João Ribas Interview

Until Rhizome can institute flat comments (as opposed to nightmares of achronological nesting) and find some way to moderate the LOLZ PWNED guys, comments will be made here. This responds to Ceci Moss's interview with João Ribas. [linked changed - see below]* Ribas recently organized a show arguing that individual subjective expression has become "deradicalized" due to its democratization. Moss asked him why he only included individual artists in the show and didn't include any recent work by collectives.

Thanks, Ceci, your question about collectives was good and Ribas tied himself in knots trying to answer it.**

This idea of eliminating the self has been standard practice at least since Minimalism. "Generative systems, or eliciting meaning from iteration, standardization, or repetition" tend to produce the most cool and elegant objects, naturals for collection and consumption. Knoebels and Palermos are practically hard currency in the art world.

Other artists in the Kreps show are also known quantities. But Elaine Sturtevant isn't about anti-authorship? She meticulously recreates other artists' work as her work.

To say that purging the self is suddenly relevant again because MySpace pages ("user-driven media") encourage narcissism is to erect a straw person.

Expressive subjectivity, done deliberately and reflexively, can be just as radical as hiding yourself in a system. The Picabia model over the Duchamp model. The resulting work may be perceived as tasteless, however, and less likely to find a place in the finer homes.

It's good not to be talking about Net Art 2.0.

**From Moss's interview:

I noticed you curated exclusively individual artists for the show. How would the exhibition have differed if you had included artist collectives or groups? Was this ever a consideration?

That is an important point----I think it was because the idea is not to derail authorship, a perennial hobbyhorse, but to delimit the markers of subjectivity. They are not the same thing. So the notion was: could you have a singular subject who produced or set off meaning, an effect, rather than the affect, of meaning, a subject who was still soliciting meaning from procedural form without relying on this tired notion of the self? That is the point of Duchamp's Three Standard Stoppages, which is a heavy presence in the show. Or for that matter, what differentiates Haydn from Beethoven---the latter wrote fewer symphonies partly because of an emphasis on the expressive, development section of sonata form, rather than the use of rhetorical, gallant motifs�But could this subject also be ceding subjective control through generative systems, or eliciting meaning from iteration, standardization, or repetition itself? The point was precisely to revisit the idea of the singular artist's subjectivity -- how it's formed and fetishized as labor and appended to meaning...this is clear in the way drawing is traditionally defined by a 'phenomenology of the hand': the way it supposedly has some closer fidelity with intention or thinking. That is different, to me, from the Surrealist premise of the cadaver exquis, and its psychoanalytic foundations, or the collapse of authorial intent supposedly allowed by collaborative work. It might just be two or more of these same subjectivities at work in the end, and so the affect could be quite the same---it was for Breton, despite the declared intent, as it was for the School of Rubens, the same subjectivity is reproduced no matter how many people are involved. That's different than say how Haydn worked---in collaboration with a patron for 30 years. There is also the added problem of the value of collective labor...this is a bit too long-winded to get into here, but the valuation of collective labor--collaboration---in late capitalism is problematic.

Update: The idea that we are drowning in narcissism has been prevalent at least since the "Me Decade" of the '70s. Another counterexample besides Picabia where expression was used in an interesting, reflexive way (straddling the individual, the collective, and the institutional) was Jim Shaw's "Thrift Store Paintings" show at Metro Pictures (and its online cousin, Guthrie Lonergan's curated selection of MySpace intros). Viva (mediated) expression!

*Update, 2011: The Rhizome link has been changed to