Extract From ‘Going Public’ by Boris Groys

“Obviously, these artists did not seek to
please the public, to satisfy its a aesthetic desires.
But neither did the avant-garde artists want to
shock the public, to produce displeasing images of
the sublime. In our culture, the notion of shock is
connected primarily to images of violence and sexuality.
But neither Malevich’s Black Square (1915),
Hugo Ball’s sound poems, or Ducham p’s Anem/c
Cinema (1926) presented violence or sexuality in
any explicit way. These avant-garde artists also did
not break any taboos, as there never w as a taboo
forbidding squares or monotonously rotating disks.
And the y did not surprise because squares and
disks are unsurprising. Instead, they demonstrated
the minimal conditions for producing an effect
of visibility— on an almost zero -level of form and
meaning. Their works are visible e m b o d im e n ts of
nothingness, or, equally, of pure subjectivity. And
in this sense they are purely auto poetic works,
granting visible form to a subjectivity that has been
e m p tied o u t, purified o f any specific content. The
av a n t-g a rd e the dramatization o f nothingness and
negativity is there fore not a sign of its “nihilism ,”
or a protest against the “nullification ” of life under
the conditions o f industrial capitalism . They are
sim ply signs of a new s ta r t— of an artistic metanoia
that leads the artist from an interest in the external
world to the a
Today, this auto poetic practice can be easily
interpreted as a kind o f commercial image production,
as brand development or trend setting . There
is no doubt that any public persona is also a com –
modity, and that every gesture towards going public
serves the interests o f numerous profiteurs and
potential share holders. And it is also clear that the
avant-garde artists them selves became such com –
mercial brands long ago. Following this line of argument,
it becomes easy to perceive any auto poetic
gesture as a gesture o f self-commodification — and
to then launch a critique of auto poetic practice as
n cover operation designed to conceal the protagonist’s
social ambitions and lust for profit. But w hile
this critique appears persuasive at first glance,
nnother question arises. What purpose does this
critique itself serve?”
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