Take the regular artist of post-modern ideas and attachment. He is pushed by the ubiquitous mass-media, he surrenders to the all-over consumerism, advertising and fetishes of the latest brand. Let us gently forget the activists, happeners and performers who still fought for something that means for some political, religious or social ideals. Let us try to confront instead present-day artists, e.g. J. Schnabel or J. Dokoupil with, say B. Vautrier, A. Cavellini, V. Acconci and P. Manzoni – the scandalists who continued Duchampian blasphemies and his outright challenge against sacred art. R. Schwarzkogler -the renowned case- was even ready to cut himself to death accomplishing a rebellious frenzy in the name of myth (the artist’s body as his workshop and anti-craft) which would not be realized. Today, their antagonists mocking at the avant-garde eschatology, at all kinds of worship and nostalgia for any ordo mundi, turn into puppets or robots or, at most, clowns. Some of them, i.e., the incidental ‘mentalists’ who go on into self-analysis, remain on the borderlines of modernism and post-modernism. When Sandro Chia presents his colossus with abstract painting in the stretched down hands, it could mean the derision of the noble predecessors but also mere bottomless melancholy. The artist-colossus seems to be a strawman longing for the sacred tablets which were handed over from Kandinsky and Delaunay up till de Kooning and the early Rauschenberg. When Rob Scholte shocks us with the artist as clown or ape, elegantly dressed, parodying the classical scenery of the Sovereign Creator in his atelier, his viewpoint is by no means affirmative. On the contrary, his sadness is more than obvious despite his splendid virtuoso capacities. The perfidious play with the glorious art of the past is the very witness of the collapse of culture. It is thus inadmissible (and highly regrettable) to pronounce the opinion that the post-modern artist is entirely liberated. He is enslaved by his total disengagement and domestication in the consumerist fairy-land. What I state sounds like sophistry but the fact is that while we follow the post-modern frivolous or senseless pastiches (by the way, it boils down to obvious eclecticism) we are left with the feeling of sheer emptiness. What a subject is such an artist then? Isn’t it self-defeating to embrace the predominating insubstantiality?
Uit: British Journal of Aesthetics 32 (1): page 50-58 (1992)