In Mute magazine, O. D. Untermesh writes about recent accusations that a London art gallery, LD50, has been covertly advancing a white nationalist agenda through its exhibitions and speaking events. Untermesh argues that the helter-skelter pastiche of much contemporary art is in fact uniquely conducive to the “rebranding” of fascism, since this aesthetic can be used to conceal fascist content that, if expressed more directly, would not be allowed in most galleries. He goes on to offer nine theses on how to recognize and confront the emerging “art-right.” Read an excerpt below, or the full text here.
5.) It would be possible to argue that the dissolution of fascist symbols into a larger flux of anachronistic text and visual elements is reactionary only in the sense that the former conceal the latter, or because placing Pepe the Frog next to (e.g.) the Andrex puppy or a pixelated image of an elf indicates an indifference to the larger historical significance of the uses to which Pepe is now put. But the argument from disproportion misses the deeper receptiveness to fascist attitudes of much visually overloaded, deliberately obsolescent or backward-looking contemporary visual art, since the tendency of artists working in this mode to conceive of the past in terms of relentless nostalgia for a fantasised world of undamaged safety or protection (symbolised in old video games or TV advertisements), is perfectly continuous with the tendency of white nationalists to fantasise what was in fact a history of imperial aggrandisement and class struggle in the terms of undamaged communal integrity and social cohesion. In other words, in contemporary visual art, the larger the pixels, the narrower the range of historical intelligence.
6.) By contrast, the more fully self-organised and the more hostile to the marketplace of personal reputation a culture becomes, the easier it will find it to identity and to root out fascist tendencies.
7). Fascist artists are likely to proliferate over the next few years with traditional organic fecundity. The tendencies will be crypto and overt, technicist and pastoral, cyborg and social conservative, they will speak ‘from the left’ or they will claim to be apolitical, they will have great plans or they will be nihilists, they will emit notes of irony to perfume their racism or they will let racism waft insensibly into their irony. The dizzying variety of aesthetic tendencies will replicate at the level of the genre the formal overloadedness of the ideal-typical work of conservative post-internet art, and it will match the diminished attention span of an artworld whose own art of the deal is now defined by the principle that it will buy absolutely fucking anything. There are good reasons for this hyperactivity, just as, in yet another domain, a proto-fascist president has in his own terms good reason to proliferate with seemingly organic fecundity an endless series of hateful executive orders. Put simply: for those whose politics revolve around the defence of an historically regressive form of domination like the capitalist nation state, frenetic activity is the only possible means of simulating real historical dynamism. And just as with any other grotesque farce in the Rabelaisian tradition, the farce of national protectionism that Trumpism represents will lead to no more progressive development in art or politics than an unprecedented new growth in innovatively trapped wind.
Image via ld50gallery.com.