Monday, September 24, 2012

'As a stepchild of the Factory, I am certain of one thing: images can change the world. I have seen it happen. I have experienced the "Before and After," as Andy might say, so I know that images can alter the visual construction of the reality that we all inhabit. They can revise the expectations we bring to that reality and the priorities we impose upon it. I know, further, that these alterations can entail profound social and political ramifications. So even though I am an art critic now and occupationally addicted to the anxiety of change, I cannot forget that there should be more to it than that. There is change, and there is change. When change takes on the innervating aspect of Brownian agitation nothing is really changing. When the "difficulty" of the images one writes about stops being an occasion to upgrade the efficacy of one's critical practice, when this difficulty becomes rote and repetitive, no more than a demand to practice criticism as preached, there are obviously forces in play that resist change and refinement. Under these conditions, one can become a bit contemplative about the business of connecting the dots with regard to art objects that present themselves as strategized invitations to cite the talismanic theoretical texts that inspired them in the first place.

'In fact, when change stops generating anxiety by challenging one's language of value, when works of art become simple occasions for fashionable écrits morts, one cannot suppress a growing sensitivity to those aspects of contemporary image-making that do not change and, by not changing, make substantial and more anxious change less likely. For myself, I have become increasingly amazed and dismayed at the persistence of dated modernist conventions concerning the canonical status of "flatness" and the inconsequences of "beauty" in twentieth-century painting. In my view, the linguistic properties implicit in the "negativity" of illusionistic space" – its metaphorical "absence" – and the rhetorical properties latent in our largely unarticulated concept of beauty should more than outweigh whatever academic reservations might still accrue to them.

'It was, after all, the invention of illusionistic space that bestowed upon the visual language of European culture the attributes of "negativity" and "remote tense," which are generally taken to distinguish human language from the languages of animals. These properties make it possible for us to lie, to imagine convincingly in our speech, to to assert what we are denying, and to construct narrative memory by displacing the locus of our assertions into a past or a future – into a conditional or subjunctive reality. For four centuries visual culture in the West possessed these options and exploited them. Today we are content to slither through the flatland of Baudelarian modernity, trapped like cocker spaniels in the eternal, positive presentness of a terrain so visually impoverished that we cannot even lie to an effect in its language of images – nor imagine with any authority – nor even remember.'

from The Invisible Dragon by Dave Hickey

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