Ashley Bickerton, an artist that I have long respected, posted something on his Facebook page of February 3rd that stirred me: “It’s funny, when contemporary art wasn’t so relevant, I felt I was pursuing a somewhat noble calling, but now that it has become so important, I feel that I am involved in something trite, and perhaps even a little embarrassing.”
February 3rd was also the day that the New York Times published an article by William Alden on the art storage enterprise Uovo (a $70m state-of-the-art storage facility for high-end artwork that is also a private high-end market place) entitled “Art for Money’s Sake.”
This little scribbling follows those two enunciations by first reviewing what Ursula Meyer proposed in her Conceptual Art anthology from 1972. That: “Art is not in the objects, but in the artist’s conception of art to which the objects are subordinated.” (p. XI)
The abysmal Uovo-like situation of the treatment of art as stored financial data for high-end investment (ready to trade – not publicly to be seen) does not fit my conception of art. It does not ask: what new forms of subjectivity are supported here (by the presentation of – and confrontation with – the art)? It is just something waiting in the dark. A semi-dead thing. In waiting. Therefore, for me, it temporarily is no longer “art” – as it no longer functions as art did and does (socially). Perhaps it can have, and deserves, the name investment object, but not art. Cultural objects disconnected from the people at large no longer function as art. It no longer does something, to reference Jerry Saltz, here. It is inert trading data. A limbo corpse in cold storage caught up in the spinning machine of the global economy.
For a possibly more catchy phrase for this kind of misleading market transcendent object I considered hoard art or hoardcore art. But perhaps we need to temporarily drop the word “art” altogether, so as to strip the investment object of that category. And just call that stuff hoardcore. Stuff in a temperature controlled dark room is temporarily too philosophically weak to call art, as it is, more precisely, the (temporary) end of art. (As art is a social memory and pleasure service.)
The flip side of flip art is hoardcore: once-art now made uninteresting by the steamrolling, so called, self-styling free art market. Zombified hoardcore is now a salient feature of our time. One creating a tepid homogenization of culture through the effects of globalized capital. And I feel that it is the artist’s role (duty) to call out the artistic dishonesty of hoard art’s grandiose posturing. We need to put forward an anti-hoard art function for what we make that stresses the importance of interpretation over implementation. Some form of social empowerment that sustains subjectivity in light of the specific conditions and relations of power that are imminent to hoard art – and its violent appropriation of art typical of empire (and its delusions of grandeur).
For a long time now I have felt that we need an aesthetics of transfiguration achieved through dissonance. One with a healthy jocular sensuality that is spiritual, even as it posits a common ground that becomes the starting point to elaborate new forms of art suited to the high-end structure of contemporary power. Art needs new definitions and new conditions, with new rituals and ceremonies, to survive the hoardcore attack. A different discursive framework for art than solely object-hood. Art today needs to escape from the melancholia of market doxa and to re-establish its role as the common ground for collective imaginaries, shared aesthetic and ethical aspirations. And I think that there is something in the general groping artistic nature of artists to make hopeful, pictorial observations of the hoardcore scene. Demythologizing art is one of the key jobs of art (and philosophy).
My own rather negligible reading of the art market suggested something needs to be washed of myth. And that something is art-as-data. For me, art is a communal activity that is enthusiastic about the solitude and privacy of the artist and the viewer. A past communal memory that is suggestive of inner freedom and mystical self-enhancement for all. One that beckons a look deeper.
The moment once-art enters a hermeticly sealed “museum-quality environment,” that deep flow has been halted. It is just a bunch of hoarded commodities now. Sitting on the chopping block. Squandering away its artness.