Having criticized Donald Kuspit's essay on digital art for metaphorical overreach and bad choices of work to champion, let's offer a few words of defense. Kuspit's supposedly dense artspeak can't be blamed for Damien Hirst's cut-up cows, a connection one commenter attempts to make. Kuspit believes in nothing if not the natural and the vital over cheeky sensationalism, which, again, Hirst practices only in part. Aligning Kuspit and Hirst is like saying "Greenberg, in his defense of Mary Kelly..." Compared to say, Derrida's writing, Kuspit's language cribbed from psychoanalyis isn't that dense. It's just wordy.

More vexing is current Eyebeam reBlogger Sarah Cook's tarring of Kuspit as a supporter of form over content. ("Seurat's pointilism makes him the first digital artist? An art critic caught up on form yet again. --sarah") Check out what Kuspit says about Seurat, though:
Seurat was the first artist to understand that vibrating sensations are structured in themselves as well as details in a visual structure. [That sounds tautological but we're coming in mid-argument.] To be a really modern artist, a scientific artist, meant to make these structures -- the hidden code of color, as it were -- visible. The more visible the coded matrix of sensations became, the more hallucinatory the representation seems, which is what happens in La Grande Jatte. Indeed, the more structured the vividness of the sensations seemed, the more the picture was totalized as an eternal pattern of vibrating sensations, the more ghost-like the objects represented seemed.

La Grande Jatte brings representation into greater question than [Manet's] Music in the Tuileries Gardens. Seuratís pulverization of representation into a matrix, systematically organized, suggests that doubt and suspicion of representation are built into La Grande Jatte. Perspective continues to buttress the scene, like a backbone, but the perspective is beginning to buckle and flatten -- collapse -- under the enormous weight of the pulsing sensations. Seuratís painting is a catastrophe in the making, a virtual apocalypse, indeed, the first picture that explicitly presents itself as a virtual reality, and that "argues" that reality is always virtual -- never really real, or, if one wants, it argues that the virtual is the really real. His figures are full-fledged phantoms, delicate, thin gossamers, no longer clumsy, thick patches.

Looking at La Grande Jatte, we are witnessing the death of the order of objects and the birth of the matrix of sensations as a unified field.
If this is formalism, let's have more of it! Sounds like good drugs, to me. The problem with Kuspit's essay is he has found no modern equivalent artist worthy of waxing this eloquent about. That kind of rush, at least for now, can mainly be found in cinematic credit sequences, electronic music made in the likes of Reaktor, and some of the braincrunching Flash videos available for the downloading out there on the Internerd, to use a Gothamist term. Artists will catch up with these pioneering digital works eventually.

--reposted with minor edits, which means the URL changed, whoops.

- tom moody 8-10-2005 7:05 pm

I didn't say it was Kuspit's artspeak that brought about Hirst.

In fact, I said quite clearly that Kuspit didn't like Hirst. I said it was art criticism of that ilk in general that made it possible for Hirst to be the phenomenon he became -- the kind of pretentious, opaque over-thinking and over-rationalizing that made it possible, probably just through sheer number of printed pages, for blue-chip collectors to justify shelling out high prices for conceptual artworks.

Art criticism that's so dense you need a chainsaw to cut through it is part of the problem in our field, a problem we're getting past by not cohering into large, slow-moving, easily studied movements.

The art critics of decades past, Kuspit among them, had the benefit of slow, fairly coherent movements they could observe, study and theorize about. The limitations of communications in decades past were an additional factor that served to keep things moving slowly, so they could be easily studied and reasoned about. Critics could spin volumes regarding miniscule connections and still stay abreast of the most current movements. The effect of all of this word-spinning, this hifalutin doctrinization of art, was to remove it from the people and put it on a high, arid Mt. Olympus, reachable by the very few, usually the very privileged.

In stark contrast, many art critics these days, as near as I can tell, are confounded by the sheer profusion of styles and approaches to art-making. Observation and the production of large written volumes describing miniscule connections is hindered by the lack of stylistic coherence, the lack of easily defined movements, and the sheer speed at which things change, a speed partly due to the communications channels available today. The effect of the current state of the art world, with its relative incomprehensibility to critics who need slow, easily defined movements, is one of flattening -- somewhat -- the terrain. More art is more accessible to more people than ever before, not just accessible through museums, galleries and online, but conceptually accessible. It's gotten to the point where some of the art critics are actually criticizing the old art criticism, and saying, "How stupid -- a dead cow in a tank of formaldehyde. What were we thinking when we justified this as Conceptual Art?"

Some art critics have adapted well to this new world order,
especially the artist-critics. Donald Kuspit, as proven by
everything he's written in the past few years, has obviously been
left in the dust, and he doesn't even realize it. He's still grinding out 50's-style art criticism, struggling, like Sisyphus, to roll Art back to the top of Mt. Olympus.

That era is past, and good riddance. If you need a phone-book-
sized monograph to justify or explain a piece of art, it's not art that I have any interest in. Since the 2000 elections in the USA we've seen with crystal clarity the unhappy outcome when privileged elites are allowed to dominate a field and put it out of reach to most of us.

It may be too late for the American political system, but Art has
managed to renew itself, to wrench itself from the hands of these elites who think only in the rarefied language of Kuspit-eze.
- Bill Gusky (guest) 8-10-2005 7:14 pm


Your comment is so dense you need a chainsaw to cut through it. Bill, you are talking to the wrong weblog. You need to find a forum where this kind of neocon, Hilton Kramer style ranting is welcome--there are lots of them out there.
- tom moody 8-10-2005 7:31 pm


Sorry for length but you misquoted me, misunderstood me, and still do. Neocon? Please. bye - B

- Bill Gusky (guest) 8-10-2005 8:55 pm


A quote is where you put something in quotation marks and attribute it to someone by name.
- tom moody 8-10-2005 9:38 pm





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