THE FASH AND THE SPURIOUS: RIGHTWARD DRIFT
it was fuckin years ago HorribleGIF offered some lukewarm takes on the fascist gallery in East London event. For the remembrance of things farce, the texts are here, here & here. Further context can be found here and here. In the intervening year plus, the normalisation of right-wing views has continued in the UK media with the BBC and LBC Radio platforming the standard hateful shits in regards to the arrest of EDL guy with the fake name + The Sunday Times and The Spectator publishing some insanely neo-nazi material while continuing to churn the antisemitism in labour scandal well beyond the initial basis of the problem, simultaneously ignoring the actually blatant islamophobia within the conservative party. Fuck like I need to tell you this, any of the novara media content providers you follow in twitter would have covered this already. Most of the officially licensed outrage mechanisms are in the press operated by tory donors and the BBC itself is full of overpaid white tory men presenting their establishment conjecture as centre-ground debate. Twitter is still the prime site for being racist on too. And sadly, no new nootropics adverts with conspiracies on YouTube by the man who forgets basic facts about his own children after a big bowl of chilli.
ANYWAY this isn’t really about right-wing media bias but more so about art world normalisation of abusive practices and double standards of when/how to confront it. If you’re one of the lefty cultural marxists u may have noticed Luke Turner, 1 of the 2 art handlers or upvoted roadies of Shia Lebouf, has been pretty pissed off about some antisemitic content thrown his way after getting in an online argument with NY reactionary libertarian art person #24 Deana Havas, who was a supporter of and exhibitor in the now dead LD50 gallery. It’s known she adopts a fascist persona for ironic joke trolling, a thing that art people seem to find infinitely mirthful for some weird reason. Poe’s Law but like, even more vague than an ArtReview thinkpiece on the point of art fairs. Is representing things endorsing them? If it involves any language that aims to demean or oppress a certain group then yes. If someone in your circle of friends makes a misogynist remark then by not calling them out you endorse the behaviour. So racist or antisemitic jokes that might heavily feature pro-Trump toxic nerd symbolism are effectively making shock-jock lolz out of tragedies that other people face, though the maker of the joke will not give a shit because it’s most likely very divorced from their own (online) experience. Like a fucking Dezeen blog commenter living in Islington that loves the architecture of the buildings that gentrify the south of London. The strategically deployed rhetoric to defend such ideological posturing often employs the “I’m marginalised too in x form so I cannot be y form of bigoted” or an argumentative redirection torpedo “by calling me out you are harassing me because i was just joking”. Luke Turner has archived this stuff on his website here. Entombing social media content with someone you are arguing with online is strangely transgressive, the antithesis of the ever flowing nature of the TL. A twitter feed isn’t even always evident of linear content, even curating a selection of offending remarks seems a bit :/ what edgelords would generally say, is that it is petty. Subjectively it’s hard to tell what really counts as petty, because you have editors of The New European going after journalist Owen Jones with such temerous ferocity on the basis of tweets that mock the concept of a ‘centrist political party’ or lambast the fake meritocracy and boys club of the journalistic media. Where is the lie though? You also have fucking Boris Johnson openly mocking muslim women. Then his dad says he didn’t go far enough. Then he seemingly gets away with not clarifying or answering to his remarks by offering journalists tea in a contrived performance. All the seething rage at the mere existence of this sentient chunk of racist fatberg has no sweet vindication, he’s completely insulated from consequences of anything in a way that is just, wild, man. Maybe that’s something aspirational. Pushing hateful content and escaping any form of professional attrition, that’s S A V A G E. Edgelords do often, ironically, act very petty when they might be under attack for something they’ve said/done, often invoking their offline acuity for something “money/success/power” and doing the thing where their effort to take the piss out of someone isn’t seen as a petty attempt at making sure they have the last word and don’t have their ego chipped, but as just a masterful swathe of the aloof withering riposte. It’s a bit like the I’m not owned! I’m not owned! dril tweet at it’s core, a defensive mechanism of fabricated online content-alphadom and the absolute revulsion at the construct of edgelord self being tainted by having the piss taken in a way that cannot be spun. This bullshit web of interactions isn’t restricted to art worms, it’s perpetually enacted by newspaper editors juiced up on their ironclad belief in being very smart and very right about what they believe in because they must be because they work in journalism. What you do and how you function within the field of what you do still very much seems to be a defining trait in how millennials construct a sense of self and the parameters of self-validation.
Just to clarify, I am in no way a fan of the work LeBeouf, Turner and Rönkkö make. Most of the liberal arts intelligentsia despise famous ppl doing conceptual art, preferring celebrities to just be in coked up attendance at the Art Basel Miami parties as opposed to being able to fart out stuff and gain instantaneous blog & media attention for it and by extension procuring enough cache to entry into museum level prestige. For one, the aforementioned groupthink-as-flesh-nodes are very protective of their positions in the mechanism of cultural production — they get annoyed when the flesh nodes in the cultural value and exchange mechanism groupthink do not align the steps in the ladder form. Lots of curators have a heroic bildungsroman in their heads about the trajectory of their own career, how it is 100% forged by pure salt of the earth hard work talent baby and not at all by anything bourgeoise. The scarcity and fake-meritocracy of the profession also endows many working within it a tendency towards nepotism, to keep a safe network of favours and closed honour systems. Keeps the boring uneducated working classes out. They would view their nepotism as altruistic, helping out mates who might need it and u kno ur a m8 i just wanna help u get shows cause ur my m8 i’m a gr8 m8. A celeb artist totally like, disrupts this hegemony, because they have the resources and guaranteed media attention garnering ability already from the film industry. Aren’t they happy enough with the drugs and money and being literally visible on screens that people pay money to watch!?!?? They want their authorship to waft through museums and galleries too??? FUC KK THIS! But lo, we are powerless to protest, as the boards of trustees bust a collective nut for a James Franco egosploitation of something zeitgeisty. Maybe the extreme vanity is a quality that both gatekeepers of cultural institutions and James Franco share and thus mutually reinforce and celebrate. Shia Lebouf’s pivot to performance artist went a bit differently, seemingly stemming from an inability to apologise for plagiarising Daniel Clowes, he joined up with two art skool grads to form a trio, whomst are often ignored because the art crowd sees them as opportunistic PAs. The whole endeavour is viewed with a mixture of derision but also the rubbernecky enchantment by the interns of artnet or the guardian culture dept. Young actor wylin’ out with an art career that relies on novelty schtick and some bizarre cultivation of new media spectacle mixed with hyper-earnestness. This offsets the presence of the vanity that someone like sex pest Franco might exude with his skirmishes into the art scenes. But something awkward seems to linger, even when coated with saccharine neo-twee “togetherness”. Imagine something so diametrically opposed to a Death Grips album and you get the idea. It is at least nowhere near as awful as what James Franco did in his whole excursion as some kind of sleazy renaissance man, nor as garishly bad as Miley Cyrus at Art Basel Miami (why?). So there is that.
Where the dominant form of social disaffection in art ppl is manifest as world weary yet self aware cynicism, an assault of positivity by a man who has been chronicled for public drunken displays of aggro + some dodgy comments to a black policeman… will not be received with a full spread of objectivity. I mean we’re all human and fuck up but we’re not all from Hollywood. So with these mental notes already in place, it’s rejected with vitriol… but off the pages of the blogs and the mags. Cannot remark negatively on the record to such an investment with that level of exposure value largesse! Art people tend to prefer their misdemeanours private, only the naturally occurring whisper network reporting on your drugged up lechery or many defenses of nick land might end up being a minor problem in some places, but for many you’ll be fine unless you’re filmed unleashing a torrent of racial slurs while drinking Monster.
So you may remember (or not) a livestreaming project authored by the trio, HEWILLNOTDIVIDE.US, which operated outside the Museum of Moving Image in NY (with Jaden Smith! yeah!) until continual disruptions by then-ascendant alt-right white power manbabies forced it to close. It relocated then closed again due to repeat disruption fucksake m9! This all happened in the months after the Trump election. Thirdly, the project re-emerged as a flag in an undisclosed location, until some totally wired up psycho alt-right individuals managed to track it down and nick it. Which is, despite the obviously unpleasant act of vandalism, impressive. Or extremely petty! ;) depending on how you want to contest your pissing. Review of the sabotage aside, it’s still technically vandalism. That doesn’t matter though when basically most of the self-proclaimed art world insiders hate you bcuz of the celeb intrusion thing, the only support you are going to get will be from neopets aficionados and greetings card quotes turned into people. The COS embalmed prestige economists in the arts and their elder bloggers will have nothing but a lofty sneer for yr loss. The tragedy of a celebrity is divorced from most of us to give a shit about, especially when it might be for something dumb. Nobody really feels sorry for Anna Sorokin and everybody will have a hot take ready for the Netflix adaptation. While the two figures are different, a disaster that happens to a spectacle is just part of it, no longer a human being affected by an external force. Artnet and the collective rejected Whit Stilman character sketches who lol about Tom Wolfe’s death but basically try to embody exactly what he was but health goth, they had a whale of a time laughing about creepy fascist nerds on reddit trolling a celeb artist and his handlers. The use of the word trolling is key here, because well, achtkually…. is engaging in targeted vandalism for the online clout considered just trolling? As pointed out by Michael MacLean in a tweet thread on Luke Turners TL, when art journalism outlets refer to actual neo-nazis as “trolls” it is some overton window shifting shit that is fucking dangerous. U can be a troll and a neo-nazi at the same time, obvs. I know art is its own insufferable cottage industry but you’ve got the former foreign secretary of the UK saying muslim women in niqabs look like bank robbers and make him feel uncomfortable, which ceremoniously opens the floodgates for racist people to express themselves and potentially act out with cancerous glee. Treating things seriously is very off-brand, because we work in a luxury market, after all. Since this anti-Trump maneuvering, LeBeouf and Luke Turner primarily have become themselves targets for antisemitic abuse. Or you might like to say they’ve made themselves targets, if you have brain worms. The abuse has, by the testimonial of the artists, been a brutal mix of online and offline intimidation, vandalism and threats. Havas has, from her support of Trump, gained a coterie of troll fans that will post graphic antisemitic or racist/sexist content semi-autonomously at any detractor. It’s kind of fucked up that anyone might derive schadenfreude from that kind of thing happening to someone or actively egg it on as Havas does. I know art people love to have fans because that’s a by-product of success they do enjoy, but if you’re getting ones that make pepe memes about harassing jewish dudes PERHAPS reconsider what the fuck you are doing to fire up these people. Don’t forget, free speech never killed anyone but an actual neo-nazi did kill anti-racist protestor Heather Heyer.
It’s also basically just kind of fucked up that anyone might want to trivialise jokes about the murder of jews, but have you met post-internet artists??????
TL;DR the antisemitic abuse they get is not OK just because you might not like their art projects, i think a lot of artists downplay the abuse Luke Turner has gotten because they don’t like the celebrity groupie nuclear optimism art thing and probably have a few other secret tory feels, art journalists are terrible at avoiding a slide into soft authoritarian politics along with the rest of MSM, racism isn’t edgy and ironic versions of it tends to enable more of it unironically, quite a lot of people in art wouldn’t give a legit shit if fascists took over.