The Death of the White Cube, a short essay:
“What was once joyful celebration, self-abandon, orgiastic communion with the beyond, shrinks to lifeless ritual, official ceremony led by the head of State and his officials. It all becomes theater, and it is all staged. It is no longer for sharing but for show. And it no longer enlarges the participant, who now becomes a mere spectator. He feels diminished, intimidated, awed by the power of Pharaoh’s household.
Our painting, music, dance, everything we call Art, will be heirs of this moribund spiritual activity. What we call Religion will be another dead heir, but at such a high stage of decomposition that its once-living source can no longer be divined.” ~ Fredy Perlman, Against His-Story, Against Leviathan
Awe of money. Faith in art. Fascination with the gentry.
Why, and to what end? Does conceptuality ignore reality, and does this foster economic violence? Are you innocent, complicit, or both?
Money, art, and the gentry: a trinity of fetish, beyond reproach and ever seductive. Society consumes culture by sublimating community, sex, and the gods into civility. Those who think about such things have the “fortune” of perspective, which can be understood as a conceptual lever—in effect, power.
If you have power, you participate in the fetish, allowing a repression of the vulnerable. That same repression allows “participation”—pulling conceptual levers—which in fact is how we detach: how not to participate.
Violence can be physical, verbal, visual, mental, social, financial, or manifest through any temporal medium, as sudden difference. If gentrification is generated from forces within a community, it would appear as a flourishing. Economic violence stems from external forces rapidly developing a “territory” without accountability to the community.
“High art” obfuscates the reality of economic violence. The seduction of unbounded value, the Infinite taking its avatar as any given painting, sculpture, or conceptual proposition, produces an orgasm from this financial promise, and dizzies its intention.
Defend Boyle Heights, BHAAAD, and Ultra-red, have enacted a virtual and spacial rite—a rite of pluralism—problematizing the “white cube” (slang for the modern gallery format) in its context, and by its foundation. The rite dispenses with base politics, and instead undermines the symbols and myths which give these rarified venues power, drawing parallels between art market speculation and the exploitation of real estate. Capitalism, Colonialism, and White Supremacy are brought to bear in the concept of Art Washing.
Conceptualism can be seen largely in relation to the financialization of society over the past 100 years. Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain was created in 1917, while the gold standard was dissolving in Europe, and shortly following the creation of the Federal Reserve in the US. The work was prescient to magnitudes of “liquefaction” of our real assets and commons.
The White Cube—Conceptualism’s Garden of Eden—has stopped bearing fruit, but has progressed to vend preserves and reductions: jams, jellies, and syrups. The middle range of galleries are in decline, leaving amusement-laden “museums as retail spaces” and artist-run studio-collectives. We are in Conceptualism’s rococo, with its decadent overwrought propositions verging on the decorative; there is nothing left to appropriate but itself.
Finance has subjugated all that it can: municipalities, states, commons, politics, and academia. It now even turns to monetize Mars because our own planet has been parceled out to the Nth degree. However, these degrees of enumeration are becoming outmoded as binary code supersedes them with algorithmic reshuffling; power is shifting as is our paradigm of society—how to be social—how to be media.
Virtualization of society has reached a tipping point, having usurped finance as the dominant power structure. Aggregation of information might as well be to humanity what the agricultural revolution was to nature. Community, Intimacy, and Identity are the new resources to exploit. With the White Cube in ruins, what new temple will protect anomalies that resist this new form of Leviathan?