The Art of Exhaustion: Why Fake Apathy Is The Intellectual Bedrock of Contemporary Art

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Above Chus Martinez and Chus Martinez fail to get it on!

Apathy (also called impassivity or perfunctoriness) is a state of indifference, or the suppression of emotions such as concern, excitement, motivation and passion. An apathetic individual has an absence of interest in or concern about emotional, social, spiritual, philosophical and/or physical life.

They may lack a sense of purpose or meaning in their life. He or she may also exhibit insensibility or sluggishness. In positive psychology, apathy is described as a result of the individual feeling they do not possess the level of skill required to confront a challenge. It may also be a result of perceiving no challenge at all (e.g. the challenge is irrelevant to them, or conversely, they have learned helplessness). In light of the insurmountable certainty of universal doom, apathy is the default mode of existential nihilism, and, as such, is not considered to be a pathological state by those who experience it. Of course all implications of this were fully explored by Arthur Schopenhauer back in the nineteenth-century.

Modern art is also exhausted. The twentieth-century avant-garde endlessly lived out its own death with the chatter of neo-critical production. But despite all the talk about the death of art – stemming, of course, from the debates of the Young Hegelians in the 1840s about the status of art in Hegel’s system once one moved from romantic poetry to philosophy within absolute mind – art is very much alive and kicking and selling for even more wedge than it did before it allegedly snuffed it. Death is big business – go ask an undertaker!

The coolness of death is part of the allure of both modernist and now contemporary art. That is why today’s artist’s must appear so unappealing and so indifferent. Contemporary artists must fake apathy if they are to be taken seriously. After modernism there is no place for romanticism and passion in real art – serious artists are more interested in money than themselves, and those that are fixated on authenticity and their own lives either disappear up their own arses or become vulgar celebrities like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. But art that is truly contemporary and of today – like the work of Liam Gillick and Ai Weiwei – fakes an apathetic interest in the social while pursing financial success at all costs. This is why fake apathy is the bedrock of contemporary art! Baudrillard was right – the social has disappeared into the black (arse)hole of the masses! So remember kids: make it look apathetic or lose all art world credibility! Now go make some money!

4 Responses to The Art of Exhaustion: Why Fake Apathy Is The Intellectual Bedrock of Contemporary Art

michael hampton | August 13, 2012 at 4:53 pm De Sade was an exponent/advocate of apathy, especially when/whilst incarcerated in the Bastille, so it might also be classified as a type of stoicism in the face of impossible odds/circumstances, or even embracing suffering, or long suffering. But I take your point about the fraudulent idiot savants of the contemporary artworld who perpetrate their vacuous undercover exercises in branding.

kperry | August 13, 2012 at 7:20 pm Reblogged this on kperry is ammut.

chusmartinezproject | August 15, 2012 at 10:24 pm  Thanks!

Justin Sayings (@JustinSayings) | August 13, 2012 at 9:25 pm  As money subsumes productivity what is increasingly celebrated as great art is the generation of money, of value, while we lose the ability to care about anything other that our supposedly expanding by actually shrinking social surroundings.

But I wonder do not Hirst and Emin and Co actually lack vulgarity and represent a refined from of inanimate life, a stifled emotional state like a fungus eating way at our values and anything living in the name of individual dominance.


6 Comments on “The Art of Exhaustion: Why Fake Apathy Is The Intellectual Bedrock of Contemporary Art”

  1. The Ageing Forehead says:

    I think you could pick a lot of artists out to prop up this assertion, which of course, is partially true. On the other hand, you could, if you look hard enough, pick out some that speak passionately about their work. Of course, that would undermine the assertion here pretty quickly, so you can’t include that breadth of observation here. This is just confirmation bias really – cherry-picking the current situation to back up a belief that is already held, and with the usual easy targets. The damage to art and our lives by celebrity artists has been greatly exaggerated I think. I personally find quite a lot of art pretty agreeable, commodified or not, socially challenging or not. And the idea that ‘passion’ equals better art is also questionable. If you have a passion-ometer to help you discern I’d love to see it.

    • I think what a lot of people outside the art world don’t realise is how cynical you have to be in order to succeed as an artist. It is all about arse licking curators and collectors and anyone else in a position of power in the institution of art. Successful artists may pretend to be passionate about what they do but in reality they have to be cynical and follow the cash. See for example this telling throwaway comment for what can only be a TV arts programme director using a fake identity so as not to derail his own career (I’ve read a lot of “Man In The Iron Mask’ blog comments to reach this conclusion): “…He ran courses there in ‘community juggling’ – or was that Martin Creed? By the way, Creed once appeared on the BBC Late Review terrified to express an opinion – in case it derailed his career – and wearing a mucky of old map of the Faroes which he’d converted into a sweater…” That comes from the comment thread on this blog: http://stewarthomesociety.org/blog/archives/5551 . Only unsuccessful artists are ever genuinely passionate about what they do (and most of them are completely deluded about the worth of their art – see stuckism for example, minus Billy Childish of course, since he now makes a lot of money from his painting).

      • The Ageing Forehead says:

        In that case then, does that mean all successful artists are ‘bad’ because of this very particular cultural and socio-economic situation they use for their own ends, and also that most unsuccessful artists ‘bad’ because they are just deluded about their worth? If so, then I’m assuming you are saying either that there are a few good one’s lurking about in the unsuccessful fringes, where they are naturally likely to less promoted or known about. How would you know when you’ve found a ‘good’ artist? What are the qualities that would make them good?

        I agree with you about the Stuckists, who look mostly like really bad pop art masquerading as some ridiculous ‘antidote’ to Britart, or some other pointless attempt to gain kudos from polarising the situation. I just hate the way their absurdly unimaginative art actually looks and the silly idea that their supposed honesty improves it in any way. I know it’s often light-hearted but it isn’t very funny either.

      • I think there are bits of pieces of interesting work around made by some not so well known artists…. but not much, and it wouldn’t really matter if the good stuff was art or not. And a few of those more interesting figures – Gustav Metzger for example, and to a lesser extent Henry Flynt (not less interesting, less recognised) – sometimes get a bit of recognition very late in the game. The institution of art needs to co-opt something decent every now and then or it would lose all credibility (not that it has much)…..

  2. I thought fake nudism was the intellectual bedrock of contemporary art?


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