Today I went to see David Hockney’s iPod/iPad drawings. There was a brochure, of course. I still have it. The first sentence reads, “ I was aware immediately when I started drawing on the iPhone that it was a new medium – and not only a new medium but a very new way to distribute pictures.” The next two pages sent me time-traveling to the sixties, while digesting, a la Marshal MacLuhans’s Medium is the Message, how the recent exploits done on the luminous surface and with the artist’s finger dialectically transform what the millions of the first-year water-color students do around the planet without any recognition. Then there was the issue of multiple authentic copies mailed around. No other message.
So the trip was not absolutely without value, for I began to think about MOCA. The Street Art in the book or the street artist invited to decorate the wall of an institution may pose a logical problem; however, the curator’s prompt removal of the piece has dialectically rescued it: the main property of the Street Art is its volatile character as well as the unauthorized use of public/private space. The fact that the curator found the work offensive and unauthorized it has returned to it its main properties.
To come back home to Versailles, I had to take a train; this gave me an opportunity for another thought experiment. What if the museum curator has removed it not because the work was offensive, but for aesthetic reasons. After all what could be more banal than the anti-war art? Any time I see one, I wonder if I have not seen it somewhere else. The sixties had pretty much exhausted the subject. Everybody knows that wars are about money. The Army knows it. Even the person who signs in for patriotic reasons gets a sign-in bonus; and then his or her parents receive some half-a-million insurance upon their patriotic child’s death. I could write another page about KBR, but you don’t want to read that. If the message is so banal that it cannot possibly offend anyone, and it has only become politicized through the curator’s effort, then the moment you question the curator’s motives, you question the work’s status.
I look at the brochure again, “There was a new thing on the iPad. You could play the drawing back with the press of the button. I had never seen myself draw before, this seemed fascinating to everybody I showed them to. The only thing seen like this before was Picasso drawing on glass for a film.” Here we go, Picasso! We are bringing in the big guns. When Picasso was shown a child’s drawing with a claim that its quality is equal to anything Picasso was doing at the time, Picasso’s objection was that when he, Picasso, was of the child’s age, he could draw like Leonardo. The fetishistic argument is right there: to be recognized as a masterpiece, the work has to have its provenance and attach itself to the hand of the artist. The hand has to attach itself by the invisible thread and the thread is the career and the life of the artist.
The argument by analogy should run: David Hockney’s long artistic career will support anything he does today; and furthermore, the street artist is the artist whose career is established in the street, and then whatever else comes out of him is always the work of the street artist. This is magic. I like magic. I am a bit of a magician myself, although nowhere on that level. I can break off my thumb and then glue it back, and then I know this trick with the rubber bands: the rubber band jumps from the pointer and the middle finger unto the ring finger and the pinky… cool stuff: media cool.
You see, Picasso’s photo portrait has been staring at me off the wall of my bedroom from the age of nine; the one where half of his face is hiding in the recesses of darkness, while the other half is brightly lit; his paintings, his drawings, his erotica were also there…. Ha! My first job in LA was at an adult bookstore. It is on Colorado, not far from PCC. I drove by a year ago, and it is sill there. Downtown Pasadena has changed: the door and windows used to be painted over; now you can see right through. What a quarry of ideas! The world of pornography has changed too, not just the lights, the quality of film, the hairdo, or the body type. These days a porno actress interrupts an act to spit on the erect penis of her partner, presumably for lubrication, yet her facial expression is that of hatred not of lust. Her partner too may stop and pull out… Is something wrong? He looks in, opens her labia majora and minora, virtually turning it all inside out? What is he looking for? What is the erotic value of such an anatomic exposure?
I don’t know if there is still a way to provoke. In the nineties it was a crucifix placed in the bottle of urine. In 2010 it is caskets covered with dollar bills. Twenty more years may bring about yet another change, how about a photo of somebody smoking? The US is an interesting place…. I remember once Anthropology magazine had an article written by a Japanese sociologist: he was shocked to find out that while the hippies wore ragged clothes, they insisted on personal hygiene. A paradox has to come up, if we consistently develop any system, or at least the cybernetics says so. Consequently, you are all weirdos. I am proud to be an American.