Friday, August 04, 2006

When Does Pluralism End? Or Does It?

I was asked to discuss what trends I see coming in the near future for art recently. This question is asked quite often (at least much more frequently than trends actually change, IMO, but...). So I thought about it a while (as long as my ADD-riddled mind would permit) and came up with a few things that I wish would change, but don't know actually. Here's what I'd love to say:

It really feels as if we're on the verge of seeing the dust settle. As if Pluaralism has run its course and clearer trends, if not camps, are set to emerge. It most likely won't include a new age of manifesto-driven "-isms," per se, but there will be a consolidation of conclusions.
But there's a tiny voice in my head saying that's a bunch of crap (it's a particularly rude voice, but it may just be right).

The metaphor I've found helpful in discussing my opinion on Pluralism is to imagine that the widespread efforts in Deconstruction resulted in a vast landscape scattered with very small pieces of artstuff (imagine little building blocks as far as the eye can see). Some artists entered that landscape and got busy trying to breaking down the artstuff further, into smaller and smaller pieces, but some artists, because this is the inclination of artists, couldn't help themselves and began taking the small blocks and constructing things out of them. This new construction was informed by the previous deconstruction (i.e., they could see what each block signified once broken down), but as daunting as building some new "thing" from that landscape might seem, some artists simply had to. The result was an army of highly individualistic, often highly private, efforts...their own, often very elaborate, universes.

Stretching the metaphor a bit, and superimposing it on what we know about the dawn of civilizations---where towns emerged and then adventurous sorts set out to explore the wilderness, only to run into another previously unknown town where they did many things in the same way, but many things were different, and they took what was different, or at least what was better, back to their town to improve things there, bringing the two towns closer together in how they do things---it's easy to imagine that artists building their own private Idahos would eventually "borrow" from other private Idahos (am I using that right? it's too early to tell...perhaps I should stick with "private universes"), bringing them closer together in how they do things, and voila, a trend emerges.

Or does it? Is there now a built-in resistance to letting that happen? I know anyone stepping forward with a manifesto would likely be mocked right out of Chelsea, but there do seem to be many more art collectives making waves than a decade ago. Can an "ism" be far behind?


Blogger beebe said...

Don't you think, however, that there are already two camps, two unnamed "-ism" in the art world that can't be parsed much further? Namely, a camp that works from from the Deconstructivist/Conceptual tradition and a camp that works from the pre-Decon/Concept tradition? Idea makers vs. object makers? I know there are some artists--Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith, etc--whose work seems to bridge both worlds...but often, as I walk through Chelsea galleries, I seem to connote that split. Either a work exudes the dusty sepulchral odor of the lofty Intellectuals or the quaint gamy tang of the feverish paint-splattered Artistes? One camp wants to intimidate you and the other desperately wants you to love them?

Help me out here...

8/04/2006 09:48:00 AM  
Anonymous jec said...

Ed, I'm not sure this would happen on its own. At least not any time soon. A collapse/correction in the art market (and economy) would likely bring about something like what you describe, but short of that, I don't see the situation changing. There are just too many artists, too many galleries, too many artfairs, collectors, curators, etc. Plenty of space for all of the different directions to coexist.

As for beebee' point: Don't you think, however, that there are already two camps....Idea makers vs. object makers? I don't agree. There is a division of sorts, but there is also a LOT of work that straddles the two.

8/04/2006 10:11:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

EW: army of highly individualistic, often highly private, efforts...their own, often very elaborate, universes.
B: Don't you think, however, that there are already two camps

The halves, or the halve-nots?

8/04/2006 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger painterdog said...

do you mean haves? as in having it.
have nots for not having it.

whatever "it" is.

8/04/2006 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger carla said...

Painterdog, david is punny

8/04/2006 11:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find Edward's original notion so attractive, even if it may not have manifested hugely and certifiably in the "real artworld-at-large" yet: his idea of these baby civilizations--or private Idahos--in some metaphorical ancient/future wilderness somewhere, with us artists wandering through just experimentally manipulating the blocks and exploring the curious space like preschool children at play-- which surely we all are, at our root-source--and I love the vivid picture he paints of mutual influences, and the exchange of bright ideas, and a certain eventual merging of strengths. Parallel play, as the child psychologists once dubbed it.
It's always great when someone has the courage to articulate these nascent visionary inspirations--because the simple articulation of them is the first breath of solidifying, nourishing, and growing an alternate reality, which I'm sure I don't have to remind any of us the world desperately needs right now.

I also agree w/jec that there are many who already straddle the gap between "conceptual" and the pre-deconstructive.They are sort of our pioneers.

-- from anonymous 2:16

8/04/2006 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger painterdog said...

I'm going to para-phrase Gracho Marx:
I don't want to be a member of any camp(or ism) that would have me as a member.

8/04/2006 12:44:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Carla, thanks for explaining my silly joke :)

Regarding the idea of plurality, another way to look at it is in terms of mass or niche markets (or communities). Back when pretty much the whole art scene was in NYC (some may argue that it still is), and the art world was a lot smaller, it makes sense that there was a tendency toward monolithic movements. Now, with a much larger and more geographically diverse art world, I think the trend will continue to be more niches.

8/04/2006 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

Mr. W, maybe the conceptual redacting process is well under way, but the scale at which it takes place now is very small.

I see some broad camps emerging, but none with the authority of any of the truly identified movements in the past. Of what could an authoritative movement consist when authority itself is sopervasively distrusted?

Also, joining or following almost seems to be viewed as too constricting in an era when choices are greater than ever and it's perceived that anyone can shoot the dice and become an art star.

8/04/2006 12:52:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

painterdog, I'm going to paraphrase Harpo:

8/04/2006 12:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edward defined this speculative vision as a "consolidation of conclusions", not some kind of old fashioned authoritarian (Karl) Marxist dogma that you guys would be required to submit to against your wills. Obviously not--why would he say that he wished this was on the arts horizon. That's insulting to him. The point would be a new sort of freedom. And p.s., your own masculine chummy-ism gets to be sort of annoying, and (Groucho and Harpo) Marxist references are lamely dismissive, and don't seem that clever to me.

8/04/2006 01:52:00 PM  
Anonymous spellchecker said...

your own masculine chummy-ism

Huh? Whose own? Whose comment are you responding to?

8/04/2006 02:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

forget it.

8/04/2006 02:18:00 PM  
Anonymous spellchecker said...

Already did...

8/04/2006 02:22:00 PM  
Blogger painterdog said...

And p.s., your own masculine chummy-ism gets to be sort of annoying, and (Groucho and Harpo) Marxist references are lamely dismissive, and don't seem that clever to me.

oh boy who needs a sense of humor, I was not being boyishly chummy to anyone.

Ok no more silly stuff or bad jokes and I will obey the orders of the art nazi who wishes to remain anonymous...

8/04/2006 05:02:00 PM  
Anonymous you know who said...

Okay, stop all that clowning around right NOW! Chummy boys especially. Girls too. If I hear even a snicker from ANYONE, you're all in BIG trouble. Don't make me come down there.

8/04/2006 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger chrisjag said...

I like to think that the past was not so clearly cut up into -isms, but contained a wide range of interesting things. Rather, it has been historians/ institutions that impose clarity on everything (at the expense of much artwork). Sometimes walking through the MOMA pisses me off, and the American Folk museum makes me feel a little better.

Don't worry Ed, I'm sure historians will find a way to simplify all this plurality into easy to understand nuggets of falsity.

8/04/2006 06:15:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

It seems that when art movements were identified or created labels such as Neo and Ism were attached in order to pursue a market . Today galleries have niches of artists which support the image the gallery presents to the public. The Artists could be similar or different in style and image, the main thing is the client who shops only at the perceived hip gallery. The question is what, or who is selling and why? Where are the hip galleries? Certain artists are copied for good reason, they sell. Trends and moments happen because the public is buying up the current art or artist.

8/04/2006 10:25:00 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8/04/2006 11:16:00 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I also notice that I am lately finding my visits to the American Folk Museum more satisfying than visits to MOMA.

Donald Kuspit wrote about this in his book, Idiosyncratic Identities. I think that we are so fractured now, and we have access to so much information, that if "isms" do develop, they will be quite different in flavor than previous "isms". Previous movements often came from common experience, or long philosophical discussions over wine, etc., where today, I might google the unusual materials I am working with, and find an artist on the other side of the world, with totally different life experiences, using the same materials for a different reason, and be influenced by that work, or vice-versa.

8/04/2006 11:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Craft, craft and craft.
It will be harder to become an artist in the next generation because for a start you will need to be one: have a sense of mastering technique, what has nothing to do with neceserely going back to traditional mediums.

Spatial explorations as artists are tired of putting objects in white walls.

Art more linked to the entertainment world or designers being invited as artists, as more and more people from other fields have learned the history of contemporary arts and are ready to bring on their perspective against the desolation of bubbled up off-track artists.

Yes I agree more collective and more spontaneity too. Intelligence not being accounted for vocabularies and how you express yourself but people really being valued for the ideas they can bring.

Post-barry mcGee post-street art or neo-abstract folk stuff like Thomas Campbell (doing the new Mojave 3 album cover).

A lot of oriental and middle east artists.

Me curating all this.


Cedric Caspesyan

8/05/2006 04:07:00 AM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

I don't see craft per se gaining relevance (and have written about why here and here), but I do see physical manifestations and explorations of what is real (as opposed to what is virtual or what is information) becoming increasingly important (and have written about that here here and here)

(I am not meaning to shamelessly hammer at my own agenda, CC brought up craft, a subject that is near to my heart...)

Pendulums swing. Truthiness and Baudrillard wear thin... it's wearying to live in a world that totally lacks truth. Manifestoism, or delcaring Truth, is modernist bullshit that speaks only to the declarer's privileged status. And yet this hunger for something thicker and jucier remains, so some kind of movement seems inevitable.

Small-t truth projects (embodied truths or truths that need not be declared) seem to be the next order of business IMO.

8/05/2006 06:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the idea of smaller communities borrowing from each other, and I think that's part of what's happening, but I think it's limited in NYC in this way--it seems harder to develop active independent communities when we're all supposed to be aiming for the chelsea art market. I have this idea in my head that that kind of activity is easier to sustain in a city where the cost of living is lower, it's easier to fund some kind of physical community space for such a group to come together, it's more practical to start an organization... which may just be a case of the grass is greener, but anyway. I do think that generally "small community" is not something valued, for most part, in NYC.

8/05/2006 11:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>Small-t truth projects (embodied truths or truths that need not be declared) seem to be the next order of business IMO.<

Akin to the zen concept of things that can't be taught, only experienced? IMO that's what art is good for, what's 'between the lines' in poetry. A problem is an audience that looks to pop culture for answers. Pop culture has been co-opted by corporate interests and the underlying message is consumption. Buddha wept.

>I have this idea in my head that that kind of activity is easier to sustain in a city where the cost of living is lower, it's easier to fund some kind of physical community space for such a group to come together<

I live in an area you describe. The more committed and ambitious one is, the more time and expense one spends trying to get shown in NYC. Knowledgable collectors, critics, other artists, etc., are more concentrated in NYC. Everything's a trade-off.

8/06/2006 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

A problem is an audience that looks to pop culture for answers

I truly hate to quote Kevin Costner, but don't you think a "build it and they will come" philosophy is more productive than assuming what the audience does and does not do?

8/06/2006 04:05:00 PM  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

Oh rats Edward...

I was hoping you might foretell a future where people bought art. Lots and lots of public people who took art classes in schools (remember art programs?) and grew up and needed lots of art in their homes more than they needed cars, clothes, extra tvs and computers and gadgets.

A public that needed and loved art...

8/06/2006 05:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>a "build it and they will come" philosophy is more productive<

I think "building it" is crucial, but I don't have my fingers crossed.

8/06/2006 09:19:00 PM  
Blogger iglooo101 said...

Pluralism is a Realm and the Status Quo is its border.Moreover, anything new, will become a Status Quo by the time.It is a never ending story.It is the Yen and the Yang. They will be at each other's throat to the end.

8/07/2006 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pluralism is the status quo-the ad man's ultimate utopia in a world where values have been replaced by the disposable image. Those who refuse to be force fed supermaket zombies create their own microverses; then realizing no one has a stand-alone reality (no one's that interesting); seek outside contact- something greater than the self- to survive.

8/07/2006 07:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those who refuse to be force fed supermaket zombies...

I always refuse. They taste like shit.

8/07/2006 09:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Dear Deborah, your articles were all very interesting.

I think the problem with the term "craft" is indeed semantic
because I never once perceived the term in the contemporary context
as synonimous with repetition and tradition. Craft for me merely
implied an applied skill or technique.

I must urgently re-address my understanding of the term:

When I mention that the artist must master a technique,
that never implied this technique had to be traditional.
On the contrary it could involve the latest industrial
technology. In that sense I implied industrial design
in the term "craft", I implied the use of machines.
I terribly hope I wasn't understood as implying "handmade".

In fact I forgot to mention that "craft" in the contemporary context
doesn't even need to even be created by the artist's hand, though
I believe in the future this argument, wrether the artist made the work themselves
or by others, will become pertinent in art's evaluation.

I don't think we are going backward as far as thinking is concerned.
I was sort of implying that the post-conceptual context implied thinking,
though I am certain that spontaneity and abstraction will also promote a strong
case against thinking in future art.

What I think is over is art thinking for art's thinking sake. The
"this-is-the-idea-I-don't-need-to-materialize-it" stand or any over-simplifications.
I also argue that in the future you won't be able to throw a shovel in a museum
without considering the original designer and design properties of the shovel.
This is coming from Beuy's position about the history and
archeological value of any object (hence why many recent art who used ready-made
implied the origins and sources of object while prior it wasn't this important).

When I used the term craft I do imply that the "Making" in your "makingthinking" definition
will become a preponderant value. And chances are that the "thinking" in the future
will be much guided by the "making", but I doubt we can ever return to boring traditional
items when we've passed the arts from the last 50 years.

I guess hen I used the term "craft" I implied that there would
be some thinking involved.

You mention "build it and they will come", that pretty much
summarize my view. I just don't think that mere half-built ideas
are that attractive anymore.

>>>realizing no one has a stand-alone reality (no one's that interesting); seek outside contact- something greater than >>>>the self- to survive.

Wow...why are people so obsessed with self-importance to go through all that suffering?

I think everybody is interesting. To not acknowledge that is to see the world only from its surface.
It's refusing to truly explore it.


Cedric Caspesyan

8/09/2006 03:10:00 PM  

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