The bogus religiosity which now surrounds original works of art, and which is ultimately dependent on market value, has become a substitute for what paintings lost when the camera made them reproducible. Its function is nostalgic. It is the final empty claim for the continuing values of an oligarchic, undemocratic culture. If the image is no longer unique, and exclusive, the art object, the thing, must be made mysteriously so.

John Berger, Ways of Seeing (via jenbee). Okay, two things here. One, it brings me back to The Authenticity Hoax again (I wrote about why you should read it). Andrew Potter:

Can you see what is happening here? It is the return of the aura, of the unique and irreproducible artistic work. Across the artistic spectrum, we are starting to see a turn toward forms of aesthetic experience and production that by their nature can’t be digitized and thrown into the maw of the freeconomy. One aspect of this is the cultivation of deliberate scarcity, which is what Alec Duffy is doing with his listening sessions. Another is the recent hipster trend to treat the city as a playground—involving staged pillow fights in the financial district, silent raves on subways, or games of kick the can that span entire neighborhoods. This fascination with works that are transient, ephemeral, participatory, and site-specific is part of the ongoing rehabilitation of the old idea of the unique, authentic work having an aura that makes it worthy of our profound respect. But in a reversal of Walter Benjamin’s analysis, the gain in deep artistic appreciation is balanced by a loss in egalitarian principle.

And two, made me think of any time someone writes a “Why ___ Matters” essay. See: swan song.

The Authenticity Hoax (review)

The Authenticity Hoax
It’s a stretch to call this a review, because I mainly just wanted to purge some quotes that I’ve had lying around that I kept being lazy about sharing because they were a bit too long or needed more context than I wanted to bother with on my tumblr. Anyway. Great book, especially the first five chapters on modernity, business, art, self, etc.

On bullshit, and where to find it:

It is hardly surprising to find that the two areas of human enterprise most concerned with sincerity as opposed to truth—namely, politics and advertising—are also the two areas most steeped in bullshit. Or would it be better to say that politics and advertising are the two areas most concerned with the appearance of authenticity? This might be a distinction without a difference.

Validating the suburbs:

The people who move to the suburbs aren’t nearly as stupid or careless or brainwashed as the urbanites seem to think. They know they’re going to get a lawn, a garage, and a backyard. They know they will be miles from a store or cafe, and that they’ll have to drive everywhere. Most people move to the suburbs with eyes wide open, fully aware of the tradeoffs they are making. They are not looking for some pastoral idyll, but for more privacy, space, quiet, and parking.

On meaning in a modern world:

The search for authenticity is about the search for meaning in a world where all the traditional sources-—religion and successor ideals such as aristocracy, community, and nationalism-—have been dissolved in the acid of science, technology, capitalism, and liberal democracy. We are looking to replace the God concept with something more acceptable in a world that is not just disenchanted, but also socially flattened, cosmopolitan, individualistic, and egalitarian.

A good example of his cantankerous sarcasm. He likes jabbing at liberals:

The exact mechanism of the apocalypse is unknown, but if you troll around the Internet you can find any number of speculative scenarios. Most of them presume that there’ll be a sort of massive ecological collapse and extinction event caused by a combination of global warming, deforestation, peak oil production, overfishing, overpopulation, suburbia, megacities, bird flu, swine flu, consumer electronics, hedge funds, credit default swaps, and fast food.

With regard to recent developments in art (specifically pivoting off of Alec Duffy and his Sufjan Stevens recording):

Can you see what is happening here? It is the return of the aura, of the unique and irreproducible artistic work. Across the artistic spectrum, we are starting to see a turn toward forms of aesthetic experience and production that by their nature can’t be digitized and thrown into the maw of the freeconomy. One aspect of this is the cultivation of deliberate scarcity, which is what Alec Duffy is doing with his listening sessions. Another is the recent hipster trend to treat the city as a playground—involving staged pillow fights in the financial district, silent raves on subways, or games of kick the can that span entire neighborhoods. This fascination with works that are transient, ephemeral, participatory, and site-specific is part of the ongoing rehabilitation of the old idea of the unique, authentic work having an aura that makes it worthy of our profound respect. But in a reversal of Walter Benjamin’s analysis, the gain in deep artistic appreciation is balanced by a loss in egalitarian principle.

On consumption gravitas:

Conspicuous authenticity raises the stakes by turning the search for the authentic into a matter of utmost gravity: not only does it provide me with a meaningful life, but it is also good for society, the environment, even the entire planet. This basic fusion of the two ideals of the privately beneficial and the morally praiseworthy is the bait-and-switch at the heart of the authenticity hoax. This desire for the personal and the public to align explains why so much of what passes for authentic living has a do-gooder spin to it. Yet the essentially status-oriented nature of the activity always reveals itself eventually.

Damien Hirst prepares to unleash another round of art for buyers – latimes.com

I like this litmus test that Damien Hirst suggests:

If I put a painting outside a bar at closing time, and it’s still there in the morning, it’s a crap painting.

He also suggests the market for art is bigger than you think, even at his prices:

I remember flying into L.A. at a time when my paintings were 20,000 to 50,000 pounds and looking at the swimming pools here and thinking everyone who has a pool can afford one of these. The market is so much bigger than anyone realizes.

I hadn’t thought about it that way. Also, on the idea of masterpieces vs. ubiquity:

You also have to ask yourself as an artist, “What would be more appealing … to have made the Mona Lisa painting itself or have made the merchandising possibilities — putting a postcard on everyone’s walls all over the world?” Both are brilliant, but in a way I would probably prefer the postcards — just to get my art out there.

All this reminds me of one section in Andrew Potter’s The Authenticity Hoax, a part where he writes about Robert Hughes’ criticism of Damien Hirst’s work:

“The idea that there is some special magic attached to Hirst’s work that shoves it into the multi-million-pound realm is ludicrous,” [Hughes] wrote. But there is a special magic attached to Hirst’s work. That magic is the spectacularly successful brand known as Damien Hirst. And for those to whom the brand is successfully markted—hedge fund types, tycoons of all sorts, generally anyone who happens to be cash-rich but taste-poor—it makes his products worth every cent. […] Some people think a Lamborghini is vulgar, and lots of people can afford yachts. But put a Damien Hirst dot painting on your wall and the reaction is, “Wow, isn’t that a Hirst?” The point is, Hirst is not selling art, he’s selling a cure for rich people with severe status anxiety. Judging Hirst’s work by the criteria of technical skill, artistic vision, and emotional resonance is like complaining that the Nike swoosh is just a check mark.

Damien Hirst prepares to unleash another round of art for buyers – latimes.com

The people who move to the suburbs aren’t nearly as stupid or careless or brainwashed as the urbanites seem to think. They know they’re going to get a lawn, a garage, and a backyard. They know they will be miles from a store or cafe, and that they’ll have to drive everywhere. Most people move to the suburbs with eyes wide open, fully aware of the tradeoffs they are making. They are not looking for some pastoral idyll, but for more privacy, space, quiet, and parking.

Interview with Andrew Potter: Travel and the Search for Authenticity – World Hum

I think we need to keep in mind that the backpackers you’re talking about, who go to new areas and beat new paths by living close to the people and close to the earth and so on, they are in a sense—and this isn’t my line, this is from an old book I came across—the shock troops of the mass tourism industry. They’re the ones who go into a place that has no infrastructure for tourism and basically create the market for other people to come in behind them. And that may or may not be a bad thing. But we need to be aware that that’s actually what’s going on.

Interview with Andrew Potter: Travel and the Search for Authenticity – World Hum

It is hardly surprising to find that the two areas of human enterprise most concerned with sincerity as opposed to truth–namely, politics and advertising–are also the two areas most steeped in bullshit. Or would it be better to say that politics and advertising are the two areas most concerned with the appearance of authenticity? This might be a distinction without a difference.