Wednesday, December 03, 2014


The age of aesthetics inflation is offset, des-hierarchical, and structurally eclectic.

We are in a fragmented culture, Balkanized, where they multiply many different miscegenation, where cohabit the most dissimilar styles, where the cool trends proliferate without order, without temporal regularity, worthless unit. With transaesthetic capitalism triumphs a chaotic profusion of styles in a huge supermarket trends and looks in fashion and design. It's a jarring proliferation, unregulated, featuring contemporary aesthetic field, parallel to economic deregulation, which constitutes the turbo capitalism.

Found in all the great museums of the world works or exhibitions of these contemporary artists in vogue.

According to the World Tourism Organization, has become, with its 900 million international travelers, the world's first industry, representing around 12% of world GDP. Never exhibitions and museums were such frequency records, 8.8 million to the Louvre, 6.5 million for the Palace of Versailles, 3.6 million from the Pompidou Centre in 2011.

The inflationary dynamics not confined to objects, styles and trends but also to classified monuments (in France has 38,000 historical monuments and picturesque villages 300) and art exhibition spaces. First, museums and contemporary art centers: worldwide, the number of museums increases 10% every five years, was in the United States before 1920, 1200 museums and about 8,000 in the early 80. It is said sometimes, by grace, which creates a museum by day in Europe: more than 30,000 museums are now classified in the 27 countries of the European Union. Paris alone has more than 150 museums. The number of museums in France is the subject of debate: in 2003, France Museums Direction declared in 1200 in the category of "museums of France," but beyond this category some guides publish lists ranging from 5000 to 10,000 museums. There is hardly a community that would not have "his" museum, as identity affirmation signal and which is not least as susceptible tourist attraction center to generate visitors and therefore commercial repercussions.

During the 80s, the number of art galleries experienced a great increase and has almost doubled. In 1988, the number of galleries rose pair 848. Many of these galleries have a very short duration, which has caused, and its mortality rate offset by a high birth rate, the number remains relatively stable. The Bill'art guide 2004 edition had 590 galleries of modern and contemporary art and estimated about 6000 places "open to the public with the vocation to present all forms of art." Galleries, in fact, continue to multiply while the art market, leaving the limits of the West, globalizes. At present there are thousands of galleries and art spaces that present in Shanghai, Sao Paulo, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, thousands of exhibitions and tens of thousands of works of artists, they now are numerous.

Wave that also reveals a proliferation of biennials, exhibitions and international art fairs worldwide. After the Kassel Documenta and the Venice Biennale, we now have over a hundred biennials, which have hundreds and thousands of artists. More than 260 fairs are arranged annually around the world. Asia is already participating on an equal footing: the fair Art Stage Singapore met in 2012, 140 galleries and Hong Kong Art, twice. Which joins the parallel fairs or "off", joining younger galleries, less established and who are less known and less expensive artists. In Paris, in 2009, FIAC had 203 galleries of 210 countries, and even more 4 off fairs and 73 exhibitions. In 2010, Art Basel Miami received 2000 artists, 29 countries and 250 galleries, while a multitude of fairs and parallel events unfolded a little everywhere in the city. Fairs that are organized in network now, and that function as multinational Art: Art Basel, after Basel invested in Miami and Hong Kong, and the English Frieze fair spread to New York. And the process of expansion widened even with VIP Art Fair, the first art fair online that met in 2011, during a week, 130 international galleries presenting 7500 works and 2000 artists.

With the artistic capitalism, the small world of old-art led to the hyper-art, superabundant, proliferating and globalized, where the distinctions between art, business and luxury disappear. Here, the profusion (works and demonstrations) has nothing to do with the waste "damn part", according with Georges Bataille; it shows the new face of artistic capitalism, to adapt effectively to the global proliferation of large fortunes and collectors, investors and other speculators, created a marketing system and dissemination of art internationally.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Four main logic of the artistic capitalism

The general terms that specify the artistic capitalism can be reduced to four main logic:

First, the integration and generalization style order, seduction and emotion in goods for commercial consumption. Artistic capitalism is the economic system that works for the systematic aesthetization of consumer markets, objects and everyday context. Now the aesthetic paradigm is no longer foreign to industrial and commercial activities, but incorporated into these. Results from a mode of production marked by osmosis or symbiosis between the rationalization of the production process and the aesthetic work, financial spirit artistic spirit, accounting logic and logic imagine. In this configuration, the artwork is most often collective, entrusted to teams with a limited creative autonomy, framed by managers and integrated within more or less bureaucratic hierarchical structures. The fact is that it comes to creating beauty and spectacle, excitement and entertainment to conquer markets. In this sense, it is a strategy or a "charming engineering" featuring artistic capitalism.

Second, a generalization of the entrepreneurial dimension of cultural and creative industries. Now, the art worlds, are less and less "world apart" or an "economy in reverse" are governed by the general laws of the company and the market economy, with its imperatives of competition and profitability. With the artistic capitalism triumphs the management of cultural productions. Even museums should be managed as companies, implementing marketing and communication policies, increasing the number of visitors and finding new forms of revenue. In the artistic capitalism works are judged on the basis of their business and financial results, much more than by their proper aesthetic features.

Third, a new economic surface of the groups engaged in the productions provided with an aesthetic component. What was a marginal sphere has become an important sector of economic activity involving huge capital and performing colossal funds business. We are no longer in the time of small art production units but in the mastodon’s culture, transnational giants of creative industries, fashion and luxury, and the globe as a market.

Fourth: the artistic capitalism is the system in which they are destabilized the old artistic and cultural hierarchies, while interpenetrating the artistic, economic and financial spheres. Where worked heterogeneous universes are developed now hybridization processes that mix of a unique aesthetic way and industry, art and marketing, magic and business, design and cool, art and fashion, art and fun.

Monday, December 01, 2014

How to write about contemporary art

Orit Gat is a writer and contributing editor of Rhizome. She lives in New York, USA. Orit Gat article in the frieze magazine, Issue 167, November-December 2014, about Gilda Williams new book on how to write about contemporary art.

Let’s assume there is a crisis in art writing. The past decade saw a number of essays, books, panel discussions and events debating the state of criticism, the death of the critic and the demise of art publishing. So, let’s imagine that crisis: reviews always simply describe what is on view rather than say anything about it; catalogue essays never produce new knowledge, only serve to promote an artist’s market value; and the language of press releases, so often derided as hollow, has taken over. All those roundtables that bring critics back from the dead and onto the podium reflect a growing anxiety over the communicative possibilities of writing.

Gilda Williams worries about all of the above. Call it by any name – her slightly derogatory ‘art-patois’, mystical ‘speaking in tongues’, or plain old ‘artspeak’ – it’s all barely comprehensible to Williams. She sets out to correct this problem in a new book, How to Write About Contemporary Art (published by Thames & Hudson) which is structured to untangle the linguistic mess we have supposedly got ourselves into. In countless bullet points, she describes the field, its key players and its particular penchants (citing, amongst other things, a number of frieze articles), and then moves on to discuss style, the work of pitching and the different forms of writing in the contemporary-art context. Williams’s methodology is flawless. She brings in some 50 examples of texts, ranging from exhibition reviews to snippets of catalogue essays and artist statements, and attentively analyzes them. She highlights the use of active verbs, points out specific nouns, deconstructs complex grammatical structures and, all in all, seems to read these samples more closely than anyone has done before. In confident style – ‘Unless discussing a certain shark floating in a tank, or that porcelain bathroom fixture signed “R. Mutt”, never assume your reader remembers or has seen the art’ – Williams stresses that the essential approach to writing about art should be to answer three questions, easily summed up: (1) What is it? (2) What might this mean? and (3) So what? This formula is meant to answer what Williams sees as the inherent paradox of writing about art – ‘stabilizing art through language risks killing what makes art worth writing about in the first place’.

In the world Williams describes, the old-school critic is gone, replaced by a ‘jack of all trades’, but she does not dwell on the origin of this disappearance – the reality of writing about art, which is low pay, freelance hustle and a constant struggle to keep one’s ethics in check – or its consequences. While Williams acknowledges that writers are implicated in some way in the larger art economy, the conclusion she draws is that ‘today’s critics are not as powerful as they once were […] Occupying almost the bottom economic tier of the art-industry pyramid, critics are least affected by cycles of boom and bust. When art bubbles burst, art-writers often have more to write about and nothing special to worry about. As Boris Groys asserts, since nobody reads or invests in art-criticism anyway, its authors can feel liberated to be as frank as they please, writing with few or no strings attached.’ Does a position of power enslave a writer? Not necessarily. In fact, it could give the critic further traction and support his/her role as someone that should – and potentially could – keep the market in check. As for Groys’s assessment that no one reads criticism anymore, the conclusion that should be drawn from it is that what we urgently need right now is not more writing, but more critical writing.

No book could teach a writer to be interesting, opinionated, engaged or passionate. And that isn’t the objective of this one. Its goal is to take a discipline that Williams conceives of as highly unregulated – and professionalize it. In outlining exactly how an auction catalogue differs from a museum’s wall label and a magazine review, down to the vocabulary and tone each should accommodate, Williams gives insight to the inner workings of very different industries: academia, auction houses and mainstream and professional press. With an eye on the rise of numerous academic programmes in art writing, a book on the subject could be seen as a democratizing entity, but the difference between a book and a school is interaction. Even if one recoils at the idea of needing an MFA in art criticism in order to write for a magazine – another instance of an art world in which the terms of participation are a secondary degree, often accompanied by academic debt that few can financially justify – at least those programmes allow students a sense of community. Whether found in a graduate programme or not, it is the participation in discourse and interest in one’s contemporaries that makes someone a critic. Williams’s technique is married to the work of art – let the work lead you – which risks resulting in formulaic art writing that neglects the intellectual context from which the artwork emerges.

Art writing is not an industry in crisis – quite the opposite. Art publishing has developed into a realm complementary to the work, not one that merely describes it. The physical and conceptual expansion of what art can be has also produced a publishing landscape with a positive anything-goes ethos, which we should promote, rather than suffocate. Writing about art has become a space in which good writers can discuss anything, lofty or mundane, from politics to neckties, philosophical trends to internet memes. While Williams claims that art writing needs to be grounded in descriptions of the art – the ‘what’s there’ – I’d argue that this extended field of publishing is what makes for vibrant reading material, whether or not it ever mentions that this or that video installation has two screens and a total running time of 15 minutes. Art writing should be sharp and opinionated, but also sometimes flimsy and erratic. Art writing doesn’t need to be professionalized further – it needs to be granted room to experiment and expand. These more wayward forms of writing create an art world that is more perceptive, where what we read is equal in its intellectual ambition to the work we look at.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Art business

If the hypermodern age of capitalism, which is the world for nearly three decades, is the planetarization and financialisation, deregulation and outgrowth of its operations, is also the one that is marked by another kind of inflation aesthetics inflation. Not only are the megacities, objects, information, financial transactions that are involved in a hyperbolic climbing, but the very aesthetic field. Here are the worlds of art involved in turn in hyper networks, contemporary capitalism that incorporates in large scale the logical of style and dream, seduction and fun in the different sectors of the consumer universe. If there is a bubble, there is another kind of bubble whose extreme inflated do not know, however, not crisis or crash, with the notable exception of the limited field of contemporary art market, the speculative bubble, as we have seen, could explode in different moments, we live the time of the aesthetic boom sustained by hyper capitalism.

With the hypermodern times call up a new aesthetic period, a society over-aestheticized, an empire where the sun of the art never set. The imperatives of style, beauty, the show business gained such importance in consumer markets, turned so the design of objects and services forms of communication, distribution and consumption that it is difficult not to recognize the advent of a true way of aesthetic productions arriving now to maturity. We call this new state of liberal trade economy: capitalism artistic or creative capitalism, transaesthetic.

At the time of financialization of the economy and its social, ecological and human damage, the very idea of an artistic capitalism may seem radically shocking. However, this is the new world face that by blurring the boundaries and the old dichotomies, transforms the relationship of the economy with art as Warhol transformed the relationship of artistic creation with the market, defending an art business. After the modern era of radical disjunctions, we have the hypermodern age of conjunctions, deregulation and hybridizations, where the artistic capitalism is a particularly emblematic figure.

The importance of market logic in the art world is not new, but of course, at the time of globalization, is a new level that is reached, as evidenced particularly the growth of investments of art collectors and the vertiginous increases of the artworks prices. The art appears increasingly as a commodity among others, as a type of investment which is expected high returns. The romantic age of the art gave way to a world where the cost of the works is more important and mediated than the aesthetic value: now is the trade price and the international market which consecrate the artist and the artwork. We are currently in the time of the "art business" which sees the triumph of speculative operations, marketing and communication. If capitalism incorporated the aesthetic dimension, it is increasingly channeled or orchestrated by financial and trade mechanisms. Hence the feeling often shared that the more artistic capitalism reigns, there will be less art and more market will be.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Art for the Market

A fourth phase of aesthetization of the world is established, remodeled in essence, logical marketing and extreme individualization. The modernist culture, dominated by a subversive logic in war against the bourgeois world, follows a new universe in which the vanguards are integrated in the economic order, accepted, wanted, supported by official institutions. With the triumph of artistic capitalism, aesthetic phenomena no longer be returning to the small peripheral worlds and universes built on marginal production, marketing and communication material goods, are huge markets shaped by international economic giants.

At the time aesthetization of consumer markets, capitalism multiplies the artistic styles, trends, shows, places of art, continuously launches new fashions in all sectors and creates large-scale dream, imagination, emotions; artialize the domain of everyday life at the same time that contemporary art, for its part, is committed to a broad desdefinition process. A desdefinition art, however, involves a novel form of aesthetic experience. It is a world of superabundance or aesthetic inflation that combines our eyes: one transaesthetic world, a kind of hiperart where art infiltrates in the industries in all the interstices of trade and ordinary life. The mastery of style and emotion spent the hyper regime: this does not mean perfect and finished beauty, but generalization of aesthetic strategies for commercial purposes in all sectors of consumer industries.

A hiperart also as no longer symbolizes a cosmos or expresses transcendent narratives, it is not the language of a social class, but works as a marketing strategy, valuation distracting, seductive games ever renovated to capture the hedonistic desires of the new consumer and increase the turnover of brands. We are currently in the strategic and commercial state of the aesthetization of the world, in transaesthetic age.

Increasingly, cultural or creative industries operate in hyperbolic mode with movies with huge budgets, creative advertising campaigns, television shows diversified television broadcasting programs that blend the classical and the music-hall, architectures, sculptures of great effects, video clips delirious, gigantic amusement parks, pop concerts with "extreme" scenarios. Nothing escapes the image and fun network and everything is spectacular intersects with the commercial imperative: the artistic capitalism created a fertile transaesthetic empire where they mix design and star system, creation and entertainment, culture and show business, art and communication, and cutting edge fashion. A communication and commercial hyperculture seeing degrade the classical oppositions of the famous "society of spectacle": creative transaesthetic capitalism does not work with the separation, with the division, but with the cross, with the plot of areas and genres. The ancient kingdom of the show disappeared, was replaced by hiperspectacle which consecrates democratic culture and shopping fun. 

Commercial strategies of transaesthetic creative capitalism no longer save any sphere. Common objects are invaded by the style and the look, many of them become fashion accessories. Designers, visual artists, fashion designers are invited to redesign the look of industrial commodities and the temples of consumption. Fashion brands from the general public copy the codes of luxury. Shops, hotels, bars and restaurants invest in your images, the decor, the customization of their spaces. The heritage is rehabilitated and staged in the manner of screenplays. Urban scenarios are retouched, staged, "disneyfied" with the intent of tourism consumption. Advertising wants to be creative and fashion shows seem performances. The Architectures images flourish, value in themselves, by their attraction for its spectacular size and function as promotional vector in competitive markets for cultural tourism.

The terms used to designate the occupations and economic activities also have the mark of aesthetic ambition, gardeners have become landscapers, hairdressers hair designers, florists floral artists, cooks culinary creators, jewelers jewelers artists, tailors artistic directors, car manufacturers “car creators". Frank Gehry is celebrated everywhere as the artist architect. Even some business men are described as "visionary artists" (Steve Jobs). While economic competition are unleashed, capitalism works to build and disseminate an artistic image of his actors to artialize economic activities. The art became a mean of legitimizing brands and companies of capitalism.

The extraordinary extent of transaesthetic logic is also seen in geographical terms. We are in the time of globalized capitalism to impel a stylization of mass consumption that is no longer confined to the West. In the five continents are working creative industries, creating products with style, fashion, entertainment, culture of globalized masses.

But the process of aesthetization hypermodern overflows in much the spheres of production, consumption conquered, aspirations, ways of life, the relationship with the body, the view of the world. The taste for fashion, the performances, the music, tourism, heritage, for cosmetics, for home decor became widespread in all strata of society. The artistic capitalism spurred the realm of the aesthetic towards hyper overabundant consumption of some styles, but more broadly, in the etymological sense of the word, of the Greeks, of sensations and sensitive experiences.

Capitalism has led not so much a process of impoverishment or delinquency of aesthetic existence but the democratization of mass of a homo aestheticus of an unprecedented kind. The transaesthetic individual is reflective, eclectic and nomadic: less conformist and more demanding than in the past, appears at the same time as a consumption "junkie", obsessed with disposable expediency, the easy entertainment.  

At aesthetization of the economic world answers an anesthetization of the ideal life, an aesthetic attitude toward life. Nobody wants to live and to sacrifice for principles and outdoor goods to himself, but if you invent it yourself, create your own rules to a better life, immense, rich in emotions and shows.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Art for the art

The third great historical moment that organizes the relationship between art and society reflects the modern age in the West. Finding its fullness to give birth in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, coincides with the development of a more complex artistic sphere, more differentiated, freeing themselves of the old nobility and religious powers. While the artists gradually emancipated from the tutelage of the Church, the aristocracy, then the bourgeois order, art imposes itself as a system of high degree of autonomy in their own instances of selection and consecration (academies, salons, theaters , museums, dealers, collectors, publishers, critics, magazines), its laws, values, and principles of its own legitimacy. As the field of art becomes autonomous, the artists claim aloud a creative freedom to works that are accountable only to themselves and stop bowing to requests that come from "outside". Social emancipation of artists very concerning to the extent that it is accompanied by a dependency of a new genus, economic dependence on market forces.

But while art itself evidence its proud sovereignty in contempt for money and hatred for the bourgeois world, constitutes "commercial art" that, for profit, for the immediate and temporary success, tends to become an economic world as others to adapt to public demand and to offer products "without risk", the rapid obsolescence. It opposes these two universes of art: its aesthetic, its public, as well as their relationship with the "economy". The modern age is organized in radical opposition between art and business, culture and industry, art and fun, pure and impure, authentic and kitsch, art elite and mass culture, avant-garde and institutions. A system of two antagonistic modes of production, circulation and consecration, which developed essentially within the strict limits of the western world.

This historic social setting brings a general overturn of values, invested art with a higher mission than ever. In the late eighteenth century, Schiller says it's for aesthetic and practical education of the arts that humanity can move towards freedom, to reason and to the Well. And for the German Romantics, the beautiful, the access road to the Absolute, is set, with art, at the summit of the hierarchy of values. The modern age is the framework in which it has made an exceptional sacralization of poetry and art, only known to be able to express the most fundamental truths of life and the world. While following the Kantian criticism, philosophy should renounce the absolute revelation and science should concentrate on enunciating the laws of the phenomenal appearance of things, you assign to art the power to know and contemplate the very essence of the world. Now, art is placed above society, tracing a new secular spiritual power. Not an area designed to give consent, but it reveals the ultimate truths that elude science and philosophy: an access to the Absolute, while a new instrument of salvation. The poet enters into competition with the priest and takes its place with regard to the ultimate revelation being: the secularization of the world was the springboard of modern religious art.

It must be added, however, that the sacralization of art held by the romanticism and symbolism was then fought fiercely for several avant-garde movements such as Constructivism, Dadaism and Surrealism.

Sacralization of art that illustrates so well in the invention and development of the institution of the museums. By extracting the works of their original cultural context, while cutting its traditional and religious use by not limiting them to private use and personal collection, but offering them to the gaze of all, the museum stages its specifically aesthetic value universal and timeless; becomes practical or cultural objects to be admired aesthetic objects, contemplated by themselves, by their beauty that defies time. Place of aesthetic revelation destined to make known unique, irreplaceable, inalienable works, the museum has a responsibility to make them immortal.

While desecrates cultural objects, endows them, on the other hand, an almost religious status, the masterpieces should be isolated, protected, restored, and testimonies of the creative genius of mankind. Worship space devoted to the spiritual elevation of the democratic public, the museum is marked by rites, ceremony, for a certain sacred environment (silence, recollection, contemplation), imposes itself as a secular temple of art.
Sacralization of the museum at the same time sparked the ire of avant-garde currents denouncing the symbolic institution of excellence of ancient art to destroy: "We want to demolish museums, libraries (...). Cemeteries Museums!..." (Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's" Futurist Manifesto "in Le Figaro, 1909).

The art supposedly provides the ecstasy of the infinitely large and the infinitely beautiful, does contemplate perfection, in other words, opens the door to experience the absolute, something beyond the ordinary life. Became the place itself and the ideal way of life once reserved for religion. Nothing is higher, more precious, more sublime than art, which allows, thanks to the splendor that produces, endured the ugliness of the world and the mediocrity of existence. The aesthetics replaced religion and ethics: life is only worth by beauty, many artists argue the necessity of sacrificing material life, politics and family life to the artistic vocation: it is for them to live for art, consecrate their existence to his greatness.

To assert its autonomy modern artists rebel against the conventions, constantly invest in new objects, appropriating itself of all elements of the real for purely aesthetic purposes. Enforces the right of all styling, all transmuted into art, are mediocre, the trivial, the unworthy, the machines, the resulting collages of chance, the urban space of democratic equality was made possible affirmation of equal dignity aesthetics of all subjects, the sovereign freedom of artists to qualify as art everything you create and expose. Given the absolute sovereignty of the artist there is no reality that can’t be transformed into work and aesthetic perceptions. After Apollinaire and Marinetti, the Surrealists launch the motto "Poetry is everywhere." By breaking with all heterogeneous function of art, to assert themselves in transgression of codes and established hierarchies, modern art set in motion a dynamic of aesthetization boundless world, any object could be treated in an aesthetic point of view, be attached, absorbed in the sphere of art only by decision of the artist.

But the ambition of modern artists was far beyond the horizon purely artistic. With the avant-garde born new utopias of art, taking this as the ultimate goal being a vector of transformation of living conditions and mentalities, a political force in the service of the new society and the "new man". As opposed to art for art and symbolism, Breton declares that it is "a mistake to consider art as an end" and Tatline proclaims: "The art is dead! Live art machine "by refusing the autonomy of art, not recognizing any value to the decorative aesthetic "bourgeois", constructivists declare the glory of the technique and the primacy of the material and social values on aesthetic values. The beautiful functional should eliminate the beautiful decorative and utilitarian buildings (homes, clothing, furniture, objects ...) to substitute the ornamental luxury, synonymous with decaying waste. Art should no longer be separated from society and just an enjoyable hobby for the wealthy: the aesthetics of the engineer should be able to reset a "complete design" completeness of the everyday environment of men. No longer the beautification projects of the living, but "the machine to inhabit" (Le Corbusier), responding to the practical needs of men and at minimal cost. The modern era sees well be argued, on the one hand, the "religion" of art, on the other, a process of desaesthetization produced very particularly for architecture and urbanism, condemning artificial ornaments and beautification of the building, advocating geometric constructions completely stripped, replacing the harmonious composition of classical gardens by "green spaces".

At the same time, in various streams a new interest in so-called minor arts arises. While multiply the criticisms leveled at modern industry - accused of spreading ugliness and uniformity - the flower beautification projects of the everyday life of all classes, the desire to introduce art everywhere and in all things by diffusion of the decorative arts. From Ruskin to Art Nouveau, William Morris to the Arts & Crafts movement, and then to the Bauhaus, modernist currents abound who denounced "the egoistic conception of life as an artist" (Van de Velde), the pernicious distinction between "Great Art" and "minor arts", advocating the equal dignity of all forms of art, a useful and democratic art sustained by the rehabilitation of the applied arts, industrial arts, arts of decoration and construction. No longer want pictures and statues reserved to a high social class, but an art that invests in furniture, the wallpaper, the tapestries, the kitchenware, textiles, architectural facades, on posters. With the democratic era, the art takes on mission to save society, regenerate the quality of the home and the happiness of the people, "change the lives" of all days: the Modern Style was baptized by Giovanni Beltrami as "socialism della Belleza".

The very aesthetics of the modern age followed, so the two main roads. On the one hand, the radical aesthetics of pure art, art for art's sake, freed from all works of utilitarian purposes, having no other purpose than themselves. On the other, precisely the opposite, the project of a revolutionary art "for the people", a useful art that makes itself felt in the smallest details of everyday-oriented and well-being of most life.

Indeed, the industrial and commercial world was the primary craftsman of modern aesthetization of the world and its democratic expansion.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Art for the princes

Heir of classical antiquity, the exceptional importance of this period in art history, his works are a model of aesthetic perfection of the Renaissance to the present day. Are imposed the principles of harmony, balance the proportions, symmetry, a fair measure. The process of aesthetization is no longer separate of the purification of forms, the desire for a balanced and idealized beauty, synonymous with elegance and grace. Art does not imitate nature, she must sublimate it, transfiguring it by expressing the beauty ideal, harmonious perfection that is the cosmos itself.

The humanism of the Renaissance rehabilitates and expressly claimed, in the late Middle Ages comes a second stage that extends into the XVIII century. Is the premise of aesthetic modernity with the appearance of status separate from the artist craftsman, with the idea of the creative power of the artist-genius signing their works, with the unification of the arts in particular unitary concept of art in its modern sense, applying to all the fine arts, with works designed to please a lucky and educated public and not simply already communicating religious teachings and to meet the requirements of the dignitaries of the Church. The aesthetic dimension of art itself becomes important, the artist must endeavor to eliminate any imperfections and find images that are consistent with what is more beautiful, more harmonious in nature. With the gradual emancipation of artists in relation to corporations, they will benefit, through its contracts with sponsors, a margin of initiative until then unknown: the adventure of empowering the artistic and aesthetic mastery is underway.

This secular moment is contemporary of the life in the court, the appearance of fashion and elegance of their games, the treaties of "manners" but also an architecture that offers the very picture of refinement and grace, aesthetic urbanism inspiration, gardens with terraces that appear to paintings, sculptures, ponds, fountains, broad perspectives, designed to enchant and amaze the eye. Not only just commoditas, but the grace of harmonious forms, aesthetic pleasure, the venustas (Alberti), in pleasant, beautiful cities, "a pleasant appearance and pleasant stay" (Francesco di Giorgio Martini). Artists are requested and invited to the European courts to create magnificent scenery, decorate the inside of castles and planning parks. Churches wanting to seduce and attract the faithful offer, with the Baroque period, a lush theatrical spectacle with overloaded facades of sculptures, structures that disappear under the trimmings, optical effects, games of shadow and light, canopies, tabernacles, pulpits, wards, chalices, ciboria abundantly decorated, opens a whole exuberant art to create a grand spectacle, enhance the beauty and splendor of decoration ornaments. Monarchs, princes, the aristocratic classes throw themselves into large intended to make their cities and their finest residences, send build castles marked by elegance of style, build palaces, sumptuous villas, framed by huge parks full of statues and entrusted to the best architects. Remodel cities according to an aesthetic point of view, creating buildings consist of aligned harmonious facades, streets that offer great effects prospects squares beautification of cities has become a very important political goal. It must be an "urban art", a theatrical staging of city and nature, ennobling the inhabited environment and increasing the prestige, the greatness, the glory of kings and princes.

From the Renaissance, the art, the beauty, the aesthetic values acquired a value, a dignity, new social importance, which is witnessed by urban planning, the architecture, gardens, furniture, works of glass and faience in the nude painting and sculpture, the ideals of harmony and proportion. Taste for art and willingness to styling the framework of life that functions as a means of social assertiveness, way to mark the status and prestige of the larger more powerful. The aristocratic aesthetization, throughout this cycle, the intense process of aesthetization (elegance, refinement, grace of forms) in place in the upper echelons of society is not driven by social logic, political strategies of dramatization of power, the imperative of social representation and the primacy of competition for status and prestige of the constituent holistic society in which the importance of the relation of men overcomes the relation of men to things.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Art for the gods

For thousands of years, the arts into force in so-called primitive societies were not in fact created with an aesthetic intent and given a purely aesthetic "disinterested" and free, but with an essentially ritual purpose of consumption. In these cultures, what is intended with the style can’t be separated from, magic, sexual and religious organization of the clan. Inserted in collective systems that give them meaning, aesthetic forms of phenomena are not separate and autonomous functioning: the social and religious structure that everywhere dictates the agenda of artistic forms. Are societies in which the aesthetic conventions, social and religious organization are structurally related and undifferentiated. By translating the organization of the cosmos, to illustrate the myths expressing the tribe, clan, sex, pacing the important moments of social life, the masks, the headdresses, the paintings of the face and body, the sculptures, the dances have first a function and a ritual and religious value.

Because art has no separate existence, informs the whole of life: pray, work, exchange, fight, all these activities involve aesthetic dimensions that are anything but trivial or peripheral, since they are necessary to the success of various social and individual operations. The birth, death, rites of passage, hunting, marriage, war give way, everywhere, a artialization work done by dances, chants, fetishes, props, ritual narratives strictly differentiated according to age and sex. Artialization in ways that are not intended to be admired for their beauty, but to give practical powers: cure diseases, to oppose the negative spirits, make it rain, make alliances with the dead. Many of these ritual objects are not manufactured to be preserved: throw us off, destroyed after use and then repainted before each ceremony. Nothing of professional distinguished artists, nothing of works of art, "disinterested" or even often terms like "art", "aesthetic", "beauty". And yet, as Mauss stressed "the importance of the aesthetic phenomenon in all societies that preceded us is considerable."

Similar control over the entire collective aesthetic forms certainly not excluded, in either circumstance, some freedom of establishment or individual expressiveness. But are limited and specific phenomena, as well as aesthetic practices, these societies, are basically required by their cultural and social functions and are accompanied by extremely strict rules. Everywhere, the arts are implemented in compliance with draconian rules and fidelity to tradition. They don’t intent to innovate and invent new codes, but obey the canons received from ancestors or gods. It is a ritual artialization, traditional, religious, which marked the longest period in the history of the styles: a pre-reflective artialization without essentially artistic values, no specific and autonomous aesthetic intent system.

Artistic capitalism

Artistic or creative capitalism transestetic, which is characterized by the growing importance of sensitivity and design process for a systematic work of stylization of goods and commercial places, the widespread integration of art, the look and affect in the consumer markets universe, create a chaotic economic world landscape stylizing the universe everyday.

With the artistic capitalism combines a novel form of economy, society and art in history. There is no society that does not involve, in one way or another, work in styling or "artialization" of the world, what distinguishes a time or a society, to make the humanization and socialization of the senses and tastes.

This anthropological and trans-historical dimension of aesthetic activity always appears in different forms and extremely social structures. To highlight what is specific stylization of the hypermodern world, Gilles Lipovetsky and Jean Serroy, adopted a panoramic view, the view over the long term, outlining the extreme constitutive logic of the great historic models of the relationship between art and the social. In this regard, we highlight four great "pure" models who organized, throughout history, the timeless styling process in the world: the ritual artialization, the aristocratic aestheticization, the modern world and the aestheticization transestétic age.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Aesthetic Capitalism in the Age of Globalization

Acknowledge the contribution of the artistic capitalism as well as its failures is the goal of this book of Gilles Lipovetsky and Jean Serroy.

The purpose of this book is theoretical, opens, however, a large approximation of the empirical facts related to the aesthetic market space. Instead of arresting a purely conceptual or theoretical reading-engage deliberately to support the thesis advanced through descriptive analysis of multiple areas of hypermodern aesthetic. Insofar as the order of the artistic capitalism infiltrates in all sectors related to consumer world, it would be necessary to show the coherence of the system and its operation focusing as close as possible the diversity of creative and imaginative, and organizational realities individual. Hence the intersections between macroscopic and microscopic, the "abstract" and "concrete", theoretical and descriptive, but also between long-term and contemporary.

Favoring only the profitability and the kingdom of money, capitalism emerges as a juggernaut that respects no tradition or worship any higher principle, whether ethical, cultural or ecological. System driven by an imperative of profit, has no other aim than itself, the liberal economy presents a nihilistic aspect whose consequences are not only unemployment and job insecurity, social inequality and human dramas, but also the disappearance of harmonious life forms, the fading charm and pleasure of social life. Wealth of the world, impoverished existence; triumph of capital, liquidation of manners; great power of finance, proletarianization of lifestyles.

Capitalism thus appears as a system incompatible with a worthy aesthetic life of that name, with the harmony, with beauty, with a good life.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Areosa Holy Lady

Areosa Holy Lady, in plaster, made by the sculptor Manuel Pereira da Silva, for the Areosa Church in October 1989.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Making up the Globalization

Jeannene Przyblyski, want to look at the questions of novelty and newness and their relationship to contemporary art practice very selectively, from two different perspectives.

From that of China and that of Cuba. And, even more selectively, looking at a very narrow range of work. So, I'm not going to encompass the whole of contemporary practice in either China or Cuba.

What is interesting to me is to look very carefully, within a broader discourse about contemporary art, within a broader sense that contemporary art has become a global practice that there is no longer one, that it's no longer possible to argue for one capitol city of contemporary art in the way that it could be argued, at one point, that Paris was the capitol city of Modernism, and then that capitol city shifted to New York.

That's certainly one of the dominant narratives of Modern art. But, instead, that contemporary art in a global economy is a distributed practice with many networked nodes that are linked, in fact, by the practice of large biennial and other sorts of regular international exhibitions that bring the work of artists from many different countries together. And that not only have artists become international, but also many, many nations have recognized engagement with contemporary art as a part of a larger practice of advertising and claiming a cultural position in contemporary times.

So, both Havana, in Cuba, and Shanghai, in China, sponsor major biennials. And that's an effort, quite consciously, on the part of governments, to claim culture as a part of their contemporary national standing in a global economy.

The Huang Yong Ping's, The History of Chinese Painting and the History of Modern Western Art Washed in the Washing Machine for, 2 Minutes. And we looked at this work very briefly, and in one way, it could be taken as a kind of parable on what it is like to simply mash up two distinctive and distinguished art histories into one sort of undifferentiated mass.

So, the artist has placed a survey book of Chinese art and a survey book of Western art into a washing machine for two minutes, and displays the results heaped on top of a glass plate that is supported by a tea crate.

So, almost as if the ensuing sculptural, pulpy mass is ready to be packed up and shipped around in this global art economy, at the same time that the tendency of paper history is to be both authoritative and also to disintegrate, and the tendency of language to be impenetrable, sometimes, across cultural differences, I think is also dramatized by this piece.

So, I think that the artist's work is meant to a little bit ironic, and to mobilize its criticality through a kind of irony about the kind of, both the legibility and the illegibility of language, the authority and the lack of authority and insufficiency of histories, and both the kind of potentials and also the pitfalls of understanding art in a global context.

So, it's a pretty economical piece that's doing a lot of critical work at the same time.

Certainly, for artists of Huang Yong Ping's generation, the transformation from a closed country, to increasing contact with the West was very much a part of the formation of their identity as artists.

We're looking, now, at a painting by a contemporary Chinese oil painter, Ma Gang, of a meeting between Deng Xiaoping and Nixon. The painting dates from 2009. We see a Chinese oil painter, trained in the academic tradition, taking on the techniques of major historical portraiture to document the contact between China and the United States. And to do it in a Western format so, a format that isn't really mixing languages, but is instead displaying a great investment in and a great fluency in the techniques of Western oil painting. And choosing them, in this case, to sort of do the work of history painting from a Chinese perspective.

What is it like to witness some of the great encounters of the history of the 20th century and to memorialize them in a way that great encounters throughout the history of the Modern and contemporary periods have been memorialized.

So Ma Gang might be said to be on the side of representing international and cross-cultural encounter in a seamless way, in a formal, diplomatic mode. It is, indeed, in that way, work that is very much done at the service of the state, and in honor of and as a part of official culture, much in the same way as David would have painted the coronation of Emperor Napoleon, for example.

And interesting, as well, in that regard. But let's move from that to another take on cross-cultural encounter. This is one of Ai Weiwei's notorious urns painted with the Coca-Cola logo, this one from 2010. And they're works in which he takes examples of Chinese antiquities of these large pottery urns and he emblazens them with the immediately recognizable as both American and pervasive logo of Coca-Cola, and Coca-Cola, I think, has a particular fascination for international artists as an emblem of the United States, precisely because so much of the marketing of Coca-Cola throughout the '70s and '80s and '90s, for those of you who can remember it, was about it being a mechanism that united the world.

And Ai Weiwei takes that ideology and myth of unification through the mass consumption of commodities straight on, as a very pointed component of the process of the opening up of the boarders between China and the West.

It was not only a function of diplomatic missions and major occurrences of state, but equally significant, perhaps, was the moment when McDonald's, for example, first appeared outside of the Tiananmen Gates of Beijing, and that sort of sense that a change was really in the air, because Western commodities were to be available and the most stereotypical of Western commodities were to be available in the East.

So, what is it like to take an example of the great and long cultural history of China and deface it, in fact, with an American, imported trademark. It is meant to be a provocative gesture, much in the same way that Duchamp's marking of the Mona Lisa, with a mustache and goatee, was a provocative gesture. And, in fact, I think Ai Weiwei is very much an artist in the Duchampian mode. And there's a lot that's been written about these works, not only in terms of Ai Weiwei's defacement of Chinese antiquities, but also in terms of his willful destruction of some of these antiquities as a part of his art practice, as well. Let's place Ai Weiwei's Duchampian gesture against the work of another artist, Pan Gongkai, who is actually the president of the China Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.

And this is important to think about, not only because Pan Gongkai was born during a time when China was effectively cut off from much of the West and turning inwards on itself, and its own government, and its own building of a new society, but because he came of age during the Cultural Revolution, which was a part of the rule of Mao in which the broad learning of intellectual history, various cultural traditions, being an artist and an intellectual in general was fiercely proscribed by the state. And in which a very repressive culture of social sort of retraining was imposed, especially on those people who were children of intellectuals and academics who came from academic and intellectual backgrounds.

In fact, Pan was not able to finish his schooling because he was sent out in the countryside to work in agriculture instead. And much of his return to culture was bound up in access to the West, and in puzzling out the differences, for himself, and the points of contact between Chinese aesthetics and Chinese philosophy of art, and Modern aesthetics and Modern philosophies of art in the Western mode.

So, in this very large-scale installation work, we see him thinking through those things. The work is a very, very large-scale installation piece that begins with a mural covered with gestural brush strokes in the mode of Chinese brush painting. And onto that mural is projected a stream of melting English language that processes through the philosophy of Modern art.

So, it has this marvelous time-based experience, in this installation, of watching English language dissolve almost into snow across the surface of a painting that evokes Chinese tradition, and an almost elegiac and sort of contemplative sense of both the sufficiencies and insufficiencies of that cultural contact, and the process of putting a new contemporary-artistic language back together, in the face of both.

We are looking at a work by another artist who is actually at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, Xu Bing who also spent a great deal of time in the United States and, in fact, was recognized with a MacArthur fellowship for his work. This is one of his most important major works, Book from the Sky, a work that he did between 1987 and 1991.

Again, it's a large-scale, installation-based work, a work that takes language head on in the production of an installation space. In this case, Xu Bing has made up his own language of invented characters, and uses them to fill books and scrolls and panels that fill the installation space, and cause the viewer to contemplate the sort of muteness that results, really, from being in the presence of so much language and so much illegibility, at one time.

Xu Bing certainly felt this, this sort of tension and frustration of the relationship between the modes of expression he had available to him, his travels between the East and West, the difficulties of learning the new language of English to operate in American society for the time that he was here, the process of going back to China and finding the radical transformations of Chinese society and Chinese cities that were a part of its globalization in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

So that the relationship between traditional culture, the culture of Mao and the Cultural Revolution, and the culture of globalized China, were experienced in a kind of, again, kind of chaotic and jumbled way. And that's an exact quote from Xu Bing.

He talks about "our lives and cultural background" as a "jumbled knot of socialism, the Cultural Revolution, the Reform Period, Westernization" and modernism. "All of these complexities are reflected quite naturally in my work." So that the work of art becomes the work of figuring out one's place and one's possible modes of expression in a radically transformed culture and society.

The international politics of Cuba and the United States present a different set of challenges for contemporary artists, because this sort of porousness of the relationship between the United States and Cuba was regulated not only on the American side, with the U.S. embargo, but also on the Cuban side, as well, with a great deal of concern that, in order for the revolution to take hold, Cubans needed to stay close to home, to concentrate on what was going on in their own country. And hence, travel is greatly restricted, on the part of the Cuban government, as well, and has only recently, in fact, begun to be those restrictions have only recently begun to be relaxed.

So, one finds contemporary artists understanding, in a way, that their marketplace is international and global, and yet their own situation may be either restricted, or provisionally allowed, or nomadic, or exiled, certainly a complex relationship to the country of their birth.

So, here we see this work, again, José Angel Toirac's, Marlboro, from his series, Tiempos Nuevos, New Times, from 1996. This sort of ironic trying on of Fidel as the Marlboro Man.

And in both cases-- in both the case of China and of Cuba, in terms of contemporary practice one does see, in a kind of pop-ish mode, a kind of processing of the iconic identities and iconic brands, if you will. For those two countries, those brands seem are oftentimes organized around the dominant political figures. So, a kind of processing and reprocessing of images of Mao is very much a part of one sort of trajectory of contemporary Chinese art, and a processing of reprocessing of images of Fidel Castro is very much a trajectory of one aspect of Cuban contemporary art, as well.

And this, again, places us in that kind of pop-ish Duchampian realm of questioning the identity of brands and the contact between nations as a matter of appropriation and re-positioning imagining Fidel Castro as the Marlboro man, but the horse being the horse of the conquistador and not the horse of the American cowboy.

That's not such a different strategy, in some ways, than we saw with Ai Weiwei. And so I want to complicate that version of contemporaneity with the work of another Cuban-born artist who lives in the United States, Tony Labat, who moved from Miami to San Francisco and has taught, for many years, at the San Francisco Art Institute. And is actually a dear colleague and friend.

And so, I know quite a lot about Tony's background and, you know, I'm going to call him Tony rather than Labat.

He was born in Cuba. And when he was in his early teens, he and his mother left his father and moved to the United States, as part of the great sort of exiling and flight of Cuban nationals to the United States, in the early 1960s. And much of his work has been, then, about the sort of interrogation of the political iconography of the U.S. and Cuba about the sensations of displacement across language and across cultures.

So, we're looking at this work from his, Frankenstein Series, of Karl Marx, from 2007, in which he has taken on these silkscreen images of Marx, as a preeminent figure of communist political ideology intervened in those silk screened images, with both hands masking the figures, and also these kind of cross-cutting monochromatic bars, which parse Marx into quadrants and suggest that he could almost be seen as a kind of composite figure, an exquisite corpse, if you will, in the surrealist mode, and under willful construction.

That is, taken apart and put back together, if you will, according to political whim, until it becomes a version of itself very far from its original. In a very different way, that perhaps has its relationship to Duchamp and the notions of novelty, reproduction and appropriation that Duchamp was so interested in, but also takes its distance, as well, is Tony's recent work for the Havana Biennial in 2012. It's called, Irregular Encounter: Leveling the Field, and it was an installation-based, participatory, social, interactive work in which Tony had a pool table, a billiards table, made in the shape of the island of Cuba, so, in the shape of the Cuban nation, and invited people to play pick-up games of pool in a kind of a combination viewing stand, somewhat café setting where you could you could get a beer and buy some cigarettes and play pool, or watch people play pool, as the installation.

It's a very interesting work on a number of levels. As I said, it kind of references Duchamp, Duchamp famously played chess as a form of art making, or as an alternative to formalized art practice, and here we have the game of billiards substituted.
We have the sort of illogic of playing a mathematical game, which is all about calculating angles, on an irregular playing field, a field that maps the borders of Cuba, and also talks about all the various sort of sub rosa and underground economical ways that Cubans have organized their everyday life so as to work with, and work around the prescriptions of both the U.S. embargo and the culture of regulation and rationing that has been so much a part of Cuban economic life.

So, how to get people to play with the dilemmas of their own relationship to nation, state, politics, migration, immigration, displacement, and nomadism, that's all bound up in this particular irregular encounter.