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I put today's post
Post #1042 • August 29, 2007, 6:03 PM • 18 Comments
Update: As per Opie's request, the main comments I made over there. Please click the link for context.
1. The art market is more interesting than the majority of art being produced within it. The thrill of the auctions, the exchange of outsized sums, winners and losers, gossip, rumors, backbiting, business conducted in a manner that would invite SEC charges in any other field, the unholy collusion of private and public spheres (a phenomenon that Tyler has cleverly started calling "fluffing"), the occasional scrupulous gallerist braving the wilds of Manhattan (hi, Ed_) - what great fun even to observe, although I've never been a fan of soap operas myself. How much art out there is so good that it can make all that go away for a moment?
2. There is a lot of argument about art's nature and function. There's little argument about the art market's nature and function. It is much easier to have a conversation about the art market than art for that reason alone.
3. Writers, being writers, like narratives, conflicts, descriptions, ideas, dialogue, and backstory. None of these elements are intrinsic to art, but there is a widespread misunderstanding among art writers that they can use these literary terms without harm. This attitude has crept out into the larger art world; if only I could have a nickel for every time an artist was said to be in a dialogue with this or reacting to that or questioning this other thing or investigating whatnot. The art market characterizes these literary activities as inherently good. Just by admiring and repeating their terms, one is doing the market's bidding.
Later (with spelling corrected):
What's missing from art isn't ideology, but pleasure. My clue to this is that art is unique in the degree to which poor form can be taken so seriously. If someone says he's a dancer, you expect good form; likewise if he claimed himself a writer or cook. You might not only expect good form, but you'd still expect good form. Whereas if he was an artist he might be up to anything, and winning recognition for it. Consequently the system above all else rewards audacity, which at least carries a visceral charge.
I've been looking at Epicureanism, which had only one principle, that pleasure is good, but the idea is to make pleasurable a wise, sustainable activity, not an orgiastic explosion. (Epicurus himself was celibate.) Wikipedia says that we have "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in the Constitution because of Thomas Jefferson's high regard for Epicureanism. Something about this has important implications for art at the present.
August 30, 2007, 6:12 AM
Artblog is like a certain kind of bar. You don't go there unless you are OK with having a fight now and then.
August 30, 2007, 7:09 AM
Is there a reason why the name of practically every commentator but you on that thread is highlighted in orange and underlined, while yours is indistinguishable from the comment text and only underlined when one puts the cursor on it?
August 30, 2007, 7:13 AM
Well put, guys. I read the winkleman blog, too, and wondered why I don't see "Kate", or "Chris Rywalt", or others, commenting here.
The other day, I peeked at another blog, and saw two posts (with no comments) that directly refered to Franklin's Weston post... clearly, they want to talk about this stuff, but don't feel like they can do it here, lest they take a hard knock on the nose (or ego), I suppose...
I almost cut&pasted Franklin's comments onto here for discussion's convenience sake, but I thought that might be considered a rude usurpation...
August 30, 2007, 7:43 AM
But what to do?
Nothing, I think. If I want to interact with opinions that differ from mine, I want their owners to be as smart as Hovig. If that means we have a smaller conversation, all the better. I don't think of it as a bar so much as a boxing gym, informal but rigorous, and in which a black eye is a real possibility for someone who overestimates his standing.
Jack, it means you've been to Artblog.net. Visited links turn gray and lose their underline at his blog. I think it's an excessive style change.
Marc, Kate does comment here sometimes. Chris has been instrumental to the copyediting process at the Walter Darby Bannard Archive and has been a big supporter. Agreement doesn't elicit the same urge to respond that disagreement does. Anyway, when they comment over there in agreement with me, I look less like a lone loon, which doesn't matter to me per se except that I think my ideas are largely correct and deserve wide consideration. It's really awfully good of them.
BTW, what blogs referenced the Weston post?
And does anyone know something about Epicureanism?
August 30, 2007, 7:57 AM
Marc, Kate does comment here sometimes. Chris has been instrumental to the copyediting process at the Walter Darby Bannard Archive and has been a big supporter.
Excellent. Looking forward to more from them both...
August 30, 2007, 8:50 AM
Lone Loon. That's good. Good alias.
These comments are really excellent and when I read them it occurred to me that you may be inhibited - with some justification - on your own blog. I can understand this; there is a natural desire to stand back, moderatorwise, and manage things neutrally. Also there is the problem, which Marc seems to concur with, that the very nature of the discussion here is inhibiting, not to you, of course, but because our tendency to be a little rough and trenchant makes people shy away.
No, I don't know what to do about it either. Where is Dr. B when we need him? Or Jerome? We had some great battles.
August 30, 2007, 8:52 AM
Here is wikipedia on "epicureanism"
August 30, 2007, 8:54 AM
[Puts on his high-waters and performs an entusiastic smarty-pants dance.]
The art market is more interesting than the majority of art being produced within it. ... It is much easier to have a conversation about the art market than art ... .
Very interesting. And yes, very true.
Writers, being writers, like narratives, conflicts, descriptions, ideas, dialogue, and backstory. ... This attitude has crept out into the larger art world ... .
Also a very interesting way to state this.
Something is tugging at my mind here. You're saying art writing is influencing art ... but another meme going through the art world is that art criticism (whatever that is) is going through a rough patch.
Something in the back of my un-encrusted skull is trying to connect these two notions. Art criticism has declined because it has turned to attmepts at influence instead? No desire to criticize an artist when you could guide them instead? (Have I hit a diamond yet?)
August 30, 2007, 9:45 AM
Art criticism is always going through a rough patch, but once in a while there is a confluence of really lively art and one or two really smart articulate art critics.
But when the art gets crappy and good art criticism is shunned because it is, after all, critical, as it must be, because most art is not much good, then art criticism is in a rough patch.
Art criticism that influences art means that it is influencing artists. This does not mean it is any good. It just means that it is influential. In an atmosphere of almost pure commercialism influential criticism, that is, criticism that can be measured as being influential, will tend to make the art it influences more commerically acceptable.
August 30, 2007, 10:05 AM
Hovig, criticism in general is going through a rough patch because the newspapers are hemorrhaging and the magazine business is no picnic either, and they have traditionally been the ones who pay for criticism. Art criticism has never been in great shape in the first place. Even the greatest practitioners of the last century had a string of academic jobs to float them. I believe one day that the Internet will support some good critics on its own, but we're not there yet.
That's just the economic side. The literary problem goes back to the late 1800s at least. Postmodernist analysis of art made all the same literary mistakes, and furthermore did so using obscurantist prose. Whenever I talk about this I drop in on Artforum and see what's going on. Sure enough, somebody just published this sentence: "It is within the fissure that Brauntuch creates between a subject and its recognition by a viewer that a multitude of implications is born."
I happen to think that the problems relate, but in any case, this kind of talk is now standard in academia, museology, criticism, PR, and the studio. It's not just the criticism - a literary attitude has pervaded the whole structure. As Opie says, it's merely influential. It's not good. It meets an expansionist need in the art world that connoisseurship and high quality interfere with.
August 30, 2007, 10:16 AM
These comments are really excellent and when I read them it occurred to me that you may be inhibited - with some justification - on your own blog. I can understand this; there is a natural desire to stand back, moderatorwise, and manage things neutrally.
First, thank you. Second, I've been staying away from this kind of overarching speculation regarding the art market because I find it (the market) demoralizing and meaningless. The nature of the project of art interests me more, but I prefer to put it in the back seat while reviews of shows do the driving. It's nice to let it these thoughts out, though, once they coalesce into something resembling certainty.
August 30, 2007, 10:45 AM
That's a marvelous sentence, but it must have been painful to find it.
The theme of literary/academic/"expansionist need" vs esthetic/pleasure/connoisseurship/quality is a fruitful one, fer sure. Like two great armies (or board games), you could name the generals & the lieutenants and charactize the foot soldiers.
August 30, 2007, 11:08 AM
...it must have been painful to find it.
Nah. First review on the front page. Clicked there, scanned the paragraph, and bingo. Artforum is a target-rich environment for this kind of thing.
August 30, 2007, 12:13 PM
Of course. I shoulda known.
August 30, 2007, 6:30 PM
More correctly, re The Weston post here at artblog.
August 30, 2007, 4:53 AM
Are you referring to your comments there? It seems like a serious blog with a lot of interested bloggers but, with all due respect to them, your comments seem somewhat above their general level. In fact they were quite excellent and provocative. Why not post them here, eg "here's what I said on Winkleman's blog today".
I'm beginning to think that maybe we on artblog have driven away not only the jerks but most of the well-intentioned people who find it difficult to deal with the way we discuss things here. But what to do?