An Italian marxist recently suggested that irony might be a “way out” of our current situation… what is the current situation? Rationalism, naturally…
As a young artist, the concept of rationalism is particularly seductive/problematic because it would seem we are engaged in a wholly irrational endeavor. But today, doesn’t every occupation seem irrational in the coworking space which is the world? What’s the point? Rationally speaking, there is none, and embracing that might be another “way out” of the contemporary trap of the ultra-rational.
Etymologically, the roots of rationalism are reason and counting; quantification. Quantification, like other neoliberal ideas; competition, winning attitude, constant enthusiasm, and the reduction of friction, put the body and emotions to work for the improved circulation of information and value. The demands of PERFECTION from the self and others, have completely infiltrated society and the workplace (at the same time the workplace has also infiltrated every part of society).
Enter the Shitty Worker
The 12 works presented in the exhibition of Grégoire Bolay (*1986), function as paintings and drawings, mostly lines painted onto backgrounds. In the same way that individuals have become boss and employee, mirroring this collapse, the works of Grégoire Bolay are both paintings and drawings. To try and escape that logic, these works, like a slowdown strike, perform the minimum which they are asked, introducing inefficiencies and deficiencies. They do not “perform” painting in a traditional sense, but they are more than drawings imitating painting. The Italian marxist continues “We live in hell, but in hell we have the capacity, an ironic capacity, to create sensitive lifespaces; a life which does not rule out joy as a possible dimension.”
What is this hell?
These works, psychedelic, boring, acidic, lazy, masterpieces of their genre, depict for the most part, the body and the written contract as subject matter. Sometimes these are painted together, other times independently of the other, but each seems to be a sine qua non of the other. These symbols might address state control, or the ever growing percentage of “labor time” we provide as post-fordist workers and artists, or simply serve as reminders of any other “unpaid debts” to different individuals and institutions and the apparatuses that assure their existence (lawyers, prisons, police).
The tropes of productivity depicted here (the body at rest, the body at work, the office worker’s tie, coffee, the machine at work) circulate and create a narration, or an image of the world today. The middle finger (painted on the wrong type of canvas) is not a middle finger to the spectator, but a first person perspective of fuck you (FPPFU) which might be read as a critique of the medium, a critique of the system, a critique of the institution, or a rejection of all attempts at critique.
Why rationalism? Because it works! The question is for who…