Backstory as documentation

The concept of backstory is an interesting one, but as the comments on some recent posts have shown, far more interesting to many people is the condition of art as a discursive practice. Perhaps one of the strongest exponents of a discursive art is Boris Groys. In a recent article he has this to say:

“In recent decades it has become increasingly evident that the art world has shifted its interest away form the artwork and toward art documentation…Art documentation is by definition not art; it merely refers to art, and in precisely this way it makes clear that art, in this case, is no longer present and immediately visible but rather absent and hidden.”

He goes on to generalize this state of affairs, and expound its necessity. I can’t help but be reminded of an earlier post on this blog, which proposed that precisely this route could be followed to an interesting place.

I admire Boris’s work immensely, and regard him as a friend. However, what makes him a superior critic today, in my view, is a quantum of irony always present, and which I fear many readers will not know how to respond to correctly. It’s along the lines of the famous remark of Adorno that if something is leaning one should give it a push. That is to say that he describes the current situation—it doesn’t follow that he endorses it. Neither does he deplore it, but then one has to be aware that he understands that our culture is dying, and that all manifestations are symptoms. His intervention, as a critic, is to aggravate the symptoms.

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