ARTICLE NATASHA STAGG
THE DISOWN STORE IS NOW ONLINE, BUT IT'S STILL "NOT FOR EVERYONE"
DIS Magazine can't really be accused of selling out. The website formed with a protective coating of sarcasm around it, as blatantly product-oriented and as smiling as a Kohl's catalogue. Still, some have grievances with their pop-up store at Red Bull Studios, which is now online, here. Is it still art if it's made to look mass-produced? Sure, that's happened before. But what if it's also sold for a reasonable price, to the fashionable youth?
As the DIS Magazine's resident advice columnist, I love overhearing people trying to describe DIS (the magazine, the collective, the movement). Academic articles written about it mostly try to peg its location in the spectrum of art and art criticism, and this very fact provides at least us one area in which the DIS project has been successful—namely ambiguity for its own sake.
An article in Artforum about DISown insists that its own crowd is involved—that the writer, Christopher Glazek, and his “forum,” as it were, are a part of the project, by way of association. And this kind of proves another point—namely the accidental allure of exclusivity. In the article, Glazek writes of a conversation he has with a curator. During the dialogue, she asks him what DIS is, really. Since he knows DIS personally, he responds. “‘What I think you don’t understand,’ I replied, ‘is that these people really don’t like school.’”
So, the writer sidesteps a question in order to illustrate DIS’s apparent sidestepping. And DIS does—well, I do—avoid pure argumentation in analysis by conflating it. That's because I believe this form of sarcasm has a higher impact than most genuine rhetoric in this context. What we’re talking about is, after all, the art world. The emperor has been wearing new clothes there for so long now, one can no longer tell they’re “new.” In the struggle for art-champion, DIS doesn’t want to enter the ring, they want to be the ring, and the audience… and the vendor.
Glazek continues, “What DIS had discovered—but what much of the art world still didn’t know—was that exclusivity had become obsolete. ‘Cool’ wasn’t cool—the old downtown underground had lost its appeal. The goal was no longer to subvert the mainstream, but to refashion it in subversion’s own image.” I want to agree, but we’ve already covered that what remains ambiguous (elusive, really) has remained exclusive, if only by accident and necessity. DIS welcomes everyone, but it’ll have to be on a first-come, first-serve basis, because there isn’t that much room, or stock. And their offices are located downtown.
Let’s not forget the last line of the Artforum article: “If they succeed in delivering art to the masses, they’ll have accomplished something no one saw coming—the rebranding of aura and the unmooring of the avant-garde from its lordly patrons. That could make them the most important artists of the decade.” This art isn’t lazy, even if it also isn’t “theoretical.” The work comes not from avoiding the difficult but from embracing that which makes the thing so—or, positivity in the face of the obscene. There is something so apparently alarming about a willingness to observe and mirror a climate, even when the climate is not a safe one for artists.
Pop Art in the 1960s asked galleries to consider a comparison to storefronts. DIS simply asks that we notice the lines that have continued to blur around us, in art and in the everyday.
Shop DISown here