Lebenskünstler

Gregory Sholette – Curator’s Disease – Edward Tiryakian – Existential Phenomenology

Posted in Uncategorized by Randall Szott on 04/02/2012

On one level, I love Sholette’s book Dark Matter, but at a much deeper level I find it infuriating. While it does hint at a profound re-evaluation of art/politics and at shedding light on “dark matter” it ultimately treats dark matter with curator’s disease…that is it serves as a vague intellectual theme used to illustrate a preordained vision- in this case the rather conventional celebration of the heroic artistic avant garde – rather than as a radical foil to academic triumphalism. Stephen Wright and Alexander Koch are doing much less conventional work addressing so called “dark matter.” Having said that, I’m still thankful the book exists and talks intelligently about some great folks.

Coincidentally, while revisiting Sholette, I discovered this quote from Edward Tiryakian describing existential phenomenology in Stanford Lyman’s A Sociology of the Absurd (1970):

“…[it] seeks to elucidate the existential nature of social structures by uncovering the surface institutional phenomena of the everyday, accepted world; by probing the subterranean, non-institutional social depths concealed from public gaze, by interpreting the dialectic between the institutional and non-institutional.”

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3 Responses

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  1. gsholette said, on 06/24/2012 at 16:02

    hmmmm – I am an artist Randall, and not a ”curator” as you more or less imply, and my Dark Matter book is (as most other reviewers have pointed out) a “call to arms” aimed at inciting the vast majority of other artists to recognize the structural redundancy and underdevelopment they operate within within the art world- that is to say, it is an attempt (or perhaps this is the attempt) to politicize them (not curate them!) Also sadly it seems my efforts at attempting to show them that the avant-garde is a myth at this point, and must be countered with clear-headed analysis into the political economy of this world. Maybe you just read selectively but to offer just two citations of many from Dark Matter that take up this critique:

    ”At a moment such as this, old-fashioned appeals to the deep, transcendental meaning of high culture are no more constructive than demands for a return to the principles of the revolutionary avant-garde. If the former sought to salvage an already doubtful artistic autonomy, then the latter is incapable of breaking away from the deft grip of an all-pervasive capitalist market that seems to provide the only hope for cultural visibility today. A spirit of entrepreneurship now dominates “every phase of contemporary art,” writes Chin-tao Wu, including its “production, it dissemination and its reception.” DM 35

    ”While business embraces the shock and destruction of the avant-garde, artists adopt concepts such as niche marketing and networking from business. As Angela McRobbie affirms, artists today are even capable now of reinventing themselves “for the increasingly global market. They can be successful,
    sell their work; they no longer have any reason to be angry social critics.” Dm 38

  2. […] As I mentioned in a previous post, I find Alexander Koch’s work (and Stephen Wright’s) to be absolutely compelling with regard to the art/life divide, so called “dark matter” and the invisible creative practices of escape artists. […]

  3. […] activist, non-institutional, self-organized practices.” And this revision sets the stage for the disappointment I mention here. Sholette’s book becomes then not so much a radical questioning of the creative economy, but […]


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