Ardit Hoxha on noLips
‘I don’t know what to do anymore, except maybe die.’ - Jim Stark
Galleries are retreating online in the midst of a global public health crisis. Having retired their physical spaces, many are re-imagining their social purpose, exploring virtual alternatives in response. This period of hibernation has produced numerous outcomes, creating the perfect conditions for the emergence of noLips, a virtual gallery that gleefully responds to the crises at hand. While bypassing the need for a physical space, noLips mockingly celebrates the demise of the gallery itself, taking aim at its functions, traditions and reverent claims. Faced with such impotence, noLips responds with vengeful irony.
In this pixelated landscape the conventional formalism of the gallery is abandoned in favour of wood panelled corridors and green vinyl flooring. The white-cube, which often goes unquestioned, is here re-calibrated and altogether dispensed with. Traditionally the white walls of the gallery contribute to the making of a non-space, one that hermetically seals the art object, divorcing it from the outside world. Thomas McEvilley understood this feature as one which makes a claim to eternity, carving out spatial arrangements that seek to escape both time and place.1 Galleries are often constructed to be windowless, they are spaces where eating and drinking are prohibited unless ritually ordained.2 In these environments the polluting elements of everyday life are cleansed. Their otherworldly design creates the sensation of an ethereal presence, a quality we would commonly find in religious buildings.3
It is in response to these institutional conventions that anti-art emerged as a mode of criticism. The phenomenon of the readymade is an example of this, one which acknowledges the gallery’s power in reclassifying ordinary objects, recasting them as artworks worthy of contemplation. This idealised non-space would itself become the subject matter of conceptual art, an approach to artmaking which would scrutinize the superstitious display methods of the white-cube. noLips draws on these anti-art traditions in order to puncture the sublime aura of the gallery. The transcendence of these quasi-religious spaces is debased by the low-fi technology it utilizes. Harnessing the early optimism of the internet, noLips embraces its once democratising spirit. Here the confines of the academy are negated and bypassed, so too are its exclusive rituals of initiation and rites of passage. The ‘plebianization’ of academic tastes is evident in the artworks displayed throughout this space, their naïveté rejecting the finesse and craft of ‘fine art’. In this dungeon, an unfolding labyrinth emerges, a game that satirizes the austere consumption of art.
noLips navigates our postmodern quagmire with joy and ecstasy, charging through its kaleidoscopic refracturing. In its dizzying speed, it leaps across the new fault lines of our culture industry, revelling in its flattened values. This playful upending of the ‘high’ in the service of the ‘low’ fails to acknowledge our shifting context, where the reverence of high art has long since eroded. The origins of this can be traced back to the 1970s, in a time where the ‘classic’ bourgeoisie was superseded by transnational corporations; a seismic shift that saw the outsourcing of labour to the global south.4 This diametrically realigned and reorganized ‘the ways in which the social classes had traditionally composed and expressed themselves’.5 In this new environment, all that is solid melts into air - the dynamic nature of this recalibrating global system put an end to the traditionally bourgeois and the ‘aristocratic ways of life’ they once aspired to.6 As global inequalities have intensified, the opposite has occurred in our cultural arena, where a burgeoning elite no longer distinguish themselves through ‘academic’ tastes but instead speak to us through the language of the popular.7 This new and informal public sphere is a contradiction in terms, a space where the loosening of moral codes is met with a return to Victorian-era levels of inequality.8
The disorientation of this social upheaval has shaken the very foundations of conventional art establishments, which have historically buttressed the bourgeois canons of good taste.9 It is here that the conservative aesthetics of academia have all but disappeared, eradicating the conventions which the avant-garde had traditionally rebelled against.10 In this contradictory terrain, anti-art has triumphed. Its tools of criticism have now established its very own hegemony, where critique itself is a commodified spectacle.11
While Duchamp’s readymade is cast in gold, the arts have become increasingly vulnerable to the cuts of austerity. This historic conjunction has seen the popularity of institutional criticism met with the closure of whole libraries, departments and a scarcity of arts funding. The deregulation of markets and the flexibility of work arrangements has created precarious standards for ‘many intellectuals and professionals in the media and culture industries’.12 Mass culture has thus eclipsed and rendered powerless this new lumpen-intelligentsia.
In this phantasmagoric light the white cube stands as a seductive mirage, a convenient foe.
1 Thomas McEvilley, 1992. Art and Otherness: Crisis in Cultural Identity. New York: McPherson, 62
2 Ibid 63
3 Thomas McEvilley, 2012. The Triumph of Anti-Art: Conceptual and Performance Art in the Formation of Post-Modernism. Kingston, NY: Documentext McPherson, 94
4 Elizabeth Wilson, 2003. “Postmodern Bohemia,” in Bohemians: The Glamorous Outcasts. London: Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 242
5 Ibid 242
8 Ibid 245
9 Ibid 242
11 Thomas McEvilley, The Triumph of Anti-Art: Conceptual and Performance Art in the Formation of Post-Modernism, 352
12 Elizabeth Wilson, “Postmodern Bohemia,” in Bohemians: The Glamorous Outcasts, 245
ARDIT HOXHA (born 1993 in Prishtina, Kosovo) is an Auckland based artist and writer. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Honours and Bachelor of Arts majoring in film criticism and anthropology from the University of Auckland. He is a collective member of RM Gallery.