Museum, money and the ideological franchise of the National Museum of Contemporary Art (ANTI, 6/10/2006)

Mihalis Papadakis, sculptor
Representative of the Chamber of Fine Arts of Greece in the B.D. of the EMST
Museum, money and the ideological franchise of the National Museum of Contemporary Art
(ΑΝΤΙ, 6/10/2006)
Art and money are influenced by each other in many institutions-especially in museums”.
Foreign enterprises finance exhibitions of art, also, with the aim to lubricate the wheels of international relations and commerce”.
However, when an enterprise finances and exhibits, the museum directors and the commissaries may feel that they are limited as far as the kinds of Art that they can, or cannot, present are concerned. The director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Philipp de Montebello has mentioned a covered form of censorship-autocensorship in the world of the museums”.
As a result, “the aims of scientific research and conservation of real objects are overridden by an emphasis on experiences, theatricality and sentimental rhetoric”.
If you think that the above texts from the book “But is this art?” by Cynthia Freeland are Freeland’s accusations, you are wrong. On the contrary, she mentions them as elements of a “situation” and the “truth” of Art today, with the same naive self-confidence and “innocence” that Bush presents the bloodshed in the Middle East as “the reality of the truth of God”! As a matter of fact, in the chapter “What a poor artist must do” Freeland advises with examples those that do not want to be placed in the system of commercialization to find … a sponsor!!!
Another American theoretical scientist, Johanna Druker, writes: “The spaces, on which Fine Arts depend, in order to maintain their identity, that is the museums, the galleries, and the fixed institutions of critique and publishing are confounded with the world of fashion, sponsors, advertisement and the chase for funding”. (Catalogue of the National Picture Gallery “Art in the end of the 20th century”, Athens 1996). (I refer from time to time to this text for the only reason that it accompanied uncommented an exhibition of our other national institution.)
Many theoreticians complain that Art is on crisis, that the quality content of artistic objects becomes poorer and poorer, benefiting a flat uniformity-fashion. They themselves, though, do not want to recognize that these consequences are produced causatively by the needs to invest to continually “new products”, with rhythms that, from its nature, artistic creation cannot follow. The “inability” of this artistic creation is “overcome” by the market with the introduction of a continually rising number of objects of everyday use, even industrial, that are called “Art today”.  
Videos, digital graphs, photography etc in Fine Arts function simultaneously another way in the Art market. The digital means of producing these works (cameras etc) are themselves products of massive consumption that must broaden their clientele. “Bill Viola has experimented with the most contemporary technologies in video (with equipment provided by Sony), before their massive circulation”, writes Freeland in the above mentioned book.
The methodological tools, with which Druker and Freeland manipulate Art objects and their social relations are those of American pragmatism (of the concept of useful energy depending on profit…, that is to say whatever sells is real), that begins with the conception that “… there don’t seem to exist some “laws” of art that can predict the behavior of artists or explain the “evolution” of the history of art, by describing in detail which is the inheritance of a beautiful important work” (Freeland, in the same book).
And as Art doesn’t have laws and history, talking about causes and consequences is meaningless. And the theory of Art from a science is transformed to art like law practice.
The “funny” thing is that this ideology that denies causality expresses with a paradigmatic consistency (causatively) the world of art work commercialization.  
Artistic creation functions differently, though:  
Creative imagination is one of the basic tools of Art together with knowledge, including experience. Before creative imagination canfunction freely, it needs a developed knowledge, which can utilize the data of experience, codifying them, not only to superior catholic abstractions, but to forms-ways of artistic expression as well. Imagination creativity (as an ability to compose sentimental perceptions) presupposes a causative relation with knowledge (knowledge of the causalities of the world), so that it is distinguished from arbitrary irrationalism. And for this reason creative imagination is one of the tools of scientific research as well.  
The ability to enjoy- employ the work of Art is basically of the same quality with the ability to create it.  Their difference lies on the quantity of the cultivation of this ability’s attributes.
The theory of Art, which operates from the employment to the analysis, must move inside the frame of the same laws of artistic creation, as well. If it doesn’t do that, it is lost in the cloudy areas of irrationalism inconsistency.  
The most classical practice of theoretical inconsistency is to “forget” to scientifically document the plastic elements of the image, on which, as a cause, theoretical consideration is based.  Instead of this it suggests “sentimental rhetoric”. This way, though, the “bridge” between the exhibit and the theoretical consideration is not created. This “bridge” plays two important roles: One: pedagogic to the wide public, and two: scientific – as a deposit to the dialogue of the scientific community.  
Denying (not apprehending, more correctly) the law (causality), Druker mentions in her text: “ The crisis of consciousness and power that the artists faced during the Vietnam war showed once and forever the inability of the abstract morphological idiom to become a power of social change”. And she teaches that the role of Art is not to “suggest a stable, catholic and supersubstantial truth” like “the dreams of clear form and utopist changes” of modernism that dominated until the middles of the 20th century (from the same, the underlines are mine).
The theoretical group of the EMST agrees with the above and enhances it: “We are going through a new evolutionary stage of modern civilization (globalized economy) which, contrary to the industrial period, does not prompt social or of aesthetic character revolutions for the simple reason that …it doesn’t need them” (catalogue from the exhibition of the EMST “The Art of the seventies in Greece”, Athens 2005).
This amazing statement, to a more careful reader, contains an amazing truth on how the theoretical group of the EMST perceives contemporary Art and how little respect it has for it. It doesn’t expect anything new. Not even a few quantitative changes in aesthetic suggestions, as their accumulation bears the “danger” of an aesthetic burst-revolution that the world of the theoretical group does not need… This way, of course, it is self-cleared when it diverts its theoretical boredom to “theatricalities” and “sentimental rhetoric” that it itself produces. What else could it do, when, according to it, the world of creators suffers from an aesthetic boredom? Really, why don’t the artists that the EMST houses do not protest, when it calls them at least common? Are we all, finally, victims of the alienated perception: theory is one thing and action another…of the sponsor?  
The anti-scientific - franchise operation of the EMST has established, for six years now, very ugly perspectives for creators in our country. The roles are being spread already.
The private Unit penetrates in the field of Art establishing the institution “Biennale of Athens” that will begin in 2007. Having the power of the sponsors behind it, the Unit will define the stigma of “Art today” through the Biennale of Athens. This way, it will give to the state, simultaneously, the role of the sponsor that will also buy works from the Biennale through the EMST.
And this route has been established by the EMST with its practice until now.
What is the role that the EMST plays, for which the Greek state pays? Some people are responsible for this.  
Mihalis Papadakis

Mihalis Papadakis

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