[The Seven by Nine Squares home page] [YAWN 9] [Art Strike 1990-1993]

Broken Promises

My position on the Art Strike (i.e.: one white boy's knee-jerk materialist analysis): it seems to me that easy access to the means of artistic (re)production (photocopiers & cassette tapes) altered the material relations between some cultural workers & the commodities they produce. This results in (or co-occurs with) a changed set of social relations. Since access to the means of production is no longer necessarily controlled/mediated by a hierarchical class of "owners" (including editors/galleries/critics, via their "ownership" of cultural validation), a network of cultural workers has evolved, producing & exchanging their work amongst themselves, and creating a sub-culture: that of mail art and "Networking".

In reaction to the hierarchical control system in the mass-mediated dominant "art" culture, some confused ideas appear in the mail art sub-culture. One is that all participants have equal access to the "network". We are all affirmed as creative beings, and offered a completely open venue of expression, to be judged only on the merits of our work. A similar idea is that all product of the "network" are in some way of equal value-the perennial "no rejections/documentation to all" mail art show. Ideally, this would put the responsibility for critical response on each individual viewer; but in reality, the role of cultural consumer hasn't kept pace with changed roles of cultural producer. Folks still seem to wait for validation of their work by some outside arbiter-Factsheet Five, for instance. Hence the endless bitch when your favorite 'zine pans your latest cassette. The situation is self-imposed, though-by complaining about unfavorable reviews, the artist gives the power of validation to that reviewer. I believe that folks must learn to make their own critical judgements, and that intelligent reviews by other folks can help with that, if folks can read them as only one person's opinion instead of gospel.

I think of that process (people learning to think for themselves) as revolutionary. Likewise, it's revolutionary when folks try to break out the mold of "received culture" and act (as in "take action", not as in "pretend") creatively and freely. The unfulfilled promise of the "Network" as one venue for that kind of activity is something that should be addressed and criticized-but just because much of what is produced is shit doesn't mean that the process is a failure. We fail if we aren't critical enough in our judgements (of self and others), if we don't take responsibility for doing good (honest, relevant, communicative, fun) work. So, I'm happy to spout Art Strike propaganda as an excuse to provoke discussion of all these issues, even as I continue to "make art". Pretty consistently, these discussions are honest, relevant, communicative and fun.

[Cleveland, Ohio