Editorial to Art-Language
. . . THE TIMELESS LUMPENNESS OF A RADICAL CULTURAL LIFE;
the gangrenous excrescence, stylishly exposed in the quiet salons. The market for the dry delicacies of pretentious gentility, the over-fed opinion, the corpulent . . . choice, the leisured appropriation, ‘society’ and society in harmony are an objective condition of the class struggle. The privileged low-life of high culture is the massification of the people, is the enemy of inquiry, is an insult to, and sometimes an egregious product of, the achievement and goals of working-class movements, a denial of the real objectives of the working-class movement. It is not, however, the life of the unwitting fool. It has its own agencies.
The conditions of the production of high culture are not somehow apart from these machinations in brutality . . . and the artists are not exempt from the charge of connivance at the proliferation of force, violence: the barbarism of imperialism. Their ‘status’ as an economic hors concours serves the aim of the ruling classes in their continuing domination. It avails no one of a glimpse of ‘freedom’. It is a status which allows a parvenu sincerity, the treachery of the successful product, to be deified in a fideism of ‘culture’, a fideism in the interests of the ruling class.
Don’t think that artists are somehow the victims of an underdetermined predestination: their attempts to fix forever their relations with ‘the rest of the world’, irrespective of social change, are the last defensive gasps of an entirely static instrument of capitalism: empty-headed, it parasitizes the ectoderm of social change in the effort to be the better fed by its masters.
And radical artists produce articles and exhibitions about photos, capitalism, corruption, war, pestilence, trench-foot and issues, possessed by that venal shade of empiricism which guards their proprietorial interests. Most people laugh easily at old fools’ hack aestheticism; the by now undifferentiated mass of pretence and piety. It is similarly easy to avoid debate with the serious, anorexic autohagiographers who’ve shoved (?) and wheedled their way into the (what?) praxis of a ludicrous and equivalent ‘specialism’. The air (and the aether) is toxic with the confident exhalations of their apprehension. Club-foot-Ph.D.-standards-as-style is nothing new in the global sales-pitch. American football helmets and meaningless photos are serious objects of contemplation (and . . . ) if you happen to be obsessed by your career as the nexus of historiography. Heaven knows, anything must go; and it even goes against the sanction imposed by the appropriate Lebensphilosophie: the manieres of ‘semiotique’ and the manieres of ‘social purpose’ even sell that short. The artist, the bourgeois ideologist without ‘virtue’, is just like anyone else without ‘virtue’: his ‘terror’ is gratuitous and ultimately suicidal.
Art-Language, vol. 3, no. 3, Banbury, June 1976