This show does not argue for a better art world; it argues for giving up on art entirely
At the very least, no one seems to have read an art history textbook. There is a century of precedents for artistic intercessions into mass culture that undermine the fetishised “newness” paraded here. The most obvious and important is dada: with his Monte Carlo Bond of 1924, Marcel Duchamp turned himself into not just a brand but a corporation. Think of the commercial mashups of modernist collage, or the deceptions of Paris’s situationists in the 60s; think of the redeployed images of 80s appropriation, or even Jeff Koons’s all-surface sculpture. DIS’s mid-market, mass-sophisticate pose reboots 90s collective Art Club 2000, who staged mock fashion shoots with clothes from The Gap. Even the glib inclusion of an outdoor gym (yes, the biennial offers training sessions) rehashes the Documenta of 1992, which featured a boxing ring.
Historical indifference is a venial sin. The mortal sin is DIS’s noxious metaphysics. For them, art is hopelessly tainted by commerce and the past is for suckers. Continue reading
Against the ruin of the world, there is only one defense—the creative act.
— Kenneth Rexrot
A fantasy withers in the sunlight of realism. But as long as realism is held at bay, the fantasy can remain satisfying to an enormous audience. More than a hundred million people have watched the Coldplay video since it was posted at the end of January.
Are we then to cry “appropriation” whenever a Westerner approaches a non-Western subject? Quite the contrary: Some of the most insightful stories about any place can be told by outsiders. I have, for instance, seen few documentary series as moving and humane as “Phantom India,” released in 1969 by the French auteur Louis Malle. Mary Ellen Mark, not Indian herself, did extraordinary work photographing prostitutes in Mumbai. Non-Indians have made images that capture aspects of the endlessly complicated Indian experience, just as have Indian photographers like Ketaki Sheth, Sooni Taraporevala, Raghu Rai and Richard Bartholomew.
Art is always difficult, but it is especially difficult when it comes to telling other people’s stories.