Notes on Groys’ Art Power

“The only thing that saves us from bureaucratic subjugation, is the inertia of the bureaucracy itself.” – Donald Brittain Paperland: The Bureaucrat Observed

imagesSince Duchamp, the old distinction between artist and curator has collapsed. The creative has given way to the selective. The artist is the authorizer of a selection. What makes it art is that it is exhibited, and this status in time is what makes it contemporary. Contemporary art is the space of exhibition, one which places subjective, even arbitrary selection, into a public space. But the authority is more diffuse. Contemporary art is one of multiple authors, of institutions, curators, committees etc. It is a product of the bureaucratization of selection. Artists become identified with their CVs, not works of art. They produce less than they participate. Unexhibited works are reduced to documentation rather than works of art. “And that is the crucial aspect: the artwork today does not manifest art; it merely promises art. Art is manifested only in the exhibition, as in fact the title Manifesta already states.” (98) Museums no longer display seemingly eternal collections but temporary, transient and bureaucratically re-evaluated ones. They become, functionally, like almost any other part of the state apparatus. Their function as documentary performed makes them identical to the cultural bureaucracy that they are funded by. Effectively, budgets for doomed utopian projects are what is produced by contemporary art.


Canada’s erotic 80s: The Surrogate


“The Surrogate …is a reminder that the bad, old, tax-shelter days of Canadian movie-making may not be over just yet.” [i]

“The Surrogate is a porsche with no engine – a slick, empty chassis of a movie.”[ii]

Don Carmody had established his reputation in the Quebec film industry as a producer, a role he would continue to concentrate upon after his single experiment with directing. The film in question, The Surrogate (1984), was made for Cinépix and resulted in Carmody nearly having a nervous breakdown, at least according to the film’s producer, John Dunning. (more…)

Ian McKay’s Liberal Order Framework


“It is telling that there are so few recent major works by Canadian historians of all persuasions on the political crisis of the past thirty years.” (617)

Ian McKay’s “The Liberal Order Framework: A Prospectus for a Reconnaissance of Canadian History” was published in the December 2000 issue of the Canadian Historical Review and has since been widely cited by academics in the country to the point that there have been panels and forums about it. I kept seeing it, and related articles, cited so finally read it. I was a bit reluctant because McKay is basically a Canadian Terry Eagleton lite. Like better Marxists, he’s really only fun when insulting people, but often gets very close to saying something genuinely worthwhile, then backs away because he knows it will not be in his best interests. So, it may be better to read him in a Straussian way, but then again, maybe I’m being too generous.


McKay begins his ‘neo-Marxist’ (631) text by recognizing the unconsumable proliferation of academic work on history, work which continually fragments (through specialized language and critique) and undermines disciplinary boundaries. In part because of this, history takes on a ‘pre-millennial’ atmosphere since historians are being constantly reminded of (or insist upon), the ‘politico-ethical centrality’ of their work. (617) Fragmentation and apocalyptic sensation (both of the field and its object – Canada) results in ever-fashionable academic ‘crisis’ mode. Attempts to provide a cohesive or normative argument only produce more ‘balkanization’. As the notion of history becomes increasingly circumspect, professional historians largely ignore each other’s work and operate in alien theoretical traditions. He asks: “If Canada is more or less just a ‘vacant lot,’ one more (relatively minor) place where class, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and so on, interact as they do everywhere else on the planet, why not go to where the action really is, to the United States, to Europe, or ‘global’ analyses?” (618) So, in one of his typically intriguing if unclear statements, Canadian historians follow the international norms of “demonizing the Other within our gates, all the better (perhaps) to keep our own more disabling fears of nihilism at bay.” (618) [It’s utterly unclear what the proverbial Other in this context refers to. The big Other of international norms? The Othering of traditional nationalist historical practice within an increasingly anti-nationalist field? The Othering of proponents of Otherness? And how does nihilism oppose this? This is never seriously broached.] (more…)