Sunday, January 30, 2011

Postmodernism: Gaming The Art Market

(Please note: the "" URL for many of these links is obsolete. The same info can now be found at its new address, the "" forum)
There are so many directions this article could go in that it is an exercise in postmodernism just to start. First of all, there are these questions of category of journalism and the role of the reviewer or the writer as well as questions of the role of the artist and his art. In past times including most of "modern" times, these roles or realms of activity were pretty easy to keep separate. It used to be easy to look at one part of a person's activity and say "this is his artwork" and the other part of his activity and say "this is his personal life, no concern of the public's."

Secondly, there are these questions of private relations between the artist and his friends and family, the public, the art-world, etc. which usually, in the past, have remained easily separated, one from the other.

But no more. And actually, am I really being accurate to say these things were always separate? In old times, an artist's studio would include the work of many members of his own family as well as friends and the entire social circle would be rife with romantic escapades and stories of high scandal. Artists in the Renaissance were brought into royal courts as much for the entertainment of their messy lives as for the actual product of their work.

Still, we seemed always to know when we were looking at the professional product and when we were peeping into the private lives of artists. Picasso and his crowd began to blur the lines. Picasso made an art-form of his life, having his Parmelin and his Sabartes provide an approved series of hints while enticing more than one photographer and film-maker to co-operate in the first hints of the post-modern world. Before WWII, the Dadaists and other adventurers had begun to tear at the boundaries of what is and is not art, but they did it within an outer world whose boundaries were still clear. Picasso carried their activities further while wartime Europe tore down all the outer boundaries.

Hitler had made Germany into a giant machine in which human beings were but ants. Anyone today who looks at the footage of those thousands of soldiers lined up so precisely for Nazi parades cannot help but see the total collapse of the human soul in the crushing grasp of the Nazi cult. Picasso had remained in Paris even through the occupation, never picking up a gun to defend his adopted homeland, but also never laying down his brushes or letting go of his quintessential human spark. That was the 1930's and 1940's, the height of modernism and the glimpse of postmodernism. Religion had gone into a kind of eclipse during that period, but in the aftermath of war, it enjoyed a resurgence. Everyone wanted the boundaries offered by churches, the clear rules and regulations, the lists of sins and not-sins, the schedules of worship and prayer. Alongside that, marketing became a religion too, with Billy Graham running neck-and-neck against Dale Carnegie for influencing the most people and making the most money off the most friends, what a Friend he had in Jesus!

Art really began to disappear as an object-form in the 1950's. Mass media exploded into the living-space people once reserved for treasured objects of useless beauty. The children of the war were giddy with the adventure and glamour of a world that appeared to have acheived a balance between freedom and social structure. But then the emergence of war-as-art happened when Vietnam became a globally televised visual witness of all the human destruction that had been partially obscured during previous wars, when artists and photographers who went to the front took weeks or at least days to get their images in some editted form back to the news-hungry public. If WWII announced that there are no more boundaries between that which belongs to the private workplace and that which is public market, then Vietnam announced that there are no more boundaries between the atrocities of the soldier's battlefield and the personal, individual thoughts of the civilian in his livingroom on a calm summer evening.

Once again, an eruption. People stopped lining up for haircuts and the latest style in cars and stopped going to churches. They piled into vans, traded their televisions for macrame'd hemp and dropped the orderly Sunday services in favor of hippie Jesus gatherings with the national flags sewn to the seats of their pants.

Buddhist monks from Vietnam began burning themselves alive in public places. Black Americans began burning down their own neighborhoods. Priests and preachers gathered with students and parents at the gates of air-force bases like Westover and tried to stop, literally stop, the B-52 bombers from taking off. Hairy Indian gurus handed out beads while Harvard professors handed out LSD (Remember Timothy Leary? LSD was assigned as homework in his classes!) while David Berg and an assortment of wandering Jesus-freaks mixed Christian folk music with hippie love. Postmodernism announced itself even before it had a name.

The David Berg group used comic books to spread the gospel among all the free-loving hippies. Jesus, the first postmodernist in many ways (for so much of his teachings support situational ethics, compared to the left-brain list of the Ten Commandments) was available to David Berg to be reduced to a few principles that Berg could then re-arrange as the whims and impulses of the times suggested.

In those days, 15-yr-old girls in Tennessee married and raised families before they were twenty, this was what conventional Christian families did. Young men enlisted, often before they were eighteen, and were sent into battle, and if they didn't enlist they were drafted. They became hardened soldiers in the war before they were old enough to vote. Twelve-year-olds smoked cigarettes and fourteen-year olds went to work at their first jobs after school, and quit school to work full time as soon as they were sixteen.

Dave Berg saw the success of the free-love Beatles' gurus and saw no problem interlacing that openly celebrated Yellow Submarine culture with his comic-book street Christians. Better-grounded followers of his, like David McKay, did see the problems, but most people, frankly, did not care what Berg was doing. Not when the nation's elite were sending their children to Timothy Leary's acid-fests and the rest of the parents were sending their children to war in Vietnam. Somewhere in the fog of the seventies and eighties these things began to sort themselves out. The secular culture began to raise the age of adulthood and limit the permitted chemical adventures of students while the religious culture applied solid marketing concept to reigning in the free-love hippies.

Out in the quieter towns of Australia, David McKay was a working journalist with a small family and group of young friends all associating with Berg's anti-establishment Christianity. He and his loved ones enjoyed the spiritual freedom of challenging materialistic Christians to the true teachings of Jesus. Who knew what Berg and the rest of that group were up to, outside of McKay's little corner of Australia? But it was not long in the mid seventies before David McKay saw the sexual escapades of Berg's group as a threat to the moral foundations of his own set of family and friends as well as a violation of the most basic Christian teachings. McKay soon led his following into a much more conventional, yet still communally challenging, expression of the teachings of Jesus.

Kevin Mckay was a very young boy when those things happened. He cut his teeth as an artist working on illustrations for his father's pamphlets and revised, cleaned up versions of the old COG comics. McKay wanted to continue to appeal to the lost youth in the streets while making sure the message was truly of Jesus's Christian moral compass. McKay's group began calling itself the Jesus Christians some time later, in the 1990's, and Kevin was growing into a leader under his father's guidance. The small group traveled, established mission outposts, and generally lived just like the wandering Christian clans of the first centuries after Jesus walked the Earth.

More premodern than postmodern, certainly? Didn't I say that Jesus was postmodern? Yes. In the old system, including the Modern (if mid-twentieth century secular culture was "modernism") rules were clear, hard-line, written out in lists with chapters and sub-chapters. Just like in the Old Testament: a list of ten "most important" but then whole books of detailed instructions on every facet of life. The Israelites were able to structure their isolated shepherd tribal life with that. Every so often they would bump into a pagan tribe with a smaller set of rules or no rules at all, and they would go off the rails comletely. Mighty Jehovah would have to spit fireballs and send plagues to get them back on course.

Then Jesus came along and said the entire Old Law, the whole big set of it, could be contained in a few simple words: "Love thy neighbor as thyself".... having those few words as a guideline could allow the Christian to react according to each situation as God's law demanded, without having to memorize all those details of God's law.... postmodernism? No wonder they crucified Him, for who would pay a temple priest for an elaborate cleansing ritual if all it takes is a simple application of Jesus's Law of Love to know how to behave?

Something happened, though. In those heady years of setting out on the Jesus-Christian road, Kevin saw a future for himself while his father David moved from need to need, book to book, fulfilling his own role as an author and a facilitator of sorts, of a community of dedicated Christians.

Kevin and David did not see everything through the same eyes. Some of the other Jesus Christians seemed to assume Kevin had a right to lead, whether Kevin felt that way or not. David still ran with the communal principles that were a legacy of the anarchic hippie days but Kevin grew up in the more tightly-ruled, more corporate Yuppie years and so a split was almost inevitable. When Kevin took his artwork and left in the late 1990's, a few of those followers who will always follow, followed him.

David McKay continued on with the remaining Jesus Christians. They'd had contact with all kinds of established denominations and interpretations of Christian teachings and they continued to engage in controversial applications of those teachings in practical witness. The whippings or floggings, seem to be the most controversial or unusual applications, although it is hard to avoid saying that the movement into altruistic living-donor medical transplants was not even more controversial.

Yet: there remain boundaries that the postmodernists refuse to recognize. In setting up several mock-trials which resulted in real floggings, the Jesus Christians were careful to keep the floggings within the realm of temporary, non-injurious pain, and careful to include only seasoned volunteers in the practice. The contrast between their practice and the extremely cruel, disfiguring and fatal tortures that they protested is obvious. In one case, the protest was of a brutal street-gang beating of a man who was kicked viciously in the head while already losing consciousness on the ground, in another case the protest was of the horrifically violent torture of Falun Gong practicioners by the Chinese government, and in the third case, most heart-touchiing in its way, the Jesus Christians found that one of their associates was going to be horribly whipped by the Kenyan government over some petty theft that the Jesus-Christians themselves had reported without realizing the cost.

They appealed to the government which refused to lift the punishment. Finally they asked the government to let them take the case into their own community so that they could carry out the whipping themselves. The government agreed to allow that. This set an incredibly good precedent for all people in that region to be able to avoid horribly unjust and violent punishments! The Jesus-Christians at the Kenyan mission then took it a step further: when the thief showed up to accept his punishment, they announced that because Jesus took our sins upon Himself, one of them would step into the thief's place and take the whipping while he looked on.

The thief, a life-time alcoholic who never had succeeded in straightening out, could not believe that they would do this. He refused to allow it and insisted on taking his own punishment. It was carried out, and he came out of that whipping cleansed, truly cleansed, because the outpouring of love from those Jesus-Christians gave him the strength he needed to drop his alcohol and petty-theft habits.

And yet, the postmodernists of the art world, that would have you believe Christians are responsible for all the woes of the world (check: how many of the oil tycoons and war-machine ceo's,politicians and bankers, are practicing Christians of any sort?) the ones who post photos of torture victims in galleries and command thousands of arts-grant dollars for their efforts, these are the people who want to hunt down the Jesus-Christians and punish Dave McKay to his last dying breathe....

I was accused of being a little too harsh in saying, in my video, that Kevin McKay is actually planning to kill his own father by encouraging the stalker-mob that includes his friends to hunt the man down. Really, I have no idea what Kevin McKay is actually planning inside his own head. I thought I might even backpedal a little, and soften my statement in this article, but I can't do it.

Kevin has repeatedly posted admiration, friendship, and support for a bizarre character known mainly as "Verity Evangelene" who posts obscene predatory and disgusting death-oriented.... material..aimed at his father. Kevin has been part of that, repeatedly supporting that in the forum that has no other purpose except to attack Kevin's parents and every aspect of their lives. David McKay recently ventured into that forum in a futile effort to engage his son in a dialogue and Kevin left after insulting his father. Verity-Evangelene posted page after page of the most vile and obscene hatred imaginable. I noticed as I followed the struggle over the past few weeks that the sexual content that was once thinly veiled became open and predominant. This character, who has given a fairly strong impression of being a real woman named Susan Smith Summers who lives in the Vancouver area, has been covering her posts with obscene flirtation, has claimed sexual things about others and mostly has painted a picture of a vulgar and obscene affair between herself and David Mckay, even quite often throwing humiliating insults to Cherry McKay into the mix. What kind of son associates with people who do that to his parents?

I could not see any sense to this, other than the indulgence of obscene postmodern evil, but yesterday the reason for the filth was unveiled. "Verity Evangelene" has invented a jealous-husband story. Her old story was that she was widowed and bereft of a child because of a fatal car accident, and she ran that story for miles of pity-posts because in his exasperation, Dave McKay made the mistake of posting a common-sense question: since no one knows who Susan Smith Summers really is, how can anyone know if her sad story is true? Couldn't she at least send him a copy of a news article about the accident? Surely a simple article like that would not violate anyone's privacy and it would put to rest all the suspicion Verity Evangelene creates with her lies. Now, most people would never even bother to address a character like Verity Evangelene on the internet, a character that might not even be a real person but might be anyone, masquerading. But Dave McKay still has both feet on the pre-digital earth and he refused to give up on the possibility there might be a sensible human being behind that mask.

Verity Evangelene has bragged of paying the Rick Ross stalker Brian Birmingham for his research, research that according to Dave McKay and even some of Birmingham's own postings, has included collecting video clips of the McKay's vehicles, a clip of Mrs Mckay using a cane that Birmingham somehow thinks is "obviously unnecessary" from seeing the clip, and other clearly threatening surveillance material. Birmingham repeatedly posts lyrics from the song "psycho killer" and fantasizes about Mckay's death. Along with him, Verity Evangelene does the same, adding the pornographic assaults, lately including about a dozen obscene cartoons and calling herself "cultbuster graphics." And now these two apparently think that by creating an angry-husband character, whatever harm befalls the McKays at the mob's hands will be picked up by the media as something honorable (only in such twisted minds). Verity Evangelene explains this supposed husband's anger this way: He is supposedly enraged that David McKay had the temerity to question whether the story of a family tragedy was true or not, and furthermore, this angry husband is angry not only on the behalf of his beloved wife Verity's virginal honor, but also because he was supposedly a friend of the late first husband.

And Verity suggests he might become violent in her behalf. Even though any sane person has to suspect these people are doing nothing but living out their psychotic fantasies, one does not have to look far to see the ease with which they may slip from fantasy to reality.

While Kevin Mckay remains off to the side with not one word of support or defense for his innocent parents. No, on second thought, I cannot see any reason to doubt the accuracy of my original statement that Kevin Mckay is indeed trying to turn his own life into a horrible exercise in postmodern patricide.

I hope that at some point he steps forward to put an end to that hate-forum and makes me eat crow, but I am not looking up any recipes just yet.

1 comment:

  1. denise this is GREAT! i'm still laughing at your last statement! :D though it is a bittersweet kinda of laughter, as i also hope kevin turns around and changes before its too late. the JC's need and deserve some honest messengers like you, boldly standing up with simple, yet immensely insightful words of truth. carry on well. YAH bless you!