May 26, 2015 § Leave a comment
A very interesting discussion on “curationism” & sound with Frances, Salome Voegelin & Adam from Brilliant Corners the other day (I must remember to go the next time I’m in London even though I hate Dalston eateries). A couple of notes maybe:
1) SV’s opposition between the artist & the curator (the curator curates, the artist “makes stuff”) really doesn’t hold anymore, or at least it’s absurdly undialectical, even if there are minor IRL ripples of difference as to how this plays out. We’re all curators now, whether we like it or not, just as we’re all immaterial labourers now, even though some of us might do hands-on jobs as a kind of self-care, & might want to have unprecarious materialised jobs like every other 20th century slob. The Promethean myth of creativity comes to be subsumed into the actuality of recreativity (as Simon‘s termed it): “creativity” becomes the name applied to the creation of profit (I’m paraphrasing Geoffrey Hill in a recent interview) with freelancers becoming the double of stockbrokers as curators of the market.
2) ‘Curation’ as the rappour a l’ordre de jour functions as an ideology, or at least in a way analogous to one: we may not believe in it or wish to believe in it or knowingly practice it, but within the reality-program of the neoliberal art world it has the effect of a reality. (Every such ideology of course has the structural necessity of an overidentified ‘true believer’, which makes Hans Ulrich Obrist the George Osbourne of the art world.) Curation exists in relation to the current crisis of the art world in the same way that the body-fascism of fitspo relates to the crisis of health caused by capital (poisoned food, unending work, health services wrecked by neoliberal bureaucrats & PFI firms).
3) It isn’t so much a question of when sound began to be integrated into the regime of the visible as what value sound currently has for the art world. The art world views sound as its ‘wild’, slippery, ‘uncontrollable’ Other, what slips (like Picasso’s African masks) through the net of exchange – an Other whose uncontrolled nature must of course be controlled if it’s to fit in the white cube. Sound is the necessary supplement (in Derrida’s sense) that makes its own commercial fallenness redeemable, even if it never actually does get round to performing its putative act of redepmtion. In any case, SV’s claims for sound’s “radical” nature in the context of curation-as-control is fairly suspect. Sound as it came down to the art world was already fairly controlled: via the format of the LP (a very specific & rigid form) & rock band (a very hierarchical setup); & the post-Cageian experimental music performance tradition, via the middleman of the ‘happening’ & performance art, both of them, by the 80s, already very reified & predictable forms – or at least forms in wh/ whatever possible radicalism did exist was shaped against what in them had become easy to replicate & incorporate into the art canon (*cough* Marina Abramovic *cough*).
4) Curationism arises, I suspect, really because of the decay & abolition of the specificity of the aesthetic. Artworks become no longer specific & determinate forms of articulation in opposition to the undeterminate world-that-is-the-case, but primarily vehicles for contextual information (sociological, anthropological, biographical), points in a curator’s argument. This is the case already in the most professionalised sectors of the field of art history: last year’s Late Turner show at the Tate was less about the paintings themselves than how they might correspond with Turner’s post-1840 biography & the histories of science & technology in the 19th century. Interesting here too is the increasing ‘curation’ of non-fine art objects in fine art spaces: not only sound events & film, but things like the Curiosity exhibition at Turner Contemporary. The end of the aesthetic has of course been useful in a lot of ways, not least for making slight cracks in the hegemony of white men over the art world. (The rise of identity politics has obviously been a massive boon to curation, but it would be interesting – & maybe more profitable – if someone looked at the intersection of queer, feminist & black power movements with anti-aesthetic rhetorics: the cases of Aime Cesaire & Valerie Solanas would be major examples.) But curation here begins to function as a means for the revalorisation of art – & the role of curation that the panellists pointed to in attracting punters to institutions is crucial, the only source of income other than selling the bleeding artworks.
5) A note on DJing: it’s something historicised, too, & a decent example of the precarious balance between liberation & resignation in postmodernism. Nick Richardson’s description of Christian Marclay’s White Cube show as “DJing with art history” really mugged me off for precisely this reason: what starts out as a practice of possible provisional freedom wrenched from the culture industry becomes the very universalised practice of the culture industry. Not to get silly about this, but the tipping point might be heard in the first few years of gangsta production – in Illmatic, The Infamous, Ready To Die, the RZA’s beats for the first Wu-Tang album & Ghostface’s first solo albums, & The Chronic, with Three Feet High and Rising & Paul’s Boutique as the final, desperate illusionistic appearances of freedom.