Loney Abrams sees the art gallery as quickly becoming a thing of the past, as online viewers have — for better or worse — become the primary audience of an exhibition:
Far more people see art on screens than in museums. The gallery is no longer the primary exhibition space; the Internet is. As documentation—photographs or videos that capture a finished work of art, usually installed within a gallery—are posted to the Internet and then dispersed and multiplied via likes and shares, online viewers become the overwhelming majority of an exhibition’s audience. The digital image is supplanting the art object. All works, regardless of their material constituents, are flattened, scaled down to several hundred pixels. Consequently, the digital photographic image can be understood as the homogenizing, ubiquitous medium of our era.
If the Internet is the main space in which art meets its audience, then documentation media must be considered an artistic medium in its own right, the most consequential representation of an artist or curator’s work. Artworks exist not as physical entities, but as JPEGs, and their visibility relies not on their physical presence within a gallery but on their online accessibility. The gallery, then, serves not as the “true” exhibition venue but the site of a photo shoot—the backdrop to the installation photo. It provides the opportunity to document art within an institutionalized context in preparation for its release into online circulation.
Abrams sees this as a potential positive both for the art industry and the creativity/production of artists:
Far from limiting artists and curators, the demand for photographic documentation encourages experimentation and prolific production. Work can be documented and posted immediately, providing the artist with instant feedback from their audience via likes and comments and expanded opportunity to represent and promote themselves, relying less on press generated by market-driven galleries and institutions that restrict artists’ freedom to produce prolifically and radically. The documentation image is a fertile medium with ripe terrain, offering immediate and potentially vast distribution, contextual mutability, and institutional commentary. As galleries have been the home of art objects, URLs are the homes of documentation images and could potentially connote the prestige and cultural value traditionally monopolized by the institution. URLs will stand side-by-side with the names of reputable galleries on artists’ curriculum vitae, and artists will be rewarded as much for their self-sufficiency as for their ability to game the gallery system.
(Photo: flickr user VFS Digital Design)
John Gray muses on the importance and relevancy of Machiavelli’s political thought today, and argues that any misreading of him comes from the fact that the Florentine philosopher is “as much as heretic today as he ever was”:
If Bobbitt misreads Machiavelli, it is because Machiavelli is as much of a heretic today as he ever was. Resistance to his thought comes now not from Christian divines but from liberal thinkers. According to the prevailing philosophy of liberal legalism, political conflict can be averted by a well-designed constitution and freedoms enshrined in a regime of rights. In reality, as Machiavelli well knew, constitutions and legal systems come and go. According to Bobbitt, “The lesson of Machiavelli’s advice to statesmen is: don’t kid yourself. What annoyed . . . Machiavelli was the willingness of his contemporaries to pretend that quite simple formulations were adequate to the task of governing in the common interest.” Plainly, the market state is a formula of precisely this kind.
The true lesson of Machiavelli is that the alternative to politics is not law but unending war. When they topple tyrants for the sake of faddish visions of rights, western governments enmesh themselves in intractable conflicts they do not understand and cannot hope to control. Yet if Machiavelli could return from the grave, he would hardly be annoyed or frustrated by such folly. Ever aware of the incurable human habit of mistaking fancy for reality, he would simply respond with a Florentine smile.
Quick note here: I study this stuff — or will do this fall — in grad school, and from the start I think Machiavelli has been my favorite political philosopher. Not necessarily for his message, though I think he’s been more right than most give him credit for. The reason I enjoy reading and re-reading The Prince and his many other works including the Discourses is because he’s a particularly easy read. There’s something to be said for simplicity in writing, and i’ve always been turned away by theorists who complicate theirs for impact — or perhaps it’s more that they cannot simplify (see Foucault).
(Photo: flickr user Joshua Schnable)
Peter Suderman has an interesting theory about the state of affairs in government: Washington, he says, is in a “post-policy moment”. His core premise is that both parties have achieved their respective political — or ideological — goals: Democrats have been able to semi-successfully defend the entitlement state — passing a confusing but so-far-effective universal health care bill, while also overseeing the sea of change concerning gay marriage and other important social issues. Republicans have succeeded in keeping taxes relatively low, defense spending absurdly high, and state’s rights reinforced through the Supreme Court’s decision to gut the Voting Rights Act.
But here’s why I think Suderman is off the mark:
“This is what really lies underneath the recent policy stagnation,” he writes, “not obstructionism, but exhausted party agendas with nowhere left to go.”
I can buy that both parties are semi-satisfied with their political agendas and therefore would rather not exert too much energy or intellectual thought in new policy ideas, but the argument that it’s all about exhausted party agendas and not obstructionism is going a step too far. It’s all about obstructionism. Ezra notes as much:
What lies under the recent policy stagnation is clearly obstructionism — or, if you prefer, the gridlock of divided government. After all, 2009 and 2010 were only a few years ago, and they were the most rapid period of policy accomplishment in generations. Democrats didn’t run out of agenda. They ran out of votes.
And he goes on to explain the sorts of genuine policy measures both parties would pursue if they had the majority they needed — more simply, the votes they needed:
For Democrats, the agenda is clear: Immigration reform would be the first big bill to move. The harder lift would be a cap-and-trade plan to deal with global warming, though given big enough majorities, one might pass. Universal pre-K would quickly end up on the president’s desk.
…After that the size of the agenda falls quickly. A significant package of infrastructure investments would be signed into law, of course. A modest gun control package would emerge. Something along the lines of President Obama’s budget would replace sequestration.
…if Republicans were actually in power I think the chance that they’d be willing to detail, pass, and implement the Ryan budget, as written, approaches zero. But they’d probably pass some softer version of it that would include a move toward premium support in Medicare and block grants to Medicaid and food stamps.
And that’s really the rut of the issue here: policies are moved and realized by votes. Without the votes, ideas are useless and often not even publicized. Washington progresses through ideas, but it runs on votes, and until one party controls the means of government — and I mean the Presidency, House and Senate — then obstructionism will rule the day.
We’re not in a post-policy moment. We’re in a no-policy moment.
(Photo: flickr user Shubert Ciencia)