Panorama view of exhibition in Jedlitschka Gallery, Zurich.

Panorama view of exhibition in Jedlitschka Gallery, Zurich.

24 July 2007

Belcher, UK: The Art of Greed

















Following an excellent Clive James article on Hirst’s Skull on BBC website I was moved to post a short reply…I elaborate a little more here..

I wrote then..

Cracking riposte Mr. James. Mr Hirst is the Barnum of our age and whilst not being a bad lad and kind to his mum he does produce some silly artworks. Even sillier is the stage-managed way he hoovers up press via his agent. Fair play in the kingdom of the skull the one-studded man is a chav. My friendly art dog has seen through the media fog for many a day mainly because being a dog he cannot converse with Mr Hirst in case he rips him in two and drops him in a tank. Unfair treatment of a critic but that’s the way life is these days. Would it be unwise if Moogee suggested that if current proportion of illegal diamonds on market as high as suggested then most of the sparklers on this Pearly King’s bonce are dodgy anyway?

I enlarge now…

Having re-read an Observer interview with Mr.Hirst’s ‘agent come bookie’ Frank Dunphy I have to eat my words. As a double act Mr. James’s comments on Morecambe and Wise and celebrity come much closer to the truth than he imagines. Mr Dunphy ex-bookie, Irish scallywag and theatrical agent to several dwarves, a python lady , Harry Worth( true talent) and The Nitwits( don’t ask but they cleaned up in Vegas apparently) is the real Barnum here. Fraud is the key. It is no longer anything remotely to do with art or even the trailing in his jetstream Jay (Etonian) Jopling who probably looked sadder than Mr. Cameron after a by-election when he realised said skull cost more to make (let alone sell) than his entire ‘White Cube’ gallery. How appropriate that it is the name of the gallery that signifies all that wrong with contemporary art culture. A white space devoid of feeling and intrinsic merit that reflects back contemporary obsessions with the vacuous, the fleeting and the vain. To that degree Hirst has produced an object of its time but that time as Warhol predicted used to be 15 mins..it substantially less …ask the Big Brother clone lapdancing for footballers how long she expected to ’cut her teeth’ on the lush pile carpets of instant glamour before returning to the barmaid role…

One White Cube is another mans Sugar Lump. Publicity for Jopling to keep him in his loft conversion or is it stockbroker manse? Publicity for dull-witted hacks on a hundred lifestyle mags to fill column inches instead of having to either read, investigate or think. Disposable culture bred on internet searches and generic theme writing born of laziness and bad teaching. The roots of our present malaise stretch far back into the teenage bedrooms and back of class Hello and GQ obsessed teenagers who have been coached in lifestyle living instead of values, grammar or numeracy.

The path to suburban Ikeadom is laced with diamond skulls, footballers wives and cocaine highs but nothing that lasts longer than a corporate blowjob or a pot noodle. Greed is all and pot noodle culture is what we feed our young from the Tate Modern to the inner-city community project where getting a five -second rap from a disgruntled teenager and wrapping it in special effects so that the published ‘outcomes’ satisfy some notion of ’substance’ for the funding body is all.

White breadism…..not something wholesome or genuinely meaningful is frowned on - fast food culture breeds fast food artists.

Shit in…shit out.

BELCHERESQUE...
real criticism not nepotism
http://belcheresque.wordpress.com/

16 July 2007

Belcher, UK: Abusing Art

The Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, England is to show a 100 paintings by Saatchi ’star’ Stella Vine. This is my response to her interview in U.K. broadsheet The Observer newspaper where she was afforded two pages of coverage.




Spot the real artist...

I once saw a couple of Vine's paintings in a Stuckist show in the East End of London apparently the same one where Don Saatchi 'discovered' her. The Observer feature reproduced a family painting in its feature and mentioned that portraits of the Ipswich prostitutes would also be in the show. Sadly more of the reporter's questions concentrated on Ms. Vine's abusive or not-abusive past ( a la Emin) than on the work...indeed one felt for the interviewee as almost all comment on the formal structure of her work was negated in pursuit of 'good copy'. Trying to separate a fairly ordinary painter from the hype is difficult but it increasingly appears that Saatchi has given this particular 'Fair Lady' the Rex Harrison makeover. My objection is that because of his power he can do this to virtually any artist (maybe this was an artworld insiders bet?) and the laughable 'art-world' we now left with post Saatchi falls into place behind like a herd of lapdogs to praise her 'ability'...

The Museum of Modern Art Oxford was one of the best new galleries in the country in the late 1970's and early 1980's showing a range of work..Rodchencko, Mayakovsky, New French Painting that as a young art student I felt priviliged to attend. That standards have slipped this far that its latest director opts for a sensational yet threadbare parade of a troubled individuals amateurism is beyond a joke. Whatever Stella Vine is ...media personality, affable ex-stripper, troubled individual the one thing any fairly art-educated person can say is she is not a painter. So why is an institution like MOMA doing this?

Are they so impressed by her ability they could not resist her charms? No like any Blairite art institution it has scrabbled along with dwindling funding over the last two decades and has learnt to 'sell itself' for the greater good. A coffee bar was the first 'improvement' the new director made and as a son of a government official of such standing he was made an Oxford University College Dean it was no surprise that his improvements were waved through unopposed. Oxford is still a city controlled by a mediaeval and arrogant University system.

So when an opportunity to raise column inches ( note Observer already) who could resist Ms. Vine. Thus a cash starved and publicity-seeking art organisation chases bankrupt art simply because images of Princess Diana and Pete Docherty might 1) draw in public and 2) mention of Saatchi will ring the publicity bells....which it already has.

To attack this art as neglible, badly-painted sensationalist drivel will bring also the wrath of should have known better post-feminist critics who shamefully will do anything for a quick buck and a place in limelight. That Germaine Greer even thinks she can put her name to this show's catalogue shows that not only the artworld is living on a morally bankrupt plateau we have previously only imagined. I do not care if I am labelled a 'anti-feminist' for pointing out their shortcomings for the simple reason that I am not and never will be but I am simply pointing out crap art when I see it and the hordes of univerity hack-feminists dribbling over Tracy Emin will probably produce yet more academic tomes about the 'importance' of this latest 'she-warrior' for the arts. It is complete rubbish. The best female artists are still around they are simply not a party to the Saatchi circus.

If one wants a chilling vision of just how vile the new Saatchi driven artworld is then spend a few minutes watching the flood of inane, amateurish and frankly sexist images that flood his gateway to the stars i.e. Saatchi Gallery online. Born of a belief in 'access for all' it is like a X Factor for bad art. Vote for me, look at me, give me a show the poor fools who subscribe seem to be saying..gimme gimme gimme ....is this present generations mantra and they are being suckered in the same way Barnum spewed out his mantras..you can fool some of the people all of the time.

There is nothing 'good' about any of this. It cheapens the art world - it gives young students a prostitution mantra to do anything to be noticed...'wow factor' the colleges now inculcate any budding artist with from day one of their foundation courses. Don't bother learning to paint or draw you too can be a Stella Vine just make it newsworthy...prostitutes, murderers, rapists..then tell people it post-feminist investigation....bollocks.

It is pathetic both as an intellectual idea and as actual art. All you need as a female artist is to confront the dragons of the patriarchy and you too can be Saint Joan of Art, or Stella or Tracy. Meanwhile the power remains clenched firmly in the abusers fist. After Saatchi a host of charlatan dealers swarmed around the disorientated Ms.Vine and made cheap deals like a pack of internet groomers. Meaning is lost in this kind of vacuous society. Art values are destroyed. Who is top of the heap is determined by people who know nothing about the intrinsic values of art but only commerce and making insider bets to increase their standing. How many of those dealers were women one wonders...?

As art the show at MOMA will be amongst the very worst that poor institution has displayed in its history. It is perhaps the final nail in a downward slide in the art-world in general that has sold itself for a handful of silver. Our magazines, our websites, our galleries are tainted and we are the poorer....cheap trash is IN buddy!! so dumb down and wallow in the mire...capitalism stuffs the revolutionaries mouths with silver before the corpses are cold...

Does this matter?Yes, a country and a society that sells itself like a cheap stripper is demeaned. I visited Valencia in Spain last week and the difference in overall attitude, funding, and most importantly erudite discussion of art was so marked as to be shocking.
The Spanish system has in inate understanding of the intrinsic merit of artists and what they produce. It does not abuse its artists or treat them like call girls and strippers (male or female). The sexist agenda at work here is strengthened by tawdry and sensationalist shows like this. Women are once again the victims of a system that is patrimonial. I did not see a single female artist accorded such treatment in Spain.

I despise our present greedy, neurotic, ill-educated, sexist and arrogant yet impoverished system. It is time true values were once again brought back to be top of the agenda. Call me rightist etc etc but when the BFI is collapsing and a commentator in the same paper can lament the fact that after a 10 fold increase in funding the film industry is collapsing perhaps it time to point out that despite 6 billion in arts funding we have more artists than ever, more galleries than ever, more publicity than ever...and guess what... 90% of it is all shite.

p.s. In Valencia I saw a show of photographs of Frida Khalo......she was strong, talented and a beacon of light throughout her life right to her death-bed....Vine and Emin are nowhere near...Khalo did not need a Saatchi to become famous and she would probably have spat in his face...if only people like that were feted..but Saatchi likes to pick artists that cannot fight back...

BELCHERESQUE...
real criticism not nepotism
http://belcheresque.wordpress.com

14 July 2007

Leonard Bullock: I’m old enough…



Is it permissible to speak about artworld nepotism on this forum, or in any environment for that matter? Many of us who have established networks with our sympathetic colleagues often hear other reasons for someone achieving a remarkable string of successes.

This isn’t in the least cynical. Actually, the notion that these things are due a different dispensation of respect because they’re “private” only promotes more nepotism. One could argue that it’s far more cynical to maintain this kind of stoic silence when conflicts of interest are the rule. It’s tantamount to capitulation: silent capitulation.

Hey, I am not always willing to play along with these things, and at least in part, it’s due to some circumstances of my childhood. I have reached a certain age. Let’s say a ripe age. I’ve lived here in Switzerland for more than ten years now, but I admit that I haven’t acquiesced to many of the local politesse; particularly those that encourage one not to voice objection. Not to say there aren’t people here who can shout “foul!” Predominantly, though, this society doesn’t encourage outspokenness.

This I recognize from my own country. I should be more specific; although I’m an American my origins are first “southern,” meaning the southeast of north America: the Old South. When I was growing up in the 60’s there was, to put it mildly, quite a lot of political turmoil. Some of you may know it by reputation, or remember the news of that time, and some of the prominent figures. Martin Luther King comes to mind, of course. It was called many things. The movement. The civil rights struggle. There was the voting rights act of 1964, which guaranteed access to voting for people of color in the southern states.

You can still see the demonstrations, the speeches of Martin Luther King, and the riots on YouTube. That doesn’t always tell you much, but it gives one a visceral sense of the intensity of that moment.

Support for the movement divided communities, divided families, mine included; it was almost something impossible to evade. Passiveness could be taken to be support for the old system. I remember people expressing the opinion that they’d just wish that things could stay the way they were. They didn’t like the uproar. They avoided the polemic. They believed that if they resisted passively that things would quiet down eventually.

Well, that’s not what happened.

People who’ve lived through things like this have the inclination to believe things don’t change unless someone, (or many), speak out. So I apologize for being of that mold; and believing that is also to believe in the Will, I suppose. One doesn’t believe in speaking out if one is a fatalist, or has a deterministic weltanschauung. One speaks out in the belief that it can mean something.

Now, I believe that it is clear that I’m speaking about a kind of engagement in the politics of the art world, however small or large that might be in each artist’s or critic’s, or curator’s time in it. It’s not a fine distinction. I’m speaking about the distinction between active politics in ones own realm and the invocation of “political” themes: the supposed genre of “political art.” (In the 19th and early 20th century much of what we call “political art” today would have been called history art.)

Example: Gerhard Richter’s “RAF” (Rote Armee Faktion / Baader-Meinhoff) series which caused quite a stir in New York during its exhibition at MOMA. That would probably have been registered as history painting in the 19th century. As Manet’s Death of Maximillion was received as historical art, although the subject was an occurrence of the day. It was a contemporary subject.

Richter’s “RAF” caused a great deal of debate not because it selected the RAF as its subject, but because there were those, Jed Perl included, who weren’t convinced that Richter’s invocation of this particular aspect of living memory when rendered in photorealist technique was convincing as a work of art. The claim was that it depended on the selection of an extrinsic value, the memory of the era of the RAF, to inform these works, to support them, but this wasn’t to be seen in any way within the works themselves. Perl even argued that perhaps this series, after having done the job of invocation of a subject, were disposable. In other words the paintings themselves were without aura; they were empty signifiers. In effect like throwing ones voice.

OK, I don’t want to weigh in on this aspect of the question. My desire is to illustrate an example of how one particular aspect of “political art” might be described. The Richter series being one of the most prominent of the genre.

Frequently, what we receive as political, or which causes a “political” response, occurs through the variables of context. In the midst of the central American civil wars of the 80’s there was an exhibition in London of Titian’s The Flaying of Marsayas. It depicts the aftermath of Marsayas’s musical competition with the god Apollo. Having lost, he is subject to Apollo’s will, and Apollo has decided to have Marsayas flayed (skin peeled off) alive. At that moment, it struck a chord in the debate on the Contras, C.I.A. and torture to achieve political ends. A Venetian painting some five hundred years old, using as its theme a story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, at that particular moment seemed to many viewers to implicitly reflect a bitter subject on the minds of many. The dialogue stirred by this visceral work of art — which I feel I needn’t argue was probably not any made with any sort of specific political prognostication intended — astonished many. That something from the Renaissance, or the proto-Baroque in this case, could create such a debate as an image for the suffering of a contemporary event. (Later in the decade Leon Golub’s “Torture’ series took its that place as an image for that suffering, more specifically addressing the current event. )

I suppose one always has to pose the question; is this inherently a political act? Can one select an inherently political subject. Can political art have an inherently political meaning, or are all gestures only political contextually? Even having chosen what may be deemed political in the contemporary world, we may not achieve the desired “political” effect. Viewed in this manner it becomes increasingly problematic to categorize what we describe as political art as anything more than an expression of our will for it to be so.

Alex Gloor , (and a partner who wishes to remain unnamed), have recently caused an uproar with their series of T-shirts about the RAF. These are made in limited editions and have been sold in fashion outlets. The response was heated enough that a few of the stores removed the shirts from their display, saying some customers were offended by the use of these terrorists as a fashion item. (I wonder if these people were equally incensed by the use of Mao Tse Dong, or John Wayne as icons of another sort of propagandistic representation? Thus far no one in the western art sphere that I can recall has taken the challenge to use Osama Bin Laden’s face for similar purposes. Perhaps because that would so predictably coquette. Images of starving babies in Africa are being called P.C. Porn in New York.)

Gloor recognizes that there are a number of implicit questions invoked by the representations of the Red Army Faction. He’s aware that in history the first time around these things which rate as tragedy are farcical on the second go round. So what does it mean that there are children running around Basel and Zurich with Brigitte Mohnhaupt’s face on a T-shirt?

The political aspect which seems to be missing is an active critical commentary in art practice now. By that I mean any direct address of the politics of the art world. Active politics within our own realm. This kind of art does come about occasionally. Many contemporary artists have made works of this nature . In some of my paintings I’ve included texts in letraset as with my own parenthetic harping. A little noise from the cheap seats, something impure. Mark Staff Brandl has raised this in his “Cover” works to levels of engagement in the art debates not seen since Ad Reinhardt. The added twist with Brandl is double because when one sees them one is struck by the quality of their making. The dual aspect, not exactly a divide between the haptic and semantic; those two aspects fuse in these works.

So the question, “Where is the critical and curatorial attention to such art making? Why isn’t work along these lines more frequently exhibited?”

Sometimes I think rather than reveal these territories of art, curators act as a kind of prophylaxis against disseminating art which might subvert their position as arbiters of the dialogue.



The Guerilla Girls are a well known example. Beginning in the 1980’s a group of anonymous (women) artists began to make protests in the form of shows, advertising, and a very prominent poster campaign to protest the fact that the art world was so dominated by men. This was a call to arms and an effective one. Since that time the ratio’s have significantly changed. Unfortunately, this kind of activism, albeit propagated by artists wearing masks, is rare. Feminism created an institutional critique within the art world which made the movement called “Institutional Critique” seem irrelevant by comparison; at least in as far as it might have any legitimacy as an active political inquiry into art world power structures. The goals of “Institutional Critique,” that which we view as a movement, doesn’t so much criticize the systems of the art with political aspersion, but it opens up the ways and means behind the scene, and is more along the order of revealing an epistemological syntax within the contemporary hierarchy; rather than disturb the preconceptions of such a hierarchy it revealed patterns. This is something that could enthrall some who aren’t familiar with the structures of contemporary art institutions of all kinds; for those who’ve been around for a while it just don’t offer anything very racy.

It’s interesting to view, or I should say to read, ones way through the “Situationists” show at the Tinguely Museum, to note one has to read assiduously to remember that Debord mentions on a number of occasions his belief that the ‘society of spectacle” had already been achieved in the DDR and the old fiefdom of Russian communism. This seems a quaint bit of youthful foolishness now, because even those who still have sympathies in that camp are aware of the details of the Stalin regime, and many of us have had direct word of life under the Stasi. Sure, Debord denounced the R.A.F. terror, but only because it increased the pressure on the man in the street. Weren’t the utopian schemes of the Situationists leading in the same general direction? The means were distinct from the RAF; the RAF were decidedly pragmatic by comparison. How much sympathy did one have with their goals? I think that it was possible today to ‘read’ this in the show at the Tinguely, but I knew what to look for.

It’s humorous to view this in retrospect, because the aims of the Situationists were valorized and transformed for another purpose; there’s a quote in the museum folder one receives on the show: “Es ist wichtiger, unseren Blick auf die Strassen zu veraendern als unseren Blick auf die Malerei.” Debord. Truly the core critique of the Situationists is anti-art, and it has been reified specifically into anti-painting. If there is a sense that painting is something exemplary of corruption in the art world here is one source of that attitude. Of course those of us who’ve read Debord know that probably wasn’t his main objective. Looking back it seems “The Society of the Spectacle” was primarily another manifesto for a particular aesthetic outlook, and that is the very best we can glean from it. There’s an entire industry trying to interpret it as something that it wasn’t in its own time. Now it seems like the Situationists chose too many soft targets, like the aged Charlie Chaplin.

Is this debate between the Utopians and the Anti-Utopians a political debate within the art? There are times when I would say, yes, of course it is, because the stagecraft that goes into dividing the spoils, the agonistic conflict behind any endeavor is political; and this is precisely the kind of politics which I’ve been saying rarely comes to the light of day as an open motif of art. As it would be, say, if someone made the uproar over the denial of a special 300,000 SF grant to Pippiloti Rist a theme of their work.

It is seen in open debate, as when Benjamin Buchloh interrogated Gerhard Richter on this subject some fifteen years ago. In works of art it is rare. Perhaps that is because those who might naturally undertake these motifs would be given to the Situationist deployment. The read as you go. Read-while-standing aesthetic. In other words most of those inclined to this aesthetic might be inclined to denounce certain attitudes as a matter of course; notions of autonomy, or transformation for instance, or aura for that matter. Anything that smacked of the numinous was anathema to the Situationists, clearly.

Why then do we see so little in the way of the internal art world politics from the children of the Situationists? I think its clear that they are preaching to their own congregation of like-minded aesthetes. Besides most of what this division puts out is in the realm of various and sundry structural critiques. We are in a manneristically formalist phase for Concept Art. It is very self aware. It speaks of itself to itself, and frequently the uninitiated viewer is of little consequence. A high degree of self consciousness alone is not required for all works of art, but one can scarcely imagine any contemporary Concept Art without this as a prerequisite; the urgency of formalization under these conditions is not surprising. (Hey, it was bound to happen. I mean this era of formalism and hyper-self-reflexiveness among the concept practitioners. It’s happened in painting several times. One has to admit it to oneself and move on.)

What I’d like to ask someone to respond to in this forum is this: would it not be logical to think that we would look to the children, the followers, the spawn of the Situationists and ask, where can we find a current example of civil courage from this following? I’m sure there are some. I could rake my memory. (I’ve already mentioned the Guerilla Girls, but most of them actually produced objects, even paintings in their daily lives. and besides, I think that Feminism has a more varied political and aesthetic correspondence than Situationism. In my opinion it was far more practical and radical. It addressed very specific problems that it wanted to change in the immediate future. It wasn’t utopian. Feminism was far more radical!)

It would be too blunt and vulgar to say that the Situationists spawned much of the Utopian Conceptual Formalism so common today, except that in so many cases I do believe it. I am anti-utopian and I am luckily not alone. This conflict between utopian thinking vs. anti-utopian is nowhere better displayed than between Buchloh and Richter in that famous interview/debate. It can be easily found on this machine. Actually, considering the history of the late 20th century any notion of Utopia stirs my contempt. The Spectacle is no longer the big, fully conceived picture in the eastern block, but mere fashion.

My contention is that the attitudes and tools left to us by the Situationists have occasioned little inter-art world criticism and I’d like for someone to tell me that there is some reason — other than an implicit weakness in political speculations intrinsic at the core of that movement — that this division hasn’t rattled the art world with revelations, yes letters of protest.

A few years ago I made my own protest within the confines of my then gallery. I was working with Tony Wuethrich in Basel. He was curating a drawing show that would include some of the new members of the gallery and he wanted to round out the new group with other sympathetic artists. I can’t remember how this came about, but Tony was being advised by Walter Dahn on who he should include in the show. Walter was pressing Tony to put some of his current students from Braunschweig in the show. Now, this is always something to the dealers advantage. The student has nothing to lose, and rarely talks back. By the time I could say anything to Tony, it was presented to me as a fait accompli. I am one of those people who started too young and I am very skeptical about this part of the system. (Sure, I’m a hypocrite, but I’m not one of those people who believes that to be the bearer of new ideas one must ally oneself with the merely young.)

There was enough time for me to make some new drawings, and in one I wrote, in letraset; “I’m old enough to have fucked the mothers of some of the kids I show with now.” I made certain Tony was notified. He liked the drawing enough that it went into the show, nonetheless. Now, that’s not an example of a profound risk, but Tony was my bread and butter in those days. I thought I was also making a statement about the increasingly cynical search for easy fodder in an art world uncritically swallowing anything which could be bought and sold regardless of questions of maturity, investment or personal autonomy, and ... — I could make a long list but I’ll spare you.

Ah, another funny thing about that whole situation is that Tony sold that piece to a very properly dressed couple; prim we might say in English. You never know.

Is there an unspoken law that the internal intrigues of contemporary art scene are not fit subjects for works of art? There are so few examples of this genre it does beg the question. At the very least one could speculate that it probably isn’t a good carrier move to make this the theme of ones work. Where might works of this kind be hiding? Is it possible that they exist but the power brokers scheme to keep it out of sight? Or is it a form of self censorship implicitly required by artists to have any hope of advancement?

These are certainly subjects for inquiry, aren’t they? Isn’t it legitimate to question the power structures of our own field?

The history of political eras is just as often about means as ends. That’s probably why there’s so much dispute, which goes on indefinitely. The most effective aspects of what might be termed “political” in our era are frequently pragmatic and a sometimes a little boring: sort of like unfinished business.

I would like to send this out as an open question: Where is this aspect of “Political Art” hiding? Who would be the James Gillray of our era? Ok, I’m searching around for some figure in whom we could all agree was the genuine article. One that might fill my requirements rather than those of the art press. Who do you know who really bites the hand that feeds them in our back yard?

08 July 2007

Brandl: Kurs --- die Malerei für Erwachsene (advert)

Allgemeine Einführung in die Malerei für Fortgeschrittene;
Kurs für Erwachsene mit Mark Staff Brandl
im Kunstschule Liechtenstein


Auf dem Weg in ein selbstständiges künstlerisches Schaffen.

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Mögliche Inhalte:
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· Techniken als Metaphern
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07 July 2007

Steve Litsios: ‘Art’ Unlimited, from the Battle to the Consensus


I just had to laugh: a lottery had been organized in a nearby town at the soccer field which had been divided into 4000 lots. Two cows were set free and the winner was the owner of the lot that received the first cowpie.

What would have happen if both cows had discharged their waste matter at the same time? One can only wonder. This little newspaper conveyed tidbit was titled “The dumbest game of the year”, probably because of the only cited comment by a spectator: “Still, it's really dumb to come to the soccer field to watch a cow!”.

And yet with Basel Art the main event of that same weekend my mind couldn't help but to consider what a fine work of art the lottery, cows and soccer field would have made both symbolically and visually.
The field, with it's 4000 square grid, the cows messing up the chalk, the crowd, the hope and desire, the opportunity of the cowpie...

Basel Art: I am forced to admit here that I didn't go even if I could almost think I did the Swiss media having bombarded us with a unheard of quantity of pictures and superlatives for over two weeks proceeding the event, not to mention during. Certainly as an artist I should have gone and fed my soul with what was acclaimed as the world's best art, and yet...

Interestingly, Monday's (June 18th 2007) paper had an article by Laurent Wolf, a culture critic with the Swiss daily Le Temps and an often subtle observer of culture and society, in which he questions the artistic stakes of the fair and states his feeling of art being at the end/beginning of a cycle. An interesting read if you know French, I don't no how long it will remain available:
Art Basel: from the battle to the consensus (my translation).

For those who do not speak French the subtitle pretty much sums it up:

"During one week, the 38th fair of Basel and its satellites brushed the portrait of a pacified contemporary art which no longer believes in its absolute power and has replaced changing the world with contemplation."

Starting with the fair's statistics, he mentions the expenses the art merchants has to participate and asks: “For them, the economic venture is considerable, but what about the artistic consequences?” and then writes:

“Art Basel and its Satellite fairs are the reflection of the world artistic production dealt with by sufficiently rich intermediaries to enter the international market.” commenting that only Africa (honored by the Venice biennale) was under represented “... Otherwise, there is no rupture with what is visible with this Biennial or the Documenta of Kassel, Art Basel now has a position of prescriber”.

Explaining in what ways today's art world differs from the fair's first edition thirty-eight years ago when Venice and Kassel were the only places of world exposure and the market was divided by region, he describes the artistic landscape then as a battlefield between “art such as one still conceived it with leaving the Second World war and that of a new generation which made fire of all wood, shocking performances, broke and crushed objects or machines, and engulfed on new visual technologies with greed”. And how painting paid the price of this battle.

This is no longer the case it would seem since: “It's been a long time since there has been so much painting shown and never has the relationship between the paintings and the other modes of expression appeared so obvious and peaceful One explores the same topics, uses the same motifs ... Apparently, in art like elsewhere, it is no longer question of changing the world but to look it such as it is, to interpret it sometimes with a little revolt, more often with panic or even a peel of melancholy. Art did not become completely consensual, it ceased being aggressive. As if the artists no longer dared to say that they hold the truth (those still fighting are rare, perhaps that makes them all the more valuable and perhaps they belong to the past)”.

The article ends by describing the cycles within art history which the author feels are at their end: that of the conflict between the artists and their silent partners which started in the second half of the XIXth century with the Salon des Refusés - that of the technical innovations which started at the beginning of the 20th century - the bursting of artistic modes of expression these last fifty years, and a long cycle which covers them all: the belief in the power of art and artists.

“What will replace this vision? The 38th edition of Art Basel does not bring an answer, except that of the beginning of a new cycle.”

Litsios Website: http://steve.litsios.org/

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02 July 2007

Daniel Stiefel: Vernissagerede, ... eine Polemik


Vernissagerede Abschlussausstellung
Gestalterischer Vorkurs Erwachsene 06/07
19.Juni 2007

........eine Polemik in ca. 8 Minuten

Liebe Studierende, sehr geehrte Damen und Herren, kennen sie das Swiss Art Sharkforum? — den Schweizer Ableger eines amerikanischen, kunstkritischen blog, eingeführt und redigiert von Mark Staff Brandl, (der immer noch nicht am GBS unterrichtet!) Dort finden sie die kritischen Stimmen zu zeitgenössischer und unzeitgenössischer Kunst, die sich von den offiziellen Organen manchmal, aber hoffentlich immer öfter, wohltuend unterscheiden.

Kunstvermittlung ist keine Einbahnstrasse. Der Betrachter kann seine Meinung bekunden, wird in diesem Fall nicht als dummes und unwissendes Museumsvieh gehändelt. So ein blog ist natürlich POLEMISCH. Und Polemik steht Künstlerinnen und Künstlern sehr wohl an. Ist geradezu ihr Brot, wenn die Kunstgesellschaft immer und immer noch Provokation fordert, und Unbequemes.

Marcel Duchamps Pissoir war vor bald 100 Jahren als polemischer Antimuseumsschocker gedacht, heute klebt es jedem Museumskurator im Mundwinkel. Ja die gesamte zeitgenössische globale Hochkunst hat aus diesem Schüsselchen getrunken, die Museen gefüllt.

Uns fehlt die Polemik über Kunst - Polemik. Als Publikum versiegt unser Interesse, wenn wir nicht auf sie reagieren können, es ist nicht wie fernsehen, und was bringt eine Kunst ohne Publikum? Die Vervielfachung des künstlerischen Angebots in den letzten 10 bis 15 Jahren (Museen, Kunsthallen, Events usw. ) hat keine Hebung des Interesses für Kunst gebracht, es bleibt bei 5 bis max. 10 Prozent der Bevölkerung, die das Angebot mehr oder weniger regelmässig nutzt. Weitere 40 Prozent waren schon mal da mal dort, man nennt sie Eventgänger, aber die Hälfte der Bevölkerung lebt ohne Wahrnehmung des Kunstangebots.

Für St.Gallen heisst das: die Panzerplattentüren des Kunstmuseums haben dem grössern Teil der Bevölkerung erfolgreich widerstanden! Ich vergass zu erwähnen, dass bei den fünf bis zehn Prozent der am Kunstangebot Interessierten auch Theater, Tanz und Konzert, kurz alles Hochkunstkarätige berücksichtigt wurde..
Soviel zur provokativen Wirkung!

Dabei geht die Provokation in Gegenrichtung: Grosse Teile der Bevölkerung schauen nicht, und hören kaum in diese Kultur da hinein. Das ist für mich die GRÖSSTE PROVOKATION. Gut, man arbeitet ja daran. Für mehr Oeffentlichkeit dürften sicher die aufgeblasenen Preise für Kunst sorgen, die so gern verbreitet werden und den Wägschauern immerhin den Fetischwert der Kunst beweisen. Oder die überall startenden Biennalen und Ausstellungen: Noch nie wurde ich soviel auf sie angesprochen, von allerart Menschen und Medien, wie dies Jahr. Die Kunst ist im Focus. Die Menschenschlangen lang. Es riecht aber auch irgendwie nach neulicher Papsteuphorie, nach dem ewigen Pathos abgeschnittener Malerohren, oder nach dem Märchen der toten Königin der Herzen.

Kurzum, es riecht nach Publikumserfolg. Aber es riecht weniger nach besessen, als nach beflissen!

Jetzt werden sie, meine Damen und Herren, zurecht sagen, Was will denn der? Die Beachtung steigt, und Gewohnheit macht schön......... Ist offenbar auch wieder nicht recht. Nein, das Publikum ist natürlich herzlich eingeladen. Je zahlreicher, desto besser.

Das Problem liegt für mich anderswo. Es liegt an der Schnittstelle zwischen Kunst und Publikum. Lassen Sie mich das polemisch an zwei Beispielen erklären: Eine Heidi - Neuverfilmung die man sah, und desgleichen 2 bekannte Werke von Pippilotti Rist.

Die St.Galler ahnen schon....., aber ich will die Lotteriefondsbeitragspolitik beiseite lassen, ich hab nur die Namen von da! Die Werke, von denen ich
spreche, sind bezahlt! Die mancherseits als drittklassige Schriftstellerin qualfizierte Johanna Spiry schreibt ein erstklassiges Buch. Das sagen mir viele, viele Frauen über das Heidi: Ein Lieblingsmädchenbuch, ein persönlich wichtiges Buch, mit einem für seine Zeit (1854) äusserst, fortschrittlichen Mädchenbild. Heidi, das ‚taffe’ girl, wird von Mädchen aller Nationen und aller Alter bis heute verstanden, geliebt und geachtet. Während viele Jungen zum ersten mal darin erfahren, dass wir Buben alle
irgendwo Hosenpeter sind!

Die Neuverfilmung relativiert dieses von Mädchen so geschätzte Selbstbild allerdings in pointierter Weise: die Idee der Einführung des Computers soll zwar Zeitgenössigkeit suggerieren, aber mit dem PC schleicht sich eine klassische Männerüberlegenheitslüge ins Spiel. Im Original Buch bringt HEIDI dem Peter das Lesen und das Schreiben bei, und das will etwas bedeuten! Im Film bringt der BUB dem Mädchen das mailen bei!

Oh, das Aktualisierte entpuppt sich als das Alte, die Kirche kehrt ins Dorf zurück! Dem sogenannt Neuen haftet hier Reaktionäres an. Damit möchte ich zurückkommen auf das grosse Publikum. Wenn es schon in die Kultur blickt, hat der Künstler, in diesem Fall der Regisseur doch eine Pflicht, die Geschichte werktreu darzustellen, und sie nicht mittels Aktualisierungskitsch zu verfälschen! Je grösser das Publikum, desto folgenreicher die künstlerische Verantwortung. Heidi nun hat ein globales Publikum!

Pippiheidi aus Buchs dagegen schlug charmant Autoscheiben mit Rosen ein, ein eigentlich hilfloses Hippiemuster . Fröhliche Anarchie aus dem Haus "Ironie zur Beschönigung von Machtverhältnissen". Die Macht, um die es da geht, fürchtet nicht die Ironie, die Macht fürchtet allein den Spott! Die Strasseninstallation in St.Gallen hat ja auch so ihre Tücken: Pippilotti legt, bei allem Respekt für ihre grossartige Ehrung des Passanten, der Videoüberwachung im öffentlichen Raum geradezu den roten Teppich.

Zweckmittelheiligung! Sie mögen sagen, dass sei kleinliche Polemik zu Nebensächlichkeiten. Ja natürlich, ganz meine Meinung, aber es liegt im Wesen der POLEMIK, die Fakten anders zu gewichten und neu zu betonen und umzustellen und, wie sie wissen, NIMMT DIE KUNST DASSELBE FÜR SICH IN ANSPRUCH.

Diese Installation findet im öffentlichen Raum statt. Der öffentliche Raum ist schon länger der allgemeinen Aesthetisierung preisgegeben, er wird von „Geschmacksträgern“ besetzt. Was sonst in musealen Sicherheitszonen stattfindet, wird weit öffentlicher! Die Videolücken werden sich schliessen. Schafft sowas Behagen? Gilt die vielbesungene Freiheit der Kunst nur für die Künstler? Allein schon das Gefühl, beobachtet zu werden, ändert meine Beziehung zu diesem schönen Platz in St.Gallen.

Künstler-Innen haben eine Verantwortung der Gesellschaft gegenüber, wie ich schon erwähnte. Und die drückt sich oft in solchen Details aus. Handkehrum hat auch die Gesellschaft eine Verantwortung gegenüber der Kunst. Sie hören das Wort antworten ja heraus! Verantwortung heisst ja antworten MÜSSEN! Das gehört zur Freiheit der Gesellschaft, (ein Ausdruck übrigens, den man weit weniger hört, als „Freiheit der Kunst !“)

Liebe Studierende, antworten Sie als Gestalter-Innen , als Künstler-Innen, aber vor allem als Mitglieder unserer Gesellschaft - und seien diese Antworten auch PROVOKATIV UND POLEMISCH!

Herzlichen dank für Ihre Aufmerksamkeit
Daniel Stiefel (Künstler, Lehrer, Fach: Körper und Linie)
GBS, Schüle für Gestaltung

01 July 2007

Neues Führungsteam für die Art Basel


Ab 1. Januar 2008 wird ein neues Führungsteam die internationalen Kunstmessen Art Basel und Art Basel Miami Beach leiten. Unterstützt von einer internationalen Findungskommission hat die Messe Schweiz die Nachfolge des bisherigen Direktors Sam Keller geregelt: Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, Annette Schönholzer und Marc Spiegler werden gemeinsam die Führung übernehmen. Cay Sophie Rabinowitz wird die künstlerische Leiterin, Annette Schönholzer wird verantwortlich für Organisation und Finanzen und Marc Spiegler wird zuständig für Strategie und Entwicklung sein. Die Verstärkung der Managementkapazitäten soll die Art Basel künstlerisch, organisatorisch und strategisch stärken, ihre Weiterentwicklung fördern und eine persönliche Betreuung von Galerien, Künstlern, Sammlern, Museen, Medien, Sponsoren und anderen Partnern sicherstellen.

Eine internationale Findungskommission hat seit Jahresbeginn an der Einladung und Beurteilung von geeigneten Kandidaten gearbeitet. Unter dem Vorsitz von Dr. Cyrill Häring, Präsident Rekurskommission Art Basel gehörten ihr folgende Mitglieder an: Rolando Benedick, Chairman Manor Basel; Ulla Dreyfus, Kunstsammlerin Basel; Sara Fitzmaurice, Präsidentin Fitz+Co New York; David Juda, Owner Annely Juda Fine Art London; Marc Payot, Partner Hauser+Wirth Zürich/London; Beatrix Ruf, Direktorin Kunsthalle Zürich. Die Messe Schweiz hat ihre Personalentscheidung auf die Empfehlungen dieser Findungskommission gestützt.

Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, 1965 in den USA geboren, ist verheiratet und lebt in New York und Berlin. Sie studierte Literaturwissenschaft am Reed College und an der Emory University und war von 1995 bis 1996 mit einem Austauschprogramm des DAAD an der Hochschule der Künste in Berlin. Von 1996 bis 2003 kuratierte sie verschiedene Ausstellungen in Museen und Galerien. Seit 1996 ist sie ein Contributing Editor für die Kunstzeitschrift Art Papers und hat zahlreiche Katalogtexte und Magazinbeiträge zu zeitgenössischer Kunst für führende internationale Kunstzeitschriften sowie für die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung und die Financial Times geschrieben. Seit 1999 leitet sie die amerikanische Redaktion der renommierten Schweizer Kunstzeitschrift Parkett und ist Professorin an der Parsons New School for Design. Annette Schönholzer, geboren 1964, ist schweizerisch-amerikanische Doppelbürgerin und lebt in Basel. Sie studierte von 1987 bis 1994 in Zürich Anglistik, Filmwissenschaften und Germanistik. Im Jahr 2000 schloss sie das Studium am Internationalen Zentrum für Kultur & Management (ICCM) in Salzburg mit einem MAS ab. Von 1994 bis 1998 war sie Programmkommissionsmitglied und Kuratorin des Internationalen Film-, Video- und Multimedia- Festivals VIPER. Sie war in verschiedenen öffentlichen und privaten Kulturförderungsinstitutionen tätig, zuletzt von 1997 bis 2001 als Co-Leiterin der Fachstelle Kultur des Kantons Aargau. 2000 bis 2002 war sie Projektleiterin der Ausstellung BIOPOLIS für die Schweizerische Landesausstellung Expo.02. Seit Dezember 2002 ist Annette Schönholzer Projektleiterin der internationalen Kunstmesse Art Basel Miami Beach.

Marc Spiegler, geboren 1968, ist französisch-amerikanischer Doppelbürger, verheiratet und lebt in Zürich. Er hat 1986 bis 1990 in Amerika Staatswissenschaft (Political Science) studiert. Zwischen 1992 und 1994 besuchte er die Medill School of Journalism in Chicago, die er mit einem Masters of Journalism abschloss. Seit 1998 arbeitet er als freier Kunstjournalist und Kolumnist und ist unter anderem für Zeitschriften und Zeitun- gen wie The Art Newspaper, Monopol, Art & Auction Magazine, ARTnews Magazine, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, New York Magazine tätig. Als Moderator und Sprecher hat er an verschiedenen Symposien teilgenommen.

Das neue Führungsteam vereint profundes Wissen über Kunst und Kunstmarkt, ein grosses Beziehungsnetz in der Kunstwelt sowie Erfahrung in der Organisation von internationalen Kunstmessen. René Kamm, CEO der Messe Schweiz: «Wir sind überzeugt, dass wir mit diesem Führungsgremium die Position der Art Basel als weltweit führende Kunstmesse ausbauen und die Zusammenarbeit mit unseren Partnern stärken können.»

Lebensläufe der zukünftigen Direktoren sind auf www.art.ch/go/id/dek/ abrufbar.