ARTICLE: The Art World’s Destructive, Defensive Irony

Irony

 

LETTING THE FEEBLE PRETEND THEY DON’T CARE: Irony is Ruining Our Culture

Edgar Rice Burroughs has a line in “The Land That Time Forgot” that I didn’t fully understand when I read it as a child, but which I never forgot: “‘I don’t like irony,’ she said; ‘it indicates a small soul.'”

Little did I know that phrase would come to define the days I find myself living in, or that small souled, demeaning irony would become the default position of the very cultural institutions that are supposed to act as the caretakers of the experience of art.

Hardly anyone outside the creative class bubble pays any attention to the shenanigans being committed in the commercial contemporary art world. Those who do check out recent offerings in a gallery or museum quickly realize they haven’t been missing anything.

balloon-dog

Jeff Koon’s Balloons, inflated by more than hot air

Sad Shower in New York 1995 by Tracey Emin born 1963

“Sad Shower in New York” by Royal Academy Professor of Drawing Tracey Emin. Sad indeed.

Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst: Again with the taxidermied animals assembled by someone else-but now with a toilet!

Wool

Christopher Wool “Apocalypse Now” sold for $26.5 million. The apocalypse would be a relief at this point

What a massive failure of vision and purpose our establishment steered our culture into!

To embrace irony is to strike a pose of groundless superiority, to think social status is demonstrated by a jaded attitude. Like many attempts at bluffing and bullying, it is a defensive posture intended to hide tangible weaknesses. Isn’t that ironic?

Irony is the philosophy of sour grapes. Those who feel incapable of producing something with skill, meaning and significance like to act like they don’t want those achievements manifested in their works. But even worse, and more treacherous, to preserve their façade they must suppress and undermine the works of others who are striving towards some higher purpose or accomplishment. Sophisticated poseurs can tolerate no reminder of their own shortcomings. Irony is a form of passive-aggressive envy.


Key questions in the David Foster Wallace article: “So, to be more nuanced about what’s at stake: In the present moment, where does art rise above ironic ridicule and aspire to greatness, in terms of challenging convention and elevating the human spirit? Where does art build on the best of human creation and also open possibilities for the future? What does inspired art-making look like?”


The principles of Remodernism address these questions. We can take the divisive explorations of Modernism and redeem them, reintegrate the fragments shorn against our ruin into a healthy and fulfilling human act.  


It’s an exciting time to be an artist, and help the world move past the self-serving decadence the self-proclaimed elites cultivate. It’s time to call the bluffs, stand up to the bullying, and put the perpetrators to the test. Can their art survive outside the privileged cloisters they huddle in?