from the second part entitled "A state of Grace?":
... (Pluralism) is a situation that grants a kind of equivalence; art of many sorts is made to seem more or less equal - equally (un)important. Art becomes an arena not of dialectical dialogue but of vested interests, of licensed sects: in lieu of culture we have cults. The result is an eccentricity that leads, in art as in politics, to a new conformity: pluralism as an instituion.
Posed as a freedom to choose, the pluralist position plays right into the ideology of the "free market" ... Indeed, the freedom of art today is announced by some as the "end of ideology" and the "end of the dialectic"- an announcement that, however naive, makes this
ideology all the more devious. In effect, the demise of one style (e.e., minimalism) or one type of criticism (e.e., formalism) or even one period (e.g., late modernism) tends to be mistaken for the death of all such formulations. Such a death is vital to pluralism: for with ideology and dialectic somehow slain, we enter a state that seems like grace, a state that allows, extrordinarily, for all styles - pluralism. Such innocence in the face of history implies a serious misconstrual of the historicity of art and sciety. It also implies a failure of criticism.
When formalism prevailed, art tended to be self-critical. ... When formalism fell, even this attitude was largely lost. Free before of other discourses, art now seemed free from its own discourse. and soon it appeared that all criticism, once so crucial to art practice, had lost its cogency. ... We are free - of what, we think we know. But where are we left? The present in art has a strange form, at once full and empty, and a strange tense, a sort of neo-now moment of "arriere-avant-gardism." Many artists borrow promiscuously from both historical and modern art. But these references rarely engage the source - let alone the present - deeply. And the typical artist is often "foot-loose in time, culture and metaphor": a dilettante because he thinks that , as he entertains the past, he is beyond the exigency of the present; a dunce because he assumes a delusion; and a dangling man because historical moment - our present problematic - is lost.
Modern art engaged
historical forms, often in order to deconstruct them. Our new art tends to assume
historical forms - out of context and reified. Parodic or straight, these quotations plead for the importance, even the traditional status, of the new art. In certain quarters this is seen as a "return to history"; but it is in fact a profoundly ahistorical enterprise, and the result is often "aesthetic pleasure as false consciousness, or vice versa".
This "return to history" is ahistorical for three reasons: the context of history is disregarded, its continuum is dsavowed, and conflictual forms of art and modes of production are falsely resolved in pastiche. Neither the specificity of the past nor the necessity of the present is heeded. Such a disregard makes the return to
hsitory also seem to be a liberation from
histry. And today many artists do feel that, free of history, they are able to use it as they wish. ...
To be unaware of historical or social limits is not to be free of them; one is all the more sujected. ... So it is that the freedom of art today is forced
(both false and compelled): a willful naivete that masquerades as jouissance, a promiscuity misconceived as pleasure. Marcuse noted how the old tactics of (sexual) liberation, so subversive tin a society of production, have come to serve the status quo of our society of consumption: he termed this "repressive desublimation." Similarly, pluralism in art signals a form of tolerance that does not threaten the status quo.
... Art became skittishly stylish - everyone had to be different... in the same way. ... as Adorno remarked, "the official culture's pretense of individusalism...necessarily increases in proportion to the liquidation of the individual." Meanwhile, the conventions of art are not in declie but in extraordinary expansion. ...
... an art of "effect"... cannot escape its own condition of hysterical futility. It strains for effects only to degenerate into postures, and these postrures have no relief: the emerge flat and ephemeral...
... The victim here is not the historicist model of an autonomous, causal line of "influence," but rather the dialectical model that demands radical, materialist innovation. It is this
history that tends to be denied, only to be replaced by history as a monument (or ruin) - a store of styles, symbols, etc., to plunder... Rather than explore theis condition of cliched styles and prescriptive codes (as Barthes and Derrida have done), many artists today merely exploit it, and either produce images that are easy to consume or indulge in stylistic references - often in such a way that the past is entertained precisely as publicity. The artist innocent today is a dilettante who, bound to modernist irony, flaunts alienation as if it were freedom.
the next part "An Arriere-Avant Garde?" is pertinent as well... makes very key points about the Criminal and the Dandy of earlier last century and what has become of them... but I'm going to stop typing now, lest like poor John Eden I also get RMI