From Allan Sekula’s response to Nato Thompson’s “Debating Occupy” roundup in Art in America [Jun/Jul 2012, on scribd, which oy]
The “art world” is a small sector of culture in general, but an important one. It is, among other things, the illuminated luxury-goods tip of the commodity iceberg. The art world is the most complicit fabrication work-shop for the compensatory dreams of financial elites who have nothing else to dream about but a “subjectivity” they have successfully killed within themselves. Thus the pervasive necrophilia of the art system. Alfred Jarry spoke at the turn of the 20th century of a “disembraining machine.” We can speak now of a “self-embalming machine.” Hook yourself up to the dripfor the antiquarian future.
Meanwhile, in the summer of 2004, in advance of the Bush/Kerry election, Frieze did a similarly structured but more abstract roundup of artist comments about art and politics, which makes for a sobering, ambivalent read. Here’s Paul Chan’s response to the carefully worded question, “Can you give an example of a piece of art you think is politically effective?”
When the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 to quash the ‘Prague Spring’ (a series of economic and free speech reforms that liberal-minded Czech communist leaders enacted), the people of Prague were overwhelmed and could not resist militarily. So they did the next best thing: they painted all their street signs white. For eight months the Soviets could not arrest resistance leaders, shut down pirate radio and television stations or break up organized meetings, all because they couldn’t fucking find them.
Which is true? I guess? The Wikipedia entry for the Prague Spring cites Paul Chan. But from his Mar. 2007 Artforum text, “Fearless Symmetry,” [which only shows up on Google in this wonky page and] which ends like this:
But how do we verify, following Rancière, the efficacy of our practice? How do we test the work so that we know it is something made that has become more than something simply made? If we use Rancière as a departure point, perhaps a confrontation is in order. That is to say, the place to verify the practice of equality in the pursuit of a form of freedom (which seems to me like a pleasing if wonky definition of art) might well be a confrontation with a force of order that divides and partitions the ghostly whole back into measured forms of understanding and consumption. If the work is indeed a work, it will resist this partitioning at every turn and claim for itself the autonomy that can come only from the practice of imagining the presence of this now not-so-secret equality in every line, shape, color, and sound. Confronted with such a presence, the police order that longs to divide in order to own can only blush: out of frustration, out of confusion, perhaps even out of fear. But tell me-honestly-when was the last time you blushed looking at art?
Whoa also this, same question to Kara Walker, from the Frieze thing:
I like to think of Donald Judd’s Marfa complex as exemplifying the strivings of White patriarchy. But that’s just me; I don’t think he intended that.