“Here’s a stumper: if the definition of irony is typically something like “that which goes against expectations,” then how could an Avant-Garde artist—one who is expected to test the boundaries of our expectations—ever satisfy popular, mainstream, garden-variety tastes in irony? At some point, the Avant-Garde artist will, according to his nature, go against the expected means by which the unexpected is supposed to be realized; he will offer us a new unexpectedness.
And a new unexpectedness is direly needed. For about a century now, ever since, say, Duchamp’s 1917 “Fountain”—a men’s urinal intended as a piece of ready-made statuary—so-called Avant-Garde artists have reveled in ironically overturning, at every turn, concepts of beauty, decency, and of art itself. Thus “shock art,” this militancy against the status quo in Western culture has paradoxically become the status quo and has rendered itself increasingly tame, passé, and hardly shocking at all. It is as the late Jonathan Bowden has said: “Revolutionary art becomes liberal wallpaper.” Thus whether it is Rick Gibson’s “Human Earrings” (earrings made from human fetuses), or a tin of “Artist’s Shit” by Piero Manzoni, or Tracy Emin’s “My Bed” (unmade with soiled sheets and menstrual-stained undies), or . . . well you get the idea. The point is that a little of this goes a long way. Soon being “edgy” looses its edge as the masses become ever-more desensitized. Soon irony devours itself.”
Article continues with a nice piece on White Rabbit Radio and AntiRacist Hitler.
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