On Zombie Formalism

Always been looking for a term for that kind of art that merely serves as an investment opportunity for oligarchs. Zombie formalism. Not bad.

The central contention of the article is we can’t simply say ‘art is what people let you get away with’ ( = pragmatism / institutionalism) because people, specifically in the art world, have been fundamentally corrupted by capitalism.

“If the artworld is more and more determined by global capital, does it still possess the legitimate authority to function as a validating factor for the conferral of art-status?

But the counter-proposal is not a renewed essentialism about art but better institutions.

“It leads us to the demand for a curatorial standard of taste. … Since curators themselves do not benefit from capitalist spectacle (in contrast to art dealers, artists, and many art institutions), they could function as gatekeepers to guarantee that works are displayed which are relevant artistically rather than merely financially.”

I guess the second line is where Adorno would raise his eyebrows. Probably the Critical Theory line would be to say that true art, per definition, is always revolutionary — and truly revolutionary art always and exclusively art. I asked Rancière about this once and seem to recall that was roughly his answer. A kind of negative essentialism.

But, of course, yesterday’s revolution is today’s museum exhibit. Purity is fleeting. As the Critical people know. I guess, often the question is more whether that’s tragedy or progress. There should be further philosophical questions further down the line whether ‘discourse aesthetics’ / pragmatism could work even under idealized conditions…

In any case, better institutions and sheltering curatorial decisions from market pressures might not work in theory but sounds like a good idea in practice.

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