Josiane M.H. Pozi - Pingey - Gandt - September 27 - November 22, 2020
This is Josiane's first art show, just like the last Gandt show with Magnus. I guess if you want to find someone who's interesting these days you have to go to the Zoomers, which is fair dues judging by the state of my own generation. This is even better than GandtX though, because that show offered a hard look at the vapid cynicism of the art world through an irony that beat them at their own stupid game without, however, offering any alternative. Josiane's work, on the other hand, manages to be funny, touching, unaffected, and formally innovative at the same time. In other words, where Magnus mocks the fakeness of the art world by being intentionally fake, Josiane puts it to shame by being real.
I always want to see art that's "real," by which I mean not putting forth a style, because it's only by resisting the aestheticized, i.e. a preexisting set of signifiers, that art manages to articulate the not-yet-aestheticized, i.e. what will become the signifiers that define the future's memory of the present. That's the heritage of avant-gardism, the act of crossing the line between what is considered art and that which has yet to be considered art: early abstractionists have a somewhat mechanical visual sensibility that reflects the era's shift from the pre-industrial towards modernity, 60s happenings look less to us like bold challenges to artistic hegemony than a bunch of insufferable New York proto-hippies getting stoned in a loft, and so on. The unconscious elements of a period's style often become their most recognizable markers in hindsight. The mistake of the avant-garde mindset lies in the presumption that deconstruction of the limits of art would never cease to yield novelty, when in fact it did, sometime around 2003 by my estimate. At that point the old lines of transgression evaporated, thanks in part to the peak of Institutional Critique's reign of self-awareness and likewise the art market's savvy reaching the point where it learned to clap at its own subversion, thereby negating the power of the critique. That's fine, because the avant-garde notion of progress is a macho lie, but it also complicates the already complex problem of the real in art. The actual issue is not of the cutting edge but of the dialectical tension between the immanent reality of experience and the formal means of expression. As I think Adorno says somewhere in Aesthetic Theory (I looked but couldn't find the actual quote), the artist achieves objectivity by means of the subjective, which should be painfully obvious in the sense that a love story tells something about love in general, or that a painting of war is about the horrors of war in general. That generality always arises from the specificity of the artist's vantage point, even while of the individualist notion of self-expression contradicts art's fundamental aim. Contemporary art's imposition for the artist's work to be unique sabotages itself because it mistakes subjectivity for its own objectivity. Josiane's work refuses that rule, however, and in doing so achieves something objective, "authentic" even, by means of its subjectivity.
What's striking about Pingey is that by means of resolutely mundane home video techniques it manages to be the most aesthetically engaging work I've seen in at least a year. It really is a home video in the sense that it's made from video of Josiane spending time with her father intercut with some shorter clips of her with her friends. The juxtaposition on some level suggests a duality between one's identity when out partying and the tired seriousness of one's home life, but the video isn't "about" that as much as it is simply a portrait of her reality. In doing so she avoids the pitfall of the contemporary; by refusing to posit a consciously curated style the work coheres into a stylistic sensibility that feels novel, which is not to say it's without reference points. Video work by other London artists like Georgie Nettell and Dean Blunt come to mind, and her apparent ease in front of and behind the camera seems informed by her generation's symbiotic relationship to social media. Formally, as portraiture, it recalls something of the heyday of painters making paintings of their friends. Not in the technical and insipid style of someone like (lord help me) Chloe Wise, but in the manner of Picasso, Balthus, Bacon, et al., where by means of the artist's technique they seek to articulate the subtle qualities of a person. Painting in general is a good reference point because much of the good work I see these days is painted, not that there's a lot of it. In spite of the discourse's insistence to the contrary, technical craft is still an important element in the creation of good art because there's more room for expression of sensibility in the details of a brushstroke and the ambiguities of representation than there is in the curation of fabricated objects. What I see, then, in Josiane's work is a similarly crafted sensibility towards video that is expressive and eloquent in a way that few older video artists have managed. Particularly with artists who have had an interest in internet and social media, for instance the man of last month, Jon Rafman, there has always been an embedded sense of voyeurism in the artist's relationship to the tools and content, like someone too old for TikTok lurking on TikTok to keep tabs on what the kids are up to these days. Fortunately for us, the kids on the internet are growing up and making their own art now. I feel some optimism, at least in this case, that younger artists will be able to succeed where Millenials have failed, and find a way to use our media-oversaturated reality as a means of expression instead of just for reflecting on our own alienation.