Beyond this hegemony of corporate and institutional consensus, however, beyond the purview of uncannily lifelike blockbusters like Jurassic Park and the Whitney Biennial, everything that grows in the domain of culture, that acquires constituencies and enters the realm of public esteem, does so through the accumulation of participatory investment by people who show up. No painting is ever sold nor essay written nor band booked nor exhibition scheduled that is not the consequence of previous social interaction, of gossip, body language, fashion dish, and telephone chatter—nothing transpires that does not float upon the ephemeral substrata of “word of mouth”—on the validation of schmooze. Everyone who participates knows this, and knows, as well, that it doesn’t cost a dime. You just show up, behave as you wish, say what you will, and live with the fleeting, often unexpected consequences of your behavior. At this bedrock level, the process through which works of art are socialized looks less like a conspiracy than a slumber party. The whole process, however, presumes the existence of artists who are comfortable with this tiny, local, social activity, who are at ease with the gradual, lateral acquisition of constituencies and understand that the process can take place anywhere and, if successful, command attention everywhere. The musical vogue of Prince and his entourage, of The Allman Brothers Band and their compatriots, and of Seattle grunge testify to the efficacy of this process. It only requires artists who would rather socialize their work among their peers, horizontally, at the risk of Daddy’s ire, than institutionalize it, vertically, in hopes of Daddy’s largesse. These, I fear, are fewer and farther between.
- Dave Hickey from After the Apocalypse