arch-peace editorials

12 September 2006

Postism and Parasitic Art

Postism and Parasitic Art
September 12, 2006

A review of Melbourne Art Fair 2006 Lecture
Massimiliano Gioni – Live in Your Head: Places of art
BMW Edge
Federation Square
Monday 31 July 2006

The presentation by invited guest of the Melbourne Art Fair, Massimiliano Gioni, as part of Melbourne Conversations at BMW Edge Theatre in Federation Square (31/07/06) argued a case for the position of art within the public realm (socially, spatially, economically and politically) in ambiguity and in so doing demonstrate pluralism and the space for others.

The presentation was opened with a cartoon of a person standing in front of a public artwork of a giant ‘W” asking, “what does it stand for?” to which another person answered, “Worried when things turn bad that the state won’t help you”. This poignant comment on the vacuous nature of much public art was capped with a remark quoting Erich Gombrich that art really doesn’t exist, that it is an expression of belonging and by extension, according to Massimiliano, of exclusion, of not belonging.

Various projects were presented in this slide show of defecating artists working to health and safety standards (no irony here), a car with trailer in tow emerging from the floor of a piazza in Milan (and receiving a parking ticket - laughter from the audience) to a replica baby in a basinet left for ten days in the back of a car parked outside of a gallery, to the hanging of three replica children by the neck from a tree, to gay pride parades and tango dancing in the streets of the Basque capital, creating a space for those who do not inhabit this space unlike the protests and vigils of Basque separatists and victims of “terrorist” acts respectively.

Further sojourns into reality by artists included creating a direct line through a city from church to graveyard cutting through several apartments. In so doing, one apartment was given up by the journalist owner to live in a hotel for three weeks while people could visit his home and, in another, two artists lived in an abandoned apartment in East Germany and made art for several weeks handing back to keys to the organisers revealing painting on the walls, broken bottles, a torn up couch and several other tokens of mayhem.

After art joke number three my mind meandered back to reality and I thought of the man who lay dead in a car in Croydon, Melbourne, being found two parking tickets and three days later by a parking infringement officer. I also thought of the baby left for dead in the car park of the Melbourne casino by her gambling addicted Mother. I also thought more about the phenonmena of home renovation programs and reeality t.v. appearing to offer a more exciting critique than the contrived art “events” .
Perhaps the artists inhabiting the East German apartment should have “Changed Places” with the journalist and be filmed for television for a more authentic encounter with reality. The response to the three hanging children was a much more powerful artwork created by the objecting public by hanging inflated sex dolls from town hall asking “is this art?” Unfortunately the answer is “yes” as the parasitic art claims ownership of both the self justifying action (art as a verb) and the content and quality of its surrogate.

But I was informed that content in art is old hat, so 20th Century.

All of this left me feeling both bored and annoyed. Bored in that traipsing people (the citizens) like mice through unknown and neglected spaces of a city in the democratization of contemporary art is uninspiring enough but to suggest that in some way this is provocative or challenging to a unipolar system in that it promotes an ambiguous interpretation of social, economic or politic structures is empty rhetoric that cannot escape self referential contradiction.

When asked by me about the self-censorship of artists in the illusion of dissent, the ambiguous/pluralistic line was touted by Massimiliano with a sweeping statement about money and art always being strange bedfellows. This may be true, as is said of politics and art not being able to keep their hands of each other, but to accept that capital is neutral in some way that politics is not is both ignorant and dangerous.

When the regurgitated ideas of Marcel Duchamp and Andre Breton are presented as contemporary because they take to the public realm and are mixed with an acceptance of the Situationist’s spectacle in the guise of an Art Fair, a Biennale or an intervention complete with permits and approvals, you know your being asked to only live in your head and not in public life.

Anthony McInneny


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