In the last couple of years, top NY galleries and one institution in particular (PS1 MOMA) agreed on endorsing a kind of art that could be called ‘the art of the Anthropocene’ or Post-Apocalyptic art. Drawing from Michel Serres’ ideas of crisis and on the new anthropological developments referring to the fact that human beings have changed the way the world works in a structural way, a few artists have decided to illustrate that very specific point and turned that into te reason to believe that what they do is actually art. This is, of course, another example of art justifying itself from outside the real of art. All the limitations of this kind of approach were evident in last year’s X exhibition at PS1 MOMA curated by Klaus Biesenbach and shockingly sponsored by the car manufacturer VW. As it may be remembered that show was a car crash, pun intended.
One of the artists that participated in that NY show was Adrian Villar Rojas, who has been creating artistically irrelevant but topically fitting (to the point of the cliche) post-apocalyptic stages where the viewer has nothing to do but walk around as if he or she were in a theme park. The theme is the day after the end of the world which never seems to be the end but the end of the life of comfort that we are supposed to have. Hollywood in its most basic form. Of course this opportunistic use of all media as ‘entertainment’ would have caused the fury of modernist such as Clement Greenberg or Michael Fried but the new contemporary art establishment does not seem to care about those technicalities and insist on taking the art of installation its logical and un-artistic next level.
In Cyprien Gaillard’s latest show at Barbara Gladstone Gallery, we must add to this trend a new way of doing things which fuses the logic of the Duchampian ‘ready made’ with the trend to make works of art as gigantic and monumental as possible. As a result Gaillard deploys an array of shovels, buckets, plows and blades from the front ends of earthmoving machines. Ranging from compact to massive, and bristling with serrated teeth worthy of a T. Rex, these objects are supposed to allegorise the literal cutting edge of our planetary transformation. Although Howard Halle with Time Out New York states that ‘these objects embody capitalism’s creative destruction in all of its engineered glory’, one can argue that they are also tools for construction and transformation. In other words, after Duchamp, this cannot possibly be considered as art. I would be fascinated to know the effort of snobbery and bullshit construction that Gladstone must be deploying to a get a buyer on board. Having said that, I am sure they are already sold out. There are too many insecure and stupid people with a lot of money out there.
I find this very interesting because while house prices are skyrocketing all over the world, the social need to build new houses is a fact which might take some pressure from, at least, the First World economies. However, what these people are telling us is that arcadia is the way forward and, of course, we know who are the ones who can afford this arcadian view of progress. In a way, this shovels and plows are a perfect allegory of the social polarisation that is taking place and constitute a metaphor of that divide that is spatially increasingly separating the rich from the poor. This ‘political’ approach to the whole ecological issues from the point of view of these particular artists comes across as cynical when the variable of irony (or humor) appears in the equation.
Last but not least, let’s take a look at the press release and its jargon. Let me finish by saying that I am so fed up with galleries that say that the work of their artists ‘refers to notions of’. Let’s see what Gladstone has to say about their artist: ‘Gaillard has created two complementary bodies of sculptural works that explore notions of regeneration, ruination, and decay’. Regeneration, ruination and decay deploying shovels and bull dozers? Groundbreaking! Idiots. Just a thought.