| Can the art
world really do Hollywood better than Hollywood?
At the risk of alienating a few people, I would like to state
for the record that the art world is in crisis. Okay, so I
am not the first to say it. It has been the case for sometime.
It may have started in the performance era, say late 60's.
Instead of experimental theater, performance events allowed
you to do one performance for a concentrated group in a museum,
alternative space or gallery. People came precisely because
it was somewhat incongruous, it was a once only event and
because folks like Chris Burden and Vito Acconci always created
the possibility of seeing an accident or a spectacle. It was
sort of like a hockey game or a car race. But, art world elevated.
Like the validation that allows some normally tight assed
couple in the art world to go to a Vanessa Beecroft or Robert
Mapplethorpe exhibition and discuss the significance of the
negative space between the bodies or the sensuous curve of
a body against the architecture. What architecture? In the
US especially, we have to lie to others much less ourselves
about why we are there.
Still, I am an optimist. The newest incarnation of this myopia
is the rip off of Hollywood by the art world. I recently saw
a video of one of Bill Viola's works at the Guggenheim here
in NYC. It was of a building that he had constructed which
progressed from normal pedestrian traffic in and out and across
the front, into a torrential cascade of water from the door
and windows, sending people scattering, as if some had just
barely escaped. It was intense, it was well done, it had an
idea (sort of), but once you saw it, there was no reason to
ever see it again. There wasn't any sense of transcendence.
No larger awareness. The idea was no more than a single word
in a one liner that gave no more than a cheap thrill. Indeed,
you left with less, an empty feeling. This is Hollywood Lite.
It's the effect without the substance. It's not that it doesn't
reflect society, one of the important validators of art, but
it's simplicity and literalness was ham fisted rather than
I was in Venice for the recent debacle called Biennale. One
of the more talked about pavilions was the Australian. There,
life size(?) "somethings" made out of some space
age goo no doubt, showed us genetic permutations that were
far too cute. Somehow a polyploidy mutant would probably have
ears like a Doberman rather than a puppy dog and coming out
of its back. Surely not symmetrical. And the little 'pig asses'
- could they have made you want to squeeze their cheeks any
more. Where was the flayed flesh and crazed look?
Hollywood simply does it better - for more than twenty years.
And Pixar animates them. Really well. Have you seen what artists
generally do with animation? It's a good thing they are not
surgeons. I have had a sinking feeling for several years that
many people that would have been artists are instead in the
field of high tech. This is where the fantastic ideas emerge
that create the 'magic' that we too often accept as art. Programs
like Photoshop and Final Cut have made incredible things possible
that would otherwise take highly skilled technicians, or a
sharp pair of scissors and a lot of time. Both out of the
reach of most of us. I've been doing some video work, and
have learned how to do some editing and special effects. Too
often in galleries or studios, I find myself looking at the
results of a drop down menu rather than a good idea. Cutting
and pasting video has become no more difficult than doing
the same thing with the text of the article you are reading.
Now when I see an important and compelling film that has been
hijacked and the best known and most powerful scene, is replayed
over and over again, slowing it down or speeding it up. This
is more of a trespass than an homage. A poor effort at value
by association, it probably isn't legal or at least it shouldn't
First, artists caught in the transition have to be wary of
being mesmerized by technology, and so do younger ones. Technology
is still too often an inside knowledge used by the 'informed',
but soon, when the technology is invisible, it will be a tool
again. New Media departments? How about new ideas and progressive
thinking departments, or putting the power tools and presses
in the new media department and calling it the tool shed.
Go to the movies instead.