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January 18, 2007

empyre: what needs to be done (Skills For Participatory Culture)


the paradox of critiquing the system one is working within

"...However, if Peter Buergel is referencing the formation of new art markets that reflect, as well as translate, globalism we must ask where individual artists see themselves within this frame. I sense a reticence for artists themselves to step forward – individually - as if only the curator / dealer / collector / critic / marketplace can ensure their identity and success. This is becoming more and more evident in the online realm as the proliferation of portals take on the role of cultural gatekeepers amidst our information overload. It is these external market bearers who then provide the only languages necessary to be translated. More often than naught, they reflect the branding of the material world. Relatively speaking and afraid of re-inscribing a cliché, most artists that I know are not particularly sophisticated or savvy when it comes to developing effective agency, external relationships, social engagement, or the implementation of the strategies associated with politics and business, etc. In fact, I often witness the self-protective cocoon of the great shrinking artist when it comes to this realm. But, increasingly we cannot remain nestled into the warmth of our complacency within the 21st c.

BUT a number of self-identified and non self-identified (ie. the folk artists of "you tube") artists I know do possess the intrinsic and incalculable abilities of incisive perception, cogent and distinct analysis, representational strategies, and a discerning capability to impart significance. The convenient cliché is that our creativity and inspiration needs to guarded from the pedestrian forces that govern us. However, we are often babes wondering through the dark woods of the socio-economic sphere – and we seem to like it that way. Our deliverance is that as babes, we do not yet know fear and subsequently, are not afraid to act. And … act we must. But we must do so all the time recognizing the agreement to which we have already signed.

As an artist – as a cultural producer – for some time now my question has always been, how am I complicit i all of this? How can I make sense of what is it that do and where I do it ? How am I unwittingly and wittingly reliant on late capitalism and institutionalization for my identity? Back in the early/mid 80’s (when I was actually a baby myself) I collaborated on some video art pieces including, "Perfect Leader," which was then coined “television art” as it self-reflexivity was a crucial conceptual underpinning. The uncomfortable position (which to this day makes me squirm) is the paradox of critiquing the system one is working within, the same one which enables one’s production ... and, of course, one is then still being sheltered and fed by that overarching structure. Can that still be considered a critique or is it merely a shape-shift into mimicry or worse yet, a feckless form of adolescent rebellion?

As a friend keeps reminding me …. this can only happen in the art world. If this is true ( just for the moment lets consider this position ) how then does one take that knowledge, that cultural transfer and remain viable outside the context of the art world? Is it indeed preferable and/or necessary? It strikes me that various art systems have remained in a state of arrested development or arrested maturation - due to a blatant dependency upon a system of patronage, market dynamics and fluctuations, as well as a hermetically sealed, popularly-rendered mystique of difference and alienation.... and in the midst of all of this, I continue to ask myself what is to be done ... what can be done ... what should be done?

But then I also ask myself… is this simply binary – is everything only seen as 0 and 1 s, black or white? I find myself going back to graduate school cultural studies and revisiting Foucault whose strength laid in his ability to concurrently occupy the inside and outside. He just seemed to do it as if it were the most natural thing to do in the world. It is a position which I have struggled to make my own and it provides a priceless instrument with which to inhabit a world increasingly based on the regulatory, binary thinking of categorization engendered by the advance of technologies and the information implosion.

[from Christiane Robbins, empyre's current discussion what needs to be done]

Posted by jo at January 18, 2007 03:05 PM