As long as he stays on the autostrada of cultural redundancy and consumerism
he cannot get it right. Is art living in the wrong place or is art the wrong place? A sense of urgency is the result of understanding that he is running out of time, or rather, that understanding comes late. There are no timeless concepts.
Can he do art without thinking of art? Both activities are part of the same thing. Both need to be shared with others. The thinking is the doing and the doing is the thinking. Just as he cannot do art without thinking about it, he cannot do either without looking around. Look around like a newborn. Remember the others, all of them, acknowledge your place in the midst of people. As an artist, he stands in his own way. Can he leave the shadow he casts upon himself?
Since the early 20th century, this has been the mantra: Art changes people, art makes for an improved, more civilised and more creative society. Thus, art is not only an expression of creativity but also of the reign of justice among people and the promise of a better future. This mantra is entrenched among artists and even more so in art history and cultural studies. And what is even more surprising: The further you move beyond the artist-doing-art and the art-world-promoting-art into today’s democracies, and penetrate consumerism, the more the idea seems to gather momentum that art is different from everything else and that it is good for people.
Culture in the cultural society is not a practice. Its principal participatory dimension is consumerism. The poorer the degree of creative self-experience, personal expression, involvement and even exposure to information, the more the idea is unchallenged that culture is consumption, and that the consumption of culture is the desirable way to live by the idea that art is good for all.
Creativity, which is, as most people acknowledge, at the heart of culture, undergoes a radical transformation on its way from the artist studio into society. While today most people also agree that art is what artists do, creativity as art-by-artists results in a limited, peer-selected range of objects. Only they show a creative mind. And the artists become people apart. Their creativity is transformed into an alternative to society or even its opposite: art. This is the inversion: what is part of you, creativity, is divided from you. Art stands, whatever the number of objects created by artists, for a fictitious status quo: exclusion.
If consumerism is not a proud word for people’s stake in culture, it may be even more disheartening as a metaphor for a society that prides itself on being a cultural society. If love eludes the lover, what does love mean? If I cannot be creative,
who can? The wound of the Judgement of Paris: You are not creative and thus you need art, is as close as you can get to answering the question of why the cultural society does not prevent barbarian social frustrations like poverty and inequality, violence, racism and ever more greed. Why did Weimar’s cultural awareness and institutions not prevent the gas chambers? Or to put it as above: Why does the cultural society (and the mantra: art is good for all) not create added societal value? Why don’t millions of art lovers, entire avant-garde generations and blockbuster museum shows not do the trick?
Why do people feel left out, excluded, not respected by “technocrats” they say are working only for the understanding and benefit of themselves and do not look after the interests of the majority of common people? The mood of these people who threaten to use democracy as a tool to stop democracy is best pictured in the Silicon Valley term “fear of content”. Media news is the equivalent of bad news.
To lock a society out of its most important workshop, its most intimate and public practice, to exclude it from its own abilities (and therapeutic expression) and to restrict access to its own competences and satisfactions to a gifted minority is dangerous. Limiting art to a (viewers-only) Pay-TV formula is hiding, instead of expressing, what is happening inside the human lab. It is dangerous to marginalise and to criminalise the invisible side of the moon. It marks the loss of the key to the creative potential inside society. A viewers-only art is an unreadable art, and a consumers-only democracy is an unreadable society, unreadable in the end for all, including artists.
In the cultural society dialogue, reciprocity and participation are replaced by ever more subtle forms of exclusion. Who speaks? PR speaks. In this new theocracy, art is spam. Who listens? Who answers? People disappear into the hapless plains of consumerism. Will they ever come back?
How to define terrorism? Since Weimar, the writing is on the wall. The suppressed past of modernity is an active agent. It hides and joins forces with other suppressed European pasts (e.g. colonialism: Is the terror returning to where it originated?)
It is a long way to authorship and it is easy to argue that people will never be able to move on their own towards their potential. The history of art will be written at the epicentres of civil awareness – while art will continue to drag its mantra from fair to auction. Both sides of the spectre are located in the First World, and on both sides the number of people getting involved continues to grow. On the one side of the cultural societies, expressions like participation, contribution, authorship and sharing signify protest. They become synonymous with social and also spiritual inclusion, with creativity, with the desire to challenge consumption and the old quote (art is good for all). Impeach art.
On the other side, the market of art consumers is exploding and the infrastructure for future art markets (art schools, university studies, art magazines and social media circulation) is also growing by the day. The queues in front of museums are in the news and the museums despair of finding and paying for popular shows and rely more and more on private funding and artworks that have been chosen by people other than the academics employed to choose, to curate, and to communicate art. Art is part of most wealth-management portfolios.
A museum without viewers is like a football club in the relegation zone. It is a political problem. The coach must go. But the museums are empty most of the time and if you watch school classes and teachers on their compulsory visit you are ashamed as an artist to be the reason for so much boredom and frustration. The education of people to become viewers is nonsensical; you cannot be educated to be a viewer, to count for so little, to hover on the sidelines of life.
Both sides are part of the same place. People create and people consume. People consume and people create. The people in the same place are not doing the same things. If creativity’s aim is consumption, consumption’s aim is inequality.
Inequality produces elites that act like the poor. The rich people are also growing in numbers. They buy into a world of luxury and desire. They like to quote. They like to quote “creative people” – they would like to quote themselves. They love art. The only revolutions they like are those in art. They want to buy more of it.
In the case of both art and of democracy, a repressed memory of modernism has created another quote, the quote of a future that is out to repair the past. It may be possible to understand that this future is not going to happen in the “here and now”. And that it therefore is irrelevant to itself, that it defeats its own purpose of being real.
Is the tainted memory of modernism the Matryoshka doll that hides the truth?
Or should the truth, as a measure of protection of memory and in its name, be forgotten? Or again, should all the dolls inside the doll be brought to light so we know that the truth exists? Should we continue to taint our memory? It is easy these days to go shopping for alternatives, as everything that meets the eye is a quote of itself.
Can you say, this is art and nothing else? Can you say, this is art and only refers and can be compared to art? Not to democracy and not to people? This is art and cannot be measured against its own past, against memory? Can you say this is a “one-off” each time that only makes sense if it stands alone, if it is not counted, if it remains unconnected to the rest, even if the rest is shared by all?
Only if it is not connected can it connect? Only if it is born in solitude can it reach others? Why should solitude not be shared? Does it exclude others? Experiencing authorship is nothing special. Authorship happens and this is what counts. Why should people’s own potential, their own inspiration be packaged in a box and sold to them? Who went missing? Why should one need to buy oneself?
The job of the sentence “Whatever happens …” is to make sense. The messages of art and of democracy are the same. Nothing can live in life’s place. Maybe this thought is dangerous. Missing one’s life is all there may be left as a choice? It is the old suicidal collective dream. Culture is the promise of a life after work and after the reign of the suicidal instincts of violence und religion, of a lifetime spent free from the fear of poverty and punishment.
Creativity is a method of socialisation. It is an educational tool and a change-maker. It is a declaration of independence. Experiencing creativity is experiencing fearlessness. It distributes the intimate personal experience to others and transforms public life into what personally makes sense. It provides fluidity, and allows for the exchange of intimate and public knowledge. Creativity is not one-way.
Take a leaf from the Future Atlas: consumers have turned into authors. Is there life out there? There may be life out there. The age of life is nigh after all has been said. How is this possible? Simply, because it has been forgotten. Forgotten and not lost. Google (the mammoth of the information age) agrees: There is a right to be forgotten.