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An example of Timothy Buckwalter's Palaces of Montezuma Series installed in the Bunker of Michael Macfeat | by Michael Macfeat
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An example of Timothy Buckwalter's Palaces of Montezuma Series installed in the Bunker of Michael Macfeat

This is a photograph of one of the Palaces of Montezuma series of posters by Timothy Buckwalter as seen in the Bunker of Michael Macfeat. I now own two of them. Chances are you don't.

Something extremely important is going on here and I think the vast majority of people haven't realized it yet. Tim is selling these posters at the highly affordable price of $35 and $45, depending on the size. The fact that they are good and they are inexpensive is just the beginning of the story. Creating a series of work that is affordable to nearly anyone and not produced as decorations for Ruling Class McMansions is a radical act. This act must be supported by thinking people and the creation of affordable or free works of art is a strategy that needs to be emulated by visual artists.

The average American would not hesitate to pay more money for a mass-produced image at Target or Walmart except that the images at these discount stores are saccharine and insincere, often celebrating the nostalgia for an ideal past that never existed. They are a lie.

The works in the Palace of Montezuma series are worth something beyond their price. They are the truth. They are intelligent, witty and indicative of Buckwalter's unique sensibilities. They are works of art. But they are not precious items. They are not numbered, they are not distributed in artificially limited quantities to create a false scarcity to drive the prices up. The aesthetic value of the work has nothing to do with the quantity of posters printed. The quantity is potentially unlimited if this extremely generous offering is supported by his peers, beginning with other artists. They do not need the attention of "collectors". They act on a field outside of that outdated system, a system that deliberately is exclusionary. Each work has equal value but not a value based on money or exchange but based on the value of Tim's vision and skill, his aesthetics and your preferences.

The reason the art system is in its death throes is that it is produced by people that cannot afford to buy similarly priced items. The culture industry is stuck in an untenable and moribund position. The only way to revive the corpse is to make work accessible to workers, not hedge fund managers. The hedge fund managers can buy any fucking thing that they want but they lack taste. It is quite common for these lemmings to pay someone to tell them what is good. This arrangement is nothing but the ripening of a corrupt fruit, the larcenous leading the larcenous, an exercise in intellectual sloth.

In this rare occasion, the offering of the Palaces of Montezuma, a normal underemployed human being can afford to buy work produced by one of the few artists in our time operating with an ounce of integrity. That the working-class can afford this artwork is remarkable in our time; one in five American workers lost their jobs in the last three years. In my opinion, Timothy Buckwalter is one of the most talented artists of his generation and one of the most generous with his support of other artists and his affordable creations.

This strategy is not singularly employed by Tim Buckwalter but it important to see someone with his talent using it. It is a tactic seen in the massive gift-giving events at the end of Zoe Strauss' 10 consecutive I95 exhibitions. During the course of a decade, Zoe gave away over 200 photographs each year. Over 2,000 photographs were bestowed without remuneration to the people of Philadelphia. In addition to this distribution example bordering on Potlatch, she sold copies of the photographs in the exhibition for $5 and $10. On Flickr, Craig Ross and the|G|™ are known for their generosity on an international scale using an extension of the Fluxus tactic of mail art. My Trading Card series was distributed anonymously and freely for over a ten year period. Even after the exhibition of the Trading Card Series in 2008 I continued to give them away for free. Entire sets of the complete (to that date) Trading Card Series were available for $50, less than $1 per card. To this day they still sporadically appear between the pages of the City Paper and Philadelphia Weekly newspapers in their honor boxes. Nearly 1000 of the Trading Cards were recently donated to Occupy Philadelphia to distribute for nothing, simply as handouts to make people think. The creator of the cards remains anonymous as long as the receiver has no prior knowledge of my exhibition at University of the Arts three years ago. It is safe to say that the majority of the population of Philadelphia hasn't. My obscurity has certain advantages although no financial benefits.

To operate outside of the official channels, to exhibit and display ones work outside of the culture industry, to avoid supporting the exclusionary tactics of the culture industry and to avoid making work that only is within the means of the rich is essential to expand the audience of the visual arts. Without an expansion of the audience, the visual arts will continue to wallow in its irrelevance. If your own friends are unable to own some aspect of your artistic production then there is something fundamentally wrong with your approach. To duplicate the exclusionary strategy of the culture industry, a system designed to exclude the artists themselves and to continue to operate only for the convenience of a Ruling Class that sees visual artists as minstrels with paint brushes is pathetic, self-loathing and wrong-headed. New tactics are necessary to overcome this feudal situation. This situation is and has always been unacceptable.

Artists need to examine their methods of distribution and to be supportive of artists that have found a way to make their work accessible and affordable to their peers. An important first step is to take advantage of the offer of these unique posters and works of similar intent.

This is the URL for the Palaces of Montezuma:

These posters are great and you have $35.

There are political implications to supporting this kind of work.

As Karl Marx said, "The rich will do anything for the poor except get off their backs." It is time to support our own.

The system that visual artists have been trained to accept is in its death throes. The affordable pricing artworks is just one step towards the exit of the much larger labyrinth whose Minotaur has gotten so fat, lazy and complacent that it is ready to be kicked over like some disagreeable drunken blowhard.*

Put your money where my mouth is.


*Now that I think of it, the description I used for the Minotaur reminds me of an English dipsomaniac and former SAS drone that I encountered and dispensed with on two occasions in Le Goblet, the oldest Irish bar in Paris, except that he wasn't fat.

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Taken on November 18, 2011