Thursday, June 30, 2011

Does This Painting Make Me Look Rich? || Open Thread

Bambino Murat and I had a very interesting conversation with an art dealer in Berlin when we were there. Unlike many Americans, who tend to only buy art once they've run out of other things to spend their disposable income on, many middle-class Europeans, he said, will make a point of saving up to purchase a good piece of original artwork for their home. It's a similar priority to how many middle-class Americans buy a sports car. A status symbol, for sure, but one that usually only gets purchased after life's necessities are taken care of (a home, the children's college fund, a solid nest egg, etc.).

Still buying original art is a priority in those middle-class Europeans' lives. Unlike in the US where buying original art is generally seen as a rich person's game.

Of course, there are the occasional efforts to democratize art here, efforts to focus on volume rather than value, but they're usually marginalized or seen as mostly insignificant by the power brokers in the art world. The main focus of the art industry here is on raising value, thereby raising prices with an eye on raising profits (which is fair enough, the art business being a business like any other). But in the short-run that is accomplished via more investment (more catalogs, more lavish parties, larger art fair booths, more cash incentives for the hotter artists to defect to your stable, more travel to keep up with the NetJet set, etc. etc.), all with an eye on generating demand among the very wealthy. Art for the middle-class is simply not a priority. It really can't be in this system.

Of course in the example our Berlin friend provided, art for the middle-class is a priority in Europe because the demand was already there. Generations of families saw acquiring at least one work of original art as simply what you do with your money. The middle-class here overwhelmingly prioritizes a sports car instead.

I had a conversation with an artist the other day, someone I've known a long time and seen his career ebb and flow, and after a while he asked me point blank: "Why do they do it? Why do collectors buy art? I still can't figure it out." He asked as if he hoped my answer would, I don't know, either provide solace that he's not selling much (i.e., the whole thing is illogical, so don't worry about it, it's not you or your art) or provide direction on whether to cater to the market or finally decide he never would. We eventually agreed to agree that loving what you do in your studio is the only reason to ever be an artist, but we got there via a wide ranging discussion on why collectors do buy.

You need look no further than at what the galleries are selling to understand why collectors are buying. Of course there is no one-size-fits-all answer to that. But there are several categories of answers.

I once had a conversation with a young man who had, for about three months I think, been the director at a very hot emerging gallery with locations on two continents. He said it took him about three days to realize that the gallery was not really selling art (although a lot of product was being moved), but rather they were selling a life-style. I immediately recognized the truth of what he had said. Whether it's hipness or intellectualism or warm-and-fuzziness or a quiet reassurance that there are transcendent pockets in this rocky road we call life or, rather, a blinding rock-n-roll-ish exuberance, nearly every gallery I know is selling a particular life-style to their clients. Via the art they show, sure, but still.

You can zoom out from life-styles, though, to see the broader categories of what galleries are selling. Some galleries are selling prestige. Some exclusivity. Some are selling history. Some are selling opportunities (for cashing in or simply being first). Some are selling simple, sublime distractions from the pressures and anxieties of their clients' hectic lives.

Art is fabulous, because it can be a vehicle for all that. And yet, we expect it to be so much more than that.

I read an article recently about a collector who admitted that he hadn't actually seen a good portion of his collection. Most of it was in storage. I know many collectors who have more work than they have wall space to hang it on at any given time. Many such collectors end up opening their own museums or exhibition spaces, which I love and greatly admire them for. Such collectors tend to evolve into philanthropic figures within the art world. They're not so much merely "buying" as "supporting," ensuring that there's enough money in the system to provide real opportunities for the artists still struggling to reach their full potential. Clearly not everyone has the resources or even interest to be an art world philanthropist, but there's no higher reason for buying art, in my humble opinion.

Consider this an open thread on why people buy art.

Labels: art collecting

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Opening Tonight at the FLAG Art Foundation

The super savvy and uber-charming director of the FLAG Art Foundation, Stephanie Roach, makes her curatorial debut at the Chelsea non-profit exhibition space this evening. Titled "One, Another," the exhibition has an impressive line-up, including Diana Al-Hadid, Agnieszka Brzezanska, Louise Bourgeois, Joseph Cornell, Tom Friedman, Robert Gober, Subodh Gupta, David Hammons, Jim Hodges, Cindy Sherman, Swoon, Rachel Whiteread, Remedios Varo, and Fabio Viale. Here are more details:

One, Another
Curated by Stephanie Roach
9th Floor
June 29 - September 2, 2011

Through painting, sculpture, photography and installation, One, Another explores coupling and interconnectedness in the realms of love, nature and spirituality. Historically one another is an abbreviation of the one the other and in that form was used only for two people. The clause one another reflects this reciprocal relationship and action between them. The separation of the two words by a comma emphasizes the distinction of a whole and its parts.

Emanating from the painting The Lovers completed in 1963 by Remedios Varo, the exhibition incorporates reoccurring motifs of mirrors, nature, cosmos and existential forces to investigate themes such as transformation, sexuality, love, narcissism and identity.

The FLAG Art Foundation
NEW YORK, NY 10001
phone: (212)-206-0220
Bambino and I will be there. Hope to see you too!

Labels: must-see exhibitions

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Opting Out of Advertising Blight

You know how when you sign up for a new online service, they often have a check box (which is usually checked by default) that you need to uncheck to avoid receiving an avalanche of email from their sponsors or whatever they call the other companies they sell your information to? Unchecking that box is called "opting out" in e-marketing terms. I'm not sure it's a legal obligation in any jurisdiction to offer you the choice, but it saves on unpleasant phone calls later should you wish to stop receiving such email: "But Mr. Winkleman, we offered you the choice to opt out and you didn't uncheck the box." See how that works? I'm made to feel stupid for not taking such a simple and obvious step to prevent the bombardment.

I've often wished there was a way to opt out of being bombarded with advertising in other contexts. Take the subway, for example. Advertisers are permitted to paste all manner of intensely dull, aesthetically pathogenic, and otherwise obnoxious posters up and down the platforms where millions are forced to wait each day. Yes, you can avert your eyes from them, but the dulling effect of so much dreck eventually wears you down to where you find yourself dutifully scanning on a daily basis to see which ones are new and which among those offer anything you might care about. It's actually a bit soul-crushing and would be criminal in any society that didn't celebrate commercialism above all else.

In this context, it's never once been a mystery to me why certain citizens would eventually take it upon themselves to comment on this never-ending assault on commuters' ability to choose what they think about while waiting for their train. A while back I noted how much I appreciated the work of Poster Boy, who officials eventually caught. His hysterical collages of subway ads not only brilliantly skewered the banality of the ads we're subjected to, but often also made poignant comments on life in general. And while I don't endorse destroying other peoples' property under any circumstances, I wouldn't have felt compelled at all to turn him in had I known who he was. He fell into this gray area for me...sort of Robin Hood-ish. Outlaw yes, but within a system that grotesquely favors one class (the advertisers) over the common commuter. Let the authorities catch him if they can. And well...they did, so the powerful people in advertising and the sheep they sell to can all sleep more soundly now.

Of course, I probably wouldn't have felt the same way if Poster Boy hadn't been so good at what he did, or if his collages had been offensive to me in some way, so I recognize my own hypocritical-ness here. More than that, though, I wouldn't have felt the same way if the original ads Poster Boy was defacing had been of a higher quality, more compelling, more interesting than their edited versions were. I'm sure it's intentional actually. The original ads' unyielding ability to cater to mediocrity serves as some form of civil lithium.

And so, after Poster Boy had had his knuckles whacked by the law, there was a dry patch of underground creativity until Moustache Man came along. His was a simple and yet, somehow, like the Three Stooges, infinitely funny intervention. He drew the word "Moustache" in curly letter above the lips on the faces of people on the ads:

It was charming, silly, and the perfect antidote to the constant drumbeat of conformity that unifies the subway messages. It too, though, was illegal and like Poster Boy, Moustache Man has been caught:
For street artists, sometimes acclaim can be the worst enemy. Case in point: Moustache Man (aka Moustache, aka the Moustache Bandit) beloved by New York City subway riders for his simple but witty trick of using a felt-tip marker to write the word "moustache" (always with the European 'u') in curly cursive script on the upper lip of people in various advertisements. He had successfully eluded the police for more than a year, but authorities announced that they managed to track down the rogue artist last week based on his "Internet bragging," the Daily News Reports, arresting him near his place of work, Gray Line Tours.

So who is the Moustache Man? Turns out he is Joseph Waldo, a 26-year-old who now faces charges of felony mischief, misdemeanor criminal mischief, graffiti, and "possession of a graffiti instrument," according to the cops. His quirky mustache graffiti is alleged to have caused more than $1,500 in damage to New York Transit property. Waldo was released without bail after his arraignment, and is due back in court September 15.

And why did he do it? The impetus behind the Moustache Man's art was to "raise awareness for the tens of people in the world who are born with the horrible, unsightly condition where your moustache grows into the word moustache," Waldo joked to the Subway Art Blog in May. On a more serious note, he situated his practice within the broader tradition of "subverting advertisements," claiming to be inspired by Banksy, as well as such lesser-known lights of the NYC street art scene as Elle, Judith Supine, Primo, Quel Beast, QRST, Shin Shin, and Specter. He also said that he engaged in a separate above-ground — as in not in the subway — street art practice that was stencil-based and closer in spirit to Banksy or Faile ("nothing like the moustaches.")
Again, I can't in good conscience endorse the destruction of other peoples' property (I certainly wouldn't appreciate people tagging the gallery walls or windows). So I simply sigh at the news that, once again, someone who brightened the otherwise dark and mind-numbing void of creativity that Madison Avenue and the MTA apparently insist we endure while we commute, has been silenced.

It all does make me wish they could develop some system whereby you have a choice. A blind on each poster or something you push a button to raise if you wish to be sold to. An opting out option for the rest of us.

Labels: advertising, street art

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ding, Dong...The Bells are Gonna Chime :: A Thank You Note to a Few People

Bambino and I spent a good chunk of New York Pride day at home, going through years of collected "stuff," in a spring-cleaning-type effort to make some space in our apartment. One of the things I stumbled upon while doing so was a journal I was keeping back in the mid 90's, before I knew Bambino.

One of the entries in that journal detailed going with friends to a Gay Pride March on Washington, DC. My journal entry noted how the mood back then was less than jubilant (unlike yesterday in New York). Among the chants we joined in with as we marched in the mid-90s were "We're Here, We're Queer, We Could Really Use a Beer" and "Keep Your Promise!!" (directed at then President Bill Clinton who had campaigned on ending the ban on gays serving in the military)...which, after admittedly, having found a few of those beers, kept disintegrating into "Keep Your Prom Dress!!"

As I reviewed the press this morning, I couldn't help but think what a stark difference there was between the sense of having been used by a politician (Clinton) and actually looking up to a politician (Cuomo).

Image by Newscom/Zuma, from TPM.

Now I'm just wise enough to understand how different the political landscape and the sentiments were back when Clinton was president from how they are now. Still, from all accounts, Andrew Cuomo sank some serious political capital into getting the same-sex marriage legislation passed.

So too did NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Photo by Janet Mayer, via Exposay.

And many, many others.

We sincerely thank you all!!!!

Bambino and I went out to dinner with our dear friend Ondine yesterday. In discussing the new law, we all agreed that it feels really, really odd to know that marriage will soon be our right as New Yorkers. I mean, it was something we all believed in, spent money on, marched for, voted toward, etc., etc., but now that it's here, one part of it feels very odd.

We tried to get to the bottom of why it feels so much different than we had expected it would.

One of the reasons we decided, after imagining what the marriage landscape might look like 10 years from now, was that we too will bear responsibility for protecting it. The 50% divorce rate; the number of couples living together without marrying; the damage to the institution left by the shenanigans of political leaders (e.g., John Edwards or Arnold Schwarzenegger) or other high-profile public figures (e.g., Tiger Woods); and the stresses of the economy or simply our hectic info-age lifestyles...all of this suddenly combines into a situation we cannot simply wash our hands of. Whether we marry or not (stay tuned on that front), our choices now will play into whether the institution of marriage gets stronger or is weakened even further in New York and across the US. We never had to worry about that before. It's odd to think that with the signing of one piece of legislation, we now do.

It's like with one new law, we're forced to be that much more adult. Not that we'd have it the other way again, mind you. Just that it's not a part of being married I expected to seem so serious so quickly. It has this odd maturation power to it. Which is something I guess Andrew Sullivan was always trying to get other conservatives to understand. (BTW, I sincerely thank Andrew and other long-time champions of gay marriage who used their megaphones to make this happen!)

Of course, it's impossible to assess what this all means without thinking of those couples who would have married, had one or the other of them lived long enough to see this happen. I hope, wherever they are, they're permitted to see that it has. It's with a mixture of pride, sadness, and hope that I thank them as well, today. It took the concerted efforts of openly gay people showing their straight friends and family what marriage would mean to them, over the course of decades, to help change hearts and minds. Each of our lost loved ones played an important part in that.

Finally, I wish to offer a sincere thank you to the very good people of the State of New York. The number of kind comments and encouragement we've received since the vote has simply been astonishing. People we didn't know cared or didn't know had an opinion have reached out to tell us how happy the news has made them as well. When we get married (details to come), you're all invited...all 18,976,457 of you!

OK, so perhaps that's the jubilation talking . . . I better check with Bambino on that first. :-)

Labels: gay politics

Friday, June 24, 2011

What Does "Larger Than Oneself" Mean? | Open Thread

Roberta Smith gives Ryan Trecartin's exhibition at PS1MoMA the sort of review that legends are made of in today's New York Times. Since we launched Moving Image, more and more people have asked me who is an interesting new talent in video, and always at at the top of my list has been Ryan. He is an absolutely phenomenal artist, and although I have yet to catch his PS1 show, I knew first time I saw his work that I was watching something I would not soon forget.

The final thoughts in Roberta's review just happened to touch on something I've been mulling over since Jerry Saltz wrote an equally thought-provoking take on contemporary art in New York Magazine. I'll get back to Jerry's piece in a moment, but here's the last paragraph of Roberta's:
At the heart of Mr. Trecartin’s elaborate worldview is an aspirational faith in the potential of uninhibited self-expression, both individual and collective, as an active agent against the mounting materialism of everyday life. This is in a sense the story of his own hypertalented overexistence, now aided and abetted by a fluctuating crew of co-conspirators with gifts, charisma and minds of their own. What he has unleashed is larger than himself, which is why both his sudden appearance and continuing evolution are such cause for hope. [emphasis mine]
It would be easy to misinterpret that bolded statement as simply surrendering to the hyperkinetic, seeming word-salad-spewing intensity of the characters in Trecartin's work. After all, if you can't take it all in in one sitting, it's surely larger than your capacity to appreciate it. But I'll go out on a limb and suggest Roberta is very clear in what she sees here. (OK, so she hinted strongly at it earlier in the review):
This exhibition shreds the false dichotomies and mutually demonizing oppositions that have plagued the art world for decades — between the political and the aesthetic, the conceptual and the formal, high and low, art and entertainment, outsider and insider, irony and sincerity, gay and straight.
It's been becoming clearer and clearer to me (in no small part due to the dialog on this blog) that the dichotomy between conceptual and formal are false, and, well, PostModernism has pretty much demonstrated the truth of that statement for the other pairings in the list, but shredding them is only the first part of what Ryan's work does. The second part, as Roberta notes, is to offer hope.

Now we've just been through a firsthand lesson in how Hope is much harder to hang onto than it is to sell to people, and that has convinced me that its value lies not so much in being some destination as a loosening of the old ways of thinking, even if only to come back to them through a fresh point of view. The hope I take away from Ryan's work is that art can restore wonder, inspiration, and perhaps even some understanding of who we are here and now.

All of which brings me back to Jerry's article, "Generation Blank," in which he accurately (to my mind) diagnoses what ails so much of the other artwork out there:
There’s always conformity in art—fashions come in and out—but such obsessive devotion to a previous generation’s ideals and ideas is very wrong. It suggests these artists are too much in thrall to their elders, excessively satisfied with an insider’s game of art, not really making their own work. That they are becoming a Lost Generation.

Our culture now wonderfully, ­alchemically transforms images and history into artistic material. The possibilities seem endless and wide open. Yet these artists draw their histories and images only from a super-attenuated gene pool. It’s all-parsing, all the time. Their art turns in on itself, becoming nothing more than coded language. It empties their work of content, becoming a way to avoid interior chaos. It’s also a kind of addiction and, by now, a new orthodoxy, one supported by institutions and loved by curators who also can’t let go of the same glory days. [emphasis mine]

Here again, why Ryan's work is so amazing is the way it embraces interior chaos...exposes it and perhaps attempts to conquer it. To rule it, one must face it.

OK, so I am going to go out on a slimmer limb and indict myself in the process here, but I suspect that what has led to so many of today's artists drawing their histories and images form the super-attenuated gene pool is their mistaken assumption that the single most important part of what's "larger than themselves" is art history itself. After all, art history/theory/critique is the inescapable focus of the art schools most of our artists, with eyes on careers, feel compelled to attend. And in that, the crushing weight of what's come before is what all contemporary efforts are measured against. How can you do "that"? Don't you know your history? You're ingornig the chronology, the steady stream of paradoxically backward-looking innovations, the imposing majesty of the work collected in museums...and *gasp* the Canon.

And while I personally don't want to see a generation of young artists propping urinals up on pedestals and declaring it "new" (i.e., basic art history is still important to have a handle on), I am beginning to see how obsessing over it has possibly derailed a generation from making what more of simply observing their actual world, their actual contemporary circumstances, might have led them to.

Consider this an open thread on what "larger than oneself" means in the context of making contemporary art.

Labels: art viewing, contemporary art

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Who's Still Afraid of Ai Weiwei?

Released but not free.

Ai Weiwei's release yesterday in China is certainly an improvement of conditions for him and his family, versus the sheer agony of not knowing how he was doing, but the terms of his one-year bail (that he not discuss what had happened to him) strikes me as even more ominous in some ways. A lingering state control over one's most basic form of expression...would any artist agree to that expect under extreme duress?

Rather than breath a sigh of relief, yesterday's development calls for even more determination on the part of the international arts community. The Chinese government wants a legitimate seat at the table of contemporary art for their country. That seat is not yet theirs, imo.

Peter Foster of the UK's Telegraph frames the situation perfectly:

“Without the wave of international support for Ai, and the popular expressions of dismay and disgust about the circumstances of his disappearance, it’s highly unlikely the Chinese government would have released him,” said Phelim Kine, of Human Rights Watch.

I think that is a correct assessment. This is not to say that China can be easily hectored or bullied, but those who argue that highlighting egregious cases like Ai Weiwei’s is “counter-productive” (that’s usually code for “inconvenient”) have seen that argument weakened tonight.

Some say that China, with its additional clout and importance in the world, now feels it is above responding to such pressure, but arguably the exact opposite is true. The more credible China wants to be and the bigger the say China wants in world affairs – in everything from Libya’s future to the leadership of the IMF – then the greater the pressure must be on China’s leaders to conform, in the long term, to basic international norms.

Only by keeping up the pressure on these issues, only by not kow-towing or showing fear, as we have too often in the recent past, will we encourage China to make the calculation that keeping people like Ai Weiwei in jail is probably more trouble than it’s worth.

China needs to let Mr. Ai speak freely, as well.

Labels: ai weiwei

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New Kids on the Block: Toomer Labzda and Kanas Gallery opening this Friday

Heard it confirmed on the radio just the other day, the idea that because so many other people consider it too risky to launch a new business during a recession, that those smart enough to manage the risk can benefit greatly from doing so. (I outlined my thinking about why this works particularly well in the emerging artist/primary market sector of the gallery industry in this interview with Sarah Douglas a few years back.)

More than a few new galleries have shown the courage to open up since the seemingly never-ending recession began, and two more are doing so this week in Lower Manhattan. Down in Tribeca is the charmingly (if geographically challenged) named Kansas Gallery, owned by Steven Stewart (formerly of Sue Scott Gallery). Opening this Friday with a cool looking group show, the best place for more info on Kansas Gallery at the moment perhaps (their website is a bit light on details at the moment) is this Facebook page.

Also opening this Friday in the Lower East Site is a hot new gallery called Toomer Labzda, owned by the dynamo wife-husband team of Helen Toomer and Chris Labzda. Bambino and I popped in for a sneak peek the other day and can report the space is looking fabulous. We also had the pleasure of meeting British artist Mia Taylor, who will have her first New York solo exhibition to inaugurate the new gallery.

Hope to see you all at the openings!

Labels: new galleries

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Quality of Your Distractions

This is one of those "find the common denominator" posts. I'm sure these ideas all will fit together into a cohesive whole if I can just connect them somehow (or keep babbling long enough)

Idea 1:
Someone recently convinced me that the greatest challenge facing humankind in the 21st century is not global warming, or tsunamis, or terrorism, or economic challenges. The greatest challenge facing us is boredom. Idle hands, idle minds, idle souls...these pose the most sinister threats. How to fill the empty hours that technological advances have given us (such that we're not spending so many hours each day hunting or gathering or simple walking to do so) is a real problem.

Idea 2:
There was much ado about nothing in the press just last month when, again apparently, "experts" were baffled by the fall in the national crime rates despite the recession. The conventional wisdom obviously being that desperation drives people to crime.

As Adam Serwer noted last year, this is not supported by evidence:
UCLA professor Mark Kleiman grumbles that reporters continue to write as though "crime naturally rises and falls with the unemployment rate. It doesn’t." Indeed, as OMB head Peter Orszag explained last year, sometimes crime rises with recessions. And other times it doesn't, particularly when it comes to homicide.

In his book, When Brute Force Fails, Kleiman explains that a number of historical and social factors combined to create the crime boom of the latter part of the 20th century, the biggest factor was demographics.

"People commit most of their crimes between the age of 15 and 30, and so periods of time when there are more people in that age range have more crimes,” Kleiman explains. "In addition, a particularly big birth cohort like the Boomers, and to some extent, the Echo Boomers, tend to have a higher individual per-person crime rate.”

Idea 3:
Personally, I suspect it's more than simply a lower birth rate (and few people in the 15 to 30 age range) that explains the unexpected non-rise in crime. Ride the subway in New York, for example, an arena in which 15-30 somethings have traditionally been comfortable acting out and stirring up trouble, and today you're more likely to see most of them completely absorbed by whatever game or music they're playing on their smart phone, even when traveling in groups.

Idea 4:
Bambino, Ondine, and I saw "Page One" yesterday, the documentary on The New York Times that apparently got panned by one of the Times' film critics (which is perhaps the height of irony because I thought the movie was great and particularly good at arguing how strong [and right] the opinions are at the Old Gray Lady). The film centers on how the Times (or any newspaper) must evolve to survive the digital revolution.

The single best moment of the film comes when NYTimes Media Columnist David Carr illustrates for the somewhat arrogant founder of Newser, Michael Wolff (who condescends to the mainstream media, and the nation's legacy newspapers in particular, at a panel discussion), what Newser and the other "curators" of news would be left offering their readers should their ambivalence toward legacy news institutions end up contributing to their total demise. He holds up a printout of Newser's front page and then holds up the same page with all the legacy institutions' stories cut out. You can see essentially right through the second version.

Attempt to synthesize the previous ideas:
The one point Wolff made that I think deserves more consideration, though, is how the argument that we'll lose something of real value should the legacy papers disappear is more than a little arrogant itself. Years ago, someone convinced me that all news is entertainment (and more and more so all the time). It's simply one more option you have to help fill up those empty hours.

Consider your Sunday morning routine. Whether you fill it up reading the Times or catching up with friends on Facebook or gardening in the backyard...they're all simply time fillers. They don't make the difference between survival or not that punching in at your job does. (Yes, you might eat something from your garden, but if you add up the man hours it took to grow that food, especially if you live in the city, you'd more likely find it wasn't as cost efficient as buying it at the local grocer.)

Oh, I know the argument that an well-informed citizenry is essential to a well-functioning democracy, but how much of the "news" you read daily truly informs how you vote or participate as a citizen versus how much of it deals with sports scores or your travel dreams or your restaurant recommendations? I'll bet, if you're the average citizen, it's a fairly small percentage that actually changes your opinions on issues.

So, for me, it really boils down to a choice about the quality of your distractions. Do you fill the empty hours entertaining yourself (i.e., distracting yourself from that ticking sound your clock is making) playing Angry Birds, reading Proust, watching American Idol, playing Halo 2, attending the ballet, updating your profile, or reading the Times?

Personally, I find the Times to be second to no other newspaper in filling the empty hours. In fact, it was the fact that I had reached my 20 free online articles so quickly after they began their pay-wall system that convinced me it's worth paying to continue to access it. The idea of waiting for my next free 20 articles next month was unbearable.

I love The New York Times.

But I don't think I'm a better citizen because I read it versus some other paper. It's simply, IMHO, a higher quality distraction from the empty hours I too need to fill.

Labels: digital age, traditional media

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Opening Tonight! The Chadwicks' "Furling the Spanker: Masterworks from the Chadwicks' Nautical Collection," Thursday, June 16, 6-8 pm


The delirium of maritime things slowly takes hold of me,
The wharf and its atmosphere physically penetrate me

—Álvaro de Campos

Winkleman Gallery is very pleased to present Furling the Spanker: Masterworks from the Chadwicks’ Nautical Collection, our second solo exhibition of works from the Chadwick family at the gallery, overseen by Jimbo Blachly and Lytle Shaw, editors of the Chadwick family papers.

This exhibition includes the core of the family’s nautical holdings: Shipwreck Memorials (relief sculptures depicting the moment after a vessel has been claimed by the sea, with brass plaques indicating the ship’s name, the circumstances of the disaster, and a suggestion of the attitude one might adopt in mourning the loss); maritime sections from Chadwick’s Illustrated History (hand-tinted prints from the family’s standard work); Contemporary Sterns (fine Dutch canal boats juxtaposed with nautical yarns from the family archive); an array of sea-based study sketches; and, finally, the centerpiece of the exhibition, the Nelson Man o'Bar, a scale model of Admiral Nelson’s HMS Victory, the boat on which he was killed during the decisive Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Purchased by the Chadwicks just after Nelson’s death, the model was used first as an object of mourning. Apparently, however, the Chadwicks found the passive contemplation of the boat as funeral shrine too remote and discovered that, by removing sections of the exterior planking, it was just barely possible to wedge a body fully inside the hull. Here, Chadwick Dalton would reenact Nelson’s famous death speech. Impatient with these monologues, Torrent Chadwick then began, on Dalton’s absences from the manor, to use the model as a nautical pub—or, as he termed it, Man o'Bar. A rare film from the family collections (also included) documents the Chadwicks’ uses of this model. While the model was de-accessioned from the family manor sometime in the 1940s, its recent discovery in a storeroom at the Victoria and Albert Museum in Mumbai was the impetus for this exhibition.

Current and future exhibitions of the Chadwick family collections include "Otherworldly" (the Museum of Art and Design, New York, opens June 7), "Märklinworld" (Kunsthal Amersfoort, the Netherlands, opens September 23), and "The Chadwicks in the Pacific" (Southern Exposure, San Francisco, opens February 3, 2012).

UPDATE: Ben Davis pens a sprightly preview of the nautical naughtiness about to descend on 27th Street in today

Labels: gallery artists' exhibitions

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What Digital Can't Do...Yet

Harkening back not only to a series they had produced themselves in 1970, but to a rich tradition of fine art subscription programs in the US, Art in America's summer issue includes a clever "original" by Rirkrit Tiravanija in the form of two graphics that mimic the subscription cards that you tear out (or that fall out of some magazines), fill in, and mail back to sign up. Rather than a form, however, Rirkrit's pieces replicate politically charged text works he's done recently : "Where Is Ai Wei Wei," and "Fear Eats the Soul."

As Editor in Chief, Lindsay Pollock, notes in the issue's "Editor's Letter," AiA has published multiples before. Back in 1970:
The editors lined up a blue-ribbon roster that featured Paul Jenkins, Alexander Calder, Ray Parker, and Robert Rauschenberg, among others, who each designed a colorful, fold-out print, elevating the magazine from printed matter to collectible in one feel swoop.
Each issue comes with only one of the Tiravanija works (and it's glued into the magazine binding, making it a dilemma as to whether you keep the whole magazine as the collectible and place it somewhere special or, in the spirit of the piece, tear it off along its perforated edge and put the magazine on the shelf (to not leave a gap in your library [it's always the exact issue of AiA I need that seems to have disappeared from the stack]). This also creates a scenario in which, if you want both of the works, you have to buy another copy (I'm not sure whether any given newsstand has a mix of the two or you'd need to ride around town to various locations).

Leave it to Lindsay (who, when she took over the helm at AiA, I had noted "has always stood out to me as the arts writer who best connected the digital dots in a seemingly effortless way. And I've assumed that this knack was in part what attracted the powers that be at AiA to hire her for the job") to also zero in on what it is that digital can't do (not yet anyway): deliver works on paper by artists the way print still can.

Simply brilliant.

Now, I need to find a quarter to flip, to determine whether I tear out the Rirkrit or not.

Labels: Art in America, digital age, Lindsay Pollock

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Biggest Ego

In the summer issue of Frieze magazine...on newsstands now:

(click on image to see larger)

by Jennifer Dalton.

Labels: art reality tv show, humor

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Alchemic Rule

Alchemy - n : a form of chemistry and speculative philosophy practiced in the Middle Ages and the renaissance and concerned principally with discovering methods for transmuting baser metals into gold
It's not as pure in intentions or as optimistic (read: utopian) in its hopes for humankind as The Golden Rule (i.e., do unto others as you would have them do unto you), but perhaps precisely because of that, the older I get the more I'm convinced a more practical approach to promoting peace on earth is what I've come to consider the "Alchemic Rule."

Admittedly, the Alchemic Rule will probably never produce the standard of goodwill toward all that the Golden Rule strives for. Still it's useful in how it remains concerned with transmuting baser human habits into at least tolerable behavior. Essentially it boils down to "Do unto others what they're doing to you," but I prefer to reframe it a bit more generously: "Force others to experience what they're putting you through to help them reconsider their actions." Like the Golden Rule, it's an E.M. Forster sort of approach, assuming that if people connect the dots between what annoys them and their own behaviors, eventually they'll stop being annoying toward others. The Alchemic Rule simply speeds the process along.

As an example, for years I fantasized about developing a remote control that could cut off the car horns of those self-absorbed drivers who feel it's their God-given right to deafen all the pedestrians within a 50-foot radius just because they've been delayed a nanosecond or two. (I don't expect folks who don't walk within major metropolitan centers to understand, but the blast of a horn mere feet from you ears is more than a rude disruption of the peace, it's frequently quite jolting and can even be painful.) Idiots who lay on them rather than give the driver ahead of them the benefit of their doubt that a momentary pause wasn't designed as a personal torture are a scourge in Manhattan's busier intersections.

The problem with my remote control idea, or anything that takes away a driver's use of their car's warning device, of course, is that sometime a horn is legitimately needed to avoid an accident. Sometimes it's legitimately needed to alert a driver ahead or, yes, even a pedestrian, that they're not paying adequate attention.

Applying the Alchemic Rule, however, I'm convinced that the more aggressive or boorish behavior that comes from the autonomy horn abusers currently feel would subside. And therefore, my new fantasy is legislation that forces car manufacturers to ensure the exact volume and intensity from a horn blast heard outside one's car is also produced inside one's car, directed right at the driver. This in no way limits a driver's ability to warn others when dangerous situations truly arise, or even to tap on their horn when the person ahead of them has fallen asleep at the wheel. It simply ensures they'll be subjected to the same degree of painful noise pollution they're inflicting on those around them.

I've had a similar idea in response to stompy upstairs neighbors (although this one is much more you perhaps some idea of how many hours I've spent fuming over this). After years of living in an apartment with paper-thin floors above me, I've come to understand the shortcoming of the broom-handle-meets-ceiling approach is that the culprit is generally not in a state of mind to appreciate why you're objecting to their noise. They're either having a party or stumbling in drunk or hurrying to get ready to leave or otherwise unable to relate to the calm situation they're disrupting. "What's the big deal...we're not walking that's not that loud," they've responded. Well, not when you hear it over the music you're blasting or are more concerned about how late you are, no. But in my apartment where I'm trying to read or sleep, it is (or had been) relatively much quieter, and hence your stomping is much, much more pronounced.

Applying the Alchemic Rule here, therefore requires something a bit more nuanced than raps on the ceiling when they're running around. It requires sending the same noise back into their apartment within the same context they had sent noise into yours. In other words, when they're attempting to enjoy the peace and quiet of their apartment. I'm still working on the details of this response, but essentially it involves a recording device that captures the number and intensity of the stomps or dropping of heavy objects, connected to a mechanical woodpecker attached on the ceiling, with a timer, etc. get the idea. Sending the same noise back when the upstairs neighbor would prefer to have quiet would hopefully encourage more consideration at other times.

OK, so I know how insane that's beginning to make me sound. I've actually decided it's simply easier to move to a new apartment....hopefully one with concrete floors or one on the top floor of the building. I outlined it here merely as another example of how The Alchemic Rule reverses the "do unto others" concept, assuming most people will connect (or "get it") much more quickly when they're forced to experience what they're putting others through.

Labels: stream of consciousness

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Sex, Lies, and Social Media

I can imagine the leaders of our country have much more important things to attend to than logging in the hours it requires to master not only the technology but also the longer-term implications of using social media. Still, watching what had been a promising political career veer off a cliff these past few weeks, it's difficult to imagine how anyone with half a clue could be so stupid. In case you're not already aware, please note: Anything you send via the internet can be intercepted and shared with the world. Anything!

Citibank just announced (albeit a month late) that their customers' accounts had been hacked.
It turns out Citibank was hacked in early May. Wait, you hadn't heard? Me neither. Well, that's just because Citibank chose to keep quiet about it until now.

We're talking a fairly serious hack, too. The personal and account information of some 200,000 Citibank card holders in North America was breached, reports Reuters, including contact specifics like names and email addresses. The solitary bit of good news? Citibank claims far more sensitive info like social security numbers, birth dates, card expiry dates and CVV card security codes was not compromised.
Even more than your banking data being hacked, your naughty photos are just bobbing out there in the ocean of cyber-flotsam, with little to no security at all, and can be counted on to resurface. Fortunately for most people, few outside their immediate circle will care. For those in the public limelight, however, I have to say that being dumb enough to not understand why it's a bad idea to twitpic your junk should be an instant disqualification for holding office. Uh...huh?...This big red button? Why, I'm not sure. Let's just press it and see what happens....

Some have excused Congressmen Weiner's actions as mere "flirting," and given that it never led to actual sex, I'd say I understand their point (flirting is a human form of communication and not all bad by any measure), but there's an easy standard when it comes to infidelity and it applies to flirting as well, imo. If you feel highly compelled to hide it from your spouse, you should probably consider it cheating. The fact that Weiner first lied about his habits is indication enough that he knew better, but either couldn't help himself or didn't think he'd get caught.

Now, I know we like to think it's the lies that cost pols their political capital, but there's not much evidence we expect that degree of integrity from them. Politicians lie and carry on as if it were nothing, all the freaking time. Even when they're caught out, they merely hurl some absurd dismissal out for the 24-hour news cycle (#NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement) and get back to business.

No, it's the creepy sex thing. Not that anything Weiner did even comes close to what millions of other Americans are apparently doing with increasing ease, if the popularity of apps like
Skout or Grindr are anything to go by. He had simply and very publicly declared himself opposed to behavior that might be interpreted as degrading women. As Ben Davis reported:
[I]n what is an extravagant bit of ironic timing, it was just a few months ago that Weiner was making headlines for denouncing a historic Queens sculpture for degrading women. The name of the artwork? "The Triumph of Civic Virtue." The decayed, 20-foot sculpture by Frederick MacMonnies depicts a monumental male nude, standing atop several female figures, who are allegories of vice. The work has sparked various controversies over the years, because of its presumed misogyny.

It might well now stand as an adequate symbol for Weiner's situation over the last week: A larger-than-life, scantily clad male public figure, trying to keep down the images of vice represented by multiple women.
So maybe it's not even the lies or the sex, but the hypocrisy. Either way, despite what I would have been good money on a month ago, I suspect we won't be calling Anthony "Hizzoner" after the next election now.

Labels: politics, social media

Monday, June 06, 2011

The Chadwicks @ The Museum of Arts and Design

I was surprised at how many of the artists I know and others I have always really liked in the group exhibition "Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities," that tomorrow opens at the Museum of Art and Design (MAD, for short...and certainly apropos of the mix of wonderfully insane artists in this exhibition). Several of them have shown in our gallery, many others are personal favorites of mine, and two of them will have their second solo exhibition in our space opening next week. Lock up your liquor and hide your Vaseline*...the Chadwicks are coming!

Here's the presser for the MAD show (more on their gallery show later):
Virtual reality has been a powerful factor in shaping our social and artistic environment since the 1970s. Today, innovations in digital technology have completely transformed film, video, and television: extraordinary special effects and three-dimensional imaging created using computer-based software are commonplace. However, while the digital world continues to expand into more and more areas of our lives, a profound human need to re-experience the actual and tangible has also arisen. It is not a coincidence that as individuals spend more and more time looking at a monitor interacting with others in cyberspace, the pleasures in making things by hand, engaging with materials and techniques in a direct fashion, also increase.

Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities illuminates the phenomenal renaissance of interest among artists worldwide in constructing small-scale hand built depictions of artificial environments and alternative realities, either as sculpture or as subjects for photography and video. These are worlds of "magic realism" conceived and realized through intense engagement with materials, attention to detail, and concern for meaningful content. In this exhibition, the works are presented as dioramas, models, snow globes, and site specific installations, as well as through photographs and video.

For MAD, this is an exceptional opportunity to examine the museum's mission-to explore materials and processes and the "meaning of making"-in a new and unexpected format; each work of art in the exhibition reflects the artists' passionate interest in how materials and process convey meaning; these are artists who dedicate tremendous time and effort to achieving extraordinary visions of reality. Furthermore, one important initiative of MAD since our reformulation as a museum of contemporary arts and design is to challenge and erode the hierarchical boundaries that have traditionally separate fields of creativity. Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities will be our first exhibition to fully embrace the field of photography under the umbrella of our mission, thus establishing new and creative linkages between art, craftsmanship, design, and visual imaging.

Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities is organized around four themes that provide a context for the works, and offer the viewer a narrative thread that makes the works accessible to our visitors.
  • "Unnatural Nature" features work by artists that recreate natural environments or propose alternative visions of landscape and nature.
  • "Apocalyptic Archaeology" features works that reveal the darker side of the post-industrial landscape and the time-infused eroding urban environment.
  • "Dreams and Memories" includes works that capture and convey states of psychological angst, often in the form of dark and mysterious open-ended narratives.
  • "Voyeur/Provocateur" includes subversively witty scenes-satirical commentaries on art, culture, and politics.
Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities features recent work and site-specific installations by contemporary artists from around the world including Matthew Albanese, Amy Bennett, James Casebere, Mat Collishaw, Bethany de Forest, Thomas Doyle, Gregory Euclide, Joe Fig, Peter Feigenbaum, Patrick Jacobs, Kim Keever, Frank Kunert, Ji Lee, Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz, Didier Massard, Charles Matton, Michael McMillen, Lori Nix, David Opdyke, Liliana Porter, Jonah Samson, Charles Simonds, Michael Paul Smith, Tracey Snelling, Paolo Ventura, and Alan Wolfson, among others.

Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities
June 7 - September 18, 2011

Museum of Arts and Design
2 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019

*It's a long story...but we'll get to it eventually.

Labels: gallery artists' exhibitions

Friday, June 03, 2011

Don't Worry, It's Just Art || Hey! Watch Out! That's Art You've Got There

A pair of articles appearing on highlight the paradox of the power of art. In one article, Andrew Goldstein interviews the American cultural attaché based in Rome at the U.S. embassy, David Mees, who seems to squirm a bit when asked about the political overtones of Allora & Calzadilla's charged installation at the US pavilion in Venice. Initially Mees highlights the humor he finds in the work (including an upside-down tank with a treadmill on top of it). When Goldstein pushes a bit deeper though:
[Goldstein:] With U.S. servicemen and women engaged in a war in Afghanistan and a conflict in Libya, is there any way in which this pavilion could suggest that the country is not taking its wars seriously?

[Mees:] In my previous posting I was working in a country where we have an American navy base, and that opened my eyes to our colleague in uniform, and it's completely wrong to think of them as all gung-ho militarists. Any reasonable American sees that there are many sides to the use of armed force, and I think that it is perfectly appropriate for artists of all people to ask difficult questions, or to look at a tank from 1945 with some humor and skepticism. And this is not an in-depth political assessment of the defense department, and it doesn't pretend to be. It's an art project, let's keep it at that. [emphasis mine]
In the other article Tyler Green argues quite the opposite:
A handful of right-wing U.S. governors spent much of the spring fighting to roll back gains made by working people in the 20th century. Mostly in the rust belt, Republican governors have tried to dissolve workers’ right to collective bargaining. The strangest attack on labor, however, came in Maine, where Republican governor Paul LePage ordered the removal of a 36-foot mural from a state Labor Department building. Created by the artist Judy Taylor in 2008, the mural highlighted 20th-century social progress in Maine, including the abolition of child labor and the advancement of equal pay for equal work for women. Wildly controversial stuff, no?

With this action, LePage inadvertently made a direct argument for art’s power: By ordering Taylor’s mural removed, he acknowledged that art can afflict the comfortable and powerful, people like him. [emphasis mine]
Tyler goes on to make an impassioned case for how museums could more practically present art in ways that could, you know, actually matter to our lives.

The thing is, though, powerful tools (oh, like say television) can be used to afflict the comfortable or they can be used to manipulate the rest of us. So I would caution against assuming that unleashing art's power would necessarily lead to a better world.
A museum could as easily present a show that insinuates people don't need Medicare as one that argues they do, for example. Of course the former would have to be a god-awful, pedantic show. All of this, of course, assumes that just because artists are interested in speaking truth to power that museums should be as well. That's not been my experience, exactly.

I do know plenty of artists who try to though.

Allora & Calzadilla
are a good example of artists who seem to be speaking truth to power, but as Mees' interview reveals, do so in a way that permits the powerful to skirt around any self-implications. This to me is the real power of subversive use of the slipperiness of meaning. Those of us opposed to endless war can walk away content that at least someone is speaking up for us and even smugly pat ourselves on the back for seeing what the powerful seem to be missing.

Of course, its slipperiness is also exactly why it's easy to ignore. Mees and others can focus instead on its surreal qualities and chuckle.

Well, they can after they've had some time to recover from their initial impression. The genius of the tank piece as I understand it is the sound it generates, that echoes through the Gardini...drawing the unsuspecting to it, to then reveal its metaphorical punch.

Of course, even this element is not without perhaps a final paradox (or is it an irony?). As Roberta Smith, who is in Venice, reported:
The opening gambit of Allora and Calzadilla, the artist team representing the United States, is an inverted tank, topped by a treadmill that is used on an hourly basis by an American runner. The workout activates the upended treads of the tank, and their metallic clanking echoes throughout the Giardini. The effect can be quite startling. My first reaction was that it was an aural form of ugly-Americanism and, as that, kind of brilliant. American saber-rattling evoked, rather literally, as a rattling tank. But this symbolism may quickly wear thin for the people who work in the Giardini during the Biennale’s six-month run, which opens to the public on Saturday. After the rest of us have gone home they may come to resent the American presence in a way that is a trifle too specific.

Labels: politics, Venice Biennale 2011

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Announcing Moving Image in London, October 13-16, 2011


Moving Image Announces 2011 Fair in London

On the heels of the successful launch in New York in March 2011, we are very pleased to announce we will produce Moving Image: An Art Fair of Contemporary Video Art in London opposite Frieze Art Fair in October 2011.

Moving Image has been conceived to offer a viewing experience with the excitement and vitality of a fair, while allowing moving-image-based artworks to be understood and appreciated on their own terms. The newly formed Moving Image Curatorial Advisory Committee for London is inviting a selection of international commercial galleries and non-profit institutions to present single-channel videos, single-channel projections, video sculptures, and other larger video installations.

Curatorial Advisory Committee for Moving Image London:

  • Edwin Carels, Festival Programmer, International Film Festival Rotterdam (Ghent, Belgium)
  • John Connelly, Director, Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation (New York, USA)
  • Solange Farkas, Director, Associação Cultural Videobrasil (São Paulo, Brazil)
  • Mami Kataoka, Chief Curator, Mori Art Museum (Tokyo, Japan)
  • Elizabeth Neilson, Director, Zabludowicz Collection (London, UK)

Moving Image will take place October 13 –16, 2011, at Bargehouse, a few minutes walk from the Tate Modern along London’s South Bank.


Oxo Tower Wharf

Bargehouse Street

South Bank

London SE1 9PH, UK

Bargehouse is easily accessible from Waterloo and Southwark Underground stations. It is an impressive 4-story warehouse within Oxo Tower Wharf. The space is raw and is rented out throughout the year for corporate events and private parties. Bargehouse is owned and managed by Coin Street Community Builders (

Moving Image gratefully acknowledges the generous support for our London fair by our media partners and sponsors (list in formation):

Olgivy Art | Flash Art International | Culture Pundits |

Safiniart | Art Now Online Artports | | Jimmy’s Iced Coffee | Swedish Delivery

Moving Image London

October 13-16, 2011

Opening Reception: Thursday, October 13, 6 - 8 pm

Fair Hours:

Thursday – Saturday, October 13-15, 11 am – 8 pm

Sunday, October 16, 11 am – 6 pm

Moving Image was founded by Edward Winkleman and Murat Orozobekov.

For more information, contact us at 212.643.3152 or email us at

Personal notes:

Murat and I are so in love with the location we've secured for Moving Image in London. The Bargehouse is this wonderfully raw space with all these great rooms for projections or installations. The way you move through it, with each room a new discovery, is fun unto itself (one art world visitor said it feels like a miniature PS1). Here's a photo of the space as seen from the walkway along the Thames (all photographs are Murat's handiwork):

Here's the view from one of the rooms on the 2nd floor:

And here's one of the 12 rooms we'll have for installations (admittedly one of the larger ones):

And Anny Shaw has written a lovely piece for The Art Newspaper that provides a bit more insights into what's going to be the same in London and how the fair is evolving there too.

Labels: london, Moving Image

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Nostalgia : It's Not Just a River in Egypt | Open Thread

"Nostalgia is denial of a painful present," says Paul, the pompous, "pedantic" philanderer played by Michael Sheen in Woody Allen's new film "Midnight in Paris," a love letter to the City of Lights that eventually snaps the audience out of the romantic trance it lulls you into. So gorgeously shot they should set up a travel agent booth right outside each cinema showing it, the film follows Gil, a disillusioned, self-declared Hollywood "hack" screenwriter visiting Paris with his fiancee and her hyper-conservative, hyper-obnoxious parents.

Gil, however, longs for what he considers Paris' golden era (the 1920s) in which he could live the life of La Bohème, write real literature, and truly embrace his inner artist. Out walking alone at midnight, he stumbles into a time machine in the shape of a vintage car. Each morning he's back in the present, but each evening the car takes him on ever more marvelous adventures with everyone from Picasso, Dali, and Man Ray to Gertrude Stein, F Scott and Zelda, Hemingway, and T.S. Elliot. Woody's crush is clear: so much incredible talent in the same place at the same time. And each new cameo impersonations is better than the last (I particularly loved Adrian Brody's Salvador Dali).

But my purpose here is not a film review, but rather a wish to explore Gil's eventual epiphany: not only is the "golden era" a myth (Allen demonstrates that by having a character from the 1920s reject it as nowhere near as golden as la Belle Époque), but wallowing in nostalgia is for those who can't handle the present.

Which isn't to say there's no room for nostalgic feelings (which come naturally from time to time) to inform current artistic explorations, just that it's not a particularly productive realm to dwell within itself. Moreover, it's obviously not at all a progressive realm to dwell in, which is why wallowing in it is an abdication of each living person's obligations to the future.

Yes, yes, an appreciation or even a serious study of history is not only smart, but necessary for many reasons (being doomed to repeat past mistakes otherwise being just one of them). My focus though is on those who choose to ignore what's going on around them in the present in order to ensconce themselves within some hand-selected comforts of the past. This can take many forms (and not all of them without some at least momentary value, of course), but ultimately it's an insistence that today is somehow inferior to "yesterday"...or a hardcore wish for a return to the ways of yesteryear...that reveals the exercise to have been taken to an irrational (or even psychotic) extreme.

First of all, short of leading to the invention of an actual time machine, such obsessions are a waste of precious time. Second, though, and a criticism I have of Allen's film, specifically with how he portrays the conservative parents of his protagonist's fiances, is that nostalgia is perhaps the ultimate conservative indulgence. Third, and most unforgivable, nostalgia leads to all kinds of Utopian movements and manifestos.

I know that may seem counterintuitive. After all, manifestos are declarations of how things should be moving forward, but as Sean Scanlan notes in his introduction to the issue #5 of the Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies:
Nostalgia keeps on returning. The Romantics were nostalgic. The Victorians were, of course, nostalgic. And even those modernist artists and critics, those make-it-new avant-gardists were nostalgic. They were nostalgic for a tradition and an individual talent, they wished for social relations and architectural structures that were as simple as they were during feudalism—they wanted feudalism without the plague and the serfdom. Theirs was nostalgia for a time before power corrupted art, a longing for a time and place that never existed. They wished for antiseptic designs and images that avoided representations of the recent past, yet harkened back to the Greeks. They wanted Athens minus the slavery. [emphasis mine]
In my humble opinion, imbalanced focus on nostalgia weakens an artist's importance. But that's a bit harsh, so I should explain. For me an artist's importance is defined by their influence on other artists. By whether or not they influence the direction
other artists will take. Although one can choose subject matters from times gone by (most of the great Western art wouldn't exist otherwise), if the approach to that subject isn't forward looking, contemporarily illuminating, and exhilaratingly executed, it's not very likely going to have much impact on other artists.

Consider this an open thread on the value and/or hazards of nostalgia.

Labels: nostalgia, open thread