from Barbara Rose, “ABC Art” (1965)

I think the combination of experiment and inertia continues to describe some avant-garde activity — though only the mechanistic, anti-creative side of it. (I’m thinking of Kenneth Goldsmith.) It reminds me also of Brad Troemel’s idea of “athletic aesthetics” in its suppression of content for pacing. A better word than “inertia” is “momentum,” the nonpejorative word for it. 

In the essay, Rose quotes Michael Fried, who points out how undermining the difference between art and everyday objects structurally mirrors abstract art’s attack on representation: “there is an apparent expansion of the realm of the artistic corresponding — ironically, as it were — to the expansion of the pictorial achieved by modernist painting.” Social media mount a similar attack on conceptual art. 

Social media invite experiments in inertia, continual additions and variations on themes hard-coded into the platforms. I still think social media are possibly best understood as democratizing platforms for conceptual art projects, for turning an ordinary person’s ordinary life into art. Social media’s project is to radicalize individual subjectivity by making it transmissible; to preserve itself, avant-garde art must then differentiate itself from that, eliminating subjectivity and creativity and, to some degree, intentionality, just as earlier minimalists have done. The depth or complexity of one’s subjectivity can no longer be used to measure how authentic one’s art is. 

So-called autistic fiction, though it can seem maximalist in its dutiful accounting of minutia, is minimalist in its formal approach of emulating machine recording. “Printing the internet” as Goldsmith posited is paradoxically the most minimal work possible. Absolutely no discrimination is permitted.

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