Brett Jones


Exposition: Towards a Non-Identity Art (01/01/2013) by Rory Harron
Brett Jones 10/08/2015 at 07:21

This is indeed a thought provoking exposition. However, it overlooks some other fundamental arguments and positions. The question raised by the author—'If anything is potentially art and everyone is potentially an artist, what is art and who is the artist?'—may be off the mark when these are taken into consideration.


The underpinning assumption that somehow contemporary art (i.e the continuing avant-garde mythology) should be egalitarian and 'non-identity' based is curious given the values placed on specialized skills in any discipline. Why should artists not be recognised for the skills and knowledge they acquire in the same way as, for instance, architects, graphic designers or industrial designers?  Just as not anything can be architecture, nor everyone an architect, I do not see why artists should be subjugated to such a utopian specularisation. In one sense, we already have egalitarian and non-identity production in the form of everyday design, yet in another design is firmly embedded in symbolic exchange. But so is art, and this symbolic exchange is equally imbedded in the image-repertoire and fetishistic no matter if the objects are authored by industry recognized professionals, amateurs, outsiders etc.


What the people who theorized Duchamp taught us—commencing in the theoretical turn of the 1960s—was that the institution and the market determine our relation to the object, rather than the artist per se. The symbolic object is interchangeable in both form and authorship, but its symbolic currency is constructed by value systems that are woven through all the players and mechanisms of the art world.


It is illusory to imagine an object free of symbolic value just because it is made by an outsider or ‘non-artist’, or that somehow placing objects by such people in a gallery makes a radical statement or contests contemporary values and assumptions around art. These acts simply add to the mythology that searches for the next radical gesture; the latest being art that is not art (rather than anti-art).


It is notable that the author uses references for his argument that are gallery or museum based, engineered by curators and written by critics. Right here in this triumvirate—gallery/curator/critic—we have the machine of symbolic production churning out the image-repertoire. So it does not matter that what is fed into the machine are objects made or found by institutional outsiders, rather what matters is that the industry converts them into symbolic value. This is of course inevitable, and thus the question of ‘what is art and who is an artist?’ is simultaneously irrelevant and self-serving. Duchamp’s interlocutors have shown it to be irrelevant, while the question is necessary for those in the industry to sustain their voice—read authority—of relevance as they search for the next radical gesture (indeed Debord would turn in his grave). And those not searching for a new radical gesture but re-inscribing old gestures in utopian specular frames are simply justifying their roles as another kind of institutional-market gate keeper.


So lets bring it back to practice and research that generates the possibilities for writing the possibilities of the object as text; the object that we know is derived and without origin, the object woven by cultural, social and historical precedent, the object facilitated by an artist through particular and often specialised knowledge. Quite simply, a practice indifferent to galleries, curators and critics, and therefore a practice not even concerned with industry prescriptions of authorship.


What could such a practice look like? I have new exhibitions in my office everyday. My dining room table, the back of my car, my backyard are all exhibition spaces. This research practice is documented and written around the problems of the textualised object as it is rematerialized. These signifiers provide the grounds to which the subject attempts to dismantle the weave in the search for the object cause of desire. This search is for the lack, our impossible presence, yet one not concerned industry subject-identification, and certainly not whether it is art or otherwise.


So why does non-identity and egalitarian based art still require the gallery/museum, curator or critic? It seems like this exposition was in search for what it attempts to preclude.   

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