“…the life of religion as a whole is mankind’s most important function. –William James
“The essence of education is that it be religious. “– Alfred North Whitehead
“We need the courage as well as the inclination to consult, and profit from, the ‘wisdom traditions of mankind.'” — E.F. Schumacher
“In 1970 I wrote of a ” post-traditional world.” Today I believe that only living traditions make it possible to have a world at all.” — Robert N. Bellah
And what does America have in place of the living tradition Bellah refers to as the lifeblood of any world at all. What kind of religious or spiritual underpinning does America have as represented by its dominant cultural icons? The Now Men. The eternal Now Man. The empty headed and empty hearted Now of Bruce Nauman, his brother and sister artists, his admirers, his collectors, his critical apologists, his dealers. The entirety of the mainstream press and art press, all who dwell solely on whatever has the most money and institutional backing attached to it. Nothing else has any merit whatsoever.
And guess what? Bruce Almighty works in a medium that should be called what it actually is: Vapor Ware. Here today. Gone tomorrow. Anybody who thinks that people will be watching Clown Torture 15 years from now. This is the Nowhere Man at the height of his popularity in one of his major works from 1985. Let’s watch it again. As with all art the more you view it the richer it gets. What I wouldn’t give to walk through the Prado tomorrow. I have never gotten tired Bosch or Bruegel for a half decade of continual viewing. Always see something new. As I change they change.
How many times can you view Clown Torture? How much deeper and more meaning filled does it get as you change and grow?
Note that at the height of Nauman’s popularity today as the dean and leading example of the Concept Art Movement, this youtube vid of one of his greatest artistic masterpiece has all of 151,975 views. With 303 likes and 31 dislikes. Justin Bieber’s Music vid Company by today’s count gets 318,340, 505 views with 2,610,999 likes and 158,298 dislikes. Does anyone have any questions why we’re going into Art Museums to see shows of Star Wars Costumes, Bjork, David Bowie and commercial art of the kind attached to Bjork and Bowie. Not to mention shows of Bob Dylan portraits at the Natl Portrait Gallery in London. Again what are the chances that “video art” by any of these conceptual master artists of today that are hardly watched now will even be available 15 years from now.
Take into account that video game art is being considered to be legtimate art (can’t wait for the LACMA or MoMA exhibitions. Not to mention that the current future generation is at the moment stuck inside VR helmets, which are due to replace cinema/video as the go to coolest Art frontier, I conjecture.
But in 2030 folks imagine there will be big museum displays of the great early conceptualists? Ever hear of Les Levine? He was one of the giants back in the day. Here he is in 2007. Note the incredibly thought provoking questions along with the fascinating career history summary of Les’s work that introduce him to the (no doubt vast) audience of deep thinking fans of concept art listening to the leacture. . Then see how far you get listening to his answers.
Where is Les Levine now? Who is Les Levine? Anybody out there ever heard of him? Followed his work since his breakthroughs alongside Bruce Nauman?
Nauman is the truest heir of Marcel Duchamp. But Duchamp could weave all kinds of labyrinthine verbal tangles, spiraling cathedrals of bullshit. But that’s all that’s sustaining visual material that isn’t worth looking at for more than a minute. Or two if you piss longer than a minute and need to keep your eye on what you’re aiming at.
What the entirety of Duchamp amounts to his amanuensis Namuan has spent a lifetime boringly repeating to all who will listen. In effect, not many if the youtube is any indication. By cosmic coincidence (which I always love when they’re thrown my way), Nauman’s puerile work started it’s repetitive babbling beginning in 1968, the year that Duchamp died, from the looks of what I found on youtube.
Listening to Duchamp is at least interesting. Like listening to Derrida, Lacan or Baudrillard. The French can talk some shit. Give them credit for that. So can I. So can we all. But not so elegantly. Give a listen to Bruce as a prime example.
Now watch it again and see if what you wrote gibes with a second listening. Or don’t write or think at all. Just watch it four times in sequence. No. Ten times. That will approximate the entirety of message resident in his 40 plus years of “art making’.
Shrunky, I’ve Hunned the kids. This ain’t James Joyce, folks. This ain’t even in the ballpark.
Nauman is an example of the classic American Con Artist. Anyone at all (outside the delusional art world habitues) can spot this stuff easily. Why Contempo Artists are so mesmerized by this snake oil, on top of wanting to practice it themselves, is the mystery I’m still trying to understand but it’s clearly contained in Charles Mackay’s Extrarodinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. We Americans, in particular, succumbed to all of it repeatedly over and over again throughout our history but instead of getting better at picking up on it, we apparently have entirely succumbed to it.
I’m fascinated by it, really. So many people ignore everything I write because they’re unwilling to look at the “dark side”, which is in reality their own “dark side”. We’ve pretty much gone over into that dark side lock, stock and barrel… the whole shebang on its way over Niagara Falls with nobody onboard paying the slightest bit of attention as they’re locked in Mortal Kombat to see whether the orange haired guy or the followers of Queen Latifah or whatever her name was will best the other and hold onto or regain control of the hapless and doomed vessel.
And what of the Art World Art Stars? They’re providing the fantastic entertainment. All of them so cool and collected, like Bruce and Marcel. They know the secrets of the Cosmos. They’re above it all. Above the fray Marcel is in Art Heaven looking down on us. But we still get to listen to his Pearls of Wisdom live on youtube. Enjoy! Take Notes. Grow deeply in the Esoteric Secrets embodied in his masterpieces. Be sure to watch the entire 27:50 minutes of it at least three times.
The caliber of this man’s thinking can’t be taken in with only three viewings, of course. One must also get the books and art critical writings and incredible (almost universal at this point) acclamations of other artists. But three viewings will at least have one beginning on the path of Knowledge of Art that only the most serious initiates into the Mysteries that Marcel and Bruce embody. Or did you already give up watching after the first three minutes of the Les Levine video?