The Man With No Qualities

“…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?

 

About trueoutsider

I'm an artist.
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4 Responses to The Man With No Qualities

  1. Eric Wayne says:

    I didn’t last the first 3 minutes of the Les Levine interview. I know who he is. He was one of those critically boring early pioneers of half-baked “new genre” art I got exposed to in art school. It’s not a question of whether you come back to it again, later, and see it different because you’ve learned and experienced more. It’s a question of if you can even make it through viewing it one time. This is why the musical equivalent of conceptual art never took off. You have to spend time with music. Nobody is going to listen to a three-hour recording of a buzzer. Nobody would take it seriously. But in visual art, because there’s no element of duration to viewing, you don’t have to spend time with a piece, in which case you are not tortured by it. Unless, of course, it is “video”, which is probably why video just hasn’t taken off. Well, it’s taken off enormously on YouTube for pranks, alt-right rants, conspiracy theories, and anything libidinous. But, for fine art, I think it quietly died in a corner somewhere and made a nauseating smell. Nobody is going to sit through conceptual art, at least not more than once, because it’s a bit torturous. Visual art is where bullshit takes wing.

    As for the religion of today, a lot of it seems to be identity politics and alt-right politics. I find the far left and far right rather amusing in some regards. They are mirror images of each other, as in, if you gave each a checklist with yes or no answers, they would choose the opposite answers to each other. I find both extremes enervating, and it seems like there’s not much in the middle, as in a broader perspective that envelopes the extremes and can weigh them against each other, and against a strong foundation that isn’t easily swayed by rhetorical flourishes.

    Incidentally, I do definitely go back to Van Gogh and reassess. I’ve even written about that. And, no, I don’t go back to conceptual art to reassess and reevaluate much. It’s kind of like seeing Damien Hirst’s shark after it had started to disintegrate. It becomes a dusty relic on display in an academic museum devoted to obscure art movements. I’ll just wait at the Starbucks and people watch. You all go in and see the exhibit.

    But, for the best, simply the cream of the crop of artist speech, none can beat my “new genre” teacher, Paul McCarthy. Here he is talking about his ambitious sculpture, “Catpain Ballsack”. Now, please appreciate that I had a ten week course with him as my instructor, and classes were about 3 hours long. Imagine having that class. Dude has a team of assistants helping him make is giant ball sack, and is making three editions. Why three? Because you can sell three, and no other reason. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyoArCL7byE

  2. trueoutsider says:

    I sent the post to my wife and she said EXACTLY what you did. She couldn’t watch more than 3 minutes. And this is the intellectual elite of American Art? Right? The heirs of the genius of Marcel Duchamp, putting art back at the service of the Mind!

    I couldn’t go past the first three minutes of captain ballsack. But am regrouping as I consider it my duty as a faux art-critic to do a post on the Captain. I’m sure it can get worse, right? It just escapes me at the moment how it could get worse.

    What I find truly pathetic is all the sycophantic assistants, not to mention pretty much the entirety of the “contemporary art world” that don’t have the ballsacks to kick the ass of this guy and his stupid art off the stage. The level of fear of the gutless artists trying to suck up to the museum/gallery establishment by keeping their mouths firmly shut is even funnier than Captain Ballsack himself.

    How about a Conceptual Artist making films of the dimwits sitting in front of conceptual pieces like Nauman and McArthy’s. How much longer can this farce go on? Indefinitely? And without any artists saying a word. I even had one jackass badgering me to stop talking about all this “awful” art as it was beneath his dignity as a “real artist” to even view it or talk about it.

    He must live in a hell of a great world. Transacting only with the Old Masters, the other artists transacting with the Old Masters, and himself. The Pure Ones! Above the fray and concerns of mere mortals. Immune from contamination by the Deplorable Ones. Like Barbara Bush talking about oversensitive W and his Beautiful Mind not wanting to take in ugly things like body bags shipped home from Iraq.

    Yes… Let’s just pretend our war crimes and CIA funded overthrowing of legitimate governments around the world never happened. Global Warming. Not an issue unless Trump is denying it. Then he’s evil! And stopping the Democrats from not doing anything whatsoever to address it (never mentioned once by Hillary on campaign trail as too much of a bummer). The Mighty Liberals recognize oncoming climate disaster. But why bother to do anything about it other than a have Obama mumble a few words or have Leo di Caprio mention it while getting his Academy Award from the private jet owners of Hollywood. Wonder how much energy was spent making The Revenant? See how much they’re doing in the Upper Brackets to cut down on energy use in their half a dozen mansions and private retreats.

    But it isn’t really happening. It’s all an illusion. Reality is an illusion. And is never talked about in polite company as it interferes with the discriminating palate sampling the small batch local distillery “flights” or Sushi flown in daily and shipped to every cool new anti-global warming community in the US.

    Only the Beautiful Mind is real! On top of that we can be wowed by Old Master imitation paintings and Academic Techniques that Bouguereau himself would approve of, not forgetting the deep intellectual challenges of Clown Torture and Captain Ballsack.

    What a culture! What a civilization! Can you imagine in the world rejecting our democracy as well? I think we should just take the offer away from all of them. Fine! You don’t want our culture? You don’t want our Democracy and our Democratic Values? Good. We’ll just keep it right here all for ourselves. Go away and leave us alone so we can exist in the City on the Hill filled with happiness and joy and peaceful people. We tried to enlighten them, right? We did our best. What more can we do at this point?

    Let’s shut off the borders. Wall everybody out. Put on our Virtual Reality helmets. And may the best man (or woman, etc.) win. Ronnie showed us that this is the way. Competition breeds the best. The losers drop to the bottom, out of sight where they belong, in the hinterlands far away from the Glory of Hollywood. It’s us liberal artists led by Bruce Nauman and Paul McArthy along with Madonna, Cher, Tim Robbins, and Quentin Tarantino against the crazed war vets, guys who drink beer and go to NASCAR, World-Wide Wrestling steroid maniacs and countless other deplorables. Should be an exciting matchup.

    As the American sage George Carlin wrote, “When you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front row seat.” And as we used to chant in unison back in the 70s, long before we were all chanting in unison at OWS rallies. “The Whole World is Watching.” As long as they keep paying for our movies and other shenanigans we’ll never lose our status as the Entertainment Capital of the World.

    Of course back then we were all against the Vietnam War. Now we’re in 6 wars, but who’s counting? Are we opposed to them? Not sure… Seems there’s a lot of confusion up there in the Liberal leadership about it. Hillary was up for adding Russia and Iran and Syria to the list, at least it sure sounded that way given the bellicose rhetoric. But unlike in the old pre Neoliberal Order days, the Left in the form of the DNC Masters of the Universe, have seen that War is good for business, particularly that of the Prison Industry, Military Industrial Complex, Homeland Security, Border Guards, 17 Intelligence agencies.

    17 intelligence agencies? Who knew? That’s why you learn so much from watching political debates at the national level. Before Lady MacBeth mentioned them I had no idea there were 17 intelligence agencies? No wonder we’ve got such sane foreign and economic policies given all the massive brain power in the 17 intelligence agencies focussed on these complex problems.

    • Eric Wayne says:

      I agree with most of what you said there. There seems to be a divide between classic liberals, and the new liberals, so that more classic liberals are having a hard time calling themselves liberals at all these days. The new liberals are all about identity politics, and are not so much bothered by the big issues of classic liberals, such as war and the economy. I think someone very smart realized in the private clubs of the 1% that identity politics benefits them, and decided to promote it. Now people care more about transgender bathrooms than about a potential war with Russia. Identity politics is a bit weak on present day political power, and prefers to refer perpetually to social injustice of the past, mentioning slavery as often as possible.

      The best example of this I can think of is that the biggest enemy, and the biggest threat, according to identity politics is “white supremacy”. Meanwhile actual white supremacists are a small, pathetic band of mostly powerless losers who just use racism as a desperate way of propping themselves up so they don’t feel to worthless. They are not a real threat. The real threats are global warming, economic meltdown, and war. But if the populace if focused on ridiculous non-threats like the ghosts of the KKK, than the ruling elite can go on slamming us with real threats while we meekly blame all problems on working class whites.

      Anyway, when it comes to all the conceptual art and all that, my current stance is to challenge them to make a painting. You simply can’t be the best painter without even making a painting. I saw a Chris Burden interview yesterday and he was saying that the great painters of the past would be doing what he’s doing if they were alive today (obviously he was still alive when he said this). This is the great fallacy of conceptual art. They were painters. They would be painting today, or doing something with imagery. His argument was a solid as saying the great composers or novelists of the past would be doing what he’s doing today. So, my challenge to the radical conceptual artists is to do something radical in painting and amaze me. If you can’t, than you are just doing something else altogether. You can’t call yourself the heavyweight champion of the world and not even get in the ring, but be ostensibly great at some other, unrelated sport, like billiards. So my answer is, “Make a painting motherfuckers” or don’t say that you are a visual artist or better than visual artists. You are, in that case, in another category altogether. This is a good thing, conceptualists, because now you don’t have to piggy back on the tradition of painting, you get your very own category.

  3. trueoutsider says:

    Richard Serra compared himself to Michelangelo in a Charlie Rose video I saw some years back. And it’s certain that if Turner or Rembrandt were alive in the 1970s one would have had a friend shooting live ammo at him and the other would have had himself nailed to a Volkswagen. And no doubt if Leonardo were alive in the 1920s and 30s he would have been calling hatracks works of art and taking photos of himself dressed as a woman while inventing punning names for his alter personality. All of these things to return art to the service of the mind, highlighting his profound thinking that lesser mortals were barely able to glimpse such was its majesty.

    Were Degas alive today no doubt he’d be making Clown Torture videos or singing Picasso, Baby along with the rest of the art world luminaries assembled at Arnie Glimcher’s Pace Gallery. Of course, he would have no doubt studied with the great master teachers like Paul McArthy and the rest firmly ensconced inside the great Liberal Artist pantheon teaching at our most esteemed centers of higher learning throughout the Cradle of Western Civilization, The United States of America.

    Thinks might look grim now, Eric. But if enough people can pour out into the streets we can stop the menace to civilization that threatens us and return to the brighter tomorrow we were headed toward before this unspeakable monster was put into power by the Russians and various other malcontents and Anti-Americans.

    https://www.boston.com/news/national-news/2017/02/07/hillary-clinton-releases-video-statement-future-is-female

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