Cheers to Ken Turner for his courageous performance in St. Ives, Codwallop reviewed in the last issue. While raising awareness around town pulling a fish in a wagon, Turner asks questions to the public and to the cod. Where is the art critical dialogue? What’s going on in the art world today? Do you know what is happening?
The New Art Examiner offers concise analysis of the art world that desperately needs good writing and criticism. Wake up St. Ives, of all places to slumber with lethargy when great art once prospered in your town, Alfred Wallis, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Rose Tremain, Bernard Leach, Roger Hilton, Liz Hunter created important work in St. Ives. Extricating the status quo from the noose of conformity is hard work, it’s people like Turner who remind us of the great responsibility to refuse to be silent.
Annie Markovich 12/11/2017
I thought you might like these. I didn’t take any photos earlier but I thought you were very good and the way the absent actor was coped with was very good. Whole thing was memorable and zany. The people next to me did not realise Ken’s first intervention was part of the show at first. Dyhano remarkable.
I wrote a bit about the exhibition Alternative Visions in Falmouth which Jane Sand did not like. It’s on my blog if you want to read it. If you want it in NAE you are welcome.
Happy Christmas and New Year,
Mary Fletcher 20/12/2017
You know what’s funny, I did a lecture once that briefly discussed the real hidden values of experiencing art and culture… the argument was that the financial and material value of experiencing art happens at such a snail’s pace, it is near impossible to measure. How much does having a painting like Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks add to our stock market just from its existence? The power of art, music, films, to inspire us acts as a driving force… makes us just a little sharper, a little faster, more enlightened, and this has actual monetary value. I know I’m probably sounding a little pretentious, but there seems to be a direct link between the power of a culture’s influence in relation to their position in the world.
But I don’t know, living in Chicago I’ve always had to find a way to translate creativity into something more tangible, something that a businessperson could understand… staring at something for 10 minutes means I’m actually working… allowing myself to pause, to think, that’s when the great ideas happen, was never an easy sell in the past, and is looking to be an even harder sell now. Fortunately, I work for great people and have great people around me that get it, but for years it wasn’t the case.
But I don’t know, my biggest concern is when I talk about the experience of viewing art, is not my feelings of guilt, but rather that I’m boring someone to death… like I am right now, explaining all of this conceptual nonsense.
Michael William Foster, 23/12/2017
Daniel Nanavati’s revisit of Dwight MacDonald’s Midcult and Masscult could not be more timely and prescient. In terms of how one chooses to see art in the 21st century, no other essay could have a greater significant forewarning than MacDonald’s insights. They are absolutely providential.
Masscult is the dispelling of culture into a primarily popularist format on a grand scale. “Watering down” the quality of art-work to banal standards is our society’s omnipresence’s market of seamless consumption. MacDonald alerts us to this subversive driving force of how every facet of culture, as we may know it, is absolutely bleached forward. What makes his insights invaluable and incisive is the degree to which these filters of culture have grown. Exponentially. He lays the ground work from his mid 20th century view point, how would he have ever seen the advent of electronica, Hollywood’s blockbuster routs, computer into social media, cell phones, the massive on line flow of messaging, information, news … six international media companies control 96% of the world’s communication. Every important thing squeezed through relatively few outlets. Communication dominance of the overwhelming masscult flood creates power, and so acts like a mold of prerequisite control, preordained, preformed through which the popular culture spigot pours upon us. It is in a sense “pre-seen”. Chosen, edited, controlled. The shear enormity of this phenomenal wave has effectively drowned out any cultural competitions that may be up for consideration. This constant beast-beat has become the dynamic of the ART World. Indeed, the art world directly mirrors the social real world for consideration. Art becomes a safe brand, an amelioration. It is packaged, sanctioned and permitted in the art world “insiders”. Alternatives to the major thrust of art world narratives are simply ignored, never hyped, mentioned or actively acknowledged so not known to ‘us’. Witness the effect of this at the local or community basis. The Masscult culture resonates down the cultural ladder until the bottom rung choices made about local culture are subjected to the sieve that mimics the big boys. The after effect changes his continued practice to widespread habit, followed by rote, programed to the micros of this world-mind atmosphere. Can you hear constant howls of media in your head, agendas roaring in the cross winds? You may know what to expect but did you know it has been “expected for you”. This is often a very subtle process but the suitability factor dominates. I is the social art snowstorm.
Alternative art spaces or outside the box establishments, this is so constrained, development comes only when it is hyped, broadcast or mythically described. Nothing but cul-de-sac or niche culture, confined to a non influential space, and it struggles to gain recognition or realization. It is the lost present art history. Many fine artists have been ignored, rarely to be discovered at a later date. Like so many out of vogue artists, lost. Cultural sanctioning made to fit the political and commercial intents of the minders of the media, has taken a mighty toll on the consumers of message, namely, their conformity is to the message “filing-filling” down.
MacDonald writes that midcult wore the pretense of playing to higher culture but inevitably failed because it never addressed the standards or real terrain of established culture i.e. it just made it more easily consumable. This predigestion of culture plays out in crippling an art scene, often by hampering or pre-disparaging the standards and fruits of critical success. You have all heard it, what is the “price”? But moreover, with this smokescreen in mind, what is the real price? That is the highly corrosive atmosphere of artist betrayal and the subversion of “real” new art. Has that ever existed? What would that look like? Please, let us know.
If the art distribution system constantly has to wedge itself in the “omnipresent market” a condition that informs all things, where can it go? The homage psychologically and intellectually, we have to pay is always drifting to the lower common denominators, i.e. if artists are in a state of constant competition either with the system or each other, no one wins? For the public becomes a thing ramping in on itself as a mass, not a group of individuals. Success or “messaging the guidelines of achievable status”, is achieved either through market strategy, or a desired political outcome, or a set chute of non-intentional habit formed repercussions. What is the individual artist’s “play” in these preset cultural causeways? Especially if she or he refuses to melt under competition or market tension,….obscurity.
Many artists pander to the media, and are absorbed by the power, the Masscult, of open acceptance. Their work is materially acceptable because it has commercial value. “Known quantities” are preferred but the market will defang the so called cultural product as now “acceptable”, for by so doing it becomes masscult. The work will never have a chance if there is no organic discussion and interplay with other artists as an incubation process, as successful artists traditionally have done. Art schools are adjuncts of the media. Their critical apparatus is compromised by masscult standards, i.e. the interlaced tube of achievement, burdened by self directing, corruption spitting out Masscult like a machine, before the artist can ever ask who am I? This process churns and voilà! Post modernism. This process is so subtle. Unknown to those upon whom it is perpetrated on. Where will this stop?
The role of the critic is to sense the masscult pitfalls and traps, the wind of media, the crossed agendas, the attitudes and moreover to bear witness of critical standards for which we may value the art. The challenge is to pierce the veil of Masscult. Can this be done? What may we see?
Al Jirikowic 24/01/2018
Volume 32 no 4 March/April 2018 pp 4-6