sábado, 3 de mayo de 2008

Arte y destrucción...

Queridos lectores,

¿El fin del arte? ¿Qué pretenden los anti-artistas? Uno de mis filósofos favoritos, el norteamericano Crispin Sartwell, nos habla sobre ello y me parece interesante ponerlo por aqui. Ultimamente estoy leyendo mucho, mucho a esta linea de pensadores. En otro postmás adelante hablaré del otro filósofo que ocupa mis lecturas actualmente, Richard Shusterman.

(Perdonad que esté en inglés, pero es que personalmente me resulta más sugestivo leer a Sartwell en inglés, y además creo que todos podemos leerlo, no?)

Creation and Destruction 

Aaron Barschak is the most traditional avant-garde artist of our time. He calls himself a "comedy terrorist" and received his proverbial fifteen minutes when he crashed Prince William's 21st birthday party dressed as Osama bin Laden. His most recent performance occurred during a talk by the artists Jake and Dinos Chapman, who were speaking about their celebrated work "The Rape of Creativity," which consists of etchings by Goya, over which the brothers Chapman pasted cartoon and clown heads. Barschak threw paint on Jake Chapman and on one of his works, shouting "Viva Goya!"  Barschak was of course arrested, charged among other things with defacing a work of art. His defense was equally predictable: that he is himself an artist, and that his paint attack did to the Chapmans what the Chapmans did to Goya. The judge was not amused. But I am. 

Now the Chapmans' abuse of Goya is neither particularly original nor particularly interesting. Modern and postmodern artists have been appropriating and defacing the images of the past for almost a century. Marcel Duchamp painted a mustache on the Mona Lisa. Robert Rauschenberg bought a drawing by Willem de Kooning, erased it, and displayed it as "Erased de Kooning Drawing." Compared to such bold gestures, the Chapman's crude collages are profoundly tame. One would think that would be enough to make the art world ignore them, but instead they have been lionized - nominated, among other things, for the prestigious Turner Prize. And that, we might say, is a signal of the exhaustion of the avant-garde. The best it seems to be able to muster is a dull, repetitive destruction of little bits of the past. I guess we might continue indefinitely in this vein until all the great works of the tradition have been vandalized. 

In fact, the only real idea of the avant-garde - a late nineteenth-century invention - is the destruction of the past. By definition, the avant-garde proceeds through a set of ever-accelerating radical overturnings. Fauvism supersedes impressionism, cubism fauvism, futurism cubism, expressionism futurism, pop expressionism, etc etc.: each welcomed as a revolutionary innovation, each a target for destruction as soon as it is articulated. It's worth saying that no culture in the world besides that of high art West has ever thought of the arts this way, and that the West has only thought of them this way recently. Traditionally, a young artist serves an apprenticeship in craft skills and style with a master, and then elaborates or refines the master's style. 

The procedure does not prohibit innovation, but it does not practice innovation for its own sake, as if that was the only decent purpose of any human activity. One thing we could say for Barschak: he participates in this process self-consciously, while also trying to reduce it to absurdity. Paintballing the works of the Chapmans is simply providing another example of the Chapman's technique, which is now starkly revealed in its extreme superficiality. And the exhaustion of the avant-garde is obvious as one excavates archeologically through the layers of destructions - of destructions even of destruction - tracing one's way from Aaron Barschak back through generations of killer clowns. 

Of course, Barschak's work might only be the beginning, and one possible elaboration of the avant-garde eventuates in actual murder, in which the artists of the new style generation physically slaughter rather than paste clown heads on the artists immediately preceding them. Considering that a generation of avant-garde artists essentially only lasts a couple of years, this would make for quite the bloodbath. But it's a sure way to the Turner Prize. 

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