In High Price: Art Between the Market and Celebrity Culture, Isabelle Graw has an interesting passage about the expanding roles of those in the art world. She says:
…Every art boom is accompanied by a restructuring of the art system, reflected in expanded demands made on artists and in hybrid identities such as the artist/gallerist/curator/critic. Just as the Dutch artists of the late sixteenth and especially seventeenth centuries broadened the spectrum of their painting, committing themselves to interiors or still lifes, in the early twenty-first century, an expanded job profile for artists has now become the rule, bridging the gap between the art and the market. They are now responsible not only for their work in the narrow sense, but also for the production of meaning, self-promotion, and marketing. In the wake of every new advance by the market, then, come expanded profiles and altered artistic identities…
Over the next few weeks, TINT will publish a series of interviews with Miami-based professionals afflicted by this condition. Clay Deutsch runs the Formalist Sidewalk Poetry Club, located in Miami Beach.
Can you list the roles you have had in the Art world?
Artist, gallerist, curator, writer, publisher
At the beginning of his book on Gerhard Richter, Robert Storr quotes Nietzsche. “When we have to change an opinion about anyone, we charge heavily to his account the inconvenience he thereby causes us.” Obviously referring to Richter jumping from style to style in pursuit of his theory of painting, the quote I feel can be applied to the anxieties caused by changing direction. How have you felt about switching gears? Has it led to more reflection? How has it clarified your goals?
I think it is precisely this demand for reflexivity which produces anxiety. The challenge of our current moment is twofold: to reconcile oneself with the unavailability of humanist models of reflexivity and to actively seek out new reflexive models within the channels of image culture.
Are there any combinations of professions that are more or less problematic? For instance, is it less contradictory for someone to be a critic/curator than a critic/collector?
Any bipartite model will be problematic as it lends itself to figure/ground relationships, simple value judgments and right/wrong distinctions whereas tripartite and higher order schemes tend to produce more dynamic spatial configurations and nuanced arguments.
Economic realities aside, how does having a pluralistic identity cramp or enable your mission?
A pluralist sensibility may very well be a naturally occurring fact that one has to live with and that will occasionally cramp or enable some stated mission, but what is more important is to look at pluralism, generally, as a counter-model to heteronormative stereotypes so that it may gain traction in the social, put pressure on reductive identity models, expand the limits of tolerance, maximize freedom, etc. As Ranciere said “equality is not a goal to be attained but a point of departure, a supposition to be maintained in all circumstances.”
Can we locate this trend historically and geographically? Is it a New York thing? A Miami thing? A 2012 thing? Baudelaire was a poet and a critic, Motherwell was a writer and a painter, but it seems like there has been a recent swell of artists who have based their practice around this multiplicity.
In the 20th century, plurality took on importance as a critical method aimed at preventing false representations of identity from negatively and unjustly determining social value and/or social position. Foucault writes, “the introduction of the ‘biographical’ is important in the history of penality. Because it establishes the criminal as existing before the crime and even outside it. And, for this reason, a psychological causality, duplicating the juridical attribution of responsibility, confuses its effects.” The biographical, along with other modes of knowledge production such as the representational, the historical, and the institutional, came under fire as mechanisms of false value-formation and class domination. Plurality, and an embrace of weak positions, became a way to undermine biographical determinism.
The critical tradition of the 20th century could be characterized as the prioritization of the public sphere over the private sector so that the vitality of the latter is a function of the equality of the former, rather than vice versa. Toward this end, post-WWII artists gradually chose to sacrifice the twin values of aura and autonomy, writing them off as bourgeois ideological fantasies and trading them instead for collaboration and complicity. It is a testament to the resilience of cultural production that, in place of the Greenbergian doomsday scenario – which predicted that the fate of avant-garde art was tied to the health and largesse of the elite classes and would cease to exist once the umbilical cord of gold ran dry – a diverse, decentralized network of humanist institutions emerged to support these new expanded practices. Yet, there remains a disagreement as to whether equality achieved, albeit partially and tenuously, through institutional complicity is preferable to freedom achieved through, in Greenberg’s words, “a stable society that functions well enough to hold in solution the contradictions between its classes”. Is the pursuit of critical strategies within the channels and spaces of image culture, often under the guise of kitsch, truly an embodiment of a flattened, egalitarian social field, or its own form of cultural imperialism, robbing both critical and complicit producers of legitimate connections to their own historical forms of knowledge? To what extent does the humanist ethos of progressive, alternative spaces function as a veil masking repressive, bureaucratic codes? To what extent do these institutions impose their own sorts of pressures to conform to institutional norms and limitations, impeding or contributing to processes of identity and meaning production? If asking an artist to put more green in his painting to complement the couch it was hanging above was the greatest indignity a Modernist could suffer, institutional censorship is the biggest threat artists face today. It is no surprise then that antagonism has replaced cathartic contemplation as the de facto mode of reception for artistic production in the expanded field.