This next 10-20 years are a moment. Boomers are aging and dying,i debts are exploding,ii currencies are crumbling,iii China is ascendant,iv the energy economy is rewiring,v religions are transmogrifying,vi news media has lost it,vii institutions are decaying,viii machines tooker jerbs,ix screens are everywhere,x cameras are everywhere,xi content is everywhere,xii anxiety is everywhere,xiii social-cultural-economic stagnation isn’t sure if it’s coming or going, protein folding turns out to be trivial,xiv same for mRNA vaccines,xv so biotech is booming, meanwhile space travel is looming,xvi and in the midst of it all, perhaps unsurprisingly, the value of improv skills is at an all-time high. To quote writer Dean Kissick:xvii
Reactionary conspiracy theorists slash performance artists slash like Alex Jones, and before him Glenn Beck, who bewitch audiences with their dances and incantations, are pure improvisation. It’s where their most irrational ideas probably come from. Both US presidents appear to be improvising much of the time as well. Neither’s particularly what you’d call on-message. Nor was the third candidate, Kanye West, whose hours-long, free-associating interviews take freestyling to a strange new visionary place. Many rap songs are now pieced together, not unlike Trecartin’s films, line by line, word by word, syllable by syllable in dark recording booths into the night. Twitch streamers let everything pour out in rivers of consciousness, as do many podcast hosts. Camgirling is improv theatre. There’s more surreal free-flowing entertainment than ever. Some great artists I know use improv techniques to come up with ideas. I won’t give away their secrets here, but some of the best artists are performers that never get up and perform.
All art is propaganda… The only difference is the kind of propaganda. Since art is essential for human life, it can’t just belong to the few. Art is the universal language, and it belongs to all mankind. All painters have been propagandists or else they have not been painters… Every artist who has been worth anything in art has been such a propagandist… Every strong artist has been a propagandist. I want to be a propagandist and I want to be nothing else… I want to use my art as a weapon.
Reflecting on the last four years, despite the brainless “at least we’ll get some Great Art” takes, “Contemporary Art” largely doesn’t seem to have survived this period as a social or cultural phenomenon. I cant think of a time Art has ever been less present in modern life. It had ossified into decadence, the few platforms for worthwhile voices already cut perilously adrift under neoliberalism. Hollywood, Netflix largely beat it at optimizing spectacle without meaning; anyone familiar with “Contemporary Art” could have told you it was terminally ill
But worry not! God doesn’t give a shit about anyone over 43-years-old anyways and there’s simply no shortage of superpowered 16-year-olds coming up through the ranks. To quote comedianxx Jerry Seinfeld:xxi
That’s the game we’re playing. That’s life. Life is they’re trying to kill you. You get this free ride till you’re, let’s be generous, 43, and then God goes, “You know what? I’m going to move on to the people in their — 16 to 23 and I’m going to give them my best. If you want to hang around, you can hang around, but I’m not giving you anything anymore. It’s on you now. If you want to stick around, go ahead, but I got nothing for you. You figure it out. [...] God is happy to — “I’m not going to ask you to leave, but I got nothing for you. I’m going to start giving these 15-year-old girls amazing stuff. And the boys, I’m going to give them crazy — that’s my focus. My focus is 15-year-olds, turning them into superhumans. You? Done with you.
That’s the great thing about high school girls. We keep getting older, but they stay the same age. And speaking of Matthew McConaughey, you ever hear about the art of running downhill?xxii
…Jerry Harris. I remember him telling me—he reached out, I hadn’t talked to him for years. He reached out and he goes, “Hey, Matthew, from a small town, Uvalde, Texas. You came through Longview, Texas, now you went out there, now you’re a famous Hollywood star and you got all these things.”
He goes, “Make sure you don’t suffer too much from the non-deserving complex. That happens when some people get real successful from sort of humble beginnings.” And it made a lot of sense to me, because I was noticing that in the name of obstacles being the way, I was creating obstacles for myself.
Some of them are very unnecessary, meaning here’s my life, I’m successful, I’m rolling, I am catching green lights, I’m rolling downhill. I very less-than-gracefully handled some of my success. I would become belligerent, at times I didn’t become belligerent. At the end of that, I always say this: “It’s okay to have a point to prove, just don’t always be trying to prove a point.”
Well, I had many times where I would try to prove a point. You know what I mean? And it was my own insecurity. It was my own self trying to find some balance in this. It was me. I was seeing the mendacities of all these people in Hollywood, all of a sudden saying, “I love you.”
And I’m like, “Man, I’ve said that to four people in my life and everyone says it out here. Ah, they’re full of shit,” because I was taking things personally even, and sort of sabotaging some of the red carpet wine and caviar that was being handed to me. You know what I mean?
And I was slipping to some of my more banal self at times and doing a proverbial face plant. Meaning I’m running downhill, and since this is all easy street, I need resistance, so I think I’m going to trip myself and face plant right into the concrete so I can break my nose, so I can be like, “Ah, there I go. Now I’m earning it. Now. I feel it. Now I’ve earned it. Now I deserve it.”
Well, that can be a little foolish. There’s an art to going downhill. And so what I noticed was, “Oh, hard times are going to come. It’s going to get dry. You’re not going to be able to do whatever script you want to do, McConaughey.”
And I’ve had those times. Or in a relationship we go through, it doesn’t go well. Or someone gets sick in the family, a real uphill battle enters our life. And so the art of running downhill is about, “Hey, enjoy it. When you’re going downwind downhill, don’t trip yourself, because that uphill is coming, all right. It’s going to come whether you want it to or not. So don’t trip yourself and face plant right now, because you’re going to have to work your ass off here very shortly, anyway.”
So before we completely face plant because we tied our own shoelaces together, let’s take stock of a few artsy fartsy moments from this, well, estuarial moment. I’m hardly nostalgic by nature, but fuck me if these Adidas FYW XTA “Sand” sneakers didn’t pull at my heartstrings enough for me to find a pair from Italy to buy. These shoes were easily the stand-out footwear design in the late 90’s for me, certainly in my little arts school bubble. For reference of the time and place, Seiko-quartz-powered Oakley Time Bombs the coolest thing on the planet in my prepubescent imagination and beyond luxe at USD $1`500, and somehow that same go-anywhere-do-anything vibe came through in a more cheerful and undeniably more accessible form factor (and price point) with the FYW XTAs, what with the Doug-aping cartoon mascot.
In addition to these new foot-mounted sculptural installations, we also have wall-mounted, and homemade, varieties to capture:
With more artwork in the making; always making, making making:
As well as suspended sculptures, some of which are holiday-themed:
Which are then installed:
Which are in turn juxtaposed against these AR “installations” on the “rainbow bridge” by KAWS and Olafur Eliasson via Acute Art:
Which we won’t confuse for the tactility of this non-vitrined porcelain, in contrast to our moment-pausing, aquarium-full-of-shot-glasses-obsessed Mr. de Waal:
And then other moments are for pausing. And watching. Tacet:
Skating, skating, skating… together, alone, together… alone:
Breaking down to reshape, reshaping to reform, reforming to build, building to create, creating to forget? It’s all just a gift. A flower. A moment at the estuary between past and future:
___ ___ ___
- Let’s do health care. ↩
- Deficit spending dependencies. ↩
- The Revolution Was Fiat, The Reaction Is Bitcoin. ↩
- Racial (in)equality and you, or why China’s your daddy. ↩
- Trench Warfare vs. Despotism, a brief look at Tesla and Mercedes. ↩
- Trusting God-fearing men is one of your better business strategies. ↩
- Vox populi, vox dei, no more. ↩
- Bro, you believe in the moon? Pshaw! ↩
- The robot tax. ↩
- Finding the light. ↩
- What “do it for the gram” tells us about our post-political age. ↩
- No, you can’t publish too much content. ↩
- What’s up with all the anxiety? ↩
- AlphaFold2 @ CASP14: “It feels like one’s child has left home.” ↩
- The story of mRNA: How a once-dismissed idea became a leading technology in the Covid vaccine race. ↩
- Virgin Galactic’s Mach 3 delta wing. ↩
- From Dean’s article “The Downward Spiral: 2020” for Spike Art Magazine. Don’t worry, I’ve never heard of this magazine before either. ↩
- What, you think anyone fully grasps the potentiality and impact of the WMD that is Bitcoin? Not 1 in 10,000 hodlers, to say nothing of the unenlightened. ↩
- Rudnick via Twitter. ↩
- And Porschephile extraordinaire…. ↩
- From Jerry’s recent interview with Tim Ferriss. ↩
- From McConaughey’s interview with Tim Ferriss. ↩
- Northern Lights, 2017, by Douglas Coupland is the striking illumination of Westbank/BIG’s Telus Sky building in downtown Calgary that reshapes the foothills skyline the way Santiago Calatrava did with the Peace Bridge in 2012 and Sir Norman Foster did with The Bow in 2013. ↩