Wednesday, June 11, 2014

things just got weird (CINDERS)

No idea where this is going, but some friends and I have been playing music for three or four months now, and I've started composing some of my own by technological means under the name CINDERS.  Long live the ability for an average person to be able to put something like this together, it has been a blast to play with others and make crazy sounds myself.  I'm happy to share everything if you are interested--drop me a line, and I'll share it.  For now, here is one of the five tracks, titled "one and one".

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

the idea of plurality, continued

I should say that, in terms of my thinking about the impossibility of plurality in the art market, I mean strictly in the art market (and not the world in general).  Our relationship as artists and makers to the market is what then becomes the main issue.

To reiterate, I am forming an idea around the impossibility of plurality within an art market due to the main motivator of selling within the art market.  I don't see this as the fault of gallery owners, curators, or other professionals, but rather a fault of capitalism in a broader sense--if capital gain is the sole motivation for our economy (and culture), plurality will always be reduced to a kind of tokenism of artists of color or ironic inclusion (I'm thinking of the inclusion of Thomas Kinkade in exhibitions of contemporary painting), which is far from a plurality.

This is not to say that artists of color have not sold work within the capitalist system.  The gender and race gaps in the art market is far from representative of the art world (ELF Study, article on Micol Hebron's project for representations of the gender gap), though, and I think this is a good example of what I'm trying to establish.  Obviously, gender and race are not the only aspects of pluralism--and, in fact, fall under what we are more likely to call diversity--but I think this is a good indicator of some of the issues that the supposedly progressive art market are dealing with in 2014.  

The art world, on the other hand, is pluralistic, as is the world in general.  This whole idea of pluralism is related to the idea that there is no Truth, but many truths; and, in some senses, that the dialogue and discourse that can come from a discussion of these many truths is important and beneficial for everyone involved.

An important thing to remember in all of this, too, is that divisions that have been constructed within the art market (and the art world, actually) are part of the problem in preventing plurality.  Artforum, always a target when it comes to thinking like this, tends to have the same type of writing, the same advertisements, and a lack of diversity in terms of the exhibitions that are written about.

These constructions, then, are things that need to be analyzed and reflected upon.  The critical spirit can think about how these institutions function and in what ways they are limiting diversity and plurality--as well as devise ways to maintain a number of methods of thinking and world views (ideologies, frameworks, etc.  We have so many ways of saying this concept--the concept of how an individual or group approaches everything--which is really quite striking to me because, in fact, it is really difficult for someone or a group to approach everything the same way, time after time).


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

the idea of plurality in the (art) world

I first came across the word and idea of plurality in connection with Sartre's concept of a plurality of solitude/isolation.  Plurality has come up a few times recently and I have given it considerable thought, particularly as it stems from a few recent readings on biennials.  "Has Biennial Culture Gentrified the Art World?" by Kimberly Bradley and Ben Davis's incredible interview "The Yams, on The Whitney and White Supremacy" have both contributed to this thinking, and as always, I'm sure it will develop over time.  I'd like to lay out a basic statement of plurality and, what I suspect is its impossibility in our society.

So, basically, I feel that true plurality is impossible within capitalism (and, to use Marcuse's terms, advanced industrial society).  Perhaps this is not the only system that makes plurality impossible, but I think I can make a pretty good rational for thinking in terms of where we are now, particularly in the art world, but in the sense that the art market is a subset (in a reductive way) of the larger economy as the art world is a subset of the larger world.

I can't really make this case without revisiting Herbert Marcuse, as my theory here relies on a bit of Marcuse's argument in One-Dimensional Man.  Some of the points that have stuck with me from Marcuse's work are ideas surrounding advanced industrial society.  This society created (and continues to create) a network of need--fueled by mass media, advertising, and other social aspects--that is inherently false (as in they are not necessities).  This created network reduces all of the world to a single  way of thinking, hence the one-dimensional universe.  "The great refusal" and critical thinking (or negative thinking to Marcuse) are the only ways of resistance.

So, in response to Marcuse's theories lodged in my head for the last ten years and reading Bradley and Davis's articles, I think we can see a partial description of the art market.  The question of Bradley's essay, rhetorical or not, is that Biennial culture has probably contributed to gentrification, but the art market has, since the dawn of capitalism, been one-dimensional (and, thus, gentrified).  I know this might be hard to imagine--particularly for a part of the market that prides itself on "creative" thinking and artists that are "way out there"--canning and selling their own shit, doing other things that piss off the public, etc.  The selling of this, though, has always supported one idea--and that is the idea of capital gain.

Plurality, then, is limited to what is sellable and what the market is selling.  This has certainly been painting in the past, now it might be something different, but it can never be a true plurality.  And, if I may be allowed to modify a lack of plurality into the oppression of particular races, genders, and social classes, these things are amplified beyond theoretical thinking and into cultural and social issues that are endemic in our society.

I am aware that some people within the art world are working towards sustainable plurality and inclusiveness that transcends capital gain, but until we move away from a capitalist system, the market, I'm afraid, will only allow for tokenism and not a true plurality of people involved in the market.  Certainly we can break the art market down into different subsets, but their aim is all to gain capital.  I would hope to say that non profit spaces, then, are the answer, but the complexity here is that those institutions are so entwined with the market its difficult to really say how pluralist non-profits can even be.

I'll need to spend more time flushing this out, but I think Marcuse's advice still rings true for us as artists (and is present in HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN's action of withdrawing from the Whitney as well as their answers to Davis's questions) is that all we have is the right to refuse, to question, to be critical in the world that we are a part of.

Doing so will undoubtedly be beneficial for the art world, but also could potentially be an example of moving from pure capitalism into another system of working--one in which, at least, people's voices are heard and critical thinking is encouraged, as opposed to repressed.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to those of you who have sent notes in the past couple of months, they really mean a lot!