End of Art or endofart?

Just finished 'art incorporated', by Julian Stallabrass, a senior lecturer at Glasshouse client: The Courtauld .This ...

December 21, 2007

Just finished ‘art incorporated’, by Julian Stallabrass, a senior lecturer at Glasshouse client: The Courtauld .This is not, as you might expect, a polemic against capitalism invading art, nor a plea for more state funding. Instead it’s a cogent and rational review of the growing symbiosis between art, state, and capitalism.

In this new Art Inc. world, all art ultimately resembles itself.  Its apparent complexity and impenetrability mask (or indeed contribute to) an underlying homogeneity across the art establishment.  Biennales, branded galleries, installations, celebrity artists and so on, are just so much froth on a bland and increasingly regular global cappucino.
Julian’s review reveals a spiralling interdependency which can be readily be interpreted as an exposition of the  ‘end of art’ as a means of free human expression.As he puts it:

There is nothing that corporations can do but continue to undermine art’s autonomy, the very basis of its attraction   

  or put the other way around:

“fine art…propagandises the very forces of neoliberalism that if applied to art would lead to its own destruction.”   

This is Stallabrass’s deeper, and socio-systemic point- real ‘incorporation’ NOT JUST ‘Incorporation’.  It’s not that art will cease to evolve, but that it may actually self-destruct.  That art has becoming ever more deeply incorporated into the socio-economic fabric and simultaneously  ever less able to performing its true function – voiding our collective bowels of human contaminations of communalism, cowardice and conformity (NB – my words not his!).

This phenomenon, I playfully suggest, is the ‘endofart’ – the fetid, over-concentration of self-referentialism, hybridisation and cross-contamination between interest groups.  The irrelevant in pursuit of the irreverent.
Art, ultimately shall absorb itself. Through its over-exposure art becomes invisible.  It loses its power to shock and disrupt.  And the more assertively the state and capitalism embrace this radical power to change, the less powerful it becomes. The negative feedback loop ultimately implodes the system.

What Stallabrass argues, but never says, as such, is that the art industry is a paradox.  At an industry level, it is simultaneously elitist and populist, and both are required for its survival. He suggests a number of ‘routes’ out of the impasse: the cultivation of iconoclasm, the application of art of political activism and the appropriation of the means of production (technology and business model-creation).  Finally he sees a way out through the final subversion of art’s intrinsic pointlessness  – the adoption of ‘usefulness’ in art.This all amounts to Art Terrorism.  I applaud it.
Drop more flower bombs, dudes.

PS.  There is another response to the required paradox management, of course which would actually see all the above responses as reaction-formation.  Perhaps the integrity of art can best be salvaged through janus thinking…more on this anon…