Friday, November 26, 2010

the cons of pro's, the pro's of cons

I like this guy's thoughts: What, I have to ask, is wrong with professionalization? What are we really criticizing when we deride the graduates of MFA and PhD programs for nothing more than simply having done what one would expect them to do, which is to go and learn about the enterprise in which they are interested? I suspect that lurking behind such statements lies a romanticized and outmoded notion of the artistic subject—which is to say, of the kind of subjectivity (autodidactic, at odds with decorum and the status quo, sometimes tortured, often difficult, always independent—i.e. an ideal of bourgeois bohemianism) that continues to cling to the definition of the “artist” today like some itchy fungus. Holland Cotter made an offending passage in a piece called ‘generations’. Here’s the offending passage, "A scan of the catalog’s biographies confirms that, almost without exception, the artists in the show are products of art schools, as often as not intensely professionalized, canon-driven environments. This may help explain why so much of the work on view comes with art historical references and borrowings, tweaks on tweaks on tweaks so intricate and numerous as to defy listing." If any show can be said to reflect a larger state of affairs in art now, this one suggests a somewhat dull, deflated contemporary art world, professionalized to a fault, in search of a fresh consensus. It has prompted the predictable cooing from wishful insiders, burbling vaguely about new found introspection and gravity. To turn back to charges of ‘professionalism’, what is the merit of it to begin with? Is the ‘amateur’ really, demonstrably, more favorable than the pro? Isn’t the former simply another iteration of our own lurking romanticism? (Or worse, is it of a piece with the rampant and poisonous anti-elitism that we witness nearly everywhere today?) I hesitate here to make a comparison to the sciences. Professionalization in such fields as biology and physics may have resulted in certain institutional inefficiencies, in misguided research programs and even, in some instances, in a kind of sanctioned alienation from ‘reality’.