holey America, 2005, acrylic yarn and rubber bands
The utopian dream that the industrial revolution, secular humanism, and Freudian psychoanalysis promised: a rational society concerned with the well-being of its weakest members, this was the Modern project born of the French Revolution. Now, Utopia has become the sad, embarrassing uncle with Alzheimer’s and a penchant for impolite speech, his scent of dysfunction nearly intolerable. Like book collectors and grammarians, contemplating a utopian future is for the antique academician.
Unlimited campaign spending by secretive, outside groups protected by tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status, a consequence of Citizen’s United, undermines democracy. Unregulated global capitalism thrives. The masses, far from representing a rational society, are easily manipulated by emotion and false narratives. Industrial modernity as mass salvation has been betrayed by its own success.
“This dream has repeatedly turned into a nightmare, leading to catastrophes of war, exploitation, dictatorship, and technological destruction. To continue this dream into the future, impervious to the ecological dangers, would be nothing less than suicidal. But these catastrophic effects need to be criticized in the name of the democratic, utopian hope to which the dream gave expression, not as a rejection of it.”
Susan Buck-Morss, Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West, MIT Press, 2002
How it started: letters in relief, white-on-white, but lacking the symmetry of the Modernist grid.
The irregular line of the text is imperfect, somewhat unruly, too independent, falling below manufacturer’s standards. The failure to plan ahead and fit the words onto the banner lies entirely with the artist. This effort is sub-par, childish, and inadequate.
“Feel better” is a standardized reaction to negative emotions, a cliché, part of the “slang of our culture” (Lionel Trilling). The text is too large, billboard-sized, exhorting readers to action. This unwieldy object tries to affect emotional change. The inadequacies of this text to conform to higher standards subsumes its ability to accomplish that which it demands.
Today, in the studio, FEEL BETTEr is partly layered in texture, paint, and golden chunks. Emotional currency is translated into golden “rocks.” Value, scarcity, and emotion collide.
Gustav Klimt, “Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” 1907, Neue Galerie, New York
I took part in the Debutantes for a Better Society Spring Ball at Danceteria in 1984. It was a leaderless, carnivalesque performance to an end of innocence. Not a seminal, era-defining show of important artists, just a bunch of heroin-addicted club kids and young artists trying to hang onto an improvised sense of freedom.
This announcement is classic, tongue-in-cheek Pop. I like everything about it: its straightforward language; faux William Morris pattern; glossy card stock; and cheap, one-color, off-register printing job. This invitation snickers at its little joke. But the joke, it turns out, is on us. The streets of Manhattan would clean up as rents rose. Corporate, material, careerist, the art world followed the money.
This is my Open Studio where works-in-progress and various contributing flotsam and jetsam from the future that is now, from the Better Society today will be documented. All I want to say is, “Hello World!”
(The site host filled in this title for the initial post: “Hello World!” The rules of success are blindly followed, Baudelaire’s automaton is the ghost in the machine.)