Friday, March 4, 2011

Temp. Services

Tonight the Kansas City Art Institute held a lecture from a member of an art collective called Temporary Services. I thought their marketing of themselves was a little transparent and unknowingly trendy (it seemed like the group wanted to capitalize on the idea of a zine shop and guerrilla art). I thought their work was amusing and sometimes pretty (like the public phenomena project), but I had problems with the implications of what they were doing.

The collective promotes a democratic framework for art and have managed to benefit from being anti-institutional and ignoring conventions of art. In continuing this tradition of the Fluxus movement and demonstration art in the 60s and 70s, they do charming projects like slipping art into shelves of the public library, puting drawings of inventions made by a prisoner into a gallery, and placing punkish passive-aggressive signs with handles around a city to be moved wherever by the people.

In their project "Public Art Opinion Poll 2000" and a more advanced "Public Art Opinion Poll 2009", the group presents a critique of public art through the voices of anyone who wrote them down on a clip-board the group pinned to a telephone pole next to the pieces. The people's ideas were "it sucks", or "it rocks" and got more elaborate in the second running. I think the project was an entertaining gesture because bad art does suck, but the idea was to allow these examples to be part of a broader critique.

The rep tended to sound self-righteous in talking down people who spend money on art and commercial galleries who represent artists. He put himself in a typical position of implying fine-art is bullshit. The man called funding for art frivolous spending in talking about Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate in Chicago. It’s true that not everyone wants to see any purpose in abstract art or fine art but that doesn’t make it irrelevant. I believe the art world has moved past that basic disapproval and found ways to deal with promoting the right conversations that involve a distinction between artists and ceo's, and placing a value on art. I found myself disagreeing with Marc Fischer, because I believe in the effort of fine art and the value of formal critique.

I also felt like maybe the work inadvertently surrounded making a spectacle of whomever they’re trying to advocate. I imagine that for people in prison and people who have to make basketball hoops out of milk crates, that these creations (although formally beautiful) are oppressed desperation. To exploit this as clever and funny and re-contextualize it without regarding the tragedy in these things, seems maybe shallow and demeaning.

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