A Response to Eric Schmid's Press Release for Henry Fool @ Triest


(This press release is a response to my review, available in the Kritic's Korner section of the site.)

1. Do we merely advocate for artists who have assimilated institutional power but then shit on artists who are under-represented?
This and the rest of the questions in this list presume a dichotomy of institutional as bad and under-represented (whatever that may mean) as good, which is, at best, oversimplified and more likely simply irrelevant. While I'd never argue an equivocal relationship between success and quality, there is also a correlation between quality and success, i.e. not all successful artists are good, but most artists deserving of some success tend to have achieved some. I don't mean to imply that the art world is a meritocracy where every good artist gets their just reward, only that becoming a good artist is an extremely difficult process that requires years of hard work. In rare instances some artists find a means of working outside the system, but in most cases it's impossible to mature as an artist without the support of the art world, mostly for practical reasons like money and social networks. Unlike Eric's alleged position, I have no particular bias in favor of the "under-represented" because I don't presume quality or interest in the works of people in their 20s.

2. Do we shit on low-hanging fruit and artists who oppose the detrimental project of appeasing insiders and assimilating cultural cachet?
I can assure you that I am appeasing no insiders and assimilate no cachet from my writing. Even gallerists and art world members who like my work generally find me to be a problem that they can't openly condone, or in other words this project has earned me quite a few distant admirers, very few friends, and many enemies. I'm only interested in articulating my own opinion, which, if Eric had any real understanding of the art world or the content of my writing, would make it clear to him that I'm committing social suicide by doing so. I keep doing it because I want to, and perhaps out of a sense that I might be able to make some money at some point in the future, but the project is fundamentally in opposition to whatever little cachet a writer is capable of garnering in any conventional art world pipeline. Put simply, I'm not appeasing anyone and my only hope is that if I piss people off for long enough then someone might pay me.

3. Are we really just here to become a downtown micro-celebrity?
I certainly don't care about becoming a micro-celebrity, Eric's the only person here who feels thwarted enough by an internalized sense of rejection from that world to turn it into a fetish and make the image of someone else into a perverse cipher for his fixations and call it an "artwork."

4. Do we really want a world of aesthetes and their acolytes self-[sic]perpetuating pre-existing socio-political structures in order to be seen as a kabal[sic] of tastemakers?
This more or less recapitulates the argument already made, that I'm doing this for the nonexistent clout that I'm receiving. But it also introduces the idea that "aesthetes" and their supposed acolytes are simply perpetuating socio-political structures for our own benefit. Aside from the lack of benefit, the implication is that pre-existing = oppressive = institutional = bad, and that under-represented = new = radical = good. However, as I outlined in my review, there is nothing new being done here, and to implicitly call these artists good just because none of them are represented by galleries is not only a furtive but lazy sleight of hand that, again, sidesteps the actual question of artistic quality itself.

5. Or do we want to enfranchise people who are under-represented, everyday or humble?
It's ridiculous to suggest that Eric is at all everyday or humble and not a sociopath primarily concerned with getting whatever he can from whomever is gullible and passive enough to give him any positive feedback and a venue for his work. Also implicit in this is that Eric's attractions are to the everyday/humble/authentic and not simply anyone who strokes his ego, or that he has any conception of the salt of the earth. His criterion of legitimacy is entirely oriented on himself and those who he can utilize (or aspires to utilize) in his own attempts at self-promotion. This is actually inherent in Eric's viewpoint because a failure to understand art as a qualitative experience between the art and the viewer eliminates the aspiration to create art that is moving or beautiful and leaves only the desire for social/commercial success.

6. What could be more violent than someone who authorizes themselves to have access based upon their opinion which claims to be superior and elevated?
This is where the rubber hits the road, the assertion that my opinion is somehow based on "access" (to what?) and therefore just a condescension instead of simply the case of perceptivity. I have no substantial ties to any institution or source of authority, so I'm not sure how my work is supposed to stand as "elevated" except in the sense that people find something in it that they respond to. This is, again, an equivocation of perception and clout, two things that actually have very little to do with each other.

7. Is an opinion which claims access merely enacting a critique of judgment based upon a fundamental negative proposition of one logic over another?
No, a logic is only useful as a means of perceiving the world. That some are more perceptive than others is not a fundamental negative proposition. One can't eliminate perception from reason because there is no absolute computational superintelligence that can establish objective truth, so we must rely on refining our experience of phenomena in the world. Even if one believes in the project of a computational superintelligence, as Eric seems to in some of his writing, such an idea is useless in practice until it comes into being.

8. Should we not recognize that "being" in and of itself outstrips any attempt to enunciate one person's opinion of what's right as more logical over another?
Here is the crux of the problem: Eric is attempting to suggest that the core of analysis of art is reducible to the material phenomena of "being," which, in fact, it is. The problem, however, is that by acknowledging the primacy of being we have to navigate the gradations of material qualities in themselves, and therefore a belief in one thing being better than another. Just as any humble individual is capable of seeing talents in Kippenberger that your average joke painter lacks, or that Michelangelo possesses something that a 7th string apprentice of Bellini does not, an evocation of "being" requires an awareness of the fact that life itself is an infinitely complex mutable system that we can only navigate provisionally through our own subjectivity. Being is the opposite of an absolute, so he cannot use being as an invocation of an absolute relativism. Such a judgment would negate the existence of judgment, reducing experience itself to a nihilistic status of silence and meaninglessness.

9. Should not our logic be based upon something universal, arriving from the self-evident truth of choice?
I suppose this "self-evident truth of choice" implies Eric believes the choice of committing murder is self-evidently defensible. Bad art is certainly not murder, but to impose an ideal of universal freedom is an attempt to negate the societal by refusing to acknowledge the existence of contingency in itself. Not allowing for the relativity of existence, which we must navigate by our sense of discrimination, denies the existence of reasoning in and of itself, throwing up one's hands to say "Who can possibly say what is right or wrong?" as if it were possible to live in the world without constantly discriminating between right and wrong. One likes to go to a restaurant that one prefers over another, takes the route to work in the most efficient or most pleasurable way, treats others in a way that they consider to be just. Those decisions are subjective, but society's evaluation of those subjective choices come to bear upon the individual. If you like a bad restaurant your date might not like it, which reflects poorly on their evaluation of you, if you take too leisurely of a route to work you may be late and get fired, if you repeatedly treat people poorly because you're a sociopath, people aren't liable to like you very much. Choice is not made in a vacuum, and critical evaluations of artworks are not purely subjective. The judgment of an artwork is grounded not in a singular interiority but in one's wider understanding of art as a category. Individuals have distinct sensibilities, but those sensibilities towards art converge under the umbrella of the arts as a whole. The individual's sensibility is unavoidably shaped by the historical inheritance of a sense of quality that they have developed through their exposure to art over their lives, what works have resonated with them, what evaluations by others have resonated with them as seeming to be "true." There is no endpoint to this, the evaluation of art is a collective process of popular opinion perpetually churning into new shapes. The role of criticism is to attempt to articulate an awareness of the collective consciousness of art as it stands in the present to prepare artworks for the future when the work stands as something from the past. No critic can do this alone (as such The Manhattan Art Review will soon be adding a second author to our roster, hopefully with more to come) because subjectivity is inherently imperfect and can only enunciate a sliver of perception of something that is fundamentally amorphous and inexpressible as a whole. Eric's problem is that he aspires towards a scientific objectivity, which is quite specifically not the business of art. If he had truly read any Deleuze (anyone can stare at words on a page) he would understand that heterogeneity is the opposite of a universalizing movement into an imaginary pure relativism. Instead, it's a step into the material, a removal of all rhetorical dogmas towards a fundamental reliance on perceptual sense as the only means that can be relied upon to differentiate between a good choice and a bad choice. Casting off the baggage of notions of objectivity and truth are frightening and painful, but it's also necessary to reside within that uncertainty to attempt to discern the difference between a good painting and a bad painting.