Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Friday, May 15, 2015
The Rise of the "Crypto-Relic"
New Hoover Convertible (Jeff Koons, l980)
In a piece entitled “Traces of the Holy: The contemporary
art work as ‘crypto-relic’” (TLS, 4/10/15), Matthew Bown makes the following
comment, “The art market today is a market in crypto-relics, no more, no less.
The dithyrambs of the experts—as when the director of the Tate art museums, Sir
Nicholas Serota describes art objects as ‘symbols of optimism and renewal,’ as
‘objects of beauty and contemplation,’ or as ‘transgressive,’ 'raw and tender,
brazen and subtle’—recreate the alluring discourse, the promise of miraculous
potential, that sustained the original Christian relics in the public
imagination.” How better to describe Damien Hirst’s “The Physical Impossibility
of Death in the Mind of Someone Living,” the famed shark immersed in
formaldehyde or Jeff Koons’ “New Hoover Convertibles” which might be subtitled
“what you see is what you get.” Duchamp’s “Fountain,” with its R. Mutt signature, might as well have been a Kohler or Toto as it canonized the found
object. But artists like Hirst and Koons have actually gone much further,
in that the high demand almost requires an iconography. Religiosity
always had something in common with romanticism to the extent it was predicated
on a belief in the unseen. What would the Shroud of Turin be without a higher love? The absence of value and/or meaningacts like a vacuum that creates the
significance of Brown’s "crypto-relics." Everyone reads meaning into Chance, the
main character of Jerzy Kosinski’s Being There. But Chance is just an idiot savant, a tabula rasa on which others
paint their wishes for transcendence. And “so it goes” as Vonnegut famously says in Slaughterhouse-Five. Those who don’t keep the faith will say that the public is being Tartuffed.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.