Toward a #soilpractice + #socialpractice manifesto: ending the art system and restoring aesthetic ecology
The art system is like industrial food production focusing on the products that are most readily brought to market. It creates monocultures, vast swaths of easily consumable, but highly infrastructure dependent crops.
Its model of research therefore requires institutional gatekeeping (museums, galleries, expert panels, curators, and especially credentialling – the MFA program, etc.) in order to maintain its economic viability. No seed sharing between neighbors, no advice from your grandmother will suffice. Folk wisdom is for anthropology, but not the arcane science of the fine arts. These institutions and their representatives act like Monsanto taking up vernacular practices, formalizing them, squeezing the living core out, and controlling their distribution and viability.
The study of art then becomes about how to increase yields of proven commodities, and how to effectively market those commodities to convince the public that there is no alternative (T.I.N.A.) to the shitty tomatoes on offer. Actually thriving aesthetic communities that exist outside the system are ignored at best, mocked and degraded at worst.
This degradation of the soil of aesthetic experience is the same folly conventional farming employs. The multi-century wisdom of soil ecology is plowed under and poisoned by the faddish inventions of centralized economic and cultural elites. “We are feeding the world!” they say. “Other methods will lead to starvation.” they say. And yet the hunger is a scarcity they invented by decimating communities and practices and also a hunger for something more substantial than the cleverness of packaging experts, or merchandising, of disconnected, consumerist art products.
So Sholette’s “dark matter,” is a metaphor from astronomy, but maybe we need one from agronomy instead. Rather than “dark matter” as the great missing mass of the art world, it is “mycorrhizae” that is more apropos. Art historians and critics completely miss the vitality and complexity upon which the monocultures they study depend, their eyes trained only to see the field of wheat rather than the diverse ecosystemic relationships on which it depends.
The art system must be destroyed before its toxic practices further degrade the potential quality of our aesthetic ecologies. We are being poisoned. To paraphrase Vandana Shiva, “NO MORE MONOCULTURES OF THE MIND.”