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«Authenticity Crisis Deskilling, Amateurism, Pluralism and Reality Television or How I Came to Make Art at the Armory Show Deskilling: to reduce the ...»

Authenticity Crisis

Deskilling, Amateurism, Pluralism and

Reality Television


How I Came to Make Art at

the Armory Show

Deskilling: to reduce the level of

skill needed for (a job)

Amateurism: one engaging in a

pursuit but lacking professional


Authenticity: worthy of

acceptance or belief as conforming

to or based on fact


and the

Industrial Revolution

Industrialization brings about an

assault on skill from both the

industrial right and the socialist left

Industrial Right and Devaluation of Skill Domestic Life

• The industrial revolution meant the separation of the home and the workplace, and the decline of agriculture as a normal part of life

• In the twentieth century shopping has largely become deskilled: trading standards and commodification of products has standardized the quality of goods, supermarkets have reduced the need to be able to find one‘s own butcher, grocer etc, Workplace

• Associated with the development of the assembly line, standardized production techniques, and automation.

• This technique replaces skilled craft workers with unskilled, cheaper labour, and some theorists have suggested that this will cause wages to fall and insecure employment to increase.

Capitalist Industrialization also deskills the consumer as it dumbs down and standardizes to try and attain ubiquity Fascination with the Folk 1920-30‘s renewed enthusiasm for left-leaning politics as a reaction to dehumanizing nature of the industrial revolution. Pete Seeger and Woodie Guthrie were among many who touted ―folk‖ music as a way to rebel against the intervention of the industrial.

The same elevation of ―folk‖ remains a cornerstone of the far left approach to eliminating elitism in art.

[In capitalism] Historically, artists of the greatest skill would be more likely to find patronage and success than those of less talent. Art became conceptualized as an activity of high skill restricted to a few gifted individuals of supreme talent. The art of the overwhelming majority of people, who were equally capable of producing art but who lacked the privileges of the Great Artists and whose work was inevitably of a different standard, became marginalized as rough and ready 'folk art' and not a serious aesthetic form.

Socialist Standard June 2005 Art in Capitalism and Socialism In essence, the far right devalued skill for corporate gain while the far left simultaneously praised the absence of the barrier to participation that skill represents.

Just as there will be no workers, only people, in a post-capitalist society, perhaps also there will be no 'artists'. Or perhaps in socialism, everyone will be an artist.

– The Socialist Standard The Rise of Amateurism These assaults on skill combined with an increasingly industrially homogenized environment lead to the association of the unskilled or unmitigated with the authentic Large Format Camera Quality

–  –  –

Ease (less skill required to achieve result) / Access (inexpense, ubiquity) …it was easy to tell you weren‘t looking at film because the often smeary, muddy visuals looked about as bad as an old VHS tape.

Audiences didn‘t seem to care, possibly because, after decades of watching battered home videos on standard-definition televisions, they were accustomed to degraded imagery. For many the pleasure of being able to rent a Billy Wilder movie at their leisure outweighed complaints about how lousy the videos looked. - New York Times on early digital films Low production quality (amateurism) increasingly become conflated with authenticity Mainstreaming Alternative Proto Punk / DIY Punk / DIY Grunge / Alternative Velvet Underground (the Ramones) (Nirvana) (managed by Warhol) Punk bands that have achieved a modicum of mainstream success such as Green Day were seen as derivative of the original canon and also as "selling out" by a community that tries to avoid major record labels and access to widespread audiences as a conscious decision...

- Brian Cogan, counterblast.org ―Punk has gone from a small movement nurtured by a few to a building block of youth culture and popular culture. Without punk, music would sound very different today, and more importantly, without punk, youth would know less about how to interact communally. The model punk provided, although it is flawed and susceptible, is a fine example of how to assemble a social movement and then inject it into the mainstream.

- Francesca Olson, Punk Rock Gets Eaten Up by the Mainstream ―Yet, it remains within the subculture of punk music where the homemade, A4, stapled and photocopied fanzines of the late 1970s fostered the ‗do-it-yourself‘ (DIY) production techniques of cut-n-paste letterforms, photocopied and collaged images, hand-scrawled and typewritten texts, to create a recognizable graphic design aesthetic.―

- Oxford Journal of Design History Webpage

• First aired in the spring of 1989

• Need for new programming during the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike

• It introduced the camcorder look and cinéma vérité feel of much of later reality television The Fake World and the “Real World” But how “real” is this new authenticity Just as musicians utilize low-fi sensibilities to evoke ―diy‖ sentiment and reality television participants locate their behavior in the context of previously aired reality programs, artists have aligned their product with the expectations created by what was previously deemed authentic. In essence, co-opting a sort of false amateurism.

Outside In:

The Assimilation of the Art Amateur Fetishizing the Amateur

Dr. Hans Prinzhorn:

Viennese psychiatrist who had been trained as an art historian in the early twentieth century. 1921 book Bildnerei der Geisteskranken (Artistry of the Mentally Ill), circulated in Europe and was a topic of interest among avant-garde artists.

Jean Dubuffet "I preferred ‗Art Brut‘ instead of ‗Art Obscur‘, because professional art does not seem to me any more visionary or lucid;

rather the contrary....Why then do you write that gold in its raw state is more fake than imitation gold? I like it better as a nugget than as a watchcase. Long live fresh-drawn, warm, raw buffalo milk."

The encounters between artists and primitives resulted in an unlearning of conventions by the trained in the face of these personal views of reality, independently expressed. In essence, this reflected the prevailing concerns and currents of industrialized society, which ensured that authenticity was valued over artistry….

Matthew Gale, "Artistry, Authenticity and the Work of James Dixon and Alfred Wallis" Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore ―It would be nice to say that the pot-head casualties, psychos, weirdos, wackos, and late-night innocents who created Shaw‘s show had proved a return to the original use of the word ‗amateur,‘ meaning to love. But they didn‘t. They were too far gone. Still, in a world where fine art is often recognized less by its craft skills than by authorial pronouncement and context, it was a pleasure to see that professionals don‘t have a monopoly on crap art, and that even amateurs can succeed in doing it badly.‖

- Neal Brown, Frieze, 2001 Hideous, but also weirdly absorbing. Nothing comes between you and the subjects these people wanted to paint - not skill, style, reputation or value. There is absolute sincerity in the religious scenes, palpable psychosis in some of the fantasies. What you get is the message, never lost no matter how ineptly transcribed. There's also the pleasure of spotting a work that looks just like some of the knowing cack-handedness touted in London galleries last year, only with more innocence and spark.

- Laura Cumming, Guardian / The Observer Critics professing to be gobsmacked by these efforts can never have seen an amateur art show or walked along the railings of the Bayswater road. They should get out more. - Sarah Kent, Time Out George Condo Thrift store painting - unknown Cavewoman Throwing a Rock But to me de-skilled means unlearning other people's ideas of skill. All great contemporary artists, schooled or not, are essentially self-taught and are de-skilling like crazy. I don't look for skill in art; I look for originality, surprise, obsession, energy, experimentation, something visionary, and a willingness to embarrass oneself in public. Skill has nothing to do with technical proficiency; it has to do with being flexible and creative.

I'm interested in people who rethink skill, who redefine or reimagine it: an engineer, say, who builds rockets from rocks.

- Jerry Saltz, Art Critic Can We Really Tell the Difference?

Can We Really Tell the Difference?

• All participants preferred and judged as better the artists‘ works at a level significantly above chance.

• Labels had only a minimal influence.

• They resisted choosing the animal/child works even when these were falsely labeled as by an artist!

• When people selected the artists‘ works, they were far more likely to justify this choice by referring to the mind behind the art. When selecting a painting by abstract expressionist Mark Rothko, they said that the work looked intentional and planned; when selecting a child or animal work, they said that they liked the colors or brush strokes.

Boston College psychologists Angelina Hawley-Dolan and Ellen Winner - Psychological Science, 4-year-old Hans Hoffman “Outsider art” created by professional artist for film Junebug Amateurism becomes a mimicry of what we have previously identified as authentic.

That authenticity has been increasingly defined by the absence of commercial or institutional intervention.

Does the elimination of the intermediary (the academy, commercial production or exhibition, hands-on skills etc.) lead to true authenticity?

Have we traded true authenticity for the appearance of authenticity?

Re-skilling and Pluralism ―Roberts wants to understand the readymade and its history in dynamic terms, as part of a dialectic of artistic deskilling and reskilling (the adoption of nontraditional and new tools and techniques). This dialectical reconceptualization points toward alternative authoring strategies, particularly those kinds of collective and collaborative projects that have come to characterize advanced practices of the 21st century.‖ ―inasmuch as the readymade pulled the concept of artistic authorship away from any obligation to craft skill and promoted an understanding of art as thought based, it also marked a moment of real alliance between the nonproductive (but authored) labor of artmaking and the productive, anonymous labor of industry. That is, Duchamp famously ―chose‖ a urinal in a shop window and thereby nominated it as art, but the urinal also fundamentally remained an industrially produced object.‖ When, in 2004, five hundred art experts were asked to name the most influential modern art work of all time they chose Duchamp's Fountain.

More Real than Real Duchamp’s Fountain is the art world’s “Real World”.

How does this lead to the pluralism of today?

"Greenberg was very much shunned and maligned by the art world in the late eighties onward. His idea that there was such a thing as quality and standards of excellence was the very opposite of what the art world became and is presently. The irony is that the standard today is that there are no standards and that anything is art.”

- Judy Singer Mr. Condo is not a producer of single precious items consistent in style and long in the making. If that‘s what you want from painting, he‘ll disappoint you.

He‘s an artist of variety, plentitude and multiformity. – New York Times review Pluralism and Deskilling “We’re witnessing an effort, a hundred years in the making, to legitimize ever-increasing kinds of objects as art, starting with a bottle rack and culminating in a shared meal. This is a kind of freedom, a freedom of possibilities, maximized to an absurd scale that moots a discussion about traditional media training. But it‘s a dissipated freedom that gives rise to artworks as lethargic as their titles.

But where there is only freedom of possibility, there is effectively no freedom at all. There’s another kind of freedom that we need to address as teachers: the freedom of ability.

Against a background of freedom of possibility, which is more or less given, one has to develop freedom of ability by dint of practice— physical repetition of skills with the desire to produce a particular outcome. We should recognize that we are dealing with an entirely different sort of freedom here.‖

- Franklin Einspruch Call it what you will, contemporary cultural practice, post-studio art, postmodernism, post-retinal art, postFordian (post-industrialization) art, post-literate art, postconceptual art, situational aesthetics… the intertextual, trans-disciplinary, cross-cultural, hypermediated, intersubjective, technology dependent pedagogies that privilege concept, context and process over the intuitive experience of direct sensory aesthetic pleasure are so pervasive that they appear on course to eradicate hands-on studio training within a generation.

Duchamp's Legacy: The De-skilling and Dematerializing Promotion of Concept Driven Cultural Practice. Brian Curtis This convergence of deskilling and pluralism is how I came to make art at the Armory Show Joshua Field (b. 1973) 2981, 2011 Found text, dimensions Variable More poignantly, as Burn saw it, deskilled art as a genre didn’t just devalue traditional skills; it devalued disciplined training itself. What had been a democratizing impulse was inadvertently turned into a dumbing down, for, as Burn pointed out, ―skills are not merely manual dexterity but forms of knowledge. The acquisition of particular skills implies an access to a body of accumulated knowledge. Thus deskilling means a rupture within a historical body of knowledge—in other words, a dehistoricization of the practice of art.‖

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