Adam Turl 618-713-8132 firstname.lastname@example.org
Adam Turl is an artist and writer currently based in St. Louis, Missouri. He is an editor at Red Wedge Magazine, writes its "Evicted Art Blog" and is an art critic for the West End Word. He is a co-organizer of the DIY art space The Dollar Art House. Turl's most recent solo exhibitions include Thirteen Baristas at the Brett Wesley Gallery in Las Vegas, Nevada and Kick the Cat at Project 1612 in Peoria, Illinois. Turl has a MFA from the Sam Fox School of Art and Design at Washington University and a BFA from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. In 2016 he was a resident at the Cité internationale des Arts in Paris. He is an adjunct painting instructor at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri.
Artist Statement: Twelve Concerns for Contemporary Anti-Capitalist Studio Art
Abridged and Revised: 2016. Original: February 2015
1. Narrative Conceptualism: The first concern should be the re-introduction of the proletarian subject... Taking a cue from underground Moscow conceptualism and strands of post-Soviet Block Eastern European art (as well as elements of so-called “outsider” art in the U.S.) we can resituate the working-class subject within art; not to present merely a victim but to present that subject’s agency and subjectivity.
2. The Constraint of the Proletarian Subject: The contemporary proletarian subject makes history, to borrow from Marx, but not in conditions of their choosing. They are constrained (like the characters of a Brecht play) by material circumstances and the ideologies of the moment. They dream and aspire but are trapped (by wages, gender, disease, failure, heartbreak, war, etc.).
3. The Need to Interrupt Disbelief: When Brecht aimed to interrupt the belief of the theatrical audience with distancing techniques he exposed false consciousness: the social construction of the theater and the construction of ruling ideologies. We must interrupt disbelief: To connect the proletarian subject to the auric quality (see Benjamin) of studio art.
4. The Return of the Crowd: The collective working-class, the majority of the population defined in terms of a relationship to economic production, is the key to the transformation of society. But the working-class is not homogenous. It cannot come together by subsuming differences. It can only come together in a collective expression. It echoes Mikhail Bakhtin’s ideas of the carnivalesque fused with the avenging crowds of the Zola novel. Differentiated totality is the enemy of both rhizome and (class) hierarchy. The crowd has returned but not yet cohered: in Spain, in Greece, in Occupy, in Ferguson.
5. Total Installation: To create space for believing the “fictions” of emancipation, the proletarian subject and differentiated totality. The total installation of Ilya Kabakov is useful here. We have been told that metanarratives are inherently oppressive; that dreams of collective emancipation failed; that history and ideology ended (more or less). By creating a fictive environment, a conceptual metanarrative, both inside and beyond the “white cube,” we can allow the art audience to suspend disbelief.
6. Gothic Naturalism, Magic Realism and Surrealism: This evocation, however, must be tied to the actual concerns of the majority of the human race. Our work must connect to the way in which the proletarian subject dreams personal liberation and individual revenge: How the individual subconscious intersects with the collective subconscious (see Breton and Benjamin).
7. The Return of History: Its return was not marked by a new October (yet) but by new slaughter and immiseration. As I have written elsewhere:
"The material convulsions of capital constantly create new spaces (and the promise of new spaces) for semi-autonomous social and cultural relations — only to tear them asunder. Each of these is a trauma to the social unconscious… The initial impetus for the Gothic in art and literature stemmed from the marginalization of medieval forms by bourgeois relations and industrialization. The Gothic castle and the abbey stood in ruins, projecting both a nostalgia and fear of the past — things that were lost but also alien and threatening to modern life. The dynamics of capital continually recreate this process in contemporary culture, on various scales and in various geographies. This dynamic is the cultural echo of combined and uneven development."
We therefore experience temporal displacement when confronted with cultural artifacts—both within the “art world” and the broader culture. It is a displacement intimately connected with the subconscious and conscious histories of art, of social struggle and (so far largely) failed emancipations and emancipatory dreams.
8. Material Poetics: Art is marked the 20th century and the language articulated by Duchamp, and developed by Beuys: the language of material poetics and the actuality of the materials that comprise the artwork. What are the (immense and varied) material poetics of the (immense and varied) proletarian subject?
9. The Weak Avant-Garde: The heroic avant-garde is dead. It played its role in the creation of contemporary culture—not unlike a deflected permanent cultural revolution (see Tony Cliff). Against most ruling-classes avant-garde artists (often allied with anti-capitalist politics) created the visual and cultural language of full-blown capitalism. The inheritors of the avant-garde model—the academic wing of the “art world”—are likewise marginalized from the bulk of the population. Unlike the modern avant-garde they have no historic mission.
10. The Problem of Audiences: The contemporary anti-capitalist studio artist faces a crisis of audience. We can find a “weak” home in the academic avant-garde... intellectual validity and vitality but separated from the social forces that can realize change. The art market is obviously problematic. Social practice art appears to offer a working-class audience, but the need for financial backing and paternalism “problematizes” social-practice art. Finally, the small size of the left makes it hard for it to sustain “serious” art production. The anti-capitalist artist, therefore, must relate to multiple audiences: the academic avant-garde, the art market, the working-class and the left. This means accepting the commodity status of studio art within capitalism.
11. Modularity and Muralism: Our work is therefore modular, able to combine into one thing in the academic space, another for the established art market, another to be sold (in its parts) to working-class, anarchist and socialist patrons. Together it is a “mural.” Separate it is “easel painting.”
12. Anthropomorphic: Finally, in this way our work reflects the proletarian condition within itself. Collectively it asserts something beyond its commodity status: the crowd. Separately it is bought and sold, piecemeal, until the day it dies: the atomized individual.