notes from "The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World"
p13: What characterizes our cultural moment at the beginning of this new millennium is the inability--or perhaps the refusal--of a great many of our cultural artifacts to define the times in which we live. This is an unsettling and wholly unique phenomenon in Western culture and it should come as no surprise that it was first identified by a science-fiction writer, William Gibson, who in 2003 used the word atemporality to describe a new and strange state of the world in which, courtesy of the Internet, all eras seem to exist at once.
p14: The atemporal song, story, or painting contains elements of history but isn't historical; it is innovative but not novel, pertinent rather than prescient.
p14: Artists have always looked to history for inspiration, but the immediate and hugely expanded catalogue of visual information offered by the Internet has radically altered visual artists' relationship to the history of art and caused, as the painter Matt Connors put is, a "redirection of artistic inquiry from strictly forward moving into a kind of super-branched-out questioning." Unlike past periods of revivalism, such as the appropriationist eighties, this super-charged art historicism is neither critical nor ironic; it's not even nostalgic. It is closest to a connoisseurship of boundless information, a picking and choosing of elements of the past to resolve a problem or a task at hand.
p15: In this new economy of surplus historical references, the makers take what they wish to make their point or their painting without guilt, and equally important, without an agenda based on received meaning of a style. If one can use something with originality, it is the same as authoring it oneself.
p15: In the atemporal present, they[--styles, motifs and ideas from a historical context--]are resurrected and made newly relevant.
p15: A work of art that refutes the possibility of chronological classification offers a dramatic challenge to the structure that disciplines like art history enforce--the great, ladder-like narrative of cultural progress that is so dependent upon the idea of a new superseding the old in a movement simultaneously forward and upward.
pp15-16: Time-based terms like progressive--and its opposite, reactionary, avant- and arrière-garde--are of little use to describe atemporal works of art. It would be more accurate and more poetic to understand them as existing in the eternal present.
p18: What is the promiscuous mixing of styles has the positive outcome of providing a mechanism to overcome "oppressive traditions [and] xenophobia?" What if atemporality allowed us to roam around, instead of plow forward?
p18: Considering atemporality as a goal, rather than an undesirable result, redefines pastiche as a conscious strategy rather than a dodge. Calling out the obsolescence of periodization challenges cultural hierarchies and the insistently twentieth-century habit of considering the history of style as if it were a dog race replete with a winner's circle of those who get the privilege of representing what our moment looks like--as duly noted by art history books.
p.21: What atemporal painters do not do is use a past style in an uninflected manner; in other words, as a readymade.