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inactiveTopic Question 7 topic started 04.07.2002; 17:44:59
last post 02.11.2002; 12:34:02
Art & Language - Question 7  blueArrow
04.07.2002; 17:44:59 (reads: 117180, responses: 12)
Because the reflection of media can't evade discussions of methodology, do the epistemic questions of Art & Language offer some of the fundamentals for a methodological discussion which could revive discussions on and about the (trans-)medium net? Da auch Medienreflexion sich Methodendiskussionen nicht entziehen kann: Liefern die erkenntnistheoretischen Fragen von Art & Language Ansätze für Methodendiskussionen, die der Diskussion über das (Trans-)Medium Netz neue Impulse geben können?

Art & Language - Answer 7/1  blueArrow
04.07.2002; 17:45:10 (reads: 88454, responses: 0)
I would rather not pretend to be a futorologist at this moment. Michael Corris (

Art & Language - Answer 7/2  blueArrow
05.07.2002; 22:49:34 (reads: 86429, responses: 0)
As to the trans-medium net ... what can be done with our CD? Homes from Homes is a project of travesty replication ad re-description. It was designed to open pathways to further travesties, copies, erasures and re-descriptions. Would its exposure on the internet provoke a use - the production of 'real' or virtual works - that might find its temporary home in a real museum? Michael Baldwin/Mel Ramsden (

Thomas Dreher - Answer 7/3  blueArrow
14.07.2002; 00:28:48 (reads: 95131, responses: 0)
I move back and forth between changes in the sixties/seventies and contemporary in my efforts to reconstruct the history of intermedia art and artivism. Allan Kaprow, Robert Smithson, Art & Language, Peter Weibel and Bazon Brock presented in their writings concepts and methods which are more important for me than writings of mere critics. Now we have on one side discourses within different departments of universities concerning methods of cultural (f. e. gender) studies, intertextuality and performativity, on the other side new reconstructions of the history of media and the theory of observation were developed. The discourses became diversified and an oversight on the methods and themes becomes more difficult if not impossible. Reconceptualisations of the different methods and the possibilities to combine them are necessary in a transformed field of discourse, with recursions to strategies of social practice.

Zwischen den Umbrüchen der sechziger/siebziger Jahre und der aktuellen Netzkunst pendeln meine Gedanken vor und zurück, wenn ich die Entwicklung von Intermedia Art und Artivism zu rekonstruieren versuche. Allan Kaprow, Robert Smithson, Art & Language, Peter Weibel und Bazon Brock stellen in ihren Texten Konzepte und Methoden vor, die für mich wichtiger sind als Schriften von Nur-Kritikern. Heute haben wir einerseits in verschiedenen Fakultäten Diskurse Vorgehensweisen der Kulturwissenschaften (z. B. Gender Studies), Intertextualität und Performativität und andererseits werden neue (Re)Konstruktionen der Mediengeschichte und der Theorie der Beobachtung entwickelt. Die Felder werden vielfältig und ein Überblick über die Methoden und Themen wird schwieriger, wenn nicht unmöglich. Rekonzeptualisierungen der verschiedenen Ansätze und der Möglichkeiten ihrer Kombination werden in einem veränderten Diskursfeld nötig, mit Rekursionen auf Strategien sozialer Praxis. Thomas Dreher (

Michael Corris - Answer 7/4  blueArrow
13.08.2002; 12:19:42 (reads: 85504, responses: 0)
Michael and Mel's response seems consistent with their notion that the best defense is to dig in and forget about the rest of the world. I hope this is not taken to mean that they are unconcerned about the world. They are no more or less concerned about the world as you and I. Which is to say, the world is where you make it, not where you find it in the media. One of the ways in which institutional power exerts itself is by fostering the belief that power is a predicate. Power is transpersonal, but like artistic agency, masquerades as something else. Pyramidical power structures are but one way to describe an institution's system, but it's essentially formalistic and is constantly challenged by the Machiavellian behaviors of all concerned. To sit an appear to do nothing, have no opinion about politically correct issues, not to lament about war, famine, etc., in public, is to be mute and sullen like a teenager. That is, to great effect, if your aim is to get "them" off your back so that you can just get on with what it is that you wish to do. The unfettered freedom of the adolescent is the pre-social in the social, from one point of view. A travesty is a turning towards to effect a turning away. "Silence" is a dialogical equivalent to the sit-down strike. "Heckling" and malingering threatens more than propriety. It is dangerous (a romantic idea, this) because it suggests that "power" has missed some space or failed to impress some constituency. Power's problem has always been its need for absolutism. That's the definition of power: it's binding. For how long, to what effect . . . shorten the time frame, reign in the horizon, and it's decision-making. Maybe next time we can talk about differences in ability and the possibility of naturalism. Michael Corris (

Thomas Dreher - Answer 7/5  blueArrow
20.08.2002; 01:07:59 (reads: 93258, responses: 0)
Concerning Michael Corris´ answer 7/4:
1.) The travesty, the parody, the fake...All these terms were usually related to Bakhtin´s "dialogism". His reconstructions of a grotesque conception of the body (in Rabelais´ Gargantua and Pantagruel) and his reconstructions of relations between the carneval and the church in the middle ages as hybrid relations (f. e. the grotesque conception of the body) imply methodological ways to deal with the politics of transgressions of performance art, especially of the Vienna Actionism (Hermann Nitsch, Otto Mühl).
2.) The fake corporations and other fake strategies in (RTmark, etoy, fake websites: parody the self representations of corporations. They present travesties and parodies in a new field which is determined by tensions between a free information exchange within (and between) communities and the corporative organized commercializations of copyright.
Communities imply a Copyleft Attitude: Copyright contradicts any open development of a research project. So the Copyleft Attitude was the adequate answer (
3.) The self parodying fakes of Baldwin/Ramsden in "Homes for Homes" (documented on their CD-ROM "too dark to read", Musée d´Art Moderne de Lille Métropole, Villeneuve d´Ascq, February 2002)imply the production of plagiarisms by every one who wants to produce fakes/doubles/variations of former A & L products without regard of copyright. The next step within this process will be, as projected by Baldwin/Ramsden, a double opportunity for participations within the plagiarist/copyleft project on the net and in an installation. The installation offers opportunities for the production of plagiarisms, modifications and transgressions of models or patterns presented by A & L (for example as doubles of their earlier work). Computers within or beside the installation present a website which presents digital files for transformations. Participation is open for every user. Participants can place their transformed files in an archive/digital gallery. The website adds a digital plagiarism to the the material plagiarism of the installation. Material and digital plagiarism can be combined within the same exhibition space (or, via webcam, within a website). The consequences of this opening of the project of A & L for a public participation will be a practice which implies transformations of conceptions which relate originality, copyright and art: nonreproductive individuality against reproductions and transformations within collaborative projects. Thomas Dreher (

Michael Corris - Answer 7/6  blueArrow
17.09.2002; 12:03:05 (reads: 84747, responses: 0)
To Thomas, Re: Your Answer, 7/5:

With respect to part 2. of your response: The fake or travesty still raises the hackles of the righteous. Apparently, a group in the US called recently transmitted a fake report on an equally fictitious Homeland Security Cultural Bureau. The report claimed that a public gallery in Philadelphia attached to an art school there was being closed because it exhibited work that was damaging to the anti-terrorist campaign of the government. It fooled some, who then decided it was time to draw the line. I thought that was good: the travesty provided the general irritant that provoked a kind of il-liberal discourse. Shame shame shame.

With respect to part 3. of your response: The Art & Language response to the Internet revolution seems a bit, well, late. Their new version of collaboration presupposes an entity called Art & Language. It's a model of collaboration at arms-length. Might we be more interested in something like the condensation of dark matter into nebulae, rather than the cosmic evolution of solar systems?

Thomas Dreher - Answer 7/7  blueArrow
19.09.2002; 18:56:07 (reads: 83953, responses: 0)
To Michael Corris´ answer 7/6:
1.) Your example of a fake strategy is interesting, because it expresses problems with the present situation after 9-11. States are acting as spies for reasons of security with less or without regard of the rigths of privacy. No one can proof what they really do because they act secret. In such a situation fakes can direct the imagination to a hidden reality and the reactions of the fooled can express the reason of the fake.
2.) Concerning the concept of Baldwin/Ramsden for virtual (website) and real fakes (installation): Can´t fakes and interactive transformations present ways to open the closed block/oeuvre of A & L for interdependencies/intertextual relations which constituted A & L since the beginning?
Thomas Dreher (

Thomas Dreher - Answer 7/8  blueArrow
24.09.2002; 00:51:38 (reads: 82179, responses: 0)

[Michael Baldwin´s reaction to Michael Corris´ answer 7/4:]

I know that the net is, well, tolerant of informality, but I’m surprised to read Michael Corris’ list of non sequiturs. Were they meant to be constructive – well meant – or somehow to shed a good light on him? Somehow. As his observations are in danger of being hollow, meagre and, for all I know, crisp, let’s take some of them in order.

Digging. I suppose that’s one way to describe what we do. There are others. What can be said for digging is that it has been known to cause certain edifices to collapse. But anyway, here’s what I think we do, or rather have raised questions about in Homes from Homes. In general terms, we’ve travestied, redescribed, emblematised, re-done, copied, allegorised, otherwise displaced, replaced, joked about, thematised – and so on, to various degrees and in many different ways some items of cultural furniture of which Art & Language is seen as the author or origin, or been closely associated with, is responsible for (etc.).

A persistent charge is that this sort of reflexive stuff is disengaged, somehow lacking in social or cultural purpose. Teleologically weak. I’d admit to its teleological weakness. As to the other thing, one has to ask at least two questions. 1) What are we being reflexive about? 2) How do we do the reflecting, redescribing or etc. If it turns out that the original material has some outward regard, then it may well turn out that this and certain contingencies of the present will have a certain bearing on the (later) reflection. It will tell us a certain amount concerning the ideological, social – or short practical serviceability of our redescription, and vice versa. While art is not simply a bunch of objects under some description, it is definitely not a mere mode of attention. It may be better to say that is a bunch of things in a wide sense under a set of descriptions. These descriptions are often conflicted. The first thing, perhaps, is that such stuff must have or imply a self-description. Unless this is available, its outward regard and its consequent capacity to describe the world will be a matter of arbitrary choice or need. What follows from this is that a certain autonomy cannot be avoided. The sweating and overcooking that’s been associated with this not particularly difficult notion has rarely been of cultural interest and is certainly to very little social purpose.

It should now be no surprise if I suggest that it is with a set of reflexive and reciprocal, indeed dialectical, descriptions that we can try to describe the world. It will be no surprise if I suggest that all apparent exceptions to this practical formula are in fact either client to it or vacuous.

Now, as to power. I simply do not know what it would be like to think that power is a predicate except in the sense that we could say John [turned on the power]. I can’t think of a circumstance in which I’d say John [is power]. We could, of course, say that John [has power], but this would not be like saying that John is green. Is Michael Corris saying that power is not a strange metaphysical substance that things and institutions possess in certain measures, but a real potential and a real effect? If he is, then I agree with him, or rather with his anti-Foucauldianism, even if he puts it oddly.

The rest of Michael’s contribution is opaque to me. Does he end by alluding to – bringing up – the chestnut: nature or nurture? I’m not sure where it fits into the conversation. Tant pis.

There is no doubt a social aspect to the Art & Language indexing project. We imagined, in our syndicalistic way, that in our collaboration, our inexpert learning from each other and from others, a ‘conversational’ artistic culture might replace the crude dialectics of career and its ideological appurtenances. More particularly, we thought that through our conversational strivings the mediate material substrate of the art world might be transformed as the small business practice of the small businessman-cum-entrepreneur artist was herself/himself transformed into a collaborative and sociable describer and self-corrector. Artistic culture would become something we could learn from one another. Co-option to the academy would have been systematically resisted insofar as negation or refutation was fundamental to the conversation. The indexing project was conceived as self-replicating and self-describing, secure in its distinctiveness, but simultaneously self-transforming – insecure not simply at its margins. Distinctive, but systematically ordinal and unwelcoming with regard to questions of identity. This does not, of course, mean that Mel, Charlie and I do not do what we do.
Michael Baldwin/Mel Ramsden (

Michael Corris - Answer 7/9  blueArrow
24.09.2002; 09:39:36 (reads: 83809, responses: 0)
Response to Question 7/8: Non-sequitirs constitute a systematic resistance of their own. An irruption of the irrational into a stream of seriousness. Your self-description is appreciated. It does not contradict my sense the gross (as in gross anatomy) aspects of your practice. Does negation go all the way down, like the turtles that are presumed to support the world? Michael Corris (

Thomas Dreher - Answer 7/10  blueArrow
30.10.2002; 22:22:31 (reads: 84159, responses: 0)
[Response of Philip Pilkington]

A Vogon Guard Speaks to Arthur Dent

The following dilates on some of the discussions in Blurting in AL, questions 6 and 7.

This is not a playful response. A call for Reform of some sort seems to be in the ether from Corris. It’s suggested that a reform of aesthetic practices may be connected to the reform of institutional hegemonies. That in some way, an aesthetic practice should be in an appropriate critical phase to hegemony; and appropriateness is somehow effective with respect to ‘outcomes’. And that connection is what? Pragmatically appropriate, grown up, adult, competent and responsible. There are many covert or perhaps unself-conscious assumptions in a polarity of aesthetic to hegemonic practices: psychologisms of meaning, plus a mechanistic view of meaning as a closed, transparent system and linked to actions, alienation as psychological choice (or at least amenable to therapy) rather than a determinism, and the privilege (special case) of the aesthetic over other practices, and much, much more.

Where to begin?

The somewhat confused analogies to juvenile anomie, industrial action and aesthetic quietism (malingering, sit down strikes, etc) first appears in question 6 where Corris says something about the NY annotations and ‘we didn’t want the art world to join us’. This is fantasy and heroic missing the point. Perhaps that is Corris’ mea culpa. Let me explain (again) - the difference between the annotations and the indexing projects were on the surface and in a restricted behaviourist’s sense rather minor; but in their logic, practice and drang there were profound differences. This is not a matter of degree; there was a fundamental (and final) disagreement. It’s not an error of comparing apples to pears in the rather self-serving blurting about NY annotations and the indexes – it’s an error of several orders of category mistake of (say) comparing gestalt therapy to super strings. This is not boasting…they were that different. Perhaps the disagreement continues over comparability. That the disagreement continues may also be related to why the comments about power seem either silly or incomprehensible or possibly both.

Let me explain (again) – the relationship the (any) annotations could have to other practices could be stable, stipulated beforehand on any criteria to anyone’s (or nobody’s) benefit. It was ‘constitutional’ in a Rawlsian sense, parasitic on other social conditions. The pathways from one to the other practices could be indicative, a bit like a power point presentation (sic) to a performative act such as a sales talk. Indexing is recursive functioning whereby (a) relations between practices are unstable and changing and (b) membership of the sets (that is, the set of meanings, the set of production, of people, of historical conditions, et al) change. Indexing is non-foundational, formally. It’s therefore funny that others in NY got wound up about ‘membership’ qua individuals as contributors with futures at stake – that was partly the point of indexing. (Did you notice the authorship ascribed in the Handbook(s) for Going On was at best schematic, if not fuzzy.) The annotations seemed like a conceptual art conceit, indexing seemed like vanishing into natural languages. However, the NY fantasy was everyone was troubled not to be tainted with the art world in NY. Pardon? It was the very air they breathed, with the sales of The Fox in art bookshops keenly followed (shelved, presumably, in the Resolutely Not Art section). It is this purblindness that is at one with the startling non-sequitors of power, artistic agency, ability, etc. that follows in the responses about aesthetic practice and power.

Now, perhaps Corris was compressing a great deal into his reply on ‘artistic agency’ and its responsibilities. It seems that committing travesties (sic) is either an adolescent response or avoidance (or both) of the dominant ‘absolutist power’.

I can see the lineaments of travesties and malapropisms in the radical upshots of the indexical projects. That is, there was a flight from reification in the mapping of meaning in and as practice and in the radical changes in meaning. Tracing back the meanings (and the history) is problematic; the heir-lines are unclear or at best incomplete. Hegemonic history – that which ramifies the representation of cultural productions as managed consumption – reifies the practice. It does not just ‘freeze’ practice in time, it distorts, warps, guesses and lies. The dialectical relations which are perhaps alluded to in the claim for engaging, between the practice and its hegemonised representations is (yes) negation. But the negation does not entail a pair of views within a well-formed set of views. Negation here is a logically incommensurable pairing. An irony of indexing and of purposive travesties is that there is an asymmetric relation between the hegemonic and its paired historical practices. The disturbing thought is that the historical synthesis (with the devoutly to be wished responsible adult commitments that would follow) will never occur – on the logical grounds that (a) the aufgehoben is an hegemonic formalist’s wet dream and (b) there is already a form of synthesis in the recursiveness of the historical practice over the hegemonic history- we speak to ourselves of the world. This is not to say there is the End of History, just that history in practice is not a three act Hegelian melodrama with happy outcomes; it is perpetual improv in survival.

If an outcome of management consumption of aesthetic (and other) practices is absurdity then what logical tools are available to deal with that absurdity? This is meant in a classical sense: absurdity includes all possible propositions within it, including any possible aesthetic practices. This is not a new situation – it’s a variation on industrialist portraiture but this time it is without virtue. Turning towards, away, sideways, under or a double axel around power is besides the point about responsibility within absurdity.

As a footnote: consider the limits of representing absurdity within what we still hold on to – a failed picture theory of meaning. I mean this in (again) the classical reference to overcoming Russellian paradoxes – meaning can only be shown and in the literal sense of the showing. As for an epistemology of AL, I would suggest at best an instrumental stoicism – competences within limits of absurdity. Philip Pilkington(

Michael Corris - Answer 7/11  blueArrow
01.11.2002; 17:49:56 (reads: 83924, responses: 0)
Mr. Pilkington’s response 7/10 is spectacularly uninformed and rude. It is, unfortunately, par for the course, so I wish he would not feel the need for the utterly disingenous framing of his remarks as "unplayful." (Goodness, might that be an indexical proposition directed at my responses?) Over the years, I’ve known of nothing but unplayful (i.e. deadly serious and portentious) responses from Mr. Pilkington. I have grown a thick skin of late. In the past, I would have been inclined to ignore Mr. Pilkington. Today, I would rather not, despite the fact that Mr. Pilkington has yet to overcome his idee fixe directed at the flesh pit that was Art & Language in New York from 1972-1976. His current statement seems to suspend that particulary pathology just long enough to generate a credible insight or two. But not much more, I am afraid.

I dare to make the (apparently ludicrous) claim that art practice may, in certain circumstances, by certain design, impinge on "institutional hegemonies." I make no other claim, although Mr. Pilkington always assumes that one is speaking of "outcomes." To desire an "effect", to wish to be "effective" was, to Mr. Pilkington’s and Mr. Baldwin’s mind, the great crime of some members of Art & Language in New York during the 1970s. These people have names and histories. They are: Ian Burn, Mel Ramsden to some extent (although he would be hard-pressed to admit as much now), Andrew Menard, Preston Heller, Carole Conde, Karl Beveridge, possibly Nigel Lendon, certainly Terry Smith in certain venues, Jill Breakstone (who???? Just another casualty) and of course, myself. Mea culpa. That was then, this is now. In fact, Mr. Pilkington knows nothing about my current thinking, except that I continue to commit the crime of acknowledging the existence of — Shock! Horror! — other artists.

I do not state, believe, or claim, that aesthetic practices (whatever they may be: Mr. Pilkington doesn’t say) should be subject to discipline. Is he suggesting that what constitutes Art & Language’s current work is precisely framed by that term? As for my theory of meaning, I don’t hold a mechanistic view at all. As one of his colleagues was fond of noting, in defense of his non-standard reference to difficult and important work in philosophy, pragmatics of natural language, etc., one need not justify the pursuit of higher mathematics. I agree. But this is a leaky argument, because you can’t control what the "semi-" in semi-autonomous (as: art is a semi-autonomous practice) will or can mean.

I can’t see how all this is in the ether. That’s just a cheap shot. Why don’t you come out and say it Mr. Pilkington? "Mr. Corris is an idealist, not a materialist."

As for the analogy (hardly: metaphor, although we’ve all read Davidson on how metaphors mean . . .) between A&L practice as malingering, well, I think it holds.

Mr. Pilkington accuses the annotations as having a stable, preconceived relationship to anyone’s practice. Well, that’s a distortion: they emerged from our practice (A&L NY). That they might pose some interesting problems to others’ practice was on our mind. The recursive Grail of the UK indexes is something I shall have to take Mr. Pilkington’s word for. Very few of us, I am afraid, were clever enough to figure out the "system" (please don’t take that too literally) and actually come to some understanding about the vaunted "instability" of the relations of practice. The statement that such practices were indeed fluid (flux-like, perhaps?) is noble. Is Mr. Pilkington saying that A&L NY practices were not, could not be, would never be, had never been, etc.? Compared to whom or what?

Yes, Mr. Pilkington, my remarks suffer from compression. To say that we were not involved with the NY artworld is perhaps an exaggeration from where you sat (and still sit). All I can say is that we were not alone. Acknowledging a set of practices is not the same as subscribing to them. Where would you have sold The Fox? Oh, excuse me, you would never have conceived of such an ill-informed project to begin with.

Hegel said the real is rational, the rational is real. Or something like that (I am sure Mr. Pilkington can supply the precise quote, in the original German. I apologise in advance for being vulgar). Hegel was no adolescent, was he?

I do like the phrase "competences within limits of absurdity." I understand what it means for A&L. Like all recent depictions of A&L, it is meant to make us all look like mugs. Or is that Mr. Muggs? Michael Corris (

Michael Corris - Answer 7/12  blueArrow
02.11.2002; 12:34:02 (reads: 84993, responses: 0)
As an addendum to the above, I concur with Pilkington when he says "history in practice is not a three act Hegelian melodrama with happy outcomes; it is perpetual improv in survival." Let's look upon the Indexing projects (sorry to call them that) as a way to ensure the improvisational moment does not become a certainty and a cheap substitute for being-in-the-world. Are other kinds of existential insurance policies conceivable and realistic (able to function in practice, as sketched by Pilkington, etc.)? The inevitable "failure of meaning" stuff threatens to make a virtue of paradoxa, familiar to all of us, that circle us.

I should also like to say that we can't go on meeting like this. . . Michael Corris (


Last update: Saturday, November 2, 2002 at 7:43:34 PM.