Escape from the attic, Escape from the crisis | MARIA KENANIDOU


"The superiority of inner vision"1


Charles Thomson, Sir Nicholas Serota Makes an Acquisitions Decision (2)

Even though in the contemporary art of the postmodern, or however contemporary art has settled in calling itself, the understanding of the history of art and the creation of new ways of perceiving it through terms of severance has started to wear out, postmodernism is confined in the shape of techniques, quite often very marketable, and shows a lack of knowledge and perspective that renders us insecure and unattached in the face of the future.

The main features of this art, set against the financial crisis, are vague and indistinguishable and certainly imply an equation with gestures of denial, challenge, withdrawal, fragmentation, annihilation, alienation, discontent or release from rules, movement away from cliché situations, without imposing a retrospection, or necessarily a comparison, liberation from the “introspective” modernism of Donald Kuspit5 or R. L. Jones, Jr.6. The “progressive denial of meaning” of Adorno became a “gigantic process of loss of meaning” of Jean Beaudrillard and a “multiplicity of competing small narratives” of Lyotard and the “de-definition of Rosenberg not only of art, but also of the artist’s being”7 or “an object of denial” by Richard Wolin, apart from classifications.

Outside the Turner Prize, Tate Britain, 2005: Stuckists demonstrate against the purchase of Chris Ofili's The Upper Room. The cutout is Tate Chairman Paul Myners (3)

The whole structure of the history of art in the journey through space and time is based on this very model of acceptance-challenge-overthrow, and here lies the role of art, the challenge and overthrow of anything that attempts to become granted, a part of the status quo, a stereotype. The creatively deconstructive role of art, which always brings about reversal in new ways, so as to preserve what keeps humanity alive, the quest for completion, the quest for the essence that has not been tainted by the established order, has led to yet another reinterpretation of postmodern art, YBAs, Post-YBAs, Stuckism και Anti Stuckism "Post- Painterly Abstraction or Painterly Abstraction etc.

Even though it is too early and we don’t have the necessary temporal distance which will allow us to penetrate and enter into interpretations of the flow of progress of the end of the 20th and the present century, what we discern are displacements in a geo-cultural mapping, since on the map things constantly move, centres and markets emerge, black holes are erased and come into being in the cultural firmament, redistributions occur, movements, alterations, ruptures, gaps, discontinuities, stirring ups and returns that will end up somewhere when the time comes, as long as we sustain a critical attitude.

It can all be epitomized then to the indiscernible, and with the term “indiscernibilia” do we signify the entropy, or the Hegelian end of an era and the history of art? 8 Or simply with a turn to what Beckett calls superiority of the inner vision9 and what Auguste Rodin phrases as “art only begins with the inner truth” 10 do we manage to find the end of the thread?

The financial crisis is the opportunity to reevaluate certain things. The pop postmodern era, with the media’s contribution, having the capacity to create art idols, that from the beginning of their student course realized more exhibitions during their short-lived careers than other, much better painters that had been rejected, perhaps now these artists will have the opportunity to claim the position they deserve in the world of visual arts.

Optimistically, perhaps these financial difficulties will play a decisive role in eliminating this artistic corruption and will reinstate the quality which was suppressed by the postmodern intuition, as well as by the insatiable appetites of the purchasing public. Maybe this crisis will challenge the self-sufficiency of the star system and re-instate the real value of the work of art. Maybe this way the quality-price of the work of art will no longer be identified with its buying price. Perhaps this was the opportunity, the starting point of questioning the previous choices of the plutocracy and the trustees of fabricated bonds who wish to invest in art.

Tesco Value Tomato Soup, Banksy (4)

Perhaps the evaluation of artists worthy of a collection would not be defined by the percentages of art dealers and the ignorance and lack of learning of collectors, located in their fear of taking a risk on a new artist. Perhaps a financial crisis will lead to redefinitions and through the effort to reconstruct, maybe realizations will occur, along with maturity in the manner of production, viewing, reception, promotion, organization, administration, management, cooperation and equality, instead of discriminations in the public relations network, erasing the bitterness of the worthless and the silent acceptance of inevitability and utopia.

Re-approaching the cultural product that the society of show and spectacle exalts or bulimically devours, depending on the economic and commercial commands. What Axelos mentions about the theatre and the cinema metaphorically takes place: “theatricality and anti-theatricality” –as a theoretical postmodern context- “move indisputably on a problematic stage [...] despite the production of certain important works, [...] the cheap industry of individual and collective fantasies dominates, rendering it void of content and overflowing with individual and mass psychological and sociological banalities.”11

The sad thing is, as Rosenberg notes, that these efforts to commercialize art, the cultural industries and strategies, within a frame of promotion, disposal and diffusion of the cultural product, constitute efforts to commercialize the authentic experience, through the techniques of psychological manipulation that the mass of media producers have at their disposal.12 They absorb and mutilate originality and the ideological framework that this eternal search for the essence of Being and Logos would produce, the real goal of art, not the commercialized art, but this internal primitive need of humanity.

Each historical period produces and shapes values, and it is to our advantage to understand that. The observation of a work of art, the criticism of it, the perception of this particular articulation is of value when the work of art refers to reality, and doesn’t merely confirm it, and when it controls and not simply contains the economic, social, ideological, political, cultural context, through which it was born and now exists.

What are the intentional, representational or not, semiotic, symbolic, expressive qualities of the contemporary work? Where do the constant notional changes in practices, in the interpretational-critical-explanatory viewing and reception of a work of art, in the critical interpretation and cultural history, philosophy and aesthetics finally lead to? The changes in these areas signify an imminent alteration in our notional orientation for the beginning of the new millennium. It is too early to determine how superficial or fundamental these changes will be. What they constitute though is of utmost importance: perhaps a permanent violation of the dominant philosophy of the first half of the century.13

But how, in the context of this avant guard art, is shock and the vulgarization and oppression of values and morals in the name of freedom of expression employed, in the context of a realism-manipulation of reality with socio-politico-cultural practices according to the demands of the market and its promotional system? Provocatively, tempting to the senses, to morality under the pretext of shocking the system, with the alibi of this freedom, they usually create conservative and notionally outdated works, vandalizing the true questioning of contemporary thought about art, in an age when post-political cynicism and consensual logic have a catalytic effect in the cultural field.

The artists of this specific project, through the deposit of their maturity, in their works that are the distillation of their experience, put forth the need to redefine and re-orientate with a novel look through the collective experience, so that the essential in art will be redeemed without the formalistic restrictive attitudes of regarding production, reception and interpretation. They suggest production instead of reproduction, a healthy reaction and challenge to escape from sterilization, indolence and inertia.

Postmodern art is still in pain after the end of a post-capitalist, post-socialist, post-communist society. Combined with the insatiable artistic ambitious pursuit for acceptance and elevation, therefore financial reciprocation, with phenomena like pornomiseria14 and excessive opportunistic artistic practices, imposed by cultural politics, the art market defines the production of artistic work more than it should, thus manipulating acceptance and performance.

Although a financial crisis can influence the art market so heavily, art itself can optimistically be led through an outlet, via a healthy “internal extroversion”, summed up in what K. Axelos underlines: “Art is not, does not exist as an element of a continuous presence and representation. It is not a fact that is, exists, but it evolves in time and space in a distinctive manner, in its own world that makes us available to the world [...] demanding from us to overcome our own closure.” 15 Because, as Kastoriadis mentions, “we live in the edge of a double abyss. On the one side lies the abyss that exists within us, the abyss that is ourselves, while on the other side lies the chaos that lurks behind fragile phenomena, behind the organized world we live in.”16

Modern art, in the vortex of corrupt politico-economic interests and plutocracy, fails to preserve a substantial relationship not only with the memory of the past, but also with the vision of the future. Perhaps this will be accomplished on an individual and a collective level, when a radical transformation of values will reconstruct the social, psychic and mental fabric of humanity, sharpen its inner vision, demonstrating its superiority and remind us of Rainer Maria Rilke’s position: “the generation of those that are not yet alive and await for their time, hangs from creation” 17 , as long as we are “available to what is about to come”. 18

It’s a financial crisis then that will remind us that “probably it has been like that all along. There probably always existed a great distance between a particular age and the great art that was born in it. Probably works of art have always been just as lonely as they are today, maybe glory was nothing more but the personification of all the misunderstandings surrounding a new name. There is no reason why we should assume that things have sometime been different. Since the difference of works of art from all other objects lies in their futuristic nature, works of art are those things that await for their time to come.” 19

Maria Kenanidou


1. Samuel Beckett, Le monde et le pantalon, 1989, Les Editions de Minuit, trans. Maria Papadima, pub. Epsilon, 2005, pg.33

2. Thomson. Sir Nicholas Serota Makes an Acquisitions Decision.jpg

3.,Stuckist Turner demo (2).jpg


5. Donald Kuspit, The New Subjectivism: Art in the 1980s, Umi Research Press,1988,pg.82

6. R. L. Jones, Jr. “Modern and Postmodern: Questioning Contemporary Pedagogy in the Visual Arts,” In J. Hutchins & M. Suggs (eds.). Art Education: Content and Practices in a Postmodern Era,1997, pp.91-102

7. Harold Rosenberg, The de-definition of Art, University of Chicago Press, 1983

8. Arthur Danto, After the End of the Art:Contremporary Art and the Pale of History, Princeton 1997

9. Samuel Beckett, Le monde et le pantalon, 1989, Les Editions de Minuit, trans. Maria Papadima, pub. Epsilon, 2005, pg.33

10. Auguste Rodin, Testament, trans. Alexandros Adamopoulos, pub. Agra, pg.15

11. Kostas Axelos, To anoigma sto eperhomeno kai to ainigma tis tehnis, pub. Nefeli, Athens 2009, pg.41-42

12. Harold Rosenberg, Discovering the Present , "The Herd of Independent Minds, University of Chicago Press 1973, ISBN 0-226-72680-0 , pp15-16.

13. Joseph MARGOLIS, Radical Changes in Aesthetics, , Interpretation Radical But Not Unruly: The New Puzzle of the Arts and History (University of California Press, 1995)

14. «pornomiseria» from a team of Columbian filmmakers, Louis Ospina and Carlos Mayolo. Their criticism was aimed at revealing the voyeuristic and fetishistic nature of the European consumers’ interests, but mainly at the lack of profundity from the creators, in relation to the stories they presented and their opportunistic attitude through the exploitation and commercialization of social problems.

15. Kostas Axelos, To anoigma sto eperhomeno kai to ainigma tis tehnis, pub. Nefeli, Athens 2009, pg. 31

16. Kastoriadis Kornilios pub. Ypsilon, 2008

17. Rainer Maria Rilke, Von Kunst und Leben Schriften, “Peri Tehnis“ , 1898, trans. Ioanna Paraskelidi, pub. Printa, 2010, pg. 84

18. Kostas Axelos, To anoigma sto eperhomeno kai to ainigma tis tehnis, pub. Nefeli, Athens 2009, σελ.44

19. Rainer Maria Rilke, Von Kunst und Leben Schriften, “ Erga Tehnis”, 1902, trans. Ioanna Paraskelidi, pub. Printa, 2010, pg. 109