Notes From a Future, after an unstoppable progression towards one art world extreme and a necessary alternative.
Deregulated and interconnected, the Art Industry grew fond of establishing Gagosian-chains offshore in international waters. Tax-free, one-stop shopping, hubs of the Art Industry occupied retreat destinations rather than city centers (imagine St. Barth’s). Art fairs were often flotillas of bobbing cruise ships with names like “Pulse-scope” their gangways tied together, ever present somewhere. Museums played the role of exclusive theme park, and moved from alliances with yesterday’s banking brands to those with corporations firmly rooted in the entertainment industry. M ost found their forte in destination-driven installation art (the more sensory, the better, as this art was still difficult to reproduce therefore still drawing large crowds of travelers looking for experience). What might have begun as a type of mimetic irony, the factory production of works by artist-brands (a process that had long since moved from cliché to archetype) resulted in attention for bad labor practices not unlike attention received by multinationals in the last quarter century. As Nabokov is to have said, “The future is but the obsolete in reverse,” and since outsourcing had become outmoded in other sectors of production, it was perfect fodder for artist-brands interested in nostalgia (or just slower on the uptake).
Although in general the press glorified growth towards a more exclusive, and if possible, less transparent art trade, the Other World (which was necessary to balance the Art Industry) was alive and had perforated and permeated the cracks of the Art Industry’s associated ideals. This world had dispossessed social ideals of progress and instead (in a move towards a more Communitarian time and place) based social systems on the ideal of empathy alone. These societies were reinvented bottom-up and consisted of students who, alongside work in the classroom, apprenticed in the public sector learning the skills of plumbers, tailors, computer technicians, janitors, and so on. A social system where needs once met through outsourced production were now met by neighbors producing and exchanging, and where people were in positions to barter their staples for works of art (with transient rates of exchange). An ever-growing contingent of artists chose to reside in the Other World, and these bi-polar worlds captivated the attention of artists who dissected, used, and opposed one or the Other. There would never be consensus, only a shifting dynamic.
(Note: neither of these possible worlds involve wars, cars, and are unspecific about land ownership.)
Mary Mattingly is an artist whose recent projects include Swale, a floating edible forest on a barge in NYC.