POST-TRUTH, ART-FICE AND TRUMP L'OEIL
Merino, renowned independent art critic, has published over
70 reviews. He is a ceramic
artist and has lectured internationally on contemporary
object, idea, deity and personage that exists or ever will exist
has two qualities: what it is, and what it is perceived to be.
The human mind can tolerate a certain amount of deviation between
these two qualities for most types of objects. One of the institutionalized
exceptions is art. The essence of the object is never what it
appears to be. This umbrella observation works just as well
for a trompe l'œil still life and a revered Dadaist work.
William Harnett’s Music and Good Luck, 1888,
appears to the viewer to be a violin hanging on a wooden door.
Pigments are floated in oil on canvas. The Fountain,
1917, is viewed as a seminal work in Dadaism. It is, however,
a urinal with graffiti scrolled on it.
distinction has lost all functionality during the past 30 years.
Not because art has changed much, but the world we live in has
changed. In our post-Nietzschean nihilist wonderland, every
object, idea, deity and personage’s perception is completely
unfettered from whatever it is. The term ‘post-truth’
emerged to define this age. It is personified by American President
does an art distinguished itself when there is discord between
its essence and appearance in everything? The term post-truth
was predicted fifty years ago in the visual arts; it was given
the name “aesthetics of theatre.” The term was originally
coined by noted modernist zealot Michael Fried. In his seminal
essay, “Art and Objecthood,” Fried observed that
Minimalism (which he called literalist art) pivoted the mechanics
of representation in art. Over-simplified representationalism
of any sort was what the epoch of modernism strived to free
art from. Before the literalist, representation happened after
the experience. So, Jean-Paul Marat had to have been assassinated
for Jacques-Louis David to paint La Mort de Marat (The Death
of Marat), 1793. Fried argued that the minimalist was creating
future experiences -- and therefore their works became representations
of their experience.
as Fried walks his reader through this aesthetics mechanics,
he can be read as predicting the genius -- however accidental,
of Donald Trump. Trump frustrates many. He seems completely
unrestrained by decency, empathy or even logic. All of these
are manifestations of a certain manner of thought that comes
very close to Fried’s theatre of aesthetics. Trump sees
what he says now, not as representations of conditions as they
were or are, but as they will be. In this light, the term post-truth
has a completely different and perhaps more accurate meaning.
Commonly, the term suggests truth is dead. Accepting that this
has become the normative aesthetic of American society, Post
Truth equally becomes an affirmation as much as it is a rejection.
Truth gets defined before it happens. It is the projection of
a few writers have observed how Trump manifests the philosophy
of Norman Vincent Peale. Peale was a Minister best known for
his book The Power of Positive Thinking. In his 2016
article, “Donald Trump, Man of Faith,” Matthew Schmitz
describes the difference between Trump and Peale: “Peale
meant to preach a gentle creed, one that made hellfire and terror
into mere afterthoughts. In Trump, it has curdled into pagan
disdain.” Peale also argues that how we mentally frame
the world defines our ability to succeed in it. It is a kind
of soufflé in which he folds hedonist self-help tips
with Christianity. The first of ten steps Peale prescribes to
harnessing the power of positive thinking:
Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture
of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously. Never
permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop this picture.
Never think of yourself as failing; never doubt the reality
of the mental image. That is most dangerous, for the mind always
tries to complete what it pictures. So always picture "success"
no matter how badly things seem to be going at the moment.
can see how Trump embodies this. It is hard to argue that it
has not worked. Until 2016, running for president was a political
death gauntlet. The smallest mistake could doom a campaign.
Al Gore stated he invented the Internet. Dan Quayle corrected
a student on how to spell potato. Howard Dean yelping. All were
small missteps that all but destroyed their political careers.
Almost on a weekly basis, Trump did or said something during
the campaign that was far worse. He never apologized nor retreated,
and he never paid a political price. Unhindered by reality,
shame or regret, he willed the picture of Trump as president
to Peale and Trump is the concept that an individual can create
a future reality not just of what they are -- but how they are
perceived. Fried states this is what the literalist did in their
Literalist sensibility is theatrical because, to begin with,
it is concerned with the actual circumstances in which the beholder
encounters literalist work. Morris makes this explicit. Whereas
in previous art “what is to be had from the work is located
strictly within [it]," the experience of literalist art
is of an object in a situation - one that, virtually by definition,
includes the beholder.
is hard to read this and not see Trump as a literalist performance
artist which is his projection of future experiences, by framing
how the world will behold him. By 2004 Trump Casino Hotels &
Resorts had lost over half a billion dollars. People who owned
stock in the company lost 90% of their investments. Trump got
signed on by NBC to head the apprentice -- cementing his public
persona as a master businessman.
Fried distinguishes David Smith’s conglomeration of metallic
geometric shapes from Donald Judd’s conglomeration of
metallic geometric shapes, which provide an uncanny insight
into the difference between Peale and Trump. Fried argues that
the experience one has encountering Smith is that of stasis.
Of Smith, Fried asserts “’The experience of the
work necessarily exists in time’ -- though it would make
no difference if he had not.” Whereas artists like Judd
create works that depend on time. He accuses the literalist
of being obsessed with the “duration of the experience.”
It is theatre because it exists in time.
embodies only the methodology of Peale -- he does not seem to
understand its intent. For Peale, the purpose of positive thinking
was to be better able to be with Christ. He defines the main
benefit of this being with Christ as living of peace of mind.
In his book, he quotes the following scripture.
I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world
giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither
let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
is where positive thinking will ultimately lead the people who
is a philosophy that seems absolutely antithetical to Trump.
On a personal level, there is never a cheek turned. Trump seems
constitutionally unable to ignore the slightest slight or criticism.
On a public level, Trump’s rhetoric is that of dominance
and conflict. Peale seemed to yearn for a world governed by
peace and security. Trump thrives only in a world of chaos.
Like the great and powerful Oz, no one knows who he is because
all we see are dazzling lights projected on fog.
a writer, Fried frustrated me. His modernist purity read more
like a doctrine to accept rather than an argument to consider.
Prior to Trump, I thought “Art and Objecthood” was
a baroque and confounding essay. It was the last puff of air
coming from the corpse of modernism. Ironically, maybe I was
wrong. Fried’s essay was far different than what I thought
it to be.
Roof Racist & Murderer
Art Against the State
Cave & Funk(adelic)