For art works exploring the mechanism of capital, Art Metropole is an interesting prototype from a different time. As a service, the (quite lovely) shop in Toronto displays and distributes the work of artists via its book store as well as in its online shop. It was founded 1974 by the art group General Idea, whose approach is not so far off from today’s post-internet projects: “We wanted to be artists, and we knew that if we were famous and glamorous, we could say we were artists, and we would be.” To do it, they took to the media of their time: the magazine. Their own, FILE Megazine, played off the name and visual emphasis of LIFE magazine and did this with glossy graphic competence spread over 26 issues. Today, General Idea is known for creating its own unique mythology, which glamorously embraced ideological struggles in slick art productions that were critical propositions. While General Idea has stopped after two of its members died from AIDS in 1994, Art Metropole is still embracing the infiltration, selling artist books, multiples, zines, clothes, DVDs, cassettes, downloads, and a country cane, which “comes with a Sisyphean AM-PM Decor fall 2012 catalog”.
DIS Magazine do not just pretend to talk about contemporary culture by mentioning Edward Snowden, Google cars, or Apple Watches. Much like the more conceptual K-Hole, they have instead created a visual concept for a high capitalism in which brands have become the channel to an audience. Reflecting the economics of today’s creative production, DIS Magazine is a platform that also sells digital images. These images often show inexplicable but universal settings with posed-natural moments to display user subjectification – DIS Magazine’s images are problematizing the user as an ocular subject, as Bratton once put it. Since their launch in 2010, they have tried out various forms between fashion, image distribution, art performance, and others; one of the next will be to curate the Berlin Biennale in 2016.
In this classic piece of feminist video art from 1982 Rosler comically pulls apart the semiotics of Vogue by slowly reading aloud from a single issue. Focusing on a single magazine like this might seem almost quaint today given the constant stream of media images that confront us on multiple simultaneous platforms, and her attempts to expose the class and gender relations it promotes are undoubtedly unfashionably blunt. Yet, Rosler’s performance draws out the magazine’s relentlessly hectoring insistence on aspiration – particularly of course the female consumer’s – with a leisurely hostility that maintains its force and humour over thirty (critical theory-soaked) years later. Her counter-mantra employs strategies of repetition and juxtaposition to render explicit the forms of power running through the fashion press, even as its content is reduced to a numbing babble – a pure carrier for discursive power. I’m particularly fond of the recurrent evocation of Cy Twombly and his “remarkable” studio in Rome; the work of an artist reduced to the trappings of a lifestyle, something to aspire to, perhaps for female artists most of all Vogue seems to suggest. Rosler not only underlines the sly operations of gendered power in seemingly innocuous copy but the important role that mediation plays in the ‘image of the artist’, something that seems to have grown even more important with the increasing web presence of contemporary art and the blockbuster biennale/art fair circuit blending in to the pages of ‘Scene and Herd’, all the while career competition inflating along with the market.
This questionnaire was published by MIT Press journal October in 1995, so it doesn’t have the most direct relationship to new media art, however, given the recent renewed interest in feminist practices, I think it’s important to look back twenty years to see how far we’ve come. Unfortunately, many of the concerns women in the art world had in ’95—being essentialized as “bad” outsiders or “good girls,” being elided in group exhibitions, etc.—persist today. (Evidencing such, another fantastic resource I recently discovered, Gallery Tally, tracks the number of men and women represented by contemporary art galleries.) Be sure to check out Liz Kotz’s response. http://gallerytally.tumblr.com/