Main Squeeze (2018): a one-night event of interior distention hosted by QUEENS LA.
An open letter from Earl Gravy:
Recently we have been wrestling with the question of what art is/can be/should do. The first quarter of the 21st century has revived an inquiry into contemporary art's cultural apparatus, exposing the role of meta-data (press releases like this one; wall texts; hashtags...) in establishing a work's cultural worth. Since we [Earl Gravy] are not so much in the business of producing commodity items, 21st-century capitalism has ensured our orientation towards narrative is sufficiently productive.
We acknowledge that we are a tool for the market, albeit a poor one, albeit not the poorest one.
In thinking through the ways meta-narrative has come to usurp the art object and in turn how this circulation of story has profoundly modified the ways in which cultural wealth is created, the work of sociologists Luc Boltanski and Arnaud Esquerre has been particularly instructive. In their book Enrichissement: Une critique de la marchandise (Enrichment: A critique of the commodity, 2017), the pair describe how contemporary art, museum culture, the luxury sector and tourism assist in "enriching" sites and objects through a relationship to the past, because the historic seems to be our most viable means of structuring present-day power. The contemporary exploitation of history is now playing out violently in populist chants ("Make America Great Again") and art is following suit (a return to painting, and more specifically, a resurgence in formalist aesthetics). A decade ago, “social practice” was the trend du jour, but with the realization that the “work” itself was usually impotent in bringing about any real social change, we were forced to admit that art is always surpassed by its relational apparatus; a blockchain of self-serving gestures.
So what is the contemporary artist to do? We cycled through countless ideas for this show ranging from sculptural to performative, comedic to polemic. All fell flat; there is just so little room to maneuver. In the end, we decided to blow something up.
*Please note there will be a very good exhibition going on next door: the work of Riley Strom and Charlotte Patterson, curated by Holiday (Pejman Shojaei & Luke Forsyth).
**Documentation images culled from various Instagram feeds.