In literature and in art, Concept is inevitably aided by an era where a large young population of the middle classes–once the potential audiences for literature and physical art–in flight from the financial crisis have sought an unending refuge within the academic professions. It has been said that the 20th century and the middle ages were the periods when philosophy became exclusively the province of academics, with few exceptions (in the middle ages, academia was the church. Exceptions among 20th century philosophers were Simone Weil, while the public intellectual Albert Camus insisted he was an artist and not a philosopher.) Today literature is strictly a monastic province of academics allowing few exceptions. (the field of economics is more likely than literature to have many non-academic outsiders )
The work of an artist creates new knowledge, but the academic librarian is concerned with the organization and administration of existing knowledge–a role often compatible with censorship. The work of the editor is appraised above that of the writer: the editor is paid, depicted as self-sacrificing and as the author in his maturity, in the highest and most responsible function. The curator is trained, paid, a financial administrator who assigns both conceptual meaning as well as financial value to an art-work: the curator is ”orator”, and his (more frequently, her) oration ”ensouls” breathes a soul, as well as a financial worth into the object of art. The highest place of authority is given to no literary text, certainly not Cervantes or Dos Passos, Weil or Pound: aura is in the works by Foucault and the texts of direct academic debtors and disciples of Foucault (at this instant Butler, tomorrow another to be ordained) This is because Foucault’s mission was to analyze and organize the ”systems of knowledge” and the grids along which knowledge is transferred–an administrators task, in a time of panic created by the chaos of overproduction.
Despite its pretension to mysticism, conceptual art is the exact opposite of mystical: it is the highpoint of extroversion. The art object, or the poem, their ”sensuous texture” (to borrow from Sontag and her articles from “Against Interpretation”, against hermeneutics, which can be read today as ”against the professional hermeneuticists/the curators) is not allowed to linger or to lead to an experience transcending the material, transcending the dead weight of words and of language itself. There is no erotics of art–and in all real mysticism, erotics are the ladder to mysticism. Conceptualism offers sanitized, clean rooms, sometimes with a crack in them, call it an ”intervention”. Instead of mysticism, the Conceptual is a matter of getting to the chase, it is directly presentable and purchasable, an empty room, a vacuity with chatter from Foucault injected into it.
The infinite resurrection of the salesman Duchamp’s ghost proposed itself as a subversion, a new plateau of phantasmal freedom, when the painters and sculptors are made too unfree by the market and are inevitably censored by the noise of overproduction. Whether it is sold as art or as curation, Concept Inc shows itself to be even more adapted and pliable to the market forces: immaterial art installations are a direct form of financial speculations. Currently, the financial interests of the owners and sellers of conceptual pieces during the past 30 thirty years are the only force keeping the dead art-form in place: as soon as the intellectual bankruptcy is revealed, prices and value might plummet, creating a speculations bubble pop in Conceptual that has to be avoided by the tens of thousands of “hermeneutics-professionals” (curators) being churned out by mostly European academies, imitated in the peripheric societies in Latin American and Asian art scenes and universities.
The conceptual falsely ascribes a financial, redeeming value of emptiness during an era of the panic about overproduction in a consumption-based and empirical, technical society that prohibits any discussions on seeking to define art or art criticism. When there is too much or all is too full, absence gains economic value in the market eye: the act of emptying, performed by performance artists, conceptualists and curators, is rewarded and enthusiastically lauded, at once pretending to fulfill the function of material art. The props of spectacular purgation, a puritanical art-form is advertised as anti-conservative . The compromise of conceptual art–art consisting of nothingness and of the abolition of art in order to save space, while claiming to fulfill the societal and spiritual role of art, is advertised as a “win-win” for artists and audiences in the era of over-production, but the problem of meaninglessness caused by that over-saturation (which in turn, owes much of its existence to market logic) is only perpetuated by the conceptualist acrobats and their orations.
A similar problem of anti-memory and anti-history is to be found in the field ”outsider art”, first carved out as yet another alternative to the art that is too market-determined. Yet the very term ”outsider art” implies another form of forgetting or amnesia: were Van Gogh or Caravaggio or Goya insiders despite their marginal social condition of leprosy? An ”outsider” according to the cultural logic of the term is an artist with little or no previous knowledge of art (meaning, not an auto-didact) who suffers from a cognitive disfunction or a brain disorder and yet is unaware of being engaged in artistic production. The autodidact artist, then, is excluded from both”outsider” and ”insider” art. “Outsider art” as a category enhances a bizarre and potentially oppressive division, where the only artists who are not ”insiders” (formed by Masters of Fine Arts programs, artists of networking) are the inmates of mental clinics who are not aware of their accidental art-works.