Sunday, June 2, 2013

swarms of wild animals


Like the authors mentioned in a journal note by Kierkegaard most of our critics write with so little individuality that almost any citizen of our sun-burnt commonwealth could sign their name to the work and be done with it.

Most authors write with so little individuality that almost anyone in the kingdom could be the author of what is written, and since the name becomes a very trivial accessory, one perceives that anonymity has significance also in a poetic sense; on the other hand, authors who have individuality have no need of appending their names. (S. Kierkegaard IIA 412, May 6, 1835)

So we see this type anonymous writing coming from the fertilising heroes of the IPA. One such individual wrote a piece about a recent art installation/performance in Melbourne. The art work was called Goldene Bend'er, the critique in one of the major daily fish wrappers was titled “Should you foot the bill for execrable waste of human resources?” The title of the critique being a nice bit of rhetoric, clever pun, for the art work under discussion had the performers sitting on transparent toilets and defecating.

Our individual loving, Voltaire quoting, free speech defending, IPA critic Chris Berg shows us this movement of anonymity at the very start, with the title of his work, with his telegraphed and unreflective turgidity of words. Let us dive into the cesspit. The title is a rhetorical question -- “Should you foot the bill?” Straight away we can see that the anarcho-capitalist, philistine, race to the bottom, purposefully divisive, quaintly populist attack on social funding of art will be a feature of the opinion. And so it continues “for execrable waste of human resources.” Here we have a multi-layered fecal pun worthy of Aristophanes. If the reader was not sure as to how to think, she is given a not too subtle joining of shit with government funding. Finishing off with a the side effect of using the dehumanising capitalist ideal of human resources; when we get to forget real authentic human beings involved in the daily production and reproduction of life and instead looks at humans as a one sided alienated resource.

What of style? What of the critic's style that -- to again use a Kierkegaardian idea -- is the author's external birthmark? What we get as style is no more nor less than one would expect; a sneering, looking down upon, faux-news style. We get to read a mocking of artists and the obligatory sneer across the bow of the art/government bureaucracy. Any number of citizens, driven as they are by common sense, could easily have given their name to this piece. Any number of tired, cynical, jaded, bitter with the world men, who feel that the world is naturally dirty and ugly could have written this critique. Any number of haters could have penned this piece. However, only a select few of those who rail against elites have the wherewithal to have such a piece published in a major newspaper. Any number of white men oppressed as they are by feminism, and aboriginals could have come up with this argument; it is an old argument. Any art work that involves excrement is low hanging fruit for ideologues. Of all those who rail against the elites, only those who have large institutional organisations behind them and ready access could have had this article printed. The great mass of drink addled, brain neutered sheep have to content themselves with beating their wives and children and crying into their beer mumbling about uppity women and the sorry state of the art world at the local suburban hotel.

But why the fuss? Living as I do in the covert wiles of Tasmania I was not able to visit Melbourne to see this work, so I have to assume that our intrepid reporter not only was at the opening of the show, but that he had an in-depth conversation with the artist in an attempt to figure out what was being done and why the work was structured in such a way. While I think that Berg's critique of this installation as being faux-radicalism may be a bit harsh; I have to agree that shocking the bourgeoisie in this manner (if indeed it was the intention of the maker) does no good. The proper way to shock the bourgeoisie is by appropriating their wealth, and overturning their power structures.


From my brief research it seems the shitting was an integral, but not dominate fact of a two hour dance piece. Reading the Berg critique one gets the impression that the shit was the main point of the show. “On a Friday night less than a fortnight ago, six dancers from a company called BalletLab performed an artistic work at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art at Southbank. This involved them sitting on toilets and taking a dump.” Or so says Berg]. Looking at this article one reads this “The two-hour act saw the six dancers, masked but naked beneath sheer garments, move around a room in the gallery before sitting on transparent stools and performing - only if they were moved to do so - what is usually one of our most private and rarely discussed daily acts.”


There would seem to be a difference of aspect in the two reviews. One placing the controversial movement in context, the other designed, it would seem, to angry up the blood. With the blood angering mentions of artists and public money, one can be overawed into thinking that the bourgeoisie in Australia is waiting with open wallets and bank accounts to fund a new wave of provocative art, if only the government would just get out of the way.


But let us briefly touch on what the artist was interested in; it seems that the artist Mikala Dwyer (never mentioned by name in the Berg article -- was this done to dehumanise the artist?) was interested in “the body, transition and transformation.” Which raises the question -- what in our daily life better shows transformation than the daily changing of rich yummy chocolate cake into horrible, stinky fecal matter? Excreting is a seemingly alchemical process, fraught with wonder and horror, a transformation which in a very personal way shows the unity of change, that teaches of matter in it's various forms, a transformation that proves the Hegelian ideal of the blossom superseding the bud, not destroying, but transforming and negating in an organic whole.


I spoke to my thirteen year old, fount of all knowledge, daughter about the Berg review; she noted that it is lazy journalism to mount the argument that excrement has been used in artworks before. All art she maintained has been done before, in the same way that much science is the repetition of experiments. Why bother she continued, working herself up into a home schooling frenzy of debate, even waking up in the morning; after all it has been done before? Why indeed; here I joined in the general rebuttal frenzy, do we hold grand finals when it had been done before? Then my charming partner noted -- why bother writing an article about waste and governmental funding of the arts, when it has been said before? Said by any number of anonymous critics.

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