٠ Avelina Lésper and the problem with cynicism ٠

abmbvip5© Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Greedy Schmuck), 2012 at Art Basel Miami.

It’s a shame that the the video here posted has no english translation. A lot of interested people won’t understand what Angry Avelina is saying. Still, it is worth a post, so I’ll try to resume the reasons for such a hype about this. Avelina Lésper is a mexican art critic. I confess after hearing this I have no time to waste reading any of her ‘critics’, but I’ve gone through her blog and read quite a few responses to her critics, so I think I can plainly say this: Angry Avelina is a cynic.

Her ‘controversial’ statement is that ‘contemporary art is a farce’. I would easily agree with this generic statement (though not with the judgement implied), but that’s as far as I go in terms of agreeing with her. Her main argument is that contemporary ‘artists’ don’t master any medium, they have no skills, they can’t draw, sculpt or paint and their main tool is the discursive one. As for her discourse it is as much romantic as it is reactionary.

Avelina is aggressive, but what scares me is the applause and empathy she gets. She seems to have no problems in saying that there is a right and a wrong way to do things and that if you do a mistake you should go and learn how to do it better. She actually compares art to an exact science, reducing the arguments to a ridiculous and authoritative moral argument of there being a correct answer and a wrong one. So, she continues, the artists has to do something transcendent, to innovate, to communicate, and to speak about something else that reality. He/she has; he/she must; he/she should… see the problem here?

I agree with her in another aspect: I too like art that adds something to my ‘sentiment of being’ and I also hate papers that go along with visual works, trying to justify them; but that’s not enough to attack people’s personal liberty to create, do, trade, sell. One thing is to be against the art market and what it does to it, another is to let it corrupt your own understanding of the relevance of art in the personal and collective sphere.

In a letter to Avelina Lésper, mexican artist Felipe Ehrenberg speaks about her negative attitude and her constant incapability to do something constructive for the mexican art context. I would just call it being cynical, but Felipe adds she is a ‘bully’. He then adds a good argument, responding to her attack on the lack of skills: that the philosophical quests have changed and demand that non-traditional techniques be used to address them.

Another response to Avelina’s essay on contemporary art being a farce is by Jorge Restrepo (?) – Contemporary art:beyond the limits of theory and art criticism – and addresses (amongst other thing) Avelina conservationism, which students apparently don’t recognize or confuse with some sort of revolutionary thought. Here’s an excerpt:

“These difficulties of interdisciplinary integration over time and in different spaces reveal a great weakness in the human mind. This is without a doubt the principal cause of the problems that the Earth has at the moment: the incapacity of integrating knowledge. But why have we reached this point? There are multiple reasons, the first being that in learning, priority has be given to the intellectual instead of the corporal. This separation has very remote origins, which made people value learning without experiences, learning from what is described, not lived, embodied. Another reason is that people are catalogued by their conduct, not by their mental capacity and management of complexity. A company may promote an employee who is “orderly,” a desirable behavior; however this virtue could, in some cases, be indicative of incapacity given that people who are excessively organized can manage only a few elements in one routine. Geniuses such as Einstein led a chaotic life; but at the same time, their minds were able to deal with the more complex concepts and theories.

As the human brain is not going to evolve either in the short- or in the mid-term, it is essential to find new pathways, pedagogical strategies that stimulate us to have a mind in accordance withour times. That is where we arrive at the most questioned manifestations of art in Lésper’s conference – as a resource and, at the same time, as a manifestation of the need for complexity in the mechanisms of public communication: the concept expressed by many artiststhrough various media and messages n languages that she calls “junk.” Although manyexhibited works are questionable, something tells us that the set of proposals that are born, thatare shown in the exhibition halls, is where you will find a force and a human need that moves the whole.”

Cynicism is a very common approach to the contemporary art world. There’s a lot of reasons for it, more that I am able to perceive, but I find that its main problem is that it tends to defend what is ‘traditional’ and put forward a defense of there being something authentic, therefore claiming that all there is is inauthenticity, as if that wasn’t always the case…

2 thoughts on “٠ Avelina Lésper and the problem with cynicism ٠

  1. I can`t agree more with you. Miss Avelina seems not to see beyond the historical horizon of Bernard Berenson (but without his great culture); it`s not difficult to agree with her as far as she utters her rage against art dealers manipulating art scene (but I like better the cleverness of Ben Lewis or Robert Hughes). But it`s pitiful to hear her blurting out nonsense about Antoni Tapies, Marcel Duchamp or Surrealism! Lacking any comprehension, and conceited with her own dogmatism!!! All her followers are goodhearted, naive people seeking for some guru, trying to find a voice for their indignation …what a relief that she`s not a politician!!! She would become a Savonarola or a Hitler (I can imagine her joy making a new “Degenerated Art” Show).
    Greetings from Mexico.

    1. Thanks for the comment Boris, it’s good to have feedback on my own indignation with Avelina’s, especially coming from Mexico. Hopefully, through education, people can learn that contemporary art is producing more than the void she tries to convey. Best regards, Sofia.

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