Black Bucket Essays
Volume 1, Issue 4
What if there is no next new thing? Do we sit around and mourn the fact that we've seen it before? There's a way to look at creativity that doesn't necessarily have to do with creating something we've never seen before. It can be about reinterpreting or misinterpreting the world that's already around us.
- LAURA HOPTMAN
Misinterpret the world. Perpetuate a myth of creativity in service of this approach.
Or do something almost like that. Could it be that re/mis-interpreting the law is more interesting? In the name of all that is new and transgressive, picture Ms. Hoptman embezzling museum funds instead. Does it violate her logic to misinterpret her quote since she is a part - in a key, paid role, mind you - of the world that is staring back, waiting for “the next new thing?”
Steve McQueen’s film Giardini from 2009 is an artwork that stares back, mutely accomplished, with self-awareness and self-abnegation. No misinterpretation needs to be imposed on it from curatorial catalysts and it makes no pretension to do this for itself. It’s not waiting around for the next thing; it’s just waiting around, which is the new thing.
This was his entry to the Venice Biennale, for and about the pavilion space. He set a camera there to bluntly and obstinately record the Venetian gardens post-Biennale, a place that otherwise features a teeming world of art-money. The art spectacle ends, the art capital must move. Adrian Searle described the McQueen effect: “Having seen the work I find myself wandering around, and not meeting and greeting and pressing the flesh with colleagues and friends from around the world here, but skulking about behind the pavilions in the ivy and the leaf mold and the scraps of litter, listening to the birds and the distant sounds, just as McQueen must have done when he was making this film.” [i]
It is suspension. McQueen examines the mess of that vast international exhibition space when it is not in use for the spectacular artwork and the even more spectacular networking. Replace the apparently exigent circumstances of that world with an indigent lack of circumstances, the inertia of that space. It is shown with its petty crime, its litter, its vagrancy, its own ecosystem of worms, of small birds and rodents, of dogs and cats and the old ladies who feed them, and of two men cruising the parks and taking advantage - as McQueen has done - of the peace offered by the space beneath the table where the scraps fall.
This space, this nothing, I will stick with a dictum from the expert on nothingness, Samuel Beckett. It is a “vigilant coenaesthesia […] a composite of perceiver and perceived.” [ii]
Here, it would be a wasted opportunity to fail to mention what can unequivocally be termed the next new thing. Yesterday, when I related this prompt to my brother, he told me about the latest from the Swiss art collective !Mediengruppe Bitnik. They devised an “automated online shopping bot”[iii] with $100 bit coin and instructions to randomly purchase items from the dark web. The robot bought Ecstasy, a Hungarian passport, and a baseball cap with a built-in camera. The hapless robot breaks the law, gets arrested, is released on bail. Is this new? Hell yes it is.
So to take that quote at the beginning more seriously, I reiterate that you have to replace the word “world” in her quote with the word “law.”
[i] Private View with Adrian Searle, Steve McQueen at the Venice Biennale, The Guardian, June 4, 2009.
[ii] Samuel Beckett, excerpt from Three Dialogues, reprinted in Art in Theory 1900-1990, edited by Charles Harrison and Paul Wood. Blackwell Press, 1992.
[iii] Arjun Kharpal, Robot with $100 bitcoin buys drugs, gets arrested, CNBC, April 21, 2015.