Monthly Archives: April 2013

Interview with Artcodex at the Dakota Theater

Here is an interview that we did for a theater space where we showed some work last night. It was part of a concert series called Edition Eight Handmade Homegrown at Theater Dakota in The Hague.


April 15, 2013

Artcodex: Ghost Modernism

The New York art collective Artcodex will be residing in The Hague Sunday 14 to Sunday 28 April at Quartair. Featuring Shelly Bahl, Bibi Calderaro, Glen Eden Einbinder, Mike Estabrook, Brian Higbee, Vandana Jain, Ben Knight, Emmanuel Victor Migrino, Alan Moore, Huong Ngo and Mike Radar, they will open ‘Ghost Modernism’ 20 April –

We are so happy that they join us as guests for Edition Eight Handmade Homegrown concert series at Theater Dakota in The Hague.


1) who is artcodex? where are you based? what do you do?

We are a bunch of artists mostly living and working in Brooklyn, New York. We like to work collectively so that we can pursue ideas that fall outside our usual individual practices, and engage in more social and experimental ways of creating art. We often incorporate travel into our collective practice to interact and exchange with other artistic communities, and to create work that involves the audience.

We often talk about how we see the New York art world as dominated by two main forces, the art market and art academia, (i.e. theory). Through our collective practice, we strive to find a third path, one that is neither elitist nor hierarchical, and allows access to people without regards to economic status or specialized education.

2) what is ‘ghost modernism’?

Ghost Modernism started off as a pun, a funny turn of phrase that seemed to hit an important chord in our creative consciousness, which has developed into a re-examination of modernism and post-modernism.  Though originally rooted in radical thought, modernism has now become co-opted by corporate consumer culture.  In the U.S, when we think of utopic strivings such as communes (and communism) we think of them as flawed and practically unattainable. The notion of voting with our dollars has overtaken any real political activity, besides the quadrennial casting of votes for red or blue.

For us, Ghost Modernism is not the next stage in a linear evolution so much as the creation of a new space to think differently. It is a place where we can reclaim the utopian hopes of Modernism informed by the contextual critiques levied by Post-Modernism.

3) modernism, post-modernism and the utopian dream – discuss…!…?

The work we’ve created that most literally deals with these inquiries is our venn diagram piece. It is made of three intersecting circles, each representing Modernism, Post-Modernism, and Ghost-Modernism. We created this chart directly on the wall with blackboard paint, and have made both chalk and erasers available.  Anyone is invited to list their notions of the characteristics of each, and to erase any previous entries with which they disagree.

As the Netherlands has a long history of engaging with modernist aesthetics and ideas, as well as a deep relationship with both co-operatives and with social democracy, we are especially interested in the unique perspectives that working with a Dutch audience will bring.


Artcodex will open their exhibition at Quartair on April 20 –

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Exhibition with Artcodex at Quartiar in Den Haag: Ghost Modernism and The History of Progress, Violence and the Modern Spectacle

I’m in Den Haag installing a show at an artist run space called Quartair. This is what their website says:

Quartair was founded in 1992 as a non-profit organization by a group of young artists, just after graduation from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague.

Quartair is located at The Hague Breadfactory, built in 1902, on the Toussaintkade in The Hague. The monumental building is managed by Foundation B141. In the building 12 artists have their studios, and on the ground floor is a gallery space of 200 m2. The building was renovated in 2010.
Quartair is one of the longest running artist-run-spaces in The Hague.

Yesterday I installed The History of Progress, Violence and the Modern Spectacle as part of the show Ghost Modernism. We exhibited an earlier incarnation of the show at Bose Pacia in DUMBO a couple of weeks ago. I revised and shortened the statement about the series for a wall text and this is what I wrote:

A History of Progress, Violence and the Modern Spectacle is a series of paintings that address the advancements of technology during the early phases of the modern era and its relationship, either directly or as a subtext, to the “spectacle” of violence. By pixelating the photographs, the images become both abstract and “representational” depending on the viewers proximity to the work, straddling the line between two forms of existence. The paintings in this way exemplify pure information, a visual digitization of the gap between what we perceive and what is real.

This work is part of a much larger project created in 1999 called the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research, an “organization” of one that uses politics, collectivity and dissent as tools for artistic expression.

 I’m not using the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research in the title because at this point I think that it would just confuse things. I decided to use it in the end though so that it get’s a proper context.

Here’s an installation shot of the painting’s on the wall.

Brian Higbees The History of Progress at Den Haag

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Anton Vidokle in e-flux: Art without Market, Art without Education: Political Economy of Art (Excerpts)

Here are some excerpts from an article written by Anton Vidokle in e-flux called Art without Market, Art without Education: Political Economy of Art. I thought that it made a lot of good points about the homogenizing effects of MFA grad schools and the kind of art that is being produced by these programs. I’ve been thinking a lot about the kind of art that I see being made and have slowly come to the same conclusions about how Graduate schools are training artists to create work that can be easily recognized and commodified for an art market with specific expectations. This means that artists are being taught to be more competitive by utilizing the same marketing tactics that businesses use and by learning to create products that are designed to stand out amongst the other competitors.

The problem of professionalization is connected to the proliferation of MFA programs, which have become a prerequisite for young people entering the arts. In a sense, universities and academies have created a perfect economic feedback loop that perpetuates their own existence: most artists depend on having a teaching position. This is because, as Walid Raad recently pointed out, the average life-span of financial success in the art market (in places where there is such a thing)—a period during which a successful artist’s work is in active demand by collectors—is a mere four years.  How do you support yourself when your work does not sell anymore? You teach—and to qualify for a teaching position, you need an MFA degree. This means that most artists who aspire to a life-long practice have little choice but to enroll in MFA programs and often pay astronomical fees and go into debt in order to have a chance of teaching in the future or selling their work in the lucrative art market. But unlike other fields, such as law or medicine, where graduates can reasonably expect a job upon graduation, there are no guarantees that an artist with an MFA degree will find a teaching job. With recent shifts in hiring policies at most universities—towards part-time, untenured, adjunct labor—very few artists ever get a tenured, secure position. To me, this resembles a kind of pyramid scheme or institutional blackmail in which money is extracted using false promises, with the benefits going to very few—primarily the institutions themselves.

It seems to me that MFA programs have become a tool of indoctrination that has had an unprecedented homogenizing effect on artistic practices worldwide, an effect that is now being replicated with curatorial and critical writing programs.

For a few years now I have experienced a certain sense of déjà vu while walking through art fairs or biennials, a feeling that many other people have also commented on: that we have already seen all these works that are supposedly brand new. We are experiencing the impact of contemporary art as a globally traded commodity that is produced, displayed, and circulated by an industry of specially trained professionals.

…if one is really looking to produce a different kind of art, it is necessary to step through the standardization and professionalization it promises, and discover a way to access whatever may be on the other side—even if what one finds does not resemble art as we currently understand it.

This supposes that, somewhere close to the center of what we all know art to be, there is a kind of open, undefined quality. And this is something I feel to be increasingly difficult to develop and maintain both in art and other areas of life, when there are so many pressures in the market-driven economy to divide labor, to professionalize. As artists, curators, and writers, we are increasingly forced to market ourselves by developing a consistent product, a concise presentation, a statement that can be communicated in thirty seconds or less—and oftentimes this alone passes for professionalism. For emerging artists and curators there is an ever-increasing number of well-intentioned programs that essentially indoctrinate them into becoming content providers for an art system whose values and welfare are wholly defined by its own logic of supply and demand.


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A Theory of Progress Installed Collage

Here’s a collage photo that I made of what A Theory of Progress (X) would look like installed in a gallery. The angles are all wrong and I sort of like the “lameness” of the execution. I see architects doing this a lot when they make their proposal collages. Somehow I think it’s acceptable. I’m thinking about using it for a proposal for some exhibition opportunities.

Also I was rejected from Socrates Sculpture Park again for my proposal for 186646591. It’s not too surprising to me; I’ve had almost every application that I’ve submitted for the past 4 years rejected, which is a lot in my opinion. I’ll probably keep trying but I’m skeptical and disheartened by the process at this point. I guess I have to learn to tell a better story.

A Theory of Progress Horizontal Column in the Gallery Mock Up

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