Reader warning... late night bender...
When I was in college, for several days a week, I assisted the curator of contemporary art at my school's small museum. Growing up in a part of the US and then going to school in another part that both would be--without hesitation--dubbed "regional" in relation to the urbanized hegemony of an international art economy I typically longed for the discursive primacy/intimacy offered by a city like the one emblazoned in the title of this very blog. When the curator mentioned that the museum had just received a grant to purchase (relatively inexpensive)
British art (my favorite past-time at this menial job was looking for "deals" in auction catalogues) my cow-pie naïveté surged forth and timidly recommended Merlin Carpenter, who at the time was having his Tarantino-quoting RSFA debut. BTW I know nothing about the pricing of his work and am a great admirer. In the end I believe my old boss opted for something along the slickly communicative lines of a Liam Gillick or Martin Boyce multiple...Anyway...
Given the little I know of his person, Carpenter's that is, I do find a bit of irony at work with the generally allergic reaction that his perverse criticality garners among "regional" tastes as the town of his birth--with its 6,000 residents--is far from what one might call "centralized." (I should note that his work was just included in a broad group exhibition on history painting at the '90s favorite regional alma pater, UMich. Aside from internet research, I also know
nothing about England's geography...correct me if I'm wrong...)
I am projecting a lot of my experience on this little shred of bio, no doubt misrecognizing the respect I have for such a practice with something that I feel is personally relatable. As soon as one adorns the artistic subjectivity necessary of contemporary artistry, they are then thrust toward internationalized art's discursive hegemony through one of its many foci (city, school, friends, etc.). What, of course, ensues is probably written in stone somewhere. It is a maudlin,
done-to-the-Dickens tale fraught with the usual heapings of disillusionment, angst and the perennial postponement of cathartic integration--especially if such a thing isn't even desired. Well, that or--everything works out perfectly. Anyway, out of the self-indulgent critical (or is it juvenile) desire for empathy I truly hope this rote yet resonant personal narrative tale is present in Carpenter's acerbic pissings. As profanity trails the sacred, so, too, the country mouse.
The narrative of provincial tension is certainly miniaturized discursively by its contextualization within the internationalized/globalized economy of art, leaving behind rarified micro-economies tied to such narratives. Compared to some of the artists who exhibit work along similar narrative lines as that of Carpenter, the guy ain't so bad off. Yet simultaneous to these rarified microeconomies (or perhaps boutique economies) exists a vaster libidinal economy pingponging across the planet, incongruously caught between aping such an economy's Samantha and its lumpen muselmann--amalgamating financial solvency with the pretense of discursive "Realness". Perhaps this is best literalized when a gallery performance by Marina Abramowicz was included in an episode of Sex and the City. Did the Balkanized body get a makeover? I wish the enormous cow baby that Zhang Huan made for the same gallery had a chance of
making on it the show.
One such Samantha/muselmann-mime happened to be a favorite of this former employer, Cuban-born body artist Tania Bruguera. Thanks to my sensitive palate for boutique affairs, the globalized body art of Bruguera's or Abramowicz's ilk (not to mention a flash-in-the-pan like
Aliza Shvarts) are artistic practices that makes me politely gag simply for even knowing what it is. No doubt this genre of body art's utter un-selfconscious "expression" of, in my viewpoint, an over-rehearsed political reality to an audience so wide that only a few can afford it is what makes lil' ol' boutique moi cover my mouth with a napkin or, in a more vitriolic mood, yak it up all over the place. Yet these blunt horizons of standard-issue liberal topicality and the spectacle to which they submit their bodies are probably what makes this art so appealing to a person, like my former employer, whose job is to present--with mild provocation--these works to a spectacularized provincial norm. Hmm, is Jonathan Horowitz a pirate bay contemporary of these women?
Somehow TJ Clark's discussion of Ab-Ex's vulgarity comes to mind. Its reflection on the provincial tensions (in his case abstract expressionism's new world vs. old world iterations) that emerge within the internationalization of artistic production seems truly relevant to these present-day considerations. This is not not to rekindle the criticality of a position like Bruguera's but rather to hold the vast discursivity that such a position adumbrates into critical tension
with the rarified gastronomy of nebbish micro-economies. Perhaps unforseen doors will open if we follow the specters that pass throughout this proposed tension; between a contemporary art whose profound communicativity is rooted in the spectacularization of bodies and another whose boutique subjectivities offer themselves as vehicles of flight from such bodily subscription. Or perhaps these doors will just slam in our face...
In truth, I only bring up this tension after reading this dumb meme (ed. note: NYAL doesn't endorse this linked blog...) on a recent coke-related scandal involving Bruguera (initially posted here) I'd simply like to offer to my readers the following spot the diff game between the two images below, both relating to recent performative works/stunts by Carpenter and Bruguera. Where does Horowitz's Rob Pruitt fit in??
- ▼ December (5)