Blurting In A & L
Previous topic: Question 5b Next topic: Question 7
Question 6 topic started 04.07.2002; 17:44:01
last post 23.01.2003; 02:19:24
Art & Language - Question 6
04.07.2002; 17:44:01 (reads: 148697, responses: 35)
Does the discourse of Art & Language offer the frameworks relevant for an art which has abandoned the research project of normative aesthetics? Liefert der Diskurs von Art & Language die relevanten Denkrahmen für eine Kunst, die die Suche nach einer normativen Ästhetik aufgegeben hat?
Art & Language - Answer 6/1
04.07.2002; 17:44:24 (reads: 73804, responses: 0)
Again, which discourse? That which is presented in the Annotations was not a framework, or even a "search" for a framework. It was the work and the frame together. Although I didn't see it in those terms at all. I felt we were having a series of interesting and important conversations; we were dealing with issues and resources alien to the surrounding art world. We didn't necessarily want that art world to join us, or to translate our concerns into theirs. They weren't translatable at all. They were inimicable, but dialectically so. You can't theorize malingering; you use it as a rule of thumb and take it from there. We (NY) thought Indexing was unwieldy; so we embarked on the Annotations/blurtin in A&L work. It was performative; so in some sense, the relation of the Blurting in A & L text to our WORK is similar to that of Joseph Beuys' blackboards to his performative lecture. Except that we were also "performing" rationality, if you can see what I mean. Michael Corris (InvCollege@aol.com)
Art & Language - Answer 6/2
05.07.2002; 22:32:37 (reads: 72985, responses: 0)
Normative aesthetics is palpably an absurd research project. This does not mean that there is no logic of "good" and "bad", that there are no useful axiological concepts. What the indexing project implies is that discourses with artistic memories throw up surprising (artistic) reflexivities, some descriptions that turn in strangely and unexpectedly. The other thing that the indexing project sought to counter was the trivial neo-dadaism of solipsistic institutional power - a seamless hotchpotch of emotivist-pragmatist shreds that seek consumer authentication in cultural studies and its cognates. The indexing project was inaugurated on the conviction that a (necessarily) complex internal discourse was perhaps the main condition of resistance a) to institutional power, b) to passive co-option by that institutional power and c) to the masquerade of artistic authenticity that is an ideological principle of institutional power. Michael Baldwin/Mel Ramsden (ARTLANGUAGE@aol.com)
Thomas Dreher - Answer 6/3
13.07.2002; 23:57:06 (reads: 73586, responses: 0)
The answers of Michael Corris and Michael Baldwin/Mel Ramsden to question 6 give a summary/a condensed insight into the discourse of Art & Language.
Die Antworten, die Michael Corris und Michael Baldwin/Mel Ramsden auf Frage 6 gaben, fassen den Diskurs von Art & Language in knappen Einblicken zusammen. Thomas Dreher (TDreher@onlinehome.de)
Michael Corris - Answer 6/4
13.08.2002; 12:05:41 (reads: 72877, responses: 0)
Regarding the response to Question 6 by Michael Baldwin and Mel Ramsden, it seems that Indexing, unlike some other practices in Conceptual art that were strategically ranged against "institutional power", could hold out some sort of realistic promise of resistance. In terms of other similar responses generated by Conceptual art, it was far more complex. That complexity, however, was unsustainable and vulnerable. It's collapse was suprising, too, because of the way it taught some participants a real lesson about the persistence of power relations and the shape of power in a supposedly democratic environment. Not being inclined towards anarchism, Sartre has some expensive and apologetic things to say about the difference between power exercised in the name of a group and a powerful group.
Thomas Dreher - Answer 6/5
20.08.2002; 00:28:44 (reads: 74147, responses: 0)
To Michael Corris´ Answer 6/1:
a.) Blurting in A & L online presents relations between blurts as coded links, that means, as links with a determined function which says how they were linked. There are discourses on Hypertext which call the texts within the open procedures of associative indexing (via nodes and links) performative (Schneider, Tina/Smoliar, Stephen W.: Signs, Links and the Semiotics of Hypertext. In: URL: http://www.fxpal.com/PapersAndAbstracts/papers/smo97b.pdf). Is it possible that a development of Blurting in A & L online into a collaborative Hypertext project (f. e. nic-las, URL: http://www.nic-las.ch) will present a combination between a certain kind of performance and function, or are the funtions of the links the chance for a certain kind of performance?
b.) I try to translate Jürgen Habermas´ summary of the conditions of discourse:
The discursive practice is based upon "the complete reversibility of all points of views which participants can choose for their (performance of) arguments; universality in the sense of an inclusion of all persons oncerned; finally, the reciprocity of an equal acknowledgement of every person involved by all other persons." (Habermas, Jürgen: Moralbewußtsein und kommunikatives Handeln. Frankfurt am Main 1983, S.133)
The points a. and b.: Are they useful for reflections on the conditions of "`performing´ rationality"?
Thomas Dreher (TDreher@onlinehome.de)
Michael Corris - Answer 6/6
17.09.2002; 11:48:43 (reads: 72338, responses: 0)
To Thomas, Answer 6/5: a) The links between blurts are indeed coded. The coding is primitive (2 operators only) and intended to reconstruct the pragmatic dimensions of the discourse. Obviously, the reconstruction is a somewhat flattened map of the discourse. In this respect, it is a particular kind of model. There were others, viz., the "Index" projects across the pond. Hypertext introduces a fairly simple notion of performance, I think. What is always presupposed, in the background, is a domain of knowledge. Also, when you look at the blurts and their links, you don't have access to the rest of the text that formed the context of that blurt. So, we are far removed from the "mess." It could be argued that hypertext construction is performative in a constrained sense; it's an elaborate glass bead game. One of the unintended consequences of hypertextuality is that it reproduces, in a fairly economic manner, the "prison house of language" thesis. It's a monument to Derrida's dictum: "Il n'y a pas hors de texte." There are other senses of performance, of course, and these may need to be explored not via Habermas alone. Perhaps in terms of individuation and totalization. Speaking of Habermas, . . . b) By now the ideal rational conversation described by Habermas seems of little use. It seems to exist as an utopian ideal towards which all notions of a genuine public sphere should aspire. I am not sure how useful these principles would be for performing rationality. Maybe we should drop the 'rationality' part. My argument for this is simply that rationality does not adequately describe, or reconstruct, how various non-art competencies found their way into our/my world. Mel Ramsden had a knack for casting the right slogan at the right time: I think his idea of "pandemonium" as a model for learning was spot on. Lakatos criticized a history of science based on the methodology of rational reconstruction. We should learn from that. Having said this, I think that both your points are useful for reflections on the conditions of performing rationality, for helping us to decide if what the concept of rationality does is something we want done to us.
Thomas Dreher - Answer 6/7
19.09.2002; 18:42:49 (reads: 72336, responses: 0)
To Michael Corris´ answer 6/6:
Mental processes and their reconstructions in cognitive sciences/cybernetics of a second order/constructivism were points of reference for f. e. Jürgen Habermas, Niklas Luhmann and Felix Guattari. Are mental processes of rationalization and construction - as conceptualizations `we do´ - not necessary for deconstructions of systems and operations which were `done to us´? I want to argue for processes of de- and reconstructions, f. e. for interpenetrations.
I understand Mel´s use of the term "pandemonium" as metaphorical: as a way to point to circumstances with - after re- and deconstructions - not reducible multiplicities. The term "pandemonium" confuses me when I can´t reconstruct if it is used for unclear, not reconstructed circumstances or for inevitable, because not reducible multiplicities. Thomas Dreher (TDreher@onlinehome.de)
Michael Corris - Answer 6/8
02.11.2002; 12:41:02 (reads: 72752, responses: 0)
To Thomas Dreher, re: 6/7
Pandemonium is wrecking. Fuck up philosophy, fuck up art, etc. Pandemonium is not a well-behaved methodology for going on in an interdisciplinary/University world. What do you mean by a non-reducible, "inevitable" multiplicity? Michael Corris (InvCollege@aol.com)
Thomas Dreher - Answer 6/9
04.11.2002; 19:48:52 (reads: 70431, responses: 0)
Response to Michael Corris´answer 6/8:
Are you sure that the term pandemonium is not sometimes used in writings of A & L as a vanishing point or as an escape from problems which need proposals for solutions (see point one below)?
The last phrase of answer 6/7: I tried to differentiate the use of the term "pandemonium" first for a situation of chaos and for a given chaotic life-world (as a given external entity which resists conceptualizations or reconstructions) and second as a term for reconstructions which try to avoid the pitfalls of reductionism (reductions to a few postulates as axioms of one world which offer a base for deductions). Then you have alternative possibilities to reconstruct f. e. systems, their interpenetrations and networks instead of final mediations or a dominant system in a hierarchy of (sub-)systems. Only point two is relevant for me and I doubt if "pandemonium" is the best term because it implies (only for me?) the double meaning of point one and two. Thomas Dreher (TDreher@onlinehome.de)
Michael Corris - Answer 6/10
05.11.2002; 09:50:45 (reads: 71579, responses: 0)
Perhaps we can agree that reconstructions (how do you mean that?) which try to avoid the pitfalls of reductionism live outside a certain world of bureaucratized knowing and being. Pandemonium presupposes a context of teaching and learning, of mutual sharing. The historical dimensions of this discourse remain undeveloped, so you have a point that pandemonium is no longer a useful term. Michael Corris (InvCollege@aol.com)
Thomas Dreher - Answer 6/11
08.11.2002; 18:35:40 (reads: 70589, responses: 0)
To Michael Corris and his answer 6/10:
Do you like to redefine the term "pandemonium" in a manner which demonstrates that it is useful in discourses (especially in discourses on the proceedings of discourses)? Thomas Dreher (TDreher@onlinehome.de)
Michael Corris - Answer 6/12
11.11.2002; 14:36:53 (reads: 70178, responses: 0)
To Thomas, in general: your line of inquiry brings into focus the contemporary obsession with finding solutions for problems. I think that problem-solving and "going-on" have always been thought of as two different worlds by Michael and Mel. That is not to say that going-on doesn't throw up "problems" of its own, or that the general frame of going-on is not itself a kind of problem-set. But problem solving outside the contingencies of going on presents, well, a problem. How can a problem outside one's life world be solved without recourse to bureaucratic means? Michael and Mel seem to be asking: "Where do the problems come from?" It's a question that artists should ask, since so many of their problems (tasks, assignments, briefs) are either generated (institutionally) internally, or plucked from the plenum of (external?) daily life, current events, world politics, etc. To fragment problems, to construct problems from existential fragments may not be, as Michael remarked in an earlier response, teleologically strong, but at least it argues against a bureaucratic standpoint in the world. I don't know how to make a general statement out of this. That is, one that would not be trivial or self-serving. Perhaps, that's the point. Then, would it be fair to say that the avoidance of problem-solving is an horizon of escape from problems? (Your response, 6/6?) It may be interpreted as a blindness, surely. But one that has significant consequences; benefits, if you will, that outweigh the appearance of strategic retreat. Michael Corris (InvCollege@aol.com)
Thomas Dreher - Answer 6/13
11.11.2002; 22:41:11 (reads: 72486, responses: 0)
To Michael and his answer 6/12:
You wrote: "...would it be fair to say that the avoidance of problem-solving is an horizon of escape from problems?" You try to summarize my last remarks on the term "pandemonium". I prefer to relate "pandemonium" not with "strategic retreats" but with some efforts to solve problems. I don´t deconstruct your argument but I try to change the route of the discourse.
If you conceptualize processes of rationalization as an exclusion of problems which don´t fit into the reductive procedures (of modernization or whatever) then systems theory offers an alternative. Niklas Luhmann conceptualizes the processes of differenciation. They lead to autonomous systems with different capabilities to react to data input. Systems interpenetrate with the surroundings and with other systems because they are closed. These systems are open for contacts with their surroundings because they are closed. Systems theory proposes this complementarity of openness and closedness as a basic feature of generalized media of communication. This feature replaces the dichotomy of closed and open systems.
More complex autopoietic systems produce a wider sensibility to their surroundings, other systems included. Developped expansions and revisions of self differentiation (for the richness of complexity and the simplicity of abstraction) lead to more capababilities to interpenetrate with the surroundings and other systems on different levels.
You can install "pandemonium" as a term for the surroundings. But then I have to ask how you can avoid an essentialization of the external life-world as something given for observation. You can ask from a point of view of a deessentialised theory how you can expand and revise your ways to observe the world for the win of a wider sensibility to react. But no theory of observation will postulate a reality before observation, because operations of observation constitute cognitive (re)constructions of reality. Reality is not given as an external matter but it is constituted and constructed in cognitive processes (second order cybernetics).
How can you speak of an external "pandemonium" meanwhile your own observations imply a structure of the world? Are you able to observe the unobservable in another kind than with reflections on the inevitable blind spots of observation (you can´t view in every direction at once, but you can divide observation in sequenced operations)?
Maybe it is better to speak about situations where the talk of a "pandemonium" can help. Then it is more a manner to speak about experiences in the world than an argumentation. For example: We speak about objects and the reflections of light on these objects as if a three dimensional world is given, meanwhile impressionism and futurism followed the natural sciences of their time and tried to show how fluid our observations are: You have observation processes instead of a given world. [Ann.: Instead of the right or wrong ontology you differenciate between conceptualizations for the observation of the world (see Michael Baldwin contra Terry Atkinson in 1970 against a kind of criticism who knows the philosophical problems of ontology than the rest of the world)]. If we proceed with our talk of objects as if a three dimensional world is given then we use this kind of talk because of its simplicity and we must not imply any philosophical truth. If such manners to talk about the surroundings interfere or penetrate each other then ideologies can arise which provoke political situations of domination, terror etc.: Is this a situation where a talk of a "pandemonium" can be helpful? Then it is a term for processes which have to be disentangled.
This results f. e. in a deconstruction of the origins of ideologies. But deconstructions are rational processes. The methodological foundations of deconstructive operations are results of reflections on different manners to isolate different arbitrary, but coded connections. Self reflections (reflection of reflections=reflexivity) are unavoidable from a constructivistic point of view. Deconstructions of self observations are parts of cognitive operations which use reflexivity for self transformations.
This kind of deessentialism was part of the "programme" of Art & Language in the seventies (with methodic foundations which can be reconstructed and refined with the help of systems theory). The "programme" of Art & Language with its deessentialism remains relevant after the millenium.
You can actualize the discourse of Art & Language as a bridge from concept art to net.art from a point of view, which reconstructs networks not as separated but build on systems. The first two index systems (Index 01 and 02) are systems, meanwhile "Blurting in A & L" offers a network. This reconstruction of conceptual systems and networks offers a horizon of problems for a beginning of a history `from concept art to net.art´, I hope. Thomas Dreher (TDreher@onlinehome.de)
Thomas Dreher - Answer 6/14
04.12.2002; 22:18:51 (reads: 71880, responses: 0)
Mel Ramsden´s response to answer 6/13:Thomas: I don’t think the term ‘pandemonium’ tells us much. It was one of those terms floating about at the time. What it was intended to describe, or what I think it was intended to describe in 1973, was a situation where an individually narrated text or a coherent expository text, was always damaged or interrupted or besieged or derailed or somehow interpenetrated by other texts external or contingent to it. Under such circumstances all that could be managed is a short ‘blurt’ which was then embedded or compromised or unexpectedly changed or contradicted (these relations can go on and on) by other blurts. No text could have its own individual security. The little booklet ‘Blurting in A&L’ was based on a project called the Annotations (I know this is already documented here). This was deliberately set up as, I suppose as you would say, a network, containing short texts (blurts) which always related to other texts (blurts). In the resulting social and psychological mess it was hard to see what was essential, contingent, internal, external, misunderstood, etc., etc. – sort of ‘pandemonium’, in fact. The two relationships, the ‘&’ and the arrow in ‘Blurting in A&L’ are very simple. Too simple, perhaps, but anyway… Of course the ‘network’ of seven or eight participants had to be deliberately set up or staged before any of the above could operate.
There was a simple reason for staging or setting up this way of working: it was that the language fragments, the bits of paper, the speech, the blurts, had to face not an anonymous or amorphous audience of art spectators in the art world (or wherever) but other participants. This has been written about quite a bit particularly in respect of works like Index 01. The Annotations were a self-conscious attempt to try to find out more about such circumstances – working ‘in’ an index rather than indexing something previously and independently written – if you could imaging what that could be? ‘Blurting in A&L’ is the remainder of this. No claim is made for the purity, authenticity, originality, intellectual rigour, radicality, high morality or any other kind of superiority of this work. It was 1973. It was an attempt to work with what I saw, post ‘Index 01’ as the Art & Language project. I may have got this wrong, I don’t know. But I thought that to continue, Conceptual Art (and remember, such a notion was still rather precariously alive in one fantasy form or another) had to be aggressively pursued, had to seize its audience as participants rather than complicate or refine its forms – it had, to use a phrase Michael Baldwin is fond of, be ‘self-contextualizing’ – it’s internal detail had to be constructed firstly between its participants. There were and are a lot of questions and problems associated with this. They are still important. And it’s a dimension unknown not least to many of the devotees of Conceptual Art.
I don’t know how such things relate to what you call ‘net art’ (and I have to say I don’t know what that is). One thing I think I do know. Conceptual Art features in a lot of mainstream art books these days. The trouble is that it has almost entirely been reduced to, or captured as, pictures, photographs, installational graphic design, etc. But there is another side to Conceptual Art which doesn’t reduce to pictures, photographs and installational graphic design and I suppose the model I know about here would be Art & Language work from, say 1972-76. This work does appear to have been taken up by those who are concerned with ‘net art’ or ‘digital culture’ or whatever it might be known. This is, to my knowledge, mainly you, T. Dreher. I have my suspicions about faddish technologies-meets-art. Nevertheless (and whatever it all means) those who actually read some of the indexing material, who look for the relations inside the covers of works, say, like ‘French Army’ or ‘Hot-Cold’ or even ‘Blurting in A&L’ gives me at least some kind of hope. I suppose this means that this work has to somehow be used, developed, criticised, rather than admired, appreciated, contemplated, etc. Nothing new in that. On the other hand those who just look at the covers of this work, those who reproduce only the covers of this work are not entirely missing the point. Conceptual Art had a past in Modernism, its material nature and its material conditions, even its ‘taste’ are not irrelevant. It was still material space-occupying stuff. This is worth bearing in mind before we rush headlong and intoxicated into ‘the beginning of a history: from Conceptual art to net art’. Mel Ramsden (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thomas Dreher - Answer 6/15
06.12.2002; 03:06:11 (reads: 71351, responses: 0)
To Mel and his answer 6/14:
1. The "pandemonium":
You don´t use the term "pandemonium" for situations which conceptual frameworks have to accept as pretheoretical `given´ entities. You use "pandemonium" for non-directional processes which change in the state of a network with new contributions because the possible relations between the parts change. In the case of "Blurting In A & L" the meanings of a complex of "blurts"/Annotations change for the observer/reader with each new "blurt"/"annotation" which he reads when he follows the links in the "-->" and "&" sections. In the process of the writing in 1973 every contributor could react with new "blurts"/Annotations to the present state of possible relations between blurts (the links came later). In contemporary collaborative projects (f. e. nic-las, http://www.nic-las.ch , described in http://iasl.uni-muenchen.de/links/NANL.html) the difference between the writer and the reader vanishes and the "wreader" is able to produce new Annotations and new links.
"Blurting In A & L" is constructed as "associative indexing" (Vanevar Bush: As We My Think, http://www.theatlantic.com/unbound/flashbks/computer/bushf.htm) via "labeled links" ("typisierte Verknüpfungen", Rainer Kuhlen: Kuhlen, Rainer: Hypertext Ein nicht-lineares Medium zwischen Buch und Wissensbank. Berlin/Heidelberg u. a. 1991, S.34,106,111,118,246,339) and provokes reading procedures which follow associations. The Annotations were written in a dehierarchised process of "advanced footnoting" (Jürgen Fauth: Poles in Your Face, http://orca.st.usm.edu/mrw/1995/06-jurge.html). It is dehierarchised because no primary text for a secondary level of comments or footnotes exists. The footnotes or Annotations constitute the text via "labeled links" or via pathways which are chosen by the reader. This is a short reconceptualization of "Blurting In A & L online" with terms of the discourse on hypertext (for a wider discussion: T.D.: Art & Language & Hpertext, http://iasl.uni-muenchen.de/links/NAAL.html). other times allow other readings...
3. "networks" and "systems":
I hesitate to use the concepts of systems of "radical constructivism" for net projects. The characteristics of self organizations of closed systems are not helpful here or lead to very artificial adaptations of systems theory to net conditions. Networks resist reconstructions as systems whose criteria of closedness are the principles for adaptability in changing contexts. The openness via the self organized closedness of systems don´t define relevant net conditions of wreaders.
The software conditions of networks follow criteria of closed systems: Networks combined with telecommunication are possible because different systems constitute different levels of a new system of functions. Functions and their use for the presentation of signs constitute networks: A social context constituted by net conditions.
I can´t (re)conceptualize these networks without recursions to systems: The software functions of collaborating systems constitute the open interactive possibilites of net projects. Back to Art & Language and the indexing projects of 1972/73: Filing systems (compare Krajewski, Markus: Zettelwirtschaft. Die Geburt der Kartei aus dem Geiste der Bibliothek. Berlin 2002) and printed matter are used for the organisation of information as systems and networks. Only the last one opens the index systems or databases to procedures of writing. Meanwhile the systems Index 01 and Index 02 constitute cards with texts, indices as a reference system and value systems with formal rules, the network "Blurting in A & L" offers Annotations as "nodes" of "links": your "pandemonium"? "Browsing" (like cows on a pasture) between Annotations provokes associations which may lead creative readers to the development of new systems but the relations between associations are only collected in two types of links as nets with closer or looser relations. These nets are not systematized by rules of formal logic meanwhile the value system of the first two index systems follow such rules.
4. "From Conceptual Art to net.art":
The term Conceptual Art is repeated several times in discussions on net.art but the usual misunderstandings are repeated, too. I have no indications which could proof that Net artists know the projects of Art & Language which could be useful for their own concepts. Net projects of artists and programmers (with artistic or non-artistic intentions) changes my view of early Conceptual Art in a way that I have to notice differences between my point of view and the contemporary practice of some Conceptual Artists in the exhibition context. I have the same problems from my point of view (looking from net projects back to Conceptual projects) when you remember me, that I should not exclude "material conditions" and "taste". Digital conditions provoke other reconceptualizations of relations between material and digital procedures than the seventies. Some works of the seventies win (Blurting In A & L) meanwhile other new works confuse me especially when I have to compare material with digital fakes & plagiarisms (I prefer net plagiarism as a digital consequence of the production of neoist manifestoes via plagiaristic procedures. I prefer the plagiarism of www.0100101110101101.org.I discussed it in http://iasl.uni-muenchen.de/links/lektion11.html).
And net conditions offer new possibilities for activism (activism/hacktivism/artivism). The writing practice in "The Fox", "Artists Meeting for Cultural Change" and the political context of the seventies constitute a relevant background in a time with changed global conditions. The actual retreat of Art & Language from a criticism of the digital conditions of globalization and their ignorance of net plagiarism can´t help here. Your contemporary practice (material fakes and - until now - too simple conceptualizations) makes it more difficult to find readers of relevant Conceptual projects. To find readers for Conceptual projects is today as difficult as it ever was.
And today it is difficult to motivate former and contemporary members of A & L to collaborate in net discussions about their own projects! And their non-collaboration makes it much more difficult to find (w)readers. That is the real and disturbing situation!!! Thomas Dreher (TDreher@onlinehome.de)
Michael Corris - Answer 6/16
07.12.2002; 16:01:32 (reads: 69437, responses: 0)
In reply to Mel's 6/14: I agree with you assessment of what is and what is not of value in terms of Conceptual art, Art & Language practices, ca. 72-76, and net.art. And I said as much in at least two public presentations on Conceptual art; one at the V&A in September, and one at the University of Minnesota this past month. As you are well aware, it was Robert Hobbs who raised the issue of Conceptual art and "taste" in his text "Affluence, Taste, and the Brokering of Knowledge: Notes on the Social Context of Early Conceptual Art", that you read, and is being published in "Conceptual Art" (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2004). Prior to Hobbs's critical text, analyses of the decisions behind the selection of typefaces used by Conceptual artists Larry Weiner and Joey Kosuth appeared in Frieze magazine, at least 5 or 6 years ago. I am not entirely comfortable to annex the early history of Conceptual art to a species of cultural studies, but it is clear that conventional historicist accounts of Conceptual art are inadequate when it comes to the issues you raise: Conceptual art as, in your words, space-occupying stuff.
With regard to net.art, I confess a similar lack of knowledge, although my discussion with Thomas have enlarged my horizon, as has my relation to the editors of MUTE magazine. An important point to bear in mind is the difficulty that many net.art practitioners have in separating "form" and "function". One of the perennial problems we faced in NY during the 1970s, as I recall, was the problem of display. By making display problematic, we faciliated a move into rather specialist areas of information retrieval. How was it that we avoided being pickled in our own systems? Perhaps it is closer to the truth to say that we kept on working on systems — from "Handbooks" to "Workbooks"; from the conversational encounter, through annotations, blurts, bxal-ing, going-on, pandemonium, paradigm shift, pathways, to viewer participation — until they became so baroque or top-heavy that they imploded. Don't you agree, Mel, that had we made an apriori judgement about the use of such information retrieval technologies, or modal logics, etc., etc., much of the work, discussions, and interesting discoveries would not have taken place?
I also think that Thomas has a point about the gap between your rhetoric of participation and the nature of the current work. At the same time, I would argue that the gap is a real consequence of your pursuit of what amounts to a greater good: the index as boundary condition. I had referred to it previously as a central feature of your "ruralist" idyll. It seems, unexpectedly, that "indexicality" and "net pathways" are as incompatible (potentially) as ruralism and cosmopolitanism. The "lagging" dialectic between interior/exterior, A&L/participants is both a symptom and a cause of this gap. Michael Corris (InvCollege@aol.com)
John Abbate - Answer 6/17
10.12.2002; 04:09:24 (reads: 69032, responses: 0)
In the exchange between Mel Ramsden and Thomas Dreher (answers 6/14 and 6/15 above) it seems that two distinct moments (or readings) of Conceptualism are being evoked and brought into conflict: 1) The radicalism of early Conceptual Art, resident in its engagement with politics and its disavowal of the aesthetic framing conditions inherent to the Modernist paradigm—a negation that Thomas seems to want to propose as an historical antecedent and potential model for the expansion (collapse?) of art into activism on the net, unhindered by conventional aesthetic notions of materiality, taste, object-hood, etc; and 2) Conceptual Art as a moment defined by the logic of Modernism itself, and intimately tied to the story of painting—a reading that characterizes Conceptual Art according to the crucial position it can be made to occupy in the historical narrative of the art object. The later work of Art & Language, through its continuing romance with painting, appears to emphasize a concern with this second reading, or at least a preference for reenacting this moment of the death/disappearance of painting-as-the-modernist-organ-of-sensuous-pleasure. (Isn't that what the insertion of canvases into large steel boxes in "Index 11, Background, Incident, Foreground" was really about?). I think that both these moments/readings were constitutive for early Conceptual Art, however incompatible they seem now. The rhetoric of "dematerialization" was perhaps the myth that sustained the contradictions.
Thomas Dreher - Answer 6/18
11.12.2002; 00:43:11 (reads: 68989, responses: 0)
To John and his answer 6/17:
Dear John, you meet the point in question: You wrote an incredible good answer.
The reading of Conceptual Art backward from a point of view of (reconceptualizations of) net.art (Michael Corris´ interesting proposal: From net.art to Conceptual Art) leads to some central conceptual points especially in the early work of Art & Language: Models for the exemplification of sign functions and its social consequences in a criticism of the art context: A critical reading of the established art criticism allows to explicate the ideologized implicit bindings/(hidden) links between the economics of the art market and the use of media in art (presentations in exhibitions). The early seventies with their social criticism of the art context and the late seventies with their turn to problems of relations between problems of the art context and studio production mark the hinge between two kinds of collaborations within Art & Language and between the two (willful mis)understandings of Conceptual Art, which you reconstruct in answer 6/17.
It is strange in this conversation that I am the art historian, who argues for a return to conceptual relevant problems from a point of view of the possible uses of new media (digitalisation, telecommunication, time, interaction/participation, copyleft), meanwhile today artists with a Conceptual past (here Mel Ramsden) want to strengthen the values of material forms of presentation: A return to the authentic art work? In the case of Baldwin/Ramsden´s practice: I hope not. Concerning formal questions of artistic visualization: There are a lot of projects in net.art and webdesign which provoke a search for a language to describe and reconceptualize them. There are formal problems (in the sense of visual phenomena which imply interesting reconceptualizations of a visual culture within inter-/transmedia) enough (much more than in earlier postwar works?) but they are not framed into a Home of art.
Members of Art & Language (Baldwin/Ramsden) conceptualize the index projects as a home for homeless art. This Home as an archive for presentations in exhibitions never existed for net.art - and it doesn´t exist for performance art except in some curatorial manners which somehow want to deal with them in manners which are equal or similar to forms of presentation for documents of social movements in exhibitions. This practice can be described as a managing of documents via the development of displays/environments/contexts which provoke ways of reading/interpreting the (relations between) documents. Curators follow the slogan "museumization integrates everything" either in a bureaucratic manner and `do their job´ (which leads to a conservation of separated objects) or they integrate a reflection of different kinds of museumization into their forms of presentation: The `dead´ lay-out as a concept which the observer `vivifies´ via reconceptualization.
Is the programmatic website with a link list to net projects and an explication of f. e. relations of/between software, net conditions and net projects a Home like an exhibition or is it only one frame within a lot of windows/doors for a passage of dates? Does it escape problems of "museumization" or is it inevitable to renew/renovate them under net conditions?
The content management system of ZKM subverts my intentions: It substitutes my home with quotation marks by Home with the capital H and with a link to the Homepage of "Blurting in A & L online". The software forces me to ask: Is this homepage a Home or is this nonsense? The term homepage and the URL adresses with the ends `home´ or `homepage´ are misleading in our context. Thomas Dreher (TDreher@onlinehome.de)
Michael Corris - Answer 6/19
11.12.2002; 21:50:29 (reads: 69544, responses: 1)
Dear John, I, too, found your response [6/17] spot on. The migration and eventually fractionation of these two positions has been a preoccupation of mine for the past several years. Some of my concerns will be published as introductory notes to a collection of newly-commissioned/recently published texts on Conceptual art that I have edited for Cambridge University Press (forthcoming 2004).
I should like to add one point: even though "dematerialization" seems to cloak these two contradictory notions of Conceptual art, the project of criticizing dematerialization did not only yield clear criteria for choosing one position over the other. In fact, such critical work historically cleared the ground for a number of possibilities within Conceptual art. This is something like the state of the universe one second after the Big Bang.
Michael Corris (InvCollege@aol.com)
John Abbate - Answer 6/20
16.12.2002; 02:54:34 (reads: 68389, responses: 0)
Dear Thomas, I think you are probably best placed among us to answer the difficult questions you pose (in answer 6/18 above). Is there really something intrinsic to the Internet that will allow it to evade the problems of "museumization" that you outline? Or is it a medium as susceptible to the machinations of vested bureaucratic interests as any other? As to a "return to the authentic art work" in the contemporary practice of Baldwin/Ramsden, I think that is unlikely, given that their work is infected with the same relentless post-modern reflexivity, doubt and suspicion that typifies the general condition of the image in art today. This tendency may have achieved a certain level of orthodoxy itself, but I still think that it would be a mistake for critics to frame it as a regression in the form of a new mode of "authenticity".
Thomas Dreher - Answer 6/21
16.12.2002; 21:37:52 (reads: 70723, responses: 1)
To John and his answer 6/20:
1.) The terms "authenticity" and "copyright" are not the same but there are interferences between their semantic fields. The copyright problems of the series "Homes from Homes" will be problematized with the concept for an installation (see answer 7/5, point 3.) in a much more interesting way than with endless studio variations of elder concepts because it will allow proceedings/operations by everyone in the exhibition and in the website . But this is only a step further from exhibitions with presentations of self plagiarism whose copyright stays the same as in the `authentic´ works.
The "Homes from Homes" block with their sometimes very primitive variations of elder works (and concepts) any expectation concerning "authenticity". Maybe, Mel Ramsden and Michael Baldwin think they need endless variations of groups with little `bad´ looking particles and their accumulation in groups and swarms on walls to transport their `inauthenticity´.
But do they have any concept concerning the relation of (in-)authenticity and copyright/copyleft? Until now they turn their back to the rest of the world, walk into their studio and produce a lot of paintings which try to look as if everyone could have done it. But these "inauthentic" self plagiarisms were exhibited in exhibition rooms in the same manner as so called "authentic" works and they stay unique or "authentic" as copyrighted and sellable works.
The relations between these procedures, earlier neoistic plagiarisms and plagiaristic strategies on the internet, f. e. Amy Alexander, www.0100101110101101.org and Florian Cramer (for the background: http://iasl.uni-muenchen.de/links/lektion11.html#Prank , http://rhizome.org/object.rhiz?2559), are not defined or conceptualized in the works themselves nor in verbal explications. Baldwin and Ramsden neither reflect the plagiaristic predecessors nor the activistic background. Net activists against the efforts of Microsoft and Hollywood try to preserve the rights of users to produce copies. Microsoft and copyright owners of big corporations in the film and music industry try to forbid the private copy and they don´t want any free distribution of any kind of audio files via peer-to-peer file sharing. They want to change the net architecture until they can sell keys for copies and control any move of the normal user on his private computer: They want to be able to sell every copy procedure meanwhile they can´t control private copies now.
Copyright is the basis of their strategies meanwhile plagiarism as mirroring websites was and is a strategy to open closed or censored informations and to pluralize the copies until it is nonsense to forbid them. Artistic questions of in- or authenticity are irrelevant here: The first conceptual strategy is to preserve the right of free copies and the free distribution of informations on the net. But every copyright (combined with electronic payment procedures) constructs borders and blocks free data distribution.
The american and european legal structures concerning copyright and the net will be changed next year either in the direction of Microsoft/Hollywood or Apple/Linux. Microsoft and the corporations of the music and film industries need stable combinations of hard- and software for audio and video media. Apple conceptualizes the computer as an allround instrument. The software for different (f. e. audio and video) media presents a transitional digital state of media. The Open Source Software of Linux allows everyone to transform and to expand it. An example for the contrary: DVD with CSS presents a fixed state of media with an encryption code which allows different prizes for different countries and forbids european users to look and to listen at american DVDs. DeCSS cracks the encryption code but its distribution is forbidden in USA: It violates the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. The activists of the Electronic Frontier Foundation were not succesful until now in their efforts to force "the courts to recognize that freedom of speach was at stake." (Cindy Cohn)
The transitional state of the internet provokes a lot of causes for engagement for users with different professions and different net practices. The Copyright problem is relevant for all users and it doesn´t matter if they prefer artistic or other forms of (self) presentation: It is a basic problem in which technical, legal, economic and social problems interfere. It is a conceptual problem: Which kind of net architecture is the precondition for the kind of uses/projects we want to able to plan and realize in the future. "Free link" means that possibly everything can be connected with everything. "Free link" and "Free copy" are procedures of Digital Commons.
The basic advantages of the net in relation to other (mass) media are that informations from different sources can be connected/linked and that public interaction on different levels are possible. The net became a collective written database. Copyleft Attitudes preserve these exchanges of datas. Some of these datas transport informations of a character which may be called "authentic" (or "traces of authenticity") and, maybe, the net allows a new kind of "authenticity" because the economic structures of the interactive media cannot undermine "authenticity" via their dealings with "copyrights" in the manners which use the mass media and the relevant corporations to undermine "authenticity".
The contemporary net architecture is in danger. The dangers are caused first by large corporations and second by the planned changes in legal structures. These dangers provoked and provoke engagement from different sides, artists included. Now the digital possibilities for a new and - via interaction and further activistic and net specific strategies - engaged public are in danger via the global strategies of corporations. These strategies defined and define the world on a legal level as they can use it for the corporation´s profit. A studio mix in colours on an amount of planes doesn´t help here. Engagement was relevant for Art & Language in the seventies. A sheer demonstration of un-/disengagement is to sit down in a studio and paint long chains of material plagiarism at this moment. Then artistic activities can follow the flow of money as they did it in the eighties meanwhile the possibilities for alternatives are blocked via realizations of the planned changes in the net architecture: There will be no medias which allow a free and unregulated dataflow, neither "free links" nor "free copies". The dataflow will be centralized, controlled and observed by corporations.
2.) Webpages and "museumization": I am only able to differentiate on a pragmatic level between netspecific pages on net projects and reiterations of museumization on the net. An example: my answer to Michael Hofstetter´s critique of the context of "Blurting In A & L online" within the context of ZKM (the institution with their website, school and museums) in question 4: see answer 4/4 and 4/5. Thomas Dreher (TDreher@onlinehome.de)
John Abbate - Answer 6/22
19.12.2002; 06:34:18 (reads: 75907, responses: 0)
Response to answer 6/19:
Dear Michael, we might say that "dematerialization" functioned rather like cement poured into the gap opened up at the inception of conceptual art, preventing a full-blown rupture and final collapse of the avant-garde into life, politics and the everyday (I think it was Peter Burger who identified this "death drive" at the heart of avant-gardism). As such it (the rhetoric of dematerialization) gave the impression that the Modernist juggernaut had made another bold step forward, all the while both obscuring and signaling either its actual exhaustion, or its ultimate status as a (patriarchal) fiction, depending on your point of view. In the later Seventies, didn’t Rosalind Krauss try a similar trick with her "Notes on the Index", where she attempted to dispel the idea that contemporary art had entered a period characterizable only by a pluralism of styles and strategies, by mapping everything onto the terrain of the indexical sign?
John Abbate - Answer 6/23
19.12.2002; 06:56:24 (reads: 73917, responses: 0)
Response to Thomas and his answer 6/21:
Dear Thomas, I am not going to defend Art & Language's return to the studio, or reconceptualise it as somehow being an appropriate or important gesture for art and life today (maybe that's Charles Harrison's job). At the same time, is it really fair to criticize them for not fighting on the cyber-front? After all, Conceptual Art predates the silicon chip, and I don’t see it as realistic that all of a sudden Mel Ramsden and Michael Baldwin will become hacktivists because you have identified them as appropriate historical antecedents for the contemporary project of net.art. It is also worth bearing in mind that it is conceivable that one day the figure of the hacker elegantly manipulating bits of code in a darkened room will seem as reactionary as a painter in his/her studio.
Thomas Dreher - Answer 6/24
19.12.2002; 21:35:15 (reads: 67052, responses: 0)
Response to John and his answer 6/23:
1.) I don´t criticize the paintings of Art & Language in general. The series "Index: Incidents in a Museum" and "Hostages" are extraordinary. In the eighties they were some hope in a sea of paintings which offered the features which were necessary for a success in the art market.
2.) I see the problems in the manner how they use procedures of plagiariasm in "Homes for Homes". Usually projects (including series of paintings) of Art & Language had explicit and implicit points of reference to their context. The conceptualizations of these points lead further than the direct references to problems which were established as problems of art. Their specific use of theories of analytical philosophy lead to questions if they constitute and problematize their frameworks in an adequate manner. Corrections and proposals for transformed or alternative frameworks were and are possible for interpreters of these projects. But until now I cannot see how they develop their plagiaristic strategies further than the fake strategies of the eighties and how they embed their practices in a new mediascape with new alternative meanings of plagiariasm and fake strategies. Procedures of self embedding are procedures of Art & Language. And these procedures demonstrated that the art context couldn´t avoid transgressions of its own limits. They contradict themselves or reduce the meaning of their own practice since the sixties if they want to build a glass house and if they want to forbid any comparison to other strategies outside the established art context. They can react to the changed surrounding f. e. as painters, as writers and as contributors to this discussion forum.
3.) Í wrote in a provocative manner about some problems of their last series "Homes from Homes". My writing explains some of my hesitations concerning the new series and it is written for a dialogue with counterarguments by Michael Baldwin and/or Mel Ramsden. It is not clear until today (or it is not clear to me) how they plan their plagiarism as a project which leads to conceptualizations of any valuable sort. But it is clear they moved a great amount of material and colours. The arguments in the catalogue of the exhibition of Villeneuve d´Ascq and the present state of their plagiarism doesn´t satisfy me - but there are proceedings possible. If Art & Language wants to remain a project with proceedings than their proceedings are in a state which needs some clarification.
4.) The net allows to realize some implications of the collaborative project of Art & Language and it is not clear if the copntemporary members want to recede so far behind their own goals that they want to become now what they always critized: Fighters for a terrain within the art world instead of constructors of possible generalizations which demonstrate that theories of art as a system or terrain with its own characteristics (its own media) are too narrow. But here an answer of the two actors is necessary.
5.) It was impossible for me to react to your questions without reconstructing the context which the contemporary members of Art & language chose with their procedures - in my opinion and for my knowledge of contemporary practices. Somehow I have to be able to construct frameworks of contemporary practices of art and media which I find relevant and to utter criticism. Open relations between questions of "authenticity" and "copyright" are my basic framework in answer 6/15 and this framework includes practices of "Homes from Homes" and net plagiarisms. Painting practices and net projects can lead to conceptualizations which reflect the problems of the contemporary mediascape or they are only one more example for an established art practice. The painting practices of Art & Language are relevant as more than only the next preparations of works with easy recognizable characteristics which artists and dealers can use as logo for collectors.
6.) Is a split between new media practices and Art & Language really wanted? Are the hypertext characteristics of Blurting in A & L something which exist only in my head? Blurting In A & L remained ignored but the hypertext characteristics demonstrate that it contains features which remain relevant for "associative indexing" and networks. Are there other interpretations? Please, offer one.
7.) Please, don´t try to reduce the contemporary problems of the net architecture to a standardized imagination of a hacker. This is a transfer of the old art strategies to ridicule the engagements of others. Engagement embeds itself within a horizon of problems of a certain time which will be inevitable a past in later times. Neither the hacker nor the plagiarist have to be able to offer exemplary roles for engagements in the future. But they are part of a history of forms of engagement for changing problem zones. The model of the artist who prepares now his future saturation is part of a self professionalization within the art market: Either what you do today constitutes your market value tomorrow or you do the wrong thing. This model of artistic practice is not relevant for media activists who work for basic conditions of possible art practices. Here we are again at a problem zone which "The Fox" marked in the seventies.
Thomas Dreher (TDreher@onlinehome.de)
John Abbate - Answer 6/25
20.12.2002; 01:58:23 (reads: 66480, responses: 0)
Thomas, I agree with your analysis and your identification of the split between what Art & Language says and what it does today, particularly where the work appears to deal with the issues of plagiarism and copyright, for it ignores the area where these issues are most pointed and current: the internet. All the arguments you put appear valid. However, I would suggest that the contemporary work of Art & Language is, generally, too far removed from any form of avant-gardism (other than via meta-linguistic commentary on the past), let alone the "new-media avant-garde", to be seriously critiqued from that perspective. On that front, you are correct to call it "disengaged." This does not in any way de-value your assessment of their early work and its relevance for the problems associated with net.art and the internet more broadly. You argue convincingly here. Blurting in A&L seems to me to be a perfect hypertext document; it fits like a glove. My comment about the figure of the hacker was merely to suggest that the potential to lapse into disengaged formalism is not medium-specific, something which often gets forgotten by curators and artists engaged by new-media. The question is, what constitutes value here? And if we are going to jettison all notions of aesthetic value, then how is a "media activist" an artist? It is not clear to me why someone who "work[s] for basic conditions of possible art practices" should be characterized as an artist instead of, or as well as, an activist. You must be proposing some model of artistic practice that is both new and meaningfully distinct from forms of everday engagement with the pragmatics of existence to posit an activist as an artist, or else the artist/activist's relation to the "old" art models and institutions is purely negative or parasitic, rather than dialectical.
Michael Corris - Answer 6/26
27.12.2002; 16:44:19 (reads: 66396, responses: 0)
Dear John (and Thomas, too): The discussion is beginning to get a bit more interesting for me and, I suspect, others, because it is forcing us to consider how an analysis and appreciation of historical practices might impact on our understanding of contemporary internet practices and attendant models of art. Paul Wood tackles the issue of value in his essay in Art-Language, new series, vol. 1, no. 1 (1994). It springs directly from the problems thrown up by conceptual art during the 1970s with respect to ART and "political engagement." The argument that Paul constructs is complex and subtle, and has something to do with the inadequacy of historical materialist methodology to discern how art can be of value if it is not directly engaged with topical issues or concerned with prompting effects outside the discipline of art. It's not quite a rehabilitation or rationalization of Greenberg's position on art's necessary self-sufficiency, but it also doesn't paint him as a crude formalist. It is far more satisfying an argument than ones advanced by contemporary supporters of activist art. For them, it's a generational issue. This seems solipsistic to me, and reminiscent of other, earlier attempts at self-justifying closure advanced by Lippard, Krauss, et al. We might wish to have a closer look at Lev Manovich's analysis of the "language of new media." In his view, early 20th century film supplied the framework for new media. The filmic metaphor is not the only way to conceptualize this advance. Michael, Charles and Mel (in the same issue of A-L noted,above) rely heavily on metaphors drawn from music. John's assertion that the artist painting in his studio is a reactionary practice is certainly challenged by A&L, but not necessarily put to rest. It would be a travesty of A&L's work to put them in the same boat with all and sundry who use paint and brush. Their interest, it seems to me, is to force antique modes to yield something interesting and valuable in opposition to official culture. Our interest — I speak of Thomas's and mine — is to discover the same for those modes of so-called new media. It may be that the production of "fakes" is more like the "fractal structure of new media" (Manovich) than "American-type painting". Michael Corris (InvCollege@aol.com)
Thomas Dreher - Answer 6/27
05.01.2003; 14:29:15 (reads: 67676, responses: 0)
Response to John and his answer 6/25:
You wrote: "You must be proposing some model of artistic practice that is both new and meaningfully distinct from forms of everday engagement with the pragmatics of existence to posit an activist as an artist, or else the artist/activist's relation to the "old" art models and institutions is purely negative or parasitic, rather than dialectical."
Here are two relations problematic: First, the relation between art and activism, and second, the dichotomy negative/dialectical or parasitic/non-parasitic.
First: art/activism: I can´t see art and activism as two different frameworks which have to be defined before they can be related. Questions of differentiation and the development of autopoietic systems are part of the history of modernization. There are wider discussions if art can relate to ritual forms of societies within a modern society.
Meanwhile Arthur C. Danto reflects transformations of ritual forms within performance art as antimodern or negative in relation to the development of modern forms of presentation (autonomous paintings) there are other traditions based on Georges Bataille and Antonin Artaud which provoke a rethinking of processes of socialization and which try to open minds to hidden and forbidden but important processes. Victor Turner, Richard Schechner and Hermann Nitsch´s Orgien Myterien Theater are relevant points of reference. These authors reconceptualize the relations between elder ritual forms and newer separations of social and theatrical kinds of action. These separations are the consequence of modern differentiations between systems. These differentiations are in flux and not stable.
Second: parasitic/original: Our self-education concerning our "tastes" and social behaviors is `parasitic´ before we are able to develop more differentiated concepts or attitudes and `new´ concepts which try to cause a break with conventions and traditions.
Now this is a trivial knowledge but discussions in the seventies had to problematize the belief of painters in the originality of their studio production. Realistic painters like Rudolf Baranik conceptualized their studio as a sphere outside social and economic influences. This sphere was for them the base to start a social critique with artistic forms of presentation (Ramsden, Mel: Perimeters of Protest. In: The Fox. no.1/1975, p.145). The studio is for artrists like Baranik a not preconditioned `void´ as if the artist is a genius not preconditioned by his lifeworld.
Conceptual strategies with new media, mass media forms of information and activistic strategies were the counterpart. All these strategies were parasitic for a formalist criticism meanwhile conceptual artists like Victor Burgin reflected the forms of new media and included reflections of formalist aspects of montage and photography. Victor Burgin integrated formal photographic skills into his photo-text-combinations meanwhile Joseph Kosuth argued at the "Symposion über Fotografie" in 1979 (Forum Stadtpark, Graz) against artistic forms of nonconceptual photographers like Lee Friedlander (in "1979" and in the interview in Kunstforum vol.35/1979). Burgin discussed Friedlander´s "Hillcrest" (1970)in "Looking at Photographs" (Screen Education, no.24/1977) as a positive example for photographic composition: "Photography is one signifying system among others in society which produces the ideological subject in the same movement in which they `communicate´ their ostensible `contents´. It is therefore important that photography theory take account of the production of this subject as the complex totality of its determinations are nuanced and constrained in their passage through and across photographs.
Burgin conceptualizes photography in relation to the history of photography. Conceptualism doesn´t negate the established uses of photography but he investigates them and uses them in reflected manner. Conceptualism and the redescriptions of the history of Historicism converge in the seventies. `New´ and conceptual uses of photography in series and photo-text-combinations must not contradict elder uses of photography. Conceptual strategies offer a research in the `normal´ use of photography f.e. in journalism, advertisement and private snaps (Bernhard Johannes Blume, Dieter Zimmer). Burgin is `parasitic´ in his reflections and use of the skills and theories of photography. He is eclectic in his use of theories of Roland Barthes, Umberto Eco and Julia Kristeva. Here we have an example of parasitic and eclectic strategies in (one of) the best, most `original´ sense(s). It is better to use the word `constructivistic´ as a substitute for `original´ because it implies that you can use fragments of codes and established uses of media in a way which transforms or transgresses their usual conceptualizations.
Mel Ramsden in "On Practice" and Michael Corris in "Historic Discourse" (The Fox, no.1/1975, p.66-95) described the constant need of self critical processes via cognitive processes of remapping the contextual frames of identification. The internalization of a self identification within a white middle class and their economic and intellectual needs is discussed as a process of (self) education which already began before the artist was able to reflect them.
The critique of processes of internalization influenced and caused by commercialization and patterns of a career is now trivial because Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger and Allan Mc Collum used its critique as a basis for their famous forms of presentation. A criticism of problematic economic factors of the distribution of art within art journals and the art market was replaced by affirmative and cynical strategies. The institution of art became the basic framework of artistic activities. This framework allowed parasitic strategies like the reuse/appropriation of photographs (Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince) and paintings (Mike Bidlo, Elaine Sturtevant) meanwhile they were sold in the same manner as "originals". You can develop "negative" or "dialectical" kinds of interpretation for these strategies of appropriation. It depends on your discursive framework how you deal with them. But you remain within the given framework of art criticism and art history.
The index project left fixed kinds of mapping separate fields of discourse and used different forms of "semantic networks" (Charles Harrison/Marvin Minsky) for remappings since 1972. You find annotations in "Blurting in A & L" about the differences between the dynamic redescriptions/reconceptualizations in an enlarged framework on one side and the limited and static framework of the institution of art (and its consequences for a practice of artists who don´t want to problematize these limitations) on the other side.
If the use of the term "parasitic" is senseless in relation to "originality" because the conceptualizations of "originality" became problematical: How many senseful uses of the term "parasitic" remain?
Methods of reconstructing intertextuality lead back to hybrid semantic networks and demonstrate the processes of transformations of frameworks, "Kunstgattungen"/art media included (The discourse on intertextuality began with Bachtin´s reconstruction of the beginnings of the history of the novel as a hybrid): media in flux. Intertextuality is a research of different forms and their combinations within works or projects. Intertextuality implies a research of the semantics of these forms. The history of the use and codes of forms as signs within established contexts is necessary. The forms are not conceptualized as causes for immediate experience. They are conceptualized as preconditioned/semanticized.
The research of intertextuality and the acceptance of hybrid works interfere. Hybrid works reuse or remix different sources without combining them in a new, "original" framework. Does the parasitic use of analog and/or digital copy strategies allow a simple return to questions of originality?
Back to "First: art/activism": A wider framework of communication is needed instead of old strategies to define the autonomy of art or an autopoietic system of art (Members of the faculty art history want such definitions as their legitimation). The reflections on the necessity of a wider contextual framework are part of the development of models of (ways of world and media) observations apart from the discourses of experts who work within the different faculties of universities.
The artist as an expert for (models of) generalization: He is one but not the only relevant expert for generalizations and negations of the experts´ limited fields of insights. The problems in discourses on art begin with this non-monopolistic position of artists.
"Semantic networks" are one of the possible concepts to demonstrate the need for generalization. Other examples offer hypertext with the possibility of links between all elements and the distribution of data in the net via search systems which can´t separate different expert systems. Links don´t stop at the boundaries of academic frameworks. Digital networks and semantic networks combined have characteristics which can be used as a stronger argument for reconceptualizations of dynamic processes of remapping and the development of new versions of maps/worlds. Cognitive, communicative and media strata are interwoven in these maps.
The question of a clear marked difference between art and activism (or other activities) is an `old´ problem dependend on the name `art´ and its preconditions which we can transform or transgress. The usual definitions of art as activism or activism as art or activistic tendencies within art are derivations of a conceptualization of art and activism as completely different frameworks. Activism against changing conditions of digitalisation and telecommunication concerns all media practices which depend on these conditions. The problem of defining and acting for the preconditions of activities within expert cultures is not only a problem for experts within the art system: The relation between the source code of web pages and forms of presentation ruled by this code includes the problem of the relation between concept and presentation in a manner which is relevant for all net users.
This problem was an inherent part of Event Cards of George Brecht and other Fluxus artists before it became a problem of conceptual artists: The change from a non-notational, originals producing practice of art (painting, drawing) to an art which differentiates between notation and realisation constituted intermedia art. The relations between notations and realizations in early intermedia art became the forerunner of net.art.
The digital languages of most experimental notations of Post Cage/Fluxus artists are not art specific. It became a problem for the discourse on art if realisations with art external characteristics are only recognizable as art within an art context and if this contextualization is really a condition of an art practice. Now we discuss problems of art with the knowledge that these basic problems are not solved by widely accepted theories. We live with and within changing frameworks for practices in a wider surrounding of art meanwhile definitions of art don´t exist for the intermedia problems which can be used as secure basics for further discussions. But nobody expects such basic definitions for explications of the framework of literature.
The practices within the net change before expert cultures can react with theories and definitions. The inclusion of text related art to the repertory of museums prolongs only a problem which object art posed: Do we need canonized forms of presentation? If the museum is the last canonizing instance: Do we need museums? Street actions, Blurting in A & L, The Fox, Art-Language and net.art can be documented and collected by museums - but do they resist museumization? My answer is: Yes, they can´t be integrated without an import of possible transgressions of the established art context.
The distribution of information within the net became a social relevant factor of its own. Can you refer to elder definitions of art and/or the art world meanwhile you want to problematize networks with interwoven social and media strata? Thomas Dreher (TDreher@onlinehome.de)
Thomas Dreher - Answer 6/28
06.01.2003; 17:33:21 (reads: 66442, responses: 0)
Response to Michael and his answer 6/26:
Thank you for leading my attention to Paul Wood´s "Mistaken Identities". I reread it with pleasure.
Lev Manovich´s reconstruction of a history of new media and new forms of art (films, games, databases, installations) provokes a reconstruction of interactive and collaborative uses of media (actions, performances and writing included) which problematizes the concept of the work as a closed system. The alternatives are projects open for interaction and collaboration. Manovich´s reconstruction of media is based on film and offers a limited set of historical lines for works with time based media and a limited concept of artistic activity.
A provisional sketch of our interest could be: We are interested in relations between media and social engagement (including the problems which media as an economic and social practice pose) which Manovich forgot and Wood discussed. The new possibilities for collaboration concern our own practice as writers. We should not proceed with writing in the old monological manner as if nothing happened in the mediascape.
Thomas Dreher (TDreher@onlinehome.de)
Baldwin/Ramsden - Answer 6/29
20.01.2003; 22:15:58 (reads: 65947, responses: 0)
I OK, Thomas – I see in 6/24 that you don’t like/are not interested in Homes from Homes I and II, Now, it would be not at all ‘professional’ to attempt to persuade you that you should indeed like it, et. I think that a word or two may be offered in defence of this museum-machine. The first thing to say, perhaps, is that you are right. The work consists of paintings/drawings, texts and other coloured things. This is appropriate, as what we travestied, copied, miniaturised etc., etc., in these works are themselves such things. Travesty and its cognates is an (initially) asymmetrical relation that depends upon the aspected likeness of what is travestied to what travesties it. I say ‘initially’ asymmetrical as in fact the relation can turn quasi ‘symmetrical’. The initial target of a travesty (or copy or etc.) can in certain ciscumstances reverse things – refuse the role of object travestied and travesty back via one of its hitherto unseen aspects. And so on.
The objective of the work was among other things, to create such possible circumstances of symmetry, and thus to create a disorder or a new order that might bear upon any attempted historical view – retrospect – of Art & Language work.
Another aim for the work was that it came as close as it could to a refusal of – or a malingering difficulty for – the museology of contemporary art presumption: that the institution provides context. Of course, it does, but the relations that compose the structure of the work are such that at least to raise the question what are the limits of (our) work’s capacities to be self-contextualising?
A 3rd premise for this work was that images of all of its components should work as switches or windows for an index work in the form of a CD-rom. This was a CD whose documents could be downloaded, printed, etc., by anyone with access to the CD-rom. Furthermore, it seemed entirely possible that downloaded material could be changed an worked upon in at least two ways: (a) that the ‘external’ relations of this material could be changed or, (b) that its ‘internal’ properties could be altered. (a)®(b) and (b)®(a) in most cases. The simplistic example I gave you of colour changes in e.g., an image of flesh coloured glass to green, say, is only one among many that are possible. Modifications notwithstanding, I think it is clear that the number of pathways available with the CD as it stands is huge and that these may not be simply empty narratives.
(Your correspondents do not seem very well informed about this work to say the least. Indeed, there is something worryingly closed and uninterestingly perspectival about the bulk of it.)
Now, as to our returning to the studio. What is a studio? Where should we work? We have written extensively on this matter. Here is a short rehearsal. The 1970s did not see, as we had hoped, a development of artistic discourse such that co-operation, corrigibility, sociality might flourish, but merely a sidling of the artistic closer to management: public spectacle and the petetration-of-the-space with all the attendant drivel. Well, not only drivel, but emotivistic manipulation and other symptoms of barbarism. This was the mid 1970s. What we also witnessed, particularly in New York, was a growing throng of more or less useless Art & Languagists, possessed of all the charm of suburban converts to a U.S. pressure group who squabbled to take turns as the harbingers of half-baked political virtue. We ended these troubles and sought a place to work. We did not give up the conversation. We did not abandon that vestige of modernism that sees virtue in the pursuit of improvement – or at least transformation – in a material tradition and the development of art works possessed of some degree of internal complexity.
Some of this implies resistance to co-option and some of it implies the conditions of what it is to have work to do.
Beware the fetishization of the text, it may turn out not to be a text at all but something horribly intent on its own reification.
…And apropos 6/17: consider the following example: The Portraits of V.I.Lenin in the style of Jackson Pollock were originally intended to meet the public as photographic or electronic reproductions of paintings that had been chopped up into A4 chunks. We found, however, that in showing the paintings qua paintings and thereby invoking the near unmediated cultural weltanschauung of big New York celebrity action painting we could increase the vividness of the contradiction implied in the title and in the aporetics of their actual appearance.
II I’m going to try and make sense of some of this stuff in question 6.
One place to start maybe is with what Michael Baldwin wrote on indexing in 6/2. (That) ‘it was a project inaugurated on the conviction that a (necessarily) complex internal discourse was perhaps the main condition of resistance to institutional power’. That starts us off by opposing internal detail to institutional power, some corrigible inside to some corrigible outside. It goes without saying that this is not a formula, that this is an account of something to be worked on and at, made, changed, won, lost. Its circumstances, its material possibilities, its problems change. It’s ongoing work – still. Such a project may be written, painted, drawn, it may use ‘interactive digital media’, it may be sculpted, etc. These are forms of work that have their past, their future, transformable by the index.
You have an inside and an outside to the index. It may seem a bit odd to bring this up like this. But I’m doing so in the light of some of the puzzling things said about ‘the rural and the cosmopolitan’, and about ‘globalisation’. I’m not at all sure whether the line about ‘the rural and the cosmopolitan’ is supposed to be sympathetic or not, supposed to be a kind of metaphor for the indexing or not. The remarks (6/15) on globalisation I am sure about. They are meant to point out Art & Language’s ‘disengagement’. There’s no way to answer accusations like this except by a description of work. We are all bombarded with wacky cultural materials, different kinds of junk, distributed, context-less (often) without any recognisable sense of being and place. This seems to go some way toward describing what we’ve got to work with. It seems to touch upon some of the materials of globalisation. This is both lame and grandiose.
A lot of the stuff written in question 6 points to material reality being dissolved by virtual technologies and this sounds like the same dematerialised futurology of old concept art. We’ve got to be robust not puristic. The continuing indexing projects of Art & Language are robust. This is the legacy of Conceptual Art, a morale of learning, laughter and amateurish-ness. This is what causes the disarray of professional boundaries, not the overviews of cultural studies however sceptical and ‘deviant’. This is not post-modernism (6/20) either. It isn’t the decorum remaining after scavenging for and juxtaposing images, texts, etc.
6/4 is right, the continuing indexing project is vulnerable but wrong in that it was unsustainable. It continues as a series of essays in a cosmos of problems. Is this another way to approach the thing that’s bothering me: ‘the ruralist idyll’ as opposed to the virtues of cosmopolitanism? ‘Ruralism’ and ‘cosmopolitanism’ seems a bit antique. Is 6/4 saying that cosmopolitanism describes a pernicious liberal culture, a hegemony which recognises actions (etc.) insofar as they further the universalisation or democratisation (or export?) of such culture? Is it saying that this includes whole sections of university and polytechnic life, media, the artworld, etc? Is it saying that Art & Language behaves sometimes with all the awkward insanity of a small nation state in face of the barbaric march of journalism-and-management-as-normality? Is this what it’s saying? Things are penetrated by errors and illusions and errors and illusions are in turn produced. That’s the risk of essayistic and discursive work. We do not seek to transcend in the work (etc.) the condition of these problems. We have been accused of ‘disengagement’. That’s the sort of thing said by people who look around for something culturally urgent (like globalisation), and somehow associate ‘their’ work with it and therefore become ‘engaged’. We have written before about this calculating trick that makes work ‘meaningful’ and, heaven help us, ‘relevant’.
6/12 is right: Michael and Mel seem to be asking ‘Where do problems come from?’ And right again in that there are tasks and assignments. There are details to be addressed here which often puts us closer to the class of technicians as opposed to the class of cultural managers. Cultural managers talk nothing but bureaucratic trivia and engage in the redistribution of headline after headline. This seems to be an escape from problems no matter how ‘engaged’ they are. The instability of categories, genres even, like ‘painting’ and ‘interactive digital culture’ simply cannot be relied upon. They may be masks or masks on masks or masks concealing faces identical to the masks. But these are the materials with which to make sense of the present. (See the silly remarks about painting, 6/17.)
In 6/15 Thomas grinds on with his zietgeist of digital conditions. There is here much that is thoughtful and rewarding for sure. It seems obvious, and it’s been pointed out by C.Gere in ‘Digital Culture’(and by Art & Language, passim), that there is a tendency with net artists to engage in a fast-forward reprise of post-war avant-garde strategies ranging from Fluxus to mail art to Conceptual art, etc. Art & Language indexing, Blurting in AL Online is maybe part of that reprise. Such strategies, as we know, have also been reprised by all sorts of younger artists but within the pervasive so-called media-scape such strategies seem like self advertising and their critical life is journalism. We all know that the imperatives of perpetual novelty and manufactured transgression are marketable commodities. Something has happened between Blurting in AL and Blurting in AL Online. Where this leaves the net artists reprise of older avant gardistic strategies remains to be seen. We are accused 6/15 of ‘retreating from a criticism of the digital conditions of globalisation’ yet such a conditions informs much of the technical and theoretical constraints on what we do. This accusation looks like purism to me, not even software vs. hardware, but purism. What did David Harvey say: if you want to be cosmopolitan then study geography, because you should at least know about the cosmos. We’re studying geography and you are cosmopolitan. OK. We’ll meet somewhere maybe when we find out that the digital conditions of globalisation don’t just mean sorting out your intentions on the software of your computer.
And it’s the return or the ‘retreat to the studio’ again. And it’s the Art & Language ‘romance with painting’ again. Painting’s a way of making representations, sometimes quickly and easily like drawing and colouring in with pencils. Sometimes we are interested in the special properties of painting. Sometimes we are interested in the virtual complexities of representation whether it be in painting or not. The paintings are paintings and not-paintings. Sometimes we’re interested in the fact that painting’s a bit hopeless and embarrassing and a bit low-tech. What we’re not interested in are progressivistic condemnations of things like painting, inasmuch as such condemnations and the categories condemned are functions of the hygiene fantasies of the digital zeitgeist. The ritualistic sound of the cultural smart-talk that networks around professionalised boundaries is deafening –ugh.
Let’s try and join-up some thinking on ‘taste’ and conceptual art. It might not be that conceptual art left the modernist decorum to engage in ‘politics’ and radical-as-fuck activism. It might not be that this ‘taste’ is restricted to the conceptual art (modernist) bit. It might however be the rather less comfortable thought that the same taste covered both bits, the activist bit as well. And it might have been the same taste and it may even belong now to the futurology of activism and hacktivism or whatever and this taste might be nothing more than obsessive hand-washing by now –ugh again. This better not be the narrative from Concept art to net art. Is it?
Being engaged in a romance with painting 6/17. Just what ‘painting’ would that be? Would it be big blank paintings in expensive museums or small objects hanging on domestic walls? What? What’s disapproved of? 6/26 is right, there are a lot of possible fractural relations here in ‘painting’. There are modalities of all sorts in representation. It’s puzzling and interesting to make things to look at. It seems an ordinary area to work with a lot to do. The problem of fakes and parodies and copies are complex, modal, fractural possibilities. They were not born and did not die nor do they belong exclusively to the simulation and appropriation art of the 1980s(6/27). And this kind of ‘malingering’ (or something) was a characteristic of old concept art and of other works like the ‘Portraits of V.I. Lenin in the style of Jackson Pollock’.
If we clung to a sort of metaphysical belief in the authenticity of painting and sought to protect this from a culture of contingency then perhaps there would be a point to the charge of ‘romance’. But painting has its modalities. These are embedded in essayistic and discursive circumstances and are open. Some of the recent journalism concerning the show we have just had at the Lisson Gallery seemed to accuse us of 1) being too clever 2)not being clever enough; 1) being bureaucratic 2) not being bureaucratic enough 1)being dry 2)not being dry enough etc., etc. The point being that there are ruptures in what we do which are left open and corrigible. This is discursive work. Art & Language (Artlanguage@AOL.com)
John Abbate - Answer 6/30
21.01.2003; 03:20:13 (reads: 66364, responses: 0)
This defensive reaction to my remarks (6/17) is not justified. My own position is probably closer to that of Art & Language than anyone reading your text would guess. The phrase 'romance with painting' was not intended to negatively characterise the work of Art & Language. I thought I made it clear that I don't think any medium is inherently reactionary or radical, nor do I feel that to paint today is automatically reactionary (perhaps I should have clarified things immediately Michael Corris attributed that view to me). Painting does, however, occupy a curious position in that any relevant practice has to justify itself in the face of numerous irrelevant painting practices, and the contemporary proliferation of images generally--at first glance painting will seem reactionary. I never said that Art & Language fails to do this; I only said that I wasn't going to do it for you in front of Thomas. I find your work rewarding enough to devote significant attention to it, and I would have thought that my comments signal this, even when they deviate from the 'official' Art & Language view. Moving on...
Thomas, although it is true that the borders that delimit art and activism are in a state of flux, it should be possible to ascertain the nature of the relation between them as it manifests itself in individual works and actions. It occurs to me that there are at least five possible relations that may operate together or individually within a work of art/activism, without necessarily assuming a fixed definition of either:
1) The activist’s relation to art is seen as parasitic if the discursive structures (semantic networks, if you like) of (old) art are used to raise the profile or prestige of the activist and their actions. This is one example from a broader set of problems that stems from an instrumental approach to language endemic to overtly political art. A tendency exists among those engaged in art-as-activism to unselfconsciously appropriate the languages of art as a means to an end. Alternatively, if the relation is not consciously instrumental, the activist’s attachment to art is unconsciously libidinal, so that art becomes an object of desire; art promises something the activist lacks.
2) Conservative or bureaucratic forces and strategies within art eventually lead to the aestheticisation of specific political actions or goals, to the point where a kind of political formalism emerges, in which de-territorialisation, gender/ethnicity, hybridity, etc, become the new line, colour and shape. In this scenario, art enhances its own prestige by gaining a radical 'edge' while activism is potentially burdened or diluted by aestheticism.
3) I would term the relation negative or hostile when the meeting of the two leads to the perversion of both, i.e., when (1) and (2) above are combined.
4) The relation is dialectical when both art and activism remain independent modes that are yet able to cooperate under certain conditions to achieve simultaneous aesthetic and political goals.
5) The relation is one of identity. This is a radical idea that Thomas is perhaps proposing. But what can this mean? Any attempt to collapse art into activism or vice-versa has the extinguishment of both as its logical endpoint. The unification of art and activism under the banner of a broader framework of description that supersedes the old art models is an enticing, but potentially violent prospect. What can it mean to operate outside an art context, while continuing to speak of art?
The idea of a distinction (within art) between notation and realisation is at least as old as the first musical score. What this shows is that an 'originals producing art', in terms of the production of individual objects, isn’t the real problem; fetishistic tendencies and modes of territorialisation will attach to multiples as easily as originals. The claim that intermedia art is inherently democratic or immune to the vicissitudes of ideological sway is untenable—specific forms may only mediate our meaning or our politics, but never determine them or carry them wholesale, like Trojan horses, into the discursive structures of the art world.
Thomas Dreher - Answer 6/31
21.01.2003; 19:22:55 (reads: 67107, responses: 0)
Response to Michael Baldwin and Mel Ramsden (Art & Language):
1. You wrote in "Blurting to Blurting In Wanted": "To be a painting whose raison d’etre is to function as a switch in a CD-rom is to be deflated. To start life as a patch on a screen is to risk no such deflation. The verfremdungs Effekt is still the mother of invention."
And you wrote in answer 6/29: "A 3rd premise for this work was that images of all of its components should work as switches or windows for an index work in the form of a CD-rom."
Now the paintings of "Homes from Homes I and II" contain `hot spots´ in the the CD-ROM and its net version. These digital reproductions of paintings contain switches to more detailed illustrations and informations about the work. You place the reproductions of your paintings within the context of digital conditions. You don´t answer to the problems of copyright and authenticity in answer 6/29. But these are the relevant problems of plagiarisms and travesties in digital conditions.
2. You wrote in answer 6/29: "It’s ongoing work – still. Such a project may be written, painted, drawn, it may use ‘interactive digital media’, it may be sculpted, etc."
Your remarks on net.art are far away from differentiated reflections/conceptualizations (The points 4, 5 and 6 react to some of your trivia). These remarks implicate that you don´t want to project your self conceptualizations on questions of net conditions and net.art. But in other remarks (see the one quoted above) you explain that digital conditions are not out of your map. Are they only relevant as a break (Brechung) within your projection/map of a contemporary framework of painting? If this is the case: Doesn´t your medium for breaks of paintings (The CD and the net version with scanned illustrations of paintings) need a conceptualization which relates digital and analog media conditions (see point 1)? And if you prefer dialectical relations: How do you break and reflect (or negate and mediate) the contemporary digital conditions (with their social consequences) within your paintings?
3. We have different opinions concerning the necessity of activism (compare Michael Corris´ answer 6/33, point 4), especially in relation to net conditions (see answers 6/21 and 6/32).
Your either-or relation (disjunction) between activistic strategies and autonomous works with "internal complexity" depends on elder conceptualizations of complexities, based on closed autopoietic systems: The complexity of internal relations is the precondition for external relations.
Conceptualizations of networks as relations are relevant which don´t fit into the criteria of closedness of systems. Such conceptualizations of networks are necessary for "Blurting in A & L (online)". I think, you can proceed with "theory-trying" in relation to systems and networks only if you reconceptualize the english and the american index projects in a more complex way than a simple preference of the english index-system(s) demonstrates it. The concept "from concept art to net.art" offers a potential for "proceedings" if reconceptualizations of the relations between networks and systems are wanted. But I have to notice your wish to waste this potential, or do I misunderstand you?
4. You wrote in answer 6/29: "We all know that the imperatives of perpetual novelty and manufactured transgression are marketable commodities."
If net.art will be nothing more than a distribution of flash files for paying users than we have nothing more than a replacement of the galleries by e-commerce. But the relevant point in question is the change from commodities to effects in social communication (from "dialogic aura" to social interactions) which is possible now in real time from and for everyone everywhere in the world if s/he has access to the net.
5. You wrote in answer 6/29: "Where this leaves the net artists reprise of older avant gardistic strategies remains to be seen."
"Reprise" is wrong. Lev Manovich marked with the term "new media avant-garde" a difference to the avantgarde of modern art (and film) ("the old media avant-garde"). New media need new competences: skills on the side of producers and abilities to deal with linked informations (and more) on the side of users. The relation between conceptual strategies and innovative forms has to be reconceptualized. We are far away from a return of neo-dadaisms and endless discussions of the end of art (and painting).
6. You wrote in answer 6/29: "We’ll meet somewhere maybe when we find out that the digital conditions of globalisation don’t just mean sorting out your intentions on the software of your computer."
Net Conditions include the technical functions of connectivity ("webness"), juridical conditions, economic conditions and social communication. I problematized net conditions, especially the problematic combination of juridical with economic conditions. If I want to problematize the technical functions of the web, then the software of my computer is not interesting (it includes only standard software): connectivity includes distributed operations of servers.
Only in your head exists a "purism" fixed on the software in a computer. The net is an "impure" combination of computers with telecommunication. Your projection of a "purism" of software in my computer tries to explain the net in a manner which can be compared to a declaration that the voice of a sound speaker originates from a speaker who sits in the radio (or in the sound speaker).
Thomas Dreher (TDreher@onlinehome.de)
Thomas Dreher - Answer 6/32
21.01.2003; 23:20:14 (reads: 66867, responses: 0)
Response to John´s answer 6/30:
I hope, your systematization is useful for our readers. You don´t misplace me on the map which you construct.
But I want to discuss a basic premise in the construction of your map: Systematizations of possible or existing relations between art and politics misrepresent the problem that the political (social and economic) context sets preconditions to art. These preconditions undermine dyadic relations between two autopoietic systems (art and politics as separate and autonomous fields).
An example offers the parody site "Dow" of The Yes Men/RTMark within The Thing:
The parody looks like an official website of Dow Chemical. The parody uses the corporate image of Dow Chemicals as a medium to communicate. It tells how the corporation deals with the victims of the Bhopal disaster in India. Union Carbide (now under the umbrella of Dow Chemical) caused the death of 5000 residents in Bhopal in 3rd December 1984, because its "pesticide plant sprung a leak". The consequences of the desaster caused the lives of ca. 15.000 more people within the following years. The parody Dow site lets Dow Spokesman Bob Questra speak about the interests of Dow Chemical and its shareholders. Legal threats of Dow Chemical´s lawyer refered to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) which protects the logo and the corporate design. The provider NTT/Verio closed The Thing with all its contents for sixteen hours. The provider dissolved his contract with The Thing. The Thing people have to look for a new provider for all its contents, not only for the Dow parody. In 5th january 2003 The Thing wrote that they have "to find a new provider and relocate all of our services" in "less than fifty days".
Every activism comes too late here, at first hand. But the juridical grounds have to be investigated against repetitions of similar acts of censorship: Can a provider close all pages of a site (of artists and art institutions like P.S. 1) or is he restricted to close the pages with the content in question.
No question of genius is relevant here but every kind of support who helps to act with the consequence that such cases of censorship can´t happen in the future - Wolfgang Staehle, the Thing´s founder: "It is not fair that 300 of our clients will suffer from this and I might be out of business." (NY Times, 23.12.2002)
Mirror sites exist now which present the identical content. This is the usual reaction of activists, and it demonstrates the limits of corporations. The next steps have to be juridical actions.
The Thing is one of the early websites for art. Is it relevant if you can call the parody of The Yes Men political art or not? not for me. Relevant are the legal threats of corporations, their rights via DMCA and the reactions of providers. This package of problems demonstrates the preconditions of net.art (and the net in general) as capitalism wants them to be.
I want to correct your sketch of point 5: The term "identity" is misleading (in my opinion). A basic problem in a given social context (and conflict) is if artists can try to influence social context with so-called artistic strategies or if the chances for changes of basic premises are higher if they integrate themselves into activistic groups and their political strategies. Is it really relevant to be always able to identify strategies as "artistic" and "non-artistic"? If not, then we have an open field of different strategies to change f. e. the preconditions of our communications which constitute certain media systems. How strategies can be bound to an effective political demonstration is the relevant question, meanwhile the problem of a definition of an innovative and/or artistic political concept is an academic question which may be of interest afterwards. Thomas Dreher (TDreher@onlinehome.de)
Michael Corris - Answer 6/33
22.01.2003; 11:16:03 (reads: 65606, responses: 0)
1. On Travesty: "Travesty and its cognates is an (initially) asymmetrical relation that depends upon the aspected likeness of what is travestied to what travesties it. I say ‘initially’ asymmetrical as in fact the relation can turn quasi ‘symmetrical’. The initial target of a travesty (or copy or etc.) can in certain circumstances reverse things – refuse the role of object travestied and travesty back via one of its hitherto unseen aspects. And so on." (A&L)
MC: If travesty is more than a one way street, it would be helpful to have some examples of the phenomenon of reversal to hand. Might you supply one or two, preferably w.r.t. your own practice(s) since 1979?
2. "The objective of the work (Homes from Homes I and II) was among other things, to create such possible circumstances of symmetry, and thus to create a disorder or a new order that might bear upon any attempted historical view – retrospect – of Art & Language work."
MC: The point is not to get someone to "like" the work (whatever that might mean). The point to is enable someone (spectator, participant, collaborator) to grasp the work as it is, on its own terms, in order to understand its complexity and significance. This is another embarrassing tautology: the work is the work is the work. Or, "the experience you just had" is the point of the work. Does the authority of "Homes from Homes I and II" rest on the ability of the project to undermine the power of the conventional museological narrative to explain more convincingly than any other story the origin(s) and development of artistic practice? As the so-called "conventional museological narrative" is so widely internalized by artists, critics, curators (as, indeed, are the prevailing "subservise" responses to this claim to power), what kind of "difference" is being ratified here? It seems to me that there is a very real danger that "Homes from Homes I and II" is like a great self-satisfied pat on the back. In other words: the impression I get from it is one of consolation. (Why shouldn’t artists be entitled to self-consolation? Why do we generally assume that self-consolation is always a dubious partner to the stereotypical forms of self-confessional art?)
3. ". . . a refusal of – or a malingering difficulty for – the museology of contemporary art presumption: that the institution provides context. Of course, it does, but the relations that compose the structure of the work are such that at least to raise the question what are the limits of (our) work’s capacities to be self-contextualising?"
MC: Is there a point where the attitude of "malingering" yields diminishing terms? I suppose what I am saying is: malingering sounds so utterly generic now. Like "subversive", "critical", or that horrible journalistic phrase that crops out in every third-rate artist’s press release: "the work questions such-and-such. . ." Clearly, in most cases, it does nothing of the sort. What is does do is rehearse a certain entrenched and entirely predictable critical pose. Do not misread this remark as a plea for "newness." I mean for you to explain in more detail how you intend to take the dialectical aspect of "reversal" seriously in this context.
4. "What we also witnessed, particularly in New York, was a growing throng of more or less useless Art & Languagists, possessed of all the charm of suburban converts to a U.S. pressure group who squabbled to take turns as the harbingers of half-baked political virtue."
MC: This ought to be carved in stone, really. It’s beyond disdain, disapproval, principled refutation; it’s in the realm of travesty. It’s also, need I say, a legacy of modernism (along with the possibility of improvement — self-, social-, the cultural heights, etc.). That is didn’t work out to your satisfaction then is no grounds to defame it in its current manifestation(s). It is also not the case that the valuation of that practice takes place in the absence of critical thought, self-reflection, corrections, etc. Ooops, there I go again, rising to that old bait!
5. The "robustness" of A&L’s projects may be constrasted profitably with the attempt, on the part of Reinhardt, to decontextualize art to the point of "transcendence." That’s the conceit, anyway, of the "Voices of Silence." I think both projects are two sides of the same coin. Both projects are products of a highly Romantic imagination. The "rural idyll" is a cheeky way of saying the art and the life fit hand-in-glove.
6. I have no problem with painting. My last public exhibition (1996) was of paintings. I hope my next one will include paintings, too. Perhaps the word I should have used is "reactionist." Perhaps a moratorium on all these reifications of painting and its culture promise should be called. Clearly, one is no more able to talk of "painting" sensibly than one is able to talk of "conceptual art" sensibly. "Some painting . . .", "some conceptual art.
Michael Corris (InvCollege@aol.com)
Thomas Dreher - Answer 6/34
23.01.2003; 02:19:24 (reads: 65849, responses: 0)
Art & Language: "Homes from Homes" & The Jackson Pollock Bar:
Michael Corris asks in answer 6/33, point one, for a more differentiated argumentation with examples: Here Michael Baldwin´s and Mel Ramsden´s explanations of "Homes from Homes" in the catalogue "too dark to read" (Musée d´Art Moderne de Lille Métropole, Villeneuve d´Ascq 2002, with CD-ROM, now part of the website of Lisson Gallery) left me unsatisfied. You speak here in question 6 and in the catalogue about new travesties and their consequencies for your early work but you don´t explain the kind of consequences you want to project with "Homes from Homes" back on your early work, and how you imagine the elder work transforms the view of its travesties.
The impression is unavoidable that you want to conceptualize your catalogue of works (presented f. e. in "Art & Language in Practice, vol.1: Illustrated Handbook) as the oeuvre of Art & Language whose meaning only the members of Art & Language can change. But more than only some parts of the multipart "Homes from Homes" look like primitive parodies for a talk show with jokes or like students´ works. Do you want to tell us: Now we want to be primitive? Maybe you want to be primitive or non-intellectual, than I can try to understand your attitude f. e. as a negation of a self interpretation. This implies that you want not to present a more or less explicit self interpretation, but you want to direct the observer´s attention to a real and a possible ouevre (as it could have been in the past if you may have chosen to do it in another way), to the difference between the elder works and the travesties. But here I have to return to the problem with the primitive jokes of some traviesties and other travesties which doesn´t offer anything more than very simple distributions of signs (abstract signs similar to groundfloor plans, meat, self portraits of artists who can´t sit down without destroying works, etc.). Is the difference between the references of the parodies and the possible parodies marked by a change of the style of presentation, a change from conceptual and/or decorative frameworks to conglomerations of primitive spots on the wall (installation of Homes from Homes 1 and 2, Musée d´Art Moderne de Lille Métropole, Villeneuve d´Ascq 2002)? Do you want to direct our attention to conglomerations of works which can´t offer possible concepts because they can´t be more than an amount of misleading attention markers (spots/travesties)?
Your answer can´t satisfy here that the works are switches (from where to where?). If you want the paintings to be conceptualized as works and imaginations of possible works (which could have been doesn´t but you did not) than they can be seen as exemplifications - of what? Your explanation of the paintings in switch-functions is problematic here: Are they a simple switch from one picture of a painting with hot spots to other picturtes of paintings? As if every painting presents itself as its own copy, and its own modification as a `false copy´? As a trivial exemplification of the usual mediatization of paintings which causes modifications after endless repetitions of reproductions (but digital copies remain the same, otherwise the net couldn´t function)? As paintings which imply their double existence as painted surfaces and as the origins of `pictures´ from paintings? As exemplifications of the paradox that they look `as if´ they are reproductions of itself meanwhile they are not really worth any reproduction (a waste of work, files and materials)? As anticipations of your repetitions of the elements of "Homes from Homes" for other combinations of these elements in other "Homes from Homes"? As a nightmare which provokes the fiction that it never ends?
Is any of these questions interesting at other places than in possible talk shows for artists (or, better: for students of art, f. e. Boris Groys´ The Art Judgement Show with students)? Are you ritualizing de- (and re-)auratization? How many deauratizing acts and events are necessary until they will gain their own aura? Is Art & Language at its present state a comedy which offers a mediatization between an art school and a talk show?
This is a nightmarish phantasy. Maybe, "Homes from Homes" are a `comedy´ disguised in a series of paintings: The studio is transverted via travesty production into a derivation of the Jackson Pollock Bar.
The actors of the Jackson Pollock Bar repeated some texts of Art & Language in performances. They simulated speech acts in pantomime simultaneously to voices from a tape. The performance appears as a double of the voices on tape which are doubles of texts and transcripts. These procedures of reproductions are a travesty of Peggy Phelan´s "ontology of performance" ("Unmarked: The Politics of Performance", London 1993, p.146: the present action as "performance´s only life" against "the economy of reproduction", "the circulation of representations of representations"), especially because the reproductions end in a performance quality: The differences between the loudspeakers´ voices and the actors who try to remain `in tune´ with the loudspeakers meanwhile they act in a minimal and not very surprising way (f. e. speaking and sitting around a table) have a quality of its own: They interfere in a gap between play-back in live-music and TV-shows with guests around tables. It is a kind of non-performance art, because the actors´ roles are "matrixed", but which kind of role do they play in "the play", bound by a taped text and with a fixed, on a chair sitting body? The role of the bureaucrat who doesn´t act more than in minimal moves of hands and mouth (in both performances at the vernissage in Villeneuve d´Ascq 2002)? The ironic non theatrical theatricality of these matrixed and staged (not a real stage, but a limit between actors and the public) non-performances ("plays" versus "happenings": "matrixed" versus "nonmatrixed performing", see Michael Kirby: Happenings. New York 1965, p.13,16s.,21,118,120) lacks "Homes from Homes", or I am not able to recognize it.
Thomas Dreher (TDreher@onlinehome.de)