Wednesday, February 6, 2008

primary politics and british pop art

gerald laing, "deceleration 1," 1968

did you vote yesterday? i didn't--i'm registered as an independent so i am excluded. and, unlike our extremely right-leaning "independent" mayor, i am actually interested in an independent candidate but there is none to be found this go-round (ron paul was interesting to me for a bit). that and rich and i are still waiting for ross perot declare his candidacy, but it doesn't look good.

i would have liked to have voted but it sounds like it was a mess here--neither enough ballots for the state nor enough polling sites to go to. in any event, as of now, there are less than 200 votes separating obama and clinton so we still don't know who won (the republicans vote june 3 here). i like obama. i have to say, i am sick of hearing about "the women's vote" or "the hispanic vote" or whatever--a vote is a vote, and hopefully people aren't voting along gender/racial lines. that and it is insulting to assume if one is female and liberal then one should vote for clinton as she is "the female candidate." and by "the female candidate" i mean both designations: she is female, thus the female candidate, and that she allegedly would be the best political representation for women, thus "the female candidate" again. i hate hearing that women need some kind of special representation in politics in this day and age--i think we are past that. it denigrates clinton as a candidate to define her by virtue of her sex; the same goes for obama as "the black candidate" and richardson (when he was running) as "the hispanic candidate" thing. they are Candidates, period. it keeps one from examining the contenders when they are reduced to a single arbitrary reference point.

there is a parallel in the history of modern art to all this. in many circles there is a strong belief that marcel duchamp was the father of all things revolutionary in western art. of course duchamp made major, major contributions but some--actually many--art historians take this a step further by claiming anything innovative in art history after duchamp must have come from duchamp. for example, if any artist were to ever take a common object (say a rake, comb, bicycle wheel, advertisement or--especially--a toilet) and integrate it into their work, it is almost guaranteed that an art historian will cite duchamp as that artist's reference and claim that that is the tradition they are working in/from. whether or not it is true is irrelevant because the effect of such a statement is that the viewer of the new object now no longer has to think about what they are looking at--it is now part of a fraudulent linear construct that starts with duchamp and (currently) ends with the given artist. it does the new artist a tremendous disservice because while some art historians would consider this lineage a compliment, it actually keeps people from ever critically examining their work again.

a great example of this is when i met gerald laing, a british pop artist, at the menil collection in 2001. all pop artists, british or american, are tied to duchamp via their objectification of popular or common items. it isn't necessarily an accurate alliance as it wasn't a cohesive movement (it's not like all these guys got together and said, "hey, let's all work in duchamp's tradition!"), so it is a problem. anyway, i asked him directly, "you know, so many people connect you to duchamp and i'm just curious how you feel about that?" and he very adamantly declared, "i couldn't care less about that god-damned, bloody urinal!" i think i fell in love with him at that. he's currently working on a fabulous series about the war in iraq.

marcel duchamp, "fountain," 1917

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