Friday, 1 October 2010

The Art Caste System

This Blog has been created to explore what seems to be an unspoken dissonance within the contemporary Art world.

On the one hand those of us involved in the 'Art Scene' talk at lengths about the de-centred, relativistic, and emergent millieu we find ourselves in, as society is casting away old hierarchies, binary oppositions and value systems.

Yet on the other,
we talk with understatement about Artists & Art practice being at different levels, about the importance of platforms, and feel compelled, upon meeting new people involved in this system, to quickly indicate our social standing using a variety of codified signals & references.

This second way of representing the Art world reminds me so much of an anecdote a friend told me of his experience living & working in Bangkok, that it has inspired the title of this blog.
He said to me.

"It's mad, but when you first meet someone, if you don't indicate quite quickly whether you are above or below them in the social system, they get really tetchy, you just have to let them know somehow with body language, or telling them what job you have, or something like that." Adam.

So aside of issues related to the (Class ridden English) pot calling the (Tai) kettle black, the parallel between this, and with my experiences meeting Art World people seemed too good to drop.

It seems to me that we're simultaneously using two contradictory spatial schemas.
On the one hand we have the horizontal schema of Art Practice whereby Artists are searching out for new uncharted territory, with the aim to find somewhere as different as possible to where other Artists are.
And on the other we have a vertical schema, in which Artists aim to climb up as many levels as possible onto the highest platform.

Obviously, it would be fair to reply that this is simply the difference between an Artists Practice & an Artists Career. But this is exactly the point, in this increasingly professionalized Art World, these two schemas have been mushed together to the point that we talk about them almost interchangeably. If we want to be involved with these institutions and organizations, and the platforms that they give us access to, then we need to develop a language to describe that involvement.

This needs to be explored, so I have added four posts below with starter questions, please add a response as an anonymous comment.

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