The Notion of The Professional Artist – Emptiness Reloaded

What is our (the artwold’s) notion of what an artist is today and what is an artist percieved to be for the rest of the world? That is the question we all should ask ourselves while reading the Swedish Inquiry on Cultural Policy (Kulturutredningen) that celebrates a month in the coming week. Or for just the sake of humbling ourselves toward and cultural world, apparently more under siege than ever, if one refers to the most earsplitting cultural theorists of latter days. The considering of an artist’s ‘professionalism’ is a topic for the latest issue of Frieze. In a great essay Frieze editor Dan Fox delineates an image of a cultural sphere where professionalism rather than being ‘academised’ has turned into an emptiness reloaded, underpinned by a term he borrows from the philosopher Nina Power – ‘Nu-language’ (a play on Tony Blair’s New Labour and pop genres such as Nu-rave). The Nu-language of art or business and politics, for that matter is descibed as:

a non-grammatical set of abstractions that have the surface appearance of discussion and the exchange of ideas, but which in fact serve only in order to maintain the illusion of communication and creative dialogue.

Truly one of the most subversive sentences I have read in a commercial art magazine, latley. Fox goes on to discuss the point in which ‘revolution’, ’subversion’ or ‘critical research’ turn from major tropes of once-in-a-blue-moon exposiures that artworks can generate through their physical and conceptual form to becoming stale and commonplace ‘radical’. Now these terms used to infuse artistic value are mundane, gallery-assistant-formulated-post-guy-debord-frankfurt-school-critiqued commodities often found in large scale biennial text material as well as small in-house shows at the local artist-run space. Unfortunately Fox only opens the doors of critical thining half-way through, but leaves us with great stuff of thought. I am certain that artists, curators and critics who all aspire to delve deep into the question of What is to be done (in the arts)? have too often imagined themselves as system critics by default, thus eluding the conventions of the White Cube, the galleries’ economic system or the artists studio as workplace. The artist, curator or critic that subsequently wishes to gaze into his own pre-conceptions of art, life and politics will be described as a paradigm-shift-seeking brutalist that will stand before two choices: 1. get back in line and downplay your critique, or better yet move on to a more convenient field or 2. get out of the business, cause it will not emulate distortions that run too deep.

Sure, I am exaggerating a tad, but the fact of the matter is that the social evolution of the art world follows a simple rule: learn the social rules of the economy and be rewarded. The basic tenets of this evolutionary current will be made more and more visible as the current crisis echoes within the expanded white cube. My guess is that we will see a generation of fresh critical artists, knowledgeable on the economy and thus infusing a bit more nomenclature from macroeconomics, game theory and business models.
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Lars Vilks, the Swedish rascal, has a somewhat interesting text about the rhetoric of the artworld in latest issue of 00tal. Other interesting art projects that pinpoint this economy of emptiness is Alessandra Di Pisa’s Tomhetes Triumf (a book of texts made out of existing catalogue essays of other artists, sampled as to come out about Di Pisa instead) and Maurizio Cattelans The Sixth International Carribean Biennale in 2002. This non-exhibition was a mocking with the mechanisms of critical writing and the signified by the elaborate press releases and press material: the biennial would offer a a space for dialogue and building relationships between the international art world and local communities – of course a load of bull. There was no exhibition and barely any party or other signalling of an event. Just emptiness, twisting and turning its way through the big-eyed critics reviews into a contemporary piece of art history.

Stay tuned fo mo on the notion of emptiness economy.

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