The New Academy

Michalis G. Kallimopoulos

Source: Catalogue of the exhibition "I, According to Me", Nees Morfes Gallery, April 2007


Both you and especially we are living through a bad spell for the visual arts. We are still very much in the time of no. It all began with art saying no to itself; it was followed by art’s negation to society and is now nearing completion with the society turning its back on what we call art. Art merely subsists, like a decayed aristocratic lady; she has been banished to the sidelines by her offspring and relatives without her ever realizing what was going on. She is still worried about becoming like them, about becoming cheap or accessible, a commodity even, and she still retains the nagging feel that she was used and then left to rot. The public at large finds it difficult to fit into contemporary art, but the artist too is in a similar predicament, always striving to reach a wider audience.

The artist is discouraged by society, from which he has disengaged himself both economically and productively. Yet he finds himself engaged in a professional activity, with all the negative consequences. The artist is actually obliged to see his calling as a profession first and foremost, if he is ever to succeed in making a living in it. He feels just as much disheartened by his art, and although he is called upon to defend it, he has no delusions about it: it is not real art, since it is a profession, and it is not a real job either, since the products of his labour do not serve any of society’s vital necessity, even though they cost as much as an automobile. He ends up trapped between the dichotomy profession, not art and art, not a profession.

Today, the nature of the field of visual arts, starting from the very definition of what is and is not visual art, contains both the artist and, especially the artwork within a vast and confused environment. It is worth mentioning that, while other activities restrict their definitions in constantly more self-limiting specializations, art appears to enjoy the rarity of a historically unprecedented free environment. This freedom through ambiguity prevails internationally and leads the visual arts into a fairy-tale post-state of being where everything is allowed and nothing is subjected to censorship or exclusions, to demand or specifications. While this freedom is necessary for the fruition of spiritual work, art does not -and seems not to intend to- offer society fruits worthy of this freedom; thus art morally does not justify this freedom, and this is shown not only by the contemporary works of art, but more by society itself, which seems not really to expect much from it.

Art goes on by sheer force of inertia, mostly internal; that of its contributors. And despite the fact that art is more organized today than ever before, that a whole economic system has been constructed around it, organizing art into a considerable industry, all concur, in private, that the best works of art are behind us and not before us. An art market is constituted of both local and international factors. They produce, shape, handle, control and plan the International Art of today. International corporations, major collectors, cultural centres, and, above all, national policies on art, determine the function of the system. All artistic pursuits have to pass through this system. For such big players as these, the individual work of art does not have any significant importance; another can be found or created to replace it. Just as in the stock market, an important factor can always shift the market to further its own ends.

An international race for originality, for new materials, for large-scale and expensive productions is taking place in this stock market; further, there is a pursuit of smartness and the heretical just for the sake of it. We often find the autism of art commenting on itself or the solipsism of the artist being the topic, rather than a means to engage the topic. These distinguishing features run through International Art Shows, are reproduced by Academies throughout the world and determine contemporary art; through formalism, sterility and lack of content, lack of meaning and text, the complex of market and schools is constructing a new, postmodern academy. It follows on the footsteps of those who preceded it by positively hindering the pursuit of any truth whatsoever.

(This text was written on the occasion of the I, According to Me exhibition at Nees Morfes Gallery in April 2007, and was included in the catalogue of the exhibition).

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