Art as Production or Not

Blog reader Naomi Schlinke has drawn my attention to the following by Bridget Riley:

“For well over two hundred years the idea of work in our society been modeled on the industrial concept of production. These demands, the demands of producing something easily and economically, have shaped our understanding of work and leisure, our ways of organizing time and living together, our views of success and failure. So prevalent and so powerfully entrenched is this concept that in the end it seems that even art has been affected, with the unprecedented notion that this thing called ‘art’ can be efficiently produced.”

The closing allusion to the ready-made and managed fabrication aside, I find this very interesting. In fact, ease of production has been a very important aspect of modern painting, even if often it’s only an apparent ease. But what I like better is the idea this passage gives me of undirected, goal-less messing about, even though this is likely not what Riley advocates at all. It reduces to time, which industry has tried to enslave with the clock. What else do I own if not my time? And why should I spend it? Is there any difference between living it and spending it? Art tells me there is. I think Riley would stress the difficulty of making anything; I would prefer to remove the moral dimension of difficulty and say there is a value in just working away without knowing what one is doing exactly, and without a clear standard of success. But the term “value” is treacherous.


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