When I am between projects, I often read poetry and dip into surrealism in order to spark something new. I was reading a book of surrealist games. The surrealist movement was an answer to the tyranny of the rational, a quest to unleash the power of the unconscious in art making. The exercises in the book were designed to throw a random element into writing and to create odd juxtapositions. It occurred to me that what is different now than the 1920s and 1930s is that we do not need to go out of our way to encounter bizarre juxtapositions. We encounter them every day in our social media feeds. We are awash in unrelations. Basketball has nothing to do with genocide, and yet there they are beside one another in the Twitter feed and that is normal and you scroll on, movie reviews and calls for papers, and a clipping from a 1910 newspaper and a picture of a kitten…
It is all surreal. This is our reading culture. Everything is Lobster Telephone.
But the juxtapositions of Tik Tok or Twitter do not invite contemplation. Dali’s Lobster Telephone asks you to stop and engage because it’s odd. Twitter asks you not to stop looking, There is nothing surprising or startling about unrelated things coming together because the environment feeds this up constantly, unrelentingly. It is all distraction and no anchor. There is no separate lobster and telephone to begin with.
To me, social media feels like a slot machine where you keep pulling the handle waiting for a prize to come up. The prize, if you can find it, is something that you can comment upon, because the platform is fundamentally about expressing yourself, commenting. The deluge keeps coming, the trends go by faster and faster. To be part of the conversation you need to post before the moment is gone.
Entertainment and news blend. Human beings become metaphors. It is all part of the show. Back in 2019, I wrote a post asking what we should call this era in our artistic culture. “How does the self-conscious audience and the self-conscious creator– aware of how the work might be star-rated and dissected–shape the current art movement?” I didn’t come up with a name for this era. Today I was wondering what the art that reacts against this would look like? When everything is lobster telephone, what is the artistic corrective?
That would be the opposite of this present moment.
You would have to leave your phone outside and sign a non-disclosure. You would promise that you would not speak to anyone about what you saw inside. No social media posts. No reviews. You would have to experience it without comment of any kind.
How would it feel to experience art that you knew you would not tell anyone about? How would the artist approach it having no element of “platform building” or “branding” or “exposure?”
Ars gratia artis (the motto of MGM, the little art film outlet behind Terminator and Indiana Jones.)
It’s hard to imagine.
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