construction site for non-affirmative practice
The Construction site for non-affirmative practice is a group of young Italian designers that came together in autumn 2011 during our collectivized artist’s residency at Careof , a non profit art space in Milan. Since, the group has developed its own dynamics and together we study and experiment with alternative criteria with which to act in the world and, in particular, the world of design.
The Construction site is asking questions like:
What sort of society do we want to contribute to?
What position are we taking within the capitalist economy and how can we question that position?
How do we want to work and relate to others?
How do we want to live?
What support structures can we construct in order to allow for the development of diverse and sustainable design practices?
For more details on the project we invite you to visit the section dedicated to the Construction site on the website Designing Economic Cultures .
The Construction site also has its own website: pratichenonaffermative.wordpress.com
• 11 February 2013 • View comments
G E S T U R E S O F L O V E ,
O R L’ I N S U R R E C T I O N
Q U I V I E N T ?
H O U H A N R U
Over the past several decades contemporary art has
become a genuinely global affair. The borders of the
art world have expanded, and the myriad forms of
expression comprising contemporary artistic practice
have been widely embraced around the globe, moving
far beyond established international art capitals such
as Paris, London, and New York. In fact, it could
be argued that much of today’s most energetic
and innovative artwork is being made outside the
traditional art circuit. With the rapid creation of new
markets in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, and with
the equally rapid establishment of contemporary art
organizations, festivals, and biennials in regions that
were once considered “peripheral,” the validity of
the timeworn divide between center and periphery
has become increasingly difficult to quantify. The
most spectacular face of the new globalization can be
found in the recent boom in museum construction
throughout the non-Western world, especially in Asia,
home of the new economic superpowers. In effect, a
kind of unquestioned, or unquestionable, consensus
about the virtue of this “museum fever” has emerged.
In developing regions that wish to demonstrate their
openness toward social progress, innovation, and the
creation of a brighter future, the establishment of
contemporary art museums is considered a necessity
by the art community, the general public, and political
and economic authorities.
The business sector in particular has come to
value the development of cultural organizations
as both a good investment and an opportunity to
demonstrate a commitment to “social responsibility.”
We see this reflected in the construction of a cluster
of “world-class” museums on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat
Island, including the Zayed National Museum as
well as outposts of the Louvre and the Guggenheim.
Singapore’s new National Art Gallery, at close to
fifteen acres in size, is scheduled to open in 2015, and
Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District, which
boasts more than a dozen art and culture facilities,
will soon be home to the world’s largest contemporary
art museum, M+, also projected to open in 2015. An
unprecedented number of museums are currently
in the planning stages or under construction across
China.2 Much of this activity—including Beijing’s
Today Art Museum and Shanghai’s Minsheng Art
Museum, Rockbund Art Museum, and Zendai Museum
of Modern Art, all of which opened in the first decade
of the twenty-first century—is sponsored by Chinese
corporations; like their Japanese and Korean counterparts a decade ago, Chinese business groups have
come to appreciate the political benefits of cultivating
ambitious cultural projects. The Chinese government
likewise recognizes the importance of building “soft
power” through the development of art and culture.
Plans for a national museum of contemporary art are
underway in Beijing, and the Shanghai Contemporary
Art Museum is under construction, with its opening
(National Day, October 1) scheduled to coincide with
that of the 9th Shanghai Biennale in 2012. Located
in the converted power plant that was the site of the
2010 World Expo’s Pavilion of the Future, this new
museum resembles a larger version of London’s Tate
Modern and is part of the local government’s effort
to ensure that all Shanghai residents will soon have
a museum or other cultural venue within a fifteenminute walk from their homes.3
Most of these new museums have more or less
been modeled on existing Western institutions. But
such endeavors do not always translate smoothly to
developing regions, where they can be undermined
by inadequate planning and insufficient long-term
financial support, as well as an absence of expertise
and curatorial vision. Faced with such challenging
circumstances, even the most enthusiastically
conceived projects can be jeopardized by unforeseen
crises (one thinks of the 2008 earthquake in China,
where poor construction practices and shoddy
building materials led to an extremely high death
toll and widespread devastation). In addition, many
of these projects are based on a relationship to the
market system that is drawn from the entertainment
277. Shanghai 2010 World Expo site under construction in January 2010, 108 days before the opening industry (rather than the cultural field) and therefore 208 209
encourages the spectacularization of artistic production. Obviously, this trend has evolved hand in hand
with the logic of neoliberal capitalism—evidenced in
the art market’s domination of both the regional and
global art scenes. Increasingly, artistic and cultural
projects that take a critical and emancipatory approach
and attempt to resist the new oligarchy and its cultural
alliances are emptied of real political substance and
neutralized through the process of commodification.
At the same time, the fervent embrace of iconic
architecture (which often translates into museums
that are oversize and extravagantly grotesque) and the
inflexible replication of the conventions of Western
artistic modernism (such as “white cube” gallery
spaces) have a devastating tendency to undermine the
most inventive and original aspects of local cultural
and creative energy.
The incongruities created by structuring a
contemporary art scene around an armature of
outdated institutional conventions are inevitable
and not limited to the East. Contemporary art is
universally the product of intense negotiations
between a true multitude of expressions, and it
reflects a variety of singular interpretations of local
contexts that are necessarily complex, improvisational,
and open to continuous change. New institutional
models are needed. The search for alternatives
in Asia began more than a decade ago, when art
institutions established in Japan and Korea revealed
flaws in the prevailing system. A great number of
self-organized, artist-run spaces were formed when
the members of nascent contemporary art communities—known for their emphasis on artistic and social
experimentation—found that their activities could
not be accommodated by traditional venues. The
major museums in these areas (if they existed at all)
have, for one reason or another, not been effective
in responding to the vital transformative impulse of
these smaller, more innovative grassroots efforts. As
a result, many artists collectively turned away from
these institutions, founding independent spaces
where they manifest their creative commitment by
developing various strategies of occupation. These
spaces quasi systematically thrive on everyday life;
they have to adapt rapidly and efficiently in the face of
urban expansion and economic growth, processes that
are often rife with the inherent tensions of attempting
to envision a better future and the inevitable social
conflicts that impede the possibility of positive change.
Indeed, it is important to recognize that an almost
tangible desire to be engaged socially and politically is
the raison d’être for many artists in these countries to
act as “contemporary” and “avant-garde” agents.
Many such efforts could be compared to what
Hakim Bey identified as a Temporary Autonomous
Zone (TAZ).4 They take over the urban center and
form “a certain kind of ‘free enclave’ resisting against
the mainstream, state power structure” (here I would
add big corporations, too). Their actions are “an essay
(‘attempt’), a suggestion, almost a poetic fancy” that
encourages “uprising,” or “insurrection,” against state
(and corporate) power; they are situated beyond all
established forms of organization. According to Bey,
“The TAZ is like an uprising which does not engage
directly with the State, a guerrilla operation which
liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and
then dissolves itself to re-form elsewhere/elsewhen,
before the State can crush it.” It is invisible, always
shifting, “a microcosm of that ‘anarchist dream’ of a
free culture.” Moreover, the TAZ “is an encampment
of guerrilla ontologists: strike and run away.” It has a
“temporary but actual location in time and a temporary but actual location in space. But clearly it must
also have ‘location’ in the Web … .” In the end, “The
TAZ is somewhere. It lies at the intersection of many
forces, like some pagan power-spot at the junction of
Hou Gestures of Love, or L’insurrection qui vient?
278. Arrow Factory, 38 Jianchang Hutong, Beijing, 2009. Works on view by Ken Lum (interior) and Patty Chang and Rania Ho (rooftop). Courtesy Arrow Factory 279. Yan Lei, Locals Only, 2009. Performance and installation at Arrow Factory, Beijing. Courtesy Arrow Factory210 211
mysterious ley-lines, visible to the adept in seemingly
unrelated bits of terrain, landscape, flows of air, water,
animals.” It can bring about ultimate liberation “on
the condition that we already know ourselves as free
beings.”5 Such zones of resistance open platforms for
experimental, critical, and transgressive expression
in the face of chaotic and increasingly oppressive
social realities. They also bring about new visions of
social organization that deconstruct and even destroy
the established centrality of the institutional system,
proposing new forms of social production based on a
continuous renegotiation of relations between independent actions and institutions, between periphery
and center, between a static boundary and open
space. These spaces encourage a limitless approach to
creation that puts productivity and process at the very
heart of the generation of culture. In other words,
alternative models like TAZ present a fundamental
challenge to the static institutional systems that have
dominated the production and display of art.6 They
compel us to redefine the concept of the contemporary in relation to social engagement, and they
manifest the real singularities of artistic production in
different regions at a time when contemporary art is
proliferating in new cultural centers across the world.7
Above all, alternative structural and cultural
models make it clear that the globalization of contemporary art does not have to mean the distribution of
a single institutional infrastructure or the widespread
adoption of a homogenizing representational system.
Instead, the art world and its networks should
foster experimental processes for imagining and
inventing paradigms that honor and emphasize the
many possible ways of defining and constructing
contemporaneity. The organization of biennials, for
example, offers an ideal means of regularly testing
and examining new approaches to the presentation of
contemporary art. I have advocated such explorations
in my own curatorial practice. As a co-curator of the
4th Gwangju Biennale in 20028 I worked to assemble
representatives from more than twenty artist-run
spaces—including Cemeti Art House in Yogyakarta,
Videotage and Para/Site in Hong Kong, Borges
Libreria in Guangzhou, IT Park in Taipei, Plastic
Kinetic Worms in Singapore, and Pool in Seoul—with
the aim of forming transregional and transcontinental
connections that would create a basis for future
long-term collaborations. This initiative was intended
to build an independent network representing the
originality and diversity of contemporary art in Asia,
one that would provide a new infrastructure for truly
experimental activities reflecting the various definitions of art and its social functions in different parts
of the world. It aimed to reveal, rather than flatten,
the differences and multiplicity that lie at the heart of
the global art system. In essence, it was also a gesture
toward claiming a new “glocality” in the face of the
hegemonic model of the “global museum.”9
During the past ten years, the contemporary art scene
has experienced a major structural transformation.
The market is usurping biennial culture to become
the center of focus: art fairs, which emphasize sales
as much as creative expression, are the new gathering
points for the global art community. More and more,
museums and other cultural institutions are finding
themselves at the mercy of market forces, while
artistic production itself increasingly resembles a
commodity industry. In the case of Asia and similar
emerging economic powers on the front lines of this
mutation, it is particularly apparent that the status,
function, and conditions of survival of independent art
organizations are more threatened than ever, yet it is
equally clear that they have never been more necessary as a force of critical resistance.
In this era of market dominance, the privatization
of urban space and the retreat—and even disappearance—of the public sphere is a real threat that
we must face. This is a matter of particular urgency
for the art world. The transformation of the urban
landscape—driven by aggressive gentrification and
ambitious real estate development—is uprooting
the very terrain for art’s social engagement and
contributing to the dismantling and destruction
of grassroots communities that might once have
stemmed the tide of rising market forces. Fostering
solidarity and collaboration between art communities and the wider public is now vital to the survival
of both the art world and urban society as a whole,
and it is imperative that we invent new ideas and
strategies for the preservation and protection of
the public sphere. Independent art organizations
and other grassroots activists have answered the
call by creating projects and events that encourage
interaction between artists and local audiences.
There is fresh momentum to reestablish public spaces
where all citizens can come together and collectively
reimagine society through artistic actions.
In Asia, as elsewhere, such efforts are emerging
within a rapidly changing cultural landscape. Many
historically significant independent organizations
have shut down; others, having survived, seem to have
been transformed into partially or fully commercial
galleries—Guangzhou’s Vitamin Creative Space and
Beijing’s Long March Project and Boers-Li Gallery
(previously named Universal Studios) come to mind.
New organizations have in turn been founded across
a much wider geographic area, especially in regions
once considered “secondary” to the international art
circuit such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar.
Indeed, since 2005, several remarkable art projects,
including Sàn Art and a little blah blah in Ho Chi
Minh City, SA SA BASSAC in Phnom Penh, and New
Zero Art Space in Yangon, have been formed. Like
their elder “sisters” in Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong
Kong, and Shanghai (China); Tokyo (Japan); Singapore
(Singapore); Seoul (South Korea); Taipei (Taiwan/
China); Bangkok (Thailand) and elsewhere, they
have become important sites of artistic production,
exhibition, and exchange, both in their home cities and
beyond. Notably, education and public outreach are
fundamental to many of these independent organizations (a trend that is also evident among the spaces
included in Six Lines of Flight). For example, in
2005 Korean curator Sunjung Kim founded Samuso
in a traditional residential area in Seoul; the space
has organized lectures, performances, conferences,
and enduring public art programs (such as Platform
Seoul and City Within the City) in which international
artists and others are invited to investigate the city
and produce site-specific projects that reinterpret the
urban environment. The fact that the space and its
programs are so well integrated—from development
to execution—into the local community makes Samuso
a model platform for public engagement with contemporary art, broadly defined.
Civic engagement is also central to Arrow Factory
(pl. 278). Based in Beijing—the new El Dorado of the
art boom, where galleries flock to become profitmaking ventures—this 161-square-foot (15-squaremeter) space heroically rises up against the grain.
Distancing itself from the purpose-built art districts
on the city outskirts, Arrow Factory (which shares
its name with the narrow hutong, or alley, where it
is located) is based in a traditional neighborhood
in the oldest part of the capital. Separated from
the bustle of the street by only a thin plate-glass
window, the space both draws on and merges with
its environment, hosting site-specific installations,
exhibitions, performances, and informal gatherings
that are visible to passersby twenty-four hours a day.
Founded in 2008 by artists Rania Ho, Wang Wei, and
Wei Weng, along with curator Pauline Yao, Arrow
Factory remains committed to establishing ongoing
dialogues with the local community. With minimal
financing (raised both locally and internationally),
the artists produce significant projects that are
economical, flexible, and spontaneous as well as
ephemeral, humorous, and above all critical. By
recontextualizing familiar objects and responding to
the immediate environment, the works presented at
the space mix poetry and provocation, revealing the
creative potential in the everyday.
Hou Gestures of Love, or L’insurrection qui vient?
280. Occupy Wall Street demonstration at One Police Plaza, headquarters of
the New York City Police Department, on September 30, 2011. Stan Honda/
AFP/Getty Images212 213
Significantly, Arrow Factory focuses on staging
participatory interactions with the hutong dwellers
(who are generally from lower social classes and might
not otherwise frequent art spaces). For example,
artist Yan Lei installed an air conditioner in the
space and gave a key to a neighbor so that he and his
family could live there for a month (pl. 279). Another
“special event” transformed (or reverted) the space
into a bakery where neighbors could enjoy, in some
cases for the first time, an espresso and Western-style
cakes and pastries. These interventions achieved the
ideal union of art and life by strategically adapting
everyday gestures to disseminate critical messages.
Through such projects, the space has gradually
become a distinct focal point of energy and creative
production within the social ecology of the neighborhood. In the context of the rapid privatization and
gentrification that is taking place in many Chinese
cities, Arrow Factory claims a space for the protection and sustenance of local customs and ways of life.
Their projects demonstrate how integration with the
local community can produce highly political and even
metaphysical messages of resistance that filter into
the subconscious of the local population, mobilizing
self-emancipation while also preserving and developing natural ways of living and socializing. Above
all, such actions are gestures of love. The imaginative
and courageous work of Arrow Factory is like Cupid’s
arrow hitting the heart of a city that is so much in
need of love.
At a time when global crises of all kinds seem to be
multiplying, independent art and cultural organizations everywhere are interrogating the significance
of their work and their ethical positions. As Dan S.
Wang, founder of the Chicago-based experimental
cultural center Mess Hall, states in an essay written
for 3 Years: Arrow Factory, 2008–2011:
What does the necessity of Arrow Factory say
about the historical vector at work, defining
the parameters of political and expressive
possibility, in Beijing or wherever one finds
oneself? One answer is that as the structural
crisis of capitalism hurtles toward bifurcation and
multiple planetary systems approach collapse,
the revolutionary legacies of modernity—
unrealized, defeated, or overturned—deserve
reconsideration as the dreamworks of humanity.
But these legacies, if they are to be useful at all
in the bewildering political-cultural landscape
of multiple and overlapping subject positions,
incomplete emancipations, extreme wealth
disparities, and uneven developments that now
make up the mosaic of daily life, must be renewed
outside of their historically and context-specific
vocabularies. In its first three years as an organic
blip on the urban texture, Arrow Factory has
been this mutation chamber, where idealistic
potentialities at the socially granular level can
be made into signposts of the future without
depending on the overdetermined language of
critical theory. At Arrow Factory self-sufficiency
comes into the conversation where before there
was only class-consciousness, market-resistant
forms get created by blue-chip artists, and the
sometime focal point of a randomly surviving
hutong makes its own history—of art, of Beijing,
of the possible.10
This reading of Arrow Factory’s sociopolitical
context echoes Alain Badiou’s description of the
“localization stage,” which he identifies as the prelude
to “the reawakening of history” and the attendant
emergence of new possibilities for the emancipation
of humanity. In his recent book Le réveil de l’histoire
(The Reawakening of History), Badiou considers the
stages of revolution through the lens of the ongoing
Arab Spring and the actions of Los Indignados/
Les Indignés (The Outraged) across Europe, rebellions that inspired the American Occupy movement
(pl. 280).11 Drawing a parallel between Europe’s
antimonarchy revolutions of 1848 and the current
protests against the global financial powers (which
masquerade as “democracies”), Badiou predicts the
emergence of new public spheres and uprisings that
will subvert the dominant system in favor of one that
is truly democratic and egalitarian. A more radical
call for revolution is found in Comité Invisible’s
L’insurrection qui vient (The Coming Insurrection).12
Echoing Hakim Bey’s vision and strategy for
Temporary Autonomous Zones, the Comité Invisible
emphasizes direct action (for example, the guerrillastyle occupation of social spaces) and the mustering
of communal forces to overturn prevailing power
structures and usher in a new era of emancipatory
universalism. The resonances between the efforts of
Arrow Factory and other independent spaces can,
and should, be recognized as parallel claims for a
new world order in the international contemporary
Are these acts gestures of love? Or calls to arms
for the coming insurrection? The two are by no
means separate. At the brink of the reawakening of
history, insurrection is both the condition for, and the
expression of, love.
Hou Gestures of Love, or L’insurrection qui vient?
1. L’insurrection qui vient (The Coming
Insurrection), written by an anonymous group
of contributors under the name Comité
Invisible (Invisible Committee), was first
published in French in 2007. Pointing to
symptoms such as the financial crisis and a
variety of environmental disasters in the late
2000s, it hypothesizes the imminent collapse
of capitalism. The English edition, which was
published in 2009, has greatly influenced the
American anarchist movement. See Comité
Invisible, L’insurrection que vient (Paris:
La Fabrique éditions, 2007–9), available at
.pdf; and The Invisible Committee, The
Coming Insurrection (Los Angeles:
Semiotext(e), 2009), also available at
2. In 2005 the Chinese government pledged
to construct “1,000 new museums by 2015,
including 32 in Beijing in time for the 2008
Olympics and 100 in Shanghai before the
opening of the 2010 World’s Fair.” See
A. Craig Copetas, “China Is Racing to Get
Its Art Treasures Back,” New York Times
(October 13, 2005), http://www.nytimes.com
Recent figures reported by governmentcontrolled news agencies indicate that more
than one hundred new museums are opened
in China each year. See “Beijing Ranks Second
in Number of Museums,” English China News
Service (October 10, 2011), http://www.ecns
3. “China Pavilion to be ‘Art Palace’,” Time
Out Shanghai, last updated November 14,
4. Here I am referencing my essay
“Initiatives, Alternatives: Notes in a
Temporary and Raw State,” in How
Latitudes Become Forms: Art in a Global
Age, ed. Philippe Vergne (Minneapolis, MN:
Walker Art Center, 2003), 36–39, also
available at http://latitudes.walkerart.org
5. Throughout this paragraph, quoted
material is from Hakim Bey, T.A.Z.: The
Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological
Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism (Brooklyn, NY:
Autonomedia, anti-copyright, 1985, 1991),
also available at http://hermetic.com/bey
6. The rise of alternative organizational
models in non-Western countries has begun
to shape the ways Western museums position
themselves internationally. One notable
example is the “Museum as Hub” project that
occupies the fifth floor of New York’s New
Museum. Under the curatorial leadership of
Eungie Joo, the Hub organizes collaborations
among various museums and art spaces
including Townhouse Gallery (Cairo), Insa
Art Space/Arko Art Center (Seoul), Museo
Tamayo (Mexico City), and Van Abbemuseum
7. See note 4 above.
8. I co-curated P_A_U_S_E, the 4th Gwangju
Biennale, with Sung Wan-kyung and
9. This idea was further developed in special
projects for the Second Guangzhou Triennial,
BEYOND: an extraordinary space of experimentation for modernization, which I directed
and co-curated, with Hans Ulrich Obrist and
Guo Xiaoyan, between 2004 and 2006. The
organizations that took part in the triennial
mingled with other independent educational
initiatives, settling in a postindustrial site that
became a new cultural center in Guangzhou.
10. Dan S. Wang, “A Smooth Pebble in the
Stream of (the) Capital,” in 3 Years: Arrow
Factory, 2008–2011, ed. Rania Ho, Wang
Wei, and Pauline Yao (Beijing: Arrow Factory;
Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2011), 79.
11. See Alain Badiou, Le réveil de l’histoire,
Circonstances 6 (Paris: Éditions Lignes,
2011). “Arab Spring” is the term used for
the widespread demonstrations and protests
against government corruption and repression
that began in Tunisia on December 18, 2010,
and spread across other countries in the
Middle East and North Africa. The movement
is known for its organizers’ use of social media
to galvanize support. As of February 2012,
the Arab Spring has overthrown governments
in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, and led
to uprisings and protests in numerous other
countries. See Garry Blight, Sheila Pulham,
and Paul Torpey, “Arab Spring: An Interactive
Timeline of Middle East Protests,” The
Guardian (January 5, 2012), http://www
-timeline, and “The Arab Spring,” Institute for
War and Peace Reporting, accessed April 16,
/arab-spring. For more information about
the European movement Los Indignados/
Les Indignés, see Anne Myriam, “Bastille
Square: A New Era for Civil Disobedience á
la Française,” Waging Nonviolence (July 15,
-disobedience/. The movement takes its name
from a pamphlet titled Indignez-vous! (Time
for Outrage), which was published in 2010 by
French diplomat and writer Stéphane Hessel.
12. See note 1 above
• 9 October 2012 • View comments
Image by Tactica Dean
Venice Biennale, 2003
Curated by Molly Nesbit, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Rirkrit Tiravanija
What is a Station?
During a debate with Theodor Adorno in 1964, Ernst Bloch, pushed to the wall to defend his position on utopia, stood firm. Adorno had begun things by reminding everyone present that certain utopian dreams had actually been fulfilled, that there was now television, the possibility of travelling to other planets and moving faster than sound. And yet these dreams had come shrouded, minds set in traction by a relentless positivism and then their own boredom. “One could perhaps say in general,” he noted, “that the fulfillment of utopia consists largely only in a repetition of the continually same ‘today.’”
Bloch countered. The word utopia had indeed been discredited, he noted, but utopian thinking had not. He pointed to other levels of mind, to removes that were less structured by Western capital. Utopia was passing less auspiciously under other names now , he remarked, for example, “science fiction” and the beginnings of sentences starting with “If only it were so…”
Adorno agreed with him there and went on. “Whatever utopia is,” he said, “whatever can be imagined as utopia, this is the transformation of the totality. And the imagination of such a transformation of the totality is basically very different in all the so-called utopian accomplishments –which, incidentally, are all really like you say: very modest, very narrow. It seems to me that what people have lost subjectively in regard to consciousness is very simply the capability to imagine the totality as something that could be completely different.” How to think utopia then? Adorno saw the only possibility to reside in the notion of an unfettered life freed from death. All at once the discussion of utopia expanded; it became not merely old, but ancient. It seemed to shed ideologies as if they were skins. Adorno declared that there could be no picture of utopia cast in a positive manner, there could be no positive picture of it at all, nor could any picture be complete. He went very far. Bloch only followed him part way. He summoned up a sentence from Brecht . He let it stand as the nutshell that held the incentive for utopia. Brecht had written “Something’s missing.”
“What is this ‘something’?” Bloch asked. “If it is not allowed to be cast in a picture, then I shall portray it as in the process of being. But one should not be allowed to eliminate it as if it really did not exist so that one could say the following about it: ‘It’s about the sausage.’ … I believe utopia cannot be removed from the world in spite of everything, and even the technological, which must definitely emerge and will be in the great realm of the utopian, will form only small sectors. That is a geometrical picture, which does not have any place here, but another picture can be found in the old peasant saying, there is no dance before the meal. People must first fill their stomachs, and then they can dance.”
“Something is Missing,” the statement from Brecht. Typically when searching for utopia, one relies on the steps taken by others, for ever since its first formulation in 1516 in the book by Sir Thomas More, ever since its invention as the island of good social order, utopia has been a proposition to be debated, several speakers often pitching in at once. They bring thoughts, experience, the fruits of the past. For utopia is in many ways an ancient search for happiness, for freedom, for paradise. Sir Thomas More had had Plato’s Republic in mind as he wrote. By now however utopia itself has lost its much of its fire. The work done in the name of utopia has soured the concept, left it strangled by internal, seemingly fixed perspectives, the skeletons of old efforts which leave their bones on the surface of the body as if they belonged there. Has utopia been strung up? Or obscured by bad eyesight? Certainly it has gone missing. Utopia itself has become a conceptual no-place, empty rhetoric at best, more often than not an exotic vacation, the desert pleasure island of cliché. Abbas Kiarostami, when asked recently if he had any unrealized or utopian projects, refused the long perspectives of utopia altogether. He preferred to fix matters in the present, taking each day one hill at a time. We in turn have set our sights on the middle ground between the island and the hill. We will build a Station there and name it Utopia Station.
The Utopia Station is a way-station. As a conceptual structure it is flexible; the particular Station planned for the Venice Biennale is physical too. It will rise as a set of contributions by more than sixty artists and architects, writers and performers, the ensemble being coordinated into a flexible plan by Rirkrit Tiravanija and Liam Gillick. It has been important to all concerned that the plan not present itself as a finished picture. Let us therefore conjure up the Station by means of a few figures. It begins with a long low platform, part dance-floor, part stage, part quai. Along one side of this platform is a row of large circular benches sit, so that you can watch the movement on the platform or silently turn your back or treat the circle as a generous conversation pit. Each seats ten people. The circular benches are portable; as an option one could line them up like a row of big wheels. Along the other side of the platform a long wall with many doors rises up. Some of the doors take you to the other side of the wall. Some open into small rooms in which you will see installations and projections. The wall wraps around the rooms and binds the ensemble into a long irregular structure. Over it floats a roof suspended on cables from the ceiling of the cavernous room in the old warehouse at the far end of the Arsenale where the Station sits. Outside the warehouse lies a rough garden. Work from the Station will spill into it.
The Station itself will be filled with objects, part-objects, paintings, images, screens. Around them a variety of benches, tables and small structures take their place. It will be possible to bathe in the Station and powder one’s nose. The Station in other words becomes a place to stop, to contemplate, to listen and see, to rest and refresh, to talk and exchange. For it will be completed by the presence of people and a program of events. Performances, concerts, lectures, readings, film programs, parties, the events will multiply. They define the Station as much as its solid objects do. But all kinds of things will continue to be added to the Station over the course of the summer and fall. People will leave things behind, take some things with them, come back or never return again. There will always be people who want to leave too much and others who don’t know what to leave behind or what to say. These are the challenges for a Utopia Station being set up in the heart of an art exhibition. But in addition, there are the unpredictable effects, which Carsten Höller has been anticipating, the points where something missing turns to something that becomes too much. The doubt produced between these two somethings is just as meaningful as any idea of utopia, he believes. These tensions will be welcomed like a guest.
What does a Station produce? What might a Station produce in real time? In this produce lies an activity rather more complex than pure exhibition, for it contains many cycles of use, a mixing of use. It incorporates aesthetic material, aesthetic matters too, into another economy which does not regard art as fatally separate.
But what is its place? The discussion of this question has been opened again by Jacques Rancière, in his book Le partage du sensible, which in French has the advantage of having a partition and a sharing occupy the same word. What is sectioned off and exchanged? It is more than an idea. Rancière takes his departure from Plato, pointedly, in order to remind us of the inevitable relation between the arts and the rest of social activity, the inevitable relations, it should be said, that together distribute value and give hierarchy, that govern, that both materially and conceptually establish their politics. This theatre of relations wraps itself around visions of worlds, each of them islands, each of them forms, but all of them concrete realities replete with matter and force. This is a philosophical understanding of aesthetic activity; it extends materialist aesthetics into the conditions of our present; it is a book to bring to a Station. As we have. But, once released, a book too leaves its island.
The Utopia Station in Venice, the city of islands, is part of a larger project. Utopia Stations do not require architecture for their existence, only a meeting, a gathering. We have already had several in Paris, in Venice, in Frankfurt, in Poughkeepsie, in Berlin. As such the Stations can be large or small. There is no hierarchy of importance between the gatherings, meetings, seminars, exhibitions and books; all of them become equally good ways of working. There is no desire to formalize the Stations into an institution of any kind. For now we meet. Many ideas about utopia circulate. Once when we met with Jacques Rancière, it was in Paris last June, he spoke to the difficulties involved in putting the idea of utopia forward. He pointed to the line that says “There must be utopia,” meaning that there must not only be calculations but an elevation, a supplement rising in the soul, and said that this line of thought has never interested him. Indeed he has always found it unnerving, even irritating. That which does interest him, he explained, is the dissensus, the manner in which ruptures are concretely created—ruptures in speech, in perception, in sensibility. He turned to contemplate the means by which utopias can be used to produce these ruptures. Will it begin and end in talk?
On another occasion, in Poughkeepsie last winter, just as a blizzard was about to blow in, Lawrence Weiner reminded everyone present that the artist’s reality is no different from any other reality. Liam Gillick asked that we avoid utopian mirage, instead asking for utopia to become a functional step moving beyond itself. Martha Rosler told the story of going to see the space in Venice, arriving however as night fell to see only an interior of darkness, there being no lights. But utopia, she said, is what moves. Jonas Mekas warned of obsessions with ideas, since the dream, he said, could only succeed if we forget them. Leon Golub was apocalyptic. Allan Sekula, at our urging, showed the first five minutes of the tape he had made the day before during the peace demonstration in New York. Anri Sala showed us a tape of Tirana, where the mayor had painted apartment block walls into a geometric vision, a concrete hope. Edouard Glissant came. He spoke of the desire for the perfect shape, he spoke his language of landscapaes. Only by passing through the inextricable of the world, he told us, can we save our imaginaire. In that passing there would come the tremblement, the tremor being fundamental to the passage.
Nancy Spero sent a morphine dream. Agnes Varda sent us the song of the Cadet Rousselle. Together we read an article Etienne Balibar had written six years ago for Le Monde which proposed to take complete leave of utopia now, in order to return to the heart of the matter—to let the imagination free to accept the sudden emergence of subjectivity in the social field. Let us make a sudden rush, a place for the imagination to expand, a place of fiction, fiction in its fullest sense. Balibar sees fiction to be the production of the real, something stemming from experience itself, knowledge and action brought together so that they become indistinguishable, insurrection emptying into constitution. He used the thoughts to preface his Droit de cité. Another book for the Station.
It is simple. We use utopia as a catalyst, a concept most useful as fuel. We leave the complete definition of utopia to others. We meet to pool our efforts, motivated by a need to change the landscape outside and inside, a need to think, a need to integrate the work of the artist, the intellectual and manual laborers that we are into a larger kind of community, another kind of economy, a bigger conversation, another state of being. You could call this need a hunger.
Dare one rewrite a sentence by Brecht? Something we need is missing. Theman who, seventy years ago, wrote “Art follows reality” would surely not mind. Let us then take these words and press on. We need the words, old words and new words, we need the dance, we need the sausage, and still we need more. We have started, we meet in the Utopia Station, we start out again. The Station becomes a place to gather our starting points temporarily. It is primarily for this reason it resists capture and summary as a single image. Or is it the image of open possibility? The image of mixed use? Many things will happen there. And they will spark others.
Think of the Station as a field of starting points, many starting points being brought and offered by many different people. Some will bring objects now, others later. Each present and future contributor to the Station is being asked to do a poster for use in the Station and beyond: wherever it can hang, it can go. A paper trail for once goes forward. New posters continue to be added. In this way the Utopia Station produces images, even as it does not start with one. And a loose community assembles. It develops its own internal points of coherence, which shift with the times, as conversations and debates do.
Each person making a poster has been asked to make a statement of at least one and up to two hundred words. Independent of one another the statements collect. Stuart Hall and Zeigam Azizov elaborate upon a proposition: the world has to be made to mean. The bittersweet baked into hope, writes Nancy Spero. Pash Buzari sent a poem where darkness is dialed. Raqs Media Collective calls utopia a hearing aid. This probably will not work, Jimmie Durham cites the Cherokee, and adds that the “probably” keeps people active. There will be hundreds of statements like these in the end. They will branch out. As they do certain figures begin to repeat. Ships and songs and flags, two times potatoes, two times Sisyphus, figures familiar from the discussion of utopia forty years ago, but they have been assimilated rather than cited. Utopia becomes the secret garden whose doors can be opened again. Utopia becomes the catalyst that burns and returns. None of us can say we begin from scratch.
These actitivities imply an activism. For many who come to the Station, its invitation to self-organize speaks a political language already known to them and already being practiced. The proposal to build non-profit de-centralized units and make them become the underlying mode of production, fitting together through the real market (not the monopolistically controlled world market of the present system), has been made by Immanuel Wallerstein in his book Utopistics. It would eliminate the priority given to the endless accumulation of capital. Still another book for the Station.
As the catalyst burns, it fumes. For ours is not a time of continually same todays. When we met in Poughkeepsie in mid-February, around the world vast crowds marched for peace. Seven weeks later, when we met in Frankfurt, the Coalition forces were entering Baghdad. The days come like Kiarostami’s hills. It is not the continually same utopia. In the speech to the graduating West Point cadets in June 2002, President George Bush announced his policy of pre-emptive strikes and wars with the reassurance that “America has no empire to extend or utopia to establish.” The idea of empire has been receiving much scrutiny. But what about the other idea here, the refusal of utopia, the concept that presumes forward social vision? Is it not this refusal that gives us reason enough to revive the question of utopia now? Whether it comes as catalyst or fume, the word should be pronounced. And so we start.
Hans Ulrich Obrist
• 4 January 2012 • 42 notes • View comments
artist in residence
The Reverse Ark was a project developed by Futurefarmers as artists in Residence at Pasadena City College. Futurefarmers spent 4 days in residence in the gallery working with students to create the Reverse Ark.
An inventory of limited resources inhabit the gallery– in preparation for the flood. These recycled materials were used during a four day residency to build “the Reverse Ark”. The gallery became a living laboratory for learning, inquiry and improvisation including mini-workshops, lectures, video screenings and frameworks for reflection. Invited guests included an environmental scientist, Los Angeles Mayors Office, Department of Water, a priest, and a computer scientist.
• Recycled Plastic waterbottles ..Amount: Enough to hold the
..collective body water of
..Amy, Michael and Stijn.
• 25 wooden-shipping pallates
..Amount: Enough to float the
..collective weight of
..Amy, Michael and Stijn.
• Recycled Cardboard
..Amount: Combined height of
..Amy, Michael and Stijn.
• Newspapers 40 days and 40
..nights of San Francisco
. Times/New York Times
• Projection Screen
..(10’ x 12’ made from..
..lamenated newspapers and
.. white guache)
• Buckminster Fuller Quote
..(Pencil on Wall)
Water (40 gallons = the combined amount of water in the bodies of the three Futurefarmers collaborators. This is based on the
average percentage of the human body that is composed of water.
“Should we also flood the sistine chapel so tourists can get nearer the ceiling?”
-Excerpt from a full-page newspaper advertisement paid for by the Sierra Club in 1966 to provoke the public to fight the US Bureau of
Reclamation’s proposal of building a series of small dams in the basin of the Grand Canyon.
_”…If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver. But this is not to say that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top. I think that we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday’s fortuitous contrivings as constituting the only means for solving a given problem…”
-R. Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth
• 12 December 2011 • 12 notes • View comments
Simple Rational Approximations
May- October 2011
SEQUENCE OF EVENTS
Artissima invites Triple Candie to curate an exhibition for a special non-commercial section of Artissima 18 (November 4 – 6, 2011) titled Simple Rational Approximations. The section is to be co-organized by Francesco Manacorda, Artissima’s director, and Lara Favoretto, an artist.
Triple Candie presents first proposal – a U.S.I.A.-style export group show of work by 4-6 over-hyped contemporary artists working in the U.S.A.
Artissima requests other ideas, noting: “After a long discussion about radicality and the market, we got to the conclusion that, given the context of the fair, a show about artists who have been receiving undo attention may be slightly problematic, considering that most of the artists you mention are represented by galleries at the fair… . We hope you understand we would rather not be so extremely critical towards the galleries and the artists that make up the fair.”
Triple Candie submits 3 new proposals, all with arte povera as their subject. Proposal #2 reads: “In the second, we would try to make a case that arte povera never existed. Dan Cameron made this claim in a bold article in Flash Art in 1992. We will build on this, with an earnest tone and mischievous spirit. The subject could be dealt with the way skeptics try to disprove the existence of stories in the Bible – with material evidence (the Shroud of Turin, the Ark, etc.). Documentation of artworks, exhibitions … . [the] installation … will evoke that of a small-town history or anthropology museum.”
Artissima writes, “Now, looking at your proposals, we believe that n.2 may be the strongest, wittiest and most interesting viewpoint on the matter: at the same time, though, building on the statement that Arte Povera never existed may very well be seen by both art professionals and Turin citizens and officials as a somewhat aggressive response to Germano Celant’s exhibition. Also, talking of Art Povera in Turin, as you already know, is always kind of risky: everyone is an expert in Turin, but at the same time the real experts on Arte Povera will surely be in Turin for the show.”
Triple Candie writes lengthy response. Excerpts: “People have, at times, used the word irreverent when talking about Triple Candie. For us, this word is problematic. On the surface, our shows may appear to be irreverent – they are done without permission, don’t use art, often have provocative titles – but the narrative substance of the shows is never irreverent. Our wall texts always evidence a certain admiration for our subjects. When choosing our subjects, we select those for which we have an enthusiastic ambivalence and which have had a complicated influence on our own curatorial practices. The process of putting together the show is an attempt to work through these issues. We didn’t select arte povera simply b/c of its relationship to Turin; equally important, we selected it as a topic b/c of its relationship to our work… . As for the show being seen as a somewhat aggressive response to Celant’s show, we want to say a few things about context, which we think will mitigate against that. These are issues that you are all too aware of, but we think they warrant mutual acknowledgment. The first is that the show will be publicly accessible for less than a week, making it but a fleeting performance… . Second, the fact that it will be placed in a provisional faux-“institutional” context will, we imagine, enhance the absurdity of claim (that arte povera never existed). Moreover, it will be but one of many projects within the spectacle of the fair.”
Manacorda responds directly, “I have to say that your email convinced me and Lara that we should really take the risk and embrace your project. We have invited you precisely because of the shows that you used as examples of situations in which people could have been offended (Hammons above all) with the great results we all know.”
And then, “I totally believe that your approach will generate a great show and a very valuable contribution to the rest of the project. I only suggest, since the difficult character of the artists here in Turin, that we touch base every now and then on how the idea is developing so that we can give you some feedback, which eventually you can decide to ignore: I think it is important for all of us that we are aware of the possible risks that we would be running, without censoring you. Perhaps our reaction certifies that, again, in this project you have selected a subject with the ‘productive tensions’ you mentioned, which means that the results will be those you are looking for. In short, we trust you and like your idea a lot.”
Triple Candie begins production.
Artissima sends Triple Candie agreement, which it signs. The agreement does not include a cancelation clause.
Manacorda invites Triple Candie to participate in another project, separate from the exhibition – a special-issue magazine to be edited by Turin-based collector and dealer Georgia Maffei on the subject of arte povera. In writing about Maffei and his publishing partner, Manacorda notes, “They really liked the idea to have a section of their book on arte povera attempting to argue that arte povera does not exist…!”
Triple Candie sends Artissima floor plan for build-out.
Triple Candie submits statement and images for Artissima catalogue with sample images (these include reproductions of arte povera works that have been altered by Triple Candie, was well as portraits of arte povera artists that have been similiarly altered).
Manacorda responds via email, “I just read the text, I like it a lot! it is tough on celant but very relevant and balanced.”
Manacorda makes a final selection of the images for the Artissima catalogue.
Triple Candie and Artissima talk via Skype; Triple Candie updates Artissima in detail about progress, answering all the fair organizers’ questions about progress and intent. Artissima asks Triple Candie if it would agree to a joint statement, reviewed by a lawyer, that clarifies joint intent. Triple Candie agrees. Artissima says it will draft a preliminary statement. (This statement is never sent to Triple Candie for review.)
Artissima wires Triple Candie production funds in the amount of 3,000 euros.
Triple Candie sends Artissima detailed description of installation, including sample images.
Artissima responds, “Thank you for sending the description of your installation. As I mentioned at the beginning of our collaboration, I think we are walking on eggshells with this project and I would like to make sure to avoid misunderstanding of your intentions. I have worked and still now work with many of the protagonists of the movement and I would like them to look at your project not just as parody.”
And, “From this side of the atlantic, I am preparing a bit the terrain here by talking to the directors at Rivoli (where the celant show is about to open) and with the press to put forward the reasons to make your project happen. How does this sound to you? Would it be possible to send some more detailed plans of install? It is not my intention to intrude into your authorship obviously so do let me know if I am pushing it too much.”
Later in the day, Artissima write, “I have spoken to Beatrice Merz who is the co-director of Rivoli and co-curator with Celant of the exhibition and she expressed worries as recently a prominent right-wing art critic published an article on a national newspaper to demonstrate that arte povera was a bad movement made by communists who prevented the art scene to flourish in the country. I would really be gutted if your show were to be associated to this anti-intellectual campaign that is trying to destroy the contemporary art system in italy…”
Triple Candie sends Artissima an extensive update on the show, including photographs of the gallery model, of two-dimensional work produced, and a list of the vinyl quotes to be installed. The three-dimensional objects (surrogates, props) cannot be shown as they are to be built entirely on-site.
Manacorda writes, “Sorry for not having acknowledged the email i am about to meet Lara to discuss this issue and will get back to you shortly.”
Triple Candie responds, “what issue?”
to which Manacorda answers, “I mean the risk that the institution and Lara and I would take.”
A later email from Manacorda explains concerns about presenting the show within the context of Italy’s political and economic upheaval. Particular concern is for the impact the show could have on Castello di Rivoli, a repository of arte povera works that has been under severe attack from critics and right-wing politicians. Triple Candie responds, “What has changed vis-a-vis your perception of the risk? As we’re several months down the road and you have been enthusiastic and supportive of the project all along — from original proposal through updates and the catalogue contribution… . From where we sit, the risk is dialogue. What’s risky about that? This is not an offensive subject, like pornography, blasphemy, anti-Semitism, racism, etc. — the subject is the construction and definition of an art movement.”
Manacorda posits a series of questions about the show. Triple Candie responds that day, before answering the questions:
“More soon, but from where you sit do you really think that our exhibition could negatively impact government funding of the arts in Italy, and potentially threaten the viability of Artissima? Is the risk truly that great?”
Manacorda writes, “I would not put it down in writing otherwise. It is not the show that will generate the funding cut but the situation in which we are can be precipitated by an event such as this one.”
Triple Candie responds to Manacorda’s questions, though all had been answered previously. At this point, Triple Candie begins feeling resentful about the sudden scrutiny, so its answers are curt but true. The questions and answers follow:
Q: What are the reasons behind altering the images of the works? Is it parody or is there a more complex narrative behind? What role do they play in the development of your argument about the non-existence of Arte Povera?
A: The evidence is unreliable and contradictory.
Q: Why are the portraits altered? Has this got to do with individual vs group or is it a visualization of the author’s identity blurring with the work?
A: The evidence is unreliable and contradictory.
Q: Do the alterations enter within the core of the arte povera’s themes (e.g. energy, materials, process) and how?
A: Yes and no.
Q: What is the rationale behind the altered surrogates as a group? Given that people can see the originals in the museum (which wasn’t the case in many of your previous projects) is the alteration the key to the remaking? I am asking you this as the pieces could be understood by the general public as real sculptures rather than surrogates. In case this is part of your plan how do you handle this potential misunderstanding? Do you think that the public will be able to understand the reasons for the alterations?
A: Yes. We tell them in wall texts (this will be a problem for the illiterate). Yes.
Q: What is the art historical conclusion that you presume the viewers would gain from experiencing your show?
A: History is the province of doubt. Experience (a la Dewey) is all we can trust. (E.G. You had to be there.) Everything else is built from shards of misrepresentation.
Q: Celant himself declared that Arte Povera does not exist in 1972, and encouraged individual artists to pursue their own ‘solo’ career; how is your argument different from this position?
A: He said it was finished; he didn’t say it did not exist. Celant’s argumentation is unreliable and contradictory.
Q: How is your thesis that Arte Povera never existed demonstrated through the four elements (disorientation galleries, gallery of altered surrogates, portrait walls and Celant Museum)?
A: The evidence is unreliable and contradictory.
Artissima writes that, “the visual material in question [is] potentially very offensive to artists and gallerists who participate in the fair… . Here in Italy eight exhibitions have just opened about the subject in all the most important museums. Due to the potential offense, we need to make sure that your project is able to have the critical weight to stand up to them otherwise we will all look foolish. And I mean all of us: it has not only to do with my situation. The altered portraits and representations of their works that you sent me could make the project be judged here as a superficial joke on them. This is because in New York the context is characterised by a sophisticated art world able to understand and accustomed to art-world parody, in Italy the public barely knows what arte povera is and they are likely to think that your project is in bad taste, ridiculing the work and to bill Triple Candie’s work as one-liner.”
Artissima updates website with list of curatorial projects. Triple Candie’s show is not included; another project appears in its place. Triple Candie emails Artissima for an explanation.
Manacorda emails Triple Candie that the show is canceled.
• 8 December 2011 • 4 notes • View comments
David Hammons: The Unauthorised Retrospective, 2006; installation view, Triple Candie, New York. Courtesy of Triple Candie.
Profile: Triple Candie
by Matthew Harrison Tedford
This article is part of the Visiting Artist Profile series, which highlights some of the artists, curators, and scholars that intersect with the Bay Area visual arts community through the various lecture programs produced by local institutions. California College of the Arts will present Triple Candie as part of their Graduate Studies Lecture Series on Thursday, December 8, at Timken Hall on their campus in San Francisco.
Triple Candie, formerly of Harlem, now in Philadelphia, is what one might call a meta-gallery, as its subject matter, whether explicit or implicit, often appears to be curating itself. Spearheaded by directors and founders Shelly Bancroft and Peter Nesbett since 2001, the gallery is known for exhibitions that are often devoid of art, or at least of artists’ originals. Lacking art, that seemingly necessary element of a gallery, the work shown at Triple Candie is often described as “conceptual.” Bancroft and Nesbett insist that they are art historians and curators, not artists, but their intentions seem to negate their position. Their practice blurs the boundary between artist and impresario. Triple Candie shows viewers that exhibition production can result in experiences that look, feel, and act like art, but just might not be art.
By 2006 Triple Candie had already been trying to produce an exhibition of David Hammons’ work for some time. Hammons and his collectors showed little interest in the project, however, and Triple Candie could not procure a single work from the artist. Undeterred by circumstances or intellectual property law, they continued to plan the show.1 That year the resulting exhibition, David Hammons: The Unauthorized Retrospective, displayed photocopies of Hammons’ work from books and magazines, as well as images downloaded and printed from the Internet. Claiming to be the first retrospective of the artist’s work in fifteen years, the exhibition was a retrospective without art—or so it might seem. As Julia Bryan-Wilson states in a frieze review of the exhibition, a disparity between the size and quality of the photocopies created a unique visual experience.2 The photocopies were neither resized proportionally to one another nor fit to the letter-size sheets of paper they were mounted on. Instead, the exhibition presented a house-of-mirrors retrospective of Hammons’ portfolio, with some large-scale works shrunk almost to invisibility, and other smaller pieces occupying the full eight-and-a-half-by-eleven inches available to them. The exhibition catered to an audience familiar with Hammons’ work, and for them, this was not an unadulterated display of art but a unique aesthetic experience.
As a result, David Hammons resembled a conceptual art project. The retrospective’s reliance on appropriation paralleled Hammons’ practice and that of scores of artists who use preexisting cultural artifacts in creating new aesthetic entities. Triple Candie’s retrospective was divergent enough from the traditional typology to highlight the generative nature of their exhibition. By truly stripping the photocopies on display of pre-established significance or the artist’s touch, Triple Candie guaranteed that any affect a viewer experienced was in large part due to their creative engineering. This tactic of appropriation begs questions for viewers accustomed to more traditional exhibition forms, including: To what extent is an art-viewing experience the work of the artist or of the curator? Can one even untangle aesthetic experiences as if they’re mere algebraic equations?
Later that same year Triple Candie produced another apocryphal retrospective of the work of Cady Noland. Cady Noland Approximately: Sculptures & Editions, 1984-1999 featured what Triple Candie calls “surrogates” of actual Noland works. Like the Hammons photocopies, these surrogates aren’t quite reproductions and they aren’t quite documentations. Triple Candie and four artists made the surrogates based on images of the actual works. The gallery claimed to intentionally “fall short” on these surrogates in order to “incite the public’s desire and curiosity to experience the real thing.” Not Titled (1989/2006) included a large
installation of Budweiser cans, metal pipes, and scaffolding. Likely no one noticed the installation’s imperfections except its constructors, Noland, and the staunchest of Noland aficionados. It resembles a work of art in every way, save for its premise that it is not.
Jerry Saltz of the Village Voice accused the exhibition of “identity theft” and of being a “slap in the face” to Noland.3 This sentiment is neither surprising nor completely unfounded. After all, Triple Candie profited off the work of another. Though none of the works were for sale, Triple Candie used Noland’s intellectual efforts without her permission to the advancement of their brand and programming. But central to Cady Noland Approximately was hyperawareness of Triple Candie’s falsification of Noland’s oeuvre. There was no intention to intentionally deceive viewers about the provenance of these works. Saltz even documented extensive checklists in the exhibition that detailed the differences between the surrogates and the originals.
Ken Johnson of the New York Times was similarly unimpressed by the exhibition. While acquiescing that the show might pose interesting questions, Johnson ended his short review by asserting that Triple Candie’s lack of clarity about whether they were running a gallery or producing their own conceptual art impeded such inquiry.4 Johnson failed to address whether this is a false dichotomy. Without batting an eyelash, he inadvertently suggests that there is a natural divorce between curating and conceptual practices. It seems, however, that the difficulty critics (and the gallery itself) have in delineating Triple Candie’s research-based and appropriation strategies as curatorial or artistic arise from a taxonomic deficiency.
In May 2011, Triple Candie was invited to participate in the November Artissima art fair in Turin. The gallery agreed to curate an exhibition in Simple Rational Approximations, the non-commercial portion of the fair. Bancroft and Nesbett proposed an exhibition that would call into question the very existence of Arte Povera, an art movement that is central to the Turin art landscape. In October 2011, however, Artissima director Francesco Manacorda canceled Triple Candie’s participation, saying, “I feel that I could not defend the show as it stands, given its simplistic and insubstantial content, and slight research grounding.”5 According to the New York Observer, Manacorda argued more to the point in an email to Triple Candie, saying that the exhibition could be “potentially very offensive to artists and gallerists who participate in the fair” and could “negatively impact government funding of the arts in Italy.”6
Triple Candie didn’t originate the idea that Arte Povera was not a real, identifiable movement; Dan Cameron put it forth in 1992.7 Bancroft and Nesbett intended to use his thesis a starting point, proving the case by displaying documentation of artwork and exhibitions in what they said would “evoke that of small-town history or anthropology museum.” Triple Candie eventually persuaded Manacorda with a passionate email in which they referred to the exhibit as a “fleeting performance.” A long exchange of subsequent emails details how this optimism turned into a fear of association with right-wing anti-intellectualism, leading to the cancellation.
Though this performance as exhibition was never realized, its ability to animate the Italian art scene was not an unreasoned concern. Historical accuracy aside, Triple Candie offered an emotional, historical, and political intervention in the form of an aesthetic experience. What this defeated exhibition—and Triple Candie’s others—really demonstrate is that curatorial and even historiographical practices can result in the same psychological and intellectual experiences as those called art. Triple Candie offers a control in any study of exhibition-making; they show what is behind and beyond what is hanging on the walls.
The Visiting Artist Profile series is supported by the San Francisco branch of the Kadist Art Foundation. Kadist participates in the development of society through contemporary art by collecting and producing the work of artists and conducting various programs to promote their role as cultural agents. The foundation also supports the work of curators, academics, and magazines internationally through its residency program and by hosting public events on Wednesdays and a Saturday Reading Room at its space at 3295 20th Street in the Mission.
Holland Cotter, “A Street Seer’s Vision, or Photocopies of It at Least,” the New York Times, January 31, 2006. [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/31/arts/design/31cott.html]
Julia Bryan-Wilson, “David Hammons: The Unauthorized Retrospective,” Frieze 98 (April 2006). [http://www.frieze.com/issue/review/david_hammons_the_unauthorised_retrospective/]
Jerry Saltz, “Invasion of the Sculpture Snatchers,” the Village Voice, May 9, 2006. [http://www.villagevoice.com/2006-05-09/art/invasion-of-the-sculpture-snatchers/]
Ken Johnson, “Art in Review; ‘Cady Noland Approximately’,” the New York Times, May 12, 2006. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9402EED6173EF931A25756C0A9609C8B63]
“Artissima Releases Statement on Cancelation of Triple Candie Project,” Artforum.com, October 13, 2011. [http://artforum.com/archive/id=29170]
Andrew Russeth, “Channeling Occupy Wall Street, Triple Candie Battles Artissima Over Canceled Show,” the New York Observer, October 17, 2011. [http://www.galleristny.com/2011/10/channelling-ocuppy-wall-street-triple-candie-battles-artissima/]
Rachel Withers, “Michelangelo Pistoletto - Brief Article,” Artforum (February 200). [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0268/is_6_38/ai_59923230/]
• 8 December 2011 • 2 notes • View comments
Tercerunquinto, Public Sculpture Project in the Urban Periphery of Monterrey, 2003
Art Lies, Issue 56
Artistic collectives are rare in Mexico, especially ones that address the relationship between art and public space. Tercerunquinto is one such group that has successfully engaged collective practice as a means of critically dealing with the role of the built environment, utopianism and its limitations. The Monterrey-based group, comprised of Julio Castro Carreón, Gabriel Cázares Salas and Rolando Flores Tovar, has been working collaboratively since 1996. Tercerunquinto has exhibited widely in Mexico, the United States and Europe, including the Gallery at REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) and most recently at the New Langton Arts residency program in San Francisco.
The collective is primarily interested in, among other things, the collapse between public and private space and the ways in which art can articulate a political and social discourse within these parameters. Beuysian notions of social sculpture provide fundamental underpinnings to the group’s working philosophy, just as performative and relational histories have affected contemporary artistic practice on a global scale. Architecture and its attendant theories and practices provide a strong framework for much of the group’s work, whether it resides within—or in spite of—the white cube. Public Sculpture Project in the Urban Periphery of Monterrey (2003), for example, consisted of the group pouring a forty-square-meter cement foundation for a community of illegal settlements on the outskirts of Monterrey, providing them with a foundational base for various neighborhood functions, including the distribution of food, blankets, medicine and various religious and political meetings.
In other projects, Tercerunquinto has manipulated or altered the walls, gates and staircases of existing structures as a means of both changing and heightening the use-values of such elements. In a project realized in a group exhibition at the Mexican Cultural Institute during Art Basel Miami Beach in 2002, for example, the group tore a hole in the wall that separated the exhibition space from the immigration office of the Consul General of Mexico, thereby collapsing and contaminating the sacrosanct nature of each respective space. In all of their projects, an awareness of social dynamics emerges as the real essence of the work. Moreover, the burden of the monument and its devalued currency in contemporary Mexican culture is an important cornerstone in the collective’s work. In the following series of questions, I wanted to address the social dynamics that led to the group’s formation and the implications of working collectively versus an individual voice.
GV: Why did you decide to work as a collective?
T1Q: For us, it was the manner in which we began to produce art. Almost as soon as we entered the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, we collaborated in an artist collective called “Caxa,” formed by some professors and students that focused on public space. Since then, we’ve had particular individual interests but no formalized production. Therefore, collective production was the manner in which we engaged in art. Politically, it wasn’t the result of a manifesto or some other type of foundational pamphlet.
When we first formed our own group as students, it was made up of a variable number of members depending on each particular project. We could be ten, nine, seven or five depending on the video, mural, installation or performance we made. It was a spontaneous way of working as a group. When there were just three of us left in 1998, although we were still students, we assumed a more formalized project because we realized that we had a lot in common.
GV: What are the implications in doing so—in working as a unit? Is it socially based or does it indicate the death of the author?
T1Q: For us, the discussion—the dialogue and the interchange of ideas—represents the primary material for the production of art. We cannot say that we have a political/socialist interest, nor can we say that our particular way of working postulates the “death of the author.” We are not necessarily in conflict with artistic tradition.
GV: Are there any historical precedents that inspired you to work as a group?
T1Q: Honestly, there is no historic movement that has inspired us as a group. At times context determined, in large part, the need to work as a group. Being that Monterrey is such a difficult context in which to work and at times hostile to certain forms of contemporary art, collective practice is, in some ways, a strategy for survival. The joining of forces guaranteed that we could exist as artists. It should be noted that Marcela Quiroga and Georgina Arizpe of the duo “Marcela and Gina” share a similar history.
Now we have more conscious ideas about collaboration through our knowledge of other collectives, historically speaking and in the contemporary arts. We are now capable of recognizing in others the similarities and differences in work dynamics and aesthetic interests.
GV: You have realized projects in public spaces that are very interesting within the context of contemporary art. What was the impetus to move outside the white cube?
T1Q: We are constantly moving inside and outside of the white cube.On the one hand, we have a series of projects that questions and works around the notion of public sculpture as a “coronation” of urban development: public sculpture with monumental characteristics that dignifies supreme values or heroic deeds. On the other hand, we produce work for institutional spaces as well. Also, we have become increasingly interested in the moment that documentation of the art we produce in public spaces becomes inserted into institutional spaces. We believe this is another state of the work that seeks correspondence, perhaps in order to explore the relationship between artwork, document and space and time.
GV: Do you ever present work as individuals or always as Tercerunquinto?
T1Q: We generally work in tandem. What little work we do produce as individuals functions as personal exercises, which are later returned to the collective.
• 7 December 2011 • 3 notes • View comments
Art Work is a newspaper and accompanying website that consists of writings and images from artists, activists, writers, critics, and others on the topic of working within depressed economies and how that impacts artistic process, compensation and artistic property. The newspaper is distributed for free at sites and from people throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. It is also available by mail order from Half Letter Press for the cost of postage. Art Work is a newspaper that consists of writings and images of Julia Bryan-Wilson, Holland Cotter, Tim Kerr, Nance Klehm, Harrell Fletcher, Futurefarmers, Robin Hewlett, Nicolas Lampert, Lize Mogel, Dan S. Wang, Gregory Sholette, Dylan A.T. Miner, Christina Ulke and Marc Herbst of the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest, OurGoods, Chris Burden, Scott Berzofsky, John Duda, InCUBATE, Linda Frye Burnham, ILSSA, Cooley Windsor, Brian Holmes, Nick Tobier, Lolita Hernandez, Stacy Malasky, Nate Mullen, Aaron Timlin, Harold Jefferies, W&N, Damon Rich, Teaching Artist Union, FEAST, 16 Beaver Group, W.A.G.E., Chris Kennedy, Nato Thompson, Carolina Caycedo, Guerrilla Art Action Group, Anthony Elms, Adam Trowbridge, Jessica Westbrook, and many other artists, art workers, curators, interns, volunteers, writers, and activists. and others on the topic of working within depressed economies and how that impacts artistic process, compensation and artistic property.
• 1 December 2011 • 6 notes • View comments
School of the Future
Research for the Future
School of the Future is a project about what a school can be. The mission/hypothesis of the future is that the best learners/teachers are the best teachers/learners. School of the Future invites anyone to propose classes, workshops, apprenticeships, installations, or moments that add to our active research about how to make a better education.The project defeats the notion that school is as it should be, and to offer witnesses of the school the freedom to experiment with what their learning and teaching process can be. In the process of exploring the possibilities of school, we aim to become a body of unschooled and educated teaching students.
• 1 December 2011 • 1 note • View comments
The Social Practices Art Network (SPAN)
A site created to be an online resource and archive for individuals, organizations, community groups and institutions that are interested in new genre arts forms and practices. It is meant to serve as a platform for a variety of practices. (SPAN) is working with an advisory team of as we continue to develop the site and community alliances. The work you see here represents relationships, conversations and dialogue that happen offline as well as online. This project in itself is a Social Art Practice.(SPAN) is working in alliance with the following groups to create Listening Stations or nodes to create an ongoing series of interviews and archive.
El Puente Lab ( Medellin, Columbia)
Panopoly Performance Lab (Brooklyn)
(BRAC) Bronx River Art Center – Motthaven/South Bronx)
(SPAN) Studio (LA)
M12 ( Colorado)
(SPAN) Studio Brooklyn Hub
Feast in Brooklyn
Learn More about how the Listening Stations and Sessions work.
Check out Collaborative Teams: Broodwork, Elsewhere and Urban Layers
See our exhibitions and future publications and check out our mindmap
Social Practices Art Network (SPAN) was inspired by the closing of Community Arts Network (CAN).
• 1 December 2011 • 40 notes • View comments
Elsewhere is a living museum set inside a former thrift store. Our three story building, housing one woman’s 58 year collection of thrift and surplus, has become a living installation curated by hundreds of contributors over a 9 year period. Today, Elsewhere is a space to investigate creative collaboration, through our living museum, community events, international residency program, and educational initiatives. Elsewhere is a 501( c )3 non profit and depends on your generous support!
In 1937, Joe & Sylvia Gray began what would become a series of businesses principled on the creative use of available surplus in downtown Greensboro. Realizing that trucks sent to New York with new furniture were returning to the region empty, they began filling them with stock from Depression-era storehouses in the North. Before long, the business known as Carolina Sales Company outgrew its space at 607 South Elm. In 1939, the Grays bought the building across the street. The space was large enough to include a first floor retail store, a second floor four-family boarding house, and a third floor warehouse.
Following WWII, the furniture store gradually transitioned into an army surplus business with extensive catalog sales that sent pup tents, army bags, and canteens to Boy Scout troops and hospitals around the country. Sylvia mended army goods up on the third floor that were brought up from the back alley via homemade pulley.
Joe Gray unexpectedly died in 1955, leaving Sylvia with three children to raise. The ten year period following his death included the decline of the once booming surplus and catalog sales company. With the goal of increasing revenue, Sylvia began buying the ends of fabric bolts, upholstery, denim, and copious amounts of finishing ribbon from local mills. She shut down the boarding house to save money and boarded up the warehouse.
During the late 70s Sylvias inventory expanded once again to include general thrift items such as toys, books, clothing, dishes, housewares, and wigs, as well as general knick-knacks, junk, whatsamacalits, parts, pieces and particulates, bits and bobs, furniture, glass, etc ad infinitum. The first floor was filled until only a tiny path between the boxes and piles remained. She shopped twice a day at the local Salvation Army and Goodwill, followed by a host of other women store owners who snatched up objects that she handled but returned to the shelf. Over time her inventory became more or less a collection, more or less a hoard, more or less an archive that detailed her tastes, interests, and perceptions of value. Ribbons were tied around tissue boxes stuffed with toy cars. Dolls were preserved in Roman Meal bags, strung together with various other bagged collections like dresses, jewelry, plastic toys, and dried out pens. Sylvia would buy clothing items for their buttons, cut them off, and stow them in jars. She would take piles of ribbon home with her in the evening, wash them, iron them, and roll them around a pencil.
Sylvia worked in the store until the day before she died. The astounding accumulation amassed over her lifetime remained in a massive heap that was boarded up after her death in 1997.
In 2003, George Scheer (Sylvias grandson) and Stephanie Sherman took a spring break trip to the South with friend Josh Boyette. On a whim, the three soon to be college graduates decided to stop by Greensboro to see the old store that George had been telling them about. The objects that the young writers found sent their minds in a million directions! Sylvias artifacts demonstrated a potential ability to expose the kinds of ideas that form and stimulate personal connections. Of the many questions that arose from the encounter, one resonated: Could Sylvias collection become a thinking playground?
In May 2003, George recruited two friends from Michigan, Josh Fox and Matt Merfert, to move with him to Greensboro. Declaring Nothing for Sale!, the crew of three began the long process of discovery and organization. Stephanie Sherman and Allen Davis joined them in October. A year into the excavation, Elsewhere became a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. In 2005, the group launched an artist residency program that brings 35 creative producers across media and disciplines to Greensboro in order to create new works using the collection. Thanks to a grant from the Greensboro United Arts Council, some chance movie shoots, a new-work commission (for a giant Lite-Brite!), an active crew of volunteers, and the creative inspiration of artists, Elsewhere found a sturdy foundation upon which to continue dreaming.
Almost daily, Elsewherians discover new objects that reflect Sylvias fascinating mind and life. The store tells a cultural narrative about material excess, consumption, and overproduction. Our culture of constant curation allows for collaborative creativity. The building provides us a physical setting for a communal story, a shared narrative written in attics and basements across the country.
Elsewhere is now accepting residency, fellowship, and internship applications for its 2012 season. Elsewhere, a living museum set inside a former thrift store, invites creatives of all kinds to create site-specific projects that respond to our that respond to our collection, community, and concepts. Elsewhere’s 58-year collection of surplus and thrift, no longer for sale, now serves as resource for creative and critical projects across media. We are seeking individuals and groups who are responsive, experimental, inventive, holistic, adaptive, radical, inclusive, and process-oriented to join our vibrant community of other resident artists and scholars, staff, interns, volunteers, and members If you are excited to explore your ideas and practice collaboratively, publicly, and critically within an ever-changing world of material surplus, we encourage you to read our residency/fellowship information, and apply online.
• 1 December 2011 • 109 notes • View comments
Groups & Spaces
Groups & Spaces is an online platform that gathers together information on people making art in groups and collaborative situations, groups that run art spaces, and independently run artist spaces and centres. The site serves as an opensource portal for artists, educators and citizens to learn more about these working methods and connect with resources in their area. The platform aims to facilitate dialogue about community engagement, collaborative practices and provide educational resources for new audiences.
Groups & Spaces is framed as a dynamic learning resource, providing a unique visualization of how art spaces and groups engage communities. In so doing, the Groups and Spaces site provides an evolving database of techniques and strategies in which to draw from and potential partners to collaborate with. From organizations, collectives, collaboratives and projects to artist run spaces, the practices and inspiration these models provide are invaluable in addressing emerging social issues and the need for collective action. Groups and Spaces in this sense builds a bridge between aesthetics and community engagement by providing a platform for restorative social practice.
Groups and Spaces is a collaborative tool and learning resource. The site helps to visualize a network of independent art spaces and groups around the world. Each entry adds to an evolving database for educators, artists and community members to draw from, encouraging collaboration and discourse about creative engagement. We think some potential benefits include:
Organizational Development – Groups and Spaces provides an opportunity for groups and spaces to think clearly about what they do, how they do it and why.
Networking/Collaboration – Groups and Spaces will provide an opportunity for groups, spaces and interested parties to collaborate and network.
A Learning Resource – Groups and Spaces provides a dynamic learning resource for educators, artists and citizens.
A Voice for Artist-Run Culture - Groups and Spaces provides a place to explore the innerworkings and multiple modes of cultural production independent art spaces and collaborative art groups engage in. It also provides a voice for underrepresented art movements, collaborative culture and independent spaces that may be temporary or under the radar.
A Quick History
The Groups and Spaces project was conceived by Temporary Services and has enjoyed many contributors and collaborators since (see our History section). This new site is currently coordinated by Scott Rigby of Basekamp and Christopher Kennedy of the Institute for Applied Aesthetics. Please contact us if you would like to help or add to the project!
• 1 December 2011 • 86 notes • View comments
Collectivity and Collaboration
Twelve notes on collectivism and dark matter
I. As a set of rules that define the events of discourse, the archive is situated between Langue, as the system of construction of possible sentences—that is, of possibilities of speaking—and the corpus that unites the set of what has been said, the things actually uttered or written. The archive is thus the mass of the non-semantic inscribed in every meaningful discourse as a function of enunciation; it is the dark margin encircling and limiting every concrete act of speech.
–Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive
II. From every swipe of your plastic debit card to the surveillance of so-called public spaces, an administered collectivity hides everywhere in plain sight. Every “I” conceals an involuntary “belongingness,” every gesture a statistic about your purchasing power, education level and the market potential of your desire. Effectively, we are collectivized already. The only question now is should we accept this type of involuntarily, serialized collectivity, or actively seek another? This is not merely one strategy to ponder among others. It is a fundamental issue at every level of lived experience today within what Giles Deleuze aptly termed the society of control.
III. Meanwhile, vibrant popular images of collective resistance abound if we take the time to look for them. Think of filmmaker George Romero’s impromptu band of zombie killers in Dawn of the Dead, or the multiethnic multitude defending Zion in the Wachowski brothers’ Matrix films. Or perhaps the most accurate of all cinematic portrayals of collectivism, the 1999 comedy Mystery Men based on the Dark Horse comic book—“It doesn’t matter what we call ourselves. We know who we are.” It is the archetypical gang of oddball renegades, men and women thrown together by necessity who work collectively to defeat an overwhelming and typically unnatural enemy.
Within the plastic arts, however, collectivism resembles the creative equivalent of dark matter—the 96% of unknown mass that makes up the visible universe and keeps it from flying apart. At once figuratively amorphous and pragmatically indispensable, collectivism appears abject when compared to properly framed and institutionally discernable forms of art. Yet its indispensability functions at several levels.
IV. Structurally, as a corpus or archive of all previously realized group practices, collectivism surrounds every individual articulation. Each new claim of authorial originality and every artistic gesture is dependent on the persistence of its shadowy trace. (In Agamben’s terms it is the dark margin that encircles all concrete acts of enunciation.)
V. At the level of narrative, whether calling for the radical elimination of individual authorship (as many early twentieth-century collectives asserted) or through the embodiment of diverse subject positions and multiple aesthetic vernacular (as in the case of many contemporary art collectives), self-organized collective practice forms a representational boundary as well as a specific horizon from within which conventional cultural narratives are constructed and beyond which they break apart.
VI. Finally, in pragmatic terms, collectivism—and, by extension, all species of dark creativity, including amateur and informal art that by definition or inclination remain invisible to institutional high culture—provides the unseen but necessary verification that specific artistic acts are more than merely idiosyncratic occurrences. This is so no matter how unique or autonomous the accomplishment appears to be. And in this sense the archive of creative dark matter evinces the necessary presence of an artistic Langue, but in the broadest possible sense: a preexisting set of visual-organizational rules that always threatens to radiate away from the narrow field of recognized artistry and dissipate into the uneven heterogeneity of the social sphere itself. This link between the corpus of collectivism and the generalized creativity of the multitude also explains why so many self-defined artistic collectives—from the Constructivists to Situationists, from Fluxus to Las Agencias—have called for the dissolution of art directly into everyday life.
VII. Lacking neither a distinct history nor an adequate explanatory theory, collective artistic activity nevertheless bears down on the familiar cannon of proper names, stylistic innovations and formal typologies that populate the institutional art world. As part of the art world’s structural shadow realm, collectivism invisibly transforms the culture industry, its discourse and even its fondness for categorical and ultimately collectible brands of discrete cultural products.
Yet because collective activity is in the first and last instance driven by social formations, economic circumstances and occasionally even organized political movements that are external to art-world interests, the occasional appearance of collectivism within art historical discourse typically falls within two broad representational modes: the curious anecdote or the vestigial stain. That is to say, either collective artmaking serves as a backdrop or way station for individual artists whose careers have permitted them to mature beyond participation in group activity. Or, far less decorously, collectivism is demonized, its reoccurring expression within artistic circles viewed as a remnant of the early twentieth-century avant-garde’s affiliation with European totalitarian politics.
Still, nothing so volatile as self-organized human associations—especially those populated by artists and intellectuals—could possibly remain fixed in time, nostalgically recapitulating past ideological dogma. Instead, collective artistic practice is as complex and unpredictable as the social and aesthetic forces upon which it is contingent. In recent years, the transformation within collective activity is so dramatic as to represent a virtual paradigm shift.
VIII. Contemporary artistic collectivism is typically characterized by its aesthetic informality, political anarchism and its performative approach to the expression of collective identity itself. In practice, its interdisciplinary approach is also frequently interventionist. Examples of this include the creation of works that tactically infiltrate high schools, flea markets, public squares, corporate websites, city streets, housing projects and local political machines in ways that do not set out to recover a specific meaning or use-value for art-world discourse or private interests.
Indeed, many of these activities operate using economies based on pleasure, generosity and the free dispersal of goods and services, rather than the construction of objects and product scarcity that are essential to art-world economics. But above all else, what the activist art collective makes tangible, and no doubt what is so anathema to the art market and its discourse, is the capacity for self-regulation over one’s production and distribution. Certainly this capacity is available and suppressed within all productive activity. Understandably, it is also viewed as a danger to system regulators, who recognize the promise collective self-determination has held out to each successive generation.
IX. What can be said of dark matter, in general, is that either by choice or circumstance it displays a degree of autonomy from the critical and economic structures of the art world and moves instead in between its meshes. But this independence is not risk free. Increasingly inexpensive technologies of communication, replication, display and transmission that allow informal and activist artists to network with each other have also made the denizens of this shadowy world ever more conspicuous to the very institutions that once sought to exclude them. In short, dark matter is no longer as dark as it once was. Yet neither the art world nor enterprise culture can do little more than immobilize specific instances of this shadow activity by converting it into a fixed consumable or lifestyle branding.
X. For example, groups such as Forcefield, Derraindrop, Paper Rad, gelitin, The Royal Art Lodge and hobbypopMUSEUM, whose names flicker impishly across the otherwise dull screen of the contemporary art world, invoke not so much the plastic arts as the loopy cheer of techno music and its nostalgia for a make-believe sixties epitomized by LSD, free love and day-glo instead of civil rights, feminism and SDS. As critic Alison M. Gingeras explains, this new collectivity is not at all solemn; it is “insouciant.” It eschews the “sociopolitical agenda associated with collective art making” and reflects “a juvenile disregard for historical veracity.” But why the sudden rush to revamp the political rebelliousness of group artistic practice, to repackage it as “tribal,” “exuberant,” “insouciant?” Because when compared to almost every previous collective and many new ones, the recent crop of gallery-sponsored art groupettes is unmistakably a product of enterprise culture.
As put forward by historian Chin-tao Wu, enterprise culture is the near total privatization of everything up to—and including—that which once stood outside or against the reach of capitalism, including avant-garde and radical art. If communal activity, collaboration and egalitarian cooperation run directly opposite individuated forms of individualistic greed enterprise, culture will not aim to overtly repress this tendency but instead seek a way of branding and packaging contradiction in order to sell it back to us. No surprise then that this new collectivity is organized around fashion, with its members sharing “nothing more than vacant facial expressions and good taste in casual clothes.” 1
XI. Cut the power and storm the museum. Barricade its entrance with a Richard Serra sculpture. Cover its windows with Gerhard Richter paintings. Transform the sculpture garden into an organic produce cooperative; refurbish the boardroom to serve as a daycare facility; place the cafeteria under the supervision of homeless people. Yet, in spite of this hypothetical uprising, it is apparent that institutional power persists. Like gravity issuing from a collapsed star, it draws us into the very orbit of what we once sought to escape, because despite our protestations, we continue to love it—or at least the unselfish image it projects—more than it could ever love itself. For no matter how imperfectly existing museums fulfill their social obligations, the symbolic position of the museum remains inseparable from notions of public space, democratic culture and citizenship itself.
Nevertheless, exploring what a liberated, postrevolutionary museum might look like, how it would function and what its revitalized role within the local community would be is an approach often taken up today by younger, socially committed artists who have grown apprehensive of the virtually conventional form of institutional critique. Collectives that operate within the contradictions of the bourgeois public sphere openly and playfully expose its imaginary fault lines dividing private from public, individual from collective and light from dark matter. But while such groups offer an important model for cultural resistance, it would be disingenuous to suggest such collectives and dark creativity can provide a totally satisfactory solution to the quest for freedom, now or in the future. Instead, these groups and practices are characterized by their discontinuous nature, by repetitions and instability, by tactics rather than long-range strategies. What is effective in the short run remains untested on an extended scale. And that is the point we appear to be approaching rapidly.
XII. To paraphrase the cosmologists: there is perhaps no current problem of greater importance to cultural radicals than that of “dark matter.”
- Some of this is cited from “Calling Collectives,” the author’s letter to the editor in the Summer 2004 issue of Artforum.
This piece was first published in the Journal for Northeast Issues, Hamburg, 2003, and again in the catalogue Issue Fighters: Thought is made in the mouth, organized by Insa Art Space of the Arts Council Korea in 2006.
• 1 December 2011 • View comments
Leo Koenig Inc., New York, USA
The “Tantamounter 24/7” is like a huge xerox copy machine, only bigger, more complex and more clever.
Inside there are some completely hardwired intense individuals operating day and night under close supervision of a bankrupt psychiatrist.
Holland Cotter’s review of Tantamounter 24/7 in the New York Times
• 1 December 2011 • View comments