[NetBehaviour] A Letter to Goldsmiths art students on capitalism, art and pseudo-critique

curt at lab404.com curt at lab404.com
Sun Jul 7 23:36:03 CEST 2013

Hi Marc (and all),

It's a straw man argument because the author fails to directly reference or discuss any single piece of art (indeed, he conveniently lumps it all). It would be much more fascinating and instructive if he chose a few pieces (or even one piece) of work and went into details. Art is always doing more than it appears to be doing -- especially student art, which often skews sideways in fruitful/accidental ways the artist didn't intend.

This essay is your basic Baudrillard vs. Debord dichotomy -- pseudo-critique vs. authentic-critique. But the best contemporary art "addressing" (however obliquely) capitalism is usually post-critique (or just a-"critical" altogether). That doesn't mean it implicitly capitulates to capitalism. It's doing something much stranger and more effective than simply capitulating or resisting. Ryan Trecartin videos are a great example (they are hypertrophying capitalism). In order to see what comes after capitalism, we might have to get strangely entangled with capitalism (we already are) and dive/navigate obliquely through it in order to arrive at something beyond/other than it. We may have to other it. What I'm proposing is a pretty shitty political approach, but a pragmatically sensible artistic approach (because art is good at doing other things).

So… I'm no great fan of Baudrillard. I live deep enough in the woods (Heidegger, yikes!) to realize the world is more than just pure simulacrum. But neither do I think the solution is to return to a Debordian quixotic quest for an "authentic real" beneath the spectacle. Yes, detourn the spectacle, but not to return to the real -- instead, to see where such detournement leads. In order to do this, art has to risk engagement with capitalism in a way that is more complex/nuanced than either faux-critique or authentic-critique. Because oppositional/resistant critique is binary, and binary models always oversimplify the complexity of what is actually happening.

(AKA: I refuse to be shamed into making overtly earnest marxist art simply because some marxist has a beef with a few poorly implemented bourgois art school projects. Surely there are more than two ways.)



Marc wrote:

A Letter to Goldsmiths art students on capitalism, art and pseudo-critique

By Prolapsarian.

Dear Goldsmiths Art Students,

I attended your MFA show two nights ago. I apologise to an extent: with 
so many artworks on display it was difficult to digest any of them. That 
situation was exacerbated by the fact that so few of the works seemed to 
have it in them to behave destructively towards the others. Maybe this 
is where I can begin: that the type of co-operation between artworks, 
their intellectual co-ordination, is something I find troubling. It 
didn?t seem to me to be the co-operation of a school thinking together, 
but instead the co-ordination of the school uniform, of a discipline 
that had been so fully internalised that all of the artworks, under its 
authority, might comfortably coalesce. That made those artworks 
difficult to be with.

Snippet from text "It is a convenient slippage as it preserves the 
height of that plinth from which the judgment of capitalism might be 
made; critique, where it claims to exist in these artworks, need not 
sully itself in the muck of the billions of corpses, the works need not 
work to empathise with or express the visceral human suffering of those 
subjected to labour until they die because their ?critique? can be made 
from a comfortable distance and the concept of capitalism which becomes 
the object of the critique never did include all of that death and 
suffering. It is here that these artworks find their true affinity with 

Worth a read?


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