Monday, March 15, 2010

Thorns in the Garden

_Still image from video for The Alternative Experimental Flower Show
Opening March 25th at Mobius, Boston
Video and installation on view through the 28th

_Something is a bit prickly here. Although Thorns in the Garden is the title of a video installation I'm working on for next weeks exhibit at Mobius in Boston, it might also describe the thorn in the art garden that the recession has uncovered. Or maybe the shaking of a paradigm. The way we view the structure of the art world seems on uncertain footing. Whether brought to light by the recession or by the shifting vantage of our perceptions, artists are again commenting on the system, making works about the system or calling for the outright destruction of the system. I say again, because just as soon as art paradigms are in place they are knocked down; with many art careers built on the premise of turning the academy on its head. Most often changes can be seen as self-reflective as art re-evaluates its own nature. Lately, I wonder if this change may have more to do with the artist role in society than leading the next -ism.
_In my last post I pointed to a Roberta Smith critique becoming a call to arms for many disenfranchised artists. The Peter Schejeldahl review of the Skin Fruit exhibit at the New Museum also calls out an art system as fragile as the financial institutions deemed too large to fail. “…the posturing of “Skin Fruit”—roughly, noblesse oblige, laced with a left-libertarian raciness—cannot long deflect the mounting potency of class resentment.”
_The art world will receive no bail out but instead face a 'sort out'. The New Museum’s tack of mounting a trustee’s collection is probably a reflexive ‘make do with less’ approach to mounting a major show. The Burton exhibit at MoMA doesn’t seem to be taxing its bottom line either while providing entertainment. The sort out may not be a mirror world version of Wall Street, where the players immediately return to awarding each other giant bonus packages shortly after bringing the world economy to a grinding halt, but instead may have to face a ground up reassessment starting with the actual producers; the artists.
From personal experience, social networking on blogs and Facebook has provided me with more insight into sorting and categorizing the arts than all my years of art school. I am getting recommendations filtered through the eyes of fellow artists. Granted there is plenty of self promotion (most of us don’t have the luxury of not promoting) but aside from a few artists spamming their work, over the last several years I have found quite a few artists who make great recommendations of other artists to watch and shows to view. While they aren’t usurping a critic or curator role they are providing an educated eye.

This article caught my eye. The Coming Barbarism. I'm always up for a bit of culture jamming mischief although I fear the pendulum is so far into corporate control that it may never return. Still, this is interesting in light of the mildly subversive art that became a serious type of commodity in the latest economic bubble. I think some collectors want to be celebrity artists themselves. Humm?

Another example of artists working on their universe is the #class taking place at the Winkleman Gallery. Starting with the premise of an ongoing discussion into art and its discontents, Jen Dalton and William Powhida have created a freewheeling overview of our collective anxieties.

_Food for thought for all of us, but this does seem to be a time of retrenching and rethinking our roles. Howling sansculottes may not wish a return to the superstar system.

The Alternative Experimental Flower Show is open from March 25th through the 28th at Mobius, located at 725 Harrison Avenue in Boston. Stop by if you are in the area. Mobius is a premier artist group that has provided experimental artists a venue for over thirty years. The exhibit is curated by the Mobius green thumb Cathy Nolan Vincevic.
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