by tom moodyComments Off on NYC, where the inaction is
Joe Milutis, in his book Failure, a Writer's Life, asks a very qood question. Why is NYC still a place for recognition/validation of immaterial experiments that could theoretically happen anywhere? Let's let Milutis ask it:
No, I must ignore Darger and Kuchar in order to take on bigger game: the psychic space of New York City itself. Paradoxically for a city with no evident need of such, it has helped turn the world‘s attention to non-figurative atmospheres and other unprofitable immaterialities. Its literary and art worlds are premiere generators of virtual work, but it has also served as a brick-and-mortar filter that has compromised what could be an atmospherically, even cosmically expansive virtual canon. If for [William Carlos] Williams, “the local in a full sense is the freeing agency of all thought, in that it is everywhere accessible to all,“ and if, with the Internet, every “local“ is now suffused with the knowledge and activity that was once only constrained to the metropoles, why is it that New York City remains one of the best places to get recognition for one‘s unliterary ambience mapping, situationist periplum plumbing, and virtual world any-place-whatevering? Is this where the “inaction“ is? Even Robert Smithson, who celebrated his hometown Passaic as the new eternal city and explored the distinctly anonymous pleasures of the non-site in the most far flung nowheresvilles, always needed to set out from Port Authority. Is failure determined by one‘s failure to connect with the machinations of such an urban authority (as with [Marcia] Nardi) or is one more failed when one does not create new literary capital in alternative centers, hopefully where the rent is cheaper (as did Williams)? Why assert a center of cultural or uncultural capital when, owing to the virtual powers of the Internet, the center does not hold?
As a painter I always felt I needed to be here because people required physical proof of the paintings. Am sure many galleries have been dismayed when that work from LA that looked so good in jpegs was finally uncrated; whereas, if the same artist lived in the metro area, the gallery could say, "get out of here, wannabe." Now, after taking the trouble to move back here again (20 years ago), and doing other things besides just painting, I don't want to leave. It means something if the resident tastemakers don't get your work here, whereas it didn't matter if it sailed over the head of some small-pond doyen(ne). You want a certain critical mass to judge your failures (and successes). There's also the possibility that some young turk critic will enjoy challenging the resident tastemakers, whereas the leadership changes more slowly in a smaller scene. As for alternative centers, it should be remembered that Donald Judd swung a mighty compass in NY before putting Marfa on the map. But, yeah, at the end of the day, I'd say force of habit plays a large role in NY's hegemony, and the city doesn't deserve to have a culture since it's more interested these days in providing pieds-à-terre for foreign kleptocrats.