(Disclaimer: I am not currently, nor have I ever been either in or eligible to nominate myself for the office of President of the United States of America. Warning. endorsement, irrelevance? Take that biographical scrap as you will.)
It could be argued by a person far more eager to troll than myself at this moment (perhaps my troll-libido will surge again in the morning…who’s to say? just keep reading folks…) that the only honest art movement was Tromp l’oeil, and honest then only for its name; the French that’s most often translated as “Fool the world.”
It could be further argued the most disingenuous art movement was realism, existing now as it did then as it will continue to exist until it reaches its apex strain in the encyclopedic: as the inverted fantastic that transports the reader into the terrain that’s extravagant for its having been scrubbed of the dirty layer of fantasy that in life itself is inescapably audible as the hum of the nervous system.
And so, society, having triumphed over the industrial problem of supply and having failed miserably in parsing the subsequent problem of distribution faces (of course! quite reasonably!) an increasingly broad survivor’s guilt. The bourgeois revolution Marx foresaw came and went; if I’m old enough to remember the specific day the page 3 headline “Food production no longer enough to feed entire human population” made its way as a seeming curiosity to the front pages of various news websites, then so is most of this website’s readership. The endless clawing at the nebulous golem of the hipster had significance but not the significance that was presumed; the reason why no one could accurately or specifically say what the hipster was, why the shape of the hipster kept shifting and continues to shift, why the most prolific writers denouncing the emergence of the hipster always had to first cite their own credentials as not being such; anyone and everyone was suspect; the specter of privilege dangled everywhere, half-foreskin half-hang nail; the hipster could cover such ground because, of course, the hipster never truly existed-the hipster was our own confused self-loathing at blowing it.
And I mean, come on guys. We really blew it.
The major unconscious trend in art, the thing currently considered kitsch that has such broad reach as to come to define our epoch to future generations through sheer force in numbers, is the object that’s one thing but aware it looks like another. Expensive sugar candies that look like rocks or watches or audio cassettes; spools of thread laid out to look like the Mona Lisa, large heavy metal sculptures meant to resemble weightless balloon rabbits tied together at childrens’ parties; phones that look like hamburgers; post-it notes on a wall that look like Super Mario, Jesus Christ reconstituted from an obscure artist’s piss; it’s a schema of novelty that seems reluctant to wear off.
This formula strikes the audience in two ways I can discern:
- Haven’t we all wished at one point or another, or even worse expected from ourselves only to inevitably be disappointed, that we could actually be anything we wanted to if we put our minds to it? Could do any job, could fulfill any role, could make our parents, coworkers, employer and acquaintances get along entirely without friction if we could contort all the messy specifics of our self into the perfect interchangeable part?
- Haven’t we all had that awful consumer regret upon having bought something simply that it wasn’t something else? Having realized we could’ve bought something else, not even sure we really would’ve wanted to purchase that something else but having that nagging regret eat away at you that you didn’t get to live out every possible opportunity even where logically to do so would require simultaneous conscious coexistence in many multiple infinities?
And so the thing that is also the other thing speaks to the small and selfish anxiety that we failed in not becoming literally anything other than what we are and in the broad sense that the most tangible possibility of utopian society the species was ever in grasping distance of passed it by. Is it even fair we should be anxious about this? We were never in the position to decide. To our collective misfortune, in our reality only one person was ever allowed to be Henry Kissinger; Ronald Reagan; Enrico Fermi; Margaret Thatcher; Norman Rockefeller; and so on and so on. I presume none of those golden ticket grabbers constitute any part of the collective we/us that is writing/reading this article; a pity. With great power comes great responsibility and all that other stuff from Russian literature that popular comics chewed up and spit into our American mouths as mere babes…
Oh what to do…what to do..