Babylon Now

Bucking the System in Bizarro World

Whether her art is "great" is irrelevant. It confirms that originality—which is still at the core of all great art—is simply changing guises. It's impossible to say what forms these guises will take. But as categories blend and definitions blur, as art absorbs aspects of visual culture and new technologies (and aspects of visual culture and new technologies absorb art in turn), art and our ideas about it will change. For now, the weirdness in the system means we have to be that much more conscious of the system. We have to try not to resolve ambiguities, know that for many the art experience has become a series of lowercase, low-definition encounters, and remember that the system, as Shaw said of fashion, is essentially an "induced epidemic." Like the Internet, as the art world becomes more known, those without preconceptions about its uses will use it in new ways.

Originality is changing guises: Laura Owens’s Untitled (detail, 2000).
Photo courtesy of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise
Originality is changing guises: Laura Owens’s Untitled (detail, 2000).

In the meantime, we don't have to act ambitious because we are ambitious. Maybe if art were more like getting dressed—something we do almost unconsciously, yet with passionate attention to what makes us feel or look good—then it would be a place where the weather suits our clothes, not a place where uniforms are worn. With so many people stuck on autopilot, behaving like establishmentarians, pursuing the named instead of the nameless, and acting as if they know how to do everything, now is a perfect time for each of us to do things our own way. Sooner or later, the system will splinter into many systems. In the future everyone will be famous to 15 people.

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