Dialogue with Peter Schwarz, take 1:

We may always be threatened with apocalyptic hysteria and catastrophes, and many will die in such catastrophes, tragically and needlessly, but when it appears that the human spirit is nearly crushed suddenly one encounters a moment when the human spirit rises up, defiant.

To play a cello in the ruins of a national library ( Sarajevo)
To pass a poet among clandestine hands (Soviet underground samizdat)

Hi Peter,
I really enjoyed reading this.  I like the idea of art as an inevitable gesture, an action rather than a physical entity or thing you can read.  Maybe that's what's appealing about Nick's game poetry or electronic-based writing -- maybe it's the interaction that feels like art.  The act of reading, writing, viewing, thinking, putting it out there, putting up a new exhibit or taking one down or realizing you need to write something... maybe those actions and not their products are the essence of art.  Maybe instead of "art" vs. "the artistic process" it should be "art" vs. "the artistic product."

And maybe I'm crazy.


Art is always a gesture--inevitable regardless of any particular situation. I was drawn to examining art as a process rather than a collection of objects after conversations I had with artists, writers, and other intellectuals about art history, politics, NY, the avant-garde especially in relation to today's cultural climate. In these conversations, I noticed that some people, despite their knowledge of various art movements and practitioners, would invariably settle on one movement as their defining aesthetic or they would more often fall into one particular clique (unless something compelled their vision to change). Usually critical arguments would bring this to the surface, in an odd manner: at face value, some people espoused diversity thus the disdain for criticism that they frequently expressed, yet it often seemed that their support for diversity was either a justification of their own art form’s legitimacy or it provided a balm for their own ego; beneath the surface, they believed something was wrong with everything else and that was why they were doing what they were doing. Which is basically fine to me—there are moments when it’s legitimate, in a critical mode, to say “no, you’re going in the wrong direction” or “you don’t understand the material with which you’re working”—but it’s the lack of honesty that irritates me. (If you think something is shit then say it! Just be intellectual about it.) And this is where criticism enters…the art of criticism has taken a huge hit from the rise of egalitarianism, and the effects are showing in the cultural world. Combined with a meagre knowledge of art history (or literary history for that matter)—which is a necessity to develop—and one may have a better picture of the malaise that has settled on the art world and why, ironically, there’s a turn towards reinterrogating history. It’s politically safer.

I admit that I also became swept up in the seduction of the "movement", in the euphoria of creating a single aesthetic...it's intoxicating to feel, to think that you've discovered the true form of art that will liberate humanity from all its ills (if one still believes art can play such a role). You can see the 40,000 year history of art's development vis-a-vis its specific moment in time, but somewhere they were all wrong, just fucking wrong.. A significant cause for this thought is, I think, 20th Century High modernism which, broadly speaking, wanted and attempted to cut the cord to the Past, to History, because the Present was the only departure point for the Perfect Future.

While there is truth to the idea that every moment creates its own voice, it is also true that there will be many voices contributing to the whole—working collaboratively, in isolation, and competitively. This is very true of the current age in which we live, except maybe there’s less emphasis on competition. By viewing art as process, one might be better able to navigate through trends and styles, which come and go with whatever impact. This is why—as a curator, a critic, a writer—I seek to be the facilitator or the mediator between various circles. It’s an interactive role.