“art is the most powerful instrument for survival”
“When works of art become commodities and nothing else, when every endeavor becomes “creative” and everybody “a creative,” then art sinks back to craft and artists back to artisans –a word that, in its adjectival form, at least, is newly popular again. Artisanal pickles, artisanal poems: what’s the difference, after all? So “art” itself may disappear: art as Art, that old high thing. Which—unless, like me, you think we need a vessel for our inner life—is nothing much to mourn.”
‘Activation has become an end, not a means. Today museums cannot seem to leave us alone; they prompt and program us as many of us do our children. As in the culture at large, communication and connectivity are promoted, almost enforced, for their own sake. This activation helps to validate the museum, to overseers and onlookers alike, as relevant, vital, or simply busy. Yet, more than the viewer, it is the museum that the museum seeks to activate. However, this only confirms the negative image that some of its detractors have long had of it: that aesthetic contemplation is boring and that historical understanding is elitist; that the museum is a mausoleum. Just as the viewer must be deemed passive in order to be activated, so a work of art and art museum alike must be deemed lifeless so that they can be reanimated.
This ideology, which is so central to modern discourse on the art museum, is an assault on art history “as a humanistic discipline,” the mission of which, Erwin Panofsky wrote 75 years ago, is to “enliven what otherwise would remain dead.” Here the proper retort to the contemporary assault comes from the art historian Amy Knight Powell: “Neither institution nor individual can restore life to an object that never had it. The promiscuity of the work of art—its return, reiteration, and perpetuation beyond its original moment—is the surest sign it never lived.” ‘
“If you love art, you must be glad that thousands of people are supporting it by going to “Dismaland.” If you love cultural expression generally, you must be glad millions of people are participating in it on the Internet. But when you see bad expression praised as good — when your Facebook friends share a sarcastic news report, or a millionaire street artist puts mouse ears on an actress and tells her to frown — you must also feel some injustice has been done. Kitsch should not get away with exploiting people’s desire to feel the art. How wonderful it must feel to go to “Dismaland” and see through society! But how awful to see society embrace art that makes you feel nothing, that makes you think only about the vast chasm between you and everyone else.”