July 30, 2011

Medium of Exchange

"This is a participatory installation – visitors may write directly upon
the blackboard with the provided chalk in order to 'decipher' the bisected text.

Visitors who decipher words and sentences become 'active participants' in the completion of the artwork and their participation is an 'exchange' of labor. Thus, active participants exchange their labor for a share of possible future profits when the artwork is sold. Active participants may document their exchange by writing their name and email address on a clipboard provided by gallery staff.

The 'exchange value' of this artwork is a 'square footage' price of $256 based on the artist’s previous sales average of three sales in three consecutive years. At 32 sq. feet, 'Untitled participatory installation #4' is valued at $8,190."

I visited the "Medium of Exchange" show this week to document my work and was pleased to see that it is almost "completed." As I specified in my statement above, visitors that contribute their "labor" to "Untitled participatory installation #4" become "active participants" and potential "shareholders" in the sale of this particular piece. Given that there are few un-deciphered words left, as well as seven obvious "errors" that might be corrected, this is the "Final Chance" for those interested readers of this site to become participants by visiting the site and contributing to the work; the show closes on August 6, 2011.

From the Curatorial Statement by Anthony Cervino and Shannon Egan:
"Boyd’s viewer is also requested to 'write into' the work, not necessarily to give feedback, but rather to become an active shareholder in the work’s value. He specifically invites the viewer to 'decipher' the partially obscured text that appears on the chalkboard. One must pick up a piece of chalk provided, make sense of the implied language and fill in the missing shapes of each letter. Because the viewer becomes a participant in the completion of the work, Boyd is willing to pay the viewer for his or her labor. If the work is sold, the viewers who participated in the piece and provided contact information to the gallery staff will receive a share of the $8190 price. The viewer’s 'job' is not simply to look, but to read, comprehend and write, in an act that is equivalent to the artist’s position, the shareholder’s stake and the work’s own worth."

Image: "Untitled participatory action #4" (2011); blackboard paint, chalk, pencil on MDF; H48xW98; installation view on July 28, 2011.

© Copyright 2011 by Mark Cameron Boyd. All rights reserved.
Reproduction of artwork or text without permission is prohibited.

July 26, 2011

Every Picture Tells A Story

The tenuous respect once held for a photographic image – it’s insistence on truth and actuality – was over as soon as the conspiracy theorists began questioning the Moon Landing. Even in 1969, we knew that “reality” could be easily constructed in film studios, so why couldn’t the U.S. government have done the same? Fast forward to 9/11, and even though you watched those planes going into the Towers, you engaged in some level of doubt if you read the analyses of why steel buildings cannot collapse that way and that fast.

Today’s political agendas, even when documenting seemingly benign events, are fraught with insidious corruptibility and easily manipulated. A photograph showing Syrian President Bashar Assad swearing in his new choice for Governor of Hama, Anas Abdul-Razzaq Naem, has been exposed as a Photoshop fraud – the two men were probably never in the same room.

One might ask what was the intent of the Syrian government in pairing the two men in a seemingly “friendly” photo-opp. It goes without saying that their intention was clearly to manifest a false reality to represent an equally false “business-as-usual” vision for the rest of the world.

So intention is key here. Can we then forgive the young bicyclist who posted the equally false Photoshopped image (see above) of his “miraculous” pedaling across a body of water to promote his worthy cause? As has been pointed out already by the “Debunkers of ‘Net Fakery,” the young man’s foot can be seen resting on a post. Do we forgive his fraud, obviously committed for an ethical reason to get people talking about him and then, hopefully, his cause?

On a lighter note, actress Megan Fox tried a similar Photoshop sleight-of-hand (or perhaps it was boyfriend, Brian Austin Green) to “prove” she has not had Botox by showing the actress doing “Things You Can’t Do With your Face When You Have Botox.” This merely translates as sad – gravity is as relentless and fickle, Ms. Fox, as the public.

July 14, 2011

Crisis of Ownership

Regardless of your comfort or impatience with pluralism in visual arts – whether you condone or disapprove of the multiplicity of “styles” rampant in today’s contemporary art world – there is one conclusion we might draw from the abundant varieties of approach to visuality: the apparent unconcern for the once dominant critical hierarchy of visual art focuses our attention on the content of the art object, exclusive of whatever form that object takes.

Whether it be figurative, abstract or conceptual, all visual art styles are now permissible and marketable. Perhaps this is the ultimate psychic reversal of a public grown tired of pseudo-intellectualism, critical theory and excessive self-expression; the final irony of “I don’t know anything about art but I know what I like.” If there’s an artist who paints Neoclassical nudes, while another one crawls around a mound of salt – no worries, we can sell the art.

We will let others with more time, patience and the resources pursue the socio-economic and/or epistemic logic of how we arrived at this critical juncture in Art History. My brief speculation here will merely touch on a couple of points that I want to make about this crucial period for contemporary art.

First, what I want to say is that our obsession with style barely conceals our repressed desire for content. Indeed, we are so surface-oriented that we allow ourselves to be distracted by superficialities of color, sheen and gloss. The moral imperatives of advertising were life lessons for Pop artists and they took the skeletal basics of branding, repetition and ennui and wallowed in it. Look at any two-dozen YouTube mash-ups today and you can glimpse the mutant stepchildren of Madison Avenue and MTV.

Yet, sometimes reflected in the yearning discourse found in those comments under these “outsider” videos, there are inquiries into “meaning,” relationships drawn between other works with similar content, or arguments over precedence and originality. This is all the more remarkable because of the “free” nature of the Internet – there is no concern about “borrowing,” copying or appropriating anyone else’s content. In fact, such freedom of use is allowed, even encouraged, because the fact remains that if you put it up on the Internet, you have abdicated “ownership” of that content.

Where form had once usurped content as prime motivation for art making and dominated the discourse surrounding Modernist art, content returned in the guise of conceptualism. In the 21st Century, content has ironically been upstaged again by a postmodern fascination with form. The fetish of functionality and blurred distinctions of art and design have further confused the art object’s usefulness with its intention. Moreover, the significance of the value attribution of an art object resides primarily within its cultural and institutional validation, not within the inherent qualities of an object’s form.

Language functions as the essential marker of content, as ideas and concepts are first projected within words and sentences. Both speech and writing are inherently viewed as “free” within democratic societies, regardless of their qualification as “intellectual property.” Ownership of one’s content, as epitomized in open source text, on-line posting or blogging, is already under attack through corporate and institutional manipulation, as Facebook, Google and Apple continue to colonize their users. Thus, form and content are currently undergoing a period of unstable value attribution, whether exchange or use value, as both intellectual delivery vehicles have been negated through a crisis of ownership.


Image: ”Untitled participatory installation #4”; in “Medium of Exchange” exhibition at Center for the Arts Gallery, Towson University; © Copyright 2011 by Mark Cameron Boyd.

“Medium of Exchange” runs to August 6, 2011. Info: 410-704-2787