Is the artist necessary for making art today? (Pt.3)

Answers by Dag Erik Elgin, Nick Thurston, Julia Bünnagel, Scott Myles, Derek Beaulieu, Konstantin Butz, Danny Snelson and Sveinn Fannar Johannsson


Is the artist necessary for making art today?

Is making art necessary for artists today?

Are artists necessarily making art today?

Is art necessarily made by artists today?

Are artists making art necessary today?

Is today’s artist necessary for making art?


Dag Erik Elgin



I’ve just about finished editing a one-volume collection of writings by the Czech artist Pavel Büchler. The book will borrow its title from an essay Büchler wrote in 2002, entitled “Somebody’s Got To Do It”, in which he said:


The modern society undoubtedly needs creativity, critical imagination and resistance more than it needs works of art. It needs artists with their ways of doing things more than it needs the things that they make. It needs them for what they are, rather than for what they do – and if it needs them for what they do, then it is in the sense in which artists are producers of culture rather than of discrete artefacts which characterise that culture. … it is the work of art, the actions and consequences of art, rather than works of art, that is the active ingredient of culture.


I think he’s right. And braced somewhere between his observation and Andrea Fraser’s recent essay, “There’s No Place Like Home”, which was mass-printed and given away for free in lieu of an art work as her contribution to the 2012 Whitney Biennial, I think we’d find my answer to (or re-phrasing of) Covertext’s question.


Nick Thurston



Andrea Fraser: L’1%, C’est Moi


Andrea Fraser: There’s No Place Like Home



Kultur bezeichnet im weitesten Sinne alles, was Menschen selbst gestaltend hervorbringen, im Unterschied zu der nicht geschaffenen und nicht veränderten Natur. Kulturleistungen sind alle formenden Umgestaltungen eines gegebenen Materials, wie in der Technik oder der bildenden Kunst, und auch geistige Gebilde wie Sprachen, Musik, Moral, Religion, Recht, Wirtschaft und Wissenschaft.


Künstler*Innen sind Menschen, die ihre Zeit dem Kunstschaffen widmen.

Künstlertum ist eine menschliche Daseinsform.


Julia Bünnagel



Without the artist there’s no art.


Scott Myles



Yes, the artist is necessary, but I think that what constitutes “an artist” has changed. I would rather see the definition of ‘artist’ include machinistic, robotic, programmed, bacterial, non-human, extra-terrestrial, and aleatory (chance-based) producers. The human artist is now delegated to the role of selecting (pointing to) and documenting the efforts of our non-human colleagues. The artist is necessary, but not solely in the ways that she was in the past. The artist’s output doesn’t come solely from the creation of work, it comes from the aesthetically sensibility to distinguish artistic events, moments and occasions.


Derek Beaulieu



Is the artist necessary for making art today?
I don’t care.


Why not?
Because it’s MY aesthetic experience and I don’t give a damn where it came from or who created it—–if someone did create it in the first place.


Okay, okay. Chill!
You should rearrange your words and reformulate your question to ask: Is making art necessary for the artist today?


You think that’s a better question?
No, but at least I have an answer now.


Hell yeah, it is!


Uh-huh. And why is that?
Because today is totally fucked up.


Fucked up?
Yes! It’s raining. It’s grey. There’s a war. There’s death. There is too much tragedy. And there always will be.


Cheer up, emo boy!
Fuck you.


Okay. Let’s assume you’re right and today is totally fucked up. What does that have to do with art or the artist?
Well, that better is reason enough for making making art necessary for the artist today.


Is it?
How else are we supposed to cope with all of this?


I don’t know.
Exactly. So please, by all means, make art! And please, by all means, do it today!


But I’m not an artist.
So what?


Konstantin Butz



Alternatively, we might wonder, in what ways has the technological present remediated the relationship between art object and human actor?


Alternatively, we might inquire, what intersectional realities of class, race, and gender could be lost along with the person of the artist?


Alternatively, we might solicit, how does an artwork transform as it moves along a wide range of media, formats, and interfaces?


Alternatively, we might request, has it ever been otherwise?


Alternatively, we might appeal, how does a certain presentism delimit the understanding of a medial situation?


Alternatively, we might submit, how can one draw a line between the artist and an expanding array of intermediating forces that shape an artwork?


Alternatively, we might summon, why does the discourse of art retain its robust humanism?


Alternatively, we might forward, in what ways might this discourse turn its gaze to technological and algorithmic processes as vectors leading back into questions of the human?


Alternatively, we might sue, for an age of intelligent machines which might never come to pass?


Alternatively, we might quiz, can a thorough forensic analysis isolate a human suspect or will the perpetrator evade us in the microns of a hard disc?


Alternatively, we might question, at which historical moment did the artist become necessary in the first place?


Alternatively, we might crave, can’t even?


Alternatively, we might interrogate, whether an infrathin negotiation between work and artist, concept and material, spectator and object leaves us with nothing but impossible binaries?


Alternatively, we might bid, perhaps it might be worse if it were otherwise?


Alternatively, we might invite, to what specificities may ‘pataphysics extend beyond metaphysics, if metaphysics is understood to extend in equal measure beyond physics?


Alternatively, we might venture, how did I get here?


Alternatively, we might appeal, how can a question of today be asked to a total archive undergoing incessant accumulation?


Alternatively, we might apply, would today’s question be asked yesterday, yesteryear, yestercentury, etcetera?


Alternatively, we might challenge, what if I only saw that film as a videotape transferred to flash video formatted for my mobile phone?


Alternatively, we might query, if I say so?


Alternatively, we might ask, how can one unravel author functions from a dense network of interpenetrating authoring systems?


Alternatively, we might cast, what remains a necessity after the total ecological collapse of a planet?


Alternatively, we might catechize, where haven’t I put my pipe?


Alternatively, we might doubt, is it possible to enumerate the ways in which one pays an algorithm?


Danny Snelson



Oh, it’s complicated. And why do you ask? In 1934, the German art historian Erwin Panofsky wrote: “If all the serious lyrical poets, composers, painters and sculptors were forced by law to stop their activities, a rather small fraction of the general public would become aware of the fact and a still smaller fraction would seriously regret it. If the same thing were to happen with the movies, the social consequences would be catastrophic.” If we really don’t need art, what do we call for, apart from a good movie and maybe some love and intimate affection? At least, the artist per se would be redundant. In L’eclisse, Michelangelo Antonioni’s final installment of his trilogy on romance, alienation, and existentialism in a contemporary industrial society, we’re provided with everything we want. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t really work out that well. The 20-minute opening scene shows protagonist Vittoria (played by Monica Vitti) breaking up a rather dissatisfying relationship in order to search for a more true, or authentic, love. The scene takes place in a modern apartment furnished with abstract paintings and sculptures. At one point in an argument, she asks: “Why do you ask so many questions?” No, sorry—this happens in a later scene, toward the end of the movie, after some hours of being adrift, seemingly unable to endure any happiness.


Vittoria encounters her new stockbroker friend in his parents’ luxurious home, and finds herself reacting to their shared desire for intimacy with others: “Why do we ask so many questions? Two people shouldn’t know each other too well if they want to fall in love. But, then, maybe they shouldn’t fall in love at all.” What if she’s right; and why did the producers urge the director to leave out the museum sequence, in which there was at least some possibility of hope for the meeting of human beings and the arts? Art might just be the solution to this dilemma, and it seems to me that Panofsky’s remark on the potential eclipsing of the arts in favour of the movies makes for a rather good argument for continuing our art practices. But then again, I’m in love with art—we’re together now, I need you. I don’t know if art needs me, but that’s not for me to know. Seems like only an artist would ask a question like that?


P.S. In the middle of the movie, there is a scene in which a man, after losing a lot of money, for some reason makes a drawing of flowers on a piece of paper.


P.P.S. There is also another Antonioni movie where the main character at one point asks, “Why do you ask?” but I don’t remember the title.


Sveinn Fannar Johannsson



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