On Dogma and Conceptualism: A Broadside
by Drew B. David
Welcome to Angry Old Man!
The launch of a new magazine is a perfect chance for an editor to wax poetic, to coin a phrase—or simply rant like a lunatic and annoy his audience. In this case, I’ll choose the latter, and hope you’re still with me by the end.
Angry Old Man Magazine exists to challenge conventional thinking. Here, we are open to, and tolerant of, new ideas. Some artists and writers, sadly, want to limit what is seen and heard, because a new idea or practice might threaten their lucrative brand. The allure of fame and fortune necessitates they defend their coveted plot of land to the death. And so, a tendency, or way of doing things, especially vis-à-vis “Art,” often hardens fast into an accepted (and acceptable) dogma, when there are few checks on its influence.
One bit of contemporary dogma AOM will challenge is the stance adopted by some from the Conceptualist school that lyricism or “feeling” should not play a role in the making of “Art” (especially poetry), because that tendency is an embarrassing atavism, a relic from an age of “squares” and reactionaries. In place of lyricism, a banal obsession with “process” and “concept” is sold to us as incontestable genius. In short, the exercise of spontaneous and expressive art is verboten to the Conceptualists’ brand of flaccid nihilism. I’ll admit I was initially seduced by what they were hawking. Perhaps, I still am. Yet, I maintain there is something very wrong with a movement that delights in making fun of human frailty (see Michael Brown’s Body). Even the anti-art spectacles of Dada were often playful and humanistic. However they were portrayed, good or bad, the Dadaists were indisputably sensitive and purposeful artists, attuned to the vicissitudes of culture. Can we say the same of the modern Conceptualists?
But taking issue with a problematic literary movement is not the focus of this magazine. Let it be said that many Conceptualists still have much to offer—but now is the time to move forward. Perhaps that way forward is through the exercise of a hybrid aesthetic, based on the ideas of Fluxus extraordinaire Dick Higgins. Intermedia/mixed media is a tolerant, spontaneous philosophy, full of possibility. But this magazine will never be committed to a movement or specific ideology. To my mind, even the idea of “movements” is up for debate. Above all else, AOM is dedicated to championing experimentation with a human face, a principle in short supply in our atomized age of social media.
If you stay awhile, you’ll notice AOM serves up an eclectic bag of tricks. I’m truly indebted to all the talented artists and writers who have submitted their work. I hope you’ll be provoked (even outraged) by the challenging material here. If not, I’ve failed as an editor, and you may revoke my credentials forthwith.
As an old, crackpot poet once admonished—“Make it new!”