Performed live at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery in
The Sooner, the Better Late Than Never
(low res excerpt from 15 minute performance)
catalogue essay by Sean George
Virtual Collage, Visual Strategies and Poetic Propaganda
Every act of resistance is a work of art.1
In the 1960s Marshall McLuhan proposed that a civilization’s principal means
of communication molds it more that the content of that communication. McLuhan
classified speech, pictographs, ideographs, alphabets, print, radio, film, and television
as distinctive information conveying media, each with its own technology of
transmission. He declared that these technologies insinuate themselves into the collective
psyche of any society that uses them, and once embedded, stealthily exert a powerful
influence on cultural perceptions.
I first came across the work of Veronika Martz (avatar, activist, and artist)
through Facebook — a social network site where the all-at-once aesthetic faculties of the
right brain intersect with the look-how-many-friends-I-have linear left brain. For me, an
avatar is a modern-day Artful Dodger: neither the work of art nor the artist, but rather a
ghost in the machine.
Martz uses Facebook to test the malleability of this new means of communication.
What are its potentials as a tool to address various forms of social concern and the
polemics of the present? Jacob Riis’ photographic essay of early 20thcentury New York
brought a wave of social reform, while revealing the camera as a tool that shoots back.
Critique always calls our attention, asking how we know what we know and what
information escapes. Technologies and genres (painting-landscape, computer-Facebook)
provide the impulse to act even if that acting means learning more and questioning
further. No matter how much we are spoon-fed we will only be full when we take action.
Martz’s various multi-media works ask us to take responsibility for our knowing
and transmission of information. More than that, she challenges us to move beyond
the narrow dualities of artist/icon, word/image, artist/audience, real/representation and
suggests that these ways of knowing are increasingly blurred, but paradoxically useful.
A work of art has multiple ways of feeding information. Truth, morality and
agency are products of our selves, not products on the shelves. As an artist and cultural
worker in this biopolitical era, art now forces me to be a self-conscious animal. I have
realized that the artist need no longer deliver objects in order to be heard. In this regard
the prophetic and poetic words of Lucy Lippard come to mind:
The attraction of a collage aesthetic is obvious when we realize that most of us, on
the most basic level, exist in a downright surrealist situation. Consider the position of
the artist in a society that perceives art as decoration or status symbol, investment or
entertainment. Consider the position of a visionary artist in a society devoted solely to
material well-being. Consider the position of a person making impermanent objects
of no fixed value in a time of inflation and hoarding. Consider the position of an artist
labouring under the delusion that individuality is respected in an age of bland, identical
egos. Perhaps most surreal of all, consider the position of a feminist/socialist/populist
artist in a patriarchal capitalist marketplace.2
When we treasure the action rather than glorifying the object or artist, we become that
self conscious animal — we become art.