Tuesday, June 17, 2008

art and money

I am reminded, on perusing the most recent issue of the unaffordable Art Newspaper (roughly $200 for 11 issues), of just how isolated the vast majority of the art world really is. I have been trying without success to acquire the catalogue of the show of Finno-Ugric artists in Estonia (the catalogue costs US$15 but shipping costs US$100), and a brief perusal of the Art Newspaper exhibition calendar for the summer reveals a host of major shows in the world's major cities that one ought to attend, if one had any money at all for travel.

But of course none of us do, and that is why we look for ways of responding to the global condition of online visual communication combined with physical isolation. Things like videos from installations rendered on YouTube so change the conditions of scale and surroundings that they are fundamentally a different experience (and cf. such sensurround events as Olafur Eliasson's installation in the Tate Modern turbine hall a few years ago, which we know well from photographs, which means we do not know it at all).

It is why I cannot condemn blatant knockoffs if the knockoffs show some genuine familiarity with the original being knocked off, rather than with the magazine photos or online videos of the original that is being knocked off. Imitation is not only the sincerest form of flattery, it is the only way most of us will ever get more than a miniaturized, digitized idea of what is going on out there in the vast stretches of the planet where we are not.

Hence my fascination with the stretches of the planet that definitely do not make it to the global biennials. The art may be less interesting, indeed it frequently is, but it is something regarding which all of us stand on a more or less equal basis because we not only have not made it to the Finno-Ugrian republics of the Russian Federation, we have not made it to the museum show in Estonia either.


Anonymous said...

I use this term "second generation" art to describe work that seems to be more or less directly aping the manner of some earlier era of art history, but does so based on an incomplete understanding of the exemplar it so desperately wants to mimic, especially with regard to scale or resolution. For example, someone knocks off Cy Twombly, but doesn't realize that the original s/he has seen reproduced ad nauseum in art magazines is actually 8 by 10 feet. Or someone knocks off... oh, I don't know... Zurbaran, but doesn't seem to know that when you stand in front of the real thing, you can actually see into those shadows.

I used to dismiss this stuff uniformly, but now I think it constitutes its own special branch of postmodernism--art based on what other art looks like in a Google search. It may actually be the more relevant and appropriate way to keep the engines of art history chugging forward in the digital age.

littlejoke said...

and now Lisa Alembik has kindly forwarded a URL on which one can take photo tours of all those biennales that one missed in the physical actuality (so that even more art can be viewed out of scale and thought about based on a picture):