher to students of art, wrote an essay about this problem of authenticity and mechanical reproduction and, I imagine, you are probably familiar with it.

    Regardless of these points, and despite the unresolved nature of some of them, I still found your essay interesting to read, and you provided some good points for me to mull over.

    Joel K. Smock

  10. Sorry, I should have posted my comment here. Here's what I wrote in a later comment addressing your essay (with one or two tweaks):

    Belatedly catching up to your "Big Picture" essay. I mostly agree with it. It's relevant to the Boris Groys discussion at AFC but only tangentially. My guess is Groys doesn't know beans about fan culture (I'm reading "Art Power" now and can report later on his knowledge level.)
    The problem of trying to put something like deviantart or 4chan into a grand timeline of art history movements is there is no cause and effect. Artists can be interested in these subcultures but the reverse isn't true. This is where the Groys lecture "Everyone is an artist" perhaps comes in - he's saying it doesn't matter if the people with the cat websites are schooled or not - it's enough that they're drifting away from the dominant culture, thereby weakening its foundations. "Professional" artists can similarly drift away into areas of niche expertise or semi-private activities.
    My biggest quibble with your essay is your choice of some artists. I've written about Takashi Murakami--I don't trust his motives or like his work--he's cynically exploiting western curatorial anxiety about being "too Western." His ambitions are too large and too capitalistic. Martin Denker is an interesting choice--I didn't know that work.
    I would say, forget the historical narrative at this point. The painters hanging out at Paddy's (see Amy Sillman threads) aren't interested in where technology might take us--why should we help them by retroactively validating them as links to present practices? I am more interested in developing a way of talking about the present subcultures you are interested in without always referring back to story of movements and countermovements. Arguably postmodernism is broad enough to capture all Balkanized, post-historical practices, including deviantart, and I'm happy to leave it at that.