A Golden UtopiaGermano Celant

photography Fabio Crovi
interview William J. Simmons

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WJS How do you navigate often-problematic terms like “self-taught” or “folk,” which are oftentimes just as marginalizing as “outsider artist”?
GC My background as an art historian meant studying everything from Baroque to Futurism, embracing an all-encompassing vision where there is no hierarchy between art and architecture, design and cinema, literature and theatre, beautiful and kitsch. When I started approaching contemporary art, I found Warhol to be an artist with a similar attitude, who made no distinction between highbrow and lowbrow, authentic and false, insider and outsider. With Jean Dubuffet and his defence of “art brut”, the negative value of the unprofessional melted away to leave an open dimension for aesthetic creation. From this perspective, Copley’s research is a sign of the intentional intertwining of avant-garde aesthetic and folk. It is an osmosis that was pushed for by Francis Picabia when, following a Dadaist period, he came to anti-modernist painting style with haughty iconographic elements, taken from the world of outsiders. In attacking the conformist and serious ideals of American art, Copley also laid claim to the explosive value of irony and pornography.
WJS In what ways have you attended to the specificities of gender and sexuality in Copley’s art while keeping in mind developing notions of these discourses over the past few years?
GC Political correctness is becoming an ideology that no longer allows for analysis of the objective truth of things and facts. It is open to attack and discussion because it does not take context and history into account. It is applied to control and direct human behaviour toward a determined situation. There is therefore a risk that it will be transformed into a credence and condition human behaviour.

That said, Copley’s sexual connotation of the feminine should be studied in relation to his personal experience as a child abandoned by his mother: it is believed that she was a prostitute who subsequently became the subject of many of his paintings. Moreover, his roots are firmly planted in the anarchic humus that covered Dadaism to Surrealism, Man Ray to Clovis Trouille, whose body images were by no means “correct” and reflected a certain observation of the real world that oscillated between nationalism and eroticism, flags and sex.

 

“POLITICAL CORRECTNESS IS BECOMING AN IDEOLOGY THAT NO LONGER ALLOWS FOR
ANALYSIS OF THE OBJECTIVE TRUTH OF THINGS AND FACTS. IT IS OPEN TO ATTACK AND DISCUSSION BECAUSE IT DOES NOT TAKE CONTEXT AND HISTORY INTO ACCOUNT.”

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