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20 January 2013

After the End of Art (Re: Commitment)

An excerpt:

"It was shortly after the emergence of the institutional critiques articulated by artists such Michael Asher and Marcel Broodthaers, Daniel Buren and Hans Haacke - and nearly contemporaneous with the burgeoning critiques of ideological hegemonies in the artistic practices of Louise Lawler, Martha Rosler, Jenny Holzer, Allan Sekula, and Dara Birnbaum — that we also encountered Andy Warhol's entry 'Art Business vs. Business Art' in his Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again), in 1975. Armed with an Enlightenment belief in the unstoppable progress of institutional critique and artistic critiques of the discourse of power, I, for one, considered Warhol's notion of Business Art to be a brilliantly conceived parody of the side effects of an ever-expanding art world - a travesty in the manner of Jonathan Swift's 'Modest Proposal.' Little did I imagine that, a quarter century later, it would have become impossible for Warhol's prognostic vision to be mistaken for travesty anymore. Rather, we had to recognize - with belated hindsight - that Warhol had in fact prophesied what we finally came to experience: the total permeation of the cultural sphere by the economic operations of finance capital and its attendant ethos and social structures. Only a Cassandra whose ethics and aesthetics were as exceptionally evacuated as Warhol's (other artists at the time still associated their practices with moral, critical, and political aspirations) could have enunciated this vision. A comparable diagnosis of the explicitly and inevitably affirmative character of modern culture had been formulated by Herbert Marcuse in the early '60s. Marcuse's tendency to accept if not to exaggerate the inextricably affirmative dimensions of cultural production and to recode them as potentially transgressive operations had appeared to us as a symptom of the philosopher's increasing Americanization. In other words, it was not until the early '80s, or even later, that it dawned on some of us that the cultural apparatus had in fact already undergone precisely those transformations whose full spectrum only Warhol had predicted, and that his prognostics were about to attain the status of all-encompassing and seemingly insurmountable new realities.

"What were the symptoms of these new conditions of the 'common culture' that had emerged perhaps most vehemently in the United States but also abroad during the so-called Reagan-Thatcher era? And what structural transformations had taken hold in the sphere of artistic production and reception, which we had until that moment naively associated with those other institutions of the public sphere where the production of knowledge and the memory of experience had been socially sustained and collected: the library, the university, and the museum? A number of multifaceted transformations, at first developing slowly yet steadily, soon picked up a precipitous pace and expanded globally. I will enumerate some of these perceived changes, in the manner of a paranoiac whose list of enemies and threats has only increased continuously ever since the initial diagnosis of the condition."

From Benjamin H. D. Buchloh's essay "Farewell to an Identity," published in the December 2012 edition of Artforum. Which, oddly, it appears someone reproduced and made available in this form here. I suspect that for much of the mag's readership, the piece amounted to little more than tl;dr trahison-des-clercs gasbaggery. I, however, found that it very succinctly encapsulated a number of major misgivings I've had about the artworld for about the past 10 to 15 years.


Anonymous said...

I don't understand "tl;dr trahison-des-clercs gasbaggery". What do you mean ?
I posted "Farewell to an Identity" on the undpun blog.

Greyhoos said...

Meaning that I suspect there's a considerable portion of the magazine's readers who are either apathetic or unsympathetic to the gist of Buchloh's argument/concerns. That think the essay belongs in a publication like October, and not in Artforum.

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