Representation and culture, part whatever (this one’s gonna run and run, I fear … )
and so the culture wars begin …
actually they have been pretty quiet wars, but they are on nevertheless.
I started writing about the way that I have been struck again and again by how just a few London art schools dominate the “art world” here in the UK.
Given that they are all kn the public university system and charge te same feess one might wonder why the London schools offer so much better tuition that shcools in, say, Leeds or Notitngham. Do they? Well if the “art world” is anything to go by, they certainly do. But it’s impossible.
So, then I started to notice that the demographic of the London “art world” is quite astonishingly unrepresentative of London culture. I mean, utterly not representative.
I’m not terribly surprised by this. I don’t think it was ever meant to be representative.
I mean, let’s go back into history – to the founding of the RA and the Académie des Beaux-Arts. The ‘art world’ has long been about defining boundaries and creating the “in” and the “out” and pretending it’s all about the “quality” of the art. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it really just isn’t. Do I need to cite examples of stuff that was locked “out”, but went on to be groundbreaking? And more examples of stuff that was celebrated “in”, but we would not use as a coaster today?
What is “quality” anyway – that shifting, imprecise category – and whose quality, and who defines it? Does it mean, adhering to principles set down by an Anglo-American-Western European aesthetic?
Or is it something else? Is it quantifiable? Is it about price – that is, the best art is that which can bring the best price? (Er, no that’s not where we want to go is is? Is it?)
Ithas to be said that the Anglo-American-Western European aesthetic – sometimes called the “international style” is dominant. That’s why all the biennials and the blockbuster contemporary art shows look the same.
So, again, why IS the art world so nervous around the idea of a broader aesthetic perspective? And why do we just accept it?
We can not really pretend that ideology is not part of the process.
It’s the smack of “them-ness” that I don’t feel comfortable with. The idea that anything which does not fall into the “international style” but instead refelcts a different aesthetic, perhas even a hybrid one, is not quite quality enough. Or is too unfamiliar. So it’s art about and for “them” not “us”.
But come on – it’s London – the biggest “us” in the world! I refuse to see my fellow citizens and neighbours here in the UK as “them” even though their art work is not much visible. Her ein London now we have the means and the personnel to make the best most interesting most different art in the whole world! Cos everyone is here, now, mixing it up.
But I think that we are just not even talking about it. Open the conversation and you hear the sharp intake of breath. Uh, oh. Nobody wants to go there. Upset the apple-cart of the canon, and you have no hope of getting aboard.
For more on Ideology see Zizek / Fiennes latest:
THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO IDEOLOGY