Monday, November 29, 2004

Panmodern vs. High Baroque

NEW YORK, NY November 29, 2004–In an article “Chelsea Enters Its High Baroque Period” in yesterday’s New York Times art section, Roberta Smith describes the continually-evolving chaos in Manhattan’s Chelsea art district. “Meanwhile, the Chelsea carnival continues, simultaneously expanding, imploding and absorbing. All species of art gallery are evident, and at every stage of development. Chelsea, like SoHo, is making itself up as it goes along. A contemporary art scene on this scale has never happened before, and it's hard to imagine it ever happening again.”

Without getting into any arguments or discussions about the possibility of such a unique and random series of events “ever happening again.” I am drawn to the last paragraph which states “Catch it now, because in a few years, Chelsea nostalgia will have replaced SoHo nostalgia, and the current state of affairs will have become the good old days.”

True enough and well-put. The question is not whether it will happen again, because it always does, uniqueness and randomness notwithstanding. The question is where and when and how. That is what the big time Marketeers wish they could know. Because someday, no matter what it is, it will all be replaced and “Chelsea” will be remembered only as the title of a melodrama or sitcom starring good-looking teenagers on “the WB.”

The unintentional subtext of Ms. Smith’s paragraphs is the implicit urgency of you, the consumer, getting involved with the current scene before the bloom is off the rose. But “in a few years” Blooming Idiots that chase this type of trendiness will be of one of two types, or both. Type 1, the Perpetuon, will be so busy chasing the next trend that they will not have the time to look back while Type 2, the Timefukkker, will not only long for the good old days, but will spend the rest of their lives doing so. Whether they will have been caught up on its glamour, its riches, its artifice or its rejection, they will become stuck in time because this passing moment is “their” era. Not only will the art scene of the moment become their obsessional lifetime vantage point but so will the music, the fashion, the food, the very smells of the era. Ten years from now those smells will be stinky and rancid but after two decades they will be not only exonerated, but put up on a pedestal for all to envy because that is the route everything must take in the Panmodern era.

The current art scene, like the current Anything scene, will join the ranks of previous important Must Be TV come and gone. Like rap and punk and heroin chic, it will fall face first onto the slag heap of consumer history, for sale and forsaken until another strata of melted, formerly white hot “What’s Hot” barely-identifiable globs of post-industrial panmodern waste plop down atop it, like so many societal bowel movements, cooling, frothing, and foaming at the mouth of the flavor of the month. Bring your credit card! Everything Must Go!

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