Lebenskünstler

The Henry Flynt Special [Part I – AGAINST “PARTICIPATION” A Total Critique of Culture]

Posted in Uncategorized by Randall Szott on 03/12/2013

1998 thoughts for the next draft – Henry A. Flynt, Jr

[Thus begins a series of Henry Flynt postings – He is an outlier’s outlier. His concept of “brend” is woefully unknown/unappreciated (highlights of that later).]

Modern art is monumentally cognitively pretentious, as has been evident ever since Cubism. The preposterous mysticism of Malevich. Preposterous claims that evoking the idea of two-dimensional forms moving into three dimensions on the canvas alluded to our own movement in fourth-dimensional hyperspace. These metaphysical pretensions just get worse as we come up to the present.

Classical aesthetics was massively cognitively pretentious. I could only react to these pretensions with total contempt.

As a random example of avant-garde pretensions, one may consult George Brecht, “Something About Fluxus,” May 1964, unabridged version. He claims that the Fluxus school is defined by art or “activity” which is strange and new. But if we examine it with detachment, we see that there is nothing that intrinsically warrants being called strange or new. What Brecht means, described from a non-involved vantage-point, is that the works of his friends violate conventions of the context from which they spring–the gallery, the concert hall–by being diminutive and pointless. Whoop-de-doo!

From the Futurists to the Situationists, these artists were pictured contemporaneously and in hindsight as heroes, as “our leaders.” They indicted the old, they erected the new. They were slick enough to sell paintings that looked like puddles of vomit for a great deal of money, having proved that in the new time, there was no longer a distinction between the beautiful and the ugly. Thus, these shock troops of the new deserved our unconditional endorsement for their valiant stands. The words of their manifestos were like lightening bolts of truth in a murky age.

This phase of twentieth-century cultural history exposes the public as frightfully superficial and gullible. Somehow, the arbiters of taste were never bothered by the fact that the bottom line of the infinite revolution was a commerce in paintings – which were traditional product in every respect except that they were blatantly incompetent. (The artists who said “we had to do it to show how bad the world was” at least knew how bad their art was.)

Clearly, they never meant a word of it, about the infinite revolution. But it never bothered the pundits that artists were trifling with revolutionary claims and slogans. There was never a suggestion of holding the artists to account. It is shocking to realize how important posturing is in campaigning for social rewards. Somehow, it is implicitly understood that the “revolution” talk is fantasy; and it is palatable precisely because it changes nothing, precisely because it only gilds collectible objects. It was lying that brought the vanguard artists respect as heroes. The civilization has been carried up the mountain on the back of a lie. Are we to conclude that a white person is somebody who believes that saying ‘infinite revolution’ is an infinite revolution? [Liam Gillick anyone? – RS]

… Are people so stupid that they really believe that the Ramones will lead us to a perfect world, or even a universal revolution? Or does the audience know itself to be a privileged class which has long since agreed that all its joys will be lies?

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