Thursday, 13 June 2013

Parallax II: Juries and their delusions

Juries and committees still abound in the art industry. Pride and egoism are such important hooks for selling products on that the best marketers know that a jury of some kind, however used or abused, draws in the customers. And better still if you can qualify that jury with a quasi-expert who rubber stamps the process as genuine, real and believable. For artists this process is destructive. And I am not referring to those who get sifted out. No, I am talking about those that get "chosen" or "selected". I'm talking about the seeming winners. We love hierarchy, especially when we are close to the top. We like the idea that we are "in" and others are "out" of the club. The art industry fosters this sense of exclusivity, on the belief (for that is what it is) that there is a "reality" of special knowledge and only a few are "behind" the curtain. And those on the "outside" often share in this belief too. How often do you hear someone shying away from "explaining" an art object claiming that they do not know much about art? You see, they BELIEVE that there is something unbeknown to themselves that CAN be known, in most cases, by the specialist, whether that be the artist or some other expert in the arts. So, the artist that gets "selected" believes that this process is something quite real.

This is why there is often talk about such ideas (or myths) as "quality". The process of selection, in their thinking, MUST substantiate "quality". The converse is also true for the losers. This is a great delusion- a charade played out in the art industry where there is amnesia of having placed "quality" in the first place. It is not discovered like a piece of treasure, nor was it ever buried in the object like a piece of treasure either. In the eighteenth century there was huge debate over whether knowledge of art was gained through analysing numerous examples or whether it was innate. The idea of the jury and selection still plays on both these notions of knowledge acquisition. But we can say today that both ideas of knowledge acquisition are assumptions and that the assumption that we construct knowledge (we place it, forget we placed it, and then believe we have discovered it) is also a possibility. This latter enables us to at least reconsider the "reality" of the other two; to begin to question them. They cannot be taken for granted any more.

If you are "selected" it means nothing in any objective sense. In fact, it could point to an intellectual laziness on the part of the "specialists". (This is the sad irony of that seeming intellectual exclusivity played out by so many in the art industry.) For they put that "quality" into your object though they often know it not. They did not find it. And if they cannot find begs the question of the purpose of jurying artists and objects; of propping up and maintaining hierarchical notions of objects and makers under such a delusion. I would suggest that to do this is not to embrace the "new zeitgeist" (that strange "sound" that one sometimes hears and feels in these times and is yet to be named) but is to be planted in an age that has already passed. 

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