Ever found yourself at an exhibition opening surrounded by people engaged in pseudo-intellectual discussions, adorned in ‘I’m so original and authentic’ secondhand cardigans, glasses and canvas bags. They might look at you like you’re a piece of trash, when you actually look at the paintings or photographs. especially when you exceed the customary 2 minute moment for making a high-brow comment. Reducing the piece to an artifact statues of the Zeitgeist, never fully flourishing in its potential.
The moment goes as followed. Two people stand in from of a work of art. “Interesting”, states one of them and both take a sip of there drink. “The motif is derivative of early Breton.” The other person concurs, nodding and lip pouting, “It is very tried.” The first speaker moves a finger towards their brightly red painted lips and states, “I saw one of his earlier pieces years ago in Berlin, and it was far far better.” They both take another sip and quickly conclude before walking to the next piece: “I despise this piece”, “It’s awe-full”.
Well these are art people. Funny and elitist. Playing an intellectual game in which it is the goal to outsmart your opponent with your extensive vocabulary and cultural capital. This Bourdieu-ian battle is best described nicely exemplified by Woody Allen.
Creative Time recently created a piece to a similar affect : ‘[...] and puts their slave labor, we mean interns to work doing their part for the meme.’ Which has been picked up by many artworld outlets.
Maybe art people observe this same behavior in others and find it a point of disgust and amusement. The question is, do they, and anyone else for that matter, recognized a similar behavior when performing it? For we all sometimes try to battle our discussion partner, and try to demonstrate our awesome knowledge and wit. The caricature of art people is a quite persistent beast that teaches a lot about inter-personal relations.
Something that I’ve already discussed in my blogs on Sartre’s obscene moment (part 1, and part 2), namely the sadistic and masochistic element in peoples. How one can exert dominance over the other, by force or pure mental power and the other inevitably roles over and takes it. This moment can be entered willingly, in which case it falls within Sartre’s parameters, or it can be forces upon some clueless being, in which case it is Obscene. In this both people can be innocent of the role they enforce on the other. The woman on the street who exposes her bare bottom, can be oblivious to the fact that her bum is showing. Or she choose, or forced, to wear a skirt that is too small. Either way these people play a game with each other for dominance, for being the smart or pretty one. The question is simply if they are aware that they are doing this. As much as if the people who visit art shows are aware that they are being an art person when sipping their free booze and exercising their vocabulary.
May 2012 – I just found out that I know someone who knows one of the interns used in this Creative Time video, the world is a small place indeed.