23 May 2006

Art Workers and Art Thinkers. Fascinating.




That's a quote from Art Powerlines' thoughtful digestion of that Times article about other people making your art. Jeffrey Deitch is convinced that the artist is a philosopher and not a craftsperson. And yes, I have too much personal experience with the tiered system:

Art thinkers, who all went to Columbia and Yale and don't know how to put a drywall screw into a wall but are expert networkers and self-promoters. They get their art made by art workers who blew in from skill-based crappy state school art programs like my alma mater and were never taught to always talk about yourself. Always.

I would like to add that this is a uniquely American system, in which the art workers are exploited specifically because they believe they could get somewhere... but whatever. That's griping, and griping places myself too squarely in one camp when what I want to do is offer Door Number Three.

There is a lot of art out there that doesn't have to be made by the artist, and if artists are paying fabricators a decent price, what is there to judge? But who on earth honestly believes that making is not thinking? Matthew Barney provides an interesting platform off which to jump, because he struggles with this system. Everything that is interesting in his work is about the experience of being an art worker. And his numerous faults are an active negation of that lowly, dirty status of maker.

This is unfortunate, not just because we have to wade through the effects...

(slicky-slick art objects that are not particularly informed or imbued or lavished or wrought, often paired with hours and hours of ponderous video that brings navel gazing to new heights of inanity)

...but because there is a baby being stuffed down the drain here. To state that the making of the thing matters not because artists are philosophers and not craftspeople is absurdly narrow. There are too many people who are actively thinking with their hands and bodies and coming up with new, relevant propositions for this classist system to make sense.

For once the art world is fair! Yes, this rich kid=brilliant genius, poor kid=exploited immigrant system is either being taught or tolerated at Columbia and Yale. But there are too many people doing something else for Deitch to conclude that this is the New Artworld Order.

10 Comments:

Blogger DilettanteVentures said...

"But who on earth honestly believes that making is not thinking?"

Unfortunately, the very people championed as "philosophers!" The funny thing is, it just shows how poorly these kids and their promoters grasp all the theory they're being exposed to or basing their work on. The critique of the Cartesian mind/body split just gets tossed aside, which is especially ironic for feminist conceptualists. We don't make ANYTHING, but we have a HUGE problem with the invsible laborers in the art world. It's an ethical, political, and philosophical mess!

23 May, 2006 12:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ummm, Matthew Barney doesn't provide his employees overtime pay (despite very long hours) or health insurance. Not so great.

Same goes for Tara Donovan.

23 May, 2006 12:57  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

I am not making a statement about Donovan or Barney's practices as employees. I am talking about their practice as thinkers.

Dilletanteventures, Yes, it's a terrible mess. But it's all so... stupid. How long could an intellectual stance that is this easy to deflate stick around?

(Or is this evidence of my naivete?)

23 May, 2006 18:23  
Blogger Art by Falco said...

Great site...and beautiful artwork.

24 May, 2006 19:00  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

Fabulous post. And right on the money too, if that's not an inappropriate expression in this context.

25 May, 2006 15:10  
Blogger Art Powerlines said...

Hi Deborah. Thanks for linking me, and yes, it is all fascinating indeed! I enjoyed reading your post and looking at your work. Love the styrofoam sculptures, and the crystals eroding away at the armature, in the mississippi work.
Cheers!
And as highlowinbetween likes to say:
Hang the DJ!

26 May, 2006 11:13  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Art Powerlines, Hello!

Thanks for making me write, my fine brother or sister. Hang the DJ, indeed, look forward to more posts about this topic.

26 May, 2006 13:11  
Blogger serena said...

This is a wonderful post. Thanks so much.

I had an ongoing battle with most of my professors throughout art school, because although I could sit around and spew 'theory' until the cows came home, for entertainment, in actual practice I do my real thinking with my hands. In order to create a piece of art, I must integrate my thoughts seamlessly with my medium, and you can only do this by understanding the craft.

But instead of teaching me any craft, like I asked them to do, these brilliant professors bludgeoned me with questions about "WHY do you want to learn to weld?" to cover up the fact that they themselves didn't know HOW to weld.

Which is why I pretty much had to start my education after I left school.

01 June, 2006 16:42  
Blogger Aurora said...

Hi Deborah,

While I understand your criticism of Yale & Columbia for seemingly perpetuating elitist attitudes wherein the artist doesn't get dirty anymore, I myself studied at Columbia & now am struggling to support myself with my artwork... and I am near expert at hanging sheetrock, plastering, etc... I am a certified welder and teach welding sometimes even. I use my paws. Nuff sed?

So.

While I loved my experience at Columbia, it did emphasize theory and thinking above making, but
recently I had the great honor of being able to hire some people to help me make & think about art for an installation I did. It was really an amazing experience that in & of itself required much more thought than I would have anticipated.

The whole artist / artist assistant system is a beautiful construct that helps artists engage in dialogue with one another and think about work, not just their own. I couldn't afford to pay health insurance or overtime either. But I myself don't get paid sufficiently for those luxury items.

Perhaps a point to consider is that the practice of artmaking can be shared and that it is up to us makers who think to bridge this gap!

Art school isn't craft school and art that is just well made but lacks meaning behind it is just crap. I think the same applies inversely.

Glad I found your blog and really like your art work.

*p.s. Got any networking tips for a Columbia grad?

02 November, 2006 14:11  
Blogger Kate said...

How many artists give credit by name to their "fabricators", I wonder?

Thank you for the great post, months later!

30 July, 2007 20:35  

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