[my paintings] are about death in a way: the uneasy death of modernism.
Nothing is more conservative than the apocalyptic genre
Nothing seems to be more common in our present situation than a millenarianist feeling of closure.
Endless diagnosis of death(celebratory or melancholic)-death of ideologies(Lyotard), industrial society(Bell), the real(Baudrillard), authorship(Barthes), man(Foucault), history(Kojeve)-death of modernism(by everyone when they use the term post-modernism)-are these voices of mystagogy bearing the tone of Kant in About a Recently Raised Pretentiously Noble Tone in Philosophy? Derrida- Each time-no generic answer to this question-no single paradigm of the apocalyptic-no ontological enquiry about 'its' tone-different tone of the writings-misguided-perverse-to connect Barthes to Baudrillard, Foucault to Bell, Lyotard to Kojeve-examine the tone of the apocalyptic discourse.
Feeling of closure, apocalyptic discourse.
I will focus here on a specific claim: that of the death of painting, and more specifically, the death of abstract painting.
Two historical circumstances-whole history of abstract painting can be read as a longing for its death-recent emergence of neo-abstract painters-official mourners or resurrectors of abstract painting. First circumstance-when did it start?-where can we locate the beginning of the end in modern painting-feeling, discourse, representation of the end? New generation of interested painters-is abstract painting still possible? Is abstract or any kind of painting possible? is abstract painting, sculpture, film, modes of thought still possible? Apocalyptic question-is anything, life, desire, etc. still possible?
The question about the beginning of the end and the question about the (still) possibility of painting are historically linked: it is the question about the (still) possibility of painting which is at the beginning of the end which is at the beginning of the end which has been our history, namely what we are accustomed to name modernism.
Enterprise of modernism-abstract painting-emblem-couldn't have functioned without an apocalyptic myth. Freed from all extrinsic conventions-abstract painting-bring forth pure parousia of its own essence-tell the final truth thereby terminate its course. Pure beginning, liberation from tradition, zero degree-proposed by first generation of abstract painters-as an omen of the end. Through Historicism and essentialism of abstract painting-the enterprise of abstract painting understood its birth as a calling for its end. Malevich-no question of painting in Suprematism-painting ended long ago-artist prejudice of the past. Mondrain-his painting was preparing for the end which would occur once absolute essence of painting was determined. Abstract painting-do not imagine the feeling of the end is solely a function of its essentialism-necessary to interpret essentialism as the effect of larger historical crisis-industrialization-appearance of photography and mass production-caused the end of painting. Mass production-end of painting- misc-en-scene – invention of the readymade. Challenge-mechanical apparatus of photography and mass production-painting had to redefine its status, to reclaim a specific domain.
Abstract painting as emblem of modernism, zero degree, industrialization, photography, mass production.
The beginnings of this agonistic struggle have been well described by Meyer Schapiro: the emphasis on the touch, on texture, and on gesture in modern painting is a consequence of the division of labour inherent in industrial production.
Industrial capitalism-banished hands from the process of production-work of art-manual handling-workers compelled to demonstrate exceptional nature of their mode of production. Courbet to Pollock-a practice of one-upmanship. Present day 'returns to painting' a farcical repetition of this historical progression.
Benjamin once noted that the easel painting was born in the Middle Ages, and that nothing guarantees that it should remain forever. But are we left with these alternatives: either a denial of the end or an affirmation of the end of the end?
Theory of games-Hubert Damisch-dissociates generic game from the specific game (play). How can one determine what in their exchange is in the order of play and what is in the order of the game? It does not propose homogeneous time either. This strategic approach deciphers painting-agonistic field-nothing is ever terminated or decided once and for all-dismisses all certitudes of absolute truths upon which apocalyptic discourse is based-fiction of the end of art-confusion between the end of the game itself and that of such and such a play.
Theory of game, Generic game, Play.
One can conclude then, that, if the play 'modernist painting' is finished, it does not necessarily mean that the game 'painting' is finished: many years to come are ahead for this art.
Complicated situation: play 'modernist painting' was the play of the end of painting-a response to both, feeling of the end and working through of the end-historically determined by the fact of industrialisation. To claim 'end of painting' is finished is to claim that this historical situation is no longer ours-depicts naivety when it appears that reproducibility and fetishization have permeated all aspects of our life: have become our 'natural' world.
Industrialization, reproducibility, fetishization.
Mourning has been the activity of painting throughout this century.
'To be modern is to know that which is not possible anymore', Roland Barthes. Work of mourning doesn't necessarily become pathological-feeling of end-produced a cogent history of modernist painting-probably promptly buried by us. Painting might not be dead. Vitality will be tested once we are cure of our mania and our melancholy-belief in our ability to act in history-accept the project of working through the end rather than evading it through elaborate defence mechanisms-settle our historical task-the task of mourning. Potential for painting will emerge in the conjunctive deconstruction of the three instances which has been dissociated by the modernist painitng-predictions are made to be wrong. Desire for painting remains-not entirely programmed or subsumed by the market-sole factor of a future possibility of painting-non-pathological mourning. Robert Musil-if some painting is still to come, if painters are still to come, they will not come from where we expect them to.
Mourning, conjunctive deconstruction of the three instances which modernist painting has dissociated.