M said that I should see the power of my outsider position and I said
that I could not claim to be an outsider. It was not a coincidence that
I was in London now, during ‘Frieze week’. Not earlier or later. I was a
Later I thought about it from a different angle and realized that
there was a confidence in me that related to this feeling of being
outside in a deeper way. That no matter what connections I made or what I
could ‘achieve’ through gaming the art system I would always feel
disconnected from its core. That I could never truly buy into it, and
that the Art World would always be turned off by the ambiguity of the
Warez that I was selling. Was this a promise I was making to myself? Why
was I so sure about it? Maybe it was the only way to think that allowed
me to continue.
I thought again about the Quaker meeting and about how people seemed
beautiful and dignified and a bit scary. Collective will and the search
for a higher connection rendered people beautiful.
It was easy to construct this binary: people walking out of
Tillmans’s house, the cokehead gallerists and boyfriends of shithead
former love interests, the stressed assistants; they weren’t ugly by any
means but they weren’t glowing like the Quakers. Art hustlers were grey
like the October that enveloped them. Not earth bound but not floating
either. A frustrated middle. I always had to idealize one group while
shitting on another.
(and M says yeah like you shouldn’t read anything into this, nothing
exceptional happened here and i’m like yeah that’s true it’s just funny
because of the contrast to this whole quaker thing, that i set out to
avoid the structure, to do something else, but then to remember about
myself that oh yeah i am really thirsty and desperate too and falling
flat on my face with that, like this rejection that i live for. like
wanting it enough to appear as someone who wants it but not wanting it
enough to get it, which will leave me in that awkward middle space where
most people reside. so i don’t feel alone at least. one day yr
#trending the next day zero likes.)
Desperation and hope against all odds, despite all we knew about neoliberal career games: that 99 out of a 100 would lose.
My ambition is not mine. It’s what I’m a slave to. People get fooled
into unpaid internships, dead end precarious art careers, student debt.
The promise is that you are unique, you are worth it. You find out that
some people are more unique than others. The economy has gone to shit
and is only booming for 0.1%. The middle class will be a historical
anomaly. London doesn’t run on wages anymore. Cultural workers are not
driven by consumption but by desire for some abstract idea of
self-fulfillment and a sense of meaning. How to make people work 15
hours a day in the service of their ‘personal brand’ while they barely
make rent. How to make them psychologize their failures quickly enough
to not see a larger pattern here.
Everyone’s in debt to the institutions that lied to them and made
them self-critical in a paralyzing way (Goldsmiths, etc.). Most already
know that it’s a debt they will default on. The promise of
self-fullfillment revealed itself to be a ponzi scheme.
from Jaako Pallasvuo's Frieze, 2013
Feeling feels for this and a lot of what Jaako writes about. I can identify with the frustration and sense it all around me, in my closest friends, in artists and designers I follow. There are attempts to ask questions, asking more questions as if the answers are going to come from nowhere. There are other attempts to keep the same strategy intact, only upping the intensity of either their production or the intensity of their self-promotion. I was working with my studio partner on a project recently and we got to a point where things were not working for the client. My worried partner says we need to push ourselves harder, work harder, work smarter. Anger rushed through me. I said we work all the time as it is and couldn't imagine working more than what was already a strange maximum that wasn't really paying off. As much as I agree with Jaako's optimism that I "believe we were the future, that success would find us or meet us halfway at least," I can't see that coming around in any of the structures or relationships that exist to make that happen currently. It's not going to come around because we make a book or assembling a collective that judges the thing we secretly want to ascend to. Repeating the same historical cycle by replacing the status-quo in order to look down on our friends and those that didn't quite make it in. Feeling that our critique was more necessary, our resolve stronger, and our perseverance more important. That is the stagnation of the present and not a future to make art for. And moreover those words; perseverance, resolve, grit, tenacity...those are words given to us to encourage us to compete because there's a narrative of glory in defeating the odds in capitalist societies. They're not our own words. They're the market's.
Another short example. I saw a HuffPost Political tweet the other day that was something along the lines of "This is how you respond to a #truther!" with a link to Noam Chomsky answering a building 7 question from a recent talk he gave. I won't get caught up in that debate but what really interests me is the twisting of language in the term truther. How many times has it been said? How many people have been desensitized to it's meaning? I don't like making an Orwellian comparison but it is there. The inverted word for an inverted world. It's like using an insulting tone to call your friend beautiful. Truther. You truther. You lover of the truth. You faithful follower of the truth. You seek a truth but you will not find it. You fool! That's what it communicates whenever someone uses that term and that should be all the more reason to investigate where the term comes from, why it is being used, and by whom.