David Carrier on the Politics …


David Carrier on the Politics of Wild Art:

When Joachim Pissarro and I published Wild Art, our presentation focused on many, well-illustrated examples. The publisher Phaidon wanted that we postpone our fully developed account of the historical and philosophical perspective behind our analysis, believing- wisely so we think- that readers needed first to see many instances of wild art. Now, however, when our account is accessible, it’s time to consider its implications.

Within the American art world, for two generations the dominant political concern has been the far leftist politics. Good art, it has been argued, is critical of the social order; and bad art, by contrast, is politically complacent. By now, the limitations of this way of thinking are obvious to almost everyone. Compared with films or popular music, gallery and museum art has an inherently limited audience. Jeff Koons’ recent Whitney retrospective attracted an unusually large audience to the Whitney Museum. But, however much he admires Michael Jackson, in terms of audience Koon’s sculpture Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988) can hardly compete with its subject, who attracted listeners worldwide.

One reason, then, that wild art is interesting is that because it exists outside of the art world, it has a potentially much larger audience. The ‘exhibition’ of white flags on the Brooklyn Bridge by two German artists, Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke, is a splendid example. Building, as the Times commentary nicely notes, upon numerous recent precedents, their display offers a provocative commentary on our ideas about public space and terrorism, themes very familiar, after all, in Chelsea gallery art. You didn’t need to visit the art world to see this show—or have an opinion about it. Anyone who knows the Brooklyn Bridge is in a position to respond. The task, then, which now faces us is to interpret such art with all of the seriousness that has been given to art world art. Wild art matters because it can be extremely interesting; because it tackles important issues—and, yes!, because it can have an enormous audience.