Flatlanders Studio is proud to present Just Toyin' Around a group exhibition made up of artist from all over the world and curated by Douglas Lewis. Each artist is asking the question, what is the role of art in a capitalist Western society? Is art merely seen as entertainment for public consumption, or can art be valued and legitimized as something deeper in our culture.
Bill Burns (CAN)
Bonnie Marin (CAN, Irl)
Bruce Sapach (CAN)
Chak Man Lei (CN, CAN)
Jeff Morabito (USA)
Jean Klimack (CN, CAN)
Kevin Friedrich (CAN)
Linda Lencovic (UK)
Petra Varl (CR)
Richard Dyck (CAN)
Xiao Qiao (CN)
Rodrigo Escbar (COL, CN)
Anthony Raggucci (USA, CN)
Trevor Guthrie (CZ)
We live in an epoch of global tom-fooleries that have given birth to the fake of the new. Apologies are no longer required as in many countries, unadulterated piracy has becoming the norm: brexits, prophets and groin-grabbing’s have warped the looking glass. Spoken and unspoken rules of fair-play have unfolded, the well of the “immoral imagination” has overflowed.
JustToyin’Around is an exhibition that longs for “child’s-play”. It searches for it. Charles Baudelaire exclaimed “ A child sees everything through a state of newness” and if that is the case, this exhibition is not looking for newness but is very nostalgic for it.
The selected artworks pose a conundrum. There is a nostalgia in many of their works, but there is a wryness and dryness to their work: what is at play has little to do with play.
A Marxist perspective on Culture Of The West seems appropriate and still essential today, because the Western retort may be akin to Marcel Duchamp’s epigram, ‘There is no solution because there is no problem.”
By The West I mean Europe and its unruly, often unsightly and vociferous offspring, North America. Other “Western” outposts are dotted around the globe and the ethos seeps elsewhere in a “colonizing” manner.
Marx forged an ideological position on the relationship of the individual to society, labour, production and how these are connected in order to forge a purposeful collectivism rather than the exploitation by and alienation through Capitalism. Regrettably, applied Marxism stumbled politically to which the West pronounces; “our way is better.” This assertion is propped up by gratifications through some “pursuit of happiness” and the tautology of “nothing succeeds like success.” Herbert Marcuse opinioned a new left-Marxist in his 1962 book One-Dimensional Man, examining the capacity of the West to generate cravings:
One of the most vexing aspects of advanced industrial civilization [is] the rational character of its irrationality. Its productivity and efficiency, its capacity to increase and spread comforts, to turn waste into need, and destruction into construction [which] makes the very notion of alienation questionable.
The prevailing needs to relax, to have fun, to behave and consume in accordance with advertisements …continue to be…products of a society whose dominant interest demands repression.
Marcuse’s salvo may not hold the same weight as it did in the 1960s—a talisman for the “radical left” of the day—yet volumes have been written since that examine a hyper-reality of Western culture, and in particular by Umberto Eco and Baudrillard in the late 1980s. In brief, Capitalism is the comfortable bedfellow of Democracy,
Where does this leave the artist’s voice and role in society? The Moscow avant-garde was embraced at the birth of the Bolshevik Revolution, but many were swept aside in the Stalinist period while others applied themselves to terms of engagement. German artists of the Novembergruppe, and others, rallied to the social-democratic cause after WWI. In 1921 George Grosz wrote: “Go to a proletarian meeting…and understand—these masses are the ones who are reorganizing the world. Not you! But you can work with them.” They too were swept aside and persecuted by the mid 1930s. Artists in the West (the USA) found a cause in the plight of the urban and rural working class during the Great Depression, but this no longer held traction by the late 1950s, the surge of the art market and its reward system. Great art means profit, and if art is profitable, it must be great. Capitalism speaks like the Borg of Star Trek: The Next Generation—“resistance is futile.”
Where then does art sit in the “popular imagination” of the West today? Popular public art (meaning art that is not hated) is often the spectacle of fun and sometimes literally toy-like—for art that has merit and art that is merely toying around. There is hope in Joseph Beuys axiom Kunst = Kapital as he elaborated in a radicalized view of society, economy, politics, and culture in 1985: “CAPITAL is not money (means of production); CAPITAL is ability, and the product of ability.” An earlier moment of resistance, a playful audacity, was expressed by the pre-Beat American writer Kenneth Patchen in 1941; an except from The Journal of Albion Moonlight. “The duty of the artist” is:
To follow every false track
To verify the irrational
To exaggerate all things
To inhabit everyone
To lubricate each proportion
To experience only experience
Opening Reception: July 7, 7pm — 10pm
Exhibition: July 7 — July 23
Gallery Hours: Thurs 7pm — 9pm & Sat 1pm — 4pm
Show publications for sale at the opening, $20 ea.