Jan Verwoert is presenting The Aspirational (appetite, recalcitrance, cure) at Glasgow’s Barnes Lecture Theatre GSA on December 8.
The Berlin-based critic writes on contemporary art and cultural theory, recently publishing a second collection of essays Cookie! last year to follow up 2010’s Tell Me What You Want What You Really Really Want,both published through Sternberg Press.
This particular talk is introduced with a piece of prose examining a notion of “aspirational art” where “middle class moralists dream of high-minded workers and can’t quite tolerate that talent from below tends to go by the names of Ripley, Lazarillo, Krull…”
The exhibition, derived from a quote by Marcel Duchamp, underlines the potential disruptiveness of an otherwise traditional art form in the hands of those said to be ‘practicing without a license’, a phrase used to describe Wool’s work at Guggenheim talk.
In COOKIE!, Verwoert zeroes in on the tragicomedy of making, showing, and critiquing art, showing the hard emotional labour that goes into it, and gesturing towards the culture of “con-artist (like us)”.
Between Paul Kneale’s intermittent “tweets” in ‘UNTHESIS’ and Harry Sanderson’s detailed exposition on the violence of the immaterial in ‘Human Resolution’, Arcadia Missa’s fourth edition of bi-annual journal How to Sleep Fasterhas the current art world covered. It goes without saying that we’re living in strange times and, in a networked collaborative discussion spanning art aesthetics, materiality and politics, this collection of essays, artworks, creative writing and ‘other’ illustrates that. For some, it might be hard to care about feminism and queer theory in the face of PRISM, economic crisis and global exploitation but its all discourse that emerges as central to the ultimate problem of Capital.
From Julian Molina’s critique of claims that “social justice could be achieved through markets” to Jesse Darling’s “phallic modernity”, its clear that myriad oppressions and exploitations are key in the Patriarchal despotism of Western neo-liberalism. Maja Malou Lyse’s (Boothbitch) two-page colour spread selfie –reclining, armpits au naturale, complete with an unfilled tag box begging “type any name” –expresses liberated pubes as still the exception and not the rule amidst Hannah Black’s “sexy but not sexual” ‘Hot Babes’. That in turn echoes Ann Hirsch’s praise of the selfie in ‘Bitching and Whining’ while expounding on the productive and political power of online “bitching”. That’s in as much as the selfie helps propagate images in opposition to the unfair ideals of traditional media, and public whining can do the same.
The power of those mediated conventions in shaping the public consciousness is explored by John Bloomfield in ‘Lessons in Becoming Heterosexual’ where film establishes and normalises sexual behaviour as being heterosexual. Huw Lemmey’s ‘Isherwood’s Gay Cinema’ goes on to investigate the effect of that resultant “orthodoxy of default heterosexuality”. Both pieces explicitly politicise their subject, where Bloomfield’s “heterosexual behaviour” is inextricably linked to Capitalism through work, Lemmey’s “gay subjectivity” as a means towards anarchy. Inherently radical by its very ‘deviance’, its a way towards dismantling those precarious establishments, which Darling defines later as “all things even big things”.
A call for resistance then. ‘FEMININE//FEMINIST’ and Arcadia Missa co-founder and co-curator Rózsa Zita Farkas makes claims to resisting commodification and total subsumption by “owning the feminine in a feminist context” because “they themselves have incorporated the object image”, not big business. Harry Burke and Metahaven propose to “strike at the level of discourse” by uniting people in dissent “in the space of a LOL or a raised eyebrow”, ridiculing authority and encouraging “collective disobedience, while revealing structural injustice” in ‘Metahaven, visibility and the joke’. William Kherbek too, stopped looking for love and “started looking for lulz” by settling for online bi-curious sex with a “dude cybergremlin” in ‘Tomorrow, the New Earth’. Because, as Eleanor Ivory Weber points out in ‘Anno Domini but add another D’, feminine love-pleasure and the masculine (or Patriarchal) envy of it equates to Franco ‘Bifo’ Beraldi’s “acquisition, possession and containment” and the acceptance of the “finite (male) version” of universal truth. The role of ‘love’ as just one system of control carries on into Weber’s citation of art critic Jan Verwoert’s essay, ‘Faith Money Love’, where economics replaces religion as Divine Sovereignat the “amorphous altar known as the stock exchange”.
Our complicity in these systems of control is also given an accusatory glance inwards. Rosa Aiello’s ‘Alien Logic’ explores her own acceptance of the “blank ‘terror’ space” propagated by Soft Horror TV and “the couch of dramatic irony”. Holly White recognises the role she plays in globalisation by eating Snickers and listening to Lana Del Rey every day, at home and abroad: “my love of brands was part of the problem”. Consumption as cause of exploitation is nowhere more explicit than in Sanderson’s ‘Human Resolution’, illustrating the ubiquity of the digital commodity and the physical labour required to produce it.
It’s a focus on these realities and their very human effects that Georgina Miller and Felix Petty demonstrate in ‘Clean Sheets’ and ‘Welcome to Vukovar’, respectively. One, her regrettable relations with a male admirer “because you feel grateful” (“that flaccid pile of pulp should pay for my sheets”). The other, the potential for proletariat resistance in football culture and its fragile position balanced between “the disorganised violence of the mob” and “the organised violence of the State”.
Finally, Kneale heralds the ‘TUMBLR DARK AGE’ under the “totally, vertically integrated, end-user-system” of a New Christendom, which you could easily identify as the Metahaven-defined “new type of US imperialism”. But, perhaps there’s still hope, or at least potential, in a final footnote by Darling in ‘Precarious Architectures and the Slippage of the Phallic Modern’: “You know there’s a hole in the ozone the size of North America? That isn’t so big.” **