Marc — On the State of Contemporary Criticism

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KRITIK!!! (0n the state of Contemporary Criticism)
by Tessa Laird
(also available at www.journalofaestheticsandprotest.org)
More whinemaking, fussnummering, belletristic palaver from your friendly neighbourhood propagandists, witches and shin-kickers.
By Tessa Laird, with help from Gwynneth Porter, Marc and Robby Herbst, Mark von Schlegell, Chris Kraus, Mat Gleason, Daniel Malone, and Daniel J. Martinez.
When I told Marc Herbst I would like to contribute to The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, he asked me if I could write a piece on the current ?ole of criticism? Id written lots about art in the past, so I said ?ure?pretty positive of my critical credentials. But the more I read up on criticism, particularly within the context of the Los Angeles art world, the less certain I became. I felt like I had stumbled into an anthill, where thousands of industrious (anty) intellectuals were going about their business of empire-building and ankle-biting.
My own role in this society was negligible, to say the least (aphid? dust mote?) as I began to realize a full-scale critical war was underway, mired in a rhetoric as black and white as Dubya? post 9-11 paeans to binarism. Brian Tucker painted a succinct picture of this division in X-tra? Summer 1999 editorial:
discussion of art often takes the form of belligerent camps who caricature each other, then wage war against the caricatures: In this corner, wearing white trunks, Reactionary Patriarchs, their jackets grandly embroidered with the word ?eauty.?And in red, fun-hating Marxist Puritans who strive to repress every wayward tongue and testicle.?
Tucker, very sensibly, calls for dialogue instead of warfare (sound familiar?), rightly acknowledging that we are all, at the end of the day, folk that like to talk about art, and therefore ought to be able to find some common ground. Besides, he opines, ?ave Hickey isn? Hitler.?? think he is,?counters an anonymous colleague of Tucker?.
At this point I had to shake my head. How did it come to pass that someone as seemingly affable as Hickey was being equated with the architect of the Holocaust? Hickey? penchant for classicism coupled with regular jabs at his favorite punching-bag – the politically correct art institution – make him popular with conservatives and libertarians alike (and yes, we know they are alike). But does this kind of retrograde vision really spell the doom of everything we have fought for? Or is it simply an invitation to an invigorating ideological joust? To lose one? sense of humor is perhaps more fatal than loss of morality. Hickey plays the Joker in a deck that is stacked against the humorlessness of the left.
Regardless of the content of Hickey? writings, it was their style that annoyed some critics. ?ound Table: The Present Conditions of Art Criticism?in October 100, (1) was a discussion including luminaries such as Rosalind Krauss, Benjamin Buchloh, and Hal Foster. James Meyer said something about Hickey which almost made me want to defend the good ol?bad boy:
? find myself asked to write ?op Tens,?reduced formats – ?ound bite?criticism – in a style that Rob [Storr] is calling ?riterly? One feels a certain pressure to emulate a Hickeyesque model, which I would more precisely characterize as belletristicthe word ?riterly?is used to describe a criticism which, having pretensions to the literary, is valorized for its tone of sensibility and its capacity to seduce, to sell a magazine?nd because it often concerns the author? ?eelings?or personality, belletristic writing of this kind tends to avoid a sustained reflection on the art.?
In my experience, very little art criticism is ever a ?ustained reflection?on the art – it is more often a sustained reflection on the history of art criticism and an insertion of the writer into a specific discourse, with the art itself as a mere trope to warrant that writer? inclusion in the canon. ?elletristic?writing (a term I wasn? even familiar with before reading this article, neither was I familiar with James Meyer) at least allows for some transparency of the medium. Writerly writing, in acknowledging its own form, is at least a step closer to acknowledging other often glossed-over truths. When you play with form, you implicitly acknowledge its constructed nature ?and this transparency may lead to further revelations, such as the writer? connection to the subject. Like a kind of verbal Pompidou Center – the underlying structure is clearly visible from the outside. Opinions are no longer immaculate conceptions but the product of sticky earthly realities. I have far more respect for nepotism when it? admitted to, rather than swept under the rag-rug of old school ties.
Reading Meyer, I started to think that leftist academics deserved Hickey? astounding popularity for being so doggedly dry and dull, not to mention for blindly lauding deliberately incomprehensible theory. Though I probably share many of the abstract aims of leftist academe, I have difficulty digesting the dry cardboard they call ?riticism.?This is why I, along with friends, started my own magazine (twice, actually). (2) And in 1997 I had an epiphany reading Chris Kraus? novel/confessional/critical tour-de-force I Love Dick, which caused almost as much of a schism as Hickey in the art world but for very different reasons. Kraus interspersed incisive criticism with real stories about real people – herself, her husband Sylvere Lotringer, and cultural critic Dick Hebdige, and this upset a whole posse of intellectuals. Hebdige did not consent to his inclusion in Kraus? epic of unrequited love, and though this could be seen as one of the meanest tricks a novelist has ever played, and Hebdige? supporters are many and powerful, I still believe Kraus? project – a kind of Awful Truth for the intelligentsia, was incredibly brave and ground-breaking.
Kraus helped me put my finger on something that Id been instinctively drawn towards, but unable to define. It was so simple, but seemed to me such an effective way to reinvigorate the world of criticism (and journalism) – first personism. The radical gesture of introducing the ??means that you own your opinions, as opposed to falsely presenting them as historical ?acts? which is still how the majority of criticism and journalism is written. Reading I Love Dick (and noting its effect on a host of other readers/writers) I sensed the ground shifting – the smell in the air of a whole hide-chaffing, hoof pounding STAMPEDE of I? of all kinds, from all places – not the capital I of authority (have you noticed anyway how all authority figures invoke a false ?e?) but the small I of a thousand untold stories.
Im not trying to pander to the Western humanist exaltation of the individual – we all know our fate as members of the human race is rooted in cohabitation and cooperation. Im thinking of the kind of collectivity that stems from organically networked individuals, rather than difference suffocated by the media? insipid blanket. Think instead of the Rastafarian I and I which replaces WE in everyday speech. The peer-to-peer model of communication that the Internet is making possible will surely help more and more of us to have a hand in producing and exchanging our own realities – instead of simply absorbing government- and corporation-sanctioned skewe(re)d versions of ourselves through a broadcast medium we have no control over. Jello Biafra encourages us to ?ECOME THE MEDIA!?and in writing this piece I?e consulted some of the folk I know who?e done just that, by starting up their own magazines, or making their art into a critical tool. At the end of this article these people speak for themselves.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ?here is properly no history, only biography,?while Oscar Wilde opined that criticism was ?he only civilized form of autobiography.?I Love Dick was remarkable for wedding criticism and autobiography into a unique form ?like two canines stuck in coitus ?a union that was absurd, natural, and urgent. I started to wonder what kind of revolution would be unleashed if everyone was as courageously, awfully forthright as Kraus. What would journalism be like if reporters told us how they were feeling? Or, what would journalism be like if its subjects spoke for themselves?
In the first issue of the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, Marc Herbst interviewed the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Collective member Cayce Calloway talked about broadcasting news which was less about journalists presenting the ?acts,?and more about people talking from their own experience – news in the first person. This kind of journalism cuts out the middle-man and makes no pretence towards being non-partisan. The only way to heal hypocrisy is to out the hidden agenda, admit to partiality, define your lineage. Tell us what you had for breakfast, what cocktail of hormones and chemicals is coursing through your blood as you take pen to paper, tell us what pays for your rent and whether or not you are dating the editor of the magazine you write for.
Frederick Nietzsche drew a distinction between ?nterpretation?and ?xplanation,?saying ?here are no facts, everything is in flux, incomprehensible, elusive; what is relatively most enduring is our opinions.?Opinions have been unpopular in the US media of late. To be precise – since September 11, 2001, there has been a voluntary witch hunt for thinkers who are not doing their patriotic duty by shutting down their thought processes until the state of national emergency is declared over.
One of the first casualties of this new McCarthyism was Susan Sontag, whose New York Times column post-9-11 called for the United States to ask itself why it had become the target of such hatred. This unparalleled sin of anti-patriotic sentiment led to a barrage of brickbats and even death threats. Sontag? outspoken views throughout her career have been at times controversial, but nothing came close to the full-scale animosity that was leveled at her after she dared ask a question when she should have been genuflecting to state-sanctified vengeance. (3) Sontag? writing on Leni Reifenstahl and the spectacular power of art when appropriated to extreme nationalist ends (Fascinating Fascism, 1974) eerily presages the current distaste for critical thought:
A principal accusation against the Jews within Nazi Germany was that they were urban, intellectual, bearers of a destructive corrupting “critical spirit.” The book bonfire of May 1933 was launched with Goebbels’s cry: “The age of extreme Jewish intellectualism has now ended, and the success of the German revolution has again given the right of way to the German spirit.” And when Goebbels officially forbade art criticism in November 1936, it was for having “typically Jewish traits of character”: putting the head over the heart, the individual over the community, intellect over feeling.
Re-reading these words, in the context of post 9-11 paranoia, in which stultifying atmosphere the stars ??stripes was starting to look more swastika-shaped every day, I felt a sudden surge of patriotism of a different kind. My duty is to my own nation, or would-be family, of wingeing, whining, complaining, back-biting, nit-picking, hair-splitting, griping, groping, inquisitive, alert, ponderous, prevaricating, quibbling, questioning, thought-provoking CRITICS! Far from having a vampiric relationship to cultural production, critics were the very life-blood of our eternal quest for self-improvement, a built-in evolutionary necessity. Oscar Wilde again, ?reation is always behind the age. It is criticism that leads us. The Critical Spirit and the World Spirit are one.?Harold Bloom, whose book Kaballah and Criticism is a fascinating juxtaposition of ancient and contemporary structural tools, writes that the Kaballists developed a ?sychology of belatedness?with a ?hetorical series of techniques for opening Scripture and even received commentary to their own historical sufferings, and to their own, new theosophical insights.?He says the Kaballistic figure of ?dam Kadmon?represented ?an as he should be?in a kind of self-generated perpetual war of ?ight against light.?This ?ar?emanates out from his head in patterns of writing. (4)
Nietzche again; ?ll our so-called consciousness is a more or less fantastic commentary upon an unknown text, one that is perhaps unknowable but still felt.?DNA, perhaps? If we?e nothing but code, we have the rights to our own re-writes. As crude as our tools may be, only constant revision of the course we are on, and perpetual dialogue, can improve our conditions.
Lest you think that by all this fussnummering and posturing I only support ?ssues-based?criticism, fear not, for I believe the best critics are artists too, and should be encouraged to employ the same liberal doses of anarchy and abstraction as their self-absorbed artist hosts. Harold Bloom again (talking about poetry criticism, but you can substitute the cultural genre of your choice); ? knowingly urge critical theory to stop treating itself as a branch of philosophical discourse? theory of poetry must belong to poetry, must be poetry, before it can be of any use in interpreting poems.?Sometimes the most powerful and resilient form of resistance is the one that is the most aesthetically pleasing (think of Capoeira ?the martial art disguised as a dance by African slaves in Brazil).
In this case, resistance means rejecting forced complicity with crimes we abhor ?crimes against the planet and people that we never devised and thoroughly despise. To vocally dissociate ourselves from the Nazis of our times is as essential to being as any art or critical practice. I don? think Dave Hickey is Hitler, but unlike Hickey, I can? for the life of me find beauty in places where injustice remains unchallenged. Perhaps I am becoming some kind of Kantian moralist ?just another casualty of what Hickey calls the ?oralizing institution,?equating post-modernism with the new Protestantism. So be it. Better to be humorless than complicit with Grade A demons. And, come to think of it, what? so humorless about dancing in the street with a ?ush + Dick = Fucked?placard, especially in comparison to licking the arse of some exec-or-other because he might buy some art off of me?
A few months ago, I was reading Jeremy Gilbert Rolfe? Beauty and the Contemporary Sublime. There? no less appropriate reading for a bus in L. A. (try reading instead Sesshu Foster? book of poetry City Terrace Field Manual, it? angry angry angry and painfully beautiful too). As I tried to ingest Gilbert-Rolfe? inedible sentences about glamour and the technological sublime, I realized that either I, or the world, had changed. I remember once being able to idly fondle the pages of Vogue and lose myself in its surficiality ?wealth and fashion were sensual pleasures to be enjoyed, if only from a voyeuristic remove. Now I can? even bring myself to pull the Angelino magazine, which gets delivered free to my work, from its clear plastic wrapper. ?Tis the season for glamour?is writ across the thigh of some cadaverous heroine Id rather not emulate. Nothing that the magazine itemizes (from ?uxury Journeys to Mexico?to ? Fabulous Fete at the Viceroy? interests me, and I know that the ads for Rolexes and diamonds and beamers will leave me more disinterested than disaffected, because they all exist in a vacuum of denial with an aesthetic value of less than zero. This super-vacuity does not manage to transcend itself like some kind of Zen koan of replete nothingness. It is simply lacking in a way that I, for all my faults, will never be.
Perhaps my own aesthetics amount to nothing more than a niche that isn? catered to by Angelino, but still gets caught out by cooperative publications, collective boutiques, developing world handcrafts and so on?Im an ?lterna-consumer?as recently outed by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter (5)). Ill admit, though, that I was unprepared for the brutal co-option of the aesthetics of protest in Diesel? latest ad campaign. Their ?acky fun in the sun?campaigns have given way to pasty youths rioting in black and white reportage photos, poster-boys and gals of the new season? discontent. I don? mind aesthetic poaching, but what irritates me is the ludicrous statements these model protesters are championing ??e need more green traffic lights!??arry young!?and other such pointless drivel which of course ends up belittling real issues.
The art world flirts with both the world of vacuous glamour and the world of righteous protest, and sometimes I can? forgive its fickle ways. Sure, I have a fairly low tolerance threshold for woodblock prints of atomic blasts, or poorly executed altarpieces to ?y Exotic Heritage,?but I can honestly say that on an aesthetic level, the most excitement I?e had lately has been on anti-war demonstrations. The candle-light vigil on Hollywood and Highland on a Saturday night in December was like a miniature carnival that exploded in the faces of zomboid shoppers. I found myself dancing for joy ?for not being dead yet, body or soul. This act of criticizing the state that subjugates others and holds me complicit is currently the most positive, creative act I can think of. We are living in the Kali Yuga and only the vehement recitation of your mantra/manifesto will keep the demons at bay.
Gwynneth Porter
Editor of LOG Illustrated, New Zealand
I have long disliked authoritative gestures as I don’t think anyone can ever really know anything much with regards looking at art or the world with certainty, so I tend to just go for observations and owned subjective readings. I also think that most writing tends to be so much more about the author anyway so I tend to send this up a bit as I find criticism and a lot of other cultural productions to be comic (most things humans do with seriousness are pretty funny, albeit often black humor).
Does the critic have any kind of “responsibility” towards art or towards the public?
Nope, except that if you can do something like write or make art and people will enjoy it I think one [should, just so that there are always things for us to do (I am hopelessly dependent on words and writing so the idea that there might not be anything for me to read fills me full of such dread I find myself encouraging people to add to the stockpile…). Fundamentally, I do believe in full disclosure as a way of sharing truth and empowering the truth and the collective unconscious (Jung is the man).
Daniel Malone
Artist, New Zealand
Isn? tagging just ego-centric posturing, one of the worst qualities of humans/animals, like a dog pissing on a lamppost ?alpha male activity. What would you say to counter that?
I won’t say nothing 2 counter that. Don’t dis the animal. Do the dog! Without this becoming animal there is no dissent, tagging on one level is that alpha male activity of pissing against a lamppost, and as you point out ‘that ego bullshit’ can also be seen as part of criticism, why? Because if you take a position on something you consciously mark out yr territory as a subject, you position yourself, and increasingly your position is what’s at stake. If u don’t stake a position, you don’t take a position. That’s the ugly truth and the truth should be ugly, not beauty in the eye of the beholder, graffiti is ugly precisely because its not put there for the eye of the beholder, it should be ugly, it? not art, it? not advertising, actually it? not even “Criticism” and all the (increasing) attempts to behold it as such (including those done by those who do the graffiti) are simply attempts to subsume it into the so-called status quo. To understand it, tame it and even like it. That’s not graffiti. The thing I like about graffiti is the fact that that ‘ego’ u talk about resists translation into any form of currency, least of all ‘capital’ unless it becomes one of those other things.
Mark von Schlegel
Critic, Los Angeles, Editor of The Rambler
It’s a strange time, culturally speaking. To my mind, Matthew Arnold’s call for the critic “to know the best that is known and thought in the world, and by in its turn making this known, to create a current of true and fresh ideas” remains valid and necessary. Western art has found itself in a position where it depends on criticism and writing more than ever before to create historical continuity in a field that tends to be fragmented and often perplexing. Artists today depend on ideas and rely, in part, on criticism to help define and trace their achievements. That said, today’s art criticism threatens to devolve into a monotonous publicity and marketing of individual artists. If one wants to bring in ideas and connections and theories etc. one’s welcome to, but one tends to be published and distributed because of the names positively dropped and the works illustrated. It’s important that the critic (who tastes so little of the perks he or she helps generate for others) resists this trend. “What is more insidious than any censorship,” the sometime censor T. S. Elliot once said, “is the steady influence which operates silently in any mass society organized for profit, for the depression of standards of art and culture.”
There are readers all through the art world eager for honest, thoughtful criticism. We tend to look to publications these days not as forums of ideas but for revealing the current shape of art world power-positioning, yet an authentic work of criticism, when it appears, can function with more immediacy and authority than ever. The 100th anniversary edition of October Magazine was dedicated to the proposition that thoughtful criticism is obsolete. It was interesting that this particular issue was the most readable and challenging in years. Criticism gains freedom and honesty from a perceived obsolescence.
Theory, when it’s printed, is practice. As we enter an age of religious atrocity, it’s natural that early Enlightenment methodology should resurface. The Rambler takes its title from a semi-anonymous 18th-century Grub Street publication, one of many such sheets that littered the streets of London in those days. It’s an attempt to reach back to an Enlightenment in its youth – wherein a tiny intellectual trickle (I recommend Blanford Parker’s Triumph of Augustan Poetics on this) was able to enter the stream of public reality without recourse to any power but that of its own press. “Reason” obviously, philosophically, is a political posture – a symbol of individual power in a silencing, psychotic world. When reactionaries adopt it to preserve false histories and consolidate oligarchic power, terrible troubles ensue. The Rambler includes a healthy dose of science fiction as both acknowledgment of the claim possible futures hold on our generation and as satire of our own quasi-libertarian reactionism.
With the Rambler, we fantasize that the smallest, semi-anonymous, most localized collaborative publication can help generate wars of ideas, fictional trends, perpetrations of hoaxes, attacks in print, geo-political shiftings, the foundings of rival newspapers and schools who stand for something, etc. In other words, make it of actual consequence again, as we fantasize it used to be in the early Enlightenment, to write, to make art, to be alive. By presenting popular fictions beside art criticism, political analysis beside raw complaint, and giving ourselves the individual respect that only writers can give to other writers, we hope to gain energy and novelty by collapsing market-imposed, disciplinary boundaries. In its de-categorizing potential, contemporary Art culture remains, in many senses, wide open. Our first issue called for the resignation of George Bush. We hoped to be one among a series of such gestures and found ourselves relatively alone, even somewhat frightened and paranoid. But our artist readers appreciated the gesture — eager to perceive their own place in a world larger than the contemporary machinations of a peculiar, elusive economy. Art needs to reach out to the “outside” world, for its own sake as much as for the sake of the “outside” world itself which has looked to it for moral and political initiative in the past.
In America today rights to free speech are in jeopardy; non-violent citizens are getting picked off in Home Depot parking-lots and professors shot in class rooms, while an abandoned, over-sported environment radically deteriorates. We artists and writers are a part of that America and our lives may not be so long. It’s not so difficult, we’ve discovered, to make something cheap, something honest and awakening (advertisement and image-free) for people to read.
(For the interested reader, copies are available free at Diannepreuss gallery, Chung King Road, Chinatown).
Chris Kraus
Writer, Los Angeles
Yeah. Well. Let’s talk about art. Nowhere is the meaning and the value of a thing as arbitrary and up for grabs as in the contemporary art world. The modernists complained that postmodernism ruined the experiential thrill of looking at art. The rules of the game had been changed: i.e., the ‘integrity’ of the artwork was no longer innate. Looking at art became more a matter of placing the work in an art-critical discourse and lineage. Its success or its failure was now determined by the artist’s ability to position her work in that discourse and lineage. To make new work was to produce the next card in the card-game of critical discourse. The modernists complained about the endless self-referentiality of that. Towards this end, artists went back to school, became schooled in these discourses. But now, it’s no longer even about that. What it is, is, where’d you go to school and who are you friends with? These are the factors that really determine who, coming up now, will show, and what we deem to be “interesting.” Thousands of people paint landscapes: what makes David Corty’s work particularly “important” and “interesting” is how he arrived at it: via the prestigious neo-conceptual MFA program at UCLA. So what we are seeing isn’t just (imaginatively conceived and beautifully executed, which they are) skies and landscapes painted in watercolor: we’re seeing the improbable decision of a young conceptually-trained artist to paint landscapes at all, and we admire the boldness of that. When I write about art, I like to say what I see. Both inside and out of the picture. And sometimes it helps to disclose where I am when I’m looking, what kind of thinking and feeling the artwork engenders. The very arbitrariness of art’s value demands this. We need to say what we see. Within the very occluded atmosphere of art-critical discourse, direct first-person speech often comes off like a novelty act: a personal mission to appraise the emperor’s new clothes.
Marc and Robbie Herbst, founders of the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest
We came to the magazine with the exuberance of speech.
Art is a broadcast of all sorts of energy. Pirate Radio was our initiation into media.
Flipping the switch to your $300 transmitter or turning on the light for the opening night of your exhibit, you realize that the hegemony that established institutions have over communication is as much a result of lack of competition as anything else. When first painting the mysterious ether, your voice is present in rarefied air and becomes very powerful – there is a picture where there were jumbles of static. Piercing the illusion of the specialist, part of you always needs to share this magic. When you meet other DJs, you have things to talk about, for you are all conscientious objectors to an illusion that speech is maintained by others for you – “pass the mike will you?” Finally, and because you have no clue who is listening, you approach your audience differently. Your show is driven by your heart in conversation with friends and other DJs; your audience is organized in a political campaign to connect words to sites of meaning.
We refuse the defeatist attitude regarding the role of art in society. If another world is possible, it will be artists and activists who realize the vision and make it happen.
Most of our lives, we moved between the activist and art worlds, unaware of the distinctions that divide these discourses – freedom to speculate being a hallmark of both cliques. It? silly that these two cliques don’t hang out together – they are both involved in revealing visions that must be grasped with gloves that are not manufactured by the hegemony. The magazine is involved in developing “deep critiques” at once relating with the hegemony and simultaneously aware of its specter. Aesthetics and protest are not oppositions; they are necessary compliments. Ask a propagandist or a witch, formlessness doesn’t communicate nothing.
The magazine is a conversation among friends and communities, it is a chance to formalize conversations and ideas that are floating around. Artists often privatize their creations so as to protect their property, activists hide their words in safety, yet a movement needs a memory of what was thought. It needs a place that gives people the space to speak out about problems and solutions.
Mat Gleason
Editor, Coagula, Los Angeles
Criticism in art is like an umpire in baseball. The difference is that in the art world nobody wants anyone to have the final word, there is nobody, not the head of a museum or the greatest artist who is allowed to be the final word on anything. There are more structures set up in the art world to prevent a critic from articulating and codifying a position than all the other prohibitions combined.
Why did you set up Coagula, and how it has been received over the years? Have you made lots of enemies? Is it worth it? What do you think the L.A. art scene has gained from Coagula?
It was meant to be an underground newspaper for the art world and as that it has succeeded. It has been received pretty well by people who are frustrated with the academies & hierarchies and despised by the people who aspire to be let into the Church of Art. It is worth it as a writer to have people read what I write, it has made me money. The L.A. art scene has gained a voice, mine I guess, although I have opened it up to lots of different voices. It is a forum in that way. Something for people to know that just because it exists, someone who is powerful may be getting kicked in the shins.
Daniel J. Martinez
Artist, Los Angeles
[Recently in Mexico]
Nothing is true, everything is possible —Nietzsche
Recently, at a lab in Cambridge, a physicist, aided by a computer, captured light and then released it. I began to wonder if Genesis would be less miraculous if “Let There Be Light and Darkness” could be replicated by intelligent machines? Light is precious, essential for life – from photosynthesis to epiphanous moments in the presence of the beautiful. When we wanted to name the time when we abandoned superstition and embraced rationality, we called it The En-light-enment. Perhaps human beings are responding to the great shift from the industrial machine to the intelligent machine by abandoning the principles of Enlightenment. Is the return to religious fundamentalism – whether manifested as the Jihad, the Falun Gong, the Faith-Based Government, or Madonna embracing Kabbalah – really a symptom of a collective yearning for a pre-rational innocence/ignorance? In our heart of hearts, do we long for the time when the earth was the center of the universe, when the Grand Inquisitor told us the one truth, and when the boundaries of the known world were visible from our window?
Do you remember in “Measure of a Man” that one of the issues that would decide whether Data would live or die was whether he had a soul? Are we afraid of these intelligent machines because we wonder if they will possess a soul, or more likely, suspect that they might? The Bible says that man was given dominion over the earth and all that was present at creation. It gives us no answers regarding life forms we create ourselves.
Plato/Neo wants me to leave the cave. I hesitate because I have always relied on the guidance of the wise. I wait for those to lead me. Unfortunately, they are otherwise occupied searching for meaning among the relics.
Artists made art about social issues and concerns in a fever of utopian bliss – today we will transform the world. Okay, I romanticize. We won some, we lost more. But the question remains, where do we evolve from there?
If humanity has decided to face evolution by turning backward, there will at least be fewer tourists in the way when we see the first glimpse of the future.
1 Bear in mind that October was itself a product of a schism – being the brainchild of those cultural critics who found Artforum too commercial. Buchloh, despite the fact that he gets published by Artforum, rallies against them in this discussion. A further schism took place early on in October? history, when Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe, one of the founders, split away.
2 Monica was a pre-Lewinsky ?hicks with big-mouths?art magazine, for which our only criterion was that the criticism be readable and opinionated (we could well have stipulated ?elletristic?. To be fair, it wasn? just dry academia we were rallying against, but the dire stupidity of all arts-related coverage in the mass media that we felt compelled to counter. We published 6 issues before I launched LOG Illustrated, a tri-annual broadsheet which lasted for 15 issues and can still be read at: http://www.physicsroom.org.nz/log/
3 Interestingly enough, in October? Round Table discussion, which took place in December 2001 in New York City, not one of the critics present referred to the events of September 11, or the aftermath and its effect on freedom of speech. That the art world is completely divorced from world at large could not be better illustrated than this bizarre omission (and I don? believe it was a deliberate tactic to ?arry on as usual,?I think that the art world really does operate from this extremely rarefied remove). This seems extremely ironic given the origin of October? name in revolutionary aesthetics, and the magazine? supposed bent towards sustained politico-theoretical reflection. And while academics spent their precious time and intellect worrying that the ogre of Dave Hickey would straddle their skyscapes like a paunchy Colossus, the US government was stolen away by forces far more ubiquitous and sinister?
4 I think of my husband who sits on his computer all day every day, waging his own ?nformation war?(www.fusionanomaly.net). His version of bushido is to saturate himself and everything he touches with information ?which becomes its own virus shield ?a bullshit deflector.
5 ?he Rebel Sell? http://www.rabble.ca/everyones_a_critic.shtml?x=16940&url=