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rant #3

Following on from a couple of 'opinion pieces' written last year, I'm persisting with more in 2020.

These blog texts differ from the others on this page in that they are not reports on events but rather "rants" on certain topics (or non-topics !) that motivate me at the time. So begin a series of rants.

Note: I employ quotation marks to note that the word or phrase is contentious, needs further clarification, etc. with the hope that the general thrust of my view will be comprehensible without detailed analysis of terms (although this would also reveal much about my own aesthetic position). Indeed, most of the text could be within quotation marks, in that regard !

Many “artists” I have viewed in a gallery context, whether “amateur”, “aspiring professional” or “full-time artists” seem to have a template in their mind of what constitutes an “authentic artwork”, the “finished product”. Not primarily as content but of form. Although form and content are, practically speaking, inseparable I am drawn to notice the aesthetic value that has decided the image must look like this. The work must have a fully-considered finished quality that connects it to art history’s “canon” legitimising the work and the artist, and consequently denote belonging; to say that the work, the artist is indeed a member of a certain community. Viewing after viewing I encounter this conception, a way of showing that seems to be following a plan, a “self-conscious methodology” the goal of which is to present, unmistakably, an “object-of-art”. This is not extraordinary, just signs of art-business-as-usual.What is at stake here in adherence to this policy, is a loss of the evidence of compulsive making, the need to make a non-utilitarian-something in the first place. So much work appears leached of originality. Originality of overall conception and production but more importantly originality of the motive to make. It is not that compulsion is a necessity as driver of art-making, even idleness, a daydream meandering is motive enough, but whatever the motivation was to make a mark, to ink a plate, to weld this piece of metal to that, something of the makers hand and heart must be revealed through the work, and so it shall be, regardless. From my observations what is sought, what is arrived at is a uniformity of finish, displaying a finality that accords with the web of internal and external concepts and structures that signify art – and thereby signify content.Particularly in some mediums such as printmaking, it seems by and large that the process is to be masked. The process of the making, if revealed at all, should still be confined to fit within a clearly understood form, or finish. This is a conceptual, formal constraint that may precisely suit some makers, however it is unlikely to suit all. So why such a uniformity in what is finally seen?It is conformity to such a package of elements around art-making and its public presentation that predominates, that occupies art-space provided by galleries, magazines, media. The exceptions are those who are so “successful” their lives and anything they make exist in a kind of holy ivory tower, and conversely, those who operate either partially or fully outside of this value system and who by necessity are seen by only a few. In the process of satisfying the criteria perceived to be necessary in being an artist (the value system of art; art history, books, galleries, peer pressure, buying and selling), the creative impulse itself is channeled, is formatted from inception to fit, to address this criteria and thus, a creative opportunity may be missed. The uniformity of much of what is considered art is a uniformity of production and conception that when followed, rapidly reshapes, diverts, infects or arrests an original impulse before it has time to become something other than what might fit the template deemed necessary (before or after the making). In terms of expression of our humanity it does not need to be this way. The fundamental belief, through thinking and action, in the way a painting or any other medium should present, cultivates mediocrity, evident in attending exhibition after exhibition. A mediocrity that signals “this is art” because the work satisfies, in particular, the surface, the mannerism of art. Kowtowing to the “art’s” accepted and defining parameters in beginning a work diminishes the original drive, infects the original impulse before it has a chance to manifest in its own unique way, or worse, the adoption of the mechanisms of an art practice stand in for an “original impulse” where there is none, other than a desire to belong to a cultural identity group. That is, the technique and aspiration to belong to that community obfuscate the material that constituted the urge to make in the first place, obfuscate the extraordinary incidents occurring within the processual detail of making, the unanticipated, relational actions of the artists experience. Surely, not every projected effort, every creative meme is destined to proceed or manifest in the same or similar way !? What, who is the artist in the western milieu?My sense is that the space that practicing as an “artist” once occupied, the space surrounding, in front of and behind, no longer exists. Everyone and anyone is now an “artist” (to the delight of Duchamp, Cage, etc.) There was once the space for an avant-garde, there was a space between a more conventional arts practice and something more marginal or extreme. But now the cycle of consumption, the movement of mass culture that needs new material to consume when the old material loses its novelty value, appropriates the stuff that was its opposite the stuff of the other, the marginal, the once “avant-garde”, that existed in many cases as organic, natural material evolved away from the voracious, insidious lust of the consumptive machinery of mass. The inauthentic mass within all of us that has the attention span of a glance, that consumes so fast that it barely tastes and must never not-be-hungry or waste time. So the time and space between the emergent, authentic and unappropriated thing/experience and the already colonised and consumed, has shriveled in the face of a speed-of-light media, anticipating the potential within the empty space, the currently irrelevant on route to be NEW; food for the addicted, automated mass desperate for the next fix, at any price. The economy must keep expanding. The cycle, the turnaround of the mass consuming the new, the original, is so fast there is no space any more in between – in between the consumed, the colonised and the unconsumed, yet-to-be colonised. There is no space to even know the original, to perceive it or its authenticity. Everyone is an artist because there is no value in that claim anymore. A true artist has moved away from that claim, because they cannot survive there. There is no space to “be”, there is no air to breathe, there is no time to ruminate, to test, to come to terms, to live an undiluted creativity. KILL the flashing neon of ARTIST, of PERFORMER etc. it is now and has been for some time the property of the rolling MASS. In this, there is now NO DIFFERENCE between ARTIST and SPRUIKERS of CONSUMERIST MANIFESTOS.

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