This issue deals with the role that an omnipresent form of informal communication called "gossip" plays in the world of art. Special emphasis is placed on gossip's share in the processes of value and judgment formation in a market segment increasingly defined by the rules of "celebrity culture" - and no longer in a clandestine, dirty little corner. Instead, there are clear signs of gossip's impact on public and everyday life. The topicality of this phenomenon is probably still fresh in the minds of art magazine readers - after all those hit lists and annual rankings. Beyond the relevant specialist press, however, one can observe that the events in the art market have also become intriguing for a "heavy rotation" public that, between the perpetual celebrity features on music television programs and the "miscellaneous pages" of large daily papers remodeled to accommodate gossip, responds to a field still culturally encoded in a special way. The "press coverage" of art market events such as the art fairs in Miami and London, otherwise hardly acknowledged in the gossip press, makes it drastically clear that at least now, at a time when this new pattern of perception is just starting to catch on, the candid shots of "it persons" caught by surprise at fair stands and cocaine-fuelled pool parties communicate a certain freshness, something which has always been a distinct feature of any new segment of the visual market. As of late, this segment is creating its own art world public, predominantly via blogs on the Internet (see Martin Conrads's contribution).
In "The Field of Cultural Production", Pierre Bourdieu gives an account of how forms of gossip already flourished in the late 19th century: Miscellaneous sections, gossip reports and serialized novels started to spread - and allegedly autonomous artists began producing for this new market. Especially in the art market - where modernism, along with its diverse forms of critique, could stand for well-founded doubts about judgment criteria related to art - the struggle for resources has had an effect originating in aesthetic autonomy on a tried and tested form of social interaction, practiced for several decades in the club and gallery scenes, engendering numerous, unique judgment patterns. After the notion of the artwork and of the artist obsessively fixated on his own production was compromised, the "other" side of the reason on which this logic is based is now coming to fruition and seeks, in part by reverting to half-digested milieu theories, to bring the focus on the "attitude" of the "ex-author" to the fore: Isn't his attitude that which is authentic, and not his work? Who made his or her appearance possible, who held this reference gap in the range of offers open? The focus on a concept that is difficult to define, as is the case with "attitude", possesses various correlates in other fields - and all have to do with the absence of real power and the ambition to gain power within the logic of the career script. Atti-tude is a positional concept, not necessarily a relational one. In this respect, the notorious rankings - in which "positions" encounter each other in a ruthlessly alien way, connected solely by objectivizing sales criteria - belong to the prolongation of a shifted movement of individualization, which only here and there makes a tactical or strategic appearance within a group context seem appropriate.
Especially in the market, the much-talked-of "communicative competence" is reformulated as a distinction technique through which one's own position in the placing within the gossip contents becomes as important as the news itself. The assertion that gossip, as an information format, is able to produce material effects in the art world, can be substantiated by taking a closer look at the new type of dealer/collector who uses his (well-placed) knowledge to operate both in the primary and secondary market without forfeiting the nimbus of the art-historically well-versed philanthropist and patron in the eyes of the public (see Nicolás Guagnini's text on Tim Nye).
Art criticism that is inevitably concerned with the restructuring of the market and its publicity-promising media formats is therefore confronted with the tendency of "factual" or materialistic art discourses, such as Social (Art) History or approaches based on the critique of economy, increasingly falling behind due to their overemphasis on the objecthood and the commodity character of the artwork, or because their understanding of these features is all too "literal" when viewed against the background of the economies of signs that prove to be more suitable for the market. Viewed conversely: What scopes of action could be opened up for art criticism by situational criteria and criteria based on hearsay, which are increasingly taking the place of art-historical knowledge, for an art criticism that refuses to be robbed of its own relevance by the market's newly gained power to define? And to what extent are one's own judgments and economies of attention also based on gossip, making one kindly disposed towards a show, or leading one to view it with disapproval? In her contribution, Isabelle Graw presents an analysis of the increasingly evident significance of gossip in the art market. She proposes not to use this diagnosis to complain in a defeatist way about art criticism's general loss of influence but, instead, to formulate the necessity of making one's own involvement in gossip relations transparent - not least because, under the conditions of post-Fordist capitalism, linguistic and communicative competence, in particular, has become the decisive "resource" of immaterial labor.
On a theoretical level, gossip can indeed be grasped as an interesting correlate to the paradigm of transference in psychoanalysis. This is one of the starting theses of Brigitte Weingart's text. The basic structure of gossip, with its three variables: sender, recipient, and the third person talked about, not only has an effect on the context of simple information transfer, it also provides a wide range of nuances that can be perfectly applied to the pivotal processes of value formation and judgment structures within the art world. The existence of gossip suggests accessibility, while on the other hand creating internalizing group contexts that possess their own mechanisms of exclusion and fine-tuned sets of rules. Whether derived, borrowed or only partially appropriated - many of the career-enhancing uses of gossip refer to recipes of success taken from illegitimate forms of communication and the negotiation of a hierarchy inherent to a specific social group.
In the field of gossip, "queer" examples are perhaps predominant because the rhetoric of the closet, which takes shape in response to social exclusions (other forms of marginalization may also come to mind), has developed highly sophisticated communication techniques that are capable of sensing minimal differences in orientational conversations and employing them for the purpose of an immediate reversal - from opening to closing, and vice versa. This can be viewed not only as a refinement of the criteria of gossip but also as an expansion of social "mobility". In this context, Marc Siegel takes up performances, lectures and fanzines by Vaginal Davis as examples to discuss the queer implications of gossip. He comes to the conclusion that gossip bears the potential, for us all, of simply being fabulous in the way we cast ourselves and perceive others.
As a continuation of our recently begun efforts to stronger address non-German-speaking readers, we introduce with this issue a new English section of Texte zur Kunst. In addition to that, we will also publish original versions of "non-German" contributions on our website www.textezurkunst.de. We are looking forward to your response!