Is the artist necessary for making art today? (Pt.1)

Answers by Jono Podmore, Mi You, Max Stolkin, Nick Montfort, Antonia Low, Hannes Bajohr,

Lina Viste Grønli, Anthony Moore, Christoph Westermeier, Birgit Kempker and Jemma Cullen


Once, twice and thrice


I despair of the dorks, the dopes, the Enose and Beanos in my business who claim, while hiding behind their flappy lappy topses, that an algorithm has created the deeply uninspiring, abstracted and acoustically challenged drivel we are expected to allow to fall oft uninvited into our shell-likes. Not themselves, of course – god forbid any human responsibility in this supercollided brave new interwebscape.


A musical score is an algorithm – a structure and a set of instructions. Mozza’s Requiem (KV 626) is a different sounding piece with every performance yet it is his piece. He wrote the algorithm. The creator of the algorithm has written the piece. The orchestra or computer is following the orders of the human composer. If it was at any point anyone’s idea to set up the train of events that ended in a work of art, then they are the artist. No matter how incognito, demure or just plain lazy, the audience will identify and recognise the artist’s idea in the very existence of the piece.



Case closed.


Post script – exhibit A
All those lovely 70’s home organs. Built in drum machine and auto chord. “You can switch it on and it plays itself!” Nah…. You can switch it on and it will perform a composition by Yamaguchi-san, the inconspicuous programmer and secret Salsa overlord in his Kobe studio. Yamaguchi-san – I salute you!


Jono Podmore



The answer is not yes, if by “artist” you mean the “individualist artist” and by “art” you mean “that which has exchange and/or symbolic value, and to some degree aesthetic value (but that is not really important)”.



“The artist is necessary for making art today” is not true (given the conditions above).


Axiom 1:

The individualist artist produces works for value. Definition 1: Here value is understood broadly as commercial value (gained from sales and/or exchanges), symbolic value (gained through circulation on platforms of symbolic sur- plus, which leads in one or another to commercial value), and also a certain value of feel-good self-assurance gained through other value producing mechanisms.


Definition 2:

The individualist artist is characterized not just by way of identification in terms of authorship (either as a single person or a multitude – an art group has a name too), but more so by way of presupposing the ontology that the artist is a genius, creative, and makes works that harbor certain truth, of the society or of other orders.


Axiom 2:

Anything can be made into art.


Definition 3:

Art is an empty placeholder for the result of a system of legitimization operations, involving mystification, mediation, and above all, a common belief that it is unique.


Demonstration 1:

If, according to Axiom 1, the determination of the artist of his/her role as an artist is based on an individualistic view, which, according to Axiom 2, reflects the very essentialized understanding of art as unique, then the statement “The artist is necessary for making art today” is a tautology, which means the statement is not true, but not false either.




Demonstration 2:

If, according to Axiom 2, anything can be turned into art, then the mechanism of legitimization and signification is inher- ently self-perpetuating, and capable of finding substitutes for the figure of the artist and the entity of the artwork. Therefore, “The artist is necessary for making art today“ is not true.


Mi You


Note: I am indebted to artist duo Katleen Vermeir & Ronny Heiremans, as well as Prof. Andrea Phillips among other friends and colleagues, with who I got to reflect on art and value collectively.



Hallo Herr Hellmann,


I am working on something here, I’m not quite sure what i’ve done, or if I’ve even done anything.


Shortly before TS Eliot took a leave from his job at a bank and entered into a resort for a doctor ordered period of “rest,” he passed a large pile of papers off to Ezra Pound. Pound made a series of edits to this manuscript, cutting out entire sections, crossing out lines, re-ordering things, in short, and in Pound’s own words, he performed the “ceasarian section” on what we now regard as the modernist masterpiece “The Waste Land”. Pound was an extremely confident individual. I became curious about what those edits looked like. Wouldn’t the markings of such a confident hand have aesthetic qualities? Wouldnt they be the physical traces of a mind at work? I digitally removed all of Eliot’s text from the pages, leaving only Pound’s markings. Are these drawings? Whose drawings are they?


Hello Max,


Thank you for telling me this story.
Primarily i want to say, that the lines are not a drawing. These lines are there to eliminate or they are underlining sentences to give them more importance or they are otherwise re-arranging the text. The drawing is your invention.


The original has two layers. The text, written from Eliot with a typewriter and the lines made from Pound by hand. If you would own this original, it would be impossible for you to separate the line from the types. Even with the best rubber or sharp knife you only would be able to erase what is next to the lines, but those parts which are under the line will still be there. A scan or picture of the facsimile will not have these two layers. The line and the types become the same material. That means to me, that you can get the lines as a drawing only by making a copy. I don’t know if that is important. You never will get pure lines without using a technical transformation. To me it is interesting what Pound did with the typescript. Isn’t he really the inventor of “The Waste Land”? But without the typesript from Eliot there would have been nothing to handle. To me “The Waste Land” has two congenial authors.


What is your part?
“The Waste Land“ is a famous poetic work. But you are fascinated by lines. You know that these lines have an importance in literature. They have been neccessary to modern literature. That’s in the background. If you would have found a typescript from someone edited by someone with lines looking like a drawing, what would you have done? The separated lines from “The Waste Land” can be seen as a drawing, but in your mind, there is “The Waste Land”, that never would have got its importance without the lines. You will give a new meaning to the lines, they should be a drawing but they are not independent from the “The Waste Land”.


Max Stolkin


Attached Drawings: He do the police in different voices




# Permutation Poems, copyright (c) 2014 Nick Montfort <>
# From Memory Slam,
# Original concept/code by Brion Gysin & Ian Sommerville, 1960s
# Words specified in 2015 for Covertext
# Permission to use, copy, modify, and/or distribute this software for any
# purpose with or without fee is hereby granted, provided that the above
# copyright notice and this permission notice appear in all copies.


def permutations(elements):
 if len(elements) < 2:
  yield elements
  for i in range(len(elements)):
   for result in permutations(elements[:i] + elements[i+1:]):
    yield [elements[i]] + result


words = 'Is the artist necessary for making art today'.upper().split()


for parts in list(permutations(words)):
 print ' '.join(parts)


Nick Montfort


Attachment: Permutation output (pdf)



All sorts of questions spin around my head: What concept, what form, what content, what context, what material, what amount, what size, what location, what light, what title, for how long, for how many visitors, and then: edition, value, programme, transport, storage, restoration…


Several people surround me while I work. They seem to wait for my decisions. They must be used to waiting, for they are very patient. What next? A deep breath and I clarify: The scaffolding has to be shifted three centimetres. To another group I whisper: We have to change the curtain, it’s hanging the wrong way round. Somewhere else I say: The gallery director will document her experience with the work and then it’s finalised. I’ve started to have an uncomfortable feeling: that it’s the presence of others that determines my decisions.


After work I have an appointment with my physiotherapist. I lie on the bench and she takes my head. What she holds feels like something tense, dark, and heavy. She begins to balance it like a ball, from left to right, carefully, with tender hands. The round solid moves slowly. Now her left hand takes the heavy weight while her right thumb presses deep into my right shoulder, on a spot next to a sinew. It is as if the therapist is searching for a release button, which after some effort, and to my surprise, she manages to activate. Then her left thumb presses another spot by my neck, at the joint of the tense and heavy thing. She bores her thumbnail deep into this section. Suddenly something rigid gives way, drawing back to loosen the round colossus in her hand from its firm fixture. The heavy ball is set free. The physiotherapist holds this round, foreign object with two fingers on two opposite sides, where the front and back of the head used to be. It is as if she now holds a blurry sphere with both index fingers – an inclined, obscure glass body in a fine setting. With the load taken off, the ball spins on its own axis within its own ever-expanding solar system.


Antonia Low



It was never the artists that made art; it was their tools. Tools are not secondary artists, but artists secondary tools. Only by means of the artists were the tools able to bring forth their art, which in turn carried all the tools’ traces – physical, conceptual, medial. The artist leaves no trace that is not the trace of something employed by him – that is, something that employs him.


Only when the tool withered to the size of concept, the artist became visible again. But only halfway so, in a state of translucence, as it were: for even concept is a tool in the guise of a name. It is the name that makes the artist the tool for its own renown. The artist, then, is like Wittgenstein’s ladder: to be thrown away once the wall is climbed.


That is not to say the name is responsible for the art. The name, it might not know it, is also a tool. For just as the tools have used the artist to make the art, the art, slyly, employs the name for its own propagation. But with the name, the artist, just having been thrown away, reenters. The artist is Planck’s constant: a variable that, once introduced, cannot be got rid of.


The relation between artist and art is incidental. Artists have nothing to do with art, and art nothing with artists; what connects them is the name as a tool for the tools to make art.


Hannes Bajohr



A human being is necessary for making art today.


Lina Viste Grønli



Yes and No:


Non-artists certainly produce better art than those who are called, (or who call themselves) artists. In this case the answer is a resounding ‘NO’. And the artist probably never was necessary, given that all History and Art History are fictions. It is for History that the artist is necessary, not for Art.


On the other hand, if all humans are artists, only humans produce a certain kind of ordure; and I don’t suppose non-humans would bother with making art. So my conclusion must be, in this case, ‘YES’, we do need humans for persuing essentially useless pastimes like murder and painting.


Anthony Moore



War er es jemals?


Wenn man sich die Kunstgeschichte ansieht, findet man genügend Beispiele die belegen, dass man kein Künstler sein muss um Kunst zu machen.


Fra Angelico war Mönch, Caravaggio Sexualstraftäter, Rubens Kleinunternehmer, Henri Rousseau Zöllner und Jan Schoonhoven Postbeamter. Dennoch haben sie alle Kunst gemacht und natürlich kann man sie als Künstler bezeichnen, wobei die Bezeichnung „Künstler“ sich in der Zeitspanne von Fra Angelico zu Schoonhoven fundamental geändert hat. Während die Künstler des Mittelalters eng mit der Kirche verbunden waren und ihr Radius sich auf die sakrale Welt bezog, bildete sich in der Frührenaissance eine Eigenständigkeit, die sich in der Formation von Gilden niederschlug. Die Künstler verstanden sich als Handwerker, die Betriebe mit Lehrlingen führten und ihre Werkstätten an ihre Söhne vererbten. (Wie die Cranach Werkstatt, die über vier Generationen etwa 5000 Gemälde herstellte.) Seit dem neunzehnten Jahrhundert gilt die Idee des Genies – eng verbunden mit der des Wahns – und obwohl wir uns von vielen Vorstellungen und Idealen dieser Zeit verabschiedet haben, ist die Idee des Genius nach wie vor präsent. Woher kommt dieser Wunsch des Publikums, im Künstler einen Ver-rückten zu sehen? Anders als Schriftsteller, werden Künstler nicht zu Fragen der Zeit befragt. Sie sind keine Menschen des Wortes, sondern visuelle Schöpfer, bei denen man Provokationen und Entgleisungen erwartet. Diese Erwartungshaltung ist ermüdend und Martin Kippenberger hat es mit der Aussage, er könne sich ja schlecht jeden Tag ein Ohr abschneiden, treffend auf den Punkt gebracht. Künstler sind keine Hofnarren oder Pausenclowns, obwohl sie zeitweise mit diesen verwechselt werden und es große Überschneidungen gibt. Dies liegt an der A-Sozialität beider Gruppen. Ähnlich wie ein Narr hat der Künstler die Freiheit, sich außerhalb gesellschaftlicher Normen und Zwänge zu bewegen. Doch anders als der Narr, der seinen Herren „nur“ den Spiegel vorhält, muss der Künstler einen Schritt weiter gehen. Dieses „Mehr“ macht den Künstler unersetzlich und notwendig. Er ist Mehr als ein 3 D-Drucker (Produzent) und Mehr als eine Reaktion der herrschenden Klassen. Über Jahrhunderte hinweg haben Künstler die Gesellschaften beeinflusst und bereichert. Ihre Aufgabe hat sich verändert, wie sich auch die Gesellschaften verändert haben. Dennoch gehen sie nie Hand in Hand. Während im letzten Jahrzehnt Models und Sänger bei Casting-Shows gesucht und gefunden wurden, sind jegliche Formate mit und für Künstler gescheitert. Egal ob „Alles für die Kunst“ (Arte) oder „De Nieuwe Rembrandt“ (AVRO), Sendungen, bei denen Künstler von populären Medien „entdeckt“ werden, sind zum Scheitern verurteilt. Ein Künstler muss sich selbst aus der Gesellschaft heraus bilden, man kann ihn nicht heranzüchten. Gezüchtete Künstler sind Entertainer, die das Publikum mit visuellen Gefälligkeiten befriedigen. Die Aufgabe des Künstlers ist etwas anderes und sie ist Mehr als „nur“ Kunstmachen. So soll abschließend gefragt werden: Is it necessary for an artist to make art today?


Christoph Westermeier



art today is necessary

if it is necessary

for humans


if the artist is human

the artist is necessarily



for making necessary

art, art must not be necessary

art can be fully unnecessarily

just and only art and necessary

for human




if I am human, so

to speak a human being who necessary

li needs tenderness, love, touching by humans?

talking, understanding, mirrors necessary
human or not human

is art touching necessarily

humans or is a machine necessary


to touch me tenderly

soul and body and so

on, so safe, reliable and soft and steady
as no makable art or touch or even sex necessary

is for human

and all humans

human is not so necessary


as it is necessary

for making necessary

art for humans



is necessarily

please loosing now the word: necessary










or is the artist the machine and humans need, love, want and watch, read, touch, hear and smell art made by today humans today?


Birgit Kempker



‘God is dead’, Fred Nietzsche, 1882
‘The author is dead’, Roland Barthes, 1967
‘The Queen is dead’, The Smiths, 1986
‘The artist is dead’, Jemma Cullen, 2015



Jemma Cullen



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