Art Theory and Practice in a Post-Structuralist World
…the Bonaventure Hotel. Its metal structure and plate glass windows rotate slowly around the cocktail bar. The movement of the skyscrapers outside is almost imperceptible. Then you realize it is the platform of the bar that is moving, while the rest of the building remains still…. A dizzying feeling continues inside the hotel as a result of labyrinthine convolution…this pure illusionism, this mere box of spatio-temporal tricks. Ludic and hallucinogenic, is this postmodern architecture? No interior/exterior interface. Glass facades merely reflect the environment, sending back its own image.
— Jean Baudrillard
So get up, get, get, get down
9/11 is a joke in yo town.
— Public Enemy
Urbanism, the study of the city and the matrices of architecture, industry, geography, culture, politics and economics that converge to form what we call the urban environment is nothing short of stultifying—not exactly a suitable subject of inquiry for theoretical dabblers. How the immediate environment informs artistic practice, however, is another matter altogether. The rationalist, the formalist, the idealist, the anarchist, the insider, the outsider, the neophyte, the superstar—each would surely espouse a different opinion on the subject, but it is highly unlikely that any could refute its import without merely calcifying the bias of their own proclivities.
The individual’s relationship to the world—or rather, their world—is as it has always been: purely subjective, and sometimes exasperatingly so. While some might stare in awe at the functional aesthetics of a Miesian skyscraper in Chicago, others could spend the same amount of energy marveling over the poetry of a blade of grass forcing its way through a crack in the pavement in Queens. While to me both gestures are intolerably romantic, they do (somewhat) accurately illustrate the polarities—and peculiarities—of individual perception.
In a city, be it Paris, New York, Hong Kong or Buenos Aries, facets of urbanism converge to create equally subjective collective psychologies—the result of elaborate coping mechanisms that take root in the mind, flow through the body and manifest themselves in the ways people intuit, internalize, accept or reject the prefabricated systems and structures set before and/or against them in their daily lives—or learn to navigate around them. And there is no doubt that location-specific idiosyncrasies are embedded in the creative output of any given city’s inhabitants, be they reflections, reactions or refractions.
Using the framework of architecture and its antecedents, urbanism and the built environment, as overarching metaphors for what I consider to be an archaic system-based logic—the structural foundations upon which immutable systems of power are centered—this issue of Art Lies delves into the various circumventive strategies that art theorists and practitioners employ to reimagine the world, both directly and indirectly. Location, relocation, dislocation; navigation, investigation, destruction, reconstruction, obliteration—the artworks and texts in the following pages unravel in a manner that parallels the hazy, yet-to-be-fully-articulated discourse of post-structuralism.
While some are akin to the quiet nausea induced by the perpetual rotation of the monumentally scaled Lazy Susan in Baudrillard’s America, others scream their consternation from the rooftops of New Orleans. Aside from tone, all the inclusions in this issue of Art Lies share certain premeditated commonalities: they are indefinable and poignant; refutable but compellingly so. And considering the timing and the subject at hand, could it be any other way?
Anjali Gupta, Editor