Autoethnographical Micro Reading Response 04—Adorno, Culture Industry
Adorno claims, “conformity has replaced consciousness” and “what might emerge as a point of resistance to the all-embracing unity of the system is immediately integrated and repressed” (Adorno and Bernstein, 1991, p 9) Perhaps Seven-of-Nine on Star Trek expressed Adorno’s sentiment more aptly—“Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.” Yet artists resist culture’s capacity to absorb difference and render it into a repetitive sameness in preparation for mass consumption (Adorno, 1991, p 33, 101). Artists attempt to speak into the silence of sameness, automated convention compliance, which emerges as the white noise culture industries generate while transforming particularities into the general. But the “repetitiveness, the self sameness, and the ubiquity of modern mass culture tend to make for automatized reactions and to weaken the forces of individual resistance” (Adorno, 1991, p 161). Artists are not immune.
Hunger arises and compulsions for particular styles of garb and shelter impinge and I drift from a conscious stance of resisting the overwhelming power of capital consumption to that of a mindless consumer. A Zuilly ad emerges to the right of my Facebook status, I desirously click to acquire something I didn’t even know I wanted. Simultaneously, I mull over methods of resistance in my art practice. I fabricate non-archival non-reproducible work, jamming the capacity for exchange value. I combat acquiescing to market forces not on Facebook but via substance and scale of my art. I am driven to re-render urban and industrial detritus into seductive ephemeral affective art forms that become objects of desire but cannot be mechanically replicated nor transitioned into domestic décor.
Every exhibition has received critical reviews—Austin Statesman, Houston Chronicle and Press, even internationally—and viewers breach viewing protocols by fondling the work and with loud repetitive affective gasps and exclamations. I am regularly invited to fully funded art residencies. And, repeatedly have been offered shows by commercial galleries with the caveat—“We wont be able to sell your work, but we really want to show it.” The works scale, aroma and ephemeral qualities render its exchange value to nothing. I derive gratification from commercial venues willing to forego revenue generation and the disruption of art viewing norms.
Despite “success,” gallery stipends and critical reviews my fiscal capacities are seriously depleted from production of desirable but unmarketable art. It has been suggested that I make smaller less ephemeral work readily acquirable by the viewing public. The logic is that I sustain the un-commercially consumable if I also make the marketable. This semester I have begun implementing this advice. I trade my resistance for compliant consumption. I cannot stand outside of the forces of culture. I live under the influence. Daily I sense the illusion of my individuality, of the particular, and recognize myself as a part of the herd, whether shopping or producing the visually consumable. Creative, resistance, but nonetheless I am cog. My backpack is loaded down with a Mac Air, Ipad and Iphone. I buy both the bound book and the kindle because I “like” the sensual tactile pleasure of one and the searchability of the other. My closets are stuffed full.
ANALYSIS: As artist, I resist; as American, I shop. Adorno gives my lived experiences a formal frame from which to view my compliance and counters to American capital culture. It is difficult to analyze because I am so embedded in the system. My creative resistance does not enact social change. It is more likely that it simply functions to temporarily titillate the public. The work is just another item that holds at bay an awareness of the viewer’s own coghood and lack of resistance. And I spend my own evenings compliantly shutting down my mind via Netflix binges, Facebooking and Amazon acquisitions. Crap, I don’t even really know for sure if we are still at war. I am “converted along” my “line of least resistance into the acquiescent purchaser” and “the particular moments” of my creative difference and resistance no longer can speak out of the silences of sameness (Adorno, 1991, p 32). I am the same; I am cog; I am consumer whore.
Adorno, T. W., & Bernstein, J. M. (1991). The culture industry: Selected essays on mass culture. London: Routledge.