There are no less than 15 different ways to say “everyone is an artist”, and scholar Boris Groys probably hit on them all last night in his lecture at SVA. He’s an excellent speaker with an astonishing aptitude for turning a good phrase. The lecture itself covered a number of popular topics related to artistic identity: the deprofessionalization of art as a form of professionalization (see related writing by Ed Halter, Bruce High Quality Foundation, and on more than one instance, myself), the idea that unlike earlier times in which only the upper class had time to produce art and text for millions who have no time to view them, now millions of people are creating work for a select few who have no time to view it, (In the future everyone will be famous for 15 people — momus, 1991! thx @tommoody, Clay Shirky on information overload) and of course, the age old question of whether fine art can compete with mass media (an ongoing discussion nearly everyone participates in on some level).
By and large I agreed with Groys’ points, the main one being that the so called “weak” gestures of art — the repetitive and transcendental formal qualities not limited to a particular time — do not match “strong” images like Madonna, Harrison Ford, and 9-11. That’s obvious. A 9-11 image means more to more people than any work of contemporary art. (UPDATE: Tom Moody notes that Damien Hirst’s Shark is an art world example of a “strong” image.) However, Groys also told the audience he believes biennials, museums and art schools act as the core influence for most “weak” images, which is not true. As Tom Moody observes in his notes from the evening, this is essentially saying cat sites would disappear without art schools. I suppose Groys’ thoughts follow the path of self-preservation — he’s got one too many eggs in the fine art’s basket — but why not take the logic to its actual conclusion? The question is not about locating the power within a weak image or gesture, but figuring out its place in a larger system. Does the economic model for art professionals change if the fine art image only speaks to a few? What is role of the artist? Where do we locate value?
These questions are becoming increasingly difficult to answer.
- Tom Moody transcribes his lecture notes and mine. A must read.
- Groys lecture at Frieze in 2008. Touches on some of the same points, though is more politically focused.
- Surf-clubs (Where I suspect we’ll find at least a few of the answers)