Let's not complain if they don't take us seriously: contemporary art and quarantined social-performances

The contemporary art world during the coronavirus crackdown took to social media: but the results of performances on Instagram and similar platforms were not so exciting.

An incessant noise pervaded the quarantine of the magical art world by saturating the system’s social of choice, Instagram, on a daily basis. A constant background buzz, peaking daily at 6 p.m. in a profluence of murmuring red wheels (“stories” and “direct”), winking at the unsuspecting viewer approached by the social medium. Domestic confinement brought out the courtly undergrowth teeming in the art system, fireflies with luminescent terga activated in the night of the pandemic. That seventy percent, reasoning by default, of cosmic nothingness self-proclaimed professionals in the field (boasting the titles of art influencer, art lover, art blogger, art curator and all those offshoots of nothingness that populate thecontemporary art) transformed into a dancing, hissing cog throughout the quarantine, when he was not busy displaying in gleaming virtual showcases reproductions of works of art, thus distorting their power and flattening their dense valence in the screen. Empty compulsions to repeat.

It is told that if one has nothing to say or exhibit, there is no need to tell or show anything. If one does not even have the awareness and knowledge of the instrument and its language, it is a good habit to let it go and be silent. We understand, however, the defense mechanism that is triggered in human beings to escape the plots of oblivion and irrelevance, the sap on which social media (with related morbidity) feeds, exacerbated by the boredom and frustration induced by confinement. The problem, in fact, was not (and is not) this playful and colorful outline that postures and basks in the aura of art to give itself a tone and an identity, but the actual professionals in the system. Galleries, museums, critics, curators, journalists, artists, launched into an anxiogenic race to I must be there too, look at me, I exist, aping each other or worse yet launching into improvised performative gimmicks. A shower of digital moans dispensed to the people of the net according to the Word of artistic entertainment, the child of militant and anesthetizing protagonism. The latest “perfomance” in question was Nico Vascellari ’s 24-hour non-stop performance on a dedicated YouTube channel. Anyone who witnessed the Vascellari marathon will still be reeling from that hypnotic, pounding “I trusted you,” sung and danced (the wheel act returns) for a full day, non-stop. Undeniable is the psycho-physical stamina of the author, the communicative power that on Instagram engaged “vips” and celebrities from all over the world with billboard “Do you trust me?”, and the community created by the viewers connected at every hour of the day to be parts of the “total trust” of the artist, much less, however, the artistic value of the work that borders on the icy aseptic floor of the place of the act.

Nico Vascellari mentre ripete I trusted you durante la sua performance
Nico Vascellari while repeating I trusted you during his performance

Let us then not complain if from the outside they do not take seriously, or worse, the magical world of the contemporary, considering it as the same as a sociopathic and extravagant amusement park or a self-referential, preferably elitist and stinky stage where onanists fidget in the balance between conceptual pathological speculations and thumbtacks on the wall (with auras). They are right. Even more so now, with a global tragedy in the making and the total questioning of a vicious system that is screwing in on itself (energizing and fomenting itself) and the bubbles it obsessively creates and engulfs. This upheaval of the world’s existential paradigms should first lead us to a huge and cross-cutting bath of humility, perhaps sweeping away all those masturbatory acts that “provoke” the system. In this regard, another project, just unveiled on Instagram on May 4, is Love Stories by Francesco Vezzoli, among the most successful Italian artists in the world, at the Fondazione Prada in Milan. The artist “explores through the language of social media the emotional, loving and psychological state of a vast online community,” forcing “the ephemeral and instantaneous nature of Instagram by transforming it into a virtual site of social investigation, artistic reflection and intellectual provocation.” We read that Vezzoli in doing so “appropriates the communicative strategies of Instagram, and in particular the probing function of stories, to experiment with a new territory of sharing ideas, visions and impressions about love, sex, identity, the body, loneliness, belonging, otherness, and the future. The followers of Fondazione Prada, and more generally Instagram users, will be invited, story after story, to choose between two possible options, to side with one of the two proposed statements, to accept the binary, forcibly simplifying logic of the polls, to participate in an only seemingly light-hearted game.”

I think the press release speaks for itself. There is no need to add more. We will see if the artist Cupid will unhinge the nature of the platform with this virtual “work” poised between art, sociology and heart mail. And above all, we will see if all these ephemeral marketing and entertainment operations disguised in art will really be swept away. And we will get back to thinking about the primary essence of art. The peculiar unveiling capacity, which allows us to escape the “power of the will,” and its symbolic value. The power to create worlds, other realities, and to elevate matter. And man.