Like rabbits in the headlights curators, heads of art institutions and high earning artists find themselves under the wheels of cataclysm. In this they joined ranks with financial experts, journalists and politicians in being caught unaware of the approach of the inevitable. Sources of funding are drying up for large scale exhibitions and when the artist has the means to pay for 100kg of gold bricks, he may find the gold purchased frozen as part of an SEC investigation.
Art as a means of winning the artist favor by flattering the ruling class is nothing new, nor is “transgressive” art acting as a pressure release valve for disaffection, nor art as an accessory to power and glamorous lives. In the will to join that privileged table of the powerful, and the implied promise of that possibility for all being the central theme of popular culture and marketing, the treadmill driving all that grinds down the human spirit is kept moving by those who have least to gain from it. One may ask what we need the art that has dominated the international press and aspirations in the past 20-30 years when we have the fashion industry who have always and always do glamor and fuel aspiration better than art ever can.
The economies of western nations have been removed from their foundations stone by stone and thrown upon quicksand. The illusion of stability and growth wa achieved by adding to the pile at a reate greater than the pile was sinking into the ground. Now we’ve tossed in the last of the structure and are standing on the quickly dampening furniture and drapes.
The last depression ushered in a period of pure fantasy and grand spectacles, this one may bring an end to the international art equivalent or we may see a revival of the ghost of Busby Berkeley. It could be said that it’s early days yet, but it’s later than anyone is admitting. In the US, the apparent desparation of PBS, that mainstay for arts coverage has degenerated into repeated airings of Yanni, Celtic Woman, Il Divo and seminars with the Rich Dad guy. In Central Florida, these programs are repeated ad nauseum accompanied by fundraising breaks at least once a month, if not every other week. The viewers contributions pay for three hour long commercials for tours of the abovementioned soul-sucking anti-musicians. The avenues of cultural broadcasting and coverage can’t afford to aim as high as middle-brow anymore. In going down that road, they are eliminating their reason for being and asking that the plug be pulled when the time comes. And last year the ICA replaced the finance director with an ex hedge fund manager. Talk about taking arsenic as an antidote for cyanide.
Is it any wonder people are trading photos of modern ruins and creating active communities to share and discuss abandoned places and pohotos thereof? Is it a perverse solace being found in the frightful catharsis a gallery of grotequeries brings or is a yearning for somthing other than what is on offer from the status quo? Could this phenomenon be a wish for escape from stifling order that mark post-production economy, manufactured desire and the standardization of life that civilization has degenerated to in the Anglo-American world?
We saw this economic crisis coming Art as we know it is finished proclaimed Jonathan Jones on his blog a headline that was met with a chorus of «about bleeding time»:
The economic collapse is hitting the art world in some surreal ways. Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles has just had to postpone a planned exhibition, by the maverick performance and conceptual artist Chris Burden, that involves the use of 100kg of gold bricks. Gagosian purchased these – wow! How much does 100kg of gold bricks even cost? – from a company called Stanford Coins and Bullion. This company is a subsidiary of Stanford Financial Group, that is, it’s part of the empire of Texas financier Allen Stanford who is now at the centre of a massive fraud investigation. Now, announces Gagosian, “the gallery’s gold has been frozen while the SEC investigates Stanford.”
Now, this is delicious! Well, the very cream of the econimic crap escaped with trillions, as they always have. As a realtor said to me during the recession of the -90’s, you know, the one bred in the farmyard of the Other Bush? The high end is always there. The overextended yuppie may be losing hir house and expensive car, but those who pulled the levers that unleashe this flood are white water rafting on the crest of the wave and will be buying up dead assets with your money. It has all been done proclaim pomo artists and theoriticians, but the scale and scope of the swindle is ever more spectacular. It may all have been done, but not in art, for it springs from chaos and chaos is infinite. We’ve had our imaginations hijacked and our lives have been mapped out for us, but the lo0nger and more pervasive standardization of society, economy and culture becomes, the longer this standardization is carried out, the more harrowing will our witnessing the chaos denied flooding our streets, crashing over our plans, our medicated, mediated minds and edifices be. This is the time when creation is not only possible, it is inevitable, all-powerful and sacred. It’s time to make something for ourselves.
Welcome to Year Zero.
solve et coagula
dissolve and coagulate
separate and join together
solve or solutio – the breaking down of elements
coagula – their coming together
in the process of transmuting base metal into gold
or arriving at the philosopher’s stone