It’s Jay-Z shouting out to Marina Abramovic’s kickstarter. It’s “Love me, love me, please retweet”. It’s Miranda July’s “We Think Alone”. It’s Yoko Ono’s “Imagine Peace”.

            VART (visibility-as-art) is showing up and giving your support as much as it's being seen and getting photographed. In VART, the artist is conspicuously consuming as the artist is being conspicuously consumed. [1] VART is a system, and visibility is its #1 currency.

            A very slippery concept, VART shifts in order to accommodate its contradictions. In an era of post-movements, where every manifesto and/or collective seems a priori doomed, VART is horizontal movement, capable of dialectically/sluttily embracing its contradictions. VART is style and can be adopted for any content. If historical art movements are bracketed retroactively, we can think of VART as an ever-expanding bracket that remains in the present.

            It’s easy to confuse visibility with fame. Though the two are related, the two also differ on a key issue. What’s one difference between celebrity artists & VARTISTS? Celebrity artists don’t change and have little flexibility; they are valorized by canonical history and the narrow market along with a chorus of critics who hate to disagree: dead artists with skyrocketing auction prices are examples par excellence. On the other hand, VART requires a “living” [2] artist who is mutable making mutable artwork and who uses contemporaneous visibility as valorization. We can think of the Mona Lisa as a made-up corpse (dead & outdated) whereas VART is a vampire (evolving with the times).


            In talking about VART I will be referencing “the view” as the look, the abstracted $1, the currency of 1 viewcount/like/reblog/retweet. I will be using the term smarm to describe a typical VART attitude. Artists who practice VART will be referred to as VARTISTS, though this term is flexible: a gradient exists from people who borrow some tactics to those who are entrenched. Names I refer to as “visible” will be names that generally have fans/followers on social media sites. Names I refer to as “non-visible” will be the majority of people who generally look much more than they produce, “lurkers”, and who may or may not be vying for visibility. So to use a recent example, a VARTIST would be Molly Soda and a “non-visible” would be Paul-David Young, who found old Molly Soda photos in the trash and “curated” them as anonymous artwork, hence heightening his own visibility as well as Molly Soda’s.


[1] My stakes in VART are pretty personal. A curator once told me that the only artists who are happy are the ones with online presences. Most of the working artists I know fall roughly into two categories—1) busy networking, producing, partying, practicing multiple disciplines; and 2) works unrelated part-time jobs and makes art privately in rented studio.

[2] An artist like Banksy can be comprised of several people. Even after the original crew dissipates or dies, it is possible for Banksy to continue as a machine. In this sense Banksy can be thought of as a corporation, in which case “living” is a debatable adj.