There are no new waves, there is only] the ocean.
Published by Unknown.
April 15, 2010.
Brooklyn, New York.
Copyright © Damien Crisp
Irrational / Slaves
Resistance is thought fully awake. Irrationality is
the last point of resistance in our society.
Everything else can be reified, integrated, then
Only irrationality is haunting.
The rational is a corporate mind. It
advertises a deep suspicion of intellectuals. It is
the American work ethic. It is a homogenized
society unable to distinguish between suburban
centers. It is the ideological fluidity behind
consumer design. It all makes perfect sense.
The distilled essence of a consumer possesses
only irrational impulses but the corporate stream
is a rational stream and seduces with strategies
of rational pretense. The ultimate rational desire
is the fantasy of reaching the moment you no
longer have to think or make sense of chaos.
In the past, the constant stream of corporate
reality has been described as the electric
irrational. It was the nonsense of the machine
and the rational was resistance to the nonsense.
But we, consumers, are bloodied now.
And stream demands the rational. The
stream is a collective corporate ethos and it is
very real. It hallucinates lifestyles. Business is
universal messaging: direct communication,
effective graphic design, institution,
understanding your target market.
The consistency of a Starbucks is rational.
We - our cameras – are mesmerized by
the irrational. The stream is mesmerized by
charlatans, murder, infidelity and disaster
ordered by rational form within the circle of the
lens. The circle is the form scanning us always
In contemporary art, the irrational is a mumble.
It is anti-transaesthetic.
The irrational is not specific.
It is the absence after production, or poems, or
dissent, or manifestos, or experimentation, or the
death of the author, or the punctum, or
hallucinations, or garbage, or luxury confronted,
or the autobiographical, or vomit, or modest
awkward neurosis, or shyness, or screaming, or
theory unhinged, or blood, or an unlit room, or a
witch’s spell, or the outsider, or the uneducated.
It is a momentary protest against fixed rational
demographics, fixed rational identity, fixed
rational meaning in a homogenous world.
The irrational multiplicity of meaning, there is
no end. There is emotion and there is a copy of
poetry’s resistance to capitalist codes.
The rational begins an inquiry into art
by establishing a boutique. Later, the initial
inquiry becomes aggressive expansion.
In the first decade of the 21st century, the art
market experienced its largest expansion in
history. Safe in its bubble, the business of art
sharpened its rational logic. No longer quaint
and plural, dealing art is now as homogenized as
any other corporate profession.
Standard modes of presentation and
standard modes of conduct evolved like a spider
web on a glass wall. The standards are appeals to
investors, speculators - you can have faith in art
because we are professionals. Come inside.
Investors have grown as an influence
over contemporary art. An identity as thoughtful
collector became too limiting.
The investors, the speculators, advanced and
became a collective audience magnetizing both
the production and the content of art towards its
A corporate ethos dictates taste and thought.
Writers, curators, and museums follow
investments the way artists once followed critics.
The tragedy of this growing influence of
corporate thought is the thorough incorporation
of art’s context. Art cannot escape its context.
Art is torn the way reality is torn, torn by the
difference between a life lived and life lived on
reality television. Poetry, substance, love and
experimentation are flickering in and out of
consciousness, almost dead. The human is
It is the human that is missing from
much contemporary art. Missing from the
objects. Missing from the discussion. Missing
in the bright white boutiques called galleries
that rely on two forms of alienation to project
value and power- social alienation and alienated
Art made to flow with everything, powerful as
a market and entertainment commodity, is
otherwise powerless. It relinquishes art’s
potential as a force of resistance, favoring the
dependable consistent veneer of porn over the
turbulent subjective spiral into love.
The commercial art world drowns art’s
resistance, its possibility for awakened
irrationality but art will transcend its numbing -
the past decade of fun. Murakami’s fat face will
explode and his colors for once will have
This promise is the script of a poetic return.
The irrational with a particular voice implies
language opened by impulse and scissors. Art's
value of resistance is it's ability to rupture daily
life; a break never aimed to please the “masses”
- a word designating a group controlled by
The irrational is ahead of the masses.
The irrational is not entertainment.
Investors manifest entertainment. Investors
manifest corporate thought. The product they
value is a streamlined consistent product.
The contemporary art market almost demands
artists become entertainers as calculated, as
rational, as any brand but the most compelling
art is still ahead and will always be ahead of
ordered consensus or entertainment.
The conceptual and aesthetic directions
of contemporary art are regulated by an
unregulated economic system. Contemporary
art galleries are writing art history from the
shadows of office desks.
History is the market's ad campaign.
What is left for history?
A history written by an unregulated
economic market is a false history.
Galleries are the gatekeepers. In an
unregulated market oriented system criticality
often becomes a tool for solely market oriented
aspirations. Critique no longer applies to an
artist frozen in place by investment aspirations
inside the economic system of a dark
Beyond sight or unity, the art world is an ocean.
The commercial art world is a construct. The
ocean contains the construct, but the construct is
ever expanding; is seductive, and seeks to
contain the ocean. This is the difference between
two worlds. Constructs of rational desire are
now synonymous with corporate negotiations of
reality. The ocean is its own reality.
The ocean is hypnotized by its boutiques and its
corporate events: fairs, auctions, and openings.
Is the ocean only an economic reality? Or is it
still subject to political critique, to personal
interpretations, to negative reviews, or to love.
Art's economic value has to fall,
leaving questions of value to rest on the trance
of love, truth of reified experience and the
Most people in the ocean are schizophrenic.
Most hate the ocean and love the ocean. Most
enact its destructive gestures. Most curators,
artists and writers quietly desire their own
version of a paradigm shift, and most gallery
workers who are otherwise devoted to a
commercial space whisper privately their
anticipation for the market’s collapse.
Some always resist and always want
Some desire something else even as they try to
grow up and accept the order. Some people lose
their desire in the ocean and turn stories of their
past resistances into conversations at gallery
Others desire nothing political, simply the
attention that is there - our eyes. Change would
fuck with the gaze. The sense of cool, art’s
marriage to fashion, is too light to pick up
questions with political weight.
The ocean itself is haunted by a hallucination:
finding its dead father decaying in a gallery,
under the structure of an ideal space, growing
like ivy across his corpse.
The ocean’s commercial construct is
not the pluralized morphing gel as it is often
described - with hundreds of scenes and just as
many versions of ‘good art’. If the ocean lacked
a center, artists would never become stars.
The center of the ocean is a magnet. The ocean
is magnetized by the successes of last decade’s
commercial construct and its famous expansion.
There is a space for every style of artist, but the
spaces are only identifiers within an industry.
Commercial art’s architectural fragments, its
spaces, galleries, play with infinite combinations
in the spectrum of desire - courting attention
with rebellion, and/or ignoring attention with
utopian disconnect, and/or giving the system a
reassuring professional atmosphere, and/or
constructing glamour, and/or courting attention
with a promise of theoretical-intellectual-critical
Each space plays off of its relationship between
its artists’ commodities and the irony of selling
ideas, swimming between love and hate of the
Packing and leaving.
It is the legacy of the Unibomber that shows the
futility of withdrawal from corrupt systems. I
haven’t left New York because there is a war
over real estate; real estate linked in real time to
And Godard reminds us of the
state of the dead revolutionary.
Even the death of the revolutionary left wing is a
stereotype. Any attempt to re-define an artistic
power structure through political gestures has to
contend with itself: an attempt at a stereotype.
I am here - in this paradox - writing the
experimental and the political and the irrational
after the grand narratives have died.
Alienation from the stream has a limit. It has a
boundary. We are confined to language and its
Still, an artist does not have to disconnect into
utopian purity from corporate or media reality
to make work that is alien to the stream.
In the end, after everything, maybe art will stage
its own disappearance, realizing it cannot exist
in a rational business structure because its only
real value is its resistance to...
Modern / Slave
The slave falls from the sky. It is the
resurrection of the avant-garde for nothing at all.
No worth. No value. The slave hits the ground,
breaks into pieces and lives again.
The sound of the slave's body hitting the ground
is the sound of the avant-garde and the echo has
the same historical strangeness as the word
'Modern' is the condition of alienation from the
stream. It is the irrational. It is Charles
A modern artist is compelled to be an
artist, and at the same time is deeply ill existing
as a commodity. A modern artist resists the
commodification of their work, of their
existence as an artist and of their existence at
Modern is an artist breathing difficult thought
with disregard for its economic potential.
The modern artist breathes resistance
with infinite variations but in every variation
the idea of a career becomes an awkward joke.
It creates neurosis, creates conflict,
To be difficult. Irrational. To betray your own
class. To resist the taste of money as it seduces
poetry. To disdain the fatal deadening of art. To
contain all of the fractures and contradictions of
The work produced by a modern artist contains
conflict in its material and conflict in its
content. The material and content become
resistant to whatever modes of commodification
are dominant, pushed to the edge either
consciously or subconsciously by an artist.
The point is not whether an artist is
commodified or not, but that there is poetry in
The modern artist
eats exile; is resistance; seeks
The modern artist is not a professional.
The professional seeks the concrete. Seeks the
rational. The investment. The archival material.
The next big thing. The ivy league. The correct
career path. Seeks to understand their market.
Seeks face time.
The professional is obstinate in the shadow of
art's lineage of transgressive gesture, and adapts
corporate modes of production, and produces
consistent replicas over the span of a mature
The professional has no memory of the ocean.
The professional is afraid to speak, navigating
the art world as if it were any other corporate
realm, erasing the object 'self' with business
The professional is an artist who has given their
power away. The professional exchanges life
for a career, but art is not a career and fades
away in the exchange.
Modern is a political state of resistance
to commodification of art and commodification
of reality as a whole.
It is an existential crisis.
The modern artist has been taught the
underground is dead. The death of the avant-
garde is written as an allegory of the end of
corporate resistance. Jackson Pollack died as an
image on the cover of Time magazine. The
truism: resistance is futile – is the anesthesia
numbing our bodies and dropping our dreams
into a stream of emptiness.
The modern artist understands the
popular conception of the trajectory of the
underground but understands the lie and still
plays with visions deep in the margins and
This is neurotic existence underground.
But, there are two undergrounds in the ocean.
One underground burns a memoryscope through
the expanding corporate structure building in the
ocean to contain. This is the underground of
dissent and it burns counter histories in the
corporate structure. The hole burned is
democratic space. The underground of dissent is
only an impulse, but it has a memory.
The other underground decorates the ever
expanding structure; the underground of style.
The idea of the underground is shoplifted and
inscribed onto the structure both as a pure style
and as a business model: the process of a
marginal scene kissed into the spotlight.
Seduced into a new corpse, this
underground dies to flow with everything else.
Quaint or crass or dumb replaces dangerous
thought. Seriousness is discouraged.
Everything is fabulous and feels like nothing.
This is the new dead underground;
the underground of style; and art as a fun and
fabulous nothing is the new tone of the new
dead underground, complimenting the leisurely
ethos of luxury and glamour. Promised access
to the new is marketed within the content.
Art as a clever product, as a post-historical
remix. Art as self-expression with a mass
produced similarity. Art as entertainment. It is
the myth of Warhol and the tone permeates the
media’s image of the ocean as a social gala.
None of these cultural sources feed
new experimentation. The style of the
underground so often co-opted on purely
commercial terms does not leave a trace or
influence of experimentation in the system that
Instead, the system deletes the political and
aesthetic contexts of various past underground
fragments to distill empty signs.
Missing from the New York art world is the
viewers' search for ruptured consciousness.
There was a time when installing a couch in an
empty gallery would confront expectations. Now,
it is a psychologically mute or empty gesture
signifying your fashion within the art world.
Lost, are viewers seeking existence confronted.
There is a special destruction when avant-garde
gestures and histories are used superficially - a
destruction of challenge or experimentation that
was inherent to the original gesture.
After everything, it feels like the union of art
and fashion was a mistake. In the underground
of style, the artist is imaged as the ultimate
follower of trends – the brightest slave to trend.
The idea of an underground is abused
by corporate desire. The idea of an underground
is abused by the kids themselves who once
would have constituted a fresh breath of air for
experimental scenes, but now re-enact its
Commercial gallery spaces dressed in either the
codes of youth rebellion or the codes of a
historical avant-garde pretend dissent and build
a corpse around real past moments.
A mirage keeps the possibility of a vital and real
underground influence buried so deep in the
margins of culture the ocean is no longer
capable of recalling its gifts of invention.
Inside the art industry, the underground of
dissent, the avant-garde, once the breath of
experimentation, is dead. Only the image of the
avant-garde is absorbed by today’s commercial
The new avant-garde lives in the underground of
dissent. Democratic space grasps the very edge
of the ocean. The underground of dissent is the
edge. Democratic space is the avant-garde now.
It is counter culture. Dissent. Intellectualism.
Sub-culture. And it is left wing. Signs pointing
to the mystique of culture’s historically radical
edge are digested and emptied by capitalism's
gesture of reification, but democratic space
remains, and remains ahead of taste, invisible.
Art's living underground is populated
by dots on a map, a dysfunctional and loose
thread of artists sharing at least one gesture:
speaking without the permission or attention of
a commercial industry.
Underground there is no division between the
audience and the artists. Anything is possible.
Invention becomes a value. Popularity is
organic feedback as the crowd seeks and seeks
compelling art in the crowd.
Capitalism seeks thought and space,
consuming democratic cultures.
The underground seeks the irrational.
The underground seeks democratic
space to promote democratic thoughts. The
underground has moved into the body of each
Above ground there is a rumor of the
fragmentation then death of the it's narrative,
but it never had a definite narrative, only an
impulse or a sentiment with unpredictable
Institutionalization of the self can form the
other audience, a new audience with a forgiving
power structure. It is the author writing this,
now, who has institutionalized himself with a
manifesto. Here, I am myself and I am not
I am writing for the ghost of the avant-garde.
From the past I know the commodification of
the empowered self - the d.i.y. - is always a
possibility, and I can accept a new loophole for
the definition of resistance; the possibility that
commodified resistance can keep resistance as
it is packaged in circulation.
I can accept resistance as a commodity
unless I decide the commercial art world has
lost its ability to represent the quite but violent
subjectivity of art, and the quite but violent
protest against the stream that can feed into the
impulse for experimentation in art.
This shift, from an intellectual circle and a
small culture to a luxury brand industry worship
glamor and luxury, marks either the death of art
or a sharp division between what could be
called a fun club and those still compelled by
art and its ideas.
Misconceptions behind the notion of the death
of the avant-garde short circuit the possibility
for something new. The supposed death of... is
often used as a defense of the commercial art
world's emptiness, as well as a defense for the
theory art is simply another commodity. Can I
escape the ocean's constructed industry?
Or, could the way an object is valued
be re-ordered? I think it is the art object that
makes itself second to modes of corporate
production, makes itself second to corporate or
media images, by flowing with the corporate
stream - lacks resistance.
I also think the artist who imitates the corporate
image in their being - in their career and across
their body of work lacks resistance. This is our
point now in history. We all know the most
compelling underground culture is, in a marxist
definition, destined to be a commodity. Instead,
maybe we could say there are artists whose
work inhabits an autonomous corporate or
media reality. Autonomous overall, the content
never stretches into other conceptual realities. It
is a commodity.
It is a question of resistance: does the object
contain resistance to the stream of corporate
thought. In my own definition, an object that
contains resistance is not a commodity.
I cannot control the art object once
it leaves my studio. I really have no desire to
An artwork is a commodity in its conception, or
not - an artwork can either conform to the tastes
of its future market and an artist can mimic the
professional in the ways the artist engages the
art world (meaning they think of a 'career') or
an artwork and an artist can embody resistance.
The most compelling art contains
resistance to the commercial art world and the
most compelling artists do not do whatever they
can to make it but instead fight for their own
vision. This, for me, is the difference between a
commodity object and an art object.
Reconsidering the word “commodity”
is an attempt to separate two approaches to
contemporary art: wholesale acceptance and
courting of commercialism versus a rebellious
and neurotic resistance to commercialism.
I do not think artists critique capitalism by
embracing its modes of production or its image.
To believe that, is to fall into the marxist
definition of commodity from which there is no
escape. This definition leads to one place: the
idea that art is an empty commodity and there is
no way to resist.
The commercial art world can lose its
power. It is possible the commercial art world
could become the easy listening station on the
dial, sound within a string of radio frequencies.
If the commercial art world fails, it will
die by words, writing.
The real underground has always
thrived on writing.
It has always bled experimental thought.
Writers are not dangerous enough, are not
writing history. Artists rarely write, are not
writing history. Writers are most often
subjugated to covering artists presented by
galleries and have very little influence over the
art market beyond filling dealers' binders with
clippings of positive reviews.
Experimental thought – dangerous writers,
dangerous theorists and artist writings seem
negated by market forces because everyone
places their faith and attention on a commercial
scene that lacks time for experimental thought.
The business surrounding contemporary art
flaunts its arrogance by mocking critiques as
irrelevant, bitter, jealous, cynical and ignorant.
What the art world lacks is sympathy for honest
opinions and the sympathetic intelligence
required for honest self-reflection, as opposed
to its neutered self-reflection mass produced by
its sanctioned critical entities. Negative critique
is seen as anti-social or counterproductive.
Everyone desires happiness, no revolutionary
tendencies and no anti-social behavior. There is
a love it or leave it attitude, a sort of Vietnam
War syndrome. If you question or critique the
market as an artist you are not welcome to the
fold, as if businessmen and businesswomen
own the art world, not artists, as if the context
of art is not a space worth contesting.
The commercial art world is a world of
fear, of gossip, and the way to be accepted
socially is to erase your opinions. Stepping over
the line separates the crowd: shallowness from
Make brash critical statements. Beyond
honesty and self-reflection there is a historical
philosophical point to critical statements - that
manifestos, or wild opinions, or the political left
wing, or the avant-garde - is not dead.
Critique, critical writing, questions how
current art history is written by corporate desire
and negates the professional artist's willing loss
Die in poverty and obscurity.
You will be called a cynic or bitter.
Cynicism is not critiquing the art market.
Critique’s flaw is idealism, if that is a flaw. The
commercial art world mourns the loss of its
own idealism when it labels resistance cynical
and bitter. Cynicism is letting yourself be
complicit to the deadening of art: social power
games, celebrity culture, the loss of critical
Critique of commercial art practices is belief in
art beyond it’s luxury value. The belief is: art is
just another commodity. It has always been a
commodity and benefits from a deregulated
This belief is a cynical death wish, a wish
for art to die as a commodity. The politics of
deregulation of an economic market makes
transparent the corporate impulse of the
Art is not alive in a capitalist space.
Imagining a democratic space for art
begins with questions and criticism.
It is not cynical to describe the commercial art
world as a force of simulated business drones
kidnapping visionary wolves from the woods
and teaching them the ways of the sheep inside.
Cynicism is complicity. Bitterness is a
loss of an ethical center. Naivety is belief in the
glamor of a corporate hologram.
Domination / Universal
Galleries reintroduce the philosophy of the
universal because the art market is serious
Interpretations are too slippery.
Irrationality is too slippery.
The art market
needs an authoritative voice communicating the
pretense of universal understanding behind any
work it values. The tendency of galleries to
over-define artwork with press releases, refined
statements, soft art reviews and commissioned
catalogue essays blocks the potential for
multiplicity of understanding and what was
once irrational becomes marketable.
The philosophy of the universal is the re-birth
of the author. A cynical re-birth, the artist’s
voice is controlled and represented by a gallery.
The re-birth is always false life, always
false because the author is born dead.
Gallery dealers seek the rebirth of the author
with branding and repetition. The commodity,
the idea, has to be simple and so self-sustained
it can infinitely appear as sub-headlines on the
covers of popular magazines. Artwork needs a
seemingly utilitarian function as a justification
for investment because our world economy is
based on a whole program of corporatized
modes of universal packaging such as design,
fashion and television. The role of a dealer, a
dealer seeking to act out the impossible re-birth
of the author, is the role of a conspirator
subjugating an audience’s perception. Artists
facilitate the conspiracy: the fascist dream of
universal communication spun from an
The art market lavishes jewels and kisses on
artists who work within the flow and replicate
corporate thought in the guise of branded
identity or branded style or branded concept.
Professional artists relish without
question the cold, numb, mirrored surface of
our empire of empty signs without questioning
the idea of empire (a dominated state of reality).
Every gesture made by a professional artist, no
matter how mundane, is a destructive political
act. Every gesture is a second of the death of
subjectivity or multiplicity or poetry. Meaning
is transmitted in one direction from producer to
consumer as ingredients of the commodity. The
distinction between art and modes of corporate
Without domination the viewer, aware
or unaware, forever shapes the meaning of any
artwork, and without domination viewers
collectively multiply its meaning beyond
coherence; beyond unity of thought. The system
of domination can only control the meaning of
its objects and the biographies of its artists
when the audience is passive and dependent on
mediators: dealers, art advisors, popular taste,
It is too simple to initiate comparison of the art
market to anything in the past.
Money has always followed art but
the strength of its influence comes and goes.
It writes periods of art history then disappears.
Today, money is a tyrant in the ocean. The
tyrant deludes us with a false sense of
immortality. Even now, in a city bleeding from
massive unemployment, the tyrant deludes us.
The gap between the lower classes and the
upper-class is growing into a physical barrier
spilling across the collective space of New
York’s art world. Shallow press coverage of
what was an organic expansion of the art market
inspired financial institutions to focus heavily
on art as an investment for adventurous
customers. Banks, a new breed of art historians,
created departments to advise their new breed
of collectors where to put their money.
Dealers either spread their legs or
unzipped their pants.
There is nothing inherently wrong with art sold,
the problem is that the ocean now is the taste of
its investors, which frames the ocean as a space
of luxury distinct from the pain of reality -
artists are nothing more than court jesters
smiling for replicated socialite images
decomposing in salt water.
There is a paradox in the ocean:
The art market is unregulated. Investors
should not trust what is being hyped. Artists and
curators and museums and dealers are seduced
by the investors' growing influence, which leads
to a zeitgeist catering more and more to wealth.
The thought patterns of Ayn Rand are
materialized in the image of the dealer as diva
and in the business practices of dealers, artists,
collectors and auction house players - greed is
good and government should absolutely not
regulate economic systems.
The politics of the business of art align
with conservative political agendas that advance
capitalism over democracy by seeking the total
abolition of ethics in business practices.
If art needs
democratic space to breath, then it is dying in
the anti-democratic art market.
For the workers in the commercial art industry,
the daily realization of a professional screen
between art and money kills their pleasure and
kills their trust in art as an irrational force.
Commercial art's workers often lose the ability
to see art as anything other than a social
network centered around luxury commodities.
The most severely deformed viewers are gallery
workers themselves trained in acting out the
For many critics of the commercial art
world, postmodern and pop are now catchall
phrases responsible for an over commercialized
phase and a flood of superficial art dominating
the market. Both are accused of promoting
shallowness and the emptiness of signs.
The art of the past 30 years is not postmodern
art or dominated by pop. The influence of the
art market creates its own genre, its own tastes,
not based on any theory but rather on an
imitation of entertainment and luxury business.
Most art since the early 1970's is
commercial art. “Commercial art” is a non-
specific art movement.
“Commercial artists” are ultimate control; are
in ultimate control of their objects. They do not
control their objects at the end of the day. They
do not control their meaning but their insistence
that the meaning is controlled persuades us to
feel the kind of corporate induced happiness of
something imitating the much deeper response,
It is violence to subjectivity.
It is the thought that art is a career, or
art is an investment, which implies logical moves
and a professionally strategic impulse behind
decisions including the choice to create or
encourage a narrow focused brand. Art is not a
It is the era of “commercial art” - psychology,
the subjective and poetic nature of reading as
well were swept under the rug by its ascension.
Its purest form may be as a joke told in a
painting or a perfect object born of a legitimate
It is collective permission, through the ideology
of capitalist will, to believe art objects are not
emptied of value when they are equal products
in the stream of all commodities, as if the
gallery was an extension of a suburban mall.
Most contemporary art, fodder, is “commercial
art”. It lacks deepness of thought. It lifts pop and
postmodernism superficially as a packaged
“Commercial art” exists because a dynamic
market was born. Born in the early 1970s, when
contemporary art became an important auction
house commodity, the market itself has become
an influence – a critic defining trends and
Now, too many artists are careerists and express
nothing but disdain for any form of theory or
interpretation. They seek a brand strong enough
to be emphasized within the noise of an over
In the end the sought after brand is
hollow: is a hologram. They give in to the steady
feedback of money.
Investors and their audience have
chosen art fairs as the perfect context for
You go because you feel safer in a shopping
mall than in a museum. There are no ideas in
malls, just products. No nagging questions. Find
something for your taste and put it on the wall
next to the table that holds your designer hand
bag. We will be waiting for you in the parking
lot. We will cut your throat.
Bled from corporate sponsors, an art fair is a
trade show. Iggy Pop roams a stage on the
beach, a stage sponsored by Cartier, and he
sings for a crowd of young professionals who
have been flown to Miami to sell art in trade
show booths under the shadow of a strip of strip
Decadence is beautiful, but sponsored
decadence is not decadence at all.
Critics of commercialism miss the point
when they criticize postmodernism and pop's
influence. Pop and the postmodern have been
stripped of their meaning by both the commercial
art world and its detractors. Pop and the
postmodern have been re-written to mean
relishing in money and crass commercialism.
Both pop and postmodern are dead and have
been dead for years, if only because they are
diluted. But essences of ideas do not die. It is
strange to argue to reinstate a definition for
postmodern or pop but it is important to try to
untangle these generic cultural symbols and
photograph their essence.
Critics have typically characterized a postmodern
artist as one who takes any configuration of signs
and creates his own self-justified brand. It is not
postmodern - postmodern is the artist who,
expecting a viewer to come, lays open signs in
anticipation of their multiple interpretations by
Some people give postmodern art a look, an
approach, a classifiable taxonomy that revolves
around a mix of pop and irony. On the contrary,
all postmodern could imply for art is: the viewer
creates the meaning based on their own
subjective interpretations of language (text or
image based). And on an economic level, it
means giving the corporate machine the word
"Art" for commodification, while mounting
resistance with irrational, emotional, fucked up,
avant garde objects that do not play within the
tight confines of commodified art. Postmodern
art is art from the unconscious - that leaves
interpretation open to the viewer.
A postmodern art world allows room for endless
poetic response. It is not a problem. The problem
is the fixed brand.
The implications of postructuralist
thought, the seed of postmodern thought, subvert
any attempt to freeze or package the meaning of
any artwork. Branding, closed meaning, becomes
the death of interpretation as well as the cold
structure of fascist restraint that emanates from a
centralized artistic project.
Ambiguity, open meaning, is not an
easy destination. The opposite of brand, it is a
conscious attempt, and it is for me synonymous
with trying to project a vision.
Critics who characterize the ideological
map of the ocean as a terrain of irresponsible
postmodern assertions, a terrain easily
manipulated because it is influenced by
postmodern values (specifically its notion of
open poststructuralist interpretation), are only
asserting their own philosophical agenda to
return to an older form of rigorous theoretical
discourse – a central criteria – from which
everything can be judged.
It would be a mistake to return there, if
a return was even a possibility.
Poststructuralism, the antithesis of corporate
branding, is the return of poetry through the
death of philosophy and the speculative chants
It is the original modern impulse of
resistance to the market through difficult form.
Dead as a catchphrase and over institutionalized
as a philosophy, its essence is synonymous with
awakened irrationality, and its essence is far
from blind acceptance of an art market's
Postmodern art was defined by the critics of
postmodern thought. The rewriting of pop art
was authored by its proponents, not its critics,
one meaning - art about itself as a commodity.
Pop ascended along with the theory the avant-
garde is dead. If the avant-garde is dead, then
the artist's role is to make work that flows with
corporate culture, and to act from the belief
nothing new can be made.
Warhol has become the flavor art investment,
losing whatever subversion he once created.
Shallow misinterpretations of Warhol’s
intent have become the defense of an industry
that seeks to erase the differences between
selling art and selling product.
I don’t think his success or the value of his ideas
equal a justification for relishing in the media
stream at the expense of the poetic or the human.
Warhol began at a time in which pop art was
disruptive to the sleep of art.
I still believe in Warhol.
Branding is not pop. Branding is the
way artwork and artists are presented in the
corporate model. Branding is counter to the
notion of the death of the author, the notion of
self as a fluid always shifting entity, the notion
of meaning being contingent to the viewer, the
notion that the context in which art is shown
effects the art's meaning. All of these notions
are what we have been given by postmodern
Neither the influence of pop nor
postmodern theory are the accurate pin points of
the commercial virus.
The virus is a taste for fast.
If a line has to be drawn between “commercial
art” and everything else, then a line is between
work that flows with the corporate stream and
everything else. It is a line between fast and
slow, between professional entertainer and
visionary. It is the ethos of investment and the
gallery system that encourages artists to be
professionals instead of visionaries.
The correlation, the analogy, is found in
the music world and in the difference between a
pre-packaged band and an organically cultivated
band. There is no division of style that can be
pin-pointed. The division has to be seen one
band at a time.
The market pretends pluralism.
The market pretends a de-centered
system lacking a central criteria but in reality
nearly everything is fast. It is an aesthetic of a
culture of complicity - the taste of an industry.
Fast is retinal and by-passes criticality.
Fast reduces art to the level of stock. Fast is just
like fashion. Fast is a closed meaning. Fast is
autonomous. “Commercial art” is fast.
What counteracts “commercial art”?
Sincerity counteracts. I, the writer here
spilling his thoughts, counteracts.
Slow is the antagonist of corporate thought.
Slow is an expansive intelligence in a
form. Another name for slow is difficult form.
The artist who dives into difficulty, explosion
of meaning, resistance. The modern.
Slow arrives at thought, emotion,
language that does not travel at retinal speed.
Retinal speed flows with everything.
In New York’s relatively short history of art,
economic upheaval marks each new cycle.
Financial meltdown brings experimentation.
Periodic death is a welcomed tourist.
The failure of commercial galleries
is good news. The collapse of art markets is
synonymous with oxygen: thought and risk.
Waiting. Money kills itself.
Sitting here, writing this,
I know it isn’t possible to kill the business of art
For now, the ocean is synonymous
with the tale of an elite group of objects in
commodity circulation and despite the ocean’s
recurring private desire for failure of each era’s
economic boom, the culture of this economy
pretends immortality. The current model of a
commercial gallery and its effect on the broader
art world - the numbing of artwork by the
professional incorporation of art’s context - is
not the only possibility. A new model would be
born with cracks in its ethical framework to
count and alter, but the current model is wholly
Standing in a gallery, you can feel resistance in
the artwork or you can feel fabulous next to the
art, or you can feel nothing.
The etiquette of professionalism often
co-opted by galleries establishes a sort of
impersonated corporate atmosphere. It is a
space for feeling fabulous or feeling nothing.
Resistance is veiled as a sleeping beauty.
Standing in a gallery, trying to look at artwork
through this veil, you see another screen of
interference: a corporate ethos.
You are standing in spaces that seem to be
marriages of high end boutiques and prestigious
law firms. All signals flash intimidation.
You are confronted with the bright white space
as container for a string of blatant and subtle
The intimidations are ‘money’, and
because they are ‘money’ they are ‘insecurities’.
The need for these intimidations is a loss of
faith in art - the insecurity that art needs to
I feel the gap between the upper class and the
lower class when I’m trying to look at artwork.
I still see art. Still, I can look at art.
Sometimes I feel art. I go out to look and I still
find work I can feel.