Conceptual Art is easy, almost formulaic by this point. Pick a political, racial or sexual topic then use a combination of photography, video and/or non-traditional materials in an installation setting. Being a proponent of a subculture clamboring for "inclusion" helps and don't forget about performance. The alternative almost too horrible to contemplate, a return to traditional painting concerns, thankfully went over like a lead balloon at the last Whitney Biennial. One would think that with the number of curators growing exponentially every year at graduation time the art world would be host to some spectacular innovative presentations of imaginative art. It seems that's just not the case.
As a respite from heavy French theory and repetitive exhibits in art galleries, I've been mining the shelves of the Science Fiction, Mystery and More bookstore on Chambers Street in lower Manhattan. The store even has a web page to keep you up to date on the lastest goings on. The URL is: http://www.interport.net/~scifi.
I picked up a book there recently called Blood by Michael Moorecock. The premise reads like a description for a rather interesting art show I'd enjoy seeing. "A year or two ago I inherited the manuscripts of Edwin Begg, the famous Clapham Antichrist, whom I had known since the 1960's. The miscellany of typescript and crudely hand-made magazines was at first incomprehensible to me. It looked like the remains of a psychedelic undergraduate project which very properly had been abandoned. ... The world described in Begg's papers was not our own, nor did it appear to know of our own. It was a world in which the white races had fallen into decadence and other races had risen to build a more dynamic civilization."... from the prologue of Blood by Michael Moorecock, 1995 published by Avon Books.
The structure of the book is a sort of intradimensional adventure game, set in a Biloxi, Mississippi of some alternative universe. The characters are Black, Arab and Cajun gamblers who play a psychic game of building whole universes in multiple dimensions. Ultimately there is no plot. The sense is more like engaging in an ambient computer game or a musicians jam session.
Wanting to learn more about the author I attended a booksigning event at the store on Chambers Street. The crowd lining up ranged from pretty Gen-X girls in leggings to overweight male British techno-nerds as well as long time sword and sorceror enthusiasts. Moorecock was there along with his wife Linda who is from Mississippi. He discussed his schooling at an Ethical Culture Society School in London and some of the more bizarre concepts he later incorporated into his early writings with a British fan who hails from the same part of London. Moorecock is no spring chicken by the way but has been writing fantasy Sci-Fi since the fifties. My impression was that of a creative person who used the writing process as a vehicle for honing the intellect and spirit. This process is by it's nature long and drawn out over the span of a career. I recognized this quality to be sorely missing in the fashion driven success crazed art market. I suspect that the very market forces driving the art world undermine both the long term honing of the intellect and the creative imagination.
One is always surprised at how events and independant movements generated outside of the art world tend to be more exuberant and adventurous than those generated from within. With the advent of an "Ambient Culture" show at Deitch editions and the "Web Jam" special project by Ebon Fisher on artnetweb there are indications that the art world behemoth is becoming marginally aware of it's shortcomings. The real challange is to articulate the growing collateral cultures aesthetic without resorting to the stale pedanticisms and wrong-headed notions of art professionals. A good start may be to pick up ideas from Sci-Fi and jettison irony, marketing and fashion as a mode d'emploi.