This weekend, together with Ardele Lister, Jasmina Založnik, Saska Rakef and Nika, we visited The Sanctuary for Independent Media The Sanctuary for Independent Media is a telecommunications production facility dedicated to community media arts, located in an historic former church at 3361 6th Avenue in north Troy, NY not Troy in Asia Minor. The Sanctuary hosts screening, production and performance facilities, training in media production and a meeting space for artists, activists and independent media makers of all kinds.
I will organise a workshop in the context of Uptown Summer: NATURELab in North Troy on the fourth week of the program.
Branda Miller and Steve Pierce in their super cool convertible with their beloved Rosi hosted us.Read More
Enlightenment of Mass Deception
21st century is defined by data. Articles, graphics, communication, media, businesses and many other things are data driven. Data driven works proliferate information in the public realm and work like a mirror for the society and help create knowledge. This happens when data is presented or represented in an artistic fashion. However, in the hands of the corporate, data is classified and constitutes a reference to marketing research, ‘consumer behavior research’ as they call it. Recently, culture industry also started making data driven decisions. With the advance of streaming and on-demand technologies, populistic endeavors of the supreme powers of culture industry narrowed down the focus of their analysis to an individual scale. As always, it was streaming media that led the research and as an avant-garde form of cultural and sensual analysis, online sites started gathering IP specific data at an individual scale and gave a related direction to their creations and productions. Soon after, dominant companies such as Netflix followed and most recently they have produced a TV show designed to custom-fit a certain community, consisting of existing customers of this on demand service.
This paper (in progress) concerns itself with the fact that the audience of the data age is doomed and trapped in their own appreciation of cultural aesthetics. Throughout the paper, the phenomenon of data driven cultural production is scrutinized with reference to Theodor Adorno’s seminal work, The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception as it is more than accurate in the 21st century.
customization, self reflection, boredom, culture industry, Theodor Adorno, culture industry, deception, consumer behavior research
Photographs are taken ten days after Sandy at the west side of Chelsea. Muddy traces are still wet. It is hard to imagine that the water kept that level for a long while. Otherwise it feels like white box aquariums of Chelsea may well be hosted a swimming shark and someone could tag it as physical impossibility of living in a gallery in which a shark is swimming, not because the sharks are aggressive but we do not have the gills to visit art.
Peter Schjeldahl’s post on New Yorker briefly reports about damage and restoration and shares his recall on the relationship of water and oil with regards to painting and MoMA organized the info sessions on restoration of damaged artwork with American Institute for Conservation Collections (AIC). However I still have not read the article on impact of Sandy on the art market maybe partly because columnists were busy with evaluating its impact on elections. Should we really go and start painting? or maybe it is a better idea to work on paper because “paintings are OK.”.
Looking forward to seeing the exhibition of Sandy damaged art. Till then, need help with a damaged work of art? Call AIC’s 24-hour assistance number at 202.661.8068.
Water Level Traces on some Chelsea Galleries After Sandy, Atif Akin, November 11, 2012, NY.Read More
written on the occasion of the exhibition, curated and organized by the academic staff and students of the Kadir Has University with participation of some other photographers and designers from Istanbul. Ahmet Atıf Akın, Eser Selen and Can Pekdemir attended the exhibition as the curators and designers.
The ‘Cities, Connectivity and Creativity’ exhibition adjunct to the conference has a challenge to scrutinize and compare each of the three concepts in the conference title. So, it is divided in three main categories referring to the title.
Cities: Capitalism operates in the cities through categorization, classification, organization of massive amount of goods and services. Typology in photography is commonly used as a technique of observation of this massive condition. Participants are asked to visualize a civic concept creating a photographic typology. The exhibition idea is motivated by the will and ideas of the ‘Photography Studio’ lecture students. During the discussions regarding the city and typology, they proposed a concept like typology of photography. This is like a derivative form of typology in photography. It is not the serial photographs of various content but the different forms of the same content that creates the typology. For example, Galata Tower, as a touristic spot and land mark in Istanbul, is photographed by thousands everyday. The same is differentiated by photographic techniques and light conditions. The concept is illustrated by the students by taking the “same” photograph of the tower with different cameras and lighting settings. Then the idea is extended to a visual survey on flickr and series of photographs are picked from the website to underline the connectivity through photography.
Connectivity: This second issue in the concept inspired the website domain name of the project (www.connectivephotography.com) which will hopefully host more and interesting research projects in the faculty. This part deals with the operation methods of global capitalism but this time in a narrower sense and it is case specific.
As the information given by Deniz Yükseker (Sociology Department, Koç University, Turkey) in her research titled ‘Laleli, Istanbul as a Borderland in the Transnational Shuttle Trade Network’:
During the 1990s, Istanbul became a major node in the transnational informal trade network between former Soviet republics and Turkey. Hundreds of thousands of people from Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and other former Soviet republics visited Istanbul every year for short periods of time in order to buy consumer goods (especially clothing) for selling back in their homes. Laleli, a neighborhood on the historical peninsula of Istanbul, turned into a marketplace for the informal “shuttle trade.”
The Seventh-Kilometer Market is an outdoor market outside of Odessa, Ukraine. Founded in 1989 during Perestroika reforms, it is now possibly the largest market in Europe. The independent traders on the market sell goods in all price ranges, from authentic merchandise to all sorts of cheap Asian consumer goods, including many counterfeits of Western luxury goods. In the heydays of the shuttle trade, this market was the mirror of Laleli. Toll manufactured textile in İstanbul, sold in Laleli, were served to the post-Soviet states through this market place.
The photographs in this part are taken on trips to both parts of this off-the-book shuttle trade. Photographs are chosen among the ones that represent the identity loss caused by the global trade activities. Some of the photographs underline this fact and connection with solid visual entries to the frames.
Apart from the photographs exhibited, referring to these two concepts an empty photo board will be available for the conference guests to participate in the exhibition with their photographs taken in Istanbul and printed in the exhibition hall. These photographs will also be published on the exhibition website with the name of the participants.
Finally the Creativity section exhibits photographs were produced by the students of the communication design department in the context of the course titled ‘Photography Studio’. During the classes we witnessed students were not only learning photography techniques but also challenging the medium with the capabilities of new digital production tools. Photographs in this section are produced with various techniques and equipments where this process, mostly, complies with the cultural environment of their creators.Read More
Written on he occasion of Refik Anadol‘s solo show titled ‘Minus Field’
The invention and use of photography liberated painting. Photographers took
photographs of the nobles and the painters found themselves trying new forms and
modalities of painting or painting in nature or in social life. The liberation of painting
from objective representation, constituted a defense against the mechanization of
representation by photography and the consequent cheapening of the image. This
was the fact of the previous century.
We are living in the age of instant image sharing and loss of photographic memory.
From an urban point of view, it should mean that there are no longer landmarks for
cities. Go to flickr.com, type ‘Berlin’. Do you see the photographs of ‘Alexendarplatzʼ?
Good! Now you can really start thinking and imagining ‘Einstürzende Neubauten’
(Collapsing New Buildings). Now you may go to the edges of the columns and the
beams, to see if these new buildings are really collapsing or not. This is what Refik
Foucault states that “the author is not an endless source of meanings which charge
or inform a work; the author does not precede the works; rather, the author is a part
of a functioning principle in our culture by which one limits, excludes, and chooses.”
We know from Flusser that, new media – beginning with the photo camera – have
had a strong impact on people in general, as well as on those who work with them. It
is not, for example, the photographer who creates the photography, but the camera.
For him, the real artists are the people who invented the camera, the chemicals, and
the technical process of photography. If the photographer intends to be more than a
Funktionär of the camera, he needs to achieve what Flusser calls
Technoimagination; the photographer needs to fully understand the inside of the
ʻblack boxʼ before he is able to use it in ways not predetermined by its program.
Refik’s work is the harbinger of computational photography. Computational
photography is an emerging new field created by the convergence of computer
graphics, computer vision and photography. Its role is to overcome the limitations of
the traditional camera by using computational techniques. He is not patient enough
to wait for the computing devices to be assemled into the camera; he is using his
sight and perception for now.
He liberates himself both from photography and architecture.Read More
Title comes from the Turkish nationalist marching band song named “Dağ Başını Duman Almış.” The original article was published in Agos Daily on August 10, 2007. Translation by Dilay Yalçın.
When we are faced with an issue that is as colossal as the mountain, which way should we face the mountain? From Yerevan or East of Bayazid? Should we call the mountain Ararat, Agri or Masis? While sipping the 20 year old Noah cognac, we discussed at length which angle glorified the mountain more and where those animals kept running off to in couples? Throughout the week we spent in Yerevan, we swallowed many words, that were actually on the tip of our tongues, accompanied by an apricot and a sip of Cilician beer; our tongues got lazy, words were left in suspense, we took shelter in sarcasm, bottled up, danced a little and also, danced the halay. We drank a glass for Hrant Dink, may he rest in peace.
We not only drank, of course, we also ate. Stuffed eggplants, stuffed vine leaves, ayran, kebab… All were very familiar. When saying “How similar is that!” we were aware of the huge mountain between us.
We not only ate, we also talked. A lot. For the workshop “Art and Politics” we cooperated with Armenian Open University and the State University of Yerevan. We spoke about art’s global institutions, politics and about alternative art practices with the participation of pope and pagan from xurban_collective and curator Beral Madra. Before the words, idioms and similarities we shared on both sides of the mountain faded away, we noticed how ironic it was that while we were talking about “plurality,” English bundled up everything. We silently agreed upon how strange and contradictory the deadly discourse of nationalism was to the art practices we discussed.
We really do assume that the raison d’être of the work of art is completely free of all autonomous political discourses and communications. This, in fact, is the reason why art that can be truly political succeeds in deep penetration and in transforming circumstances; looking at the existing situation (global war) from an “uncomplicating” point of view can turn into a multi-layered research. This is why we can feel close to not the nation or the religious community but to the people and the living with which we have shared this land, in the past and today. Although the idea of archaeological excavation seems ironic to those that live on the eastern part of Mount Ararat, we think that the description of atrocities in the history of this land should not be left only to historians, politicians, the religious and the nationalists. We can see clearly that the grand controversy over the genocide (denial and insistency) is a monumental phenomena that, just as all other grand monuments, hinders speech with grand discourse.
While political art makes up the main title of our work, it never occurred to us that we would have to confront the concept “militarist art.” A video shot by a young, voluntary soldier, at a military camp in Artsakh transformed from a Soviet-era opera house, froze the participants of the workshop. The reason surely was not the attitude of the Turkish Republic in the Qarabakh issue or the wrestling match it got into with Russia over this issue. While this blue eyed guy with crew-cut hair showed us this souvenir from his days in the military (meaning in the war), that were not very different from those of American soldiers that we are used to seeing almost every day now, it suddenly occurred to us that he was actually making art. As a matter of fact, we had been talking about how hard it was to discern between art and life in this land; this video rolled over our workshop discussions about art’s global issues, institutions, politics and alternative art practices, like a power cylinder. Would a voluntary soldier make an artist? This must be a Caucasian trick; we did not even put this question forward. The answer is predetermined: “Your voluntary soldiers make politicians, so why can’t ours make artists?”
Vernisaj, the open bazaar
We got round to museum visiting and shopping on Sunday. Vernisaj, the historical open bazaar we went for shopping, also serves as a museum that displays artwork. With the Baby Lenin we bought from the bazaar and our SSSR pins, we visited the National History museum both as Turks and communists. Being doubled-damned is one of the tastes of this region and we were familiar with the concept, too. Being both Kurdish and Alevite, Armenian and communist, gay and unemployed… all are misfortunes we are used to seeing. We, too, made the best of being double-damned every day. To think about how we were treated as the heirs of that legacy when visiting the Museum of Anotolian Civilizations in Ankara; we the bright, enlightened and well-read artists of the Republic… We found ourselves walking in Yerevan, double-damned and eyes on the pavement. Although, the pots and pans and copper artifacts we were looking at, tell of Anatolian civilizations, just as the name implies; only difference is that the deer figures are exchanged by sheep.
Paradjanov, a napkin with 301 and a church embroidery
We had gone to Yerevan with the images of Paradjanov on our minds and his grandchildren did not surprise us. With only a quick look inside the studios, it was clear to see that there is nothing they cannot do with their hands, stones and earth. It did sadden us to look at their Eastern neighbors, who made an art out of shaping minds through constitutional laws, from this side of the border when these people can shape everything with their hands. But we did not show our sadness and laughed it off. It really was like a joke that the picture of the church, as well as the date of the establishment of the Armenian church, 301, was embroidered everywhere from billboards to napkins. We believe there is no place for even one line that mentions this number in this newspaper.
The border issue
One of our biggest pleasures as xurban, is to jump into the car and drive along the border. The goal is to find one little hole. We want to leak through that hole that the army missed – or just to show whatever leaks through it. xurban touched upon what leaked through this border -the border that runs along the smokey mountain on the right side of the road from Yerevan to Keghart- in 2003 (http://xurban.net/scope/containment/cover.html). The view is the same when we look at it from the other side of the border in 2007. The people of Igdir (Turkey) who miss the chance of seeing “Norma” on a Friday night because they are 40-50 km’s away, are actually just as unaware of the program of Ankara State Opera and Ballet for the same night. Our government which turned domination -through opera, ballet, army, its supreme court and monetary policy- into its motto, must allow for free border trade to this land -for a change from only allowing soldiers.
We did not run in the elections this year but here is our commitment to the people: “That border will be opened!” Hail to Kars, Yerevan, Igdir, Qarabagh.
Before we conclude, let us say that we lost Ulus Baker, our closest friend to speak Russian, last month. He promised in the hospital. He was going to undertake translations for students to come from Armenia. If he was alive, he would also be laughing at what is written above. May he rest in peace.Read More
I was not hoping to find anything new in a book about Processing and vvvv after successful predecessors written by Casey Reas and Ben Fry or by Daniel Shiffman. When I got the book last week I realized the scarcity of a ‘design’ book about generative design and related programming languages. Generative Design is a seminal book in its field as it fill this gap between the code and image in a very ‘designerly’ way. Authors and the editor of the book structures and lays out its content explicitly and in a very visual way yet still founding a concrete base for the understanding of the phenomenon.
First of all, its graphic/interaction design and print quality implies a very dynamic way of navigating the book and the website accompanies it. In many of the books related to digital design, visuals are not more than being proof of concepts. In Generative Design even the formal layout itself is inspiring enough. Scale is a great deal while printing coded graphics. Designer of the book overcomes this issue by organizing figures with a variable density over the book. Also the hardcover and the premium paper are other factors enhancing the experience.
The book speaks to a greater art and design community of various practices like architects, product designers, sculptors, type designers as well as graphic and interaction designers. Throughout the showcase sequence and the examples given in the chapters there is a subtle focus on typography. Employment of graphic coding technics to experiment on the anatomy of typeface or creating generative images with building blocks of type are quite interesting endeavors yield to visually compelling results. Needles to say that a significant number animation enthusiasts constitute a big portion of the readers who are potentially interested in the book. vvvv patches and related principles may be handy tools and inspiring for them.
Another important aspect of this field is the intercultural communication in the community. It is certain that the all people worked for the book had engaged with the global community and generative-gestaltung.de offers more with its forums and comment fields. However mixed language (DE/ENG) content on the website requires an update.
The book, in general, offers a very visual and physical perspective to discover the phenomenon yet providing all basic and necessary hands on instructions for related methods. The book will definitely help creatives without any coding experience. They can still grow interest in the genre by reviewing the projects and visuals then start learning about the best practices in the process.
Generative Design structured with a simple staging and a pretty diverse subject list. Eleven different subjects, all explained with more than adequate number of attractive examples are divided into two main categories, simply, the basic principles and complex methods. Subjects in the “Basic Principles” section are illustrated with appealing images visualizing push/pull relationship between simplicity and complexity. Images arise urge to discover the basic principles behind their appeal. “Complex Methods” section is consisted of interesting subjects which are highly advance and up to date. This section includes subjects heavily relies on object oriented programming such as, agent in space, formulated bodies, attractors as well as other like, dynamic data structures and semantic text analysis. All these advance methods are explained simply and clearly both in the book and code comments on the website.
The structure of the book rises another interesting question about the life-spans of the digital and printed matters. Book and the website accompany each other so well but still I can’t help myself from thinking of the question: Which one of them will extinct first in the distant future?
As an educator I see a great potential for this book in a workshop or a classroom. While teaching generative design, most of the times art historical references of this approach is combined with highly technical books and tutorials with a little bit of sneaking into recent applications. Then students are expected to join the community and create artifacts which might not really relate to their design agenda. Generative Design provides a holistic approach to learn and create which is more likely to integrate with many creative processes. Another motivating fact to consider this book in classroom is its fairly affordable price for a publication like this with a large scope and high print quality.Read More
This causerie in between Guven Incirlioglu, Atif Akin and Victor Burgin is originally published in DOXA magazine. It is a bilingual (English and Turkish) quarterly art magazine based in Turkey.
Güven Incirlioglu ve Atif Akin: Recently we observe the rise in the number of contemporary artists exhibiting works which are inspired by ‘politics’ as the pop culture of our time, and see that they somehow gain popularity within similar mechanisms which worked for Pop-Art in 1960’s. The difference is that the figures or icons utilized within these works are more likely to be the political figures and events of the day.
Art and politics, or in other words art in the context of politics is one of the precious areas to dwell and we hope for a theory which will relate politicization of art and the popularization of artistic practice. Maybe then we can have an idea about popularity of politics. So, do you think we should take ‘spectacle’ as put by Debord as the main keyword to explain this new phenomenon? Or, in parallel, in the age of the web as real-time news media, isn’t ‘politics’ as ephemeral as everything else, and how shall we contextualize these artworks in some future time?
Victor Burgin: It is most important to develop an understanding of the form of politics specific to art, rather than, for example, investigative journalism or agit-prop. Art with an obvious political content does not necessarily have a political agency. I am not qualified to speak of the situation in Turkey, but I can say that art in the Western liberal democracies with which I am most familiar has no direct political agency. When I joined the protest march against the Iraq war in London, when I joined demonstrations against the National Front in Paris, I acted as a citizen, not as an artist. When I refused to cooperate with ‘obligatory’ but intellectually ridiculous government-imposed university research assessment exercises, or when I refused to join a ‘compulsory’ training day for academic staff run by a private management consultancy (part of the continuing attempt in the UK to subordinate the universities to the market needs of ‘business’) I acted as a university teacher, not an artist. The work of ‘political artists’ usually harms no-one, and I would defend their right to make it; what I cannot support is their complacent and self-serving assumption that it ‘somehow’ has a political effect in the real world. In a university art department, I would prefer as my colleague the artist who makes watercolours of sunsets but stands up to a reactionary administration, to the colleague who makes radical political noises in the gallery but colludes in imposing senseless and educationally disastrous government policies on the department. The political agency of artists is not ‘on the ground’ in everyday life – at this level they must be content to act as citizens and/or, in my example, teachers (I have always considered teaching to be my most important political activity) – the agency of artists is in the sphere of representations. Here, the political agency of art is situated at the level of form rather than of content.
I have always measured the political and critical dimensions of my own work by their relation to the mainstream mass media – as the media is most responsible for the production of a subject for the political process, most instrumental in delivering votes to politicians. In seeking to address itself to ‘the people’, art with a populist agenda must inevitably derive its forms and contents from the media. ‘The people’ cannot be known empirically; they – or ‘it’ (for the ‘people’ also functions as a collective noun) – are a discursive construct. In the case of the political address the ‘people’ is constructed around points of interpellation (for example, ‘being patriotic’, or ‘being unemployed’); in the case of a cultural address – in the form of a work of visual art, a novel, a film, and so on – the ‘people’ is an imaginary construct formed with reference to the best-selling sectors of the mass media: the ‘people’ are the majority who read ‘popular newspapers’ and ‘popular fiction’, and who watch ‘popular’ television programmes and films – in all these cases ‘popularity’ is measured by market share. We can see that for some long time now the art world has provided media-ready art much as supermarkets provide oven-ready chickens.
I agree with you that ‘political art’ – once unorthodox – is now the new orthodoxy, but it is ‘political’ only in the way the media understands the term. For example, the enthusiasm for ‘documentary’ in the art world of the past quarter-century has provided a spectrum of gallery-sited narratives – from intimately anecdotal ‘human interest’ stories to exposés of the devastation of the human and natural environment by rapacious global capitalism. But there is nothing in the content or analysis of these stories that is not already familiar from the mass media, and I have seen only insignificant departures from conventional media forms. Such ‘artworks’ solicit the same range of interests and the same reading competences that the media assumes in its audiences. Complementing ‘documentary’ work in the art world are other kinds of work offering spectacle, decoration or scandal. Here again we have not left the discursive space of the media, we have simply turned the page or changed channels. Brecht defined ‘criticism’ as that which is concerned with what is critical in society. My own sense of what is now fundamentally critical to the Western societies in which I live and work is the progressive colonisation of the terrain of languages, beliefs and values by mainstream media contents and forms – imposing an industrial uniformity upon what may be imagined and said, and engendering compliant synchronised subjects of a ‘democratic’ political process in which the vote changes nothing. The art world is no exception to this process. Artists making ‘documentaries’ usually encounter their subject matter not at first hand but from the media. The audience for the subsequent artworks will instantly recognise the issues addressed, and easily understand them in terms already established by the media. What is ‘documented’ in such works therefore is not their ostensible contents but rather the mutating world view of the media, and they remain irrelevant as art if they succeed in doing no more than recycle facts, forms and opinions already familiar from these prior sources. I would emphasise that I am talking about documentary in the art world. As I write, the Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi is in prison – primarily, it seems, because he was making a documentary about the mass protests that followed last year’s dubious elections in Iran. The political value of documentary is conjunctural, context is as important as content. The political value of art primarily bears on neither content nor context but upon language. I see no point to ‘art’ that calls upon the same general knowledge and interpretative capabilities I deploy when I read a newspaper.
In debating the kinds of questions you have raised we really need to be careful to define our terms. I understand the term ‘populism’ in both a political and a cultural sense, albeit the two senses may overlap. The English word was coined in the USA in the 1890s by supporters of the People’s Party, an organisation of farmers protesting the growing concentration of economic and political power in the hands of railroads, banks and land speculators. The People’s Party called for the return of government to the small producers, the ‘plain people’. Such a ruralist populism had been differently anticipated in Russia in the 1870s. Russian populism, Narodnichestvo, was the creation of revolutionary intellectuals who envisioned a socialist society based on the model of the peasant commune. Both the American populists and the Narodniki sought to preserve traditional forms of small scale agrarian production and social organisation against the forces of industrial modernisation. Conversely, in the 1940s and 50s, the term ‘populism’ became applied to a Latin American phenomenon, best represented by Peronism in Argentina, in which an emergent industrialist bourgeoisie contested the power of wealthy wheat and cattle producing landowners, and sought the support of the urban working poor in this contest. Since the 1980s a wide variety of forms of populist political tendencies, movements and parties, have emerged in Europe from left to right of the political spectrum. What these many variants have in common is a distrust of established ruling elites and a revendication of the autonomy of the common citizenry, ‘the people’. The word ‘people’ derives from the Latin term populus. In ancient Rome the ‘people’ were one of the two principle classes of society, the other being the ‘senate’, those who governed the people. Membership of the senate was largely, albeit not exclusively, hereditary. In modern democratic societies those who govern are elected from the ranks of the people, with the intent most famously expressed by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address: ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’. Populism in this sense can tend towards a democratic extremism suspicious of any form of representation and which calls for direct majority rule, a kind of ‘hard-core’ populism that tends to favour the referendum as the primary instrument of political decision-making. In large modern technologically advanced and multi-cultural societies the ‘people’ can only ever be a contingent discursive construct, interpellated by appeal to common points of identification. For example, when Ségolène Royal made a speech in which she formally presented herself for selection as the Socialist candidate in the 2007 French presidential election she addressed herself to ‘the millions of wage-earners, salary-earners, owners of small businesses and their employees, young and old’, and declared herself to be for ‘Le drapeau tricolore et la sécurité sociale’ – ‘The French flag and social security’.
In its most widespread use in a cultural context the term ‘populism’ is defined in opposition to the term ‘elitism’. The English word ‘elite’ is derived via the French verb élire – ‘to choose’ – from the Latin word for ‘elect’ (eligere). Etymologically speaking, the word ‘elite’ applies to any minority selected to govern a majority. In this literal sense, the members of a national government constitutes an elite, as does the officer class of the military or the executive class of a corporation. When used pejoratively, in its literal sense, ‘elitism’ names any practice which serves to support the narrowly patrician interests of a select ruling class at the expense of the majority of those they purport to ‘represent’. Much of the production of the media must therefore be considered ‘elitist’ to the extent that it perpetuates and disseminates hegemonic corporate and political values and beliefs. The charge of ‘elitism’, therefore, is applicable to much of the ‘popular culture’ (more accurately speaking, industrial mass culture) that cultural populists deem most ‘accessible’. When cultural populists redefine the word ‘elitism’ by opposing it to the term ‘accessible’ the word slips its etymological moorings and lends itself to various opportunistic appropriations. For example, an article in the literally ‘elitist’ right-wing French newspaper Le Figaro proclaims: ‘It is necessary to overturn the spirit of our teaching which suffers from the illness of elitism.’ This ‘illness’ – for which Fascist, Stalinist and Maoist political populisms offered their various cures – afflicts language, both in the literal and in the more broadly semiotic sense. Much like the cornea, language is considered to be naturally transparent when healthy; if it is not transparent then it must be diseased. Here, a clear-eyed democratic appeal on behalf of intelligibility and commonsense implicitly pathologizes, stigmatizes and discredits those who do not speak in a popular idiolect.
Art and the mainstream media have both become increasingly populist and ‘anti-élitist’ over the last quarter-century or more, a process that was at first commented on, to take the UK example, in frequent references to the ‘dumbing down’ of the ‘quality’ press – now a fait accompli that no one mentions any longer. This consequence of the political demagogy of the ThatcherReagan-BushBlair years was accompanied by a new demagogic spirit in art – incarnated most visibly in the UK by the advertising magnate Charles Saatchi and his protégés – and a corresponding mutation in the audience for ‘art’. The art world congratulates itself on the fact that art today has a larger audience than at any time in its history – but this is simply an epiphenomenon of the increasing mediatisation of art. As the saying goes, ‘we get the art we deserve’.
Güven Incirlioglu ve Atif Akin: We must say that we agree with much of the issues that you bring up and would like to contribute a brief comment on what we observe around us in Turkey. The country apparently being under the spell of a number of open conflicts of ethnic and religious kind, we see that the whole public sphere is politicized. And unfortunately this is a type of polarization, redundant as it is, that does not produce any actual policy to act upon, incapable of mobilizing the public and possibly the mass media has the leading role in agitation. In this instance, we see it as a genuine trap that certain artistic output follows suit and picks upon these obvious rifts in the public sphere. We think that the ontological ground for the work of art should rely heavily on its multiple layers, offering multiple readings. This is the only possibility for any work to ‘re-produce’ itself, (retrospectively or adjusted-in-time) and be relevant in some future time, unlike, for example, the political commentary on current affairs. And this, not for the sake of complexity or for being obscure, but in order for the work to be mindful of its own ‘art’ condition. As long as art is not about communication, it has its unique ability to bring out the unsayable. And this is where the artistic expression deviates strongly from mass media and where the artwork can avoid to be a media-ready piece. Finally, once again we cross over your perspective as we are also more of an academician rather than artists. If only the processes of art education could be customized for each individual student (positioning) as an artist, instead of a person in an academic, legal relationship and be subjected to state or market oriented regulations, then we can hope for a new generation of artists who are at least practically independent in terms of their art production.Read More