Keith Varadi's ART SUGAR NET MAGIC  discusses the practice of so called Nu Guard artists. His jumping off point is the previously discussed 2011: art and transmission by Michael Sanchez. Distinct from the new media "New Guard" such as Auerbach, Guyton, and Arcangel, "Nu guard"..."concurrently embrac[es] and exploit[s] the consumerist culture of capitalist America with far less confusion or reticence than ever before." Varadi quotes Sanchez on desubjectivization: “without such delays, or lags, there can be no subject.” Sanchez points to Giorgio Agamben: “contemporary capitalism does not produce subjects so much as non-subjects, through what [Agamben] calls the ‘desubjectifying’ effects of apparatuses.” With no subject, there is little ground for an avant-garde. Hence Varadi's discussion of the "Nu Guard's" irreverence for the "different stains" of Morris Louis or Kenneth Noland. Perhaps "Nu Guard" overlaps with what one might call "Post-Internet" in that these artists earnestly leverage networks—etsy, tumblr, facebook—in places where the "rearguard" conceptualists merely gestured toward the dematerialization of the art object. "Nu Guard" knows that the digital image and its network is the material support, and the artist's ego is a brand.

 

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AuthorMike Pepi

1/n...

There is bad writing. Many press releases are written poorly. But I think Rule and Levine contribute to the conflation of IAE with bad writing. Worse is to cite IAE as part of your general opposition to theory. Even worse is that they "other" IAE as unfamiliar and deviant from the British National Corpus. I have always been wary of the article’s supporters who quickly draw the connection to the larger role of theory. The practical issue with IAE, and the reason for its ridiculousness, is that it is often performed by untrained writers trying to compensate for an exhibition that often is not all that original or good. Just think of all of our lovely far-flung biennials! Have you ever wanted to "reassess" things in a corrupt, oil-rich emirate? 

For every bastardized concoction of words ending in "-tion" we encounter in a press release, there is an artwork out there somewhere(else) that at some point may have actually merited such a claim. Press releases are reluctant, forced art writing (in the slightest way they broadly qualify as art writing). They are tantamount to being assigned to write a review of new work each month that must not only be positive but also must make the work seem unique. Often press releases need to use these acrobatics to fit into the limited space. No wonder they can sound so strange. But IAE article doesn't really address the issue of word counts or length--common constraints of the press release author. 

 

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AuthorMike Pepi

3/n...

Chat Room's generally post-internet worldview awoke again when members tested O'Neill's definition of the now popularized verb "to curate," as now practiced by nearly anyone with a social media account. O'Neill's defense was to site this battle upon the "praxis" of the curator who, he said, must work with art or artists. This tautology struck the class as sort of hidebound to the decadent postcolonial biennial circuit of the 1990s and 2000s, or the late Manifestas, Documentas, and Performas. Boris Groys touches on this in his new book Going Public, "Today, there is no longer any 'ontological' difference between making art and displaying art. In the context of contemporary art, to make art is to show things as art. So the question arises: is it possible, and, if so, how is it possible to differentiate between the role of the artist and that of the curator when there is no difference between art's production and exhibition." O'Neill's book helpfully included Andrea Fraser's definition of the institution of art as a condition of its existence as such: "art is art when it exists for discourses and practices that recognize it as art..."

 

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AuthorMike Pepi

 

A part of Gillick’s “accusation” is that the artist is the perfect “knowledge worker.” This has important implications for a question central to Marxist aesthetics. Some recent discussion about the artist’s class position (see Davis, 9.5 Theses) have focused on their entrepreneurial nature—that their personal fulfillment and their professional fulfillment have significant overlap. Gillick, too, contests partly that the “accusation” is that artists offer little to no alternatives to the neo-liberal model of entrepreneurship. Artists “communicate and behave in the same manner as those who spend their days trying to capitalize every moment and exchange of everyday life.” Resulting “moments of stress and collapse” in their practice are a natural outgrowth of the resistance to a possible “realm of permanently unrewarding work.” Gillick seems to advocate not for expression in art but instead for a contextual “breakdown of the barriers between work, life, and art.” He reminds us that the fact that "it is superficially hard to determine observable differences between the daily routines and operations of a new knowledge worker and an artist is precisely because art functions in a close parallel track to the structures that is critiquing.” 

1/n...

I’ll try to deal with Gillick’s concepts of capitalization of the mind, the “accusation”, the artist as immaterial laborer or knowledge worker, and his definition of responsible didactic criticism as they appear in his essay Doing Nothing. Gillick opens all of these with the following estimation of “current artists”, a term he uses to avoid the thorny associations with “contemporary art”: “The challenge made is that artists today… have fallen into a trap that is pre-determined by their existence within a regime that is centered on a rampant capitalization of the mind.”  One definition of capitalization in finance is the addition of the accrued interest of a loan back on to the principal balance. There are other definitions, but I find this one brings up notable parallels to the artist’s vested contingencies and the power that is ceded and gained through them.

There will be more entries, but let me begin by stating that Gillick leads me towards a definition of capitalism vis-à-vis aesthetics as a system that erects “barriers between work, life, and art.” 


 

“Listen: the Young-Girl is obviously not a gendered concept.” Ticcun insists. Instead they penned the metaphorically misogynist pamphlet to illustrate that since “the 1920s, capitalism realized that it” must “colonize everything that is beyond the strict sphere of production,” shifting focus to “marginalized elements of society—women and youth...” Alas, the Young-Girl. Mal Ahern and Moira Weigel’s sharp response (via the counter category of the Man-Child) is an indictment of the rhetoric from a Left that refuses to cope with the feminization of labor. Related to the male frustration with the pop-phenomenon of The End of Men, Mal and Moira concluded that the voice of the Man-Child is an equivocator who gets to chauvinistically choose when to be taken seriously. But listen, the Man-Child is obviously not a gendered concept.

 

 

Maybe we all missed Davis' point? Artists were thinking about their relationship in the capacity of players in a material scenario. The book elicits this reaction. He wants us (including artists) to explore the transgressions of the sphere. Davis asserts that the

industry is fucked up, but we need to think of ways to move beyond it. On the other hand, it’s a place that does have seeds of a political discussion, and you can’t begin to think of alternatives unless you can actually talk constructively about the actual milieu that [artists] find themselves engaged with.”

This leads us to a material theory of the artists as producer. I had trouble with this due to its de-historicized approach. Here Mike Kelley’s essay on his impression of Tetsumi Kudo and Joseph Beuys reveal an entirely different lens to the discussion of artists in society: 

"It seemed to me that [Tetsumi Kudo and Joseph Beuys] shared certain characteristics; their actions took place in gallery spaces or the street and not in theatres, nightclubs, or other traditional performance venues; sculptures and objects were manipulated live, bringing a theatrical slant to the practice of sculpture; and both artists were dandies of sorts, adopting a mode of dress that immediately set them in clear opposition to their audience. In the case of Beuys, this consisted of a costume skin to hunter’s garb accented with a fedora; for his part, Kudo often shaved his head and dressed in fluorescent green, sporting pop plastic sunglasses of the same color. What these costumes signified I did not know, but it seemed clear that their purpose was to position these artists overtly in the tradition of the performer. I appreciated this negation of the image of the artists as “everyman”, as exemplified in the often-published photos of Jackson Pollock painting in his studio dressed in work clothes. In opposition to this symbolic refusal of the special role of the artists in society (they are “workers” like any other), Kudo and Beuys, like clowns, visually set themselves at odds with normal behavior. Though I did not necessarily feel the need to position myself in one camp or the other relative to the politics of the artists’ fashion, I was curious about how, and why, exactly these two artists tackled the issue. For me, as an American who understood that artists, clearly, were not thought of as being productive members of society, this kind of self-presentation as culturally “other” made perfect sense. The artist was, inherently, closer to the fetishized position of the performer than to the daily laborer."
-Mike Kelley

 

Jurgenson touches on an elemental aspect of aesthetics when he inaugurates the concept of temporary photography. “Ephemerality sharpens viewer’s focus.” He quotes Michael Sacasas who observes how social media sites produce a “memory abundance” that “devalues” the “past’s hold on the present.” Snapchat presaged the movement of (scrolling, digital) photography into a temporary realm. A response to “user’s feeling saddled with the distraction of documentary vision.” As photography was cheapened, snapchat attempted to “re-inflate” it. Finally, his vision for snapchat is revolutionary: if more people snapchat, photos permanently posted to “facebook will become correspondingly more scarce and perhaps seem more important.”

 

 

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AuthorMike Pepi

part 2/n... "analog/digital" 

The duality of digital/analog is itself confused. It is more convenient shorthand than a sound category for what is being talked about. It is referring not to phenomena in themselves—culture, art, emotions—but the network of their distribution. While this is relevant and has implications, we should remember that fundamentally the Internet and cloud computing are just faster networks for exchange. It is very hard, then, to refer to “digitized life” as Bishop does, without conflating the change in network speed with something new about human nature. Constructing this false duality is just one of the manifestations of internet centrism.

 

 

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AuthorMike Pepi

Chat Room is the Bruce High Quality Foundation University's invitation and application-based, 3-month long, 12 class course that focuses on one topic a week relevant to contemporary art and/or media theory through readings and discussion. This fall Chat Room II  is led by Brad Troemel. As part of my participation, I will be writing 100 word responses to the texts and the resulting discussions. I may publish multiple posts containing discrete thoughts for each week and/or reading; this is, after all, some pretty heady material. I hope this adds some reflection to and record of the group’s otherwise verbal exchanges.

 

 

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AuthorMike Pepi