Posts Tagged ‘art’

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Everyone who reads this blog knows I’m a big fan of the enigmatic British street artist known as Banksy.

This past Tuesday, a new exhibit of Banksy’s work—”War Capitalism & Freedom“—opened in Rome.

“The exhibit symbolizes the fundamental concepts of Banksy’s vision,” said Emmanuele Francesco Maria Emanuele, the chairman of the Fondazione Terzo Pilastro. “Capitalism in crisis; war, which is a consequence; and the notion of freedom that must continue to live inside us independently from the world that surrounds us.”

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I haven’t been to Josh Kline’s new exhibition, “Unemployment,” and I probably won’t make it in time. But I’d certainly like to have had the opportunity to see his artistic representations of various dimensions of the current economic crises.

Here are excerpts from the press release (pdf) for the installation at 47 Canal gallery:

Fast forward ten or twenty years from our present–half a generation. Another American presidential election is scheduled for Fall 2031. Baggy skater pants are back in style in the suburbs. And increasingly intelligent software has turned out the lights on a hundred million jobs. Most of the middle class will never work again. Considered too old, too expensive, too obsolete, and too set in their ways for the faster-paced time in which they find themselves, the majority of people in middle age—born in the 1970s and ‘80s–have no future prospects for professional employment. Lawyer, accountant, banker, administrator, manager, secretary— these now expendable careers have been starved to near-death, following professions like taxi driver, truck driver, train conductor, and factory worker into automated oblivion. What is to be done with the hundreds of millions of people who will never “earn” another paycheck? What is to be done with you?

And what will you do? Will you prowl the streets scavenging pennies and nickels from discarded plastic and glass? Will you Airbnb your body out to strangers in order to make rent? Your mind has left the real economy, but your body still needs to eat food and spend its days somewhere. In a sharing economy, people subscribe instead of owning, so Suburbia’s growing homeless population can’t sleep in their cars anymore.

Income inequality scales exponentially. And unemployment escalates up the asymptote along with it. The money version of Moore’s Law. 21st Century economic crises come equipped standard with a jobless recovery and more effective, efficient automation. Every recession from here on out will close with an ever more brutally competitive round of musical chairs around a diminishing number of lower and lower-paid employment possibilities. If you’re left standing at the end without a job, it’s your own fault, right?

Surprise—this is your going away party! We bought you this personal-sized little cake in gratitude for your years/life of hard work and service. Your brain is no longer required here…

Sure, you’re 55, but you can retrain… And start over with an unpaid internship. It’ll be fine. XOXO KIT.

Capitalism doesn’t care about you. Economic systems don’t have feelings. In a society designed around planned obsolescence, the inevitable fate of goods and services and the people who provide them is to become waste. The same economic alchemy that transmutes a human being into a product—into “human capital”—also turns them into sentient garbage. The other side of consumption’s cheap coin is disposal. Desired, acquired, used, used up, discarded, forgotten—this is the lifecycle of expendable labor inside a runaway free market.

The first step towards a cure is diagnosing the disease. You are not your job. You are not your career. You are a human being.

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Here’s a description of the minimum-wage machine [ht: sm]:

This machine allows anyone to work for minimum wage for as long as they like. Turning the crank on the side releases one penny every 4.97 seconds, for a total of $7.25 per hour. This corresponds to minimum wage for a person in New York. This piece is brilliant on multiple levels, particularly as social commentary. Without a doubt, most people who started operating the machine for fun would quickly grow disheartened and stop when realizing just how little they’re earning by turning this mindless crank. A person would then conceivably realize that this is what nearly two million people in the United States do every day…at much harder jobs than turning a crank. This turns the piece into a simple, yet effective argument for raising the minimum wage.

The machine can also be reprogrammed to pay the minimum wage of wherever it happens to be currently exhibited.

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Arthur Rothstein, “Resettlement Officials” (Maryland, 1935)

Bill McDowell is an American photographer and curator. For his series Ground, he chose images from the 175,000 commissioned by the U.S. Farm Security Administration in the 1930s and 40s—and was especially drawn to those Roy Stryker damaged with a hole punch to prevent their being used again.

McDowell compares the punched hole to “a portal [that] connects us to post-Depression America” in the wake of the 2007-08 global financial crash.

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Special mention

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Gerhard Richter, “Vesuvius” (1976)—detail

 

We’re supposed to be grateful that finally, in “Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection,” we have the opportunity to see the paintings in Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen’s burgeoning art collection.

“We are very excited for this exhibition of paintings from Paul Allen’s collection—all extraordinary landscapes—to be seen by the public as it travels the country on its five-museum tour. The exhibition explores landscape painting through works by a wide variety of artists and artistic movements over almost four centuries—it’s this breadth that makes the show so fascinating,” says Mary Ann Prior, director of art collections at Vulcan, the organization that produced the exhibition.

The show is comprised of works spanning five centuries by such artists as Paul Cézanne, David Hockney, Edward Hopper, Gustav Klimt, Claude Monet, Thomas Moran, Georgia O’Keeffe, Gerhard Richter, and J.M.W. Turner. “Seeing Nature” is co-organized by the Portland Art Museum and the Seattle Art Museum, in collaboration with the Paul G. Allen Family Collection. “These are really exceptional pieces of art, and there’s something about landscapes that is universally attractive, which is why I find them so interesting,” Allen says. “By sharing these paintings with the public, it is my hope that people will have the same eye-opening experiences I had when I first saw them.”

But not Philip Kennicott. He focuses attention, first, on the Richter painting in the show.

It is one of several volcano pictures in the Allen collection, but it is perhaps the most ominous and unsettling. Rather than depict the drama of volcanic eruption, Richter shows the mountain asleep, barely visible in the distance, viewed from a small rock outcropping across a vast, hazy sea. The painting captures the double nature of the sublime, the terrifying power of nature (in this case dormant) along with the inherently arrogant belief that man can overpower, assimilate and tame nature (implied ironically by the vantage point, high and distant).

The Richter is the most keenly critical work in the show, dramatizing and undermining the idea that man can stand above and survey the world as if he owned it. Many wealthy people believe that this is true, but in the end they are always disabused of the notion. “Ars longa, vita brevis” comes for everyone at some point.

It’s not clear whether Allen understands this, sees the irony, or just likes the painting, which can pass surreptitiously for a postcard view of a pretty place. And that’s the problem. Like so many other shows devoted to work amassed by individual collectors, the collector himself is a cipher. His comments in the catalogue interview are disturbingly inarticulate and jejune. The promise that an exhibition such as this one will illuminate something interesting about the collector, or the idea of collecting, is almost never fulfilled.

And, then, Kennicott raises more general issues about the show itself and Allen’s collection:

In the end, we’re supposed to feel grateful. But I don’t feel grateful. I resent the fact that when this show is over (it will travel to Minneapolis, New Orleans and Seattle through 2017), all of the art will remain in the private collection of Paul G. Allen. And I can hear the retort: That’s life, that’s capitalism, and get over it because at least it’s not in Qatar.

But the problem with collecting masterworks of great artists is that the act of ownership is in itself a kind of theft, stealing from the public commons of genius. Put another way, once a work of art is important enough to be of interest to a man like Allen, it belongs to all of us. He may not know that, but we do. And so when the show is over and the art is subsumed back into the private palaces of plutocracy, one feels its loss more keenly than any fleeting gratitude to the person who made it temporarily accessible.

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The spectacular crash of 2007-08, once a public spectacle of economists, politicians, and bankers, is increasingly becoming a popular spectacle in art.

Alessandra Stanley reviews some of the recent films, TV series, and novels—from The Big Short through Billions to Opening Belle—that attempt to represent the causes and consequences of the worst crash since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Americans are once again paying for the 2008 financial collapse.

This time, though, it’s willingly.

Entertainment industry executives and publishers say there is a growing audience for movies, plays, television shows and novels that address the misdeeds and systemic failures that brought the economy to the edge of collapse eight years ago.

I wonder what impact these projects will have on the current political campaign in the United States, where both parties are being forced to deal with widespread discontent over the real-world spectacle of growing inequality, Too Bigger to Fail banks, and more instability ahead.