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Re: <eyebeam><blast> Art and Media

2 messages, from Melinda Rackham and Michael Rees

melinda rackham <melinda@subtle.net> writes:


>It seems to me that a "public relations arm of revolutionaries" can't
>only be a commodity. Art has always been a means of communication. I
>prefer to think of it--a la Hans Magnus Enzensberger and Hans
>Haacke--as  part of the conciousness industry which includes Madison
>Ave, Hollywood, etc. It seems vastly over-simplifying to consider
>silence=death or the red ribbon or even Guernica as *only* commodities.
>How can they be invoked without thinking of their content(s)--both
>original and those overlaid by time?

As an artist I too prefer to think of it all as totally connected, from
the way I have my desktop set up, to the power of a beautiful sculpture
to alter my mood and immune function.. to see art as one of the
divergent and convergent flows within the bubbling stream that we call
culture. However we live in a cartesian society that specialises and
compartmentalises and demarcates, and art in this sense is a commodity,
it has a functional position in the matrices of power.

>Tell that to the Catholic Church during the Renaissance. Altho "by
>itself" may be another matter. As an artist hasn't art altered any of
>your perceptions? (As the most complex form of knowledge, it certainly
>helped male me the person I am.)

the catholic church almost had a monopoly on imagery..except for thoes
whacky godess cults, and regionalised craft practices which havent
survived.. the church cunningly appropriated other cult images and
voila! the virgin mary appeared in christianity. any way... take
Hollywood+Advertising+TV for ones cultural images today and i think you
get the same effect. and yes..art helped female me..:)

>Not true about the "innocent" victims--ie hemophiliacs and children.
>The Quilt necessarily foregrounded queers for obvious demographic 
>reasons from the outset.

 I think we are making the same point -thru association it repositioned
people who had contracted hiv thru sexual activities as "innocents"..in
as much as any person who gets a disease is innocent unless you suscribe
to medieval(or some new age) notions of illness as god's punishment. to
get a disease from sticking a needle in your arm is not currently seen
as an innocent act.

>I disagree completely. Bear in mind that in the US--the epidemic's
>epicenter during the 80s (along with Africa in the second half of the
>decade)--that Reagan never uttered the words AIDS in public. By
>contrast, the Quilt and Ribbon helped raised this unmentionable
>subject. It's remarkable that artists' works--rather than schmaltzy 
>Elton John songs and made-for-TV movies--became the iconic symbols and 
>images of this epidemic.

I would question which section of the general public you mean. I was at
a talk with Hal Foster the other night and he casually, out of context,
said "it was like a plague in New York in the 80's"  ..and the whole
audience -educated, mostly white, middle class, academic art audience,
knew exactly what he meant - but put a slab of the more general public
in the same room and would they know?.. did the bugs from Starship
Troopers invade? I really think 'joe and mary general public' would
think TV and film..like Ribbons at the academy awards, and Philadeplhia
if you said HIV. Its a trickle down effect.. the art practices and
specific shows you mentioned inform the producers of the more "mass"
media  which in turn informs generalised Popular culture.

>Well, why blame earlier victims? We queers felt like we were dying from
>invisibility too (silence=death). In the early '80s being gay was not
>to belong to a powerful and wealthy lobbying group. When the New Museum
>organized the first out queer museum show (Extended Sensibilities) in
>1982, almost no gay artists of note would participate. It was
>considered a career-killer a la Hollywood today. You're absolutely 
>right about the gay liberationist agenda, but please let's keep the 
>historical record "straight" about such recent history. Ironically, 
>AIDS demolished the art-world closet, once-and-for-all. It also 
>provided a model that allows
>you to even consider an activist initiative by and/or for those
>afflicted with a virus.

I see no point in blameing any marginalised group -society does that
enuff already.. The point I am making is that [ex]junkies and prisioners
(40% of whom are HCV+ in .au) dont have the political clout, seen and
unseen, that queer did and does. Therefore the art strategies which
worked in that context, will unfortunately not have the same effect for
HCV, precisely because there were many other factors contributing to the
prominance of art about AIDS. I have been asking artists I know with HCv
to participate in my project, but so far none has said yes...it seems it
still isnt good for one's career (unless you're william burroughs -rest
his troubled soul) to admit to iv drug use. But as I said b4..I believe
that change is always possible, and thankyou too Robert for the work
you've done, and I wish you the best for the forth coming show.

btw.. I draw my lineage for activism from mid-Victorian feminists who
self published, organised and campaigned to repeall the repressive
Contagoius Diseases Act - which legalised the removal of women working
as prostitutes from thier families and placed them into goals
sanitariums and work-houses as they, rather than their male clients,
were deemed to be the carriers of syphilis - which at that time was also
an incurable and fatal illness.

anonymous web participation: http://www.subtle.net/carrier


michael rees <zedand00@sound.net> writes:

Joy Garnett wrote

> I am personally aware of my own special brand of "poverty thinking"--
> I know how it holds me back, and I struggle against it because in one
> sense I believe it perpetuates poverty (conceptual and otherwise) 
> more than any external circumstances might--actually, it helps 
> determine the way we--artists, writers, cultural workers--are 
> perceived by the rest of
> the world hence how we are treated. And yet, in some perverse way, I
> revel in the difficulty I psychologically help create. I mention this
> only because I find this process of undercutting oneself to be  a
> common occurrance among artists, and I wonder if there is some 
> collective underlying worry about eliminating the obstacles--rather: 
> some sense that the struggle against the obstacles helps determine the 
> rigor of the process, whatever it may be, of making stuff, of 
> conceiving stuff. 

What would it be to function without this? I agree, its collective.
Compulsion (as an unhealthy psychological state) is doing the same
things over and over again but expecting different results. If one broke
this cycle of pathology, let go of the fears a little, what might
emerge. I'm optimisitic.

Interesting. I'm thinking about it.

> advocate the idea of dumping the gallery world
> altogether: I prefer to entertain the possibility that it could fit > into
> a larger, evolving picture, and be changed by while influencing such a
> picture. In other words, when artists talk about commercial success, > it
> usually inhabits a dangerous and coveted terrain in their brains where
> "selling out", going soft, and other such negative affinities come > into
> play (witness the 80's); we should be able to define commercial > success
> differently from commercialism,  and in terms of an economy where we
> determine how that success invigorates our own production--our
> contribution--how we give back, how we make choices for where we go
> next. I know of only a handful of people who are succeeding along > these
> lines and they have taken their processes beyond the artworld without
> actually leaving it for lost.

> We need to see ourselves in terms of a larger task, without losing our
> sense of focus and internal rigor--without losing the minutiae.
> No?

Thanks for your comments Joy G. I think as  I was reading the list one
of the things that struck me was the tremendous energy for large scale
change. The desire to be effective in this enormous world arena, when
there's so much trouble in our own camp. By trouble in our own camp I
mean, artists as a subculture, are barely surviving. I personally know
of only a few artists who are making it on their work. And they are on
the tenterhooks you described--other artists envy them, they wonder if
they're selling out, self defeating pathogenic belief structure, etc.,.

As to artist's of the eighties,  I personally think Jeff Koons is a very
good artist and he is suspect--to boot(the penultimate art market
antichrist). And I also remember the import of Barbara Kruger and
Sherrie Levine very poignantly. These are all artists who were savy
enough to fit the market and to forge their own agenda.

I agree with you about not leaving the gallery for lost. Some artists
will some won't. Its kind of like video and film. Video was predicted as
killing off film. It didn't, what happened instead was that two
economies developed that interact effectively. I think the web and the
gallery system will do that as well. 

One of the things I particularly enjoy is watching the dealers scramble
to make sense of the web. As cultural workers we are so far out in front
of them.(yet scared enough to want to be under the hen). I for one will
not wait for the dealers to figure out how to use this(not suggesting
anyone on this list is waiting). Funny, DOes anyone know of a mailing
list for dealers? Wouldn't that be a curious piece of web culture. (I'm
hearing Bob Dylan singing 
"Come fathers and mothers, whereever you are, 
admit that the waters around you have grown, 
Accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone, 
for the times they are a changing)

I really hope that the exclusive, terminally alone genius myth of the
art world will give over to something much more communal, more healthy
and more rewarding. It looks like there's no other way. When I look at
the art culture that I know, it is already so communal, we're just not
looking at it that way. 

You ever notice how the most vociferous critics of power seek it most

you also wrote 

>we should be able to define commercial success
> differently from commercialism,

How does that work?

michael rees SCULPTOR           http://www.sound.net/~zedand00/
1212 w 8th St. Bldg B #2,       816 753 3020 voice    zedand00@sound.net
KC, Mo 64101                    816 753 1542 fax
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