David Graeber has emerged as an interesting figure. Was recently reading a review of his book, Debt: The First 5000 Years, and now I see that it has caught the attention of Artforum. From an interview in that magazine comes the following:…a moment where a particular grand tradition, whether the artistic or the intellectual avant-garde, in a matter of a few years runs through almost every logical permutation of every radical gesture you could possibly make within the terms of that tradition. And then suddenly everybody says, “Oh no, what do we do now?” As a political radical myself, coming of age intellectually in the wake of such a moment, there was a profound sense of frustration that it was as if we’d reverted to this almost classical notion of a dream time, where there’s nothing for us to do but to repeat the same founding gestures over and over again. We can return to this kind of creation in an imaginary way, but the time of creation itself is forever lost.
How familiar this feeling is to any artist. More has to be said about what it means when social thinkers imitate art (too much of the opposite imitation already exists in global conceptualism, as “facts on the ground”), but that aside, in art we have some pragmatic experience to help. The time of creation is always now, and always lost. The reason for this paradox probably lies in the fact that our materials include history. Like nails or screws in a house, it’s part of the material. Be that as it may, this moral problem—a question of doubt, self-assurance, and the murky near future—has no abstract or theoretical solution. It has to be worked out in the material, and the work cannot be avoided. Having done the drudgery myself I’m happy to say that in my work the time of creation is present.
This doesn’t mean that the problem is solved once and for all, or that I have no doubt, or that I really know what I’m doing. No modernist does.