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Thursday, November 23, 2006

better living through consumption

It's funny. Only yesterday did I buy my first original work of art, yet today all I can think about is building a collection. Although I bought it out of genuine interest and will likely keep it a long time as my first acquisition, I can now readily think of art objects in the alienated terms of investment and exchange value. And why not? I've always been susceptible to the visceral and sublime sensations that art can provoke, without ever being romantic enough to forget that art is a job performed by professionals. ('Being creative is a job.' Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense, liner notes, 1984.)

Collecting, of any sort, has an odd relationship to self-identification. Some people are critical of the idea of consumption as a mode of identity-formation, but there must be something to it. I'm indifferent to the morality of such a notion. It is neither to be celebrated nor disdained. For better or for worse, we express ourselves, in part, by what we buy. But that is surely only a small part of how we invent and re-invent ourselves. Doting on one's cats says more about oneself than wearing Kenneth Cole suits. It's fun to shop, especially in a spirit of pagan shamelessness, but having a bit of perspective never hurt anyone either.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely there is something strange about all of this, something that you are avoiding. You have owned many Byrne originals - his albums, his collaborations, his music; you have presumably been a spectator at many unique Byrne originals (his shows). What is the difference between those pieces - the performances that you have seen, the ones you have listened to countless times - and this sketch of a chair? Is it that it is yours and yours alone? Is it that, through purchase, he has given it to you and nobody else? How else do you differentiate this act of purchase, other than medium? And, then again, is this a matter of art or fandom (much as I once almost purchased a leather vest Lou Reed had worn, simply because he had worn and - one would hope - have sweated into it)? Why not explore this less as an investment and more as an indulgence in proximity to an artist who has meant so much to you; is "collecting" the price you pay for entrance into this cordoned-off VIP lounge?

3:17 PM, November 26, 2006

Blogger Jeff Strabone said...

How do I differentiate this act of purchase, other than medium (and uniqueness)? For me it is more a question of culturally recognizable forms of conduct. I 'bought' an 'artwork' by an 'exhibited' 'artist' at an 'art gallery'. Remove the cultural familiarity and authority that perpetuate these recognizable institutions, and that thing I did would start to look a lot different. I am reminded of a shpiel I give my students about Annunciation paintings. A person (or space alien) with no exposure to the visual and religious culture of European Christianity would look at an Annunciation painting and ask why the dude with wings was attacking that poor, frightened young woman.

I don't think I bought the drawing because it had come from David Byrne's hand and perhaps bore traces of his skin oil or sweat. I bought it because I wanted to 'buy art' and I wanted to start with him. Now, as for why I wanted to buy art and why I chose to do it now, that's an investigation for another day.

9:04 PM, November 27, 2006


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