by Faheem Haider on October 22, 2014
Writer and editor James Trainor’s recent essay in Artsy about the Hudson Valley art scene — obnoxiously titled “The Hinterlands: Can artists and dealers change the creative and economic landscape of Upstate New York?” — reads like a call to artist-saviors to move up the Hudson in order to colonize the virgin, green Hinterlands in the name of high culture. A long quote right from the first paragraph, ostensibly about a 2008 work by Swoon, gives away Trainor’s view:
The freak flag armada paid calls at numerous river towns and sagging mill cities along the way — Hudson, Kingston, Beacon — depressed communities then experiencing one degree or another of cultural and economic revival. Intentionally or not, the Huck Finn-meets-hippie-steampunk art action tapped into (and in some sense symbolically upended) a complex, unequal, and long-standing symbiotic cultural relationship between New York City and its upstate hinterlands, a push-pull codependency that has centered, both geographically and psychologically, on the axial artery of the Hudson River Valley.
Trainor’s account, even while allowing the critical potential of Swoon’s work, suggests a view of the Hudson Valley as a hinterland, uncharted and unknown (though codependent!) — not, as is actually the case, a place with a cultural economy that’s long sustained itself and even helped shape art and material practices that have redefined the way “centrists” in New York City view themselves.