by Andrew Green
Guest Editor: Pat Elifritz
“[The young worker’s] true pleasure in motorbike riding is in the anal sounds it emits.”
― Max Horkheimer
“We always find something, eh Didi, to let us think we exist?”
― Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
For quite some time now nepotism has grown rampant within the under-grad art world: friend shows are quite common to us and receive no criticism.  They are usually just nice enough for the documentation to look like an artist has done something, while still being blasé enough to not need any crucial curatorial thought. These shows are “free-for-alls”, typically introduced with a generic statement about the artists’ personal relationships, ages, or mediums and how this connects their work. Perhaps there is nothing too wrong with this at all; maybe it is a necessary nothingness for the undergraduate artist-under- construction. It is an uncritical gesture and is experienced as such, with little to no room for a camera obscura of curation to distort the works into something that they are not. 
But what of a show that attempts to input critical thought into this utterly un-critical act of ‘free-for-all’ non-curation? This strange paradox is quite blatantly explicated in a recent show at Alcatraz Chicago titled Salmagundi. What makes this show important and significant in distinction from a myriad of other friend-shows is the extent to which the curator, Zachary Shay Huber, went to justify his precise lack of curation. In fact, this friend-zone model of curation is apparently now so canonized that can be used as a critical platform, or so Huber might think. Instead of simply presenting his colleagues work as a generic showcasing like every other one of these friend-shows does, Huber employed an ill-conceived and grandiose concept to justify his curatorial choices: Salmagundi.
According to this flyer, Salmagundi is a salad dish composed of a myriad of disparate ingredients, which, in some logic-defying absurdity, make a pretty eclectic and tasty dish: an ice-cold iceberg lettuce detournment. It is also the name of a surprisingly delicious cocktail (apple juice and champagne) served at the opening. In an underwhelming one-to-one analogy to its title, the show is an aggregate of seemingly different approaches to painting that “make a sum that is greater than its parts…[where] each piece is activated and illuminated,” just like this bespoke dish. Though this might seem quite shocking to all of us on the art-school diet, haphazardly choosing ingredients by Deleuze’s chaotic anti-teleological rubric will not always result in a tasty meal, regardless of how avant-garde a method of salad-tossing it might be. In fact, the majority of the time, as is the case with the show, it results in something quite distasteful. And here what is offensive is not simply that I have been served a sub-par dish, but that it has been dressed up and decorated as to convince me that it is actually a well-composed plate whose very disparate character is what makes it so delectable and refined. No, I’m sorry, the Burger King here is not wearing any clothes and this dish is unsatisfactory. In fact, I’ll send it back and order saucisson sec and, to wash it down, a sparkling bottle of biodynamic wine.
Not quite conceptual and not quite formal, the whole show is an indeterminate and irritating confusion like the buffering of a not-quite funny Youtube video puttering itself along for an empathic pity-laugh. The works worth noting in the show are two paintings by Jack Schneider and a painting and a photograph by Michael Madrigali. The playfully ironic neon auras of Schneider and Madrigali's work disparagingly hiccup (complete with apple-juice-champagne-foam) on the pseudo-poetic stoner-joke paintings that occupy the rest of the space. While these two artists might have the possibility of an interesting dialogue between their new-age strategies of visual seduction from formalist grids to make-up advertisements , the emphasis on this conversation is eclipsed and
fit into a tiny.chat of non-sense. A microcosm for our social conditions under capital, Salmagundi is an excellent representation of the utter impotence of any artwork being able to say anything worthwhile, as its audience will immediately misrecognize its importance based on the deceptive context through which it is experienced.
As Robert Pippin writes, “The problem with contemporary critical theory today is that it has become insufficiently critical.” To be a bit more specific, perhaps the problem today is not simply that there is no critical theory, rather the real problem lies in the misrecognition of uncritical thought as being critical, which prevents the possibility of something critical from ever being said in the future. The problem with Salmagundi is not that its curation is simply uncritical, but that it dresses up the disappearance of critical thought, nihilistically calling for its uncritical substance to be experienced critically. In doing so we deceive ourselves and regress deeper into Plato’s cave where art's capability to reify society and enable us to attain a self-recognition of our conditions for the future possibility of criticality becomes more and more dormant, waiting for a resurrected Christ-figure critic to magically one day reveal what we have been missing throughout the 150 year epoch of Capitalism. A thorn in the foot of any doing-anything whatsoever, “Perhaps [criticism] exists to remind us that we haven’t gotten anywhere.”
 Nepotism is not reducible to the undergraduate art world
 In saying this I do not mean that works only function for themselves within non-curated spaces,
rather I mean that they are not consciously put into a dialogue with each other and are not intended to be experienced as such
 It should also be noted upon that these artist’s works also enter into numerous other dialogues
specifically regarding the ephemeral nature of work’s physical life and their afterlife as .jpegs.