Tuesday, April 26, 2011
I Want To Spend The Rest Of My Life Everywhere, With Everyone, One To One, Always, Forever, Now.
These days everyone is at ease with the ideas of conceptual and post-modern art. This is not necessarily a good thing.The argument that art is whatever the artist decides it is – which parallels the much-vaunted 'death of the author' (in which which art is whatever the viewer decides it is) – has been manipulated to suit even the basest talent. The actor James Franco and porn star Sasha Grey now blithely position their perfomances in soap operas and porn' movies as 'performance art' and themselves as 'serious' artists. The rest of us feel free to refer to anything we consider 'creative' or special (from a kitchen herb garden to a figurine collection) as a work of art. Buying vintage clothing and clinging to childhood toys have been re-classified as 'curating' a personal collection. The once rigorous interpretation of art has been reduced to mere reflection, the art a mirror for the viewer's psyche. The viewer's own experiences, fears, biases, expectations, neuroses, morality, guilt or yearning for a deeper meaning ovewhelm the artist's intentions.Lady GaGa (Stephanie Germanotta), currently listed by Forbes magazine as a singer/performance artist and the seventh most powerful woman in the world , is the ultimate example of post modernism. She intentionally references, creates homages to and reconfigures not just previous music but also previous performances and performers, including their interviews, on-stage personas and ideas. Product placement and marketing are embraced and integrated without irony into her music videos (which provides a further mash up of popular culture). Her first two albums and tour were titled, respectively, The Fame, The Fame Monster and The Fame Monster Ball. Their singular creative concept was simultaneously the objective as the products were used to both explore and build fame. Germanotta's stage persona insinuates itself into her off-stage (but rarely off-media) presence, inferring that her entire life is a work of performance art. Instead of only producing and promoting a product which can be consumed, Germanotta has become a ubiquitous piece of pop culture. In the same way that art interpretation is now based on individual interpretation, her audience and fans are encouraged to mimic and reinterpret her persona, as expressed in her products, in their quest to find (and then reinvent) themselves. Which is to say, the ideas of post modernism have been embraced by the mass audience – or the "million-fold audience of just one," as one writer put it – and even if they don't really understand them, they've become a means of self-empowerment, enabling individuals to re-invent aspects of their own lives as works of art and become, themselves, artists.What does all this really mean? I'm not entirely sure. But clearly, it's important that those of us who have dedicated our lives to a deeper idea of art push boundaries beyond post modernism and post-post-modernism and [gasp] try to come up with work that's more than just another, reference-littered mash-up. Photo above: The artist at the beginning of her self-invention? Me, finishing works for my first solo exhibition, Hazed, in Brisbane, 1997.