It began with Marcel Duchamp. From there it was down the slippery slope to the avant-gardizing and idealizing of the commodity as a form of esthetic entertainment. The inevitable evolution of market economics to recycle the commodity into various conceptual products. Esthetic purity where art and economics collide, subsumed into the invention of novel commodities.
You have Nike Mondrian shoes,Lichenstein BMW’s, where products shed a commodity identity where pure abstract art devolves into decorative design. But it does raise the exchange value , such as a Calder BMW which serves to reify abstraction and the cool into a marketable commodity with “edge.”
Stuart Hall: All images are encoded and decoded. An image is initially encoded with meaning when created and produced, then further encoded when the image is placed in a context or setting. The viewer then decodes the image when it is consumed .
( see link at end) Put simply: Is there a problem with this situation, and if so what precisely is it? Further, what solutions may be offered? In a provocative recent book, Stuart Ewen offers a clear evaluation of the contemporary image system. He states it succinctly:
The danger is this: as the world encourages us to accept the autonomy of images, “the given facts that appear” imply that substance is unimportant, not worth pursuing. Our own experiences are of little consequence, unless they are substantiated and validated by the world of style. In the midst of such charades, the chasm between surface and reality widens; we experience a growing sense of disorientation…. For meaningful alternatives to come into being, however, the dominance of surface over substance must be overcome. There must be a reconciliation of surface over substance, a reinvigoration of a politics of substance.
Beneath his insightful analysis and his many examples from different domains, Ewen maintains a relatively simple division: There is a world of “substance” where real power rests and where people live their real lives (the “material” world of “essence”) and there is a world of “style” and surface (the evanescent world of “appearances”). In the history of twentieth century capitalism the world of substance has been hidden and given a false veil by the world of appearances. People have given up control of the real world and immersed themselves in the ultimately illusory world of appearances. Surface has triumphed over substance. Read More:http://www.units.muohio.edu/technologyandhumanities/SutJhally.pdf
Even countercultural anti-art, such as Duchamp’s readymades, and anti-elite non-art, such as “happenings” – the pseudo-eureka moment, throwaway art made by quasi-chance in contrast to art made in the belief that it would last forever, that is, art that identifies itself with eternity rather than the specious present — is actively acculturated in the commercial world as “spectacle” in publicity and television shows: distilled and diluted re-workings of Yves Klein and Allan Krapow peformance art with their focus on “individualism.” The advertising world is very aware and capable of linking the avant-gard to commodities and into the cultural dialog.
The ingenuity of our modern times has been this liberation of objects from banality; where even weapons like drone aircraft can be attributed to Bauhaus design and ethics, making them into the spectacular. Like an i-pad.
( see link) Certainly Duchamp’s Large Glass — ironically anti-elite art resurrected as the ultimate elite art, glass fragments, thin foil, lead wire and dust resurrected as a one-of-a-kind collectible, not to say irreplaceable unique commodity — has become an entertaining esthetic commodity, as he himself recognized when he deplored the fact that spectators came to regard it as beautiful and tasteful, undermining his insistence on what he called its esthetic indifference and tastelessness. Duchamp’s Large Glass may once have demanded psychic work, which the psychoanalyst Hanna Segal says differentiates art from entertainment, which makes no psychic demands on one, but it has been theorized to death, confirming that it has become theoretical entertainment — or is it that theoretical work has become entertaining in postmodernity, making the art it operates on unworkable in experience? — and thus no longer works as either anti-art or art. I suggest that without Man Ray’s publicizing and reifying photographic reproduction of the Large Glass covered in dust, it would not have gained art historical consequence as a break with and even negation of art, certainly
disruptive re-conceptualizing. Duchamp set it on the self-destructive path to Conceptualism — so-called dematerialized, and one might add demoralized art. Read More:http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/art-and-capitalist-spectacle2-8-11.asp