“Easter’s chiefs and priests had previously justified their elite status by claiming relationship to the gods, and by promising to deliver prosperity and bountiful harvests. They buttressed that ideology by monumental architecture and ceremonies designed to impress the masses, and made possible by food surpluses extracted from the masses. As their promises were being proved increasingly hollow, the power of the chiefs and priests was overthrown around 1680 by military leaders called matatoa, and Easter’s formerly complexly integrated society collapsed in an epidemic of civil war.”
Jared Diamond, Collapse
“A salon, these days, is not the work of the artists, it is the work of the jury. So, I concentrate first of all on the jury, the author of those long, cold, pallid rooms where, under the harsh light, all the timid mediocrities and all the stolen reputations stretch out before us.”
Emile Zola, Mon Salon (1866)
As we stroll the streets of Chelsea, making our obligatory rounds to visit exhibitions at the Great and Powerful Gagosian, as well as the caverns of rival titans Zwirner, and now Hauser and Wirth, we are pretty much walking in the footsteps of Zola in 1866. Zola saw the writing on the wall, and most of us do too. There is something deeply wrong about what we are seeing in the art world today. It offends our sensibilities about what art should be doing, the role the artist has to play in our culture and our society. This Warhol thing has just gone way too far (see Joe Scanlan).
I’m reminded of a piece by Richard Heinberg last summer:
“Ironically, however, during the past few millennia, and especially during the most recent century, social complexity has permitted greater concentrations of wealth, thus more economic inequality, and hence (at least potentially) more competition for control over heaps of agglomerated wealth. As Ivan Illich pointed out in his 1974 classic Energy and Equity, there has been a general correlation between the amount of energy flowing through a society and the degree of inequality within that society. And so, as we have tapped fossil fuels to permit by far the highest energy flow rates ever sustained by any human civilization, a few individuals have accumulated the biggest pots of wealth the world has ever seen. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that it is precisely during this recent, aberrant, high-energy historic interval that Social Darwinism and neoliberal economics have arisen, with the latter coming to dominate economic and social policy worldwide.”
So I must ask, did Jeff Koons and Paul McCarthy make the work I saw (not literally, since we all know it’s “fabricated”), or was it the product of the system itself? Has the idea of the Romantic Artist become such a joke? Just as we see Homo Colossus stride godlike over the earth to create the Anthropocene, the Modern and even Postmodern notions of the artist have been pumped so full of capital that a new, twisted model has emerged in our time: the artist as Colossus. And just like in the movies, the human element has become host to the runaway parasites of capital, power and technology. All brought to you by our spectacular carbon balloon.