Essentially, the decade’s first five years saw the continuation of a major schism between sociocultural and political realities in the UK and a set of hermetic aesthetic concerns, discourses and debates in the sector.
emerging through its ‘Frame’ and ‘Focus’ programmes. In fact, this fetishisation of ‘independence’ by established organisations and institutions belied how little they understood of the concept of entry-level in the sector. For those aspiring to enter into the ield, independence is (in a similar way to how the term ‘authentic’ functions on mass-produced consumer products) a largely meaningless label meant to signify a type of qualitative distinction or style, a certain edginess, a pseudo iconoclasm. The commercial gallery Arcadia Missa is paradigmatic in this sense. Beginning life as a ‘project space’ in 2011, the gallery always catered to a speci ic monocultural post-grad in-group of the largely bourgeois, and was, along with the gimmicky car park projects of Bold Tendencies, a contributor to and bene iciary of the gentri ication of Peckham by aspirant hipsters who complained about the gentri ication of Peckham by aspirant hipsters.
Essentially, the decade’s irst ive years saw the continuation of a major schism between sociocultural and political realities in the UK and a set of hermetic aesthetic concerns, discourses and debates in the sector. The reason for this separation was that the sharp ends of those sociocultural and political realities were initially only felt by the heterogeneous working class, key workers, black people, Asians, travellers and immigrants in general – groups the art world historically either ignored or actively discriminated against. As zero-hour contracts spread like wild ire, and cuts to public services and welfare provisions signalled an aggressively accelerated neoliberal rearrangement of society, Anita and Poju Zabludowicz were capitalising on their spread of wealth, their philanthropic groundwork and market activity to position themselves as key players in the ield by partnering with the curatorial departments of Goldsmiths and the Royal College of Art, and throwing money and resources at bloated works like Andy Holden’s ‘Towards A Uni ied Theory of M!MS’, which they commissioned in 2013. As research and word spread of the pair’s links to arms dealing, incursions into Palestinian land, support for the Conservative Party and the Israeli Air Force, many refused to work or associate with them or with the institution – my own decision not to came in 2014, but many of my contemporaries still have not joined the boycott (see Lizzie Homersham’s ‘Artists Must Eat’ in AM384).
Perhaps sensing a rising tide of opposition, the Zabludowiczs’ attentions shi ed towards the purchase of and support for examples of an emerging discipline that was indifferent to their track record: post-internet art. Essentially the stylised formalisation of a sensibility that uncritically fetishised technology and revelled in irony, post-internet art arrived in the irst half of the 2010s as a perfect vehicle for many artists, theorists, curators, collectors and commissioners (see my feature ‘Right Shi ’ in AM387). What secured postinternet art’s position in the UK art world’s apolitical economy was an underlining philosophy of sociocultural, economic and political insouciance. The socalled theory of accelerationism argued for a form of over-identi ication with neoliberalism, advocating the use of capitalist tropes, aesthetics and behaviours as the only real way to combat or ‘exhaust’ late capitalism and its associated cultural phenomena – Amalia Ulman’s hoax Instagram sel ie artwork Excellences and Perfections of 2014 is usually cited as an example. Many swallowed this garbled and childish illogic (which emerged from a postgraduate seminar where it should have stayed) as a kind of theoretical ballast for the discipline. What further justi ied sociopolitical inattention was the denigration of so-called ‘digital dualism’. Super icially arguing in support of a holistic approach to contemporary experience, where life of line and online is so intimately bound as to be inseparable, the post-internet coterie identi ied digital dualists as those who are conservatively wedded to the idea that life of line is separate from life online. The result of this dichotomous construct was that post-internet sympathisers used their disdain for dualists as an excuse to push forward a type of digital monism – one of the laws in Legacy Russell’s oddly anachronistic new book Glitch Feminism. Rather than arguing for a societal model in which events and experience of line and online operate in a state of existential parity, the post-internet approach presented a new hierarchy of attention where only activity online was deemed paramount or socioculturally pertinent. Tumblr became the only territory. Again, the reasoning was self-serving and simple to the point of being imbecilic: if there is no distinction between life of line and online, went the logic, then why pay attention to anything happening away from the keyboard. But, even as net evangelists obsessed over vernacular web aesthetics, luid identities, new age vibes, 3D modelling, seapunk, indexless images, gender play, ambivalent signi iers and strategies of what Hal Foster dubbed ‘mimetic exacerbation’, events adversely affecting huge swathes of the population were actually happening in the concrete and literal world of bricks and mortar.
The state-led mission to demolish social housing and displace thousands of tenants was a frontline coalition government policy that found legislative expression in the 2014 Housing and Planning Bill. It subsequently came into force as the Housing and Planning Act in 2016. During the six-year period leading up to the Bill becoming law, a huge multiracial, multicultural and multi-campaign movement of large-scale estate occupations, regular street protests of thousands, legal challenges, anti-eviction initiatives and more igured as part of possibly the largest, most diverse and sustained (it is still going on) resistance initiative in the UK this century. During those half-dozen years, more than 35 housing estates in London (holding a population in the thousands), and more across the UK, were either demolished, were under threat of demolition or were socially cleansed (tenants removed). The scale of suffering and violence, both physical and bureaucratic, was staggering both in itself and for the fact that it was largely ignored or played down by agenda-setting media outlets (BBC, Channel 4, broadsheet and tabloid newspapers, FM broadcasters etc) and almost completely passed over by the art world. Roger Hiorns’s Seizure, 2008 (Reviews AM320), an installation that used copper sulphate crystals to encrust the interior of an empty council lat (not a neutral fact in a city
Art Monthly no. 442, December 2020 – January 2021
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