Charivari Press





Leaving No Mark:

Prolegomena to an Evanescent Art


by Donal McGraith


Art - Cultural Theory

9781895166408 $10.95 Paperbound 105 Pages


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“Art is fakery, a lie,” begins Leaving No Mark: Prolegomena to an Evanescent Art. In this striking essay, one by one, Donal McGraith dismantles our fundamental assumptions about Western art; especially that it consists of static works of originality and rare genius. Such views of art, as a specialized activity, are the basis for its academic study and the foundation of the multi-billion dollar art market. In particular, in discussing copies, fakes and reproductions he destroys the foundation for aesthetic uniqueness. This fallacy has given rise to a “cult of personality” and a “prison house of style,” whose only purpose is to inflate the art market. The so-called original operates in a similarly mystifying way to the religious relic, the value lies less in aesthetic quality but only in the notion, more often untrue as fakes abound, that the ‘genius’ has touched the object.


McGraith seeks to reclaim art as the lived expression of our creativity urging that we not direct these impulses into forms that can be quickly turned into commodities. Like Navajo sand painting or the ceilidh, such endeavours would soon be lost to time. Openings created by Dada, Fluxus, Neoism, Plagiarism are seen to destroy the genius and originality fetishes. Other interesting strategies referencing contemporary artists, such as Banksy, Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Long and Hamish Fulton, supporting an evanescent approach are developed.


Also included are three related essays on art McGraith published in the Canadian art magazine Sub Rosa: Copyright; To Create at last a Situation That Goes Beyond the Point of No Return: a brief history of the situationist international and The Pleasure of Images: Private Desires — Public Spaces.


Donal McGraith is the author of The Wild and the Free: Shane, Rousseau, Hippies. also published by Charivari Press. He has produced a number of articles on music and art for the magazines Musicworks and Sub Rosa. His seminal essay ‘Anti-Copyright and Cassette Culture’ was included in Sound By Artists. McGraith’s provocative views, unsettling to those who benefit from high art, are clearly on display in Leaving No Mark.


“A more interesting polemic that takes a run at the history of contemporary art and underground music is Donal McGraith’s ‘Anti-Copyright and Cassette Culture.’”

—Clive Robertson, Fuse, Winter 1991.


"What makes McGraith's critique interesting is it's broader application to creative processes in general and his thorough analysis of the ideas of authenticity and originality. Using Picasso as a reference point, he maps the Situationist concept of 'detournement' onto the cassette swapping underground, thus showing how in general old aesthetics can be co-opted into new work."



Some essays provide a welcome antidote to high-culture assumptions: Donal McGraith ("Art is a display of food to the starving") identifies cassette culture and anti-copyright as a tactic for the realisation and suppression of Art...







delivers a mock serenade of abuse to the pompous



Cultural Theory



There is no document of culture that is not at the same time a document of barbarism.


—Walter Benjamin