Tuesday, April 26, 2011
confessions of a shop-a-holic
In watching this promo video are we witness to an act of genesis? I mean, take a good look at that STASH! A kid in a candyshop doesn't even begin to explain the glee that lights Kelley's face as he is caught in a moment of artistic reprieve and given wholly over to what very well could be a prelapsarian show'n'tell of his consuming habits. And, in keeping with some of Kelley's past work, his grin is not far from that of a child who over-zealously shares the fact of their first faecal property. With his griping at the end, his being only "known for the guy who did a sonic youth cover…", this vid makes thoroughly clear, to Kelley at least, that artistic genesis pales in comparison to a trip to the record store--that birthing ground of the consumptive subject.
He dives not only into the dustbin of culture but that of memory as well: the memories of a lifelong consumer freed of the burden of their daily labors, the daily grind of effectuating art as a career eschewed for shopping's eternal returns. As the naturalized act of consumption is increasingly understood as an aesthetic prerogative of emerging artists--an understanding whose benignly reflexive insight into this integral social ritual of international capital only serves to further affirm the altogether dismal public discourse surrounding organized labor's political form--watching Kelley in this vid we witness a historical antecedent to such emergent practices. The grin on his face is the grin of a godfatherly apparatus resplendent in its subjective immersion into the marketable goods that it misrecognizes as its own. Kelley may hate the artist he's become, this grinded-down soul of a blue-chip cyborg, but through the mnemonically (re)generative capacities of the cultural marketplace, he's always able to become himself again.
The goal of this brief text is not to slap Kelley on his wrist for promoting his shopping habits. Rather it is a consideration of the way in which consumption constitutes an operative horizon in a practice like Kelley's, that is a practice where the creative subjectivity employed by the artist cycles back to his role as a consumer emancipated from the demands of production--especially as many of these tax-deductible purchases will no doubt find their way into the content of his studio work. And while my critical speculation of Kelley's time spent 'off the clock' does succumb to the dubious policing routinely performed by the observing public of celebrity figures, a scrutiny that only further enforces the exploitative collapse of the distinction between labor and "free time". Yet through my capitulation to this particular technique of neoliberal culture it is my goal to ultimately question if the surplus of leisure time (and space for that matter) accumulated by artists like Kelley constitute an effective biopolitical horizon, especially if these well-earned moments of emancipation are in fact revivifying extensions of one's daily laboring for the subjugating demands of consumer culture.
When an artist has reached the level of visibility such as Kelley is it still possible to engender cultural alternatives or counter-productive antagonisms? This is especially an important question to ask in a scenario such as his where the historical value of cultural alterity has greatly contributed to the asking price of his art. Could it be the case that these potential alternatives (if they are even plausible) were to be effected, then we might not find ourselves in the company of a bitter artistic subject riddled by the affective pathologies of consumer culture--an artist bound to a career path that perpetuates a world that only brings them down. Where in the past Kelley has largely acted as the ironic janitor of institutional consciousness, it seems recently the last thing that he ironically mopped was his CV.
What makes this particular video so compelling is not only that Kelley is content to share what he put in his bag but that he is also content to share this very contentedness with his captivated public. This is no doubt naive to ask but might it be possible for an artist to advocate for an economy of desire in which the potlatch of contentment is not implicitly tied to a sales pitch--the questionable freedoms offered to an over-worked subject by marketable culture's bargain bins?