"What did the first brain to find itself on this planet do? Presumably it was astonished at being here and hadn't a clue what to make of itself and the filthy vehicle beneath its feet. In the meantime people have come to terms with their brains by regarding them as so unimportant as to be not even worth ignoring, by making rastas of themselves (bottommost: blackish pole; uppermost; the president of the senate, say) and by turning the so-unjustly beloved nature into the backdrop for a right farce. Although this doubtless not especially heroic way of avoiding a dilemma that still receives insufficient appreciation has become quite void of any charm now that it is so utterly predictable (how infantile bathroom scales are!), for this self-same reason it is, however, highly suitable for the conducting of certain procedures." - Walter Serner in Last Loosening Manifesto (1916)

"The concept of reality is a highly variable value, and entirely dependent on the brain and the requirements of the brain which considers it." - Richard Hülsenbeck in En Avant Dada (1920)

"After all, what is an art object, in any discipline,
but a beautifully woven system of life-giving lies that burst with potentiality?"
- Olchar E. Lindsann in Cheating Art History:
Strategies on the Fight Against Modernism ( ADa 91 )

"The pressure of occupation and the incessant stream of impressions pouring into our consciousness through all the gateways of knowledge make modern existence hazardous in many ways. Most persons are so absorbed in the contemplation of the outside world that they are wholly oblivious to what is passing on within themselves. The premature death of millions is primarily traceable to this cause." - Nikola Tesla in My Inventions (1919)

"I am not an artist because I refuse to be bored." - David Beris Edwards in BARM ( ADa 92 )

"Every manifestation of our life is accompanied by noise." - Luigi Russolo in L'arte dei rumori ( 1913 )

Friday, September 25, 2009

Art's Ambassador to Africa: Barthélémy Toguo

Who does Barthelemy Toguo try to engage? What consequences does his work deliver this Art World? What about those who actually work occupations which require manual labour? Perhaps for Toguo, these are questions that seemingly are up to interpretation by the viewer of the Art as it is nowhere clearly discernable. Then more questions: Who is the viewer in this scenario? The tour guide who is reciting big words like phenomenology and references Carl Andre with a group of 20 post-middle age women that follow her? The students who traveled 33.18 miles from New Jersey for an Art class? Or two French men out on a stroll who look to inform themselves of the latest products of the "high culture"? Certainly the man watering the street 100 yards from the gallery will not appear: he is too busy working.

Without reading the meager press release, which I doubt was written by Robert Miller (Could this be him?), one is left with little other than a 59 second video projection and the peanut m&ms I dropped onto the floor of the pristine vacant 20x30ft room doused in the smell of ammonia cleaner. The air hardly suggests that Toguo is a French educated Cameroon native who sells Art throughout high-cultural institutions in developed world in order to fund his Western contribution to the people of Bandjoun, Cameroon: the Bandjoun Station. The Bandjoun Station is an artist residency space which aims to bring in international Artists to the program to "stimulate creativity and the desire for culture." Toguo also makes a point to mention that these international Artists are brought in "in order to avoid the pitfall of the ‘African art ghetto.'" Taking those promises into consideration, it seems that Toguo strives to bring the West and the need for its Culture to Bandjoun instead of leaving the chiefdom to develop in the ways it as a community feels necessary. Here is discovered the contradiction in the overall form of Toguo's project when he makes a point to say: "It is essential that we find OUR OWN solutions in all areas, whether agriculture, healthcare, economy, culture, politics, education or sport." It is impossible that the people of Bandjoun find their own solutions for their problems if they are relying on foreign solutions rooted in foreign capital imported from the Western world.

Meanwhile, the press release explains how Toguo takes advantage of his traditions and values to submit to the hand of the Art World:
"His precise contribution to the cultural dialog on post-colonialism, particularly on France's legacy, uniquely conforms to the rules of the contemporary art world's internal vernacular idioms but derives its sources and strengths from entirely outside the western [sic] canon."

Of the video itself: Is it really worth $7,500 USD? What denotes its value in currency? Rather silly it is that video documentation of a performance which must have lasted more than a minute and could in comparable time be uploaded to a video proliferation service such as YouTube or Vimeo at no charge, would be equal to significant portions of many peoples' annual income, not to speak of his pieces Art going for $25k. It seems to me that Toguo is that of a philanthropist: harvesting the riches while distributing processed goods to those who have lost the conditions to support themselves to Modernism. At first it seems that he is performing a good deed, but if one looks closer they will find that it is only the commencement of the spread of the ever-morphing "post-"Modern disease in bed with Captialism which has kept classes divided for the last several centuries, if not more, disguised as a world of Art and Culture.

The link for the Bandjoun Station: [ http://www.bandjounstation.com ]

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