By now the one- legged seagull (aka Pegleg) had eaten almost all the ‘Beyond Aesthetics’ copy. Yet there was one chunk that remained. Curious, our man (aka Robinson) read this last uneaten fragment. Maybe Pegleg found it totally indigestible?
It read ‘The bogus separation between art and theory is broken down by interventionist uses of quotation which rely on a theoretical understanding of the way ideology informs subjectivity, in order to undermine the culturally- loaded meanings invested in images. Since, as Hal Foster wrote, any truly critical practice must transform rather than merely manipulate signification, (re) construct rather than simply dispense structures of subjectivity’
(At our OAP bingo evenings, we talk of little else. -Ed)
Robinson rolled this into a ball and wondered how far he could throw it, but was distracted by Pegleg . The dear bird was now cross-eyed and looked in extreme discomfort. What followed with his friend was a most violent attack of diarrhoea. This bird had dumped (pro rata) the biggest load of crap Robinson had ever seen. But, of course, he knew that anyway.
Robinson glanced at the offending bottle, a vessel redolent of such hope, a hope that had morphed into a wasteland. There was still a small slip of paper stuck to the base of the bottle. Should he read it? Why not?
It was a note about some recent paintings by an artist that Robinson had never heard of. Didn’t look up to much. Anyway, he reads (by Abi) the following:
‘This series of small paintings from David Armitage, entitled ‘Fragments’ contains elements or sections of other works. In a process of palimpsest the work involved was re-used or altered but potentially still bore visible traces with its earlier form.’
Robinson was fascinated by this ‘palimpsest’ term. It sounds like something that a teenage son or daughter would not talk to their parents about. Or it could be a wee beastie that scuttles around a lot and keeps you awake at night.
Anyway, he stuffed all the remaining bits back into the bottle, climbed to the top of an adjacent cliff, gave it three swings around the head, and let it go.
His anguished cry of despair followed the bottle far out to sea. It could be heard for miles around.
When he awoke from a troubled nights sleep, our man did not feel like breakfasting on another dollop of ‘beyond aesthetics’. Instead, he noticed that several shorter pieces had been appended to this magnum opus ….in effect, slighter ruminations of Artspeak.
These pieces were dignified by their brevity, if not their gravitas or syntax.
He started on this little gem. ‘The significance of an ordinary item…. an inventive and unusual exploration of the cultural history of the button with all it’s metaphorical and lexical suggestiveness’….(true!) or… ‘In a process of palimpsest, the work evolved or was reused or altered but potentially still bore visible traces of its earlier form…. the result is a body of work that reflects themes of female identity, diversity and transition. (Gosh!). or ‘What follows is: impossibility to believe in discussion for imagery…..#towards aphasia, towards immobility, for a progressive identification of consciousness and praxis….
Was our man developing a morbid fascination with this tosh? Rather like watching kitsch soap operas when nobody was around? He was armed with acres of this twaddle that would make the winter nights fly by.
Nights! Nights! His dream hurtled back.
He had invented an ABM machine! (An Art Bollocks Machine) and it had made him a fortune. The punter simply keyed in the show he or she was doing. As a demo he chose a show called ‘An anthology of socks full of cold porridge’ (international of course.) This opened more bollocks doors than a French farce. He asked for 3x A4 pages, double spaced, paid his money, and Bingo! The machine chuntered out the result. Terrific stuff!
This market was huge. Think of anything, as is now academic, call it art, and good old
ABM would do the business. It did a fabulous job on ‘German battle cruisers and the suspender belt’. An international touring show, people now speak of little else.
He had a rude awakening. A one- legged seagull had befriended him and was demanding some breakfast. The bird seemed quite keen on snacking on the recently arrived paperwork. He pecked at it. Wanted more. Was it edible?
Let’s find out in the final episode…
Another scene. A desert island. The lone inhabitant (he had tried to sail across the Pacific in a very large yoghurt pot) was surviving, but only just. He had found enough to eat locally, but had saved up the tastiest bits of his sandals for a kind of culinary ‘Michelin Moment’. However, after some instinctive premonition he decided on a more modest seafood meal instead.
Was there some kind of celebration in prospect, perhaps not unconnected with the world he had left behind? This was an immense loss, as powerful as life itself.
He gazed out to sea, this gap would never be closed….. nostalgia flooded in.
But wait. He sat bolt upright.
Ah…tricks, a mirage, a cliche even… Was that the light bouncing off the neck of a bottle?
A bottle that bobbled toward him? Did this bottle contain a tightly rolled scroll of documents? His sun- stroked neurones had led to a wandering mind more than once.
Our man was a fine string player in an earlier life. Could this vessel contain an autographed score of Beethoven’s Op. 132 string quartet? Music that the Gods could listen to but could never hope to write. Ever. His spirits rose.
He waded out to get the very real object. Yes, a scroll of papers was contained within.
As he gently extracted them, our man wept.
A moment to be savoured! The text was in English!
He settled down under his favourite palm tree and began to read. It was a review of a conceptual art show. It was headed ‘Beyond Aesthetics, Readings in cultural intervention’. There was pages of this stuff… deep, deep, joy!
Agog with anticipation, he read the following:
‘During the past two decades the breakdown in humanist metaphysics has radically transformed theories of the production and reception of art. Humanist fallacies of the individual as an essential self have been deconstructed by post- structural explanations of the formation of subjectivity through language and its representations.
The art object is no longer conceived as an autonomous, transparent device reflecting the unmediated intentions of its maker, but read as a visual text ‘read’ through the lens of the cultural fabric which furnishes the meanings encoded in art.
Roland Barthes’s famous dictum that ‘the birth of the reader must be at the cost of of the death of the author’ has suffered an overly reductive interpretation as simply entailing the impossibility of originality, which has been used to justify the supposed futility of attempts to generate new imagery. Abandoning the modernist pursuit of
‘Making It new’, reactionary artists now gratuitously ‘quote’ existing images. But as Jean Baudrillard commented, quotation is never a goal in itself… the play on second and third degree quotes…. is a pathological form of the end of art, a sentimental form’.
If, as Barthes wrote, ‘a text’s unity lies not in its origin but…….’
At this point, (about 10% of ‘beyond aesthetics’), our man drifted off…. perchance to dream… about what I wonder?
See ‘cast your bread’ episode 2