Dr. Future on Wed, 26 Aug 1998 12:20:12 +0200 (MET DST)

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WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Re: <nettime> Net Art Market

valery grancher wrote:
>     Do you want to be a new kind of art collectors ?
> It is now possible
>     Do you want to collect the most important net artist ?
> It is now possible
>     Everything is evolving, art came on the net, net is becoming an
> aesthetics space.
> The art market is now coming on the net.
> Come to see the first private contemporary net art gallery  with its
> first exhibition.
> You can also buy the pieces shown
> - Artists:
> Vuk Cosik, Alexe=EF Shulgin, Heath Bunting, JODI, Olia Lialina
> - Exhibition title :
> "Littles miniatures of hero=EFc period"
> - URL:
> http://art.teleportacia.org
>     Otherwise we can see that economy and legalism is evolving since a
> long time with immaterials concepts, potentials and flux, and net art
> has the same charateristics. I'm speaking about situations, we have to
> interact with a new kind of situations with new situations. The new
> revolution is not to define a new territory with new border and to
> define an alterity called enemy we have to fight aginst. The new
> revolution is to make a fusion with our enemy to be him and to disturb
> him, just like a virus.
> Acting like a virus is a way to survive in net context managed by the
> biggest major companies....

Does anyone remember the Simulationist Art that appeared at the end of
the eighties? It consisted mainly of paintings that rejected any kind of
originality, creativity or authenticity in an attempt to undermine the
artistic pretentions of the art market. The tactic was to make paintings
of things like dull looking adverts, uniform monochrome canvases in
multiple copies and reproductions of modern art masterpieces. The term
was expanded to include kitsch artists like Jeff Koons (the real Jeff
Koons BTW) and "quotational" artists like Sherrie Levine and Mike Bidlo.
A lot of the critical discussion around the work centred on the use of
Benjamin's concept of aura, in which a modern reproducible artwork is
freed from the traditions that bind the unique ritual art object with
its autoritative mode of perception and it is able to fully circulate in
the social (and political) arena. This new social function also entails
the commercial alienation of the artwork and its commodification. Even
though its ritual function is now extinguished, an artwork (or any
cultural artifact or icon) may not necessarily fulfil a "progressive"
social function if its aura is simply replaced by aestheticisation - the
cult of beauty. Simulationist art attempts to avoid this by creating
aesthetically vacant art. And its blatant commodification reinforces
this tactic.

In an interview in Flash Art at about the same time, Isabelle Graw asks
arch avant-garde theorist Peter Burger what he thinks of this kind of
art - "an art which intentionally presents itself as slick and perfectly
marketable". Burger rejects the hope that this kind of work can be
"artfully subversive" - just because the home of a collector is full of
crap art, that is not enough to constitute a really positive assault on
the art world its capitalist values. Art objects that "conceal their
rebellion" a bit too well strike Burger as an example of "bad faith". In
the past Burger has also opposed the interpretation of Benjamin's work
that technical reproducibility in itself is enough to change the
reception of art and turn it into a politically potent form (for Burger
it is determined by the social institution of art). Of course Burger
belongs to that generation of theorists which do not have time for
piecemeal solutions to problems, but never mind. 

There were also other criticisms of Simulationist artists at the time
(like by Patrick Frank), that their Benjamin inspired attempt to avoid
aura would fail because aura might be amplified through media attention
rather than negated - so however reproducible or banal the artwork
became the art world could always hype it up. Interestingly, as this
kind of art work became more popular public rows broke out between the
artists over who was the "original" Quotational artist - but I digress.

Anyway, by the early nineties the anti-art experiments of the eighties
had given rise to Business Art, the prime exponent being the New York
artist Mark Kostabi (I can't think of any others at the moment).
Kostabi's paintings were entirely tactical - they were badly executed
and eventually not even painted by Kostabi himself but by a studio of
anonymous hacks (one painting was entitled "I was a Slave in the Mark
Kostabi Studio"). There was a documentary made about him at the time
called "The Con Artist" which featured footage of him talking to his
dealers as he subtly mocked them almost but not quite to the point of
their exasperation - "Hey, do your collectors want more architecture in
their paintings? This one has got some really nice blue colours in it -
do you think you could sell that? I'm sure someone would like that one".
In another scene he is having a meeting with a West Coast dealer who is
telling Kostabi how he can get him access to the top collectors in
California and how his galleries have the best positions on Rodeo Drive,
etc. Kostabi listens and then says, well, I think what I really want to
do is concentrate even more on the New York scene and really saturate
the East Coast market with my work until the prices go right down and
all those collectors that have brought my work in the past find that my
paintings are now worthless. The tweed jacketed West Coast dealer looks
blank for a second and then says how he can get Kostabi access to the
top collectors, etc, etc...

Towards the end of the doco Kostabi is having an opening for a new show
in a gallery piled full of his awful paintings and he is saying, well,
you know the real work of art here is on the outside of the gallery and
he points to a huge banner waving outside the gallery which just says
"KOSTABI". The last scene is where he is walking through the streets of
New York and he is saying how he has now achieved all his goals, his
work is selling for ridiculously high prices, the avant-garde art world
hates him and now the commercial art world hates him as well but one
thing is bothering him - now that he has reached this final stage what
he really want to know is - WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

The art.teleportacia.org site clearly contains elements of satire - the
"experts" that valuate the works are the usual net.art suspects that wax
just a bit too lyrical about the merits of the artists. The mission
statement on the web site however says quite clearly that the gallery is
not a hoax or a passing fashion and is deadly serious. It's always
interesting to see how far you can go with postmodern irony until there
is no longer any difference between you and the object of critique. I
did not go all the way and purchase one of the net.art classics on offer
(and personaly I felt that they were priced far too low) and so I could
not discover the nature of the methods of certification and authenticity
that were promised (apart from the one about the uniqueness of URLs).
Sometimes it's better just to admit that you're desperate to make some
money rather than try to turn it into an oppositional art strategy to
excuse yourself. Perhap the best thing to do would be to buy up all the
net art and burn it all in a ritual art event at a large (real) gallery.

With this text I would like to apply for the position of expert critic
as advertised on the teleportacia web site. My only qualifications are
an admirable pliability of mind and a talent for self delusion.

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