Fetus Art and Virtual Art
I wrote something like this some time ago for an art magazine, but haven’t received any responses… But anyway, the topic has crossed my mind several times, and I do not recall anyone else discussing this topic. Here by “virtual art” I am not talking about new media art in the strict sense. Instead, I am talking about art that is virtual in the sense that it does not really exist — but nevertheless has real effects. One good example I always mention, and perhaps the only one up to now: Aliza Shvartz’s fetus art. It has been two months since the incident, and people rarely talk about it now, but I think there is a huge aspect that many generally overlook. You would notice how Shvartz finally decided to do another project for her final assignment — and many see this as a loss. I, however, read it as the opposite — it is a major win for Shvartz, precisely because it is through this gesture that she can preserve the fantastic mystery of her so-called fetus art.
Did you notice how much controversy the art has sparked even before it even has an empirical existence? This precisely illustrates my point on what I call the virtuality of art. I claim that every art — in fact, every text — has this domain that could not be precisely put into a certain deterministic discourse (which I would read within the context of psychoanalytic informatics, but not here). What is the strength of this virtuality? Why is this a post in a Marxist blog? The answer, of course, lies in the deadlock of the complicity of art and capitalism — the postmodern lifestyle where aesthetics has replaced ethics, in which every art is thus an instrument of ideology, and so on. I would admit this deadlock otherwise, but the fetus art incident brought a very new phenomenon to the stage. Nobody in their right mind would appropriate such extreme posthuman gesture of art in their lifestyle — our (current) capitalist ideology is not capable of doing so.
Let us go a bit further: for me, the power of fetus art lies precisely and only in its virtuality. If it was enacted, let’s say that Yale permitted her to do it, the entire structure of fantasy would collapse — it would either be fake, which would be simply stupid, or it would be real, which may suggest psychosis and complicate matters further. Like Schrödinger’s cat whose mystery vanish when the box is opened and an observer is introduced, fetus art’s grandeur resides precisely in the virtual pre-empiric realm in which the state of fact and fiction collide.
It is by functioning in this virtual realm that I claim a true subversive art is possible. The ideal (proto-)object of art would be, like fetuses up for exhibition, something that radically fully assume capitalist fantasies of commodification more than the capitalists are ready to assume themselves, to show them what nightmare our current ideology could become. Now think of an idea while I’m writing a proposal for a politically-correct Folsom Fair equivalent for coprophiliacs using pills to produce healthy hygienic shit. And by the way, my group dance performance using twenty voluntary corpses will take place next Sunday — yes, they are gonna be mutilated to five parts each nearing the end.