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Hume's Dilemma

From: Adrian Searle
Date: 05 Oct 2010
Time: 13:46:29 -0500


Hereís a story of Modern Art. Itís a story I keep hearing, over and over. Here goes: You have a romantic notion, the dream of being an artist. You go to college, the right college, and work and work and with diligence and zeal come up with a bright idea. Of all the bright ideas you might have had, this is the one that catches on. Itís catchy. Itís got a hook. Itís got a twist. First your friends, and then your teachers, and then your dealers, and then the collectors and critics and curators and all of the others watch as the one idea grows and flourishes and comes to be expected. And this one idea of yours ceases to be an idea and turns into product, a waiting-list, a schedule, a production-line. Now this idea comes Classic, Deluxe, Series or Straight. It comes pocket-size or mural. Youíre eating better now, and sending your clothes to the laundry. Your address bookís fatter and so are you. Maybe now you can get someone else to make this stuff, and carry on the work of the one idea, because all of this happened many, many ideas ago. And the clock is running, and itís way past 15 minutes ago that you had the one idea; it was several, several marriages ago. You could turn the idea on its head. Flip it, twist it, kick it. You could always hang it on the wall, this one idea of yours, like a moose-head in the library, with its glass eyes and moulting hair and stuffing coming out of its mouth. It was a good idea. It still is a good idea, but not the only one. There are forces at work though, to keep things as they are. Market forces, psychology, paranoia, a sense of self-esteem. If you change track now, will it wipe out the one idea? The collectors are getting nervous. If you switch now, will people think youíre ambulance-chasing? Are you sincere? Whereís your commitment and whereís your career? Keep your head down, stay low. Youíre a character trapped by a chance remark, stuck inside an old routine. It was an idea you were once in thrall to, but it wasnít the only one. And it had its limitations.