I Awoke to Find Myself etc.

I Awoke to Find Myself in a Dark Forest

Alex Gawronski, I Awoke to Find Myself in a Dark Forest, 2022

PROP, Ashfield, Sydney, NSW

(Acrylic on canvas (varnished) all 1220 x 915 mm)

In typical, usually unconscious appraisals of art, art indicates a realm of freedom in which ideas and aesthetic experiments appear to free us from prosaic and oppressive realities. Art represents a better, more progressive, more open vision of the world even when its content might otherwise be disturbing.

Missing from this view of art as an ideated outside of things ‘as they are’, are all those cultural expressions deemed unworthy of art. References to the mundane, often non-sensical tedium that punctuates much that passes for work under neoliberal capitalist conditions, is without doubt considered beyond the pale. Such references are not so much disturbing (although they are) but, tedious, ‘anti-creative’, stupid, a mere fact of contemporary life that especially in art, should be put aside and forgotten. There is ‘work’. And then there is… Art!

Nonetheless the bureaucracies and messages that propel neoliberal capitalist extractivism, flood, administer and control the spaces of work, where most people spend most of their time. Such unspoken exclusion, the imperative that art must be uniformly ‘interesting’, aesthetically ‘engaging’ and inventive, simultaneously renders art merely a compensatory mechanism in a world dominated by the banality of the capitalist profit motive of work and endemic self-entrepreneurialism. In art, any drive to radical change must be figurative only.

Filling the ‘sacred’ space of art with neoliberal dross then is a means of thinking outside art as a thing, and arena, in and of itself. These works faithfully reproduce the fantasies of self-entrepreneurial competition, ranking and quantification central to the degraded yet lingering neoliberal mindset. Tellingly, rather than outside art, this mindset clings to contemporary culture like a virus. This ensemble of paintings, ritually gifted gratis at the conclusion of the show, aimed to foreground the underlying instrumentalisation and constriction of art as a form of thinking, within a culture of privatization that pits all against all. In the absence of actual innocence, who ranks, and for whom?


Written by alex gawronski

September 1, 2022 at 5:59 PM