Forget in Ten Parts is a ten-part weekly series by AFC's Curatorial Fellow, Guy Forget, focusing on the aesthetics of impermanence. This week Forget comments on the fleeting nature of NYC art fairs, a commentary supplemented by relevant texts and illustrations.
The art fairs have come and gone. This year I only went to one fair, the Independent, where I met some friends. We walked through all the spaces at least once before we left. It was great. From last year's fairs, I only remember that I liked the Independent very much and that I liked Adam McEwen's yellow booth at the Armory. I bought the catalog for this but later that night I dropped it and the corner got bent. I was terribly upset.
When I used to be on Facebook I used to be Jerry Saltz's friend. I remember him saying that the ads in Artforum are like porn for the art world. (Apparently he'd said that before.) I think a similar analogy can be made with art fairs. They’re more like strip clubs, but not as visceral and meaningful an experience. In both cases, the novelty wears off over time.
In what follows, the first two texts (nos. 1 and 3) were originally presented in Art World Report, a little pamphlet from 2010, that went with Lesser Brooklyn. The last text (no. 5) is an excerpt from Kellie Jones' 1986 interview with David Hammons. I had never heard about this interview until I read Holland Cotter's review of the reviews of Hammons' show at L & M. The interview appeared in the now defunct Real Life Magazine. The first video (no. 2) is a personal favorite. The second video (no. 4) is a direct result of discovering the work of Matais Faldbakken.
1. A brief excerpt from SÃ¸ren Kierkegaard's Works of Love.
All communication must be adapted for convenient publication in a lightweight pamphlet or be supported by lie upon lie. Yes, it is indeed as if all communication must finally be adapted so that it can be presented in at most one hour before a gathering that in turn wastes a half hour in the noise of approval and disapproval and in the second half hour is too confused to be able to gather the ideas. Yet this is aspired to as the highest. Children are brought up to regard this as the highest: to be heard and be admired for an hour. In this way the coinage standard for being a human being is debased. No, to satisfy for an hour a haphazard gathering of people, the first the best, who themselves in turn have had neither the time nor the opportunity to think about the truth and therefore crave superficiality and half thoughts — if they would reward one with approval — that is the aspiration.
2. Toby Keith.
3. By Jamie Fields, 18-years-old. Best read out loud to a loved one.
And what can be said about art when one of the greatest things of human existence is relegated to the exclusive realm of luxury and elitism. This already sounds like sour grapes. To be sure there are a great many times throughout the year that here and there one can see an aesthetic triumph or a thoughtful gesture. But as a whole art itself is trivialized by its lesser parts, especially when its lesser parts are its driving ones. Its composition is too diffuse, such that a serious work is only with great difficulty discernable from its insipid context. But to complain is to be a sore loser — for to complain shows you care, and certainly art has been written off by most people for being rightly perceived, if viewed in the broad swath that it presents itself, as effusions of an irrelevant class. And the good work, when its goodness is protected by its hermetic nature, is so well protected that it alienates. They don't need you, of course, that is part of its genius. But how good is good work when its goodness is buffeted by a rejection of the uninitiated or un-credentialed. Of course it is true that one bad apple ruins the bunch, so it is that one earnest simpleton is enough to discredit the most ironic, and thus best, artists. But it's quite possible that irony can be done earnestly. And anyways, is there a place for sincerity when everything everywhere is fundamentally ignorant or disingenuous. At least one route is always available, as a supplicant, solicitously fellating or cunningling the geniuses of the moment, annihilating yourself in the process. Art's fundamental irrelevance to most people is its protection; in other words, with a generalized criticism you are exposed as being a nobody, for those in the game are satisfied, either by having what they want or by clinging to the hope that by staying corrupted, their time will come. By not adhering to superficialities a million times removed from actual artistic expression, your only choice is to go it alone or align yourself with dilettantes. Contra going it alone, collaborative art making — an ineffable concept, perhaps originating in the quasi-collaborative efforts of Picasso and Braque, long codified into the art historical canon as the ideal working-situation for avant-gardism — is the ostensible route to historically relevant work. With the right cast, the more the merrier, and the worse the better. And dilettantes, especially when they take themselves seriously, are even worse than that. But — did you actually try or did you give up. Art is the allure, and the boring part is all the rest, except that the boring part is the most important. If the author were asked to cite examples, she would respectfully decline, well aware that this is a willful misrepresentation of a simplification of a complex situation.
4. Pedal Pumping.
5. An excerpt from David Hammons in conversation with Kellie Jones. Real Life Magazine, Number 16, Autumn 1986.
Doing the things in the street is more powerful than art I think. Because art has gotten so… I don't know what the fuck art is about now. It doesn't do anything. Like Malcolm X said, it's like novocaine. It used to wake you up but now it puts you to sleep. I think that art now is putting people to sleep. There's so much of it around in this town that it doesn't mean anything. That's why the artist has to be very careful what he shows and when he shows now. Because the people aren't really looking at art, they're looking at each other and each other's haircuts. In other sections of the country I think they're into seriously looking at art. This is the garbage can of it all. Maybe people shouldn't look at art too seriously here because there's so much.
The art audience is the worst audience in the world. It's overly educated, it's conservative, it's out to criticize not to understand, and it never has any fun. Why should I spend my time playing to that audience? That's like going into a lion's den. So I refuse to deal with that audience and I'll play with the street audience. That audience is much more human and their opinion is from the heart. They don't have any reason to play games, there's nothing gained or lost.