Friday, February 23, 2007

the problem with, well, commodity exchange

If you're writing about your own artwork, eventually you start wondering why everyone writing about art is writing about someone else's art and then of course you start thinking that maybe "I too should be writing about everyone else's art" and then pray to god we can loop it all back together. It's this insufferable longing to be a part of something bigger than us.

I remember when I used to do art shows with my pals up there in the big old apple, how we would talk about who was rich and who was going to come to the show and somebody even talked to Jerry Saltz the week before and told him about it and so maybe he would come. Then I would always get very drunk , because my good friends, maybe even my better friends, were having an event that night at Mighty Robot and we would go and be very drunk. But the friends of mine who were actually putting that thing together, the better thing, were never drunk and were never concerned about who rich was coming. Rock and roll is always its own self-legitimizing cultural factor. I doubt they would have carried the thought along that far.

I would like to think that none of the artist friends I know are pretensious wankers, but many of us are, and though we all did in the past read Baudrillard and those other French people, we never quite got it and so we went on to pretend that the relevance was salient in our lives. And so we live in deference of these things that other people understand better than us, and they now are able to leave smarter sounding comments at Winkleman, and we have to try to thrash out some kind of suitably smart sounding alternative. And most important, we must live in deference to the marketplace that we accept now at last moves through Yale and New York and Los Angeles, while we press our faces against some Dickensian window pane and imagine that our thoughts are not obfuscated any more, the way they were then by those bullying grad school people who mostly just read the right stuff - only louder.

Then I think "what do I think about when I am actually making art?" Last year of course, while working, I listened to all six Harry Potter audio books in sequence 7 times in a row. I still remember Ron Weasley describing doctors as "Those muggle nutters that cut people up?" That was before I turned on to the Teaching Company college lectures. Now I am thinking about 5000 years of Chinese history. I found it really helped me to work with the linguistic part of my brain occupied by something rather less significant than what I was doing. Otherwise I would be talking to other artists or worse, people I used to know! But that is not to say that I don't think there is legitimacy in thinking about art and art history and something like a theory of art.

It is just like a theory of politics and government. That is also not happening and it's not happening because of NBC and the Washington Post and the New York Times. It is happening in the blogosphere obviously. Eventually one starts to think that if one is going to write about art then one really would need to screen out most of the smoke from the atmosphere. It is like going in shouting to solve the Israeli-Palestinian stand-off. The only people doing anything to solve it seem to be doing that and they keep failing.

I like to think about what my ancestors would have me remember if they told me something when I was young enough to remember them. Something that resonates. That photo is from the Digital South Asia Library.

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