I’ve been starting to draw some conclusions and expanding on my initial impressions. Basically, I just want to shout home: RELAX! NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO BE SO PRECIOUS AND NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE SO DAMN PROFESSIONAL!
It’s easy to make predictions about New York’s demise. Without even being here it’s plainly visible, but I hadn’t realised the extent. When I first arrived, I was surprised that New York had changed so much. Specifically, it seemed overly gentrified and had unfortunately lost all its edginess. I started to question whether the avant-garde had ever really existed here (or was my memory weirding) and that it’s easy to be outwardly considered avant-garde in ultra conservative environments.
Everyone’s been fairly quick to point out that New York is no longer the centre of the contemporary art scene, but rather the centre of the art market. Yes, it’s surprising to hear that art school students are solely focused on attaining representation; how much a recent graduate’s work will sell for before a Baldessari, particularly compared to the market in Australia. However, this has been a persistent reflection of society since the renaissance, and I’m pretty sure no-one’s predicting the demise of capitalism. There are obvious issues when decisions are so closely tied to and determined by an unregulated market.
But there are still some really nice qualities. It’s not overly professional and there’s a complete lack of preciousness. Schedules are re-scheduled. Performances start late and can happen in multiple locations. They’re disorganised and events often require an effort from the viewer.
At the same time they’re accommodating and open. They’re open late and make an effort to be responsive to the audience’s schedule, rather than determined to set their own. And I really like that I can walk into a gallery, say hello and essentially open a door for the person behind the desk, who’s very rarely a volunteer, to promote their programs. Maybe because I’m a curator rather than an artist it’s easier, but this never happens at home.
There are also opportunities for difference, steadfast characters and space to be comfortable with awkwardness. Dialogues are verbal and critique is in writing and there’s a clear distinction between personal and professional criticism. Some of the work I’ve most appreciated may have appeared unfinished, even a bit clumsy, but it was completely unselfconscious. It presented an idea, it’s process or mechanisms. Simple.
I also want things to be messy and unresolved sometimes. Difference shouldn’t always be subsumed by professionalism. Not everything should be the same: It’s really boring. There should be comfortable spaces for experimentation and unresolved awkwardness.