Archive for the 'Conversation Pieces' Category

Rembrandt/Saturday Evening Post

October 24, 2009

“An increasingly dominant market system, fueled by the irrepressible fecundity of mass production, generates its own characteristic cultural forms (advertising, mass media), which threaten to usurp art’s role entirely, even as they erode the public’s ability to distinguish a Rembrandt from the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.  Far from overcoming our narcissistic isolation, consumer culture feeds on it, transforming the redemptive power of an aesthetic communion into the banal transactions of the shopping mall and the Ebay auction.  We are reduced to an atomized pseudocommunity of consumers, our sensibilities dulled by spectacle and repetition.  The relationship between art, advertising and propaganda constitutes a central point of tension in modern art theory.  Art’s function as a form of emancipatory communication is almost always presented in opposition to a malevolent other (kitsch, mass culture, etc.) that threatens to destroy or compromise it in some way.  As a result, the “universal freedom” that art promises “to everyone” must be deferred as art struggles simply to survive against the encroaching flood of billboards, glossy magazines, and Hollywood movies.  By the mid- to late nineteenth century, techniques of mass production and the consolidation of advertising as a cultural form designed to both incite and regularize consumer demand were making it increasingly difficult to establish a firm ontological boundary between the “work of art” and the commodity.”

—Grant H. Kester, Conversation Pieces: Community + Communication in Modern Art, pg 29-30.

CP3 copy

I am in the process of re-reading Conversation Pieces for my sculpture seminar course with Celeste Roberge.  I am totally in love with this book.  I really like Kester’s voice and the way that he lays out his argument is really refreshing.  I like the premise of this book as well–he is proposing that the work that is becoming more and more prevalent that focuses on conversation at its core (which he calls dialogical) is both in response against and following the tradition of modernism.  Instead of just jumping into the work that he wants to discuss, he builds a strong foundation by discussing the avant-garde and its place within its own history.  I especially like the above paragraph in relation to our discussion of kitsch and Harris’ book.  I think it is very well stated.