Stephen Wright - Spy art - Escape artists

The following excerpts are from Stephen Wright's essay "Spy art: infiltrating the real" in Afterimage Sept-Dec, 2006. For those very few regular readers of this blog, the connections to our writing/thinking should be obvious. For those who have somehow stumbled here, the quick and dirty parallel is to be found in this mention of the figure of the escape artist: Escape Artistry - Richard Roth - LeisureArts. The much longer parallel can be seen here: Allan Kaprow - Refusal/Un-Artist - Keith Tilford.

"I am referring to an art without artwork, without authorship (not signed by an artist) and above all without a spectator or audience. It is visible, public, and indeed, it is seen--but not as art. In this way, it cannot be placed between invisible parentheses--to be written off as "just art," that is, as a mere symbolic transgression, the likes of which we have seen so often, whose principal effect is to promote the artist's position within the reputational economy."

"It is on this basis that I feel art needs to avoid artworld framing devices. I also sense that many artists today feel that intuition, although many shy away from taking the necessary steps toward a genuine stealth art practice--one that requires forsaking artwork, authorship, and spectatorship."

"Stealth art is a clandestine border crosser, like the secret agent. So why then does art so adamantly refuse to forsake its artistic visibility--even though doing so would have the explicit advantage of giving it more use value and even make it better art (providing adequacy between form and content)? I suspect it is because the reliable signature (attesting to the artist's occupational identity), and the artworld recognition it provides, is the ultimate art commodity still valued by enterprise culture."

"There are more stealth practices going on than the artworld ever acknowledges, or even knows about. This is for the self-evident reason that they are, by definition and by design, hard to see let alone recognize, but also because they subvert mainstream artworld values, for there is nothing to exhibit and thus, nothing to sell. Stealth practices tend to be written off as non-art, if not quite nonexistent. The art-critical challenge is to draw attention to them in an appropriately elusive way, both for their intrinsic worth and because they obey a certain art-historical logic. Stealth and spy art practices have become a viable way of pursuing art at a historical moment when art has withdrawn from the world--though that may appear grossly counterintuitive to anyone whose only sources are the official organs of the artworld like Flash Art or Art Forum. In the face of the omnipresence of the cultural and consciousness industries, art has withdrawn from the world and has hidden before our very eyes--the only place it is safe from artworld recuperation, the only place left where the artworld is not looking for it."