Julieta Aranda, Johanna Billing, Colby Bird, Nathalie Djurberg, Dana Frankfort, Jutta Koether, Jonathan Meese, Otto Muehl, Michael Queenland, Jacob Robichaux, Jessica Stockholder, Kirsten Stoltmann
What is the point of art that does nothing but “dramatize how dark and stupid everything is” [David Foster Wallace]? In Defense of Ardor proposes a contrast to insipid notions of irony, unremitting cynicism, and pessimistic detachment.
Irony has been narrowly defined—and partly misappropriated—as a kind of ideological malaise, a willful displacing of affect in return for absolute neutrality and arrogant negativity. The result is a “hatred that winks and nudges you and pretends it's just kidding.” Yet lost in this torpor of ironic detachment are engaged forms of productive irony and ardor, in sharp contrast to the ineffectual character of the corrosive cynicism now taken as normative. What of the irony of Kierkegaard, Schlegel or Thomas Mann, directed at barbarism seeking to destroy liberal values? Or as Adam Zagajewski suggests after Foster Wallace, the tragic, poetic, and parodic resistance of ardor, or the progressive function of engaged artistic practice defined by failure, ideological fervor, or exhortation? Can sincere commitment, feverish engagement, or poetic intensity be productive in the era of the mass democracy of taste, where irony is no longer the language of power inverted, but rather, the vulgate of complacency and consensus?
Whether by reassessing the legacies of radical avant-gardes and a willful lapse into puritanical ethics (Michael Queenland); the collective stasis of democratic politics in an administered society (Julieta Aranda, Johanna Billing); the need for self-actualization and the irony of authenticity (Colby Bird); the progressive function of play (Jacob Robichaux); the poetic intensity of form and material (Jutta Koether, Jessica Stockholder); the aesthetics of earnestness and sincerity (Dana Frankfort, Kirsten Stoltmann); or the transgressive states of Dionysian or “Id-ridden” intensity (Nathalie Djurberg, Jonathan Meese, Otto Muehl), the artists in the exhibition set out a variety of means to contrast the corrosive, enervating effect of cynical reason.
“In Defense of Ardor” is the final installment of a three part series of exhibitions at Bellwether titled “The Mallarmé Propositions”.