Energy, lightbulbs and semen – it must be art

Artistic autonomy, politics, curation and… what’s going on? JJ Charlesworth had recently been arguing for artistic autonomy. This is something that I am very interested in, though I do fear a slide into a kind of romanticism. I have a fair amount of time for Charlesworth as a writer – and, I suppose, by extension a curator. He recently curated a show in London called Fusion Now! The theme of the show was “what art and society would be like if we thought positively about a world based on more energy, not less.” This is a view I am very sympathetic too, being completely tired of the inconsistencies and anti-human implications of the zero-growth and sustainable development trend. The Guardian has a comment on its artsblog here. I haven’t seen the show, but this stuck out: “The outstanding sculptor Roger Hiorns exhibits a huge light bulb that uses lots of power, covered in semen to emphasise its image of joyous waste.” Hmm… This amuses me: it’s a clever comment on the environmentalist movement. ‘Wasting’ energy correlates with Christian notions of onanistic waste. Pleasure versus uptight Puritanism. It’s clever, it’s funny, it’s current. I’m just not sure I want to look at it very much. I do get the feeling that, on the whole, when politics gets into bed with art in such a polemical or upfront way, the art seems to me to suffer.