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"But if criticism of art be historical criticism, it follows that it will not be possible to limit the duty of discerning the beautiful and the ugly to simple approval and rejection in the immediate consciousness of the artist when he produces, or of the man of taste when he contemplates; it must widen and elevate itself to what is called explanation. And since in the world of history (which is, indeed, the only world) negative or private facts do not exist, what seems to taste to be ugly and repugnant, because not artistic, will be neither ugly nor repugnant to historical consideration, because it knows that what is not artistic, yet is something else, and has its right to existence as truly as it has existed... For this reason, criticism of art, when truly aesthetic or historical, becomes at the same time amplified into a criticism of life..." BENEDETTO CROCE The Essence Of Aesthetic.

In terms of its articulation and presentation, the staging of Vermeer II is the product of a labyrinthal trawl through the highways and byways of art and history. Since art objects gain their appearance of ideological autonomy from their commodification(1), marketing is obviously a crucial component in the production of a successful work of art. Naturally, unique works command higher prices than multiples. Thus while cheap copy technology enabled me to produce the work for Vermeer II in the course of approximately twenty minutes, it was necessary to introduce an element that makes the pieces on display appear unique. By adding paint to manipulated xeroxes of Vermeer's output, I am able to inflate the price of 'my' work. Since a relentless interrogation of the notion of ideological autonomy constitutes an important element of the work, the pricing of the pieces reflects the deconstructive intent of the exhibition. The price for one picture is £25, the price for two £100, the price for three £400, and so on. With each additional piece purchased, the price is multiplied fourfold. Thus, the cost of all twenty-two pieces is a prohibitive £10,865,359,993,600, which will hopefully prevent any institution from snapping up the lot. Bids for the pictures should be put in during the course of the exhibition. In the case of more than one purchaser wishing to buy the same piece, preference will be given to whoever wishes to obtain the greater number of pictures.

One of the issues that has come to occupy an ever increasing role in my ongoing renegotiation of the passage between theory and practice is the false conflation of art and aesthetics. Few who understand the issues involved can doubt that any radical criticism of art must at the same time be a critique of a broader ideological system that uses the notion of taste to buttress social stratification. If the bourgeois subject constructs 'himself' as a 'man' of taste, then it follows that those who wish to escape the constraints placed upon them by this society, must necessarily transgress all notions of 'good' taste. Of course, this does not mean that those who oppose the world as it is cannot have an aesthetic response to the biosphere we inhabit, merely that such a response should not be organised around a principle of "taste" which is in its turn mediated through the "passive" contemplation of "art". As Marx observed in Capital, the only basis on which we can verify an anti-capitalist politics is the analysis and critique of the capitalist form of value: the commodity, the elementary form of wealth in societies governed by the capitalist mode of production. Despite the attempts of those who inhabit the art world to pose as a repository of progressive ideas and opinions, the inherently conservative bias of these aparatchiki is blatantly displayed in the fanaticism of curators when it comes to "preserving" and even "restoring" art works.

After perusing the rot written about the delicate state of Vermeer's paintings, a visitor from another planet could be forgiven for concluding that the old master didn't realise the pigments he was using would decay over time. Before dying, Vermeer left no instructions pertaining to the "preservation" or even "restoration" of his canvases. Nevertheless, curators will not allow these paintings to (d)evolve in the manner Vermeer so clearly intended. While Vermeer's work ought to operate as a mirror image of ongoing transformation within the social sphere, the situation we currently face can be summarised as The Portrait Of Dorian Gray in reverse. As increasingly ridiculous sums of money are "invested" in "preserving" and "restoring" works of art, the social reality with which we are confronted becomes even more decrepit and ugly. To highlight the negative relationship between art and the social, I have used the medium of copy technology to simulate the ways in which Vermeer's paintings might have remade themselves, if this process and the concomitant transformation of the social sphere had not been arrested by the baneful effects of capital.
Stewart Home, London July 1996.

1. For a more detailed explanation of my views on this process see "The Palingenesis Of The Avant-Garde" in Stewart Home Analecta (Sabotage Editions, London 1989 p. 2 - 5). Originally issued as a leaflet to accompany Vermeer II at workfortheeyetodo, 51 Hanbury Street, London E1, July to September 1996.

Back: Vermeer II invite text

Next: Review of Vermeer II from Art Monthly

Becoming (M)other (2004/5 London exhibition by Home)

Hallucination Generation (2006 Bristol exhibition by Home)

Humanity In Ruins (1988 London exhibition by Home)

Ruins of Glamour at Chisenhale Gallery

2010 Gallery Work by Stewart Home

Home on art/anti-art


Vermeer II (series) by Stewart Home 1996)

Vermeer II by Stewart Home

Vermeer II by Stewart Home

Vermeer II by Stewart Home

Vermeer II by Stewart Home

Vermeer II by Stewart Home

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