After reading Mike Curplar’s substack post describing his experience while attending the filming of American actor, writer, director, and producer Peter Vack’s new movie, www.RachelOrmont.com, the realization that the current state of art is regressing toward child-like sociodynamics is becoming more obvious.
Curplar writes, “What I thought was going to be a “filmed party” where I would be interviewed for 60 seconds and then float around observing people turned out to be an hours-long public humiliation ritual in which I was put on trial as revenge for a negative Substack review of a movie made by Peter and his sister, Betsey Brown”. Why is this happening in New York’s downtown art scene, and why should we care?
Another example is Betsey Brown’s film Actors which was recently showcased at the plush Roxy Cinema in Tribeca. In the film, movie-makers siblings Betsey Brown and Peter Vack play fictionalized versions of themselves who attempt radical body transformations to stave off the creative angst and stay relevant in show business. Vack’s character transitioned to be a woman, and Betsey’s thoughtlessly agrees to have a baby with her boyfriend. The protagonist’s goal was to generate viral content of their own.
Art is “anything you can get away with”, according to Andy Warhol. But it seems that the message streaks hard to the new millennial transgressive thinkers. But it’s not all downhill either, it’s … complicated. The border of the Lower East Side and Chinatown, the bar Clandestino, or the corner where Canal Street meets Essex Street right next to the East Broadway F train station. A glimpse of something lurks in the background, that goes beyond a more contemporary version of How I met your mother.
The constant use of caricatures as an effort to always bring some profit comes across as superficial and competitive. Luther says “it is a thousand times more important to believe firmly in absolution than to be worthy of it”. The lack of faith in Art that transcends the human body makes our contemporary creations absent of true satisfaction. What’s the meaning behind creating a very ignorant and mean-spirited satire of transness?
Things and worldly objects get attached to ideologies. It has always been like this. It was social status in Roman times, and sexual desire or artistic pursuits were fulfilled in a myriad of ways. Then, under the Christian Empire, sexuality led to a new understanding of the freedom of the will, and thus Christian art started to get enriched through the cultural interaction with the Greco-Roman world -an example is how a series of images represented the theme of death and resurrection
We are sons and daughters of a social and cultural movement that resulted in liberalized attitudes toward sex and morality, a.k.a the sexual revolution of the 1960s. And art followed. In the 60s sex was celebrated and explored. Things that weren’t said for centuries finally had found an outlet, and feminism, in both art and art criticism, was vital to the development of art in this period.
Today, the pursuit of expressing ideas in the form of art hasn’t vanished. The need to use a platform to communicate or translate radical ideas is being chewed away. Charismatic individuals defined art movements and explicated and debated through manifestos and other writings, but now we have fit pics and skepticism labeled as fear for “two-faced social climbers”.
It may seem to “have its finger on the pulse” of the current moment but only ever in an opportunistic way, about how it tries to make a “universal art that isn’t single-mindedly focused on identity politics” but ends up being just a very generic and provincial representation of NYC bourgeois class consciousness.Mike Crumplar, Approaches
It’s no longer about the state producing art for its own sake. Nor reflections about the mystery religions on personal salvation, or “‘women taking control of and having pride in the sensuality of their own bodies and creating a sexuality in their own terms, without deferring to the concepts degenerated by culture’, as artist Hannah Wilke puts it. Now it seems art is a medium to engage with “artists and writers and mystery figures that one encounters at openings and parties, and the extraordinary levels of self-belief that so many have cultivated”.
Mike Crumplar’s comments about the “utter emptiness of this “transgression” as an aesthetic pose” seems to make sense, then. Anyone can pose or pretend to be something. A critic, a student, an artist. Everyone strives toward something: cocktails, masturbation, movies, clothes. Maybe the next reincarnation of Peter Vack will make a movie about how a white woman becomes trans-racial so as to stay relevant in the Metaverse. Because life hides everything from people, and their own noise prevents them from hearing anything else.
Should we care? Should an artist have something meaningful to say before showcasing his art to a wide audience? Is the medium important? Drugs are mundane now. We’re at a new intersection point. Where the ways of the old world have abandoned us, but the new ways haven’t sufficiently stupefied us as yet. And as long as we’re young (or lie to ourseves that we still are), we manage to find excuses for the stoniest indifference.