Gregory Sholette’s Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture continues to pick up praise, this time from Monthly Review and Mute. Writing in Monthly Review, Marc James Léger offers a nice summation of Sholette’s concept of ‘dark matter’:
The overall argument of Dark Matter is that “a shadowy social productivity” haunts the high art world. The great many excluded practices and failed artists who keep the art galleries, museums, and magazines going are now threatening this pyramidal system as their dark energy becomes increasingly visible. Dark Matter thus presents itself as a “lumpenography” of this invisible mass of makeshift, amateur, informal, unofficial, autonomous, activist, non-institutional, and self-organized practices. While engaged art practice is a minefield of contending leftist tendencies, the core concept of dark matter is that these are increasingly gaining momentum as they make common cause within and against neoliberal enterprise culture.
Léger concludes his detailed and theoretically engaging review by arguing that Dark Matter captures the experiences of a whole generation living under neo-liberalism:
Dark Matter captures with great aplomb the tenor of a generation that possesses abundant academic qualifications but few expectations and even less desire for rewards that are consonant with corporate culture and neoliberal administration. On the shores of a new collective imagination, Sholette wonders how it would be possible for the dispersed practices of the present to be mobilized into a new revolutionary politics…Following the tumultuous events of the Arab Spring, the culture jamming magazine Adbusters and the hacktivist network Anonymous helped organize the rebellion that has gone by the name #occupywallstreet. Those who first camped out in Zuccotti Park and renamed it Liberty Square are indeed a dark matter whose resistance various institutionalized forces have attempted to recuperate. If the pretexts of artistic dark matter are anything like those of this movement, then for good and bad, it is likely that both will continue to avoid being absorbed into the channels of a constituted politics.
Visit Monthly Review to read the review in full.
Writing in Mute, Stefan Szczelkun provides a fascinating discussion of Sholette’s concept of ‘dark matter’, relating it to UK art collectives:
In terms of defining collectives as more or less autonomous, more or less radical, and more or less dark matter, the two most important things, as far as I am concerned, are these: the extent to which the collective is permeable to oral culture and working class people and the extent of independence it can maintain from commercial and state run institutions. Several of the larger collectives in my experience had an open door to new members – the currency of membership was the labour put into the project. They also had a clear no selection policy when it came to what work was shown. ‘NO STARS, NO SELECTION, NO TASTE’ was one Exploding Cinema slogan. Brixton Artists Collective 1983-86 decided upon shows at open public meetings. Membership was open to all for a few pounds. Both these collectives had a certain style in their spaces that was orientated towards the general public rather than an elite art audience. This kind of thing is anathema to the art world, where selection and the creation of exclusivity and the celebration of the possession of elite skills and knowledge is their raison d’être.
Sholette thinks that ‘dark matter is getting brighter.’ This may simply be a function of media technologies making all kinds of knowledge more visible, or it may signify a huge groundswell of demand for more democratic societies. Or, perhaps, these are two sides of the will to power in the oral realm, the struggle from below. This book certainly allows us to give a name to, and begin to focus on, the creativity and cultural resistance that exists outside the art world proper. It may be flawed and partial, but it represents a good start towards developing a discourse that I think needs to embed itself outside of the academy – within the fields of dark matter itself.
Visit Mute to read the review in full.
Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture
Shows that the elite of the art world are sustained by new forms and styles created by artists outside the mainstream.
“With great verve and urgency, Gregory Sholette explores the economics of contemporary art production in an era of neoliberalism, and outlines the promises and pitfalls of various tactics of resistance. Dark Matter is a salient call-to-arms to all cultural laborers.” – Julia Bryan-Wilson, author of Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era
“Based on a multitude of examples from the heterocosmos of invisible art practices, Dark Matter is the ultimate companion to contemporary activist art. In his exquisite and theoretically informed style Gregory Sholette investigates the problematic functions of art practices in the processes of neoliberal appropriation, but above all the wild, explosive and deterritorializing lines that are drawn in the dark matter between art and politics.” – Gerald Raunig, philosopher and art theorist and author of Art and Revolution