Re: [-empyre-] on meaningful articulations : strategies

Christina (and all ye empiricists)

Most "contemporary" art tries to communicate a position to current
contexts, their "real". There is nothing particular 
new about this. Pointing to Sekula's "Fish Story" as an exemplary project
of "recovering" the real hits home to me in a 
personal manner. While Fish Story is a solid and even innovative practice
of documentary photography- it, like 
Sekula's practice- becomes a stand in for the real in the capitalist art
marketplace, as he is bandied about as the last 
standing Marxist in contemporary art (an enviable position for him- a poor
position for those bored by zoo animals). 
This is a basic problem of art that we are all aware of- the fetish object
"representing the real", substituting seawater 
for photo-developer, and the back room dealings of the global fish trade
for Sekula's assurance that HE alone is 
aware of what's going on. A well done PBS, NPR, or Pacifica documentary has
the same power of representation- and 
greater distribution. Within the artworld(s) we tend to ignore that fact.

As far as politically locating art in the nexus of power to "challenge"
government purveyors of reality... I am very 
skeptical that Art, and artists when articulated as individual
practitioners, abstracted from a political, social, or 
cultural base, can have an actual effect here. While Trevor?s and Ryan?s
work is good and are sited in a spacial 
context to insist on a truth, without a larger and broader context - they
can only function as a kind of personal 
"commentary" on reality. When seen in community of other similarly
inspired, affiliated, related, or sympathetic 
practices, than this artwork really begins to "resonate" (borrowing a term
of Trevor, Aaron Gach and Nato). Here I am 
drawn to Nato's practice as a curator (with Mass MOCA and DSLR) that
constructs entire encompassing rubrics of 
reality. Realities that can incorporate families of artists, families of
specializations and families of life. 

As to the desire to make a claim for the specialness of these practices as
uniquely suited to reclaim the real- I insist 
on a socio/political reading of political history as opposed to art theory.
Despite a strong desire to find a place for 
writers such as Foster (when I first came upon this title back in college I
was very excited, I thought I was going to be 
in for some solid social and political analysis) I tend to be skeptical of
much of art theories approach. It tends to 
have a strong "abstracting" mechanism. Placing art/media theory at the
center of discourse as opposed to the 
periphery where, despite our deepest wishes, it truly lies in corporate
America is foolhardy. 

The perceived retreat from "reality" in art can be mirrored by the rise of
identity politics in the seventies and early 
eightees (I think artist from groups such as Gran fury, Guerrilla Girls,
Kristoff Wdyzko, the entire Culture Workers 
Movement, Lucy Lippard etc... would disagree with the idea that artists of
those decades were not insistent on 
challenging reality and contextually sighting their work. During the 80's
Bell Hooks wrote passionate essays decrying 
the artworld?s embrace of the aesthetics of relativism at the expense of
more sited works.). With the perceived 
"failure' of unifying modernism (with it's generalized consensus truths)
the subsequent post-modern politics 
enforced subjective notions of power and truth- this is a positive. Through
the 90's radical grassroots activists thus 
had to struggle with questions of ways to overcome the isolation of
identity politics. The fruit of this can be seen in 
1999's WTO protests and the subsequent globalization movement that is noted
for the collaged and often thought of 
disparate pairing of identity groups and interests (equally relevant is
Zapatismo). Here the reality factor can be 
defined as "affinities", a loosely agreed upon set of values. Today you can
see the Republicans use of "values" (of 
capitalism and Christian) to solidify ideology to effectively (ok- and
affectively) wage representational warfare- while 
the Democrats stumble unable to articulate their own unique truths.  To me
the only reason that I find an artist or 
media relevant is if I can identify a willingness to locate and share an
affinity on my or their part. It is not in ideology, 
it is not in use of media, it is not even in practice, and it is not in
language. I am not in the business of doing quality 
control in art- I am more interested in exploring these affinities to
express various shared declensions from the 
status reality of corporate capitalism. 

Here I am borrowing directly from the forty plus year old theory of
Marcuse, as earlier I was borrowing from the 50 
year plus situationist theory. None of this is new. Politically however the
desire to challenge a rising fascism through 
collective response has taken up more folk?s time. Doing so without the
undemocratic crutch of (centralizing) 
modernist notions of truths and hierarchies  ("artworld" or otherwise) is
our unique experiment. 

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