An Artist Against the NEA, Part 1: The Case of Karen Finley

Karen Finley: This is what you get when art and politics mix

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“All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”

-Benito Mussolini

The wailing commenced as soon as the numbers appeared. After decades of threatening noises from concerned conservatives and fiscal hawks, a Federal government budget was produced that eliminated funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

As an American artist, I think this is a wonderful development, long overdue.

Defenders of the NEA make the usual accusations, conflating being anti-government intervention in the arts with being anti-art. They justify the expense by pointing out how little the expenditures are out of a budget now reckoned in trillions. And they make the great leap to define withholding state funding of the arts as censorship. All of these assertions dodge accountability for results. How has the NEA improved the artistic life of America?

The NEA was the creation of the corrupt President Lydon Johnson in 1965. One quick measure of the program’s success is whether the visual arts are in better condition now than they were then.

On the contrary, contemporary art is undergoing a crisis of relevance, with hardly any interest and engagement from the public. I would suggest it’s the top-down direction of arts development encouraged by the NEA and its fellow traveler, grant-giving foundations which have helped cause this great alienation. Far from encouraging a vital, thriving culture in the United States, the handout and non-profit mentality is propping up a sick and decaying model of art as an elitist virtue signalling endeavor.

Make no mistake, the cultural institutions supported by such programs hold the values and founding principles of America in contempt. It’s key for acceptance. The long march was so successful that the entry to the establishment now requires allegiance with globalism, Post Modern relativism, and Cultural Marxist deconstruction. It’s the partisans of these ideologies that get the funding and support.

The art world has been warped by the priorities of the subsidizers. If you want their checks, better get on board with their agendas. Leftists have to taint everything with their politics, their own petty little version of God, and their fantasy of the all powerful state as a benefit dispensing Utopia. There’s no way I want anyone subject to such delusions in charge of recognizing artistic achievement.

Many years ago, I had my own special encounter with a NEA star, a typical example of what elitist culture has to offer.

She’s nothing but a historical footnote now, but in the early 1990s performer Karen Finley was big news. She was one of the so-called NEA Four. These controversial artists were up for the federal agency National Endowment for the Arts grants, and came under intense political criticism. The artists had their grants vetoed, although they eventually won a court case about it, and got paid.

However, as a result of the firestorm the NEA ultimately stopped funding individual artists. At least Finley can take credit for helping end that particular abuse of tax payer resources. But at the time I encountered her all the legal maneuverings were still in flux. When she came to speak in Richmond, at Virginia Commonwealth University’s  sculpture building, Finley was still notorious as a casualty of the Culture War.

Finley is a performance artist. Her claim to fame was hooting obscenities while smearing her naked body with yams. I wish this was a joke or an exaggeration, but it isn’t. Of course it was all about gender roles and social critique and whatnot, so that made it Serious Art.

We students didn’t know what to expect. Would we be spattered with tubers? Should we wear raincoats like we were going to see a Gallagher routine? Anticipation ran high.

As it turns out Finley kept her clothes on, and no vegetables were applied anywhere unusual. I suppose a group of mere students didn’t warrant the full Karen Finley experience.

She addressed the standing crowd gathered around her from a podium. I can’t tell you anything she actually said, as nothing she said was memorable. But we weren’t there for an insightful or intelligent lecture, we were there for a Serious Art Performance. And after her remarks, still standing behind her podium, Finley let us have it.

A Serious Art Performance, to Karen Finley, apparently meant yodeling, rolling her eyes and whipping her head around for a couple of minutes.

It was an annoying and mannered display. I felt the burning sensation of folly receiving the institutional stamp of approval. If that was art, then I’ve seen plenty of schizophrenic meth addicts hanging around convenience stores dumpsters that must be undiscovered geniuses.

Coming from her, it was all so phony. Her actions didn’t seem passionate or intense at all. It was clearly a ploy, a unconvincing simulation of being in a shamanistic frenzy.

My problem with Karen Finley’s art wasn’t because it was immoral; it was because it was stupid. There wasn’t an issue with obscenity, the issue was the failure to present a genuine and creditable work of art. And this is representative of the cultural experience our Washington elites wanted to throw money at.

As a bit of compensation for the dumb histrionics, Finley did show us a few nude video clips. She apparently liked to strip down in museums and pose next to actual art. That was kind of funny. The University was obviously putting all our student fees to good use, bringing in talent of such caliber.

During her fifteen minutes of fame, Finley got to play cultural martyr. She became a symbol, the fulfillment of the art world’s conceit of itself as an oppressed band of brave rebels.

The fact that what she called her art was a contrived, pathetic display was overlooked in the rush to the barricades. Her stated political agenda trumped any concerns about quality.

Finley has drifted into obscurity now, safely cloistered away  in New York City’s Tisch School of the Arts (annual undergrad tuition over $53,000.00), still trying to spark some interest in her sagging shock art. Museums are willing to throw her an occasional opportunity. In 2014 she did AA one better, and came up with a 13 step program for artists whose “lives have become unmanageable because of art.” Here’s a helpful hint: I wouldn’t blame art for the need to seek attention through grotesque displays.

Finley serves as a nice bit of trivia and nostalgia, a walking wounded veteran of the culture wars. The establishment takes care of its own. What they haven’t been taking care of is our society’s need for real art.

The NEA has failed in its mission. They’ve squandered their credibility. We will be better served by trying to find new ways to express an authentically American culture, one than the bureaucratic ideologues of the NEA never believed in.

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“It is quite clear to anyone of an uncluttered mental disposition that what is now put forward, quite seriously, as art by the ruling elite, is proof that a seemingly rational development of a body of ideas has gone seriously awry.”

-The Remodernism Manifesto

“I was not expected to be talented.”

Karen Finley

Update: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please see other articles here for more commentary on the state of the arts.

1917: A Shattering Discovery From The Year Art Went Into The Toilet

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What happened to R. Mutt’s “Fountain”?

For the last few days, inside the cocoons, there is much shock. As out-of-touch elitists in the would-be ruling class are processing an historic rejection of their presumptions, it’s worth revisiting a defining and divisive moment in elitist art history.

Recently, in some random reading I was doing, I came across a surprising story that may actually solve a genuine art world mystery.

I’m very critical of the nihilistic stylings of the contemporary establishment art market. I’ve written at length on its dynamic as both an elaborate con game and as an insidious effort at social programming and control.  Conceptual Art is the official art of the New World Order. Talentless cynics like Jeff Koons and Tracey Emin are promoted as pinnacles of achievement, and showered with elitist money and accolades. These conceptual artists claim that just having an idea is good enough to be considered art, as long as the right people agree.

The conceit of conceptual art, like most of the abuses of this decadent Post Modern era, comes from a thirst for power. Anything can be art if the gatekeepers say it is, and you better submit to their superior opinions. Contemporary art has become a wedge, a means for primitive tribal virtue signalling. You can divide the population up based on savvy insiders who prattle on about a dirty, unmade bed in a museum as a fascinating comment on normative functionalism, versus those mundane types who recognize a feeble failure when they see it.

A certain segment of the glitterati like to flaunt their ability to see shit as sophisticated art as a badge of honor, for some reason.

We are coming up on the 100th anniversary of the totem these poseurs use as credibility for their if-it’s-in-a-gallery-it-must-be-art attitudes. In April 1917, New York City’s Society of Independent Artists had an egalitarian idea for an art show: anyone who paid the fee could show their art, which would be hung in alphabetical order. But the organizers were shocked when they received an anonymous submission, called “Fountain.” It was a sideways urinal, signed “R. Mutt 1917.”

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Marcel Duchamp, sporting a reverse mohawk

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One of the organizers was French artist Marcel Duchamp. When the committee balked at showing the urinal he resigned in a huff. Years later he spread it around that it was actually his piece.”Fountain” was a Dada assault on taste, a rejection of artistic skill, an undermining of the noble purposes of art. Duchamp and his advocates like to say it poses philosophical questions about what art is. Regardless, the piece can be seen as the harbinger of the whole empty, alienating, transgressive mess the contemporary art world has become. “Fountain” has been used as the justification for turning art into an ironic elitist assertion, rather than an uplifting communal experience. It’s a truly nasty legacy.

But did Duchamp even make the piece? Evidence suggests he stole credit for the piece from a female artist, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, an wildly eccentric friend of his. She was part artist and part public nuisance, an exhibitionist, kleptomaniac and poet, who often dressed herself in food and utensils. The urinal would have been just her style.

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The real R. Mutt? Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

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On April 11, 1917, Duchamp wrote in a letter to his sister: “One of my female friends who had adopted the pseudonym Richard Mutt sent me a porcelain urinal as a sculpture; since there was nothing indecent about it, there was no reason to reject it.” So it seems while he may have submitted it to the show, Duchamp was not the one who came up with this iconic gesture. By the time Duchamp started to claim “Fountain” as his own, the mentally ill Baroness was long dead and forgotten.

It would match Duchamp’s character to perform such a swindle; he lived his adult life sponging off of, using, and abusing a series of women. He really was a cad.

It is so fitting the impetus of our contemporary establishment art world is most likely based on lies, theft, corruption and exploitation. But the originator of the piece is not the mystery I’m writing about.

What happened to the original “Fountain”?

Avant-garde gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz snapped a picture of it, but we are told the original was lost. The versions of “Fountain” now on display in museums around the world are “replicas” Duchamp commissioned in the 1960s to cash in on the notorious reputation of the piece.

I just found a surprising clue to what happened to “Fountain” in an unexpected place, while I was reading about a very different type of artist.

William Glackens (March 13, 1870 – May 22, 1938) was a significant painter in the early decades of the 2oth century. He got his start as an artist journalist. Before there were photographs in newspapers, illustrators had to create the imagery. They had to work fast, and since they were covering the news, they were used to depicting the common people as opposed to esoteric artistic subject matter. Glackens’s most notable journalistic work occurred in 1898, when he accompanied Theodore Roosevelt’s troops to Cuba during the Spanish American War.

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William Glackens artwork from the field of battle

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After he left journalism, Glackens continued to make an art of the people, as compared to an art of the Academy. He was a key figure of the early American art movements The Eight and The Ashcan School, realist painters that rebelled against the stuffy elitist attitudes of the art establishment of their era. Glackens and his colleagues were considered controversial and gauche at the time for their depictions of everyday life.

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William Glackens “The Shoppers”

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I love reading artist biographies. So when I was recently at the library and saw on the shelf William Glackens and the Eight: The Artists Who Freed American Art, I was very excited. I knew about him and the Ashcan School, and I see the art movement Remodernism as fulfilling a similar role for artistic renewal now.

The book is by his son Ira Glackens, written in 1957. It is full of amusing and affectionate anecdotes about both of his parents; William was married to socialite and artist Edith Dimock. She is the central figure depicted in the painting of the shoppers above.

As William Glackens was one of the most important artists of his day, he was involved in many major events. I was thrilled when Ira Glackens wrote about when he was a little boy, during the legendary 1913 Armory Show that introduced Modern Art to America. He met visionary painter Albert Pinkham Ryder there, one of my favorite artists. But I was stunned when he recounted a story about 1917.

William Glackens was the president of the Society of Independent Artists committee that received “Fountain.” Another artist on the committee along with Duchamp was Charles Prendergast. Here are Ira’s words about how the  “Fountain”  situation was resolved:

It would be difficult to visualize W.G. [William Glackens] in an executive capacity, but nevertheless he proved a very valuable man, especially when an impasse was reached. The story of how he solved a great dilemma that confronted the executive committee was later told by Charles Prendergast, and he laughed so hard telling it that the tears ran down his cheeks… Everybody perhaps knows the story of the “Fountain” signed R. Mutt, a nom de guerre of Marcel Duchamp which the creator of the “Nude Descending a Staircase” submitted as his entry. This object was a urinal, a heavy porcelain affair meant to be a fixture, and it caused a great deal of dismay in the executive committee…The executive committee stood around discussing the thorny problem. Presumably the best art brains in the country were stumped.

Nobody noticed W.G. leave the group and quietly make his way to a corner where the disputed object d’ art sat on the floor beside a screen. He picked it up, held it over the screen, and dropped it. There was a crash. Everyone looked around startled.

“It broke!” he exclaimed.

By the 1950s when this book was written Duchamp had appropriated credit for “Fountain,” but it had not yet become the cultural touchstone it is now considered. I see no reason why Ira Glackens would just invent a story like that, or why their family friend and fellow artist Charles Prendergrast would say such a thing about the mild mannered and low key William Glackens for no reason.

We now have some hearsay evidence about what happened to the original “Fountain,” which has been overlooked for decades. There’s no way to prove it, but it’s a compelling conclusion to a sordid tale. As far as I’m concerned, William Glackens was on the right track and did the world a favor. If only it had ended there.

The pissy head games of elitist art need smashing, now more than ever.

11/22: Welcome Instapundit readers! Check out some of my other posts to see more about the state of the arts from a Remodernist perspective. -RB

EXPLOITS: The Anonymous Show, 1994

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Over twenty years ago, and all is proceeding as I had foreseen

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The once clear packing tape used to hold it together is yellowed and peeling now. The white paper is crumpled and curled from being rolled up so long in my closet. But I’m looking at a piece of “art” I made in 1994, the year after I graduated college.

I was living in Richmond, Virginia, the same place I’d gone to school. I’d been invited to show in a guerilla art space known as Citizens Gallery, which ran as a sort of an open secret in an abandoned store front near the Virginia Commonwealth University campus. The theme of the show was “Anonymous.” Not only would the pieces be displayed without name labels, we were encouraged to create works outside of our normal mediums. I love a challenge, so even though I wouldn’t get to show one of my paintings, I accepted the invitation enthusiastically.

As far as making a piece went, I imagined a kind of the-end-of-world-is-nigh screed that some kook might feel compelled to disseminate. In this case the kook happened to be me, and the rant was my true feelings.

It would have been a cool thing to make a sandwich board I could have worn around at the opening, but that would have undermined the whole anonymity thing. So instead I imagined my message in the form of a broadside one might encounter plastered to the wall in some little used and disreputable alleyway.

I now refer to this as “art” because a sociological statement is not really art at all. The establishment art world would not agree; they are heavily invested in proselytizing, propaganda, and indoctrination. It’s a big part of the crisis of relevance in the arts, and why most people are content to ignore and/or despise contemporary art.

I typed it up on a regular sized sheet of paper (still on my old typewriter; no PC yet!) and blew it up section by section at the local copy store, taping all the pieces together to form a 36” x 30” poster. Looking at it now, over 20 years later, the words still ring true. It states:

ARTISTS, be brave. The end of our world is near.

Contemporary art has lost the culture war. Thank God.

What is the art of our time? A freak show, a temper tantrum; Perversion and envy rendered with sewage, carrion and debris. Desperate acts by frightened people. Our era ends with neither a bang nor a whimper-it chokes on its own bile.

Many artists are guilty of presenting their personal foibles and fetishes as the nature of reality (for what is art, but the recreation of a moment of profound insight?). These artists are not inspired-they have an agenda. They are self-conscious without being aware. Art schools are cranking them out by the dozen. They are the Salon Painters of Post-Modernism.

And like the Salon Painters, they will become an historical footnote: the reactionaries left behind by the new order. Future generations will judge us. Perhaps pity will dilute their scorn.

The new way coming is not a revolution, but a return. It will be like moving out of darkness and feeling the warmth of the sun. Artists will not use strife and disruption to communicate, for those are methods of obscurity. Their work will need no explanation or argument. It will be love made visible.

So said my twenty-five year old self, expressing ideas I have continued to defend, ponder and expand on ever since.

During the opening I stood discreetly near the piece and tried to eavesdrop on reactions. Most just read it quietly and moved on; some murmured appreciation. My favorite was one of the guys who got offended.

“It’s well written, but it doesn’t say anything,” he huffed to his incredulous friends. He was probably one of those desperate acting frightened artists, so he felt called out.

This anonymous message was written for an audience I knew would be full of art students, so it was aimed directly at them, criticizing their assumptions. It was intended as a warning not to follow artistic trends into oblivion.

I didn’t know what would happen next, or what form it would take. However, I already was feeling the change in the collective unconscious I’ve watched unfold slowly over the last two decades.

Even as I was writing that statement, over in England two men were thinking similar thoughts, and preparing to take significant action. I wouldn’t find out about them until many years later though.

In the meantime, in Richmond Virginia, being in this show only increased my determination. I applied myself with new intensity to locating venues to show my paintings.

VIDEO: When Worlds Collide-A Python Talks Conceptual Art on Doctor Who

Tardis Art

Cameo: Wonderful affunctionalism

I’ve made no secret about my vintage Doctor Who fandom on this blog. Recent comments by comedian John Cleese reminded me when he made an art-related appearance on the legendary television series in 1979.

For his brief dialogue, story editor Douglas Adams served up a piece of art babble worthy of Vogon poetry status. Cleese and actress Eleanor Bron give the Doctor’s time machine, the Tardis, a critique that could straight out of  Saatchi gallery press release. (See the John Cleese clip from “The City of Death” at this link. )

Cleese: “For me, one of the most curious things about this piece is its wonderful… afunctionalism.”

Bron: “Yes. I see what you mean. Divorced from its function and seen purely as a piece of art, its structure of line and color is curiously counterpointed by the redundant vestiges of its function.”

Cleese: “And since it has no call to be here, the art lies in the fact that it *is* here.”

[Doctor, Romana and Duggan dash in and enter the TARDIS; it dematerializes]

Bron: “Exquisite. Absolutely exquisite.”

Pompous elitist art patrons like the ones caricatured here are real enough. They are the type of people that have given non-talents like Tracy Emin a simulacra  of relevance and a facade of a career.

The establishment rejects the self-evident principle expressed in the Stuckism manifiesto: “Art that has to be in a gallery to be art isn’t art.”

The elitist’s response is, “We declare it is art because we say so. We camouflage our unscrupulous power trip with lots of pretentious, pseudo-intellectual banter. We don’t care about art, we care that we are the only ones whose opinions matter.”

The art world is full of hopeful supplicants who will wage war on behalf of the most absurd cultural institution dogma, hopeful their conformity will be rewarded with crumbs of acknowledgement. Their whole identity is invested in acting as defender of the woefully inept establishment artistic status quo.

Sadly most of these acolytes would not acknowledge real art if it appeared – or vanished – right before their own eyes.

Bonus video clip: Cleese and the Doctor (Tom Baker) indulge in a little backstage skit with some Python bite.

 

COMMENTARY: The Doublethink Strategy of the Cultural Elitists

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Hack Conceptual Artist Tracey Emin kisses up to UK Prime Minister David Cameron

“What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you don’t understand the desired outcome, the actions make no sense.

One of the most controversial and least talented artists of the global art scene routinely receives the full force of establishment institutional support, including from a supposedly conservative government.

Tracey Emin is a notorious figure in England. She is an icon of the Conceptual Art movement that has done so much to destroy the credibility of elitist culture for anyone who has a life outside of the Postmodern cocoon.

Emin’s an artist who can’t draw; naturally the powers that be named her Professor of Drawing at London’s prestigious Royal Academy of the Arts.

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Tracey Emin seriously cannot draw

Emin’s an artist reputed to be radical; so of course of one her “artworks” ( a trite sentence fragment converted into a neon sign by some hired craftsmen) is featured prominently at No. 10 Downing Street, the headquarters of the Conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron.

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Any passion at all would be nice

Emin’s an artist who is known for being crude and transgressive; so it is obvious why the British Consulate General New York just chose her to judge a portrait contest of Queen Elizabeth II.

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God save the Queen-we mean it, man

Looking over these developments, you might be puzzled how a practitioner of such dysfunctional ideas ever gained so much recognition. There’s a couple of unpleasant alternatives, each of which are equally credible.

First of all, it’s a sign of the last days for the pretense that there is anything really daring or challenging about today’s big money art world. The omnipresent counter culture is left without a legitimate culture to counter. The cutting edge is dull. The redundant repetitions of an avant-garde that is no longer advancing are playing out in a tiny echo chamber with a very expensive price of admission.

Presumptuous and privileged high society adopting someone like Emin, who made her mark by supposedly being so biting, reveals how safely toothless she really is.

But still, what’s in it for them, the new aristocracy of the well-connected? Entrenched interests like this never support anything that doesn’t work to their favor. They are beyond any need to look cool to the masses, and no one in their right mind takes the junk Emin offers as having any actual artistic merit.  There is another agenda at work here.

Once you realize the arrogant ruling class believes tearing down the traditions and standards of Western civilization will cement their grasp on unaccountable power, the promotion of Emin as the pinnacle of artistic achievement becomes understandable. Hyping soulless, unskilled art has a toxic, weakening effect on society as a whole. Conceptual art is a tool of oppression.

To further expand on this idea, I’m reposting an article I wrote for the Western Free Press in March 2015. It explains the Orwellian efforts behind the elevation of mindless attention seeking as an attempted substitute for values, achievements and principles-as well as the growing global movement to overthrow the tyranny of elitist collusion and consensus.

TRACEY EMIN, 1984, AND THE CULT OF CELEBRITY

“If human equality is to be ever averted—if the High, as we have called them, are to keep their places permanently—then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity.”

—George Orwell, 1984

 

The timing couldn’t have been better. Days after my last article on how the establishment art world is practicing the manipulations traditionally used by confidence game swindlers, British celebrity Tracey Emin’s piece My Bed made headlines for being auctioned off for millions. The fleecing of marks by the systematic Long Con of the corrupted culture industry rolls on unabated.

Tracey Emin is little known in America, outside of artsy circles. I get the impression it’s different in England, where she’s more of a tabloid figure, notoriously milking the old shock-the-bourgeoisie poses so dear to the moneyed culture elites. My Bed is simply a collection of Emin’s dirty linens and assorted refuse moved from her home into a museum, and proclaimed to be cutting edge art. This gesture was what first got her noticed as an art world player.

Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' To Be Auctioned At Christie's

The $4 Million Mattress

My Bed can be seen as emblematic of the non-art favored by pretentious metropolitans these days, an unskilled accumulation of dingy objects supposedly transmuted into art by the alchemy of dislocation. In a home the collection of soiled belongings would just be low grade squalor. Move them into a gallery or museum, and the theory is the new context should apparently spark some amazing mental gymnastics of Questioning and Challenging and Transgressing. It’s a pathetic substitute for artistic achievement, but it’s about all the current ersatz-intelligentsia can offer up.

How did an accumulator of debris earn the establishment accolades which lead to such windfalls? In all the breathless arts coverage she receives, it seems there’s more attention focused on Emin’s bad girl shtick instead of the actual results of her attempts at art. The emphasis is always on confabulating the “controversial” personal reputation and behavior with the true merits of her creativity, or the lack thereof.

Emin advanced her career with media-friendly drunken antics, and by cozying up to power players, rather than making worthwhile art. She made a name for herself by behaving as a kind of pandering clown for the glitterati, a predictable freak show for our would-be ruling class, feeding into the establishment’s most precious clichés. She demonstrates the artist as a decadent tool of personal and societal destruction. She flatters the elitists’ inflated sense of themselves as liberated forward thinkers, while at the same affirming for them that their sordid, debased natures is the final truth of the human condition.

The phenomena of a Tracey Emin is a codification of the worst traits in contemporary society: plutocratic influence hawking a type of nihilism, all tarted up with tawdry narcissism and brazen incompetence.

Watching interviews with Emin, I get the sense she must know on some level the falsity of her position. She displays a kind of rictus in her face, a deadness around her eyes. It’s an expression commonly seen on those with guilty consciences and lots to hide, like Mafia capos, or Lois Lerner. For an artist that likes to proclaim on the supposedly intimate and honest nature of her productions, it’s a jarring incongruity. For those who understand there’s more to honesty than a boastful list of confessions and mind numbing self-absorption, Emin’s rigidly guarded demeanor comes as no surprise.

Emin has now reached the pinnacle of what the elitist mindset offers to its supplicants. Famous for being famous, anything she does is infused with automatic significance based on sheer Name Brand Recognition, no real achievement required. The cult of celebrity cultivated by the establishment makes for a great distraction, especially when the selected elevated display no particular talent.

When quality and accomplishment are no longer factors in who receives institutional support, it becomes a scramble for notice. It’s a matter of who can most offend the disdained others, make the most noise, kiss the most rings and/or asses; a game for those most willing to do whatever it takes to win the lottery of who the self-proclaimed gate keepers wave through to join the privileged circle. Emin, with her toilet stall quality doodles and screeds, is now a Royal Academy Professor of Drawing and on her way to knighthood. This is a clear demonstration that those in charge have lost all perspective of what is meaningful in art and life.

The empty pursuit of attention has nothing to do with the power of creativity and its skillful expression. The highlighting of efforts by figures like Emin is indicative of the extreme poverty of thought and insight that characterizes our contemporary institutions.  The managerial technocrats that have seized control of our societies through administrative work in government, academia, media, and the arts have proven to be very, very bad at their jobs—but only if the assumption is their role is supposed to be providing quality service, support and facilities in the greater public interest. If a more base motivation is assumed, the actions of the so-called elites makes a lot more sense.

Author George Orwell was onto the techniques of these manipulative malefactors decades ago. After his experiences on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War, Orwell recognized the danger of the enemy within, greedy control freaks that yearn for domination. Their goals are not to enhance the greater good, but to accumulate unaccountable power for themselves.

Much of the energies of the establishment are focused on creating a double standard, holding others accountable for behavior they don’t practice themselves.  It’s manifested in ways like how anchor Brian Williams told repeated lies about his role in current events and expected he should still be accepted as a responsible journalist, or how serial sexual predators like Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy could be hailed as champions of women’s rights. Orwell wrote about these deliberate disconnects between actions and results in in his totalitarian how-to book 1984: “These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy: they are deliberate exercises in DOUBLETHINK. For it is only by reconciling contradictions that power can be retained indefinitely.”

The scourge of postmodern relativism as a cultural force is no accident. It’s a top-down driven campaign,  the result of a cabal of well-connected interests trying to remove any kind of objective standards that could lend perspective and inflict consequences for the lies, manipulations, and abuses practiced as they try to maintain control over the rest of us. Anyone allowed to move into this privileged New Class has to adhere to these deceitful practices. As Orwell wrote, “To arrest progress and freeze history at a chosen moment…this time, by conscious strategy, the High would be able to maintain their position permanently….The new aristocracy was made up for the most part of bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, trade-union organizers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists and professional politicians…”

The expectations of these elitists is that they’ve won the war by selecting only useful idiots or fellow travelers to promote as representative of our culture. Orwell noted, “The essence of oligarchical rule is not father-to-son inheritance, but the persistence of a certain world view and a certain way of life, imposed by the dead upon the living. A ruling group is a ruling group so long as it can nominate its successors…all the beliefs, habits, tastes, emotions, mental attitudes that characterize our time are really designed to sustain the mystique of the Party and prevent the true nature of present day society from being perceived.”

And so, to demonstrate abeyance to the new overlords, there comes strange Doublethink spectacles like Emin’s non-artwork My Bed selling for millions through a once-reputable auction house. The art world has been co-opted and weaponized, turned against fundamental truths in order to serve the false narrative of the usurpers’ authority and superiority.

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

TRACEY EMIN IS AN ARTIST

These ideas are all of a piece. The promotion of postmodern and conceptual art by ruling class totalitarians is an effort to tell society, “2+2=5 because we said so, so sit down and shut up.” Well, we won’t be quiet anymore.

Ironically, the most significant historical legacy Emin leaves—besides being a prime representative of a minor and decadent era of art—may be a slur she used as she started her desperate scramble up the kleptocratic ladder.

In the 1990s Emin had been associating with an independent band of artists and writers called the Medway Poets, who she met through her boyfriend at the time, punk rock Renaissance man Billy Childish. She apparently lifted her whole autobiographical angle towards her art based on his influence, though without adapting aspects such as his plaintive humility and dogged, workmanlike manner.

Childish was working away at painting, wrestling with the medium, trying to make it show his own vision. As Emin sold out to the superficial stylings of conceptual art, she started to mock Billy’s more traditional approach. “Your paintings are stuck, you are stuck!” she sneered. “Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!”

When Billy shared this story with painter and writer Charles Thomson, Thomson recognized in it the pattern the modern cycle of art movements have followed. The forces of the establishment, seeing a new philosophy appearing, attempt to destroy the threat to their cultural monopoly with insults. Legendary art movements like Impressonism and Fauvism were named after the negative criticism they initially attracted.

Based on social climbing Emin’s preemptive abuse, these two principled and idealistic men identified Stuckism as a cultural force-a populist, open source art movement that undermines the pretentions and entitlements of the contemporary creative classes.

Of course, the institutions have made every attempt to stifle and suppress any progress of this radical rejection of their smug superiority, but nevertheless the movement quickly spread worldwide. With 236 Stuckist groups currently founded in 52 countries, the grassroots have gone global, reflecting the widespread hunger for an alternative to the empty trash served up by elitist cultural institutions.

Childish and Thomson quickly realized the often crude and provocative works of the Stuckists were just the opening salvo of a greater reformation of the culture they named Remodernism. The establishment squandered the opportunities the Modern age created by trying to twist the course of art to fit their ideology and agenda. Remodernism learns from the mistakes and victories of the past, building on traditions of individualistic integrity and vision.  It’s a game changer, completely challenging the priorities and processes of the contemporary art world. Remodernism acknowledges the soul. It seeks to make art about communion and connection again, instead of a signifier of snobbish social poses-the Bizzaro kind of phony erudition that crowned Tracey Emin, and those like her, the artists of their generation.

The story of the twenty-first century will be about the dismantling of centralized power. The longer the current elitists attempt to cling to their privileges by deceptions, manipulations and force, the harsher the ultimate corrections will end up being.

But an easy place to start undermining their pompous authority is by daring to state the obvious: moving dirty laundry into a museum doesn’t make it into art.

The reign of controlled insanity-officially condoned and practiced doublethink as the only game in town-is over.

8/12: Welcome Instapundit readers! Check out some of my other posts to see more about the renewal of the arts. -RB

COMMENTARY: Art World Hype, Hypocrisy and Banksy

banksy-dreams_00349040

A typical Banksy witticism

Part of what I want this blog to do is highlight certain notable figures of the commercialized contemporary art world to a new audience.

I’d like to help educate all those good people who, up until now, have been uninterested, alienated, or even hostile to the efforts of today’s educated creative classes and their deep-pocketed supporters. From what I see, this potential audience of the disengaged is practically everyone in entire world.

What I want this newly attentive audience to appreciate is how correct they were to reject this garbage all along. This involves exposing the corruption festering away in the greedy and debased hearts of the institutions who have forced these toxins on an unwilling culture.

I also like to talk about inspirational figures and exciting new paths I see developing, but that’s for another post. I do see this as a time of renewal and opportunities. The future will be what we make of it, and I see a gathering of forces that ultimately will change the course of civilization. It’s part of what artists do; on an archetypal level we get the news before others, and help spread the word. Big changes are coming.

But the first step of recovery is to admit we have a problem, and the art world is a serious problem indeed.

Not many people are intrigued by the machinations of contemporary art. It’s understandable, because of the contemporary art world’s unwitting manifestation of not one, but two, Spinal Tap memes:

1. The popularity of contemporary art isn’t waning, it’s appeal is becoming more selective.

2. It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.

Which leads us to Banksy.

He (or she, or they, no one knows for sure) is an Important Artist Innovator of this Era, according to the establishment. What Banksy is infamous for is a series of anonymous graffiti works which feature all the scathing insight that a radicalized high school newspaper editorial cartoonist could muster, and the keen observational humor usually found in the greeting cards offered for sale at Kinko’s.

Observe:

banksy-napalm

Take that, fascists!

Bananas

You see, that’s funny, because they are not holding guns, but bananas instead.

Banksy has all the weight of the elites behind him because he gives expression to the doublethink contradictions they can’t admit to themselves. He fits in with the same unsustainable “Anarchists For Big Government” vibe that made the Occupy movement such a debacle.

The problem is yesterday’s anti-establishment is now the establishment itself. It likes the privileges that come with control of the media, academia, the arts and government. Big business is no fool, it’s toeing the party line now too. But the whole self-concept and self-aggrandizement of this counter-culture hinges on it being “counter,” and that is no longer the case. What’s an edgy rebel to do when your fellow travelers have Gramscied their way into cultural domination? How can you speak truth to power, when you ARE the power?

Since integrity is not a factor, it simply becomes a matter of marketing strategy.

When talking about Banksy with others in art community, a typical comment is “You’ve got to hand it to the guy, he gets lots of hype.” People have been hypnotized into thinking buzz equals significance.

Is that what is important about art, how well somebody advertises themselves? It’s what the art establishment would have you believe, because it plays into their control. To gain their assistance in the promotion of your art, you better conform to their priorities, share their views, and show the proper obsequence. This leads to the stifling of free expression, which in turn has led to the visual arts undergoing a crisis of relevance in our culture.

A summation of Banksy’s merit came in 2013. On the streets of New York City a surrogate street vendor set up a booth that offered genuine Banksy stencil and spray paint canvases for $60 each. These “originals” could have been worth a million through a gallery or auction house, but thousands people passed by the display without any interest at all. In the end there were 3 sales, including two pieces to a patron that demanded a discount off the already low price.

Once the truth came out, of course the works soared in value. The power of Name Brand Recognition kicked in to make these small purchases the equivalent of winning some weird lottery. Two of the canvases recent sold for $214,000.

So who got it right-the hordes of people walking by who saw nothing worth noticing, or the suckers who paid extravagant fees to possess a relic of someone’s networking skills?

Perhaps English media figure Charlie Brooker summed it up best: Banksy gained such art world stature because “…his work looks dazzlingly clever to idiots. And apparently that’ll do.”

VIDEO: In the Art World, the Joke’s On Us


From the old Batman TV show-the Joker goes conceptual.

An interesting take on a change that was actually occurring in the arts during the 1960s. It can be seen as a prophetic pop culture reflection of the shift from modernism (the goofy abstract painters) to post-modernism-the Joker’s appropriated blank canvas as a work symbolic of “the emptiness of modern life!” Could have come straight out of the Saatchi Gallery.

Here we have the evidence. Conceptual Art is a tool of super-villainy, promoted by establishment useful idiots. Funny because it is so true.

Holy minimalism Batman!