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July 5, 2024 By Alex Vlasov
Parental Tendencies

Norman Rockwell, The Young Lady with the Shiner, Oil on canvas, 34 x 30", 1953.

The best thing about punk rock is that you are free because you are cursed by this culture. There is no place for parental guidance, no grudges, and no one cares if you hit the note right. People can do whatever they want whenever they please. Nobody cares about your feelings. Unlike the art world, the gig is freedom and the journey is the dream. There have been certain parental tendencies in the art field. At first, I started noticing this as a student. Even students at the beginning of their careers try to assign a particular meaning to works of art. Those meanings supposedly teach the viewer definite values and truths. However, for the last year or so, it’s been clear to me that it is not only students who try to play ‘parents’ once they get out of the house, but the entire contemporary art scene.   


I guess there is nothing wrong with being a parent, but meanings do not stick to works of art. This claritas of “enough is enough” came to me a couple of weeks ago when I went to see the Whitney Biennial. As I staggered around multiple floors of the Whitney among the melee of tourists, I thanked the gods of art that I am not a part of this pilgrimage which functions in loco parentis. Once you are inside the institution, everything is regulated and explained. This cacophony, believe it or not, is dreary and no fun. Who wants to read paragraphs of boring didactics that explain everything: what an art piece is about, what it is against, what you should eat, and even when you should pee. The conspiracy to explain and poke the viewer’s nose into a specific edu-speak promises only a dystopian future. 

This penchant for explaining the meaning and tendency to govern people is no surprise. These celebutantes of American art with their retinues of curators redistribute, like any other parent, common social knowledge and sense. But a work of art is not a kid, it becomes inauthentic since it only explains something that existed apriori. This contemporary redundancy causes only affliction. This is no joke since the plentitude of proper interpretation with its fatal lunacy is about to bury the live discourse of art. Susan Sontag once remarked in 1964, “In place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art.” The hermeneutics, that contemporary art elicits, is nothing else than the automobile fumes that fetter the viewer. The raw volume of buzz that originates from people within the scene might assure people like me that the art of today has nothing to do with art. It promises unavoidable consequences for killing the discourse since it removes all critical assessment from the hermeneutics loop. Thus, there is no place for the development of argument anymore. And if there is no argument, then what the hell is this about? It is not the function of art to tell me “the sky is blue.” I know that the sky is blue, thank you very much. 


Afterward, what happens if I disagree with their statements? Do they admit me to the psych ward? What if not only I disagree but also discuss the consequences of their redundancies of the automobile fumes? Today, in the art world, to criticize may be a risk of professional isolation. That’s why we live in the vanity of intellectual culture since culture cannot exist without critique. Punk culture, like the culture of art once was, is about not being governed and this is the point of critique. To be punk is to critique. And to critique means not saying “the sky is blue” in a parental voice. To critique means to say “fuck you” once in a while. And the word “fuck” should be bold in all caps. 


Alex Vlasov

July 2024

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