Post-Everythingby Ben La Rocco
Rotunda Gallery is currently hosting Post-Everything, an exhibition about an historical moment after all other historical moments. Ambitious though it sounds, such pronouncements have been common enough since Francis Fukuyama declared the end of history. Since then, we’ve had the end of art with Arthur Danto and the end of philosophy with Joseph Kosuth. We’ve got post-feminism, post-structuralism, and post-Marxism, all enveloped by post-modernism. Perhaps it’s not so much the character of the current situation that is the problem as our incessant attempts to define it. Fear of the unknown inspires the neurotic blossoming of post-speak. One wonders if perhaps it’s time for a postmortem. The artists in Post-Everything seem somewhat of this mind. As far as posts go, they’ve definitely got their bases covered.
Jill Miller covers post-style. Her riotous video, an overlay of a woman dancing to Missy Elliot on footage of a performance by John Baldessari, is called “I Am Making Art Too.” The girl’s sinuous movements to Elliot’s rude lyrics are hilarious beside Baldessari’s pedantic stutter steps. By setting herself next to Baldessari (assuming Miller is the dancer), the artist uses history to stake her own claim to authenticity, but the marked silliness of the whole thing undermines her effort. Style is not an issue, Miller seems to say—everyone’s got it anyway.
George Boorujy deals with post-civilization. His drawings depict wastelands in which men in skivvies chew fresh kill and only the locusts thrive. They are classical in style, which is an interesting twist for they employ a technique associated with the pinnacle of culture in Greece to suggest scenes in which civilization has ceased to exist.
A post-ideological world is Gang Zhao’s subject. He addresses it with two very retro-looking paintings of Chairman Mao on either side of a video entitled Harlem School of Social Studies. It is hard to take this piece seriously. Mao paraphernalia is collected as eccentric kitsch by Americans abroad. The video, an inaudible documentary of artists talking in someone’s kitchen, seems serious enough, but the portraits merely seem nostalgic for a pre-post time.
David Kramer handles the end of art with his video, “Asshole,” in which scenes of the artist sitting placidly at his desk are spliced against scenes of his wife complaining of his inactivity and studio-obsession. Over this runs a text describing the artist’s block and his regretful decision not to contribute a piece to Post-Everything. “Asshole,” then, is not actually a work of art, but the documentation of a work of art not made.
The Center For Urban Pedagogy (CFUP), a non profit research and design office dedicated to producing work about the built environment, gives us the Urban Renewal Activity Table (Atlantic Terminal). It’s an information center for the urban planning of the area surrounding the Atlantic Terminal in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. While the information regarding the detrimental effects of much of that planning on the Fort Greene community is quite valuable, the thought of reading through the heavy documentation the CFUP has provided makes me think of a post-pleasure art.
In the context of the exhibition, the most recalcitrant of the pieces on display is Bryan Crockett’s Solipsist. It’s a large, polyurethane sculpture of a man with his head buried in a tree growing from a quartz-like stone. The post-mania is in part fueled by a market-driven notion that what’s new is always what’s best. What’s post is always what’s new, so as long as one is post, one is saleable. From this derives a feeling that nothing is ever good enough, art-wise, to satisfy and this does indeed have a solipsistic quality about it. If one is compelled by outside forces to constantly assess one’s doings and one can seek no standard outside the most immediately apparent by which to assess those doings, then the easiest thing is to fall back on the immediate past, hence the post. One might as well stick one’s head in a tree.
ContributorBen La Rocco