Lebenskünstler

Leaving Dieter Roelstraete – The art world as urinal

Posted in Uncategorized by Randall Szott on 04/03/2013

Can I Go Now? – Dieter Roelstraete

I find myself in the unfortunate position of defending Andrea Fraser, art, and Dave Hickey.

Roelstraete’s argument here has a familiar ring to it. Any vegetarian would likely recognize it – you don’t eat meat, but you’ve got a leather wallet. Or Anarcho-primitivists might see it too – you are arguing for an end to modernity, but you use a computer to type your manifesto. Maybe even anti-capitalist activists might notice – why don’t you leave this country or stop using money if you’re so sick of it? And who do you think reads your anti-capitalist essays other than anti-capitalists?

And perhaps Roelstraete “should be forgiven” for completely misunderstanding the distinction between being “more real” and being real in a different way. Just as the lives of the wealthy are “real” in some reductive ontological sense, it should not be mystifying to say that “real” life is not one of servants and private jets being at one’s beck and call. And McDonald’s might claim that Chicken McNuggets are real food and be correct in a very basic sense, but claiming fast food isn’t real food is not denying this. Sure the art world is a part of the real world just like Rodarte makes “real” clothes and Ann Romney had a “real” job, but they are not real in the same way as clothes from Wal-mart or being a cashier there. And to say “in the same way” is stopping short a bit – it would be more accurate to say they are not equally real in any way that actually matters. They are less real in this pragmatic sense.

One wonders how a curator might not understand an artistic proposition – how is it he ends up “wedded to the wrong notion of art?” Surely he understands that Duchamp’s urinal is both real and differently real, or that to declare the urinals in the MCA bathrooms more real than Duchamp’s implies nothing else than “more” real for a particular purpose. To borrow from Stephen Wright, if you need to piss, a double ontological toilet might not be the best choice and it may in fact be “better” to piss in a real one. Although Duchamp’s idea of the “reciprocal readymade” might cause us to reconsider even that decision.

In the various gestures of leaving that Roelstraete takes umbrage with, he appears to fail to see them as gestures. Ironically he sets up an even stricter “antimony” between art and the real world. He seems to want Fraser et. al. to really leave, a possibility he forecloses given that he believes that art and the real world are besties. It would seem that he wants to distract us from the flavorless, heat lamp warmed “food” of the art world by arguing about its reality rather than its desirability. When some declare let’s leave this place and find some real food, he merely wishes us luck and mumbles smugly like a Taco Bell manager, “They’ll be back.” And that art world attitude is what has my soul truly despairing.

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3 Responses

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  1. A. said, on 05/09/2013 at 13:19

    Have you submitted your response to Roelstraete’s text as a letter to the editors?

  2. Randall Szott said, on 05/09/2013 at 13:31

    No. I am happy to live in my little bloggy corner of the internet. My comments are public and I’m not sure what difference it would make to have them appear in frieze. Wouldn’t that play into his critique anyway? I’ll stay in the real world. :-)

  3. A. said, on 06/12/2013 at 15:23

    “…I’m not sure what difference it would make to have them appear in frieze.”

    To have your views known by the people whose thinking you are trying to influence most.

    If I had posted my comments on my blog (I don’t have one) instead of yours, do you think that you have found them?

    Please don’t take this comment as a provocation. I think your argument is valuable and worth spreading.


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