CRISIS OF THE CONTEMPORARY ART ?
To this day and age, no-one has ever witnessed a human revolution as fast, brutal, universal, and sweet as the digital revolution. It is developing faster than ideas. It stands in total contrast with the actual art crisis fighting against the languor and muddle of dubious commentaries drawn from it.
The end of Avant-garde epics, the wanderings of post-modernism and especially the market crisis all have a somewhat sweeping mediocre state of the art.
This debate is being revived through a series of articles in the magazine " Art Press ", by the Venise bi-annual Festival, by Kassel's Document and by the Basel (Bāle - switzerland) Trade Show.
Some are blaming the era, the schools and the artist is perceived as being decadent, others are pointing their finger at the market itself, the institutions, whilst some are evoking the " grandeur of early art " for which it was rightly decided to build a museum. However to this day I have never came across a single serious analysis of the new sociological and technological distribution which embraces contemporary art.
Yet this has got to be acknowledged, but it is not meant to be a negative point of view, however be it digital or archaic, art has become a craft as in the past. Luckily for us, there is still a lot of Art about and sometimes it is very interesting, yet now the wind is blowing in a different direction. The Avant-gardist ideological crisis of the end of the seventies put an end to the great era when each artist whether famous or not, pretended to sign a new page of a Grand and Heroic Historyof Art (2). Better still, contemporary works of art come under a mere chronological history of arts and crafts. Electronic art which gave a whole different meaning to ART, in its conception,
aesthetics, status, signature, and broadcasting are in turn the pathfinders of a demanding craft, even though one cannot possibly preserve them like traditional works of art.
These contemporary works of art, which I will call " archaic and charming works ", to single them out from " digital art " are in the end rare, outstanding " oddities ", worthy of a collector's dream.
Yet again, major works of arts before the eighties do deserve our outmost attention, for there are unique, as they are a testimony of a geat era. They must be carefully kept in a museum, because memory is more than ever difficult and precious in a changing world.
Ever since, current art which in most cases followed in the footsteps of Fine-Arts, rediscovered to our delight the charms of arts and crafts.
It does not claim anymore to belong to the rightful existential category of " Novelty " ; from now on, originality is the key word.
The ideological drift of an art pretending to identify itself to the promethean History of Humanity of an " avant-gardist art ", would have just lasted for a fraction of an intellectual excitement, a century and a half, fascinating yet ephemeral (short lived).
Today Art seems like a western twist of events on the lines of Michelet, Saint-Simon and of some ideologists of History and Progress. From the illusion of History and the myth of progress which had only experienced an heroic and brief shelf life to the tragical and caricatural paroxysm of avant-gardism which ended up with a questionning of the eighties : we called this post-modernism. We returned to a more modest art chronology and human adventure.
Nevertheless, we should not forget that " Avant-garde " Art symbolized and embodied this illusion the most. Naturally excitement lost its appeal. Hence the betrayal of the current disillusion and " art crisis ".
Throughout his career, Jean-Clair committed himself to the various steps of this evolution and adopted a definite position on this matter.
However, even if we were we to return to the chronological " good old days " - " speed " is from now on the key element.
Contemporary production originates and dies at the same rate as the " Present time " as it was once said about the greek civilization. Only there is a major difference : at the end of this century, the eternity of the " Present time " or the " Vertical " time of the greeks, or the cyclic time of many other ancient societies gave way to the ephemeral (short lived) event-led fleeting time, which is quickly consumed and which doesn't leave any lasting traces.
Chronos devoured himself wholeheartedly without a break. Time " canibalized " everything.
This is also true of electronic arts for which the ever changing nature of multimedia technologies makes it difficult to preserve and which involves time aesthetics and event organization rather than the stillness and permanence of the Arts of Space.
Accelarated time produced by the digital revolution ( the first ever computer was created 50 years ago) destroys the merit of memory and obliterates history but by the same token it causes anxiety in relation to the future and in comparison with the past.
" Time - landscape " travels past windshields, television and computer screens and gradually fades away in our rear view mirror. Speed fascinates, excites and frightens. It inspires violent technological or dramatic works of art, but it also inspires nostalgic works of arts from the past, from nature, calm, voluptuous and restful.
Digital revolution tilted everything over including art. History becomes evanescent. We then become disposed to cultivate memory to reassure ourselves, information and consumption to enjoy our newfound powers, but also anxiety and excitement to pursue the digital adventure and to explore this new world that we yearn for.
As an artist, we are attempting to master current aesthetics which are event-led, multimedia and interactive. We could say that the return to arts and crafts is here to stay and contrary to general belief it is not going through a crisis. We do need it and paradoxically its social function renews with tradition within a new electronic civilization.