By Gregory Sholette
New York, NY: Pluto Press. 2011
Dimensions: 5.9 in X 9 in
Color: black and white
Edition size: unknown
We are thrilled to be offering this great book by our dear friend and sometimes collaborator Gregory Sholette. And we are honored that he wrote quite a bit about Temporary Services, Half Letter Press, Mess Hall, and Public Collectors (a project of Marc Fischer from Temporary Services). From the back cover:
"Art is big business, with some artists able to command huge sums of money for their works, while the vast majority are ignored or dismissed by critics. This book shows that these marginalized artists, the "dark matter" of the art world, are essential to the survival of the mainstream and that they frequently organize in opposition to it.
Gregory Sholette, a politically engaged artist, argues that imagination and creativity in the art world originate thrive in the non-commercial sector shut off from prestigious galleries and champagne receptions. This broader creative culture feeds the mainstream with new forms and styles that can be commodified and used to sustain the few artists admitted into the elite.
This dependency, and the advent of inexpensive communication, audio and video technology, has allowed this "dark matter" of the alternative art world to increasingly subvert the mainstream and intervene politically as both new and old forms of non-capitalist, public art. This book is essential for anyone interested in interventionist art, collectivism, and the political economy of the art world."
Sholette offers us an archival history of art in and as activism, drawing on his own experiences in New York City and Chicago, but with an impressive awareness of related activity worldwide. Still, this is a much more significant project than the recuperation of fascinating details about radical collectivity. Drawing on Italian Marxist theories of autonomy, Sholette shows that neoliberalism is wholly dependent upon the presence/absence of that which it excludes, an ever-present oversupply of cultural production that is mechanically encircled and expelled. [Sholette argues that] there is a systemic need to overproduce culture, whose capacity to mobilize excess is precisely what makes it an attractive model. The shadow economy of cultural labor [by contrast including] all those adjuncts with PhDs, actors working as waitstaff, classical musicians performing at childrens birthday partiessustains and stabilizes the high culture industry from which it is excluded.
Far from being a pessimist, however, Sholette discerns in a range of new cultural practices the old goal of turning art into life that is to say, the attempt to erase the distinctions between culture as a commodity and the practices of everyday life. At some points, he seems to suggest that the dark matter is coagulating," perhaps offering a different social formation.
His conclusion points more to flashes of defiance," ranging from workplace resistance to artistic performance and interventions. Almost as soon as Dark Matter was published, the current revolutionary wave began spreading across North Africa and the Middle Easta refusal by youth to maintain the precariousness of neocolonial labor under dictatorial regimes, making use of networked tools and defiant street performance." --Afterimage, 38:6 2011 What Matters, review by NICHOLAS MIRZOEFF who teaches at New York University and is the author of The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality (2011).
"With great verve and urgency, Gregory Sholette explores the economics of contemporary art production in an era of neoliberalism, and outlines the promises and pitfalls of various tactics of resistance. Dark Matter is a salient call-to-arms to all cultural laborers." -- Julia Bryan-Wilson, author of Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era
"An important and necessary intervention. What's striking about the book is that it is less a set of reflections on 'art and politics' than a critique of art's very place within political economy, something that even erstwhile radicals rarely address .Dark Matter is well placed to shift the debate on art's utility back within the domain of labour and value, where it has long been missing." --John Roberts, author of The Intangibilities of Form: Skill and Deskilling in Art after the Readymade
"Focusing primarily on the anti-institutional, collective and politically critical artists that often willingly reject the light of the mainstream galleries and academies, Sholette both highlights a vast array of important contributors to art of the last decade and also challenges the ahistorical assumptions that ground the capitalist art market." - Paul B. Jaskot, Professor of Art History, DePaul University
"Based on a multitude of examples from the heterocosmos of invisible art practices, Dark Matter is the ultimate companion to contemporary activist art. In his exquisite and theoretically informed style Gregory Sholette investigates the problematic functions of art practices in the processes of neoliberal appropriation, but above all the wild explosive, and deterritorializing lines that are drawn in the dark matter between art and politics." --Gerald Raunig, philosopher and art theorist and author of Art and Revolution
Exordium: An Accidental Remainder
(Sets the scene through a brief meditation on an all but forgotten artists' collective that the author once belonged to: Political Art Documentation/Distribution aka PAD/D, and its missing presence in contemporary art history.)
Introduction: The Missing Mass
(Who is the author and how did this book come about followed by a concise description of each chapter in the volume.)
1 Art, Politics, Dark Matter: Nine Prologues
(An overview of the book's key themes and arguments.)
2 The Grin of the Archive
(A critical journey into the PAD/D Archive now housed in the Museum of Modern Art is used to examine the shifting politics of the 1980s as neo-conservativism, economic deregulation, gentrification, and the remnants of the New Left clashed in New York City and elsewhere.)
3 History That Disturbs the Present
(Public art projects about history's missing narratives produced by the artists' group REPOhistory are described in relation to both the concept of the shadow archive, and in terms of the ultra-gentrified New York City of the 1990s.)
4 Temporary Services
(Chicago's informal artists' group Temporary Services is discussed and contrasted to what might be described as the rise of a dark matter Ressentiment exemplified by groups like the Minutemen Border Patrol vigilantes, and the Tea Party.)
5 Glut, Overproduction, Redundancy!
(A journey into the dark matter of the art world's invisible political economy with its hidden dependency on the unremunerated productivity of the majority of artists.)
6 The Unnamable
(Why did Steve Kurtz and Critical Art Ensemble became a targets of the George Bush Department of Justice (sic)? The answer put forth here is that the Tactical Media group openly reverse-engineered power relations dear to the neo-liberal corporate state, all the while doing so as an ambiguously structured collective that, like dark matter, challenged centralized authority.)
(Art collectives, groups, and informal communities reinvent institutional forms for the 21st Century by skeptically imitating the very function of institutional power itself: dark matter embraces its own redundancy to become functional in the world.)
8 Conclusions: Nights of Amateurs
(So-called dark matter creativity is only the most recent expression of a far longer cultural history "from below".)
Notes Bibliography Appendix: Artists' Groups Survey 2008 Index
By Gregory Sholette