Thursday, 4 June 2009

Bad Taste: Applied, Reflexive and Camp

There is Taste that is bad because it is defined by people who conform to or are active within a given taste (taste here being distinct from sensibility, since many tastes can together form an epochs overall sensibility), and define their taste as good in opposition to an antithetical taste which they call bad (such as the successions of nouveau-rich aesthetics from New York to Houston to Dubai and Moscow which are dogmatically classed as bad taste by those who posit their own styles as being all moderation, restraint and hence “good taste”).

This type of bad taste is externally applied to an uncapitulating group and I guess I would call ‘Applied Bad Taste’.

Then there is Taste that is entirely aware of the boundaries of a particular given group that defines in one place and time what constitutes Good Taste, and defines itself entirely within a liminal zone around these boundaries. Unlike Applied Bad Taste -which exists on its own and only has judgements projected on it externally from Good Taste, this form of Bad Taste is self conscious of its relationship to Good Taste and controls the way it is seen by carefully controlling the distance it goes towards the outer reaches of what Good Taste considers a part of itself… but the key is that it will always return either to the boundary line or back within, because this form of bad taste (which is the one which can handle shock and horror so effortlessly) is internal to Good Taste, is a part of it and performs the role of constantly checking where it ends, and so maintaining its integrity as a unit as it changes through time. These arbiters of Bad Taste are Aristocrats and have a privileged Aesthetic role in society.

This type of Bad Taste acts internally on its own group and I guess I would call it ‘Reflexive Bad Taste’.

Then of course there is that field full of earnest and overabundant inventiveness that is something like the fecundity of nature coming out in plastic, velvet, rhinestone and lace. Namely a taste which is entirely the opposite of the Aristocratic and controlling role of Reflexive Bad Taste, but which also performs at the edges; here Good Taste is not tested to breaking point, but rather multiple tastes are grown in a fecund profusion of uncategorisable inventions and styles which surround good taste like fields or forests used to surround cities, providing unending material for any future alterations or innovations within Good Taste itself. This Taste is precisely too heterogeneous to be a taste at all, and is therefore looked at but not seen in its entirety by Good Taste’s homogeneity, and can only be understood in tiny parts at any one time.

This type of Bad Taste is Nature coming out through our hands and in our Garages, is by necessity heterogeneous, self-sufficient and EARNEST, and is obviously ‘Camp’.


These areas that are often dismissed when encountered visualy as being in Bad Taste, and when they are present in the work of an artist or architect who uses them knowingly is always assumed to be intended ironically, these three realms of creativity are always present in everything I do –to varying degrees- and interest me greatly: from the vast, explosive, and joyous release of Camp genius when it encounters vast wealth, from Versace to Cavalli, all the way to the shit-eating murderous sexuality of Salo, and back again to the suburban streets of outer london and all the innumerable “minimalist”, “roman”, and “classic” living rooms occupying the train-set terraces and semis. I want Camp to be present because for me it is the effusive joy of creation, the human instinct to multiply itself and its beauty out into the space around it in a celebration of existence… unquestioningly taking flight in the pleasure of doing; Applied Bad Taste (for me here refering specificaly to the Nouveau Riche aesthetics whose ends is luxurius differentiation. There are many others but I am interested in this instance) is the saturation of art with money and power, and it is glittering, dangerous and full of overripe potential. I am interested in it… when I saw Cavalli’s boat day after day in the harbour, while making all the right sounds with my mouth to my friends about how vulgar it all was so that we were all in communal agreement, my head was furiously imagining what was going on on board, what kind of conversation were happening, what did it look like, how dearly I would have loved to be on it! And Reflexive Bad Taste is like a touch of Tabasco… there is no need to smother all the other flavours by shocking the palate with an overtly unpleasant taste, but it adds so much to the whole if there is that piquant kiss, that cheeky and unexpected position.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Extracts from "Relational Aesthetics" by Nicolas Bourriaud

These are from a wonderful collection of essays/articles, of which "Towards a policy of forms" was the one I found the most arresting. More Bourriaud extracts to follow in the coming months.

Gordon Matta-Clarke or Dan Graham’s work cannot be reduced to the “things” those two artists “produce”; it is not the simple secondary effects of a composition, as the formalist aesthetic would like to advance, but the principle acting as a trajectory evolving through signs, objects, forms, gestures… the contemporary artwork’s form is spreading out from its material form: it is a linking element, a principle of dynamic agglutination. An artwork is a dot on a line.

Transitivity is as old as the hills. It is a tangible property of the artwork. Without it, the work is nothing other than a dead object, crushed by contemplation. Delacroix wrote in his diary that a successful picture temporarily “condensed” an emotion that it was the duty of the beholder’s eye to bring to life and develop. This idea of transitivity introduces into the aesthetic arena that formal disorder which is inherent to dialogue. It denies the existence of any specific “place of art”, in favour of a forever unfinished discursiveness, and a never recaptured desire for dissemination.

So through little gestures art is like an angelic programme, a set of tasks carried out beside or beneath the real economic system, so as to patiently re-stitch the relational fabric.

On the other hand, we can say that art creates an awareness about production methods and human relationships produced by the technologies of its day, and that by shifting these, it makes them more visible, enabling us to see them right down to the consequences they have on day-to-day life. Technology is only of interest to artists in so far as it puts effects into perspective, rather than putting up with it as an ideological instrument.

The future of art, as an instrument of emancipation, and as a political tool aimed at the liberation of forms of subjectivity, depends on the way artists deal with this issue. For art, no technique or technology is a subject. By putting technology in its productive context, by analysing its relations with the superstructure and the layer of obligatory behaviour underpinning its use, it becomes conversely possible to produce models of relations with the world, heading in the direction of modernity. Failing which, art will become an element of high-tech deco in an increasingly disconcerting society.

And what if real style, as Deleuze and Guattari write, were not the repetition of reified “making” but “the movement of thought”? Guattari contrasts the homogenisation and standardisation of types of subjectivity with the need to involve the being in “heterogenetic processes”. This is the primary principle of mental ecosophy: articulating particular worlds and rare life forms; cultivating per se differentness, before moving it over into the social.

Based on Oscar Wilde’s formula, modernity is the moment when “it is not art imitating life, but life imitating art”… Marx is headed in the same direction, by criticising the classical distinction between praxis (the act of self-transformation) and poesis (the necessary, servile action aimed at producing and transforming matter). Marx thought, on the contrary, that “praxis moves constantly into poesis, and vice-versa”.

For “the only acceptable end-purpose of human activities,” writes Guattari, “is the production of a subjectivity that is forever self-enriching its relationship with the world.”

The poetic function, which consists in re-forming worlds of subjectivisation, possibly would not have any meaning if it, too, were not able to help us to negotiate the “ordeal of barbarity, mental implosion, and chaosmic spasm which are taking shape on the horizon, to turn them into riches and unforeseeable pleasures”…

An idea that sets humankind apart from other animal species. In the end of the day, burying the dead, laughter, and suicide are just the corollaries of a deep-seated hunch, the hunch that life is an aesthetic, ritualised, shaped form.

Structural unity imitating a world. Artistic practice involves creating a form capable of “lasting”, bringing heterogeneous units together on a coherent level, in order to create a relationship to the world.

Making a work involves the invention of a process of presentation. In this kind of process, the image is an act.

Having imagined architecture and art of the future, the artist is now proposing solutions for inhabiting them. The contemporary form of modernity is ecological, haunted by the occupancy of forms and the use of images.

The movement of a work, its trajectory. “The style of a thought is its movement” (Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari)