We are all familiar with America. We all consume it with our food, be it locally sourced guinea hen or a chicken shipped in from Iowa and deep-fried at your local drive-thru chain. In this society, which we call the World, individuals are indoctrinated into a community through purchasing the ready-made product, irregardless of whether the object is something the consumer requires, or whether the consumer could do without, with a little creative improvisation. These are prepackaged solutions, prepackaged meals and means.
“Yes, We Are Open Source” represents what is considered a higher form of consumption, the consumption of Art. Supposedly artwork is better for you than magazines----it makes you smarter, makes you think critically. But perhaps the more productive community is the one that takes those critical ideas further, creating together rather than passively collecting and displaying Richard Princes. “Open Source” culture creates the opportunity to form communities of creators: it enables ideas to go through transformations as they pass, productively, through individuals, creating community through productive exchange.
The artworks represented here interrogate the day-to-day consumption omnipresent in capitalist American society – pills, soup, candy, images of “America” and of “The American,” images of “Contemporary Art.” Today’s art world admits the value of representing the world in which we live, the importance of addressing quotidian existence in a capitalist society. By contrast, the old art world seems more elitist – genre paintings, which depicted the daily life of “average” individuals, were regarded as the lowest form of art. While today's art world exalts the kitsch and the lowbrow, these works also play into an elite community of the affluent – the “Collectors,” the high society of capitalist culture.
Most of the works (re-)appropriated are iconic of an explosion of art market prices. While they investigate the saturation of the contemporary capitalist world with images and objects, they are also evidence of an artificial creation of market value. Perhaps these works represent a democratization of culture in their attempt to represent a universe of consumption that all members of this society are familiar with. In opposition to this, they become inaccessible because of their existence in a market-driven universe.
These artists have paradoxical intentions: for their ideas to be accessible, appealing to the “masses” of consumers, but also for their actual works -- or rather, products -- to be inaccessible. In theory, most of these works are limitlessly reproducible. Digital prints that could be endlessly reprinted, making enough for everyone. Specially manufactured balloon dogs that could be produced en masse. The creation of these art objects are artificially limited, as though they could not be “art,” and therefore of high culture and high value, if they were, in fact, as accessible as they could be.
Is it impossible for an object to be an art object if everyone can have it? The institutions in place refuse this possibility. As art objects grow increasingly democratic, institutions such as museums, galleries, and collectors fight to preserve an inaccessible, elite art community. But again, is an object not an art object if it can only be sold for more than it is worth? This elitism limits the creative endeavors of the individual, allotting creative power to the big names that create value and so sustaining the status-quo, the “high society” art world.
Yes, We Are Open Source investigates the complexities of the theoretically democratic and the factually elitist. Rob Pruitt’s contemporary (that is, 1999) 101 Art Ideas You Can Do Yourself gets to the heart of this question, taking up, where works like Yoko Ono’s instructions for “pieces,” which appeared in the limited-edition Grapefruit in 1964, left off. Both ask to whom the artwork belongs if it was “an artist’s” idea, but both also suggest, by their encouragement of the participation of the consumer, that “artwork” could be the creation of a community, rather than a purchasable object. Ono’s “Let’s Piece I” suggests the untapped potential of productive individuals in an active, rather than passive, community.
b) let everybody in the city think
of the word “yes” at the same time
for 30 seconds. Do it often.
c) make it the whole world thinking
all the time.
Significantly less poetic, Pruitt’s website and book nevertheless suggest the same potential, creating a community of the passive users of the internet by encouraging them to think beyond what they have been given. “Art Idea No. 2: Write captions on the glass for the view outside your window,” permits the reader/consumer to acknowledge his own vision of the world and call it art, rather than wishing he could buy an unaffordable, prepackaged vision in limited production.
Placing “Yes, We Are Open Source” in the Granoff café admits a particular kind of community, anticipating that those who take part in the project are those who are already part of the Granoff Center community. The Perry and Marty Granoff Center for Creative Arts has, since its opening earlier this year, fostered a community of creative students at Brown University, many of whom, it must be admitted, are members of the social elite. However, another element connecting the frequenters of the Granoff Center, the one which we would like to focus on, is a shared interest in art and creativity. What’s more, these individuals are students, who must, by virtue of their privileged places at Brown and RISD, believe in the potential of the as-of-yet unknown individual to influence the world they are preparing to enter.
As human beings we consume. Eating food, the definitive form of human consumption, can be an immensely productive way of creating connections and conversations--sharing a meal undeniably brings people closer, as Rirkrit Tiravanija’s work suggests. A merit-based capitalist society is predicated on the appeal of objects and ideas to as many people as possible, and therefore has the potential for the democratization of those ideas, as long as we share as well as buy and sell.
This project reconsiders the art gallery as supermarket----buy what you like, and do what you will. We ask you to consume ideas as well as objects, and then think on them, processing them and allowing those ideas to transform into something new.
JACQUES SMITH +1 402.677.3117 THEJOKER@CREWLOVE.US