Bad New(s) Days

01/04/2019
In his 2017 book Bad News Days, Hal Foster discusses a number of tropes or methodologies of contemporary artists he has identified - methods by which artists still maintain a criticality to their work in a time when, he says, critical thinking is deemed irrelevant. This leads to what he considers 'a debilitating relativism' (p.115)

In the spirit of analysis and theft, I will look at these methods and decide whether I am using them in my work, or whether I am even capable of using them.

1. Abjection: (Generally Foster is negative on this) "...is abjection a space-time beyond redemption, or is route for contemporary rogue-saints to grace?" (p.27)

Note: Abjection doesn't appeal to me either, to be honest. I don't tend to gravitate toward artists who explore the cast-offs of excreta and other bodily functions, although I may find individual works of interest.

2. The Archival: (Mildly good according to Foster) "Perhaps the paranoid dimension of archival art is the other side of its utopian ambition - its desire to turn belatedness into becomingness, to recoup failed visions in art, literature, philosophy, and life into possible scenarios for alternative kinds of social relations, to transform the no place of an archive into the new place of a utopia." (p.60)

Note: I understand and sympathise with projects which aim to dig into forgotten corners of art and culture, historical backwaters that could yield potential markers for future redemption, even in the face of knowledge that redemption is impossible. The archivist-artist is also interested in different voices, in sharing the limelight, and in collaborative projects. This egalitarian attitude appeals to me as I'm aware of the way many artists pretend they make everything on their own. yet the archive can be an ivory tower, a refuge for academicism. The archival work must balance between inclusivity and distance.

3. The Mimetic: (or what Foster calls "mimetic exacerbation" - an extreme mimesis pushed to the absurd) This is good if it is certain artists: Jon Kessler, Isa Genzken, Mike Kelley, Kara Walker, Rachel Harrison, but bad if it is others: Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Maurizio Cattelan and of course Damien Hirst: "Neither avant nor rear, this garde will assume a position of immanent critique, and often it will adopt a posture of mimetic exacerbation in doing so. If any avant-garde is relevant to our time, it is this one." (p.95)

Note: It seems the mimesis Foster appreciates is very far from the traditional mimetic in art. My interest in mimesis has been to subvert the expectations of the encounter with objects. However, this should be an area I can explore, "mimetic exacerbation", for its potential.

4. Precarity: This Foster defines as work which is precarious by its nature, subsumed into the political, social and ethical and bound by a desire to engage the viewer and their environment fully. This is deemed good in relation to Thomas Hirschhorn's art and its questioning of itself. "In his map of his practice Hirschhorn asks 'where do I stand? What do I want?' These are questions he means us to ask too." (p.113)

Note: This quality seems to me to epitomise our current condition. The world hasn't seemed to be so precarious since the eighties. Whatever happens, it won't be good. It also seems that the current precarity requires the archival impetus to preserve whatever it will be that we will lose, probably everything.

5. Some practices he is against: "Neo-Gramscian social practice art" and "Neo-Situationism", which he considers too demanding and too inherently flawed in their approaches.
Which of these, if any, are relevant to my practice?