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 (email@example.com)