Que saiz-je? 77.- Documentation

77 Doocumentation

The question about if an artwork shall be perfectly reproduced is now posed as a firewall, and any born-to-succeed work has to pass it. This is due to the fact that it is not only that the amount of people who is going to see the work live is less if compare with the enormous amount of possible viewers that the documentation can now reach: the number of those direct viewers is, as well, smaller than before new means of distributing documentation existed. The information contained in the documentation often dissuades people to visit the galleries: they might find that is not need to go physically to the gallery as they might have seen through the documentation that it is likely they are not going to enjoy the show, or they might think that the documentation has already made them experienced all the possible enjoyment.

This condition feeds back: As no so many people visits the works physically anymore, then more important becomes that those accessing to the documentation see all the values of the work. Works are stripped of features that are not shown on an online version of them. To put work on it seems like a waste. New visitors will come out of the show disappointed indeed, with the idea that they have already seen everything before they came. Artworks and documentation tend to be identical.

There is still one more factor. The ratio of works a young artist has physically experienced regarding those known only through documentation, is grandly in favour of documentation, especially if compared with that of pre-Internet educated artists. New artists have difficulties understanding the physical features of artworks so they are not likely to work out well their challenges and possibilities.

These conditions are reinforcing two ideas: 1) nothing is to be seen in galleries, art or non-art alike, and 2) physical artworks are only marketable props, interchangeable marketplace holders.

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Que saiz-je? 76.- Representation

76.- Representation

 

One would say that an artwork offers images of death always in a new form, and shows thus once and again the paradox which is contained in the idea of time. This work would be the poetic word Valery says it keeps floating, due to the fact that it has not meaning to exchange with, because its only value is to finish with all forms of exchange. And this would be what makes the word, the artwork, fascinating.

Art is indeed a system for managing the death impulse by the means of language. But the artist is efficient in representing it not because he intends to create a perfect representation of death for others, a stand-alone representation of death, but because he needs to create the perfect situation that shows himself that other reality which is beyond the daily one. If the artist is craving to be naked of language structures, like Adam and Eve at paradise, the artwork resulting of this unscheduled brief visit to paradise which constitutes the art experience is like the fig leaf that suddenly comes to cover their shame in pictures re-presenting them. The artwork resulting of this near-to-death experience makes viewers tremble by proxy.

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Que saiz-je? 75.- Victors

75 Victors

History is written by the victors, they say. This used to be interpreted as “So it is false. The victors twist the facts as they like, in order to make themselves look good”. Recently I heard it quoted to support this: “So it is better if one favours the victors in one’s account of history, because it is the way to get advantages”.

The art market is written by the victors and the victors are written by the market. It is a self-reinforcing loop and if one believes in the market, one is going to swallow everything the victors say.

Many people, in the street and in the media, are sending messages as if what they say were facts, as if they themselves have realised how true those facts are, but actually they are repeating tales written by the victors. Further one balances the history received from the victors with the one found in the hidden archives of the losers, stronger one perceives what people tell in the street or the media as advertising.

It might be that realising all this means that one is out of the loop, that the level of awareness is directly proportional to how a loser one is. Fortunately this circumstance comes with the conviction that all victories are pyrrhic, if not for other reason, because they obscure one’s view of the truth. Besides, with defeats like these, who needs victories? (or vice versa).

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Que saiz-je? 74.- Prejudices

74 Prejudices

One has been thrown into a world in which everything is prejudiced. One was given prejudged food and prejudged clothes. And first years at home, and then next at the school, one received an enormous amount of prejudge ideas, beliefs and emotions. It is not possible keeping oneself pristine, free of prejudices, because the default state is that of complete prejudication.

The only thing one can do is trying to get the most accurate prejudices. So this is to try perfecting one’s prejudices to be the most according what it will be your judices (judgements), meaning by that, if they were born in empirically impossible laboratory conditions, in which one would not be under pressure nor affected by the inertia of tradition.

Indeed, one’s judgement system is a ship which needs constant repairs but which cannot go to the docks, it must be at high sea all the time. It has to be repaired while it is in function, precisely because “it functioning” is required to carry out the repairs. Furthermore, it is the pure functioning what is being repaired. Any damage in the structure must be assessed from the inside. Unprejudiced opinions are not to be trusted.

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Que saiz-je? 73.- Winner-Takes-All

73 winner takes all

Once an artist has acquired certain recognition, he is in a better to embark on more ambitious endeavours. Most of the outstanding works of architects are based on previous achievements, more than in the intrinsic value of the specific buildings they are projecting in each case. It is a matter of the politics of their careers, and of the power to impose hidden or openly the execution of the works. The art on it is to be able to do it, regardless to what “it” refers to.

One has to be suspicious of big realisations. The irresistible attraction of costly artworks entails the fact that people who possesses exclusive power of putting something unusual in an unusual space, have always the ability to claim it an its own, and they tend to do so.

This is the confirmation in the arts of the winner-takes-all hypothesis. The theory suggests that once an artist gets ahead in the art world (in the art market), he will do better and better over time, whereas artists not so aware of their public incidence will fall further behind.

Having this in consideration, the speculation can go a bit further: if projects are not over-scaled with the straight purpose of using the power of magnitude to cover up the lack of artistic value, they will do it in the long term, as the tempting possibility of covering it up makes the artistic value redundant, affecting thus the author’s ability in future projects. First, it prevents the acquisition of new perspectives of his own work, and secondly, it invites him to rely more in spectacular features and less in the intrinsic value of his work.

Better positioned in the art world an artist gets, less artistic content require his works and more concerned he is with the possibility of jeopardise his career with risky choices.

All these conditions feed back to a point in which is tempting to think that an artist is less interesting as famous and recognised he becomes.

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Que saiz-je? 72.- Professional Art

72 professional art

There are ways of making art and ways of earning your living through art. “Making art” is what bestows the right of being called “an artist”. Earn your living through art is what bestows the right of being called “a professional artist”. These two possibilities are not contiguous steps in a gradation, they are not actions that help one to the other, not even can be parallel developments of an artist’s persona. One is always against the other: as much “artist” one is, as less “professional artist”, and vice versa.

Of course the two conditions must always coexist on a certain proportion, as no professional artist can exist without showing off some real artistry, however briefly, and no artist can survive without earning something (Artist can indeed, earn their living with something else than art, but this is a different case, and a possibility that, in different sense, also opposes art.)

The intent of the artist is not to resist the tendency of everything becoming useful and of the arts being used as tools, but his own tendency to do useful things, to make useful time of his time.

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Que saiz-je? 71.- Tension

71 Tension

Life as an artist is exhausting because there is no place within art in which relinquish control and to leave oneself go, along with the wave of passions and desires. The artist cannot either opt for easier solutions than those art and life are imposing. As the required flow of energy to keep control cannot be maintain permanently, there is an entropic irruption of chaos regularly breaking into artists’ lives.

The opposition, however, doesn’t occur between the ordered pulses of production and the impulses for death, chaos, and intoxication. The alternation of production and destruction serves to the art constituent tension between letting oneself go, and bringing oneself go. Control is tested by overrun, pushing it toward the limits in which there are too many things to control and in which the artist cannot help but letting himself go.

Art exists only in the tension, while the tension is maintained. The tension could be released, but always towards a place which is outside art.

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Que saiz-je? 70.- Outside

70 Outside

One is bombarded daily with the message “there is no outside”. The idea serves well to reply to all kind of questions, to solve most tricky situations, it discharges of all liability. Everybody agrees, if not because they think so, because all the arguments to support this idea are available, all the tools at hand.

Because the main characteristic of this “outside” is that one has never experienced it. Yet. The outside is only recognised once it has disappeared. If one wants to look at it on detail, staring at it, one has to do it by looking back, and with nostalgia.

As the current outside has never been experienced is difficult to explain what it is. It only has entity as an intuition. So it can only be shared with those who already have the capability of imagining it exists, with those who do not endorse the idea that there is no outside.

There are reasons why some people cannot see there is still an outside, reasons why they do not want to see there is an outside, and why they do not want to acknowledge the sight of an outside.

Art is out there.

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Que saiz-je? 69.- Misconception

69 Misconception

 

Many interpretations of what art is, or better, of what “art” has become, do not grasp what art is at all. Economist (in charge of looking at where the money comes and goes), art historians (in charge of looking at where the objects come and go), dealers (in charge of looking at where the market comes and goes), were assigned to keep track of art, a suspect more elusive than others they were used to, which was moving fast and by car. They did not know how the suspect looked like, so they have been following the car, even after the suspect left the vehicle, time ago, and let it run, unmanned and by its own inertia, by a slope towards the cliffs.

Economists, art historians, dealers believe art has to be followed because its nonsensical character constitutes a fascinating case in economy, a revealing narration of object development, and a good business opportunity. But economy, history and market are just particular incidents on art evolution, banal when explained from art’s point of view.

In order to follow the art one has to know how art looks like. Art is difficult to be recognised because by its own constitution (that nonsensical one) it resists fixation. The signs held around an object with the function of marking it as “art” are misleading. Art only can be identify by its autonomous character, in the detached way it transforms those signs that define it.

Artists, meaning “those who have experienced art”, can recognise and follow it. They barely can recognise and follow anything else. Art gets defined by this chase.

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Que saiz-je? 68.- Negativity

68 Negativity

There is a need of combating reality, because reality has an alienating effect on people. There is a need of breaking the fabric of reality, but the fabric of reality is very thick. One doesn’t open a hole on it just by negating it. Negating i is what precisely gives it full advantage, “the first strategy of evil (reality) is the incite to struggle”. Art’s very existence is devoted to tackle this struggle, nor encouraging it, nor avoiding it.

Negation fails in all attempts, due to the fact that any negative action encounters necessarily its counterbalance. Affirmation, instead, ultimately always succeeds, because affirmation is supported by all parties and the tools for its attainment are fully available.

Art is singularly affirmative. It manages to affirm reality up to a degree no any other practice does, by contrast, by questioning itself radically, by doubting of its own (reality). Art affirms reality up to an uncomfortable reality status, up to a point in which it collapses. When reality collapses, affirmation falls down too. Negativity comes through by affirmation brought to the limit.

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Que saiz-je? 67.- Work

67 work

When an artist doesn’t realise that he is a worker, or that he can easily become one, this has consequences in his quality as an artists, and of course in his quality as a worker. His view on some of the material conditions of the realisation of his artworks could be so naive that might render the artistic impulse inane. Labour done in very poor economic conditions, the ignorance of them, ultimately suffocates the art. As a worker, he might, he will, be exploited.

If the law of efficacy and profit is omnipotent where it is unconscious, it also affects the artist who is aware of it. Somebody who works, and who knows he is working, experiments a difficulty on allowing himself the waste of time that art requires. Once the need of “being fairly rewarded for the work done” has been established as a premise, taking apart those hours spent in artist endeavours seem an embarrassing careless option. For those who are somehow inside, there is no outside at all.

The only work an artist can afford is that which reflects about the reasons for working (i.e. work to earn enough to immediately stop working). This allows a steady affirmation of the activity (awareness of it) at the same time that undermines its very self, thus preventing work (paid) becoming a goal. Most artworks worth of that name are made out of this type of work. And this type of work some times, only some times, provides enough to make a living.

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Que saiz-je? 66.- Propaganda

66 propaganda

 

When one can easily classify a message one encounters as propaganda, just a vehicle for ideology, one doesn’t give any credibility to the message nor to the issuer. As more propagandistic a message is, as less credible it results.

This seems to be implying that, as less propagandistic is the message, more likely is it to manage to slip into the listener’s mind. The subtlety of its formulation, however, might prevent it to reach as many minds as a straight proselytising one would do. Those using propaganda should then carefully balance the amount and quality of mendacity with that of verifiability.

Classical theory of propaganda does not support this idea. Propaganda, it is said, only works when is implemented with brute force, for all available means, as intensively as the available resources allow.

One would say that propaganda opposes truth, and that’s why art is heterogeneous to it, but actually propaganda doesn’t care about truth at all. Lying is interested in truth, while propaganda fully disregards it.

Art is not heterogeneous to propaganda, but it opposes it singularly. Not only because art is also interested in truth (due to a deceitful quality, perhaps) in absolute terms, but mainly due to it is committed to the absolute seeking of truth, knowing “truth” is unattainable and the venture doomed, on an endless distrust of its own raison d’être. Propaganda, instead, is the message that doesn’t question itself.

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Que saiz-je? 65.- Objects

65 objects

Art objects captivate the viewer because they recall the moment in which there was no language.

That is what I was thinking when I was somehow proud of art objects, but not anymore. I was thinking that after having believed that the art object was the initiator of the whole artistic experience, and its marvellous result.

The ability of recalling the moment in which there was no language cannot be the feature where the value of the object lays. Although artists are bound to that condition, that moment is unattractive, only looked for due to an ill desire, a defective impulse.

It is just because is that situation so unpleasant, so inhabitable, that language is summoned to end it. And language comes in the form of an art object, the only object that at that point, can restart reality. Everybody welcomes the art object, as if it has been a happy coincidence, but its joyful countenance is consequence of the fact of having cured a wound which opened by a failure of which the object is embodiment.

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Que saiz-je? 64.- Time

64 Time

Art is one of the few places where time is only valuable to waste it. This idea can be also expressed as “time in art is not valuable”, “art makes time a waste” or even “art is a waste of time”. All these formulae sound correct to me, but one has to be careful in selecting the one that that fits better the occasion, depending of what reactions is keener to receive.

For instance, the last ways of saying are more likely to trigger a “let’s change art, then”, or a “yes, artists are bums”. They tend to be seen as invitations to delegitimise art as a whole.

The first statement is plainer, even if doesn’t look so at first sight, because it is expressing just what it is without second intentions. Art is a time shredder machine where useful accumulated value is chucked away. Some people might attach to this action a hint of heroism though, which perverts completely the meaning of the deed.

There is no doubt that if all time is wasted, survival is impossible. Artists have to stop occasionally being so in order to bring new goods to the cave. However it has been proved that, when somebody excuses an artist’s choice towards making his work more marketable by saying “he also needed to eat”, is in most of the cases rationalising a decision, or an attitude, he has taken or is going to take soon after.

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Que saiz-je? 63.- Criticalness

 

63 Criticality

Critical art cannot bear results in the public realm. It is not only that it is not possible for art to reach society, but also that art refuses “criticalness” as the duty it has to accomplish, as the goal to pursue. Art doesn’t even like to be called “critical”.

Art is not able to change the world, art is not able to increase awareness about the need of changing the world, and art is not able to speak louder in order to be heard when trying to increase awareness on the need of changing the world.

Before it was easy to be heard. Artists were looked over because they were strange. It was easy to be strange, just by trying to make art honestly. As a result, artists confronted many difficulties, but not that of making themselves strange (and being looked over), because it came quite naturally. Artists changed people minds because they did not enslave themselves on doing so.

Now it seems more difficult to be out of the norm, it seems that the norms have become so flexible, they cover so many variables, such wide terrain, that everything one might do is accepted, within the norm. I do not think it is so, I think there is always outside, but for me that doesn’t matter that much.

There is a common belief that looking strange and, by virtue of that, to be heard, really matters. Strangeness has been engineered. It has become the focus of the operation, draws all the energy and resources, in order to calm this crave for being listened.

It is a bad premise for an artist to think that his words/works are going to have resonance. Rejection to being heard is the last resort of artistic action. And revolutionary, for that matter.

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Que saiz-je? 62.- Discredit

62 Discredit

When art is radical, in its abstraction, it manages to tackle everything in its abstraction. But society always accuses it of elitism, of l’art pour l’art selfish irrelevance.
Many times l’art pour l’art has been thrown at my head as a projectile.
Art is compelled to talk about problems of the world, to be engaged in social matters, “tax payer money, you know?” Right. Then art complies. There are positive and negative incentives put into play for it to happen.

A little later, like a spoilt kid with too many toys, society gets bored with art and doesn’t want it anymore, because it finds it dull. Society sees art this way because it is not art anymore. To play the democratic community oriented role, to be visible to society, art has been stripped of everything dangerous and inconvenient. It is not attractive because it doesn’t represent this “other” radically different thing society is secretly craving for. On the other hand art is not very efficient in changing the world, in this community-improving task that it has newly undertaken. This is much better done by activism. Art becomes a watered-down version of politics and a watered-down version of itself. For the society that has proposed this solution, this might mean having killed two birds with the same stone.

It also goes this way: An artist is fascinating. “How crazy he is! How wonderfully unforeseeable! We have to take care of him, we have to prevent him from harming himself. Let’s protect him.” Then he becomes ordinary and he is dismissed.

The attraction art exerts has its origin in art’s refusal to attract.

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Que saiz-je? 61.- Quest

61 Quest

First one finds those who do not say anything. Those artists who have a brilliant way of solving problems, who are inserted in a significant structure, beating the market. Those who, without saying anything, are seen as having said something deep and important. They put forward delicate suggestions with which they open the door for others to understand whatever they like, whatever gives them satisfaction, even implying meanings the artist never thought of. But one looks for people who really say something.

Philosophers say everything. They say it in great detail, the important things and the unimportant, the deep and the shallow, with a good supporting net of references to other important and unimportant things other people said before. One has to learn a specific vocabulary, the etymology and use of each word, which are fixed and sanctioned, if one wants to understand something. There is a hierarchical clause to comply with, one never achieves enough knowledge to fit in it, to begin fitting in it.

There are then those in the middle, popularisers who democratise knowledge, and impart mild watered-down wisdom by disregarding the content in favour of media effectiveness.

Wandering around, like a drunken boat, one finds those attitudes repeatedly here and there. But sometimes one bumps into other people who are also wandering, restless, bewildered. Listening to the tale of their drift, the sequence of their enquiries, one gets a sense of intensity and companionship. There are no labels, no legitimation devices other than their full presence.

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Que saiz-je? 60.- Clumsiness

60 Clumsiness

Artists do things in a different way. To do them well. Artists reject the established procedure because it is full of clichés, of safety protocols that became obsolete a long time ago, of fear that was sublimated in boredom. Artists need to consider the working frame from the outside, to question each instruction that has not been issued specifically in order to reach the aim concerning the work being done at the moment.

The promise of excellence comes, though, with its own twist: to the extent that matters are radically properly approached, they are amateurishly resolved. Indeed, each problem must be tackled as if for the first time, and first timers have an inevitable clumsy charm. In art and in war (you may ask Virilio about that), if something works well, it is already obsolete. In order to do something well one has to practice it, which renders it “non-conforming to the principles of art”.
The farce of art comes when the clumsy charm becomes the focus of an art activity, when somebody who wants to be an artist, or pose as one, or being blessed as one, embarks on a practice which only mimics the rough finishing, the dysfunctional switches, the disruptive alternatives, but which is not committed, not even as a secondary target, to finding a radically truthful procedure. And this approach is easier to adopt, not only regarding the demanding painful artistic one, which requires building systematically from tabula rasa, but also in respect to the institutional one: no rules need to be observed, no safety protocols implemented, and the whole operation is not requested to deliver a result besides that of being a deceiver.

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Que saiz-je? 59.- Division of Labour

59 Division of Labour

 

What society understands by “art” has changed greatly in recent times. At least, I can say, in the three decades I have been on the scene. The change has been far more serious than that of “art” itself, if art has changed at all. The amount of art laso sensu has increased enormously in proportion of that of art stricto sensu.Of all the reasons one may find for this to happen, when looking at different levels of the operation of art (on society, on the individual, on the market), the one that best helps to understand this phenomenon is the effect of the implementation of division of labour in the arts.
Until very recently, those who responded to the name “artists” were eye witnesses to most of the operations related to, and which made possible, the artistic experience. Still they did not know where most of the food they were eating was produced, like many other 20th century people, or how the pigments were extracted or the canvases weaved, but this was not directly related to the value of their work, and the services provided by those processes could be covered by any other of the same kind.

The outsourcing of many manufacturing art operations and the vast use of technology has equalled art to most modern activities. However, where the division of labour of the arts came earlier and produced more major changes was in the delegation of all activities of showing, promoting and commercializing the result of art experiences to dealers, galleries and public institutions.

These changes must have increased efficiency to achieve some aims, as happened in other fields, one could say. But given that one of most important features of art is that of contextualizing parts of human experience that seem at first isolated, this loss of perspective makes that art unaware of the contradiction of its economic relationships, and thus more alienated than any other activity can be.  Art labour becomes, indeed, more efficient, something that betrays art’s meaning. Art’s principal directive is to make itself contradictory, and its contradiction shows exemplarily in the way it is financed.
To my mind only artists and poets, who have the ability of seeing contexts in full, can understand the complexities of basic problems, so only they should take decisions. Decisions which are not among the options.

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Que saiz-je? 58.- The Role of the Artist

58 The Role of the Artist

The artist is that who finds consolation in art. Art allows him to live. So those looking for consolation, ever if they are not artists, look for the artist to calm their anxiety, and find companionship on him.

The artist is a language scientist. Those who want to know how language works (and therefore, the social, the political, the technological) seek the artist. They request him for their social, political and technological projects, and find conversation on him.

The artist is a quality entertainer. Those looking for a refined pleasure, of a seductive object, see the artist.

The artist is a cultural agent exemplifying a way of being or behave. Those who represent the interests of that group, nation, community, social class or wealth segment, seek them.

The artist communes with the first, converses with the second, scandalizes the third, makes his living out of the forth. What is he really up to, is not that easy to determine.

But there is who, for instance, converses with the last, communes with the second, etc… and they are not artists.

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Que saiz-je? 57.- Shock

57 Shock

Shock and wonder have been during centuries solid allies for arts in society. Art has attracted the attention of the public due to features that allowed art to create objects, situations or attitudes to which society was not accustomed. For this reason artists have been praised, carried around, offered all kind of benefits and attentions.

Surprise has acquired a new different value within a society which main form of interaction is commercial. It all started with the military, a realm in which every expense is justified if contributes to success. Doesn’t matter how much you have to spend in silly decoys, if one can get the upper hand.

No matter how much you spend on creative businesses, on attracting public’s attention, if this helps to sell your product. Because failing to attract attention does not prevent you only to be rich, but simply to survive commercially. All or nothing.

With so much noise around, the traditional way for art to pay its living is not rendering revenues anymore. The public who was coming to art fascinated for the spectacular creative difference, has a lot of distractions in other signals especially designed with the only purpose of attracting attention.

As a result, attracting attention cannot be a feature of art anymore. Too much effort put into an aspect of art that only prevents art to happen. Art for artists.

Those who never take interest in art, who did not research, who did not spend five minutes in front of a video, are saying that art now bores them. If entertainment was a value for them, no wonder why now boredom.

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Que saiz-je? 56.- Theory

56 Theory

The discourse about art is art itself and not theory about art.

The discourse that it is not about art is not art, indeed.

But one has to be certain of addressing the core of matter, not simply talking “on art”. The crucial condition for it is to try to be sincere on the intent of defining what art is. So here there is a reservation, because actually one cannot define sincerely art but with art. Other ways to approach art, from psychology, economics, activism, even philosophy, are talking “on art”. Sincerity breaks all these discourses, all the discourses, even or specially that one of art. And it is so that art gets defined.

The false dichotomy between theory and practice is as false as that one of form and content.

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Que saiz-je? 55.- Friction

55 Friction

The only reliable method of knowing if the way something is usually done is “unquestionably” better, is to do it differently.  As clearer are the benefits of doing something following a sanctioned procedure, more widely open is the possibility of reaching an art experience when executing the same action in a different fashion. The fact of asking insistently “why is this better?”, “why is this always made this way?”, and “why not trying otherwise?” defines many artistic attitudes of all times. For artist, this applies to the whole range of tasks and initiatives they deal with, from the manner paint is extended on the canvas to the sequence and pertinence of philosophers’ citations, including even the logic of mixing the opening snacks when they are available.

But the decision of doing something in a different way of what is common and recommended, of what is wise and useful, might yield various results, beside that knowledge. Many times it has disastrous consequences, most likely to be bore by the inquisitor artist. At least he has renounced to something agreed as good and easy, for something uncertain, laborious and difficult.

What a fair arrangement would be for artists if their unorthodox decisions were reproved when failures and praised when successful! The fact is that minimum deviation is ruthlessly punished from the beginning, regardless of expectations of outcome. All interesting art projects are realized despite all, despite resistance by all flanks. I am even tempted to say, that art projects have interest only to the extent that they bear friction and manage to endure it.

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Que saiz-je? 54.- Prison

54 Prison

Life in prisons is bad. People who had been in prison do not readjust well to society afterwards. So people imprisoned are almost doomed forever. Some artists organize workshops to teach inmates useful things, some others give artists’ talks on the prison, they record the life of the prisoners to show it to the world, to denounce, to make prisoners feel that their lives are also worthwhile…. Those social artists are fighting to improve society.

Prisons are not wrong, the whole concept of “prison” is wrong. Artists have to fight to create a society in which there is no need for prisons, because… who are in prison, anyway? Those who do not fit in a frame which has been imposed by a group of people who think only about their own interests. Rules have to change to embrace all citizens. Political artists are fighting to improve the world.

The world is not wrong; it’s me who is wrong. I am driven by my desire and I have no choice, I am in a prison. But if I control my desire, if I train myself in restraining my desire, I get free of my prison, because prison is only constituted by my desire of getting out. Mystical artists are fighting to improve themselves.

No matter how strongly one pushes the limits of the body, how tightly one corners its needs, its alienated part: the limits are always there. And as subtle they are, more significant they become.

The only way to get out of prison is to get rid of oneself all together. Art is to be done only once this premise has been set. Through art practice is possible to regain occasionally, for a brief moment, that feeling of freedom, if only as an illusion. The necessary conditions for this experience to be achieved are not set definitively, they have to be constantly renewed. That is a daily task for an artist.

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Que saiz-je? 53.- Other

53 Other

When art (or politics, for that matter) fulfil the expectations created around it, and it fits accurately the space that has been left for it, it does not serve to its purpose, it does not succeed to define itself anymore: art should not look as art. In the other hand, art should not look as not-art, it cannot either be defined in relationship of what opposes to it. If so, it would enter into a dialectic dynamics, intended to a result which is already stated in the terms that enter in conflict. There is art, there is no-art, and there is something alien to both. Art that defines itself opposes both to art and to not-art. Art which defines itself opposes to everything that has already been defined.

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Que saiz-je? 52.- Universality

52 Universality

We grow as artists from the received idea that art is universal, that art is something that everyone should perceive as supreme, as Truth. If there are some people in parts of the society, or in certain parts of the world who do not get it, it is just because they are badly educated or poor savages. It is a matter or giving to them the right cues for them to be elevated to us. This has been like this for art, and also for all short of other western Enlightenment businesses, for centuries. Universality of art might be a vice inherited from the idea of universality of the Roman Empire and delivered via Christianity.

Little later one starts thinking that doesn’t matter the education received, there is always people who get it and people who do not get it at all. Art is only for those who are in the know. There is only a limited number of people who are touched (besmeared?) by art, those who have certain needs, certain urge, that others do not have. When one is at the studio is working for this bunch of people with the same compulsions.

And then in a later stage, the discovery is that art is not even for this circle, this selected group of members of the society, because art is only for the artist. What it is shared with other artists, and other human beings at the extend they are artists, is the impulse, the intention, that dynamic rule by virtue of which, elements existing in the life of individual artist take shape in different way in each particular artwork. This impulse is universal.

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Que saiz-je? 51.- Enemy

51 Enemy

As soon as one maintains a sort of radical attitude, even if it is not addressed to anybody in particular, hurting nobody, one is likely to receive all kind of bad looks (the least).

Radical attitudes make people upset because most people are moderate by nature and they try to keep harmony as long as possible. People who get more upset though, are those who are moderate despite their will, because radical attitudes in others makes them look, on other’s eyes but specially on their own, even more moderate of what they are and they would like to look. They might have been forced to be moderate due to fear, desire, education, compromise, ignorance or any combination of these factors.

In the other hand, individuals who start by questioning all matters on its bases are not urged by animosity towards their fellow human beings. Radicalness is a pulse for truth, which is given unrestricted priorities, despite whatever consequences have to suffer those devoted to it. Why some have this urge others don’t is to be examined in other occasion, but at this point definitively it can be said  that a radical attitude contains a bigger portion of love for something wished than of hate for something rejected.

The fact is that, when one put the intentions of thoughts and actions on others, and starts considering them “the enemy”, one becomes “enemy” as well, prone to the use of the same strategies and biases. Likewise, as soon as an artist puts an eye in the audience, he becomes audience himself. This prevents reaching any limit, as radical and confrontational attitudes are incompatible.

Artists might consider no enemies, but when one does not negotiate becomes promptly enemy of somebody else who has not better thing to do.

===========================

One of evil’s most effective mediums of seduction is the challenge to struggle. FK

 

 

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Que saiz-je? 50.- Alienation

50 Alienation

Artists need earn money. As other human beings, they need to nurture themselves, protect from cold weather, and some other (accessory) treats.

Artists deserve to earn money

• There are artists who request payment because they can produce objects that attract people and that can be sold easily. Perhaps it is a flaw in the psychology of the public what makes these objects so attractive, not an excellence of the artist. Those artists are the ones of the market, of the logic of art as merchandise.

• There are artists who claim that they should be paid because they feel they have talent. They do not sell in the market, but they believe that their work deserves it. The flaw is definitively on the public, which is not attracted by the works, which does not understand the essential value of the work these artists produce. The struggling artists of the market.

• There are artists who find natural to be paid because they produce something useful for society, something that helps people to have more intense, and balanced life. They improve society. These are the social and political engaged artists, could be social workers or revolutionaries. When politicians and society are smart enough these artists are supported.

• Some artists think they deserve to be supported because they are citizens. All citizens should be supported. These are the artists from the welfare society, normally citizens from countries which exploit resources of other countries.

• There are artists who need to be paid because they are not normalize, because cannot adapt to society, and this is society’s fault.

Every time an artist receives money is due to a misunderstanding, a mistake of those who give him the money and, many times, also of the artist himself. There is no reason for an artist, when being an artist, to receive money. This particularity of art is shared with very few other ways of being in the world.

Art economy is tragic, because every way one finds out to receive money to survive implies in one way or another the cease of the condition of artist. One cannot survive and being an artist but in an alternating manner, if temporarily and recurrently one becomes “other”.

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Que saiz-je? 49.- Crisis

49 crisis

Art is a sector of economy that is suffering the effects of the crisis in an acute way. Art tends to be seen as an activity which economy is based in surplus only, so it gets easily weaken when it marches side by side with activities with practical value, and which are having already their budgets reduced.

The crisis, however, affects primarily that area of art which normally does good businesses, which, I would say, doesn’t matter that much. The market, the administrators, the public art, the collectors (and the artists as long as the play the same rules) are used to an efficient capitalist economy, in which the majority fail for the sake of few to succeed. It feels now tragic that all players are showing loses. The tragedy is strongly voiced on the platforms in which those who used to succeed promote themselves.

There is another world of art for which crisis is not an exceptional state, which has normally difficulties to find its way through. Artists are always struggling financially and conceptually. This is not something that happen to them because they have bad luck, or they do not care enough about money, but because the fact of not complying with what reality requests is a constitutive aspect of the condition of being an artist. And there is never money available for those who do not comply.

According to this idea, those who want to be artists are artists anyway, regardless of the economic conditions. The only change that the crisis has produced is that now they are easier to spot, once some of the noise has been cancelled.

The amount of art is a constant but the possibility of seeing it, a variable.

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Que saiz-je? 48.- Suicide

48 Suicide

Life is something one just gets by chance, due to a sort of misunderstanding. All considered, everybody would agree that the only real option in life is to commit suicide.

Consider it all, however, is not an easy task. That´s the only thing artists are, for certain, good at. Other disciplines, activities, ways of dealing with life and death related issues, cannot consider it all because some aspects of their procedures are taking place outside the frame of their consideration, fundamentally those regarding the tools those disciplines are using to elaborate their considerations.

When an artist is fully focused is able to “consider it all”, but only for a very short span of time, one would say no time enough for embodying the urgency that follows to the fact of having all aspects of reality handy at once. But this is not what primarily prevents suicide to happen. It is more conclusive the fact that art loses sense of which its aims are as soon as it starts considering the rigor of those its aims, and the adequacy of the means art is using to reach them. In other words: right at the moment in which art is just about to consider it all.

Art could be defined then as a repeatedly unsuccessful attempt of the artist to kill himself, through the intent of considering all conditions related to life at once, an action this one which ultimately prevents the holding of any intention at all, including or expressly, that one of killing oneself.

The artist is that person whose intense desire of dying keeps him alive, provoking a succession of small deaths (art experiences) that looks like the functioning of an internal combustion engine, that one that keeps moving by a series of explosions.

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L’artiste est quelqu’un dans qui le désir de voir la mort au prix de mourir l’emporte sur le désir de produire. (The artist is someone who, in the desire to see death, even at the price of his own death, lends it the upper hand over the desire to produce.) JFL

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Que saiz-je? 47.- Archives

47 Archives

 

Archives have occupied the mind of the artists for long time. The idea of classifying seems to be very powerful in the developing of humankind, and since that time in the sixties in which art mimicked the methods and preoccupations of science, this encyclopedic impulse is filling up galleries and artist’s studios.

Devoting one artistic life to archiving themed artworks is a very convenient choice:

First, one has a job to do. There is always something new to archive, new research to be done, new material to be studied and organized. Not only one does not get bored, but also by keeping oneself always busy, one has the feeling of being useful.

Secondly, it feels useful to society, due to the value of preservation (nostalgia) and because the repayment to past injustices. As it is useful it is good to have reasons to spend money, to travel, to get grants, to accept working in collaboration with dubious institutions, etc. For the sake of archiving one can embrace technology without any embarrassment.

Third, it gives the satisfaction of building up something. The archive grows, it is more comprehensive, and one looks to one’s past, days, weeks or years, and feels that all has been worthwhile. But wait: it is also good to know that it is never to be completed. No worries about becoming purposeless.

And lastly, the archive only saves and promotes the very idea of archiving. The shows are never about the material that is archived and preserved, the ideas that are contained there, but very much about the matter of organizing. There is not commitment because it is essential condition to archives the fact of preserving the example next to the counterexample.

The certainties that individual works, and artist’s body of works, based on archiving represent for an artist grant those works a certain lack of artistic value.

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Que saiz-je? 46.- Death

46 Death

 

All art works that matter have a connection with death. Of course in our world, as soon as one scratches a little, everything reveals a connection with the idea of death, but an artwork is always oriented in the direction of making this connection more visible, instead of cover it up. One can imagine this to be like a lab test: if an object brings somehow the idea of death to your foreground, then it is an art work. Otherwise you may put it in a bag with a label marked “narcotics”.

Every art work is then to a certain extent a vanitas, and probably the other way round is also true.

Art has the ability of recalling the transient character of worldly passions, but the idea of death it offers cannot be held for very long. If we try to stand in front of it for too long “we would vanish into its stronger existence.”* One is always keen to invent new sophisticated techniques to make the idea of death bearable, to push it away from oneself, because even if thirsty of this radical truth a little ago, one soon does not want to know about it anymore. It might happen that after that rejection one still keep in the belief of liking that contact. That’s only because that is not death anymore, but the idle chatter one has managed convert it into. Each new representation is quickly taken for granted, and so disarmed.

Art brings the idea of death back once and again. The only other thing that brings the idea of death back is the proximity of death itself.

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*For Beauty is only the infant of scarcely endurable Terror, and we are amazed when it casually spares us.
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Que saiz-je? 45.- Self-Referentiality

45 Self-Referentiality

On a talk few days ago I heard an artist saying that one of the benefits of being an artist is that you become aware of the problems around you.  Sounds good.

I think the only real benefit of being an artist, if that is a benefit, is that one becomes aware of the problems on oneself.

Almost everybody, in one way or another, has a need of changing his or her default relationship with the world. Depending on how the problems that this urge creates are dealt with, people can be put in four different categories:

  • How good others are. One looks at how good things outside are, what one can become, the enormous amount of possibilities there are for improvements. This is the way of science, of utopia, of eternal justice.
  • How bad others are. One looks at how bad things are outside, how evil other people are, how much the world would improve if we get rid of them. This is the way of political action, of Marxism, of propaganda.
  • How good I am. One looks at all the good that exists on oneself and on those who belong to the same group of oneself. This is the way of nationalism. Race, gender, postcolonial claims, however legit, are based normally in the idea of one seeing oneself deserving more of what one has.
  • How bad I am. One looks at the way one intends to change the relationship with the world and always finds flaws and inconsistencies on the procedures and aims one follows.

Artists are aware of their problems because they belong to the last category. Art suspects of its own intentions, undermines itself. The same tools that art uses to show its own qualities are subjected to the objections put by those very qualities (the tools themselves are the qualities). Art cannot progress, and it doesn’t develop by stepping on past achievements, because there are not achievements to build upon (there is no past).

There is one good side of it though: it never builds up on errors, it can never develop monstrosities but by ceasing to be art, unlike people on the other categories, who very often do.

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Que saiz-je? 44.- Supply and Demand

44 Supply and Demand

Being an artist is not a convenient circumstance. It has never been. People who have been artists have ever been so due to convenience. Or, better to say, the part on them which wanted being an artist was not driven by convenience.

For some reasons external to art, being an artist has become convenient in various aspects. Being an artist now could be prestigious. As soon as being an artist is prestigious on certain circles, some people from those circles who would have not had enough drive to be artists otherwise, become artists: they want to be artists, but it would have been too harsh to be so without some little appreciation from society.

Indeed, the threat of one’s work being appreciated only after death doesn’t exit anymore. Artists now are recognized right away (“or never”, we may say).

Appreciated art can report also some money. Or lots of money if one plays well the appreciation factor. And after money it comes fulfilment, celebrity, love perhaps… Many more people that otherwise would have not become artists are now going happily for it, considering…

The situation may get into a point in which an increasing number of people would like to have appreciation, to earn a lot of money, to feel useful in society, to be celebrated… despite that, in order to get these benefits, they have to become artists.

And this phenomenon feeds back, because people who enters now in the ranks of art, as they are mainly interested in benefits, they are longing for the whole art system to be more efficient on creating money, or prestige, or usefulness, or political change, etc. even to the detriment of art. The benefits of becoming artist increase, and so does the strength of the call for those who are not keen on being artists, but on all the rest, to become artists.

At the same time, artists who anyway would have been artists stand in a dangerous position, because prestige, money, and appreciation can affect negatively the perception of that clear drive they would have had if being an artists would have been as inconvenient as it used to be. This is especially troubling for young artists, who have discovered their vocation in the mist of so much spectacularization of art.

On one hand you have more swindlers being interested in becoming artists, and in the other you get more artists interested in becoming swindlers. The amount of artist-swindlers increases exponentially. The result is that non-swindling artist are affected negatively by this increase, as it becomes harder to make a living without employing themselves very hard into swindling, putting aside the art.

Ah que la vie est dure.

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Que saiz-je? 43.- Faith

43 Faith

As one confronts the memory of all things that have been admired during one´s life, just to be thrown away a little later, of all those things that were certain, but only for limited time, that had a real, although instantaneous, value, it is difficult not feel embarrassed by the, seems to be, ultimate trust one puts in art. This emotion urges for a vindication: belief and embarrassment are counterpointed, and although they cannot be played simultaneously, as to annul one each other, they alternate with equal impetus making them even.

To have faith in art only means to do not have faith in all other things one is surrounded by. I trust art to be able to show me the little value of human achievements and existence, repeatedly, during many years, a task in which other activities have failed. A short time one thinks about something else than art and one is driven to find oneself attaching mediocre lifebelts to one’s thoughts.

Indeed. Other ways to be in the world might show a dreadful picture of life, one that makes everything you can hold on to tremble, but that soon offer compensatory satisfaction and allow to start promptly building upon it. Accommodation render them obsolete for further re-velations (We shall remember with Adorno that “even the most extreme consciousness of doom threatens to degenerate into idle chatter. “)

Art, instead, has been renovating once and again, by a persistent inherent commitment to think on the qualities of the way it thinks. Precisely by virtue of this self-referential power, it only doesn’t manage, or just temporarily, to delegitimise itself.

Artists are enslaved by disbelief, but to the extent in which they master it.

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Que saiz-je? 42.- Choice

42 Choice

In order to define and/or explain a complex phenomenon, “art” for instance, one of two different approaches can be taken.

The first one tends to include on the research and explanation as many possible facets of the subject as possible. The panoramic view, as it can be called, ads information of every area of knowledge that relates to the subject of study in however fashion. It tries to be fair on the one hand with all sources of information, for instance different accounts of history, and on the other with all possible addressees of the resulted definition, considering various social backgrounds and different cultural realms… The premise and the conclusion of this approach is that everything in the world is, somehow, similar. There is a common denominator to which all aspects of any phenomenon can relate by and be reduced to, and by virtue of which they become an array of similar elements only distinguished by numbers.

The second one is the focused approach, and its main drive instead, is the apprehension (perhaps just the “creation”) of differences. Whoever is taking this approach looks for a precise definition of the subject by ruling out of the area of research as many things as possible that are not purely the subject of study, by aiming to what is specific of that subject. By putting some elements side by side, conceptions of the phenomenon that one would have assumed to be similar, suddenly are seen as diverse, sometimes even opposed. Then, new conceptions which look similar can be put side by side to discover their differences. This is a non-ending process, and there are always more subtle differences, every day brings a new thinner hair to split, also due to the fact that the ability to find differences increases along the process.

Many argue that focused approaches are elitist, that only serve to specialists, that are reductive. The main objection to them though is that focused approaches limit freedom, because they leave out most of the choices common people have.

But the opposite is true. The decision of always focussing further, and finding new differences, of opting for choices that do not yet exist, opens the possibility of a new point of view, and reveals the truth of those things defined, a truth that wasn´t among the predetermined options.

To choose is only to choose between non-available choices. This is how art chooses.

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Que saiz-je? 41.- Labour

41 Labour

Although art objects have been changing steadily in many aspects during history, and some of those changes have determined fundamentally what art objects we make, there is a precise deviation that has altered the nature of art objects up to the point of turning them useless in terms of art production and art reception. This is, the increasing proportion of non-artistic labour  in relation to the amount of artistic labour those objects contain.

The seed of non-artistic labour importance on art objects can be symbolically marked by Tintoretto’s advice to Aretino of buying the colours ready-made at certain place in Rialto, about year 1548. The phenomenon is proudly stated in Duchamp’s Fountain submission to the exhibition of the Society of Independent artist in 1917. It became fully realized and assumed during the period of conceptual art, on the 1960s and 70s. In the first decade of this century the amount of non-artistic labour in art objects has grown metastatically engulfing the art labour on them and freeing itself from the referent, reversing the meaning of the term “outsourcing”.

I think that the turning point of this process, when it starts undermining art object status, happened during its period of full realization, due to the fact that, to a certain extent, conceptual artists ordered their ready-mades made-to-measure.

Besides the nominal difference of these two types of labour (executed by artist/executed by non-artists), I just briefly would like to point out a generalizing specification: art labour is waste, not even intended  to waste, but just not conscious of possibilities of benefit. Non-artistic labour is intended, and intended to profit. It can be argued that art labour is also depending of profit, as the means of the artist for living and working have been acquired previously by intended profiting activities, but this argument doesn’t belong here for the moment (I haven’t written Que saiz-je? Alienation yet).

The problem with non-artistic labour is that it has its own agenda, and it builds up its development on previous successes, while art labour is not building up anything.

Many voices claim everywhere that there is no space outside of the logic of capital, and that art labour in the terms just I described doesn’t exist anymore. As I have said before, it might be that these voices belong to people who own a factory of non-artistic labour supplying to, what it is considered from their point of view, their market. The structure that has been created around art has interests on art being seen as a cultural industry, in order to maintain demand.

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Que saiz-je? 40.- End of Art

40 End of Art

The end of art has been reviewed many times in history. It is not only a matter of art lovers, disappointed with the last galleries they visited, or of artists deceiving themselves about having reached a limit, but it also themes a message sent recurrently by those thinkers who set the bases for our current understanding of the world.

This idea has been repeated so many times, and bearing so much reason, that it is not difficult, after seeing art regaining sense once and again, to start suspecting that one of the specific characteristics of art is to have its own termination embedded in each of its manifestations. That would be not as coda, but in the front page. Art is always about to disappear because that is its nature.

Of course there are some people that say that it is finished because they want it finished, or because they cannot see that is not finished at all (as they are not alert or wise enough to see art still happening), but this is not that relevant, anyway.

I also believe that the end of art will come, but not quite yet. Art is going to exist as long as there is death, because they are one bound to the other. Due to the fact that people might soon cease of dying or cease being aware of the existence of death, perhaps a turning point for this issue is already within sight.

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Que saiz-je? 39.- Pop Culture

39 Pop Culture

Contemporary culture circles, and very much contemporary art products, are well sprinkled with pop culture elements, if not heavily based on them. If you want to reach people, you better put some Start Trek on your works.

One may say with Proust that, at certain age “we can make discoveries no less precious that in Pascal’s Pensees in an advertisement of soap”. That’s, undoubtedly, a good quote to bring up when one wants to praise the value of the popular culture, and the independent, sharp and rigorous judging of all human (they just got it by their human been condition).

But first, in order Proust to say that he had to know quite a lot on Pascal. Second, by reading Pascal one gets a very good training on discovering precious ideas in soap advertisement, while looking at commercials doesn’t help on having a better reading of Pascal´s works.  And third, advertisement of soap is omnipresent, and whatever one does, one is going to be forced to think about it so, those precious discoveries, we already have them anyway.

For many democracy supporters the argument seems to be that the common people have the right to enjoy their culture with the same legitimacy than high culture users.

But first, it is not very democratic to expect, by default, that people are morons, that they cannot enjoy more complex problems and treats, that they cannot get through this but by what, it seems to be, are escaping fantasies. Second, why not trying a bit of affirmative action and help people to get used to it? And third, some people might not enjoy high culture, but it is perhaps because they do not enjoy pop culture either (Or, what is worse: they are not going to know, ever, that they do not enjoy pop culture).

Pop culture is the default, it is what we become if we do not resist to it. There are many who like themselves. Fine. But, for those who doesn’t, it is natural to reject what is stealthy passing from “popular” to “consumer” or “corporation-driven” culture, and it is not defendable anymore as a counterbalance for elitism or oligarchy.

 

 

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Que saiz-je? 38.- Inability

38 Inability

It might look paradoxical, as it is a condition contrary to those of most activities one undertakes in one’s life, but an important requirement to create an artwork is not knowing how to do it.

Indeed, know-how is mandatory to perform well all tasks that contribute to, and form, the production apparatus, same if you want to build a house, cross a mountain range or just think about it. As more developed your skills are, improved by practice and trial and error routines, as better the output of the operation will get.

But knowing the final output or the clear steps to reach an artistic experience will ruin it, as it withdraw from it that part of the operation that one, specifically, is longing for. That part is reached exactly because it is not known how to reach it. Clumsiness must be accepted, welcomed, even encouraged.

The artist needs, however, a certain type of skills too, and he has to train to improve them. “Not-knowing” is not something one can take for granted, it is not only a matter of “not-learning”, but more a situation that occurs by actively “unlearning”, by working against one’s disgusts and excellences. The inability to understand the process of his own activity is acquired by the artist by developing certain skills to the very end, by confronting his skills with tasks in the limit of their functioning. To unable himself, the artist has to go a bit further, to a place in which his (acquired) abilities are not enough, a place in which he finds himself unable.

Unfortunately by virtue of this operation the artist would become fitted for the task, and his most needed inability suddenly would become, as well, an ability. For the next instalment of one’s artistic urgency it will be necessary to look some other place where, yet, one does not know.

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Que saiz-je? 37.- Art Colonialism

37 Art Colonialism

Art infrastructures are developed as armies, and the centre of the empire has always a better army than the peripheral nations. Peripheral nations form their armies by taking as a model the army of the empire. They also buy the weapons to the armament industries of the empire.

Second line countries want to have too their own army. They are not satisfied with an army of arrows and bows. If one likes to compete in this world, one have to get the best weapons you can buy. These will never be as good as the ones used by those who sell weapons, to whom one will be always subordinate. This weapons will be good enough, anyway, to compete with other second line poor countries. There are local generals, local soldiers, local military intelligence.

Branches of museums disembark in countries where art was never an issue, after long campaigns of PR to establish art as something a country needs in order to be considered by the “white man”.  Directors of museums share diner tables at the embassies with weapon dealers, with managers of companies of the mining industry and the with the local Coca-Cola representative.

Shows in these museums are displaying mainly artworks by artists from the ruling powers. Never the best ones though, as these are shown in the cities at the empire´s centre, where decisions are taken.

All this has nothing to do with art stricto sensu. There are artists everywhere, although they do not belong to these structures.

War is the continuation of politics by other ways, politics are the continuation of commerce by other means, and commerce is the continuation of cultural export by other ways. All of it has it implicit violence.

 

 

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Que saiz-je? 36.- Trust

36 Trust

One needs certain amount of sympathy for an artist one starts to look at, in order to enjoy his or her work. A bit of trust beforehand is required even for the sightless approach. To despise artists immediately prevents any further fruitful interaction with their work, their ideas and with them.

The profound value of an artist is always difficult to grasp, and the task gets harder as more mature artists are, as “better” artists they become. An investment of time and resources (of trust) has to be put onto it in order to set oneself on the right state of mind, that one the artist himself achieved by concentration and endurance when he gave the best of his “being an artist”.

Therefore, those who need art experiences force themselves into sympathy for certain artists they naturally would not have not been attracted by, to favour the chance for wonderful things to occur. Most of the times nothing of the sort happens anyway: propaganda is always reinventing itself, and fooling out one’s best first judgements. Disappointments are so frequent that one even learn to distrust one’s own intuitions, one’s second or third degree likings. Experience helps and after a while, there is a guide of clear mistakes to avoid.

The progress is, nonetheless, difficult to maintain, because if you want to be open to surprises, you still need to question once and again this very guide you have given as certain, to allow even another opportunity to attitudes you already verified as unreliable. However skilled and wise, just because skilled and wise, one has to grant oneself a generous quota of disappointment.

And then so often one succeeds, with so many artists thinking the same thing, and finding new ways to think the same thing, making possible “the same” to be thought. A truly rejoicing moment.

But one must be careful again very soon. Festivities cannot last long. After relinquish for a moment control of your thoughts to the artist’s thought, flowing with his or her view of the world, one has to become critical again at once. Otherwise one will hurt oneself as much as the artist of one’s delights. The severest sight is a duty and a compliment.

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Que saiz-je? 35.- Self-portraits

35 Selfportraits

“All artworks are self-portraits” is a sentence that has to be heard many times during an artist’s lifetime. I met this idea very early and, although every new rephrasing becomes soon rancid and gloomy, it is always finding new subtler or more twisted ways to appear in front of me. Often it is said implying that the artist is vane, self-centred, or even that he is not aware of his own realizations.

Certainly each object or action a person executes is somehow reflecting who he is. Artworks, indeed, reveal very much about their authors, and artists have to look deeply at themselves to be so (artists).

However, that component of the artist which is really specific of his condition, which sets him aside and makes “an artist” out of him, that essence he has tried to capture by producing those works, stays always out of the picture. All artist’s desire and distaste examinations result necessarily on a failure as, instead of depicting that force which powerfully drives art’s aims, are pointing at those aspects of the artist which should be removed, repressed, annulled (those aspects that makes him non-artist, that makes him an artist only in the action of being removed). He shows in his works not what he thinks he is, but rather that part he intends to get rid of. This operation only can be performed by the exorcism which encompasses the production of an artwork. Each work represents liberation from the part of his alienation which is embodied in that particular work.

If the collection of works one artist realizes during his life defines something specific of his condition (of who is him), it is only in absentia, by encircling that thing he never manages to express.

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Que saiz-je? 34.- Legitimation

34 Legitimation

Art that has no worth needs legitimation. Every legitimating achievement for an artist or an artwork is something that it is deducted from its artistic value.

First, because resources are limited. If one can employ some resources in PR, it is because they have been withdrawn from other part of the budget. In order to gain artistic value, all available energy must be consumed in the art experience bonfire.

Secondly, because the truth of the art operation and the strength of the artwork, or of the artist´s attitude, are then entrusted to legitimation. If truth, success, satisfaction, and other expectations the artist might have, are bought wholesale, one doesn’t need to look for them at each action, decision or statement.

For an artist not being part of the legitimation structure might represent, of course, a source for a lot of trouble. These difficulties however do not affect to the art process itself, but only to the conditions in which it takes place. Besides, artists who have been awarded with many distinctions may be suspicious of having sold out, while an artist who has nothing to sell is free to focus in the satisfaction of his artistic urges.

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Que saiz-je? 33.- Advertising

33 Advertising

There are voices which claim that the differences between art and advertising are getting blurred. Those voices belong, of course, to advertisers and advertiser-like people. Even when it is said that this statement is a critique to art (it is never a critique to advertisement) the fact of believing that art and advertising can assimilate in any degree, means that the concept of art in play is bluntly wrong.

The key of this mistake might be in how surprisingly keen on suspending disbelief we usually are.

“Willing suspension of disbelief” implies that one believes because one agrees to overlook certain factors that would otherwise cause to not believe. Not a single factor is overlooked in art. Everything on an artwork is presented in its own face value: a painted curtain is never a landscape, but a curtain simulating a landscape, an actor representing a character is always somebody representing a character. It is only in that tautological role that each element interacts with other aspects of the work.

If the same criteria would be applied to advertising, everything would be seen much clearer. That’s the only prophylactic I trust to protect myself from it, do not accept a single convention. This requires an enormous effort which involves, for instance, jumping of horror every time one is confronted to any advertisement statement. One has to keep alert all the time: actors in commercials are not the character they are supposed to play in the plot of the spot, but losers who rather would like be acting on Hollywood movies; the sizes of products are always to be imagined of being smaller than those in the screen; one has to look in detail at the etymology of each of the words on advertisement slogans. That’s a reliable protection from its spell.

And then, this tactic I just described would be considered “candid” by these people who feel they are smarter than TV, who believe, instead, that advertising does not reach their unconsciousness, that they have got a perfect unconscious filter. Those who rely on their mental independency swallow everything straight, and end up eventually with a language covered by advertising formulas, rotten flowers that configure the look of their daily landscape.

Many of the strategies artists employ in their work, thought and daily life are seen as “naïve” by people whose naivety is structural.

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Que saiz-je? 32.- Disgust

32 Disgust

When I was a young painter I was driven by a desire of bringing to life, in any new work, a great master piece, something that would stand over all other works I have done before, over everything I have ever seen. It was a genuine naïve arrogant impulse, integral to young artists.

Oddly enough, that desire got satisfied many times. For a brief moment once and again, when each work wasn’t completed but just about to be, when , I believed I was doing something unique. It never lasted long, and a moment later I was disgusted by the object I had created, which had promised so much and delivered so little.

That desire is still haunting me, doesn’t matter how often I have learnt its impossible fulfillment, and how much this condition made me suffer during these years. Any work is intended still to go beyond its limits, my limits.

Projects have become much more elaborated, in order to cope with my increasing tolerance to results: only works that are gaining in complexity are able to fulfil that desire (desire they have also, somehow, prompted). Productions need to be much bigger if one wants to feel the thrill of them collapsing, the thrill of bringing out of this collapse something new to the world. At one point one can be fooled by the idea that the goal has been reached, but soon after the work is completed, as soon as it is completed, then disgust appears like it used 30 years ago.

The only difference I see is that the complexity of new works makes the rejection of the work, and the sadness that comes with it, milder. As some elements are done, rejected, feeling as repulsive, some other are still about to become art, so disgust and thrill overlap to make one’s life and practice, bearable.

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Que saiz-je? 31.- Positive Discrimination

31 Positive Discrimination

Artists are always in a weaker position. It is easier to attack an artist than to criticize any theorist, curator, art administrator, philosopher, etc.  Even the bravest and the wildest, the most honest of those know very well how to protect themselves, by the established format they use on their public communications, by the institution, by the sponsors, or by the shields of the network of quotes by other theorists. The artists instead are always naked, answering in their own name, being constantly in the need of changing the character of their practice, once and again, being forced to expose themselves practically, once and again.

Therefore, it is necessary protect the artists, cover them when they are under fire, to allow extra care in treating them, to overlook certain potential nasty aspects of their personality or their work. There is a need of action to counterbalance the difficulties of their uncertain situation. This is something we agree upon.

The problem that is presented to us then, is to decide which artists deserve that preferential treatment. Because those artists who can benefit immediately from positive discrimination might be those who actually were not that unprotected after all, if so ready to be subsidised. It might be that they were not artists at all. It is a kind of catch 22. So it takes a lot of faith and fine judgement to establish who the artists are, which of them are artists and which are not.

Needless to say that in order to find out this, you have to have at least a vague idea of what is art.

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Que saiz-je? 30.- Inertia

30 Inertia

Everything relevant that happens in the arts has maintained in its development a compulsory struggle in order to change the tendency of things to happen as they have happened before. If an art proposal doesn’t take seriously the task of avert this inclination, if it doesn’t make a constant effort to regain sense of direction, then the project will be watered down to the quality of a meaningless pastime. Any new proposal will find necessarily all kinds of resistances, which will have to be dealt with one by one, as nothing can be taken for granted.

One of the main difficulties is that the problems do not present themselves as a single identifiable antagonist that has to be defeated in order to get there, but as a system of false assertions, of diverse interests, of moral restrains, of budgetary impositions, of institutional assumptions, various conscious and unconscious fears and, overall, an irrational rejection of what has been proposed. All these forces together have the constitution of an apparatus.

Other important difficulty is that all these conditions are, as much as in front of the people who want to carry on with the project, in the interior of the participants themselves, in a complicated entanglement with the impulse that gave birth to the idea which is intended to be realized.

These are some of the main biases I have identify in my own practice (thus on myself):

Availability heuristic

Mainstream bias

Bandwagon effect

Confirmation bias

Empathy gap

Framing effect

Irrational escalation

Mere exposure effect

Status quo bias

Ingroup bias

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Que saiz-je? 29.- Political Correctness

29 Political Correctness

Political Correctness is a bad quality on an artist. It might operate as a moral or social constriction that prevents him or her to address problems that really matter.

Artists may refer instead to Artistic Correctness. If Political Correctness is abbreviated “PC”, Artistic Correctness should be called “AC”, or even better, for the sake of the argument acorrectness, a neologism that has built in itself the very meaning of the term.

If “amorality” is the absence of, indifference towards, or disregard for morality, “acorrectness” would mean absence of, indifference towards, or disregard for correctness. The last concern of an artist should be to be correct on a certain specific context. The criteria for correctness must be determined by his/her own concept of art.

That’s why if there is something worse for an artist than being politically correct that is to be politically incorrect. If one is correct, at least has some safe space within which to experiment, while the effort of being incorrect normally takes over the whole artistic process. Indeed, the great difficulty of being acorrect is the strong tendency one has to being incorrect, something that has to be counterbalance.

It is common for young artists to misunderstand the acorrectness of the artists of the past, or their contemporary peers, with incorrectness. Many try to challenge every rule of society, art and decorum, as if this were enough to make their deeds “artistic”.

Likewise, the public often accuse artists of incorrectness, of bad faith, when they are being just artistically correct, acorrect. The same can happen in an opposite direction: As the artist doesn’t care about it, it can be also taken as correct, when he is just “acorrect”.

Being artistically correct means to subordinate one’s actions to what one really believe on, instead of on what effect will produce on others.

 

 

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Que saiz-je? 28.- Critical Distance

28 critical distance

One of the most important challenges artists have to confront is the need of having critical distance.

When one is a painter and has critical distance, one can modify the way one paints and do a better painting. If a painter does good paintings, it is most likely of him having a good critical distance with his practice. It is not that clear in this case of him having a critical distance with the fact of being a painter. If one has critical distance with the fact of being a painter, is more likely that one doesn’t have it with the fact of being an artists, and so on. The steps and ramifications are endless.

To have critical distance in absolute sense is possible only a moment before that one going to have it, because right in the moment one has a critical distance to something, there is another thing one is immediate to.

This means that, whatever you do, you are always somehow immediate to yourself.

But also means that critical distance can still have an existence in the very action of increasing the critical distance. This need of change happens in the same way when “going slow”, something which can be only achieved by slowing progressively down. The slowness of the movement can be only assessed by the moment before, in which one was going fast by comparison. To be applied to freedom, wisdom, and many other things related to art, and that only exist while are increasing or decreasing.

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Que saiz-je? 27.- Accountability

27 accountability

One of the main characteristics of art is its accountability, which means that the artist stands for what he makes. Many people who are not artists have also pride on enduring the results of their actions in front of society, or of intellectual and legal systems. Artist’s accountability becomes specific when the artist responds to the results of his acts in front of himself.

It is said that Wittgenstein proposed as his own motto this lines of a poem by the American poet Longfellow:

In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere.

For the artist there is no corners to be cut, because even if nobody looks at the back of the stone he is carving (there is not such a god), at the implications of his actions in other contexts, the artist himself does it anyway.

One way to cut corners, to be free of the implications of your actions, is to delegate. This strategy is used daily by new style of outsourcing companies, which are able to exploit workers by bringing them to other places, other legal systems, or other branding domains of those of the main contractor.

Artists can be lure into delegate easily in curators, gallerists, or museums, in the realm of institutions. This might lead to be accountable within the art world, but not beyond that, a trap in which many have fall. To be accountable is to bring every aspect of one’s work to the same context, to prevent externalities, results of one’s actions that have to be paid by others

As much the artist relaxes and relinquishes control on the institution, as closer gets of missing his own reason of existence. The reason of the artist to exist “is to register his own behaviour. Reacting against itself, he recognizes his own lack of taste. “

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Que saiz-je? 26.- Soul

26 Soul

The lack of ways to grasp the meaning of certain objects or situations (because there is not meaning to grasp or because is beyond understanding) makes people think that those objects or situations have “a soul”. The power of art objects is making viewers believe that objects (and subsequently the viewers themselves) have a supernatural existence.

Objects in art exert this fascination when they have appeared out of a situation in which the artist has reached an experience in which language, structure and institution have vanished. They come to life at this moment that cannot be recalled nor explained but by these objects or others of the kind, only by objects that have a difficult relationship with the integrational force of the production. When there is no technology nor language, and no meaning can be drawn, a desperate ex machina artifact comes to fill the void, to provide explanation.

Only artworks, which lack somehow of meaning, can elucidate art experiences. And even those can only illustrate it partially, because the aspect of the art experience that is explained by the art object, by language, is only the portion that doesn’t contain any art and can be put into meaning. Art is lost in translation, as Robert Frost says on poetry.

The art object allows a situation in which an idea of an existence out of logic comes to reconcile those two words, “existence” and “logic”. Art is generally despised when it finishes its high instant, when does not serves to that reconciliation, because it feels as “having lost the soul”.

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Que saiz-je? 25.- Seduction

25 Seduction

Somebody who calls himself “an artist” on an interview is talking, fascinated, about the ability he has of seducing people with his work.  He celebrates the power he has over the public just by the fact of being an artist. And describes certain techniques he wants to improve in order to make his artworks still more attractive to the public.

There is little artistic interest on bewitching the public. Of the various outcomes that art might have, a bewitched public is one of the less specific to art. It only can come as a by-product of the artistic operation. If an artist measures success, at any extend, by the reaction of the public, the logic of the artistic operation is turned upside down. Once the works address seductively to the public, and the public reacts as expected to that, it is easy to rely only on seduction. Why bother with content when a well applied form, a few special effects, can get the work done, the artist will ask himself (and his environment will ask or imply). Furthermore, he will see time and energy spent on content as resources withdrawn from a more efficient use, that of enhancing the startling qualities of the work. Even more important: any content diverts attention from the visual gimmicks and, as it is condition of artistic content to be disquieting, there is also a risk of the work not appealing anymore to the general public, but only to people who are eager of see art on artworks. These effects of the use of seduction feedback and reinforce each other.

Advertising and political propaganda tackle to emotions. Art however, only goes to emotions through the intellect. It might move, but only due to the awareness that produces on the artists and, perhaps later, also on the public. I think back on my artistic endeavours when I was a painter and I believe that even my devotion to impressionists had little to do with what I felt but with what I thought with them.

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Que saiz-je? 24.- Investments

24 Investments

The idea of sacrifice only has consistency if no time is in play, if the destruction is meant forever. That’s why the most appealing sacrifices are those of lives, especially human lives. Animals feel to be somehow exchangeable, so a sacrificial killing of 100 goats for instance, can be at certain extent abolished by breeding 100 brand new goats. Animals can be easily treated as objects, and sacrifices involving only objects have the tendency of being reverted. Humans can also be treated as objects, and most massacres are executed on that bases. But within a human rights set of beliefs, a human life is irreplaceable, especially for the body that holds it.

Most spent is done in the domain of production, in which consumption is considered an investment, wealth employed (or at least that is the intent) in order to gain a later better production, to increase wealth. Loses are sent to the future, a foreseen moment in which the spent and gain will balance. A moment later than that some profit is also wishfully expected.

This staking approach to spent appears similar to that of sacrifice as long as destruction goes on, but it states its differences clearly at the moment in which the annihilation is about to be reached. While the sacrifice goes on until all resources are exhausted, in the investment logic the end of spent is marked by return to production. A certain amount of will, material and energy is kept in order to take advantage of the investment.

Creation encourage destruction only up to the point in which the investment pays back maximum profit. Exquisite attention has to be put on not withdrawing from the process neither too early nor too late. As many resources as possible have to be invested, but always keeping enough strength to make an excellent return to production.

This is the criteria for fashion, design, or weaponry development.

For art, instead, there is an outstanding bill, a debt never to be settled. For the sacrifice to be meaningful has to be of irreplaceable goods, and never get satisfaction.

 

 

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Que saiz-je? 23.- Terminology

23 Terminology

I hear people talking about “pieces” when they refer to art works. It disturbs me to hear “my new piece” on a conversation with an artist. I never say this myself.

“Piece” comes from the commercially driven American art world but it got everywhere, because that world has an expanding network of influences. Collectors, dealers and gallerists refer to art works as “pieces”. It means those are saleable articles, incomplete parts of a collection, or components to build your exhibition, depending who is talking. Artists say it too, when they want their products to apply for those roles. And then it disturbs me.

I prefer to use, as I learn in the UK, the word “work”.

But I started noticing a discomfort when I hear it to my friends. “My new work is about…” I feel disgusted when I catch myself saying something of the sort. As I said before I think artists do not work, they do not produce value. When I talk about “my work” I grow a suspicion about my talking: “is it, what I unconsciously want, to feel productive, professional, useful?

What about “project”? “My next project is about…” I have a kind of are-you-talking-to-me feeling when l say that in front of the mirror, like a lonely fool getting organizized. Either that or a corporative managerial spirit, whatever comes first. I already talk about “projects” in this series, and the relationship artists have with future realizations.

“My next activity?”, “My next action?”,  “My next stuff, step, steer?”. “My shit?”

This could be the occasion to include for the first time an image on these Que saiz-je? series, which allows me to get, momentarily, out of this pit.

snow

 

From Lies to Tell Small Kids by Andy Riley

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Resumption of Disbelief 2.- Dexter

The plot in Dexter is artistically relevant due to its complex self-referentiality: a serial killer who kills serial killers. In each of his killings , he reflects about his own motives to kill, he kills himself. At the same time he is a member of the police, science branch: he uses sophisticated techniques to look at areas of colour (usually red), and to decide what them mean. He interprets the traces other people leave and also the traces he removes. He mistrust his own impulses and correct them accordingly. Only some incursions in cannibalism will make Dexter more self-referential, but the theme of the credit sequence might be an enough ration of it.

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Que saiz-je? 22.- Wages

22 Wages

 

Artists at work. They sweat, stick their eyes on computer screens or books for hours, cut, paste, carve, write, push record buttons, measure the light, broom their facilities and brew coffee before the interviews. They are well prepared, because they have read many books relevant to their practice, they travel to the cities where the main events on their field are taking place, they have a good network of connections and they have a pondered sharp opinion for each situation. They are also fun, sometimes. They deserve to earn their living decently, at least like any other worker. This much is fair.

But artists do not work. They do not produce value. They produce value only when they are misinterpreted, when they make a mistake, or when they stop for a while being artists. Most of the times due to an imposition of their human condition and its derivatives.

The production society will accept to pay to artists just as much as artists are willing to become productive. Furthermore, it pays them in order to hook them into becoming productive. It comes just as an additional grievance the fact that it doesn’t need to pay to all artists. A small exemplary fraction on the pay roll can hook a good deal of them without more incentive than expectations.

“If art is ever given the keys to the city, it will be because it’s been so watered down, rendered so impotent, that it’s not worth fighting for”. It is ironic, isn’t it? It was Picasso who said that.

Artists who claim for a fair salary are not that much paid-off by the salary, but by the reaffirmation on the fact that they are productive, loved and considered. Their endeavours have a purpose, and so their life has, just by the fact of try being paid.

 

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Que saiz-je? 21.- Practice

21 Practice

 

Artists are pushed, all the time more, to speak about their own practice. They need to have a clear idea of what their practice is about and express it satisfactorily. Otherwise they are considered producers or craftsmen. Please, speak about your practice.

But. Who said that I have “a practice”, on the first place?

Art is a continuous response to the fear caused by things one is uncertain of, and to the suspicion one grows about certainties one holds. Suspicion, especially, about the tools used to respond to those certain facts, to those fears. Nothing to do with a practice, nothing like respected “medical practice”, late afternoon “basketball practice”, or reverential “Christian practice”.

Artists live. They deal with things that are imposed to them, like bodies, decay, and hunger. They question their own way to react to injustice, to violence or to tenderness. They are baffled by how relentlessly their own language affects what they say o what they think. Like everybody else, one may say, but perhaps just more often, more intensively or dedicatedly.

However, to talk about one’s practice inserts one’s production, of objects and ideas, on a network of significance, and turn it into a more exchangeable material. A default phrasing is some of this sort: “my practice consists on researching on projects in order to producing knowledge.”

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Que saiz-je? 20.- Style

20 Style

Society is quietly favouring the image of an artist who is aware of the world he lives, who acts professionally, whose practice is furnishing him or her of the perfect set of tools to tackle all “artistic” problems that he or she is destined to solve. And as a result of these tools which use he has mastered, a style comes up naturally to his work. Artists themselves are willingly believing so.

But on clearer minded days, one knows that art path is erratic, that there is not method whatsoever and that the tools the artist holds are disposable, just of one use, and do not serve for a second worthy work.

Routines, recurrent practices, mastered techniques, are a safe harbour. Artists are tempted to settle there instead of sending ships to fish in dangerous waters for most needed catches. Sedentarism incites the assembly of repertories of tricks that do not belong to the artworks, but that are performed there for the works to appeal to people who cannot recognize art without these adherent enhancements. At first they are used timidly, naively. Once the works are easily recognized and praised due to those tricks, the voice that asks for challenge gets quieter and quieter. If one lays back on method (for taking impulse), it takes over the artistic impulse, and rapidly, methodically, becomes the impulse itself.

Artists, at the extend they are so, are also escapists, evading this confinement with an elegant sophisticated houdinical technique. This escape technique, as a technique it is, it is also subjected to becoming a trick, so one must to keep alert.

After many years of acting persistently (stubbornly) with the same impulse, on a direction resulting of changing frequently direction with the aim of getting free of that impulse, a pattern emerges. It is not certainly in the type of colours, the shapes, the materials, the proceeds and not even in the themes of the works. It is somewhere else, perhaps just in the inability of the artists to perceive it, or in the exhaustion of the artist’s resources to fight it.

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Resumption of Disbelief 1.- Amour

Haneke’s films like Caché, Code Inconnue, Funny Games or The Seventh Continent have the ability of shocking viewers who are not normally shocked. Those are films that shocked Haneke himself. Their value resides in the encounter of lack of moral or concern restrains with the precise filmic language techniques he masters. In the point they collide there is a spark, which is the artistic surplus.

In Amour these factors also exist, but they run together all the way, there is not collision. There is a political, strategic, value in putting this harsh subject into the commercial film circuit, in which the author has relayed: “this uneasiness will be Haneke’s enough” seems to have thought. This film is made to shock viewers who are often shocked, thus the Oscar appreciation.

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Que saiz-je? 19.- Disquietude

19 Disquietude

Some primitive conceptions of art imply that the urge of the artist is to create objects. A most advanced view, compliant with modern society, is that what artists are moved by is the intention of creating knowledge, understanding better the world and the human condition, and perhaps making better understand those to others. Objects come as a result, or as a vehicle, of this knowledge. Further in the same path there are those who think that artists’ frisson is in the destruction of barriers, constrictions, language… As a result of destroying objects and knowledge, new objects and knowledge appear.

Art, destruction and disquietude come in a bundle. The logic of the production system doesn’t like disquietude to be praised so it separates it surgically from art. To put the focus of art in the object is not but a metonymical strategy to make everybody think (even many artists) that the uncomfortable feeling associated with art is only circumstantial: a perfect artwork must be stress free.

However, disquietude is essential to the art experience and the perfect artwork, if something of the kind could be possible, would be “disquietude in full”. Artists crave for disquietude. To reach disquietude is their pay-off.

The urge for disquietude runs parallel to death impulse, and both have been haunting all societies based in production since the beginning of humankind.

In the fuzziness of human existence one thing is certain: pain will be, at one point on your life, unavoidable. Artists like to hold on that knowledge. If one knows how to suffer, this is an advantage one gains, an amount of potential energy which allows to better decide on the way in which you find interesting to experiment your pain.  If it is disgusting and dangerous to make your pain present on your daily live, much more dangerous is to keep it hidden, and more striking its appearance will be when the time comes.

Anyway, it is not easy to bring disquietude to your life. Everything around us is trying to prevent bringing it to the foreground. One has to become an artist if wants to ensure a regular dose of disquietude.

 

 

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Que saiz-je? 18.- Craftsmanship

18 Craftsmanship

When looking at certain artworks one feels often inclined to point out how poorly the idea of the work has been put into an object, compelled to consider the artist’s lack of skills to realize an artwork with that idea. It is something that happens when one likes the idea.

Still, when an artist has good starting points for works, but poor skills to bring them into an object, one can hope for him/her to learn a higher level of craftsmanship in the future. Mainly because with only good ideas you go nowhere, so changes are compulsory. An artist with perfectly crafted silly ideas instead, is much more trapped in the maelstrom of virtuosity, destined to bring silliness to sublime heights. Skilled use of tools gives satisfaction, to oneself and to the audience, while good ideas are usually off-putting.

The expression “ideas put into objects” implies, however, a standing point to look at art which does not service the purpose. When somebody focuses on the form, and crafts it carefully, is diverting the attention to the form. When somebody uses instrumentally certain form in order only to put the content on a better light, more beautiful, decorated, ornamented, he is diverting the attention to the content.

Artists are focusing only on the link between both, a place where none of them exist proper. Form and content are there in agreement, mutually neutralized. The intent of the artist is to achieve a perfect identification of that link with the work, an all-link work.

This is an impossible task because all links are ultimately defective and the neutralization can only take place for an instant. To perceive the identification as if it is perfect depends of one’s sensibility. The fact of realizing a (for an instant) perfectly neutralized work increases sensibility to the point to annul that perfection, to reveal it as defective. When the inner paradox of language is unveiled, a rewriting of the relationship between form and content becomes necessary, an improved definition of that relationship. Perhaps a craftsmanship of this “improvement” can be attained, a mastering on the technique to render this paradox visible, on neutralizing repeatedly, but with different values, form and content.

I will rather call it “dispossession” than “improvement”, due to the tragic emotions that involves, a “craftsmanship of dispossession”.

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Que saiz-je? 17.- Eurocentrism

17 eurocentrism

Western nations have been, since they exist, instruments of the very scientific-technological thinking that constitutes them. One of the main directives of this instrumentation is the expansion over, and the assimilation of, every physical and psychical space which is reachable, weaker and independent yet of western logic.

The implementation of this directive has resulted historically in all sorts of exploitations and pillages, and now new politically correct trends have been bringing shame to western communities during the last decades.

Culture is the area where domination has being exerted most notably, and where more irreparable loses have been registered. It is also the most mindful sector for shame, and therefore the context in which compensation has been coming first. Post-colonial theories have been drawn, cultural support for projects in developing countries allocated, preservation and archival have started. The brotherhood of culture happens by bringing the best of each culture into the other one.

In the arts, this gives way to two phenomenon: 1) Art embraces other cultures by opening the limits of what is art to other ways of seeing the world, and 2) art institutions send this “universal” value to previous colonies in the form of branches of museums and other cultural enterprises.

If there is an ultimate weapon to attack these initiatives is to denunciate them as “eurocentrism”. The accusation freezes many of the well-meaning, and put to work to those whose interest is to use these policies in favour of western powers.

One thing is forgotten: art should be eurocentric, because it is a way to deal with the human condition that complies with the spiritual vacuum existing in the western tradition. Other places have other tools to deal with existential problems, to serve to that purpose.  Art there has not real meaning, it is a special type of design, a business sector or a reference to Western problems. Contemporary art is interesting on those places as much as those places are Europe.

Why those cultures should care of western problems? Those critics may be better questioning contemporary art as a whole: its eurocentric quality is very much as the asiacentric quality of Zen, for which it should be, if something, praised.

I think that, in order to fight against subtle and insidious means of colonization that contemporary conveys, concerned parties might

stop doing art with western connotations, copy cats of western models. Western artists will be naturally always ahead

stop doing art with authentic local style, but using western distribution means.

stop doing art, as the concept and need for art is completely western

stop doing, because this “doing” approach is western scientific-technological thinking.

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Que saiz-je? 16.- Capitalism

16 CAPITALISM

 

Most of the people you may ask will tell you that capitalist relationships have reached every single area of our existence, there is nothing outside the capital, there is no free lunch.

They saying that is not as relevant as having the environment we live in conveying the same idea constantly. It becomes “more” of a truth by the fact that it doesn’t need to be defended fiercely, that it is part of the décor, something interiorized without struggle.

Advertising theory call this technique “banality”, a way to push further certain interests by accustoming people to them in a proxy manner, avoiding to show the entitlement those ideas have to be where they are. They are simply there, self-evident, not perceived as single entities, but as part of the “default” fabric of reality, the way the things are.

It is just for the capital, that nothing exists in the outside: first because the capital is not able to see relationships that escape its logic, it doesn’t have tools to comprehend what is beyond the ties of supply and demand. Second, because having people believing this to be true, believing on an omnipotent and omni-engulfing capitalism, helps the tendency of the capital reaching all areas. Those aspects of reality which have not been absorbed yet, react upon such a statement, putting themselves on a situation in which they can be easily denounced and integrated.

Indeed there are things that are outside of the regulations imposed by an economy of necessity. Art, in most of its manifestations, has been always out of capital’s gravitational pull. If some critics assert that art has been now captured as well it is, perhaps, because they do not realize that what they refer to with the term “art” is something else, or because they do not go to the right exhibitions.

While all necessity-oriented economic activity is intended to crystalize value, the aim of art is that of disassembly value. Destroying it is not enough, as a careless reading of the term “sacrifice” might suggest. Destroying commodities (or language) invites many more commodities to be produced, receptors of enhanced value. Disassembly value is a laborious task, which requires a deep knowledge of the structure in which value is inserted.

One problem one faces when stands up for the existence of a section of the world out of the reach of capital is that sooner or later there is somebody who assumes you are a “world improver”. This is part of the capital’s bullying.

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Que saiz-je? 15.- Projects

15 PROJECTS

The art scene, the life of the artists, the world in its totality, are full of projects. I would like to have a clear picture of the precise moment in which I started projecting, in which my generation of Spanish artists conceived for the first time our work as a succession of project-outcome expectations and realizations. I kind of remember thinking ahead when I was a young painter, but projecting and being so proud of those projections seems to be something that slipped into my life, in a very surreptitious fashion.

I have written from several angles already in these series about the role that intentions play in art and non-art processes. Projects are the vehicle for intentions to exist. Art endeavour is to regain immanency, so the impulse of projecting, in principle, is not contributing to the success of art activities, because it means basically “mediation”, teleology. Besides, the pride and vanity contained in the presumption that things are going to develop in a certain planned way, doesn’t help to attain the point of view artists need in order to experience their art.

But even though, building more complex and time and money demanding projects is an enterprise artists must embark upon. What artists have to accomplish cannot be reached by naivety, by rejecting the contact with mediation-rotten structures: as much as they are forgotten, more seamlessly their power is preserved.

A more self-evident language environment needs more sophisticated techniques to be exposed and disarmed. An exponential growth of branches and subroutines of language structures has to be dealt with exponential growth of deactivating systems. The traps written between the lines of the contracts we have to sign with language cannot be eluded. They can only be cheated.

Yes, artists have to embrace technology, planning, networking, not to see with those tools, but through them ( artists always see through Blake’s eye) in the search for that point in which a simple poke make collapse the whole structure.

In that sense “art projects” are more, as Baudelaire would put it, “projectiles”.

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Que saiz-je? 14.- Creative Industries

14 creative-industries

If we have something valuable, if there is something upon which importance and urgency everybody agrees, that’s creativity. Even the most conservative sectors of society see creativity on a good light. How much more then would do people with commercial or entrepreneurial interests, producers of objects for the industry, scientists, web and aircraft designers… artists? The impact of creativity is nowadays of universal scale, nobody doubts is positive. People possessing it are awarded on all fields. Likewise, everything tagged as “good” must contain a creative spirit. “Innovative” is a term also used.

Art is generally known as the intrinsic playground for creativity, were creativity is experimented on a most original way, and by virtue of that it is one of the “good things”. Even many practitioners, who really believe in the value of art, are backing the idea that art is the creativity pioneer, where innovation take place on a most radical way. Artists used to be seen as the only qualified creators.

Looking a little closer, a little deeper into it, it is easy to realize that art is instead much more about destruction than about creation. It is destruction of goods, destruction of language, destruction of certainties, obstruction of the regular flow of production processes, especially that of thought, especially that of meaning.

New objects, new words, new attitudes and approaches? Sure. Art brings also all these. It creates a void for all those recently destroyed things to be replenished with new ones, now without inherited compromises.  But to say that the aim of art is to “create” those objects is as far-fetched as praising Truman for “creating” a beautiful Peace Park in the middle of Hiroshima, or the B-17s operating during WW2 for “creating” good parking conditions all across Germany. If there is a sector though, in which creativity is crucial, this is weaponry development.

 

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Que saiz-je? 13.- Artists and Terrorists

12 artists-terrorists

 

At this stage of development of the technological scientific world, of which capitalism is the icon and proxy leader, there are few things that escape to the logic of production. Therefore, anything that escapes slightly is assimilated with other things that also escape, even if their magnitudes are very different. Here is where terrorism and art meet.

Artists are not terrorists, and this fact gives reason to the view that contemporary art is just a way to aestheticize terrorism, thus politics, and render it innocuous. The argument claims that art is a sort of exploitation of terror, using shocking images to climb up on the gallery ladder.

Terrorists are not artists. They might have been mastering the trade of artists, acquiring skills on seduction, creativity, on symbolic betting, on image construction, among other skills artists normally do not know nothing about, like weaponry and explosives. But terrorists, same if they have political or religious aims, do not pay attention to subtle differences between fiction and reality, between what has to be taken by its operative meaning and what has a face value.

Once said that, nevertheless, there are many similarities between artists and terrorists.

  • As it has been said above they both escape, however subtlety, the logic of production. They are, therefore, subjected to a strong pressure from the integrationist forces, so they find themselves often using same resistance strategies. (As already tackled in Co-option)
  • There are aspects of the art and terrorism practice that do not fit within the parameters of the economy of necessity. They might find instead an explanation in the theories of sacrifice economy and potlatch, in the logic of symbolic destruction of goods, of time, of energies, of the lives of those who execute it and of those who live/die for it.
  • Artists and terrorists have a special moral strength, as they have to be always completely sure of being right. They have to carry actions that will be cancelled at the minimum doubt.
  • Art and terrorism have to utilize the tools of spectacle, they have to use technology to overcome the power of the technological realm, to supersede it. And they have to resist the temptation of benefiting from the advantages that the mastering of these tools offer.
  • Both are internally required to be context-specific, shocking, surprising, innovative.

There is one difference that makes them essentially heterogeneous: terrorism (armed struggle) aims to fortify its aims while art is aiming to destroy the bases of its own intentions and grounds.

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Que saiz-je? 12.- Political Art

political art

 

There is a contradiction in the term “political art”, and the root of it is located in the utilitarian role that the modifier “political” assigns to art. The “political” is aiming to regulate and improve the relationships between humans, and between humans and nature. Art acting political, when defending human rights, or nature rights, and even when engaged in the destruction of production and language machinery, is devoted consciously, and more often unconsciously, to the improvement of the world as we know.

The idea of art used as a tool of those intentions is heterogeneous to the essence of art, which is aiming always to itself. Art and politics belong to a completely different understanding of the world.

And even so, there is something radically political in art.

The fact is that art is not free of intentions either. In the realm of language it is not possible to act without anticipating something, however subtle and hidden the objective might be.

Intentions make the world imperfect, because they create distance, endless mediation and subordination. Art rejects this teleological structure, it rejects imperfections. It has to reject the totality of existence, because for one or another reason, nothing can be perfect. Anyone who rejects something in the world, finds an echo of his voice in art.

Art rejects everything but, first of all, it rejects intentions, first of all its own intentions to struggle. Art stands primarily against the fabric of language that gives ground to its intentions, also or specially, against its intentions of destroying the ground for those intentions.

Does it get too complicated or extreme? Perhaps, but that’s the way it is. If one makes it a bit simpler or more humane, then “political art” appears. The task of political art is to bring “wrong” ideas into crisis. Art undertaking is to make critical even the status of those ideas which seem to be good.

Art endeavours are bound to fail. In the most optimistic picture, art only can enjoy a very brief moment of glory, between the collapse of previous expectations and the building up of a whole new more resilient set. It is structurally political because it is permanently in the side of the losers.

The presence of art on the political realm is a side effect. Its main contribution to the effort of improving the world can be found on the question art´s very existence recurrently poses: “Why this instead of that?”

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Que saiz-je? 11.- Art History

11 Art History

One easily believes on the idea that the history of interpretations on what is art, the history of the changes of terminology and the up-and-down movements between different levels of understanding of what is art, are the same than the history of art.

But the history of art, if art has history at all, cannot be drawn from what is not art. As a definition of art can only be attained by looking at the way in which art is embodied in its actions, people and objects, the changes in those actions, people and objects might create the false impression that art evolves.

Not only an account of the changes in that which surrounds art is encouraging the idea that art has a history, but also the image of art evolving may be produced by the improvement on the understanding that different generations have of the same, unique, always similar to himself, art.

Views on art that negate novelty, radical views on art which do not see the “latest” art as radical, are often accused of victims of presentism, as it they were able to see the aims of artists of all times in a different manner, only because they overlook aspects of the historical situations in which those artists lived. They would be projecting their current understanding of what is art into the past.

Avant-garde artists, for example, might have been thinking differently of which their aims were, today invalid, but only because they were not aware of what they were doing at that time. An artist, by definition cannot be fully aware of its intentions. Aiming at targets he/she doesn’t fully understand is what makes his or her actions relevant as an artist.

Every new art movement has to deal with different obstacles to reach the same result, and when we define art, we tend to do it by looking at the problems that have to be solved in each particular historic time, not at the essence of the artistic experience (which is by the way, extremely difficult , if not impossible, to depict). Indeed there is a history of the tools and strategies artists have had to master to breakdown repeatedly the fabric of reality.

Memory might be always misleading, but I remember what I thought when I started my practice, I read what I wrote at the time, I see the objects I have produced, the decisions I have taken, and everything fits like in the epilogue of a detective’s film: I had a very different idea of the actions and methods I needed to employ in my development as an artist, but I had the same urge than now, longing always for experiencing the same moment once and again. These past years I have been giving value to things that I see now there were not important, but it was only to penetrate and neutralize them.

It might be, however, that I discover soon a most precise picture of my reasons as an artist, of what consists this urge for art, which will annul this I am saying in this paragraph. I am looking forward for it.

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Que saiz-je? 10.- Avant-gardes

10 Avant-gardes

All sources seem to affirm that the modern project is finished and there are not avant-gardes anymore. Good to know.

The idea of an avant-garde in relation to art for me is already something difficult to grasp. The use of the term feels more natural when describing practices in politics, in engineering, in science, in the space-race and, ultimately, in the military realm.

There are two aspects of this military metaphor I find heterogeneous with art: first, it contains an idea of conquest. Art has little to do with an army advancing to the battle, with “strategic deployment”. It would be as if the objectives of art were over there, on the other side of the limits of the language, and the artists were trying to seize them by advancing always to the front. It would be as if there were “objectives” for the art. One thing is certain: if some territory is “taken over”, it will never be “secured”.

The second aspect is that the image implies an enemy art is fighting to. Art then would not be only aiming to an external object, but to that object which singularly opposes it and, as a result of this opposition, shapes art. Society, tradition, law or normality, among many others, can fill the bill for that role.

I see as a more interesting simile that of speleology, the artist Freudianly travelling to the centre of the Earth.

The confusion might come from a very simplistic idea: the aim of art is to innovate, to improve the world, making it more beautiful, more performative, safer. Art working in conjunction with other social and technical forces that are coming behind. This means that we, artists, are not alone, we are not specific.

It could be also due to a more intricate one: art’s enemy is the previous art, the “obsolete-gardes”. Art evolves by negating what the previous artists did, “killing the father”, so to say.

The changes artists experiment, however, are incited by the negation of what themselves are, by the urge of contradict those received ideas that disgust and, more important, constitute them. Better still on first-person singular: received ideas that disgust and constitute me. More efficient tools are recurrently required to unveil more resilient disgusting habits and beliefs.

What it has been called “avant-gardes” is not result of a “we will”, but of an “I must not”.

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Que saiz-je? 9.- Art and Madness

09 Art-Madness

There has been always a strong connection between art and madness. The identification of artists and mentally disturbed people come from a series of reasons.

  • People suffering mental conditions are more likely to be artists because some illnesses, specially certain phases of the manic depressive disorder, increase notably creativity and innovation and invite to artistic activity.
  • Artists are more likely to suffer mental conditions, because  they are exposed to situations in which the lack of security and ordered life can affect their stability
  • Artists who are indeed suffering mental conditions are more to be seen and recognized as such by others, because they present constantly themselves in all kind of public activities.
  • Artists are experts on a field that very few people can grasp. So their ideas and actions are often seen out of the narrow limits of the normal that the majority imposes.

This recognition, of course, affects the way society perceives and treats artists. “Mad” is a tag that can be used for praising or scorning.  Suspicions of madness can glorified or denigrate anyone. Distortion on how artist’s statements and deeds are perceived is marked by this madness/art relationship.

But it is important to note that even if every artist is, or looks like, mad this doesn’t imply at all that every person acting in a way that cannot fit in the frame of what we call “normality” is an artist. The deeds and statements of this sort of person could or could be not “art”.

Even more, there is a most damaging effect of these art/madness common places which is found in how artists and wannabe artists understand and attack their involvement in the practice of art: the art scene is full of objects of situations legitimating the idea that to do art is to search for something which defies normality.

That “crazy show”, that crazy attitude or statement is not art just because it is crazy, or because it looks crazy to certain people, but because in order to reach an artistic experience, the artist has needed to abandon that area of certainty in which the terms “crazy” and “sane” have a meaning.

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Que saiz-je? 8.- Freedom

Art has been often portrayed as a vehicle for free expression, and the way artists think and live as the paradigm of unrestricted possibilities. This view of art has been used by politicians, corporations, and trend-setters as a role model for many contemporary behaviours, not always with altruistic intentions.

For those who need art as a daily basis interface with life, art doesn’t represent a space of freedom at all. Every time one is confronted with a forking path (and one is confronted any time that has the strength and sensibility to believe is confronted with one) the outstanding impression is that there is one single option that must be followed. As the artist is getting further into the awareness of his/her situation in the world, more options are being discarded, and the feeling of being bound to an irrecusable fate gets stronger.

Everything around is intended to preventing artists to stay on the path of art. Traditions, practicalities, social inertia, the artist’s own education and believes, are constantly inviting to put art on hold, exerting pressure to favour weaker, compliant, less unexpected and dramatic decisions.

A stage of expectations is always set to receive our actions and statements. If it is difficult and demanding the task of fitting into that stage, even more difficult is to come up with something that does NOT satisfy those expectations. “Freedom” comes with a big deal of control, discipline, and self-mastery. The art experience requires knowledge, activity, energy, and language expertise combined in a very specific way. If one aspect is neglected, the art experience will never be reached; succeeding, in the other hand, opens the space for a new cycle of experience, in which higher knowledge, activity, energy and language expertise are demanded.

Where the prestige of freedom comes from? The overall idea seems to be that when an individual has not fear (to die, to drown economically, to poor social adjustment, to fail in art public presentations, etc.), or he is able to control his fear, then he has the option of doing something else than others, this extra possibility that fear is concealing. But for an artist, as far as he is an artist, “having this option” means actually “to be compelled to it”.

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Que saiz-je? 7.- Art and Meta-art

Meta-art is something I only understand when it refers to art laso sensu, as a device of metalanguage that reflects on the ways that art manifestations develop and interact with humans and society. Art laso sensu has “themes” and meta-art analyses the value and treatment of these themes. It can be called “literary criticism”, “art theory” or “ars poetica”.

Art stricto sensu, however, doesn’t enable any (other) metalanguage to compose a better picture than his, of what art is itself. Expressing the essence of art is art’s only meaning and then art, as far as it is so, is meta-art, and meta-meta-art, etc. If there were a space of awareness from which art could be contemplated as an external object, then that object which would be contemplated will not be art any more, because art will have stealthy, steadily and instantly moved to that unbeatable awareness point.

Every system of knowledge that reflects deeply enough on itself becomes art. When it reaches the limits of its own language is not anymore “science”, “epistemology”, “religion”, “design” or “trainspotting”. Phenomenon happening in any discipline can be understood always from some other wider knowledge, except in the case of art, which only can be understood from within its own logic (this explains some and acknowledges Wittgenstein, the artist). Besides, art can give satisfactory explanation of problems posed by all other disciplines.

Artists are coming from all cultural and professional backgrounds. The only condition they share is the acceptance of an obligation; they are bound to a debt that urges to be cancelled. The strict observance of the procedures to redeem the debt brings those individuals into a common mind frame: contracts, certainties, firmly established beliefs, sacred words… have to be undermined and destroyed, exposed and scorned. The disappearance of these reveals deeper rooted terms of the debt, further certainties.

The epiphany of art (art’s psychological pay off) always happens in the moment in which a structure of confidence collapses and a new area of uncertainty is invaded, that one which for a short time becomes the ultimate disenchanted stage.

Every time I find some artistic value on an object, action or attitude, something that disturbs and confuses me, I feel this loss, which comes with as much pain as euphoria.

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Que saiz-je? 6.- Communication

It is common to hear accounts of art, coming from various fields of activity including the arts, which state or imply that art is a mean of communication. The way in which communication takes place in art is described differently by different people:

  • The artist communicates a high truth to the public, which he has acquired in a pure bodiless form.
  • The artist communicates an idea of humanity which can reach everybody, as it has universal value
  • The artist serves as mean of communication between different human understandings of the world, acting as a universal transformer of current.

Besides creating artworks the artist would be an emitter, the public would be a receiver, and the artwork a message.

If this is true, then the quality of the art can be assessed by looking at the clarity of the message and at the way it affects those the message is addressed to. The amount of people who is affected by the message can be an indicator as well.

The main occupation of the artists then is monitoring the conditions in which the message is created and transmitted, and the reactions of the public. The message, the redundancy, the level of noise, the selection of the channels, has to be tailored for them. The artist keeps track of the reactions of the audience and feed their deviations back into the creation of new works.

Artists have to be then, as well, sociologists. If for one moment I think that this sociologist hat is only put on by the artist occasionally, and it is accessory to experiencing his art, it is just to fool myself: if one is concerned by the reactions of the public, the whole artistic phenomenon becomes subsidiary of this artist/public relationship.

For the artist, to become a vehicle of a communication is very tempting, and even more to be “the leading actor of a communication story”. It provides a purpose for life, and the works seem to like to play their role in the action.

However, art is self-referential and finds its logic in itself. The artist is the wall that encloses it, the barrier in which all intents to externalize bounce back, by in-mediate feedback. Those intentions the artists fail to block are the “messages” that reach the public.

Let’s say that art is like poetry while public-oriented production of artworks is like narrative, design, propaganda. Indeed art is like poetry.

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Que saiz-je? 5.- Co-option

 

Art has interlaced with economic structures almost seamlessly in the last years, by a process in which equivalences between art values and market values have been defined progressively in a more detailed manner. When art integrates in those structures it is not only being submitted to extraneous understandings of the world, but it also loses completely its specificity and fades. Aspects of art that scape to this assimilation only get on with it by remaining in a situation of constant alert and struggle.

As the group of artists who resist being absorbed is getting smaller the threat they represent gains relevance, because their existence puts in question the whole legitimation system for those equivalences, and therefore for the economic concept in which they are based. The pressure to reduce the group also increases proportionally. Some members of the art community find then their only choice to define art as something that opposes this assimilation. Smithson’s cultural confinement has reached unexpectedly broad limits and it has forced to radical responses.

Art is suffering now a process of co-option similar that the one imposed to left-wing armed struggle groups of the 1960s and 70s, in which an apparatus grown to annihilate resisting circles of leftists who had radicalized as a result of the pressure of the capitalist state. An apparatus, as Foucault defines it, is “a thoroughly heterogeneous ensemble consisting of discourses, institutions, architectural forms, regulatory decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral and philanthropic propositions–in short, the said as much as the unsaid. The apparatus itself is the system of relations that can be established between these elements”.

There are a number of actions by which the apparatus manifests, in the pursuing of neutralize art which does not integrate.

  • Taking control of the media, in order to distribute and to institute a specific idea of what is art and who are the artists.
  • Dragging sources of funding out of the reach of artists which are non-compliant.
  • Preventing exposure of art made by artists who are non-compliant.
  • Redefining the way in which terms related to art are used.
  • Establishing high standards in presentation, production and representation with which non-compliant artists cannot compete.
  • Favouring the placement of people who only support compliant artists in the posts where decisions are taken.
  • Entangling the art processes deeply with sectors of the economy with big interests in its smooth functioning, like constructors, politicians, architects, by the creation of expensive infrastructures.
  • Offering economic rewards to those who defect.

The actions tend to make less attractive to endure, by manipulating the context and the public image of compliant and non-compliant artists, by undermining the convictions of the artists, and by presenting submission as the only option.

For those who resist assimilation, abandoning the practice is not an option, as it would be probably only to fall into an already assimilated realm, or to lose awareness of the key aspects of their status. It is not either possible to engage in direct confrontation. The assimilation process always win, if not for other reason because, as Kafka said, “one of the most effective temptations practiced by the devilish [element] is the invitation to fight”.

Resistance requires studying the functioning of each of these measures and finding the way to cheat them, following a thorough negotiation of every detail up to a definition level of which the apparatus is not aware. Negotiation is essential, but it can only be launched from the side of art, because artists negotiating from within the economic structures draw their deals in economic terms, so they are abducted beforehand.

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Que saiz-je? 4.- Art Market

 

The art market is a space of signification where all exchanges between different aspects of the art phenomenon are brought into monetary relationships.

The art market postulates a view of art which integrates art values in the structure of production economy, establishing equivalences with other already integrated values. This is achieved by imposing the idea of the economy of necessity and by displacing the value of art to its objects.

The market is usually the last institutional wrapping that any activity suffers in the process of becoming innocuous. Everything that somehow possesses a disturbing power is conveniently enclosed within the market commercial layers. Ultimately all disturbing power comes from the idea of death and dying. The market efficiently sets the exchange rate for the even slightest traces of violent thoughts, to be transformed into discrete amounts of demand and supply.

We have seen how this process has before brought up a food market, a religion market, a war machine market or a terrorism market, among others. Although the market has seized a lot of terrain, art has resiliently absorbed all the pressure that the production apparatus has constantly exerted over him, and it has resisted assimilation.

One of the fibres that constitute the fabric of artists’ lifetime endeavours is the study of these commercial relationships, and the handling of the effects they have in the artist’s disposition towards art. Mastering control over these is the only possibility to allow exchanges specific to the art experience and of a different kind than the monetary.

As far as artists are human beings, and want to remain alive, they have to become recurrently alienated in production, so some sort of market is always required. Alienation is condition of existence. Artists are recognized as persistently taking at all costs, the necessary steps to become aware of their alienation and to expel it further.

Here is an apparent paradox: as the main character of alienation is the impossibility of awareness (one cannot be aware of himself while being other), the artist is seeing himself at the same time as a subject and as an object (subjected), in a pulse that comes to its higher frequency at the moment of the artistic experience.

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Que saiz-je? 3.- Knowledge Production

 

During the last decades art objects have been losing referential significance in the eyes of members of the art community, at the same exponential pace that its commercial value was growing for society. As a result of this progressive discredit, new more noble aims for art than those of object-making, have been defined, and the field of art has been portrayed insistently as a site for the production of knowledge.

Depending of the subtlety and sharpness of those dealing with the various aspects, different meanings for this relationship between art and knowledge have been branded.

-        The knowledge exists, and art shows it in a different, more accessible, manner, acting as a communication system and as a tool for social engineering.

-        The knowledge exists and art can get it quicker, due to the skilful use of fuzzy logic that characterizes it.

-        The knowledge exists, but only can be reached through art. Art succeeds where other disciplines fail, because the very scientific method used to acquire the knowledge prevents this knowledge to take shape.

-        The knowledge doesn’t exist, and it would never exist if art doesn’t come to bring it to life.

Complementary to this, art has been portrayed as a tool for people to reach a state of concentration, emotion, or greatness that allows perceiving the world from a different perspective, which makes knowledge, previously existing or not, available to that person.

This view of art suits very well to the production apparatus and to the society of knowledge. It finds, in its different connotations, various places within the academic, economic and social structures, where it generates fruitful interactions. Also, or specially, it is very rewarding for artists, as it helps practitioners to get means for living and adds up psychological strength.

However, production of knowledge is not a legitimate aim for art, but instead is part of the process by which art is integrated and disarmed.

I would say better that the aim of art, and of the artists, is the destruction of knowledge. Each decision an artist takes that succeeds in bringing him/her nearer of the artistic experience is focusing in breaking down received thinking structures and beliefs. The world we have inherited is self-evident, and naturally we take it for granted. The values that artists are willing to shatter into pieces are not those put there in front of us as knowledge, but those that are seamlessly intervened with what we are.

The aim of the artist is to destroy that knowledge he/she treasures and that doesn’t fell right, that prevents to examining closer the validity of the perception of the world he/she has.

As a side effect of this destroying of knowledge, the artist creates a void of meaning that has to be filled up. Void creates vertigo and calls for integration. There is always somebody pressed to find a new knowledge to fill up the void.  Cultural managers (and the managerial part of the artists) are busy in the production of this knowledge. Production of knowledge (production in general) is much better to acquire support. If one focuses only in destroying knowledge there is not much left to be sold.

 

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Que saiz-je? 2.- Institutional Critique

 

In what to me concerns, there are two aspects of art which are crucial to any attempt to defining it: art is always self-referential, and art is always criticizing an institution.

These two aspects are different and the same. Art is self-referential because it is always a critique of itself. Art is criticizing always an institution because it is constantly suspicious of becoming an institution itself. The intent of art is to be always aware of the limits of its body to perceive immediately whenever is gangrene appearing.

Under this light all art, as much as it is art, is “institutional critique”.

The so called “Institutional Critique” would be then, perhaps, a branch of art that tackles problems related to a special branch of art. Institutional Critique could be seen playing a similar role than the intellectual love of the mind towards God, that Spinoza says “is part of the infinite love with which God loves Himself.”

However, this “Institutional Critique” (same in wave 1, 2 or 3) focuses in the limits of its body from the outside. It is concerned about what is continuous to art but it is not art any more. When Institutional Critique states that museums, curators, and public programme departments are manipulating and perverting art, it is implying that those are external objects, independent of art. Even further, this implies that art is good as it is, that art is not something to be questioned, but an universal value victim of the dodginess of  capitalism, of the board of trusties, and the of cultural confinementers against the confined.

The “Institution Art” is an external object of critique, serving as a decoy for diverting attention from a higher level critique, which is more painful, and less manageable. To dissect the institution is a way of not paying attention to the “tendency of institutionalizing” that this dissection implies.

There is only one institutionalizing impulse, which is intended to integrate humans and neutralize the panic that produces the idea of death and dying. The first integrating mechanism of this institutionalizing machine is language, and this is the base that art is devoted to bring to crisis, this is the same material art is made of.

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Que saiz-je? 1.- Art (stricto and laso sensu)

 

There is a way of talking about art which is extensive, and it includes everything that has the tag “art” attached to it. Art collectors, art market, art galleries, art curators, art critics, are “art” when talking in this way.

There is also an intense meaning of the word, which refers to a restricted specific quality of certain phenomenon. I call these two approaches Art Laso Sensu (art l.s.) and Art Stricto Sensu (art. s.s.).

Most discussions about art, taking place during lectures, conversations, school meetings, gallery dealings, etc. belong to the art laso sensu sphere. Within this space of thought valuable opinions can be contributed by sociologists, designers, marketing advisers, economists, anthropologists and many other specialists of the world of facts. However, when discussing art in laso sensu, very little of art stricto sensu is brought up.

One of the reasons for that is that the meaning of art stricto sensu is very difficult to grasp. Art stricto sensu only can be discussed in terms of art stricto sensu, by actions, objects, thoughts and ideas that belong to the art stricto sensu sphere.

Art stricto sensu defines what is of “art” in the context of art laso sensu. Artists, who work on the art stricto sensu context, know it very well. But most commonly the opposite happens: what is art stricto sensu is drawn from the information people have of what is art laso sensu, almost as if doing an statistical operation.

When I attend to lectures and I hear “art is this” or “art is that” I grow anxious, because the discussion most of the time is about art laso sensu but performed as if it was about art as a whole, or it is about art stricto sensu but using parameters to discuss it that belong to art laso sensu. By instance, an art administrator very knowledgeable in art laso sensu talks as if this expertise gives him or her also knowledge in stricto sensu art, when it is not the case.

I remember not distinguishing neither the two realms myself. At the beginning of one’s practice, only very little is identify as art laso sensu, and all the art activities seem to be significant, different, exciting, conveying the feeling of pertaining to something out of the profane. The development of an artist’s view of the world consists on further understanding, slowly but relentlessly, which parts of your perception of art strict sensu belong actually to art laso sensu. As one grows older and wiser, one can see larger parts of the art as not containing art stricto sensu at all.

Art stricto sensu doesn’t exist isolated, and it is always embodied in some sort of object which belongs to the sphere of the laso art. The work or the artist, and might be there where the concept of art in the full strict sense (sensu) takes shape, is to fine tuning further the two different spheres, to peel always a thinner skin of the art as a whole onion, the “art” existing only in a pure form in the very moment of peeling.

Giving that, art laso sensu can be defined as “all that used to be art, but it is not anymore”, or as ” what contains all elements required for art, but without the art”.

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Jérôme Bel at Documenta 13. Public as art as public.

 

In any art show with more than 20 artworks, there is a high percentage of works presented as art which are not art, a good number of artworks that are bad art, and some good artworks. In the recent past the proportion of objects exhibited that are not art has been increasing geometrically. I consider myself lucky if I find one good artwork in one of those shows. It makes my year.

In Documenta 13 the work that made my year was Jérôme Bel’s Disabled Theatre. It is a complex artwork in many aspects, by the extreme precision of the few, very simple elements it is made of.

To start with, it is interesting to define its format.

Disabled Theatre is, as its name states, a theatre piece. It is set in a theatre hall. People wait outside until the scheduled time; they enter in a classical theatre auditorium, with red velvet walls and seats. The curtain opens and a group of actors performs for an hour and a half. That is a theatre play.

However, the content of the theatre piece is presented as a re-enactment. The situation is told as if it is an exact repetition of what happened the day the director of the piece, Jérôme Bel, visited for the first time the workshop in Zurich where the actors work. A conducting voice explains during the play what happened that day. Then the actors play what they did that day exactly as if it was happening again.

We tend to believe, because we tend to believe what this conducting voice says, that the actors are playing their own role and that they are actually repeating something that happened once on that day. But this is something we assume without requesting further proves.

The assumption that this representation is a repetition of something that happened and the assumption that happened to these very people are here combined in such a way that the public is subtly forced to believe that the feelings and ideas the actors are expressing are their current and personal ones. That’s very interesting, because we have started clearly establishing that this is a theatre piece, where everything is to be believed but without connection between the fictional realm and the reality outside of the play. But the public believe on this identification due to the special character of the actors, the fact that each of the actors has one type of disability.

Disable actors are special because the public is not used to see disable people on stage. Also, because people are not used to stare at disable people as they might stare normally at famous actors. The preconceived ideas the public has about actors are not useful here, regardless of the people on stage being actors or not, regardless of having these actors all the characteristics that actors have and even regardless the fact that they have stated clearly, one after the other in front of the public, that they are actors. These preconceived ideas are not useful because they clash with the preconceived ideas (not tested on the field and therefore stronger) the public has of what is a “disabled person”.

Indeed the public has not an opinion formed about the relationship between “theatre” and “disability”, or they have a not very refined opinion. They might think, consciously or unconsciously that you should not look to disable people because is rude, or because it is disgusting. Also they might be backing the idea that disable people should not play theatre; because they do not control their bodies and their emotions enough as to play the role of others (they do not even play properly their own role). The public has difficulties to think of disable people as “professionals”

This may give to the event the atmosphere of even another performative format, a therapeutic exercise, a community artwork and an instance of the use of the healing value of the arts.

Definitively this is a theatre play, with a precise script, as a theatre play is supposed to have, even if the public tends to do not believe it. The actors repeat in each performance the same theatre piece, with the same acts, the same scenes, the same lines. Of course there are some differences between performances, but they are of the same kind that exists in any other theatre production.

What is happening in the room is as well something else. This combination of formats which put together theatrical fiction, re-enacted reality, current reality, simulation of reality and simulation of fiction, reveals, when you think about it, the very character of this work, a true all-elements-embracing work of art.

The artwork is deceptively called Disabled Theatre. It is not a theatre piece, but instead the theatre piece is part of the artwork.

These elements push the public to think that what they are looking at is not a representation, but disable people talking straight to the auditorium. By the grace of the combination of all these elements the public is decided to believe a common place of contemporary art: the operation the artist has executed consists in framing a portion of reality the public is not used to, and put it in front of their eyes to make them think about it, about society and their own lives.

This is not the case; this is not a straight portion of reality but something orchestrated. The artist has played his cards well enough to make the public believe in this reality, and he is ready now to direct them in the same way he is directing the actors. As soon as this has been established, the play can start.

The acts of the theatre piece are as follow:

1. On that day Jérôme asked the actors to look for one minute to the public, one by one, coming to the front of the stage and after to go backstage. The actors do so, as a form of introduction of themselves. They are 11 actors, male and female.

2. Jérôme asked them to tell their name, age and profession. They do so. There is all range of names and ages but one single profession, as all of them say that they are actors (or actresses). After doing that they stay in the stage.

3. Jérôme asked them to name their disability. They do so in the same order. There is a range of disabilities, from people who may look “normal” at first sight, those with learning disabilities, to people with whom is difficult to interact, like severe cases of Down syndrome. They say how easy or difficult can be this interaction, how they live their condition.

4. Jérôme asked them to prepare one choreography each, with music of their choice. As performing 11 choreographies can be too long, only seven are performed. Seven actors perform a dance, with different kinds of music and with different levels or coordination with body movement and music.

5. Jérôme asked the actors to come to the front of the stage and say what they think about the artwork. Every actor states his opinion about the artwork.

6. As one of the actors has complained that he did not like his choreography not being played, Jérôme asked the 4 remaining choreographies to be played. The actors perform the rest of the choreographies.

7. Jérôme asked the actors to come to the front of the stage and salute. They do so and the work, the theatre play, the re-enactment finishes

 

The uncertain character of the work is shown in two inconsistencies: If it is a straight re-enactment they should not salute, because on that day they are re-enacting there was no public. If this is reality the director should know by now the convenience of playing all the eleven choreographies at once. The artwork is a device to work the public out.

 

The public

The way in which the artwork plays with the preconceptions of the public, or with the difficulty of the public to include the emotions created by the event in their mental schemes, puts the public in a unique reception mode, indeed a difficult one to achieve. Everything that is sent to them while they are in this mode will channel directly to their unconscious.

The public waits with uneasiness the minute each actor looks at them. One of the actors, apparently unaware of the passing of time has to be called out after the third minute, reminding the audience the character they are looking at. The public feels they have to endure this, because it is needed. There is tension until act number 4. When the dances start the public has found finally something to do. They can cheer. Applause is always right. It might just be the good deed of the day, completely honest bona fides. But especially is a moment of relief, a way to organize their emotions. The relax continues on the 5th act, in which there are some jokes, some supposedly naïve statements by the actors about the work, to which people also like to clap and cheer. And suddenly one of the actors tells about the disgusts of his parents when they saw the play on the opening night, their anger about the “freak show” they have seen, the sister weeping in the car, the rejection to him as a professional actor. Most of the audience freezes in that moment, and the silence is below zero.

Some people leave after that moment. They may be thinking that this is an outrageous exploitation. I believe that most of the audience is having, after all, a good time, thinking that this Jérôme is a good guy and that has given an opportunity to this people to be the stars for once, that they “also” deserve it.

They are people who leave because they are bored. Because they came to see art and this is just social work. There are not paintings or sculptures…

All this reactions are part of the work. Many members of the public of course understand what is happening, the forces that are acting upon them, but nevertheless they succumb to their pressure. Those aware of the extent of the artwork are experiencing the estrangement of looking at their emotions as if where not theirs. I am now the Other.

The relationship between art and the public established in this work is the most intense manifestation art can have. The public in public art is not a creative element, no a customer, it is a material the artist uses to create the work. The “relational aesthetics” praised and promoted audience participation and collaborative work have misunderstood and spread a false and partial concept of the role of the public in the happening of artworks.

 

The cast

I remember attending to a play many years ago in London where a black actor played the role of a rich gentleman in the England of early 19 century. It was the first time I have seen something of the sort, a miscast perfectly conscious and decided both for the performers and the public. It was part of the policies of Affirmative Action, aimed to fight against preconceptions that come from past injustice. If black people play always the role of servants, people (all kind of people) are biased to see them as servants and to give them jobs of servants. It is better not to have such a perfect portrait of how was the situation in the past, but instead work on the creation of a more equalitarian society.

The case in Disabled Theatre is right the opposite. The participants are professional actors, and they have been selected for their roles because they are the perfect cast for this role, and their physical appearance collaborates to convey the emotions the author wants. The selection is here truer and more urgent than when a handsome guy is selected for the hero or an ugly old madam for the witch.

The actors have been cast so well that they do not need affirmative actions, because the roles they play clearly make explicit the issues contained in this casting decision, issues that are usually obscured. You may say that the lack of awareness of the public on what they are seeing increases the awareness on the theme the artwork is about.

 

Continuity

I have seen the actors in the tram the day before. They called my attention because some people, who presumably have been public, greet them and told them how great they were the night before. At that moment I could not see what was actually happening. But after attending to the play I wondered in which level they thought the actors were great? Has this public the knowledge and capability to assess how good the actors were? By which criteria?

Right after the first performance I attended (in which I experienced as public all this estrangement I explained above) I entered the play for the second time to confirm that the performers were actors, and to check how much of the play was left to the improvisation. Very little, as I said.

The play runs for one hour and a half and, as in any other play, in that time the public gets to know the peculiarities of each character. Each actor plays his or her own role: the timid, the joker, the incoherent, the cheeky, the kind-hearted… Also there is time enough for the public to establish a kind of gradation characters, based on the “consciousness” the public projects in each of the actors. From that character who looks almost perfectly “normal”, and who states his or her disability as “difficulties on learning” to that one with Down syndrome who looks as having a thin connection with this, our reality, and who finds difficult to interact.

In this gradation the public finds also their place, at the beginning at one of the extreme poles, the safe one on the seats area, but as soon as the play unfolds it becomes not that easy to establish where anymore. Doubting of the awareness of the actors at one point is not very different of doubting of your own awareness. How much one is aware is as difficult to assess as how much pain one is suffering.

This communion with the actors is also experienced, most vividly, in terms of “body”. Within the gradation of “different” bodies, with their own difficulties and clumsiness, my body finds also its place. All bodies are, to a certain degree, disable and clumsy. It is not important to what degree. When the art spell has been cast and all barriers have been broken, the spectator perceives himself ineluctably naked in front of his own body, in a shameful experience of desubjectification. The art epiphany has taken place.

 

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High Competition Training Facility (a neo-liberal help for neo-liberal artists)

Repeat to yourself every morning, or before dinner parties:

1 I create wonderful works

2 There are many collectors that already bought my work.

3 Curators like to know about my new works.

4 When I sell my work, I make the world better and I create enjoyment for many individuals.

5 There is not artist in the world who does the same art I do.

6 To sell is a way to promote my personal and professional development.

7 Nothing happens in the art world until an artist sells his work in a gallery.

8 Collectors who bought my work and curators who selected my work for shows expect me to be a leader and to create opportunities for me and for them.

9 When somebody is insecure about the value of my works, reacts like this due to fear or ignorance and the best is to be patient and understandable with them.

10 If being an artist were easy, everybody would be an artist. The challenge contained in being an artist is one of the reasons why I am involved on it and why makes my life more exciting.

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Forget Fear, reflecting about art and fear (using as an excuse the 7th Berlin Biennial)

1) The Attraction

Forget Fear.
The title of the Berlin Biennial is so intense that it is difficult to pass beyond the speculations that its sonority produces.
It would have been easier to digest if the organizers had included a subtitle constraining the meaning of the title. Depending on the message the biennial wants to send would have been of a different kind:

Forget Fear. All power to the soviets.
Forget Fear. How to Turn Rejection into Success
Forget Fear. The Mercedes new A-Class
Forget Fear. The Fatherland needs you.
Forget Fear. Nuclear power is not that dangerous.
Forget Fear and let’s dance.

Letting the meaning of the title open to speculation is better strategically, as it can then attract the attention of a wider audience. People with different agendas are looking forward, for them and for others, to forget fear, and this one title fits them all. Besides, it catches the attention of others like me, who keep wondering about what it refers to.

As a title, Forget Fear has other advantages: it is also a well coined powerful sounding phrase. This is of course due to alliteration. As Alan Partridge would put it, it is difficult to think of anything with matching initials that we don’t like: Green Goddess, Bum Bags, Krispy Kreme, Dirty Dozen, Est Est Est, World Wide Web, Clear Cache…(Alan says) Train Time, Penne Porcini, Tokyo Tower, … (me). Well, perhaps “Heil Hitler”, we do not like that much.

But, being made also of matching initials, I think that if I were in the situation of the curators I would have favoured, as I will explain bellow, “Fear Forgetfulness”. For purposes of public relations and branding, it sounds a bit menacing though.

 

2) Diving Deeper into Forgetfulness

 

The book published on the occasion of the biennial might give a clue about what fear is encouraged by the organizers to be forgotten.

The introduction written by the director of the biennial, Artur Zmijewski, makes us think that, by forgetting fear, the artists of the world will be prompted out of the commercial, capitalist, neo-liberal elite entertainment, object-driven art system they have fell in. At the moment they fear interacting with society, they are afraid of abandoning the false immunity art status is giving to them. This is something grasped between the lines, but that only fully takes shape when one arrives to the revealing rhetoric closing sentence of the text, which reads: “I am also afraid, but I am trying to forget fear”

Two issues come to my mind:

First, it is quite generous to talk about the art market system as the place of art. In the text, these “nominal artists” looking exclusively for new spaces to show their objects, trying to meet more curators to expand their network, these artists only concerned with their own benefit, are still considered “artists”. They do not serve the largest purpose of art (changing society, in this context) so it is not clear why the author is that magnanimous. And then we see that this honour is only given to be withdrawn, to show how little they deserve it.

Secondly, it is difficult to picture these people afraid. One imagine them (as imaginary beings they might be) indulging in cocktail parties around a golden calf (formaldehyde version). They do not have the fear of God before their eyes (Much less is the love of God in their heart). There is no regard or reverence for honour of Art as to restrain them from creating expensive slick objects.

I would rather do not consider “artists” people who are so far of what seems to be the understanding of what is art for this curatorial team. And I would say that it is precisely not-remembering fear what might be preventing them to become deserving artists.

But then, it is strategically good to condemn attitudes which are condemnable, instead of aiming for more controverted ones. And probably the curators of the Biennial want to get away of these attitudes just because they fear.

“I also used to be fearless, but now I am regaining fear”.

 

 

3) Ironic processing.

 

Something that troubles me, because it makes me fear that I might be making a fool of myself, is the possibility of the title intending an ironic effect, while I am taking it literal. It could be expected, because as we know the Biennial uses other figures of speech, and people who genuinely want us to forget do not mention “fear” at all.

If indeed irony is meant, the title would imply that, by encouraging people to forget fear, the curatorial team what actually wants is to make them remember. The title of the biennial would be then an example of what is called “ironic processing”. This is the psychological process whereby an individual’s deliberate attempts to suppress or avoid certain thoughts (thought suppression) render those thoughts more persistent. It is often explained by quoting Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who challenged his brother not to think of a white bear.

- Forget Fear!
- Forget what? Fear? Is it there something I should be afraid of? NOW, I am afraid.

One advantage of the imperative form the title uses is that it is a good base for a more brute force approach to ironic processing, when subtleties fail.

- Forget Fear, you piece of shit!
(whipping is optional)

Anyway, as soon as one tries do not think on something, that thing gets control of one’s mind. Besides the curious entertaining effect, this can be used effectively for coercion. The key of much art and politic debates is found in the imposition of certain frames in which the discussions take place. So is to say that, whoever sets the frame of discussion, the context in which every statement of the contenders is going to be read, has the sure chance of making his or her opinion to prevail.

That might be the problem the Biennial’s curator team mean to denounce, that the old art system has its frame well forged and it is forcing artists to think within that frame: artists must leave the frame to think freely. Forget Frame!

It could be also the problem of the political systems upon which, the biennial affirms, artists should act: there is no way to do valid politics out of the frame the system imposes (in politics if ironic processing is not enough, the frame is backed up by police forces).

There is a frame within which the Biennial wants us to consider the relationship between art and reality, art and society, art and action. I am bound to think that this frame has also been imposed to the curatorial team, which was keen on accepting and promoting it because they were forgetting too much.

 

4) The scientific approach

 

To know how effective the formulation of the title is, either on direct or reverse mode, it could be most advised to measure the variations on the levels of fear on the visitors to the Biennial. This kind of task is usually trusted to the scientific method.

As far as I know there is not a way of measuring fear. Perhaps a scientist can help here. There might be some changes in brain waves or blood components that appear with fear, and do not happen with any other extreme emotions.

In the meanwhile and due to the lack of reliable data, I would propose a system of estimation based in witnesses’ testimonies and behavioural approaches. The unit of fear would be the “Phobo”. It could be abbreviated as Ph, or use, as a fear symbol, the cryptosvastikal logo of the biennial (if copyright holders consent).

As a reference point: one Phobo is the amount of fear an adult, in full physical and mental conditions, experiences when is in the death row about to be executed. One phobo is what would score people affected by “death panic”. This was a term SS officers used in Treblinka to refer to the fear of imminent death, which caused their victims to “empty” involuntarily.

The value of fractions of a Phobo is defined as follows: A miliphobo is the amount of fear that an adult, in full physical and mental conditions, full time employed, suffers when cannot find the credit card, he is almost sure has put on his walled when leaving home.

To wake up in the middle of the night, covered of sweat and perceiving life too short could score between 150 and 300 miliphobos. A visit to the doctor involving cancer diagnose might peak up to the 900 mPh.

I believe that, if these kind of measurements could be done, members of the occupy movement, present in the biennial and praised in the introductory text for their weakness, would score much higher now than few years ago, when most people in this side of the world was looking at offers on mortgages and loans. I suspect also that the marks of the artists in the Biennial would be higher than these of those artists, object-makers, in their “panic rooms”.

As a general effect however, the use of this methodology would produce an overall lowering of the fear rates. For instance, a person just newly heard about his invasive cancer might experience a little reduction in his levels of fear if advised that, in such circumstances, it is “completely normal” to score 900 mPh. This is a diverting quality of science that can be using for deflecting fear in a wide range of situations.

5) Is fear that bad?

 

There is a proverb that passes as traditional Chinese wisdom and says: when the finger points to the moon, the idiot looks at the finger.

While many are enjoying the beautiful ornamental qualities of the moon (or engineering how to get there) there is always an artist looking at the finger. Who is pointing and why, is more relevant to artists’ interests than the aesthetic experience one can draw from moon contemplation, or the practical approach to conquest it. To look at the moon is very pleasant, and it is nicely reassuring to delegate the decision about what is worthwhile to look at in somebody assumed to know it well. Shame on artists.

Considering how it supports power and it removes anxieties, this proverb must have been written by somebody in the Forbidden City advertising agency. If there is a domain in which uncertainty and fear are doomed to be forgotten, is that of advertising. Same to sell products, national identity, ideology or legitimacy, fear is better to be left off. The very idea of advertising seems to send this only message: there is nothing to fear of. Once this is established customers can relinquish control, in the group or in indulgence, no pretext to worry or to keep your money safe. I guess that is the reason why commercials of insurance companies have such bad time accommodating the inspirational thrust to buy their products within nonthreatening narratives, with astonishing high rates of childishly stupid results.

Fear must be bad because everyone and everything is trying to make people forget it. Of course is the industry of entertainment and advertising, but also most of other activities, disciplines, daily life routines, cultural devices, ideologies, armed forces, media corporations and security services are busy all the time making us relegate fear to oblivion or trying to persuade us of that. All these are instruments of power, which functions more effectively on fearless individuals.

The idea that power acts currently by mechanisms of repression and ideology was made clearly obsolete by Foucault, when he said that these are not but extreme strategies of maintaining power. When power is able to produce reality doesn’t need to scare people off anymore (not at daily bases at least). Power is exerted not by acting directly into individuals but by producing a technical transformation in them, a normalization, a process that has become the modern form of slavery.

Our societies are built into this structural fear, the technical environment in which we move and that permeates all our existence. It would not appear in the scale of phobos but like a constant tone, like this background noise that is always registered in the recordings however good is your microphone. It doesn’t feel like fear.

 

6) Vividly Recall Fear

 

There is a certain amount of fear contained in the action of adjusting your seat belt. As far as it is an automated gesture, as far as it is understood as the fear of being caught without wearing it, as far as the belt is of the latest model, much safer, that fear doesn’t grow conscious. There is as well certain amount of fear in the way an iPod or a vacuum cleaner are operated. Structural fear is made of a fabric of mini-fears, surrogate fears administrated in homoeopathic doses, more often concealed (forgotten).

You HAVE to be some kind of rocket scientist (to be absorbed by abstract speculations about science and technology, how to get to the moon) to do not easily realize that the one and only fear is that of dying. Only one fear to forget, one fear to remember.

Even if evident, this all-time-true fear is quite difficult to comprehend. It only holds in the body for a little while and then moves a bit further. The ability of bringing this fear back is what primarily constitutes art specificity, it is what makes possible triggering the chain of processes art experiences involves, to which artists are so addicted. Art helps to reconnect the life we live with the death that operates in it in a stealthy manner. There are many proxy fears that keep up deflecting attention from the real one, and which are growing exponentially to block any possible fissure. Art techniques have to be developed, in exponential fashion as well, in order to overcome mini-fear’s narcotic effect and to procure the break through artists are looking for. Even the most extreme consciousness of doom threatens to degenerate into idle chatter (This is Adorno about how to recall horror). Art recalls fear vividly (from vivere).

To keep a continuous flow of fear art has, as well, to resist succumbing at it, but this is something that many other approaches to life have in common, and which specificity is, perhaps, the very fact of confronting fear.

There are many places and situations where the ability to bring back fear is worthless and in which perhaps art would have to act differently, or simply art cannot be possible (experiences of intellectuals in Auschwitz might put that clear). But in the critical realm and in the debate forums of this globalized world, fear is conspicuous only by its absence. Forget Proxy Fear.

 

7) Pragmatic art

 

Artists performing within this tension of regaining but resisting fear need to keep every single aspect of art uncertain. This applies particularly to its function: which results are intended and which benefits to bear. The outcome of art endeavours is not only to be unexpected, but even (for the sake of uncertainty) irrelevant.

Finally here the title might become consistent with the proposal of the show: the biennial exhibits “art that actually works, that makes its mark on reality and opens a space where politics can be performed”, the director speaks of art as “a tool” and the publication is reporting in “artistic pragmatism”. Indeed pragmatism is a tool to forget fear.

Assigning a practical value to art and trying to make it exact and useful, this is, stripping uncertainty out of it, pushes art to oblivion. The procedure reminds to that of the farmer committed to teach his donkey not eating, and how disappointed he got because, when he was just about to succeed, the donkey died. By calling for a fearless pragmatic art we lost the fear and then the art.

If “politics is the art of the possible” art cannot be but the politics of the impossible. The political value that can be drawn from art is contained in the fact that makes every situation uncertain, and therefore nothing is perceived as fixed. Things that were impossible are not anymore experimented as such. The most established ideas, self-evident and seamlessly embedded in the fabric of reality, are to be re-evaluated. No unmovable truth, no legitimation for a government or a state of things can hold on uncertainty. But even so, if art changes society, that’s only as a by-product, something the artist does not intend at all.

I think I will agree with “Forget Forget” but still not sure about “Fear Fear”.

8 ) Contradictions

 

The capability of causing reality to tremble would render art “the continuation of the politics by other means.” And some can argue that this assimilates art to war.

When the text of the biennial defines art as a “mechanism which works by combining the powers of the intellect and the intuition, with a desire of dissent” is suggesting that art aims are set by the establishment art is longing to dissent from.

- “We will fight the moon, if somebody points at it convincingly enough”.

An antagonist has to be selected. If the target audience can identify it as their own, it might be operatively useful enough to set up a steady frame one can hold to for art and politics. Then it can fulfil one’s psychological needs and transcendence. Nationalist politicians have use the enemy card persistently, and almost can be said that this is the material nationalism is forged on.

- Nationalist strategies are always addressed to show how good we are in comparison with others.
- Political idealistic discourses are traditionally addressed to show how evil others are and the wrong they do.
- Scientific discourses having been historically imagining a future world in which all these problems will be solved and devising methods to reach it.

Political art shall be researching about what art does wrong. About what is wrong with art, with us, and what evil we do. In other words, art is first and foremost an internal process of recognition and enlightenment.

What it feels wrong with the message of the biennial is that it is projected by public relation techniques, that it praises seduction as a tool art should master. It means to affirm that the problem with seduction, with power, with effectivity, can be reduced to the question of their correct use. But propaganda has its own agenda and if it is used for well-meaning political purposes always backfires. It has already invalidated traditional politics which are incapable of addressing social problems anymore (and thus the need for different approaches). The type of power the biennial affirms to be against has set its first line of defence at the very title of the show.

Even if many books have been already printed, interviews and reviews published, even if there are for sure good reasons for it, and it has everything been prepared with the best of the intentions, I would encourage the curators to choose a different title.

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18- Artists, authors and/or brands.

When talking about or reading on artists many times their names are used as brands, as a way of putting limits to a set of phenomenon that share some characteristics, the most important of them being “originated by whom” and what we call “style”.

I made a remark on this sense after a conversation I witnessed in which the speakers I thought were referring to artists as if they were brands. They were running into problems that they discussed there, derived from this very fact. I pointed it out with the intention of elucidating, but I think my comment might have been taken as hostile. To use the word “brand” in conversations with and about curators seems to be intended always to say that every one of them is a PR commercial bastard. They might be or not such thing, but that wasn’t implied (consciously at least) on my remark.

As a reply I got a question: if “brand” in my comment cannot be just substituted by “author”. I wasn’t ready for an answer.

I just thought “authorship” is coming from inside, while “branding” is something that describes the exterior. Yesterday Agamben came to my help when I was reading The Remnants of Auschwitz.

“Author” originally is who “authorizes”, who gives legitimacy. The author empowers and assumes responsibility on the deed. The author comes after the object, to certificate it and to confirm it.

Auctor signifies the witness insofar as his testimony always presupposes something -a fact, a thing or a word- that preexist him and whose reality and force must be validated or certified”.

The “brand” gives identity to the event, object, phenomenon, make it belong to a group of things that share some characteristics, one of them might or might not be to have been authorized by the same person. By separating things from the continuum on regard to certain characteristics, it creates their identity.

Does the brand empower the art work? Does the name of an artist assume responsibility of an art work?

I would say that art works cease having author as soon as the artist who takes responsibility stops doing that, by death in most of cases, but also by abandonment or alteration. After the disappearance of the artist as an author only the brand remains. The reason for the brand to exist is to protect value, cultural, intellectual, aesthetical or economic value, whatever gets more important at each time.

 

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17- Save the Nukes!

I have drawn this image at the beginning of the 80’s. I was very happy with the idea: approaching a theme in a way that nobody would use, not the people in favour, not the people against. When there are two different positions completely opposed anything you do or say is interpreted by both of the parts as being attacking or defending a strategic position. But there are images and ideas that, like this one, have the forces so well balanced that achieve puzzling results. This was distributed as a postcard. Another postcard of the time with the same formula had a caption in the middle: NO TO RACISM! YES TO TORTURE!

This is the use of a “Double Bind Irony”. If “irony” is to say something with the intention of stating the opposite, this “DBI” is saying two opposite statements none of which is intended to convey the straight meaning the words contain. In a situation in which your opinion is immediately labelled and neutralized the only way to make a difference is to launch a message in which the opinion has been surgically removed. The absence of purpose on a message creates a void in which new reflections on the theme can grow. This has been the role art has been playing for long time in relation with social issues.

I believe this function of the art is not essential, but a by-product of the artistic experience. But in the past, especially during the avant-gardes, this approach has made practical life of the artists much easier: in terms of gaining the necessary visibility to earn a living without too much compromise, and in the way of having a public position regarding political and social issues without too much compromise, without being force to accept bluntly a post in one of the trenches (whatever the battle is fought for).

Since this postcard was released things have change drastically on the Media and the Energy worlds and straight statements about nuclear energy have got so much power (atomic power) and the tools of PR campaigns went so crazy, that it is difficult to consider media messages on this theme as ironic. Irony simply has been abolished. So the image has been shifting its balance depending to which side the wind blows (if to the Pacific or to the island).

Nowadays an artist who wants to have a place in society, and this is now compulsory to earn a living, has to take side. Or at least this is the message that the political, social and technological systems are projecting ubiquitously nonstop until it becomes true.

 

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16- Pending Boycott

We are against products with a price tag finished in 99. We are against the products, the prices and the sellers. A global information strategy involving social networks, voluntaries, grass root media campaigns encouraging people to boycott products with those prices could easily put such pressure on the commercial world that soon all the prices will finish on 98.

These prices are upsetting. It is as if you can read in the mind of the person at the cashier: We put this price just to play with your psychological weakness, and it is easy to see how well it works.

I have the same feeling when I go to galleries and museums and see works that have an “unusual” display setting. When, let’s say, a collection of drawings or photo prints, instead of simply framed and hanged on the wall, are part of a structure that set them 45 degrees with the floor, or coming out of the wall in a perpendicular manner, or hanging from standalone bulky frames that in the shape of a room divider.

The art world is full of non-specially relevant information displayed in such a way that makes you think that it is something very valuable, that it is more than actually it is. Put the information bluntly and you will see that it is nothing but the display (which means: nothing but design).

And it is put in this way to fool you up, evidently as in the 99 tag. And works as well as the tag does.

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15 – Creators

Artists and creators. Everyone creative enough is an artist. Artists are a type of creators. Creation is something beautiful. Creation helps people to be happy. Creation will make the nation more competitive. Creation might save Europe. Creation make products more valuable, put meaning on the products and meaning is precious.  

Artists are not creators.

The key word in art is DESTRUCTION. There is creation too, ok, but just as a by product.

Art practice is not productive.

 To the barricades. 

Sauve qui peut la vie.

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14- Hiroshima/Wendover mirroring

I visited Hiroshima few months ago, within the shooting trip I made to Japan for my project TTZZ. Hiroshima was not the “target” of my visit (I wanted to record the Akashi bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world) but I have been many years looking for visiting there.

Hiroshima’s camera of commerce.

 

In Hiroshima I went to the Museum for the Peace. There is a religious silence in the rooms. The development of the bomb is explained in detail on the panels and videos. The suffering of the people is portrayed in the most respectful way. Of course people visiting are interested in the technical aspects of the bombing, in the fate, in the devastation… there is something voyeuristic about it too.

Wendover is the place where the American heavy bomber crews were trained during WWII. The bomb Little Boy was loaded there into the Enola Gay. In the museum next to the airfield the training and the preparations of the atomic bomb are portrayed heroically. The display passes through all the details of the bomb too, but the story is disconnected from the results of the operation. “The project was executed successfully” is the predominant message.

Model on the small museum of the airfield.

 

I did not realize before I arrived the similarities between the two visits.

Both places are sad. Hiroshima has a new life, new neighbourhoods, but there is something omnipresent on the visit. Wendover is a cluster of casinos, hurriedly planted in Nevada, at the other side of the state limit. Many of the buildings are in ruins and have been vandalized. Hiroshima conserves one building, “the camera of commerce”, that resisted the blast and is has been preserved half in ruins. Life continues.

The Enola Gay hangar.

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13- Art/Museum Relationship Development

- There is need for art, so there is art.

- There is art, art is fascinating, art must be preserved, so there are museums.

- The biggest recognition for an art work is to be in the museum, so there is a feedback effect that provoques a museification of art works, so art works are museum custom made.

- Art that looks apropriated for museums doesn’t feel like art anymore, so artists start making art which its main characteristic is that cannot be shown on a museum.

-Museums do not get feeling of art anymore, but just of profane objects, they try to catch up.

Ridiculous not due to the desire of being modern but due to the fear of being obsolete.

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12- Ruiz

 Toutes les choses que je fais en relation avec l´art me donnent une grande joie. Néanmoins je ne vois pas pourquoi tout le monde s´occupe d´art, lui demande des comptes, et à son sujet laisse libre cours à sa propre sotisse. Les Musées sont autant de mensonges, les gens qui s´occupent d´art sont pour la plupart des imposteurs.

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11- With Friends like Art Fairs

Art fairs worldwide are not only for the money and business. They organize many events parallel to the ones stictly directed to the sale of the works (or to the sale of space to the galleries for the sell of the works). There is an always increasing number of conferences, symposiums, lectures, series of performances, commisions, project spaces, curated shows, etc. We have seen this on ARCO, which is about to open its doors.

It is such an altuistic and educational job they do, that different art funding bodies, govermental and private, collaborate with them for the prduction of these events.

Actually art fairs suck until drainage the sources of money. A big chunk of money is diverted to administration and cocktails so the efficiency of the money is scarce. They concentrate all these events in one weekend, so leave empty the art life in town for the rest of the year. But the most important is that the artists taking part in these events or getting that commissions are always represented by a gallery. It is not thinkable that the art fairs will give money and opportunities to artists out of the market.

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9- Art Logistics

There is one statistic about facts of war that I do not know where is coming from or within which parameters is measured but nevertheless results inspiring to me. It tells about the evolution in the last century wars of the relationship between soldiers that are in the front and have contact with action and other military personal that are in charge or logistics, administration, propaganda, etc. 

According this statistic during WWII the proportion was 1:1; during the war in Korea there were 15 people working to maintain one soldier in the front; 25 during Vietnam War and around 100 at the Gulf War, the time in which the statistic was issued.

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I like to think how this translates into the changes of forces in the art scene. For each artist “creating” now, how many people is supporting and providing? Let’s consider artists in biennials or international shows in relationship with critics, curators, designers, invigilators of museums, art historians, technicians in iron, wood and plastics, computer programmers, journalists, magazine directors, advertisers, gallery staff, art works transportation, lawyers, auctioneers, etc. How was the relationship when Duchamp presented his Fountain? How was in the times of the abstract expressionism? The amount of people per artist increased rapidly during the 80s, for sure and has just been getting higher and higher till now.true_army_heroes-1004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The artist/soldier has to make worth the efforts of these people, has to make good use of the equipment that has been provided to her/him, has to avoid put in danger their lives, the trust of all those people. A poor decision can destroy the salaries of so many… Bad art works have been banned, risky strategies forbidden, not decision can be let to the intuition, and not testing experiment is anymore possible. Those who made a small mistake there in the military school have their careers doomed for ever. Only targets that worth are hit.

I wrote these four paragraphs some five years ago. I was annoyed about the corporativization of the art world. Now these days there are lots of budget cuts in the military realm, and certainly in the art scene. Are these cuts proportional in all the occupations or has the balance between “practising artists” and their “support team” changed? Are less or more artists per art professionals as result of the crisis?

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7- Sustainable Art

ART GALLERIES

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately this association doesn’t exists. It belongs to the same fiction genre than “The Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter”.

However, if taking part on such utopia were possible, the members should comply with these conditions 

 

1. Not attending to Art Fairs

Not as sellers, buyers or glimpsers. Art fairs have a lot of negative effects in the quality of art, in the perception that general public has of art, in the cultural life of cities, in the justly conditions of competition between artists and galleries and, last but not least, in climate change.

Art Fairs decrease the quality of art by a combination of factors:

• As everybody know the conditions to see art works in fairs (from the point of view or art) are very bad, due to the concentration of works and people, the lack of space, etc. When art fairs become an important way not just to sell but to legitimise artists, only certain type of art that is favoured by this conditions succeeds. The legitimation by art fairs finishes bounding museums and curators, due to the pressure that put on it people that have spent money on certain artists and galleries that expect to sell more of those.

• People go to fairs with the same mind frame that to a shopping mall. The information about art that comes to the media through art fairs always associates the works directly with the price, before any other consideration. This system pre-selects the audience, and then the audience pre-selects the works, which could be very good in certain way (what is from Caesar goes to the Caesar). But in the art fairs there is massive waste of energy and resources that are drawn from other less aggressive sectors of the art scene.

• Art fairs put the decision of who is going to be seen and who isn’t in the gallery owners. Their criteria could be as good as any other, if were not marked by the fact that the main priority is to sell (to survive). This affects directly of how works are conceived and shown because the need of the system of objectuality, style and repetition and the consequent rejection of experimental approaches. It must be repeated that, as the museums are bound more and more to the rankings in art fairs, artists not represented by a gallery (we may say “not under the pressure of market priorities”) are not likely to be seen neither inside nor outside the art fairs.

Art Fairs have a negative impact in cities cultural life.

• The effect of an art fair in a city is devastating. It tends to concentrate in few days of activity the efforts of all the art agents of the city. An art fair encourages corporate collectors to make all their purchases in the same days (due to the promotional effectivity); it makes a strong call for international visitors, who in a healthy cultural environment would be visiting regularly during the whole season and that now only attend to the city and its exhibitions during the fair. Therefore it pushes the public and private art galleries to allocate most of the resources on those days to catch all the international visitors and collectors, letting the rest of the art season unattended and underfunded. The media only find noticeable things happening during the fair, to the spectacular disproportion with the rest of the year events. All those conditions feed back each other.

Art Fairs are filthy, destroy a lot of natural resources and have an embarrassing CO2 footprint.

• Recycling and reusing policies are not considered in packaging, production of booths or installation of works in art fairs.

• Works and people are travelling here and there like if they where going to see new art or to show new art to other people.

• What’s the point of a work made in New York, for a Spanish gallery, which brings it to an art fair in Beijing, to be bought by a Los Angeles collector?

2. Promoting the selling and buying Local Art

A gallery in a town should sell mainly artists living and working in the physical and cultural area in which the gallery is located. This would benefit people involved in many aspects.

• It prevents franchising, having galleries in small towns depending of the decisions of the main galleries, receiving second class art works to be sold to the so-considered second class collectors.

• It allows a unique art scene in each city, with its interests and particular views.

• It increases the equal access to the market of all artists and galleries. Therefore promotes diversity and more space for artists for which experimentation is a key aspect of practising art.

Curators and collectors travelling to see the works in different places would be more efficient than works, always by the same artists, invading every single corner of the art empire, like if it were Hollywood blockbusters.

3. Galleries associated to the AGFASD should sign the Pedestals Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Every pedestal put under or around and art work decreases the chances of surviving of galleries and artists no belonging to the international art lobbies. Examples of pedestalization are: 400 grams invitation cards, to send by FedEx information that can be emailed, luxurious spaces in the high value real state areas, bulky constructions for minimal results (if you are guilty, you know what all this means). Only good art survives in a no frills art environment.

Pedestals are used by lobbies to increase the bet up to a point in which small galleries more adventurous in their decisions cannot cover. Why there is not an Art Antitrust Commission, an institution to prevent dumping and predatory pricing practices in the art market?

Good art works are like juicy vegetables: no fertilizers, pesticides, packaging… Avoid big producers…

Pedestals maintain artificially the value of objects that do no have one anymore. When the object lost its value, what keeps value is the “way” in which is presented. “Style” becomes a value.

4. Promote “patronage” against “investment”

Art ecology responsible galleries should appeal to patronage instead to greed. The collector should be encourage to take part in the art in the present time, in the action of creating it, regardless what the value of the work could be in the future, regardless if the work will exist in any form after the art event has happened.

 

This association has to remain the realm of fiction because gallery owners accepting these premises will perish as gallerists and will become artists, making impossible the association.

Please send adhesions, proposals of collaboration and militancy, insults and threats to savetheart.com

Art Galleries for Art Sustainable Development is not endorsed by the GGOPG (Greedy Gallery Owners Pressure Group)

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6- A Ghost from the Past

Yesterday I attended in Amsterdam to a presentation of a New York based Dutch artist. She shown some videos she has made in the States in the last few years.

There were some videos using footage of Hollywood films as Rear Window and The Searchers. Then some political videos in which the word “OIL” had a predominant role.

But then the image of George Bush appeared. I cannot imaging more dated work that one in which a speech of George Bush is edited in a way everybody can see how evil he is (was).

I guess many of those videos have been removed from compilations.

I would not dare to use an image of Bush to illustrate this post.

Yesterday at www.ironicsans.com the author of the site David Friedman proposed an idea for a sitcom (below). I just wonder if the story can happen at the White House and become a video art installation:

1) A sitcom about a ghost and a zombie… of the same guy.

In the pilot episode, Joe’s roommate Ted has a terrible accident and dies. He’s buried in the old cemetery by the town’s nuclear plant. A few days later Ted’s ghost comes home, much to Joe’s surprise. Later that day, Ted’s zombie corpse shows up to. How will the three of them get along, with all the problems inherent to being a zombie, a ghost, and a single twenty-something grad school student, in an apartment that was just large enough for two people? Hilariously.

I only have one line written so far: “Hey! The brain in the fridge was for biology class!”

Has there ever been a story about a ghost and zombie of the same person before? Does that violate the rules of undead characters in fiction?

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5- Language Learning

I flew from Berlin to Amsterdam few days ago with Transavia, a Dutch airline. I have flown with KLM in the past but I do not remember to be watching monitors inside the plane giving the pre-flight safety demonstration in Dutch.

I pay attention to the words and as I know very well the text and rhythm of the instructions in English I could identify clearly many Dutch words that were new for me. I thought that flight safety instructions videos will make a perfect image of a contemporary Rosetta Stone.

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4.- Outer Space Life

Among many messages with unsolicited information about Art Basel Miami I received one, sent by artists, which subject is:

Wanted Works: Remember this Artstar who never made it to Art Basel Miami

The art world is still behaving as if the art fairs are the centre of the art scene. It was easy to maintain that fantasy some years ago, because money helps to change the perception of reality. It has been for long time already, if not forever, that Art never make it to art fairs.

Art is captured in the fields, and put in cages and transported to the fairs. When the boxes are opened at the fairs, there is only a little puddle on the bottom.

It is nice to see how some restaurants in the Kyoto area have rejected to be included in the Michelin guide.

http://www.japantoday.com/category/shukan-post/view/prominent-kyoto-restaurants-say-no-to-michelin

“Our only concern is our customers, whether they come from next door, who dine at our restaurant and enjoy our food.”

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Michelin and Art Basel pretend that the restaurants and the art world respectively cannot exist outside of their control.

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3- Democracy Free Environments

It has happened in two different Science Fiction movies I have seen recently that there is a crucial scene in which a space ship crew has to take a difficult decision that would change the course of the mission, of the film. In both cases the problem is explained and the members of the crew discuss pros and cons. When the conversation reaches a dead end, somebody propose to vote. Then the person in charge says that the ship is not a democracy and there is not voting, that he (in both cases “he”) will decide and let know to all the new destination.

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Nobody complains. That’s right, as we know that authority is important for the survival of a ship of any kind.

In former times spaceship crews of fiction films were organised military (i.e. Star Treck) or commercially (i.e. Alien). The crew in 2007 Sunshine  and in 2009 Virtuality are scientist, specialists in their own fields and maintaining a very casual relationship between them. They are working together to save the world.sunshine3

 

 

 

 

 

 

I guess this scene could not have been possible (allowed) in times in which Democracy was at stake, when dark powers in the other side were trying to get over it. The new trend is perhaps, abolish it from inside, and give the capability to decide to those who are in the know. In both cases the decision is put in hands of the specialists in the specific elements of the question “made by the person best qualifie to understand the complexities of the problem”.

sunshine1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my view only artists and poets understand the complexities of basic problems, so they should take all decisions.

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