Secret Publicity

My book Secret Publicity: Essays on Contemporary Art, a selection of texts from the preceding years, was published by NAi publishers in February 2006 (the book purports to be from 2005, but publication was delayed for a few months) . Through a variety of artists and theorists ranging from Broodthaers to Jeff Wall, Bik Van der Pol and Tino Sehgal and from Bataille to Debord, as well as more obscure and less canonical artists and non-artists (David Thomas, Wilhelm Reich), Secret Publicity seeks to investigate the art world’s possibilities for creating forms of publicness beside and beyond the spectacle.

From the introduction:

“With Duchamp’s readymades, art began to admit that the spectacle is the more successful avant-garde, and that the commodity is the ultimate work of art, an endlessly fascinating mix of logos and mythos. A redefinition of art thus took place: no longer the production of totally independent highbrow goods, art became spectacle-consumption – or meta-consumption, as Boris Groys terms it. This particular form of consumption decodes and recodes the irrational rationality of the spectacle, thereby producing deviant commodities, which are more thought-provoking and productive compounds of logos and mythos.

"The problem is that such characterizations of the possibilities of art tend to degenerate into – or are confused with – an ideologization of art as intrinsically good and noble: the meta-spectacle as the good, critical spectacle. The modern ideology of the aesthetic, according to which art is a privileged domain distinguished in a positive sense from other sectors of modern civilization, has long deteriorated into a kind of good cop / bad cop routine: the ‘big’ culture industry is bad, but its artistic version is good for people, refined, complex – and critical. Just as the critical character of modernism served as a sales argument for medium-specific commodities, the same now applies to the generic commodities of contemporary art. Art may today absorb all the world’s garbage, but it rescues and ennobles the materials it consumes. It is clear that institutions like the Tate and the Guggenheim reduce such pretensions to hypocrisy. In comparison to these satanic mills of the artistic culture industry, Time Warner at least has a refreshing lack of pretensions. Yet the ideology of art, dulling and hypocritical though it may be, also enables practices that could not exist elsewhere. A truth may sometimes manifest itself under the cover of a lie – even if its existence is only ephemeral and marginal. The ideology of art has to be deployed tactically, and if necessary turned against itself [….]. ”

A review of Secret Publicity by Zoë Gray can be found here:

A review by Andre Rottmann (in German) is here:

Particularly interesting feedback came from Jan Verwoert, in Open, but that review is not online.

Although the publisher no longer has the book in stock, there are still copies available from amazon and other retailers.