Works of Art Whose Agenda Doesn’t Include Me

“And the grafitti alongside the Amtrak: The rails head north out of Penn Station under the streets, almost as through a tunnel, alongside the passing logos of gangs and solitary hit-artists who use the patches of sunshine that fall into the brief spaces between overpasses, their fat names ballooning into the foreground of their strange works, switched on and off in alternating zones of light and dark. They make the letters of our own alphabet look like foreign ideograms, ignorant, rudely dismissive, also happy: magical bursting stars, spirals, lightning. And I realized that what I first require of a work of art is that its agenda – is that the word I want? -- not include me. I don't want its aims put in doubt by an attempt to appeal to me, by any awareness of me at all.” -- Denis Johnson, The Name of the World

A contemporary form of the nineteenth-century credo “art for art's sake?” Mere reluctance to be part of anyone's demographic target market? Perhaps an intuition that all art has, from an evolutionary psychology perspective, a function similar to that of grafitti tagging?

“The people who run our cities don’t understand graffiti because they think nothing has the right to exist unless it makes a profit, which makes their opinion worthless.” -- grafitti artist Banksy

1 thought on “Works of Art Whose Agenda Doesn’t Include Me”

  1. My favorite Banksy quote — “Graffiti writers are not real villains. I am always reminded of this by real villains who consider the idea of breaking in someplace, not stealing anything and then leaving behind a painting of your name in four foot high letters the most retarded thing they ever heard of.”

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