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The Myth of Meritocracy in Fine Arts

The Myth of Meritocracy in Fine Arts

By Dyske Suematsu

The art world has a gentleman

Comments

Jim Andrews 11 years, 11 months agoReply

What people want to accomplish with their art can be quite strange, Dyske.

I have puzzled occassionally over the work of Giordano Bruno, for instance
(who was burned at the stake in the Inquisition). Essentially, as a kind of
mage, Bruno desired to create work that permitted access to the (platonic)
realm of forms, the 'world beyond', permitted the mind's entry to this
'place' and, thereby, permitted change of our own world; it was thought that
the realm of forms basically controlled possible occurrences in this world,
and that if you could write a future event into the world beyond, it would
come to pass in this world.

So his aims were both, erm, idealistic and pragmatic, as aims tend to be:
idealistic in both a literal sense and in the sense that he sought to create
works that enabled himself and careful readers access to the divine realms,
to divine knowledge; pragmatic in the sense of aiming to effect change in
this world, and pragmatic in the sense that the changes might be for his own
gain as well as well as, perhaps, others; worldly, in any case.

So he was fried for magic. He was also an admirer of the Copernican theory,
which didn't help his case. He was a bizarre and somewhat wonderful mixture
of magic and science of the western occult.

Pretty weird stuff and, hopefully, refreshingly different from more
contemporary artistic aims.

Yet it is also somewhat interesting to consider the modern 'magic' of
marketing and advertising, in art, even, in this context. Again, it is a
kind of magic which is the worldly goal whereby, somewhat independent of the
relevance and intrinsic interest of the work itself, 'success' is sought via
the machinery of notoriety and opinion (not of the divine). But not
altogether independent of the relevance and intrinsic interest of the work
itself, for the work itself must carry its own weight after some time, must
offer the world something of enduring relevance and interest, whether it is
sheer beauty or intellectual relevance or a vision of who we are or central
sociological relevance or whatever.

Around and around…

There's one good line in the movie 'Christine' about the bad bad car.
Christine the car rolls into the garage and it looks like a heap of junk at
that point. The crewcut mechanic, who has a nose so flat he could bite a
wall, looks at it, chews his cigar, and says "You can't polish a turd."

Mind you, he doesn't fare very well, and Stephen King appears to have
polished many a turd almost beyond recognition.

ja

curt cloninger 11 years, 11 months agoReply

Dyske Suematsu wrote:

> the only thing
> about art we can agree on is the fact that we all disagree,

I disagree.

I'm not arguing for an objective meritocracy, an actuarial system whereby we assign the monetary value of an art piece. One doesn't need to exist post-Warhol to realize that the establishment of such a sytem is ridiculous. To even think that such a system should/could be established is ridiculous. Even the Medici knew that back in their Florentine day. Yet they were still free to discuss the aesthetic value of art, and I'm still free to explain why I think a piece of art works, almost works, or sucks. And you're still free to read my explanation, interface with the piece of art yourself, and see if you agree with me. "Art criticism," they used to call it.

Once a critic acquiesces to relativism, her hands become tied, and she winds up equating an artist's marketing skills with his artistic skills. The logic goes like this – aesthetics are totally relative [an assumption], some sort of meritocracy is universally desired [an assumption], money and fame are the two thing in this equation that have the most conspicuous objective value [true], therefore money and fame are the standards for artistic meritocracy.

The logic is clear, but the assumptions are flawed. Dyske, according to your criteria, isn't Charles Manson a pretty successful performance artist? Dude, he's killer. The 9/11 hijackers, they also got a lot of press. Maybe it's not just marketing skills, but money gleaned that counts as merit. In which case, each pair of Nike shoes, seen as Beuys type "multiples," are real hot items on the international capitalistic market. Your argument leads me to these conclusions.

It seems there is a third, unspoken criteria for the meritocracy you propose. The artist (or some sort of nominating art entity like Saatchi) has to call it "art" before it qualifies to be considered by your proposed criteria of "fame and fortune." And thus subjectivity creeps back into the mix (and an ass backwards contemporary artworld subjectivity in many cases).

++++++++++++++++++++++++

As in thermodynamics, graphic design, and spirituality – 80% of the workings of a system may be totally unquantifiable, chaotic, non-linear, and subjective. Art is no different. Yet we as humans want to fixate on the 20% that is quantifiable and put it on a pedestal, to inflate the value of that quantifiable 20%. Because we must have something to clearly and visibly track, even if that quantifiable something is only a small percentage of what actually makes the sytem work [and by "system," I don't mean the contemporary British gallery "system" (a relatively null node), but the "system" of human artmaking throughout history and space].

So a few contemporary artists decide it's all about the quantifiable 20% and start making their art accordingly. And then a few contemporary critics point to this truncated, 20%-art (which arose in response to their own truncated, 20%-criticism) and say, "we told you it was all about the 20%." So you get shitty art (marketing ploys) and shitty criticism (tautological academic blah blah) back and forth in some high-profile, sick-joke, self-fulfilling prophetic ballet. As Laurie Anderson said, "It's a closed circuit, baby / you've got the answers in the palms of your hands." As Sonic Youth said, "I can understand it but I don't recommend it."

Meanwhile, art goes on:
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/wwhtml/butterfly.html
http://www.internal.org/view_poem.phtml?poemID"0
http://www.interestingideas.com/roadside/wickham/wick2.htm

ryan griffis 11 years, 11 months agoReply

i would disagree with Curt about a lot… but i think he's right about relativism here.
if you're wanting to use the surface of the economic system underlying the art trade as the 'real' framework for artistic visibility, you get stuck with "i show this art because it sells well," and you never get to 'why' it sells well. it's circular, and takes classical economics at face value (as if supply and demand are real Natural forces). there are whole bodies of criticism that look at the intersection of subconscious desires and economic rationality to try to make sense of this. there are ways of looking at popularity/success outside of the dualist question of "for love or money?" one might even say that it's more complicated than that - what of Curt's remaining 80%? ;)
the desire to use sales(wo)manship as a benchmark for artistic success is merely a desire to replace one myth of meritocracy with another, i.e. who's a good artist is replaced with who's a good salesperson. and a very social darwinist position, in my estimation. (is there really a need to compete for resources through cultural production? how much can we waste?)
interesting discussion though, and as far as i'm concerned, the more questions the better…
best,
ryan

ryan griffis 11 years, 11 months agoReply

Dyske Suematsu 11 years, 11 months agoReply

Hi Curt,

It's been a while since we last had a discussion.

Even your own subjective opinions about art, in the end, would be
tautological, if you deconstruct them well enough. In the end, all it would
say is: "It's good because I say so." You will end up making a circular
reference to yourself. Think about it, no matter how well you frame your
arguments, how would you prove them? To prove something, you'll need to have
a standard. And, that standard is exactly what I am arguing not to exist in
fine arts. Whereas in the Olympics, I could express my opinion about who is
going to win the gold, and I could be proven right or wrong.

So, whether it is relativism or objectivism makes no difference. You said,
"Once a critic acquiesces to relativism, her hands become tied." If you feel
that not to "acquiesce to relativism" would free your hands, you are sorely
mistaken. All that does is to give you the illusion of forming an
indestructible (and therefore immortal) argument. Critics write, not because
they can prove something, but because they want to. At least, that is my
motive. Sometimes I write from relativistic point of view, and other times I
write from objectivistic point of view. Neither view stops me from
expressing my opinions. Either way, I am not going to prove anything. I'm
essentially writing a work of fiction, and that to me is fun.

My comments follows yours:

> I'm not arguing for an objective meritocracy, an actuarial system
> whereby we assign the monetary value of an art piece. One
> doesn't need to exist post-Warhol to realize that the
> establishment of such a sytem is ridiculous. To even think that
> such a system should/could be established is ridiculous. Even
> the Medici knew that back in their Florentine day. Yet they were
> still free to discuss the aesthetic value of art, and I'm still
> free to explain why I think a piece of art works, almost works,
> or sucks. And you're still free to read my explanation,
> interface with the piece of art yourself, and see if you agree
> with me. "Art criticism," they used to call it.
>
> Once a critic acquiesces to relativism, her hands become tied,
> and she winds up equating an artist's marketing skills with his
> artistic skills. The logic goes like this – aesthetics are
> totally relative [an assumption], some sort of meritocracy is
> universally desired [an assumption], money and fame are the two
> thing in this equation that have the most conspicuous objective
> value [true], therefore money and fame are the standards for
> artistic meritocracy.

My essay was not about persuading critics to stop expressing their opinions,
nor is it meant to propose a new standard by which art can be measured. As I
said, "This is not to say that an artwork could not have personal merit
independent of price." I would urge you to express your own personal
opinions, as I also do. That is how our culture evolve.

I must correct your last sentence. It should say, "therefore money and fame
are the artistic standards." You cannot use "meritocracy" again in that
sentence because meritocracy is a system of rewarding money and fame based
on some other standard which is independent of money and fame. Since there
is no such standard, "meritocracy" is impossible.

> The logic is clear, but the assumptions are flawed. Dyske,
> according to your criteria, isn't Charles Manson a pretty
> successful performance artist? Dude, he's killer. The 9/11
> hijackers, they also got a lot of press. Maybe it's not just
> marketing skills, but money gleaned that counts as merit. In
> which case, each pair of Nike shoes, seen as Beuys type
> "multiples," are real hot items on the international capitalistic
> market. Your argument leads me to these conclusions.
>
> It seems there is a third, unspoken criteria for the meritocracy
> you propose. The artist (or some sort of nominating art entity
> like Saatchi) has to call it "art" before it qualifies to be
> considered by your proposed criteria of "fame and fortune." And
> thus subjectivity creeps back into the mix (and an ass backwards
> contemporary artworld subjectivity in many cases).

Again, I am not proposing any new standard or meritocracy. Yes, you are
correct about the unspoken criteria. Before a piece of art can be evaluated,
it must be proposed or considered as "art". This is "unspoken" because I am
specifically talking about art in my essay. This very problem of evaluation
would not come up if no one used the term. Naturally, the use of the term
"art" is subjective.

"9-11" is famous, but not as a piece of art. I never said that anything
famous is a good piece of art. Is Charles Manson a pretty successful
performance artist? I'm not familiar with him as a performance artist, so I
can't say, but it would be relatively easy to find out. Just look him up in
a number of art history books. How often does he come up as a performance
artist? If he does come up often, I would say, yes, he is a successful
performance artist.


> As in thermodynamics, graphic design, and spirituality – 80% of
> the workings of a system may be totally unquantifiable, chaotic,
> non-linear, and subjective. Art is no different. Yet we as
> humans want to fixate on the 20% that is quantifiable and put it
> on a pedestal, to inflate the value of that quantifiable 20%.
> Because we must have something to clearly and visibly track, even
> if that quantifiable something is only a small percentage of what
> actually makes the sytem work [and by "system," I don't mean the
> contemporary British gallery "system" (a relatively null node),
> but the "system" of human artmaking throughout history and space].
>
> So a few contemporary artists decide it's all about the
> quantifiable 20% and start making their art accordingly. And
> then a few contemporary critics point to this truncated, 20%-art
> (which arose in response to their own truncated, 20%-criticism)
> and say, "we told you it was all about the 20%." So you get
> shitty art (marketing ploys) and shitty criticism (tautological
> academic blah blah) back and forth in some high-profile,
> sick-joke, self-fulfilling prophetic ballet. As Laurie Anderson
> said, "It's a closed circuit, baby / you've got the answers in
> the palms of your hands." As Sonic Youth said, "I can understand
> it but I don't recommend it."

I do not get the point you are trying to make here. Does this have anything
to do with my essay, or is this a separate comment?

-Dyske

curt cloninger 11 years, 11 months agoReply

Dyske Suematsu wrote:

> Even your own subjective opinions about art, in the end, would be
> tautological, if you deconstruct them well enough. In the end, all it
> would
> say is: "It's good because I say so." You will end up making a
> circular
> reference to yourself. Think about it, no matter how well you frame
> your
> arguments, how would you prove them? To prove something, you'll need
> to have
> a standard. And, that standard is exactly what I am arguing not to
> exist in
> fine arts. Whereas in the Olympics, I could express my opinion about
> who is
> going to win the gold, and I could be proven right or wrong.

Art is not there to provide knowledge in direct ways. It produces deepened perceptions of experience. More must happen than simply logically understandable things. Art is not there to be simply understood, or we would have no need of art. It could then just be logical sentences in a form of a text for instance. Where objects are concerned it's more the sense of an indication or suggestion.
- Joseph B.

People who look for symbolic meanings fail to grasp the inherent poetry and mystery of the image. By asking, "what does this mean?" they express a wish that everything be understandable. But if one does not reject the mystery, one has quite a different response. One asks other things.
- Rene M.

I can express an opinion about a piece of art concisely and convincingly enough to cause people to agree with me. Or they can disagree and we can dialogue about it. The fact that none of these opinions can be "proved" scientifically does not relegate aesthetic criticism to total relativism. Beauty isn't science, but that doesn't mean that beauty fails.

> "9-11" is famous, but not as a piece of art. I never said that
> anything
> famous is a good piece of art. Is Charles Manson a pretty successful
> performance artist? I'm not familiar with him as a performance artist,
> so I
> can't say, but it would be relatively easy to find out. Just look him
> up in
> a number of art history books. How often does he come up as a
> performance
> artist? If he does come up often, I would say, yes, he is a successful
> performance artist.

MTAA are sarcastically attempting to define beauty as a scientific contstant (cf: http://www.thisisamagazine.com/issue_12.htm ). They should factor in the "appears in a number of art history books" criterion to their equation.

> > As in thermodynamics, graphic design, and spirituality – 80% of
> > the workings of a system may be totally unquantifiable, chaotic,
> > non-linear, and subjective. Art is no different. Yet we as
> > humans want to fixate on the 20% that is quantifiable and put it
> > on a pedestal, to inflate the value of that quantifiable 20%.
> > Because we must have something to clearly and visibly track, even
> > if that quantifiable something is only a small percentage of what
> > actually makes the sytem work [and by "system," I don't mean the
> > contemporary British gallery "system" (a relatively null node),
> > but the "system" of human artmaking throughout history and space].
> >
> > So a few contemporary artists decide it's all about the
> > quantifiable 20% and start making their art accordingly. And
> > then a few contemporary critics point to this truncated, 20%-art
> > (which arose in response to their own truncated, 20%-criticism)
> > and say, "we told you it was all about the 20%." So you get
> > shitty art (marketing ploys) and shitty criticism (tautological
> > academic blah blah) back and forth in some high-profile,
> > sick-joke, self-fulfilling prophetic ballet. As Laurie Anderson
> > said, "It's a closed circuit, baby / you've got the answers in
> > the palms of your hands." As Sonic Youth said, "I can understand
> > it but I don't recommend it."
>
> I do not get the point you are trying to make here. Does this have
> anything
> to do with my essay, or is this a separate comment?

It has something to do with your essay.

MTAA 11 years, 11 months agoReply

Sometimes I think the art world is nothing more than a 'novelocracy'.

Whatever happens to be novel at a time when the juice is flowing in the
art world (ie the market is good) becomes more or less enshrined. It's
lifted into the blue chip and there it generally stays.

But I don't think think that all of the time. I still have my good days
;-)

===
<twhid>http://www.mteww.com</twhid>
===


On Feb 25, 2004, at 3:43 PM, Dyske Suematsu wrote:

>
>
> I must correct your last sentence. It should say, "therefore money and
> fame
> are the artistic standards." You cannot use "meritocracy" again in that
> sentence because meritocracy is a system of rewarding money and fame
> based
> on some other standard which is independent of money and fame. Since
> there
> is no such standard, "meritocracy" is impossible.

MTAA 11 years, 11 months agoReply

On Feb 25, 2004, at 4:53 PM, curt cloninger wrote:

> MTAA are sarcastically attempting to define beauty as a scientific
> contstant (cf: http://www.thisisamagazine.com/issue_12.htm ). They
> should factor in the "appears in a number of art history books"
> criterion to their equation.

or, 'attempting sarcastically'?

hmmmmm. let's mull that over–

Anyway, glad you linked to that; didn't even know it was there.

(to do: put it on the resume)

Making art in our sleep again? Maybe.

But, it's probably M.River up to his old tricks: making stuff behind my
back.

(btw, are you talking about ICBC the 2nd story? It's by Andy Simionato.)

cya

===
<twhid>http://www.mteww.com</twhid>
===

Dyske Suematsu 11 years, 11 months agoReply

Hi Ryan,

I think my response to Curt addressed much of your comments, but here are
some more specifics.

> if you're wanting to use the surface of the economic system
> underlying the art trade as the 'real' framework for artistic
> visibility, you get stuck with "i show this art because it sells
> well," and you never get to 'why' it sells well. it's circular,

Now, this is an interesting point. It forces me to refine my argument. The
point of my essay can be framed like this: Why do we need to ask why it
sells well? What drives us to find a justification for an artwork to sell
well, or for an artist to be famous? My answer is: because, deep down, we
believe in meritocracy. We have a natural urge to find a justification for
someone receiving rewards such as money and fame, because we want life to be
fair. This urge is what I am criticizing to be misguided, because there is
no fairness in fine arts; you do if you want, you don't if you don't.

Both you and Curt seem to misunderstand me on one critical point. I am not
proposing an alternative standard of measurement, or "framework". In
meritocracy, there are two separate components: a standard by which
achievements can be measured (e.g. winning a competition) and rewards
appropriate for the level of achievement (money and fame). I am arguing that
the former does not exist in fine arts. That is, the art world operates on
the assumption that X and Y exist. What I am saying that X does not exist
and only Y does. I am not trying to replace X with Z.

> and takes classical economics at face value (as if supply and
> demand are real Natural forces). there are whole bodies of
> criticism that look at the intersection of subconscious desires
> and economic rationality to try to make sense of this. there are
> ways of looking at popularity/success outside of the dualist
> question of "for love or money?" one might even say that it's
> more complicated than that - what of Curt's remaining 80%? ;)


> the desire to use sales(wo)manship as a benchmark for artistic
> success is merely a desire to replace one myth of meritocracy
> with another, i.e. who's a good artist is replaced with who's a
> good salesperson. and a very social darwinist position, in my
> estimation. (is there really a need to compete for resources
> through cultural production? how much can we waste?)

I am not proposing any "benchmark for artistic success". I have no desire to
replace X with Z. I am simply saying that only Y exists. Both you and Curt
seem to be projecting your own desire to replace X with Z.

How do you gauge a good salesperson? How much money he makes. In this,
achievement and reward are one and the same. There is no meritocracy here.
It's a circular logic. It would be silly to say, "He is a great salesperson,
but he does not make much money." What I am saying is that the same goes for
artists. There is no measurement of achievement independent of fame and
money. The trouble is, despite the lack of an independent standard, the art
world still operates under the assumption of one existing. As you said
yourself, there is a strong frustration in the art world because "you never
get to 'why' it sells well." What I am proposing is that you must ask why
you ask that question. What is driving you to ask that "why".

And even if you think you explained why it sells, you'll never prove it. So,
you will end up again with a circular logic of "It's good because I say so."
I have no problem with living with a circular logic, but you two seem to
have a problem with it. You seem to have a strong urge to want to point to
something logically concrete. That is the point of my criticism.

-Dyske

Dyske Suematsu 11 years, 11 months agoReply

Hi Curt,

'I believe in right and wrong. Am I right or am I wrong?

curt cloninger 11 years, 11 months agoReply

d:
Now, when I frame an argument from the perspective of 'there are no absol= ute truths

Rob Myers 11 years, 11 months agoReply

On Wednesday, February 25, 2004, at 10:59PM, Dyske Suematsu <dyske@dyske.com> wrote:

>Now, this is an interesting point. It forces me to refine my argument. The
>point of my essay can be framed like this: Why do we need to ask why it
>sells well? What drives us to find a justification for an artwork to sell
>well, or for an artist to be famous? My answer is: because, deep down, we
>believe in meritocracy. We have a natural urge to find a justification for
>someone receiving rewards such as money and fame, because we want life to be
>fair. This urge is what I am criticizing to be misguided, because there is
>no fairness in fine arts; you do if you want, you don't if you don't.

We don't need to ask why it sells well.That is a red herring for a genuinely critical project. Much art that is ephemeral, permanently installed or otherwise not directly related to "The Market" is nonetheless widely propagated by exhibition, the media and criticism. And calling such work "loss leaders" doesn't work, many artists who produce such work won't make a living from art for decades yet if at all. "The Market" is an unthreatening nostalgic fiction compared to the condition of art today. Art reflects the ego of its comissioners ("he who pays the piper calls the tune"). A lassez-faire relativism does not realistically reflect the current conditions of the production of art.

>Both you and Curt seem to misunderstand me on one critical point. I am not
>proposing an alternative standard of measurement, or "framework". In
>meritocracy, there are two separate components: a standard by which
>achievements can be measured (e.g. winning a competition) and rewards
>appropriate for the level of achievement (money and fame). I am arguing that
>the former does not exist in fine arts. That is, the art world operates on
>the assumption that X and Y exist. What I am saying that X does not exist
>and only Y does. I am not trying to replace X with Z.

X does exist. It cannot, however, be reconciled with Y . There is no & for X&Y
X = Artistic Achievement
Y = Commercial Success
& some causal relation between the two

is like

X = It is snowing
Y = My iPod is full
& some causal relationship between the two

- Rob.

Jim Andrews 11 years, 11 months agoReply

"There is no absolute up or down, as Aristotle taught; no absolute position
in space; but the position of a body is relative to that of other bodies.
Everywhere there is incessant relative change in position throughout the
universe, and the observer is always at the center of things."

Giordano Bruno, 1548-1600

MTAA 11 years, 11 months agoReply

On Feb 26, 2004, at 2:07 AM, curt cloninger wrote:
>
>
> Is such shifting, semi-commital rhetoric beneficial to the communities
> in which you're involved? To you personally? How so? Does it make
> sense in your daily life? Is it practically workable/defensible on a
> day to day basis? Does it endear you to your peers? Do they trust
> you because they know where you're coming from? Does it inspire you
> and fill you with passion? Do you enjoy the dialogue it engenders?
> Do you learn from it?


is this some weirdly (semi)-cloaked evangelism?

I've read Curt's stuff for years on this list and no one points to the
big elephant in the room: Curt believes in God (with the cap G).

So obviously he does believe in absolute truth (and beauty) because God
is that to him.

There's no use attempting to argue him into a relativistic viewpoint as
it would completely and utterly destroy his world-view and I don't
think many people have been talked into radical re-examinations of
their belief systems on an email list. (But on the other hand, perhaps
there have been, why not? right?)

Anyway,

he's a better debater than me so I gave up long ago (or attempted to)
;-)


===
<twhid>http://www.mteww.com</twhid>
===

Michael Szpakowski 11 years, 11 months agoReply

Dyske
of course in a very banal and totally uninteresting
way you are right.
Right, in the same way as I remember being paralyzed
for a week as a twelve year old by an early brush with
Descartes and the idea that all my senses might be
systematically lying to me.
But I moved on -and I'm frankly surprised that you, as
a declared admirer of that most concrete and
sophisticated of thinkers Wittgenstein, should not
have moved on too.
Of course "in the long run we're all dead" and if you
really insist on it you can play the relativism card
until all human endeavour appears meaningless and you
can just keep upping that relativism ante until all is
dust but, as Curt said and said well, does it actually
get us anywhere?
The point for me is that human beings are *meaning
making creatures*.
Even to use your "market" standard involves a social
and historical notion of money.
The moment you think *concretely* about the question
of artistic merit the social and historical dimension
appears: does your yardstick apply to Vermeer?
-ok..just possibly now.. - to Shakespeare?- absolutely
not. To JS Bach -absolutely not. To cave painting?
Of course there aren't objective litmus tests of
artistic value but what there is is an ongoing many
voiced dialogue within human society between people as
consumers of art and the works of art( but this is to
put it too simply- the social nature of human beings
means that this dialogue permeates the consciousness
of even those who do not know the original works -how
often do we, unknowingly perhaps, quote Shakespeare or
the Bible or Koran?)and this leaves an objective, an
actual, trail of books and performances and buildings
and newspaper articles, in fact it to some extent
*structures* our society.
That's why its so difficult to judge now whether a
work will have lasting value( and by lasting I mean
centuries, maybe in some cases thousands of years..I
make no bigger claim ..unlike Curt for me there's no
eternity) -but we can say that Bach, Virgil,
Shakespeare, Dante have established a *claim* to
humanity's attention which is certainly not led by
your rather facile market test.
I entirely endorse those here who more eloquently than
I have accused you of providing a fig leaf for some
really rather unpleasant forces within our society.
Actually I know for a fact I don't make art to make
money -I can tell you that by checking my bank
account..but I still keep on doing it.I really rather
resent the implication that this is what lies behind
my, and others activities.
I hate to be so fierce.. you know I regard you as a
friend, but when you came to dinner the other week I
cooked you a meal because I know I like you, that
you're congenial company. Is that totally relative and
meaningless? Would I feel the same way about having
George W round the house? Would it be the same thing?
I think not.
best
michael




— Dyske Suematsu <dyske@dyske.com> wrote:
> Hi Curt,
>
> 'I believe in right and wrong. Am I right or am I
> wrong?

Ivan Pope 11 years, 11 months agoReply

> —–Original Message—–
> From: owner-list@rhizome.org [mailto:owner-list@rhizome.org] On Behalf Of
> t.whid


> I've read Curt's stuff for years on this list and no one points to the
> big elephant in the room: Curt believes in God (with the cap G).
>

[Ivan Pope] The other night I went to see a film called 'Elephant' by Alan
Parker. It was made in the eighties. Gus van Sant's film, Elephant, is named
thus in homage. I had been waiting years to see Parker's film. It is about
violence (shootings) in Northern Ireland (the six counties)and is called
Elephant because Parker believed that violence was the elephant in the room
in Northern Ireland, i.e. in polite society no-one talked about it.

I had never heard or seen anyone actually use this phrase, so I write to
thank t.whid for his wonderful use of it today!

Cheers,
Ivan

Dyske Suematsu 11 years, 11 months agoReply

Hi Curt,

My comments follow:

> c:
> The meta-perspective which you've adopted that allows you to so
> easily slip from perspective to perspective is based on
> relativism. You've committed to being situationally
> non-commital. Rhetoric as play. But how do you feel about what you say?

I feel fine.


> c:
> I haven't really attempted to present or defend a view. i'm just
> deconstructing your view. But yes, if I wanted to write an
> essay, I could write one, and it would be based on assumptions
> I've made (and hopefully presented as such by way of disclaimer),
> and those who agreed with me would agree. Those who disagreed
> would make their points, and we'd begin to dialogue. My argument
> wouldn't necessarily have to withstand rigorous empirical Kantian
> skepticism, because it's just dialogue between people trying to
> learn from each other and reach some sort of conclusion.

This is true for me as well. My perspective does not prevent me from
"dialogue between people trying to learn from each other and reach some sort
of conclusion." Relativism is just another argument based on a different
assumption. I'm doing exactly what you are saying above.


> c:
> I understand you perfectly. I just fundamentally disagree with you.

The reason why I raise the question of you not understanding me is because
you repeat questions or arguments that I've already answered.


> c:
> Do you believe what you say? Do you not? Does it change from
> day to day? Do you believe in anything? Can you honestly not see
> the point of consistently believing in something? Why are you
> even talking? Why am I listening to you? Your speak is play. I
> speak to say.

I can write both negative and positive reviews of Damien Hirst. It depends
on the perspective I take. Especially for something like art, or a person,
there are different ways that you can see it that contradicts one another.
It is like the Chinese proverb about three blind people touching parts of an
elephant. That is why art is fascinating to me. Otherwise I would prefer
science or math.

So to answer your interesting question, "Can you honestly not see the point
of consistently believing in something?" No, I am full of contradictions if
you compared my argument based on one perspective with another based on a
different perspective. But within each, I try to be as consistent as I can.


> c:
> Why are you so stuck on proof? What kind of proof? Proof by
> whose criteria? Is poetry proof? Is music proof? But both
> communicate legitimately enough.

I am not stuck on proof. The idea of proof came up because you brought up
the fact that my arguments are based on assumptions, and therefore wrong. As
I said, I do not bother "expounding" or "justifying" my base assumptions
about my perspectives, because providing proofs to such assumptions are not
only impossible, but also boring. If you didn't bring up my assumptions, I
would not have spoke about proofs.


> c:
> so your suggested means of communication is to adopt a position
> that you don't believe in personally, make a bunch of assertions
> based on that position, and then when someone asks you to defend
> your position, you admit that your position is impossible to
> defend, but so is their position, and that's your defense. Nobody
> was able to incontrovertibly prove you wrong, and so that
> satisfies you intellectually?

You might find it difficult to believe in two things that contradict one
another, but I don't. I personally and sincerely believe them both. I am not
lying to myself. If someone accused me of something that they themselves are
guilty of, what is wrong with pointing that out? It's a perfectly legitimate
defense.

"so that satisfies you intellectually?" Not really. It is not particularly
interesting to argue about the fundamental assumptions that we all have. If
you write an objectivistic essay, I would rather argue within that
perspective and assumptions, not question the assumptions themselves. I
think it would be more fruitful. If I start pointing out your assumptions,
we would go nowhere because neither side would be able to prove anything,
and the argument would simply stall.


> Is such shifting, semi-commital rhetoric beneficial to the
> communities in which you're involved?

Yes, it allows me to see from the perspectives of others who fundamentally
disagree with me, and helps me to live in peace with them.

> To you personally?

Yes, for the same reason.

> Does it make sense in your daily life?

Yes.

> Is it practically workable/defensible on a day to day basis?

Yes, I live a perfectly normal life every day.

> Does it endear you to your peers?

Yes, because I can sincerely respect others who fundamentally disagree with
me without feeling like I am lying to myself.

> Do they trust you because they know where you're coming from?

Yes, why not.

> Does it inspire you and fill you with passion?

Yes.

> Do you enjoy the dialogue it engenders? Do you learn from it?

Yes, as long as the dialogue does not lead to a pointless argument over
fundamental assumptions for which we have no way of proving.

> Personally, all I get from talking with hardcore situationists is
> wasted time.

Because you believe there is only one truth, and anything else is a waste of
time.

> They perpetually insist that I don't understand
> them, as if they've discovered some higher, post-aristotelian
> WAY, and the fact that I disagree with them is evidence that I
> must not get it. But I do get it (and then some), I just find it
> a convenient excuse to keep from presenting one's true face and
> entering into the fray with the rest of us.

The only reason I said you don't understand me is because you bring up
issues that have already been explained. That is a reasonable sign that you
didn't understand what I said.

-Dyske

curt cloninger 11 years, 11 months agoReply

c:
> Personally, all I get from talking with hardcore situationists is
> wasted time.

d:
Because you believe there is only one truth, and anything else is a waste of
time.

c:
that's an inaccurate characterization of what I believe. To lay my cards on the table, I believe some things are absolutely true, some things are relative, and some things don't involve proof or truth at all. And I fruitfully dialogue with people who disagree with me all the time. What wastes my time is talking to people who aren't personally invested in what they espouse. It's all some sort of semiotic front to them. There's no vulnerability, no personal accountability, no face behind the words. Because no position is taken other than a temporarary, hypothetical one. And no higher ground is sought through discourse, because no higher ground is thought to exist.

You raise points in your essay regarding scenes and peer review and collaborative artistic communites that might bear fruitful exploration from any perspective other than your "famous people are good at being famous" perspective.

I sought to see if you actually, personally believe in your assumption that there is no aesthetic aspect to art, and you immediately plead the fifth amendment of relativism – "you have assumptions too!" So we wind up talking about boring crap like belief systems and rhetoric when we could be letting down our guard and talking about something much more interesting, like art.

I find myself agreeing with what Rob said earlier in the thread:
"Relativism serves The Market and Cultural Studies. Neither have much to do with art. "

Dyske Suematsu 11 years, 11 months agoReply

Hi Curt,

From my perspective, this is what happened to our discussion:

I chose a location and built a house on it. I am not sure if it makes sense
to build a house on that location but I did it anyway because I cannot prove
the legitimacy of the location even if I tried. Rather than wasting time
trying to prove that the location is legitimate, I decided to go ahead and
build a house.

Now, I would like to discuss the house, not the location, but you decided to
pick on the legitimacy of my location, because you cannot accept that fact
that someone would build a house on a location other than where you believe
to be legitimate.

You accuse me of wasting your time, but from my perspective, you are the one
who insisted on getting into this pointless discussion about the assumptions
we cannot prove.

However, "pointless" as it may technically be, I enjoyed this discussion.
Until you actually play with a real opponent, you cannot see where your true
weaknesses are. There is only so much you can read ahead in chess without
actually making a move. Your move was unexpected.

-D

ryan griffis 11 years, 11 months agoReply

whoa - lots of directions in this argument…
anyway, i wanted to riff off of Dyske's responses and Rob's counter responses - which i'm not sure i quite get - you mean the snow doesn't effect how full my iPod is ;)
anyway, i do understand the empircist drive that says there is no X (why art is successful) but we can 'see' Y (what is mainstream/makes money/has a big house). but this seems a conservative truism (and the use of philisophical abstract logic seems absurd here btw)? if you're satified with the status quo, it's all good. sure i can say bill gates and matthew barney are successful. so what? this is stating the obvious as i see it, and stating it in a frank stella kinda way "what you see is what you get." but why write that barney is successful because he is successful? are you saying that there are no reasons that can be even attempted to be understood to explain the success (either cultural or economic - and of course the overlaps)? so even patron studies have nothing to gain here?
you don't have to get all metaphysical or moralistic to see the surface as layered. Dyske's early mention of insider networks and such as a vehicle for upward mobility in art is one example - that can be looked at, and it can be explored 'beyond' the truism of success. i don't understand why we're trying to bypass the study of rhetoric and social sciences here (with all their problems). art's not in its own isolated world.

curt cloninger 11 years, 11 months agoReply

Your analogy falls apart in this not insignifigant respect:
a house is rarely intrisically related to the location on which it's built (unless it's a frank lloyd wright, etc.). Whereas an argument is always intrinsically related to the assumptions on which it's built. To refuse to discuss one's assumptions as if they can be considered hermetically separate from one's argument is convenient but disingenuous.

the last word is yours if you want it.


Dyske Suematsu wrote:

> Hi Curt,
>
> From my perspective, this is what happened to our discussion:
>
> I chose a location and built a house on it. I am not sure if it makes
> sense
> to build a house on that location but I did it anyway because I cannot
> prove
> the legitimacy of the location even if I tried. Rather than wasting
> time
> trying to prove that the location is legitimate, I decided to go ahead
> and
> build a house.
>
> Now, I would like to discuss the house, not the location, but you
> decided to
> pick on the legitimacy of my location, because you cannot accept that
> fact
> that someone would build a house on a location other than where you
> believe
> to be legitimate.
>
> You accuse me of wasting your time, but from my perspective, you are
> the one
> who insisted on getting into this pointless discussion about the
> assumptions
> we cannot prove.
>
> However, "pointless" as it may technically be, I enjoyed this
> discussion.
> Until you actually play with a real opponent, you cannot see where
> your true
> weaknesses are. There is only so much you can read ahead in chess
> without
> actually making a move. Your move was unexpected.
>
> -D
>
>

Dyske Suematsu 11 years, 11 months agoReply

Hi Curt,

My analogy was not constructed to argue about intrinsic relations of house
and location. What I tried to show in it is the fact that you must choose a
location before you can start to build on it. There will always be certain
uncertainties about any particular location, but if you try to be 100% sure,
you'll never be able to start building a house. So, you have to compromise,
accept the assumptions, and "move on".

I never "refused to discuss" my assumptions. This whole discussion has been
about those assumptions. All I am stating is that, unfortunately, these are
assumptions that neither of us could prove right or wrong, and therefore are
"pointless".

-Dyske

> —–Original Message—–
> From: owner-list@rhizome.org [mailto:owner-list@rhizome.org]On Behalf Of
> curt cloninger
> Sent: Thursday, February 26, 2004 1:52 PM
> To: list@rhizome.org
> Subject: RHIZOME_RAW: Re: Re: The Myth of Meritocracy in Fine Arts
>
>
> Your analogy falls apart in this not insignifigant respect:
> a house is rarely intrisically related to the location on which
> it's built (unless it's a frank lloyd wright, etc.). Whereas an
> argument is always intrinsically related to the assumptions on
> which it's built. To refuse to discuss one's assumptions as if
> they can be considered hermetically separate from one's argument
> is convenient but disingenuous.
>
> the last word is yours if you want it.

Dyske Suematsu 11 years, 11 months agoReply

Hi Rob,

My comments follow yours:

> Relativism is not circular logic. Circular logic is self-proving.
> Relativism is self-disproving since it cannot prove itself
> without becoming an absolute.

See this article that explains circular logic:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/alabaster/A688287

Circular logic is a logical fallacy; it is not "self-proving". It actually
does not prove anything because it is a fallacy. Both relativism and
objectivism that we are speaking of here, will eventually reach circular
logic because both must necessarily be based on some assumptions:

Relativism: "It's good because it's considered good."
Objectivism: "It's good because I say so."

Relativism falls apart because its argument would be contradictory if it is
absolute.
Objectivism falls apart because it could never be proven absolutely.


> Relativism as practiced by Cultural Studies (etc.) is just a
> post-colonial rehabilitation of orientalism. Or
> crypto-slumming-it. There's nothing wrong with using or being
> inspired by the discourses of other cultures, societies or
> classes. There is something wrong with claiming that all
> discourses are created equal, save the one that declares this.

You could assume that they are created equal, or you could assume otherwise.
Unless there is an absolute standard by which we can prove their inequality,
it is not reasonable to say that there is "something wrong" with believing
in equality. I could choose to assume one stance or the other. I am not
particularly interested in proving this equality or inequality that you
bring up.


> Relativism allows pre-existent discourse to be turned on any
> object. This priveleges deconstruction, turning the generation of
> text into an absolute. It is a political position. What kind of
> politics? Well, deconstruction is a paternalistic, appropriating activity.

You are not supporting your argument here. Why is deconstruction a
"paternalistic, appropriating activity"?

> Relativism is a discourse. Any discourse can be deconstructed.
> This applies to the discourse of deconstruction as well.

Deconstructionists are aware of this.

> When you
> deconstruct you tend to find politics and vested interests and
> disappointed lives.

You are not supporting your argument here either. Zen Buddhism is a world
where you could not deconstruct much because everything has already been
de-centered. It reaches none of the above states you list.


> Relativism serves The Market and Cultural
> Studies. Neither have much to do with art.

Yes, it has a lot to do with art. Art, like human being, has more dimensions
than we can comprehend. Logic, in fact, is too rudimentary of a tool to
comprehend it. This is why I can sincerely accept having contradictions when
I switch my perspectives. Within each perspective, your logic can be
consistent, but as soon as the basic assumptions are shifted, a different
self-consistent argument can be formed. I have no problem accepting this.
For me, it has everything to do with art. I find objectivism to be more
constructive for discussing science and math.

-Dyske

MTAA 11 years, 11 months agoReply

Attempting to get back to Dyske's original essay…

In a nutshell, Dyske's point is this: thinking of the art world as a
meritocracy is false as there is no objective basis on which to judge
the merit. Therefor art world success is based not on merit but on
subjective decisions by a few powerful opinion-makers in the art world
so let's stop kidding ourselves that successful artists are the best
artists.

Does that sum it up fairly?

If yes, I'll proceed, if no, could you put it in a nutshell Dyske?

===
<twhid>http://www.mteww.com</twhid>
===

Eduardo Navas 11 years, 11 months agoReply

> Yes, it has a lot to do with art. Art, like human being, has more
dimensions
> than we can comprehend. Logic, in fact, is too rudimentary of a tool to
> comprehend it. This is why I can sincerely accept having contradictions
when
> I switch my perspectives. Within each perspective, your logic can be
> consistent, but as soon as the basic assumptions are shifted, a different
> self-consistent argument can be formed. I have no problem accepting this.
> For me, it has everything to do with art. I find objectivism to be more
> constructive for discussing science and math.
>
> -Dyske

I think this discussion is extremely abstract and running on definitions
that have not been made clear to begin with. I only have one comment to
make about the quote above, however.

Since you claim deconstruction as a way to understand contradictions, there
is a need to point out that your statement exposes an interesting
contradiction: to claim that art has more dimensions than we comprehend, or
that "logic is too rudimentary of a tool" exposes a transcendental tendency
not much different from Curt's. That is to somehow believe there is
something outside that is essential and grander, which if we come to terms
with it through knowledge we may reach a higher state of being. (Sounds
like going to heaven).

How we consider the role of knowledge as part of a culture that may redefine
itself on materialism or transcendentalism is what is at stake. There is no
answer for this dichotomy– not even scepticism can help here, as that
possibility seems to have been thrown out the window at the beginning of
this discussion.

Eduardo Navas

Rob Myers 11 years, 11 months agoReply

On 26 Feb 2004, at 18:48, ryan griffis wrote:

> anyway, i wanted to riff off of Dyske's responses and Rob's counter
> responses - which i'm not sure i quite get - you mean the snow doesn't
> effect how full my iPod is ;)

Unless you sample the sound of snow falling. :-)

> anyway, i do understand the empircist drive that says there is no X
> (why art is successful) but we can 'see' Y (what is mainstream/makes
> money/has a big house). but this seems a conservative truism

This is what I am arguing against.

> (and the use of philisophical abstract logic seems absurd here btw)?

Indeed. :-)

> if you're satified with the status quo, it's all good. sure i can say
> bill gates and matthew barney are successful. so what? this is stating
> the obvious as i see it, and stating it in a frank stella kinda way
> "what you see is what you get." but why write that barney is
> successful because he is successful? are you saying that there are no
> reasons that can be even attempted to be understood to explain the
> success (either cultural or economic - and of course the overlaps)? so
> even patron studies have nothing to gain here?

The reasons can be understood, but they are not simple or always
causal. There's randomness, dumb luck, bad luck and perversity as well
as talent, hard work and bloody-mindedness. And there's all of those
aesthetically as well as socially.

> you don't have to get all metaphysical or moralistic to see the
> surface as layered. Dyske's early mention of insider networks and such
> as a vehicle for upward mobility in art is one example - that can be
> looked at, and it can be explored 'beyond' the truism of success.

But to what end? I've encountered successful art society; it's a
network and a clique like any other. It's only surprising if you do
indeed believe that the idea of art as meritocratic has weight.

> i don't understand why we're trying to bypass the study of rhetoric
> and social sciences here (with all their problems). art's not in its
> own isolated world.

I'm a biiiiig fan of Art & Language. I wrote my BA dissertation on them
(and Julain Opie), and one of the comments my tutor had was that
"they've got stuck in the idea of art as institution". I didn't think
that this was the case, but I do think that "art as institution"
doesn't go very far. Art's social content is more interesting than its
supporting social structures, IMHO. Cultural studies is different from
cultural engagement. You can't stop a nuke exploding by deconstructing
the text of its history or science.

- Rob.

ryan griffis 11 years, 11 months agoReply

Hi Rob - thanks for your response -
sounds like i misinterpreted some of your comments…
i too am an A&L fan (or was for a long time), and think, for the most part i'm on the same page with your comments below. tho i do find cultural studies useful that help me be more engaged.
best,
ryan

> I'm a biiiiig fan of Art & Language. I wrote my BA dissertation on
> them
> (and Julain Opie), and one of the comments my tutor had was that
> "they've got stuck in the idea of art as institution". I didn't think
> that this was the case, but I do think that "art as institution"
> doesn't go very far. Art's social content is more interesting than
> its
> supporting social structures, IMHO. Cultural studies is different
> from
> cultural engagement. You can't stop a nuke exploding by
> deconstructing
> the text of its history or science.
>
> - Rob.
>


1./Is there any consensus about"world of art"?So far this is A.Danto's fict=
ion.

2./"Myth is speech."(R.Barthes:Mythologies)

3./Can we describe something as"art"(object,happening,action…)but not arb=
itrary,like false,or ignorant witness?There's no crime without body.So,wher=
e's the body("art")?Posteriority,assert Duchamp, is highest judge for art(i=
st) and only in posteriority something become "art".Are we in posteriority
And where's the point from which we can discus about art?I can see and said=
"Yes,that is"art"!"But what about that?Fact that I can recognize"art"is ir=
relevant.Culture exist only in social environment.Artist lives in his inten=
tions,also in society,and "art"could be only intentions tight connected wit=
h Other(people).
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=

4./Capitalism define him self thru terms(so called"terms capitalism"),liter=
ally we have deal with mega myth.Infrastructure of that mega myth include I=
nstitution,among other Art Institutions.That is pragmatic reason to claim =
that Art exist."CIA art" during fifties/sixties (abstract expressionism) wa=
s very important ideological article infiltrated from U.S.A in Europe.Spect=
acular market crash of this "art"production in that time was the first sign=
of essential incompatibility in relation art-money-ideology.

5./Aleksandar Brener make $ sign on Malevich's picture in Steedeliyk Museum=
in Amsterdam.Damage was 400 000$(!?!).Is that marketing,sabotage,subversio=
n, crime,happening,desperate wish to became famous…"art"?Or something els=
e? Brener talk about techne instead art(see M.Heidegger;Vortrage und Aufsat=
ze,Greek etymology is tehvn) That is area which signify production,and,in =
same time,sublimation-poiesis.To simplify -Socrates was consistent in his t=
echne(making sense,or philosophy,poison and death),Brener wasn't. His actio=
n exist like hyper fiction.To cut this part;many artist was on Brener's sid=
e,instead to be happy to see Brener in prison.That was chance to see on glo=
bal level(Brener is world "famous"artist) art-action incorporated in recent=
market value system thru punishing,that mean confirmation of "art"subversi=
ve potential .Mega myth swallow every attempt to see hero in full name and =
size."I am Artist"said Brener"My action was pure art,and you can't put me i=
n prison".Why anyone of us didn't make half million dollar damage?Just try,=
and say that's art….System leave Brener free because he was potentially d=
angerous.That's the role of low(superposition logic) in recent West ideolog=
ical system-to protect The Myth.This time"Ecce homo"wasn't Jesus…Just som=
e "artist".

6./Transgression(subversion,dangerous or revolutionary potential)doesn't ex=
isted in recent "art"streaming.Mega Project of Modernism/Postmodernism are =
finished.Paradoxaly-expansion of technology need renaissance spirit.Pre-mo=
dernism include crafts,skills,alchemy(cyber paranoiac projection of particu=
larly and superficial knowledge about many details,which lied to amateuris=
m)."Artist"is surrounded by number of difficulties,to survive he need to be=
malted with Mega Myth rules.Or he can make decision to stay on periphery, =
in dangerous places without rules,low,court,wild in every moment,corrupted,=
humble and poor,completely depend of foreign donation.Without market at all=
,especially "art"market.Uninhabited places(WERVERFUNG,J.Butler)

7./Democracy is fundament,"Conditio sine qua non"in every academic discussi=
on/discourse.Very blurry term considered Greek democracy;adult male citizen=
are voice in that myth about early democracy.Slave,woman… vere out of an=
y politic decision.Segregation,racism,fascism are other part of that social=
distribution(of power).Superposition logic(ultra-micro matter prion in the=
ir spin are not up/down,connect/disconnect,in/out,they are both function of=
it in same time)lid us to conclusion about immanent fascistic arrangement =
of recent West society.That's Nietzsche's"eternal return",or dialectic.Lets=
put together Olympic game and Olympic game for handicap person,let's put i=
n same basketball club(Lakers for example) paraplegic and"normal"person.Is =
result so important?Yes,it is.Thirty points of some ignorant is more impor=
tant than human right to be man amount the other man .This thirty point mak=
e in crow strange exaltation,they project them self in insignificent skill =
and abstract number as result of this game(every game is competition,every =
competition is kind of war)."World is in permanent war"(M.Foucoult:Il faut =
defendre la societe).

8./Dyske said that he live god.MANIK said that he live bad.Some "higher ins=
tance" could said that both of us have luck because we are alive.Or opposit=
e.
Wall in Warsaw ghetto was prisons wall,also wall in Berlin.Now, wall which =
surrounding Palestinian habitat is kind of artifact,it could be Crisco's wo=
rk.Eucharist of low.pure essence of creativity.This is,after all,appearance=
of Batailles vision(G.Bataille:La part maudite),but in contra light,perver=
sion of Mega Myth.

9./After all ART exist.How came?Wasn't it under suspicion term,almost crimi=
nogenyc?Is that some uncosecvence in MANIK's speech.

10./Sound of snowing(R.Myers)

11./That is ART.

12./MANIK

Francis Hwang 11 years, 11 months agoReply

The art world is a market, of course, in most any way that counts, but
that's probably not enough, or maybe even besides the point. One of the
things that I have a problem with in Dyske's formulation is that the
whole point of doing something so damned difficult is that it's
supposed to stand outside the usual market dynamics.

So when Dyske asks "Why does salesmanship get such a bad rap in the
first place?" my response is this: The world doesn't need any more
fucking salesmen. I probably see 500 ads from the time I leave the
office to the time I get home – on the sides of buildings, over my
head in the subway, on T-shirts and baseball caps – and none of them
make me any happier or fuller as a person. I'm not even saying this as
some Marxist ascetic – I have been known to pay way too much money for
the right pair of shoes, and you'll have to pry my Powerbook out of my
cold, dead hands – but let's be honest, buying stuff is the easy part.
I don't need more stuff to buy. I need chances to commune with myself
and other people and nature, whether through art or conversation or sex
or bike rides. No salesman, whether he's Steve Jobs or Matthew Barney,
can give me that.

F.

P.S. The word "meritocracy" is sort of a red herring here, and I
suspect it's derailing the conversation more than a little. Meritocracy
has to do with preference based on merit, as opposed to preference
based on race, religious, or family affiliation. I don't think
anybody's seriously arguing that the art world would be better with a
whole lot more nepotism.
P.P.S. And don't even get me started on the word "synergy".

Dyske Suematsu 11 years, 11 months agoReply

Hi Francis,

I understand your sentiment about salesmen, but my point was that it is not salesmanship that is evil. Our prejudiced minds often associate a certain value to a wrong entity. Just because some or the majority of salesmen are evil to you, you associate that evilness to salesmanship, and as soon as you are introduced to a salesman, you treat him as such.

The same happens to landlords. An uncle of my good friend, at one point in his life, invested in a building and decided to become a landlord. Since he has been a renter himself, he tried very hard to be a good landlord. But no matter how hard he tried, no matter how sincerely he cared about his tenants, everyone treated him with a preconception that he is an asshole. After a while of trying, he finally gave up on being a landlord. It is ironic, since the prejudice of his tenants helped to eliminate a decent landlord that we all desperately need, thereby making the world even more prejudiced. In this type of situation, no decent person would want to deal with being a landlord, only malicious opportunists would, and the expectation of the society achieves its self-fulfilling prophecy.

When it comes to well-known forms of prejudice, we are highly sensitive and considerate, but prejudice extends far beyond just racism. We often do not realize how prejudiced we are. And by projecting these prejudices unknowingly to others, we make the problem worse. Since this is rather unconscious on the part of the prejudiced, everyone simply blames everyone else for the problem. Such is the bad rap for salesmanship.

-Dyske


—– Original Message —–
From: "Francis Hwang" <francis@rhizome.org>
To: <list@rhizome.org>
Sent: Friday, February 27, 2004 5:56 PM
Subject: Re: RHIZOME_RAW: Re: The Myth of Meritocracy in Fine Arts


> The art world is a market, of course, in most any way that counts, but
> that's probably not enough, or maybe even besides the point. One of the
> things that I have a problem with in Dyske's formulation is that the
> whole point of doing something so damned difficult is that it's
> supposed to stand outside the usual market dynamics.
>
> So when Dyske asks "Why does salesmanship get such a bad rap in the
> first place?" my response is this: The world doesn't need any more
> fucking salesmen. I probably see 500 ads from the time I leave the
> office to the time I get home – on the sides of buildings, over my
> head in the subway, on T-shirts and baseball caps – and none of them
> make me any happier or fuller as a person. I'm not even saying this as
> some Marxist ascetic – I have been known to pay way too much money for
> the right pair of shoes, and you'll have to pry my Powerbook out of my
> cold, dead hands – but let's be honest, buying stuff is the easy part.
> I don't need more stuff to buy. I need chances to commune with myself
> and other people and nature, whether through art or conversation or sex
> or bike rides. No salesman, whether he's Steve Jobs or Matthew Barney,
> can give me that.
>
> F.
>
> P.S. The word "meritocracy" is sort of a red herring here, and I
> suspect it's derailing the conversation more than a little. Meritocracy
> has to do with preference based on merit, as opposed to preference
> based on race, religious, or family affiliation. I don't think
> anybody's seriously arguing that the art world would be better with a
> whole lot more nepotism.
> P.P.S. And don't even get me started on the word "synergy".
>
> +
> -> post: list@rhizome.org
> -> questions: info@rhizome.org
> -> subscribe/unsubscribe: http://rhizome.org/preferences/subscribe.rhiz
> -> give: http://rhizome.org/support
> -> visit: on Fridays the Rhizome.org web site is open to non-members
> +
> Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
> Membership Agreement available online at http://rhizome.org/info/29.php

Lee Wells 11 years, 11 months agoReply

Hi Guys:

I've been following this thread and I must say that you have both sold
your cases very well.
Nike and Microsoft should offer you both jobs. hahaha its a joke.

Salesmanship is an art-form and is most definitely needed in this
post-whatever art-world.
You sell yourself to everyone. First impressions mean a lot.
Whether selling ones art on the street or to a gallery to sell your art
to someone else or to the non-profit foundation to seek funding to
financially support an artists totally wacked out ideas about what art
is supposed to be….its all sales. Get good at it.
ART=WIDGET
(art is just a harder sell, people don't really need it, its a luxury
good, especially a good portion of the great art that is being
manufactured by members of Rhizome, objects sell easier than ideas in
binary code)

The world needs the good salesman like the city needs the fair landlord
like the nation needs the just leader. It is possible to not be
corrupted by the masses that want everything for free handed to them on
a titanium platter.

I personally consider myself a salesman. Most recently I have left a
job working at a commercial art gallery and have moved into a laid back
position as a real estate agent here in New York City. After working at
it for about a month I have realized that both the landlord and the
tenant are jerks and I am in the middle trying to make the deal still
go through so I get paid so I can buy canvas, a new Super-drive for my
G4 and plane tickets to exhibitions I'm in.
Buying and Selling is a fact of life and everyone should be on top of
their game when it comes to it or have somebody that is do it for them.

So if anyone NEEDS an apartment in New York City come to me and if you
WANT some art we can talk too. (discounts to all artists)

Cheers,
Lee


2 entries found for meritocracy.
mer

Francis Hwang 11 years, 11 months agoReply

Dyske, you're misreading me. My point is not that salesmanship is evil, but that there's too much of it. I'm talking in terms of balance, not in terms of absolutes. I don't think absolutes are that interesting.

F.

Dyske Suematsu wrote:

> Hi Francis,
>
> I understand your sentiment about salesmen, but my point was that it
> is not salesmanship that is evil. Our prejudiced minds often associate
> a certain value to a wrong entity. Just because some or the majority
> of salesmen are evil to you, you associate that evilness to
> salesmanship, and as soon as you are introduced to a salesman, you
> treat him as such.
>
> The same happens to landlords. An uncle of my good friend, at one
> point in his life, invested in a building and decided to become a
> landlord. Since he has been a renter himself, he tried very hard to be
> a good landlord. But no matter how hard he tried, no matter how
> sincerely he cared about his tenants, everyone treated him with a
> preconception that he is an asshole. After a while of trying, he
> finally gave up on being a landlord. It is ironic, since the prejudice
> of his tenants helped to eliminate a decent landlord that we all
> desperately need, thereby making the world even more prejudiced. In
> this type of situation, no decent person would want to deal with being
> a landlord, only malicious opportunists would, and the expectation of
> the society achieves its self-fulfilling prophecy.
>
> When it comes to well-known forms of prejudice, we are highly
> sensitive and considerate, but prejudice extends far beyond just
> racism. We often do not realize how prejudiced we are. And by
> projecting these prejudices unknowingly to others, we make the problem
> worse. Since this is rather unconscious on the part of the prejudiced,
> everyone simply blames everyone else for the problem. Such is the bad
> rap for salesmanship.
>
> -Dyske
>
>
> —– Original Message —–
> From: "Francis Hwang" <francis@rhizome.org>
> To: <list@rhizome.org>
> Sent: Friday, February 27, 2004 5:56 PM
> Subject: Re: RHIZOME_RAW: Re: The Myth of Meritocracy in Fine Arts
>
>
> > The art world is a market, of course, in most any way that counts,
> but
> > that's probably not enough, or maybe even besides the point. One of
> the
> > things that I have a problem with in Dyske's formulation is that
> the
> > whole point of doing something so damned difficult is that it's
> > supposed to stand outside the usual market dynamics.
> >
> > So when Dyske asks "Why does salesmanship get such a bad rap in the
> > first place?" my response is this: The world doesn't need any more
> > fucking salesmen. I probably see 500 ads from the time I leave the
> > office to the time I get home – on the sides of buildings, over my
> > head in the subway, on T-shirts and baseball caps – and none of
> them
> > make me any happier or fuller as a person. I'm not even saying this
> as
> > some Marxist ascetic – I have been known to pay way too much money
> for
> > the right pair of shoes, and you'll have to pry my Powerbook out of
> my
> > cold, dead hands – but let's be honest, buying stuff is the easy
> part.
> > I don't need more stuff to buy. I need chances to commune with
> myself
> > and other people and nature, whether through art or conversation or
> sex
> > or bike rides. No salesman, whether he's Steve Jobs or Matthew
> Barney,
> > can give me that.
> >
> > F.
> >
> > P.S. The word "meritocracy" is sort of a red herring here, and I
> > suspect it's derailing the conversation more than a little.
> Meritocracy
> > has to do with preference based on merit, as opposed to preference
> > based on race, religious, or family affiliation. I don't think
> > anybody's seriously arguing that the art world would be better with
> a
> > whole lot more nepotism.
> > P.P.S. And don't even get me started on the word "synergy".
> >
> > +
> > -> post: list@rhizome.org
> > -> questions: info@rhizome.org
> > -> subscribe/unsubscribe:
> http://rhizome.org/preferences/subscribe.rhiz
> > -> give: http://rhizome.org/support
> > -> visit: on Fridays the Rhizome.org web site is open to non-members
> > +
> > Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
> > Membership Agreement available online at
> http://rhizome.org/info/29.php

CK SHINE 11 years, 11 months agoReply

Dyske Suematsu wrote:

Some thoughts on the content of your essay:

first, there is no monolithic 'art world'. perhaps there are microcosms of interest and influence, each with specific criteria yet there are no universally nor even globally binding set criteria. it all comes down to subjective opinion.

i can say this based on personal experience and a large body of annecdotal evidence. in my own case, i am virtually unknown yet have had my share of 'successes' based on my personal criteria. i've also won several comissions & grants over a long career. through the rigors of securing these opportunities i realize that i may be 'succesful' at 'winning' the opportunities yet this really doesn't say anything about the 'success' of the specific art work.

what it does indicate is that at a particular moment in time my ideas/artefacts appealed to a specific person/group. perhaps an individual, for reasons which have nothing to do with opinions in popular art journals, bodies of critique, personal reputation, etc., simply 'gets' my idea and it's visual/sonic/temporal/assosiative dynamics and decides these qualities are 'worth' a certain 'value'. this says nothing about my personal criteria for 'success'. in fact, some of my least 'succesful' works have fascinated others to the point of purchase. fine, i'll take the money but still don't believe this was a 'succesful' work based on my personal aesthetic criteria.

It's helpful to remember that virtually every public statement uttered by Andy Warhol, on virtually any topic, is laced with irony. he was, in my opinion first & foremost, a very succesful popular entertainer. once, upon receiving a particularly harsh critique of his current works, warhol was asked by a journalist to respond to his critics. "they're absolutely right" was his response.
The point was (and remains) that those critics' opinions meant very little to warhol. he did what he did regardless of the criteria of others.

all artwork has merit to someone. In the least to it's creator. it expands or contracts from there.

I think that you're wrong about people sensing art motivated by pure opportunism. Thomas Kinkade Is living proof. Pure success based on raw opportunism to a degree which dwarfs all of his competitors. He is the most 'succesful' artist of this era, perhaps of all time.

can we say Kinkade is insincere? Is he a cynic or is he a sort of new age entrepeneur, bristling with optimism and a profound connection with sentimentality? He is most definitely a superbly skilled salesman. His clientele approaches cult-status in their appreciation for his world-view of simpler, more fundamental emotional concepts.

Production-wise, Kinkade deploys an advanced 'factory' approach which is reminiscent of Warhol's except that he uses computer aided painting machines to apply the paint to the canvas. All he does is compose the original and sign each computer generated painting.

Yet who is Kinkade influencing aesthetically? Of course, it's too early to tell.

By comparison, Van Gogh was a commercial failure during his time. He could barely sell a painting to save his life. Yet his experimental aestheics quite succesfully influenced future generations of painters.

I think part of all artists' revulsion towards 'succesful' artists is pure jealousy. Another part, at least in today's world, is the lingering effects of the marxist notion of 'unalienated labor', that is, the work is made purely for the satisfaction of the creator. Many artists have this concept deeply ingrained in their psyche (whether they've read Marx or not). The resulting artefacts of this 'pure' process are highly personal and speak of the creator's essence. Powerful stuff to be discounted by a lack of appreciation by others. It's much like being rejected by a desired lover, as you pointed out.

Salesmanship, in it's essence is based on a fundamental insinuation of 'need'. The most succesful salespeople can sell water to a dolphin. The dolphin is surrounded by free water yet the 'succesful' salesperson convinces the dolphin that their water isn't really 'the best' water for the dolphin. The seller foments doubt in the dolphin's mind and uses it to evoke dissatisfaction, even avarice and uses other psy-tricks to coerce the dolphin into a purchase. The smart dolphin laughs and swims away. Yet all the salesperson needs is a demographic slice of all dolphins to succeed. Perhaps they prey on the 'beta' males, who have an obvious inferiority complex.

Fine art is also sold to appeal to non-aesthetic concerns of many a potential client, many of whom care not a whit for a work's intrinsic aesthetic values. Rather, the focus is on to which degree will the collecting of art symbolize the purchaser's own 'success'. "i have so much discretionary capital that i can buy all of these expensive paintings" (snicker, yet this is a very REAL motivator for many purchasers.)

Let's take the 3 Stooges as another example. Masters of absurdist comedy. Wildly succesful at entertaining millions so much so that refering to a given episode ellicits many laughs from deep within the experiential base of many conversants. They are a good exqample of the dichotomy at play here. The stooges were both 'succesful' and 'unsuccesful' in the sense that they never really got a fair contractual deal. They all died relatively poor.

I disagree with your notion that it wasn't just money that put Saatchi over the top. None of the collaboration really works without the financial resources, 'the deep pockets' you mention.
Saatchi had already collected works by Warhol, et. al, because he HAD MONEY and INFLUENCE Prior to ever collecting any art. I first became fascinated by Gilbert & George in the 1970s, yet to this day have yet to realize the necessary discresionary capital to collect their works. Yet i consider them highly succesful at expressing their ideas.

Your evaluation of the benefits of teamwork is right-on. It is also where the phrase 'art-mafia' comes from. Many of these artist groups, while very pro-active for themselves, can also become very competitive and even detrimental to the careers of others as they tend to jealously monopolize and vindictively guard access to 'their' resources. Having witnessed this specific behavior, i liken it to the way chicks in a nest treat each other. First one to hatch feeds first and best, to the detriment of the others, who survive on scraps, if they're not killed, eaten or thrown out of the nest by the 'succesful' chick. In this way, the 'succesful team' approach simply provides more of the same ancient, instinctual social ordering based on the destruction of one's competitors. In this sense it offers a cynical, 'machiavellian' aproach to life. Using the same criteria for politics, we have no valid complaint against the manouvering of the current Bush regime who are 'succesful' at securing positions of power & influence. Yet i find nothing new nor inspiring in the real politik of the current political landscape nor the 'art world' which you seem to champion in your essay.

One of the great powers of art is to imagine alternative ways of seeing/being. Surrendering to the 'arrogance of the current' simply lacks imagination or inspiration. When artists accept a corporate model, they become corporate models and are easily manipulated into justifing their 'value' based on a very fleeting moment of perceived 'success'. Much like the widespread & idiotic arrogance of the 'Dot . Com' bubble, which resulted in the 'Dot . Bomb' wasteland which has ensued.

So, to site Warhol, your assertions are 'absolutrly right'.