Four Legs Good
Friday Ephemera

Thrashing the Hegemon

It’s been several months since we last sampled Extensions: the Online Journal of Embodiment & Technology and I feel it’s time we once again bathed in its countercultural glow. Today’s offering comes courtesy of the artist and educator José Carlos Teixeira, whose work is “mostly focused on video, installation, and performance” and, naturally, addresses issues of pressing social import. Specifically, 

Issues related to language, cultural identity formation, human dislocation, boundaries of personal and social spaces, and the definition of physical and psychic territory by using strategies of collaboration and group performance.

Mr Teixeira completed a Master of Fine Arts degree in “Interdisciplinary Studio” at the University of California, Los Angeles and has been a recipient of the Fulbright / Carmona & Costa Foundation Grant, the Gulbenkian / FLAD Grant, the Samuel Booth Award, and UCLA Fellowships. The issue-addressing artwork featured in Extensions - titled It’s OK (united) #1 #2 #3 – three steps to a (r)evolution - is described as follows:

A video project that takes its departure from a critical reflection around dominant educational, socio-cultural and political premises in the West. The case of the United States seemed to be the most meaningful for me – not only because it is currently the country where I live and work (reinforcing the site-specificity quite prevalent in my videos), but also due to its paradigmatic and hegemonic nature.

After sharing a ponderous quote by the late Edward Said, Mr Teixeira explains the origins of this profound socio-cultural project:

It's OK (united) was born during my trips on the bus, in the metro rail system, and sometimes while I was driving to different parts of the city of Los Angeles… As a repetitive common saying, [“It’s OK”] encapsulated paradoxes and contradictions, be it in the form of electoral results, in the state of war, in the lack of equality and freedom, in the discrimination and mutual racism I could witness almost every day.

Let’s see. Said, hegemony, paradoxes, contradictions, electoral results… War, equality, discrimination, racism… Human dislocation, social spaces, cultural identity, physical and psychic territory… Plenty of themes to draw on there and no shortage of looming gravitas. This must be building up to something ambitious, something vast. All that’s missing are some vague and dutiful references to globalisation, subversion and “The Other.”

Also, I was bringing up the question of what type of limits we have in the process of negotiation with the Other.

Ah. 

This piece attempts to subvert the founding principles of behaviours and attitudes taken as normal and positive… It aims toward a discourse about prescient sociological and psychological issues as globalization, migration, integration and/or the frustration in the failure of the democratic ideals. It also enunciates ethics not dissociated from aesthetics: the artist-author as a responsive and responsible cultural, social and political agent.

There we go. All present and correct. And utterly non-conformist.

Given the daunting build up, I think it’s time you braced yourselves for the full aesthetic force of It’s OK (united) #1 #2 #3 – three steps to a (r)evolution. I should warn you, the subversive discourse gets even more subversive around the 1:30 mark, when the critical reflection really kicks in and the “paradigmatic and hegemonic nature” of Western society is given the precision thrashing it undoubtedly deserves.

[ Added: Video deleted; now available here. ] 

A devastating critique, I think you’ll agree. Smelling salts and vodka are available at the bar. Those brave enough to relive the experience and perhaps share it with friends can find a sheet of lyrics here.

Update, via the comments:

Mr Teixeira’s ostentatious subversion is all the more amusing because it’s so conformist. He, like many others, is doing what he thinks he ought to be seen doing, if only by those playing much the same game. Making a thing of beauty isn’t a consideration and isn’t attempted, possibly because it doesn’t suit the role-play of being a “social and political agent.” What matters to Mr Teixeira is demonstrating his compliance with the belief that art should be a vehicle for anti-bourgeois gestures, which signals both the cleverness of the artist and his ideological credentials. This is done by muttering the standard incantations – “hegemony,” “subversion,” etc. The use of such terms indicates the artist belongs to an approved ideological caste and has the approved political views. (We can be fairly sure that the assumptions being “challenged” and “subverted” won’t include egalitarianism, the parasitic nature of arts subsidy or the latest conceits of the postmodern left.) So the more loudly a piece of art affects an air of subversive radicalism, the less reason there is to believe it delivers anything of the sort.

Comments

BackwardsBoy

I feel thoroughly deconstructed and somewhat postmodernized.

Where did you say the vodka was?

Franklin

Expletives hardly seem adequate here.

jeepers

Fucking hell. That's... so deep.

"It's ok to not succeed. It's ok to fail. It's ok to waste time. It's ok to not be sure of who I am or what I want. IT'S OK, IT'S OK, IT'S OK, IT'S OK"

Is it okay to not have any talent?

David

I don’t think you’re treating Mr Teixeira’s work with the seriousness it deserves. It’s a profound and deeply emotional piece.

Candice

David, it's time to get out the beat-stick. No, the bigger one.

I assume that whiny, douchebag-sounding voice is the great Mr Teixiera himself? That in itself isso profound and deeply emotional, as you said, to make me want to beat him with a lead pipe.

It oculd be that I've absorbed and been subverted by the hegemon and patriarchy so much that I leap to its defense with the base violence to which I have become accustomed. Or it could be that Teixiera deserves it.

David

A selection of lead pipes is also available at the bar. Behind the canapés.

Anna

I couldn't make it to the end of the video because my behaviours were being subverted. Is that OK too?

JuliaM

"It oculd be that I've absorbed and been subverted by the hegemon and patriarchy so much that I leap to its defense with the base violence to which I have become accustomed. Or it could be that Teixiera deserves it."

As long as it results in him bleeding, who cares which it is?

James S

"It's ok to not succeed. It's ok to fail. It's ok to waste time. It's ok to not be sure of who I am or what I want. IT'S OK, IT'S OK, IT'S OK, IT'S OK"

It's like the remedial class song in The Simpsons:

I like me, I like me,
I'm as good as I can be,
With a smile and a wave and happy melody,
I'm as good as I can be.

carbon based lifeform

Thrashing the hegemon - is that like spanking the monkey?

David

Yes, I suppose it is.

Chris S.

The profundity of this work is simply beyond you Philistines.

FOR SHAME!

Did not the triumphant sounds of the trumpets stir your heart to action? Or the dulcet circa 1990 keyboard sounds soothe your blown minds? No?

How about the grainy visuals and craptacular audio, did they not impress and inform you?

Me either.
Pass me one of the lead pipes. No, the smaller one, it'll take longer.

Rich Rostrom

Whenever I see "art" like this, I want to know what change could make it "bad" in the eyes of the modernist/post-modernist whatevers that praise it.

It's like Popper's concept of "falsifiability" as a test of science. If no physical evidence can prove a statement false, the statement isn't science.

If no change to a piece of "art" can make it better or worse, then it isn't art.

David

Rich,

See Fabian Tassano’s post on the redefinition of art. Specifically, from “visual product that employs principles of aesthetics to stimulate mental activity,” to “visual product that subverts or politicises, and is deemed ‘art’ by an approved institution.”

FT’s comments on the artist Cornelia Parker, and her dutiful compliance with these rules, are worth a read.

http://inversions-and-deceptions.blogspot.com/2008/02/banal-art-challenges-banality.html

Horace Dunn

The lyrics here read like a parody of a John and Yoko song from the period during which John decided that self-righteousness was a rich enough ingredient in his work and so there was no need to add any real invention or charm.

This one has a much better tune though than any post-Beatles Lennon effort.

Spiny Norman

Is that thing supposed to be ironic? I've seen much better videos on YouTube produced by teenagers.

That this silly putz earned a Masters from UCLA says a lot about that once-respected institution's current standards, and none of it good.

Pass the vodka and the truncheon.

Makewi

It's an interesting place we come to when art must be described in terms of how it relates to a particular paradigm. It reduces art to a baser instinct I think. Which makes art something far less than what it actually is.

David

“Is that thing supposed to be ironic?”

Teixeira uses the word “playful,” which is usually a good cover for incompetence. Note that he has to *tell* us that his work is playful and concerned with lofty matters, just in case anyone should arrive at a different conclusion.

Plenty of artists claim their output is “raising issues” or “interrogating” such-and-such, while being “playful,” “ambiguous” and “open to interpretation.” This leaves lots of room for fudging and dishonesty - by the artist, by critics and by the audience. Which particular issues are being raised - and how - is rarely clear; nor is it clear what keen and original insight is being brought to bear. Some, like Wim Delvoye, say their work is deliberately banal and signifies “futility.” Some critics look at the dismal offerings of Cornelia Parker and see her expressing “dissatisfaction with what art can achieve.” Self-conscious nihilism is for some a marker of sophistication. If the end product is vacuous, unoriginal or ugly, this is – rather conveniently - beside the point.

What matters is demonstrating one’s compliance with the belief that art should be a vehicle for anti-bourgeois gestures, which indicates both the cleverness of the artist and their ideological credentials. This is usually done by muttering the standard incantations – “hegemony,” “subversion,” etc. The use of such terms indicates the artist belongs to an approved ideological caste and has the approved political views. (We can be fairly sure that the assumptions being “challenged” and “subverted” won’t include egalitarianism, the parasitic nature of arts subsidy or the latest conceits of the postmodern left.) So the more loudly a piece of art affects an air of subversive radicalism, the less reason there is to believe it does anything of the sort.

George

Interesting to note the 'Obey' poster at the back of the classroom. Was this included with an ironic intentionality or was its placement an example of a recedingly anterior positionality indicative of a disavowal of the Other which is at the same time the same, thereby occluding a subliminity?

Spiny Norman

I think George could looking at a lucrative career in art criticism.

;^)

Andrea Harris

The thing that gets me is how all this postmodern gobbledygook has the effect of making the arts boring. Maybe that's why I avoided going further into the arts than high school art class. I like to draw and paint -- but I can't see myself coming out with gibberish like "This piece attempts to subvert the founding principles of behaviours and attitudes taken as normal and positive… It aims toward a discourse about prescient sociological and psychological issues as globalization, migration, integration and/or the frustration in the failure of the democratic ideals."

Mary Jackson

Teixeira uses the word “playful,” which is usually a good cover for incompetence

Incompetencies, surely?

David

Indeed. Where would we be without the gratuitous plurals?

http://www.newenglishreview.org/blog_display.cfm/blog_id/13880

Hm. Sounds like an art school band name.

virgil xenophon

RE: "Gratuitous plurals."

God help me, there is no hope, David.. Reading your provided link, the passage seemed totally NORMAL to the mind's eye and ear as I tried both the visual scan and the phonetic approach to the determination of the linguistic "appropriateness" of the passage. That such writings no longer seem utterly jarring to the eye or ear only demonstrates
the degree to which cultural osmosis subtly works--a very scary revelation about the erosive/corrosive power of the drip, drip, drip of what passes for "The Discourse" among the "intelligentsia" and their sycophantic chattering classes. indeed.

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