Back in September I posted something about Johanna Drucker's new book:
Sweet Dreams : Contemporary Art and Complicity
by Johanna Drucker
University Of Chicago Press (July 15, 2005)
[...] Drucker shows that artists today are aware of working
within the ideologies of mainstream culture and have replaced
avant-garde defiance with eager complicity. Finding their materials at
flea markets or exploring celebrity culture, contemporary artists have
created a vibrantly participatory movement that exudes enthusiasm and
affirmation--all while critics continue to cling to an outmoded
vocabulary of opposition and radical negativity that defined
I heard about this book from Walter Robinson's (Artnet) rather skeptical if not lukewarm review ("Alas, her argument is ultimately unremarkable..."), but that was enough to make me run out and buy the book, which I am now reading. Raptly.
So far I'm hard-pressed to find any reviews other than Artnet's -- certainly not in Art Forum or Book Forum. Not yet. The book has been out since July -- why aren't they reviewing, or at least refuting? Are they hoping it will just go away?
NEWSgrist is breaking with its usual autonomy and inviting readers to take a look at Johanna Drucker's remarkable, inflammatory book and send in commentary. Or even a review. You can post it to the comments section here, or you can email me; if they're interesting at all I'll include excerpts of your comments in a future post. If no one sends in anything worth posting (I won't post anything, or everything...), I'll keep excerpting the book until someone does. Here's this week's excerpt:
As suggested, in recent decades artists have produced a very different dialogue with culture broadly considered. Hard and fast distinctions of "mass," "ordinary," or "high art" don't always hold. Nor do they have stable material conditions in which to operate, however much institutional boundaries or discursive zones demarcate art from popular aesthetics.
That stubbornly persistent belief in radical aesthetics is the baby to be thrown out here. The tenacious core of outmoded discourse is that art exists to serve some utopian agenda of social transformation through intervention in the symbolic orders of cultural life. Its dreadful, reified rhetoric of elitist posturing passes itself off as the spirit of political heroism. Far from the fray of real politics, from grass roots community organizing or lobbying agencies, this has become the managed, bureaucratic discourse of new academicism, as repressively formulaic as any of the nineteenth-century salon and atelier styles it disdains. The unthinking position continually replicates itself in elite institutions and esoteric, policed languages of high criticism. Entrenched and unchallenged, this academic discourse largely serves careerist or professional interests, while claiming a revolutionary, even proletarien (can we really even still use that word?!?) agenda. Getting free of the grip of habits of thought engrained in this critical legacy is essential if we are to reimagine our relation to the world of aesthetic experience--and of actual politics as well.