Minsk Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet. Photo: Ilona Dergach
lobal Mall Gothic.
Upscale, luxury, suburban or ghost mall safari, we are all window shopping. Distressed, or thrown together from bits of chemicals and debris, artworks are pitched to institutions or collector boards like a Hollywood plot or designer goods to a room of merchandisers. Approved art product ships straight to Celine store. With so many production facilities at the tip of our fingers there is the homogeneity of auto-tune and then, there is a composition or lack thereof, and then — there is living in the world that includes what is beyond one’s safety circle.
The aspirational proposal of cracking the entry code to the glossy gated community is seductive when you want to take your space. Call it survival crimes, but the deluge is more likely.
By now fashion design and its cycles of disposability and eye massage through saturation of surfaces, have fully merged with the art sphere in a seamless embrace of an industry: broad appeal. At this pace one is more likely to follow a path of least resistance and continue inertly from within for a chance to enter into the rapid flow, then choose to shift and recalibrate in practice.
Most of what’s on display in the Euro-Americas–which is my habitat–does not presume to warrant, and certainly, does not exhibit, self-doubt, be it on artist or programmer’ side. The artworks fill the spaces. Straining to link lengthy texts to what I encounter in starkly lit merchant rows, or at another garden party, amidst Ziprecruiter processed resumes, I can’t tell most of what I see apart. Vilnius, Toronto, New York, Turin, London or Mexico City: a certain global uniform has metastasized, heat set in place. In order to participate, must one be absorbed into this geographically dispersed group of artist working on what seems like a collective piece? What does this wraparound artwork — desire?
Theory, the mixologist’s bitter, is a string of relevant keywords used to flavor a drink or an oeuvre. Punk is ripped jeans from H&M or a zine pressed on scented pages of a blue-chip. Etsy, Artsy, offer up moodboards of polka-dot or terrazzo objet de desir, trending on one or the other, it’s not important to discern which. Deja vu, I am at Linea Pelle again, fingering crocodile grain embossed upon an unborn calf skin.
Nacre’s Issue 2: Acid Reflux is here to propose a pessimistic meta induction, reminding of agility of all knowledge: a sample specimen of faceted discussions around the Acid Reflux that’s overflowing the metabolic tubes from over-consumption of unearthly delights. What can be done short of dropping out entirely, like Lee Lozano, to counter the enforced numbness of algorithm popularity schemes or academically and institutionally calcified pathways? Someone said to me: between history, identity, ecology and materiality, there are too many things for an artist to think about. I happen to think it is amount proportional to the quantitative insistence of current global art output within current conditions.
Beyond the fascination with our own hands and the artist’s ability to make things, events, compile and document or alter the surrounding, the question that seems most important to me now is an extension of Hito Steyerl’s 2009 “Why take more pictures?” and the 10 year challenge is: Why make? Or why make more of anything? With rising emphasis on STEM education, art, alongside other disciplines like philosophy and science, crucially has capacity to counter the one-track-mind direction of so-called progress, and communicate in other ways than the tangible or analytical. As it links to other disciplines and contemporary trends, art sphere concurrently has responsibility to consider its own ways of seeing and operating. This isn’t a call for austerity but for a reassessment of the genetically modified special effects toolkit.
I can’t say that I definitely know what Benjamin Kunkel referred to when he outlined steady-state aesthetics, since the term was left open-ended. I interpret his idea as seeing art activities as part of unsteadiness. Artists cannot self-isolate in their sealed compartments, but exist in an aesthetic field that they help to further, stagnate, re-direct or define. While we are debating who deserves what spotlight, we should also be spending an equal amount of energy and attention on reassessing the spotlight itself: pre-existing hierarchies continue even if with a new cast, as does insularity and material novelty-seeking to the point of environmental and intellectual toxicity.
Anastasia Kolas, May 2019, Toronto.