Peter Booth
21st Cen­tu­ry

8th – 31st May 2008
Anna Schwartz Gallery

How did you end up in this mess? Who’s to blame? How are you going to get out of here? There has to be some way of explain­ing all this uncer­tain­ty, but you wouldn’t know who to ask. Even if you did, you wouldn’t trust them if they told you. Even if what they had to say seemed plau­si­ble. And who are you, any­way? It’s the post­mod­ern con­di­tion, you might have heard. The death of meta­nar­ra­tives, mul­ti­ple voic­es, het­ero­gene­ity beyond belief, unrep­re­sentable futures, risk, uncer­tain­ty, world-his­tor­i­cal nihilism. Nei­ther The­o­ry and Method nor New Ways of Think­ing are going to help. In fact, it’s those mod­ernist obses­sions with the­o­ry, method, new ways of doing things, that got us into this Gen-Exis­ten­tial Cri­sis in the first place. It’s a Com­plex Issue, not eas­i­ly resolved. These days, things don’t get clear­er when they’re explained. The expla­na­tions just con­fuse things more. No gods, no mas­ters, as one of the great anar­chist slo­gans had it. Isn’t that the prob­lem, though? No one to believe, no one to obey. Just the sort of thing the great Russ­ian writer Fyo­dor Dos­toyevsky abom­i­nat­ed. Dos­toyevsky is here with me right now. If god’s dead, he whis­pers, every­thing is per­mit­ted. A tide of anar­chy is loosed upon the world. Yet, at the mouth of this apoc­a­lyp­tic riv­er, things, strange­ly enough, seem tighter than ever. Take the 10 things I real­ly care about. The environment’s stuffed. Love’s stuffed. Even bun­ny rab­bits, doing it au nat­u­rale, find the thing unsus­tain­able. Pol­i­tics is stuffed.

The rain­bow war­rior has become a Stein­er school toy. Cap­i­tal­ism is stuffed. Art, too, is stuffed. That’s why the French psy­cho­an­a­lyst Jacques Lacan thought he need­ed to cor­rect Dos­toyevsky. If god’s dead, wrote Lacan, then nothing’s per­mit­ted. The con­flict in every human heart is fed by some kind of God or Mas­ter. What would you do with­out one? Anar­chy with­out action, con­straint with­out pro­hi­bi­tion, cri­sis with­out cre­ation. So what’s left in our own lit­tle Apoc­a­lypse Now? Maybe a spot of danc­ing with the Mod­ern Ladies, or the pub­lic-art peripeteia of Sculp­tur­al Cringe? It’s not always the ear­ly bird who catch­es the worm. As the great Ger­man philoso­pher G.W.F. Hegel wrote, the owl of Min­er­va only takes flight at dusk. Per­haps, then, it’s from a night of con­fu­sion and indis­tinc­tion that art will unex­pect­ed­ly reemerge to life.

Justin Clemens, 2006


Peter Booth

21st Cen­tu­ry, 2008
instal­la­tion view, Anna Schwartz Gallery