Monday, November 28, 2011

Liz Magic Laser

I enjoyed this writeup at ArtFagCity of Liz Magic Laser's performance piece, "I Feel Your Pain." It's a cool description of a complicated performance piece, which can be difficult to find (for me, anyway). It's so frustrating when someone discusses a performance piece but doesn't describe what it is or shows a completely cryptic photo of it.

What is it with contemporary performance and video art not being accessible to the general public? We live in a time where you can use technology to, you know, record stuff and share it. YouTube that shit! Copyright and ownership of the work is an issue, obviously. Your gallery pays you to show the piece or whatever-- I don't really know much about the business side of high art-- so you can't go sharing it willy-nilly. That needs to change. Whatever fucked up system exists that prevents me from ever being able to view Matthew Barney's Cremaster Series (a series of movies nearly impossible to obtain or view) in its entirety, it needs to be fixed. The music industry (and RIAA) are grappling with a similar distribution issue but an obscure recording isn't nearly as obscure as an obscure work of recorded performance or video art. And whereas Radiohead's free/pay-what-you-want independent internet release of In Rainbows was seen as pushing the envelope in a good way visual and fine artists are still struggling with general expectation that they give their work away for free.

And if you want to compare music and visual arts as industries you can see how the visual arts industry fucked itself over in the fifties and sixties. While music became more and more widely accessible to fans and inclusive of youth and counterculture, visual art became an all-or-nothing game of elitism and inaccessibility, where art was either a gigantic cumbersome canvas requiring a mammoth modernist cathedral in which to properly view it, or it was nothing. Of course plenty of art was created outside of this class framing and plenty of it has mass appeal: advertising, psychedelic art, hippie art, clothing (fashion), cartooning, fine art and fashion photography, sentimental schlock, and crafts (macrame, etc). And plenty of worthwhile art was created outside the class framing that didn't have mass appeal: "outsider" art, figurative art of any sort, art in the tradition of the Harlem Renaissance, and more. But it was staunchly unrecognized as art at all, and the Art World still will only generally recognize this stuff in "special," separate exhibits. And when the Art World does recognize "outsider" or "low" art as art it certainly helps if the art takes a bajillion dollars to produce, from slick surfaces to studios full of skilled laborers to sponsored major-museum site-specificity to the diamond-studded roladex of the artist (I'm thinking of Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Damien Hirst, and Ai Weiwi, among many others). I'm not attacking artists here, I'm frustrated with the institutions, the galleries, the art power brokers, the collectors and the schools.

The kids from the movie Almost Famous. People were ready to connect with something deeper and the visual art industry missed the boat.

So while music became something that normal people felt like they clicked with and could own, art became something stand-offish and inaccessible to all but wealthy eggheads. In my experience people are much more likely to fearlessly approach unfamiliar music than unfamiliar art, more likely to talk about what they think about music than venture an opinion about art, and much, much, much more likely to be able to list off five contemporary musicians in every single musical genre than to be able to list any five contemporary artists. Thanks, class warfare.


Sarah said...

I watched the Cremaster Series during my solitary art history class in college - one of my favorite classes taught by one of my favorite professors. I had no idea what was going on. What a hoot. I've looked for it since so I can share the mindfuck with others but no luck.

Visual and performance art is super-hard to come by for free and in any replicable form. I've been looking up lots of dance videos lately in an attempt to define the various styles of dance for my own edification and holy hell is it difficult. It's as if the world of dance deliberately cloaks itself in an impenetrable fog of indefinability.

Ciana Pullen said...

"I had no idea what was going on. What a hoot."

I know, right? I saw, I think, the first one or whichever one had the chorus line of women in sheep costumes and the model who is a double leg amputee who had those beautiful backward glass hoof prosthetic legs, and the whole thing took place in the Guggenheim.

It sounds like you took the right art history class!