ART AND GLOBAL CRISIS
Updated: Apr 24, 2020
So, these days of course are strange and confusing. And many people is reflecting and struggling with depression, fear, neglect, misinformation and optimism.
Many things are being said about what to think about next, and what ideas should be tackled, lessons to be learned. Art and culture, creative communities and guilds are thinking a lot too: about their own role among humanity, about their role in this planet. I read some days ago a post on IG from a renowned artist saying that today the role of artists, gallerists and art institutions is to rethink the art market and if we are doing art for the sake of business, that we need to reflect if so much travel, so many galleries and art fairs are necessary (I also read a couple of articles about this, one of those expressing a lot of worry for artists using a lot of Instagram, lol), or if we need to be more solidary among our own community, and I felt that the comment was so far away from the actual core of this convulse time:
Of course, markets will change. And change is necessary, but, I’m sure that if right now and for the last, let’s say 20 years, you’ve been focusing on the market itself and now you want to rethink why artists do art or if something should or shouldn’t be art, then you are falling out of the conversation, because if you needed a pandemic to think about that… well, what can I say?
I’m sure that today our big role as creatives, as artists, is not about reflecting if you are here for the money or the art fairs but about reflecting around what a world are we making manifest and what, which, how, our world could be. We have a moment in our hands where reflection about utopia-dystopia is necessary, reflection about the fear of the other, reflection about retro-futurism (which futures we thought about as humanity in the past never happened, and why), about anthropocentrism, about our tense and confusing relation with science and religion, about our convulse politic leaders, about how our bodies do not end where our skin ends but they infinitely fade into the environment and the environment fades into us and therefore there is no limit between the self and the surrounding, about if there are really anti-nature or anti-natural things, about our hyper-connected yet individualistic society, about our pop culture, about our sense of humor, about death, about hope, about purpose.
Galleries and art fairs are just a fragment of the whole creative ecosystem, they are important, yes, but in a sense galleries and art fairs are nothing more than a business model, and intermediary that has become so protagonist that sometimes we miss the point: art won’t disappear until humanity disappears, until then what will come and go are business models, aesthetic trends and discourses, but, the ever changing vocation of experiencing, understanding, appreciating and expressing the world and the complexity of existence, that, that will remain.
Don’t take me wrong, of course market, economics, crisis, budget cuts, are a big worry to artists and creatives, and artists and creatives are as necessary. Of course we need solutions, support and clients, of course we need governments help as much as everybody else and in our own manner, we need to thrive and continue doing our labor and pouring our life into society. We pay rents, we have families, we have needs and dreams, but come on! The question that brings this crisis is not if we are here for the money, the question is, how can we generate a healthy and fulfilling art community in the brink of a global crisis? How can we help to envision possible futures? How we contribute to our societies?
Life can be fragile, yet, it is persistent!
Image from "La Ciudad de los Inmortales" series of digital sculptures and landscapes inspired on "El Inmortal", a text by Jorge Luis Borges. This series is a reflection or maybe an expression of feelings about eternity and immortality through landscape.
*EDIT: here I'm adding some links to articles expressing worries for the art world. Positions vary but they also share a lot.
>> NYTIMES: THE MERRY GO ROUND STOPPED. WHAT SORT OF ART WILL EMERGE? By Jason Farago.
>> ARTSY: Ongoing Coverage of COVID-19’s Impact on the Art World
>> VULTURE: The Last Days of the Art World … and Perhaps the First Days of a New One
Life after the coronavirus will be very different. By Jerry Saltz
>> Hans-Ulrich Obrist calls for public art project in response to Covid-19
>> MINECRAFT FOR ART?
So, apart from the people that is super worried about the future of the art scene (that meaning basically art fairs and gallery exhibitions circuits) there are some other that are actively searching for ways to propose or even disrupt the traditional ways of showing, promoting and selling art. Of course there have been for many years attempts to do online galleries but, at least in my opinion, they were just online catalogues with no artistic experience or proposal beyond that (like Saatchi or Artsy (with this I don’t mean that the platforms are not relevant or that they don’t procure interesting and functional content)).
I’ve been following some projects that made virtual exhibitions out of their original physical spaces, like Alserkal Avenue in Dubai or Casa del Lago in Mexico City. This two examples with one substantial difference: while the Alserkal project transports with loyalty the actual spaces and exhibitions, generating a virtual tour like the ones you can do to Egyptian ruins and tombs, Casa del Lago is expanding its space and initiative generating a 3D model of the
original place but commissioning virtual architectural, sculptural, poetic and etcetera, interventions to its space (and here is the magic) to trigger actions and experiences that are not possible outside the virtual world, in the physical world.
I just read an article from the NY Times that talks about exhibitions being opened inside Minecraft by institutions, professional artists, amateurs and gamers alike and the crazy and revolutionary proposal of Occupy White Walls project, a virtual space game that is designed to allow its players to build galleries, curate exhibitions, show them and also to attend other players exhibitions; some do traditional spaces, some do the craziest ones but a proposal is made and the experience is delivered: you are not watching a slideshow of paints, you are experiencing an actual virtual exhibition. Next step? OWW project founder says that they are working to allow players to include their own artworks (right now you only can curate exhibitions from their artwork database) and even commercialize them, with this the founder declares that he actually wants to unsettle the art establishment and release art from being fully controlled by galleries, curators and auction houses.
Read the NY Times article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/17/arts/occupy-white-walls.html