June 12, 2022

Attention Span

Worth your attention: A Warning On the Future of Music: with Author Ted Gioia. I've enjoyed Rick Beato's channel for many years now. He is also a fine interviewer as you will see in this video.

TL;DListen? (Irony Alert) This is about power brokers, decision makers who are driving shortened attention spans either by intention or coincidence or via capture by historical tides. Ted Gioia not only delivers a sharp critique but also provides fascinating solutions. There's hope despite all the gloom.

I'm wary of social media. It's a driver of heightened narcissism. After having to contend with multiple narcissists in my lifetime, I've had to study the subject. The world is in a very bad place in this regard. I've said long ago that for artists, temerity is an occupational hazard, but the narcissism of today is a pandemic of another kind. Social media is a disease vector.

Adding insult to injury, the art world encourages/demands artists to take on the labor of marketing by maintaining social media accounts, feeding the beasts daily, hourly, hazarding an all-consuming preoccupation. Artists are compelled to think of their works in terms of its suitability for use in social media as backdrops for selfies or its ability to cater to its currency. Yes, maybe you've made a fine thing, but will it look good on a smartphone screen? We are forced, at least in passing, to consider which topical currents to contextualize our art works within. Social movements? Identity? Academe?

I've been encouraged, demanded, by at least one influential gallerist to reframe my practice towards the needs of larger markets defined by big business. His argument was to bypass a dying art market and feed a larger, more vibrant one. Madness. Life is short and art is long... and business life is shorter still. Businesses rely on advertising to spread awareness of their products and services in the mediascape. Commercials run in lengths of seconds. The sensational has priority. What sense in any world does it make to drop the focus of twenty years and counting to cater to these concerns?

The constrained art world.
Anticipations of the market.
Galleries: what might sell
Auction houses: what will sell the most
Art fairs, even worse.

Constraints on attention.



Biennials: Ben Davis' article What Does It Mean to Be a 'Biennial Artist,' Anyway?

The names that dominate Biennial World are not at all the names that dominate Art Market World. In fact, the two worlds don't seem to interact much at all [...]

Why the difference? I've been thinking about the film world as a useful parallel. Biennial Art is, to some extent, the equivalent of Festival Film. Just as a splashy biennial vernissage is thought of as the glitziest and highest-profile event in the art industry, the film festival red carpet defines a certain image of glamour for cinema.
And yet, the Venice, Cannes, or Berlin film festivals--or even the Academy Awards, actually, for all their Hollywood-centricity--have a funny relation to the mainstream of commercial film, existing as counterpoint as much as extension. They tend to honor works considered worthy rather than the blockbusters that will find a big commercial audience no matter what. Festival Film tends to be driven by social concern and topical relevance, to reward "actor-ly" work and modest experimentation--the kinds of traits that justify cinema as an art form and that play well to an educated audience.

So it is with Biennial Art. As anyone who has had to read a biennial catalogue or press release recently will know, it is defined, in general, by a sense of virtuous cultural consumption. So it seems that the list of the major biennial artists of the period will also be a portrait of how cultural virtue was defined in art in the last turbulent half decade.

We have from this, two categories and their bracketing:

Biennial Art > educated = social concerns + topical relevance = virtuous cultural consumption
Art Market World > "blockbuster" = big commercial audience
Further, we can derive two kinds of audiences:
1. Social return on investment
2. Financial return on investment

You might glean from this, that art... the artist... is not in the driver's seat. The audience is.


There's another kind of elite, the one(s) who thinks of where we are in art history and where we are going.

Posted by Dennis at June 12, 2022 11:26 PM

Leave a comment