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LOOKING FOR DADA AT SCOPE HAMPTONS

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By STEVE AISHMAN


Whatever happened to mindless creation?

In a world that rationalizes war, where is the defiant irrationality?
Where is the ethical anarchy? The Socratic cynicism?

I went to Scope Hamptons two weeks ago to see what the art fair had to offer. The Scope Art fairs have the characteristic trademark of marketing emerging artists, so I went there looking for an edge to walk over. But in general, I did not find any challenging art.

When speaking about Scope Hamptons, the Scope fair president told Bloomberg News “We don’t want to disrupt vacations.” None of what I saw was in danger of disrupting anything, so I guess the fair was a success from that point of view. All of the work seemed to be designed to fit perfectly above the couch of a summer beach house. Of course, I don't see anything wrong with this because the art fairs are commercial ventures designed to help galleries sell art and I am highly in favor of helping galleries sell art. I completely understand that if artwork does not sell, artists will not have the resources to make more art. So, I am not critical of the market nor the fair itself, I was just surprised that there did not seem to be a market for some really challenging work based in irrationality.

Now going to the Hamptons hoping to find challenging art at a commercial art fair may seem stupid, but here was my logic:

  1. All last year, MOMA had its Dada exhibition on display (which may seem to be in direct violation of all of the concepts of Dada, but whatever...)
  1. This means that people have had one year to think about the exhibit and realize that the artwork made in reaction to WWI and the emergence of a media and machine culture is directly applicable to the state of the world today.
  1. Therefore, wouldn’t there be a market for contempo-Dada works or at least work that builds on the ideals of Dada in a contemporary way?

Well apparently not.

The work I saw at Scope Hamptons was mostly like Claire Oliver’s showing of Carson Fox, whose work is best described as blue-green. That’s it. That’s all I have to say about the work. Just blue-green. It’s not that the work is bad, but there is nothing challenging about it.

However, the most challenging work I saw was by the Bruce High Quality Foundation presented by Nina Arias. The BHQF had a suite filled with photographs documenting art actions like a proposed mass rent strike. The BHQF website states that the collective was created to foster an alternative to everything. Their motto is “Professional Challenges, Amateur Solutions.” Even more interesting than their booth inside the Scope Hamptons Fair, was the tent that BHQF set-up outside the fair that was filled with Christmas lights, various flags and a film projector. I had no idea what was going on, but it all seemed vaguely political/senseless/genuinely anti-art.

Now this is a group I can get behind.

With BHQF I saw some threads of purposeful irrationality that I think society and the art market is primed for. I am not saying it is time for a resurgence of Dada or that BHQF is purposely trying to do so, but I am going to claim that almost 90 years have passed since Dada's inception, so there should be people out there making and buying work that acknowledges the value of creating irrational art. So, after seeing the contrast of most of the banally beautiful work on display at Scope Hamptons and BHQF's work, I have a much better idea of what type of art I am looking for in the Fall of 2007:

  1. I am tired of seeing art that tries to rationally imitate, reflect or comment on culture.
  1. I want to see work that produces in the way a tree produces fruit. It does not depict fruit, it just makes fruit.
  1. I don’t want to see any more work that is about aesthetic taste. Art is not made to be tasted.
  1. I’m tired of work that tries to make a statement or tries to have meaning. I am making a call for work that praises the irrational. Work that values mindless creation in a world of meaningful destruction.

Maybe this does not make any sense, but I think that is my point. I saw many beautiful things at Scope Hamptons and only one thing that defied category.

I think I’m ready for less beauty and more confusion. How about you?


Scope Hamptons

Scope Hamptons ran from July 27 - 29, 2007

All images are courtesy of the artist.


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About Author

Steve Aishman is a former resident of the Phantom Zone. Since his escape he has been a regular contributor Big RED & Shiny.

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