Monday, May 10, 2010



  1. Nice--is there a reference? The poses reminded me of the Death of Socrates but it looks more like a marble tableau. (I kind of hope there is no overt art historical reference.)
    Belatedly catching up to your "Big Picture" essay. I mostly agree with it. It is germane to the Boris Groys discussion at Paddy's 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.

  2. Metanoia comes from a search for the word in Google Images, black and white only. I've been listening to MGMT's singles via Youtube for the past two weeks, one of which is entitled "Metanoia." The song starts out, "Metanoia - reshaping the world. It can teach you and reprogram you." I've been trying to throw out some of my visual biases in my past few digital stills by breaking personal rules, doing things like making pixel art out of grids rather than enlarging pixels, or using drop shadows and pillow shading. Metanoia reminded me to do that.

    It's been a few months since I wrote "Big Picture," and although I still think my general idea is correct, I have changed my opinion on building a timeline. It is incredibly tempting to pull an Alfred Barr and try and chart where we are today, but at the time I hadn't realized how artificial movement distinctions are. Just as Groys argues for the cat websites weakening dominant culture, I still say that it's not so much that artists can drift off into niches as much as they *do.* One thing that still confuses me is where stylistic trends in art have been arising from, but I guess any fan culture has its memes and hotbeds of discussion. I will add, though, that I find it crippling to be constantly told that we have reached the end-all of art movements and have no reason to try and push our conceptions of art's abilities and functions any more.

    I also agree with you on Murakami. Unfortunately I have never seen his work in person, but I do get the sense that he's not testing the waters much any more. Don't discount his work for capitalistic ambitions, however; it kind of reminds me of how chan sites usually have non-affiliated online stores advertising clothes with the chan's memes. The store owners have both a free source of content and a market at their fingertips, they just need to be creative with how they use both. Murakami has found his source and market, he's probably not going to be changing things up any time soon, and there's something vaguely slimy about all of it.

    Last thought - what are the painters at AFC interested in? I'd hate to generalize and assume that they all have a bias against technology. I know what you mean about validation, but it's my theory that as long as we persist in claiming postmodernism - a movement in a historical narrative - reigns, we shouldn't be too surprised that people are looking for validation through history.

  3. Also, reading over the Sillman threads, you point out something interesting - paintings, the physical objects themselves, invoke the historical narrative. Why do you think that is, and do you think that artists can get past it?

  4. There is no question that as the gallery world consumes itself with smaller and smaller critique gestures, digital culture has given rise to a whole new interesting set of problems. But I stress the "problems," contrary to what a smartass said on the first Sillman thread: "it's a bright, shiny, cyberworld, get with it." You have movies like Avatar trying to reinvent Renaissance perspective and "the total artwork," and you have groups of digital artists helping each other to make more realistic-looking fur in Maya. But then you have a quotation-palooza like, where pastiche and ironic found object practice happens at accelerated speed. This can't all be one thing, which is why I prefer to just lump it into the pre-existing category of unhierarchical, poMo pluralism. Its concerns aren't the same as "questioning the patriarchal assumptions of the gallery's white cube environment" or "critiquing the gesture as a colonizing movement" but some of that anti-totalizing, thinking-outside-the-frame spirit carries over.

    Others on the Sillman threads raised the "painting is in dialogue with history" argument--I think in response to me saying painting is backward-looking. I meant it is as a brush-off, not a positive. Sillman is still wrestling with the influence of old dead painters and she still buys into the frame that artistic expression isn't valuable or worth saying unless it's on stretched canvas. Painting a light bulb and having a zine with a CD in the gallery doesn't make the work "about technology"--it's still mainly about strokes and tactility, I guess, which her fans are trying to spin into a philosophy.

    As for Murakami, it's not the capitalism per se that annoys me, I don't care about the Versace bags or what have you. It's that he comes from a culture that doesn't have a romantic, starving-in-a-garret tradition for artists but who is making money "playing" curators who do come from that culture but feel guilty that they aren't doing more to help non-Westerners. He actually wrote a book for young Japanese artists telling them how to work the Western system and make money doing it. I would rather spend time thinking about the anime of Gainax (Honneamise, Evangelion, FLCL) and its subversive weirdness than having Murakami "translate" Japanese culture for me.
    Anyway, nice talking to you. It sounds like I'm debating you but I think we mostly agree where the priorities lie.

  5. As for Metanoia, the pixel art, it is an art historical reference: a barely comprehensible classical frieze about a lesser-known deity found through searching a word other that the deity's name on Google. I can get behind that.