Thoughts on yellowism

 

Some observations on and amused reactions to the Yellowism texts at www.thisisyellowism.com/:

“In the context of yellowism every feeling is a definition of yellow, every emotion expresses yellow color only. Sadness is about yellow and happiness is about yellow too. Pain is considered as a pure expression of yellow, orgasm as well. Inside the context of yellowism all emotions and feelings . . .  images can arouse in potential viewers, express yellow color and nothing more.”

What they’re saying resembles both the erasure of all value—everything is reduced to yellow dust, basically—or the elevation of everything to one monotonous Truth. Both extremes force you essentially to give up the discriminations you normally cling to as a source of meaning and value. All art is about the same thing. Everything is either nothing or everything is holy. Take your pick. They have eliminated the dilemma by saying everything is simply about “yellow.” What you lose, in any case, is the system of values that elevates one thing over another in the world of art—or the world in general. (I find myself agreeing with both sides of this, both for and against what’s implied here.)

Consider yellowism as a totalitarian system. Two young “dictators” – authors of the definition and manifesto of yellowism decided that there is only one interpretation in this specific context. Everything is about yellow – this is the order, the final solution. It is imposed on you, you are not free to interpret, and you have to accept the only possible way of seeing things. This way and no other way.

This makes me laugh. Since nothing really changes in works of art itself when the Yellowists get busy with it. It remains the same. The art is regarded from a new context, that’s all. Yellowism is simply an assertion that all art is ultimately about “yellow color” without disturbing the diversity of meaning and interpretation that thrives in the hothouse world of art to such little effect on the course of most human lives. They stand above this hothouse and look down with amusement, pairing their fingernails.

That’s obvious that a monkey doesn’t see differences between ordinary reality, art and yellowism; it just want to jump (or sit in a funny monkey way) on a chair, doesn’t matter where.

LOL.

According to polish theoretician and visionary Jerzy Ludwinski, the evolution of art can reach the stage called “the stage of totality” and this is how he described it: “What matters are the tensions created by the collective effort of many individuals which contributes to the making of one system, pulsating with its own life like some gigantic work of nature. Art = reality.” Even if there was such a fusion (art + reality), yellowism would be still “outside”. If art disappeared and reality disappeared – if both were transformed into “aRteality” or something like that, I would call yellowism, it this particular case, not the third but the second context. If two contexts (art and reality) become one, then the third context we should perceive as the second context. Imagine that yellowism is the only context which exists and you don’t need to distinguish anymore. No art, no ordinary reality (no “aRteality” as well), just yellowism, the whole universe is like one huge yellowistic chamber, all and everything is flattened to yellow. What would you say in a such ontological situation? Will you say: “Oh my god!”?

Yeah, I would, Vlad. But that’s just me, probably. This is postmodernism taken to its dead end. Ironically, postmodernism is really an attempt to escape the tyranny of inherited meanings and the social/economic/political system that uses them to control individuals. Yet Yellowism trumpets its totalitarian aims, to transform everything into one thing only: the color yellow. Not literally, but mentally. Mentally, it’s as if Blake’s Orc has become his Urizen, the rebels maturing into the oppressor, which Blake recognized as a cycle that happens again and again in human society and individual growth. You don’t cover a Rothko with yellow paint. You add a little drippy scrawl to a bottom corner and hope somebody understands. These radicals aren’t holding cans of lemon Krylon and aiming it at a Rothko. They tag the painting in a discreet and probably reversible way to make a point. They are simply trying to put everything into a new and nullifying context: all things mean only one thing, the color yellow. The point is that they want to point all signifiers in one direction, toward one absurd meaning. Which they believe will offer a fresh start, basically—for them it’s outside art. They leave it behind. But the sad evolution of  modernism into what we have now as art resides in that very hope; it was there at the start, that hope for a clean slate, a new context.

Yellowism is saying all inherited meanings are erased, so that something genuinely new can emerge that isn’t conditioned by existing culture and history. This is the faith at the heart of modernism itself: it’s revolutionary, but with an unrequited love for what it rebels against. Hence the way rebellion leads to systems just as oppressive as what they tore down. Ironically, our two Yellowists have merged their revolution into an act of tyranny: everything is yellow. They dictate it. Your meanings are dissolved. Your art means nothing but the color yellow. Submit! (Again, it’s funny. A commentary on the whole course of modernism and post-modernism.) Brace yourself for a heavy Russian accent:

“This exhibition proves that the extreme point at which the current culture is now, should be called ‘The beautiful end of postduchampian era. Marcin Lodyga and Vladimir Umanets several times invoked Duchamp’s Fountain during the writing the Manifesto of Yellowism in the end of 2010 in Egypt. They marked on the studio floor in Cairo three fields: the context of reality, the context of art and the context of yellowism and they were walking on this diagram and commenting it more or less like that: the urinal in the context of reality fulfills its function and you can pee into it; the same urinal moved from reality to the context of art loses its usefulness and becomes a carrier for idea, is entitled, can be interpreted, it acquires the status of the work of art. And then this work of art, which, let’s say, now only looks like a urinal, we move in the context of yellowism. In yellowism, this work of art titled “Fountain” ceases to be a work of art and becomes a piece of yellowism therefore is about yellow and expresses yellow color and nothing more (notice: it is about yellow but not visually yellow). Duchamp in the early twentieth century had two areas: 1 – reality, 2 – art, and he accomplished the shift from one context to another. After that, in art, there was nothing so revolutionary, radical and influential. Andy Warhol (pop art), Joseph Kosuth (conceptual art), Damien Hirst (newest art) did not come out of the shadow of Duchamp, despite the fact that their work is very important in the history of art. None of them have accomplished the latter important move (on the chessboard).

If yellowism belongs to postmodernism, then it is the tip of postmodernism – its outermost piece. But it is not a part of postmodernism, is a completely new era.

Exerting influence on contemporary art is not the purpose of yellowism. Yellowism doesn’t want to attack, provoke and question the contemporary art. However, the presence of yellowism in modern culture overturns the entire contemporary art upside down. The fact that yellowism exists causes that contemporary art loses ground underfoot. Metaphorically speaking, it is a little as if contemporary art fell in love with yellowism, but yellowism is cold and impassive and focused on its own expansion. Yellowism is an autonomous being and does not need to substantiate, corroborate or verify its existence through other beings. Contemporary art looks at “inexorable” yellowism and consequently turns itself upside down and fall into insanity and despair.

Again, I’m laughing out loud. This is the Body Snatchers, on an intellectual plane. Art works, we’re turning all of you into exact replicas of what you used to be, but you won’t be what you thought you were anymore! You’ll be . . . . yellow.

Yellowism simply exists, and it is possible that yellowism existence can be taken by some people as a kind of provocation… Well, therefore the fact that the trees grow and the sun rises can also be perceived as a provocation.

Frankly, this is creepy, again a Body Snatchers moment. You imagine Yellowism actually siphoning the life out of all art. Or at least the conscious intellectual content, rather than what art embodies.

 “Abstract painting is abstract.” – Jackson Pollock  “The flight from interpretation seems particularly a feature of modern painting. Abstract painting is the attempt to have, in the ordinary sense, no content; since there is no content, there can be no interpretation. Pop Art works by the opposite means to the same result; using a content so blatant, so “what it is,” it, too, ends by being uninterpretable.” – Susan Sontag, “Against Interpretation” Yellowism is not against interpretation, but Yellowism gives only one interpretation. Not many, just one, forever. Every piece of Yellowism  is about yellow and nothing more. Whatever you put into a yellowistic chamber, it is a definition of yellow. The lack of many different interpretations is not the lack of interpretation. Every piece of yellowism has the content – every piece of yellowism has exactly the same content. All pieces of yellowism are interpretable because all are about yellow and express yellow, however the content is not obvious (blatant) for humans. Humans have a problem to see beings and objects (inside yellowism) as expressions of yellow color only. If for humans the fact that inside yellowism everything is about yellow was obvious and blatant, then it would mean that human perception was radically changed. An abstract painting placed in a yellowistic chamber has the content – the same content as a chair or anything else placed in a chamber . Every abstract painting (inside yellowism) is a definition of yellow, therefore is not so abstract anymore because you can see (interpret) it as a pure expression of yellow color. In art, an abstract painting is the attempt to have, in the ordinary sense, no content.

The point here is obvious. Yellowism does what Sontag was trying to do, but in one dictatorial sweep: eliminate all content. The Yellowists say all content means only one thing and therefore means nothing.

“We are able to decode the meanings and symbols because they are already (made) in us. We are looking for something which we already know. The traditional and universal “system of reading” meanings and symbols falls in this way – through introducing yellow into the construction / deconstruction of every metaphor – all metaphors are equalized to one level. All meanings are reduced (“flattened”) to yellow. This creates a new system of reading meanings. This is an absurd system. This is a Utopian system. This is a sick system – infected by yellow. This leads to suffocation of all previous meanings and symbols. All the beautiful metaphors and courageous comparisons rot if we apply to them yellow.”

“When you are inside the context of art you expect metaphors, new meanings or old meanings given to you sometimes, paradoxically, in unexpected way, in very, let’s say: ”strange” way, not typical, you don’t take things literally, you don’t sit on a chair – you read a chair, you consider a chair… You see an art work made out of some rubbish as a “definition” of love or death. You don’t have a problem with a chair which (according to artist/author statement and art critics opinion) expresses something more than the idea of a chair, you don’t perceive a chair as a chair but you interpret it, you see new meanings because you already know that in the context of art any being can gain a new (intellectual) status. Therefore I ask you now, why you can not accept the fact that in the context of Yellowism a chair is a definition of yellow color? Is this meaning too new for you? Maybe you can not reach this level of abstraction? I think that you just can not forget about all meanings and symbols which our civilization, culture “inserted” into your mind, you can not stop your tendency to interpret, you are not able to leave the comfortable “kingdom of many interpretations” – art. How much do you need to change your perception to see a chair as a pure expression of yellow color only, how much you need to change your perception to see a chair as a expression of death? In art a chair can be about love, death, art, war, holocaust, but in Yellowism a chair can be only about yellow and nothing more, every object, every being, every emotion, feeling in yellowism (in yellowistic chambers) is only and forever about yellow. In Yellowism the only possible interpretation, the final meaning, the sense is given to you, is imposed on you, it is the order, the command . The only thing you have to know is that any piece of Yellowism is about yellow and that you are in a yellowistic chamber. Don’t think, you don’t have to. Just take it. You have to listen to young dictators. The fact that a chair in the context of yellowism is about yellow is ridiculous for you, but the fact that a chair in the context of art is about war in Vietnam or love, is not ridiculous for you. Why?

This is very funny and very good. You can accept that this work of art means Vietnam, because the artist or the critic tells you that’s what it means, even though a chair just looks like a chair, but you can’t accept yhat it means nothing but the color yellow. Deal with it.

The Beautiful End Of Postduchampian Era
Fountain” is simply a common human waste receptacle. Taking an object that is generally considered filthy and worthless, Duchamp converted it into an expensive art piece. He instilled value to an object most would consider valueless. Duchamp wanted to prove a point: by fabricating art and getting society to regard it as meaningful, we can increase its worth and value. With his art piece, Duchamp showed that in a postmodern world, truth is no longer dependent on its intrinsic value (a common, filthy receptacle); it depends extrinsically on how society defines it (an expensive piece of fine art). On the first page of the prologue in the book “Marcel Duchamp The Failed Messiah” Wayne Andersen introduces the reader to the powerful gatekeepers of the postmodern art world, the men and women who collectively unleashed Duchamp on the 20th century. Citing a December 2004 editorial from the Guardian Weekly that proclaimed “Urinal Comes Out on Top” he reports a survey of 500 international artists, critics, curators, and art dealers, who confirmed that Duchamp’s urinal, named “Fountain” still remained at the end of the 20th century what it had been at its beginning: “The world’s most influential piece of modern art”. Marcin Lodyga and Vladimir Umanets several times invoked Duchamp’s Fountain during the writing the Manifesto of Yellowism in the end of 2010 in Egypt. They marked on the studio floor in Cairo three fields: the context of reality, the context of art and the context of yellowism and they were walking on this diagram and commenting it more or less like that: the urinal in the context of reality fulfills is function and you can pee into it; the same urinal moved from reality to the context of art loses its usefulness and becomes a carrier for idea, is entitled, can be interpreted, it acquires the status of the work of art. And then this work of art, which, let’s say, now only looks like a urinal, we move in the context of yellowism. In yellowism, this work of art titled “Fountain” ceases to be a work of art and becomes a piece of yellowism therefore is about yellow and expresses yellow color and nothing more (notice: it is about yellow but not visually yellow). Duchamp in the early twentieth century had two areas: 1 – reality, 2 – art, and he accomplished the shift from one context to another. After that, in art, there was nothing so revolutionary, radical and influential. Andy Warhol (pop art), Joseph Kosuth (conceptual art), Damien Hirst (newest art) did not come out of the shadow of Duchamp, despite the fact that their work is very important in the history of art. None of them have accomplished the latter important move (on the chessboard). So, to do something to measure Duchamp, to make an another revolution we had to reach to the point where, metaphorically speaking: if you want to walk, you need to create a piece of land which previously did not exist, in other words: define the third context, (which is not art nor a reality) and do the next step. The third context, in which the works of Duchamp, Warhol, Kosuth and Hirst cease to be works of art and become pieces about yellow color and express yellow color and nothing more. Notice: the first step – made by Duchamp – a transition from the territory of reality to the territory of art; the second step – made by Lodyga and Umanets – a transition from the territory of art to the territory of yellowism. In the collection of the Tate Modern in London is one of the few authorized by Duchamp replicas of the “Fountain”. Hypothetically, if the Tate Modern would lend this readymade for the exhibition of yellowism, then the “Fountain” shown in the yellowistic chamber would cease to be a work of art. The world’s most influential piece of art would be a piece of yellowism and would equate with other pieces – each piece of yellowism is influential to the same extent. Postmodernism or post-postmodernism in relation to visual art can be called “the postduchampian era”. If yellowism belongs to postmodernism, then it is the tip of postmodernism – its outermost piece. But if is not the part of postmodernism, is a completely new era. If Marcel Duchamp is a border point between the age of modernism and the time of postmodernism, therefore, perhaps, Marcin Lodyga and Vladimir Umanets are the border point between postmodernism and the era of yellowism or other era whose yellowism is the first conspicuous forerunner.
In the same manifesto, yellowism has been described as “a homogeneous mass.” To recall why yellowism is so homogeneous, so monolithic refer to my earlier texts such as “All and everything” or “The Forest”. Hypothetically, if the works of forty four artists taking part in the exhibition in the museum would be transferred to an yellowistic chamber, then all, without exception, would be about yellow and would express yellow and nothing more and then “the maximum breadth and diversity of vision” would be narrowed, flattened to yellow. The context of yellowism would unmercifully equalize all interpretations to one, because inside yellowism “a fascination with diversity of approach and Interpretation” doesn’t exist. But – no worries :), this is just an example, a hypothesis. The process of formation of piece of yellowism is not (but it can be) based on the strategy to move works of art from museums, galleries, artist studios, public space etc. in to the context in which everything is about yellow color. It’s just such a possibility. A piece of yellowism doesn’t have to be a work of art, before it becomes a piece of yellowism. Notice also, that pieces of yellowism do not occur to fight with works of art or to be against art. Yellowism is not anti- art, this is not a war; there is no aggression between art and yellowism. Art and yellowism tolerate each other, despite the fact, that both are two separate “worlds”. I would not call this relation symbiosis or parasitism; these two contexts just look at each other and that’s it…

It’s a wonderful mockery of postmodernism, in halting Russian accent, but it’s also the fulfillment of it. With yellowism, nothing means anything. Duchamp said a urinal could be a fountain. The yellowists say that his fountain means nothing but the color yellow. (A little fun irony swirling around in there.) If I say all art means “yellow” then that’s what it means: that’s what interpretation amounts to now, as well as much artistic practice.

Imagine, that you are in the forest where all trees look the same, and everywhere you go you see the same thing; you walk, but you are still in the same place. Everything is homogeneous and nothing surprise you. There is no secrets. This lack of mystery, this desirable and innate lack of hope of doing something original, inventive, new and revolutionary is connected with the lack of creativity in yellowism. In yellowism, anything you do, does not develop any idea, you don’t create anything, you do not even think about a new concept of your work because no matter what it would be, it will be always the same “definition” of a yellow color given in another form.

This is beautiful, in its own way. Forget about “the new”, “the radical”, art history, or any other context. Do what you can’t help but do as an individual. Do what you have to do. It’s all yellow in the end. It’s all flattened out into one thing. There is no contest to win, no new barriers to break—just do what you, alone, can do. Why it matters will spring up on its own, without the need for the intellectual, conceptual armature that has been supporting it for the past century. All of that is over. You need to find the necessity for your art in other ways, outside all the contexts that determine what art should be. If you really need to do art.

“Yellowism is not art, it is not a form of creativity. We resigned from art, but not like Marcel Duchamp. Unlike him, after resignation we defined a new context, both mental and physical, and it was our last creative move. We didn’t reduce our activity to the domain of reality. Now, after this decision to give up any kind of artistic practice, after the “Manifesto of Yellowism”, it is better to say “we arrange pieces of Yellowism” or even “we produce” rather than “we create” Yellowism piece number one, Yellowism piece number two . . .  These are just examples of yellowistic expansion. There is no evolution of Yellowism; we do not develop any idea. No new messages. The final message is done, context has been defined. Examples of Yellowism can look like works of art, but are not works of art.”

Art history is over. Something else has to take the place of the notion that art evolves into something “new.” Some other exigency has to arise within the making of art. Or maybe you simply live your life as if were your work of art.

 

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