*This is the last of two writings exploring art critic Dave Hickey’s Air Guitar. The 1997 classic book contains twenty-three essays. From a music critic and art dealer’s perspective, the “fables” investigate the relationship between Art and Democracy. The past provides insights for the future.
The literary chops of art critic Dave Hickey deliver in Air Guitar. It had been many years since my last encounter with the book of twenty-three formidable essays. Hickey’s masterful critical thinking skills make any dull thought sharp. One can only hope and wish to be a contender someday.
The Dealing essay describes Hickey’s dissertation: “Specifically, I wanted to encode literary manuscripts in sequential states of revision-to discover just exactly what could be said, on good evidence, about authorial intentions.” His concept was rejected by an academic structure unable to support new creative input. Hickey ultimately quits school at twenty-six and opens A Clean Well-Lighted Place art gallery inspired by the Hemingway short story.
Art without an exit strategy fails.
Let’s wrap our minds around this, the Frivolity and Unction essay declares: “What if works of art were considered to be what they actually are-frivolous objects or entities with no intrinsic value that only acquire value through a complex process of socialization during which some are empowered by an ongoing sequence of private, mercantile, journalistic, and institutional investments that are irrevocably extrinsic to them and to any invention they might embody?”
Can society appreciate objects, people, and diverse artistic outputs without assigning monetary value?
No wonder artists reconcile bills, responsibilities, and society in an attempt for free speech and expression. Like a fortune-teller, Hickey foreshadows this sentiment from the past for today. Time will verify if the infrastructures in charge of assigning value can survive greed drunk on power.
Hickey honestly concedes in the Acknowledgments: “Finally, since the experiences recounted in this book have been compressed, elided, collaged, and occasionally disguised to protect the guilty, my apologies to those who remember it differently, or remember it all too well.”
Air Guitar reads like Twitter: a continuous mental feed and reminder of its 1997 publication flashes at each page’s turn. This is how we were, are now, and could be in the future. Life’s peregrinations extend, meandering back to what is true. No apologies needed here sir, only art.