Maybe I am naïve, but the image above is slightly disturbing to me. Of course, artist need to make a living (sometimes even through selling their art) and so do gallerists, agents and everyone else involved in the art world. As a whole art is quite removed from the needs and urges of society, that is nothing new, but sometimes this becomes brutally obvious. Unfortunately, it seems as if this is especially the case when it comes to art that claims to be conscious to the problems in our contemporary society. In this case the artistic sub-genre would be documentary photography. There is always a disconnection between the photographer and the stuff he or she is trying to document. Maybe we are just not able to bridge some gaps between us and the world around. But who thinks it might be a good idea to post an image like this with a price tag? To me that seems quite disrespectful. But maybe it is just honest. Someone just does not give a fuck and tries to make ends meet.
Some weeks ago, I was in Mannheim. They have a posh new museum building for the Kunsthalle. A hell a lot of donations seemed to have been supported the construction. To an extent rarely seen in Germany, almost every room was named after some wealthy dude or dudess. That for itself – to me at least – is highly questionable. Museums – as institutions of social research – should normally be in a position to question precisely the mechanisms behind this kind or donor culture. Interestingly it seems as if the museum just did not get the problem here. This was obvious judging by the main exhibition on display at the time of my visit. The title of the show: “CONSTRUCTING THE WORLD: ART AND ECONOMY” might give a hint of what this was about. Room after room of artists attempting to question the role economy plays in our modern society. Room after room, that is named for some rich person and who’s name is going to stay behind, long after the critical art piece has left. Tricky.
We might all be complicit. Sure, I myself am part of the problem. I would definitely have reacted enthusiastically to a request by the curator to participate in this show. I would not have questioned the museum itself. That has to do with power structures. If I’d question the museum, maybe I am not going to be included. The same is true for the museum itself. If they’d deny the rich bloke his name plaque, he or she would shovel the money some place else. And that is the bigger issue. I am all for taking money away from people in the form of taxes and therefore denying them their little attitudes. Especially if it comes to institutions like universities, museums, libraries. Places that need to be able to openly question everything. But then there are other people’s attitudes. If invited to a show, could I ever really question the curator that curates the show? The museum director whose institution hosts it? Maybe not. Maybe I wouldn’t, since my participation will never be something, I can take for granted.