Martha Rossler - Culture Class: Art, Creativity, Urbanism, Part I

Having just moved here from New Orleans and being involved in the struggle for fair housing there, I won’t say I was excited to see it mentioned in this strong warning for artists to be mindful of their place and power in current social structure; yet, I was pleased to see it brought up. It’s this kind of awareness and attention to detail that defines the text at large: Martha Rosler’s writing seems to come from the perspective of someone knowledgeable not only through observation and study, but also having lived the subject matter. Indeed, managing to avoid being New York-centric on such a subject is a strong endorsement of the argument in and of itself; there’s certainly enough there to parse. This is a tough subject to cover without being prohibitively dense, but Rosler manages to do it extraordinarily well.

I think a blunt, to-the-point approach is appropriate here: man, fuck Richard Florida.

Richard “Dick” Florida, seen here enjoying a cool glass of water like other human people.

Richard “Dick” Florida, seen here enjoying a cool glass of water like other human people.

While I understand that the text at large is an intelligent and informative treatise on urbanization and the artist class’ place within that process, I can’t help but open with the sheer hostility I feel toward the end result, a man whose name alone conjures the image of a sunburned phallus starting bar brawls in a Señor Frog’s. In all seriousness, I think it’s important to consider the kind of damage that can be wrought by someone who looks fair but feels foul, someone who wears the mantle of Neoliberalism while using its tenets as a cudgel to bludgeon the poor and sweep them out of town. A person who divides human beings and their value using tools such as a “gay index” in anything other than a satirical tone should have their intentions and their personage as a whole called into suspicion at the very, very least.

Which is why Rosler’s closing is so perfect. Florida is this problem of artists and gentrification, the product of it wrapped up in shiny packaging. He is what happens when we don’t pay attention and lean too heavily on our collective fancy-free sides. As the artist speaking regretfully about his part in Soho’s gentrification showed on page 09, the politicians, press, and upper class in general will adapt to our whimsy and take full advantage of the money that it attracts. And, in the words of BlackRock CEO and reprehensible bastard Larry Fink,

The two greatest stores of wealth internationally today is contemporary art ... and I don’t mean that as a joke, I mean that as a serious asset class, and two, the other store of wealth today is apartments in Manhattan, apartments in Vancouver, in London.
— Robert Frank, CNBC 2015

Rosler wrote this before such remarks, but she has a clear view of their impending approach.