The cliche that newness has become. Its hard to argue with Donald Kuspit’s assertions on modern art, beginning with Marcel Duchamp’s Ready Mades as a confidence game, with the ready made being a surrogate for the female body. His bases invoke and reinforce the prevailing default position of patriarchal value systems and negate the belief that there is more to individual existence than fragmentation and anxiety. In art, not a work of art, but a clever pose as one, as in popular culture, not a semblance of reality, but a pose as one, another prop in a voyeuristic exercise, like Coca Cola being “the pause that refreshes.” A virtual prison of being mediated by images. The conceptual basis of the post Duchamp art world lends itself to Benjamin’s theory of mechanical reproduction in the arts: economically it becomes so inexpensive, essentially generic in distilling the theme to a mass audience.And like Veblen’s economic theories we can place a great deal of energy in producing an consuming the irrelevant, which becomes irrelevant as long as it reinforces existing tendencies, maintains a pecking order and upholds all the values of status and distinction. In fact, perversity and waste serves to reinforce conspicuous values of excess; confirming the belief that people gain power by supporting and perpetuating the dominant ideology of the culture.
This is a famous line of thinking that has evoked much commentary in which Kuspit has been very coherent in his opposition to kitsch imagery at the base of pop culture and its gaping perversion which falsely reassures social standing and engages in sentimental exploitation of sentimentality, “the second tear” as a recognition of the feeling of self pity and its complementary pathologies of inferiority, inadequacy and the dysfunctional actions, usually tragic, seen as a means of existing this perversion of a long historical line existing since the beginning of time…
Kuspit: Perversion is supposedly revitalizing — a sign of enduring sexual appetite — when life in general has become boring, meaningless and tedious, but it is no longer clear that perversion can revitalize art from the avant-garde doldrums it is in.
As the pudenda agenda performers indicate, art is now in thralldom to a delapidated avant-garde perversity — the pudenda agenda is after all a tired, last ditch defense of an avant-garde perversity which no longer makes one bit of social and artistic difference (no longer raises eyebrows or disturbs the peace) — the way it was once in thralldom to delapidated Old Master norms, which also lost their relevance to social and personal life as well as art, and had to be replaced. What will replace avant-garde perversity? Unadulterated kitsch clearly seems to be socially and artistically dominant, and even to have usurped avant-garde aesthetics, suggesting that perversity has gone mainstream….
…Crotch shots and sexual farces are a dime a dozen in our society, for the crotch has been devalued, along with sexuality, which has become the most marketable and cheapest commodity around. It’s the preferred opium of the masses — Oriani Fallaci spoke of the sexual gum with which they numb their senses and dull their minds — the consoling religion that promises salvation from the everyday world, with its mediocre suffering, and, these days, anxiety about annihilation by real terrorists, not would-be art terrorists, such as the pudenda ladies….
…Perhaps, in the last analysis, there was only one genuine terrorist in modern art, Marcel Duchamp, whose readymades perversely undermined the difference between non-art and art, thus giving license to all kinds of intellectual perversity, indeed, turning art into a kind of perverse theory, that is, conceptual kitsch, the most pretentious kitsch of all. Read More:http://www.artnet.com/magazine/features/kuspit/kuspit6-10-02.asp
I think an anecdote reported by Hans J. Kleinschmidt affords a good deal of insight into Duchamp. In Berlin Dada, Dada Spectrum: The Dialectics of Revolt, eds. Stephen Foster and Rudolf Kuenzli (Madison, Wisc., Coda Press, 1979), p. 174, Kleinschmidt writes: “Duchamp’s influence on artists in our time is well known and extends beyond the confines of this article. But there is the amusing story Sidney Janis told me about Duchamp as the most radical Dadaist of all. He had graciously consented to help design the announcement for the 1954 Dada retrospective at the Janis Gallery. When Sidney Janis showed Duchamp the final proofs of the carefully folded sheet with every artist’s name in the proper place, Duchamp approved of the printing, said he liked it very much. He then took one copy, proceeded to crumple it completely in his hands and said to Janis: ‘This is the way you ought to mail them’.”
I think this behavior symbolizes Duchamp’s destructive attitude. Art history may call it a Dadaist gesture, but human beings recognize it as contempt. It epitomizes Duchamp’s malevolence — his pathological negativism. (I am using “negativism” in the sense that Anna Freud did in her article analyzing it. Otto Fenichel adds that in nivism “resentment against the external world finds open expression.”)…
…Woman is perhaps the most conspicuous target of his destructive negativism. It is subliminally evident in Nude Descending the Staircase and Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, and viciously refined in L.H.O.O.Q and the Etant Donnés. In all these works she is a victim, mocked and ruined. (It is worth noting that Mark Polizzotti, in his biography of Andre Breton, describes the Dadaists as “joyful terrorists” [Breton's term]. Duchamp seems to have become an increasingly joyless one.)
As Joseph Beuys suggested in “The silence of Marcel Duchamp is overrated,” it is time to get beyond the sick Duchampian joke, all the more so because it has become a facile conceptual quip. It is especially decadent in its longwinded, scholarly Naumann version, where it looks like a petrified corpse from Pompeii, that is, like bitter shit. Read More:http://www.artnet.com/magazine/features/naumann/naumann6-15-00.asp
Clearly, when Duchamp called painting “olfactory masturbation,” he meant that paint smelled like shit a point he made in the title of his last painting, Tu m’[erde] (1918). (One might note that the work reproduces shadows of his readymades, which were made of rubbish which is readymade.) He might have added that to paint was to masturbate one’s psychic anus with a phallic paintbrush thus the psychosomatic bimanuality of painting in order to provoke it into excreting the precious gift of the painter’s innermost self to the world. (Karl Abraham regarded faeces as the first internal object.) To paint is to stick the extra finger of the physical paintbrush up one’s psychic anus, forcing one’s body ego to excrete a painting….
…This brings me to the point I want to make: such contemporary “fart works” as Paul McCarthy’s installation Complex Shit and Andres Serrano’s photographs of Shit make it transparently clear that the avant-garde artist is an anal masturbator and that his works are shit in disguise. But he has now come out of the art closet: he no longer has to hide the fact that his art is substitute shit. Indeed, McCarthy and Serrano no longer use rubbish as a symbolic substitute for shit: they make and picture shit explicitly up close in Serrano’s case, dwelling on it with obsessive esthetic care. Read More:http://www.artnet.de/magazine/the-triumph-of-shit/