concept: The Art Resort


Or the story of non-art passing itself off as art’
© Jana Leo  New York-Madrid-New York  2007-2014

Bilingual version (Spanish/English)

It is indisputable that art does not have a major impact on intellectual progress or much influence on real life today. But, why? What is happening? The Art Resort tries to answer these questions.

On a small scale, what happens in art is the result of the model, which, in turn, is the result of something greater: the market for the intangible. The history of the conversion of the intangible to the tangible (e.g. an idea to a drawing) is as old as civilization, and it is always a difficult operation. During the last twenty years converting the intangible to the tangible, for commercial reasons, has focused on the abstract and has expanded into new fields. Traditionally, the intangible, by way of advertising, was objectified in the form of basic goods (like food or drink) or luxury goods (like clothing, houses or cars). In this way, Coca-Cola bubbles evoked happiness and the car moving through the landscape, freedom. Now, the intangible only results in other intangibles, which are almost impossible to realize. In this way experience becomes travel, thinking becomes meditation and wellness becomes relaxation. It is the market of the intangible squared. This new market is focused on leisure and culture. In this way, we can explain the way the art center in recent years has followed the model of tourism and has become an art ‘resort.’

The museums and large art centers of today are places that encourage escapism. Instead of functioning as signposts and symbols of the entrance to the city and its culture, they are following the model of the tourist resort. If we consider MoMA and Club Med, for example, both offer an alternative, a protected reality that fits perfectly with the concept of escapism. But, isn’t the purpose of art to confront reality?

In this context, The Art Resort tells the story of the struggle between non-art and art. And in the story non-art is winning so far. The book describes the elements and strategies employed by art in order to clarify what is not art, but attempts to pass itself off as art. This ‘civil war’ of art has consequences not only for art and artists (which is of little interest and affects very few), but also for the residents of the place where the struggle is taking place. The city is the battlefield. The Art Resort tells the story of the redefinition of what constitutes city.

Staying within the limits of the familiar and away from the unknown is not simply a personal choice – that of sacrificing excitement and adventure for fear. Rather it is a political act since it avoids the identification with the other and opens up a gap for cruelty and injustice. Beyond family bonds, the city enables significant exchanges between strangers. Art understands reality as a whole, unifies form and content, presents facts without separating them from the affects they are bound to, and in doing so, withstands dehumanization.

The impulse to found art and cultural centers may be a response to the intention of creating cities through art. But just as vacation resorts separate tourists from the local reality, and don’t allow for cultural exchange, the art center isolates art within its discipline and separates it from real life, it does not create city. Thus, the art center functions as an‘art resort’: well-known artists, and fleeting stars, exhibit their work without context. It’s a window-museum, a controlled view of international art; exhibitions drift from one art center to another without relating to the environment; a wide selection of recreational activities are offered to the visitor in an isolated enclosure. Public art is an excursion – there is movement and interaction but no connection. The art, in the ‘art resort’, is like the tourist that enjoys the local customs without touching the reality of the place; the tourist doesn’t expose himself to the risks of travelling; he merely exhibits himself. Two subjects that coexist without coming together are protected but do not enrich each other. Isolated, art loses its nutritive properties; it does not generate city. It breathes in an urban context that suspends progress. In this way, the ‘art resort’ is a model of art production.

The skin is separated from an animal’s body only when it is already dead and has become merely a product for exploitation. The center, production, the commissioner… This is military and mercantile terminology that forms a language of control. But the beginnings of artistic creation are about ambiguity and reflection, as expressed in the myth: Perseus kills Medusa using his shield as a mirror. Separation: the work of art becomes a mere piece, a part in a machine. The project, a method that art has appropriated from architecture, which separates the creative process into conception and realization; the work of art isn’t created, it’s produced; instead of works of art there are projects. The present time deferred to the future loses intensity. No real exposure, just showrooms. Works of art continue to be viewed live in the galleries, but as at a funeral, only the body is present.

A present, as in a gift, is defined by its ‘presentness’, in that moment of exchange. Unlike the fetish object, in a gift there is no projection. As opposed to a product, the gift is ambiguous and uncertain; it has an objective cost and sentimental value; it is valuable but not in a quantifiable way. As opposed to the production system, the gift is indirect and not linear; it is based on mutual recognition and implies commitment. Even if it is in response to an invitation, it is a surprise. A gift requires interaction; it is not acquired, but given or received.

Existent and Desired, Proposal for a Model of Museum