From Susan B. Komen to Kony, public discourse is the art “Happening,” taking to the streets and Twitter to affect global change and re-invention. Fortified with OWS, riots, performances, street art and viral social media campaigns, our public policy as well as our public lives are shaped by this expanding discourse. Art for social exchange and change is vital to this discourse. With spring madness upon us, I continue my interest in how art can be shared by the community as part of the envisioning and evolution of the species. Too much to ask for?
Art that lights a sudden, crackling fire in the haze, skews one’s head so it hurts a bit and awakens and puzzles unexpectedly in the night. Yes?
It’s been 99 years since the fiery and radical 1913 debut of the Armory Show in New York, where modern masters such as Marcel Duchamp’s’ nude descended a staircase and blasted open Victorian attitudes and created dialogue. Honoring that legacy in name, New York’s Armory fine art trade show traditionally opens the spring season. Thinking ahead to the 100th anniversary next year of that seminal show, I visited the fair, the satellite shows around it, and three noteworthy art events of the season considering them my Petri dish, my crystal ball to see just where the art world is expressing and integrating community…can an Art Fair still rankle jaded New Yorkers’ perspective? The answer is Yes.
Signs of what I like to call “art off the cave walls” were present. This goes beyond the hallowed old model “art” made solely by artists in studios, or even art manufacturing teams in warehouses overseen by commodity traders such as Koons or Hirsch’s and sold to be quietly tucked away in a collector’s home or museum storage for investment. Instead there is art by modern-day shamans, for the intended purpose of public ritual experience and transcendence. Today, millions of the general public are directly engaged with “art,” scrapbooking away on Pinterest, or sharing Angelina Jolie memes on Facebook, fed with a steady fast food image diet streaming from YouTube and flat screens. Clearly 15 minutes of fame via 2D image bombardment alone does not change the world, albeit engagement with “art” has become a new kind of populist tool.
That’s the beauty of temporal art, from 15-minute fame viral art memes online to environment friendly performance art, anyone, not just the “1%,” can have direct experience of “being there,” in the midst of history as an art-maker and documenter. If one says there is a “there” there, there is. Art establishment stalwarts, Christies’ storage experts at their Armory booth space, spoke cheerfully on the “storage of” temporal art, wherein for valuing and the posterity, only the paperwork, the documentation, must be preserved. However, the truth is that paper’s own temporality cannot trump the art, craft, and validity of online documentation, now sourced from multiple media generators themselves, aka the general public, through Twitter and cell phone cameras. This determines newer distinguishing value factors and the question of art “ownership” now begins to be redefined—a very different model of society. The future we are building is here and it’s coming.
So how did the art world itself bring this change on? Did they build it this spring, and did the people come?
The “There” at an Art Fair
Ken Johnson of The New York Times has called the Armory Show a “maze of art shops” and this year the fair, in order to further personally engage its 60,000 visitors, actually cited a focus on “urban restoration,” via both the commissioned artist for the whole show, urban architect, performance artist, and art-world golden boy of the moment, Theaster Gates, to a re-design of the show floor by architects, Jane Stageberg, AIA, LEED AP of Bade Stageberg Cox.