Long Live the PC
The Post Contemporary
31 December 1999
By the 1960s, nobody wanted to be a Modern artist. Nobody with an eye on the new wanted to be associated with a movement that was clearly part of history. Serious artists became contemporary artists and it seemed that they would remain safely that because, how can one be more than one's time?
The term contemporary art was used by Post-modernists and Modernists alike. In fact there was a struggle between both parties to justifiably claim the title of contemporary; the legitimate contemporary. This struggle was maintained for the last thirty years of the twentieth century.
While that was taking place film and the mass media completely engulfed the arts audience making art irrelevant and redundant. The smaller the audience became, the harder both sides played for what little remained. In desperation success was defined by how small an audience one could attract. The audience became the significant elite. The Museum of Contemporary Art was the champion of this approach. Significance is defined by the distance between people (at a gallery). Both sides however, succeeded equally in shrinking to new low levels, with the old moderns reduced to a significant five.
The idea to be 'contemporary', to be of one's time, is innate and natural, but how can we be so without isolating ourselves?
Some work will only ever attract a small audience, but that should not be a governing factor that defines success or approach. I believe that contemporary art on both sides has suffocated in the terms of reference that each side set up.
The old means by which we liberated ourselves have become a straight-jacket. We cannot move or breathe or sing without worrying about whether we are offending our terms of reference. To denote our seriousness, to employ our educatedness, we have become morose and morbid. The audience that we asked to wait outside has left. If we are not entirely pleased, then we are hungry, we need their support. They have our money!
Come back! We love you!
The Post Contemporary is no less concerned with reflecting the present than the Old Contemporary (OC). They are twins like the old Impressionisms finally became. The Post Contemporary is the surgeon who stitches the modern to the Post Modern dissolving the casements of each, to show that they were after all fighting the same battle. They shared the same empty gallery. What prevented each from advancing was the extent that they impaired each others progress with the fight, with the need for territorial definition.
It is to the collapse of boundaries that the Post Contemporary differentiates itself from the Contemporary. We need to wander freely to find focus and not gather in around muscle and flex to deliver results. If in the end we become blurred as individual entities, then that is the necessary step to take for liberation. Much of the practice of contemporary artists was oriented towards market identifiability, towards signature. Deliberate practice is design. Art is not design. If it is not accident, its origins are as maverick and we must give those their shape.
The Post Contemporary is wild. Contemporary is tame. Contemporary has become compliant even in its most radical manifestations. Its venues have become staid. The venues for PC (Post Contemporary) are variable and unattached to elite contexts.
The PC acknowledges the might and power of the mass media. It acknowledges that art's audiences will always be small. That is not desirable. It is only inevitable. PC will not be defined by the demands of the elite.
If the PC has been correctly identified by these observations, if this piece of writing is more than folly, why then has it not previously been described?It is for reasons of investment protection. So much has been invested. Money and resources to start with, but also belief systems and identity. Tougher than masonry, these structures of belief are fed and nurtured like children and elicit the same protective impulses. To threaten them is tantamount to treason. To unravel them we have to unmake ourselves. We have to deny what we perceive as culture. To subtract difference is to remove entirely. It is the discomfort and uncertainty that this brings that makes it so unpalatable, so avoidable.
If these words have any basis whatsoever, we will have to re-determine what has value and what does not. That seems like a big task. In the big picture it won't feature, but at this stage we can't get far enough back.
The clear felling of the ideological jungle of the present, is as inevitable as it always is. Just as the Contemporary has to be washed away to give full expression to the PC, so will the PC give way yet to a future unnamed force. Contemporary art was dying in its arrogance and vanity.
The PC cannot contain within it the autonomy of reputations of individuals. Reputations are a fiction, as Picasso once acknowledged and then forgot. Reputations are a convenience of market forces and have no basis beyond that.
Who is PC? Anybody who favours one side of the Modern Post-Modern split is not PC. PC has previously been defined as weak, as uncommitted, as sitting on the fence between the two camps. PC is now strong. There are very few PC artists. Most artists belong to one side or the other.
PC denies a split between Picasso and Duchamp. Those artists are reconcilable. They are both committed to play, to thought, to material.
They were fundamentally in love and were only divorced because of their fighting children.
Are there any PC galleries? No. There are none. PC art cannot sell. It is a bad investment.
What forms does PC take? PC, like OC, embraces all media. The limits to the manifestation of PC are as limited as liberation. It is not bound to galleries, or any coded practice, or to the street. PC is everywhere an nowhere and is not God.
What are the negatives? PC is bewildering. There is nothing to hang your hat on. There is no way of knowing when it's over. PC and culture are incompatible. There can be no recognition of the PC artist.
If one is not PC, one is nothing . There is no other option, so while the negatives might deter identifying with the movement, denying it involves embracing oblivion.
Is contemporary aboriginal art PC? It's too early to say.
PC is perennial. Unlike the OC, it runs all year round with no breaks for holidays, Christmas and New Year. Presently the Mori Gallery is the only PC gallery, but that is only for now.