Saturday, May 27, 2023

Contemporary Art Writing Quarterly: Darren Bader (draft)

Anton Chigurh: Don't put it in your pocket. It's your lucky quarter.

Gas Station Proprietor: Where do you want me to put it?

Anton Chigurh: Anywhere not in your pocket. Where it'll get mixed in with the others and become just a coin. Which it is.

Most art is like lucky quarters. Can made indistinguishable from their unconsecrated brethren, objects, just a coin. When an artwork is thrown into the world's pile, there is an anxiety of an artwork lost, returning to common object, which it is. 

If once there was a critical contingent of art that wanted to spread art to everyone, merge art and life - Bader is someone who is willing to accept the terms of such, gleefully risk losing the critical difference between art and objects, which doesn't actually enrich life but simply removes the halo above our ordained objects, tossing it all into the sea. 

This is possibly the reason a lot of artists hate Bader, this refusal to perform any sort of critical consolidation of art, or of his practice, that moral underpinning of art, "criticality," (that ethic reproduced in art school). The halo is risked, not repolished. Instead, at the cost of any "critical" structure, a near incessant expansion. His ability to take. Any of Bader's "good ideas" are buried in an avalanche of "any idea." 

Because if Bader seems to come out of a minimalist and conceptual legacy, it is that history's tension between object's specificity and their genericness, singular yet replaceable, a box built industrially to specs, or definitions/instructions superseding the objects they define, and for Bader one burrito and all burritos are with the possibility of being the same. The psychoactive part of Bader's work is this aspect of minimalism hypertrophied, that you can never be sure if you are looking at a concept or an object. Even people.

Bader's reduction of things to names, names converted to songs which share them, (this makes them equitable in Bader's world) which songs all played at once orchestrate the cacophony of the world. The noise of things. Concepts delineate what the world cannot: if you converted the world to song, it would be just noise. How sad. Like Creed's All the Bells, aesthetic considerations are subordinate to the rule of name, category: bells, all. Language becomes code allowing for slippage, treating things as their categories, there is no difference between burritos only the category, burrito, which makes the Kickstarter to help Darren Bader become Martin Creed doubly funny for both's categorical tomfoolery, under which two of the same thing can be one.

Because if we're going to take seriously the idea of dead fire bricks arranged gravenly on floors, or water become tree, then too so we must accept with it its ideological twin, shrimp tossed in a foosball table or muffins arranged. To argue one way or the other the importance of bricks/floor vs shrimp/game is to already enter into Bader's standoff, and lose to the man brilliantly willing to lose everything to win.

Bader is exhausting.  A lot of artists - despite whatever art's claims to freedom, and ostensible rejection of cultural values - wouldn't let themselves behave half this stupidly. The criticism is perhaps that acting stupidly isn't really freeing, but really neither is what most artists do anyway. Mirrors are best when they are stupid.

If Darren Bader is experiencing some mania or hesitancy over images/object as least he’s doing it in an interesting way - or the least interesting way - or the least artful, maybe most arty, way. There’s no need to band-aid beauty to anything, and, like M. Creed a sort of categorical impulse over the objects themselves lets them express enough. Each object to its own, because Objects are crazy, and how is it possible to move past this. It’s minimalism on a meta-level, where if we can experience academic hysteria over boxes, stones, and neon in a room, then surely a mere arrangement of some of the world’s products would rub up an equal static charge.

Sure its like “The Busy World of Richard Scary” for adults, but at least you don’t have to look at a room full of paintings again. It would be more interesting to talk about most of these objects sitting on the floor than it would most paintings in galleries today. Some of these objects are miraculous, a lot of the world is; who needs a painting, or worse, art.

A PR for Bader states: "What is compelling here is not a proposal that these assemblages are meaningful, but that there is a chance they could be." The line is telling, much to unpack. The anxiety of things. Of their meaning. A real terror.