Jesus Fucking Christ, some people…
…The paper [NYT] published Michael Walker’s “Is Donald Trump, Wall-Builder-in-Chief, a Conceptual Artist?,” a clickbait headline for a piece about Swiss-Icelandic conceptual artist Christoph Büchel’s “nonprofit” MAGA which has created an online petition to have the prototypes for Trump’s border wall declared National Monuments. This aligns with a broader effort by Büchel/MAGA to frame the models as Land Art: since December 2018 they’ve been offering onsite tours of the prototypes, which a press release claimed “have significant cultural value.” Value, of course, is not the same as meaning. The broad-strokes inferences of a facile transference of historical meaning into cultural value are obviously both political and artistic; in both contexts their implications are pretty toxic.
Politically, with its arch tone and conceptual trappings, Büchel’s project normalizes and sanitizes the man stoking tensions about nuclear war via Twitter (it’s reminiscent of Jimmy Fallon petting his hair) and actively threatening the livelihoods and futures of DACA recipients while undermining the US’s longstanding diplomatic relationship with Mexico (also: undermining all Mexicans as human beings). Artistically, it does a disservice to the real work of serious artists by promoting what, evaluated on the merits, is the worst kind of incoherent conceptual art — flawed in both concept and execution.
Per the Times, Büchel “is adamant he has no creative stake in the project” (which seems an odd way for an artist to establish integrity). He claims that “This is a collective sculpture; people elected the artist.” For Büchel, writes Walker, “Americans, by electing Mr. Trump, allowed his obsessions to be given form that qualifies as an artistic statement.” This kind of convoluted philosophizing to legitimate a flimsy artistic premise wishes to align itself with, or at least to appropriate, the Duchampian honesty that claims “It’s art because I say so.” Büchel seems to be doing something more insidious: using art-speaky language to prop up something I suspect he must know is pretty empty as a conceptual artwork (even if the prototypes themselves are visually imposing), while contributing to, and deriving press coverage from, a dangerously violent political context.
Not all Americans elected the Tiny Tyrant, Mr. Büchel. Actually, the majority of them voted against him. Büchel typifies the exact type of shallow, pretentious asshole, who, with nothing else to market, jumps on something they think is trendily controversial, coated with enough bullshit to engage the fleeting attention span of the ‘art world’, the one inhabited by people with less depth than a puddle. The most one could say about the wall prototypes is that they are a monument to unthinking bigotry and hatred; that they glorify isolation and dehumanisation. In the current time, when people have finally decided, rightly, that monuments to slavery and those who defended it are not appropriate, why in the fuck would these monstrosities be considered to have any value? This is a disgusting, infuriating story, and I’m going to go help myself to more tea and go feed the birds instead of risking a blown artery. You can read the whole thing, with all relevant links at Hyperallergic.