May 2003
volume 1, issue 2

KRITIK!!! [3]

Marc and Robbie Herbst, founders of the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest

We came to the magazine with the exuberance of speech.

Art is a broadcast of all sorts of energy. Pirate Radio was our initiation into media.

Flipping the switch to your $300 transmitter or turning on the light for the opening night of your exhibit, you realize that the hegemony that established institutions have over communication is as much a result of lack of competition as anything else. When first painting the mysterious ether, your voice is present in rarefied air and becomes very powerful - there is a picture where there were jumbles of static. Piercing the illusion of the specialist, part of you always needs to share this magic. When you meet other DJs, you have things to talk about, for you are all conscientious objectors to an illusion that speech is maintained by others for you - "pass the mike will you?" Finally, and because you have no clue who is listening, you approach your audience differently. Your show is driven by your heart in conversation with friends and other DJs; your audience is organized in a political campaign to connect words to sites of meaning.

We refuse the defeatist attitude regarding the role of art in society. If another world is possible, it will be artists and activists who realize the vision and make it happen.

Most of our lives, we moved between the activist and art worlds, unaware of the distinctions that divide these discourses - freedom to speculate being a hallmark of both cliques. It’s silly that these two cliques don't hang out together - they are both involved in revealing visions that must be grasped with gloves that are not manufactured by the hegemony. The magazine is involved in developing "deep critiques" at once relating with the hegemony and simultaneously aware of its specter. Aesthetics and protest are not oppositions; they are necessary compliments. Ask a propagandist or a witch, formlessness doesn't communicate nothing.

The magazine is a conversation among friends and communities, it is a chance to formalize conversations and ideas that are floating around. Artists often privatize their creations so as to protect their property, activists hide their words in safety, yet a movement needs a memory of what was thought. It needs a place that gives people the space to speak out about problems and solutions.

Mat Gleason
Editor, Coagula, Los Angeles

Criticism in art is like an umpire in baseball. The difference is that in the art world nobody wants anyone to have the final word, there is nobody, not the head of a museum or the greatest artist who is allowed to be the final word on anything. There are more structures set up in the art world to prevent a critic from articulating and codifying a position than all the other prohibitions combined.

Why did you set up Coagula, and how it has been received over the years? Have you made lots of enemies? Is it worth it? What do you think the L.A. art scene has gained from Coagula?

It was meant to be an underground newspaper for the art world and as that it has succeeded. It has been received pretty well by people who are frustrated with the academies & hierarchies and despised by the people who aspire to be let into the Church of Art. It is worth it as a writer to have people read what I write, it has made me money. The L.A. art scene has gained a voice, mine I guess, although I have opened it up to lots of different voices. It is a forum in that way. Something for people to know that just because it exists, someone who is powerful may be getting kicked in the shins.

Daniel J. Martinez
Artist, Los Angeles
[Recently in Mexico]

Nothing is true, everything is possible ---Nietzsche

Recently, at a lab in Cambridge, a physicist, aided by a computer, captured light and then released it. I began to wonder if Genesis would be less miraculous if "Let There Be Light and Darkness" could be replicated by intelligent machines? Light is precious, essential for life - from photosynthesis to epiphanous moments in the presence of the beautiful. When we wanted to name the time when we abandoned superstition and embraced rationality, we called it The En-light-enment. Perhaps human beings are responding to the great shift from the industrial machine to the intelligent machine by abandoning the principles of Enlightenment. Is the return to religious fundamentalism - whether manifested as the Jihad, the Falun Gong, the Faith-Based Government, or Madonna embracing Kabbalah - really a symptom of a collective yearning for a pre-rational innocence/ignorance? In our heart of hearts, do we long for the time when the earth was the center of the universe, when the Grand Inquisitor told us the one truth, and when the boundaries of the known world were visible from our window?

Do you remember in "Measure of a Man" that one of the issues that would decide whether Data would live or die was whether he had a soul? Are we afraid of these intelligent machines because we wonder if they will possess a soul, or more likely, suspect that they might? The Bible says that man was given dominion over the earth and all that was present at creation. It gives us no answers regarding life forms we create ourselves.

Plato/Neo wants me to leave the cave. I hesitate because I have always relied on the guidance of the wise. I wait for those to lead me. Unfortunately, they are otherwise occupied searching for meaning among the relics.

Artists made art about social issues and concerns in a fever of utopian bliss - today we will transform the world. Okay, I romanticize. We won some, we lost more. But the question remains, where do we evolve from there?

If humanity has decided to face evolution by turning backward, there will at least be fewer tourists in the way when we see the first glimpse of the future.



1 Bear in mind that October was itself a product of a schism - being the brainchild of those cultural critics who found Artforum too commercial. Buchloh, despite the fact that he gets published by Artforum, rallies against them in this discussion. A further schism took place early on in October’s history, when Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe, one of the founders, split away.

2 Monica was a pre-Lewinsky “chicks with big-mouths” art magazine, for which our only criterion was that the criticism be readable and opinionated (we could well have stipulated “belletristic”). To be fair, it wasn’t just dry academia we were rallying against, but the dire stupidity of all arts-related coverage in the mass media that we felt compelled to counter. We published 6 issues before I launched LOG Illustrated, a tri-annual broadsheet which lasted for 15 issues and can still be read at:

3 Interestingly enough, in October’s Round Table discussion, which took place in December 2001 in New York City, not one of the critics present referred to the events of September 11, or the aftermath and its effect on freedom of speech. That the art world is completely divorced from world at large could not be better illustrated than this bizarre omission (and I don’t believe it was a deliberate tactic to “carry on as usual,” I think that the art world really does operate from this extremely rarefied remove). This seems extremely ironic given the origin of October’s name in revolutionary aesthetics, and the magazine’s supposed bent towards sustained politico-theoretical reflection. And while academics spent their precious time and intellect worrying that the ogre of Dave Hickey would straddle their skyscapes like a paunchy Colossus, the US government was stolen away by forces far more ubiquitous and sinister…

4 I think of my husband who sits on his computer all day every day, waging his own “information war” ( His version of bushido is to saturate himself and everything he touches with information – which becomes its own virus shield – a bullshit deflector.

5 “The Rebel Sell”:

1 | 2 | 3 | <back