Politics and Art of the Abstract Type

It’s been an interesting nine months. Like many I’ve been completely captivated by Bernie. Never in my life have I felt like giving money to a politician, but can’t anyway since I’m not American. For that matter, I’ve never heard a politician say the things he says—even though the words might be common, or getting more so. He’s the right person for the job, and we need him—though it doesn’t look like we’ll get him.

And for me the drama of the US election accompanies involvement with The New Centre for Research and Practice, a great new initiative, which I recommend to everyone.

The New Centre crowd would agree with me that there is no conflict between the kind of formal analysis I do on this blog and political engagement. Or if there is a conflict, it’s the right kind. As Shep Steiner points out, in a review of a Helen Frankenthaler show at Gagosian:

“Here we arrive at the unobtrusive nub of the problem of value: a symbolic question, a contradiction that is lived or, more succinctly, bodied forth in our encounters with art and easily glossed over by the critical gaze. The hard lesson to be learned is that the question of value cannot be tackled from an objective or distanced perspective either as assumed by [John] Elderfield’s formal account or by the critic who simply casts a cynical eye on the market, Gagosian, etc. With a long and dreary history of finger-wagging, the latter, which is the dominant paradigm of critical engagement today, suffers from the linguistic pathology that Roland Barthes diagnosed in the early 1960s as ‘asymbolie’, or the failure to acknowledge the symbolic nature of the literary work; the source of this failure is scientism and a belief in truth.

Common sense, which approaches socialism more and more today at least on this point, tells us that the surplus money squandered, invested and amassed by the banking industry should be redistributed. The same would seem to apply to the accumulating bubble of assets locked into the post-War and contemporary art market — given the money trail after the 2007—08 financial crisis it appears that a not insignificant amount was deposited in the ‘beautiful asset’.”

Steiner knows how to make the connection.

Helen Frankenthaler, Before the Caves 1958

Helen Frankenthaler, Before the Caves 1958

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