“loneliness, the toxic by-product of freedom which generates ad-hoc, fragile communities among people who have escaped conventional backgrounds and who, after dreaming of cosmopolis, wake up atomized.”

A few weeks back I came across a brief review in the New Yorker by Peter Schjeldahl of the current Whitney Biennial, which turned out to be a condensed version of this longer piece. The money paragraph, so to speak, is the same in both versions:

 

 

The cause of all the anguish is obvious: Trump. The predominant effect is one of creative entropy, a defensive huddling in political or coterie formations that are pointedly indifferent when not hostile to outsiders. Catalogue entries for some Native Americans in the show term fellow-citizens who lack tribal blood “settlers.” At the same time, the artists are trapped in a cultural élite by their education, employing sophisticated forms that are inaccessible to the general public. If politics is about winning power through persuasion, much of the art at hand hardly qualifies as political. Instead, it suggests the virulence of the classic American malaise: loneliness, the toxic by-product of freedom which generates ad-hoc, fragile communities among people who have escaped conventional backgrounds and who, after dreaming of cosmopolis, wake up atomized.

This applies well beyond the art world, or even the political world, or even the America of Donald Trump (or anyone else) ; it has become the classic Western malaise, the escape from “convention” into sheer loneliness.

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