Alan Belcher is a contemporary visual artist based in Toronto. He was co-founder and co-director of Gallery Nature Morte with artist Peter Nagy in New York’s East Village from 1982-88.
RBA: What do you envision the role of the arts and the art world to be in this turbulent political time?
Art must boldly forge ahead in this period when the political World spins backwards. Instead of retracting head in sand with a default to face-value art evasive of meaning and in denial of any previous timeline (which unfortunately seems ‘de rigueur’), one would believe creatives and their facilitators would champion content and layering with a healthy embrace of participation in the art historical. The disastrous tailspin into a culture of fake truths and fly-over fact-checking would dictate that creative endeavors should at least be respectful of predecessors and aspire to an adventure of development. Current predominance of pedestrian modes of retro-Figuration and the slap-dash of cut-n-paste collage has stepped the culture into reverse, and has stripped gears.
There must be a resistance and legion to defend against sensational knee-jerk artistic responses to selfish populism and crook politics —sloganeering in oil, acrylic, mirror, or neon which would function ideally and simply enough on the chest of a T-shirt should not be encouraged (or Instagrammed !).
And speaking of Biennials, and their accompanied Instagram-baiting installations; this is the time to seriously celebrate bodies of work in support of dynamic artists, and not default to competitive one-off selfie-settings. With that in mind, the burgeoning notion of reality-show art-prize competitions (usually ageist and with regional quotas) only pits artists against other artists (apples & oranges), and in this age of populism nothing would seem more misguided or inappropriate.
IND: How do we as individuals combat the inequalities and disparities we see within our field?
Let’s talk ageism. A decided short-sighted concentration on those artists referred to as ‘Emerging’ should be called out for what it is —prospecting. For those miners of the minors, that gold is for fools.
A viewer’s verve for discovery can be satisfied by a creative of any generation. The notion that those of youth hold a unique destination is a fallacy. All artists are able to participate in the culture of 'The New' regardless of birth. To continually suck on youth to the extent of systematically putting older blood out to pasture is a vampire activity. To sample green sprouts in hopes of piggy-backing a bus shows a distinct disregard for the life cycle of art —to nurture creative endeavor is a continual investment and responsibility.
And on the other side of the spectrum, those whose choice is to now chase seniors with their looming estates in mind are equally irresponsible and abhorrent in their transparency.