'so-very-fancy-and-intelligent-talk': about Deviant Art

Yes, I know - writing the text like that about Deviant Art, together with my not-so-very-good English language skills may not be so good idea...

But hey! Maybe some would think that I'm playing some kind of pseudo-posh- bourgeois-white-female?
I think that would be quite cool.

John Fiske, an expert on popular culture, claims that to understand the term 'culture' we should firstly understand the process of popular and critical discrimination. He says, that people create popular culture by the connection between their everyday life and consumption of the products of capitalism. In the moment of choice of the product, the process that we can call 'popular discrimination' begins.
According to Fiske, popular discrimination (taste) is based on productivity and relevance, while quality and aesthetics are typical for critical discrimination. To show more differences between popular and critical types of discrimination, Fiske briefly characterises aestheticism and relevance. Popular discrimination concerns with relevance , which reduces the difference between the text (f.ex. image, 'art body') and life. It means that popular taste is based on interpreting the art by connecting it with our personal experience and feelings.
Comparing with this, aesthetics' opinions are anti popular. What mostly differs popular from critical discrimination is the polysemy of popular texts, which are only provokers of meanings and pleasure, various for many other readers and equally open for them. For popular taste, there is no place for an aesthetic hierarchy, dictated especially by the bourgeoisie.
Aesthetic readers have to understand, how the elements of text relate and contribute to its overall openness, and the conciousness of this final openness is the fundamental aim. To compare, Fiske proves, that popular readers act different - they are interested more with the pleasures and meanings that the elements of text can provoke.

Does Fiske's theory relate in any way to contemporary art? Well, one can tell that there still can be 'white male syndrome' somewhere there. Yet, what I would rather to call as bourgeoisie and elite in today's culture, is art globally liked, worshipped, approved. All that is branded, well-known and cool. This is what describe contemporary popular culture. But I am afraid that it was not the point. I am afraid that in this two-word name, the wrong word gained the bigger importance.
Ironically, today's world of art – the one that is opened for everyone - is more about popular than about culture.
It is complete turn away – what is generally open and available, is bourgeoisie and elite. If an artist and his work is different, he stays behind, is expelled and forgotten. In contemporary world, to become visible, an artist has to be popular. And not simply popular, but popular in global context.
Everything has changed. The basis of my opinion are observations that I am doing for few years now, quite unintentionally, as photography fan and Internet user. Here, as the example, quite good one, because of its global popularity (sic!) I can use Deviant Art website, or even any other art-related Internet Societies (there are many of them in the cyberspace), packed with various artists (however there are only few there that deserve this title). I can see a lot of Fiske's bourgeoisie there. I do not see much of popular discrimination but, ironically, what most accurately describes contemporary popular culture is critical (or should I say – bourgeoisie ) discrimination. According to Fiske's popular culture vision, popular texts ( in this example – pictures, photographs), also these submitted on DA, should differ from elite tastes because they are equally open for everyone, and should work to provoke our own, personal and free interpretation. It does not work that way for me.

What we can see now in this big Internet artists society is a great popularity of following and supporting 'the popular', starting and ending on the fact of images popularity itself. And the problem with 'the popular' artists is, that although some of them used to be honestly good, after becoming the objects of worship, they are losing themselves in their popularity. Surely, it vitally affects the quality of their art. But it does not seem to affect the fans, followers and believers. The process continues, and the artist, seeing that the machine of popularity urges itself in the crazy perpetum mobile, is not focused so much on the quality of his work, but it does not prevent him from submitting more and more pictures. In fact, they are closer to being not an art, but rubbish...

For some, it may seem obvious - some can see the difference and transition from talented and modest artist to worshipped and opinionated internet celebrity. But not 'the masses', not the followers. These, who have already joined the club of worship, masses of fans, using the 'watching' option and 'faving' each and every piece of work done by the artist. They do not see the difference.

And yet there are comments. For me, one of biggest strengths of Deviant Art has always been the fact that people can actually comment on your work and you can expect the general critique of your pictures. Isn't it one of the reasons why people put their work there? Well, apparently, it is not. At least not for 'the popular'. They, in majority of cases, cannot be criticised. They are not used to it any more. One can meet many various responses to such critique. Yet, even though the artist him/herself may not respond (it is quite difficult to do so, having about 100 'lovely-sweetie-great-beautiful—kind' comments for a picture, after one hour of submission), there are still the followers, waiting to make the seditious fault-finder aware of the fact that he/she deals with 'popular person' whose work just has to be good. Well, good is not enough. Brilliant,that is the word. It is officially taken for granted. And if you brake with convention – you are out.

Generally, it is sick. The power relations in this case are so obvious. And here, Fiske's element of poplar and critical discrimination totally inverts. It does not lose its meaning, though.
It seems that now, to be the part of 'popular culture' one needs to be like bourgeoisie white male used to be – rules dictator, behaviour example, art fashion creator - power handler, in general. Popular culture become the part of 'false aestheticism', the phenomenon that it used to be opposite to.


  1. Is this the piece you e-mailed me? It's very thoughtful, and I'm really pleased that you think about these things. More please!

  2. yes it is-slightly changed. thanks!