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DYNAMITE IN ART FORUM
MARCH 26, 2006 6:38 PM

For those of you who don't know Ryan Thompson [aka warmest regards] and Matt Poole [aka regroup], they are part of, what seems to be, an ever evolving artist group called Dynamite Family[see: http://www.dynamitefamily.com].

While reading the new Art Forum I came across an article called Depth Perception by Mathew Stadler on Red76.

I found the article to be overly critical, but important, in that, many artist groups like Red76 and Dynamite have been popping up all around the world and evidence of their existense can be seen in the contemporary art world [and market?], yet there seems to be little dialogue around the idea of a conceptual artist group focused on the idea of community and human interactions.

The article concentrates on Portland, OR based artist group Red76. Stadler goes on to criticize "half-assed" and "uneducated" groups of artists who create/parttake in events with "no depth" that they intend to be art, specifically Ghosttown a series of events that took place in Portland, OR and NYC earlier this year. Some of the events he talks about are potlucks, movie festivals in people's homes, lecture series at laundromats, etc [sound familiar?].

"But Red76 or Learning to Love you More, 2002 - (the collaborative project of Harold Fletcher and Miranda July), or Dynamite (a broadly traveled live/work collective from Grand Rapids, Michigan) - artists who, with the exception of Fletcher, have little or no formal training - tend not to add depth but, instead, obsessively broaden their reach. Critics compensate by restoring depth to the image of the artist, enacting a shadow play of romantic heroism that concentrates meanings in the shell of these artists' sensibilities and inner lives, which are then targeted as sites of critique. This misreading is almost unavoidable wherever the task of art criticism is taken at all seriously - as it is here in this essay."

"The ascendancy of the horizontal - and note the absurd paradox of this formulation - is a turn that completely changes the possibilities and conduct of meaningful artistic practice. If we are witnessing the complete repudiation of depth or verticality as modes of making or interpreting art, this marks an important shift in art history, one with enormous political implications. Ghostown's indifference to struggle or the enactment of political and aesthetic depth suggests that this is, in fact, the new territory we are faced with."


I do seem to find something Romantic [yes, with a capital R] about groups like Dynamite and Red76 - the fact that everything is viewed as being so simple between people. Their projects tend to highlight the apolitical, idealized interactions between people, focusing or highlighting things that are "nice" or "ideal" or without worry. Being involved in or observing such projects evokes feelings reminiscent of watching a Woody Allen movie on a Sunday afternoon, while preparing to go to the record store to get the new Belle and Sebastian record and maybe some Thai food.

This autonomous nostalgic feeling radiating from these groups recalls certain aspects of Modernism that I found attractive, but uselss when thinking/talking about art history or aesthetics. To agree with Stadler, these groups and their projects really have no depth or aesthetic consideration [more so in retrospect due to critics of their 'work'], but is their intention to create an 'art object' or act within the art world?

Please feel free to comment and continue this dialogue with me. I have more to say, but I would like it to come out in some sort of conversation.

I think we should make a thread in DISCUSS about this.

In the meantime, I know from experience that the biggest challenge facing art in America right now is the disconnect between art and the audience.

Curators become marginalized and co-opted into the marketing department because their audience isn't informed enough to accept the challenges presented by highly trained experts in art. In England, art and artists are far more public. Artists are celebrities and museums are as popular as music venues. Celebrity and popularity are certainly dubious environments for art, but they do serve to introduce the average person to the possibilities of art. Brits may make fun of Tracey Emin on a regular basis but at least they are aware of her.

I haven't read this article yet, but from what Ben posted, it sounds like a critique of an idealistic, bohemian lifestyle more than the great diffusion of high art. Does the article criticize the meet-market "Friday Night" programs at museums like the MCA. Does anyone even look at the art at those events? How about the blatantly incestuous board of directors at traditional art orgs? Perhaps the lack of trained artists participating in these groups (which is a shaky claim) has something to do with the dismal arts education policies in the U.S.

As I said, I have yet to read the article, but in an era in which people are more likely to have voted for Clay Aiken than George Bush, attacking artist collectives as philistines seems painfully misguided.

anthony | March 27, 2006 9:21 AM

After reading the article, it seems that the author is primarily concerned with a lack of ownership or accountability.

The article does raise some questions about the level of understanding that projects like the ones mentioned demand. Towards the end it seems like he is put-off by the lack of familiar traits that lend art to commoditization (singular authorship, potential for reproduction).

"Red76's general indifference to accountabiliy or formalization poses a final affront to the needs of art discourse. Content to occupy the present, the group took little care to honor art history or make plans for the future - ie. long-term commercial viability."

As far as the discourse is concerns, these groups integrate "the discourse" into the work. Discussing and studying art changes its relevance in hindsight, why not at its point of creation?

I recently asked a group of artists out of Chicago (the manual labor gallery I think) how the temporary nature of their group informed their work. I am not sure if anyone really knows how work with a limited shelf-life will fair in the art world, but to me, it seems like a fine way to move from material worship into greater interaction between art and society.

anthony | March 27, 2006 11:00 AM

I was watching the last episode of UB2 today and during the credits, I noticed something kind of funny.

Both the author of this article and I were judges on UB2

ben | March 27, 2006 11:51 AM

http://www.g-rad.org/benner/archives/ub2credits.jpg

ben | March 27, 2006 11:52 AM

I posted about this article
here: http://leisurearts.blogspot.com/2006/03/artforum-new-art-practices-cross.html

Sorry, couldn't get html to work. Also see "Bracketology" post.

LeisureArts | March 27, 2006 1:26 PM

I thought Stadler's piece needed a rejoinder. Matt and I dialog back and forth about it here: http://www.portlandart.net/archives/2006/03/artform_and_gho.html

jj | April 9, 2006 7:03 PM

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