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Method

Geist no. 11, 12, 14 2007–2008


Method Geist no. 11, 12, 14


Publisher Andjeas Ejiksson; Editors Fredrik Ehlin, Andjeas Ejiksson, Oscar Mangione; Proof Reading Kalle Mellberg; Graphic Design Andjeas Ejiksson; Address Geist, c/o Nya Kontoret, Birger Jarlsgatan 18 A 4 tr, 114 34 Stockholm; E-mail info@geist.se; Website www.geist.se; ISSN 1651-3991; Printed in Estonia by Paar OÜ, 2007/2008; The production of Geist no. 11, 12, 14 was funded by: Statens Kulturråd and Vetenskapsrådet.


page 5 Introduction

page 95 Hinrich Sachs

page 11 Talk Talk – On Method and the Story of the Work Magnus Bärtås

page 105 Nameless Acting Kim Einarsson

page 27 Saul Albert page 30 Everything That Is Temporary Must Be Removed Tone Hansen page 42 Method as a Notion Within Artistic Practice and Its Research – and Art as Research Jan Kenneth Weckman page 55 Dilemma of Becoming Kira Carpelan page 72 Distance Makes the Art Grow Further: Distributed Authorship and Telematic Textuality in La Plissure du Texte Roy Ascott page 84 History, Occasion and Facts of the Art of Begegnung Boris Nieslony

page 118 Labour and Love Susanne Clausen page 121 Utdrag ur en korrespondens Frans-Josef Petersson page 127 No-How: stopgap notes on ‘method’ in visual art as knowledge production Sarat Maharaj page 138 ”... and yet there is method in it.” Jonas (J) Magnusson & Cecilia Grönberg page 173 About Method Pekka Kantonen page 182 Shared Expertise in Fieldwork, Research Process, Artistic Presentation and Representation Lea Kantonen


page 197 Off the Grid: Changes Through Travel and Self-definition Mike Bode & Staffan Schmidt page 212 Reflecting, Writing, and Forgetting: Method in Art- and Design-based Research Katja Grillner page 220 Emma Kihl page 221 Road Runner’s Press Takes a Look at Kista Science City Hanna Dagerskog & Andreas Mangione page 228 Gavin Jantjes in Conversation with Svetlana Kopystiansky page 244 »MOTA OLLE I GRIND« Att skilja på metod och undanflykt, Irga! Maja Hammarén page 257 Report


5 Stockholm, 18th of June, 2007

On the 10th of May 2007 an institution which in many aspects is similar to a governmental body, but still without a concrete and distinct shape, acquiring its tentative form by exposing itself to different complexes of problems, decided to put together a working group with the purpose of inquiring about the meaning and status of the method within artistic practices and in artistic research, a domain which is sometimes referred to as practice-based research. The inquiry has two main goals: to propose different ways of posing the question of method, and to investigate the possible forms of a methodological discussion within the domain of art from the following three aspects: field, method, practice. By submitting the question of method for consideration to a number of authorities, the group will gather data and perspectives which will serve as a basis for a report. It is in this matter that we now turn to you, asking you to comment on the following questions at issue: • How do you relate to the artistic field as a field of knowledge production? • What forms can a methodological discussion take within the field of art to be productive? • What are the possibilities pertaining to methodology where practice rather than theoretical reflection is the point of departure? What kind of practices can stage, or be staged by, such a methodology? • How is knowledge mediated? The intention is to give the inquiry a broad approach; the question of method also incorporates questions concerning the position of artistic practice on the whole, i.e., it connects to socio-political questions about economy, institution, didactic strategies and more, and to questions concerning the specific materialities of artworks. Through artistic practice the question of method is also activated in relation to semiotic and hermeneutic dimensions of art as well as in relation to the context of art institutions and art discourses. The following pages outline some issues relevant to the project.


6 Without letting etymology become too significant, it would still be possible to take the word method to mean something along the lines of a way that you take to discern the relation between that road and yourself.* A method is about orienting yourself in relation to one or several goals. It can involve a high degree of formalization in reaching a very specific goal, as well as a continuous reformulation of goals and approaches. From this perspective, method seems to involve points of orientation that goes back to the intentions, regularities and repetitions a practice puts into play. It can also be a possibility of a dynamic relationship where practice recurrently restructures its own conditions. In this sense it would indeed be meaningless to claim that a complete absence of method is possible in artistic practice. Such a wide definition of method can be contrasted with a more modern understanding of the word: as a specific procedure and a specific set of rules that guarantee the reliability of the outcome of a research. Science is in this case exemplary, since it presupposes that its knowledge production can be possible only as a systematic application of a systematically constructed and well-defined method. In contrast, artistic practice has often been maintained by, and served as a more intuitive comprehension of the world, and subsequently the field of aesthetics has been understood as open and void of any rational criteria defining its truth. According to this understanding, art has had two main functions: on the one hand its transgression of the determinable has been thought of as a pollution of the rational gaze (e.g. when one talks about aestheticization within politics or science), on the other hand this same transgression has been understood as the establishment and enforcement of a domain of truth or, at least, of a privileged relation to it. In other words, the artistic field has either been defined as being occupied by practices, the implicit methods of which can establish a transcendence of truth, or it has been defined as a capacity to break down, soil and challenge the claim of transcendence in other domains. Whether these dialectics have ever had any significance outside the range of certain theoretical discourses is open to doubt, but it is clear that the definitions generated by the dialectics develop into important parts of a framework giving legitimacy and authority to the art institutions.


7 However, to engage in such definitions is counterproductive to a methodological discussion within the artistic field, as it would imply choosing the ideality of a theoretical description rather than the expression of the artistic practice as a basis for the understanding of the artistic field. In that case, the methodological discussion would run the risk of becoming only a theorizing process with no real impact on artistic practices. Alternatively, one can understand every possible signifying relation in terms of immanence and return to the scientific definition of method as a set of systematically interconnected rules. By meticulously concentrating on what is distinguished clearly, by collecting data and by putting the accuracy of different theoretical models to the test, science sets up ways dealing with experience that are to a high degree naturalistic. This method does not in any immediate manner elaborate on its own concepts and their relation to a transcendental field of truth, and it acts and works without further questioning the relation of the investigation to the investigated. In other words, the relation to the perception as well as to the concepts and the overall methodological model in which they are used, is kept constant and is not called into question. Rather, the method is taken for granted in that it falls back on certain logical rules and, in accordance with these, is understood as inherently coherent. Questions dealing with the production of knowledge and its dependence on perspective, language and context, put aside. Above all, this means that scientific statements are understood and brought into use as unambiguously separated and free from social, psychological and ontological domains and problems, something that in the end implies that the validity of a statement becomes equal to the degree of statistic correlation between concepts and phenomena. The empirical gaze is thus controlled by mathematics and logic, and its reports, which are usually presented as facts, become confused with the logical and mathematical rules of operation. This would be the place to ask whether the framework of scientific method nonetheless recreates transcendence. To unravel that would however lead the discussion too far away from the questions at stake here, which would find themselves closer to their answers


8 if one returns to the artistic practice and asks how a methodological discussion within the artistic field would appear with the scientific method as background. Approaching the question, it is necessary to direct the attention toward some obvious circumstances. First, one has to keep in mind that the methodology of artistic research is not, even initially, directed toward scientific method. When swiftly examining the artistic practices that are defined in terms of research and knowledge production, one notices that they are often closer related to the hermeneutical and critical methods of the humanities, than to the method of natural science. In the humanities it is usually the field that defines the method, and not, as in science, the method that defines the field. Consequently, the methodology of the humanities is utterly heterogeneous, and a corresponding heterogeneity is presumably to be found in artistic research and the practices which borrow their method from the humanities. Moreover, it seems reasonable to assume that the artistic practice initiates and recreates certain qualitative preconditions that are specific to its field, separating it from the domain of the humanities and that of science. Even if these qualitative preconditions are merely institutional conventions that cannot possibly be construed as being in possession of a general and formalized validity, they will nonetheless re-establish themselves as specific forms of perception and knowledge. Here, the question is how these preconditions should be described, and if it is necessary also to assume the possibility, existence, need or necessity of a qualitatively different method. Within the field of art, the forms of production are often confused with method, research and result. This confusion is neither due to an ambiguity in perspective, nor to an over-emphasizing of the importance of the logical rules inherent in artistic practice. Instead, the confusion emerges in the interplay between the practice and something that can be called imageability, a form of perception or knowledge which may have its analogy in the picture (photography, painting, etc.) but which nevertheless – through a kind of autoformative expression in every social context (sensible, technological, political) – is reproduced also within practices that don’t produce or present images. In other words, production and interpretation of for example a relational or a conceptual artwork will partly or com-


9 pletely be determined by imageability. A clear sign of this determination is the fact that almost all attempts to radically break with the authoritative regime of the image have in time appeared as a play with the premises of perception in artistic practice. These attempts always seem to inscribe themselves into the platonic dialectic relation between image and reality, where the image is either in conflict or in compact with a truth about the world. Concerning the manner in which a practice relating to a certain field encompasses the imageable as an inseparable part of the complex which is the world – irrespective of whether the world is framed as discourse, landscape, body or even topology –, imageability describes something else than the dialectic relation between image and reality. Neither is it the case that imageability is in conflict with for example a conceptual regime: it cannot be understood as determined by a negative relation mediating the conflicts of dialectics. Without placing imageability on a par with the world as a concrete fact or reducing it to the conceptual or the material, imageability must be comprehended as the virtual scene where the world takes place and folds back on itself, making it possible to grasp the world in images and in terms of images. Nor can imageability be disconnected from contexts or from the determinations concerning the position or function of the image in various discourses of art. Relative to history, imageability is not a transhistorical condition that brings to the fore a teleological structure which can be framed only within art history. Quite the opposite, imageability is exactly that virtual scene where it becomes possible to open for and grasp a difference between artistic research and art history without letting one dominate the other. To avoid slipping into a hierarchical relation between image, language and matter, it is important to keep in mind that imageability is not something specific to any type of media, and even if the artistic practices form a domain where presentation and investigation appear as image, they can nevertheless be both significative and discursive. This double binding between imageability and language is an integral part of the elements which together constitute the artistic field. Therefore, it is not surprising that the attempts to separate image from language, and to systematize them, are set in a


10 fixed mould, confirming the presupposition of the separation as an a priori truth. To extract methodology from such a position would imply establishing a descriptive language which would be assumed to objectively and correctly describe artistic processes. The question is if these methods, rather than providing an accurate analysis, result in securing an inner coherence and a functionality of descriptive language. Isn’t it primarily a difference from and a distance to artistic practices that methods like these preserve by translating the artistic processes to discursive functions? In short, every attempt to rigorously and accurately separate method from field seems to end in a confusion that presents itself as a one-sided description of the field, regulated by method. The position and role of method within the artistic field and artistic research are perhaps not so much a question of whether method can precede or encompass these processes, as it is a question of how method is a working and active aspect of the field and its practices. One possibility would be to describe method as a mode of action, a way of doing which must include both imageability and linguistic relations to the world. But one cannot escape the fact that most artistic practices are formally bound to certain contexts, institutions, economies, technologies. Nevertheless, it seems as though the most adequate starting-point for a discussion about method would be individual practices and the way in which these incorporate the question of method, rather than to begin by defining a methodology and a field from an objective level. *Greek methodos, from (the prefix) meta (among, with, after) and hodos (way, journey).


11

Talk Talk – On Method and the Story of the Work Magnus Bärtås

Every method holds its own aesthetics and carries its own gestures, discourse and history within the work of art. Methods manifest their performances in the work. If, for example, one considers how Jockum Nordström has sketched the masting and the booms of the ships in a certain part of a picture, one will also notice a scene in front: one will see a boy in the cruel years of adolescence, a boy, still able to be swept away by dreams, who has started to rationalize his expressions and uses a ruler, convinced that it holds the solution: that now, finally, he will get everything right. Other parts of the picture hold other ways of drawing and perform other scenes; children, Renaissance artists and art students. The methods involve tableaux that form minor narratives – as if they extended to the distance – behind the overall narrative, the very motif of the drawing.   This does not only apply to art. In science, research methods carry all kinds of tropes and discourses; aesthetics, politics, history. Yet, there has been much more talk of the methodology of aesthetics than of the aesthetics of methodology.   In the work of art, I have gradually come to understand the ideas performed by methodology, which is a considerable part of it, from a narratological perspective. From this point of view, the work is a more or less clearly composed sequence of actions, which takes the shape of, or results in, either a more or less solid physical object, or a time-based work (video or film), or an event that is documented. This sequence of actions is fundamental to the understanding of the work – often this is the conceptual strategy – and it can be reproduced, or retold. Within the art world, works of art are often mediated as stories, and receives a place in a circulation and a reception first and foremost as the story of a series of actions.1   The fact that works of art to a large extent are tales, points to the folkloristic aspect of the art world. In other words, the art world is a place for transmissions: someone has seen or heard of someone who has done something. The story is told and retold. As in any other oral culture there are misunderstandings, adjunctions, displacements and falsifications. This dependence on “what is on every lip” creates a situation where works that are difficult to talk


12 about run the risk of being neglected and “disappearing”. Sometimes an art practice escapes omission through stories about the artist as a person. Whatever one may think of this oral circulation of art – through formal seminars, think tanks, staged conversations, informal discussions, and not least through chatting at bars and cafés – it should be recognized as a place for art distribution equally important as the exhibition space and printed matter.   An important part of this oral tradition is all those stories that artists tell about their own work. The artist is in fact constantly telling his/her stories under the pretext of lectures, presentations (to curators) or studio visits, always changing to fit the present situation and audience, as well as his/her professional and personal development. The oral text of the artist is also changed with the spirit and tendencies of the time: including and excluding elements, emphasising some parts and adding comments absorbed from the surrounding discourses. It is a continuously changing story; contingent and re-examining. Already in the sixteenth century Michel de Montaigne wanted to incorporate such a narrative in his writing process: My history needs to be adapted to the moment. I may presently change, not only by chance, but also by intention. This is a record of various and changeable occurrences, and of irresolute and, when it so befalls, contradictory ideas: whether I am different myself, or whether I take hold of my subjects in different circumstances and aspects.2

A story of my art has a lot in common with what narratologists would call a meta-narrative of the life history, i.e. the story that you tell about your life.3 Both stories share the same propagandistic and idealising features. Disturbing and inconvenient elements are excluded: sidetracks, “unproductive” details, slips, episodes that are too odd, and the elements and events threatening one’s investments in an ideology or one’s principal identity.4 Here, there is often a difference to Montaigne’s essay where he added events, digressions and even inconveniences, to become more true and honest.   The “propagandistic” is fundamental to the conjoining function of narration; being tolerant of incongruence and interlacing of different time planes. The life story (and the story of my art) struggles to keep the self together and make it meaningful; Montaigne, on


13 the other hand, deconstructs the self into a manifold of possibilities: “I am different myself ”.5 * There are many aspects of the art world’s oral tradition, and they are all intimately connected to methodology. As the narrator is completely dependent on stories, methodology in art is intertwined with the research domain (the subject). The subject and the method are almost impossible to tell apart.   One of these aspects lies in the ontology of the narratives. The story takes place afterwards, after the events that are retold. It is a reconstruction. According to the narratological approach postconstruction is an artistic method and a natural part of artistic practice. In other words, post-construction is nothing to be ashamed of (which many artists are) but should be regarded as a fundamental part of the self-observation and reflection on one’s own practice. It is a process that also includes self-alienation, a capacity to see oneself as someone else. In everyday life, such post-constructions are considered a form of prudence; an ability to draw conclusions from, and find a way in one’s own life, thus giving it an ethical dimension. Someone who gives up this telling and retelling of the everyday life story would be considered autistic.   Perhaps someone objects to my narratological perspective and insists that a great part of the works presented in exhibitions rarely contain narrative elements. Many works look like physical statements, pure materiality; something unmediated existing in space, yet affecting our senses. Someone would perhaps claim that many works are alternatives or countermoves to narratives. The artist may also be “autistic” in relation to his work, and refuse to say anything. Maybe the artist just “does his/her thing” and then refuses to comment on it. The artist may even harbour a deep hatred towards every statement relating to the artwork. Such an attitude is not uncommon.   Strangely enough, such artists hardly ever complain about all the texts about the work of art which are written by others than the artist (critics, writers, colleagues), nor do they complain about titles, press releases, interviews, media descriptions6 and biographic


14 accounts which connect the work to the artist’s life and œuvre, inscribing it in a chronology where the parts are viewed as results in a course of evolution; nor do these artist object to the oral accounts and rumours that surround the work and become an extension of its physical existence. The artist has just passed on the narration to others.   As I have indicated above, there are three different forms or layers of narration. In one way or another they are all interconnected and interacting with one another, and sometimes they coincide in a performative unit (even if not all of them always are present in one and the same work). The first layer is the motif of the work, to the extent that the work is telling a story (something not all works are, obviously). “Motif ” may be a suspicious term here, when considering the fact that many contemporary artworks primarily do not operate with the means of representation, but function as events, social interactions or communicative acts. But even these works, sometimes inscribed in relational and participatory practices, seem to create models of the world, where the demarcation of the work, through the art context, creates what resembles a “motif ”.   The second layer is the methodology of the work, where technique, in connection to the performance as well as the sequence of actions that has led to the work, forms a self-sufficient narrative. This layer can be called the story of the work. The third layer is the reconstructed story of the work, which is performed by others and/ or the artist himself/herself. This third form is in constant transformation; it is extended, remodelled, displaced. An account of the story of the work would be part of this layer.   The third layer is also at work in the relatively new discipline of artistic research. This is a field with its own tradition, of mainly conceptual art, were some works, in retrospect and with a productive anachronism, can be considered as examples of artistic research.7 Despite the tradition, the establishment of the academic discipline involves a transformation. Apart from being connected to a specific system and a specific structure (the scientific community) this transformation also involves a demand for artists to be more meticulous when it comes to the documentation, contextualisation and clarification of the process. Even if the works created within the framework of artistic research are quite similar to other works of art, this


15 academisation of art requires a transparent process. The reason for this is probably that it is this part that can be considered a new field of knowledge. This part is also what separates artistic research from the humanities: for the first time the artistic process is investigated from within the artistic practice and not from outside (art history, art theory, etc.).   Now, as before, the question is: how to write and talk about one’s own process and works of art? To make works of art can never be reduced to a mere production of knowledge. Works of art are often produced from forms of knowledge situated in the periphery, or even outside of the established epistemology.8 How is one to describe such research in a way that makes some kind of knowledge and understanding of the process accessible without completely reducing the uncertain and heterogeneous process behind a work of art? A process that moves unsteadily between choice and chance, conceptual control and wishful thinking, theoretical influences and imitation, construction and post-construction, visions and fantasies, notions and delusions, laziness and mania, miscalculations and unexpected success, practical and physical limitations, cowardice and courage, and so on. There is another underlying question here: how will the invitation to make one’s process visible collide with the closed art world (the art market) and with their predilection for rumours and the unrevealed?   Already in resent art history one finds outlines of narration that artists have written about their own practice, for example in artist writing, which can be considered a precursor to artistic research. It could be worthwhile to return forty or fifty years back in time and read some texts and try to understand how artists have approached the issue.   To begin with, Allan Kaprow wrote quite a few texts and talked a lot about his art. Still, he seemed to be hesitant about this practice (which he obviously considered a meta-practice), at least in his early career. In a text from 1958 he claimed that artists have to invent an incentive to motivate them to write about their own art; writing has to be turned into an adventure in and of itself: I think that when an artist writes about his art, he should write in the profoundest sense only for himself. He should amuse himself,


16 question, cajole, invent roles for himself, saddle his image with great tasks, address with studied relish his towering ambitions, and above all, take himself as unseriously as possible. It is just at that moment when the words become most perfectly soliloquized that they take on something of the air of authenticity. /... / After all, who really wants to write on what he does? A whole career is devoted to imagining things and if the artist is to be at all interested in taking his pulse as though he were a patient to be examined, he must find some way to turn this procedure into an adventure, a form of life itself. He cannot be satisfied merely to translate in digest form what already has been completely expressed in his latest creative efforts.9

Thinking of the oral tradition in America, of which Kaprow is a part, I am quite certain that he separates writing on art from his speaking about art. Nowhere else in the world are the artists as well-prepared and skilful in telling the short and precise story of their art and artistic practice.10 (The skill of storytelling is significant for the American culture as such; Americans are in general always prepared to tell their life story to whomever may listen. Without any strains the story flows in the traffic jam, in the bar or wherever.) But Kaprow’s words from 1958 are still valid when it comes to artists writing their thesis – they remain critical to the decisions of how to write about one’s own work of art and research.   Eleven years later, in 1969, Erik Beckman wonders why artists (in his case writers) in their “postulated ambitions” become “kind and tender as a bucket of water next to a lilac tree”: Far too many of us writers are sleeping partners with pedagogues, long-term planners, intellectuals keen on honesty and rigid moralists, our super-egos. Still, the writers’ postulated ambitions sound like Goethe and bishops and the principal’s speech at the graduation ceremony: self-realization, responsibility, analysis, information, making of contacts, messages, god’s eyes, searching and finding, know thyself, know thy neighbour... 11

Eventually, artists had to answer for themselves and were forced to engage in public discussions and self-presentations. I know that many artists still feel uncomfortable with this, and it would be comforting to write that it doesn’t make them any less of an artist


17 but at that very moment the cynical banderol of Mladen Stilinovic comes to mind, informing us that “AN ARTIST WHO CANNOT SPEAK ENGLISH IS NO ARTIST”. A work that puts the finger on a power regime and a globalised culture, and whose importance and significance have increased ever since it was made in 1992.   In the sixties some American artists fully embraced this “shift” to both speaking and writing.12 The breakthrough of linguistic conceptual art coincides with the relocation of the centre of the art world to America and the emerging dominance of the English language. In 1969 Lawrence Weiner wrote: “People, buying my stuff, can take it wherever they go and can rebuild it if they choose. If they keep it in their heads, that’s fine too. They don’t have to buy it to have it – they can have it just by knowing it.”13 Weiner went from making sculptures to writing texts describing the material and surface of imaginary sculptures. These texts became increasingly free and independent of materiality and spatial conditions. The spatial content was rather expressed by the placement and location of the texts; on facades, streets and in rooms.   Neither did Douglas Huebler want to make any more objects – the world was already full of things. His utopian idea was to exclusively document his artistic acts in an “unaesthetic” way and to communicate them as information. His own proclamations formed the structure of the works: What I say is part of the artwork. I don’t look to critics to say things about my work. I tell them what it’s about. People deny words have anything to do with art. I don’t accept that. They do. Art is a source of information.14

Ian Wilson, an artist from the same generation, found speech to be the only thing necessary. This insight appeared when he was looking at a sculpture by Robert Morris (probably in 1968). It was quite easy for Wilson to describe it, “to say it”: I went away thinking that it was not necessary for me to see that sculpture again, I could just say it – not even say it – but think it. /... / When someone says to you: I am working with a cube, you know exactly what he is talking about. You hold the essence of the idea in your head.


18 It’s just like someone saying: I am thinking of God – that’s as close as you will ever get to it – you have the essence of the idea. My next step was simply to realize my interest in speech as a medium – first of all – of communication and secondly as the object of communication.15

The statement was made in an interview (1969). The previous year he had drawn a chalk circle on the ground, that was his last physical work. He had then realized that it was more interesting to talk about the circle than to draw it.16   Ian Wilson is the best example one can think of to illustrate the significance of oral tradition in the art world. He is quoted six times in Lucy Lippards Six Years: the Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972. Apart from that, his works are nowhere to be found. Hardly any visual or audial documentation exists and only a few have ever seen or heard him. He has become a myth and his works exist all but exclusively in people’s talk about them. Not even his speech and ideas have the definite form of statements, he comes to such a pass that he claims that speech only performs its subject, and is equivalent to its subject.   Such a subject is “time”. The work consists of Ian Wilson telling people he meets that he is interested in the word time: I would be at a gallery opening and someone would ask me: “so what are you doing these days?” I would reply, “I am interested in the word ‘time’.” Later, someone would ask: “But how can time be your art?” And I might have replied, “as it is spoken: ‘time’.” Another day, someone might have asked, having heard I was using time as my art: “So what are you working with these days?” and I would reply: “time”. I am interested in the idea [...] I like the work when it is spoken: “time”.17

In other words, the core of Ian Wilson’s work is hearsay, rumours and word-of-mouth stories. Besides, the issues he is dealing with are too complicated and too hard to grasp to fit in a distinct conceptual framework. This is otherwise usually an underlying idea in conceptual art: an idea has a form and expresses a notion of aesthetics, and is a figure of thought: Theories of course are things; they are what Edmund Husserl called noematic objects; that is, mental objects. Every thought or concept is


19 an object, and every thought has a form or aesthetic presence (what does a centaur look like? an angel?). There is, in other words, an aesthetics of thought with its own styles and its own formalism.18

In Wilson’s works everything has collapsed into a unity: subject, method and narration of his own practice. His work follows the development of linguistic theories of speech-acts which, focusing on the performative, for example J. L. Austin’s How to Do Things With Words19 from 1962. The French translation of Austin’s book has the suitable title Quand dire, c’est faire. * As I see it, these American conceptual artists emphasized – and drew the consequences of – something already existing in art: namely that there is no, nor has there ever been, art that is not surrounded by text and narration.20 Nevertheless, art continued to be presented in the same way, more or less, as before. Almost all conceptual art was, in one way or another, objectified and the works were often detached from their story of the work. What does this mean? Simply put: that the art market swallows everything, wraps it and offers it as specific products? Or maybe that the break with the “wordless” modernism – where the word “literary” was an insult to a work since it was considered a crutch – wasn’t that radical after all? Both questions should be answered yes. The art world commodifies all art (this shouldn’t surprise anyone anymore) and ”the literary” was already there in art even though it was stubbornly denied.   This is no reason, however, for conceptual works of art (and neo-conceptual art) to be presented in the same way as paintings or sculptures which are dealing mostly with issues of colour and form. Why all this trickery? Why can’t we have an open access to the story of the work? Why do we have to ask someone who knows the secret story? What if we don’t know any initiated person?   There are probably many complicated answers to these questions, answers that involve the mythic and oral culture of the art world as well as the fetishist aspect of art. Here, one also stumbles upon elements from esoteric and magic traditions.


20 To begin with, one should note that the story of the work is something more than the hermeneutical concept fusion of horizons. Considering, for example, Kara Walker’s cut-paper silhouettes, which play with stereotypes of racism and sexism, one is assumed to know that they are made by an afro-American woman. A rudimentary knowledge of her biography is a prerequisite, an expected fusion of horizons. The cut-paper technique holds its discourse of folk art and its methodological sceneries (where we sometimes visualise the artist at work and sometimes the imitations of historical characters as we imagine them). Besides that, we needn’t know that much more about the actions that form a part of the work. Already in the technique combined with the motifs, one finds all the conflicts and contradictory voices that constitute a work of art, and which can never be reduced to a simple bipolarity. However, when confronting Flaga 1972–2000 by Simon Sterling (2000), the viewer is completely lost if he/she doesn’t have access to the story of the work. Inside the exhibition space one contemplates a red and white Fiat 126 from the mid-seventies. It looks a bit funny, and seems to have run quite many miles, but apart from that, there is hardly any information to obtain from its physical apparition in the room. Not until hearing the story of the work it becomes meaningful. Starling bought the car in Turin, where it was no longer manufactured, drove it to Warsaw, to where the manufacturing had been relocated (but has now closed down). There he bought a same but white car and replaced the red doors, the bonnet and some other details with the white Polish parts. He then drove this hybrid back to Italy. The work thus contains an account of a performance, the car is a document rather than a sculpture. It is all about its provenience. Still, one cannot expect to find the story of the work on a sign beside the car. The account of this story would probably take the sting out of just that which is rewarded in exhibitions (because it creates a sense of belonging); the spreading of rumours.   Here, it would be appropriate to look at the original meaning of the Greek concept theoria. Originally theoria had a very precise and concrete meaning: it was the report that someone (a reporter) made when he returned to his village after having witnessed important events (for example the Olympics). The core meaning of theoria


21 wasn’t the actual witnessing of the event, but the witness sharing the reality manifested in the story. What was important here was the social aspect and event of storytelling.21 Now, the question is, with whom to share one’s story. In commercial art, theoria is not shared with just anyone. To get a share of the story one must somehow get to deserve a place in the audience.   The art market has been able to use this exclusive mechanism in its fetishizing of art. A fetish is basically an object of fear. The will to maintain exclusive or unreachable values is nourished by this fear of not knowing, of not doing what is appropriate, that is, of not owning (knowledge, precious objects, valuable information). Above all, it is the ambitious middle-class that is haunted by this fear.   Confronting this fetish culture, artistic research becomes something disturbing or even improper. One possible consequence of this is that the art market turns its back on artistic research. What we have here seems to be two colliding worlds. But to draw that conclusion would be to underestimate the art market. Until now it has incorporated everything regardless of materiality, constancy and visual manifestation.   And the question of what kind of theoria artistic research will use when offering its experiences, is still open. In an essay on narration in relation to the three time modes (the past, the present and the future), philosopher Peter Kemp comments on the limits of scientific language: A purely descriptive language can only express how things in nature, society or mental life are connected. Despite the degree of elaboration of its concepts and despite the number of well-founded experiments it relies on it cannot capture a person’s course of life. This means that no entirely scientific discourse will ever grasp what human action is. /... / Thus, narrative language is essential to the expression of our experiences and actions. Our life is meaningful only if we have a life story.22

A good starting-point for artists’ oral and written accounts of their practice would be to try to avoid the kind of general statements, similar to the point of confusion, that often circulate when people attempt to describe the work of an artist.23 Erik Beckman invented such a (general) character on whom he could take out


22 his annoyance; a Norwegian writer (in the narrative poem Kyss er! transformed to a well-adapted bartender) who was “most of all concerned with the problem of identity, communication and reality”.24 Another excellent starting-point could be that one cannot possibly understand everything about oneself and that one cannot speak about everything: “Everything that can be thought at all can be thought clearly. Everything that can be said at all can be said clearly. But not everything that can be thought can be said” (Wittgenstein).   So, just start talking and writing. Even a silent person tells the story of herself to herself. To include questions in the story – which is part of the everyday talking (and a basic method of both science and art) – doesn’t always mean that the questions are directed to someone else. One asks oneself and talks to oneself. The questions that a person asks herself are not the expression of a desperate attempt to keep the self together (at least not in relation to its origin) – but rather the opposite. To ask and answer oneself means – also from a biological viewpoint – that the different selfs within a person can cooperate. For the same reason the human being can also experiment with several parallel stories about herself, even if he/she tries to coordinate them, eventually. In The Self as a Centre of Narrative Gravity, Daniel C. Dennett writes: ”it does seem that we are all virtuoso novelists, who find ourselves engaged in all sorts of behaviour, more or less unified, but sometimes disunified, and we always put the best ‘faces’ on it we can. We try to make all of our material cohere into a single good story. And that story is our autobiography.”25   One of the hopes in regard to artistic research: that the story of my art can reach beyond the simplified logic and strict linearity of self-presentation; that more complicated narratives emerge, allowed to ramify both horizontally and vertically, open for more accurate descriptions of what artistic practice is. [Translation: gou]


23 Notes: 1. Se also Bengt af Klintberg’s text on the connection between fluxus art and folklore; “Fluxus games and contemporary folklore: on the non-individual character of fluxus art”, Konsthistorisk Tidskrift, Stockholm 1993. 2. Michel de Montaigne’s Essays, Book three, the beginning of chapter two (“Of repentance”) [trans. Donald M. Frame]. 3. The use of meta-narrative in this text does not apply to the term used in critical theory when discussing how small narratives are being mastered by grand narratives (metanarratives) within totalising schemas. 4. This propagandistic feature also concerns the production of texts for artists – monographs, exhibition catalogues and press releases. The texts that accompany exhibitions move from description to admiration and applause. Even though art, in its self-image, appears as self-critical, questioning and open to what is complex, nothing that could be interpreted as negative or questioning towards the artist’s work and his intentions would ever be included in these texts. 5. Most people have no such opportunities to elaborate with their life story. The struggle to keep the egological narrative together takes place in a disadvantageous position, even if there is always an impressive arsenal of armour, weapons, and divertive maneuvers to maintain the coherence, for example to blame fictive versions of the self by claiming that they have acted independently (a ventriloquist’s puppet, a character in a blog or a novel). Some people who sense the approaching loss change their strategy and split openly, i.e. become schizophrenics or develop multiple personalities. On the other hand, for those who manage to keep the responsibility of the different selves, there are new structures of meaning to be developed from a polyphonic storytelling of the self. 6. Next to a sculptural work by Petah Coyne (at ARS-06, Kiasma) one can read the following text: Untitled #1111 (Little Ed’s Daughter Margaret), 2003–2004, specially formulated wax, fiberglass cast statuary, velvet, satin, ribbon, thread, steel understructure, PVC pipe and fittings, tree branches, fabricated tree branches, chicken wire fencing, wire, silk flowers, pearl-headed hat pins, tassels, feathers, pumps, irrigation tubing, water, black spray paint, black acrylic paint. 7. Not least the genre of filmic essay can be regarded a tradition of artistic research (which I myself relate to in my own artistic research). Michael Renov brings out some characteristic features in his essay on Jonas Mekas (“Lost, Lost, Lost: Mekas as Essayist” in The Subject of Documentary, Minnesota, 2004): “notable for its tendency toward complication (digression, fragmentation, repetition and dispersion)” (p. 70). In my own work about Chris Marker’s films, Le mystère Koumiko and Sans soleil are the most important references. For a discussion on contemporary criteria of artistic (practice based) research, see Mika Hannula, Juhuoa Suoranta & Tere Vadén; Artistic Research, Theories, Methods and Practice, Göteborg 2005. 8. Eva Mark and Mats Rosengren are two Swedish philosophers who have been occupied with “alternative” theories of knowledge. Eva Mark relates to


24 an institutional idea of science where the scientific community itself is defines its problems, its domains and its limits. This is a socially constructed but blind power structure – in these systems the individual acts with his/her habitus (Bourdieau). With Aristotle, Mark speaks of “practical wisdom” – fronesis, separate from science (or knowledge) – episteme. Aristotle stipulates a contradiction, or bipolarity that, according to Mark, is false. What might dissolve this kind of bipolarity is creativity, not least creativity as a social process. Eva Mark presents a thesis that implies that all knowledge is practical and that the thinking which is involved in practical actions is not separate from but a significant part of the act. Mark (like Bengt Molander) speaks about “thinking-in-action”. Mark’s reasoning concerns linguistic and non-linguistic aspects of practical knowledge. There is a resemblance to some of the problems that are central to artistic research, but also to artistic practice as such – “to make a work of art”. Mark puts forward a basic model for both thought and action and distinguishes three levels in the epistemology of practice; a non-verbalizable (“common”) one, concerning actions which cannot be reflected on, a praxis analysis, and a third systematically developed scientific theory and practice.   Mats Rosengren introduces his epistemological concept of doxology (Doxologi, Åstorp 2006). By developing Protegra’s thesis that man is the measure of all things, he wants to, using rhetoric among other things, form a conception of knowledge that is to be situated between doxa (popular opinion) and episteme. According to Rosengren, doxa is actually the foundation of episteme. Thus, doxology would be “the human knowledge” – prejudiced, full of assumptions and preconditions, unlike the metaphysical sense of knowledge. Like Eva Mark, Rosengren speaks about the intertwinement of knowledge and practice. But when Mark claims that all seeking of knowledge is practical, Rosengren claims that it is as much practical as it is not. To “know everything” (theory) and to ”know how” (practice) are indeed interconnected, but they are always depending on “when?”. With Nietzsche, Rosengren asks: “From where does the will to know originate?”. To answer that question one has to understand the knowledge process as situated – “when?”. How does Rosengren connect doxa to knowledge, and emphasise the former as a prerequisite of the latter? Referring to Ludwik Fleck’s epistemology (The Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact, 1935) he speaks of the concepts of thought styles and thought collectives, which are in a circular relation. Thought style, like Foucault’s episteme and Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm, signifies the dominant way of thinking, a model for scientific practice and reasoning. Fleck’s concept is however more related to a local context and doesn’t include as much as those of Foucault and Khun. Thought collective could be compared to a discoursive field. From the most hard-boiled of scientific traditions, Fleck could show that so-called facts are almost always based on interpretations and conceptual systems and that interpretation and description are basically inseparable. Rosengren also claims (with Bourdieu) that every more or less distinct social domain has its own doxa which normally isn’t brought into question from within, by the group itself. The doxa constitutes the frame of reference. In this context the most common, or widespread doxa


25 (the least subcultural) is called common sense. Through Bourdieu (who Rosengren connects to the tradition of rhetoric) Fleck’s ideas of scientific knowledge production are put in relation to an everyday, non-disciplinary and political production of knowledge. To accomplish a successful rhetorical/doxological achievement or work the non-discursive ethos and pathos must interact with the discoursive logos, if I understand Rosengren correctly. 9. Allan Kaprow, “Untitled Essay” in Untitled Essay and other works, ubuclassics, 2004 (www.ubu.com), originally published as Great Bear Pamphlet by Something Else Press, 1967. 10. Kaprow speaks about writing about my art. But for most people writing has a close connection to the oral tradition, even if one has to be aware of the distinction between the two of them. In this text I move hastily between writing and talking without analyzing the difference. For example Paul Ricour discusses this problem in “Utterance and Speaking Subject: A Pragmatic Approach” in Oneself as Another, Chicago 1992. 11. ”Alltför många av oss skrivare är sleeping partners till pedagoger, långtidsplanerare, intellektuella hederlighetsivrare och rigida moralister, våra överjag. Fortfarande låter författares målsättningspostulat som Goethe och biskopar och rektorstal på avslutningar: självförverkligande, ansvar, analys, information, kontaktskapande, budskap, gudsögon, sökande och finnande, känn dig själv, känn din nästa...” Erik Beckman, ”Erik Beckman intervjuar Erik Beckman” in Ingen ny värdighet, kortprosa 1960–1969, Erik Beckman-sällskapet, 2007 (originally published in Dagens Nyheter 3/8 1969). 12. On the other hand, in a wider historical perspective one could say that this was a return of narration, rather than a transition. There was a strong connection between image and text in the Christian Art of the Middle Ages as well as Dada, Futurism and Surrealism. Martin Jay speaks of modernity as a phase of “de-narrativization and de-textualisation”. See “Scopic Regimes of Modernity” in Tidskriften Index, no. 3–4, 1995, p. 128. 13. Lawrence Weiner, “Statements” (October 12 1969), www.ubu.com/papers/ weinwr_statements.html. 14. F. David Shirey, “Thinkworks”, Art in America (May–June, 1969). Huebler didn’t keep his decision not to make any more objects. And the unaesthetic style he adapted was later to be the very expression of conceptual aesthetics. Mike Kelly comments on this in a text (a critical tribute to his teacher): “Conceptual Art’s primary visual source looks to be the academic textbook, where the poorly-printed photograph or diagram, accompanied by a caption, is standard fare. The fact that this mode of address is culturally omnipresent does not render it invisible. /... / It is only invisible in context. The art world pressures operating at the time to render the visual tropes of Conceptualism invisible are twofold. The first is political – artists of the time sought to make works which, in their seemingly invisible (‘dematerialized’ to use Lucy Lippard’s term) state, could symbolically lie outside of commodity status. The second pressure was philosophical – to downplay the fetishized objectness of artworks was to play up the mind, the intelligence, of its maker. This is the Duchampian model.


26 Nevertheless, the visual tropes of Conceptualism were not invisible, which is obvious now that it has been rendered an academic and historically recognizable art movement.” (“Shall We Kill Daddy?”, www.strikingdistance.com/c3inov/ kelley.html). Kelley’s comments could be interesting to have in mind when today, proclamations similar to those of Huebler, are sometimes made in the discourse of relational aesthetics and participatory practice. 15. Interview with Ursula Meyer (November 12 1969), http://www.ubu.com/ papers/wilson_statements.html 16. His only other manifest work Circle on the wall has, for some reason, been “remade” – dated 1968 – in a group show at Galleri Nicolai Wallner in 2006 (The Known and the Unknown), curated by Claus Robenhagen and Jonathan Monk. In recent years Jonathan Monk has also invited Ian Wilson to speak at his exhibitions at specific points of time. 17. Edward Allington, “About time” in Frieze Magazine, issue 92, June–August 2005. Wilson’s descriptions of his method are also reminiscent of the methods business people use to put brands and other kinds of immaterial values in circulation, to increase the value. 18. Thomas McEvilley, “I Think Therefor I Art”, Artforum, Summer 1985, p. 46. 19. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 20. In “Situational Aesthetics” (1969), Victor Burgin writes: “In its logical extremity this tendency has resulted in a placing of art entirely within the linguistic infrastructure, which previously served merely to support art.” www.ubu. com/papers/burgin_situational.html 21. See Henry Cöster, ”Tolkning av text och verklighet” in Res Publica, Tema Paul Ricoeur, 1987. See also Allan McCollum’s discussion on the fetish in David Robbins, The Camera Believes Everything, Stuttgart 1988, p. 13. 22. ”Ett rent beskrivande språk kan, oavsett hur utvecklat dess begrepp är och oavsett hur många solitt underbyggda experiment det stödjer sig på, endast uttrycka hur tingen, i naturen, samhället eller det psykiska livet hänger samman: det kan inte fånga upp ett livsförlopp. Det betyder att ingen rent vetenskaplig betraktelse någonsin kan uppfatta vad mänsklig handling är för något. /.../ Således är det narrativa språket nödvändigt för att våra upplevelser och handlingar skall komma till uttryck. Vi har ett meningsfullt liv endast ifall vi har en livshistoria” Peter Kemp, ”Urberättelse, livshistoria, grundberättelse”, Divan, no 3, November 1992. 23. In Alessandra de Pisa’s artist book Tomhetens triumf (2006), all names in a collection of quoted texts about different artists have been replaced with her own name. In this light, most of the texts seem to describe everything and nothing. 24 Beckman, a.a., p. 120. 25 In F. Kessel, P. Cole and D. Johnson, eds, Self and Consciousness: Multiple Perspectives, Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1992.


27 I found your request and elucidation of terms very interesting and quite challenging. I only feel I have a glancing understanding of those terms: imageability, method, field, practice – slippery concepts, which feel determined more by your text and its inherent methodology than by my own reflexive awareness of the methods and fields around me.

Saul Albert How do you relate to the artistic field as a field of knowledge production? I like to use the term ‘not-just-art’ to describe what I do – a term I stole from Matthew Fuller: “not-just-art... Of course, once this ploy is opened and proliferates it becomes apparent that it quickly colonises all of what sees itself as art ... simply by virtue of acknowledging its integration into other systems – of valorisation, decoration, sociality etc. By the same token it also opens up what is categorised as non-art to the descriptive, critical, de-responsibilising and other potentially less fruitful qualities and operations of art.” [Matthew Fuller, A Means of Mutation, http://bak.spc.org/iod/mutation.html 15/10/2007]

As a field of knowledge production, not-just-art can be a blank domino, ready to be coupled to any other field on its own terms, potentially providing a degree of independence from the institutional life of Art.   The terms are also strongly influenced by methods and tendencies within the field to which the art is coupled. Howard Slater’s critique of The Artist Placement Group’s (APG) involvement with Industry and government in the 1970s* observes how the culture of management osmosed into their practice and method. His account relates how they were upwardly mobile, increasingly absorbed into the white-collar boardroom of strategic/managerial culture, rather than remaining on the shop floor, identifying their work and methods with the sociality and solidarity of the workforce. He also describes how their quasiobjectivity prototyped a new methodology in management culture, derived from the critical and reflexive functions of their art practices.   As a field of knowledge production, not-just-art gives rise to this kind of unintended hybridity that may have value and significance orthogonal to the


28 intentions of the not-just-artist.   However, as Fuller indicates: borrowing from other cultural contexts, escaping from purely art-historical narratives, shocking its way out of the gallery for a while doesn’t prevent notjust-art from processing itself and whatever it touches into ‘just-art’ over time, reinstating a dependence on Art’s institutional context and economies.   Without an economic reality other than Art’s, not-just-art’s ‘independence’ becomes, at best, purely symbolic as institutional critique. At its worst, not-just-art is an imperialistic ploy designed to capture some non-art and bring it back to the gallery as a trophy from the ‘real world’. It is usually both of these things when examined in the artistic field, because evaluating outcomes that fall outside of that field – as Slater does in his critique of the APG – is extremely rare. Usually, if an art practice becomes economically self-sufficient outside that field, it is no longer classified as art.   In practical terms, the artistic field is a good source of investment. Financial, attentive or emotional investment in artistic knowledge production does not demand the kinds of consumer gratification, official accountability

or administrative rigueur of other sectors to justify its existence.   To answer your question succinctly I relate to knowledge production within the artistic field by using art funding as start-up capital, and Art’s discursive and reflexive functions for business analysis. What forms can a methodological discussion take within the field of art to be productive? I recently attended a graduation lecture at the ZKM in Karlsruhe, during which a very gifted design duo – the 2xGoldstein twins – talked about their methodology. They talked us through their catalogue of works, using a large and intensely detailed diagram of how their practice works: where the ideas come in, how they’re assessed, where client feedback occurs, then how the process is finalised and signed off.   Perhaps because I didn’t understand German, the demonstration reminded me of an old Monty Python sketch in which John Cleese and Michael Palin, dressed in 1920’s air pilot costumes and braying in incomprehensible Cod French, explain the workings of a flying sheep using a complex and hilarious


29

http://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=8jC7NKkjCe0

Terry Gillingham drawing with pop-up panels showing propellers, engines, cranks and levers under the wool.   As the expanded field of art is so diverse and hybridised, any form of discussing the many methodologies dragged into that field are productive as long as they do not take themselves too seriously. What are the possibilities pertaining to methodology where practice rather than theoretical reflection is the point of departure? What kind of practices can stage, or be staged by, such a methodology? I suspect that this is a leading question.   In your introduction to these questions you make the assertion that in the humanities, the field of study defines the method, whereas in the natural sciences, the method defines

the field, and that the humanities are therefore hopelessly heterogeneous. Where methodologies vary, especially in such a parasitic/viral field such as art practice, fields of study are balkanised, precluding interdisciplinarity even within the field itself, calling into question the viability of assessment, parity and standardisation between educational institutions.   It follows to propose that practice-based research, like a laboratory for art, could stage practices that are closer to the natural sciences in how their methodology defines a field. This would be a convenient way to build an argument for practice-based research being inculcated into a national art education system.   This question doesn’t really mean anything outside the self-justifying imperatives of academic institutions and their reflexive struggles to adapt to their dwindling relevance in knowledge production. How is knowledge mediated? Through conversation. *Howard Slater, THE ART OF GOVERNANCE - on The Artist Placement Group 1966–1989: http://www.infopool.org.uk/APG.htm - 15/10/2007


30

Everything That Is Temporary Must Be Removed Tone Hansen

It is difficult to separate process from method. If you can describe a work process, does that mean you have also defined an artistic method? Does it become a method only when the work process has been reiterated a certain number of times? And when does method become form? I will make an attempt to discern a potential difference. As an artist, I was not trained to develop or learn methodical processes in order to reach a result; or rather, that was something we were expected to develop on our own. There are few, if any, good books on art pedagogy, or art methods for use in teaching, and frankly, who would dare to draw up such a manual; chances are it would, in any case, become an ironic product. Traditional art education is based on the expectation that the artist, through her training, will develop the self-discipline required to work alone in her studio. Few other professions are so individualoriented, both in terms of work form and production. When it comes to artistic method, there may be an expectation that where a method can be discerned, it must be the artist’s very own, her personal signature. In general, there exists few ideas of collective work methods for artists that can be passed on; rather, it is anticipated that artists make a break with and rebel against possible expectations and imparted methods. Artistic method is something one keeps to oneself, or it is something through which one may read an artist’s production from the outside, in a retrospective and idealized way. The search to define my method soon became a question of the political aspect on the one hand, and the artist as a producer on the other. It was a matter of whether it is possible to write about one’s own work method in any other way than retrospectively, and whether it is possible to do so without idealizing one’s own process.   I am a political subject, and my relationship to art is affected by this fact. How attitude is formed has to do with impartation. The artist as a political subject creates dilemmas, and many artists engage in alternating them.   The artist as a self-employed individual and a role model for the flexible worker touted by Neo-Liberalism has recently been a widely discussed topic. But this self-reflection with regard to


31 one’s own role is also idealized. The artist as a character type is elucidated and idealized from all angles, as a knight in service of the common good, as a creative role model with a distinctive work process, as a social critic, as an agitator. While direct social changes can rarely be attributed to the critic (or the artist) alone, she may, through her specific arenas and action patterns, help bring about attitudes, changes and knowledge over the long term. But a critical position may also lead to political posturing that fits all too well into the notion of the self-reflective art institution. I believe that the concept of the artist as a unique producer is currently being challenged, or that we are now facing a greater polarization between market and critical effect. These two extremes can easily be drawn up as a productive model of discussion in a Scandinavian perspective, but this may not be as relevant in a, say, NorthAmerican context, where democratic and communal public sphere is linked to private enterprises, rather than to the central government. This text is written from a Scandinavian perspective, where trust in the central government as a guarantor for a public sphere shared by all, is still innate. The professionalization of the artist’s role that ensues from a more standardized, measurable art education as a consequence of the Bologna-process is an example of both market adaptation and a greater emphasis on the artist’s generation of knowledge and the exchange thereof. With steadily more fine arts programs being established (with the 2007 founding of the Academy of Fine Art in Tromsø being the most recent addition in Norway), more artists are competing for the privileges reserved for artists. The introduction of a number of highly divergent fellowship and research programs for artists constitutes a third factor contributing to the professionalization and specialization of the artist. I was trained at an art academy that, under its previous administration, attempted to treat different forms of expression, such as design, crafts, dramatic arts and visual arts, on equal footing.1 Because the art institution itself has considered art’s relative autonomy as given, there have been few efforts at articulating this notion. Artists have also been able to borrow from many disciplines without becoming neither musicians, sociologists, authors nor designers. With its liberal form of education, the art institution (in Norway) has also


32 served as a sanctuary for musicians, actors and philosophy students who did not fit into the traditional university system. While the concept of the artist as a professional amateur has been discussed, it has not formed any one school, but rather a trend understood in a positive sense. Hence, the efficiency optimization process that gave rise to the merger of the separate colleges left the visual arts in a vulnerable position, and rather than opening up for artistic exchanges, the merger of the disciplines became a straight-jacket. The new form allowed for more efficient instruction, and the intention was to give students and staff the opportunity to work in open, cross-disciplinary settings. However, this kind of interdisciplinarity brings together different work methods and forms of expression and recognizes no intrinsic differences between product adaptation and autonomous art. Naturally, the result was a rebelling and angry fine art program that refused to adapt to the new requirements.   The market’s currently avid interest in contemporary art is another factor that sets the agenda for the artist. For one, artworks are at the moment snapped up directly from the art student’s studio space before he or she has had the time to develop a solid practice. The discourse on artistic production is also colored by an increased general interest not only in the artist’s product, but also in the economy surrounding her knowledge, process and services. This is perhaps not very surprising, given the increasing number of art schools, the central government’s investment in culture, corporate initiatives, etc. There is a focus on artistic production of knowledge and process both in the state-run fine art education programs and in the new art market, which is, to a great extent, service and event oriented. In this context, the artist’s ability to performatively convey her knowledge becomes a commodity. Now, what does any of this have to do with artistic method? Is there an interesting production of knowledge that we ought to discuss, defend and protect? How is this production conveyed and disseminated? Should the production of knowledge in the artistic field be discussed in relation to other, more scientific research traditions? Or should it be left to the artistic field to develop its own methodology; its own form of adducing evidence; its own kind of quality assessment? In step with the formalization of artistic re-


33 search, there is greater demand for process transparency, and hence also an increasing need for a conveyable assessment method, both during the course of the process and in its final stage. Conventional academic dissertations often include a chapter describing why, how and what kind of methodology the project is based upon. In the artistic field, to verbally describe one’s method means separating it from the work itself. The requirement is hence based on the assumption that the method can be divorced from the work per se. I still wonder whether this approach, in some cases, is just an application of a theoretical framework.   Over the past three years, I have been part of a brand new, government-funded fellowship program that initially resisted engaging in theoretical discussions on artistic method. Method was first considered something integral to the production of artworks and inarticulable until the artwork is completed, i.e. method understood retrospectively, with all the mythologizing traps that ensue from this perspective. Nevertheless, the program has been forced to take verbal production more seriously, and new fellows are now being offered a much stronger theoretical introduction to scientific methods. But the knee-jerk reaction against Academia is still there, and one of the consequences thereof is that professorial expertise from other disciplines is not recognized for the purposes of project advising. This instinctive reflex is understandable: There is a desire to develop a solid and credible system for artistic research that neither resembles nor imitates academia. Yet, this may lead to an understanding of art that has a conservative effect and whose focus is a major and cohesive final product. Plus, the interdisciplinary approach may turn out to be just as limiting, since interdisciplinarity has a narrow definition that lies within a limited selection of art forms, i.e. dance, film, fine arts and design. For what if artistic research does not result in an artwork as the final product? What if you end up with an outcome that is not art? Would this mean that you have failed, or should formalized artistic research also allow room for surprising results that go beyond the anticipated production of artwork? On the one hand, if both method and result must be defined at the onset of a fellowship period, then such fellowships are more similar to long-term art production grants than to research programs. On the other, if the trust in Academia is allowed


34 to prevail, it may well be that we will miss out on a new form of dissemination of knowledge springing from the mechanisms of fine art, where the requirements of documentable evidence and source usage can be problematic. As a research fellow at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts, the main focus of my project entitled Mega Monster Museum has been the challenges the art museum faces in contemporary society. How to imagine a museum of today? My basic premise was the development in Oslo/Norway, where a number of reforms within the national state administration, urban development and a massive museum reform coincided in time and had intersecting consequences. Starting with the notion of the museum as a public space, I ended up investigating the possibilities for a public sphere in a larger context. What is this context? For one, the implementation of New Public Management in the national administration and in the municipal sector, i.e. a reform policy that aims at trimming down government operations and opening to market competition areas that were previously publicly run. This reform has been in effect for a number of years, but not until recently have its consequences affected the fine arts. The reformation of the public sector also entails that several decisions are now being made outside the political realm, because this arena is considered too slow-moving and inefficient. The private initiative is welcomed by the public sector. The development of a scientific research method requires more time than an artist might be expected to invest into a production today. It is an unproductive way of working, at least in terms of concrete output. As far as I am concerned, it is all about observation of specific issues over time. This includes such means as photography, note-taking, the registration of usage and movements in a given location. Gathering information from public archives that offer insight into whom, what and how certain sites are run, whether commercially or politically. Collecting facts about political processes. Conversations with users, passers-by, players, and politicians, which result in a more and more usage-oriented perspective. This way of working may not allow for an antagonistic or unsympathetic approach, but rather for a reflection that leads to a position


35 or performative stance – aesthetically, politically or artistically, all depending on how it is conveyed. It is a matter of experience, perspective and knowledge that can be given form and communicated according to what one might call an artistic method. The data are observed in light of theory and texts dealing with specific topics in order to find a basis for ideas and for criticism. Subsequently, it is all put together in various ways, as collages, essays, op-ed pieces, as the basis for seminars, for teaching purposes and as a premise for anthologies. This way of working does now preclude a departure from earlier practice, but the fracture, attention, and confrontation will occur at a later production stage, and in a way that is more argumentative than provocative.   My sense was that the more specific my engagement with museum issues, the more clearly I could see the links between and the consequences of political processes that I/we have typically considered external to the artistic field. The increasing focus on aesthetics and culture on the one hand and the encouragement of the private initiative on the other can yield peculiar results. The following is an example of how I have been working. In 2003 I photographed a square in Oslo [Image 1]. This picture stayed in my archive for a year. When political processes changed the function of this square, this picture became an opening for a longterm engagement in the transformation of the public spaces in Oslo.   It is not an exaggeration to say that Oslo, like many other Scandinavian cities, has gone through a radical transformation over the past years. The retail industry has met with competition from malls located outside the city centers that offer a seamless and hasslefree shopping experience with free parking. The cities have been forced to adapt to the customers’ demand for convenience resulting from this development; downtown is no longer necessarily the center of commerce. The consequence is that cities get divided into new multi-storied urban zones, cities within the city, i.e. malls. The malls compete amongst themselves by creating different identities and experiences for their internal spaces, and the patrons are divided into various categories in specifically targeted advertising campaigns. Some individuals are kept outside by uniformed guards. Like many other Norwegian cities, Oslo has for a number of years


1.

now been governed by a politically conservative alliance made up of the Progress Party, the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party. They have pushed for the outsourcing of tasks that were previously seen as the government’s responsibility, and for greater acceptance of private initiatives in the public sphere. As the available funds for urban embellishment are limited, private initiatives offer welcome contributions; also because they strengthen civic participation. As mentioned, democratic processes are slow, and so public officers idolize the efficiency of private corporations.   When the personally invested architect Thomas Thiis Evensen, together with Per JĂŚger and a few contractors, founded the Hovedstadaksjonen action campaign, he got an alliance of private players and government administrative bodies onboard.2 Together, they drafted a comprehensive renovation plan that covered everything from types of stone to waste bins and the layouts of parks and public squares. The idea was to revamp the city and give it a more cohesive look. To unify the forces, ten aesthetic commandments were laid down. The city was to be transported back to its bygone splendor, i.e. dressed in style elements from the last century. In


2.

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38 press releases written in combative language, the participants declare war on all disorder, referring to themselves as “the city’s white knights”. Critics of the action campaign are denounced with big words. It is interesting to read the action campaign’s presentation of itself in light of the expectation that public bodies should present matters in unbiased fashion. Because the Hovedstadaksjonen action campaign was a private initiative, the usual matter-of-fact tone of the public sector is entirely missing.3 Traditionally, the concept of “action campaign” has primarily been associated with leftwing politics in connection with protests and demonstrations. In the context of the Hovedstadaksjonen, it is used as a potent term for self-starters who take charge to clean up the urban mess. Stylistic details were copied from the urban scene of Paris. Building and store owners were told to straighten out the clutter of signs and adapt to the aesthetic requirements. A new manhole cover was designed by the architect.4 The financing is based on the American shared privatepublic financing model where private funds are met with matching public funds. Initially, the embellishment program was intended for the prestigious Karl Johan Boulevard, which is considered the city’s main street, but the program now encompasses the entire downtown area of Oslo. While the Hovedstadaksjonen action campaign officially ended on June 7 of 2005, its agenda is carried on by an institution called “Levende Oslo” (living city).5 This all seems harmonious, beautiful and idealistic. But what if this retrograde stylistic transformation into a specific historical ideal also causes current players and store owners to be forced out of the city center because their enterprises do not fit into the aesthetic framework? Image [5], which is from the 10 Commandments of the Hovedstadaksjonen action campaign, shows one of the very first among building owners and commercial tenants to voluntarily adapt to the stylistic requirements at an early stage. The Swedish-owned fashion chain H&M has been praised for its ability to adapt quickly.   Through a closer look at a small and seemingly unimportant urban space – the European Council Square in the middle of downtown Oslo – the following example points to the consequences of the general transformation of Oslo. The European Council Square is a minor thoroughfare, surrounded by intersections on three sides, as well as the Arkaden, Oslo City and Byporten shopping


39 malls. The square faces the Oslo Central Train Station across from Byporten. Subway tracks, streetcars and buses pass by the square, which has a cab station on its northern corner. The entrance of the Rica Hotel opens onto the square.   The square was given its current name in 1999 in a formal ceremony presided over by then-Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik from the Christian Party on the occasion of the European Council’s 50th anniversary.6 At the time, the European Council had asked all its member countries to honor the institution’s efforts by naming a city plaza after it. The naming of the plaza was an indicator of renewed interest in the site, which had consequences for those who were already doing business there.   Image [3] shows the European Council Square in 2004. The Viking kebab enterprise was established by Kashaf Hussain in 1995 as a general joint partnership with several liabilities for the purpose of operating fast food stores, salad bars and hot dog stands.7 Until the City Council voted for its demolition in 2004, the Viking kebab and Blomsterbua stores provided food and produce to travelers from this tiny pocket, in-between the major players. The arguments presented in favor of demolition primarily concerned aesthetic considerations, improved traffic flow and increased safety.8 Did these convenience stands constitute a safety hazard? Did someone perhaps envision a different external design scheme that would make the stores blend in better? The cost of renovation has ended up forcing the minor players out to the benefit of the large chains. The restored plaza was inaugurated on June 3 of 2005. Due to a lack of funds, there were no trees or cobblestones as intended in the original design, shown in image [4]. Instead, the square was coated with asphalt, with a few potted plants thrown in as decoration and a figurative sculpture of the goddess Fortune. This did not prevent Levende Oslo from celebrating their success. During the opening ceremony, Per Ung, a well-known figurative sculptor, and Christian Ringnes, the real estate investor who footed part of the bill, were hoisted down from the roof and greeted by a jubilant mayor, who delivered an inauguration speech. Mounted on the central wall of Hotel Rica, Ung’s sculpture entitled Madame Fortune was draped in cloth. A dancer posing as Madame Fortune was also hoisted down from the roof to the tunes of live music.9


40 A close reading of this rhetoric may seem petty and arrogantly patronizing. Chances are that many people find that the square has a cleaner look and that the open space provides more overview in this busy part of town. As part of my project, my colleague Per-Gunnar Tverbakk and I had a chronicle entitled “Oslo City as a Street Ven5. dor” published in AftenAften.10 In his response, the sculptor Ung criticized us for being one-sided and not allowing room for diversity because we pointed to the fact that the selection of artwork and the overall design had bypassed the democratic process and the professional artistic jury. Indisputably, diversity does arise from the coexistence of many voices. But who decides who gets to join in? A shabby fast food joint and a fruit stand had to cede the ground to Madame Fortuna, who is bathed in colored light at night, along with a bull’s head in bronze, a few more billboards belonging to the French company JC Deceaux, bikes emblazoned with advertising and flower boxes designed by the Hovedstadaksjonen’s architect. Rica Hotel now maintains an outdoor cafe terrace along its wall, an initiative that is also applauded by the members of the action campaign. The Narvesen convenience store chain has opened a branch across from the hotel, where it sells roughly the same items that were previously offered at the fruit stand.   The action campaign is pushing its efforts ever further east, along with a general gentrification that is gradually altering the terms that determine who gets to do business in the city. Working with others, I have used parts of this critique as the premise for poster campaigns, seminars and collages, as well as chronicles, in order to investigate the development in a broader context.   There have been many debates about urban development, so my position here is not unique. An issue that is often raised with regard to this way of working, is that art tends to come in after the fact, i.e. that all criticism from the artistic field is retrospective, and thus has no consequence. After all, many artists engage with a set of issues


41 over a shorter period, which does not allow for observing development over time. The question one may ask is how to view the production in relation to social development in a larger perspective. Analyses, discussions and narratives that arise from a foundation of knowledge of mechanisms may gain significance and popular support over time. This is not just a matter of how it is mediated, translated and disseminated, but also how the material is preserved and kept current over time. Notes:

1. The Oslo National Academy of the Arts is the result of a merger of the former colleges of art and crafts, theatre, ballet, opera and the academy of fine arts. 2. All documents regarding the Hovedstadaksjonen action campaign can be downloaded at www.hovedstaden.info. The documents are only available in Norwegian. 3. I have described this in great detail in my text “Walk through the City” published in the anthology What does Public Mean? Art as a Participant in the Public Arena, edited by Tone Hansen, Torpedo forlag, 2006. 4. Stylistic design elements from the Hovedstadaksjonen action campaign have been used in two different projects. See www.tonehansen.com for additional information. 5. See www.oslokommune.no for stipulation documents and factual case information. 6. Press Release, Office of the Prime Minister, 04.30.99. 7. This information is provided by the Brønnøysund Register Centre. 8. City Council Decision, 9. Nøkkelhullet, 1, 2005, p. 8. The magazine is published by the real estate management company Eiendomsspar owned by the business man Christian Ringnes. In advertising magazines of this kind, authors are rarely named. 10. This op-ed piece is available for download on my website: www.tonehansen.com


42

Method as a notion within artistic practice and its research – and art as research Jan Kenneth Weckman

“Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it.� Jasper Johns

As a specific concept within artistic practice, the notion of method does not ring a bell. Method must be considered as a general name for either theoretical or practical rules of action. And if the action referred to happens to reside inside the field of art, the notion of method is a generalizing idea, transferred to art practice as to any other practice. Art processes, production as well as presentation are planned processes, and if not, then they emerge from an unconscious and intuitive motivation. Nevertheless, even the latter option must employ media, materials and techniques, as in other interactions with the environment. The emphasis on art as a certain cultural tradition does not change this generalization. Geist seems to initiate a new approach to the artistic practice in asking for a method of that practice. My answer should try to evade the obvious link between thinking of practice from the perspective of planning as method. If I must return to this analogy, planning = method, it will need an explication from both directions, thinking about artistic practice as a conscious engineering, a pre-planned work (or a laboratory experiment), and in relation to this perspective, another dimension of artistic practice must be recognized in which artistic practice is considered a way of employing and applying methods, both in and through the coming into existence of the work or the experiment, and in and through the emergence of relations to ourselves and to any explicitly stated goals and intentions which the artistic practice involves. Now, transgressing over to artistic research, and I think this is a transgression, at least a second theme, here the question of method does ring a bell. A research method describes the way research is or should be conducted regarding its research questions and goals, contexts, limits, referents and objects. To make research on art is what is done in a variety of ways and within different types of dis-


43 ciplines in the academic field. No list is necessary here. The method for that research is part of the specific discipline and is subject to all kinds of discursive, historic, and formal approaches within the discipline itself, meaning a set of dominant attitudes and formulas for finding or making the research objects. Here, finally, we cannot see any distinction between what was separated above, art practice and its research. This is a third option, or theme. If we consider art practice as a kind of research, then what would become of the separation between art practice and its research? It remains the same/unchanged. We just have a third theme to discuss wherein the notion of method, of art as research, can be embedded. A methodological discussion applied to all the aspects mentioned seems to be a formidable, if not useless, task. The first aspect would be, perhaps, a semantic experiment in questioning the descriptions of art so far, and ask a general question about the nature of art from the point of method/methodology. Maybe, some interesting lines could be written on, say, Foucauldian aspects on art while observing cultural objects/phenomena more as discursive strands built by those powers in charge of any particular art form. Hence, it would seem, to raise the question of method could in that case only serve as an attempt to pinpoint something within a power structure of those discursive forms we find to be art. Method must be a part of the discursive process, both a result and a generative force for art forms. The problem remains, of course, where to limit the “field” of art? What is art? Asking such questions and confronting ourselves with contemporary transgressions, one well-known course could be shown based on some kind of modernist logic. My attention goes towards the fusing of art practices with “theory”. This is a line of movement mostly derived from conceptual art forms, which have in common the abandonment of traditional media in favor of reducing art forms to the dimension of communication – in most cases perhaps, to certain kinds of philosophical communication. I am inclined to point to Joseph Kosuth, simply because his work epitomizes a modernist logic progressively deconstructing its own criteria of what art should be, while relying on a quite limited idea


44 of art. Kosuth’s work follows on one hand Kant’s distinction, and on the other hand points to art as the event when art is produced on the theme of art itself, from which follows that “art after philosophy” (in analogy with analytical, read tautological, statements) will be the result of the thematizing of the rules and forms of art. Conceptual art, from the viewpoint of Kosuth, could then be seen as a shift from art to art as theory, gazing at its own methods, its rules concerning form. Cubism was art when it broke down older forms, hence also rules concerning them, but became decoration when that form was generally accepted as art. Here, a linking between form and theory is sustained. Kosuth is linking the intentions and effects of a new art form to the awareness of the aesthetic question, an ontology of art. Strangely enough, the visual form does not in itself become the basis of this idea of art, something which is usually said in terms of trying to describe high modernism, within which Kosuth appears to be a protagonist. The conceptual art concept seems to rely on a non-visual, transcendent notion of art as a rule-breaking practice, a breaking with patterns of action, but not with the actions as such. Here modernism becomes a logic, perhaps a method for visual form which necessarily have to change according to what must be done in order to fall back in reflection of any certain set of ideas in situ, in actual form realized by art processes. If we might link method to an unseen force behind any phenomenon in the field of art, and say that in discussing methods of art, we discuss habits of art and reflect upon the tendencies we have in anticipating what to do next, then method within a description of an artistic field must see to its habits and rules. If we follow Kosuth here, we should try to make art out of the reflection on art. This could exhibit such a thing as method. Furthermore, in our discussion, the practical aspect of art is indeed in need of a new approach, in line with, but not identical to, poststructural topics, if only some old associations could be left aside, in particular those in favor of looking at art practices as basically connected to intuition and psychological frameworks, all that which amounts to most of the so-called French theory and which was discussed in reference to Freud and Nietzsche. If, by any chance, a framework of communication, a metaphor of art as communication,


45 could be sustained, then method, regardless of its status within a power-related discursive system of culture (subjective or subversive, regressive or generative), could be immersed or linked to art as a rhetoric (of communication). Here, method could be seen as a title for engaging in the rhetoric of communication. As a goal for research, it would mean that we discover methods of art practices when we look into the rhetoric of art, the ways of communication in art, starting from auto-communication and idiolexis, poetics, and ending with applying social constructivist, sociological and semiotic notions to art processes. If method in art is methods of communication, rhetoric is the object of that interest in method. Above, as a third theme, art as a research practice was mentioned. An opinion was expressed that we could consider conceptual art, broadly taken, as a starting point for the reflection of art as art, and, hence, on its methods. What does this amount to, in practice? That objects and parts of the world already in the first place are intentionally open to us as meaningful on the field of art? In the case of Kosuth, it turned out to be something non-visual, what roughly could be equated with interpretation, a symbolic piece of meaning and something to cling to when planning the next work. This year, in the Venice Biennale, Kosuth exhibited his usual media, neon light text forms placed outside the gallery space. Kosuth has to rely on parts of the world added to given spaces and environments. Let us for a minute think that Kosuth as a conceptual artist, true to his own ideology, must in some way refer to non-visual referents in his work and preferably to art itself – to avoid the piece being decoration. To use written text, not images, and displayed more as parts of architecture, or urban signs in environments – like advertising on a street – does alter the non-visual installation towards symbolic interpretation. Regardless of the fact that we must relay our attention to symbolic content mediated by sensed forms, we have to admit the reference to at least some non-visual dimension, in this case to the word for water in many languages – something abundantly present adjacent to the installation itself. To focus on the word water amid water landscapes appears to build a tautology if we consider, as we should, that the environment is part of the piece, in a classical minimalist structure. Even if Kosuth does not consider


46 himself a minimalist, as neither did Donald Judd, parts of the world can always mean something else if we choose to interpret them as referring to something else than what they would be. The different conditions for a thing to be a sign – iconic, indexical and symbolic – all belong to the semiotic discussion, in particular that of Peirce. What Judd did not want the object of art to mean, and what Kosuth wants the art object to mean, as art, are all options of different symbolic interpretations. That we care to define these interpretations as non-visual, transcendent, is not completely correct, I think, following a pragmatist and partly naturalist viewpoint here. From a larger definition of meaning, interpretation could be viewed as inductive and identical with action itself, as habit of action leads to action, anticipates it – as most of our thinking does by naturalist standards. An art practice as research in the light of my argument above, should be able to direct itself, from the starting points of modernist self-reflection and ideological interpretation, towards whatever theme a research option makes necessary. Research should somehow be made distinct within art practice, as a specific genre of investigation into both art and life, regardless of the fact that this interest in its own makings and forms is what modernism was, and still is. How, then, could a distinction between art as art and art as research be made? It seems impossible from the outset. Art as research must reside in art as art. It started before Kosuth as an interest in form experiments, with Kosuth it became an interest in the codes of art, as art. The theme of art is not very popular within contemporary art. Contemporary artists are mostly interested in interpreting other kinds of themes mostly linked to their own personal experiences. However, most art that I consider important depends on interests larger than one individual and his/her history. I might be wrong here in making such a distinction and accepting communicative and social themes as more important. Film, television and drama influence the ways of selecting themes for fine art. The narrative field and problems of interpretation only partly stem from a modernist history of art. Blurring borders between media, formal remediations (Bolter & Grusin) interconnect emerging political and social thematics. These engagements do not focus on visual form only, as in modern art. Art as research made distinct within a


47 field of contemporary art becomes an instrument for communication, in a simple way quite opposite to what modern art seemed to epitomize: the invisible turned visible but not explicated. Contemporary practices seem to be taking on the challenge of explication. I see the question of method arising from this concern. To distinguish between art as art and art as research could be restated as a question between modern and contemporary. I have pointed out some links between the two, particularly the effects of conceptual art and minimalism. This link between modern and contemporary (via the postmodern awareness) reveals a media-oriented aspect of the “field” not, perhaps, to be discussed as art anymore, but as visual culture. The widening scale of parts of the world – made, ready-made and found – together with reflection on space, landscape, urban space and environment added with the developments of new media, meaning digital technology, means that the simple parts of the world used for modern as well as pre-modern art exploded in the last decades of the twentieth century into a vast spectrum of different media, things we use for art and communication. This puts the question of method somewhat off the track. We have to define, exactly, that field where method is applicable as a notion and a referent, as something useful to us when we discuss art in visual culture. When media is regarded as one aspect of an artistic practice, my tendency to equate method with planning theory is emphasized. However, if we think about art practice as a way of doing research, planning is replaced by reflection on the means of explicating and communicating my research findings. It is obvious that there should be a strong factor of communication and communality in art as research – but doesn’t the same apply to art as art in general? In case I am able to dissect, discuss and analyze the meaning of knowledge in those different aspects that a pragmatic perspective gives me, knowledge will equate with meaning and meaning will equate with those experiences I have of using my tools of communication, language as a tool for doing something else as well, like arguing about art with my friends. Knowledge production should be understood as any kind of production within my interaction


48 with the environment. Some of those pieces of knowledge stem from abductive hunches (Peirce), testing their correctness or fallibility as the situation evolves. The field of art could be seen as a fictitious laboratory for knowledge production. To be a productive notion, method should be applied in distinct aspects relating to both the heterogeneous nature of the field of art and to what is considered a work of art. My suggestion would be to begin by analyzing the methods of media, and subsequently, to recollect modern art practices, to investigate the notion of method in relation to visual form, and lastly to engage in a methodological discussion of the components of interpretation and narratives. These three strands or aspects of looking at the field of art and the artwork should be discussed in reference to that inevitable relation their dimensions of reality have to one another. Put simply, questions on rhetoric vis-à-vis media and technology need a pragmatist approach, among perhaps other questions on form, and could start out with a phenomenological approach. Finally, questions on interpretation and narratives/themes, are in a methodological discussion encompassed by hermeneutics and contextual understanding of the work of art and its practice. The distinction between theoretical reflection and practice cannot be separated into an either-or setup in favor of one or the other. If the point of departure is the practice, discussing method of that practice is a theoretical reflection. To focus on the practice as referent of a discussion is in fact a theoretical reflection. The question of method does not leave its abstract status – whatever being that is, language-immanent or otherwise. In a pragmatist sense, method opens up possible venues for action. In this opening up, art practice is method-oriented from the outset. There is no “a methodology”. Methods of media, of form and of narrative, lead into separate but interrelated discussions. Mediaoriented methodology awaken us to conditions of technology and material, hence its nearness to planning devices of engineering. Form-oriented methodology will easily turn into a historical survey of visual form which – as will easily be shown – is one of the nodes


49 in current modernist teaching, turning our attention to what is seen and heard, to deal with the sensed surfaces of things and their interpretation. Here, consequently, the topic collides with a rhetoric of form, where methods empowering us to communicate or to deconstruct communication prevail. Despite the contemporary neo-pragmatist loosening up of the knot of representationalism and representation (of truth) of what we consider reality, and despite us paying less attention to what a theoretical perspective (in philosophical terms) should handle in relation to truth, questions of beauty still remain as a question of rhetoric. Seen through the field of rhetoric, art as beauty reveals its knowledge-aspirations in a certain way, not in any neutral sense. Thus mediation is always a rhetoric mediation, culturally induced and, from a historical and geographical point of view, arbitrary. Knowledge seems to be an immanent part of what is rhetorically produced. Here, method must mean a field of rhetoric production of knowledge, itself a cultural construct. There is, however, exceptions to this cultural construct, or we might rather say that cultural constructs are conditioned by our roughly physical conditions of body and world, tied to our existence in relation to a world, all of which are not necessitated by what we think about it does not at all care what we think about it and which demands force to change it. If theory is a certain genre of rhetoric that can have consequences for that bodily existence and environment regarding our use of media and technology, then knowledge is also mediated physically. Hence, it too, may be methodically adopted and executed, in art as in anything else we care to do with ourselves and others. Art practices, often being haphazard experiments in materials and techniques, as often within a well-known (as usual) range of parts and environments of the world, could be compared to experiments in natural science. The systematic approach is there as well, as within the systematic of traditional communication, speech and writing. A revision of aesthetics’ notions and the nature of art for the purpose of placing art within that idea, would, in my opinion, be useless. That task belongs to what is done anyway currently, and


50 to understand contemporary art practices by means of classical aesthetics is to forfeit the game. Rather, contemporary art practices may fit into the discussion without necessarily taking on a historical review on the relation between classical and analytic aesthetics and contemporary projects. Sven-Olov Wallenstein has, in my opinion, clearly shown in his lecturing on modern and contemporary art, framing aesthetic ideas from a historical perspective, that there are several breaches and paradoxes within the history of aesthetics. Tatarkiewicz in his History of Six Ideas (1980), clarifies my point in listing all the different ideas of beauty and art during a period of more than two thousand years of what we call art history. Let us not go into that mesh of difference now, while it discloses as vast a scale of ideas as our current state of affairs in discussing what art is. To delve into history of aesthetics and from there enter the modern art leads us, if not astray, then at least into an effort too formidable in positioning the question at hand. With the question of method in mind, let us stick to the current situation, whatever the historic perspective might open up in each of our applications of this notion. geist proposes, in an introduction which relies on the classical (romantic) aesthetic and covers most of the modernist thinking well, that art is about a “pollution of the rational gaze” or a “transgression” establishing a “domain of truth” or “at least [...] a privileged relation to it”. I share the skeptical attitude of geist when they are relating to what I consider a modernist ideal, namely that art defined as above could “establish a transcendence of truth, or” – and geist makes this or a bold one – “a capacity to break down, soil and challenge the claim of transcendence in other domains”. That is, I share geist’s skeptical attitude to a notion of art as imbued with such powers could give a hint as to the methods geist here proposes are implicit in these discourses and definitions. If, in any case, the challenge of method would be to make explicit what now seems to reside implicitly in the understanding of what art does and does not do, the problem would be a lack of feasible descriptions of contemporary art practices. Why not? The challenge of what could be described as methods of art in relation to other kinds of definitions of method would be our task, yes?


51 Exactly, as noted above, and by geist, any description would necessarily be a theoretical one. That’s not a mere possibility: such a description must use its own media to be expressed, the theoretical media, writing, speech, conceptual analogy, language. Are there any descriptions that are, contrary to what geist fears to be the case, practical? For a pragmatist understanding, any practice stemming from institutional habit, has practical significance and action as consequence. That is why I share geist’s conclusion that method here could be applied as a description of a set of systematically interconnected rules, even rules on rules etc.; that is, rules on paradigmatic action, where metaphor reigns. My name for that field is rhetoric. Thus, method in art is rhetoric, as are its rules and examples of action. Here would be the place to ask whether the framework of scientific method nonetheless recreates transcendence. To unravel that would however lead the discussion too far away from its main questions. Instead, one can return to the artistic practice and ask the question: How would a methodological discussion within the artistic field appear with the scientific method as background? Is there any other option? I do not think so, especially if we might point where the scientific approach could include the meeting of planning science with rhetoric. Is it possible to fuse critical hermeneutics with an approach to art research and art as research as modes of rhetoric? And, from there, advance into a setup of planning processes and design as method for this hermeneutically informed rhetoric? Referring to the heterogeneous objects and processes of art – as of design, architecture and all of the visual arts – there should be a meeting point, a diagrammatic analogy, between the heterogeneous fields of enquiry: theory and art. Since they could be tentatively tested as interchangeable, is there a way of discussing method in relation to both fields? I would like to propose yes as an answer. I do not think, however, that qualitative preconditions are “merely institutional conventions”, framed within language-oriented power structures and confined on the conceptual (linguistic) field. Objects of art and design are both conventional constructs as well as existent bodies of parts of the world. There are definitely qualitative preconditions pertaining separately to each


52 of those dimensions: 1) existent media defined here in shorthand as parts of the world irrespective of what we think of this field of reality which we deal with prosthetically, technologically by our engineering of environment and parts of the environment including our own bodily existence and which we use as basis for our communication with the environment and others, including ourselves, 2) the phenomenal realities of visual form, built on both conditions of environment and on our abilities to sense the environment, 3) finally, thematically active conditions for interpretation through earlier experience and narrative resources, defined by “institutional conventions” and cultural constructs – like those we use in language, for example. geist notes that it is “necessary to ask oneself what image means here” and states that “imageability... is reproduced also within practices which do not produce or present images”. I could not agree more. This mimetic principle could be discussed as such, as a question of mimesis in society and art, but also as an ability governing sign-functions. I refer to the Peircean notion of iconicity, which well overlaps all kinds of conditions for analogy in subdividing the concept of iconicity into image, diagram and metaphor, eventually looking at ideal forms of mathematic equations as icons, which do not need the visual sense to be existing. Here, sense of vision and icon are separated, more or less resembling the idea of mimetic analogy. geist notes, on one hand, that imageability as a non-perceptional notion is “something else than the dialectic relation between image and reality”, and on the other hand states, that “neither is... imageability in conflict with for example a conceptual regime”. Here, in my mind, geist twists the argument, since what else could a “conceptual regime” be than a platonic quest in all its glory? We must live with language projecting into whatever is said about the world, of which there is no door into some other world of reality. Leaving the dilemma to Derrida and deconstruction, yes, this is the case, if there are only cultural constructs defining our existence, as neo-pragmatist conversionalists have it (Rorty). But if we go for a wider perspective of “qualitative preconditions” including exactly


53 that view which geist proposes: “without reducing the [it] to the conceptual or the material”, we would end up with a triadic view of reality and with discursive fields of where method applies: media (material), form (imageability) and the conceptual (the narrative and thematic field of interpretations). While I am here not able to note all the excursions of the lines by geist above, I just decipher a desperate tone of voice in having to criticize the “attempts to separate image from language”. I think this fear of separation is due to an overestimated optimism in thinking that separation between ideas and concepts might spill over to separations of awareness and attention, and hence, to the power play of “institutional conventions” where lack of attention is one of the critical weapons in discursive processes of art and design. We need exact and distinct notions or ideas leading into necessary hermeneutical challenges, like what method could mean in art practices. geist frames, I think, the question exactly, in light of my own pondering above. It is really a problem of description, where “objectively and correctly [describing] artistic processes”, as geist notes, gets the issue of method on its track, since what method is, is a description. I have proposed that it could be a description of rhetoric in art, also as research. Eventually, what geist reflects as “imageability and linguistic relations to the world, leaving the possibility open for a plurality of contexts”, I would re-phrase that to a less conversionalist mode of defining some of those plural contexts as literal, material parts of the world and environment (including our bodily existence), from where various sorts of media are molded and resourced to serve in communication, art and design, being changed within other segments of meaning, fulfilling different qualitative conditions, in analogy to forms changing into other kinds of forms which within their cultural constraints and constructs are meaningful to us, or to some of us. “But one cannot escape the fact that most artistic practices are formally bound to certain contexts, institutions, economies, technologies. Nevertheless, it appears as though the most adequate starting point for a discussion about method would be individual practices


54 and the way in which these incorporate the question of method, rather than to begin by defining a methodology and a field from an objective level.� Here, I share the way geist favors the order of looking into individual practices and from there create descriptions of practices into descriptions of method, being a mimetic rephrasing of that practice into its qualitative conditions, constraints in three worlds (media, form, narrative). If a step towards methodology is taken from this, it should, in my opinion, lead into a rhetoric, which is, as we know, both the result and its art, a techne of that communication.


55

Dilemma of Becoming Kira Carpelan

There are things common to the scientific and the artistic. The first can appear similar to the other. The second might wish it were the first. We may think in analogous ways, work similarly, try to break down conventions to find something heretofore unnoticed. We share being unable to explain why. We perhaps share stubbornness. We share the balancing between the well-poised and the subversive. We share a concept of development in a direction not yet discovered. The direction may not even exist. Maybe it is the sixteenth dimension, or transparency. We share the wish to revaluate forms, relations and conditions. But there are conflicts. What does the result mean? When does the result mean anything? If it means something. Is artistic research supposed to be implemented? How would that be done? And what about the eternal question of quality? It is once again actualized if one places art in a research context. The statement, the work, the gesture, the event that is art and the result of a risk-taking, cannot be appraised against any common standard as being right or wrong. Within the practice – the artist’s own work. Later, when the practice is done or in a meta-practice, one can of course find rules of art in criticism, analysis, theory and history. But that is more like an antiquarian’s work and a wholly different kind of research than the one I am thinking of. What happens if one practice is put into the value-system of the other practice? Will it at all be discernable? Can we talk about it? We can talk about methods. Let us begin there. the producer: I was thinking yesterday that if the character gets more emphasized in a scene, maybe you can make the rest of the film’s material less certain. rosa: But that’s only depending on what they believe they know about us. There is after all a small group of people who knows us. the producer: I’m not thinking about them. I’m thinking about someone who doesn’t know who we are. That’s who’s watching the film. rosa: But then they must be rather unsure from the very beginning because they know nothing about us. I mean, there is nowhere we present ourselves as the ones we actually are and the kind of situa-


56 tion this is. So it’s quite confusing as it is. the producer: You think so? rosa: Yes, I do. the producer: Well, then we have to make it even more so. This has to be, you know, really... It turns out to be a film. The text’s way of being has had to move over. It is now the way of being of film which directs and breaks up the text. It jumps between themes and persons, in a sharper way than would be expected in a text, but a way entirely normal in a film. I consider writing cut, fade, voice-over, flashback etc., but I decide to wait until a later version. This one is rough. There are still big chunks of text connected to one another as text, and the form of the film is weak. This is not a story. It is the parts that become a story. But I want to see how the choices are made. I have been here before. I know that I do not yet know what is essential, and that is why some things must be allowed, which under the present circumstances may not seem to have function or contain meaning. I wait. rosa: You have to build something for the projection to take place on. If it’s something that keeps disappearing, if there is never a person saying “I am”, you won’t even know if you have met someone here. In that case there is no reason for a spectator to care about neither of us. We have no traits to appreciate or be provoked by, because we don’t exist. I think it’s important to decide, once in one scene, who you are and who I am. Later on, we can break with that and change it, but within the narrative we have to start somewhere and have something in relation to which to act, if you want to create a fiction. the producer: Yes. And that would be...? rosa: That would be if you are this authoritarian, unsympathetic person, you have to be it so much more. And I have to become either this naïve person who doesn’t know anything and who the Coach is trying to straighten out in some way, or I have to become the person who is acting like a person the Coach is trying to straighten out.


57 Gallery: Rosa investigates positions. Lillith collects pictures and the Wizard guards the space of notions and imaginations. The Vampire shows up later on and proves to be the dark side of Madame Z. Marianne is in Bangkok. It is Lillith who meets her. As usual, the Wizard undergoes transformations, but he is at home in his apartment. He practises greetings, walks in and out through the door, enters, says hello, sits down, listens. Over and over again. He is trying to find new ways of moving. There are many worn-out ways and he is tired of them all. Lillith is away but she has sent a letter on Rosa’s work. I am retouching pictures (believe it or not). It is pictures of the Wizard in his kitchen, Lillith in Bangkok and Rosa involved in various conversations. I don’t know how it ends, so I begin somewhere in the background. I start all over again. the producer: If you’d describe yourself in let’s say one or two or three sentences in relation to your character, and then I’d perhaps talk about... I might ask you questions or somewhere... either to you or when you’re not there. “What are we not allowed to talk about? What questions am I not allowed to ask?” In order to... Yes, in order to point to a... To me it’s hard to know where the line is drawn. I mean, to me it’s hard to know when... Ah, I can’t put in words, but I believe that thing is what’s interesting. rosa: Speaking of what we talked about yesterday, that this would be about art, I was thinking, there we actually have some connections as well. Really, why do I need a character when I’m not an actor? Why does the artist need an alter ego? the producer: You’ll have to ask the Coach about that. Echoing. Each and every word I say or write is an echo so aggravating you will know it. There is nothing I can learn that is not a repetition, a reminder. Madame Bovary, c’est moi! rosa: I understand it like he was relating to the education and the professional role, that I should grow into it. the producer: I believe he’s very much talking about himself. rosa: I’m sure he is, if you want to analyze what he’s saying. But, what is he actually saying to me, in that situation? What will it look like in the film? If one doesn’t know him, one can’t understand what you know.


58 the producer: No... But... I really like this scene because I feel that you already are what he sees, I mean, that you already are in charge of the character. I don’t know if you are but in my imagination he’s sitting there telling something which already exists, work you’ve already done. Rosa is taking part in a sociological experiment. She makes an effort. Nothing happens. She tries not to care about it. Her mind is elsewhere. As often. I wonder where she is. A couple of months ago, we again had a problem with sounds. Disquieting dull and frighteningly sharp sounds were heard almost constantly. She is inquiring into naivety as a form of argumentation. She tried to strike up a conversation, starting from the constructivistic perspective she had learnt to take for granted. No-one was inclined to answer. She had to start all over again. Learn once more how to speak. She has practiced conversing in every way imaginable, exposed herself to the most banal and the most abstract of discussions, trying to understand their meaning. But now she is just even more confused. She has lost nearly all the words she once knew and stammers when trying to say something. She has become the image of noone. It is very practical. the producer: But I was thinking, if we emphasize this character – your character – that we have been playing with and tossing around and that perhaps was formulated by the Coach... I perceived it as also a way for you to protect yourself, to not be naïve. If you are playing the naïve one... Now that’s the wrong word. But I’ll use it as an example. If you’re acting the naïve one, you’re not naïve. In other words, you’re conscious of what you’re doing if you invest in and embrace it, I mean, if you take up a situation but yet maintain an overview. rosa: Ok, but that’s not true when it comes to film, because the film really removes a layer. Because... the producer: Yes, but I mean from your perspective! From your... When you enter this project it is certainly... Like, it’s an ambiguous situation for both you and me. That, in many ways, is really what the project is all about. And then I was thinking... after the talk with the Coach, that might be what he’s trying to explain: to make you


59 in some way find a means to look at yourself in this situation, this character can help you. And after that, I’ve been imagining away further, because the character is a fantasy. If you build something for yourself, can you hand it over to someone else? If you say that the project is about me, it in some way will be... You know, it’s always possible to play with... Who then am I meeting? Who’s that sitting there? rosa: It’s you. But I was thinking the opposite. If you make yourself transparent in a situation, what then becomes visible is the setting. In other words, to be sure it’s not a way for me to look at myself, but a way to look at what’s around me, to see how it treats me if I only float along. the producer: OK, but you also observe yourself, I think. rosa: Yes, I suppose so. But not this character, I think. the producer: How do you mean? rosa: I mean, this character which all the time complies and that is this adaptable character, that’s not much to look at. the producer: No, but do you feel that yours is that character? rosa: Yes, wasn’t that the one we talked about, me and the Coach? That one he wanted me to be, I suppose. the producer: But you haven’t really been that. rosa: No, but it’s on film. That character can be found in the conversations and I think it’s also to be found somewhere else. I don’t remember. Anyway, you could continue working on it if you wanted to. the producer: Yeah... Well... No, I don’t think you can. You won’t allow yourself to. No-one can do whatever they want with you. I mean, you make boundaries all the time. rosa: Yes...? the producer: And you say “I will do what is credible for my character”. rosa: Yes, but if my character is the material which is this immature person, then I am of course very scared. As the Coach said “You will play this insecure...” the producer: But he didn’t say that, did he? “Insecure” – did he say that?


60 Naïvety requires constant attention, a keen ear and humility to function as argument. Rosa is practicing hard, engages in conversations even though she doesn’t know what her opinion is. She makes herself visible to those who cannot stand her. She is often told off. She is the youngest and least experienced. Her voice and her appearance provoke people. She tries to escape by becoming invisible and she is rather accomplished. In several experiments she has made herself so small that those present later forget she was there. She always extends her right hand and introduces herself, because no-one remembers having met her before. the producer: We could just start to focus on, if we are to talk about a character, which I think can be... It’s easy, because you make up some object and then you need... It’s a way of protecting oneself, I believe. It’s a way for you to protect yourself. And it’s a way for me to protect you. rosa: Yes, but that’s the only way to do it. I mean, I would not be able to be myself in this project. That would of course be devastating, psychologically. the producer: Yes... rosa: So that would never work. the producer: Yes. But that is also a fantasy, which in a way is there. Most people believe you are yourself. One has to be oneself. And so on. Can the writer see herself? I believe that may not be possible. I can describe someone, it could be me or someone else, and then I can see the one described. But how can you see the one describing? Madame Bovary, c’est moi! I can turn into mist. I can reveal them, mock them, betray them and save them by appearing in just the right moment. But I have to believe in them, and as long as I write them I have to love them. Later I can claim that I did not take a stand, but that is never true. However, it is true that I cannot be responsible for what they are doing. They are me, but they are also them and I am not them. We are living from and next to one another, I imagine. And I think it works. I can see that it does. Orlando is Viriginia.* The fifteen–year-old girl who meets her lover on the Mekong River is Marguerite [M.Duras, L’amant]. But no, your are not gifted with memory [M.Duras, Hiroshima mon amour].


61 the cinematographer: Now I ask you, as a person, how, you know, it felt to stand there? Was it like you were there playing a role or did you feel as if you were defending your own work? rosa: No, it didn’t. Because that is what it’s all about, me not believing that I’m able to be the artist. Every person should be understood in light of the setting, and in particular in the light of descriptions by those close to her. Every person can change in a moment. She is precisely what she appears to be. Because the image is so easily presented. At the same time, an eternity separates what is visible and what is there. They are each parts of a whole person and are held together by a magnetic force – they are attracted to what they lack. The women have only one distinct quality and it emerges in their conversations among themselves and in relation to the men who mirror and describe them. The movements, the events and the conversations are sketches on transparent paper which, if you put them on top of one another, will suggest more or less complete pictures. Duras’s readers make a tremendous amount of choices, are constantly making decisions. The gaps can be filled with a plenitude of meanings. Assembling her characters is complicated work. the producer: You know, I think she is the artist. Even if you say you aren’t, I think so. I really do. I’m only a name. rosa: Yes. the producer: What we originally thought in the first conversations when we talked about the possibility of selling one’s name. Then, we started out the other way round. Me borrowing her name. But I think it will end in me lending my name and her being... or whatever the piece is. I don’t know. But that, I suppose, is one of the things that are... also a fantasy. I use this word only to say something that doesn’t get answered, but stays as something you’re curious about how it will end. rosa: Yes... But I also think it’s interesting when people come to be manifest. And that’s what happened yesterday. In that way I think it was really great and very useful for my work. Because my work is to find out what people’s expectations of me are. And that’s something the apprentice can do, that only the apprentice can do.


62 the producer: No. rosa: No? the producer: No, I don’t think the apprentice can see herself. rosa: Yes, but other people... You know, the apprentice is watching... [Frédéric Chopin, Walz in D flat major, op.64 no.1 – ‘Minute’, Vladimir Ashkenazy] There are those who need to articulate certain words over and over again. We have a way of talking in circles. We need an audience, either obedient or completely indifferent. Or, those who take us forward. rosa: But that’s the brilliance of the apprentice, the way she’s always underestimated and so gets to know everything. You know, it’s like with children. You tell children all secrets because you don’t think they’re able to do anything with them. So, it’s a really good position to observe from. And I don’t think one will get that much out of watching oneself in that role. Because what you have done is making yourself very small. But on the other hand you get to see... the cinematographer: You have used the role to see something. rosa: To see the things around you, yes. the producer: But a funny thing is that it has been quite provoking, this role. the cinematographer: Who has it provoked, then? the producer: It has provoked me. It provoked the Coach. It became problematic during shooting. Because there the apprentice took a large part and became director. A method of rewriting, possible change, destruction or deconstruction, is masochism. Lillith tells about the Vampire and when there lacks an author. [the music fades out] the cinematographer: But the gap that was there. You said you find it interesting. Why is it interesting?


63 the producer: Because to me it’s dangerous. I conceive it as being dangerous. There’s something obscure that the whole project... We’re constantly moving through obscurity. But when you’re editing a film, you cannot be unclear. rosa: No. the producer: Or when you make an exhibition, you can’t be unclear. Because everything you work with are images and symbols and language. And standing there, not knowing what to say, or looking like you don’t know what to say – that’s not interesting. And that which is not interesting is... Then people leave. Then they don’t watch this film. They take no interest in the exhibition. You know, it’s one thing to be unclear here. This isn’t a public situation, this room. I think it’s much harder to be unclear in public space. Rosa: I regard it also as a material. You know, the huge material which we have, that’s the expectations of the audience. That’s the only thing we can play with. And if you waste the confidence of or the connection to the audience, as you and the art gallery run the risk of doing by saying “You will see this” and then they get to see something completely different. If the audience doesn’t accept this, being cheated or mislead, at once you risk being rejected by the audience, and that, I suppose, is what the Curator indicates. The first time I heard of the Vampire was when Rosa told me about one of her dreams. She rarely does. But this one is different. She’s trying to work but there is someone who constantly wants to eat at her when she tries to concentrate. She tries everything. Just like Hansel and Gretel, she shows off her less attractive sides to gain time, to be left alone a short while to find time to think. Rosa’s ability to invent herself is put to the test. She is reading her manuscripts which are rewritten over and over and she is always ready to improvise. But the atmosphere of experimentation has created its own logic and it gets harder and harder for her to be critical of it. the producer: OK. Are we wiser now? rosa: No. the producer: However, returning to the first discussion; we talked about how we must make our positions or starting points clearer, for the sake of the film.


64 rosa: Yes, or at least starting to sketch this line of development for the characters. the producer: Much is... You know, it sounds like I want to make a music video, but that’s not what I mean when I’m talking about fast-paced cuts and audio, unsecuring unexpected scenes, et cetera. But trying not to think in text maybe, but in music or dance. I mean, just as another rhythm, another pace. And then yesterday when we were watching the material, we didn’t see that. I saw only text. I saw a story. rosa: We’re watching the conversations. They’re heavy. For example, I think that we need a lot of establishing shots; however, it’s very important which images we choose. Because it’s possible to get nice images. Those you made [turning to the cinematographer] of the photo shoot are really incredible. We can get that kind of footage. But what it will mean and who’s going to be in it plays an important part, you know. the producer: Yes, but I think that... I put a lot of trust in on the one hand our shots from the rooms here, the studio, the kitchen and the white room there, but then also those when you’re doing stuff. I believe in them too. rosa: But will you be in the film any more? the producer: Nn... rosa: Because you aren’t visible very often. the producer: Yes, but I like that. But no, I’m there a lot. Don’t you think? rosa: No. I think you will be edited out in the final cut. the producer: Yes... But I... You know, there you got it... And the more we... Then we create this nice... You say that it’s about me but then we only look at you. And there’s something beautiful in this. I believe in it. I think if I’m included too much, the material isn’t credible. rosa: But OK. the producer: Even though we look at you... hm... rosa: Then it becomes your gaze. What in this is it then that makes you unsympathetic? the producer: Well, I don’t know. How can we make me unsympathetic? It’s as I explained to her yesterday, that the other night it was so obvious that this project is about... as I have written here,


65 that it’s an illustration of art “This is what it’s like to work with art”. You don’t know anything really, nor are you any wiser in the end. And I, I’m constantly repeating that I want to be unsympathetic but I don’t succeed, or else I’m superunsympathetic all the time but just don’t see it. However, that’s how well-behaved art is right now. the cinematographer: Though, in a way it is unsympathetic to... When you put it like that, it’s as if you were the Art here in this house. the producer: Yes, but I like that. I stand by that. the cinematographer: But that is downright unsympathetic. the producer: It is? Yes, but then we are close, it seems. That’s great. rosa: But all this about being unsympathetic also depends on the situation, doesn’t it? What would be unsympathetic in one situation might not be at all in another, where it instead is what’s expected and vice versa. So again it’s about what expectations you have when you enter into a situation. the producer: But how then can we bring out that side in the material or in a scene? the cinematographer [with irony]: I’m thinking of a scene where you’re sitting there editing and is just all... You have lots of levers and smoke is puffing out, you know... rosa [laughing]: Doctor Mabuse. The Cinematographer [in fake voice]: “What is art?” On the hunt for art. rosa: No, but there are of course these classical images that you make when you’re going to portray powerful people. They might come off as awfully unsympathetic. People who are very busy or who are like, talking down to others. That is obviously a way of being unsympathetic. the producer: But that’s just an image of “unsympathetic”, not being unsympathetic. rosa: No, but I was wondering if it was that image you were referring to? the producer: No no no. the cinematographer: Why then is it so important that you are unsympathetic? the producer: Well, that is my own, very personal question in this


66 project. I don’t know. the cinematographer: But in any case, you’re sure about it? the producer: Yes. But I thought that one way of being unsympathetic is to say that you’re a good person... Unsympathetic might be the wrong word... But that’s a very simple trick in order to look at established forms and borders. rosa: And to question? the producer: Yes, exactly, by being unsympathetic. There are, you know, moral boundaries connected to the unsympathetic, I think. rosa: Yes, but also orderliness. It can be unsympathetic just to disturb the order. Or to enlarge yourself too much or not taking responsibility. the producer: But it might be enough that I call myself... I don’t know... that I’m running this... I initiated the project. That alone might be what’s unsympathetic. It might be enough. The quietest parts are the most important ones. Then you are to be at your most attentive. It is the passages which mean something. In the space in-between – which emanates when one event is about to pass into the other – strange ambiences emerge. An uncertainty. As between nightfall and night, it goes very fast. The sky turns turquoise and the water looks like lead. And so the lights are turned on. They rise from the background which has become uniformly black and made out of cardboard. The whole line of houses along the embankment turns into a single roof ridge. The sounds are changing. Duller. You listen more intently. Now I have my working place on the second floor in a room with windows facing the water. The rest of the building is vacated. There are a few traces of those who are not here. Empty rooms awaiting their authors. Every time I come here, and sometimes during a break, I take a walk through the empty rooms. Trying to see if something has changed. Sometimes leaving traces of my own. One day I had lunch in the corner room. I have been thinking about sitting down and read a little in the small room which looks onto the roof. But no armchairs are there.


67 the cinematographer: How did this start? the producer: The project? the cinematographer: Yes. the producer: It started with me getting invited to the art space and feeling that there is nothing I can do there. And that’s something I haven’t thought of actually, but maybe I should go over it with myself, why I felt like I can only make this project there. rosa: Well... I don’t know. The art space has been quite exciting as a partner, I think, exactly because they’ve been just as erratic as the whole project. More coffee, anyone? the producer: No, I’m fine. Or yes, I always want coffee. But wait, there was something... You asked the question, that’s right, how it started. I thought I’d found an answer the other day but now I’m already somewhere else. There’s this game. You know, we hold up mirrors to each other. It’s very much like... instead of shooting at each other I hold up a mirror and so down she falls. At night, time leaps. It doesn’t make a difference if one tries to watch the pace. Suddenly an hour has passed in a minute. Such is night. To make the sleepless able to cope. And dawn is celebrated. Maybe one has already left home before it arrives, and it is welcome. In the summer, the break of day is not as welcome. It comes too early and lasts to long into the day. Summer mornings are hard as long as one stays in the city. They remind us of being forced to go to a work we never wanted. If I draw a line at midnight, which I think is common, and divide the night in two – the time before, the considerate part, and the time after, the ruthless one. Then I get a day and night which is too contracted. If I instead push the day ahead, look at night as being part of day, and day as a part of night, the line is erased and nothing is no longer obvious. The cruel part can become the friendly one. the producer: And then we talk some and then she holds up a mirror and then I fall. She makes me see things in myself I don’t want to see. the cinematographer: Yes, that’s right. the producer: And maybe the other way around, I hope. the cinematographer: Is that what’s dangerous?


68 the producer: Yes, of course it’s dangerous. It is. the cinematographer: Hm... the producer: Or at least it’s painful. the cinematographer: Well, to the two of you! rosa: Yes, exactly! That’s it! You’re really right about that. That’s what we must think of all the time: what you and I are doing is therapy, but what we’re going to show at the art space can’t be our therapy but a story that can engage other people. the cinematographer: And it can still be about that? rosa: That, it might. the producer: That’s one of the stories. Absolutely. It is. This project isn’t about one thing. the cinematographer [with sarcasm]: That would be too simple. rosa [encouraging]: Now you’re getting good! I said that Marianne is in Bangkok but that was wrong. She is in Hong Kong. It seems to be hot. The city is located in cauldronlike surroundings. People have shiny faces. Marianne has had to change her leather pants to linen slacks. With this, she changed. She is not as anxious as before. She still works as a psychologist. In Hong Kong, people are smaller, taking up less room. In some way it makes her work different. She doesn’t exactly know how or why. She meets the little girl who is fifteen who could be Marguerite. She is not fifteen anymore. Marianne deliberately forgets her mother tongue. She makes a mark in time, creating an abyss, as if time was a room. Between the Nordic light and the black night of the Southeast there is no stable ground. the producer: But now we have to look at the gaping relation to the film and see what needs doing today. And I think it’s interesting with the character. This idea that you can create a character which later proceeds or develops is already established in art. rosa: A question I have, as we all know, is “Do you have to do that?” the producer: No, I don’t think so. rosa: Are you sure about that? Are you able to stand up to being an artist today without wearing that mask? Because we were also talking about the mask, both you and I and the Coach.


69 the producer: Mm... However, as I told you on the phone I often feel that I have become the character. I’m now pretending that you understand what I mean. I stage something, create a possibility which can be the Actress in my first film or Rosa in this film. I create something that doesn’t exist in me. I create a possibility we can call a character, a fantasy, a fiction, a vision. And then we stage it and work with it and then almost always I later notice that I have become... I’ve come closer to that possibility. I start to use these words and that clothing and this attitude. So this character that you’ve worked more with than I in this project, I’m very curious about that one. rosa: The one I have made for myself? the producer: Yes. Because I feel involved in it. And well... I just want to know more about it. So I was thinking that if you describe yourself as a character, it might be such a scene in which something... your work in some way becomes possible to understand or see, or it becomes visible. rosa: Shall we start with that one? Some time passes. This would have been a flashforward if the text shared the present time of the film. Now it is a flashback. We know the camera. How it watches. What it pretends not to see. What it excludes. Everything sensed in front of the camera that isn’t visible behind it. Still, it sees more than we know there is. We are in closeup. Every twitch of the face is visible. We could look at her together and notice “There it is, that expression you were trying to avoid. It’s there. Impossible to hide”. At the same time, the camera’s sight is so very bad. It believes in the makeup, painted views, cardboard walls, stucco made of polystyrene foam, gold and silver paint, and dulling spray. It is so stupid, and so are we. We believe our eyes and let ourselves be deceived because we want the camera to keep on describing. The illusion becomes reality. We, inebriated. the producer: Do you want to talk into the camera or do you want to be at some distance from it? rosa: It doesn’t matter. the producer: I’m trying to imagine... the cinematographer: And this is you telling us about the character?


70 rosa: Yes, isn’t it? the producer: But that we don’t know... the cinematographer: Or is it the character who’s telling us about... the producer: That’s what we are not to know, I think. I mean, it should not be made clear. the cinematographer: But then we have to think of how it looks when you’re watching it. Is it the individual person who’s talking about which role she has in this project? One can of course see that, I think, depending on what tone you use. rosa: I think that’s the first interpretation you make, because the other one requires you to think it over once more. the cinematographer: Would it be silly to feel that you have a manuscript or some such? I mean, if you were to look down somewhere in the middle? rosa: No, I think it might almost be necessary, so you don’t just immediately interpret it as what we got here is this “Making of...” scene. the cinematographer: Or else you take it a few times more, or... rosa: In the first film it’s very clear, but yet in the end in the film it’s very subtle and many ask: Is she...? What is she saying? I mean, you have made it so clear that she, using various facts, gets to present herself twice and still people are uncertain about if it’s she or not. the producer: But I think that is because she’s an actress. rosa: Well, then it’s even stranger that people doesn’t recognize that she’s acting. Because she has the possibility to act. the producer: That’s because she does it so well. rosa: Yes, but still. She has the possibility to act. In principle, I don’t have the possibility to be an actress really, because I don’t know how it’s done. the producer: I don’t think that’s correct. rosa: But it’s only if you know me that you know that I was acting when I was younger. the producer: I think you’re a tremendously good actress. rosa: But I am not introduced as an actress. the cinematographer: But if you were acting yesterday, you did it extremely well. the producer: Yes, it’s the same thing when you and the Coach


71 are sitting there. It isn’t, of course, you sitting there. the cinematographer: But to what extent are you thinking that you’re acting a role? Or is that a natural defense for you? rosa: I think I do it rather instinctively in contexts where I notice that there are strong opinions about who I should be. the cinematographer: Are you thinking much about “now I should be standing in this way” and “that I will say that way”? rosa: Yes, I was thinking of that yesterday. Then, I was thinking that now I will place myself so as to look small at the side of the Manager of the art gallery. I crouched a bit, like... It was done on purpose. the cinematographer: I think you’re a fuckin’ pro, then. the producer: But that’s provoking. I mean, you provoke a lot with this role. rosa: Yes, but I think I’m also very good at provoking men in that age of all people, I can get a kick from it. the producer: Yes but you get them in the trap. You make them act in a way that... the cinematographer: They make fools of themselves. the producer: Yes. They make themselves plain to see. rosa: That might be an unconscious mission of mine. * It is commonly assumed that Orlando is Vita Sackville-West, but I believe Orlando have to be Virginia Woolf with the biographical attributes of Vita SackvilleWest [V. Woolf, Orlando]. The dialogue parts are pieces of a transcribed conversation held at Villa Dagaborg in Stockholm in December 2006.

[Translation: gou]


72

Distance Makes the Art Grow Further: Distributed Authorship and Telematic Textuality in La Plissure du Texte Roy Ascott

Text means tissue; whereas hitherto we have always taken this tissue as a product, a ready made veil, behind which lies, more or less hidden, meaning (truth) we are now emphasizing, in the tissue, the generative idea that the text is made, is worked out in a perpetual interweaving, lost in this tissue – the texture – the subject unmakes himself, like a spider dissolving in the constructive secretions of its web. – Roland Barthes, Mythologies

Roland Barthes’ canonical statement contains an understanding of textuality that lies at the center of this chapter and indeed informed the project it sets out to describe. The term telematics has its origins in the 1978 report to the French president by Alain Minc and Simon Nora concerning the convergence of telecommunications and computers, particularly in business and administration.1 Distributed authorship is the term I coined to describe the remote interactive authoring process for the project La Plissure du Texte: A Planetary Fairytale,2 which is the principal subject of this chapter. My purpose here is to explore the genealogy of the project, how the concept of mind at-a-distance developed in my thinking, and how the overarching appeal of the telematic medium replaced the plastic arts to which I had been committed as an exhibiting artist for more than two decades.   The project arose in response to an invitation in 1982 from Frank Popper to participate in his exhibition Electra: Electricity and Electronics in the Art of the XXth Century at the Musèe Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in the fall of 1983. Popper had written previously on my work,3 and I was confident that his invitation offered a perfect opportunity to create a large-scale telematic event that would incorporate ideas and attitudes I had formed over the previous twenty or more years.   La Plissure du Texte: A Planetary Fairytale (LPDT) sought to set in motion a process by which an open-ended, nonlinear narrative might be constructed from an authoring “mind” whose distributed nodes were interacting asynchronically over great distances – on


73 a planetary scale, in fact. As I examine it in retrospect, I see how a complexity of ideas can create a context for a work whose apparent simplicity masks a generative process that can bifurcate into many modes of expression and creation. It is the bifurcations of ideas specific to the context of LPDT – their branching and converging pathways – that I shall initially address in this chapter. The content itself is transparent, insofar as the text in its unfolding is its own witness. The Pathway to La Plissure It was the psychic systems that I had been studying since the early 1960s – telepathy across oceans, communication with the disincarnate in distant worlds – that led me, a decade later, to formulate ideas of distributed mind and the concept of distributed authorship embedded in LPDT. I followed both the left-hand path and the right in pursuit of my interests in consciousness (I’m thinking here of the role of the left and right hemispheres of the brain in determining linguistic and cultural norms in Robert Ornstein’s writings,4 and of ideas drawn from the Sufism of Idries Shah,5 Jung’s synchronicity,6 and Charles Tart’s studies of altered states of consciousness).7 I studied J. B. Rhine’s work at Duke University on telepathy8 and J. W. Dunne’s theory of time, memory, and immortality9 (a copy of Dunne’s book was in the core library of Buckminster Fuller, whose planetary perspective and structural creativity was a further inspiration to me). I was at home too with kabbalistic and mystical thought, as set out by such writers as Papus,10 Ouspensky,11 and the Theosophists, and – at a level of generality but with huge impact on my imagination – John Michell’s A View over Atlantis.12   Michell could be seen, in a sense, as attempting to lift Barthes’ veil, “behind which lies, more or less hidden, meaning (truth),” the veil in this instance being the network of ancient sites, inscriptions, and monuments that dot the British landscape where I was brought up. And just as in Barthes’ Mythologies,13 Michell drew out meaning from what was apparently random and inconsequential. It was the narratives woven around the Neolithic ancient, and medieval “spiritual technology” of my home region – Avebury, Silbury Hill, Stonehenge, and Glastonbury – that prepared me, at a very young age, for my subsequent study of esoterica and the sense of the numinous


74 that later I was to find in cyberspace.   Modern science and technology also exerted a huge influence of the thoughts that led to LPDT, Scientific American was consulted as frequently as Art Forum, quantum physics infected art theory, and the metaphors of biology infiltrated my visual thinking. But it was principally cybernetics that led me to my subject and prepared me for the telematic revelation that was to take over my ideas about art. The works of Ross Ashby,14 F. H. George,15 and Norbert Wiener16 inspired my thinking about networks within networks – semantic and organic – interacting, transforming, self-defining in a way that later narrative nodes could do in LPDT. My thoughts about participation and interaction in art were consolidated with Whitehead’s issues of organism,17 Bergsonian notions of change,18 and McLuhan’s ideas about communication.19 These concerns, amongst others less easily defined, led me inexorably to my project.   As a painter and dreamer, I had always found associative thought more productive to my creative process than strict rationality, but quite early in my work, systems thinking 20 and theories of growth and form21 were equally important to me. Process philosophers and systems thinkers are generically optimistic if not explicitly utopian, just as cyberneticians are always in pursuit of the perfectibility of systems. Their outlook is necessarily global in every sense. I was making works in the early 1960s that were semantically open ended and invited viewer participation, such as those that were shown in my first London exhibition of change-paintings and analogue structures.   In April 1970, I published “The Psibernetic Arch,” 22 which sought to bridge the apparently opposed spheres of hard cybernetics and soft psychic systems (discovering in the process, for example that parapsychology was being researched in the Laboratory of Biological Cybernetics at Leningrad University). During my tenure as dean of the San Francisco Art Institute in the 1970s, I consulted the tarot and threw the I Ching on a regular basis. In this context, Brendan O’Regan, research director at the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Sausalito, California, approached me to participate in a TV documentary. The institute was led by Willis Harman and had been founded by the astronaut Edgar Mitchell. O’Regan had been a senior associate of Buckminster Fuller.


75 The documentary (destined for coast-to-coast transmission) was to survey the current state of psychic research, including, in my case, an interview with Luiz Antonio Gasparetto, a Brazilian psychic who demonstrated the ability to paint four paintings, each in the style of a different “modern master,” simultaneously with his feet and hands. He “incorporated” the personalities of these deceased painters and claimed to “walk and talk with them” on a daily basis. At the filming it seemed that practically the whole of the community of parapsychologists, analysts, therapists, and transpersonal psychologists of northern California was assembled to watch the demonstration.   In the course of this induction into the Bay Area world of the paranormal, I developed a friendship with Jack Sarfatti, one-time associate professor in quantum physics at the University of California at Berkeley and a founder of the Esalen group, said to have influenced the ideas of Fritjof Capra23 and Gary Zukav,24 whose books on mysticism and physics were to become widely read. Fred Alan Wolf, author of Parallel Universes,25 among other influential books, was also a part of our meetings. Through O’Regan I was introduced to Jacques Vallée, popularly recognized as a French expert on unidentified flying objects (UFOs), on whom the character played by Francois Truffaut in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind was based. That great mythic Hollywood film of the 1970s – even, in my estimation, of the century – appeared to start out as the study of creative obsession, whose raw material was any household rubbish (a perfect metaphor of the Arte Povera of the period), but became an expression of human longing for communication with the cosmos, a metaphor for science in search of meaning in outer space. Vallée had joined Doug Englebart’s lab at Stanford Research Institute in 1971, in which the idea of online communities was being explored and in which the development had begun of some basic tools, such as the mouse and an early form of hypertext. When ARPANET opened up in 1972, the momentum accelerated. Some of the behavioral and social effects were quickly recognized. One of Vallée’s tasks was to build the first database for the Network Information Center, which comprised no more than a dozen sites at that point. Later he met Paul Baran, who had invented packet switching at RAND and who was his mentor in a new Advanced Research


76 Projects Agency (ARPA) project to study group communications through computers. In 1973, under ARPA and National Science Foundation funding, Vallée, Roy Amara, and Robert Johansen, based at the Institute for the Future, built and tested the first conferencing network, the Planning Network System (PLANET).   Vallée had founded a company called Infomedia in San Bruno, California, to provide the worldwide network for PLANET, offering access to huge databases and extensive computer conferencing facilities. PLANET was originally designed for use by planners in government and industry, who were unlikely to have any previous computer experience, and so was designed from the beginning for maximum ease of use. Commands were made as simple as possible, and the system was designed to be operated with just a few keys on a specially built portable telecommunications terminal. The PLANET application later evolved into the application Notepad, a global conferencing system that was used by a number of corporate clients such as Shell Oil. From Psi to Cyb Although the mystique around Vallée’s UFO research was fascinating, I was much more drawn to what was for me at that point the equally mysterious world of computer-mediated telecommunications. Introduced by O’Regan to Vallée’s organization and hands on to the technology at the Stanford Research Institute, I found it particularly exciting that Texas Instruments portable terminals, with rubber acoustic couplers to a telephone handset, enabled the user to connect with the network from just about any public telephone, and in many world capitals, free.   Just as earlier, I had had an awakening flash to the value of cybernetic theory to underpin my “interactive” art practice,26 so too here I saw in computer networking the possibility for a new connective medium for my art. I already had a sense of its aesthetic potential. Although the direct link between this new communications technology and big business and the military could be darkly problematic, I felt from my very first encounter that telematics could provide the means for enlightened artistic and poetic alternatives.   By the time this first project (dubbed “terminal art” by the British


77 press) got underway, my base had moved from the Bay Area to the United Kingdom. There my greater access to France enabled me to witness the first steps in the “telematization of society” – at least of business – resulting from Minc and Nora’s report: La Programme Télématique.27 In the context of French culture, my reading now followed a path through the structural linguistics of Saussure28 and the structural anthropology of Levi-Strauss29 to Foucault’s archaeology of knowledge and on into the semantically ambiguous domains of Derrida and full blown poststructuralism.30   In 1978 I presented a postmodern credo at the College Art Association annual meeting in New York on a panel convened by Douglas Davis.31 This drew upon the implications of second-order cybernetics,32 which reinforced the understanding of interactivity in the creation of meaning by which I had theorized my own art practice. Equally potent at that time was Bateson’s Steps to an Ecology of Mind,33 in which the term mind at large appears, originally coined by Aldous Huxley in Proper Studies,34 which had been a set book in my grammar school days.   In my thinking at that time, the work of Barthes stood at the center of the literature on semiotics, with its emphasis on how meaning can be elicited from the apparently most trivial or disregarded things. Not withstanding the excellence of Eco’s magisterial A Theory of Semiotics,35 or my forays in the 1960s into the pioneering work of Charles Sanders Peirce,36 it was Barthes’ Mythologies 37 that captured my imagination with its combination of satire, humor, and the deconstruction of myths. In 1977 the Canadian artist Mowry Baden introduced me to The Pleasure of the Text, which in my view achieved an unrivaled level of importance in the otherwise jaded academic field of “literary criticism.” Barthes also took the tired debate between Marxism and psychoanalysis up a level to a much more human perspective: No sooner has a word been said, somewhere, about the pleasure of the text, than two policemen are ready to jump on you: the political policeman and the psychoanalytical policeman: futility and/or guilt, pleasure is either idle or vain, a class notion or an illusion. An old, a very old tradition: hedonism has been repressed by nearly every philosophy; we find it defended only by marginal figures, Sade, Fourier... 38


78 Within the hedonistic literature of these marginal figures, it was precisely Fourier’s universal theory of passionate attraction,39 that inspired my utopianism, a passion that extended to the text, that is to say, gave freedom to make (give/receive) narrative pleasure in the open-systems context of nonlinear (asynchronic) time and boundless (nonlocal) space. In short the telematics of utopia: to be both here and elsewhere at one and the same time, where time itself could be endlessly deferred, as indeed could the finality of meaning. I was ready for Derrida’s différance,40 seeing difference functioning often as an aporia.   My interest in signs, in semiotics, and in myths was also fed by Vladimir Propp’s study of narrative structure and the morphology of the fairy tale.41 Propp’s investigation of folktales sought a number of basic elements at the surface of the narrative. He showed how these elements correspond to different types of action. His structural analysis of dramatis personae, and his focus on behavior that recognized that actions are more important than the agents, chimed well with the interest that I had in process and system. I was especially attracted to the idea that each character actually represented a center of action more than a simple persona, and that whatever specifics of a given magical narrative, the protagonist, from a state of initial harmony, follows a sequence of actions: discovers a lack, goes on a quest, finds helpers/opponents, is given tests, is rewarded, or a new lack develops. The question that suggested itself for LPDT with its distributed authorship was: How might the narrative evolve in a more nonlinear way, written from inside the narrative, as it were, with each dramatis persona seen within him- or herself as the protagonist? Pleating the Text LPDT was to be a project involving multiple associative pathways for a narrative that would unroll asynchronically according to the centers of action that determined its development. The outcome would be multilayered, nonlinear in all its bifurcations. I had previously set up a project as part of Robert Adrian X’s “The World in 24 Hours,” an electronic networking event at Ars Electronica in 1982. My project was to have participants at their computer terminals


79 around the world toss coins for the first planetary throw of the I Ching. Reflecting on this later, I wrote: As I recall we got close to number 8, PI Holding Together/Union but the bottom line was -X-, which transformed the reading into number 3, CHU Difficulty at the Beginning, which was undoubtedly true. In fact looking at the emergence of networking for art, the offspring of this momentous convergence of computers and telecommunications, the commentary on CHU is particularly apt: Times of growth are beset with difficulties. They resemble a first birth. But these difficulties arise from the very profusion of all that is struggling to attain form. Everything is in motion: therefore if one perseveres there is the prospect of great success.42

For “The World in 24 Hours,” Adrian employed the ARTEX system, an electronic-mail program for artists on the worldwide IP Sharp Associates (IPSA) time-sharing network. It was initiated as ARTBOX in 1980 by Adrian, Bill Bartlett, and Gottfried Bach to offer artists a cheap and simple alternative to IPSA’s business-oriented program, with the final version, ARTEX, being completed a few years later. This was an e-mail network for artists, a medium for text-based telecommunication projects, and a means of organizing online events. During the ten years of its operation, about a dozen artists used it regularly, and anywhere from thirty to forty others might be involved at any one time.   I met with Adrian in Vienna to elicit his involvement in LPDT, gaining his agreement to manage the complexity of ARTEX as the organizing instrument of the project’s communications infrastructure, outlining the need to use the telematic medium to engender a world-wide, distributed narrative: a collective global fairy tale. With the network as medium, the job of the artist had changed from the classical role of creating content, with all the compositional and semantic “closure” that implied, to that of “context maker,” providing a field of operations in which the viewer could become actively involved in the creation of meaning and in the shaping of experience that the artwork-as-process might take. On July 13, 1983,1 posted on ARTEX a description of the project and a call for participation. At the same time pamphlets and press announcements were circulated. Artists and art groups in eleven cities in Europe, North America, and Australia agreed to join the project.


80   In November of that year, each participant was allocated the role of traditional fairy tale character: princess, witch, fairy godmother, prince, etc. Beyond the simple idea of a fairy tale, I did not suggest a story line or plot: The artists were simply asked to improvise. The result was that as a result of the differences between time zones and the nature of improvisation, the narrative often overlapped and fragmented, leading into a multiplicity of directions. La Plissure du Texte was active online twenty-four hours a day for twelve days, from December 11 to 23, 1983. With terminals in eleven cities, the network grew to include local networks of artists, friends, and random members of the general public who would happen to be visiting the museum of art space where the terminals were located. Over the three-week period of the project hundreds of “users” became involved in a massive intertext, the weaving of a textual tissue that could not be classified, even though ostensibly the project was to generate a “planetary fairytale”.   Each participant or group of participants in the process could interact with the inputs of all others, retrieving from the large memory store all text accumulated since they last logged on. The textual interplay was complex, working on many layers of meaning, witty, bawdy, clever, academic, philosophical, entertaining, inventive, shocking, amusing – assimilating the great diversity of cultural contexts, value systems, and intellectual interests of the participants, located in Honolulu, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Paris, Vancouver, Vienna, Toromo, Bristol, Amsterdam, Alma in Quebec, and Sydney.   In some instances a dramatis persona would be no more than one or two artists grouped around a desktop computer; in other cases an artist group would meet regularly in its media center to move the narrative along online. Others made a full-scale performance, as with the witch in Sydney, where each evening, at the Arc Gallery of New South Wales, the evolving narrative text was downloaded and read out to the gathered participants, representing the witch, who in turn collaborated in further production of the text. In almost every case the individual node of the narrative network was itself a hub networking out to other individuals or groups in its region, collectively constituting the mind of the dramatis persona at that location. The Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris was the principal hub, the home of the magician.


81 La Plissure du Texte was effectively a watershed, a fulcrum point in my work. It showed me the importance of text as the agent of practice, not merely of theory, and it demonstrated the potency of distributed authorship in the creative process.   1989 was the year that the term interactive art was inscribed in the canon of practice with such texts as ”Gesamtdatenwerk,” which I published in Kunstforum that year.43 A year later the Prix Ars Electronic established interactive art as a major category of practice. I instituted the first honors degree in interactive art at Gwent College (which led five years later to the creation of the CaiiA-STAR doctoral program, and then to the Planetary Collegium).44 Conclusion: From Propp to Popp The telemadic journey has taken me from Paris to California, from Vienna to Toronto, and from the deepest part of the Mato Grosso in Brazil to Japan, Australia, and Korea. It is a journey propelled by a fascination with myth and with a conjunction of ideas addressing artistic, scientific, and esoteric practices. My interest throughout has been in nonlinear structures and metacommunication, both in respect of online narrative, and in terms of consciousness and nonordinary realities.   As for my current work, there has been a passage, from ideas of mind-at-a-distance invested in nonlinear narrative (including the “centers of action” of Vladimir Propp)45 set in telematic space, toward the new organicism in biophysics and research into biophotonics of Fritz-Albert Popp.46 Propp’s ideas have long been absorbed in my approach to collaborative process, as I have shown in the structure of La Plissure du Texte. Popp’s field of biophotonics, which follows the work of Alexander Gurvitch, lies ahead of me, arising initially from my study of shamanic practices in Brazil, and especially the ethnobotany of psychoactive plants. The biophotonic network of light emitted by DNA molecules, as Popp has argued, may enable, through the process of quantum coherence, a holistic intercommunication between cells. So from the emergent planetary network of telematics, to the embodied biophotonic network of living entities, there is the potential for continuity and connectivity, the transdisciplinary aspects of which it is my present purpose as an artist to pursue.


82 Originally published in: A. Chandler N.Neumark (eds), At a Distance: Precursors to Art and Activism on the Internet, Cambridge : MIT Press.

Notes: 1. A. Minc and S. Nora, The Computerisation of Society (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1980). 2. R. Ascott, XLII Esposizione Biennale Internazionale d’Arte (Venice: La Biennale di Venezia.1986). 3. F. Popper, Naissance de l’art cinetique (Origins and Development of Kinetic Art) (London: Studio Vista, 1968); and Art – Action and Participation. Translated from the French by Stephen Bann (London: Studio Vista, 1975). 4. R. Ornstein, The Nature of Human Consciousness (San Francisco: Freeman, 1973). 5. I. Shah, The Way of the Sufi (New York: Dutton, 1970). 6. C. G. Jung, Synchronicity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973). 7. C. Tart, Altered States of Consciousness (New York: Wiley, 1969). 8. J. B. Rhine et. al. Extra-Sensory Perception after Sixty Years (New York: Holt, 1940). 9. J. W. Dunne, An Experiment with Time (London: Faber & Faber, 1927). 10. G. E. Papus, The Tarot of the Bohemians, trans. A. P. Morton (New York: Weiser, 1958). 11. P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1947) (posthumously). 12. J. Michell, A View over Atlantis (London: Sago, 1969). 13. R. Barthes, Mythologies (Paris: Seuil, 1970). 14. R. W. Ashby, Design for a Brain (London: Chapman & Hall, 1954). 15. F. H. George, The Brain as a Computer (Oxford: Pergamon, 196l). 16. N. Wiener, Cybernetics (New York: Wiley, 1948). 17. A. N. Whitehead, Process and Reality (New, York: Macmillan, 1929). 18. H. Bergson, Creative Evolution, trans. Arthur Mitchell (New York: Holt, 1911). 19. M. McLuhan, Understanding Media (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964). 20. L. von Bertalanffy, General System Theory (New York: Braziller, 1986). 21. D. W. Thompson, On Growth and Form (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1917). 22. R. Ascott, “The Psibernetic Arch,” Studio international (London) (April 1970): 181-182. 23. F. Capra, The Tao of Physics (London: Wildwood House, 1975). 24. G. Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics (London: Rider Hutchinson, 1979). 25. F. A. Wolf, Parallel Universes: The Search for Other Worlds (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989). 26. R. Ascott, “The Construction of Change,” Cambridge Opinion 37 (Cambridge University, UK): 42. January 1964.


83 27. S. Nora and A. Minc, The Computerisation of Society (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1980). 28. F. Saussure, Cours de linguistique generale (Paris: Payot, 1949). 29. C. Levi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology (New York: Basic Books, 1963) 30. J. Derrida, Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978). 31. R. Ascott, “Towards a Field Theory for Post-modern Art,” Leonardo 13 (1980): 51-52. 32. H. von Foerster, Observing Systems (New Yotk: Intersystems, 1981). 33. G. Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind (San Francisco: Chandler, 1972). 34. A. Huxley, Proper Studies (London: Chatto & Windus, 1949). 35. U. Eco, A Theory of Semiotics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979). 36. C. S. Peirce, Collected Papers (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1931-1958). 37. Barthes, Mythologies. 38. R. Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text, trans. R. Miller (New York: Hill and Wang, 1975), 57. 39. C. Fourier, The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier: Selected Texts on Work, Love, and Passionate Attraction, trans. J. Beecher and R. Bienvenu (London: Beacon, 1971). 40. Derrida, Writing and Difference. 41. V. Propp, Theory and History of Folklore, ed. A. Liberman (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985). 42. R. Ascott, “Art and Telematics: Towards a Network Consciousness/Kunst und Telamatik/L’art et le telematique,” in Art + Telecommunication, ed. H. Grundmann (Vancouver: Western Front, 1984), 28. 43. R. Ascott, “Gesamtdatenwerk: Konnektivitat, Transformation und Tranzendenz,” Kunstforum (Cologne) (September/October 1989): 103. 44. R. Ascott, The Planetary Collegium (2004), available at www.planetary-collegium.net. 45. Propp, Theory and History of Folklore. 46. F. A. Popp, Integrative Biophysics: Biophotonics (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 2003).


84

History, Occasion and facts of the Art of Begegnung* Boris Nieslony

Performance Art as a picture of events that constitutes the society: the gesture of Black Market

To your questions: How can you relate to the artistic field as a field of knowledge production? What forms can a methodological discussion take within the field of art to be productive? What are the possibilities for a methodology where practice rather than theoretical reflection is the point of departure? What kind of practices can stage, or be staged by, such a methodology? How is knowledge mediated? I have only one answer: realize facts and frames and things will happen and you will see, knowledge is in mediating or not. I will start in the year of 1979, I was inspired by some words and events that became essential to my activities and brought me to the Art of Begegnung. Antonin Artaud wrote in his The Theater and its double: “... the principal rules behave like dolphins, they rise up, show themselves for a short moment to vanish again in the deepness.” [mais d’une autre réalité dangereuse et typique, ou les Principes, comme les dauphins, quand ils ont montré leur tête s’empressent de rentrer dans l’obscurité des eaux.] (Antonin Artaud, Le théâtre et son double, Paris, Gallimard, 1964) For me that’s the closest to a definition of Performance Art as one can get. Found: George Brecht, Robert Filliou: “If you want to know something you should spend your time with somebody who knows something.” The books of Martin Buber: Ich und Du and Der Baalschem.


85 The thought and maybe the idea is: Nothing in the world is intended or found by one person alone. This thought, which was developed out of my occupation with alchemy and the theory of Buddhism was, and still is, the gravitation of all my activities. I met Fluxus, and, the bushmen are speaking of my dream which is dreaming myself. The Art of Meeting can take shape in performance art, in installation art, conferences, living sculptures, lectures and in any other way in the field of art. 1975: I was in a group of five persons that set up the communica- tion tube archive. This work meant a maximum of mental energy and information in exchange for a minimum of ma- terialisation. It was a mistake, but it gave me a basic sense, and perhaps a new definition, of performance as art, and the first step to set up a physical and mental network. 1977: I was co-founder of the Künstlerhaus Hamburg and in 1978, I was also co-founder of the ‘Kleinen Ausstellungsraum’, which at the time was a space for showing art installations and performance art in Germany. 1979: in November and December, I organised a series of exhibi- tions, installations, concerts and performances under the title “Two months of experimental work.” I carefully looked for different forms of co-operation, the behaviour of couples and groups and other possibilities of interaction. The following questions were interesting to me: What condi- tions and forms of establishing co-operation (padeluun & Rena Tangens) wont install a hierarchy in the “Begegnung”, avoiding relational conflicts, interdependencies and normal group process, but create new pictures? How can I open an image? What kind of image is really an interactive image? What is the real basis of Performance Art that shows itself as a pictu-re? And how can Performance Art distinguish itself from normal daily actions? (See Project: Allotropy of the daily life.)


86 1978: I met the group minus delta t, Mike Hentz & Karel Dudeseck. 1979: I got to know the monthly Life-Project – Kunoldstr. 34, or ganised by J.O. Olbrich. 1979: I met Kees Mol. 1980: I moved into an artist run space to connect life and art (Allotropy of the daily life) and I met Carola Riess. She founded the project Gästehaus in the artist run space which was locat- ed in the Künstlerhaus Hamburg. Engelmann lived with us for three months and we created a conceptual structure for Das Konzil, as well as for various forms of presentation of the themes Nomads and Emigration. 1980: The Paradies started as a table diary where various elements lay on a table, encountering. Over the last 27 years complex ity has grown and it all has become a ‘laboratory for per- ception’. Excursion 1. The table can be seen as a battery which stores energies and emits them transformed. It receives’‘food’ through the ’radiation’ of the objects. But also the artist and the observer can activate energies.The forces active in the battery’s energy field are dependent on and intensify one another, but can also extinguish or repulse on another. This is exemplified through magnets and iron particles which in reciprocity create a well-balanced equilibrium. ”The true magnet of all world-bodies must be a heart”, Ritter wrote, “and in the human body the heart is the magnet. In the earth pulsates the magnet, in the human being the heart.” Construction as the unconscious. Dream as dialectical drought, then the awakening. The rare flower, ‘Light’ is put in oil. In this question on the reasons for creativity, I playfully take up the role of the Scientist. So Ritter’s “theory of the electrical systems of bodies” is verified on a sensory basis through the Paradise-table. For example, all objects on the table are bodies endowed with energy, which upon their meeting they mutually emit and absorb. During this exchange energies are strengthened and freed, growing to ever larger contexts up to the highest point. They evoke the glass balls, in which the objects of the world can be found as ‘complete world’. Topological system are formed analogous to the galvanic systems.Temperature, tension and heat arise from closeness and distance, from mixing


87 and combining the elements, which are the paradise. During their physical communication these elements create a certain climate, that defines the character of the table-landscape which they connect themselves to, and whose agitated life affects them.

1980: Reindeer Werk performed their piece Prediction in Hamburg and Hannover. Tordoir Narciss told me the story of Today’s Place in Antwerp. Got the meeting with Jacques van Poppel. 1981: I staged live-situations between 10 and 30 days. In September, together with the Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, I organised Das Konzil. 70 persons (40 of them invited guests) were con- fronted with each other, sitting around the Table created specially for this situation. The guests were chosen from peo- ple I had met in projects I had organised during the last three years in the Kleinen Ausstellungsraum, Hamburg. The most important influence to me was the Tool Group consisting of Harrie de Kroon, Mike Hentz, Jacques van Poppel, Franklin Alders, Firma Bender & Nern, Bernhard Schwarz, and others. The Tool Group was an open, nomadic and chaotic system of Performance Art.   Parallel to that, there was the Panoramagruppe (nomadic performances), the Stil-Gruppe (speech performances) and open groups like Quasi mythische Orte which organised performance travels, for example to the jail of Stammheim, to the highway during the daily rush hour, to anoint the street as a ritual in a stop-and-go situation or to experience the canalisation of Stuttgart. 1982: in May I continued with Das Konzil in an event of 30 days. 10 days in the Künstlerhaus Hamburg in the Kleiner Ausstel- lungsraum, and, at the same place, 10 days of seclusion. After this followed an open Live-situation together with Marina Kern and the Theatre Dankerrt, with two containers from overseas, one in the street and one in the theatre space. First idea to start a network of Performance Art was born.   In the same year Die Schwarze Lade of the Konzil was published for the first time. This sculpture of public interest have three sections (1997):


88 a. information about alternative art spaces, projects with politi- cal works, projects interaction and network ideas. b. materials for developing ideas, definitions, pictures and cobjects, which are free to use in interactive projects. c. the archive of Performance Art with 500 dossiers, literature, reviews, articles, photos, soundworks, tapes, records and fragments of performances. Excursion 2: Network Since 1975 there has been a substantial interest in dissecting connections and systems, exposing them to precise vivisections, stripping them of their apparent order. The resulting bodies, elements, monads, fragments, modules and parts are then reconnected in a different manner: a free floating link-up. Since the debates at DAS KONZIL 1, the term “network” has been adopted for these connections. INTERMENT. The Transitive Network (Peter Farkas) relates to itself as a virtual structure which temporarily and in a flash points out the path of a value which finds itself in transfer. This flash is a form of publicizing. The precise definition of time at a not previously determinable place. DIFFUSION. Cloud chamber as image. In relation to art, this means to develop the notions of space, time, matter and context. Behaviour and actions are to be realised. They become manifestations. From a realistic point of view the difference continues to exist between the event and the naming of the event. INTERMENT. Also, I would only term those manifestations “NETWORKING” which exhibit the following qualities: • Being within the encounter. • Displacement through analogy. • Simultaneous transformation of the most varied, mutually exclusive reali ties into integrated actualities. • Non-abusive use of events and matter for self-promotion (subjunctive awareness). • Organic division into many bodies, many embodiments and many fields. • Establishment of a desired and sought out common ground with others. The networking begins with your own body and appears on all bodies – skin tight. NETWORKING has to be thought as an interaction model


89 that can have paradigmatic qualities. In order to appreciate these qualities one must abandon the “what” for the “how” of transformation. Networking becomes transitory. It is necessary to think in intensities as not only concepts and ideas associate with and attach themselves to one another in far distant spaces and times – matter, form and events do also. What should a Network be expected to result in? The gravity of a persons energy and self-narrative as well as the provision a network behaviour which means a presence of parallel movements, a practice defining a framework of conditions.

1983: I gave up the artist run space, became more mobile, and together with the company Bender & Nern, Marina Kern, Kyoko Shimono and Bernhard Schwarz, we founded the Projektkunst e.V.. The most important effort was MOBICOBU, an installation of, some containers as mobile live-situations which could be moved for various projects. Founding of Die Stifter, which in the autumn organised the project Das Fest in Cologne. 1984: meeting with Norbert Klassen and Zbigniew Warpechowski. I also met Raoul Marek and Res Ingold. Since 1984: different interactive projects with different people and changing interventions. The idea of an open group grows, as well as the idea to be in an open situation with seven persons – and that this association should be more solid than the different meetings before and that it should include the interactive moment of Begegnung. 1985: I met the theatre group THEAT and came across the philo- sophical performance program of the Aufmerksamkeitsschule of Zygmunt PioTrowski; met Tomas Ruller, whom I invited for a performance, and Jürgen Fritz. Now we are seven. In a discussion with Zygmunt PioTrowski, we found the name Black Market for this kind of encounters. The name should not represent the ‘group’ but the principal ideas of the work. 1986: I organised the first series of Black Market events. I founded the performance association ASA. The structure of ASA is


90

opposite to that of Black Market but refers, like Black Market, to an idea of Das Konzil: the Service. First presentation of ASA in Bologna at the festival NO WALL. I hosted the event together with padeluun, Rena Tangens, Raoul Marek, Peter Meier and Ute Meta Bauer.

1987: ASA and Black Market was invited to take part in Documenta 8. 1990: ASA European is founded and organises different perform ance meetings and events and develops the performance art network. The project Rent An Artist and Die Gabe (a month- ly jour fix, where persons working with things I didn’t under stand were invited to describe their work). 1990/91: Changes within Black Market: Zygmunt PioTrowski and Tomas Ruller leave the association, Alastair MacLennan, Nigel Rolfe and Roi Vaara join. The new name is now: Black Market International. Co-operations and meetings with Neue Horizonte and various other guests. Other projects of en- countering were founded. Current Affairs: a long term col- laborative project with an open end, looking like an exhibi- tion, together with different persons in different places and towns; in the last years Ralf Samens, Charl van Ark, Uli Langendorf, Terry Fox, etc. 1993: Black Market International invites 15 international artists for the performance piece Empedokles at Documenta 9. ASA organises the project to give 100 days of service, the Quantenpool KÜln, with Peter Farkas, Bernd v.d. Brincken, Van Gogh TV and 3Sat TV etc. 1995: I initiate the founding of the Permanent-Performance Konferenz. Theory and practice are connected as perform- ance. Until now there have been 15 meetings worldwide. 2001: the E.P.I. Zentrum was founded. The aim of The European Performance Art Institute is to develop research in perform-


91

ance art, to develop the performance art archive and to install a co-operative context in performance art. This has been accomplished with great help from and in co-operation with Gerhard Dirmoser.

Excursion 3: The idea of the Performance Art diagram • The basic form was made in the image of an eye. An eye as a mirror, as a theatre of sense, as a theatre of science as well. • Theory of vision. The ray of sight from inside to outside, flowing back. • The “Allotropy” – In the light of perception each acting grows as an incomparable fact in the human being. • Revealing of (all ?) terms which artists and theorists use to describe their activity as a cultural, ethnographical or anthropological settings in any kind of society. (We have some special views in the dates 1880 and 1948.) • To each term we collect texts and statements which we archive and publish as soon as possible on http://www.asa.de/research The structure of the diagram The are different ways to perceive the context-eye diagram. From the middle to the edge you have 3 steps and 4 fields. The first field in the centre is empty. Basically the act is the act and nothing more. The act is whole, the universe, the entirety and it doesn’t need any interpretation. On the border of this emptiness begins the inquisitiveness of the intellect: the will to know what happens, what it means. This act is occupied by observation. One can enter each of the 32 sights, which are defined in terms of the first steps. Formed as triangle, they include all modes which are used in any kind of methods, models of thinking, meaning, considerations, science and so on. The first step is emotional, physical, psychological. The second step (third field) is more abstract and the last field points out the literature, theory, abstracts, etc. The goal The diagram shows the difficulty in setting up basic rules concerning what performance is all about. First aim is to break the hierarchy of iconology, to break the hegemony of the “variability of the same”, to break the one-dimensional cultural views and to open for the richness of human acts. Beneath these aspects of the structure we have included terms (definitions), names/concepts of hundreds of artists and theorists and some short paraphrases. These names, terms, sights and steps build up a complex


94 field of relations and contexts, providing an overview which allows for an understanding of how performance and performing arts develop relations and networks in all directions. The context-diagram enables a research of development of terms, history of the ideas, marking of key-emotions. An example of this is the activities in the field of “Agit-Prop”. Founded in the time of Russian revolution, this idea influenced the theatre of Bert Brecht and later on, in the thirties, the worker-theatres in USA. From there, the idea returns to Europe, used by the Situationistic International and the Lettrists, and had some influence on the political actions of 1968 in Germany and France. The idea was used as a title for an exhibition by the early video artists from Germany and Canada (1981) and was re-actualized in the 90s in such activities as “Büro Bert”. This kind of research opens directions to perceive, reflect, see and hear how things go and interact. Nothing is new, really. Everything has its relation and influence, is part of a known or unknown context. Nobody knows the margins of these interdependecies. Such a context is always a diffusion or a fog chamber, but also a frame of construction. It makes visible what linear VIP representation and university discourse must keep invisible. A paradigmatic turn.

2005: Realization of a context work on cooperation: http://www. kunstfruehling.de/images/Sichten_der_Kooperationen.pdf [Translation: Jürgen Fritz, edited by gou] *There is no good translation for the German “Begegnung” (encountering). It relies a lot on the definition of “communitas” which V. Turner made in his book “From Ritual to Theatre”.


Hinrich Sachs

Discours de la MĂŠthode (1641)

A


B

The Mind is a Muscle (1968)


The Fox (1976)

C


D

Untitled (conceptual artist), 2001 (2003)


Indoor Language (2003)

E


F

readymades belong to everyone (since 1989)


Holiday from the Self (2005)

G


H

Mascotgang for Pulheim (unrequested) (2007)


Untitled (conceptual artist), 2001 (2007)

I


J

other (2008, 2009, 2010)


105

Nameless Acting Kim Einarsson

Framework and characters: A staged interview by Kim Einarsson with the spokesperson of the artist collaboration Goldin+Senneby about the project Headless. Time: The present, stretched out over one day. Place: Various locations in Stockholm. All the scene settings (Prologue, Scene 1–4) have been borrowed, sometimes slightly modified, from the text Indoor Language by artist Hinrich Sachs and curator Barnaby Drabble. Indoor language refers to the informal professional language, the language used behind the scenes but never or very seldom revealed in public or to an audience. As Barnaby Drabble points out in Scene 4, the term indoor language implies that “talking about the work must not be mistaken for the work itself and that is why it’s a bit ‘indoor’. From the outside it has to seem as if the work just came into some kind of visual existence.”


106 Prologue: Stockholm, interior of an artist’s studio. Crisp late-autumn light floods through large windows as ke and sp sit on low chairs at an unusually high table. The sound of children playing filters in from outside. kim einarsson (ke): Shall we get started? goldin+senneby’s spokesperson (sp): Absolutely, shoot. ke: This conversation is supposed to be about Goldin+Senneby and their working process in the project Headless. Quite honestly, I had expected to meet them in person, so I have to begin by asking: who are you and why are you here? sp: I am their spokesperson, or their press secretary if you prefer. My task is to communicate their project to the public and to the press, so my own identity isn’t especially important in these circumstances. It mostly gets in the way, and would become just another unnecessary barrier between the reader and G+S’s project. ke [in a taunting tone]: So it is because you don’t want to “get in the way” that you’re not telling me your name? sp: Exactly. For me it is very important to remain anonymous in order to maintain a kind of openness in the project and in this conversation. It is important not to put restrictions on the ways in which things can be understood, but instead to open up the project and find new ways of making it accessible. I think it was Geoffrey Crowther, one of the early editors of The Economist, who put it something like this: “Anonymity keeps the editor not the master but the servant of something far greater”. See me as a servant. ke: Well, I’m not so sure that your anonymity opens up for other readings. You’re not exactly well-known, so I can’t see what problems could be caused by people knowing your name. sp: I kindly have to ask you to respect these terms, otherwise you will have to manage without this interview. [pause]


107 ke: Okay, I guess I don’t have much of a choice. Shall we begin? Scene 1: The Project and the Research ke and sp return carrying a lower, more practical table which they place next to the other, moving the chairs and resettling ke: Tell me about the Headless project. Goldin+Senneby call it a research project. What exactly is the focus of this research? sp: It’s a project that has been going on since the autumn of 2006, in which Goldin+Senneby investigate the offshore company Headless Ltd, which is registered in the Bahamas. G+S are interested in the fictitious character of this kind of business. ke: And what exactly is an offshore company? sp: It’s a type of business venture that has an important function in the global economy, as it facilitates the anonymous moving and reallocation of circulating capital. Offshore companies are nurtured and protected largely by the finance industry... Old British colonies and protectorates is where the groundwork is laid for offshore companies. They are established in tax havens, or offshore financial centres if you want to use the proper terminology. What we’re talking about are companies that are officially registered, while the owners’ identities and the actual business being pursued remains secret. Companies can be set up in these places because local political history has established them as legal exceptions, in which it is possible to work unseen. Add to this a cast of international players who make creative interpretations of concepts such as nationhood, legal responsibility and affiliation, forms of business, and citizenship, so that their capital can evade domestic political regulation. The whole system is a fiction upheld by the many players who act it out. ke: Does the fact that offshore companies run legally ambiguous businesses interest G+S at all? That they facilitate tax evasion and money laundering and thereby indirectly contribute to other criminal activities?


108 sp: No, not primarily. They are interested in invisibility and withdrawal, and what kind of mythology the invisible generates. For them, an offshore company is a kind of dramatic fiction, acted out against the backdrop of the geographical places that the business is connected to. This gives rise to virtual situations in a physical world. In short, they are both interested in how legal and financial logic can create a sphere of invisibility and how social withdrawal is mythologized. In Headless G+S’s point of departure is the far fetched hypothesis that Headless Ltd is a contemporary incarnation of the philosopher Georges Bataille’s secret society Acéphale – which means “the headless” – which he initiated at the end of the 1930s. We know almost nothing about what the society actually did because they were so secretive. It is just as unclear and shrouded in mystery as Headless Ltd’s business activities. ke: And why was Acéphale started? sp: I’m not an expert, but as I understand it, Bataille was driven by the idea that secret societies were a tool for the achievement of radical change. For Bataille, the invisible was a space for mythologization, and subsequently a way to create a “counter-publicness”. Another form of public sphere, which could develop a different understanding of society than is presented in existing public debates. ke: So, what’s the connection between the Acéphale and Headless Ltd, more than both of them dealing with obscure activities and the play on words? Do they have similarities regarding organisation, goals or ideologies? sp: No, not as far as I know. It is rather that G+S use the ideas Bataille had about the act of withdrawal to understand Headless Ltd. and the idea of offshore companies. I guess they’re trying to mythologize the unknown business of this company. ke: How do G+S perform their research about the company? sp: The ways in which most people carry out research, nothing special. At one stage they hired a private detective agency. But as I


109 said, it’s not the company itself that is of interest, but its deceptive nature. ke: And how is the result of their research presented? And what do G+S actually know about the company Headless Ltd? sp: Not a great deal, at least not yet. We know that it is administered by another company called Sovereign Trust. All the information G+S gather through their investigation is forwarded to writer John Barlow who reworks the material into a docu-fiction also called Headless; something in the style of the Da Vinci Code. The writing develops in parallel with the project, and the directions taken by the author influence the subsequent actions by G+S. ke: So the plot of the novel and the evolution of the project develop co-dependently, like a dialogue? sp: Precisely. And the project has until now been publicised through an arranged series of readings from the prologue to Looking for Headless. The author of this book is presented as a fictional character and has the same name as a person who works for Headless Ltd. The persona of the fictional author is performed by different actors on each occasion. ke: Okay, but wait a moment... all research material is handed over to author, John Barlow, who writes the docu-fiction Headless, right? But in the novel Looking for Headless both Barlow and Goldin+Senneby are characters. And the author is... fictional... performed by different actors at each public reading. It’s all very confusing. Who is actually the person holding the pen? sp: As I said earlier, it’s a fictional author. [pause] Unfortunately, G+S have been threatened with legal action by lawyers representing Sovereign Trust if they did not remove the name of the fictional author from all public communications. Consequent-


110 ly, the fictional author’s name has been removed, as is the case with my name. ke: What a mess! This must mean a new direction for the project? As the fictional author seems to play a crucial role in their narrative? sp: True, but they have just removed the name, not the character. Also, this kind of legal encounter becomes a part of the project’s continued narrative. G+S’s strategy is to establish a framework in which all reactions are positive, in that they can be incorporated in the development of the project. In this sense the project can never fail. ke: But isn’t that a very opportunistic approach? And does this mean that whatever further demand Sovereign Trust makes, G+S will adjust their project and still think they have maintained artistic integrity? sp: That is decided from case to case. But I believe that G+S are quite uninterested in exploring the limits of legal systems. Headless is not a project about transgressing boundaries. It is more about the possibility of hidden circumstances or situations within existing systems – situations that can be found within delimited boundaries. ke: But what is G+S’s artistic achievement in this project, and what risks do they take? sp: They form an understanding of withdrawal and concealment as mythological actions, while also examining the practicalities of how a business or organisation “performs” this withdrawal. Subject, method and artistic narrative intermingle in G+S’s work and cannot be separated from one another. ke: But again, what do they jeopardize by doing so? sp: Can we please take a break?


111 Scene 2: The Performative and the Public ke and sp are sitting in the Café Rembrandt, an Asian-run fast food restaurant where they periodically dip fries into a pool of mayonnaise, ketchup and peanut butter, a mixture called “Oorlog” (war) sauce in Dutch. Teenagers and other clients come in, dogs and their owners stroll past the window, barking and birdsong can be heard in the background. ke: Is the novel Looking for Headless the only aspect of the Headless project that has been made public so far? sp: So far, it has been an important aspect of the public presentation of the project, but a short film has also been made and G+S give lectures on a regular basis at different art institutions. You could say that Headless is revealed to the public in fragments, or scenes. No, not scenes, that implies a theatricality that the project does not aspire to. But they usually describe their project as an ongoing performance, the parts of which, both internal and public, contribute to the narrative. ke: Which roles do they play themselves in this performance? The role of the artist, the actor, the researcher or the detective? Or are they just directors, handing out roles in this drama to other people? sp: They play all these parts simultaneously. They direct the action by arranging the conditions under which the events are to be played out, but can never retain control of the sequence of events, or the reactions that arise. ke: What about the audience? Doesn’t it follow that a performance should have an audience? Where does G+S have theirs? And I don’t mean for the book readings from Looking for Headless, but during the “performative” working process? sp: There are several audiences. The audience encountering the project as presented in various art institutions, the readers of secondary information published by others. But also a number of individuals connected to the project as mentors, expert advisors, collaborators et cetera who form an audience as well as contributing


112 to the performance. When the novel Looking for Headless is completed, it will be presented to a readership outside the art world. Novels have entirely different potential channels of distribution, and hopefully Looking for Headless will be a bestseller... ke: If we were to talk about G+S as characters in a self-composed drama, is Brecht or Stanislavski directing them? Brecht’s concept of epic theatre demanded that actors should keep a certain distance to their characters to avoid developing a sense of empathy that could hinder a critical examination of their roles. This is a way of maintaining a kind of “double agency” in which the performance subject – in this case G+S – neither represents their characters or themselves as individuals. Stanislavski’s method acting on the other hand, means that fictions are granted legitimacy by the actors erasing their individuality for their roles. sp: Well, G+S aren’t actors and their projects are absolutely not pieces of theatre, but if I understand you correctly, seeing the Brecht and Stanislavski models as metaphors for how they place themselves as characters within the project... [pause, then after some thought] Hmm, I’d like to think of them as somewhere between the two models, but with an obvious leaning towards the Brechtian. They see the actual staging of, and participation in, the drama they have initiated as a way of experiencing the project’s implications. [a cough, and then with a firm voice] But I really must underline that they want to step away from theatricality. G+S’s work goes into already existing dramas and always attempts a self-critical approach to its own position and actions. As when entering into the world of offshore business and appropriating its methods, language and strategies. They allow for the possibility of a performative reading. ke: What do you mean by “allow for the possibility of a performa-


113 tive reading”?! That is totally incomprehensible. To me their project is theatre, maybe closer to improv or role-playing games, but still... very much theatre. sp: I totally disagree. Think of the performative as a perspective. It’s about understanding, in this case, business, organisational life or the act of withdrawal as essentially performative readymades. G+S attempt a position that at the same time acts from within and reflects from without. ke: You mean like any other conscious process?... My dear friend, this is, at best, hairsplitting. Scene 3: Method – Fiction and Virtuality Back in the studio, ke drinks coffee and sp drinks tea in an attempt to remove the taste of oorlog sauce. ke: Where can we see the fiction in G+S’s work? sp: I don’t know if I understand your question correctly, but Headless isn’t about the contradictions or dynamics between fiction and reality. It has more to do with the relationships between the visible and the invisible. Fiction in their work exists and is reproduced on many parallel levels. In the story of the novel, but also on the level of the fictional author. And another important aspect is that G+S’s own work allows itself to be controlled by the fictional writing. ke: When I have heard G+S talk about their projects, both about Headless and earlier projects, they often use the word virtuality. What does this idea signify in their works? I get the impression they use the word in a much broader sense than what is normal. sp: As I understand it, they apply the word to a range of different constructions that are maintained through social conventions and agreements. Many of the ideas that are in focus in Headless – simulated systems, and the changing loci of values, norms and ideals – grew out of their earlier projects in the online world Second Life.


114 ke: In a way, fiction and virtuality seem to overlap each other. They both depend on the acceptance of a suggested reality, and on sustaining the coherence of that reality. Do you have any idea of what G+S think about the relation between these two ideas? sp: I’m not sure what they would say themselves, but I see fiction in their work as a way of describing the virtual aspects of their projects. The fiction is the rhetorical method, a way of talking about the virtual. The fictional storytelling helps in understanding the constructions they examine and explore. It helps to exemplify but also to create new layers of interpretation. [pause] For me, their projects are like a collage of readymades, only their readymades aren’t objects but abstract constructions and systems. Thinking of Headless Ltd as an incarnation of Bataille’s Acéphale, but also letting people employed by the Sovereign Trust play their roles within the framework of the offshore consultancy drama... G+S generates new fiction from the raw material of existing fictions. ke: Somehow, there seems to be lots of hidden agendas within this project’s different layers of fiction. Could the entire project be fictitious? Could it be the case that all communiqués, correspondences and other documentation of the project are just made up? That the narrative lies in creating a fake story? sp: No, absolutely not. Their projects aren’t about fooling people, and as I just said, they aren’t interested in separating or playing with the concepts of fiction and reality. ke: How can you be so sure they’re not fooling us?! sp: Of course you can’t be sure. But on the other hand, what is the difference if it’s real or not? There is still a story. ke: To me it matters a lot! I don’t know what your idea of reality


115 is, but in my book offshore companies exist and are causing a lot of damage to the world. It seems like G+S almost have a phobia of giving any normative statements about their objects of study. They don’t make value judgments or even state any opinions about offshore businesses or the economic system that upholds and supports their existence. Instead G+S are focusing on occurrences of withdrawal, instability and double-crossing, and manifest this through fiction. sp: [in a sarcastic tone]: And what do you suggest they should do instead?! Film a documentary with shaky hand-camera about Headless Ltd, exhibiting the victims of the company’s activities? And then knock it up in a white cube installation, projected on MDFboard with a wall covered in small print? ke: No, that’s not what I’m suggesting. But can’t the fiction be seen as a way of hiding? Not daring to stand up for anything? sp: Yes, fiction can be a way of hiding, but so can the documentary format. I think G+S take a very clear stand – in their choice of subject, in the way they allow different stories to meet and intersect with each other, and not least through the method by which they choose to present their projects. It takes courage to be able to carry out a project like Headless and to allow it to retain its complexity even in its presentation. ke: Such empty rhetoric! “Courage”! What’s heroic about using obscurity to exhibit obscurity? Maybe it takes integrity, and a bit of elitism, to dare to present something difficult to comprehend in a time when a lot of art institutions and galleries appreciate the immediately intelligible and easily digestible. But can it really be called “courage”? sp [pause, and then in a provocative tone]: I do hope this interview will be intelligible, and that it will leave the future reader in a satisfied and clear-sighted state when it comes to Headless and the working methods of G+S.


116 ke: That depends on your answers. sp: Or on your questions... Scene 4: The Method of Cooperation ke and sp sit facing one another on a train leaving Stockholm, its nearly dark outside. The train fills with people and the outline of a large mosque passes the window behind them as the train pulls out. ke: An aspect of G+S’s working method that I feel is worth commenting on is that they, like businesses, outsource certain parts of their project. They pay others to carry out pieces of research, to be co-creators of the work and sometimes to present the project. I’m thinking of the detective bureau that is helping them to find material about Headless, the ghost writer who plots out the novel, the actor playing the role of the fictional author at the book reading of Looking for Headless and so on, and so on. sp: Well, in other art projects, one might pay an editor to edit a film, an assistant to glue your collage and so on. That’s not so very different from this way of working... ke: But it strikes me that they give other people a lot of space to manoeuvre within their project, which in one way of course is generous and allows for many co-creators of the project. But couldn’t it also be a facade, an attempt to conceal fears or laziness – that it’s actually comfortable to let others formulate one’s project? sp: You could say that about any collaborative project. Sometimes you need outside expertise and sometimes you need to borrow someone else’s voice. ke: Is Headless a collaborative project? sp: Yes, a collaboration between Goldin and Senneby. I see everyone else as a mixture of audience, fellow travellers, external consultants, distributors and expertise.


117 ke: And what roles do you and I play in this? sp: It’s up to us to formulate ourselves. What role do you believe you will play? For instance, what will you do with the outcome of this interview? ke: I will edit it, and publish it. sp: And why will you do that? ke: I have to. I’m paid. I’m doing this on commission. sp: Hm, thought so.


118

Labour and Love Susanne Clausen

“Good proletarian seeking lifelong companion to make world revolution together.” (personal ad in Chinese 70s newspaper)

How can a discussion about artistic method take place? First of all I believe it is necessary to examine the conditions under which making art takes place. Why, where, when determines how I make it.   And so the following is a reflection on the social or economic but also personal conditions that determine my work and my life. Why do I make art at all? Is it because I still feel there is a promise for change and reflections and a subjective impulse to revolt or dissent or simply to express myself? Why do I decide to market or publicise any such subjective impulse? In a time and place where subjectivity itself is commodified... How does the subject feel when subjectivity itself is a commodity? And how to deal with the inherent myths of the cultural industry: the heroic artists are highly skilled in marketing their subjectivity. Never repeat, invent yourself each and every time. The subject is on the move, without ever getting anywhere, a life-long work effort. How to make art in a postindustrial society, where everyone is a self-supporting enterprise, and needs to take care of themselves? Working outside of and within a system of contradictions, while trying to integrate what is not reconcilable within their existence; be mobile but care for family and society; be a team player but see how you can promote yourself; consume until deep into the night, but secure your pension; don’t trust the state, but accept its rules; despise age but value traditions; learn the rules but break them; trust power but accept its unpredictability; make plans, but risk everything anytime. In short: live precariously. My work takes place in all sorts of possible and impossible situations; on a train, in the car, in my office at the art school, at night at home when my three year old son is finally asleep or while he is playing in the corner of our studio. A lot of work is created or instigated by interrupted thoughts. Therefore, I cannot work


119 under ‘ideal’ conditions any more, nor do I need or want to. And I embrace this, because it allows for a constant reflective strain of thought. Difference is constantly there, and there is no hierarchy of how, where, or when work is made or thought out. Every realization of an object or a timed image in the world is then a nexus, a place of interconnected virtualities (in a Deleuzian sense), which necessarily interact with – but independently from – one another. A constant desiring-production, combining drives and labour. Do I have a systematic way of working; do I follow a plan; is there any orderly thought, action or technique? To enter a stage and disappear again, rehearsing the act, documenting the rehearsal, discussion, then start all over again. Have the conditions of production changed? Not only that in relatively ‘normal’ jobs, workers need to be creative, spontaneous and inventive – as claimed for example in neo-Marxist discourse – but it is also the case that in creative work the model of the individual genius has been replaced by collaborative processes, often using a complex communication machine. On top of this, art is a luxury; basically it’s a superfluous accessory in many cases, at least according to the logic of the market. Who needs art? And can that which is superfluous be made attractive enough to be marketed as such, and does this mean that paradoxical feelings and obsessions that don’t immediately belong to the market economy become objects in the logic of supply and demand? Or is it possible to provide a terrain for what is superfluous, according to the market, where it can unfold a useful or even purposefully nonsensical existence? Perhaps there are parallels to be drawn when looking at the example of love. The following paragraph is borrowed in parts from an essay by Carl Hegemann. In order to understand what happens to us when we make art, it may be worthwhile to compare with the situation of love. I have used this text as part of a script for a recent video work. (Szuper Gallery, I will survive, 2007)


120 “Can love be genuine and at the same time for sale? If it is purchased, it obeys a calculation, and hence it is dependent on something other than itself, is instrumentalized, and hence devalued. If it lies beyond calculation, however, it contradicts the supreme premises of our economic order, by the standards of which love is dangerous nonsense. Those who calculate live longer, but they cannot love, if they are consistent. And life without love is, perhaps, not life at all. Those who do not calculate can, if they are lucky, get involved in true love, but they risk their lives. Can I, if love is purchased, experience in this pseudo-love something of what love could be if it weren’t purchased? It need only be acted well. Even the merely feigned, the insincere, has value, and perhaps great closeness and affection can also be pleasant when they are helped along by a financial consideration. This body is effective after all, beyond the lies, beyond the stories from porn and the comedy of my life that I have to tell myself, the comedies of infidelity that are running dry. This body must indeed mean something beyond the images of the precariousness of work and the fact that I am not running after it. I would so like to tell a story. About fidelity, for example ... Do you know that in porn films there is no fidelity apart from that of the clientele? That is, the ones who are always watching them. Then, how do you tell a story about fidelity? About the fidelity of those who watch them? Why do people split up even though they love each other? The answer is simple: out of fear of death. Love is desire ‘for the unattached’. Its fulfilment is deadly, either for love or for the lovers. Supposing that it’s true, why do people also say goodbye when they don’t love each other? Because being together without love is deadly. Everyone knows that: life without love is no life at all. What remains is unrequited or unhappy love. It keeps us alive and is the only love we can have: no one is too ugly, no one is too beautiful, no one too young, no one to old.” – Carl Hegemann, Programmheft der Kammerspiele München, spring 2007


121

Utdrag ur en korrespondens Frans Josef Petersson

[...] För att lägga fram mitt ärende vill jag återigen aktualisera liknelsen från Edgar Allan Poes novell, mellan konstnären och den skeppsbrutne sjömannen som vid avgrundens rand skriver ett brev för att redogöra för sin sista tid i livet. Då författaren inte enbart riktar sig till en okänd läsare, utan själva läsningens ögonblick inte med någon säkerhet låter sig förutsägas – kanske kommer brevet aldrig att nå en mottagare – kan syftet med en sådan text inte vara annat än just skrivandet. Som vi ofta har talat om, och här brukar jag åberopa Maurice Blanchots ord, är det enda en författare kan veta just att han skriver; jag tänker mig att det enda en konstnär egentligen har att klamra sig fast vid är detta att. Att låta Poes skrivande exemplifiera detta kan tyckas vittna om en hemfallenhet åt en romantiserad, på gränsen till sentimental, föreställning om konstnärens situation. Men inget kunde vara mer felaktigt, om inte annat så för att en sådan värdering endast skulle ha att göra med läsarens förståelse av orden utifrån en specifik kontext. I själva verket iscensätter ju Poe en författandets realism utifrån sin beräknande, närmast kyligt konstaterande, praktik. Nu påpekar du kanske att jag, till skillnad från Poes protagonist, mycket väl vet vem jag skriver till och att den enda likheten mellan oss båda är som författare av brev. Inte heller är jag någon konstnär och minst av allt tycks jag befinna mig vid avgrundens rand. Men det skulle jag bara delvis hålla med om. Jag tror du förstår vad jag menar. Hur som helst är mitt syfte med att åberopa Poe endast att peka på detta att, det vill säga att betona skrivandets fundamentalt oförutsägbara sätt att bryta in i världen och läsningen som en möjlig händelse som inte låter sig föregripas. Dessutom måste jag medge att jag är obekväm med det framlyftande av mig själv som låter sig läsas in i textens inledning. Så låt mig gå vidare. I Vita Activa frågar sig Hanna Arendt om en handling är, som hon menar, oåterkallelig och radikalt oförutsägbar – hur kommer det sig att människan vågar handla överhuvudtaget? Hon identifierar svaret med vår förmåga att avlägga löften, det vill säga att formulera en idé om vad vi vill åstadkomma, samt att erbjuda förlåtelse, det vill säga möjligheten att retroaktivt börja om och gå vidare. Löftet binder oss framåt i tiden, och förlåtelse utgör en nödvändig länk till


122 det förflutna. Some day all this will be yours. Varför skriver jag det här? För att förbereda dig på ett i läsningen kommande löfte, eller för att redan nu be om förlåtelse för min oförmåga att leva upp till de förväntningar som detta (o)uttalade löfte ger upphov till? Kanske både och. Men framförallt för att betona hur texten i någon mening alltid redan utgör ett löfte, det vill säga en idé om var vi – den som skriver och den som ska komma att läsa, eller den som läser och den som har skrivit – är på väg. Mitt förslag är att det jag skriver kan förstås som ett försök att närma sig vad som kan komma att bli en reflektion över hur olika utsagor förhåller sig till sina rumsliga förutsättningar. Vad jag syftar på är alltså inte en undersökning av vad som låter sig sägas, utan hur det som låter sig sägas låter sig sägas. Låter det oklart, generellt eller alltför omfattande? Använder jag dig enbart för att tillfredställa mitt eget behov av en läsare i dialog med vilken mina utsagor låter sig formuleras? Behovet av andra människor är ju textens axiom, därav Poe, och jag planterar frågans misstanke för att antyda hur en etisk problematik kan komma att operera inom ramen för vår relation. Jag behöver väl knappast påminna dig om att vår korrespondens föranleds av en förfrågan om att bidra till en utredning om metodens innebörd och ställning i de konstnärliga praktikernas fält, och sålunda kan förstås som ett förslag på hur denna fråga om metod kan ställas i relation till ett pågående projekt? Detta är projektet. Eller egentligen inte, snarare skulle jag påstå att det är en reflektion över projektet så långt som det hittills har framskridit. Frågan om projektet – att något ska göras – är implicit i frågan om metod, vilket innebär att frågan om metod i sin tur efterfrågar en projektets poetik som jag i ärlighetens namn har svårt att artikulera men som jag hoppas att vårt utbyte ska bidra till att reda ut. Hur lögnen kommer in i detta schema tänker jag inte kommentera. Men du har väl dina egna svar och dina egna frågor. [...] Förlamning är ett alltför starkt ord för att beskriva de positioner som framträder i denna text; låt oss tala om orörlighet istället. Det torde vara en mer neutral beskrivning av det tillstånd av suspension som åsyftas, och som inte nödvändigtvis kan härledas till obeslutsamhetens pares och oförmåga till handling. Det rör sig med andra ord om ett medvetet uppehåll – en stillhet mitt i en pågående rörelse – som förvisso kan knytas till en känsla av tvivel men som framförallt handlar om att artikulera en närvaro


123 avskild från varje omedelbart krav på produktivitet. Här kan det vara på sin plats med några enkla konstateranden: i den mån det uppfodrande begreppet metod inger mig en känsla av avsmak, så kan detta härledas till en outsinlig leda inför tidens uppdrivna krav på publicitet, uppmärksamhet och produktivitet. Min tveksamhet handlar alltså inte om frågan om metod i sig – om syftet är att diskutera kunskap och konstnärlig praktik i relation till forskning så är metod en oundviklig, för att inte säga helt central, frågeställning – men om ett av vår tids kännetecken är en ständig, och till synes ofrånkomlig, sammanblandning av mål och medel kan metoden vara ännu ett sätt att underordna praktiken det uttalade målet att producera kunskap. En viss skepsis tycks mig även legitim i den mån som den utgår från en misstänksamhet mot varje inskränkning i tvivlets tänkbarhet. Utifrån detta perspektiv framstår ju även föreställningen om ett metodiskt tvivel som tveksam, då metoden – oavsett om den utgör ett arbetes utgångspunkt, eller är något som har formulerats efterhand eller rent av i efterhand – tycks handla om att intala andra om det riktiga i den egna utsagan. Men om man inte är ute efter att övertyga någon om något? Är det omöjligt att tänka sig en position som inte handlar om att övertala och betvinga en annan? Kanske är det så, om man inte själv låter sig övermannas av tvivel. Samtidigt måste man naturligtvis inte tänka sig metod som en genomskinlighet påtvingad av kravet att göra varje utsaga verifierbar. Man kan också förstå det som en möjlighet för varje individ att testa en utsagas giltighet utifrån sin egen situation, där upphovsmannen och dennes verk blir ett tydligt exempel att följa eller förkasta. Ur ett sådant perspektiv skulle man kunna extrapolera en radikal jämlikhetstanke enligt vilken man inte tänker sig att individer besitter mer kunskap än andra; där det inte är de ”kunnigas” uppgift att aktivera och upplysa de ”mindre vetande”. Därmed skulle kunskap förstås i termer av ”kunnande” och i princip sammanfalla med frågan om metod; det vill säga frågan om metod kommer enkelt uttryckt att handla om att artikulera – såsom metod – den praktiska kunskap som ryms i en situation. Jag har ju själv beskrivit syftet med vårt utbyte som att diskutera ett antal tänkbara scenarios utifrån en given situation. Denna skulle kunna beskrivas som en utställning – a fleeting moment in time, soon passed and soon forgotten – och man kan förstå vår korrespondens som ett


124 försök att artikulera och omsätta i handling en kunskap som låter sig utvinnas ur den erfarenhet som situationen givit upphov till. Kanske kan vi tänka oss att situationen låter sig beskrivas utifrån en idé om det konstnärliga arbetes utgångspunkt som ”erfarenheten av att inte ha något att säga” (Blanchot). Kanske kan man förstå detta ”att inte ha något att säga” som en stillhet vilken, sin orörlighet till trots, bär på ett outtalat löfte. Vårt försök att formulera ett förslag på hur frågan om metod kan ställas kommer alltså att göras med utgångspunkt i en frånvaro av handling utifrån vilken vi kan betrakta möjligheten till handling. Ett sådant dröjande betyder inte enbart att allting hålls öppet, – ”att arbetets form i det längsta förblir okänd” – utan framförallt utgör denna tillfälliga suspension en möjlighet att artikulera en resonansgrund för en eller flera potentiella handlingar. Man kan naturligtvis tänka sig ett stort antal olika typer av kommande handlingar – exempelvis sådana som kännetecknas av rutinens själlösa upprepning, strategins lika själlöst målinriktade rörelse och så vidare – och metoden kan då inte uppfattas som en instans i en sådan typologi (“rutinen”, “strategin”, “metoden” etc.) utan som just det dröjande vilket möjliggör en avskärmning, en inramning eller ett uppdagande av dessa möjliga handlingar. Kanske låter det sig beskrivas som en förskjutning av nuet, ett sätt att förhandla bort det till förmån för det man tror ska komma, samtidigt som man hela tiden redovisar förutsättningarna för denna tillblivelse. Redan texten är en handling som genomgår den transformation som det offentliga uppvisandet innebär och problemet är inte bara att innan en utsaga formuleras, ges materiell form, så är den otillgänglig för andra, utan också att då den väl artikulerats så tycks den bli främmande, i viss mån otillgänglig, för sin upphovsman. Även om praktikens mål inte är att producera kunskap, så kan frågan om metod på så vis vara ett sätt att dröja vid ett upplåtande av det som är välbekant men ännu inte uppenbart, eller uppenbarat. [...] Denna ständiga sammanblandning av mål och medel, där steget tycks kort från en filosofisk diskurs om människan som alltings mått till den enskilde individen som den slutpunkt mot vilken all verksamhet strävar är ett tillräckligt skäl för att återigen betona konstverket som ett öppnande mot det radikalt andra som inte låter sig föregripas, samt – i en dubbel rörelse – som en handling vilken i någon mening söker sluta eller


125 upplåta denna oförutsägbarhet. Vidare kan man konstatera att om ett konstverk förstås som en iscensättning eller en tillämpning av en viss kunskap, och denna inte låter sig förstås oberoende av de format i vilken den omsätts och förmedlas, så måste verkets form relateras inte bara till den handling som frambringar det utan också till de format i vilka det framträder. Verket framstår därmed som oskiljaktigt från en idé om pluralitet i den meningen att det inte bara görs för att i någon mening visas upp – eller i mer allmänna termer, placeras i det sensiblas sfär – utan att uppvisandet och görandet är oskiljaktiga som en del av den process som verket företar då det blir en del av världen. Detta kan inte reduceras till frågan om på vilket sätt verkets form utgör ett svar på uppvisandets gest och vice versa – exempelvis genom att utreda hur olika typer av verk förhåller sig till olika format, som boken, utställningen och så vidare – utan snarare handlar det om en reflektion över det sätt varpå ett verk utgör ett framträdande som förutsätter en mångfald. Som jag förstår det är det som intresserar oss verkets framträdelserum uppfattat som singularitet, en unik händelse, och som pluralitet, som del i en mångfald eller en offentlighet. [...] Jag vill uppehålla mig vid den ambivalens – av omväxlande begär och rädsla – som man kan erfara vid inträdet i ett nytt rum. Din rädsla inför det offentliga rummets exponering, mitt begär efter det intima, familjära, känslornas rum. Ditt begär, min rädsla. Hur kan man med säkerhet påstå att vårt försök handlar om att göra motstånd mot begäret efter det avslutade arbetet, och inte snarare är ett utslag av fruktan inför denna definitiva händelse? Jag har velat betona att vi inte kan veta, utan endast ana, vart våra handlingar bär oss. Jag kommer återigen att tänka på Hannah Arendt och hennes beskrivning av hur inget liv kan levas enbart i offentlighetens ljus, lika lite som det kan uppehålla sig uteslutande i det privatas mörka vrår – det skulle antingen brinna upp eller sakta slockna och förtvina. Det som möjligtvis kan uppfattas som paradoxalt är hur denna ambivalens, detta varkeneller som vi här försöker peka på, kan besitta en sådan oerhörd kraft. Möjligtvis befinner vi oss här i maktens själva epicentrum som i framträdelsens ögonblick riskerar att likt en malström dra med oss ner i avgrunden. Att befinna sig i en situation utan att skrida till handling kräver en verklig ansträngning. Det jag tänker mig låter sig inte beskrivas som en av två tänkbara platser, det handlar varken


126 om ateljén/kontoret där arbetet äger rum eller någon av de platser där verket visas upp eller publiceras. I våra samtal återkommer vi ständigt till redaktionen, och kanske kan man beskriva det mellanrum mellan det som har varit och det som kan komma att ske som ett redaktionellt rum utifrån vilket arbetets framträdelseformer låter sig artikuleras, undersökas och problematiseras. Ibland får jag för mig att en konsekvens av de decentreringar som man, med allusion på Daniel Burens välkända essä, kan beskriva som en utveckling av konsten som en ”post-studio practice” innebär att konsten sakta brinner upp i offentlighetens obarmhärtiga ljus; att ett nödvändigt glapp mellan den intima sfär vari ett kontemplativt arbete äger rum och de rum vari detta arbete exponeras för en publik har kommit att undergrävas ytterligare. Kanske kan man tänka sig en intimitetens revolt som ett sätt att försöka dra sig undan de krav som oundvikligen tycks omgärda varje vistelse i offentligheten och som hotar att förtära varje uttryck som inte omedelbart underordnar sig dess konventionsbundna former. Samtidigt är jag den förste att betona hur ett konstverk i strikt mening inte låter sig särskiljas från sin presentation, hur ett arbetes framträdande såsom verk med nödvändighet måste förstås i termer av form, det vill säga i enlighet med det sätt varpå det träder in i världen (dessutom begriper jag inte den idé om progression som tycks genomsyra alla försök att beskriva historiska kategorier med hjälp av prefixet post-). Vad jag talar om är i konkreta termer att upprätta ett rum som inte på något självklart vis låter sig inordnas som varken privat eller publikt, utan som snarare kan ändra karaktär över tiden för att bli just ett sådant mellanrum i vilket vi kan undersöka en utsagas rumsliga karaktär och göra uttalandets själva premisser till föremål för konfigurationer, digressioner... Jag tänker mig detta som ett möjligt tillvägagångssätt för att momentant upprätthålla det kontemplativa arbetets stillhet, där det enda som återstår är relationen mellan utsagans att och arbetets hur. Låt mig veta hur du ställer dig till ett sådant förslag. [...]


127

No-How: stopgap notes on ‘method’ in visual art as knowledge production Sarat Maharaj

These are ‘jottings and scribbles’ on four elements of method related to art practice and research. Two are looked at below – followed by two truncated entries, ‘Lund’ and ‘Uddevalla Volvo’, sketched for future elaboration.

Mulling Over Method (1) As a start-up idea ‘visual art as knowledge production’ sounds unexceptional. But right away it begs the question ‘What sort of knowledge?’ What marks out its difference, its otherness? Should we rather speak of non-knowledge – something that is neither hard-nosed know-how nor ignorance – especially in today’s emerging ‘grey-matter economy’?   (2) ‘Visual Art as Knowledge Production’ involves epistemic engines and processes that add up to ‘Thinking Through the Visual’. What does such a mode of knowing entail? How does it tick?   With (1) above, it is easy to get bogged down with the notion that nothing counts unless it has the systematic rigour of ‘science’. This rather overlooks the fact that what we lump together as ‘science’ is more often than not made up of divergent activities, diverse disciplines and practices. Also, science practitioners themselves remain a pinch circumspect of philosophical attempts to sum up their activities with an overarching methodological principle. The preference is for keeping matters open with a feel for the hodgepodge of methods, perhaps even muddle, that attends the lab workbench. Though Gaston Bachelard’s musings are a touch dated, I find his view of ‘science’ as a plurality of practices where ‘each secretes its own epistemology’ – each, arguably, with its own ‘degree of approximation to truth’ – an antidote to a solo, make-or-break, subsuming principle of knowledge, truth and method. (Le Nouvel Esprit Scientifique. 1934)) His account resonates with the state of play in art practice and research – their proliferating self-shaping probes, stand-alone processes of inquiry, motley modes of see–think–know. These defer articulation in terms of generalizable principles, often stonewalling the demand. They resist being rendered as rules or being wholly taken under the wing of systematic methodological explication.


128 A quick, sidelong glance at concrete, well-thumbed examples fleshes out the point: Marcel Duchamp spent years devising a lingo, with rules, anti-rules and measures, mingled in with doses of quirk, chance and random intrusion for his Large Glass project (1915–21). Sometimes they appear to strive towards formulation as abstract principles of method – as ‘algebraic expression’, to use his phrase – that can be applied at large. At other moments they hunker down to one-off use – with relevance only to a particular, unique, intensive instance. There is a billowing out towards the global scope of ‘method proper’ countered by retraction to the modestly local, here and now. Duchamp damped down wider claims for his ‘methods’ by noting that they were ‘probably only applicable to individual works’ such as his own Large Glass. With the ‘Passage from Virgin to Bride’ we feel a process of becoming – emergence from brooding states of possibility – towards a kit of disposable rules of engagement that seem poised to dissolve back into a pervasive, unpredictable, ‘creative muddle’. David Hockney’s look at regimes of seeing, ‘Secret Knowledge’ (1990), is a project I count as ‘art research’ avant la lettre. He rubs up his examination of retinal-optical schemas and their underlying structural principles against his keen observations of how they are often modified and moulded by the artist’s eccentric eye or touch. We glean that the drive to render, regulate and represent perceptual experience on the back of methodological formulae is constantly amended by the artist’s handling, by his or her embodied knowledge. The examples – others may also be adduced, such as Mario Navarro, Seydou Boro, Tamar Guimaraes, Thomas Hirschhorn, Lu Zie – spotlight the suggestion that method here is less about given, handed-down procedures than about approaches that have to be thrashed out, forged again and again on the spot, ‘impromptu’, with each art practice-research effort. I am left with the thought that method is not so much readymade and received as something that has to be ‘knocked together for the nonce’ – that has to be invented each time with each endeavour. The above presents a roller coaster between the ‘poles’ of ‘universal application’ and the rule-of-thumb stump of the ‘particular’. How to portray this at the level of reflection on method? I am struck by the way Deleuze tackled it by evoking the notion of ‘any space


129 whatever’ – by exploring the unfolding flux between the ‘poles’ in all its phases and variability with examples from film. (GD. Cinema 1 & 11) In his critique, ‘any space whatever’ takes on the force of method – as the concept of ‘singularity’. A source of this notion, as we gather from Bachelard, might be the less known Ferdinand Gonseth. In the framework of a non-Aristotelian logic, he used the term for an alternative tack to the Kantian principle of the ‘universal’ – also, to bridge the gap between thinking either in a priori or a posteriori terms, in empirical or in rationalist key. (GB. The Philosophy of No. 1940) But it is Georgio Agamben’s ‘whatever’ that will have to do here as a slightly more digestible, less labyrinthine version of a methodological alternative to the ‘universal/particular’ polarity – to what can be slotted neither into the category of the ‘individual’ nor into the ‘generic’ without grievous distortion. He broaches it as ‘modal oscillation’ illustrated by the example of the human face. Its constantly changing liveliness, its vivacity, he notes, embodies a singularity that is neither an individual manifestation of a ‘general pre-existing facial template’ nor a ‘universalisation’ of the unique traits of one specific face. Perhaps not unlike an ever-morphing ripple between the extremes of ‘all faces’ and ‘just this one’? He goes on: In the line of writing the ductus of the hand passes continually from the common form of the letters to the particular marks that identify its singular presence, and no one, even using the scrupulous rigour of graphology, could ever trace the real division between these two spheres. So too in a face, human nature continually passes into existence and it is precisely this incessant emergence that constitutes its expressivity. But would it be equally plausible to say the opposite: It is from the hundred idiosyncrasies that characterize my way of writing the letter p or of pronouncing its phoneme that its common form is engendered. Common and proper, genus and individual are only the two slopes dropping down from either side of the watershed of whatever. (GA. The Coming Community. 1993 p. 19)

His sum-up may sound a trifle pat; the rugged ‘cross-ridging’ of ‘whatever singularity’ gets ironed out, compared to Deleuze. But he highlights the tricky methodological poser we cannot easily shake off – that by opting to treat art practice and research either entirely


130 under the universal or the particular – exclusively on the immanent or transcendental plane – we miss out on reckoning with its intrinsic condition, its ‘singularity’. With (2) above, we have to clock both senses of the phrase ‘Thinking Through the Visual’ to latch onto its import for method. It is not only about thinking by means of the visual, via the sticky thick of it, but also about unpacking it, taking apart its components, scouring its operations. A point that crops up at this juncture is what makes the texture of visual art thinking quite its own, its difference? What is its distinctive thrust in contrast to other disciplines at the more academic side of the spectrum – to forms of inquiry tied up with, say, mainstream anthropology, sociology, literary and communication studies or historiography? Does it spawn ‘other’ kinds of knowledge they cannot – what I’ve elsewhere called ‘xenoepistemics’? How to sound this ‘obscure surge’ without treating it as the ‘unchanging essence’ of art practice? What I am trying to finger eventuates not so much in the well-trodden terrain of the academic disciplines nor in the so-called gaps and cracks between them but in incipient, ‘whatever’ spaces – where intimations of unknown elements, thinking probes, non-knowledge are thrashed out. To mark this out from circuits of know-how, I prefer to speak of the flux of no-how – a Samuel Beckett phrase that signals a state of indeterminacy but without that shot of bleakness he normally imbues it with. (SM. An Unknown Object in Countless Dimensions: scenes of art research, 2003.)   This is not to say that visual art practices do not interact with established discursive-academic circuits and components. They do so vigorously – glossing and translating them, aping them with bouts of piss-take or subjecting them to detournement. However, this should not lull us into seeing the discursive as the only, the prime modality of ‘thinking through the visual’. Alongside runs its intensive non-discursive register, its seething para-discursive charge and capability – both its ‘pathic’ and ‘phatic’ force, its penumbra of the non-verbal, its somatic scope, its smoky atmospherics, its performative range. For method, the job at hand is to draw a vital distinction between ‘thinking through the visual’ and the somewhat crimped mode of ‘visual thinking’. By the latter, I mean approaches


131 to the visual that treat it predominantly as an ‘image-lingo’ – basing it on a linguistic model ostensibly with codes of grammar, syntax and related regularities. This gains ascendancy with areas of Conceptual Art and with the poststructuralist-semiological dispensation where ‘reading and telling’ the visual is styled as a full-blown linguistic enterprise. Its impact is restrictive: the visual is confined to verbal-discursive legibility – a linguistic turn exemplified by Lacan’s pronouncement that ‘the unconscious is structured like a language’. In this perspective, ‘talking over the visual’ – in the sense of mulling it over – literally turns into ‘talking over and above it’. Agglutinatives ‘Thinking Through the Visual’ – at odds with ‘visual thinking’ – is about what we may dub the ‘agglutinative mode’: (i) To speak of it both as ‘liquid, wordless syntax’ and as the ‘grammarless zone’ of unknown possibility sounds double-tongued. But the mode is shot through with contraries. Its principal thrust is decisively beyond the organizing, classifying spirit of grammar, beyond the sort of divisions and discontinuities associated with the way regular lingo cuts up and shapes thought and expression. Henri Bergson saw such categories – verbs, substantives, adverbs – as brittle, arbitrary functions of the intellect-analytic. It rendered the ever-changing flow of time, experience and consciousness in terms of static representations, stills and freeze shots. He likened this to the ‘cinematographical mechanisms of thought’ – to ‘cut and paste’ techniques that conjured up the illusion of movement instead of immersing us in duration, flow and change – in the ‘streamsbecoming’. Duchamp and Deleuze sought to articulate such passages of transition and transformation – precisely by a ‘turned around’ use of film stuff that Bergson had railed against (SM. Fatal Natalities 1997) In articulating the ‘streamsbecoming’, the agglutinative brings into play associative manoeuvres, juxtaposition, blend and splice, non-inflexional modes of elision and stickiness. We have a dramatic contrast by setting it off against parsing – a function that epitomizes the ‘slice and carve’ mechanism of grammar. It is about chopping up flows of information, experience and thought into combinatory bits, modules, units and packets to configure them into algorithmic sequences – into the computational mode. It stands at the oppo-


132 site end of the spectrum to the agglutinative’s ‘stick on’ processes of figuring forth, of constellating assemblages. Whether this puts it entirely ‘outside’ the ambit of grammar remains arguable. More likely we are faced with an agrammatical mode that has the capacity to oscillate rapidly between several modalities. In this sense, it is at odds with the computational constancy and equilibrium of know-how and closer to the all-over smears, surges and spasms, the unpredictable swell and dip of no-how. The Wiring Diagram: 01.10.1974 John Hoskyns spent ages perfecting his diagram of factors and protagonists in the sorry saga of the mid-seventies British economy. An arresting piece of visual thinking, it reminded Mrs Thatcher of a ‘chemical plant’. At first sight, it seems a jumble of pathways, routes and cul-de-sacs. But as we pore over the carefully plotted circuits and linkages, we become aware of the array of social forces and

John Hoskyns. The Wiring Diagram. 01.10.1974


133 institutional relations teetering on the brink. In the larger sweep of historical events, it is perhaps a miniscule, if sparking, footnote to Mrs T’s tough remedy for the ‘sick man of Europe’ – a cure that involved ‘rolling back state bureaucracy’, halting creeping socialist control, and a ‘long march’ to the free market economy. Systems theory, cause-and-effect relations, feedback loops shape Hoskyns’s visual argument. The various positions have a strict reversibility, an air of linear-causal rationale. The impression we have is of a set of relations that can be rerun with much the same result each time – or with little leeway for difference of outcome. It lends a stamp of reliability, consistency and coherence as would be expected of a considered socio-economic statement. This is at odds with how we might understand repetition in art practice and research where such degree of ‘exact repeatability’ would be looked upon not only as unlikely but undesirable, where each rerun would spawn unique and one-off variants – where repetition amounts to unpredictable generation of divergence and difference. (ii) Whether we take the Ezra Pound/Marshall McLuhan exchange on the copula of dialectical thinking pitted against agglutination (EP/McL. The Interior Landscape. 1969) or James Joyce’s sticky lingo in Finnegans Wake or Derrida’s reading of Jean Genet against Hegel (JD. Glas.1989) or Michel Foucault’s unpacking of the ‘Western episteme’ – we have probes galore looking for an escape hatch from the closures of dialectical thinking in which Hegel is usually billed as the bugbear. The point here is whether the agglutinative offers a less overbearing logical structure and is less of a ‘no-exit’ contraption than its dialectical counterpart? The complaint against the latter is that from its opening gambit, its proposition already contains the outcome – ‘foreclosing’ possibilities of engagement with radical difference. It leaves no room for the ‘other’ to put in an appearance on his or her own terms. We are presented with a thesis which already prefigures and tailors the antithesis – groomed for ‘cancellation and carry over’, for ‘Aufhebung’, onto a ‘higher’ plane. From the word go, the ‘self ’ who makes the proposition calls the tune in constructing the ‘other’ – a view of dialectical procedure that comes in for heightened criticism under post-Marxist, postcolonial eyes today. Deleuze relates the agglutinative to a loose,


Cedric Bomford. The Disputation at Lund. 15.09.2006. pen & ink drawing.


135 open-ended logical structure-in-progress. Its components are linked together by no more than a ‘lick of glue’ – threaded together with no more than the humble ‘conjunctive’ form ‘and + and + and + ...’ Elements join up in an add on ad infinitum scenario at odds with the assimilative force unleashed by dialectical relations. The sort of non-assimilative threading is not unlike a ‘list that can be added onto interminably’ that is Feyerabend’s riposte to the control freak of dialectical thinking. It is not surprising that he and Deleuze cite Kurt Schwitters’s Merz assemblages as a model of non-dialectical method seeing in his art practice a kind of Dada epistemics – a shuttle between Muddle–Method–Madness – an opening to otherness and difference that cannot be known in advance. (SM. Monkeydoodle. 1997 & Merz-thinking. 50 years of Documenta, 2006.) Method Fever In the preceding sections, I’ve looked at issues of method largely in theoretical vein. Below are notes on (i) institutional and (ii) economic factors that have a bearing on the story. (i) The Disputation at Lund. 15.09.06 The first PhDs in visual arts practice ‘under Bologna’ were assessed last year at Lund Stadshall & Konsthall by an international panel of examiners chaired by Gertrud Sandqvist and Håkan Lundström, Malmö Art Academy, Lund University. The three doctoral submissions were by Sopawan Boonimitra, Matts Leiderstam and Miya Yoshida. The event marked a substantial advance in formal visual art education. Not least, it signals the growing institutional location of visual art practice and research in the university sphere. In the UK, where these developments are further down the road, we see the emergence of a full-blown art practice-research system with a corpus of methods and procedures – identifiable, validated and testable – that is increasingly the sine qua non. The Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), the meta-review of research criteria (Roberts Report), journals, publications and conferences further attest to investments in art method as an ‘emerging arena of practice and research’ and its ‘academic legitimating’. A comprehensive mid-way reflection on these developments (History of the Human Sciences. 1999) concluded that some tendencies have proved positive and


136 fruitful, others remain causes for much concern – above all, the prospect of an administered and highly managed ‘ideology of creativity’. The plethora of ‘Departments of Creativity and Innovation’ that are sprouting up – especially at the intersection of New Media, Art, Design and Science – signal both contemporary anxieties over ‘creativity’ and new mappings of the terrain. It also heralds the phenomenon of the ‘methodologization process’ generally understood in somewhat instrumental fashion as know-how procedures and techniques. The frenzy over method is perhaps not dissimilar to the moment in the ‘onwards march of method’ in philosophy of science’ in the heyday of Popper. It provoked Feyerabend’s ‘Anti-Method’ – a call to resist ‘methodologization’ by taking heart from both an original scepticism and ‘creative muddle’ that attends scientific experiment and art practice. The call resonates with an earlier moment in the history of the English Art School when it was regarded a site of ‘unschoolablilty’ – where one stumbled over unknown possibilities, over ‘no-how’, rather than trained to become a ‘method actor’. (SM. Vienna 2001) (ii) Uddevalla, Volvo 1989–93 As the ‘conditions of creativity’ undergo change today, they have bearing of what we consider ‘work’ – how we define, labour, knowledge, creativity and art practice. Method and technique feature heavily in this shifting scenario. The Volvo factory at Uddevalla, Sweden was tailor-made for one of the most advanced experiments in work, method and creativity in terms of the post-Ford model of production. The deep distinctions in older industrial production between workforce and planners, brawn and brain, makers and thinkers came in for re-mapping at Uddevalla and its counterparts in other parts of the advanced capitalist world – coinciding with the sine qua non of information technology. Stationed in special work bays, workers were now equipped to plan and direct the whole project with emphasis on feeding new ideas into the production process – tapping into the worker’s ‘creativity and sense of imagination’. From the alienated, automaton operative we move to the knowledge-concept engineer whose store of brainwork, inventive and creative capacities becomes the linchpin of production in the drive towards ‘immaterial labour’ in the knowledge economy.


137 Duchamp had toyed with a ‘grey-matter’ art – partly to counter the somewhat lowly status of art knowledge and creativity encapsulated in the phrase ‘as stupid as a painter’. What would an intelligent-conceptual-cortical art practice look like? There is not a little irony in seeing similar ‘work and creativity’ configurations in the ‘grey-matter economy’ – a ‘corticalization of creativity’ as know-how that makes it critical to keep the door open for no-how.


138

”... and yet there is method in it.” Jonas (J) Magnusson & Cecilia Grönberg

Om tillstånd vördsamt be jag vill En enkel visa att få sjunga, Men ämnar – det må sägas till – En witz-bomb ut i rymden slunga. För visans form och tankesprång Jag mig på förhand reserverar. ”Se upp!” jag ropar än en gång, Ty projektilen nu kreverar. [”Aforism-visa”, Göteborgs-luft, Rim och reson af Aron Jonason, 1906]

Vitsen, detta explosiva sätt att fånga in betydelser. [Jean Ricardou, Pour une théorie du nouveau roman, 1971]

Om vi skall tala om metodik i vårt arbete, handlar det aldrig om rigida och applicerbara formler, utan om mer experimentellt-heuristiska, spekulativa, ”materialbestämda” och transformativa ”metoder”.   Vi arbetar nu med en bok (cirka 700 sidor) med titeln Witzbomber och foto-sken – en sprängd monografi, där vi exploaterar olika montagepraktiker i relation till ett historiskt arkivmaterial från framförallt 1700- och 1800-talen: vitsar, skämttidningar, anekdotsamlingar, ungkarlskalendrar, dagstidningskrönikor, fiktiva annonser, tidskriftsessäer, revyer, tablåer, dikter, tal, dagboksanteckningar, vitterhetsarbeten, logogryfer, charader, bouts-rimés, rebusar, tautologier, truismer, ana-samlingar, kratylismer, estetiskt produktiva felskrivningar och – inte minst – ett omfattande fotografiskt arkivmaterial från det sena 1800-talets Göteborg.   Effekterna av de ”metoder” boken arbetar med – materialinsamling/kopiering/skanning/selektion; redeskription; montage; anakronisering... – sammanstrålar i bokens centrala form och teknologi, vitsen, den explosionsmotor med vilken vi på samma gång försöker spränga den svenska litteratur- och fotografihistorien i bitar och


139 driva den ytterligare framåt genom att omkonfigurera och omformatera den...   Vi kallar boken Witz-bomber och foto-sken – en sprängd monografi dels eftersom den arbetar med en dubbel optik (vitsens respektive fotografins spräng- och lyskraft), dels eftersom den använder författaren, journalisten, vitsaren, poeten, fotografen, sällskapsmänniskan med mera Aron Jonasons multipla aktiviteter som ett prisma. Aron Jonason (f. 1838) var vid tiden för sin död 1914 en av de mest kända personerna i Sverige, men är idag sorgligt (?) bortglömd, i princip endast ihågkommen som ”Göteborgsvitsens fader”. Witz-bomber och foto-sken – en sprängd monografi flyttar in olika aspekter av Jonasons skrivande och fotograferande i en nutid (anakronisering) och låter deras ljus brytas dels mot andra estetiska praktiker från 1600-talet och framåt, dels mot en stor mängd teorier och reflektioner kring vitsar, revyer, ”snillelekar”, fotografi och montage från 1800-talet och framåt (”... det var nämligen jag som uppfann denna metod: låta det förflutna explodera i nuet, ex-plo-dera, uppvaknande, angenäm kall dusch, tre ägg och bacon...” [Olivier Cadiot]). ”Aron Jonason”, skriver C.R.A. Fredberg i Aron Jonason och Göteborgs-vitsen. Skisser och axplockningar från humorns och kvickhetens fält (1915), ”var vittbekant och – vitsbekant. För tusende sinom tusende hade han framstått som den eviga ungdomens, det glada skämtets, ordlekens och det spirituella vettets specielle representant. Och mänskorna, som älska livets solsidor, där skämtarna som bekant helst hålla till, hade i ett halvt sekel under goda löjen snappat upp de fyrverkeriartade lustigheterna och kvickheterna från den Jonasonska arsenalen i rikets andra stad” (s. 7). Och längre fram: ”De kvickheter, ordlekar och infall, som flugit över Aron Jonasons läppar, äro legio och de bästa av dem, de som föddes i hans bästa och lyckligaste stunder, ha gått land och rike omkring. [...] Det går en otalig mängd anekdoter om Aron som ordlekare och visst är att hans bästa kvickheter länge, länge komma att överleva honom. Och i sällskap, där man roar sig och berättar anekdoter, skall man alltid kunna rikligt ösa ur den Jonasonska kvickhetens friska källsprång – rikare än någonsin en Fahlcrantz’, en Svante Hedins, en Kalle Scharps” (Aron Jonason..., s. 58–59).   Vitsen, denna ofta mycket lågt värderade ”litteratur före littera-


140 turen”, har en avgörande betydelse också för de mest namnkunniga västerländska författare, från Shakespeare till Joyce och Beckett (”I begynnelsen var vitsen”, heter det i Becketts Murphy; ”En vits [quibble] är för Shakespeare”, skriver Samuel Johnson, ”vad lysande dimmor är för resenären; han följer dem hur riskfyllt det än är; de kommer utan tvivel att avleda honom bort från hans väg och dra ned honom i ett träsk. De har en ondskefull makt över hans medvetande, deras fascination är oemotståndlig. Oavsett hur värdig eller djupsinnig hans avhandling är, oavsett om han vidgar kunskapen eller prisar känslan [...], räcker det att en vits dyker upp framför honom för att han skall lämna sitt arbete oavslutat. [...] En vits, om än fattig och torftig, gav honom en sådan glädje att han kunde offra förnuft, anständighet och sanning för att nå fram till den. En vits var för honom den fatala Kleopatra för vilken han miste världen, och var nöjd med att mista den.”).   Vitsen är invention: upptäckt och uppfinning. Vitsen är kopplad till det överraskande och tillfälliga; Walter Benjamin kallar den en ”kemisk natur”, en ”infallets blixt”. Vitsen instabiliserar och dynamiserar, den uppenbarar språkets gränslösa potentialitet och plasticitet. Vitsen kontaminerar och infiltrerar, men den är också en artefakt och ett dispositiv som upprättar förbindelser, transformerar, sätter samman, amalgamerar. Vitsen är brechtiansk Verfremdungseffekt och kratylisk motivering av ett ”naturligt” eller ”nödvändigt” samband. Vitsen är kaos och kod, demontage och montage, upplösning och sammanbindning, syra och magnetisk pol. Vitsen är dubbel, dubbeltydig, som hos Jean Paul, vars ”dubbla ord” också kan läsas baklänges. Vitsen dekonstruerar binära uppdelningar och oppositioner: den är ”ja” och ”nej”, humor och allvar, accidens och substans, meningslös konvergens och meningsfull relation, ”non-sens”, det roande och oroande i att återfinna det samma i det andra. Vitsen är ett ”gångjärn”. Freud talar om vitsens ”dubbla Janusansikte”, om vitsen som en ”tvetungad skälm, som tjänar två herrar samtidigt”. Vitsen är Janus Bifrons, övergångarnas och passagernas gud, alla dörrars gud, som övervakar ingångar och utgångar, och som kan blicka både inåt och utåt, till höger och till vänster, framåt och bakåt, uppåt och nedåt. Hos Duchamp, som till sin bostad på 11 rue Larry i Paris konstruerar en dörr som är på samma gång öppen och stängd, blir vitsen en strategi som består i att undandra sig en bestämd posi-


141 tion (”Min position är en frånvaro av position”, anförtror han sig åt Arturo Schwarz). Vitsen är inte det brittiska wit eller det spanska ingenio; pun, ”ordleken” eller ”kvickheten”, karaktäriserar den inte heller på något uttömmande sätt. Vitsen överskrider – genom sin förmåga att ställa samman olika bilder och ord – alla former och definitioner, men inkorporerar dem samtidigt och smälter samman dem till en (explosiv) syntes, en momentant integrerad mångfald av discipliner och perspektiv.   ”Vitsens arbete – och arbetet kring vitsen – programmerar det vi kallar romantiken”, hävdar Jean-Luc Nancy i en essä om Jean Paul (Poétique #15, 1973). Det är förmodligen en korrekt beskrivning, för i bröderna Schlegels tidskrift Athenäum (1798–1800) blir vitsen (der Witz) en kategori av samma dignitet som (det idag mer akademiskt utnötta) fragmentet. (”[Vitsen] är [det romantiska] fragmentets filosofiska ort”, skriver Manfred Frank i Einführung in die frühromantische Ästhetik, 1989.) ”Det är ett stort misstag”, heter det i Athenäum, ”att vilja begränsa vitsen till dess bruk i samhället. Genom sin blixtrande kraft, genom sin oändliga halt och sin klassiska form, ger de bästa fynden ofta upphov till en oroande tystnad i samtalet. [...] Den verkliga vitsen är bara möjlig att föreställa sig skriven, på samma sätt som lagar; man måste bedöma dem utifrån deras tyngd, på samma sätt som Caesar omsorgsfullt vägde pärlor och ädelstenar i sina händer.”   Inom ramen för den spekulativa tyska idealismen inkarnerar vitsen försöket att fånga det Absoluta som konst eller, för att upprepa en formulering av Walter Benjamin, förstå ”systemet i konstens figur”. Samtidigt framstår vitsen som en strategi för att lösa upp stängningen i ett system och tänka en hel epok i dess etiska och politiska fragmentering. Romantikerna försöker tänka sin tids mångfald genom en febril översättningsaktivitet och genom att uppfinna nya, ofta kollektiva skrivpraktiker. Men den fantasiblixt som är vitsen har också en avgörande funktion för tanken (romantikerna definierar delvis vitsen som ett kunskapsinstrument; Friedrich Schlegel karaktäriserar ett poetiskt verk som en vältempererad vits, som en vits som stabiliserats genom ironin). Vitsen är inte en simpel utlösning som på sin höjd förädlar den talandes diskurs med en fyndighet; Friedrich Schlegel förklarar den rentav vara ”den universella filosofins princip och organ”, ständig rörlighet, en ”elektrisk


142 stil”, ”kemisk ande”, ”absolut genialitet”, en ekivok förskjutning: explosionsmotorn hos en avsaknad av system som satts i system. Vitsen blir här den metod genom vilken poesin ”bearbetar” prosan för att integrera den: ”det handlar om att transformera prosans instrumentella, logiska organisering till en autonom och godtycklig organisering. Vitsen transformerar ’tankearbetet’ (Gedankenarbeit) till ’tankelek’ (Gedankenspiel): den logiska organiseringen ersätts av fantasins organisering, deduktionen ersätts av sammanförandet av heterogena element. / Men vitsen är inte bara kombinatorisk [...]: ’Vitsen är skapande, den fabricerar likheter’ [Novalis]” (Jean-Marie Schaeffer, La Naissance de la littérature, 1983).   Det vitsarbete som vi huvudsakligen undersöker i Witz-bomber och foto-sken – en sprängd monografi befinner sig dock i de flesta fall på ett ganska stort avstånd från det den romantiska vitsens idealistiska högspänningsfält. Den Jonasonska vitsen är ofta en ljudvits, släkt med den tyska Kalauer och den franska calembour. Vi närmar oss detta ”plattare”, mer bokstavliga och materiella vitsområde genom en kartläggning och analys av vitsar (och ansatser till formaliseringar av dem i termer av ”Faralwitzar”, ”Göteborgsvitsar”, ”Moderna Göteborgsvitsar”, ”Grammatikaliskt verbala vitsar”, ”Tigervitsar”, ”Ljudvitsar”, ”Stockholmsvitsar”, ”Malmövitsar”, ”Norrköpingsvitsar”...) i svenska skämttidningar från 1850-talet och framåt, liksom genom passager igenom dels de få svenska teoretiskt orienterade texter som skrivits om vitsar, dels ett maximalt antal av de många internationella texter som berör ämnet sedan 1700-talet och framåt. Vi skall här bara antyda några få av de teoretiska och historiska knutpunkterna på detta omfattande område, som mer generellt kan kopplas till ”språklekarnas” än mer svåröverskådliga fält.   Hos Georg Lichtenberg, som är långt mer befryndad med engelsk humor och saklighet än med den tyska idealismen, blir vitsen ändå en filosofisk metod i högsta potens. ”Vitsen är upptäckaren och förståndet iakttagaren”, skriver han i en av de 9000 anteckningar som utgör de elva ”Sudelbücher” han för mellan 1765 och 1799. Och i en annan: ”Om en vitsig tanke skall vara frapperande måste likheten inte bara vara uppenbar, det är det minsta, även om det också är oundgängligt nödvändigt, utan den får inte heller ha uppfattats av andra; och ändå måste allt som hör dit ligga var och en så nära att han förvånar sig att han inte kommit på det tidigare.


143 Det är huvudsaken. Han man redan fördunklat iakttagelsen, såväl den egentliga som den man jämför med, men aldrig tänkt ut detta klart, når nöjet den allra högsta nivån. Människorna ser dagligen en mängd saker som de skulle kunna upphöja till regel, men det blir inte så; de för inte in det i boken och det är den som är den verkliga fyndgruvan för vitsar.”   Intresset för vitsen och ironin inom ramen för ett ”kunskapsteoretiskt” tänkande har Lichtenberg gemensamt med romantikens filosofer, men en viktig skillnad är, som Peter Handberg påpekat, att han i vitsen eller ironin knappast svär någon trohet mot ett absolut; även detta är en variabel i spelet: ”Blixtsnabbt kastas ljus över språkets tvetydighet med hjälp av vitsens favoritform, metaforen [...] en emblemartad förtätning som inte suddar ut detta kunskapsproblematiska fakta i språket utan tvärtom förtydligar den ofrånkomliga klyftan. [...] I lichtenbergsk tappning må språket rent filosofiskt vara en fördröjningens och förvrängningens källa, samtidigt utgör dess grundstenar – orden – material, ja rent av incitament för själva blixten, för dess styrka och nedslagsplats. / Vitsen är således en filosofisk metod. Den är både upptäckare och problemmarkör. Upptäckare därför att den genom språket uppdagar nya sammanhang; problemmarkör genom att påvisa språkets relativitet mellan enskilt/ allmänt” (Lichtenberg, Kladdböcker, 1999, s. 223–224).   Goethe menade, att ”där [Lichtenberg] skämtar ligger ett problem dolt”, och i Vitsen och dess förhållande till det omedvetna (Der Witz une seine Beziehung zum Unbewussten, 1905), där Sigmund Freud menar att han ger ett första exempel på hur det psykoanalytiska tänkandet kan tillämpas på estetiska teman, blir Lichtenbergs vitsiga anteckningar avgörande stödpunkter för teoribildningen. Ett exempel: ”Ord är ett plastiskt material som man kan företa sig åtskilligt med. Det finns ord som i vissa sammanhang förlorat sin ursprungliga fulla betydelse, som de fortfarande har i andra sammanhang. En vits av Lichtenberg tar just upp förhållanden, där de förbleknade orden måste återfå sin fulla betydelse. / ’Hur går det?’ frågade den blinde den lame. ’Som ni ser’, svarade den lame den blinde” (Vitsen..., översättning Eva Backelin, 1995, s. 41).   ”Den som någon gång haft tillfälle att ta reda på vilka upplysningar den estetiska och psykologiska litteraturen kan ge om vitsens väsen och relationer till andra företeelser måste nog tillstå”, skriver Freud


144 inledningsvis, ”att vitsen inte på långt när ägnats de filosofiska ansträngningar, som dess roll i vårt andliga liv gör den förtjänt av. Man kan bara nämna ett fåtal tänkare som mer ingående sysselsatt sig med vitsens problem. Visserligen befinner sig bland dem som behandlat vitsen briljanta personer som diktaren Jean Paul (Fr Richter) [’Frihet ger vits och vits ger frihet’; ’Vitsen är bara en lek med idéer’; ’Vitsen är den förklädde prästen, som sammanviger varje par’] och filosoferna Th Vischer [som supplerar Jean Pauls sats: ’Han viger helst samman par, vilkas förbindelse de anhöriga inte kan tåla’], Kuno Fischer [’[det lekfulla] omdömet som alstrar den komiska kontrasten är vitsen’, Über den Witz, 1889] och Th Lipps [vitsen som ’den alltigenom subjektiva komiken’, Komik und Humor, 1898]; men också hos dessa författare står vitsens tema i bakgrunden, medan undersökningens huvudintresse riktas mot komikens mer omfattande och lockande problem” (Vitsen..., s. 19).   Om Freud kort riktar läsarens uppmärksamhet mot dessa ansatser till reflektion över vitsen, är det bara för att desto starkare kunna avgränsa sig från dem som simpla brottstycken, medan han själv som den förste skulle tillhandahålla en vitsens helhetsteori: ”De av författarna angivna och tidigare sammanställda kriterierna och egenskaperna hos vitsen – aktiviteten, relationen till innehållet i vårt tänkande, karaktären av lekfullt omdöme, sammanparningen av olikheter, föreställningskontrasten, ’meningen i nonsens’, de på varandra följande momenten av överraskning och uppklarnande, framtagandet av det fördolda och den speciella kortheten i vitsen – förefaller oss visserligen vid första anblicken som så oerhört träffande och så lätta att belägga med exempel att vi inte behöver befara att underskatta värdet i sådana insikter. Men det rör sig om disjecta membra, som vi skulle vilja se sammanfogade till ett organiskt helt” (Vitsen..., s. 24).   Freud gör en tämligen fullständig inventering av olika former av kvickheter (vitsar, bonmots, ordlekar, tankelekar...), ledsagad av en analytisk kommentar av de verbala och retoriska tekniker som svarar mot dem. Till de viktigaste av dessa tekniker hör ”förtätning”, ”användning av samma material” och ”dubbeltydighet”, och de tillåter Freud att koncipiera all form av ludisk aktivitet utifrån ett schema som han nått fram till under sin forskning kring drömmarna. Det är detta sammanförande mellan drömarbetet och vad


145 Freud kallar vitsarbetet som utgör det originella i hans teori. Den grundläggande överensstämmelsen handlar om de delade mekanismer som drömmen och vitsen exploaterar för att defigurera en omedveten tanke och kringgå det kritiska förnuftets censur (förtätning och förskjutning). Samtidigt noterar Freud avgörande skillnader: han uppfattar drömmen som en helt asocial produkt, medan vitsen skulle vara den mest sociala av själslivets manifestationer och sträva efter ”lustvinst”: ”Allt som strävar mot lustvinning är hos vitsen beräknat med hänsyn till den tredje personen, som om oövervinnerliga inre hinder stod i vägen för en sådan hos den första personen. Den tredje personen ger på så sätt intryck av att vara fullständigt oumbärlig för fullbordandet av vitsförloppet” (Vitsen..., s. 146).   Freuds teori om lust är ekonomisk. Vitsen eller kvickheten rör sig där på genvägar, genom kortslutningar, mot det som den säger; vitsen ”frigör” betydelser som utan den skulle ha frigjorts först till priset av en anmärkningsvärd intellektuell ansträngning. Det är detta kortande av det psykiska avståndet som Freud menar är upprinnelsen till lusten. I den polygon av krafter som är den psykiska apparaten blir lusten resultanten av denna vitsens transversella karaktär som, genom att bana sig en diagonal igenom olika lager i denna psykiska apparat, på ett billigare, inbesparande, sätt når sitt mål, och ger ett slags energetiskt mervärde.   Denna libidinala ekonomi är grundad på en föreställning om omedvetna innehåll (affekter och representationer), på ett bortträngande och en produktion av det bortträngda, på en kalkylerad investering som reglerar denna produktion för att uppnå jämvikt (en upplösning av anspänning), på kopplingar och urkopplingar av energier – det är i termer av krafter och energikvanta som lusten uppstår och utsägs. I den Freudska vitsen eller drömmen är, som Jean Baudrillard formulerar det i ”Le Witz, ou le phantasme de l’économique chez Freud” (L’échange symbolique et la mort, 1976), signifikanternas spel aldrig i sig en artikulering av lusten: ”det röjer bara vägar för fantasmatiska eller bortträngda innehåll” (s. 324). Men kanske måste man i motsättning till denna ekonomiska teori, invänder han, anta att den lust som vitsen ger upphov till inte är en potentialitet som vunnits genom ett ”kortande av ett psykiskt avstånd”, och inte heller genom ”primärprocessens” inbrytande i


146 diskursen som en ”mening under meningen”, utan tvärtom genom en ”reversering av meningen”, ett ”upphävande av meningens rationalitet”, en ”kortslutningseffekt (Kurzschluss), en sammanskjutningseffekt mellan skilda fält (fonem, ord, roller, institutioner) som dittills bara hade en mening i egenskap av åtskilda, och som förlorar sin mening i detta brutala sammanförande som gör att de utväxlas? Är det inte detta som är vitsen, lusteffekten” (L’échange..., s. 330).   Vitsen skulle då vara den operation genom vilken det moraliska imperativet hos både ordens och subjektets identitetsprincip upphävs, och detta då inte för att uttrycka det ”omedvetna”, utan för ”ingenting” – en radikalt ”poetisk kvickhet” (som i Lichtenbergs vits om en kniv utan blad, där stålet saknas): ”en oändlighet av mening, en potentialitet av obegränsad substitution, ett vansinnigt och blixtsnabbt förslösande, ögonblicklig kortslutning av alla meddelanden, men för evigt osignerade. Meningen får inget grepp: den förblir i ett tillstånd av cirkulation, centrifugalitet, ’revolution’ – som föremål i ett symboliskt utbyte: eftersom de ständigt ges och återgäldas faller de aldrig under värdets instans” (L’échange..., s. 332).   Freud talar ständigt om vitsens ”teknik”, som han på så vis skiljer från primärprocessen. Men även om han noterar att vitsens själva teknik kan vara en lustkälla, att vitsen försvinner med teknikens upphävande, underordnar han till sist ändå alla dessa tekniker en enda kategori: förtätningen, kompressionen, besparingen, det vill säga frågan om ekonomi; överallt hänvisas allt det som skulle kunna uppstå ur vitsens själva operation till en ”ursprunglig källa”, som vitsen bara skulle vara ett tekniskt medium för. Men ”all tolkning av vitsen och det poetiska i termer av ’frigörande’ av fantasmer eller psykisk energi är falsk. [...] Lusten infinner sig tvärtom därför att varje (manifest eller latent) meningsreferens (manifest eller latent) har utplånats” (L’échange..., s. 334). ”Om vitsen med nödvändighet skrivs in i ett symboliskt utbyte, beror det på att den är kopplad till ett symboliskt (och inte ekonomiskt) modus för lusten. Om denna skulle vara ett resultat av en ’psykisk inbesparing’ förstår man inte varför inte alla skulle skratta själva, eller först, då all denna psykiska energi har ’frigjorts’. Det måste alltså finnas någonting annat än de omedvetna ekonomiska mekanismerna, och som framtvingar en ömsesidighet. Denna andra sak är just det symboliska upphävandet


147 av värdet. Det är eftersom termerna utväxlas symboliskt, det vill säga reverseras och upphävs i själva sin operation, som det poetiska och vitsen upprättar en social relation av samma typ. Endast de subjekt som på samma sätt som orden har berövats sin identitet får tillgång till skrattets och lustens sociala ömsesidighet” (L’échange..., s. 336). Den vitsteknik hos Freud som framförallt aktualiseras i relation till Aron Jonason ”Göteborgsvits” är, som vi tidigare nämnde, Kalauer eller calembour, den ”ljudvits” som ofta avfärdats som den mest ”värdelösa” av alla vitsar (men som därmed också, detta är en teoretisk utmaning i Witz-bomber och foto-sken..., spekulativt skulle kunna rekonceptualiseras som desto mer ”radikal”): ”Vi har i själva verket ännu inte tänkt på en stor, kanske den största gruppen av vitsar, och då måhända påverkats av den ringaktning, som kommit dessa vitsar till del. Det är de som brukar kallas Kalauervitsar (calembours) och gäller för ordvitsens lägsta avart, troligen därför att de är ’billigast’ och minst ansträngande att åstadkomma. Och de ställer verkligen de minsta anspråken på uttryckstekniken, liksom den egentliga ordleken ställer de högsta. Medan i den senare de båda betydelserna skall uttryckas i det identiska och därför mestadels bara en gång givna ordet, så räcker det i kalauern att de två orden för de båda betydelserna erinrar om varandra genom något slags likhet som dock inte kan ignoreras, det må vara en allmän likhet i strukturen, någon rimaktig ljudlikhet, några gemensamma begynnelsebokstäver eller dylikt” (Vitsen..., s. 50–51).   CRA Fredberg kommenterar två av Jonasons mest bekanta ”Göteborgsvitsar” (som synes baserade på homofoni, på ljudlikhet mellan två semantiskt skilda ord): Ett litet florilegium, eller en axplockning, om man så vill, av den bortgångne skämtarens roligheter må [...] tillåtas. Utan det bleve teckningen av Aron Jonason tämligen ofullständig. En av hans allra bästa ordlekar är otvivelaktigt denna: – Vem har rest Stenbocksstatyn i Hälsingborg? – Stenbockens vännkrets, förstås. Men själv har han betecknat följande infall som ett av sina bästa: Aron stod tidigt en söndagsmorgon jämte en vän på Södra Hamngatan i Göteborg, vid hörnet mellan Haglunds hotell och Göta Käl-


148 lare, då en annan god vän, en populär restauratör, kom sättande ut genom hotellets port – till häst.   Ovan vid ekvestriska övningar och närsynt till på köpet som restauratören var, tillät han sin gångare att helt sonika trava upp på trottoaren. Genast var Aron färdig med infallet: Förblindade värd, Vart rasar din Pferd? Olof von Dalins Tankar om försynen börjar, som bekant, så: Förblindade värld, Vart rasar din färd? Kvickheten har senare förlagts till Stockholm, till Strandvägen, men som man ser är dess ursprungsort Göteborg. [Aron Jonason..., s. 59–60]

Den klassifikatoriska driften i relation till vitsen får måhända sin apoteos hos Freud, men ett par anmärkningsvärda ”återfall” kan noteras ännu under nittonhundratalets andra hälft: till exempel J. Browns ”Eight Types of Pun” (PMLA #71, 1956), L. G. Hellers ”Towards a General Typology of the Pun” (Language and Style, #7, 1974), Pierre Guirauds långtgående lingvistiska taxonomi i Les Jeux de mots (1976), Lionel Duisits inventering av vitsens retoriska funktioner i Satire, parodie, calembour. Esquisse d’une théorie des modes dévalués (1978)... De mest passionerande teoretiseringarna eller läsningarna under det sena 1900-talet och tidiga 2000-talet av vitsens estetiska potentialer är annars de mer äventyrliga, vetenskapligt osäkrade undersökningar som erbjuds i Laure Hesbois lingvistiskpsykoanalytiska Les Jeux de langage (1986), Sarah Kofmans feministisk-dekonstruktivistiska Pourquoi rit-on? Freud et le mot d’esprit (1986), Walter Redferns witty-arkiviska Puns. More Senses than One (1984; 2000), Jonathan Cullers (red.) dekonstruktivistiska On Puns (1988), Christophe Viarts (red.) konstfilosofiska Le Witz. Figures de l’esprit et formes de l’art (2002)...   Gregory Ulmer talar i Cullers antologi On Puns om vad han kallar ”The Puncept in Grammatology”, en metod eller princip inspirerad av Joyces och Derridas ”systematiska utforskning av de effekter av


149 slump-nödvändighet som homofonins eller homonymins händelse ger upphov till” (s. 188). Ulmer går så långt som att mobilisera Thomas Kuhns begrepp ”paradigmskifte” för att karaktärisera en ny lag som skulle inbegripa inte en konceptuell kognition, utan ”a punceptual cognition”. Vitsen eller homofonin, skriver han, får en ny status med avseende på ”en ny sensibilitet, som inte längre är anpassad efter förväntningar på orsak och verkan [...], utan efter lust och överraskning, genom att homofonin representerar ’den minsta motiveringens övergång’, den som alltså genererar mest ’information’” (On Puns, s. 172). Ulmer refererar här också till Umberto Eco, som hävdar vitsens epistemologiska betydelse genom att identifiera den som den grundläggande, atomiska figuren i Joyces Finnegans Wake, denna ”kollejdoskopiska” (kalejdoskopiska kollisioner...) vitspoetik, denna ”väldiga vits” (Eco) där varje ord blir en definition av det totala projektet, där varje detalj blir en diskurs om Finnegans Wake, som i språket vill realisera formen av en ny värld med multipla relationer. Vitsen [pun], skriver Eco, utgör en framtvingad närhet mellan två eller flera ord [...]. Det är en närhet som skapas genom ömsesidiga utelämningar och vars resultat är en dubbeltydig deformation; men också i form av fragment finns det ord som relaterar till varandra. Denna framtvingade närhet frigör en rad möjliga läsningar – och därmed tolkningar – som leder till att termerna accepteras som metaforiska vehiklar för olika betydelser eller riktningar. [...] I teorin kan vi skilja mellan två typer av vitsar [...]: närhet mellan lika signifikanter [...], närhet mellan lika signifikat. [...] De två typerna refererar till varandra, liksom närheten tycks referera till den inrättande likheten och vice versa. / Men i själva verket består vitsens kraft (och kraften i varje framgångsrik och uppfinningsrik metafor) i det faktum att ingen innan denna vits hade greppat likheten. [...] Likheten blir nödvändig först efter att man har insett närheten. I praktiken (och Finnegans Wake är i sig ett bevis på detta) är det tillräckligt att finna ett sätt att göra de två termerna fonetiskt näraliggande för att likheten skall infinna sig [...]. Utforskandet av Finnegans Wake som en komprimerad modell för hela det semantiska fältet är på samma gång upplysande och gäckande. Det är upplysande eftersom ingenting bättre än en läsning av Finnegans Wake kan visa oss, att också när ett semantiskt släktskap tycks föregå tvånget att samexistera i vitsen, kräver den likhet som förutsattes vara spontan i realiteten ett nätverk av underliggande närheter [Eco betraktar alltså


150 vitsen som en specifik form av metafor grundad på underliggande metonymiska kedjor]. Det är gäckande eftersom det är svårt, då allting redan är givet i texten, att upptäcka ett ”före” och ett ”efter”. [Umberto Eco, Le forme del contenuto, 1971, s. 102–103]

Men den främsta utgångspunkten för Ulmers reflektioner kring och förhoppningar på ”the puncept” är den Derrida som, i strid med Aristoteles inflytelserika doktrin om att språket ännu inte skulle existera i nonsens, bygger en alternativ onomastik på just det som Aristoteles fördömer och utesluter från metaforen, den homonymi som skulle dubblera och därför hota filosofin. I Ulmers läsning antyder Derrida ett helt nytt filosofiskt system utifrån homonymer och homofonier, tekniker som skulle kunna tillämpas både för att underminera gamla begrepp och skapa nya (pseudo-)begrepp: ”Derrida får sina idéer från en systematisk utforskning av vitsar, använda som inventio för att antyda icke-dialektiska ingångspunkter för dekonstruktion av filosofem. Hans mest kända version av denna strategi inbegriper egennamnens deflation till artnamn (antonomasia), som i Glas, där Genets texter diskuteras utifrån blomstertermer (retorikens blommor), med början i genêt (ginstblomma). Blanchot, Hegel, Kant och Ponge har alla utsatts för samma behandling, som Derrida beskriver som en undersökning av signaturens effekter” (On Puns, s. 182). Sprickor och svaga punkter i filosofins yta, och i de tankesystem som bygger på begrepp, skulle alltså kunna detekteras när ”namn-begreppens” homofonier får ljuda genom systemet, och därmed exponera korsningar mellan slump och nödvändighet. Ulmers namn för de ”meningsavvikelser”, de ”semantiska hägringar” eller det ”flimmer” av ”förvridna etymologier” som på så vis uppstår mellan två överlappande men inte helt matchande system eller gitter, är ”moira”, en vitsens moiré-effekt, incitamentet till en ny teori kring mimesis och en ny teori för namngivning som inte är avhängig begriplighet eller en föregående kunskap: ”’The puncept’, förstår vi nu, är inte alls ett samlande av egenskaper, som i begreppet, utan ett splittrande, ett utspridande, ett tärningskast. Mot idéns form bryter moira en linje som formar tanken” (s. 188). Också Culler talar i sin inledande essä i On Puns, men i mindre epokalt-dramatiserande ordalag, om relationen mellan vitsens och


151 begreppets formande av en kunskapsordning, om hur vitsar både kan stimulera till kritisk och narrativ aktivitet och fungera som kunskapsinstrument: När man reflekterar över hur vitsar på ett karaktäristiskt sätt demonstrerar en bestämd betydelses tillämpbarhet i två olika kontexter, med tämligen skilda betydelser, kan man se hur vitsar både frammanar tidigare formuleringar, med de betydelser dessa har utvecklat, och demonstrerar deras instabilitet, betydelsens föränderlighet, produktionen av betydelse genom språklig motivering. Vitsar presenterar en modell för språket som fonem eller bokstäver som kombineras på olika sätt för att frammana tidigare betydelser och producera meningseffekter – med en vidd, oförutsägbarhet, ja excessivitet, som inte kan annat än bryta upp den modell som uppfattar språket som en nomenklatur. [...] Var och en som närmare studerar beklagandet och förhånandet av vitsar kommer att bli överraskad över att upptäcka att vitsar opererar i de centrala, formativa strukturerna för de stora begreppsliga systemen. [...] Användningen av etymologier för att generera eller utsträcka reflexionen har en lång men inte helt igenom respektabel historia. Vitsar fungerar på samma sätt – de är levande exempel på ett lateralt tänkande som exploaterar det faktum att språket har egna idéer. Ett tänkande som upphäver de välkända distinktionerna mellan det slumpmässiga eller lättsinniga (accidentella språkliga kopplingar) och det seriösa eller väsentliga (väsentliga begreppsliga kopplingar) har, vågar man nog hävda, en chans till produktivitet som andra procedurer saknar. Man kunde därför vara benägen att svara på fonemets lockrop genom att arbeta för ett vitsande tänkande, om det inte var för en misstanke att också alla andra typer av tänkande fungerar på samma sätt, att de omedvetet styrs genom vitsande kopplingar, genom verbala reläer. [On Puns, s. 14–15]

Till dessa sentida arbeten lägger vi sedan bland annat John Kjederqvists När ord bli roliga. Språket och skämtlynnet (1933), André Jolles Einfache Formen. Legende, Sage, Mythe, Rätsel, Spruch, Kasus, Memorabile, Märchen, Witz (1930), Gabriel Mareschal de Bièvres Le Marquis de Bièvre. Sa vie, ses calembours, ses comédies 1747–1789 (1910), Gustaf Cederschiölds Om ordlekar och andra uppsatser i språkliga och historiska ämnen (1910), F. Paulhans ”Psychologie du calembour” (Revue des Deux Mondes #42, 1897), signaturen Magisterns ”Hur man är


152 qvick” (Glunten #8, 1883), Alfred Canels Recherches sur les jeux d’esprit, les singularités et les bizarreries littéraires, principalement en France (1867), Le Livre des jeux d’esprit, énigmes, charades, logogriphes, recueillis et mis en ordre, avec une introduction, par Félix Mouttet (1852), Hilaire le Gais [Pierre-Alexandre Gratet-Duplessis] Un million d’énigmes, charades et logogriphes, suivi d’un choix des plus jolies énigmes Italiennes, Espagnols, Anglaises et Allemands (1850), Ludovic Lalannes Curiosités littéraires (1845; 1857; 1858), Choix d’énigmes, charades et logogriphes depuis leur origine jusqu’à ce jour, dédié par une société de gens de lettres (1828), G. P. Philomnestes [Gabriel Peignot], Amusements philologiques, ou variétés en tous genres (1808; 1824; 1842), Auguste Couvrays Calembours et jeux de mots des hommes illustres anciens et modernes. Précédés d’un éloge historique (1806), Albéric Devilles Bièvriana (1800), Des Calembours comme s’il en pleuvait (1800), Marquis de Bièvres Lettre écrite à Mme la comtesse Tation par le sieur de Bois-Flotté, étudiant en droit-fil, ouvrage traduit de l’anglais (1770)...   Som denna lista kan antyda, är anakroniseringen en viktig metod för Witz-bomber och foto-sken, och det begreppet får sin mest operativa teoretisering hos Georges Didi-Huberman, som i sin tur delvis kopplar det till Aby Warburgs begrepp Nachleben, den ”lämning”, det ”kvarlevande”, som inte bara handlar om det förflutna, utan som tvärtom är ett nytt sätt att bortom de konstnärliga produktionernas aktualitet se deras element av inaktualitet, där flera temporaliteter är i spel på ett anakronistiskt sätt; ett omedvetet minne som desorienterar relationerna mellan ett före och ett efter.   Anakronismen är ”synden framför alla andra synder”, en lika stor förbrytelse för den som skriver historia som att filosofera (vilket både Didi-Huberman och Warburg insisterar på att göra), har en traditionell historiker som Lucien Febvre hävdat. Men anakronismen är mindre ett brott mot historievetenskapens ambition att förstå det förflutna än ett brott mot tanken att man står inför synliga, läsbara objekt som utan motstånd låter sig ordnas i stilperioder, orsakssammanhang och linjer för influenser. Det är en missuppfattning att anakronismen skulle motsätta sig tiden; vad den motsätter sig är tanken om en kronologi. Anakronismen möjliggör en iscensättning av historien utifrån dess brottpunkter och slitningar. Anakronismen säger: varje singularitet är en komplexitet i arbete; upprinnelsen är inte det som har skett för att aldrig mer inträffa,


153 utan det som, när man minst väntar det, genom sin anakronistiska kraft griper in i det ordinära och skapar omkastningar; bilden eller dokumentet är aldrig någonting enkelt, utan alltid någonting som har ett komplext förhållande till tiden; bilden är ett avstånd i en successiv tid, fyllt med objekt som gör det till en tidslig hybriditet; bilden är ett orosmoment som inbegriper den ”desorienterade historiens tidslighet” (Didi-Huberman).   ”Är inte vår svårighet att orientera oss”, frågar Didi-Huberman i Penser par les images. Autour des travaux de Georges Didi-Huberman. Textes réunis par Laurent Zimmermann (2006), ”avhängig det faktum att en enda bild omedelbart är förmögen att förena [så mycket] och att den måste förstås växelvis som ett dokument och som ett drömföremål, som ett verk eller monument och som ett övergångsobjekt, som icke-vetande och som ett föremål för vetenskap?” (s. 14). Bilden är på samma gång symptom (avbrott i vetandet) och kunskap (avbrott i kaos). En ”väl betraktad” bild är med andra ord en bild som förmått desorientera och sedan förnya vårt språk, och alltså vårt tänkande.   Walter Benjamin kräver samma sak av konstnären som han kräver av historikern: ”Konsten är att borsta verkligheten mothårs”. Didi-Hubermans ”mot-historia” arbetar på ett liknande sätt, motströms i förhållande till ett (alltför välkammat) historieberättande. Den anakronistiska ”metodiken” lägger stor vikt vid föremål som hamnat utanför Historien eller i dess marginaler: anonyma fotografier, okända konstnärer och författare, dokument, ”misslyckad” konst och litteratur, experiment och lekar, skisser och anteckningar, icke-verk. Den är arkivisk i den bemärkelsen att den på nytt tar upp och omorganiserar ett mycket omfattande historiskt och teoretiskt material, icke-specifikt och oavslutat – ett öppet arkiv av olikartade texter och bilder: ”Att försöka sig på en arkeologi, det är alltid att ta risken att placera bitar av kvarlevande/resterande saker bredvid varandra som med nödvändighet är heterogena och anakronistiska eftersom de kommer från olika platser och tider åtskilda av lakuner. Namnen på denna risk är föreställningsförmåga och montage” (Penser par les images... , s. 25).   Om montaget är ett av de grundläggande svaren på frågan om konstruktionen av historicitet, beror det på att det inte är orienterat på något enkelt sätt, utan ”undkommer alla teleologier, synliggör


154 lämningarna, anakronismerna, mötena mellan kontradiktoriska temporaliteter som påverkar varje objekt, varje händelse, varje person, varje gest. Historikern avstår då ifrån att berätta ’en historia’, men lyckas genom detta visa att historien inte är möjlig utan tidens alla komplexiteter, arkeologins alla strata” (s. 27).   Montaget är den litterära metoden och det epistemologiska centrumet i Benjamins Passagearbete, men det är också det som gör det förflutna möjligt att tänka i Warburgs Mnemosyne Atlas, detta ständigt omarrangerade konstkartografiska planschverk (med ett tusental monterade fotografier) ”som för konsthistorikern är vad projektet Le Livre var för poeten Mallarmé” (Didi-Huberman). Mnemosyne Atlas är på sätt och vis ett ”avantgardeobjekt”, men inte i den bemärkelsen att det skapar brott med det förflutna (som det tvärtom oavbrutet fördjupar sig i), utan för att det skapar brott med ett visst sätt att tänka på. Warburgs ”lärda vansinne” (DidiHuberman) består i att placera (den formella och antropologiska) historieanalysen på nivån för de överbestämningar som nätverket av lämningar, av omedvetna minnen, framtvingar. Hur skall man fysiskt – genom ett bibliotek, en uppsättning kortregister, en samling av fotografier, en atlas – konstituera ett bildernas omedvetna arkiv? Det möjliga svaret är, som Didi-Huberman understryker, oändligt, för Warburg öppnar mer än han producerar; han skapar nya problem. Även om man kunde tala om en Warburgsk metod, som arbetar med urklipp, skärningar, inkopplingar och förgreningar, är det viktiga inte att tillämpa denna i forskarens efterföljd, utan att peka på platsen för dess heuristiska och filosofiska fruktbarhet. Warburg är en ”plattform”, ett ”arbetsbord” för nya former av kunskap, ett ”montagebord” som kan visa på en annan tid hos historien, en anakronismens avvikande mångfald.   Montaget är enligt Benjamin inte ett stilistiskt privilegium eller en exklusiv metod för moderniteten. Generellt uppfattat handlar det om på ett filosofiskt sätt montera ihop historien på nytt, oavsett om det handlar om att ”gå tillbaka” mot ett ursprung (som i fallet med den 1925 framlagda och underkända avhandling om det tyska barockdramat, Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels) eller om att ”remontera” det samtida (som i Enkelriktad gata). Ett ”filosofiskt” sätt: ett annat sätt att här benämna det ”dialektiska”. För dialektik och montage är omöjliga att skilja från varandra i denna dekonstruktion


155 av historicismen. Dialektiken, hävdar Benjamin, är ett ”vittne till ursprunget” i den bemärkelsen att varje historisk händelse som betraktas bortom den enkla kronologin måste studeras ”i en dubbel optik [...], å ena sidan som ett återupprättande, ett återskapande, å andra sidan som någonting som just genom detta blir ofullbordat, ständigt öppet”; ett sätt att demontera varje moment i historien genom att, bortom ”konstaterade fakta”, närma sig det som ”rör deras för- och efterhistoria” (Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels).   Men denna dubbla rörelse ger upphov till intervaller och diskontinuiteter, så att den historiska kunskapen blir ett veritabelt tidsmontage, ”en form som arbetar med avlägsna extremer” eller moment vars hemliga släktskap, vars ”potentiella banor”, ännu inte har uppmärksammats. Den historiska kunskapen är alltså bara möjlig genom ett ”re-montage” av element som tidigare har skiljts från sina vanliga platser; om den filosofiska kunskapen är filosofisk, är det bara i den mån som den, bortom berättelser och flöden, förmår visa upp ”heterokronierna” eller ”anakronierna” (Didi-Huberman) hos de element som formar varje moment i historien.   Montage och anakroni karaktäriserar Benjamins filosofiska gest i dess helhet, menar Didi-Huberman (”Remontée, remontage (du temps)”, L’étincelle #3 2007). Det finns inget skäl att ställa en ”modernistisk” Benjamin, som praktiserar montage i sina texter som Raoul Haussman gjorde det i sina bilder, mot en ”bakåtsträvande” Benjamin, som letar efter ursprung och kvarlevanden i barockdramat på samma sätt som Aby Warburg gjorde i renässansmåleriet. Det finns ”ingen möjlig framtid utan en rekonfigurering av det förflutna”, varför ”det mest ’avantgardistiska’ elementet alltid följs av den anakronism som består i dess hopfogande med någonting i stil med en ’arkeologi’” (s. 24).   Även om Benjamin inte ensidigt uppskattade Ernst Blochs teser i Erbschaft dieser Zeit, kan man konstatera en allmän konvergens mellan deras perspektiv på relationerna mellan montage och anakronism. Också Bloch avstår från det historiska värdets teleologier. Det finns varken ”förfall” eller ”framsteg” i historien: det finns bara heterokronier eller anakronismer i processer med många riktningar och hastigheter. ”Det Nya uppstår på särskilt komplexa vägar”, skriver Bloch. Denna komplexitet kallar han ”icke-samtidighet”, ett


156 annat namn för ”anakronism”. Vad Bloch försöker göra är att formulera de teoretiska konturerna av en bild som skulle ha som uppgift att tolka nuet, att fånga dess motsägelsefulla rörelser, och detta för att ställa historiens olika tendenser mot alla stora totala berättelser som på ett strikt sätt skulle programmera dess riktning. För Bloch förblir erfarenheten av nuet ett öppet system, där en historisk totalitet söker sig själv utan att bestämma sina vägar på förhand. Denna ontologi för ett bräckligt, ännu obestämt nu är baserad på bilder som skall visa upp nuet som någonting som ”spricker upp, blir en erfarenhet som sliter sönder sig själv och skapar kalejdoskop”. Och dessa ”bräckliga” bilder produceras genom collagets och montagets praktiker, genom dessa ”avbrottsmetod[er] som gör det möjligt att samla delar som förut var mycket avlägsna”, som spränger nuet i ett kalejdoskop av bilder som är ”dialektik i stillestånd”. Montaget spränger kronologin, skär igenom saker som vanligen är samlade och binder samman saker som vanligen är åtskilda. Efter dessa stötar, dessa explosioner, återstår bara rester och fragment, men sådana som i sig själva är explosiva, ett lättrörligt material för historiska rörelser och kommande revolutioner. Ett av de tio kapitlen i Witz-bomber och foto-sken... är uteslutande fotografiskt. Materialet till denna fotografiska essä (176 sidor) utgörs av fotografier från den kommersiella studio, Ateljé Jonason, som Aron Jonason ägde mellan 1865 och 1912. Efter ett kortare och föga framgångsrikt försök att etablera sig som porträttfotograf vid 1860talets mitt, öppnar Jonason 1879 en ny fotografisk ateljé, som kommer att bli en av de mest framstående (och långlivade) i Sverige. Jonason delar sin tid mellan arbetet som journalist på GöteborgsPosten (från 1896 på Morgon-Posten) och arbetet som fotograf, och med tanke på att han samtidigt producerar en ymnigare tillfällighetsdiktning än någon annan under denna tid i Sverige, skriver revyer, redigerar tidskrifter samt levererar vitsar i stadens och huvudstadens alla sällskap vid så gott som samtliga högtidliga och något mindre högtidliga tillfällen, verkar det inte troligt att han skulle ha varit involverad i den dagliga verksamheten i någon större utsträckning. Han anställer flera fotografer som operatörer och föreståndare för ateljén, och det finns ingen möjlighet att säga vilka fotografier som är gjorda av ”Jonason själv”: de är resultatet av ett kollektivt arbete


157 (signerat Ateljé Jonason) av de olika fotograferna, kopisterna och retuschörerna i den fotografiska inrättningen.   Det är dock Jonason som upprätthåller ateljéns ”kreativa och tekniska” utveckling. Han är mån om att ateljén skall hålla sig ajour med porträttfotografins olika modefronter; han lanserar nya kopieringsmetoder och nya färger på monteringskartongerna; han korresponderar med fotografiska inrättningar och fabrikanter av fotografiska material i Tyskland och England, och reser regelbundet, främst till Tyskland, för att besöka olika ateljéer. Han skriver ofta i Fotografisk Tidskrift och introducerar nya material, tekniker och riktningar.   En stor mängd bilder – från porträtt, cartes de visite, dokumentationer av industrier och affärsinrättningar och topografiska bilder av Göteborg till konstreproduktioner, album från hundutställningar, skådespelarporträtt, dokumentationer av tableaux vivants etcetera – finns bevarade på olika institutioner i Göteborg. Trots detta omfattande bevarade material har mycket litet skrivits om Jonason. I den svenska fotografihistorien presenteras han kortfattat som en ”proto-fotojournalist”– en praktik som exemplifieras genom formellt och tekniskt exakta dokumentationer av historiska händelser i Göteborg. Han omtalas också som Oscar IIs hovfotograf. Detta senare arbete innebär också ett redaktionellt ansvar för de så kallade Drottalbumen, som han tillsammans med de olika skeppsläkarna är fotograf till, och som dokumenterar Oscar IIs sommarvistelser på Marstrand under åren 1887–1907.   En stor del av de nämnda topografiska bilderna finns i Göteborgs stadsmuseums arkiv. 1898 anlitas Ateljé Jonason för att fotografiskt dokumentera staden för museets räkning. Projektet handlar inte om att dokumentera delar av en stad som är på väg att försvinna; tvärtom fungerar bilderna här som dokument över konstruktionen av Göteborg som en modern stad; de visar nya institutioner för kommunikation (telefoni), infrastruktur (gator och alléer, ett nytt elektricitetsverk), sjukhus, kyrkor, bibliotek, saluhallar etcetera (och dessutom skilda gatuscener och stadsvyer). 1902 ger Carl Lagerberg, intendent för museets historiska avdelningar och den som beställt fotografierna, ut boken Göteborg i äldre och nyare tid, där Jonasons fotografier (men utan att denne uppges som fotograf ) utgör den allra största delen.


158 Jonasons stadsdokumentationer är huvudsakligen katalogiserade i arkivet enligt deras funktion som dokument över en viss topografisk plats, och de är utspridda i en mängd olika kapslar (katalogiserade efter gatuadress), varför det inte finns något annat sätt att lokalisera materialet än genom att manuellt arbeta sig igenom större delen av arkivet. De Jonasonska porträtten, sedan, är utspridda i olika privata album, och utöver detta finns slutligen en samling negativ som är okatalogiserad.   För att kunna extrahera former för väljande i och redigering av detta arkivmaterial har vi studerat olika modeller för visuell historieskrivning, visuella språk och visuellt minne. Å ena sidan visuell historieskrivning och den fotografiska essän – en kinematografisk narrativ form som kan följas från Walker Evans till Michael Lesy (till exempel i Lesys bok Wisconsin Death Trip, 1973, eller, närmare vårt eget projekt, Real Life, 1976); å den andra sidan visuell historieskrivning och upptagenhet vid formen, där det första exemplet är Laszlo Moholy-Nagys insisterande på nya former för visuella språk och frågan om form/information (i en bok som Malerei, Fotografie, Film, 1925), och där det andra exemplet är Aby Warburgs konception av kulturellt minne i Mnemosyne Atlas. Å ena sidan ett system som befinner sig inom en fotografisk genre, å andra sidan ett system som fokuserar frågor relaterade till medieteori. Dessa två till synes mycket divergerande linjer kan sedan föras samman genom frågan om fotografins digitalisering och lagring i digitala arkiv, vilken gör det möjligt att söka och hämta fram fotografier genom visuella frågor – vad Harun Farocki och Wolfgang Ernst har kallat ”Warburgparadigmet”. (Möjligheten att söka i digitala bildarkiv med frågor baserade på visuell information istället för textbaserad metadata aktualiseras genom applikationer som QBIC [Query By Image Content], och ett exempel på ett estetiskt arbete som fungerar som ett slags analog QBIC-sökning är Farockis kompilationsfilm Arbetare lämnar fabriken från 1995, som är en motivisk läsning av det arkiv som filmhistorien konstituerar.)   Om verktygen för bildproduktion förändras, och om arkiven (lagring och sökbarhet) förändras, transformeras också det sätt på vilket bilder uppfattas (bearbetas, läses, återfinns, kompileras). Det är alltså dessa former vi försöker urskilja eller synliggöra, och vars estetiska potentialer vi vill utforska, och för att kunna definiera


159 några av ”effekterna” hos de montagepraktiker som Witz-bomber och foto-sken... aktualiserar, exploaterar vi en serie begrepp från medieteori och mjukvaruterminologi.   1994 introducerar Photoshop 3.0 lager – den mest betydande funktion som presenterats under mjukvarans utvecklingshistoria, också i jämförelse med de sofistikerade versioner som släpps idag. Lagerfunktionen gör det möjligt att lägga olika bildelement över varandra utan att behöva smälta samman de olika delarna i montaget i ett enda bakgrundslager, varför bilden kan hållas öppen för senare omarbetningar. Genom att kombinera denna lagerfunktion med transparensmasker, eller vad som idag kallas lagermasker, masker som fungerar som gråskalebilder, kan man sedan bestämma vilka delar av bildsegmentet som skall vara synliga.   1996 introducerar Photoshop 4.0 samma lagerfunktion i vad som kallas justeringslager, men nu för de verktyg som bland annat bestämmer färg, kontrast och mättnad i bilden: de algoritmiska operationer som verkar på den pixelbaserade bilden. Justeringslager opererar med lagermasker på ett liknande sätt som de pixelbaserade lagren gör. Både de pixelbaserade lagren och justeringslagren är tillgängliga för en uppsättning av olika blandningslägen som kontrollerar effekten av ett lager i förhållande till det underliggande. Det rör sig alltså om en mjukvara som inte längre upprätthåller de analoga förbindelserna mellan kontrast och mättnad, mellan komplementfärger, utan mjukvaran möjliggör en partiell exponering av effekterna på bakgrundslagret, beroende på vilken lagermask och vilket blandningsläge som används.   Enligt Lev Manovich är ett kännetecken hos nya medier modularitet. Ett exempel på detta är databaser och mjukvara som förenar olika medieelement i databasen till en ny medieartefakt (ett konstverk eller en film). På produktionens nivå behålls de olika mediesegmenten som urskiljbara element som förenas av mjukvaran, och de är också tillgängliga för sammansättningar i olika konstellationer om en ny uppsättning algoritmiska operationer appliceras på dem. Ett annat kännetecken är montagets mjukhet; digitala medier skulle implicera ett ”mjukare montage” än de analoga avantgardemontagen med deras distinkta kanter, vilka gör gränsen mellan olika mediesegment tydlig. Detta är en mjukvarans ”sömlöshet”.   Manovich placerar alltså analoga montage, som tydligt redo-


160 visar sina skarvar, i ett motsatsförhållande till digitala montage, där de olika nivåerna skulle smälta samman i ett slags mjukt associationsbaserat evigt presens. Detta aktualiserar frågan om montagens kritiska potential. För en filosofisk kulturkritiker som Adorno, som ställer en verklighetsreproducerande och bekräftande film mot en kritisk, är det som krävs för att blockera bildens/filmens instrumentella och syntetiserande karaktär just det mått av negativitet som redigeringen eller montaget kan introducera. Analyserna av montage och collage i Ästhetische Theorie har en paradoxal status, på samma gång marginell och central. Genom den kris som montaget/collaget utlöser mellan verkets Helhet och dess delar, genom sin balansering mellan materialens heteronomi och formens autonomi, och genom sin kritik av den traditionella representationen, kan det, som Olivier Quintyn formulerar det i Dispositifs/Dislocations (2007), framstå som en konvergenspunkt för Adornos konceptualiseringar, som ett slags aktiv teoretisk matris för en spekulativ läsning av det moderna konstverkets status, av dess bräckliga ”existensberättigande”. Montaget/collaget kristalliserar på ett skarpt sätt konstens problem i en masskulturens och den tekniska triumfens tidsålder; det blir en måttstock för modernitetens möjligheter och aporier. Verket besitter en oppositionell kraft i förhållande till världens ideologiska realitet, men dess samhällskritiska räckvidd underordnas ett negativitetens arbete i dess egna semiotiska processer; det handlar om en estetisk form som genom sin egen bokstavlighet upphäver eller negerar världens ”naturliga bilder”. Betraktad från den horisont som skulle utgöras av de digitala montagens (”anti-montagens”) sömlösa yta och kontinuerliga temporalitet, tenderar kanske denna form av dekonstruktion att framstå som en operation som tillhör historien. Men även om det av pedagogiska skäl kan vara lockande att teckna tydliga demarkationslinjer mellan analoga hårda montage som syftar till att föra in avstånd och digitala mjuka montage som syntetiserar och utjämnar skillnader, är det både estetiskt improduktivt och historiskt felaktigt att uteslutande koppla de analoga montagens brottytor, kanter och övergångar till tanken om en hård ruptur, vars effekter endast skulle vara kopplade till didaktik. ”Mjukheten” är inte nödvändigtvis bara en mjukvarans mjukhet.   Ett exempel är Alexander Kluges montagepraktiker, som ger oss element till en experimentell optisk konstruktion med vars hjälp vi


161 kan extrahera ett antal figurer genom vilka vi sedan kan närma oss och ge relief åt ett (sekvenserat) stillbildsmontage i kodexform, det vill säga den typ av montage som Witz-bomber och foto-sken... arbetar med. Lager, samtidighet, omkonfigurering, förbindelser i z-led... alla dessa faktorer är aspekter av denna optik, som är lika delar ”kalejdoskop” (omkonfigurering av ett existerade material i en mekanisk/ optisk apparat) och ”photoshoplager” (en form som kan samla en mängd olikartade material och som förblir öppen för nya effekter beroende på vilka operationer som appliceras på materialet).   På samma sätt som Kluges böcker är hans filmer (en cinéma impur, ofta på samma gång dokumentärfilmer och spelfilmer) avhängiga avbrott, mellanrum, luckor. ”Det avgörande är varken det dokumentära eller det autentiska, utan ofullständigheterna (Man måste läsa/läsa med luckorna)”, menar Helmut Heissenbüttel i en essä om ”skriftställaren Kluges metod” i Text + kritiks Kluge-nummer (#85–86, 1985), medan Stuart Liebman i Octobers Kluge-nummer (#46, 1988) karaktäriserar författarens filmer som ”ett montage [...] av bilder som approprierats från andra filmer (eller målningar, nyhetsfotografier och så vidare), ledsagat av en distinkt berättarröst [...] till toner från ett stycke bortglömd populärmusik eller fragment ur en opera [...]. Denna väv av bilder och ljud producerar en mängd möjliga betydelser, men slutsatsen förblir svårfångad; den är snarare kopplad till erfarenhet än förståelse. Betydelser sprider sig och strålar ut mot andra sekvenser, och [...] ger i lika hög grad upphov till förvirring eller osäkerhet som till upplysning.”   Hos Kluge handlar det om att bearbeta filmens material, dess percept, genom olika montagepraktiker för att skapa koncept. Genom att filmen gör det möjligt att i samma medium organisera text, tal, bilder, dokument, musik osv. erbjuds en multiplex organisationsmetod för materiella förbindelser. Filmen förmår inte bara placera rörelser hos tal och bilder i ett motsatsförhållande, utan kan också ”skapa en annan rörelse i betraktarens medvetande (som inte är materialiserad i filmen), en rörelse som dessutom kan stå i motsättning till filmens rörelse, och så vidare” (Kluge, ”Die Utopie Film”, Merkur #201, 1964). Mellan denna konstruktionsprincip hos filmaren Kluge och den hos författaren Kluge finns påtagliga kopplingar (jfr. Rainer Lewandowski, Alexander Kluge. Autorenbücher, 1980). Men om det mångfasetterade litterära montaget möjliggör en långsam aktivitet,


162 där läsarens fantasi aktiveras i spänningsfältet mellan abstraktion och konkretion i dennes egen hastighet eller rytm, där brotten och sprången i berättelsen suppleras genom den egna erfarenheten, försvåras detta i filmen. Dels eftersom betraktaren i biografsalongen inte kan koordinera den egna hastigheten med filmens konstanta hastighet; dels eftersom filmens större konkretion och mindre grad av begreppslig öppenhet (i förhållande till litteraturen) skulle göra det svårare för betraktaren att kristallisera (ankristallisieren) sin fantasi och erfarenhet i den. Kluges lösning på dilemmat är ett försök att omfunktionera filmen, att få den att ”gripa in i verkligheten” (Eingriffe in die Wirklichkeit) och ”skapa brott i förhållande till den konkreta informationen” (Brechung der an sich konkreten Information zu erreichen).   Hur kan då den optiska informationens konkreta karaktär brytas upp? Kluges svar är: genom en närmast fysisk, plastisk bearbetning, ett ”knådande” av det synliga materialet, ett (åter)upprättande av enskildheter genom en fasettartad uppsplittring. Betraktarens erfarenhet måste splittras för att kunna tränga in i de små luckorna eller klippen i det alltför konkreta eller åskådliga. Montaget måste på samma gång upprätta avstånd och (nya) förbindelser mellan olika material. Det är därför logiskt att Kluges främsta verktyg snarare är klippbordet än kameran. Det är vid klippbordet som materialet bearbetas och öppnas upp så att betraktarens föreställningsförmåga kan aktiveras. ”Film realiseras i betraktarens huvud, inte på filmduken. På duken kan den till exempel vara porös, tunn, skör; då blir betraktaren aktiv, då kan denne gripa in med sin fantasi” (Kluge i Ulrich Gregors Herzog/Kluge/Straub, 1976).   Phantasie är ett återkommande begrepp i Kluges receptionsteori. Men det rör sig mindre om fantasi i psykoanalysens bemärkelse, än om någonting som är besläktat med föreställningsförmåga: betraktarens förmåga att upprätta (meningsbärande) förbindelser mellan skilda element och fenomen. Den ”chock” som montaget ger upphov till skulle alltså vara den kraft som är nödvändig för att bryta igenom betraktarens ”sensoriska barriär” och aktivera dennes fantasi/föreställningsförmåga. Men om ”chocken” också kan uppfattas som en kollision mellan motsatta utsagor, utsagor som skapar brottytor i ett ”hårt” eller mer mekaniskt montage, eller som en aktiv operation i didaktiska montage, låter sig kanske de effekter


163 Kluge vill ge upphov till bättre förstås genom den form han kallar ”kristallgitter”. Den Klugeska montageteorins grundläggande ambition är att skapa aktiva betraktare/läsare, och vad som krävs för att mobilisera den energi som gör denna insats från betraktaren möjlig, skulle vara en operation som fokuserar eller samlar den. Författarens eller filmarens uppgift blir då inte att producera stileffekter, utan att ur den kaotiska mångfalden av samhälleliga fenomen välja bilder som kan fungera som kristallgitter. Kring dessa kristallgitter eller begreppsliga brännpunkter kan sedan hela sammanhang utkristallisera sig.   Hos Kluge skulle man, liksom hos Benjamin (och Didi-Huberman efter honom), kunna tala om en ”arkeologisk” eller ”anakronistisk” impuls, i den utsträckning som hans mjuka men ändå friktionsfyllda montage (Riebung, den friktion som förmår spränga fram betydelser som fixerats genom ett instrumentellt förnuft, är en av Kluges favoritmetaforer) inbegriper olika tidsskikt eller tidslinjer: en överlagring av en mängd olika medier och material. (Kluge urskiljer själv två skilda metoder för arbetet med detta redan existerande material [hämtat från opera och schlagers, nyhetsbilder och historiska illustrationer...]: ”[...] att dominera respektive respektera materialet. Det första innebär att använda material för att realisera intentioner. Det motsatta förhållningssättet skulle vara att acceptera autonomin hos detta, levande, material” [October #46, s. 57].) Arbetar med ett redan befintligt material gör också Harun Farocki, men där Kluge ställer frågan om nya former för nationell historieskrivning, reflekterar Farocki över samhällets aktuella betingelser genom dess mediala och teknologiska situation, genom att upprepa makrostrukturer på en mikronivå. Inte desto mindre finns det intressanta konceptuella och metodologiska förbindelser mellan dem. Thomas Elsaesser urskiljer två olika montageformer i Farockis filmer: ”Den ena är ett slags metakommentar, som likt ett mantra genomkorsar i synnerhet de tidiga filmerna, och som upprepar nödvändigheten av att ’separera och föra samman’. Den andra formen av montage är inbegripen i tankens rörelse, som dess dynamik, och om den verbaliseras sker det endast i form av ett klipp, i ett mellanrum [...]. Där filmteoretiker talar om segmentering diskuterar Farocki [...] svårigheten att tänka saker och ting tillsammans på en viss nivå samtidigt som man på en annan nivå gör distinktioner och håller


164 saker och ting separerade. Endast när dessa två nivåer förs samman uppstår förutsättningar för kunskap: metaforens retorik möter filmmontagets teknik när nya förbindelser kan upprättats efter att någonting först har tagits isär” (Elsaesser (red.), Harun Farocki. Working on the Sight-Lines, 2004, s. 19–20).   Hos Farocki är de mjuka montagen en effekt av en viss presentationsteknologi: ett arbete med dubbla skärmar (ett montage som också är en möjlig sinnebild för bokformens uppslag). I en installation med dubbla skärmar där två bilder existerar sida vid sida, blir, menar Elsaesser, installationen i sig ett slags metaformaskin, som måste bromsas, synkroniseras genom röst, ljud och en ny syntax för att också kunna producera metonymiska förbindelser (och, i förlängningen av detta, ett argument eller en upplevelse av framåtrörelse). Det handlar då om ett ingripande i de mellanrum som kan generera meningsbärande syntaktiska förbindelser mellan bilder. Om film och installationskonst illustrerar principer som potentiellt är i konflikt med varandra – sekvens respektive samtidighet, ”en sak efter en annan” respektive ”två saker på samma gång” – approprierar Farockis film samtidigt installationskonsten möjligheter att (som arkitektonisk-filosofiska objekt) förtäta betydelser och tid, att ”hantera problemet med att hålla tankens rörelse flytande, också när två bildspår löper sida vid sida” (Harun Farocki..., s. 23).   Farockis arbete har alltid bestått i att sönderdela och dela upp (ofta ideologiskt bestämda) tankeenheter som framstår som självtillräckliga, oavhängiga, visa fram dem som splittrade och kontradiktoriska. Parallellt har han kopplat samman saker som inte uppenbart hör samman, men som när de väl uppfattas som förbundna kan ge upphov till reflektion. Metaforer (vars formella grund kan vara ett ”åter-uppfinnande” av den tidiga filmens tablåbilder, eller ett uppfinnande av olika former av bildkompositioner inom andra bilder) och montage blir både rumsliga och poetologiska handlingar, ett skapande av ”förbindelser mellan ekvivalenser” som en metod för att uppnå ett simultant multi-dimensionellt tänkande. Farocki förbinder själv denna praktik (den simultana presentationen av bilder och texter som då snarare blir dubbeltydiga och tankeframkallande än beskrivande) med arbetet att redigera elektroniska bilder: ”På den högra sidan finns den redigerade bilden, på den vänstra sidan den bild som skall läggas till. Den högra bilden yrkar på någonting, men


165 den kritiseras samtidigt genom den vänstra bilden, ibland blir den till och med utdömd av den. Detta fick mig att börja experimentera med verk med dubbla projektioner [...]. Det rör sig om ett ’mjukt’ montage. En bild tar inte den föregående bildens plats, utan utgör ett supplement till den, omvärderar den, balanserar den” (Harun Farocki..., s. 302). Vilka är då kopplingarna mellan dessa former av montagearbete och arbetet kring vitsens historiska former och begrepp i Witz-bomber och foto-sken...? Även om begreppen ”collage” och ”montage” implicerar något skilda logiska operationer, är deras spekulativa innebörder eller konceptuella värden desamma, och de ger upphov till en ”betydande epistemologisk subversion” (Olivier Quintyn). Collaget/montaget är ett symboliskt handlingsmodus, ett dispositiv, som dramatiserar och visar upp inkommensurabiliteten mellan de olika verkligheter som konstitueras av de symboliska objekt som fångas i dess anordning: Bakom omedelbarheten hos den sammanstötning som de formella mötena i ett fotomontage ger upphov till, finns djupet hos ett historiskt och socialt fält som varje stickprov iscensätter på nytt på ett singulärt sätt beroende på dess härkomst och slutliga disposition.   Collaget skulle alltså vara en tumultartad semiotisk yta, men en yta vars tjocklek utökas genom en mängd bakgrunder, för genom sitt ursprung och sin natur implicerar varje fragment ett annorlunda sätt att representera och projicera en värld. Det är ett slags ”ikonisk utfällning”, en kritisk extension av världen i ett litet monument som drar samman den, som viker ihop åtskilda tider och rymder. Det är en allomfattande och alltemporal form, ett dispositiv som konkretiserar konstens och bildens omöjliga stängning kring sig själva. Det erbjuder ett sätt att kritiskt visa upp världens pluralitet i en organiserad kollision som inte utesluter något material eller någon källa: det kan potentiellt implicera alla sidor av det verkliga, alla dess åtskilda versioner, alla aspekter av det förflutna och det samtida minnet, på samma sätt som dess obegränsade bibliotek av texter, bilder och objekt. Collagets yta skulle på så vis vara ett slags anamorfos där världen blir världar – plurala, heterogena, inkommensurabla – men där denna anamorfos [...] ger upphov till kognitiva omvärderingar av samexi-


166 stensen av multipla produktionsteknologier för olika och konkurrerande versioner av det verkliga. [Dispositifs/Dislocations, s. 94]

Liksom collaget och montaget kan vitsen betraktas som en princip eller ett dispositiv (dispositiv i bemärkelsen av en uppsättning av element som utgör en maskinisk anordning, en maskinell apparatur som koncipierats för en viss effekt eller process, och som artikulerar objektens funktioner i relation till varandra, i relation till en eller flera finaliteter) som gör det möjligt att behandla extremt disparata frågor och material. Collaget/montaget och vitsen utgör båda en sammanstötningens estetik; liksom vitsen skapar montaget betydelseeffekter genom att upprätta oväntade förbindelser, genom att sammanföra heterogena element.   I Montage und Collage (2000) citerar Hanno Möbius Jean Pauls tidigare nämnda definition av vitsen som ”den förklädde prästen, som sammanviger varje par” (verkleidete(n) Priester, des jedes Paar kopuliert), och Th Vischers utvidgning/precisering av den (”Han viger helst samman par, vilkas förbindelse de anhöriga inte kan tåla” [diejenigen Paare am liebsten traut, bei denen die Verwandtschaft am meisten dagagen ist]), och menar att just denna mycket allmänna bestämning av vitsen som en operation där två element från skilda meningssammanhang förbinds med varandra och på ett överraskande sätt skapar nya förbindelser också omfattar montaget (som han närmast tycks vilja betrakta vitsen som ett slags underavdelning till). Men där montaget oftast opererar i ett område som är färgat av ”allvar”, låter sig vitsen bara i en del fall förstås i sin äldre, gammaltyska, bemärkelse: som klokhet och vetskap, i förening med list. Och ”medan den till skratt lockande vitsen framför allt arbetar med anspelningar, mobiliserar montaget flera referensmöjligheter, varav anspelningen är en. [...] Överraskningseffekten som en [...] gemensam faktor kräver i båda fallen en viss mottagare. / Uppvärderingen av mottagaren sker på bekostnad av författaren. Vad beträffar vitsen, är det nämligen nästan utan betydelse och så gott som omöjligt att identifiera dess första upphovsman; det blir viktigare vem som framför den. [...] På samma sätt som vitsen är större än sin författare, är montaget större än den som monterar. Montagets arbetsdelning framhäver materialets disponibilitet; vem som var dess upphovsman är i regel


167 sekundärt. Vitsen och montaget opererar genom kontext-växling [Kontextwechsel, ett begrepp Möbius lånar från Wolfgang Preisendanz Über den Witz (1970)] eller mångtydighet, och låter sig därför inte återföras till en ’skapande’ författare” (Montage und Collage, s. 88).   Collaget/montaget och vitsen delar alltså ett tankemodus baserat på sammankopplingar och isärkopplingar av de element som de sätter i spel. Vad beträffar visuella montage kan detta ske genom att former dubbleras eller häftar i varandra, och ett sådant intresse för visuell form kan man till exempel återfinna just i Farockis arbete: ”Jag får uppfattningen att för dig är ord nära besläktade med artefakter. Att betrakta dem gör dem [...] avlägsna, men också, på något sätt, haptiska eller taktila. [...] en bild kan vara ett begrepp – här närmar vi oss ändå Eisenstein [som hävdade att ’vitsar är kollisionsmontage eller montage genom juxtaposition’] – samtidigt som den kan vara en kliché mättad med kulturell betydelse, och på detta sätt fungera som en ’svängdörr’ mellan olika associationer, idéer och till och med historier. / Du verkar till exempel vara uppmärksam på vitsar [puns], och på de sätt på vilka dessa kan sammanföra två skilda nivåer eller områden” (Elsaesser i Harun Farocki..., s. 181).   Man kunde givetvis invända att detta sätt att sammanföra vits och montage i sig är en form av vits eller montage, snarare än någonting reellt motiverat. Men denna initiala sammankoppling är på samma gång spekulativ och strategisk, och Witz-bomber och foto-sken... som helhet är möjlig att också läsa som en ständig problematisering eller nyansering av denna spekulativa konstruktion. Och om det litterära montaget i boken inte alltid avhåller sig från att exploatera vitsens mer humoristiska effekter eller energier, är det fotografiska montaget mer nyktert-arkiviskt. Det rör sig mindre om förbindelser mellan den fotografiska blixtens fyrverkeri och vitsens espri, än om en analogi till ordlekens mer stratifierade former, liksom (punktvis) till ljudvitsens ”genvägar” och upprättande av oväntade förbindelser mellan homofona element med olika semantisk laddning. Bildmontaget i Witz-bomber och foto-sken... är inte ett mjukt montage i en sömlös digital bemärkelse (som i animationens transformationer, i morfningar av bilder eller de osynliga kanterna mellan olika mediesegment i ett photoshopmontage), utan konstitueras genom fläckvisa och temporala korrespondenser eller förbindelser: beroende på formen hos lagermasken, blandningsläget


168 hos justeringslagren, lyser en annan filtrering igenom och framhäver olika aspekter av kompilationen. Även om de element som konstituerar montaget kan separeras igen (vi betraktar de enskilda fotografierna som moduler), förs de samman på en semantisk nivå i mjuka montage. Montaget är också mjukt i den bemärkelsen att det fungerar som ett verktyg för att etablera förbindelser eller passager och öppnar för ett flertal simultana läsmöjligheter; att det inte (likt ”avantgardemontaget” i dess klassiska definition) vill skapa en chock eller ruptur, utan snarare upprätta ett rum eller område i övergångarna. Ville man använda en metafor härledd från en historisk analog teknologi grundad i det artonhundratal vi studerar (en mjuk ”chock of the old”...), kunde man ofta tala om en stereoskopisk blick; en blick som möjliggör två separerade och ändå samtidiga perspektiv på samma motiv. Vi har talat om vitsar, film och fotografi, men ett sådant dubbelseende måste förstås också, till syvende och sist, kopplas till själva bokformens fysiska dispositiv, till uppslagen med dess dubbla sidor och vecket däremellan. Som Stéphane Mallarmé skriver, i en famös anteckning från slutet av 1800-talet om det ofullbordade projektet Le Livre: ”Vikningen är ett närmast religiöst tecken i förhållande till det stora tryckta arket: som inte är lika anslående som dess sammanpressande till en täthet som, förvisso, visar fram själens mycket lilla grav.” Med ”det stora tryckta arket” syftar Mallarmé på dagstidningens form, som han, tillsammans med tavlans form, differentierar från bokens. Till skillnad från de förra skulle den senare aldrig vara helt uppvisad för blicken; när en bok är stängd, ihopslagen, måste den öppnas för att kunna läsas, för att kunna ”utvidgas”, ”vecklas ut”. Eller som bokkonstnären Telfer Stokes skriver hundra år senare, i ett mindre andligt, mera materiellt register: ”[En bok] har ett omslag, ett innehåll, vänstersidor och högersidor, en följd av sidor, varje sida en framsida och en baksida.” Eller Steve McCaffery och bpNichol, i ett närmast ”maskinellt” register: ”Med maskin menar vi bokens förmåga att lagra information, och den metod enligt vilken den gör det [...]. Bokens mekanism aktiveras när läsaren tar upp boken, öppnar pärmarna och börjar läsa i den. Genom hela sin historia har boken haft en relativt stabil form som bara har varierat i storlek, färg, form och pappersstruktur. I sin mest uppenbara form organ-


169 iserar boken innehåll enligt tre modeller: radens horisontella flöde, radernas vertikala eller stapelformade uppbyggnad på boksidan och, för det tredje, en linjär rörelse som organiseras genom djupverkan (sidornas sekventiella ordning)” (”The Book As Machine”, Rational Geomancy, 1992).   En kodexbunden bok opererar alltså med ett spänningsförhållande mellan uppslagets (statiska) karaktär och sekvenseringens (kinematografiska) potential. Ett historiskt exempel på en bok som bygger på uppslagens dramaturgi är Laszlo Moholy-Nagys tidigare nämnda Malarei, Fotografie, Film, som ofta använder de dubbla sidorna för att skapa montage mellan dem, och där akten att vända sida ofta fungerar som ett avbrott inför mötet med nya former av bildsammanställningar på det följande uppslaget. Uppslaget fungerar då som två skärmar vars energi ibland kan framstå som närmast ”stroboskopisk”. Ett emblematiskt exempel på en bok som oavbrutet betonar sekvensens kinematografiska potential är Michael Snows Cover to Cover (1975), där det efterföljande uppslaget är helt avhängigt bilden på det föregående, och av skillnaden i rörelse, i tid, i aktivitet mellan bilderna på sidorna.   ”Det finns ett antal viktiga kritiska spänningsfält i bokens struktur”, skriver Johanna Drucker i The Century of Artists’ Books (1995). ”Ett av dessa är det mellan den fixerade ordningsföljden hos kodexformen i en materiell bemärkelse och den expansiva, icke-linjära, rumsliga karaktären hos läsandet och betraktandet” (s. 359). Bokens fysiska slut, linjära form och bestämda ordning befinner sig alltid i ett motsats- eller spänningsförhållande till de associationer som produceras av bokens struktur: ”Den känsla av gräns som en kant, bindning och rygg ger motverkas av den gränslösa rymden hos sidan, öppnandet av boken, förmågan att dra läsaren inåt i en ändlöst expanderande erfarenhet av sensationer och associationer” (s. 359).   Marginaler, innermarginaler, bindning, veck, papper – allt detta måste tänkas när en bok produceras. Om dessa funktioner i konventionella böcker ofta betraktas som någonting som skall underlätta läsningen, snarare än att skapa mening, fokuseras och betonas de som bekant ofta i artists’ books, där de blir platser där betydelser konstrueras. Marginalerna karaktäriseras av Drucker som ”uppenbara platser för intrång och infiltration, ett spel med gränsen mellan bok och [om]värld, illusion och verklighet. Men de inre margi-


170 nalerna är platsen där den öppna sidan försvinner in i bindningen. De är bokens omedvetna – ett mörkt område av undertryckt aktivitet som tränger in på bokens öppna delar och undergräver dess autonomi” (s. 169).   De vita marginaler som är ett av de strukturerande elementen i Witz-bomber och foto-sken... vill påminna om fotografins plats i boken, och ger den enskilda bilden ett visst mått av oberoende genom att avgränsa den (låta den behålla sin egen ram) samtidigt som den ram som skapas av det otryckta papperet påminner om bokens materialitet. Marginalen är också den vita ram som sparas ut på fotopapperet vid kopieringen, den yta som ibland skärs bort när kopieringsprocessen är slutförd, men som andra gånger behålls för att göra det möjligt att fysiskt hantera artefakten utan att beröra själva bildytan.   Att betrakta boksidan utifrån bildmässiga traditioner snarare är utifrån (konventionella) litterära, att fokusera de sätt på vilka sidan fungerar som bildplan, är en strategi för att ”medvetandegöra” boken som en visuell plats. Det finns också anledning att med Drucker påminna om att en bok potentiellt opererar utifrån flera separata temporaliteter. Det kan, som sagt, till exempel handla om ett spänningsförhållande mellan kontinuitet och diskontinuitet, genom det avbrott som uppstår när sidan vänds och läsaren möts av ett nytt uppslag, ett nytt montage, som kanske eller kanske inte är kopplat till det föregående uppslaget. ”I varje bok måste ett beslut fattas om att antingen betona, ignorera eller övervinna det faktum att bokens öppna ytor är åtskilda enheter, separata mellanrum, skilda från varandra och ändå samtidigt del av en kontinuerlig helhet” (s. 176). Witz-bomber och foto-sken... arbetar med uppslag med (repetitiva) samlingar av bilder utifrån formmässig likhet; det handlar om sammanställningar utifrån fotografiernas tonalitet; inzoomningar eller utzoomningar i en viss gatuvy (ett grepp som anspelar på tekniken i en bok av Ed Ruscha, Dutch Details, 1971, där förflyttningen i stadsrummet dokumenteras genom fotografier på olika avstånd till motivet). En annan form för temporal förflyttning återfinns i en kort serie bilder fotograferade från samma plats, men under olika årstider (synliggjorda genom ett lövträds årstidscykel). Boken kunde beskrivas som en växling mellan denna ”modulbaserade” form av


171 montage och ett ”sekvensbaserat” montage, som är delvis avhängigt en viss form av ”efterbilder”, ett form-minne från ett uppslag till ett annat. Effekterna hos denna senare och mer kinematografiska montagepraktik kunde tentativt beskrivas genom termerna: detalj, bild, sekvens, system.   Detalj. När en stol i ett fotografi som visar utbildningen av unga flickor i en slöjdskola återkommer några sidor senare i en dokumentation av en fabrik, med unga kvinnliga arbetare som tillverkar elektriska kablar, och när en lärarinna i den första bilden dubbleras av en manlig förman i den andra, ger dessa formella överensstämmelserna upphov till fläckvisa intensiteter, förbindande punkter, formella eller semantiska, konstruerade, mellan två skilda institutioner: skolan och fabriken.   Bild. Dubbleringar: den formella strukturen hos bilden i början av en sekvens som visar det Göteborgska ungkarlshotellet ”Labor” speglas i den avslutande bilden i samma sekvens, från kontoret hos firman Werner & Carlström. Dessa två bilder håller samman/inramar en sekvens av fotografier från offentliga bibliotek, gruppbilder från hushållsskolor och konfirmationer – en glidande förflyttning som visar uppkomsten av nya klasser och processer för socialisering.   Sekvens. Vissa bilder fungerar likt en ”adapter” som möjliggör en övergång mellan två olika system eller former. Dessa bilder infogas i montaget som dubbelriktade bilder (i förhållande till pagineringens kronologi). Ett exempel: en del av boken visar den vid tiden nyligen (som ett rekreationsområde för de arbetande klasserna) skapade Slottsskogen, där den mjukt böljande betongkanten på säldammen i ett fotografi formellt återspeglas i vattendraget i den följande bilden från älghagen. Denna mjuka våglika form dyker upp igen i den vita gångvägen i en tredje bild som också introducerar en betraktare i bildens vänstra kant, och formen hos denna unga pojke som poserar för fotografen dubbleras i den efterföljande bilden, där en gammal sjöbjörn studerar rådjuren, och så vidare. Det rör sig alltså om en form som förflyttas genom en bildsekvensen för att sedan förvandlas till någonting annat. Fläckvisa återkopplingar, loopar och övergångar.   System. Frågor om skilda fotografihistoriska metoder eller poetiker: blandningar av aspekter hos formens betydelse i teorier för visuella språk med narration och historieskrivning i en fotoessäistisk tradition. Man kunde beskriva denna process som en isolering av


172 två system, ett formalistisk och ett kulturhistoriskt, för att sedan kunna mixa dem på nytt utan att deras historiska och teoretiska ramverk raderas. Boken som en kalejdoskopisk praktik där olika läsformer kan skapas genom en omkonfigurering av samma grundmaterial. Begäret att genom konstruktionen av en uppsättning filter, prismor och lager få materialet att ombeskriva sig självt, att förflytta ett lokalt och historiskt arkivmaterial in i en samtida medial ekologi. Lichtenberg igen: ”Skarpsinne är ett förstoringsglas, vitsen ett förminskningsglas. Det senare leder dock mot det allmänna.” Jonason igen: ”Ställ skarpsynt in och utställ jugering / och åstadkom så under-exponering.”


173

About method Pekka Kantonen

First, I will give some historical background to my artistic work. I have co-operated with my wife Lea Kantonen for all of my artistic career. I was educated as a journalist and a critic, she as a painter. All since the beginning, our artistic practice has involved co-operation with other people. In the ‘80s we participated in art groups and NGOs. The forum for our artistic-political activities was the environmental movement and the solidarity movement for Central America. In the mid-80s, we lived in Mexico and Central America for two years, where we studied indigenous rituals and popular movements. In the ‘90s, we mainly worked in our own family context and we started to document our everyday-life by filming on a daily basis. This video diary project continues, and the total footage now amounts to about 1000 hours. The Tent project began with journeys to the Sami people in Finnish Lapland, to the Setu in Estonia, and to the Rarámuri in Mexico. In these communities we lived with our two sons in a felt tent, and documented the everyday interaction with our host families. The Tent installation provided the basis for about ten different community art projects that we realized over the following ten years with indigenous communities. Lea’s doctoral dissertation (2005) presents our methods of working with young people. At the moment, we are not working with specific co-operative art projects, but rather facilitating networks between different indigenous groups and co-operating in their community projects. As members of a Finnish NGO, CRASH, we are investigating the possibilities of building an indigenous culture museum in the Wixarika mountains in Mexico. In Setu communities, we are in the process of sharing our audiovisual archives with the local Setu museum and other cultural organizations. We continue to organize various meetings and visits between these indigenous peoples. For example, we have organized a series of tours for representatives of Wixarika and Setu to Sami schools in Finland and Norway. Because of the alarming situation in Burma, we have recently started to co-operate with Burmese refugees in Finland.


174 I devote most of my time to a doctoral thesis that is based on the audiovisual documentation made both within our family and in different communities. In this text, I concentrate on the questions and viewpoints concerning my doctoral research. Its working title is: What happens when something is filmed – experimental and participatory research on video diary. The term ‘experimental’ refers to participatory viewings with various publics, during which meaning is created, disputed and shared. The interaction appearing in these recordings is central to my research. I study the interplay taking place on both sides of the camera during the shoot, and also the interplay that happens while watching the tapes. In my study, everyday life, art and research are not separate from each other. I conduct the research both by filming with a video camera and by writing. I produce research data and “research text”, both alone and in co-operation with other people. My method of filming and screening the footage can be compared with the working practices of the French ethnographic filmmaker Jean Rouch. In my practice I develop his ideas further. My practice does not derive from his work, however, as I learned about his work when I had already started on my research project. Rouch’s term for his scientific work is “shared anthropology”. In shared anthropology, the practicing ethnographer stays for several long periods in the field, so that the people of community starts to consider him part of the community. In Rouch’s method, his filming gradually becomes part of the social life, and he shares the results of the filming with the community. Rouch calls his filming practice “participatory cinema”: he is involved in the events he is filming. This act of filming, when the cameraman is taken over by the events, becomes a “cine trance”. Then the filming is no longer a conscious activity, it is the unconscious powers that are guiding his actions. When I co-operate with young people of different cultures or with my own family, it is essential to share all the phases of the process


175 with the others. The process is not only one of harmonious sharing; the common inspiration can also alternate with anxiety, frustration, or even conflicts. Dreams In the first phase, when we look for ideas for an art project, our most important tools are dreaming and Sunday walks with the video camera. Ideas, artwork concepts, plans, or even complete artworks appear sometimes in dreams. The dreaming can intervene in any phase of the creative process by offering practical solutions or suppressed interpretations. Dreams can be revelations that we have not been conscious of in our daily life. But they can also reveal solutions, omens, and warnings to the problems we are dealing with. I dreamt one night of an art exhibition that was being held in an old industrial complex. A tent and its surrounding campsite had been built on a patch of sand in a corner of the building. Behind the tent were three photographs which showed the tent in three different settings. In two of the pictures there were people, in one only traces of people. Around the tent were several different types of documentation that showed a western family living in three aboriginal cultures. Upon awakening, I remembered the photographs—their design, their landscapes—precisely. I had seen the model for the tent in my dream that very day when reading one of Richard Scarry’s children’s books to our son. In the book, a turban-clad mouse sat in front of a nomad’s tent. The tent was an Arabic-style ‘black tent’. At the time, we were expecting our second child and I had many strange dreams. When I told Pekka about this one, he immediately said, “Let’s build the tent!”

[The Tent, a book of travels 7, 1999] Sunday walks The Sunday walk is the form of activity that we frequently use for processing artistic ideas. The idea of this paper was also developed during one of them. Gradually, it has become a working practice with its own rules. Its origin is the conventional recreational activity


176 of walking in the woods without any purpose. Its non-instrumental character is paradoxically the basis of the Sunday walk as a working practice. We go for a Sunday walk with a video camera, and, depending on the season, with a bucket for berries or mushrooms. The discussions of artistic interest are filmed. The camera is not only for documenting our conversations, but also for triggering or encouraging us to talk. The Sunday walk has its own taboos. It is forbidden to mention anything that is connected to timetables, deadlines, definite plans, money or anything that triggers the ordinary chain of thoughts that connects us with the weekly routine of earning money, gaining artistic prestige or accomplishing our social duties. The Sunday walk is a place for ideas to float without necessarily having to be accomplished. Freedom of thought is based on strict rules. Sometimes our conversation deviates to concrete plans, and the mood of free thought is spoiled, and it may not be recovered during that walk. Walking in nature is a quintessential way of gaining ideas. Fresh air and slow movement offer enough oxygen for the brain to wander. The right company feeds ideas. The presence of the video camera has a double effect on the walk. Making a representation of the intimate moment; the private is put on stage. By staging the private event, the camera heightens the flow of time. The ordinary time is transformed into video time. Excerpt of a Sunday walk, June 3rd, 2007

I have read about the sequence films of ethnographic filmmaker John Marshall. In the 1950s, Marshall was a member of a team filming Bushmen in southern Africa. He was interested in looking for a different way of filming that would catch the intimacy of daily relations and ordinary life better than full-length ethnographic films. He called the genre “sequence films�. In the mid-50s, this type of films became possible because of the portable synchronous sound recording systems. In his sequence, like The Meat Fight or A Curing Ceremony (both filmed in 1957-58), he shows one precise event without wider contextualization.


177 I’m starting to think about how to apply this concept to our video diary material. My example is a scene where Lea and I are scolding our son and his friend. During our Sunday walk I lecture to Lea about the sequence film. P: I am fascinated with the thought that I would refrain from making artistic and many-sided videoworks for the artistic part of my research. The research motive would be the prime purpose of the videos. L: Research? I think they are pictures first, like moving pictures in a wizard’s family-album. They are pictures about a family situation, for example the picture where you are straining with the chainsaw and Ukko is carrying boards. There is the father, the son, and their relationship. They are separated and together, both involved in a kind of construction work that does not need any background information, with a rhythm and movement proper for their corresponding ages. It is all there as in a family-album picture. P: A sequence film to narrate only one thing, not many. L: I see, the scolding video as a sequence film. P: But when the commentatory scenes are added, it is no longer a sequence. It is gaining other expectations. L: It is discursive, the knowledge is mainly in the discussions. Of course there is some knowledge in our positioning related to space and each other. But the main thing is the talking, compared with, for example, the transfer-of-knowledge videos, the ones in which you are with Tyyni on a swing or rolling the logs with Ukko, which are conveying non-discursive knowledge. I am fascinated with your non-discursiveness. I am afraid that you are getting too much overwhelmed with narration. P: There is no fear of that. L: Sequence film is also a picture, figured by framing and inclusion. Its not un-artistic, I mean you cannot escape the art. P: Now you are misunderstanding.


178 L: That’s good. P: First of all, the sequence film is not leading to narration. On the contrary, it is the thematic film which is leading to narration, because you cannot define the theme if you don’t start adding levels to the obvious action that is taking place in front of the camera. Sequence film is striving to demonstrate as clearly as possible the action that is framed as an action. If it has ethnographic purposes, it does not have these artistic levels, or at least it is not striving to add more levels to the factual... L: ...you are speaking of ethnographic film now. P: Yes, but this is not the solution that I am looking for. Instead I want to find another solution: What is an artistic sequence film? Is it a conceptual contradiction? I don’t think so, because I am trying to crystallize that the art, in this meaning that I am trying to demonstrate, is bringing a level connected to the activity of filming and not to the action filmed. The main point of my research is really concentrated on filming. If I start to be a real puritan in this respect, I only concentrate on the most essential, I don’t start constructing additional... L: ...what is the most essential? P: It is constructed by every sequence itself. It is not necessarily demonstrating how porridge is cooked in this family, but it can also demonstrate, let’s see, how to demonstrate a 360-degree space. L: Then it has two levels: how to cook the porridge and how to demonstrate space.

The Sunday walk was developed gradually as a tool for artistic work. I had made various types of filming where I filmed myself and my surroundings with a handheld camera. The image is floating between me, other people and the environment. it has been a particularly effective way to show my involvement in our everyday activities. Also, I have often filmed myself walking in different surroundings when I have been abroad. My head is strongly delineated against the background, as if I do not belong in the same picture.


179 In the spring of 2006, we were preparing an installation for a group show. We decided to use the exhibition space for living and working with our video material while the show was on. The idea of Studio Kitchen was to include all the phases of the artistic process inside the installation. For this reason, we started to film the moments when we were planning the project. For the installation we edited the filmed conversations that prepared us for building the artwork. The experience of documenting our free-floating conversations was so fruitful and encouraging that we decided to develop it as a conscious artistic practice. Filming while thinking and talking is a craft that has to be learnt. Technical problems of focusing, framing and exposure are common to all filmmakers. More difficult is learning to keep the inner process of the mind floating and free while filming. To put myself in the frame, when walking, talking, thinking, and filming, demands a certain divided and alert concentration. I have to balance my attention and frame the picture without watching the screen. I discuss and have eye-contact with the person through the camera screen. The Sunday walk as an artistic practice functions in different phases of the artistic process. As a life experience, it is a structured way of creating and processing artistic ideas. As a filming experience, it is a structured way of producing artistic material. These two categories of experience have different criteria, but the criteria are also intertwined. The Sunday walk as a life experience is evaluated immediately by the significance of the ideas expressed during the walk and by the effect on your body and mind. The artistic material is evaluated only after it has been watched as a representation on the Sunday walk.

Dialogical Use of the Artistic Material I situate our art practice inside the framework of dialogical art. By this I mean that all the phases of the artistic process – from the


180 inspiration to the sharing of results – are influenced by the dialogue or worked through the dialogue. Conversation is the method of my doctoral research. The emphasis on the dialogue has radical epistemological repercussions. Usually, artists claim the right to define the primary meaning and structure of their artwork. In the dialogical process of creating an artwork and defining its meaning, this claim is much weaker. Our intention is to deliberately weaken our own authority. Also, our intention is to weaken the authority or status of the artistic material. With this notion both the meaning of artistic material and its value as artistic material are in the flux. One unedited documentary video shot, without any manipulation of zooming or moving the camera, is taken as a documentation of that event. If that shot is connected by editing to other shots, its meaning can change. The structure created by editing will reveal other meanings. The context creates interpretations. My hypothesis is that no documentary shot conveys more than the obvious actions happening in front of the camera. If we see someone jump in a shot, there is no real reason to doubt that it would have happened in front of the camera. All the more complicated or abstract meanings have a truth value that is of a degree (less than 100 %). By using dialogical methods, I am trying to demonstrate how these interpretations of the content of a shot are in constant transformation. All representations of reality are constantly forming and reforming their meanings. My interest is to see, and demonstrate, how meanings and interpretations are developing and changing. The dialogical approach can appear on various levels. To create new meanings and interpretations of the shots, I show them to different audiences, and I film the spectators’ comments. These are included with the first shot shown, and all of them are shown to new audiences. These experiences may become topics of our Sunday walks, which may be edited with the previous shots.


181 This layered way of processing artistic material seems to lead to some confusion. Something that was a simple ‘documentary shot’ becomes ambiguous. Is the method creating its own confusion or is it revealing the layered and many-sided nature of these representations?


182

Shared Expertise in Fieldwork, Research Process, Artistic Presentation and Representation Lea Kantonen

My artistic work is positioned in a tradition that has been compared with ethnographic research. Together with my family I have spent time in small communities, most often in the countryside, conducting art workshops with children and young people. In these projects, youngsters of different nationalities and ethnicities have corresponded with each other, sending photographs, videos, letters and faxes, conducted small research projects and produced artworks guided by Pekka Kantonen and myself. The material has been produced through conversation and collaboration, and the young collaborators have been acting as artists and researchers. The results of these collaborations have been presented in art exhibitions in schools, community centers and art museums, and have been examined and analyzied in my dissertation Teltta. Kohtaamisia nuorten tyÜpajoissa [The Tent. Encounters in Art Workshops with Young People] (2005) . A retrospective exhibition, Important in Life, comprised of different documents and installations was presented in Helsinki (2005), Rauma (2005) and Rovaniemi (2006). We have strived to apply dialogical methods to every phase of the collaboration: collaborative process, interpretation, writing, artistic presentation and representation. Listening to young people’s knowledge has been an impulse to start new circles of collaborative work and interpretation. As we have tried to engage in dialogue with the young people, we have noticed that various forms of power relations between different groups and between the youngsters and ourselves have strongly influenced these dialogues, but we have also noticed that the dialogue also constructs and rearranges authority and power. I understand with Foucault power as producing expertise and identities, not only to be repressive. Instead of assuming renounciation from power and expertise, I would rather like to consider how the expertise of different collaborators can be joined in a meaningful artistic exchange.


183 Artist as Etnographer Working and collecting material in communities isn’t necessarily more dialogical than any other kind of artistic work. Many artists and art historians have pointed out problems that artists face when trying to conduct collaborative and participatory fieldwork with groups or communities considered “others”. In his classical writing Artist as Producer, philosopher Walter Benjamin considers the possibilities of the artist to collaborate with working class people or other repressed groups, and concludes that the role of the artist is that of an ideological patron. In his article The Artist as Ethnographer, American art historian Hal Foster proposes that ethnic and cultural minorities have replaced the workers as partners of the artists. In his opinion, contemporary artists are haunted by envy towards ethnographers. The artists are doing fieldwork, examining or studying certain social phenomena. Artists should, however, be cautious when using borrowed methodology; otherwise they can easily inherit the dualism between researcher and object of research, and the inclination to abstract the object. It easily happens that the artist becomes the protagonist of the research, and that the cultural group being studied only serves as background. According to Foster, the ethnographers are reciprocally envious of the artists. Postmodern ethnographers are studying cultures as texts and borrow artistic methods and forms in writing their studies. Foster refers in particular to texts by American ethnographer James Clifford. In his collection Writing Culture, Clifford and his colleagues claim that ethnographic studies are narratives, using the same narrative means as fiction to convince the readers. Clifford wants to deconstruct the authority of the researcher and share the expertise with the informants in a reciprocal way. He proposes that reflexive ethnographic writing is a dialogue of polyphonic voices, a narrative of encounters between people in settings defined by power relations. From my point of view, this polyphony can be important for artists as well. On the one hand, some feminist and postcolonial writing continue the deconstruction of the ethnographer’s authority; on the other hand, it criticizes it. According to British Australian-born feminist


184 writer Sara Ahmed, the postmodern ethnography project is inherently violent. The other is first constructed on a textual level, and is then destroyed in the name of deconstruction. As a result of this process, the authority of the ethnographer becomes stronger than ever. When it comes to power relations, participatory research isn’t symmetrical. The researcher wants to get knowledge about the community in question, she strives towards a close relationship with members of the community, and formulates the knowledge both by listening to them and by relating to the traditions of the academic institutions. Though dependent on her collaborators, only she is rewarded for her accomplishments in the academic community. She is applauded for “refraining” from her authority and “sharing” her expertise with the researched. The same asymmetry concerns community-based art. The artist shares the authorship with the community, but only the artist is rewarded and recognized by the art community. Some feminist artists and art historians have applied postcolonial critique to art institutions, paying attention to the suppression of groups of women already silenced in society. While making women “participate” and formally emphasizing the “polyphony” of their art projects, the community artists and art institutions are actually absorbing the voices of the participating women into their own voices. The silenced groups are accepted only as objects of the “outreach”. Many feminist ethnographers in a postcolonial framework have strived to write about the position of colonized women in a way that would recognize inequality, as well as fight against it. It is necessary that the writer recognizes the position she is writing from. Ahmed writes about the vulnerable meeting with the other who carries “wounds, scars and tears” from previous encounters. These vulnerable encounters are characterized by both intimacy and respectful distance. The interlocutor is not defined as the object of knowledge It is necessary to go “near enough” in order to touch the other, but to a point that remains distant to the other.


185 American- and Indian-based ethnographer Kamala Visweswaran proposes that the ethnographer should not only apply the method of participatory observation to her fieldwork in other countries and cultures, but also to her home context, a studying which is defined by Visweswaran as the homework of the ethnographer. It makes the researcher vulnerable, forcing herself to recognize herself as participating in multiple power relations. In my own work as artist-researcher, I see two reasons for adopting this kind of vulnerable writing. First, I want to add to the understanding of participatory artistic practice. Future artists can learn from my experience. The second reason is epistemological. I don’t think I can get objective knowledge of the power relations in the context where I am participating. Fieldwork An artist conducting fieldwork in foreign cultures is spending time in a community, taking part in everyday life, documenting it, returning home, arranging and rearranging her documents, and finally presenting her results publicly in the art community. Our work resembles ethnographical fieldwork in that we have spent time with indigenous people, living in small countryside communities, collecting material in village schools to use as research material, but it differs from ethnographic work in that we haven’t spent enough time on the field – only a few days or weeks at a time – to be able to really call it fieldwork. Ethnographers usually learn the language and stay so long that the people get used to their presence. When we enter a community and start to work with a new group of school children, we want to get knowledge about the community. However, the knowledge has no value in itself, it serves only as a kind of background information for making collaborative art. We are interested in finding what the most important issues and activities are for the young people of that specific community. We ask the young people to create a mind map, on which they draw and write the most important things in their lives. Then we ask them to interpret the mind maps together in small groups. Later the maps are used as manuscripts for video works, photo installations and other artworks.


186 Projects situated between art and research must create their own methodological and representational practices, which in turn can have a wider use. Our work has been horizontal, meaning that our research topic hasn’t been strictly defined. We have worked in many communities simultaneously, and we have involved ourselves in developing the ideas suggested by the young collaborators. Making Observations and Writing Field Notes In the first workshops, we couldn’t guess that we would later write research based on the workshops’ documentation, nor could we anticipate the problems of collaboration. Our tools were defined during the process, before we were able to conceptualize them in research language. Gradually, we were learning about similar projects conducted by other artists. While making ourselves familiar with the methods used by other artists and researchers, comparing them with our’s, we started to make experiments with different ways of writing field notes. Our first points of reference were the diaries of early explorers and ethnographers, but the conceptualization of our work seemed – and still seems – to be several years delayed compared with our practice. Our initial aim was to collect observations of the gradual process of learning to know the communities and making friends with the families with children. When I read my field notes and try to interpret them, I notice that my observations have been coloured by practical concerns. I have worried on the one hand about encouraging the young people to develop their ideas, and on the other about managing the everyday duties in my family. Concerns for the young people and our family duties have defined the practical aspects of the workshops. A considerable part of the notes seem trivial: I feel tired, hungry or impatient about some unexpected delay of work. The following diary extract describes an afternoon with a secondary school class in a Mexican town: Guachochi 7.9. 1999 In the afternoon, I was exhausted after the morning workshop. Pekka and I had not had time to agree on any other program than looking


187 at the mind maps still left for discussion. While we were discussing the mind maps of one group, the others were making a lot of fuss. The situation was falling out of my control. I felt so anxious that I could not concentrate on listening. I could not tell the children apart; all the mind maps looked alike and I could not imagine how I could ever tempt the children to tell about their best and unique ideas. I sat on the threshold to nurse Tyyni, and I got surrounded by the girls admiring the baby [...] the teacher sat by my side and started to tell his life story. I was principally happy about his open-mindedness, but I was too tired to ask the right questions.

Listening According to California-based art historian Grant Kester, a novice artist trying out dialogical methods often acts like a tourist: she conducts a short project, takes a few photographs and goes home to build her exhibition, leaving the bewildered community to cope with the questions and anxieties she has aroused. But if she is patient enough to wait a while before starting the work, and if she allows time and space for mutual adjustment, the encounter can be more valuable. A moment of listening and not-doing is necessary before starting the actual project. In the projects we conducted, the mind maps have worked as a method of listening, helping us to know the interests and worries of the young people. Getting acquainted with these people have in my case been governed by a feeling of insufficiency. In my diary, I describe a situation in a classroom where some of the young people are drawing mind maps, others are interviewed by Pekka. I am sitting on the threshold, nursing the child and observing the class. I cannot control the situation. However, at this moment, I get some valuable information I wouldn’t have got otherwise. I give up my previous plans and start listening to the teacher and the girls playing with the baby.


188 Classifying and Analyzing the Data An ethnographer can spend weeks and months classifying and analyzing her data. Many times, we have classified the mind maps in haste, on the same day they were drawn, as we had to continue the work the very next day. We watched the maps and classified them on the basis of their topics. In the Wixarika community San Miguel Huaistita, for example, the issues most often mentioned by the young people were the community, home, housework, clothes and sacred places. We divided the class in groups according to these issues, and asked the groups to take photos relating to the places and activities mentioned. We followed a similar approach in the Raramuri communities Basigochi and Basíhuare. The groups were wandering about the community taking pictures of their favorite places, which carried personal, social, aesthetic and political meanings. We didn’t always have the possibility to show the young people the photos they had taken, nor could we analyze them together, because the nearest photo labs were located many hundred kilometers away, the processing times were long, and traveling was difficult and costly. But we showed them photos taken by other groups of young people, and asked what kind of information they got about their lives. We asked what was interesting in the photos and why. The youngsters usually mentioned the same things that they had already mentioned while discussing their own mind maps. They recognized the things important to them photographed by other young people and felt connected with them. Discussing the pictures made the children aware that they, too, in taking pictures, were constructing stories and presentations of their homes, pictures that the pupils in the other group would interpret from their perspective. This possibility seemed to inspire them to take more photos and more closely consider what kind of representations they were making of themselves. Theory About the same time that we were conducting the workshops in the communities, I got familiar with different theories about community, identity, space and narratives in research seminars. I felt


189 that the young people from different nations were in their own way producing knowledge about the same issues as the researchers. I couldn’t tell exactly how the research theories and the narratives produced by youngsters were related, but I tried to approach the relations intuitively. Theoretical texts and seminary conversations were processed into pictures, songs and workshop exercises without intermediate conceptualization. How could I raise a discussion among the young people about the concept of identity? When we were asked to conduct a workshop for Finnish and Sami secondary school pupils, I decided to give it a try. I explained my concern to the young people as clearly as possible. I had a few talks on the concept of identity, concentrating in particular on questions relevant to contemporary youth studies. I explained what was interesting about young people for researchers, and which the most urgent issues in the discourse on identity were. I encouraged them to make their comments in form of writings, lexicological studies, drawings, paper sculptures and videos. Most of the young people embraced the workshop activities with enthusiasm. After drawing their mind maps they continued drawing comic strips or sketches where they were involved in different activities. Together with us, they interpreted the etymologies and meanings of Finnish and Sami words. Some of them were only interested in drawing a mind map. They understood the word map in a concrete way, drawing maps of their surroundings, marking hills, lakes and rivers. In the discussions, they showed us the best places for fishing or turning the boat. They enjoyed sharing their knowledge, but found no interest in the workshop methods. We suggested to them and their teachers that we would continue in the same way that we had done in Mexico: we would go out to take photos of the places mentioned in the mind maps. This wasn’t easy to carry out, as their favorite places were located far away from the school in inaccessible areas which could only be reached by motor sledge, and the weather was very cold. The teacher couldn’t let the boys go alone on such a challenging excursion. Luckily, one of the fathers agreed to join them and they could go and take the photos together with Pekka.


190 Interpretation We didn’t have the possibility to have a closer look at the mind maps and photos until we were back home. We spread out all the material on the tables and floors of our house and asked ourselves what their message was. The mind maps, drawings and photos of indigenous Sami, Wixarika and Raramuri young people resembled one another. The young people were picturing themselves in the middle of the landscape as being part of their surroundings. The significance of the landscape had social dimensions as well as relations to individual and community activities and sacredness. I couldn’t get the photos taken by three Raramuri boys out of my mind. In these photos, taken from below, the boys are posing in hero-like positions on a mountain slope as if they wanted to say, “This is my favorite place. I rule here. You are my guest.” The pictures are quite opposite to the pictures on postcards and posters where the Raramuri look upward smilingly. One morning I had a dream in which the boys were standing on the mountain, holding their photographs taken on the same mountain. The gesture of belonging was emphasized. After an interval of one, two or three years we traveled back to Utsjoki in Finland and to the communities of Basigochi and San Miguel in Mexico in order to continue working with the same young people. The Mexican boys and girls had finished secondary school and some of them had left their communities. Among the ones we found were the three Raramuri boys who still loved the hill slope from where they could admire the school and the whole community. In Utsjoki, I showed the young people a research article that I had written about their favorite places. I asked if I had interpreted their ideas correctly, and I asked them to give their own interpretations about the drawings, sculptures and photos produced by them and their friends. Sometimes we didn’t realize until later what the young people perhaps would have told us, if we had asked the right questions and stopped asking just to listen when they were joking, talking back, or not answering at all. We couldn’t always meet our


191 young collaborators again, but we continued working in the same communities with new generations, trying to listen more carefully. At the same time, I felt that I needed more theory to make more accurate interpretations. The research process was a constant circulation of fieldwork, theory and interpretation. The mind maps acted as impulses for taking photos, which in turn triggered the taking of new photos. In every phase, we discussed the interpretation with the young people. Sometimes the circular movement of the process stopped in frustration. We didn’t get more relevant knowledge, and felt it unnecessary to embarrass the young people with questions they felt they had already answered. It was more enjoyable to get information by working together, and the new working processes again complicated both the questions and the answers. Using the material to set up exhibitions launched new circles of interpretations. When the young people saw their own pictures framed and hung next to pictures produced by youngsters from other cultures, their interpretations changed. Differences between Art and Research What, in art, are the proper ways to present the results of the fieldwork? How do these artistic ways differ from those of research? One of the most obvious differences is that the art community doesn’t insist on the artists having to report their methods. An artist doing fieldwork can quite freely make a presentation of her field. She can present results from any phase of the knowledge production without having to justify her method in public. She can select documents, contrast them with one another, edit them and frame them as artworks. She does not have to explain if the documents have been produced with similar methods, or if they represent real or fictive worlds. According to Malaysian artist Chu Chu Yan and Singapore-born artist-curator Jay Koh, a socially engaged artist working with communities, just as a scientific researcher, has an obligation to report her methods. The artist should at least report about her connec-


192 tions to her collaborators or communities with which the exhibition has been produced, and also report to the art institutions and sponsors making possible her work. The installations we have produced together with young people contain many different kinds of material. For example, the installation “Visit” (1997) includes a traditional Sami peat-hut, a video image, a sound tape of interviews with the youngsters, a group photo taken on the staircase of a museum, a kind of “curtain” made from transparent plastic sheet containers, filled with letters, faxes, messages, and laser photo prints. We have included a list of the young collaborators on the wall, but in the catalogue we haven’t mentioned what parts of the installation we have produced, and what parts were produced by the youngsters. Nor have we mentioned, in which order the parts were produced. The audience can imagine the working process and guess who the authors of the different parts are. A Public Show in a School and in a Museum Together with the young people, we composed exhibitions of drawings, sculptures, photos, videos and installations in schools and museums. At first, it was the young collaborators who produced the material and we who built the exhibitions, but with every new exhibition, the negotiation process became more complex. Together we decided the theme and the name of the show, together we selected the photos. We asked the collaborators to select extracts from each other’s texts. We formed a censorship group to censor sensitive parts of the conversations. In some cases, we asked the groups to independently build the whole installation. When the young people had participated for many days in building the exhibition, they felt they had control of the exhibition space. By decentralizing the decisions concerning exhibition solutions, we aimed at strengthening the authority of the young people and convincing them of being capable of producing representations of their identities. After arranging and setting up various exhibitions, we noticed that decentralized decision making does not necessarily increase the


193 young peoples’ authority in a museum exhibition. However dialogical the process of setting up the show may be, the voice of young people can still be ignored. The quality of the process can be traced in the show, but the authority is also dependent on other factors. The installations altered the school space. There, the students are usually in the position of learning, but when the material made by them and the images representing their favorite places were installed, the young people became the experts of the space. While watching the installation they could appreciate their own surroundings and favorite places from a distance, conceptualize their experiences and make comparisons. The same installations functioned quite differently in a museum space. Most spectators were walking and watching the exhibition Important in Life like a conventional museum exhibition. However, both the young people who had participated in the production of the installations and others could alter the exhibition by moving the installation objects to other places, by opening the doors and peeping into the cupboards and refrigerators. The workshops organized by the museum suggested the young people to actually continue on the installations. The museum installations didn’t seem to be as empowering to the young people as the school installations. The young people were proud of their work being installed both in the school and in a real art museum. They expected their knowledge to gain more authority in the museum and their information to reach more people than it had in the school. These expectations were partly met, in particular when the museum was located in their home town and the news about the exhibition was spread through their own networks. But contrary to their expectation, their control of the installation was partly diminished, because the museum installations were mainly defined from outside and from art talk, guiding the attention to other issues at the expense of the youngsters’ knowledge. The art experts were more interested in whether the exhibition was art or not, rather than how it worked as a space for young people.


194 Some art critics have warned that if the public conversation on art exhibitions does not extend beyond the art community, the art institutions are the only ones who will get empowered. If the artists and the institutions want to engage in dialogue with the participating communities, they have to find new strategies. This is where our dialogical method can be developed further. The next phase in decentralizing authority would be to consider how the discursive practices framing artworks in for example press releases, guided tours and thematic seminars, could be developed to become more participatory. For example, we didn’t think of the possibility that the young people participate in guiding the museum tours. Conclusions Regarding the Next Phase of the Project The written information and the grouping of the mind maps emphasize that the young people represent different nationalities, ethnicities and languages. We have strived to give the audience a positive and hopeful idea of the possibilities of collaborative art to acquaint different young people with each other and show the multiplicity and richness of their identities. This is the prevailing narrative of the show. However, in some individual pictures there are a few signs and hints that seem to be contradictory to this narrative: the young people are showing reluctant or defiant faces. Among the many texts on the mind maps, letters and other paper scraps installed, are writings that are critical of other partners, teachers or us as leaders of the workshop. Girls and boys are criticizing each other directly or indirectly, Finnish youngsters from the town of Rauma are criticizing the Sami youngsters from Utsjoki and vice versa, the pupils are criticizing teachers and non-Christians are criticizing Christians. Didn’t the workshop succeed in dispersing prejudices and negative attitudes? In fieldwork-based collaborative art, the authority of different groups is at best functioning as a condition for the other group. Power relations are working differently on the field and in art spaces. On the field the collaborators are experts of the spaces they are using every day. They are usually happy to share their knowledge if they see the possibility to draw attention to their own points of


195 view. The prevalent presentation practices of art museums tend to emphasize the authority of artists and art institutions at the expense of the collaborators’ expertise. I don’t want to discard the museums; rather I would like to expect that the artists, museum workers and communities can find the means to present the expertise of all participants in collaborative art projects. In addition to public places, the art museums are one of the possible sites to canalize the knowledge of collaborators, because they already have infrastructures for spreading information. The smudge – a contradiction between the prevalent set of meaning and subsets of meaning, referring back to the process and possibly originating from a mistake – that is left in representation can encourage the participants and later the audience to question the authority of artists and art institutions. Literature: Ahmed, Sara, Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality, Routledge London/New York 2000; Alasuutari, Pertti, Laadullinen tutkimus, Vastapain, Tampere 1994; Benjamin, Walter, Tekijä tuottajana, Suomentanut Kalevi Haikara, Julkaisussa Kuvista sanoin 3, koonnut Martti Lintunen, Suomen Valokuvataiteen museon säätiö, WSOY, 23-47, Porvoo 1934 (1986); Bernard, Russell, Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches, Altamira Press, Lanham 2006; Chu Chu Yan & Koh, Jay, “Engaged Art in Public Spaces” in City Transformers, exhibition catalogue, Laznia Centre for contemporary Art, p. 15-18, Gdansk 2002; Clifford, James, “On Ethnographic Allegory” in Writing Culture, ed. James Clifford and G.E. Marcus, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1986; Foster, Hal, “The Artist as Ethnographer” in The Return of the Real, p. 171-203, The MIT Press, Cambridge 1996; Foucault, Michel, “Space, Knowledge, and Power” in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow, Pantheon Books, p. 37-54, New York 1984; Gablik, Suzi, The Reenchantment of Art, Thames & Hudson, London 1991; Haapala, Leevi “Taiteilijan muuttuva rooli – Yhteisötaidetta 90luvun Suomessa”, Teoksessa Katoava taide, toim. Haapala ja muut, p. 78-103, Valtion taidemuseo, Helsinki, 1999; Haraway, Donna, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective” in Feminist Studies 14, no. 3, p. 575-599, Feminist Studies Inc., 1998; Kantonen, Lea, Teltta. Kohtaamisia nuorten taidetyöpajoissa, Like, Helsinki, 2005; Kantonen, Lea & Pekka, The Tent, a Book of Travels, The University of Art and Design Helsinki UIAH, Helsinki, 1999; Kester, Grant, “Rhetorical Questions: The Alternative Arts Sector and the Imaginary Public” in Art, Activism, and Oppositionality. Essays form Afterimage, ed. Grant Kester, p. 103-135, Duke University Press, Durham, 1998; Kester, Grant, Conversation Pieces: Community + Communication in Modern Art, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2004; Kwon, Miwon, One Place After


196 Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identiy, The MIT Press, Massachusetts/ London, 2002; Moore, Darrell “White Men Can’t Program: The Contradictions of Multiculturalism” in Art, Activism and Oppositionality: Essays from Afterimage, ed. by Grant Kester, Duke University Press, p. 51-59, Durham/London, 1998; Siukonen, Jyrki, “Kolme ajatusta taiteen ja tutkimuksen metaforista”, Teoksessa Taiteellinen tutkimus, toim. Satu Kiljunen & Mika Hannula, p. 141-148, Kuvataideakatemia, Helsinki, 2001; Wallenstein, Sven-Olov, “Art and Research”. In Artistic Research, ed. by Satu Kiljunen ja Mika Hannula, p. 29-48, Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki, 2001; Visweswaran, Kamala, Fictions of Feminist Ethnography, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis/London, 1994.


197

Off the grid: Changes through travel and selfdefinition Mike Bode & Staffan Schmidt

Off the grid is an interview-based artistic research project that connects eight residents in a Stockholm suburb to people in eight self-made homes in New England and upstate New York by asking questions about self-definition, travel and community. These questions are used as common denominators in discussing an immigrant community living in the housing estate Husby outside Stockholm, and Americans mostly living in self-made homes not connected to the utility grid. The context of this project is artistic research, which means that we will be asking ourselves the same three questions – how do we conceive of self-definition, travel and community – in relation to our practice, the status of the medium we use and the expectations of the art discipline.

Artistic PhD research constitutes a new discipline within the Swedish university structure. Its position has been highly controversial: we have been both envied and dismissed. The first artistic research dissertations in September 2006 at Lund University caused critics to call for a shutdown of all programmes (Paletten, no 4, 2006). As such, studies in artistic research have a contested identity, one situated in-between established traditions such as art history and sociology of art, and norms identifying art as non-discursive, non-instrumental and non-rational. Up till now, dissertations that have been presented in artistic research are still too disparate and few to determine what impact the results have on the opinions on art. To the practicing artist, the present literature thus far has had considerable drawbacks. On the one hand committed to exploring a range of possibilities and definitions within the academic frame rather than dealing with practice-based issues, and on the other still subjugated by the idea of art as unsayable, untarnished by the everyday. Yet, the immediate day-to-day concerns remain a strategic resource for those involved, given the open-ended structure of contemporary art. Artistic research would be inconsequential if it were not to question the borders and limitations that have defined art through successive stages of history. Thus, any forthcoming


198 normative definition of art has implications reaching far beyond the appreciation of a particular exhibition or the cultural significance of an individual museum collection. Western art rather belongs to an idealist heritage that maintains a vital discourse over several culturally specific and fundamental divisions: body-soul, objectivity-subjectivity, nature-culture, etc. The basic points of reference in relation to art shifted during the second half of the 18th century, at the same historical moment when the bourgeoisie came to power and nationalism was formed. Initially entrusted to mirror a strange mixture of religion and entrenched objective values, art instead made a critical claim to an imaginary and constitutive subjectivity. After this shift, the role of the artist has been perceived as an exemplary individualist position within society as a whole. During the same period, art was bequeathed the role of the ventriloquist of societies’ and nations’ cultural identity, essence and soul, and the primary conditions of its special status. These supreme claims seem paradoxical, given that the limit for a work of art was its non-involvement in current political affairs; beyond that, art collapses into the indistinguishable. As an extension of this ongoing process, the university’s involvement in the theory and practice of art, the way that we talk about and experience it, will change as a result of the role played by artistic research. Learning from history, this change will be related to consequences for the way that we understand what an artist should do to be recognized, but it will also influence ideas about individual rights and identities. Academic research at the universities is another means of art production. In the post WWII period, the spirit of this romantic and idealist stance gradually became the source of artistically meaningful divergences. In a famous statement by Joseph Kosuth, art was deemed to come “after philosophy”. This pronouncement prefigured artists venturing into systems of knowledge production, which in different ways question the nature of art: ethnography, economics, psychology, sociology, geography and philosophy, to name but a few. Simultaneously, claims regarding an inner essence were heavily criticized and have not regained their full vital signs since.


199 At this moment, when the emerging academic discipline of artistic research has yet to find (or perhaps to avoid) its form, artistic practice has been allotted a role inside the universities to playfully integrate insurmountable differences. When art is accepted within the university structure, its carefree lateral travel crossing disciplinary boundaries has become a positive example for knowledge production. Our faculty at Göteborg University approaches art as an “agent of change and source of understanding about real life, the world and society”, and it holds art to be a “catalyst” for “social change” (The Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts, 2007); in a way artistic research will find a new context in, with Zygmunt Bauman, a “liquid” society (Bauman, 2000). The discrepancy between the inside and the outside of the discussions on artistic research could not possibly be wider. The specific qualities nurtured by artistic research, such as the idea that cultural production far exceeds texts, images and concepts have yet to reach out outside the academic context. Based on our artistic research project, we will highlight transversal similarities and parallels between the state of artistic research within academia, its role in relation to knowledge-production and institutionalized knowledge-handling, and the travel of individuals through space. Travel influence how ideas are formed and the way of travel reflect social groups and simultaneously place them in the margin of society. The marginal voice of art is raised to defend other positions of marginalization. This text argues that without the right to self-definition, or a deeper understanding of the concept of travel in a globalized world, nor the identification of the tacit power in one’s own community, everyone without exception is sentenced to a future as slaves to the “proper” and caught in the spatial and discursive margin. Both the practical and metaphorical consequences of the three questions are examined through the application of qualitative (dialectical: see “dialectics without teleology” in Mike Bode & Staffan Schmidt, 2006, p. 17f ) and quantitative method, with contemporary ethnographical discourse serving as our primary discursive context. In this regard, studies of the consequences of globalization by James Clifford and George Marcus, as well as their questioning of the conventions of ethnographical method, become particularly relevant to our argument.


200 Our interviewees in Husby are all people whose journeys have been of utmost importance to them. They are familiar with the workings of the different politic and economic systems. Their perceptions of their own situation and of current world affairs are developed and distinct, albeit always openly situated. The majority of the immigrants in Husby were forced to flee their homelands, some from privileged positions, others from poverty. In Sweden, they have found themselves, and their experience, in the margins of their new environment. In the US, the majority of our interviewees had transplanted themselves in search of a different lifestyle, moving from the city and desk jobs to the countryside and various degrees of selfreliance. It is evident that within both groups, as well as between them, the backgrounds, current living conditions, and stories of the interviewees differ widely. The sanction of artistic research has given the two of us a particular role, one that allows us to easily summon prevailing modernist ideas of marginality placing one closer to the truth. If the concepts defining the common ground between the role of the artist and the researcher are in flux, moving between identities as well as languages and fields of knowledge, then a conventional disciplinary limit is exceeded. We argue that this is a consequence of travel, both literally and figuratively. We argue that a sense of belonging or estrangement is respectively assumed in direct relation to one’s access to and “proper” use of neutralized land, language and concepts. As the interviews elucidate how the agency of difference is manifested and how the right to self-definition plays out in terms of different social expectations, we offer new perspectives on perceived expectations on a work of art and what a “proper” art context might be. We understand proper in Michel de Certeau’s sense: “a triumph of place over time” (de Certeau, 2002). Method Method is the conscious application of a filter. Usually, our everyday idiosyncratic choices and preferences do not lend themselves to self-reflection, and, unless challenged, we do not usually experience the need for any external discursive justification. A conscious way


201 of deciding what is important to an artwork is not to be confused with an idealist approach, where the method is projected or forced on a material, or a market-based decision-making process which seeks to reach a particular target group. In an artistic project that takes place within an academic context and the timeframe of a PhD study program, a conscious method is likely to appear bit by bit, as a result of an ongoing practice – the object of engagement and the specific learning context. Method is a part of the process of understanding the practice we are engaged in, it clearly has to reckon with the academic system, but as such it does not need an external explanation or justification other than that it works – that it formulates knowledge which draws from the floating and unpredictable streaks of meaning experienced in practice. In artistic research the basic creed over which many battles take place is whether or not there exists a specific art-knowledge. Is there a paradoxically identifiable and non-discursive, non-instrumental and non-rational content, something which is possible to keep separate from any presentational, practice-based and discursive form? Or is knowledge – whether it is produced in the art field or any other discipline – always ambiguous, invested and insecure because content, form and values are hard to abstract as separable? We would stick to this idea of an ambiguous knowledge, since it involves intuition, and openness to a given and uncontrollable situation. If there is a distinct and constant knowledge about the world that non-discursive art is able to provide, then there is a reason to find, isolate and eradicate any language-based attempt to do anything more than to point in the direction of the unsayable. Staying with this mindset, grappling with texts will lead nowhere; no final destination will ever be reached since it cannot be named. All we can do is sit back, enjoy the ride and wait for the next artwork to appear. This understanding of art is fixed, conservative and anticonstructivist, it will leave unquestioned naturalized ideologies, and it will stay hostile to the marked interventions that research makes. This understanding of art is also intrinsically connected to the liberal idea of the sovereign subject. We hold that there is knowledge in fine arts but that it is situated, perspectival and constructed and as such in a permanent flux, which of course makes it similar to the


202 humanities and social sciences. We hold that practice, presentation and content are likely to sprout from one another given the presence of a community, as one is always engaged in conversation with one’s peers. This conviction is also the reason why a certain didactic clarity in both the visual and the written material is only possible given this prerequisite of community. Artistic research has neither an established theory, nor a method of its own. Beginning in Britain and Finland in the early 2000s, Michael Biggs, Mika Hannula, Toumas Nevanlinna, and others have argued this case. As a new discipline artistic research needs to qualify its claims to the status of legitimate academic research, comparing its agenda to the fields of art history and art theory, but also to traditional views on art and art practice. Inside the research community, artistic research has a “weak” identity: Its borders and operators are not under strict supervision, as with long since established fields of knowledge such as medicine and law. Artistic research does not offer the safety of a neutralized science or a stable work place; even a discrete discursive field to dwell in is missing – which is fortunate, since this could act as a door-opener for work that would not be possible in more established disciplines. Though it appears within academia it could be seen as, following Raymond Williams, an emergent culture. The whole affair is a construction, a mise-en-scène in broad daylight. It is quite easy to round up the arguments for and against artistic research. Those against would imply that “a scientification of art education” will take place “at the expense of the ’essence’ of art” (Nevanlinna, 2003). This ironical, negative and defeatist position reflect the education-related argument that art studies will become ”more important and high-class the more akin they become to ’science’” (Ibid), which would indicate that art – as non-discursive, non-instrumental and non-rational – in one way or another will be corrupted by fraternizing with an alien body such as the university. A more productive argument concerns the equal status of artists with other researchers: artistic education has long since been assimilated into the university system, but artists have until recently not been given the right to partake in a PhD program and pass a PhD examination unless it is in another field, which is an incon-


203 gruence within the system that could be held against artists in the academic field. Yet another argument concerns the need for another definition, justification and viable future of art than those instances produced in the art market, and even in art institutions. Artistic research is a fluctuating field in-between established institutions and faculties. Since there is not yet a canon, the burden of contextualizing and defining the limits of artistic research rests on each artistic researcher. It is likely that the position of artistic research within the art world and the academy in the end will be normalized, as observed by Louis Althusser and Judith Butler, through the process of interpellation, an approach that retrospectively will explain and place the individual in a role that ”cites” or “performs” the standing order, community or thought-collective (Althusser, 1969; Butler, 1993). The concept of interpellation opens up to an understanding of the social that seems to agree with experience: there are no limits to the forms, among them change, that knowledge can take as long as there are adherents ready to reiterate. Artistic research will have to negotiate its position within the academy, facing a discourse based on general negative attitudes towards lateral and practice-based research (Mark, 2005). Making use of both visual and textual tools, artistic research must avoid alienating the visual art context, and respect the transgressive character of creativity by not subsuming the tension between art and research, not to bring one under the rule of the other. * The default position of the visitor to an art gallery is not very different from following a hypothetic-deductive and qualitative method. It is just unfamiliar to think about the process of looking at art as finding evidence to support a hypothesis – any idea of what art is – by studying research material. These somehow awkward concepts in the art context also seem to chip away at the ideology of individual sovereignty. The one-to-one encounter between the individual and the work cherished by the art institution becomes a reproductive process with an agent affirming and self-affirming the ideological substratum of the liberal individual. The art hypothesis could for


204 example be governed by the idea that art is a divine and divinatory outpour from the romantic genius, or conversely the product of the artist-constructor who is part of a community and its ongoing discourse. There might be points of formal comparison, and the differences could be understood as another paradigm relating to art: the inductive and quantitative method. We have the need for both the hypothetic-deductive/qualitative and the inductive/quantitative methods. In our understanding of artistic research, they run in parallel, since we hold that a work of art, depending on the time aspect ratio under which it is viewed involves both the discursive and the non-discursive. Why would art need a dependable method? Because we have set a goal to always question the reason for visual interest, and not fall back to formal or essentialist definitions of aesthetics. In the end, both approaches will produce an idea of a situated context, a set of dynamic but stable, and over time law-like relations, that would give a reason to what it was that were drawing our attention to. When starting by collecting voices and doing the bulk of the interview work, we inch ahead in a quantitative manner; listening through hours of recordings, trying to recuperate things discussed or otherwise indicated what might have been screened out by our questions. In the beginning of a project and its research process, it is important to try to embrace “everything and all”. This embracing includes what we always already bring with us: questions and prejudices. It would be impossible to challenge our first impressions unless we were making use of a qualitative method, in our terms: to start up a vivisection of our own preconceptions and assumptions. Summing things up using the quantitative or formal method is more useful when firmly placed in front of our desks, running through hundreds and hundreds of photographs and hours of filmed material. The question when editing is how to deal with the statistic-like amassment of interview scenes that are visually similar to one another. The comparative choice between images that are similar but not the same could be referred to as an act of artistic discretion, but it could also be seen, at least metaphorically, as an outcome of a quantitative process. This amassing process is helpful in finding structures and patterns that appear through a “statistic” and “formalist” way


205 of looking at the material that escaped us when we were focused on the discussions, with its underlying hypothesis, that may make up a secondary structure to supplement the overarching questions motivating our research: self-definition, travel and community. Does not this lateral mix of methods look suspiciously similar to the social sciences or ethnography – and where the artistic component becomes merely ornamental? What is different? Artistic research has, through visual art’s inheritance of romantic subjectivity, an inevitable link to personal experience; it could be compared with the qualitative method of autoethnography. Therefore it is important to come to terms with artistic research in its engagement with a host of traditions of expectations on, and interpretations of art. It is also productive and important to find a relation between a subjective and self-reflective discourse that examines the conditions for art, and a more systematic reflection that takes on settled and institutionalized discourses on art, or relevant to art. As we are identified with and subscribe to artistic research and to the university’s growing role in fostering art, the knowledge we produce will be deliberately presented as situated and partial. Method follows practice, method is itself a practice, but once formulated and orbited into discourse it becomes a filter of experience and information. Looking at Off the grid as an academic research project rather than an artwork, it does not have one singular reason that could be detected behind its starting hypothesis. It was to a large extent the result of conversations with other people and a sense of unrest that led us to Husby, and it was initiated as a result of a series of accidental meetings and decisions. Starting from a brief contact with an organization working against honor-related domestic violence that was followed by discussions with BAU, an architectural bureau in Stockholm over 1960s suburban planned space and the possible use of the writings of Henri Lefebvre, these both helped us to narrow down an area of interest: the suburb of Husby to the north of Stockholm. We spent well over half a year embracing the place: walking around, taking photos, following discussions and reading articles on immigration and suburbs, having coffee and talking to people of all ages in Husby.


208 Before we decided to do anything with the vast amount of material we collected, we followed the path of our previous projects, inspired by Lefebvre and Michel de Certeau, in which we would start from a place, and gradually peel off its economical, historical, social and psychological layers (Lefebvre, 1991; de Certeau, 2002); being in an interesting place that nonetheless is lacking a narrative that would represent its population on their behalf. Husby seemed “out of focus”, and we struggled to formulate the questions of that space and our own relation to it. More than that, we struggled to find a good reason to stay in Husby so that we could develop our relationship to the place. How could we stay away from the predictable representative role of talking on the inhabitants’ behalf and acting as “we-know-better-than-the-media” do-gooders? With the visual and textual means at our disposal we first tried to challenge and deconstruct the negative media image of Husby, one that we ourselves was permanently exposed to – school kids asked us if we were plainclothes police, or perhaps substitute teachers – then after that to question the self-fulfilling agenda of critical art. We came to the conclusion that it was not our battle to present counter-narratives. But then how to stay in Husby and circumvent those media stereotypes and power relations? By another stream of accidental meetings, we came in contact with an American discussion and movement under the name of “off the grid”, based ideologically in discussions on ecological sustainability and historically related to libertarian traditions of political independence (Ryker, 2005). While the off-griders seem completely entitled to and undisturbed in building their individual lives, the individual immigrant in Husby is in political discussions perceived through the racified filter of the housing estate as a collective that has to struggle for social respect (Ericsson & Molina, 2005; de los Reyes & Mulinari, 2005). The possibility to establish a link between our discussions in Husby and off-griders did not occur to us before returning from our first US research trip in 2006. Intuitively, we thought that the “artistic” solution was to put the two materials side by side and let the relation between them remain indeterminate. Startled by the sheer difference in the materials, we took recourse in the idea that someone else – an institution, a curator – should take


209 responsibility for the context of our work. Looking more closely at the material, we could no longer find a difference in principal in the right to self-definition between the off-griders and the immigrants in Husby. The right to self-definition became our working hypothesis. From this point on, we have been convinced that the link between Husby and northeastern USA was to be found in and established by the reciprocal connections that our interviewees would make themselves. The project, and our role included, changed by a kaleidoscopic twist. Given this new approach, we came to reexamine our first round of questions on freedom, independence and liberty, conventionally and even stereotypically associated with the US – and in Husby marginalization, travel and de Certeau’s concept of proper: where the imagined housing estate space subdues individual or collective practices. At this point, we also found that we needed to acknowledge our situated experience of doing artistic research and our involvement in the contemporary art discourse. We went through the questions, the material and our own position, until we reached a common ground: the right to self-definition and travel. Still, something was missing. Listening through the interviews from the American Northeast, we started to view the ideas on independence and self-sufficiency as a voluntary act of marginalization leaving, to different extent, the comforts of the middle class behind. This act of leaving one’s familiar surroundings appeared in stark contrast to the search for safety and political, social and economic freedom under the pains of marginalization from which immigrants to Sweden regularly suffer. We recognized that travel is a metaphor, sometimes even a noa-word, practically free of external associations, for other and more persistent social, political or economical structures, embedded in everyday situations. There were clearly examples of social violence, and social rejection, in both the US and the Husby material; albeit in different circumstances. We came to add the concept of community to our research questions, through the interpretations of and comments to the American situation that some of our interviewees in Husby made. This meant that we had arrived to our finalized project questions: the right to self-definition, travel and community.


210 A complication in the project has been that we have not been able to spend as much time in the American Northeast, in comparison to what we have spent in Husby. The dialogue setup and the adoption of an intermediary role have, as we see it, displaced the demands in ethnographic research to spend prolonged periods with the people you study. * Off the grid is interview-based, we arrive at the interviews carrying with us our cultural stereotypes, presuppositions, interests and questions, but making interviews is moving away from the safety and closure of the predetermined question to an open-ended struggle to understand the answers. The whole structure of the answer could easily slip away if we are too occupied with reaching a “proper” answer to the outline of the project. When the interviewees expound on their views, it has an unforeseeable effect on our next set of questions and the course of the project. But to review the gathered material we need to encounter a perspective that is different from our own, and by traveling with our questions between the off-griders and their paired Husby citizens, we believe that we have achieved that. Ethnographical discourse on theory and method, particularly critical ethnography, generally share the problems of artistic research; because of ethnography’s reliance on methods such as participant observation and interviews, even more so with our project. When George Marcus and Michael Fischer brand their own discipline “creatively parasitic” (Marcus & Fischer, 1999, p. 19), it positively matches our understanding of artistic research. That the ethnographer is “writing from a largely unique research experience to which only he or she has practical access in the academic community” seems to also fit the description of our situation as artistic researchers (Ibid, p. 21). In our understanding, both artistic researchers and ethnographers make use of thoughts, reflections and ideas to filter the all-embracing experience. Another critical ethnographer, James Clifford, notes that he is “working with a notion of comparative knowledge produced through an itinerary, always marked by a ’way


211 in’, a history of locations and a location of histories: ’partial and composite traveling theories’ (Clifford, 1997, p. 31). Our interpretive role as intermediaries has been accepted by the interviewees, and the dialogue overcomes the abstraction once attached to artistic research. We feel there is ultimately no principal difference in the right to self-definition between the off-griders, the immigrants in Husby, and us: the same set of questions applies regardless of travel topology, resources and community context: we have no problem discussing the questions between us. The real question is now appearing – why are rights understood and distributed so differently? Literature and other sources: Althusser, Louis, For Marx, Penguin, 1969; Bauman, Zygmunt, Liquid Modernity, Polity Press, 2000; Bode, Mike & Schmidt, Staffan, 50% Spatial Expectations, The Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts, Göteborg university, 2006; Butler, Judith, Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ”Sex”, Routledge, 1993; Certeau, Michel de, The Practice of Everyday Life, University of California Press, 2002; Clifford, James, Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century, Harvard University Press, 1997; de los Reyes, Paulina & Mulinari, Diana, Intersektionalitet, Liber, Malmö 2005; Ericsson, Urban & Molina, Irene, “The Premonitions of Travel: Pilgrimages Through the Suburb and The Other”, Conference paper delivered at Geographies of Transgression, 2005; The Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts: Unique research environment, http://www.konst.gu.se/forskning, Göteborg University, 2007; Fischer, Michael & Marcus, George, Anthropology as Cultural Critique, University of Chicago Press, 1999; Mark, Eva: “Praktiska teoretiker och teoretiska praktiker. Om kunskap som aspekter av kultur”, in Kulturarvens grenser, (eds.) Aronsson, P., Skarin Frykman, B., Hodne, B., Ödemark, J., Göteborg, Arkipelag, 2006; Nevanlinna, Toumas, “Is Artistic Research a Meaningful Concept?” In Lier & Boog, 18, (eds.) Balkema & Slager, Rodopi 2004; Paletten: Konstpedagogik – Den fria konstnären och Bolognas diktat, no 4, 2006; Ryker, Lori, Off the Grid: Modern Homes + Alternative Energy, Gibbs Smith Publishers, 2005


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Reflecting, Writing, and Forgetting: Method in artand designbased research Katja Grillner

In response to Geist’s invitation to reflect on the notion of method in art- and designbased research, I wish to discuss an installation project – out of focus (in distraction) – which I exhibited at Domo Baal Gallery in London 2006, as a part of the group show Spatial Imagination. This is a project which operates in an artistic as well as an academic research context. I have presented it and written about it in conferences and academic publications. The installation is part of a more extensive writing project I am engaged in, which aims at proposing and exploring critical modes of spatial representation (‘instruments’ or ‘agents’ of the ‘spatial imagination’). While no account of method can claim to be complete and true, I will in this context only take up a few aspects that might be of interest to practice-based research. Methodological reflections always contain elements of idealization (what I wish I had done) as well as postrationalization (how I ought to have proceeded to end up with this result). In scientific research the acknowledgement of absence of, or uncertainty in relation to method, would seriously undermine the reliability of the results (as well as the authority of the researcher), which is why methodological reflections rarely capture what happens in the margins of the research process, decisions that are merely coincidental or affected by unexpected turns around the experiment or researcher. For the exploration of research methodology, this is a dilemma, something to pay attention to, but also, to some degree, something inevitable.   While the question of method is important and interesting, it is a dangerous one to get caught in. More important than method is always the result – what comes out of the process. If it is a research project – which questions has it raised, and what possible answers has it produced? In architectural research, which in its modern form dates almost half a century back, the discussion around appropriate methodologies has, from time to time, definitely overshadowed actual research engaging in real architectural conditions, problems or questions. There is a similar danger in the current development of art- and design-based research – what is


213 it that comes out of a methodological reflection really? Is it a mere symptom of a young and insecure research field, or an essential starting point that we cannot run away from, or skip over? The account that follows contains a very brief presentation of an installation and essay that I produced and touches only lightly on the questions that I wish to address through the project. Very few of the readers can be expected to be familiar with this project. In terms of methodology it describes a project-specific methodological ‘compass’ instructing the holder what to aim for – how to proceed – and outlines the intended effect of the resulting work. It further reflects on 1) the possibility to forget that one might have known what one was doing at an early stage (embracing the seemingly intuitive) 2) the difficulties one might encounter when trying to understand and articulate methodology in relation to visual, spatial or haptic processes of artistic production and/or research, 3) the specific problems and potential values of methodological “navel-gazing” in art- and design-based research. The installation originated from an invitation to write an essay for the 2004 yearbook of the Swedish Museum of Architecture, and, parallel to this, my participation in the Critical Architecture conference in London the same year. The theme of the yearbook was “everyday architecture” and I was invited to write about parks. Pressed for time and by other commitments, the question I asked myself before accepting the invitation was whether, under this heading, I could write about the eighteenth century landscape garden – a milieu that has everything to do with dreams and imagination and very little (on the surface) with the concerns of everyday life. The paper I proposed for this conference explored the possibility of developing new forms for critical writing in architecture that would look into the margins rather than what is at the immediate centre of architectural experience. The idea was to, under influence from Walter Benjamin, develop a form of writing appropriate for the ‘distracted’ critic, a writing that presents architecture as an everyday object appropriated in use, rather than by attentive (touristic) observation.   In another project I was working on 18th century landscape writings and looking at how a writer like Thomas Whately in


214 ekphrastic passages would invite the reader to a sensation of living a life within the garden, capturing the ‘long experience’ of use, rather than the ‘brief impression’ of a visit. Could I perhaps attempt the writing of contemporary ekphrasis? A text that would capture the everyday life of a park today (an extended experience of our own time)? In order to do this I would have to use a park that had entered my life more permanently than any place just visited under a short period. Haga Park in Stockholm – an eighteenth century landscape garden, a public park (on royal grounds) situated between the highways E4 and E18 just north of central Stockholm – was precisely such a place My visits there have, since the age of six, been more or less frequent. Having decided to write the essay, and to combine it with the paper proposed for Critical Architecture, the process was rather smooth, and the essay has since been published in a first version in the Architecture Museum yearbook, and later in an edited English version.   The installation that followed the essay was not text-based. Composed of three wall-mounted light- and sound boxes, it displays triptychs of video stills from Haga Park. From the boxes, distributed in the stairwell of the gallery, an eighteenth-century townhouse, the sounds of the park trickle out: rustling leaves, croaking crows, traffic noise, and the occasional hoot of a distant truck. Each scene is accompanied by narrative fragments read aloud. The ambition is to convey a sensation of a de-focused, distracted perception through a play with layers of mediation (the DV-still, the ‘soundtrack of the park’, the stories, the reading voice, the spatial experience created there and then). If the essay had aimed at developing a form of writing that would capture and represent a distracted perception, the installation translated and developed further, through mediation, this idea into a physical form of representation. Once the essay was written my general perception of the writing process was that it had been largely intuitive. I tend to feel lost in the text while immersed in the process of writing it and if it all runs smoothly I have a sense that the text is taking control and writes itself. When I later happened to reread the letter I had sent to accept the invitation to write (where I describe the planned essay, politely asking whether a somewhat unconventional form might be accept-


215 able), I discovered that my own memory of the writing process seemed somewhat false. The letter shows that I clearly, already at this stage, had outlined precisely the text I had later proceeded to write. This surprised me and made me realize that I could not really have been lost in the process. Similarly, a couple of years ago, I discovered some notes in my computer which described in detail the disposition and mode of presentation of my then still-to-be-written doctoral dissertation. My own notion of the writing process had until this point been that it (too) had been largely chaotic and intuitive, to put it mildly. It was fast, I was lucky, but I would never have claimed (other than when publicly defending my thesis) that I had been in full control of the process. But, as a matter of fact, the notes I discovered prove rather the opposite. They present in short the very dissertation that eventually materialized. The writing method as well as the disposition is described in a precise manner. Clearly, I knew very well what I was doing, but had forgotten it along the way.   The notes I rediscovered, both for the essay and for my dissertation, may be described as a written compass – a drawing, a diagram, or a disposition. They are, in terms of content, quite similar. As an agent for the imagination, the ‘compass’ articulates both the final result and the creative process, and how they may operate – the destination of the journey (where we are headed). Furthermore, it identifies the strategies which should lead us in that direction, and transparently describes the underlying intention – why we are to take precisely this path and not a different one at this point. In my dissertation as well as in the later Haga Park project, writing itself functioned as my continuous compass – an investigative and critical medium for the presentation of specific experiences. It is interesting to speculate whether my apparent ‘repression’ of the initial strict outline in itself constitutes a subconscious methodological strategy. In order to be able to write it might very well be critical for me to imagine that there are no restrictions or limits as to where the text might take me. And at the same time, without the initial (forgotten) compass, the text might very well have reached nowhere. I try to advise students to formulate very strict and precise plans on one hand, and on the other to have the courage to completely forget about them. It is a rather difficult thing to do.


216 While the choice of scenes, the presentation of images and the recording of the fragments of a story were (all) influenced directly by the written essay, the resulting work was primarily visual, aural, spatial and tactile. How did the transfer take place? As I described, the writing of the essay appears to have proceeded according to plan, following a quite regular methodical writing process. However, the presentation of the visual material did not, as far as I can see, follow a similar pattern. In the visual process, I collected and edited material expressions almost as found objects rather than, as in the writing process, producing new expressions from scratch (the systematic production of significant meaning from words). A DV camera had accompanied me on my walks to Haga Park as a registering tool, a kind of documentary notebook that I imagined would be a reliable memory source to be used in the writing process. When watching the footage at home on the TV I was taken by surprise by the flickering still image on the screen, it came through as a mysterious moment of peripheral perception.   I began to take photos of particular stills in order to arrest these fleeting moments. I then pulled these instances apart, later to reassemble selected moments. This process resulted in triptychs presenting key scenes from the Haga Park essay. Six of these were published together with the original essay, three were selected for


217 the installation. The sound from the park used for each box was taken from the footage related to each location, and the narrative fragments were selected from the then-finished essay. This mode of operation was to a large extent medium-specific. In the case of text production an equivalent process would be to apply a kind of cutand-paste technique, using an input (to the process) that is more or less ‘ready-made’ and partially external to the producer (external in the way that the production of footage through a handheld DV-camera in this case contained an element of ‘automation’ that is very different from the conscious articulation of place through a verbal description).   The rawness of the photo of the TV screen, with its interference patterns, strange colour patches etc., had a distancing and somehow generalizing effect on the presentation of the Haga Park settings. In the essay, the narrative voice is very present, it is her memories, her experiences, that are told together with a critical reflection on landscape representation and architectural criticism. In the installation, on the other hand, the subject is withdrawn. A charged landscape, a series of scenes and their possible stories, appears. These places somehow look back at us (all the things those places have seen) and survives us. They are always there as we pass by. The two works (the essay and the installation) thus operate in quite different ways.


218 This both is, and is not, an effect of the respective potential of the different media – the critical essay and the spatial installation. The methodological difference between the two parts of the project could be understood to reflect on one level that between an academic research process (writing) and an intuitive artistic process (the production of images, the installation). But this distinction is somehow overly simplistic. The kind of writing I pursued here is quite far from traditional academic writing (although I insist on considering it academic research). My own precision is on the other hand greater when it comes to systematically planning, describing and implementing a text-based project, compared to a visual project. Text is the medium of which I have the most creative and professional experience, even if I perhaps write with a kind of architectural sensibility – a particular visual, spatial and tactile perception. I wish to engage reflection in reasoning, dialogue and argumentation, and to situate these reflections in specific spatial contexts (to make them ‘take place’). The text medium being continuous throughout the planning, description and implementation in the writing of the essay is of course significant when comparing to the visual and spatial part of the project. To describe in words an artistic process that is primarily visual, spatial, or haptic, is a different kind of challenge than the first, requiring some sort of complex translation. The methodological precision may very well be great even if the words to describe the process are missing. As much as I imagined my writing process to have been more intuitive than it was, the visual editing process might thus have been much more precise and determined than what I just described.   To critically discuss an artistic project of one’s own is a rather difficult challenge. It is generally not considered appropriate for an artist or author to appear to wish to ‘control’ the experience of her work, to legitimise it through explanatory remarks, or to postrationalize what in reality was a truly obscure process of making. A work of art, as a rule in art criticism, is always looked at as independent from its maker and as something that must be allowed to ‘speak on its own’. An artist that begins to critically explore and talk about her own work is somehow tampering with this ideal. To maintain the balance, the trick is to never get too close to the actual


219 work, to remain at a safe distance in the realm of critical questions or theoretical issues that are addressed. In academic research on the other hand the situation is very much the opposite. If a researcher cannot account for her choices and modes of operation, the results may very well become invalidated. This means that for the artist engaging in academic research there are many traps to fall into. These might be avoided if choosing to focus the study of method on the practices of others, instead of one’s own, a strategy which can often be recommended, especially for PhD projects. Still, in my view, it is definitely worth taking the risk to ‘navel-gaze’ every now and then into one’s own practice.   As the director of AKAD (The Academy for Practice-based Research in Architecture and Design), I play an active role in the development of the field of art- and design-based research in Sweden. The field of art- and design based research offers good opportunities to take on the particular translation work from visual, spatial, aural, or haptic, to verbal forms for reflection and expression, translations that are needed if we wish to open up art and design production for a critical discussion developed from within. It gives the artist a chance to both become more aware, articulating and developing one’s own methods, and to contextualize one’s projects, theoretically and artistically. It also concerns the exploration of methods to escape the universe of one’s own project, to establish a multitude of viewpoints from where to look back critically at the work from outside. This is why I consider working with the text and the word – the continuous development of precision in written and spoken language and the challenge of traditional forms of academic representation – as an absolutely crucial element in artand design-based research. References to mentioned publications by the author: Katja Grillner Ramble, linger, and gaze – Philosophical dialogues from the landscape garden (Doctoral thesis), KTH, Stockholm, 2000; Katja Grillner “Fluttering butterflies, a dusty road, and a muddy stone: criticality in distraction (Haga Park, Stockholm, 2004)”, in: Jonathan Hill, Jane Rendell et al (eds), Critical Architecture, London, Routledge, 2007; Katja Grillner “Kritik och förströelse (vi befinner oss i Hagaparken, Stockholm)”, in Varje dags arkitektur, Ed. Christina Engfors, Arkitekturmuseet, Stockholm 2005; Katja Grillner “In the Corner of Perception – Spatial Experience in Distraction”, Architectural Research Quarterly, Vol. 9, No 3/4, 2006.


221

Road Runner’s Press takes a look at Kista Science City1 The Committee of Names In 1920, a specific advisory committee was founded, with the task to draw up suggestions for names to the Stockholm City Planning Committee. This committee was given the name The City Planning Committee’s Committee of Names and its most extensive task since the middle of the 20th century has been the mass-formation of new names required by the large-scale urbanisation in the southern and western part of Suburban Stockholm. From the book Stockholms gatunamn:2 Here, the principles which the Committee of Names seeks to apply to the preparation of cases of names will be presented in brief. Giving names to new or revised city plans is, to begin with, an examination of the need of names. At the city plan level, this is often a technical matter concerning the right interpretation of the plan. When the city

plans are implemented on the ground the need of a name can change. To answer the question of what should be named is, however, easy in principle, as the primary function of names is to facilitate orientation in the city. Citizens have a right to expect as functional and uncomplicated addresses as possible – and this requires names. A name is to be given where there is need for one. To decide what shall be named is, as mentioned, often a technical, practical problem; deciding which name to choose is, however, a purely linguistic one. In order to solve this problem, a familiarity with the current use of names and the naming principles characterizing it, is appropriate. Also needed is knowledge of conventions of pronunciation and spelling. as well as a firm grasp of usage and grammar. It is also of value to be well acquainted with the problems and the methodology of place name research. Furthermore, awareness of the already present collection of place names within the area in question for name giving is required, as it is obviously desirable to make use, to the largest possible extent, of names currently or previously used there. Knowledge of local and


222 social history is an invaluable asset as well. There are certain primary requirements appertaining to the creation of names. The names should be easy to perceive, easy to pronounce, easy to write, easy to remember. The requirements become easier to meet if the names are such that they are evocative, offering points of connection and, in and of themselves, are meaningful. It is obvious that chances of this being achieved are greater if a well-known word material is used, if well-known phenomena, persons, occurrences, locations, etc, are referred to. 1.Road Runner’s Press (Andreas Mangione and Hanna Dagerskog) 2. Nils-Gustaf Stahre, Per Anders Fogelström, Jonas Ferenius, Gunnar Lundqvist; Stockholms gatunamn, tredje, utökade och reviderade upplagan (Stockholmia Förlag, 2005).


225 Kista Science City, located 15 km north of Stockholm, is an information and communication technology cluster organized around a net of fjords and rapids. When the area was built on greenfield land 30 years ago, the streets were given names with themes taken from Iceland and Greenland. Today this dislocation overshadows the underlying terrain and has become more or equally real. Kista Science City has a strategic geographic location with infrastructure in all directions. We travel from the south and the landscape that flickers by, between center and center, opens up in pastoral surroundings and gives us a hint of the prehistory of our destination. The state acquired the site as military training ground in 1905. The previously freehold farmers became tenants and were also obliged to accommodate men from the military troops. When Stockholm Municipality later obtains the land, a master plan is drawn up for a residential and working area in the open landscape, partially damaged by firing exercises. partially damaged landscape. When we approach the station, the metro train leaves the ter-

rain by a concrete viaduct and the rail crosshatches a separation between the two main functions of the area. The station is a built-in ramp to Kista Galleria, an inward-looking solitaire between the dwellings in the west and Kista Science City in the east. The passage through this barrier between different forms of human life consumes our energies, but we soon find ourselves outdoors on a bridge taking us over to the city of science.   After buying cheap land from the the municipality at the end of the ‘70s, Ericsson and IBM move in and the concentration of companies increases. Soon the University, the Royal Institute of Technology and the Swedish Defence Research Agency follow. The region now accommodates more companies and employees within a limited space than anywhere else in the country. Standing behind the development are the highestlevel representatives from the business world, academia and the public sector, and the area is considered to be a Swedish Silicon Valley. In the field in front of us, made up of several landscapes, it is difficult to locate oneself. The


226

Kista Terrace, Wing책rdhs Arkitekter/AP Fastigheter

lack of distinct borders forces us to surrender and instead we try to draw a map of the mirage that the different layers generate. Underneath our feet lies the buried system of cables that, like the longitude and latitude lines,

pulls the geography together and create an illusion of a global point. Above ground we move on a level constructed on an inhuman scale. Along wide streets and closed blocks all presence of mind is anaesthetized. Every-


227 objects, towers, masts and satellites in orbit around the Earth, are added, the image of colder regions is reinforced. We are at an outpost in an immaterial landscape where uninhibited flows transform and transport this local and at the same time unbounded place towards the Arctic.

thing here is mapped with data from other places and around our bodies the thought, and the economic contexts, continue to stretch further out. When the traffic in the wireless networks, the communication between

The leadership of Kista Science City has developed a joint vision to open up the region towards becoming more attractive, animated and city-like, and behind fences along Isafjord Street the new detailed plans are being transcribed. The old factories of Ericsson’s department for research and development have been demolished and the bedrock blasted to prepare the ground for the future urban district, Kista Terrace. The architect’s CAD image of one of the blocks shows a modernisticlooking cube of glass spectacularly penetrated by a deep canyon. Our feet, sore from walking among parking lots, heaps of empty cable spools and enormous piles of sand, pull us away from this illusive escape from physical dissolution. We leave the picture of the monumental void and wander back through the coded and inhospitable continent of science.


228

Gavin Jantjes in conversation with Svetlana Kopystiansky Berlin, April 1997* gj: In your earlier work you needed to make the distinction between ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ culture in Russia. Is the dynamism of ‘unofficial culture’ defined by the relationship it has to cultural practices outside of Russia, beyond what the West called the Soviet block, or is ‘unofficial culture’ the revision and recoding of Russian cultural achievement? sk: It wasn’t difficult to make a distinction between official and unofficial culture. The whole society of that time was divided. In our (Igor and my) case, we responded primarily to the life we knew, to the best from our contemporary situation. We considered its historical dynamic, which had its past and will have its future. To deal with the present, we felt a need to address the past as well. The real sphere of interest at that time was the search for a language to narrate this. Later on, when it became possible to review our works in an ‘interna-

tional’ context, we realised that many things we had considered specifically ‘Russian’ or ‘Soviet’ have their international equivalent and are not so specific. We realised that the country was isolated from 1933 until 1953 and that these twenty years of isolation did not cut centuriesold links of Russian culture with European culture and the World. gj: Does your work inscribe a rift with Russian history and tradition, or do you see your work more as a manipulation and extension of a dynamic past? sk: Because the present simultaneously holds both a past and the future, I think that nobody can return to a past and see it in the same manner as people saw it then. I look at the culture of the beginning of the century not from the inside but from the outside and from the present. It is a different perspective and the way I see it says perhaps more about us and our time than about another period. My subjective point of view is important, as is my reaction to particular ideas and works that find their reflection in some works of mine.


229 gj: There is an echo of the 1920s avant-garde in your work. In particular, its references to the works of Duchamp and Rodchenko. Does the past offer a dynamism to the present. Are you inviting your audience to revisit those ‘traditions’ ? sk: Chekhov said the past is connected to the present in an uninterrupted chain of happenings, in which each subsequent event has been caused by the preceding one. If you touched one end of the chain, the other would tremble. For me it was important to rethink ideas of the Russian avant-garde including of course constructivism, ideas of Rodchenko and Tatlin but also the late avant-garde tradition of the absurd represented by Daniil Kharms, Vvedensky and the whole group of Oberiu. The past interests me not as a nostalgic past but to the extent to which it becomes our present and our future. History as we know is not the past, but it’s a manipulated version and the version we claim to know says a lot about the world we live in. So I think that I work with and in the contemporary situation more than with the past.

gj: From the mid-nineteenth century up until the Revolution, women had direct access to artistic education. They were well represented in the Russian avant-garde of the 1920s. In the West very little is known about Russian women artists today. Why is this so? sk: The period of the avantgarde in Russia was really unique, in a sense that it made possible the equal representation of women and men artists in the art scene and gave equality of status to their artistic contributions. The period of social realism in the art of USSR by contrast is notable in the history of modern Russian art for its lack of women artists. Little is known about the contemporary art of Russia in the world in general. And the reason for that is not a lack of talented artists but the political turmoil in Russia which makes the existence of a contemporary art extremely difficult. Russia’s incapability to support its artists in any comparable way to the support given to contemporary art in any Western country is also part of it. gj: Because so little is known, about Russian visual art from


230 this century, do you feel a burden in having to talk about your work in relation to the expectations and preconceptions of the West, particularly regarding the Russian political situation? sk: With a few of our colleagues we have to carry this burden. Due to the lengthy absence of Russia on the world art forum, it is difficult for most people to look at Russian art without preconceptions created by the Cold War. The simplest and the safest way of dealing with a foreign culture is putting it on a separate shelf with the label ‘ethnography’ or ‘dissident art’, in order to separate it from the ‘international’, contemporary art.   Expectations and preconceptions of the West regarding Russia have their roots in the propaganda of the Cold War period. To be effective, each propaganda has to be primitive and has to exaggerate and simplify. It has to talk in a black and white paradigm. The first and important moment of the propaganda, deeply rooted in a public consciousness, is that Russia is different. In fact each country is different when compared to another. Italy is different to Germany and so on.

And of course Russia is different to Spain. However, in the case of the Soviet Union, the former enemy, the consciousness of the Western public exaggerate differences to the extent that a dialogue and understanding seems to be impossible. In this context the expectations of the West remain fixed, an unsophisticated, ethnographic narrative about a different life ‘over there’. And it must look different too. gj: Your belief that Russian culture is currently involved in a process of integration into a wider world culture, echoes what happened in the 1920s and ‘30s. Yet simultaneously there is a call for a revision of Russian cultural history and the restoration of traditions. You propose a double movement – forward to an unknown future and backward to an unknown past. sk: I would say forward to an unknown future with a known past because now, not only do those people who sought the forbidden information have knowledge about their past and sometimes literally about the past of their family members, but the general knowledge of the society has changed. The


231 past is no longer forbidden or hidden and what worries all of us is the future.   I would also say that Russian culture has already been integrated into the wider world culture for many hundreds of years. What is happening now is the integration of Russian culture into a global cultural system, which largely means the distribution, advertising and marketing of Russian culture. This doesn’t have anything to do with culture itself, but with politics and economics. We were surprised when at the beginning of Perestroika, we were able to show our art outside the Soviet Union and the Western media called all Russian artists ‘Perestoika Artists’ and Igor, and my art ‘Perestroika Art’. This was absurd because most of us started to make art long before Gorbachev came to power. From the Western art system’s point of view it had a logic. There the work of art exists only from the moment it was exhibited within the system. To comment on the totalitarian period of Stalinism, I have to say that even at the time of this totalitarian culture, the Soviet Union was perfectly integrated into a world totalitarian cultural system represented

by Germany, Italy and later on Communist China, North Korea and North Vietnam. Totalitarian culture is not a Russian national invention.   Talking about Russian culture in this century we cannot forget that Russian culture existed and functioned not only on the territory of Russia or the Soviet Union, but also in exile. Artists like Kandinsky, Gabo, Larionov; writers like Nabokov and Bunin; composers like Stravinsky and Rachmaninov – just to mention a few who made a significant contribution to the ‘Western’ culture. In fact, the culture in exile during the whole century was a powerful component of Russian culture which was censored and ignored by Soviet cultural officials. Emigration due to the civil war and Bolshevik terror was a necessity for many people. Here I think it might be appropriate to quote Thomas Mann, who on being in exile said: “The German literature is there where I am”. The whole unofficial, or underground, culture existed as a culture of internal exile during the whole Soviet era. By talking about Russian culture of this century we have to talk about all it’s components.


232 gj: How do artists including yourself reveal these ideas through their practice? sk: The so called ‘unofficial’ art was never monolithic and consisted of many, sometimes very different artistic and political positions. Sometimes it was not possible to see what they had in common besides their rejection by official politics. Many different groups existed simultaneously and it was not appropriate to single out a personality that dominated the scene. The unofficial art never existed as a school or homogeneous movement with an aesthetic programme. The scene consisted of many different individual positions and everyone had to locate his point of inspiration. Each had an individual response. gj: Can one enact a revision of history, and yet avoid echoing ‘official culture’? And is there a need to do this? sk: Analysing socialist realist art, the official art in the former Soviet Union, reveals that many unofficial artists from the previous generation associated with the ‘Sots Art’ movement, worked within it. I think what

they did was very important for that time and very comprehensive in its way. We didn’t feel the need to deal with that issue for one or more reasons. We spent our childhood in a very different country than the previous generation. The Soviet Union after Khrushchev’s disclosure of Stalin’s crimes became a different country. There was a new spirit of openness and we had a sense that we lived as part of a larger world, and that our country has it’s past, its present and future connected with this world. However, the country remained authoritarian. Of course, I do have in my work some references to the official cultural situation: I specifically reacted to the narratives of official art by using written text in a different way, by turning them into visual objects. In the way I chose and rewrote texts of Russian writers, I used my creative power in the same manner the officials used their bureaucratic power, to manipulate the culture. I also worked a lot with the issue of censorship, hiding parts of a text and exposing its fragments which then became absurd. Censorship has a very long tradition in Russia. Even in the nineteenth century, works by Tolstoy were censored. I


233 think of the censor as a co-author and a collaborator, co-responsible for the final version we are allowed to see. gj: Do you perceive of the ‘wider world’ Russian culture addresses today as an ‘international’ space? Who defines this international space? Does it have a location? sk: I am sure that the space Russian culture is entering now will become international in the future. The situation we have in the art world now is not international at all. Today there are a few wealthy nations with developed consuming and producing cultural systems, directed primarily to the promotion and selling of their own product within this exclusive system. Internationalism of the future will be a less exclusive club. I think that it is a good gesture by some people to create an international space, but these people and institutions with an international programme resemble small islands in the sea of national promotions. gj: Do you think your work is received in this international space as Russian or even nonWestern? How do you want your work to be received?

sk: It would be correct to say that my roots are in Russian culture, but I would have to distinguish a Russian culture which has a diversity of traditions. Marina Tsvetayeva, one of the most famous Russian women poets of this century, in a letter to Rainer Maria Rilke said: “I am not a Russian poet and I am always astonished to be taken for one and looked upon in this light. The reason one becomes a poet (if it were even possible to become one, if one were not one before all else!) is to avoid being French, Russian, etc., in order to be everything”. In response to the perception of one’s work, we have to turn the table and question it in the context of its own history. We have here a perception by the professional art world, experienced in reading the languages of contemporary art, their concepts and their contexts. The language of contemporary art has been international from the nativity of the avant-garde. El Lissitsky wrote about the language of this internationalism of art in his magazine Object published in Berlin as early as 1922. The opposition Russian/ Western is therefore incorrect in the context of an avant-garde. It is also not correct to talk about


234 ‘social realism’ as a national language. As everybody knows, the Eastern European and Russian avant-garde inspired too many western artists of this century to allow such a distinction to become anything more than an artificial and political division. We have to emphasise that every culture of our continent has received and given influences to another culture over many centuries. It is important to restate that a lot of preconceptions about the way people look at art is planted by mass media. gj: Can one say that a work of art is international if it is easily translatable? Meaning that what art has in common through style, subject matter and material takes precedence over the particularities of difference. sk: Without doubt works of art are translatable and open to interpretation because there is no ‘clean’ culture in the world. The present originated from a past in which cultures offered and received, accepted influences and executed influences. But of course there are significant differences in cultures which have very deep roots in the past. The way I look at Spanish art

is not the way Spanish people look at Spanish art. Also Dutch people will see something different in Spanish painting. But talking about perception, I must say that a ‘national’ point of view is a fiction. Sometimes people with different cultural backgrounds can find more in common in the way they see art than people from the same background. It is a very individual process, determined by a special sensitivity. gj: If internationalism is about communication and translation, how do you maintain an artistic and cultural identity while becoming part of a wider European or World community? sk: I have no problems maintaining my identity. I don’t feel any danger of losing it. With the possibility to work and live outside Russia, I have received new inspirations and new experiences. I consider cultural identity as an open process. My works have their own context, as well as that of Russian and international art. I think of it as a big container with many different things. That’s why even though I use very different media, each work is connected to another. Artists continually re-work


235 the same ideas during their life time. I try to be as open as I can to new inspirations from life and from the world and to interpret these independently through the choice of materials. It is impossible to lose my own specific sensibility and to lose my previous experience. I don’t experience any problems with communication. Russian culture is integrated into the World and European culture. Try to think for a moment beyond just avant-garde art and think of its achievements in music and literature. There is Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Chekhov from the nineteenth century, and Khlebnikov, Kharms, Nabokov, Pasternak from the twentieth century. For me Nabokov is a Russian writer but it hasn’t been problematic for Americans to see him as an American writer. In a similar context I could mention Rachmaninov or Stravinsky. gj: In a billboard work you made with your husband Igor in 1991, you pronounced “Art is the continuation of politics by different means”. You have also said that your work is very far from politics. How do these ‘different means’ distance your work from politics?

sk I do have a totally different experience as a former ‘unofficial artist’ from the former Soviet Union. I have had a chance to realise that each work of art is political because it is produced at a certain time, and in a certain place or country. Its production within certain social/political contexts causes certain meanings to emerge beside those the artists intended. Each of our actions and each step has a political meaning and we are responsible for that. Another thing worth saying is that art is very often used by political power for purposes the art producer wouldn’t agree with. When produced, it becomes the product of the country – the national product – and can be used by the national government as a proof of national superiority. The cultural achievements and cultural treasures in the hands of politicians can be used as a weapon for different purposes and with different results. gj: Books are fundamental to your work. The book, regardless of its content, is an international symbol. Do you use books for what they contain or as symbolic objects?


236 sk: I think that these two components work together and couldn’t be separated in my work. They are both equally important. The book is a symbolic object and always has a content. The text is sometimes more, sometimes less accessible and plays it’s role in the process of perception. Books are symbols of civilisation. Borges said: “A book isn’t a closed essence, but a relation or more precisely an axis of endless relations”. gj: How do you decide which books to use in particular installations? What, for example, is the significance of the works by French writers and philosophers writing at the time of the French Revolution, which you used in your gymnasium installation? sk: I rely on my knowledge, intuition and my feelings when choosing books. A serious book has many meanings, and the combination of several serious books creates a network of complicated correlations of meanings and this is very interesting for me. I think that it is impossible for an artist to calculate the final result.

gj: In your installations books are usually open, or partially open, and therefore accessible to the viewer. Intrigue or seduction is suggested. The book speaks of accessibility and control. Are books objects of manipulation? sk: Yes, they are objects of manipulation as are any objects. The important thing is that by manipulating an object which has a certain meaning, a certain intellectual weight or gravitas, you manipulate with a meaning. An intriguing question would be how effective such manipulation could be and how effective is the resistance to what it contains. Censorship in Russia has traditionally been distinguished by its rigour. A small piece of paper might conceal something dangerous not only in the actual lines of the text, but also ‘between the lines’. gj: How do you relate the concept of language as proposed by Borges? sk: I like Borges very much, but I agree when Barthes speaks of the “power of language” and “the language of power”. Language reflects power. The way we speak, what we can say and


237 what is not allowed to be said in a language, says a lot about power. For instance, after the revolution the spelling rules of the Russian language were changed significantly. In prerevolutionary Russian, ‘yer’ at the end of the word served as a marker of the masculine gender. For the new political forces in power, the act of changing spelling was not only symbolic but actual, a blow to the old culture and the old consciousness. It was intended to undermine one of the most deeply felt cultural metaphors: gender. gj: While you are struggling against conditioning and manipulation through the sign (language), you are doing this by using the sign itself, suggesting a bridge rather than a rift with the past. Your criticism of orthodoxy seems to be implicit rather than explicit. sk: I try to avoid any simplifications. The language of art in my opinion should not to be didactic. Why also should the language of visual art be very narrative if it is so easy to use narrative verbal language? “For the painter the world is a pageant and for poet a song”, said Oscar Wilde.

gj: There appears to be a relationship between the formal use of text and references to architecture and design in a number of your works, especially those which are site specific. sk: There are sketches by the poet Khlebnikov in which buildings and city gates are made of books – “radiant word buildings”, a world built with text, just as poems constructed, his own life. I like to work with a specific architectural situation. Each space always has it’s social meaning, function and a specific shape which creates an atmosphere.   My intervention in the Café Einstein in Berlin was very simple. I removed from each table two plates and replaced them with two open books. Each table then became a dining table and the library table at the same time. The whole space fluctuating between a library and restaurant or dining room. By adding an additional function to the space, I created a new field of energy and changed not only the functional relations, but its whole meaning. A friend from New York asked me “Is this work about alienation?”. I think it is also about truth. In this work unity and division coexist.


238 It was typical for the city where this work was made. gj: There seems to be a creative tension between controlled design and an openness to the unexpected in much of your work. Your work There’s one thing I’m afraid of (1990) incorporates a chair and a wheel and is particularly reminiscent of Duchamp. Yet there is also an elegance about the piece which speaks of the Russian tradition of design and craftsmanship? sk: I would agree with that because I was always interested in analysing the similarities and differences in approach to the object by Dadaists and Constructivists. In some works I referred to the functionalism expressed by Tatlin: “Neither toward the new nor the old but toward the necessary.” It is something that a Dadaist would never say. In this work I also see a reflection of my interest in the tradition of the absurd in Russian literature, as expressed by Kharms. Vladimir Lifshits, on visiting Kharms’ appartment, saw in a corner a strange object made of pieces of iron, wooden boards, empty cigarette boxes, springs, bicycle wheels, twine, and cans. When Lifshits asked

what it was, Kharms replied, “A machine.” “What kind of machine?” “No kind. Just a machine in general.” “And where does it come from?” “I put it together myself,” said Kharms. “What does it do?” “It does nothing.” “What do you mean nothing?” “Simply nothing.” “What is it for?” “I just wanted to have a machine at home.” It was a machine to do nothing. gj: In your landscape paintings, which are composed of hundreds of words, you invite the viewer to look at a text rather than discover a meaning through the interpretation of the printed word. The veneration of the writer and the novel so much part of Russian tradition, you invert by using the written narrative as material for painting. sk: Our system of perception is constructed in such way that if we read, we cannot see the material shape, and if we look at the materiality of painting, we cannot read the text. We obviously have a certain mechanism inside ourselves which we have to switch on and off. Khlebnikov developed a theory about a world language which he called “zaum language”. He


239 had an idea to create “the world network of visual ‘images’ for different kinds of space”. The verbal language can be transformed into an international language by representing each letter with a visual image. He challenged artists to find for each kind of space a special sign. He also tried to create a visual alphabet and a colour alphabet, where the letter M could be represented by dark blue , W by green, B by red, S by grey, L by white. gj: How do you feel your work will be interpreted in cultures where there isn’t the same experience of the power of the text as in Russia? Will a lack of knowledge affect the general perception of the work? sk: I am convinced that it is not necessary to know life in a foreign country to the same extent as people who live there, in order to understand the art from that country. Otherwise we have to declare any international communication as impossible. Serious art expresses something that can be received by people of different nations and different historical periods.   In Russia the position of many writers was one of social

engagement, and in the West many writers were deeply involved in social activities. In Russia, Tolstoy was excommunicated from the church for his novel Resurrection and in France Zola was attacked for his defence of Dreyfus. During the whole nineteenth century all over Europe, culture was dominated by verbal language. Artists were telling stories in their pictures, their language was very narrative. In fact, a strong text has its power everywhere. The best proof of this is that the same works of literature impress people everywhere. People in England and in Russia read Shakespeare and Tolstoy with similar feelings. gj: Internationalism is inextricably linked to notions of foreignness and concepts of movement. You have moved from Russia to Germany. The crossing of any border opens up a debate about difference and notions of territory. sk: The movement does change a lot in fact. It alters one’s perspective. It is an optical phenomenon. It is sometimes necessary, in order to see the whole thing, to take a certain distance from it. To look at the detail, it


240 is necessary to come closer. It was easier to define what Russian culture was for us once we were able to have a look at it from a certain distance. Then it becomes clear what it means in the world, what is unique about it and what connects it to other cultures. It is characteristic that some the most ‘Russian’ works were created outside Russia. A good example is Dead Souls by Gogol, written in Rome, and many works of Dostoyevsky and Turgenev.   West Berlin was the first city and the first Western territory we came to in 1988. Then we went to New York, worked in Amsterdam and Munich, returned to New York and in 1990 came to Berlin on the invitation of the DAAD. That was a time when the Berlin Wall was no longer a borderline and was destroyed bit by bit. We used to live right next to it, on the border between the former East and West Germanys. It was very exciting time. The tension arising from the process of unification of those two different spaces corresponded to the tension which we felt inside us. Berlin has affected me in every way as an artist. Everything I see, everything around me brings new inspirations and

new experiences. I’ve lived in Berlin since 1990 and I am fascinating with the vast changes and the pace at which life is lived here. Berlin is a unique city. The Berlin Wall doesn’t exist any more, but in reality it remains a conceptual division of society. This brings enormous tensions to a city where people from both parts speak the same language but very often are not able to understand each other. Usually the city changes slowly and one generation scarcely realises the changes. To them it seems that they still live in the same city, in the same space. But in Berlin one can see how rapidly the whole face of the city is changing.   I carried out a project at the Humbold University Library located in the historical, eastern part of Berlin. The library building was constructed in the Baroque style. But the interior of the library is in the 1960s socialist style and creates a tension between the internal and external aspects of the architecture. In the library reading room many of the shelves were empty, because books which no longer correspond to the current political situation had been removed and will gradually be replaced by other books. In this


241 space I felt the movement of time, I felt between two worlds, the old and the new. Like standing on the old Berlin Wall and looking at one side of the city and then the other. I decided, without destroying the general atmosphere of the space, to fill some of the empty shelves with books which on the one hand are physically present in the space but at the same time their absence is felt. I opened the books at the middle and turned them inside out and then put them in several shelves so that the viewer was able to see only fragments of texts and not able to see the books’ titles. These shelves were among others full of books and were almost invisible at first glance. Viewers could only discover my work by going along the shelves and trying to find the book they needed. Another part of the library was being renovated, like everything in the eastern part of the city. In this space were bookcases which were empty but still carried the labels that indicated the subject of books previously shelved in them. The ‘new’ hadn’t yet appeared, only ‘archaeological’ remains of the past told what had been there before. Every hour brought some new changes to the space

as construction workers continued their work. I put label on the adjoining door between the space being renovated and the library proper saying ‘Library’. It signalled that whatever happened behind this door was my own work. *Originally published in: A Fruitful Incoherence: Dialogues with Artists on Internationalism. London: Institute of International Visual Arts, 1998, pp. 65-77.


244

»MOTA OLLE I GRIND« Att skilja på metod och undanflykt Maja Hammarén

1. Irga Vadmund läser på poesifestival. Hon betonar konsonanter. »Wraf Wraf /Riv stapeln /långa farbrorns kropp /skjutsa vagn i damm /slicka en våt Ribbing / Vi är /ditt öppna mål.«   Irga Vadmund läser tjugo ord, publiken tycker sig förstå att farbrorn är Stalin, att stapeln är statyerna med namn, att vagnen är Sovjets stärkande, oönskade historia. Vadmund är den av östtemats programpunkter som skapat mest förväntan. Publiken slickar sig om munnen, tolkar från en vag vetskap om arvet från Sovjet. Kritiker Frank Peters noterar att dammet är en motsägelsefull täckmantel att svepa historien i.   Poeten vankar runt rummet. Glasögon på nästippen, läser: »Januari /ditt plyte /En ömsint sång om stadsrätt och vobblig kalvrunda.« Rysslands ekonomi är en vobbler. Publiken ser framför sig hur kalvbenen glider isär efter en runda shots på halvlagliga barer. I pausen sveper man importerat okryddat sädesbrännvin från Young Relations, pr-firman som ordnar institutionens events. 72 kubikmeter glas ringar in från varje håll. Trivsamt! Tills han som kallar sig Dåren sticker fram sina hårmassor och ropar genom mingelljuden: IRGA! HAR DU GLÖMT VOLGA!? 2. Bit i världens röv jahve: Irga, du är inte voyeuren som betraktar förklädd och sen skriver. Du är inte en av de vandrande kontinentalförfattarna som Frank Peters far, store P, porträtterade i Bohemer och stjärnor – Om att se från Montmartres fond. Du, Irga, vill bita världens röv. irga: Som den biter mina klena skinkor! (djupt, inställsamt): “Morgonradion, gomorron...” (med sin vanliga röst): Jag avsäger mig samtliga uppdrag.


245 (dramatiskt): Mitt medvetandes triumf. En bomb i magen! jahve: På seminariet var det annat ljud i skällan. irga: Skällan var tyst, blixt stilla. jahve (flinar): Du hakade fast blicken, spände öronen. I klackskor, skötsam, satt du nära micken och lyssnade när dekanen talade om jämförbarhet. Han såg inte på dig. irga: Jag ser mig i avgränsningen mot andra. Det där är då inte jag! Inte det där heller! jahve (rätar på ryggen, sjunger): ”Du tronar på minnen från fornstora dar. Då ärat ditt namn flög över jorden...” Du var där för att öka dina chanser att bli vald till en gynnsam position. Och för vinet. irga (läser, angelägen röst): “Vadmund är den av östtemats programpunkter som skapat mest förväntan. Den efterlängtade poeten håller upp den sovjetiska uniformen i dagsljuset så solstrålarna går rakt genom malhålen.” jahve: Hur många ur publiken tror du var fräcka nog att gå rätt in i det du läste? (Milt): Min smörfisk. 3. Här är en sten Vid sidan om avtolkandet, översättandet och formulerandet pågår en förståelse som tar kraft ur upplevelsens presens och blåser


246 genom kroppen.   Irgas publik på kulturinstitutionen tror de ska tolka ”av” symboler: Här läser en rysk poet om en farbror – det måste vara Stalin! Irga faller själv i fällan ibland: det känns skönt att använda bilder som många kan säga vad de symboliserar. Men berättelsen ligger inte gömd bakom bilden, berättelsen är en bild i sig själv. Konsonanterna talar, Irgas petiga steg runt det blanka golvet, ljudet wraf wraf skär genom lyssnandet. En sten kan användas till att betyda en tyngd i mitt hjärta (metaforen) eller att mitt hjärta är tungt som sten. Bilden av stenen må användas så, som en jämförande bild av något annat men en sten betyder: Här är en sten. Stenen säger mig sig själv. 4. En perfekt komponerad död Yukio Mishima var ännu inte en uppburen författare utan en klen elvaåring som bläddrade i en bok. Uppväxt bakom fördragna gardiner fostrades han av en dominant farmor som höll aristokratins ideal högst och förbjöd honom leka med pojkar. Chocken i hans möte med bilden av martyren Saint Sebastian gjorde Mishima till estetikens slav. Bilden av en ung man bunden till ett träd, dödligt sårad med den vackra bara överkroppen genomborrad av pilar hetsade. Pojken Mishima ville ta på såret, ta på magen, ville slicka öppningen mellan höftbågen och den tunna huden under naveln. Skönhet och ofrånkomlighet förenades, det oövervinneliga i ögonblicket knockade honom. En lucka öppnade sig från himlen: ner kom en stråle guld med Mishimas första utlösning. Tjugofem år senare var det moderniserande Japan inte mycket att hurra för. Skvalradio och kvasiradikalt pladder ersatte hänförelsens tystnad. Det blev fult. Mishima vantrivdes trots författarbilderna på honom i bokhandeln. I Den gyllene paviljongens tempel upplever hans stammande protagonist sin starkaste känsla i sin längtan att tända eld på det gyllene templet och se det brinna ned. Längtan att rispa det vackra återkommer. ”Det kändes behagligt /Varför gjorde du så? /Du har sån vacker hud. Jag var tvungen att rispa den lite /För första gången kändes det som jag existerade. Jag behövde ingen spegel”1


247 När en människa agerar slutar hon vara jämförbar. Inuti handlingen är separationen hävd, hon är insluten, är ett med världen. Mishima nöjde sig inte med att vara författar- och bögklubbsvoyeur. Han ville synas, också vara det han åtrådde. Jagförlusten genom estetiken skänkte inte nog tillfredsställelse. Trettio år gammal började han bygga sin kropp. Han tränade kampsport, lyfte tyngder, klädde sig i uniform och öppna skjortor. I omgörningen till maskulinitet gifte han sig i förbifarten med en kvinna och avlade två barn. Omsorgen om att uppfylla bilden complètement förvrängde. Manlighetens grund är måttfullhet. Yukio Mishima åtrådde riten, kroppen, dramatiken: lät sig fotograferas i betydelselastade scener; spelade själv huvudrollen i sina halverotiska filmer. Hans viktigaste kreation – förkroppsligandet av den allvarliga värdigheten hos en samuraj – blev en skrattspegel: en pugga2 som alltid drar det för långt. Mishima byggde en privat armé – och det här är ingen bild. Soldaterna i The Shield Society var hängivna studenter som liksom han själv famnade nåt avlägset VACKRARE, VERKLIGARE, MER, och dessutom hade turen att finna det i den berömde författarens vision om krigardöd i gryningen. Den privata armén förlängde hans skulpturkropp. Mishima designade uniformer och tränade sin styrka med samma handfasta glädje. När de sprang tillsammans på mornarna kände han att han existerade. »Kan konst och handling gå samman i ett ögonblick?« flåsade joggingskorna. »De vet inte ens att konsten är en skugga. Att det inte räcker med teaterblod.« väste asfalten. Träden slog sina grenar uppfordrande i höststormen. »Skapa skönhet, Yukio.« viskade de, »konst sker i källarmörkret, handlingar i solen.« Och Mishima koncentrerade kroppen mot allvarsförlusten. Trött på träsvärd iscensatte han 1970 sitt drama minutiöst planerat och på traditionens område. Efter träning och noggrann planering tog han och fyra studenter sig in på militär mark, barrikaderade dörrarna på generalens kontor, band och munkavlade honom och krävde att 32:a garnisonen samlades utanför.


248 Mishima knöt på sig pannbandet, log, steg ut på taket för att tala. Vad ska vi göra när Japan blivit ett enda enormt varuhus? ropade han och bjöd in styrkorna att förena sig med The Shield Society i en nationell armé för att återskapa Japans sanna form. Militärerna brölade. Mishima klev in på generalens kontor igen genom fönstret, satte sig på knä, öppnade skjorta och byxa, tog fram kniven och skar upp magen på tvären. Studenten Morita stod redo att fälla det dödade svärdshugget som efter Mishimas seppuku-snitt skulle befria författaren från hans huvud. Hans felträff nådde ryggen. Där låg läromästaren och kved. Furu-Koga tog svärdet från Moritas hand och med ett precisare hugg separerade han huvud och kropp. I filmen Mishima – ett liv i fyra kapitel låter Paul Schrader den japanske författaren säga: ”Jag gör noggranna uträkningar innan jag börjar skriva. Allt ska i ljuset och analyseras. Bara så kommer jag åt mitt undermedvetnas drömmar.” 5. Båt- och vattenvett Lär dig simma. Tryck massorna åt sidan utan fingerspret. Dina händer är åror. I rörelsen tillbaka till utgångsläget, vrid händerna horisontellt, rörelsen ska vara kvick och med litet motstånd mot vattnet. Lär dig att inte drunkna. Tappa inte kontakt med botten. I färden mot havets mitt bör du eftersträva jämn hastighet. Under långdistanssimningar bör du eftersträva jämn hastighet. Gå inte ut för hårt då tappar du ork. Satsa lagom och tänk att du simmar med en medelhastighet med små avvikelser från max och min. Jämn takt. Tänk dig tankar som underlättar uppdraget. Inse att din kropp är en maskin som styrs av dig och håller jämn takt enligt direktiv. Du ger direktiv. Ditt kommando är kroppens lag. Simma mot havets mitt. När man ska fylla en båt med vatten är det bäst att göra fast slangen så den inte slår fram och tillbaka när vattnet får kraft. När man ska tömma båten rekommenderas motordriven pump. När vattenytan sjunkit tillräckligt för att pumpen ska avstanna tar hink och hand vid. När hinken är för stor för spillvattnet fungerar skopa bra, och sedan svamp.   När man fyller på dricksvatten gäller hygien. När man fyller på bensin gäller det att veta vart den svarta oljan ska. Sätter man


249 slangen fel fylls skrovet med bensin. När motorn startas antänds bensinen, med explosion som resultat. 6. In my language I del ett av filmen In my language på Youtube interagerar Amanda Baggs som gjort filmen med föremål i en lägenhet. Hon nynnar ett utdraget mässande EEEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEE. Hon drar handen fram och tillbaka över en räfflad yta. Rörelsen framkallar ett ljud. Hon prasslar med ett kvitto, skramlar med ett handtag. Över de rytmiska rörelserna ligger nynnandet. I del två läggs en voiceover på: THE PREVIOUS PART OF THIS VIDEO WAS IN MY NATIVE LANGUAGE En hand rör sig fram och tillbaka under en vattenstråle från en spolande kran. En av datorns standardröster läser: MANY PEOPLE HAVE ASSUMED THAT WHEN I TALK ABOUT THIS BEING MY LANGUAGE / THAT MEANS THAT EACH PART OF THE VIDEO / MUST HAVE A PARTICULAR SYMBOLIC MESSAGE WITHIN IT / DESIGNED FOR THE HUMAN MIND TO INTERPRET. / BUT MY LANGUAGE IS NOT ABOUT DESIGNING WORDS OR EVEN VISUAL SYMBOLS. / IT IS ABOUT BEING IN CONSTANT CONVERSATION WITH EVERY ASPECT OF MY ENVIRONMENT / REACTING PHYSICALLY TO ALL PARTS OF MY SURROUNDINGS. / IN THIS PART OF THE VIDEO THE WATER DOESN’T SYMBOLIZE ANYTHING. / I AM JUST INTERACTING WITH THE WATER / AS THE WATER INTERACTS WITH ME / FAR FROM BEING PURPOSE HOW I MOVE / IS AN ONGOING RESPONSE TO Fingrarna rör sig snabbare genom vattnet. IRONICALLY / THE WAY THAT I MOVE / WHEN RESPONDING TO EVERYTHING AROUND ME / IS DESCRIBED AS


250 BEING IN A WORLD OF MY OWN” Kroppen vaggar fram och tillbaka, händerna gör cirklar i luften. WHEREAS IF I INTERACT WITH A MUCH / MORE LIMITED SET OF RESPONSES / AND ONLY REACT TO A MUCH MORE / LIMITED PART OF MY SURROUNDINGS / PEOPLE CLAIM THAT I AM / “OPENING UP TO TRUE INTERACTION WITH THE WORLD /.../ THE WAY I NATURALLY THINK AND RESPOND TO THINGS / LOOKS AND FEELS SO DIFFERENT FROM STANDARD CONCEPTS / OR EVEN VISUALIZATION / THAT SOME PEOPLE DO NOT CONSIDER IT THOUGHT AT ALL /.../ THE THINKING OF PEOPLE LIKE ME / IS ONLY TAKEN SERIOUSLY / IF WE LEARN YOUR LANGUAGE. /.../ AS YOU HEARD I CAN SING ALONG WITH WHAT IS AROUND ME Händerna skriver på ett tangentbord vid en dator med stora bokstäver på skärmen. Fingrarna smattrar över tangenterna, ljudet är inte längre en voice-over, det kommer från datorn: IT IS ONLY WHEN I TYPE SOMETHING IN YOUR LANGUAGE / THAT YOU REFER TO ME AS HAVING COMMUNICATION Amanda Baggs rör handen fram och tillbaka under näsan. Hon drar in luften, handen rör näsan. I SMELL THINGS Hon drar in luft, handen rör näsan. I LISTEN TO THINGS Bild på hennes nackhår, händerna håller ett föremål och snurrar det mot örat. I FEEL THINGS


251 Hon kör ner huvudet i en handduk, gungar överkroppen. I TASTE THINGS Hon smakar lite på en penna. Klipp till ansiktet i halvprofil, blicken bort ur bilden. I LOOK AT THINGS Hon vänder blicken in i kameran. IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO LOOK AND LISTEN AND TASTE AND SMELL AND FEEL Handen placerar en liten röd femhörnad kloss bredvid en annan likadan kloss. I HAVE TO DO THOSE TO THE RIGHT THINGS /.../ OR ELSE PEOPLE DOUBT THAT I AM A THINKING BEING / Amanda Baggs pratar till vardags inte alls men skriver på datorns tangenter. På den virtuella plattformen Second Life möter hon andra autistiska aktivister i gruppen The Autistic Liberation Front. Hon har ägnat flera månader åt att ge avataren som representerar henne i cyberspace samma tics och rörelsemönster som hon själv. Avataren med sin porträttlikt otympliga kropp rör händer och handleder rytmiskt. 7. Se ut som man har skam i kroppen Om vi säger att det pågår ett krig i och omkring oss och läser i skenet av det krigets explosioner och flygande kroppsdelar kan vi se konstfältets vilja att bli forskning som en försvarsreaktion. Den offentliga argumentationen vill inte längre ha en utomstående reserv för produktion av estetik eller kritik. Nu ska den inlemmas. Det passar bra. Konstfältet, utmattat av frilansarens ständiga oro, vill räknas utan att om och om igen motivera sin existens. Genom att anta formen av en sanktionerad institution under internationell akademisk


252 standard visar konstfältet att vi har skam i kroppen. Vi tar tillbaka allt elitistiskt flum om särskildhet. Som allt annat kan vårt arbete underordnas samma standardiserande språk. Konsten visar samarbetsvilja med nya (jämförbara!) parametrar för gruppering: politiska begrepp och teorier skapar säkerhet. Plötsligt går det att sätta ord på vad vi gör: Hans Schmeckinger, Londonbased artist working with the non-figurative in the modern economic activist group organisation, is also an editor of the feminist post-study doctrin FXKK and a collaborator to the curating group Fixed sensation investigating the hierarchy that constitute the idea of the biennale, building an international archive for artist networks working from the late writings of Ranciere.3 Grovt gäller för Bolognaprocessen och inordningen av konsten i akademin samma princip som för rasismen: Att placera saker på sin plats. Det är en urgammal strategi för byggandet av samhällen och andra organisationer. Sorterandet dämpar osäkerhet. De färdiga kategorierna och begreppssammansättningarna stämplar ett projekt som relevant bara genom en referens och påverkar samtidigt hur det gror, vad som faktiskt växer i trädgårn. Ovissheten trycks in i en pepparkaksform. Blir en bock, ett hjärta med glasyr. dj beat (räcker upp en hand): Men en ko är inte en hund även om den tillhör gruppen fyrbenta djur! 8. Tilltal, gehör/Göte var en stor pöt. irga: Jag brukade läsa en av dina texter och skriva rätt till dig. Jag fick ett du i min text när jag läste din text och sen skrev “du”. Det var inte fråga om kärlek. jahve (under sängen): Nuförtiden hör jag bara det som sägs inuti språket, inte den betydelse orden bär på. Jag reagerar på språket i sig. dj beat (in från höger med Hola Bandola Bengt): Gå genom vitt land utan fasor. Ingen död. Skolavslutning, pinsam-


253 ma pappor. Fiskpinnar. Inte slåss. Sörja en hund som dör. Gå dag upp och dag ner, och vänta på att livet ska bränna. irga(överseende): Jag ska läsa en saga hemifrån. Om Ivan Björnunge. Sagan handlar om en bondfru som går för att plocka smörsopp. Hon går vilse i skogen, hamnar hos en björn och blir kvar. Det faller sig så att hon föder ett barn. Barnet är björn under midjan och har en pojkes överkropp. Ivan Björnunge – pojken alltså växer upp och smittas av mammans längtan att återvända till bondgården och livet bland människor. En dag när björnen gått för att utföra sina sysslor rymmer de. Ni må tro att bonden blir glad när frugan kommer hem, men han undrar förstås vad Ivan Björnunge är för missfoster. Hustrun förklarar hur hon levat där med björnen i idet och att de fått en son. Nåväl, sa bonden till Ivan Björnunge, gå ut på bakgården och slakta ett får så vi kan laga middag. Vilket ska jag slakta? frågade björnpojken. “Ta det som börjar stirra på dig” sa bonden och stack åt honom en kniv. Så Ivan Björnunge gick ut på gården och knappt hade han kallat på fårskocken förrän de allesammans började stirra på honom. Han slaktade genast allihop och flådde dem. Sen gick han in till bonden och frågade var han skulle göra av köttet och hudarna. Vafalls? ryade bonden. Jag befallde dig att slakta ett får och så slaktar du alla! Nej, nej, käre far, sa Ivan Björnunge. Du befallde mig att slakta det som stirrade på mig. När jag kom ut på bakgården började varenda får stirra på mig. Vad måste de stirra på mig så för? irga (harklar sig): Bonden säger åt Ivan Björnunge att ta ut all mat till boden och vakta dörren över natten så inga hundar äter upp den och inga tjyvar stjäl den. Det går också på ett annat sätt än han tänkt. Ett oväder slår klorna i bygden, regnet öser ner och Ivan Björnunge som fryser bryter av boddörrn och tar skydd med den i bastun. Ovädersnatten är mörk och god för tjyvar, boden är öppen och dörrlös, så tjyvarna länsar den. Bonden blir vansinnig på morgonen när han upptäcker att allt är länsat av tjyvar och hundar. Han hittar Ivan Björnunge i bastun och skäller ut honom. Björnpojken ser honom rätt i ögonen och säger ”käre far, vad är jag skyldig till? Du befallde mig att vakta


254 dörrn och det har jag gjort. Tjyvarna har inte stulit den och hundarna har inte ätit den. Här är den!” Alla begrundar. irga (ser på dem allvarligt): Ett språk är en uppfordrande nackgrepp, ett ”ät!” över gröten. hola bandola bengt (duktigt): Den som lär sig logik för praktiska ändamål liknar en som vill dressera en bäver att bygga sitt eget bo. Sa Schopenhauer. jahve (under sängen, tårarna rinner): Det är krävande att komma undan bindeorden. Särskilt antingeneller. Och men. Irga (för sig själv): Volga rimmar på Olga. dj beat (rappar): Var god fortsätt till nästa när du hör pling. Kunskapen består av– rörelser, stenar och bling. hola bandola bengt (oroad): Det där var inte bra. 9. SLUTKLÄM: LOGIK ÄR BRA, LOGIK SKA VI HA När jag åkte pendeln hem igår satt det ett par på sätet bredvid och var fulla. Tuffa killen var fullast och lutade sig fram över tjejen i takt med pendeltågets rörelse. Är du full eller!? sa hon men höll honom om låren precis ovanför knät och höll hans blick medan han spelade Aint no Sunshine when you’re gone på mobilens diskanthögtalare. Det här är du, sa han. Det här är din låt. Mötet med en annan binder oss till marken. Den andra människan spelar världens roll. Med sin hand fäster hon eller han oss i det levande. Konstruktionen backar. Teorin viker. Längtan efter någon är


255 längtan att släppa spökets jagande och bli människa. Längtan efter en metod är längtan att höra ihop med marken. En konstnär idag har sällan något för händerna mer än tangentbord. Återstår: Hålla hand. Tillvägagångssätt så uttalade att de härmar en kropp som saknas. DJ Beat, Irga, Hola Bandola Bengt och Jahve spelar teater. DJ Beat spelar assistenten. Hola Bandola Bengt är föreläsaren. Jahve spelar tjejkompisarna och kommissarien. Irga är publiken. De säger åt mig att slänga ut en förutsättning. Jag stjäl en av Oivvio Polites meningar åt dem: ”I en rasistisk ekonomi kan en nyans ljusare öka chanserna att hitta en partner eller en anställning.”4   VAD SKA VI GÖRA MED DEN? DEN HÖR INTE HIT! skränar den lilla gruppen, rosiga och uppeldade över att vara fler och att nu vara en grupp, men jag viftar bort dem och sätter på mig pannbindeln. Jag går ut på balkongen, solen bländar. Så vänder jag på uttrycket som när man löser en ekvation: I vilken ekonomi ökar en ljusare nyans chanserna att hitta en partner eller en anställning? Sen vränger jag exemplet över den här texten. En ekonomi är en överenskommelse om byten.   I vilken ekonomi är det lönsamt för mig att skriva om metod? kommissarien: Det finns en plats där det blir tyst. Där försvinner det och blir lugnt. Minnena försvinner. Törsten. Ögonen är alldeles öppna där. Och andningen. Jag vill åka dit. assistenten: Ha tålamod. föreläsaren: Kommissarien låter naiv på språket vi talar här i föreläsningssalen – Jaså en föreläsningssal ska ni utbrista nu – publiken: Jaså en föreläsningssal! föreläsaren: Fast strunt i salen. Vem har bestämt vad som är naivt.


256 tjejkompis 1: Pappa bodde inte hemma. tjejkompis 2: Vi hade inte ens en pappa, han var gift. föreläsaren: (Suck) Okej, tjejer men det här är inte ett seminarium om att använda sig själv. Inte heller är det ett panelsamtal om kunskapsproduktionen eller den nya litteraturen som påstår att fiktion är verklig och verklighet är fiktion. publiken: NÄ FY! föreläsaren: Exakt. Man måste ju veta vad som är vad så man inte råkar ut för... publiken (unisont, skriker): SAMMANBLANDNING! föreläsaren: Ja, det är det värsta av allt. Noter: 1. Citerat ur filmen Mishima – ett liv i fyra kapitel av Paul Schrader. 2. Homosexuell man. 3. Ett påhitt. 4. Ur Oivvio Polite, White Like Me, Danger Bay Press, 2007


259

[In the beginning there was only an intensification of the minimal, endless labyrinths of bureaucracy. After myth comes a life of severity and scarcity, and a mixture of forms where forms challenge and transform one another.] [A danger hides in the form of the report: a too formal and tight a collar cuts off the blood flow, and makes thoughts uniform and empty. But the work of the institution has its reality and results, a bureaucratic mission whose accomplishment requires not asking about the mandator, but rather about the regularities and repetitions that practice puts into play. The work on the report continues. If it turns out to be three mandarins writing and if they at times envision themselves as living under the protection of the Emperor, behind high walls, then that is necessary. Other circumstances govern most of the time anyway. Never no lament.]


260 § 1. Rhetoric The most explicit comments on the issues in gou’s inquiry are found in the text by Jan Kenneth Weckman. As pleased as gou is by this apparent exchange and as tempting it may be to respond to Weckman’s text in extenso, to explore the entirety of the network of passages he cuts, space only allows to identify and expand on the crucial points. To begin with, Weckman holds the notion of method to be a “general name for either theoretical or practical rules of action [---], a generalizing idea, transferred to art practice as to any practice”. This seems to imply that method runs the risk of becoming only a name designating just any practice and thus of having, strictly speaking, nothing but general rules of action as its content.

Excursion I [T h e l e v e l l i n g o f a n i d e a ] A garden labyrinth have few exits and many entrances. In the paradoxical architecture lies part of its charm: the imbalance between questions and answers. Once inside the labyrinth there is no way of telling inside and outside apart. To recognize this as a disorientation that must be rejected would be to overestimate both the ability to uphold such a distinction and the very meaning of doing so. Where art and ideas about art is the labyrinth, it is not worthwhile even trying. To give an exhaustive answer to the question of what art is would be to misunderstand the complexity of the idea. Indeed, it would be to misconceive the complexity of any idea. At the same time, it would be no less of a mistake to disregard the role that ideas always play in art, in particular when discussing method. To use ideas means formally to move toward the general in a series of differentiation, both delimiting and expanding the domain of action. The generalizing power lies both in the number of attributes an idea is capable of relating to one another and in the intensity of force by which the idea expresses the attributive constellation. The idea is always speculative a n d concrete: it is an expression of how it operates in a world that it at the same time attempts to expound. Transference, translation, interconnection, dissemination would be terms to use to emphasize the fact that idea and field find themselves intertwined. With such terms, the single idea can be revealed as a node in a world of practices that, by reaching for the bounds of generality, activates and connects to a manifold of other ideas, objects, images. Thus, an idea is never an empty form but always a complexity, a form that expresses a very specific constel-


261 lation of objects, images and attributes in relation to constellations of other ideas. The ideality of the idea is its degree of complexity as manifested through practice. It is not ideas as such or in themselves, but the use of them, that must be examined. In a methodological discourse ideas obviously have to be used as universals, but in such a way that the specificity of a method, the particular constellation of an idea, is not levelled to the benefit of beautifully shining but empty ideas – i.e. not ideas at all but prejudices of what ideas are. The labyrinth is one of the most insistent realities of the work with ideas.

The above excursion illustrates an argument that Weckman would in part agree on, at least if rhetoric is the domain of ideas. To Weckman, rhetoric is the field where the intrinsic constellation of an idea, a specific expression and use of it, unfolds and relates to other uses of the same idea: the links within and between the series of ideas are exactly the material of rhetoric – the use of language and significations. How ideas are defined and how they define themselves are processes that always involve a rhetoric gesture. Weckman: If [---] a framework of communication, a metaphor of art as communication, could be sustained, then method, regardless of its status within a power-related discursive system of culture [---], could be immersed or linked to art as a rhetoric (of communication). Here, method could be seen as a title for engaging in the rhetoric of communication. As a goal for research, it would mean that we discover methods of art practices when we look into the rhetoric of art, the ways of communication in art, starting from auto-communication and idiolexis, poetics, and ending with applying social constructivist, sociological and semiotic notions to art processes. If method in art is methods of communication, rhetoric is the object of that interest in method.

Rhetoric is crucial to the establishing of methods, it constitutes both the content and capacity of method. In the case of artistic practice, method would be a rhetorically expressed description of rhetoric in art. Considering this, it is understandable that Weckman doesn’t fear a destructive influence of scientific method on artistic practice: the transcendent capacity that scientific discourse prescribes to the idea as such, are already neutralised by rhetoric and only possible


262 to take seriously as elements of rhetoric. This is a delicate gambit for someone trying to treat artistic practice as research and merge it with theory in an attempt to describe a rhetoric of art that starts with the individual practice. Rhetoric becomes the field where such description takes place. Simultaneously, rhetoric is the object of methodological interest as well as the skill – “the techne of that communication” – with which a theoretical repertoire can be used. Weckman draws the full consequence of the so-called linguistic turn: transcendental ideas emerge as language in praxis and doxology rather than epistemology becomes the framework within which different practices must be thought. The difference between theory and practice is put out of play and a perspective opens where artistic practice can be understood as theoretical practice. § 1.2 Weckman’s discourse holds a very concrete content that unfolds in two main directions: one emphasizing how elements of rhetoric are always activated within the communication that engages our bodily existence and environment in a way that physically mediates knowledge; the other resembling a phenomenological description of one’s own practice, predominantly occupied with three of its aspects: media, form and narrative. These two directions cross each other relentlessly in an artistic practice that examines different aspects of communication, a practice Weckman calls “a hermeneutically informed rhetoric”. It is possible to see these two directions or perspectives as complementary to each other. The hermeneutically informed rhetoric would serve as an instance whose perspective and rhetorical use of logic changes with the nature of the knowledge it seeks. This view on Weckman’s discourse would however disregard his tendency to understand theory as a synthesizing apparatus, a tendency best exemplified by the fact that in treating all phenomena as objects of rhetoric, he still allows for the examination of these objects by means of non-rhetorical tools, as if there were an inherent logical structure to rely upon that in the end would sanction an analysis of rhetorical phenomena in terms of rules.


263 § 1.3 Epistemology is persistent. It maintains certain conditions deriving from the transcendental-philosophical tradition stretching from Descartes via interpretations of Kant to one of Husserl’s many versions of Husserl. In accordance with a conventional interpretation of the phenomenological investigation as a non-perceptual disclosure of the non-psychological, axiomatic or regulative structure of consciousness operating in intentional acts, the phenomenological perspective in Weckman’s conceptual building would be a richer and more significant understanding of method and art than a perspective emphasizing body, environment and physical mediation. This tendency is most apparent in the passages where Weckman reads gou’s concept of imageability as “a non-perceptual concept”, assuming that gou has drawn the conclusion “that method could be applied as a description of a set of systematically interconnected rules, even rules on rules etc.; that is, rules on paradigmatic action, where metaphor reigns.” Certainly, imageability is a concept, but it is related to perceptual acts in a direct or indirect manner that rules out the possibility of reducing the significance and meaning of an image to visual forms of phenomena which can only be encountered and become objects of knowledge on a purely non-perceptual level. Put differently, concepts mirror perceptual and sensible experiences in a way that destabilizes the grammatical roots of the domain of language. Even when these experiences have coagulated into relatively stable grammatical patterns, there are still traces of sensibility and perception operating within the conceptual domain. In the same way as the distinction between the practical and theoretical becomes confused in a positive way through the discovery of the impact of linguistic praxis on the transcendental field, here the distinction between empirical and theoretical becomes blurred in a good sense. Consequently, imageability is found on a level where theoretical and empirical domains interact, but it cannot be reduced to any of these. If imageability is the ‘allegorical scene’ where image intervenes as a kind of auto-formative expression in every social context, this intervention takes place within theoretical knowledge as well as within the empirical experience of the world. With imagebility gou wishes


264 to introduce a virtual scene where a world of action and discursive processes are related to both a transcendental dimension and concrete sensibility. The perception of everyday life has an influence on theoretical knowledge that involves an affirmation of relativization as it increases the complexity of the constellations of ideas. And it is often perceptual elements that constitute the rhetorical components of a practice or that serves as markers in the rhetorical game. § 1.4 An artistic practice can obviously appropriate different sets of rules. It can, for example, make a more or less regulated domain into its scene and use the rules as props and material. Such rules would however only serve as instructions continually renegotiated in practice and not as regulative principles that must be followed or rejected. The parasitic relation would be limited to a fixed way of doing and acting. There is an obvious risk that a “rule-based” artistic practice would only import ideas – for example from the discourse of science or the philosophical tradition of transcendental idealism – and repeat them as gestures without asking if there are any relations inherent to the field of art that can productively be understood in terms of rules. § 1.5 Weckman mentions the accelerating development of new media and the technologization of art as examples of such paradigmatic aspects. Incontestably, the conditions of the relation between art and technology deserves an extensive discussion, but such a discussion would be better off taking its starting-point in the fact that the technologization of art has always involved a blurring of the content and structure of the visual field. Technology has always had an inductive relation to art; not least through the different uses of media that connect art to various practices and discourses, as well as to their specific structures and rules. This may make the discussion on method and artistic practice a little more complicated, but to the extent that this blurring is the reality of the art field, it is important to make use of and examine the aspects of visual culture as integral to artistic practice. Weckman seems hesitant, suggesting that with technologization comes “a media-oriented aspect of the


265 ’field’ not, perhaps, to be discussed as art anymore, but as visual culture.” This gesture might be less defensive and reductive than it first appears, being more of an objection to the appropriation of certain methods – influenced by culture studies – that tend to disregard some arguments concerning art as art. Weckman seems to reveal a kind of order in which methods in art influenced by culture studies and power analyses (to which he in no sense is a stubborn opponent) are not available until an idea of method has found its specific constellation and, through a kind of comparison, connects artistic practice to the rules concerning paradigmatic action: a need for “exact and distinct notions or ideas [---] leading into [---] hermeneutical challenges” seems to be fundamental to art as research. The fact that a clear idea of method must precede other, more discursive articulations of method, becomes evident in Weckman’s linking of method to art as a rhetoric of communication, a specific constellation independent of “its status within a power-related discursive system of culture.” This is obviously close to the somewhat strange idea of the rhetorical as the neutral, i.e. as an element that remains unengaged by power relations and that serves as an empty background upon which to project everything else. This is however coherent with the underlying epistemological tendency in Weckman’s line of reasoning and with his resistance toward the influence of psychological and perceptual processes – as both tools and objects of analysis – on the significance and meaning of concepts. § 1.6 Weckman’s text is ingenious and rich in ideas and it may be the case that gou has taken an exaggeratedly captious position on it. On the other hand, to usurp and appropriate the ideas and arguments of others is part of the rhetorical game; the closures that seem to be a result of the phenomenological perspective in Weckman’s analysis and the unexpected return of some epistemological conditions would in any case be rendered more or less harmless if one were instead to follow the second line in his discourse, focusing on body, context and physical mediation. In an important passage Weckman suggests that the field of art is “a fictitious laboratory for knowledge production”. Fiction can be a last outpost on the verge of psychological and autobiographic content. But if ”knowledge will


266 equate with meaning and meaning equate with those experiences I have of using my tools of communication”, then it will be hard to distinguish discourses of art from psychological content, at least if experience isn’t levelled down to a mere expression of linguistic relations, but continues to be or hold the perceptual and non-perceptual experience of everyday life. A fissure opens in the self-enclosure of the transcendental field, a leakage that shows a glimmer of a world where not everything is structured like a language and where – as strange as it may seem in our time – nature quietly rests. Objects take a concrete shape with an incisive and dangerous leap of thought and art as research breaks into political reality: [M]ediation is always a rhetoric mediation, culturally induced and, from a historical and geographical point of view, arbitrary. Knowledge seems to be an immanent part of what is rhetorically produced. Here, method must mean a field of rhetoric production of knowledge, itself a cultural construct. There is, however, exceptions to this cultural construct, or we might rather say that cultural constructs are conditioned by our [---] physical conditions of body and world, tied to our existence in relation to a world, all of which are not necessitated by what we think about it and which demands force to change it. If theory is a certain genre of rhetoric that can have consequences for that bodily existence and environment regarding our use of media and technology, then knowledge is also mediated physically. Hence, it too, may be methodically adopted and executed, in art as in anything else we care to do with ourselves and others.

Analysis of the rhetorical must concern how different conditions and notions of art are used within discourses of art, and the three aspects mentioned by Weckman: form, narration and media, could serve as the basis for inquiries into for example the rhetorical use of “Nature” in the discourse of art. Excursus II [c r i t i q u e , t h e a t r i c a l i t y, d e s c r i p t i o n ] Being a critic is not part of this commission and description must come before any critical judgment. But descriptions are never completely separated from judgments. Description is also interpretation, which means that series of seemingly obvious relations between statements are reconnected to reveal more general bundles of desire


267 and intentions. Interpretation detects and displaces meanings, it acts critically by defining tentative limits. But criticality must also be understood in relation to the theatricality and rhetoric of interpretation. The theatricality of interpretation and its critical capacity are not contradictory, quite the opposite: the desires and intentionalities of the interpretational play implements a critical practice (which becomes apparent when a critique makes clear distinctions). One might even say that the interplay of theatricality and critical judgment is what makes the theatre of interpretation. And it wouldn’t be too speculative to think of theatricality and criticality as the most active components in the process where a description becomes accessible and visible. This rather sketchy outline of the critical component in this report does not, however, give it a bureaucratic motivation. According to the present rules regulating the inquiring process, it is clearly stressed that no individual judgments are allowed in the report. The inquiring instance should in every statement strive for an exemplary objectivity. Whatever that may mean.

§ 2. Encounters “Realize facts and frames and things will happen and you will see, knowledge is in mediating or not.” Boris Nieslony has a straight answer to gou’s questions. If knowledge is already present, the performative act introduces a movement that makes knowledge visible and evident. At the same time the performance implies a development and an emergence of new knowledge. Or rather, the organic complexity of different network structures is staged, cared for and kept together when knowledge and performativity, production of knowledge and performance, are transferred through the aspect of Performance Art that Nieslony holds higher than every other: the encounter, die Begegnung. Each encounter seems to perform a layer where different opportunities of a situation can be elaborated, using the performative strategies to reveal phenomena, things and knowledge as well as the strategies themselves, making them comprehensible to a multiplicity of individuals – and performed in such a way that hierarchic relations are destabilized. Considering the fact that a network is transferred and transformed through the encounters of people, objects, signs and significations in a never-ending process, the network must be understood as both an unstable and provisional order. In this way, Performance Art becomes a networking,


268 a behaviour and a manifestation that creates a number of dynamic relations. The short list of qualities characteristic to networking speaks for itself: a.) Being within the encounter. b.) Displacement through analogy. c.) Simultaneous transformation of the most varied, mutually exclusive realities into integrated actualities. d.) Non-abusive use of events and matter for self-promotion (subjunctive awareness). e.) Organic division into many bodies, many embodiments and many fields. f.) Establishment of a desired and sought-out common ground with others.

Even though these statements are not particularly well-founded, some of them being theoretical and moral clichés, it is clear that networking on one hand has a huge productive potential, on the other seems to be bound to very strict conditions. However, Nieslony’s practice doesn’t make any point in meditating on theoretical perspectives. Theorizing is what happens when practice is established in a particular context, approaching specific problems. To Nieslony, Antonin Artaud’s declaration that “the principal rules behave like dolphins, they rise up, show themselves for a short moment to vanish again in the deep” is as close to a definition of Performance Art as one can get. Performance Art forms series of principles, but in the actual performance when these principles disappear in the sea of new and different performances, the principle or idea becomes equally ephemeral and transformative. Instead of being eternal ideas or ideas correlating with time as exact and continuous repetition, performance becomes entirely situational – an attempt to break the bounds of repetition whose consequences are visible only in the act and its context. § 2.1 Artaud, went straight ahead, disregarding all ethico-political concerns that come with the assumption that an act holds its own principle – “that the world should be organized under the command of its own womb, should resume its compressed, anti-psychic rhythm of a secret festival in the public square and, in front of the whole world, should be returned to the extreme heat of the crucible” (Van Gogh – The Man Suicided by Society). Nieslony, on the con-


269 trary, emphasizes collaboration in the struggle to find new forms of encounters and distribution, an ambition that sometimes seems close to a religious morality (”non-abusive use of events and matter for self-promotion”) and which is not compatible with the radical individualism and hedonism that cannot be rejected when assuming the performance to be its own principle. On the whole, the question remains of how ethical imperatives can be founded and how they might relate to a practice that constantly reinvents and becomes its own framework. § 2.2 The course Nieslony lays out is very productive, at least in terms of quantity. As a rolling flow of encounters, Art of Begegnung is true to the invitation to “realize facts and frames and things will happen and you will see, knowledge is in mediating or not”. Nieslony gives an account of his curriculum vitae where the production of different works, groups and institutions overlap in a seemingly continuous organic movement. This is his methodology of artistic practice: to create and follow movements and see where they take you and what it means – to reinvent ideas, never let them run cold. Roy Ascott’s contribution also concentrates on the narration of his own practice, although in his case focus is on the genealogical traces, the ideas and concepts that make the rootstock of a specific work, La Plissure du Text: A Planetary Fairytale. But the similarities don’t end here. The most significant aspect their practices have in common is the affirmative attitude with which the work is articulated. Both Ascott and Nieslony evidently try to keep a safe distance to every possible reduction of alternative means of distribution of meaning by being open and affirmative toward the future as a notyet-accomplished, positive figure: the performance isn’t enclosed in a historical set of rules, but is rather an act or encounter that opens to future change and innovation. § 2.3 The revolutionary capacity of the singular performance or the collective, interrelated actions has its outcome in an enthusiasm for a history to come – for the meaning an act might obtain in a context


270 not yet realized. This enthusiasm unfolds the hedonistic figure of a utopian dimension: performance as a temporary, self-affirming system of meanings and values holding the possibility to break open the doors that a negative standpoint must keep closed. In Nieslony this self-affirmation is kept in balance by ethical values that hardly derive from his method. Ascott’s text is free from such precautions: it emphasizes the hedonistic and the utopian as a way of giving oneself the freedom “to make (give/receive) narrative pleasure in the open-system context of nonlinear (asynchronic) time and boundless (nonlocal) space.” Pleasure is the positive force of passion and the secret key to Utopia. Thus it works as a strategy to both act within and leave behind a modernism obsessed with rules and an avant-garde obsessed with the breaking of the very same rules. § 2.4 Ascott is part of the modernist quest for new media, a mission that involves a redefinition of the hermeneutical operations of the arts. When affirming the technological development in telematics – the field where telecommunication and computer technology converge – a new reality, or a second nature, is introduced. This virtual reality allows for a distribution of information and values unparalleled in the reality of plastic arts. Evidently, it is an affirmation that holds a naivety closely connected to the hedonistic aspects of utopianism – a naivety that is satisfied with only pointing out the link between the development of telematics and the military industry without further analysing this connection. What is interesting for Ascott is to “see how a complexity of ideas can create a context for a work whose apparent simplicity masks a generative process that can bifurcate into many modes of expression and creation.” The distribution of a multiplicity and complexity of ideas as a process incorporating a plurality of distributors is also the imperative that replaces the political and self-reflexive analysis in Ascott’s practice. In his text Ascott fully agrees with Roland Barthes’ critique of psychoanalysis and Marxism: that they neglect hedonistic pleasure – “the pleasure of the text” – in all intellectual and artistic practice. In part, this is a question of l’art pour l’art, but where the bounds of bourgeois society have become impossible since the world is the intercommunicative tissue where every individual is enfolded, a world


271 lacking an Archimedean point, hence impossible to control. This is exactly what the distributive capacity of technology seems to demonstrate: a sociality where the logic of technological infrastructures is always one step ahead of situation-bound perception and reflection and where artistic practice can employ means of communication that are distributed through many different sources. Not least if the ambition is to let a “narrative evolve in a more nonlinear way, written from inside the narrative, as it were, with each dramatist persona seen within him- or herself as the protagonist.” The interconnection of an indefinite number of people opens for the collectively developed intertextual narrative. Now, the question whether this process ends up or begins in a work of art carry the sign of the artist, and whether it puts the artist in a marginalized or elevated position, remains open. It is clear, however, that the technologically mediated sociality has changed the relation between the artist and his work: “With the network as a medium, the job of the artist had changed from the classical role of creating content, with all the compositional and semantic ‘closure’ that implied, to that of a ‘context maker’, providing a field of operations in which the viewer could become actively involved in the creation of meaning,” § 2.5 The field of telematics unfolds a space that redefines the role of the artist, and the work becomes determined by the specific conditions of communication technology – connecting many people scattered over a vast area – making collective collages of parallel narratives possible. The methodological logos that is at stake here relies on these intercommunicative and distributive conditions. With Ascott follows a movement that, as indicated by gou, is not only a dematerializing finale of Modernism but also a re-emergence of materiality and imageability in virtual reality. It is in reference to matter, or rather body, that gou returns to the comparison between Ascott and Nieslony. Where Nieslony insists on the bodily effect of the performative act as an integral part of every network, Ascott translates the performative body to a multiplicity of virtual bodies, making the physical body so diffuse that it reaches a point where it is reintegrated in the network practice. Where Nieslony, performatively, tries to introduce movements that can change a context,


272 Ascott tries to blow up the situational bounds of the context on a planetary scale by making the utopian aspect into a cosmological matter. This “telematics of utopia” finds its specific development in Ascott’s combination of “hard cybernetics and soft psychic systems.” More than anything, this combination is revolting against the kind of formalist rationality the modernist discourse is partly based upon. On the one hand this aspect is emphasized by his interest in semiotics, process philosophy and systems thinking, on the other hand he introduces elements from science fiction and parapsychology. Oscillating between the two poles, his methodological discourse cannot be reduced to a pure phantasm, rejecting the rational discourses of the modern project. Instead, Ascott re-actualizes myth, folklore and mythology as integral parts of every discourse and narrative which artistic practice must be able to deal with. Narratives of the inexplicable emerge as a counterpart to the overly processual, rationalist and systematic conceptions of one’s own practice, while at the same time opening the utopian layer where passion is the decisive and creative element. But it is also here, between the possibilities and impossibilities of parapsychology, that Ascott starts to long for physical bodies. He tells us that he has become absorbed by “shamanic practices in Brazil and especially the ethnobotany of psychoactive plants” where “the biophotinic network of light emitted by DNA molecules [...] may enable, through the process of quantum coherence, a holistic intercommunication between cells. So from the emergent planetary networks of telematics, to the embodied biophotonic network of living entities, there is a potential for continuity and connectivity, the transdisciplinary aspects of which it is my present purpose as an artist to pursue.” gou looks forward to follow this inquiry, especially the part concerning the connecting of the physical body to the virtual field and the possibility to instill a mortal element that with the enthusiastic potential of utopia can reintroduce political questions without making work boring.


273 § 3 Narration When addressing the question of method, Magnus Bärtås directs our attention toward the important but often overlooked fact that each method has its own aesthetics. This may seem like a harmless statement, but in fact it wrenches method loose from the grip of epistemology. Instead, aesthetics of methodology is about the way an artist, by means of ideas, intentions, needs and desires projects the work in front of him, creating a space in which it becomes something of which it is possible to talk. As Bärtås is eager to emphasize, discourse and narration is the inescapable environment of the artwork: “there is no, nor has there ever been, art that is not surrounded by text and narration.” This perspective on method doesn’t replace the gaze, but takes part in the effort to rearticulate the function of gaze in the aesthetic field and thus in classic aesthetics in general. Aesthetics can no longer be about theoretical relations as the cornerstone of beauty; it isn’t possible to contemplate the work from a safe distance and to extract method from such a theoretical perspective: aesthetics concerns how work and practice take position within the discourses, contexts and locations they simultaneously produce. § 3.1 Today, narratology may not be the most popular discourse, but it does present something to art that not even the most concrete art object can withstand: the fact that an important part of artistic discourse is composed of storytelling. None of the infrastructures used on the art scene to create and spread the significance of a work are independent of narration. To illustrate, Bärtås describes three different forms of narration. The first one concerns the motif of the work and belongs first and foremost to works that tell a story. Even if not all works do, and even if the term ‘motif ’ may evoke associations to representation, Bärtås claims that works that don’t operate with means of representation also “seem to create models of the world where the demarcation of the work (through the art context) creates what resembles a ‘motif ’”. In accentuating the story-line of the work, the conceptual strategy corresponds to how the motif is expressed as the design of a visual artwork. The second form of narration is what Bärtås calls “the story of the work”, i.e. the aesthetics


274 of methodology already mentioned, and he gives it a broad definition: the place “where technique, in connection to the performance as well as the sequence of actions that has led to the work, form a self-sufficient unit.” This self-sufficiency appears to be structurallogical and present in the conceptual model but already mixed with the first and third form of narration. Bärtås also asserts that the different forms are always already connected and sometimes even coincide in a performative unit, something which is emphasized in the third form of narration, he calls “the post-construction of the story of the work”. Within this third form discursivity shines through as omnipotent in the artistic field, revealing it as something completely different from the exclusive sanctuary where truth and beauty manifest themselves without words and in silence. Instead, the artistic field appears as a place where all kind of texts, together with spoken statements distribute art as phenomenon, sign and economic value by telling and re-telling the story of the work, ceaselessly displacing and extending discourse. The story of the work thus resembles another meta-narrative, the continuous telling and re-telling of one’s own life story through displacements and excursions. The difference between these two meta-narratives is that the story of the work is circulated through post-construction and that its narrative is conditioned by and mediated through a common domain, carrying the unpredictability of intersubjectivity as its signature. The aesthetics of method, i.e. the perspective formally bound to the artist’s intention and view of his or her work, turns out to be involved in a drama whose signifying processes to a large extent are contextual and social. § 3.2 The fact that the “oral circulation of art [is] a ‘place’ for art distribution equally important as the exhibition space and printed matter” is one of Bärtås’s main points. Mediated by the oral culture in general, the significances of the artwork and the artistic practice are created, transferred and transformed. Gossip and rumours play a leading role, art is the sole or main totem. In Bärtås’ view “a fetish is basically an object of fear” of not knowing and not doing what is appropriate. Cultural capital interacts smoothly with the art market – via the


275 accumulation of myths about art, art objects and events, as a mix of different qualitative and fundamentally indeterminable values it is a perfect basis for monetary speculation in art. Artists contribute greatly to the commodification of art, directly and indirectly, by being affirmative to the mystification of their practices. Bärtås’ exposition describes a discourse so confined by its own social habits and prejudices that every critical remark directed from within must be content with the description being, in one way or another, a constructive part of what is criticized. It must be said, though, that even if a critique always construes what it criticizes, it still creates something new, at least if well-performed. Despite the explicit emphasize on the inescapable discursivity and narrativity of the artistic field, Bärtås doesn’t rule out an indeterminable insecurity that escapes knowledge: “To make works of art can never be reduced to the mere production of knowledge.” It is thus a process that always includes occurrences and relations that cannot be reduced to the rules of discourse. § 3.3 Bärtås attempts to write a pre-history of artistic research, like a new nation installs a historical narrative to motivate its existence. He recognizes that there already is a tradition of research within conceptual art. What is new however in artistic research, and a good thing according to Bärtås, is that “even if the works created within the framework of artistic research are quite similar to other works of art, this academisation of art requires a transparent process” and that this in turn leads to a confrontation with the exclusive and self-contained nature of the art world. Bärtås thus hopes that artistic practice will create an aesthetics of method that remains open to the narratological stratum that art discourse, in his view, does its best not to recognize. Such an aesthetics of method would hopefully mean “that the story of my art can reach beyond the simplified logic and strict linearity of self-presentation; that more complicated narratives emerge, allowed to ramify both horizontally and vertically, open for more accurate descriptions of what artistic practice is.”


276 If sharing the reality manifested in the story of the work is one of the most important objectives of art (to actualize a folkloristic potential of art), then such transparency would indeed be remarkable. But as the principle of transparency in academia defends the integrity of the production apparatus and is mainly concerned with various formalized results, this transparency would be tame and harmless. Also, one could argue that the democratic deficit of the art world won’t be completely eradicated until the artistic work process is so open that anyone can interfere and change the significance of it. The question is whether the vagueness regarding motives, initiatives and financing structures in scientific discourse would survive the transfer to artistic practice. Bärtås answers in the positive , relying heavily on a ‘humanistic ethos’ presupposing and affirming pluralism: difference prevails and the human is defined in terms of active self-reflectivity. But, this essentially renaissance self-reflexivity (inspired by Montaigne) is not of the same kind as the reflexivity of the transparency criterion of the academic institution. Where the first is characterized by openness to the indeterminable singularity of the situation, the latter separates discourse from context, aiming at transcendent objectivity. These two models of reflection exclude each other or are at least in conflict. The attempt to bring them together thus reveals a benevolent but problematic naivety. This is apparent in the passage where Bärtås uses the autistic as metaphor for what it means to give up “the telling and retelling of the everyday life.” With such reference to the dialectics between normal and abnormal, narratological discourse enters panopticon, and in terms of self-observation and transparency – as the ultimate token of self-reflection – the discourse attempts to become the master of the undeterminable singularity. § 4. Institution ” To the question of how knowledge is mediated within artistic discourse, Saul Albert answers “Through conversation”. Like Bärtås, Albert is interested in the larger context of art, and above all in the areas bordering on non-art. With the term not-just-art, borrowed from Matthew Fuller, Albert seeks to describe a practice “ready to be coupled to any other field on its own terms, potentially provid-


277 ing a degree of independence from the institutional life of Art.” Saul Albert holds that: without an economic reality other than Art’s, the independence of not-just-art becomes, at best, purely symbolic as institutional critique. At its worst, not-just-art is an imperialistic ploy designed to capture some non-art and bring it back to the gallery as a trophy from the ‘real world’. It is usually both of these things when examined in the artistic field, because evaluating outcomes that fall outside of that field [...] is extremely rare.

The economic aspect is the main interest of Albert: not-just-art requires a not-just-art economy and any critical capacity of a practice must be measured in terms of its overall result, i.e., how it affects and takes part in a variety of different economies, monetary and other, that are self-sufficient yet overlapping one another. The key concept is value: artistic practice relates to, fends off, hits back at and hybridizes values. To the extent that art is a field of knowledge production, knowledge must be about the hybridity of values reaching beyond art. The not-just-artist must pay attention to how different value-economies simultaneously intersect both inside and outside the art world, and situate himself on this floating borderline. It is the discovery of value as an aspect of a transformative capacity that makes every value an object of infinite speculation and hybridization. The fact that Bärtås emphasizes narration rather than value as the place for discursive transformations makes no crucial difference between him and Albert; they would probably agree that value and narration are but two aspects of the same transformative capacity, the one unable to exist without the other, and that the demands this capacity places on the artist-identity are just about the same. But here the similarities between Bärtås and Albert end. Sheep can’t fly. § 4.1 Where Bärtås has high hopes on artistic research, Albert has none, illustrated or hinted at by the link to the Monty Python sketch in which John Cleese and Michael Palin explain the workings of a


278 flying sheep, a procedure dragging them deeper and deeper into the whirlpool of explication. Academisation of art leads to a hopeless and monotonous explaining that necessarily misunderstands its object (a sheep can’t fly) in a way that produces a self-justification of academic institutions and a standardization of practice. This might be a simplification of Albert’s argument, but in his view the institutional form is always the negative pole which artistic practice must try to evade as institutions close perspectives and values. gou must ask if the concept of not-just-art together with the range of its possible methods isn’t dependent precisely on the art institutions, thus gaining a significant part of its energy and success by relating to them. As Albert remarks, the artistic field is a good source of investment, and this should be valid also for practices that invest by placing themselves in the periphery, trying to evade the institutional forms while relating to non-art. In any case, there is a sense of avant-garde to Albert’s argument, an implicitly affirming denial of the institution. And the question is whether not-just-art would be possible to combine with an institutional form; that the real demanding act of virtuosic acrobatics is to be at two places at once. § 4.2 The question of artistic practice outside the institutional boundaries and the artist as an active political subject, is also raised by Tone Hansen. Her work engages critically in the transformation of public space as a democratic arena – by documenting, taking part in public debates, organizing seminars and poster campaigns. (In other words, what could be considered an activist practice that operates in a close relation to political processes, in this case the gentrification and malefaction of Oslo’s urban landscape.) This practice is also part of her research at a government-funded fellowship program at the Oslo National Academy of Art. The ambiguity of these sometimes contradictory positions doesn’t necessarily have to be conflictual, but it highlights that a movement out of the established art discourse, traversing non-art, also involves a movement within an institutional art context. Unlike Albert who recognizes many difficulties in this double engagement, the intersection of art and nonart doesn’t seem to be an obstacle to her. Or rather, the problem doesn’t derive from the dialectics between the artistic practice and


279 the art institution per se, but from the relation between artistic practice and the specific ideological, epistemological structure and outcome of the institution. As a defender of the financing model of the Scandinavian welfare system, where the state is the main economic guarantor for the art scene, it’s above all the possible connection between the dismantling of this model, the commodification of art and the professionalization of the artist that Hansen wants to put in a critical perspective. Something similar could be said about her view on artistic research: rather than rejecting it she tries to keep a critical distance, in particular to the tendency to adopt the props of scientific discourse that turn artistic research into a scientific double with no critical tools to deal with its power structures. § 4.3 Opposite to Albert’s position stand Mike Bode & Staffan Schmidt. For them the research institution is the basis of artistic practice. In fact, one would never suspect that their PhD research project Off the grid is an artistic project if they hadn’t said so themselves. A more plausible assumption would be that they make use of a rudimentary attempt in the ethnographic context with an equally rudimentary anthropological method, to pose questions not only about the research subject, but also to their practice as researchers. It is this double, self-reflective approach that defines their project: “The context of this project is artistic research, which means that we will be asking ourselves the same three question [of the project] – how do we conceive of self-definition, travel and community – in relation to our practice, the status of medium we use and the expectations of the art discipline.” This statement could very well suggest that artistic practice adds a critical element to academic discourse, but it wouldn’t correspond to their description of the latter. A critical self-reflection seems to be what Bode & Schmidt find to be the main potential of ethnography, so it cannot be what makes it a primarily artistic project. Considering the fact that it is a matter of research, one might assume this potentiality to be what connects ethnographic and artistic practice, and that the connection is what can open for a productive interdisciplinary hybrid. Such an argument would still need a definition of artistic practice as something which is qualitatively different from ethnographic research. To


280 articulate ideas about art seems however to be against the rules of Bode & Schmidt’s discourse. Instead, ideas about art are continuously deferred or hinted at in passing with an almost entirely negative definition. The reason for this is quite simple: the temporary constellation of strategies, methods and concepts that follow an idea are confused with an idea valid for art as such – the idea of art. Bode & Schmidt take a critical standpoint toward all essentialism, but their rejection doesn’t suggest anything that can reformulate artistic practice; they remain bound to the negativity of rejection, while uncritically affirming academic forms and procedures. § 4.4 Art has formally been a part of the academia since the mid-16th century (the Accademia del Disegno was founded in 1563 in Florence, although most art academies in Europe and America are established much later, in the 18th century) as place of birth and, more important, as one of the public spaces where art as practice is communicated and where it becomes an object of knowledge. With the Enlightenment and the idea that aesthetic matters can be universally subjected to reason, art academies came to impose a rigid set of rules on all artistic practice within the jurisdiction of the academy. The challenge to the power of the academies and the notion of the artist as an individual whose creative powers could not be taught or externally controlled, obviously came later. The academisation of art and the methodological discussion can, from a historical point of view, be regarded both in light of the rational aesthetic rules of Enlightenment and the autonomous artist that eventually came to question the control of the academia. This is of course a history among histories. The academisation of art through artistic research is not about entering a new and unknown space, but part of a continuous re-articulation of artistic practice and the institutional structures that surround it. The interesting aspect of this change is how artistic practice deals with the characteristics and modalities of academia, how it relates to its inscription in the academic milieu and how it makes the relation part of its expression. Method can be seen as a way to determine the institutional framework of artistic practice. § 4.5


281 In Bode & Schmidt’s discourse the leap into academic society is based on of many historicizing arguments, telling how art emerges as knowledge production, as a questioning of idealistic definitions of art and of “the role of the artist [...] as an exemplary individualist position.” Almost every contribution to this report brings up and confirms this displacement and Bode & Schmidt’s text is no exeption. In a series of tableaux, they outline a social constructivist approach: “We hold that there is knowledge in fine art but that it is situated, perspectival and constructed and as such in a permanent flux, which of course makes it similar to the humanities and social sciences.” However, considering the question of method the similarities and dissimilarities are exactly what is at stake. If knowledge is in constant flux, the similarities and dissimilarities between different domains are also in constant flux, at least if they are perceived within a social constructivist frame of knowledge. The question about artistic research must be how, in terms of method, this oscillation takes form within practice. An oscillation that becomes paralyzed in the analogous relation between Bode & Schmidt’s artistic practice and the academic body, preparing for the smooth incorporation of the former with the latter. Instead of affirming the multiplicity and heterogeneity of the art context (and suggest different negotiable ideas about art expressed in practice), Bode & Schmidt remain faithful to their historicity. The transition from an anti-academic, autonomous understanding of art to a practice implemented as part of an academic system is motivated via a historical evolution in which science appears to be the fulfilment. Despite Bode & Schmidt’s repeated rejection of all forms of essentialism, this evolution motivating their position inside academic society is in fact an essentialism. § 4.6 Tension between personal experience and empirical observations would certainly invite to a critical staging and to strategic attempts to rewrite the mimetic relation between artistic research and the conventional forms of academia, but this tension is exactly what has been erased from Bode & Schmidt’s discourse. Far too obsessed with their escape from the cliché of the autonomous artist and far too eager to be acknowledged by academic society, they estrange


282 themselves from every positive idea about art. The photographs that are presented with their text speak for themselves: images that document an immigrant community living in the housing estate Husby outside Stockholm and images from self-made homes in New England and upstate New York. Instead of questioning the stereotypes of immigrant society which appears to be one of the main focuses of the project, they end up reproducing the images distributed by popular media. § 4.7 A more ambiguous relation to the academic institution is found in Katja Grillner’s contribution. As director of AKAD (The Academy for Practice-based Research in Architecture and Design) and teacher and researcher at the School of Architecture at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Grillner represents a research practice that on the one hand is deeply rooted in scientific soil, on the other employs artistic and conceptual strategies to widen the conventional forms and restrictions of scientific research. Although it is the movement from the scientific to the artistic that is emphasized, the widening appears to go in both directions, affecting the forms of art as well. The intersection between science and art seems to be a place for negotiation and antagonism as well as for cooperation. The fact that Grillner accounts for a project split in two parts that reciprocally interact and fertilize each other (an essay for a yearbook and a conference paper which are combined along the process to one part, and the installation Out of focus (in distraction) as the other part) makes the relation between academy and art clear. As she states herself, the methodological difference between them appears to be “somewhat overly simplistic.” Nonetheless, she describes her writing as “an academic research process” and the installation as “an intuitive artistic process.”Her writing originates from the idea to develop, “a form of writing appropriate for the ‘distracted’ critic [an idea borrowed from Walter Benjamin], a writing that presents architecture as an everyday object appropriated in use, rather than by attentive (touristic) observation.”


283 The literary ambition is important to Grillner’s project and the writing of a distracted critic is supposed to bridge the gap between the experience of everyday life and the abstract and formalized conventions of academic presentation. She aims at a reciprocal relation between the interpretation of the written and the sensible, a mode of presentation where writing is sucked into the matrix of sensibility, into a discovering by distraction, a loosing and shifting of focus, while the instability of distraction is balanced and constrained by the bounds of textual formation. A similar effort is found regarding the installation where the ambition is: to convey a sensation of a de-focused, distracted perception through a play with layers of mediation (the DV-still, the ‘soundtrack of the park’, the stories, the reading voice, the spatial experience created there and then). If the essay had aimed at developing a form of writing that would capture and represent a distracted perception, the installation translated and developed further, through mediation, this idea into a physical form of representation.

§ 4.8 To write a literary essay and present it as academic research while contrasting it to an artistic work is obviously to lay oneself open to a succession of paradoxes. It is hard to believe that Grillner’s text Reflecting, Writing and Forgetting: Method in art- and design-based research wants something else than to evoke an image of the border zone between science and art as fluid and full of paradoxes. This is most clear in her use of the term intuitionand in her understanding of distracted writing as an intuitive process. As Grillner returns to the notes that sketches the outline of a previous project and compares them to the end result, she notices that these plans have silently guided the process that she had imagined to be intuitive: “In order to be able to write it might very well be critical for me to imagine that there are no restrictions or limits as to where the text might take me.” Intuition is the idea that the work process holds an openness to an unpredictable future: it is Grillner’s distraction, used as a literary device in the writing of the essay and later staged in the installation. By affirmation of the uncleanness of intuition, that the gaze is already entangled in non-intuitive, signifying registers, the opposition between art and science is annulled.


284 In a passage that almost seems to dissolve the functionality of intuition, Grillner writes: “As much as I imagined my writing process to have been more intuitive than it was, the visual editing process might thus have been much more precise and determined than what I just described.” This is what a dialectics between intuition and planning must involve: a breakdown and a confusion that change the expected route, not entirely dissolving the difference between them, forcing them to negotiate their significances and directions and, above all, demanding that they be turned into practice, lest they become just empty promises of things that will not be. What must be discussed, however, is how intuition and planning relate to different types of practices. It is fair to say that art usually uses intuition to develop and constellate ideas, while science consults planning and various predictive instruments. But, as made clear in Grillner’s text, these approaches are often mixed up, and the preferences established within a specific process are mostly determined by the expectations infused by the discursive formations of tradition and ideology. Intuition and planning are ideas, but to keep the border open between the artistic and scientific domains – and in line with Grillner’s view of this border zone as a paradoxical place – gou understands these ideas to be spaces, virtual spatialities to which different practices can connect marking out new directions. The fact that Grillner, with such a meritable seriousness, addresses the relation between intuition and planning may have to do with her ‘split belonging’, her experience of finding herself in a research context limited to certain ideals while at the same time aiming at a more expressive result. Grillner seems at times very close to a stereotypical description of the artist subjectivity for which intuition is the power and essence of art, an immediate and silent inspiration, but she refrains. The question that deserves to be raised concerns intuition’s relation to subjectivity in general, how it functions as a remembrance based on forgetfulness and how it works with introspective and autobiographical relations. As will become clear in relation to Carpelan’s contribution, introspection can uncover the empty form of self-identity, but will eventually have to find other ways to deal with the recollective material, seeing that this empty form is subjected to and taken into custody by social, intersubjective


285 processes about which introspection doesn’t have much to say. In Grillner’s case introspection always takes place in the border zone between different domains. The centrifugal movement of introspection always has to account for a centripetal movement, the forgetfulness of intuition, opening subjectivity to the world. The empty form of self-identity is in other words both affirmed and denied: crucial as the starting-point of interrogation, but as such it has to be dissolved in the process. § 4.9 Again, a narratological perspective applies: if the relation between memory and forgetfulness constitute the range within which subjectivity is established and where the individual traces his history, it is also there that the very same subjectivity is destabilized, by a memory remembering by forgetting. The expressive and storytelling processes that proceed throughout the construction of a subjectivity take their form in the interaction between memory and forgetfulness, and they don’t limit themselves to the subject as a singular instance, but has already taken place on the social level of intersubjectivity and language. In other words, the relation between memory and forgetfulness is already instituted in the social web where things and events are defragmented and composed into stories that offer directions to the future, explaining and mythologizing forms to the past. The subject’s creation of narratives, of meaning in general, is clearly in contact with questions regarding the historicity of social communities. And it is here that a place for encounters between academic practice – that must take historicity into account (mainly humanities and culture studies) – and the experience of artistic practice – that must trust its performative capabilities – becomes possible. Excursus III [b u r e a u c r a t i c e x p e r i e n c e ] Regulation is the ideal agent of bureaucracy; everything from graphic design and archive procedures to working clothes and stylistics is subordinate to more or less unconditional rules. The individual or the singular is completely determined by a system preventing all irregularities and anomalies. But this is true only for the virtual, not-yetactualized bureaucracy. The rigorous order is only one aspect of it,


286 namely the result of its semblance, its ideal self-image, which is often neglected and twisted into something similar yet different. And it is most probable that these formations tell us something more important about bureaucracy than does its ideality. The idea of efficiency is a good example: it is mentioned in regulations and proposals while the abstract machinery of bureaucracy is permeated by a phlegmatic, lingering atmosphere. Not in contradiction to efficiency, but as the result of an efficiency that has been concentrated to the care for the commission. There is an exceptional activity which, in the specific operation, appears as a slow repetition. The example could be brought further: as the working process has been interrupted and redirected by several obstacles, GOU has been provided new prognoses, and these adjustments have partly erased the original time frames and replaced them with a very flexible calendar where one day slides into the other – a working existence that has been lost and forgotten in a labyrinthine complex of corridors, elevators, conference rooms. As any existence, GOU is determined by the unpredictability of circumstances. When speaking about bureaucracy one will often refer to a strict hierarchical structure that keeps society in order by regulating every aspect of it, while it is seldom recognized that these hierarchies define to what degree an instance can introduce anomalies. Referring to Carl Schmitt, the sovereign is the one who has the power to institutionalize whatever anomalies he wishes, while keeping the ideological form constant as the frame of his own self-portrait. Hence there is no sovereign. But there are constellations of powers and power instances that endure the boredom by letting whims spread through the system and create temporary places for exception. Beside the regular prognosis which is delivered every Monday – a message stating there is more time – no exterior bureaucracy has yet addressed GOU. In a world where everyone keeps waiting for someone to show up at the doorstep and say that the commission has been assigned someone else, this is not a good sign. It is told that this is what usually happens, and as the report will soon be finished and still without reassignment, it is very likely that this situation is the result of some unpredictable pleasure or well-meant forgetfulness, dementia, senility. In this way, GOU has been privileged with a certain degree of freedom.


287 § 5. Conversation During recent years there has been a great interest in ethnological and sociological methods within the art field. It almost seems a general rule that the contributions to this report adopt some elements from sociological or ethnological discourses. Sociological and ethnological questions are of course adding important and sometimes necessary perspectives to the art discourse, but when artistic research completely adopts the forms and methods of a specific academic discipline one must ask what artistic elements remain. The affinity between ethnologically oriented artistic practices and the ethnological academic discourse is a means probably found tempting by those trying to construct an artistic research program, at least if what they seek is a smooth and uncomplicated shift toward academic legitimacy. And such expectations evidently exist: for example, the standardization of knowledge processes that are the result of the Bologna process where these kinds of homogenizing transitions have a desirable synergizing effect. The levelling of resistance and exclusion of differences must be viewed in a wider perspective. It is not only a political and administrative question limited to methods and a mere measuring of knowledge. It will also involve an economical institution and a political bureaucracy seeking synergies that support the functionality of their classifications and maintenance of their ideological form. § 5.1 Accord According to Saul Albert knowledge is mediated through conversation. Lea and Pekka Kantonen agree: conversation is the basic component of the method they employ in their practice. Conversation sums up a variety of collaborative relations in and around their practice: within their family context and in the different relationships they engage in during fieldwork, involving both family members and other people. Collaborators from different contexts take part in each others’ work, and the presentations of the projects are described as collaborations with different institutions. The projects presented in their contributions are mainly group work involving young people. The question that engages more than anything is how to strengthen youngsters in their relation to their own narrative and how to make their voices heard in the art


288 context. Carefully listening, with the attention directed toward their own and the collaborators’ interests, needs and self-understanding, they find themselves continuously open to new directions and methods. While striving for reciprocity, they are aware that hierarchies will not disappear and that there will always be a difference between them as researchers /artists and other collaborators. Commenting on the ethnographic discourse, Lea points at the fact that only the ethnographer /artist “is rewarded for her accomplishments.” The family context thus becomes part of a methodological strategy, and she seeks to apply her method not only in the fieldwork but also on her home context, trying to create breakpoints and variations to show the complexity of power relations in which practice is situated. The family context is a mobile and variable prismatic body which can reveal differences and connections in an inquiry where everyday life, art and research are not clearly distinguished from each other but merged in a never fully-transparent plane of immanence that constantly generates new questions and difficulties. In ethnography and ethnographically inspired art one often finds the claim that methods are invented gradually, that improvisation is important and that methods are determined by the context. This attitude is however often too deeply rooted in a theoretical framework to be reliable. Both Lea and Pekka Kantonten relate to theoretical discourses, but on closer inspection they seem to develop an ethical and political basis for their work, rather than building on the theoretical framework of their research. The similarity to Boris Nieslony is striking: the world is determined by certain ethical imperatives constituting a space where the performativity of artistic practice emerges from every situation. ‘The encounter’ appears to be synonymous to ‘the collaboration’. § 5.2 The connection to the conceptual structures of academic discourse helps them avoid a mere situationism. But this connection also causes most of their problems: when approaching theory they create rational narratives that often seem quite far from what they


289 actually do. The understanding of power relations as not only an internalizing and repressive apparatus, but as a structure that produces identity and meaning is a theoretical approach they borrow from Michel Foucault and it has a quite obvious connection to the attempts to collectively, with the collaborators, develop each others’ identities. But theory is just a name for something that is already happening: as Lea says, “the conceptualization of our work seemed – and still seems – to be several years delayed compared with our practice.” This delay appears to go hand in hand with the need of reconsideration. It also seems to be what keeps the distance between art and research. There is simply no definite terminology to fall back on. As the dialogical method, conversations and collaborations are continuous reflections running through practice, constantly questioning themselves: “a wider use” of methods is always desirable. Art as well as research are subordinate to communication and interaction, learning about others and trying to understand them. Excursion IV [A r e c u r r i n g d r e a m ] One of the sources of Emma Kihl’s text is “Recurring Dream 1976–”, a dream that has followed the artist since birth and which therefore cannot be compared to the recollection of a specific dream, but rather to a collage-like awareness of a constantly repeated dream scenario. Unlike Jonas (J) Magnusson & Cecilia Grönberg’s text, this collage is not an expanding and multiplying body of text that enfolds, evading the negative instant where paralysis as well as existential pondering can take place. (Nor is it a collage that seeks the negativity in the gap between them.) Instead one encounters a vague set of speculative fragments whose web of associations dwells in a dream mode of thought where everything (events, thoughts, texts and buildings) can be merged. This seems to be Kihl’s suggestion on how artistic practice relates to method: through the uncovering of a layer or medium where everything is connected, opening up for continuously changing connections, disconnections, appropriations, dissociations, continuations. Text and dream escape the questioning position and artistic practice becomes an associative interconnection of perspectives where reflection is replaced by a trust in the virtual idea of an all-embracing but random connectivity. But how can that which is merged


290 – in a layer where everything is merged – be random and indeterminably heterogeneous?

As clearly stressed by both Lea and Pekka, the intention is to weaken their own authority, as well as the authority of the artistic work and to direct the attention toward the collaborators as experts on their contexts and their lives. Research practice is put in parenthesis, in favour of a practice which is simply ‘life practice,’ This is most apparent in Pekka’s text when he discusses the video documentation of his Sunday walks with Lea. On Sundays they go for a walk to process artistic ideas, a method that has developed from “the conventional recreational activity of walking in the woods without any purpose” and that has come to be shaped by a series of rules limiting their conversations to certain matters. Pekka asserts that “freedom of thought is based on strict rules” and emphasizes that “the Sunday walk is a place for ideas to float without necessarily having to be accomplished.” Pekka always brings a video camera to encourage conversation and to document the walk, making private life an active part of their working material in a way that transforms ordinary time into “video time.” The invention of structures and methods through improvisation is a recurrent procedure in their work. The intertwining of research and art as a ‘life practice’ causes glides between the seemingly irrational and the seemingly rational. The work incorporates a critical method, without directly consulting theoretical sources. This is most apparent in the second method that Pekka describes – dreams. “Dreaming can intervene in any phase of creative process by offering practical solutions or suppressed interpretations.” Dreams are tools of artistic practice. This is not a psychoanalytical interpretation of dreams but rather a way of letting ‘dreams come true’ in a very practical sense. Dream images become everyday situations and thus situations where the collaborative practice can be developed. In giving them a concrete form and direction of interpretation, the dreams appear to give structure and meaning to artistic projects. Kantonen & Kantonen’s dream interpretations are self-examining and contemplative, but they don’t investigate into the truth of the


291 self as concealed in the past, below the surface of the dream images. Rather, it is a matter of projecting a future onto an intersubjective world, to discover a coming that in the name of the dream stir up meanings and start mixing dream and publicity. The example given by Pekka, about Lea’s dream that eventually lead to the tent project, deserves to be cited in full: I dreamt one night of an art exhibition that was being held in an old industrial complex. A tent and its surrounding campsite had been built on a patch of sand in a corner of the building. Behind the tent were three photographs which showed the tent in three different settings. In two of the pictures there were people, in one only traces of people. Around the tent were several different types of documentation that showed a western family living in three aboriginal cultures. Upon awakening, I remembered the photographs – their design, their landscapes – precisely. I had seen the model for the tent in my dream that very day when reading one of Richard Scarry’s children’s books to our son. In the book, a turban-clad mouse sat in front of a nomad’s tent. The tent was an Arabic-style ‘black tent’. At the time, we were expecting our second child and I had many strange dreams. When I told Pekka about this one, he immediately said, “Let’s build the tent!”

§ 6. Gesture As an answer to, or comment on, the question of method in artistic practice, Hinrich Sachs presents gou with a series of ten images. Nothing besides the fact that gou received these images in reply to the introductory letter of the current inquiry make them an answer to the question of method. The teacher Nansen found two groups of monks squabbling over the ownership of a cat. He picked up the cat and said to the quarrellers: “Say a good word if you want to save the cat!” No one said a word. Nansen went to the kitchen, brought back a big cleaver, and chopped the cat in half. He gave one half to each group. That night when Joshu returned to the monastery, Nansen told him the story and then asked, “What do you think? Can you comment about this story?” Joshu said nothing; but he took off his sandals, bal-


292 anced them on his head, and walked away. Nansen said aloud, “Joshu could have saved the cat.”

With Weckman’s discussion on rhetoric in mind, one can read Sachs as attempting to present questions of method and methodology in a way that makes the layers (densities of rules, logic, history) of text and image all but completely coextensive (while at the same time, one must assume in order to keep his contribution within range of the non-trivial, pointing toward the absurdities that will inevitably be the result of such coextension). After all, artistic practice seldom involves only a production of textual arguments but depend more often, in some way or another, on a presentation of images. And if artistic practice is to be articulated in terms of research, presentation must be considered a way of arguing and answering specific questions, something which in this particular case is achieved by the cunning use (on the part either of sender or receiver, or both) of the Socratic dialectics between question and answer that makes the gesture of not answering the question into an answer – as well as into a strategy of communication. In Sachs’ case, the constellating or altering of relations in becoming is a process already determined by the relation between question and answer, making whatever is performed into an answer. The question of method is everywhere and nowhere, unable to say anything, pointing only to the performativity of how a material takes form. This indicates something important: any communicational act depends on a common, a relation that may very well be a complete misunderstanding or disagreement, but that nonetheless is a relation. The answer /question-relation emphasizes this common, not as an idea of the common but as an indication of how something can be commonly understood and perceived. Each image or sign provokes interpretation, showing the dependence both on a very definite complex of relations and a very specific positioning of the object or act in question. A mime before quarrellers Sachs performs his act. And he likely does it in the hope or reliance of his crowd knowing the pattern and meaning his displacements rearrange. If they don’t, there would be only rearrangements, things put on top of other things.


293 § 6.1 One of the contributions to this report has an ambiguous signature, which is also part of a play with signatures. Presented as an interview by curator Kim Einarsson, it is as much a critical reflection as a part of Headless, a project signed by artist duo Goldin+Senneby (G+S). In the text an anonymous Spokesperson shows up and claims to be their representative and it is he who gives the details about Headless. A comedy of errors unfolds where one signification always slides into the next, suspending the moment where something could be revealed ’as it is’. It reminds the reader of a mask drama where the mask is a face worn by many, and where the identity between mask and character may break at any moment, when it turns out that another character is wearing the same mask. The sliding between signification and sign on a visible, readable surface continuously carries references to invisible, unarticulated meanings with it. By emphasizing and performing these relations in what could be called Headless’ metonymic role-play, G+S point toward a space of infinite mystification and speculation, opening it as a borderland between visible and invisible. In more detail than Bärtås, but without his interest in power relations, G+S outline a version of the production conditions that regulate the mythologizing effect of narratives. This choice of rules and choreography of the game is hardly surprising regarding the fact that Headless is set up against a background of a never-ending flow of values in an immaterial and often abstract economic reality. At least this is how it is articulated. The infinite reproduction and connectivity of virtual reality is the natural soil of G+S and where they develop their project. In fact, they try to be the kind of context makers who provide “a field of operations in which the viewer could become actively involved in the creation of meaning”, what Ascott suggests to be the role of the contemporary artist. The implication of similarity – every signifier’s dislocation of meaning in a resemblance which is subordinate to the conditions of infinite reproduction – is in this way the ontological framework that G+S apply to processes taking place outside the world of telematic. Hence, it becomes difficult to speak about any other kind of reality than a hyperreality in Baudrillard’s sense: there are no representations of real objects, only of representations of rep-


294 resentations that through a multiplying of the slides of significations within a complex ordered by similarities, cuts off the trace back to any possible original. § 6.2 G+S’s strategy is rather simple: by using the simulation apparatus, they connect to different events and discourses in an attempt to explore, stage and display how mythologizations operate within a series of contexts. Central to the project are mythologizations connected to invisibility and withdrawal. This can be illustrated by two examples: 1.) G+S’s intention to avoid the conventional artistic practice where the artist is fully visible as the author of the work, and instead uncover the work as an intersubjective, social and intertextual matter where they stay in the background as context makers. 2.) The fact that the main object of interest in G+S’s multi-layered narrative is centred around their investigation into the offshore company Headless Ltd, a company that, in the margin between visible and invisible, handles the potential of economic withdrawal. More precisely, G+S are interested in the deceptive nature of offshore companies as expressed in their ability to ”make creative interpretations of concepts such as nationhood, legal responsibility and affiliation, forms of business and citizenship, so that [...] capital can evade domestic political regulation.” Deceptiveness connects the invisible to the visibility of withdrawal. With this background it might seem natural that the concept of virtuality plays a crucial part in the outline of Headless and as underlined by Einarsson it often overlaps the concept of fiction. There is no obvious relation between these concepts, but according to the Spokesperson, fiction can be seen as “a way of describing the virtual aspects of their project [---] being a rhetorical method, a way of talking about the virtual”. When a way of defining fiction appears to be the capacity to denote anything, triviality is not far away. But when the Spokesperson says that G+S regard an offshore company as “a kind of dramatic fiction” it appears to be more complex as he probably refers to the ability to activate the narrative and semiotic repertoire of the offshore company, in order to speak about the constructiveness of its discourse as fiction.


295 § 6.3 The creation of Headless’ narratological web and the simultaneous entanglement in it, occur through the exploitation of the capacity of signs or signifiers to temporarily break loose from a context only to be forced into another context through a play of ideas. This play being a distinct sign of its own – something sensible and citeable within a discourse that the following statement by the Spokesperson seems to address: “For me, their projects are like a collage of readymades, only their readymades aren’t objects but abstract constructions and systems.” The fact that the Spokesperson time after time states that G+S’s work is performative makes it unclear what is abstract in these readymades. To put it more concretely: their work is a performative perspective that examines and inscribes itself into discourses that are understood as equally performative readymades. In relation to these readymades their work develops a discourse of readymades of its own. It is true that this interchange between material and practice would be able to remain on a level of abstract systems or ‘pure logic’ if objectivity and body could be put in brackets. But here the performance of the readymade merges the most concrete (thinghood) with the most abstract (conceptual or logical elements) – as do all readymades, gou dares claim – which means that what is abstract is always already involved in concrete processes of signification and physical mediation. Referring to what is said above, the fact that the readymade can only have meaning as a constellation in becoming (as something most concrete), and considering that G+S are working as context makers makes the emphasizing of abstractness even more awkward. The use of the term abstract is however no coincidence: even if G+S make excursions into many different non-abstract contexts, it is nevertheless as an intellectual perspective that their work keeps control over the mythologization of their own signature: friction between discourses can be preserved as an intellectual ingredient in Headless, and the narrative can remain detached from any real exercise of power. § 6.4 Such intellectualist neutralizations is a weakness in the artistic research institution that G+S have built around the Headless project: an artistic practice that connects to discourses whose main interest


296 is secrecy and isolation and that expands the artistic field through a production of knowledge and actions in the margins. This could be a way of describing G+S’s practice but it seems they are far too eager to regard the offshore discourse as a mere possibility to make use of its conceptual creativity, without questioning the offshore discourse’s withdrawal from national regulations and how it corresponds to judicially doubtful ways of capital formation. This kind of uncritical affirmation would be in line with the hedonistic aspect of performance art. Hedonism would also fit well the kind of linguistics that G+S rely on where performativity operates with the ambivalence produced through similarity between significations. But this would only be true if the semiotic and narratological aspects of their work were isolated. Also, the ethical values to which G+S relate are not produced within these semiotic and narratological structures but are appropriated from outside. For example, the Spokesperson insist that “their projects aren’t about fooling people,” and regarding the incident when the company administering Headless Ltd was threatening them with legal action he remarks that “G+S are quite uninterested in exploring the limits of legal systems.” But if they want to keep a potential of critique, which they repeatedly claim to be a reflective part of their work, aren’t these “limits of legal systems” exactly what G+S, in their relation to the offshore discourse, have to explore? Since G+S appear to be an almost exemplary case of not-just-art, it is relevant to mention Saul Albert’s remark on the APG’s involvement with industry and government in the 1970s and how they eventually lost their critical potential of being in-between, adopting the culture and perspective of management while giving management culture new and fresh ideas. G+S are aware of this risk, but it nevertheless remains open whether it is possible to maintain a critical position from in-between or if the practice must eventually end up estranged and in a mere reproductive play with two value systems: the conceptual creativity of the offshore company and the morality of the law.


297 § 7. Signature Among the many ideas Headless operates with, the idea of the signature stands out as one of the more important. With its simulating function, fiction creates series of virtual spaces with no definite limits where the signature constitutes a critical limit, indicating a paradoxical and problematic finitude: it marks the work as an object for responsibility and thus of negotiation. § 7.1 It is worth noting some parallels here to Kira Carpelan’s work. In her case there is also a withdrawal: from the conventional relation where the artist’s position is central to the work, towards a passivity through which discursive formations become visible. In the breach between text and film, Carpelan seeks a sufficient distance to her material and a way of examining it without getting trapped in the closures that the material involves. Carpelan lets her own position be exposed in the frames of the filmic text. Instead of developing a straight argument Carpelan’s Dilemma of Becoming chooses a rhetorical and stylistic staging of ideas. The strategy is revealed already in the first paragraph’s relaxed discussion about what characteristics artistic practice and scientific practice do and do not have in common. Carpelan announces that she doesn’t intend to develop the question as meta-practice, but states that “we can talk about methods. Let us begin there.” If there is an expectation that a discussion on art and method should take place within an epistemological framework, using theoretical concepts, this expectation have to be called off and another path must be taken. While clearly stressing that a research process has already begun, Carpelan’s text expands on another level of expression, employing a broader definition of research, but not so broad as to exclude reflexivity and stringency. On the contrary, Carpelan relies heavily on a reflexive capacity to reveal and through staging present imbalances and asymmetries in a dialogical form. What she seeks to avoid are prefabricated models of interpretation as well as any tendency to develop descriptions completely relying on ‘the aboutness of discourse’. As in Jan Kenneth Weckman’s notion of ‘art as theory’ and ‘art as rhetoric’, Carpelan dislocates the question of method from the epistemological framework and locates rhetoric registers as the basis for her re-


298 search practice. But where Weckman claims that artistic research on the level of rhetoric has to be developed by using theoretical tools, Carpelan appropriates different rhetorical strategies already at work in the art discourse and uses them to stage the narrative of her text. This places her close to Magnus Bärtås’ transposition of ‘epistemology of aesthetics’ to ‘the aesthetics of epistemology’ in his narratological analysis of art discourse. In Carpelan’s text the discussion on method evolves through ‘talk’ and the main part of the text, a dialogue between two artists involved in the same project, is centred on an artist’s initiation into the art context. However, the dialogue part doesn’t take shape as a linear narrative, but as fragmentary paragraphs with interjecting passages between them, creating a series of interruptions and joints that make it possible for reminiscence to take new directions, toward other histories and contexts. Dilemma of Becoming is to a great extent a memory practice unfolding the experience of a project that Carpelan was part of. Those who are familiar with her practice will soon realize that the project is Miriam Bäckström’s Kira Carpelan and that the dialogue passages are excerpts from their conversations. § 7.2 The filmic space is a composition of discontinuous series of frames and frames within frames. The cuts are joints that delimit and frame into sequences, making it possible to redirect the movement image. These cuts tend to dissolve when the film is mixed with other signifying strata (sound, text) and is displayed as a continuous series of frames. In this way the phenomenal surface of the film establishes a reality principle. To display the process of cutting and to show how the filmic continuity is a composition of discontinuities is to question the constancy of the reality principle which the phenomenal surface of film creates. This is how experience is reflected in Carpelan’s text, and the necessity of this manner becomes clear when considering what kind of project she is writing of. § 7.3 Just before graduating from the Fine Art Institution at Konstfack Carpelan was engaged by Miriam Bäckström to take part in and become part of an art project. She was asked to play the role of


299 an artist and it was supposedly thought that she would intervene in and change Bäckström’s practice, while making way for herself in the art world, as a bonus. In other words: a performative interpretation of the ambiguities and asymmetries of a mentoring relationship. This is the subjection – definite by the use of her name as title of the project – that Carpelan tries to deconstruct. But the deconstructive method is ironically unable to avoid the masochistic pleasure of investigating memory. The revisions of memory are not only altering the meaning of the past, they echo the moment of subversion and reveal the true tragedy: the fact that the situation where it is possible to question and resist subversion is inscribed in the subversive (and thus asymmetric) relation. This is the crossroads where the questions of method materialize. In Saul Albert’s comment it became clear that when entering a sphere of different discourses and value systems that interact in the intersection between art and non-art, artistic practice always has to relate to a dislocation of the role of the artist from itself as the centre of power. For Carpelan, this dislocation is something may that appear within art discourse itself and particularly visible when a practice is initiated. The initiation usually results in a succession of new projects (where initiation is only present as something almost forgotten), but in a passive mode Carpelan tries to remain at this initial point. The text shares its destiny with one of its characters, Rosa, who challenges the identity play in art context through withdrawal, by becoming diffuse and insignificant. She tries her best to make nothing of the offer to become the Producer’s alter ego. If the Producer’s gesture to lend Rosa her identity at first glance appears generous, it soon shows to be an act of violence, a power strategy and a rhetoric where The Producer’s idea of an alter ego only confirms the sovereignty of her own ego. In this way, both in Rosa’s active passivity and in Carpelan’s remembering her own becoming an artist, everything which is not art appears to be already enfolded in the art discourse. § 7.4 As a well-known objection to introspective and mnemotechnical practices states, memories of this kind are infertile soil where


300 nothing new will grow, where what appears to be new is just appearance, a mirage diffracted in horizons of time, disappearing the instant it is caught and impossible to make something of. In the moment subjectivity appears as the empty form being consolidated by a repetition that turns out to be already in the custody of power and rhetoric, introspection has come to its end. Stranded on the empty self, Carpelan’s investigation needs a nonintrospective method to deal strategically with the material, and instead of relating her text to the film and the memory in which she is enclosed, she chooses to write a film, not yet recorded but materialized in a text that partly recovers the memory and the material of the first film. Dilemma of Becoming invites the reader to read the text as a film. The features of the film and its principles of organization take over in a way that ‘appears as film’ – but the film never transgresses the materiality of the text. The editing process oscillates between film and text, and this oscillation is mirrored by the difference between writer/cutter and viewer; between the passivity and activity of both writing and viewing. It is no longer clear who remembers what; the relation between Kira Carpelan and Rosa cannot be regarded as a relation only between ego and alter ego but also as a relation between other and other. Other to whom? As already mentioned, Carpelan relies on a reflective capacity, and in Dilemma of Becoming this capacity stays with the one who both cuts and views the film – and with the one who writes and reads the text of the film. This someone is no other than Kira Carpelan, and it would be easily assumed that the failure of her project is precisely this: she is, after all, closest to herself. But rather than a failure it is an indication of the irreducible facticity of her singularity and a good sign of what a method staging individual experience is capable of: to dislocate the linkage between subjectivity and memory, thought and consciousness, while not creating a definite breach between them, as that would spell the elimination of reflection and research. Carpelan’s work attempts instead to pull out a distance to the recollective material and it waits and sees how it will be displayed on the surface of the text in a cinematic way – a way that she doesn’t remember. Therefore, it is not a matter of saying how it was, but of appropriating the deception of the film media – how it is composed


301 of cuts – and installing points of attack where Untitled can be her name. In this sense it is about mooching off one’s name to use it as a signature of Dilemma of Becoming, which makes it necessary that the text both remains in the film Kira Carpelan and becomes possible to view as detached from memory. § 7.5 The affirmation of passivity as well as staying with the irrelevant (according to the common values of art discourse) are crucial parts of Carpelan’s research. The latter can be considered a relative to the methods of scientific research that aims to expose in a transparency what empirical observation doesn’t bother with. To science, this is done chiefly to clarify the structural and formal complex that conditions the working process and reduces the impact of naivety on the results. To Carpelan, naivety has the opposite significance, and the most apparent attempt to create transparency in her text is directed precisely through the affirmation of naivety, a kind of Socratic curiosity about the context and its specific conditions: [Rosa] is inquiring into naivety as a form of argumentation. She tried to strike up a conversation, starting from the constructivistic perspective she had learnt to take for granted. No-one was inclined to answer. She had to start all over again. Learn once more to speak. She has practiced conversing in every way imaginable, exposed herself to the most banal and the most abstract of discussions, trying to understand their meaning. But now she is just even more confused. She has lost nearly all the words she once knew and stammers when trying to say something. She has become the image of no-one. It is very practical.

The image of no-one is an image of time – the fact that time is, without being present as something. Imageability remains and shows itself as a layer resisting nothingness and undifferentiated time. Rosa’s transparency toward the surroundings can never be the invisibility of nothingness, some part of her is always visible as body-image. The opacity of the body-image is an opening for artistic practice to become singular within the textual film. But not until this singularity is dislocated in relation to the constraint of memory can the body-image (no longer Rosa nor Kira Carpelan but oscillat-


302 ing between the two, between different media and between experience and reproduction) sign Dilemma of Becoming. § 7.6 G+S avoid this bodily aspect, as well as the part of deconstruction that ’turns back’ to a diversified subject still capable of signing. Instead they establish the signature as the node through which all relations in a differentiated context are transferred to all parts of their project. This could be a theatrical gesture, the allegorical play of practice with itself and with the relations to other signs and meanings. The theatrical is however something that G+S rejects, perhaps because the hope of really signing remains. The real returns in the Baudrillardian theoretical framework that dislocated it, forcing G+S to invent numerous strategies to evade it as it would annul the virtual lines of escape that are necessary to keep their project floating beyond the reach of the determinable. A relevant strategy would be to remain faithful to the theory that excludes the real and refuse to sign; to deconstruct their brand or at least be open to the possibility of someone else taking control over the project Headless. Of course, it depends on the questions one wants to ask, and maybe that is what makes their position confusing. Perhaps avoiding reasons are part of their method, since defining a critique or a specific problem would be to reveal yourself and your intentions, and that wouldn’t be very headless. In other words, the question that remains unanswered is if production is a vehicle that can carry both research and critique into the offshore reality, to actually investigate into the games of politics and violence that the offshore discourse involves. Excursion V [L e t t e r f r o m t h e a b y s s ] Frans-Josef Petersson remarks that a work of art, however unique, finds itself in a tension between singularity and plurality, between public sphere and intimacy – the place where E x t r a c t s Fr o m a C o r r e s p o n d e n c e is written and where it becomes possible to read. Even so, Petersson is troubled by this tension as it, according to him, is the cause of an immobility regarding the positions that emerge in the text – an immobility made up of fear and repugnance, but also the provenance of a conscious strategy for how to establish a void within the gap between intimacy and public sphere, to find it as a space for


303 investigating and contemplating. A quality of being democratic in a way influenced by Rancière surfaces as every person should be able “to test the validity of a proposition on the basis of his or her own situation” and “knowledge is to be understood in terms of ‘skill’ and [...] the question of method would, simply put, concern the articulation – as method – of the practical knowledge within a situation.” In this way, aspects of use and profit as well as demands for productivity and hierarchical structures will hopefully be neutralized in the encounter with art. The institutional aspect of art is thus imploding into its own vanishing point, and the place where art is articulated emerges as “neither the studio or office where work takes place, nor [...] any of the places where the work is at display.” Petersson’s preliminary name for this in-between is ’editorial space’. The editorial space is above all placeless. It is characterized by its imaginary content, that is to say, it appears to be a thought place for the thought of a space, closely connected to Petersson’s question whether it is “impossible to imagine a position that is not about convincing or subduing another person?” But if method is to articulate “the practical knowledge within a situation”, the answer to the question is simply a yes – it is impossible, at least if the incarnation of a position means saying something and being someone, to know and be able to do something and thus uphold a position in a world that inescapably distributes violence and an excess of values. In his aspiration to neutralize the place in which the work of art appears, and to save it from violence, Petersson investigates the facticity of action within a dimension in contact with thought and perhaps with concepts and sense. But at no cost would he want to connect his position and its discursive configurations to impure or violent external forces. To emphasize facticity, to say that “the only thing to which an artist can really cling is this t o ”, is a recognition of something truly important. But only on the condition that the full extent of this t o is recognized: the fact that a practice takes place refers to the extensive complexity of significances and relations that it both manages and finds itself immersed in, and not to some pitiful shred to cling to. In short: this t o [d o ] holds in fact a very extensive and expansive field of significances, practices and occurrences. These will remain obscure, hidden or completely unarticulated if preceded by a reduction implying a definite separation of context and concept. This separation is presupposed in Petersson’s argument which becomes apparent as he attempts to pre-emptively neutralize the objection that his view is romantic and sentimental by suggesting that the objection would be bound to a


304 specific context. Is there any alternative? Perhaps there is one: a thinking that tries to grasp the facticity of action while purging itself from contextual influence and that has to limit itself to a logical and conceptual analysis – or become a theological, mystical thinking, wrestling with ‘eidola’, a sudden and unpredictable manifestation of a specific but temporary shape that reveals itself to thought. Both these lines of thinking are represented in his text: there is the v i t a c o n t e m p l a t i v a connected to v i t a l a b o r a n s ; a contemplative work that wants to “examine the spatial character of a proposition and make the premises of the statement into objects of configurations, digressions” and meditate on the nature of the space where potential actions become discernible. A logico-conceptual work nevertheless presupposes a faith in concepts and the forms of logic, a faith that doesn’t fit within ‘the unrestricted dominion of possible doubt’ that Petersson appears to represent. In Peterson’s text, the facticity of writing a text or making a work of art breaks through and crystallizes in a moment of suspension; a sudden immobility within which contemplation serves as a counterweight to the “intense demands for publicity, attention and productivity” and to method “becoming just another way of subordinating practice under the explicit aim of producing knowledge.” Suspension is a technique for making the facticity of acts visible, and is related to an opposition against the requirements of productivity and the attempts to appropriate art and artistic practices. It is the same opposition that neighbours the will to establish a kind of democratic, almost non-institutional room for an untainted appearance and understanding of art – the editorial space. Blanchot’s idea about “the experience of having nothing to say” as the starting point for artistic work is very much active in Petersson’s text. This experience becomes a point zero space in which to remain and within which the instant crystallization of every possibility to act must be handled with much care, keeping the sphere of thinking open and unconcluded in a continuous suspension. As Petersson remarks, it takes great effort to be in a situation and not act at all, and GOU has no objection: indeed, that would be an effort worthy a Zen master. In the suspension of the dialectics between discourse and non-discourse, Petersson finds the opportunity to settle in the non-discursive, establishing it as the editorial space. But wouldn’t such a space be just ‘a thought place’ for the thought of place or space, heavily relying of disguising t o as a s i f ? This would of course be a way of opening thought to negativity and in the same gesture make thinking either


305 become a theatre of the fantastic and unexpected, or connect it with lines of flight and establish a paradoxical philosophical or theological thinking that from an ethical standpoint (how to n o t cause harm) diminish activity although articulating the standstill as a getaway. As opposed to Kira Carpelan, Petersson’s affirmation of passivity doesn’t seem to be motivated by any reconstructivist efforts; nor does he, like Boris Nielsony with whom he shares a fundamentally ethical standpoint, rearticulate this standpoint in endless variations of texts or performances. What is left to practice is thinking over practice, an approach that might very well be accurate to a philosophical perspective that insists on fully thinking through Being-as-such. But the artistic practice doesn’t seem to be the right place for such an exercise. As a matter of fact, if artistic practice and the space where the work of art emerges are to be found between intimacy and public sphere, it must also be the place where powerful institutions exercise their control, biopolitically and economically. The connections between intimacy and publicity are always determined by different complexes of problems concerning the distribution of values, discourses and experiences that all have political consequences and that all can be understood in ethical terms. But to free one’s position from contact with contexts charged with power relations and hence injustices and hegemonic structures, is a counterproductive strategy, at least for someone with the ambition to find and take a radical position on artistic, political or ethical matters. To find oneself in such a context, among such connections is perhaps – with the fact in mind that they constitute the space where the work of art can appear – to be “in the very epicentre of power,” but that this epicentre would “at the moment of its appearance, drag us down into the abyss, as in a maelstrom” is highly doubtable. First of all, the understanding of power implied here, as uniform and centred, is inaccurate as it doesn’t take into account those forms of distribution by which power relations are disseminated and upheld. Secondly, there is no alternative to staying in places where different forms of power are at work, as every possible situation is part of an exchange of power. It is of course possible to find and use strategies to regulate one’s relation to and positions within different complexes of power, but never as anything other than an integrated part of this complexity. Hence, there are strategic peripheries to traverse and explore and there is a critical potentiality, but there is no heavenly point zero, nor an apocalyptic abyss. Considering Peterson’s text it has to be said that the playing with


306 rhetorical gestures as “epicentre of power” and “maelstrom” is an outcome of a consistent but politically weak and not very practiceoriented philosophic-theological approach and not, as in Bode & Schmidt, an effect of an idealistic historicist model (“without the right to self-definition, or a deeper understanding of the concept of travel in a globalized world, nor the identification of the tacit power in one’s own community, everyone without exception is sentenced to a future as slaves to the ‘proper’ and caught in the spatial and discursive margin”). Nor is it, as in Susanne Clausen’s text, in any case a question of political radicality collapsing in the hands of Christian dogmatism. To be something like that the ethics of Peterson is fortunately too fragile and theoretically sophisticated. Clausen argues that the market’s alienation of the individual constitutes a situation that artistic practice strategically has to avoid if the existence of the artist is to be meaningful, and locates the potential of such strategy in a restructuring of art discourse where “the creative model of the individual genius has been replaced by collaborative processes.” GOU has no intention of making any inquiries into whether these restructurings have ever taken place or if it rather is a matter of rhetoric, but obviously, with Clausen’s contribution the NeoMarxist idea of a revolutionary capacity of immaterial labour is at work. Clausen puts forward the thesis that art is basically “a superfluous accessory [...] according to the logic of the market” and asks if “that which is superfluous [can] be made attractive enough to be marketed as such?” What is superfluous for the market has no market, and likewise it is difficult to see how an alienated subjectivity could be superfluous to the power that alienates it. In this aspect, Clausen’s thesis is clearly false. But the fact that art doesn’t always fit in the logic of supply and demand, and that there are demarcation lines between the demands of the market and the supplies provided by the market is also evident. Such a demarcation line marks a space of conflict in which artistic practice, if it is to have any integrity, requires a strategy. With this in mind, together with a more intricate interpretation of the concept superfluous, Clausen asks the interesting question if it is possible “to provide a terrain for what is superfluous, according to the market, where it can unfold a useful or even purposefully nonsensical existence?” – this can be seen as the radical potentiality of Non-sense and Dada to challenge hegemonic discourses by dealing with what they define as superfluous, where art can be defined as a counter-theatre to the power structures in the society of the


307 spectacle. Unfortunately, Clausen doesn’t develop this perspective. Instead, she enters into a discourse on love where love is given the same superfluous position as art. She chooses to consult and quote a text taken from a programme which was published for a chamber play that was staged in Munich in 2007. In her video, where Clausen also uses this text, there might be image components that contradict, interact with or question the text, or even a sharp irony. But when the text stands for itself it becomes very problematic (not to say pathetic). Carl Hegemann, who speaks through the text, develops a thesis about love’s exemplary withdrawal from every economical discourse. In a few lines he manages to suggest that “life without love is, perhaps, not life at all”, hover about the virtue of fidelity and line up clichés such as “love is the desire ‘for the unattached’” and that people who “split up even though they love each other [...] do it out of fear of death.” Hegemann’s document – which in this context could be read as a good example of a Neo-Marxist discourse that has relapsed into impotent conservatism – demonstrates a series of poses by which a distance to the ghastliness of the market is taken out by essentialising a suitable object – love, in this case. This corresponds to Clausen’s negative way of defining the subjectivity of artistic practice through a subjection to the conditions of the market. On the other hand, essentialism doesn’t really correspond to the situationistic tendency that is also part of her text. For Clausen, the complexity of the context, its production of differences, is so overwhelming that “a hierarchy of how, where, or when work is made and thought out” becomes impossible and method must be developed in “a constant desiring-production, combining drives and labour.” But this constant desiring-production fades away to the sound of Hegemann’s conservative discourse on love.

§ 8. Discourse and non-discourse Compared to the British “full-blown art practice-research system” the discussion on research in Swedish art context has barely started. Sarat Maharaj develops his argument from a standpoint somewhere in-between the structural problems of the former and the emergence of the latter, not least to learn from mistakes in the British context. In particular, he discusses the tendency of an administered and highly managed “ideology of creativity” where enthusiasm for creativity together with the uncertainty of how to achieve it, leads partly to a “frenzy over method” and partly to a dependence


308 on pre-existing methodological forms and a notion of method as “know-how procedures and techniques.” It might seem like Maharaj repeats Saul Albert’s critique of artistic research practice and its often mimetic relation to the scientific discourses, but to Maharaj the real problem is how the ideologies of creativity filters the practice through academic discourse, and not the presumption that art and science are essentially different. Maharaj remarks that even if there are strong tendencies of instrumentalization within academia, science is nevertheless a heterogeneous cluster of practices which at their best are determined by fundamental scepticism, inquiring and joyful exploring. This viewpoint makes it possible to speak of a science that has more similarities to than differences from artistic practice. Still, it is difficult to delineate the affinity between art and science. The outcome would most probably be ambiguous, not least since science operates through the invention of rules describing regularities within its object, while artistic practices are rarely dependent on such standardized processes. To Maharaj it is a matter of keeping the distance and to avoid the way in which a field is limited and defined in terms of rules. Considering that a rule is a way to determine a condition, temporary or not, it could be assumed that Maharaj’s cautious handling of his own concepts mirrors an attempt to avoid categories of essence and necessity. But when Maharaj defines singularity in terms of indeterminacy, essence is rearticulated in the form of aporia – the necessity of indeterminacy and chance. Without doubt, this aporia can be found in Maharaj’s text partly because the joint between singularity and indeterminacy is understood as established in the mode of definition (something that in itself is dubious). On the level of aporia, the mode of definition should however not be taken in too definite a way: what the process of defining actually does is to make the necessity of the linkage between indeterminacy and singularity discernable. In order to develop this speculative remark further, one may say that artistic practice is an emanative process with an open beginning and an open ending, but due to the possibility of being defined and discerned as something, the openness incessantly comes to a halt and artistic practice – exactly out of necessity – expresses a closure amidst an indeter-


309 minable openness. Hence, the infinite regression is at least temporarily warded off and the sensical orientation and disorientation of artistic practice takes shape as a weak form of intentionality. § 8.1 gou introduces the concepts of openness and closure to illustrate what Maharaj wants to avoid: a repetition manifested as a dialectic process and the way that this process is closely related to the knowhow procedures, where the latter is the methodological result of the former. The discussion on dialectics and know-how is introduced through the term no-how. A play with the homophony between know and no that on the one hand exposes the negativity of knowledge (the no in the know), but on the other implies a destruction of knowledge whose negativity (the no of the no-how) cannot be traced to an essential opposition as it is imposed only by the nonsense of homophony. gou will return to the question of what this homophony might render in terms of method, but first the concept of no-how and the aspects of dialectic thinking that seem to trouble Maharaj have to be further explored. There is one image, a metaphor, that expresses the sense of nohow in Maharaj’s text: the stumbling, the state of indeterminacy in which one stumbles over “unknown possibilities.” The stumbling merges with the unexpected, the sudden confusion and the redirection implied in every discovery. In particular, stumbling is what Maharaj would call a (non-theatrical) event, impossible to repeat, resisting the epistemological structure instituted by the rule, with the obvious consequence that method has “to be invented each time with each endeavour.” Here, one comes to think of Nieslony and Artaud’s dolphins showing their noses. But the differences between Maharaj and Nieslony are indeed considerable, so before proceeding, a recapitulation of the most crucial points in Nieslony’s argument is in order. a.) From Nieslony’s point of view, the particular is an encountering that instantly questions the notion of particularity as a minimal part of the whole. Instead, the particular appears as a differentiated set of relations within a whole that is open and in constant change. b.)


310 Performativity is understood through a theoretical model emerging from the encounters acted in the performance. c.) The immanence of the particular is radicalized to the degree that the transcendence of the universal seems completely eliminated. d.) Immanence thus becomes absolute, the universal being identical to the plane of immanence. e.) A network structure unfolds through an operation of contact and friction in which infrastructure and performance repeatedly touch, undermine and intensify each other. f.) These operations crystallize in encounters between people who distribute actions, meanings and ideas, for example the idea of network. g.) The degree of universality incarnated in a performance is determined by the degree of complexity that it expresses in the immanent network structure. h.) Ideas and principles can only be discovered gradually and through developing the complexity in each particular encounter. The idea of ethics (or the particular kind of ethics to which Nieslony subscribes) is however already established and doesn’t originate from the encounters. Thus, the plane of immanence is neither total nor absolute. Dialectical movement is re-instituted in the tension between two alternative theoretical models: immanence and transcendence; the performative act and the regulative horizon of the ethical idea; the particular where methodology is extracted along the way, and the universal where the meaning and consistency of the term method cannot but be the implement of universal rules. If the particular, in its relation to the universal, is enclosed within dialectic mediation (the determination and course of which are preserved by regulating ideas) then this dialectics must be annulled if the singularity of artistic practice is to be described in a way resisting normative regulation. This seems to be the object of Maharaj’s concerns. But from what has just been said about Nieslony, the relation between the particular and the universal doesn’t have to be a dialectic meditation whose determination and course are preserved by regulating ideas. Nor is gou convinced that this understanding of dialectics is the only possible, a reservation that motivates a thorough reading of Maharaj’s text in order to find out how the singularity of artistic practice becomes theoretically discernible for him. Before doing so, it must be asked if singularity and particularity are


311 not just two different terms, belonging to two different theoretical frameworks, that denote the same phenomenon? They overlap, but being parts of different perspectives and models they never fully coincide. Understood from within one of the frameworks, the difference becomes clear. For example, from a Deleuzian point of view the particular can be described as the sole entity within a scheme of generic categories, already dependent on the universal, where, on the other hand, the singular,is the pre-subjective and pre-objective relations out of which objects and subjects emerge – what according to Foucault would be the singular relations in which determinable entities concretely take shape. § 8.2 The first of Maharaj’s operations is performed in reference to Giorgio Agamben’s description of the human face and how it traces the meaning of the concept modal oscillation: “Its constantly changing liveliness, its vivacity [...] embodies a singularity that is neither an individual manifestation of a ‘general pre-existing facial template’ nor a ‘universalisation’ of the unique traits of one specific face.” The singularity of the face is expressed and performed as something which isn’t possible to instrumentalize ex post, and that is exactly how no-how begins to stumble: in a line of flight, escaping the predicative closure indicated by the dialectics between particular and universal. By introducing modal oscillation, Maharaj presents his case: to outline a mode of knowing in visual art, and, in particular, to say something about the practice that he names “Thinking Through the Visual,” in which such a mode of knowing is at work. Now, this is not to be confused with the interface of sight, nor is it to be mixed up with a thinking that treats the visual “predominantly as an ‘image-lingo’ – basing it on a linguistic model ostensibly with codes of grammar, syntax and related regularities.” Hence, the care for singularity is in visual art always a care for its perspicuity as a non-discursive element. But this view entails some tricky problems that Maharaj has to confront. Even if he admits that there will always be connections between non-discursive and discursive formations, between agrammatical and grammatical modes, he seems to think of singularity in visual art as a non-discursive quality. The neutralisation of dialectics is a neutralisation of the discursive. Con-


312 sequently, the question is how a thought that takes place in such a neutralisation can be considered a “knowledge production” taking form within a research context. The know of knowledge implicates that when the singular appears as something knowable – in Maharaj’s own text, for example – it is also incorporated and unfolded within a discursive formation. The non-discursive therefore runs the risk of becoming a mythic stratum articulated when a text or a statement hides from its discursive function. In other words, the non-discursive is manifested through an indication of what the non-discursive is not. Carried to its extreme, this would imply that the indicative capacity of sense and the trace to a perception of the world are eliminated, leaving no-how without a distinction between know and no, without the possibility to hold apart these two elements of the homophony, and without any possible joint between how and know. To put it differently, a meditation would stretch out with the nothingness of the abyss as the essential space of singularity where the absence of “how” eliminates every opportunity to turn back. Even if Maharaj doesn’t formulate this problem of regression in terms of negativity, there is obviously a risk that singularity is enclosed in nothingness as the unchanging essence of artistic practice, something of which Maharaj is well aware. In order to tackle the problem he employs Gilles Deleuze’s concept of any-space-whatever which, with a quote from Cinema 1 – The Movement-Image, can be described as “a perfectly singular space, which has merely lost its homogeneity, that is, the principle of its metric relations or the connection of its own parts, so that the linkages can be made in an infinite number of ways. It is a space of virtual conjunction, grasped as pure locus of the possible.” The any-space-whatever is the double expression of space that on the one hand is an unfolding of parts whose linking up and orientation are not determined in advance and on the other hand an amorphous set that forms a collection of locations or positions which coexist independently of the temporal order. In many aspects the any-space-whatever appears to be similar to the cubistic reconstruction of a multiplicity of perspectives or a continuous unfolding of topological space. To Maharaj, these ‘whatever spaces’ make up the dimension where Thinking Through


313 the Visual might stumble over unknown elements and possibilities and where singularity in visual art can be encountered. But how this filmic space is related to the distinction between discourse and non-discourse, and how, if being a non-discursive space, it avoids being determined as unchanging essence, are questions still to be answered. This assumption can be rejected right away: whatever spaces introduce concepts of form that are intersected by a multiplicity of temporal and spatial series and that indicate an impermanent quality and plasticity of essence or idea. Ideas are manifested as temporary constellations of signifying elements unfolded in continuous series that make up the phenomenal surface of the film. Yet the film cannot be reduced to this surface: as pointed out in the comment on Kira Carpelan’s contribution, the filmic space is also a composition of discontinuous series of frames, and frames within frames. In the splice between visible and invisible, the visuality of the film maintains a tense relation between continuity and discontinuity, a tension that could be translated to a relation between the non-discursive smooth space and the discursive striated space. Referring to Deleuze again, film can be thought of as a relation between an open, enduring whole, and closed sets of frames that nevertheless are connected to the whole. § 8.3 If no-how is a concept that keeps a how, and that plays with the relation between how and the negativity of the how, then one must ask how a non-discursive singularity in visual art can be possible to think without being captured by the grammatical rules of language or converted into an openness toward a concealed and mysterious Being, turning thinking into a silent prayer. Maharaj solves this problem by letting language emerge as the link between discourse and non-discourse, a peculiar form of language that he holds to be irreducible to any of the two, but which at the same time holds the potential to touch or intervene in both domains. To clarify, Maharaj uses the concept agglutinatives, a term used in linguistic morphology which refers to languages that arrange morphemes into assemblages without change or loss of form and meaning. Agglutinative ele-


314 ments of meaning are in other words not determined by grammar. This doesn’t necessarily mean that agglutinatives hold a layer of meaning that cannot be reduced to grammar, or as Maharaj prefers to state it: “Whether this puts [the agglutinative] entirely ‘outside’ the ambit of grammar remains arguable. More likely we are faced with an agrammatical mode that has the capacity to oscillate rapidly between several modalities.” The modal oscillation appears in an agglutinative mode, characterized above all by its streamsbecoming – “the agglutinative’s ‘stick on’ processes [...] of constellating assemblages”, flow with the flux of Bergson’s elan vital, “the streamsbecoming” that the agglutinative articulates by putting “associative manoeuvres, juxtaposition, blend and splice, non-inflexional modes of elision and stickiness” into play. § 8.4 If stumbling (metaphorically expressing the state of indeterminacy in Maharaj’s text) is a sudden change of direction and a discovery of an unpredictable element within the image plane, then it takes place in the splice between discourse and non-discourse and not exclusively in any of the domains. The research practice that Maharaj outlines is a use of and an inquiry into the singular as irreducible to either of these. Amidst the oscillation between discourse and non-discourse, singularity in visual art would stands out as a kind of jointing comparison and contrast effect. In this interpretation of Maharaj’s text, singularity avoids being perceived as identical to the strategic withdrawal from dialectic thought, the infinite line of flight that conveys into the serene surge of meditation where it will face great difficulties in trying to break lose from the spell of nothingness. § 8.5 It should also be added that gou finds it quite hard to annul the potential of dialectics, which after all seems to be Maharaj’s intention. He also brings up the most basic objections to it: “that from its opening gambit, its proposition contains the outcome – ‘foreclosing’ possibilities of engagement in radical difference,” This is partly an ethical and political argument that tries to assert that a teleological structure necessarily excludes the possibility of an “otherness and


315 difference that cannot be known in advance.” But from gou’s point of view this very possibility is charateristic for dialectics and gou would rather propose that the impossibility of knowing otherness and difference in advance is the basis of dialectics – making itself the object of its own restless uncertainty. The predicative potential of dialectics is in fact highly overestimated: orienting in the world through a never-ending uncertainty regarding the projected totality of dialectical systems, the only definite fact in dialectics is that it will always return to its own incompleteness, seeking to deconstruct it and reconstruct a never-fulfilled world in new constellations through processes of relative differentiation. As theories of immanence, dialectics comprehends the world as a whole, but a dialectic way of thinking is no more and no less in possession of the world than a thought delineating its expressions in the mode of immanence. Likewise, there is no point in thinking dialectics as a way of controlling infinite processes. Dialectic thought is incarnated and instituted in a bodily world, finite and subjected to time, and considering these conditions, dialectical thought has to confront the Dada moment of its own style: a continuous suspension of the absolute gestalt, the never complete closing of the whole. Nevertheless, the affirmation of an illusory or real Absolute is also the fundamental problem of dialectics. Where change and movement in dialectical thinking is constituted by an always incomplete closure, the Bergsonian model of immanence that Deleuze outlines in Cinema 1 is instead a kind of inverted dialectics: the whole is not enabled and given because it is the Open but is defined by a continuous flux of relations where the artificially closed singular is always immanent to movement and to the duration of the whole. The difference between modern dialectics (to which Sergei Eisenstein appeals, according to Deleuze), and the old Kantian-Hegelian dialectics is that “the latter is the order of transcendental forms which are actualized in a movement, while the former is the production and confrontation of the singular points which are immanent to movement.” There is a difference between the affirmative openness of the whole and the negative non-closure of the limited, but in both cases movement and change are the expressive occurrences of transformation.


316 § 8.6 Thinking the singular is neither immediately enfolded in a plane of immanence, nor in a dialectical structure. Only in a strictly, and logically formalized, teleological speculation would the singular be an autonomous dimension in relation to immanence and dialectics: the singular as speculation itself, being the completely external goal of the processes of immanence or dialectics, impossible to merge with the finitude and bodily incarnation of thought. But such singularity – the singularity of Geist – is and will remain truly alienated in relation to itself. At best, it is a good walking companion on the expedition in search of origins forever lost. Instead, gou would like to suggest these two ways of thinking as supplementary, as different models or perspectives. In a discussion on artistic research, singularity could then be understood as the instant where a transformative shift between the different models becomes possible. That would explain the mischievous moodiness of a thought that is faithful to its determination as indeterminacy, above all it would show how the visual is a place where different discursive formations appear in relation to non-discursive elements. To sort things out, it has to be said that gou does comprehend the non-discursive as a power or individual capability where discourse and non-discourse border each other. The non-discursive is not a virgin shape of nature not yet coded by language, but powers and capabilities instituting a web of relations that are always the subject of political discourse, a fact that concurrently deny politics to be only a discursive problem but a game of life and death. Again, one could turn to the idea that the non-discursive operates by pointing out what the non-discursive is not: a continuous turning toward discursive formations by which the non-discursive evades enclosure in the nothingness of empty form or of a stratum of indifference. But the idea of the non-discursive as something pointing to what it is not, can instead be taken as a double negation or paradoxical faculty within thought that suspends the negative by incorporating it. That would be to understand the singular as the link between discourse and non-discourse in dialectical terms. The process might as well be understood in terms of immanence, as intensifications, emanations, contractions and condensations


317 where affinity between discourse and non-discourse appears in a folding where the singularity of a specific domain or specific practice becomes possible to grasp: difference made evident by the contrast effect of affinity. No-how could very well be one name for this intentionality or mode of thinking. It would however be a nohow whose destruction of discourse doesn’t rest in its line of flight to dwell in a smooth space where knowledge has been eliminated, but where the line of flight always implicates a transformation to a striated, discursive space; a no-how that pushes the pun to its limit, that is always double, always a (k)no(w)-how. It might be worth carrying the appropriation of Deleuze’s thinking further and adopt his overall notion of philosophical practice. Thinking Through the Visual would then be conceived as an any-thinking-apparatuswhatever, a continuous intercutting of discourse and non-discourse, a becoming of thought, not in opposition to discourse but to any other way of thinking. Consequently, every method in artistic practice would be the instant manifestation of an any-thinking-apparatus-whatever, “a space of virtual conjunction, grasped as pure locus of the possible” which materializes in the stumbling movement, and where methodology is a continuous tracing of agglutinative constellations that follow a specific practice. Here gou should perhaps reconsider its use of the term specific and emphasize that it must be turned away from the direction that will eventually reduce it to a question of species. More precisely, when speaking of the constellation of an idea – for example the constellation of the idea about such a diverse and heterogeneous field as artistic practice – what the term “specific” seems to suggest is more than anything else the mode of practice: the layer of theatricality and performativity that unfolds through practice. § 8.7 At this point it is relevant to mention Road Runner’s Press and their investigation of name-giving procedures in Kista Sience City. In short it can be described as an attempt to release the signifying process of name-giving from merely being regulative operations, and to show how image and text elements, with their metaphorical capacity, can be dislocated and related to a non-discursive layer. The lack of necessities, focus and normative statements recall


318 Maharaj’s text and its affirmation of the indeterminable oscillation between discourse and non-discourse. But there are considerable differences: where Maharaj makes an effort to analyze the theoretical confrontation and presents the oscillation as a very complex figure, Road Runner’s Press are in all aspects faithful to their ephemeral style. They make no attempt to dig deeper into the complexity of the sedimentary process, but concentrate on how different fields merge on the surface of a world, equally as opaque as elastic and bendable. The approach of Road Runner’s Press holds an attempt to navigate through a world of incessantly fluctuating coordinates, an exploration that relies heavily on the transformative capacity of the metaphor. But the metaphorical dimension is activated not only within a discursive formation, but is also recovered in-between the discursive and the non-discursive, between language and body. Ironically, the slide between different layers of reality is best illustrated by the graphic punctual field that separates the two bodies of text in the contribution of Road Runner’s Press, a fact that of course could be viewed as an overly explicit representation, but also as something in close relation to Maharaj: a mapping of the indeterminable singular of the visual – of the visible in-between the discursive and non-discursive, seeking to emphasize the distorted perception of landscape as the true condition of visibility. It is an attempt to stress the imageable and linguistic effect of the metaphor as a floating between sense and non-sense on the surface of a context. In the second part of the text, Road Runner’s Press point out that the streets of Kista Science City “were given names with themes taken from Iceland and Greenland” and that “today this dislocation overshadows the underlying terrain and has become more or equally real.” Through metaphor the names reveal a landscape of rapids and fjords, but it is also true that it is the rapids and fjords of Greenland and Iceland that uncover the linguistic landscape. This could be interpreted as a way of elaborating with an alloy of discursive and non-discursive elements where the social history of the area becomes part of the investigation. The distorted focus remains however a result of the difficulty to orientate oneself in a stratified landscape, and this difficulty is revealed precisely where different landscapes are seen


319 through their technological and economical infrastructures, pseudomerged into a dynamical unity. § 8.8 The methodological aspect must be understood as implicit in the way the work is carried out. One could say that Road Runner’s Press aim at a point beyond the limits of academic sociology, to avoid the mimetic affirmation of scientific exactitude and the transformation of practice into theory. But there is also a distinct aesthetic aspect in the ease of their approach. As the text ends – “we leave the picture of the monumental void and wander back through the coded and inhospitable continent” – the reader is left wondering where the wandering might lead. The dystopian ambience is thick, it only remains to let the eyes and words sweep over the undeterminable landscape as a kind of resistance to technological over-signification, or, if possible, to introduce distinctions that open a gap, a fjord, that intersects the socialities of the urban landscape and the scientific and technological discourses that implement it. After all, such a fjord would be a very interesting place for artistic research. § 9. Historicity A text dealing with artistic practice and method doesn’t necessarily involve interpretations or reflections on conceptual relations. It may just as well be an attempt to specify a place for artistic practice and merely show how a context gives practice a specific motivation, direction and distinction. Such articulations of sensibility to context have been active in almost every contribution to this report, which is, after all, not very surprising. When orienting in the world and defining one’s practice, sensibility is definitely important as a kind of understanding or knowledge with its own discursiveness and way of speaking. But it isn’t easy to know how to relate the expressions of sensible knowledge to theoretical knowledge and there seems to be a strong tension between the sensible and the theoretical within knowledge, a tension mirrored by the fact that some practices avoid ‘the aboutness of discourse’ while others do nothing but define themselves using different theoretical tools. It takes a certain degree of virtuosity to add sensibility to a theoretical perspective and vice


320 versa – to make them interact without draining the sensible of its inherent activity, its mode of inquiring. And it is highly doubtful that a theoretical conception of artistic practice would be relevant if such a discussion were to be limited to a mere leveling of sensibility, for example when situated experience becomes translated into a conceptual scheme and turned into an example of, say, formalized sociological knowledge. Here, gou only intends to question the routine use of theory, how it limits the questioning, the differentiating and expressive processes within artistic practice, and not to define sensibility as ‘a purely intuitive mode’ in contrast to ‘the harshness of concept’. This might be the place to re-actualize the interpretation of Grillner’s text that suggested that intuition wasn’t an originating force but a space where different constellations of ideas could unfold and connect – a space wherein a great variety of relations to context find their way. § 9.1 If this intuitive space is translated to sensibility, the latter makes sense as a space in which contextual meaning is mediated, not only as an actualized space relative to bodily perception, but also a virtual space. Such sensibility would be an amalgamation, a stratum merged with both perception and experience of the actualized world, and with the speculative play with virtual elements. The virtual stage where the world takes place and folds back on itself gou has called imageability. This term turns the attention to a kind of auto-formative expression that occurs in each and every context. As a mode of knowledge and perception, it points to the fact that all practices and processes of signification take shape within a space where images are reproduced, even within practices that don’t present images. Imageability would then be the mode and space of knowledge and perception enabling the world to be grasped as image, both as visual picture and as semiotic content. The starting point for this reasoning is the fact that the world presents itself in images, a fact that does not, however, point to any hierarchical order between image, language and matter; as an expression of imageability, image and language cross the depths of matter, traversing but irreducible to either domain. Imageability isn’t bound to a specific media, materiality or system of meaning, and the combi-


321 nation of auto-formative expression and irreducibility to a specific domain is characteristic of its function as a productive vehicle for a manifold of scenes, scenarios and situations. It is within imageability, intertwined with imageability, that sensibility is to be found. If imageability is a term signifying a mode of perception or knowledge where the auto-formation of images takes place, sensibility is the very conscious or unconscious intentionality with help of which an orientation among signs and images is unfolded. Sensibility works through the virtual space of imageability and finds itself in the actual. The use of sensibility in artistic practice is thus always the use of imageability: a double movement where sensibility both turns inward, toward the ever-fleeing abstraction of the non-actualized world, and outward, to the scene where it stands out as sign, visible. (Sensibility sways and staggers between the infinite number of non-actualized ideas and emotions and those that, through action, actually materialize; it is simultaneously in the virtual and in the actualized.) The interchange between virtuality and actuality is what sensibility provokes and follows, and it is this oscillation that artistic practice can make use of. What is usually called fiction, the great rhetorical play with meaning, is the most intensified elaboration on this oscillation. If the force of the oscillation must have a name, gou would call it theatricality: a virtual possibility to act out a drama on an actualized stage. As a sensibility to context – the space where constellations of ideas form, a lived-through space – theatricality is already enmeshed in ideological and discursive preferences, theories and dogmas, and so sensibility can serve as a kind of laboratorial space in which the relations between these inclinations and the sensible surface of interwoven intentional threads of practice are revealed by help of theatrical, rethorical and fictional means. Within the laboratorial space, these relations can also be exposed in the light of history, indicating a kind of empirical historicism at work within artistic practice, the direction taken when art immerses itself into the sensible of the context and problematizes its position on a level of politics, ethics and history. Of course, this is not a solution to the immense philosophical problem of how history and sensibility are


322 to be connected, but at least it points to something very important: the ongoing construction and deconstruction of history through practice and the fact that these processes – regardless of whether they take place on the level of the social or whether they concern a personal narrative – certainly are dealing with elements of sensibility. It is always worthwhile to investigate this linkage between sensibility and history, especially on the topic of artistic practice where on the one hand is found the tension between sensibility and theoretical concept, and on the other the risk of diminishing the complexity of practice by using sterile and formal historic-logical descriptions. In this fashion, historicity is truly a problem of artistic practice. Excursion VI [A n a ch r o n i s m a n d t h e p l e t h o r a o f d i s c o u r s e ] Jonas (J) Magnusson and Cecilia Grönberg’s contribution outlines an overflowing project that connects textual strategies and empirical data to media theory, literature, film, philosophy, all merged into hybrid formations. As a compressed simulation of a future book, Wi t z b o m b e r o c h f o t o - s k e n – e n s p r ä n g d m o n o g r a f i [approx. trans. Pu n b o m b s a n d p h o t o - s e m b l a n c e – a b l o w n - u p m o n o g r a p h y ], the usually short and precise project description has been hijacked by a montage technique that accumulates and distributes the text in multiple expanding strata. The text included in this volume can be read as an effect of the methods at work in the book project, a methodological web articulating the strategies that will bring about the book. Apart from the deterrent quantity of empirical data, references and theoretical perspectives, the methodological approach is quite simple. They have a material, a photographer and pun writer, and they investigate the photos, the puns and an extensive archive material with the ambition to create a nonlinear historiography: The effects of the ‘methods’ with which the book operates – c o l l e c t ing /copying /scanning /selecting; redescription; montage; a n a c h r o n i z a t i o n . . . – converge in the central form and technology of the book, the pun, the internal combustion engine with which we try to simultaneously blow the Swedish history of literature and photography to pieces and push it yet further by reconfiguring and reformatting it...


323 Magnusson & Grönberg establish themselves in the gap between research and artistic practice, a manoeuvre carried out by introducing the pun as an a p r i o r i expressive functionality, the centre of a centripetal movement and instance generating the explosive effect and keeping the text from getting stuck in hermeneutical circles and linearity. From this conjuncture they develop a system where theories are connected into seemingly infinite lines of additional perspectives. Basically, the ambition is to dislocate the pun from its position in the History of Ideas and appropriate it as a technological infrastructure for the project. But this appropriation doesn’t eliminate but changes the meanings, and the resulting affinity between the romantic discourse and Magnussons & Grönberg’s perspective runs deeper than it seems at first glance. One could mention their use of Friedrich Schlegel’s definition of the poetic work as a well-tempered pun. Via a series of quotes they end up in a description that connects Schlegel’s concept to their concept of the pun: “the internal combustion engine of an absence of system put into system.” This lack of system seems to determine their montage practice, but as an insufficiency serving as a dispositive for a series of transformations to which different discursive systems are connected, fading into one another in a seemingly infinite expansion. What is difficult to understand is how these constellations of systems, these multiplying accumulations of discourse, can reach even a provisional end, or if Magnusson & Grönberg are at all interested in a specific expression. How do they handle this infinite growth of connections and disconnections in relation to methodological strategies that implicitly or explicitly aim at a specific result? Both the maintenance and function of the hybrid constellation of discourses are obviously strategies in themselves, attempts to avoid a single perspective enclosed in a teleological structure. Event and movement, figuration and expression are defined as expansion and multiplication rather than implosion and division. But in what way are these preferences part of an artistic practice in search of certain expression and not only the presentation of a sympathy for various models in literary and art theory? From GOU’s point of view the academic, and especially the theoretical, does not exclude or contradict artistic practice, and the most productive way to read Magnusson & Grönberg’s work appears to be via an understanding of the hybridizing approach as a ‘statistics’ where the dialectics between art and academic research has become levelled and redundant. To the extent that the conflict generated in the


324 gap between (academic) research and artistic practice is active and possible to trace in their project, it is not to be found on an institutional or economical level (as in Saul Albert’s text), but in the conflicts between elements of meaning within the discourses that are implemented in the project: “Both the collage/montage and the pun involve an aesthetics of collision; the montage, like the pun, creates effects of meaning by establishing unexpected connections, by bringing heterogeneous elements together.” The question is what potential such collisions might have. “One could of course object that this way of connecting pun and montage is in itself a kind of pun or montage rather than having a real motive. But the initial connection is both speculative and strategic, which is why Wi t z - b o m b e r o ch f o t o - s k e n . . . on the whole can be read as a continuous questioning or variation of the speculative construction as well.” If the connection is only speculative it would actually be a project without a “real motive” and the effects of the montage would be nothing but an establishment of “unforeseen connections” in the way that two or several elements usually unrelated suddenly make a constellation. So the intentionalities that actualizes the question of how practice crystallizes in a book that circumvent a teleological structure must be found in the moment where speculation join the strategic elements of the pun and the montage. The archive material implemented in Wi t z - b o m b e r o ch f o t o s k e n . . . is mostly related to Aron Jonason (1838–1914). Since he founded one of the most acknowledged photo studios of his time as well as being well known for his puns, his writing and photographing make up a material that fit very well with the double optics – “the explosive and illuminative power of the pun and of photography” – that Magnusson & Grönberg employ. The pun is above all treated as literature, as ”the often disregarded ‘literature before literature’” and they are particularly fascinated with Jonason’s favourite pun, the homophonic pun, “often rejected as the ‘lowest’ of all puns”. They also unroll a list of all the positive attributes and descriptions that have been and might be connected to the pun. A sample: “the pun deconstructs binary divisions and oppositions: it is ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ humour and gravity, accidence and substance. Meaningless convergence and meaningful relation, ‘non-sense,’ the amusement and anxiety in finding the same in the other.” Here, multiplicity appears a bit too mystical, not far from postulating a positive substance in a Plotinian-Spinozian theological sense – All is the One, All as the One. Maybe it its necessary to approach multiplicity and power in such paradoxical style if one wants to


325 make an inquiry into the transformative capacity of the pun. It would however be interesting to know what the pun cannot be and if the pun itself can operate with the expectations of gravity. It might also be said that the interplay of discontinuity and continuity, part and whole, play and gravity, is where the strategic forms of the pun are revealed. When reading Magnusson & Grönberg, GOU is looking for determinations and delimiting instances that may give their project a direction (albeit tentative). Such a delimiting factor is the materiality of the archive and its content, but also the technological apparatus through which the project is produced determines it: If the tools for image production change, if the archives [...] change, then the way images are perceived (edited, read, recovered, compiled) will also change. Hence, these are the forms which we try to discern or reveal and whose aesthetic potentials we want to explore, and in order to define some of the ‘effects’ of the montage practices that Wi t z - b o m b e r o c h f o t o - s k e n . . . actualizes, we exploit a set of concepts from media theory and software technology.

What is interesting is how the technological apparatus is assumed to have aesthetic capacities. Technology is part of forming perception and determining the way in which the project becomes visible as a certain texture, and the technological functions therefore become possible metaphorical descriptions or materializations of the project. The most significant example is the layer function in Photoshop which makes it possible to put image elements on top of each other into a soft montage where they are neither in contrast nor merged into one image. But Magnusson & Grönberg don’t want to reduce their work to a soft montage and they don’t exclude the analogous montage by establishing a distinct difference between analogous (hard) montages and digital (soft) montages. Instead they seek the capacities and functions of the two montage models: [it] isn’t a soft montage in a jointless, digital sense [...] but is constituted by scattered and temporal correspondences or connections. [---] Even if the elements that constitute the montage can be separated again [...] they are reconnected on a semantic level in soft montages, in the sense that it works as a tool for establishing of relations or passages and opens for a variety of simultaneous ways of reading; that it doesn’t [...] want to create a shock or a rupture, but rather a space or a field in the transitions.


326 Whether it’s an image or a text, the discontinuous distribution and stratification of the montage takes place on a semantic level, and that is where it becomes a “symbolic mode of action, a dispositive, d r a m a t i z i n g and revealing the i n c o m m e n s u r a b i l i t y between different realities constituted by the symbolic objects which are captured in its device.” The spaces that are constituted in the transitions between different elements are the places that open for a kind of critical and evaluating presentation of contradictions and aporias. This is also where the pun and the montage are connected. In their exposition of the pun, Magnusson & Grönberg are in many aspects following Jacques Derrida’s use of homophonies to trace fractures and to introduce chance and non-sense into metaphysical systems. But the most concrete use of deconstruction is in the process of transplanting the archive material into the present without letting it lose its historical distinction or putting it in a linear narrative. Relating to a modernist heritage and the problems of the avant-garde (its dependence on a continuous transgression), as Magnusson & Grönberg clearly do, is not making things easier. The same could be said about the majority of the contributions to this report: they hold ideas about the position of their own practice in a historical fluctuation or by deriving methods through thinking practice in the light of the contemporary. When Roy Ascott and Boris Nieslony relate to modernism as a temporal fluctuation it’s always as an effect of the history of the individual practice. But only Jan Kenneth Weckman, Sarat Maharaj and, as will become clear, Svetlana Kopystiansky compete with Magnusson & Grönberg in making the historical dimension an explicit aspect of artistic practice. Someone might say that historicism is the point where their work becomes enveloped by academic discourse, as if history were the vertical axis determining the space for all operations that can become visible. In other words, that the struggle between chance and necessity on the semiotic surface of the work is in fact determined by a historicity of c e r t a i n problems which gives the work a specific content and a specific form. Their use of Georges Didi-Huberman’s method of a n a c h r o n i s m makes the relation between contemporary and historical material more complicated, defining anachrony as “a new way to look beyond the actuality of artistic productions to find their elements of i n a c t u a l i t y, where several temporalities anachronically are put into play; an u n c o n s c i o u s memory disorientating


327 the relations between a before and an after.” It becomes a matter of contradicting the idea of a chronology: “The anachronism states: every singularity is a complexity at work; the mainspring is not what has happened to never happen again; but what, when one is least expecting it, interferes with the ordinary through its anachronistic power and causes inversions.” This anachronism appears to be the trace of an intuition and a spontaneity that, considering Magnusson & Grönberg’s understanding of the disorienting power of the pun, its instances of chance and non-sense, is precisely what would otherwise be absent in their excursion. The intuitive element returns implicitly in a strategic form related to a historical and archivist material. For those who put their trust in the continuous evolution of artistic practice or like Boris Nieslony invent methods as the specific situation develops, this strategic positioning of intuition that (GOU wants to call) historiograpic strategy must appear a bit too safe. However, one shouldn’t overlook the fact that the most crucial objective for Magnusson & Grönberg is to keep the archive open and that the anachronistic method “again brings up and reorganizes a very extensive historical and theoretic material, in a non-specific and uncompleted way – an open archive of different types of texts and images.” It is this relation to the archive that actually makes the montage, in claiming that the archive should not encyclopaedically enclose itself when the taxonomical process eventually comes to an end. One could also trace the struggle between chance and necessity to this relation, not as a historical depth but a relation in which historicisms are deconstructed. Deconstruction does not mean that the deconstructed is eliminated, only that it cannot be taken as a fixed and determined essence. There is a struggle between the systematic of the montage and the chronological historicity at the core of Magnusson & Grönberg’s text, a struggle between different ways of relating to a lack “which is put into system.” This lack is not equivalent to an archaic origin but appears as a dispositive – as a material, in a material – for transformations of meaning. That is what the method of anachronization wants to guarantee. It might not only be the anachronization that allows Magnusson & Grönberg to avoid such a concept, but also the surplus material in the archive, v i z . the capacity of the material to introduce a system in the lack of a system. T h e l i b r a r y o f B a b e l becomes the unavoidable place for their practice and what remains is the question if there is any way to read and use the text in its infinite expansion, because if Wi t z - b o m b e r o c h f o t o - s k e n . . . is primarily a composition of


328 quantities of theory that arrange material, then a large quantity of idle theories and perspectives – the virtual framework of the work – remain possible to activate.

§ 9.2 The question of historicity and artistic practice is also articulated by Svetlana Kopystiansky. Interviewed by Gavin Jantjes, she describes her and Igor Kopystiansky’s practice as completely dependent on the experience of being artists in the Soviet Union, but she also points at the meaningless in defining practice in terms of national context. The local or national, she says, is always the perspective from which you see art, but the local is never isolated from the outside. Even in the closed community the outside world becomes present through history. Hence, as the Soviet Union started to open up and Igor and Svetlan Kopystiansky’s practice got access to an international scene (an internationalism she is quite critical of, the contemporary art scene being reserved exclusively for a few nations and coteries) they discover that “many things that we had considered ‘Russian’ or ‘Soviet’ have their international equivalent and are not so specific”. § 9.3 Revolutions and breakdowns have always been a catalyst for the emergence of new perspectives and insights, and it is striking how the fall of the Soviet Union gives Kopystiansky a perspective where differences and similarities between contexts become determinable, and how this evokes a kind of awareness “that it is not necessary to know life in a foreign country to the same extent as people who live there, in order to understand the art from that country” and that “serious art expresses something that can be received by people of different nations and different historical periods.” While in most of the other contributions the tendency is to narrow down the extent of one’s work and the context, emphasizing a hybrid relativity, Kopystiansky takes a completely different course of action that remains open to the universal ambition of art, without falling into an idealistic vocabulary. Weckman’s pragmatic approach comes to mind: that the task is not to exclude the fragmentary and asymmet-


329 ric, but to employ them to make consistent rhetorical and critical displacements. While rhetorical strategies are mediations that introduce breaches into a material, ideal rationality is on the one hand never immediately expressed through practice, but on the other it is at work as a condition of or intentional horizon to practice and communication. In mediation, rationality is always the object of negotiation and manipulation, but the relativity involved in these acts is, as Kopystiansky clarifies, always bound to a universal or international horizon. In the Soviet era, when Svetlana was seeking a language to express the historical dynamics of the contemporary situation she turned toward the past “to rethink ideas of the Russian avant-garde”, not as a nostalgic return but to consider “the extent to which it becomes our present and our future. History as we know it is not the past, but it’s a manipulated version and the version we claim to know says a lot about the world we live in.” The historicity that is activated in Kopystiansky’s work is not trans-historical but paradigmatic: the paradigmatic effects related to and expressed by practice comprise series of manipulations of a past appearing in the present as a virtual path to the future. The discontinuity of signification and the differentiating force of the sign is implemented by the relative continuity of practice, a continuity that gathers history or rather histories into an expanding complex covering more and more relations between different elements and contexts. As a manipulation of history, artistic practice is striving toward universal horizons. The fact that history appears as a series of manipulations or reformulations is obvious to most, but it might be even more obvious to those who work within a totalitarian order where ‘official culture’ is strictly regulated. Manipulation of the official narrative becomes an important tool of resistance, not least through the appropriation of the methods used by the officials: “I used my creative power in the same manner the officials used their bureaucratic power, to manipulate the culture. I also worked a lot with the issue of censorship, hiding parts of a text and exposing its fragments which then became


330 absurd.” The denominating capacity of a work transgresses the temporary and specific situation through series of manipulations that intersect, challenge and undermine one another. As Gavin Jantjes interjects: “While you’re struggling against conditioning and manipulation through the sign (language), you are doing this by using the sign itself, suggesting a bridge rather than a rift with the past.” § 9.4 Artistic practice may be defined as a manipulation of meaning with the use of other meanings. The manipulation can be minimal or have the capacity to throw new light on a wider context; it implicates a certain amount of revision(ism) that always – something which Kopystiansky emphasizes – begins with the individual’s sensible experience through which art (in mediation) can open a specific context to other contexts. In the absence of immediacy, absolute ideality or ideal rationality is lost (or has never been at hand) – the subjectivity that would give itself the truth is denied incarnation. Instead subjectivity must be understood as just another manipulated body within a manifold of such incarnations. That is the reason why the individual perspective mustn’t get caught in “an unsophisticated, ethnographic narrative about a different life ‘over there’” – the exoticist objectification of the other that Kopystiansky’s practice was caught in when defined as “Perestroika Art”. The point of view where her contribution can become really productive in a discussion on method and art, is by showing that artistic practice can take an active position within an international horizon by introducing a historical meaning accessible only through manipulations and rearrangements of meaning. A ‘purpose of art’ can be sensed: to continuously reformulate, revise and dislocate meanings that are stuck in a given context, widen the understanding for context, history and the processes of meaning they involve and open a present context to a more universal or at least more international situation. It may sound paradoxical to invert the individual’s sensible (experience through) practice into a platform for investigations into historicity. But if history is instituted and made up by singular perspectives with their specific meanings simultaneously mediated through manipulation, this approach seems to be one


331 of the few productive ways for artistic practice to treat history. As Kopystiansky argues, there is no pure culture: translations between and changes within contexts are always possible. This translation or transformation on the basis of the impurity of culture and history seems to be a vehicle for the production of new histories – and isn’t it ironic that the relativity of the undeterminable singular is what opens to the universal? § 10. The methodological scene The small office space has only one window. It opens to an empty galleria, an echoing cathedral-like space covered by a vaulted roof of semitransparent plastic, a constant reminder of the shifting weather. Rain is indicated by an increasing and decreasing patter, sunlight is transformed into an artificial shine. It is often cloudy. In the night, sound is the only sensation of an outside. A noisy street or faraway music. One can put on the coat and leave, stretch out on the bed that stands in the corner of the room, fall asleep or just close one’s eyes for a few minutes to capture the sense of rest. Dream falls into work and work into dream, as if gou was trying to appropriate the methods of Lea and Pekka Kantonen. The openings toward the dream landscape are scattered over days and nights, like stumbling on holes in the ground. The dream-work is brought into the office room. It is mostly diffuse ideas, geological findings spread out over the desk and scrutinized; the work process has developed into a treacherous scenery intersected by faults and cracks, a stage on which the play becomes less and less focused. For whom is the play performed? The officials themselves? The panoptic effect of bureaucracy is a self-surveillance and a surveillance of each other. When the panoptic order is established the gaze has become redundant, necessary is only the semblance of a gaze: the four cameras that watches the office or the mere thought of an eye. § 10.1 Even if Yukio Mishima suddenly stood on the doorstep, mute and headless, he must be invited. Maybe not grasped, the hand would pass right through his body, but understood as a figure exemplifying a certain aesthetics. Projected on the artist’s body as a political


332 gestalt is a method that ends up in failed revolution and suicide, subordinating artistic practice to philosophy before extinguishing philosophy: “The true philosophical act is suicide; this is the real beginning of all philosophy, the direction in which the philosophical disciples’ all needs are going, and only this act expresses all the conditions and signs of the transcendent accomplishment.” (Novalis.) A thoroughly staged death and a perfect tragedy. Aestheticizing self-technologies turn the beautiful and the sublime into themes and art into a life practice. Mishima reflects his life in MORE BEAUTIFUL, MORE REAL, MORE but these magnitudes eventually become too trivial. Only MOST BEAUTIFUL, MOST REAL, MOST will do. For what? A life – the finality of individual existence and the circumstances enfolding it don’t live up to the superlatives: perfection can only be accomplished by the intersection that opens toward death. The first performance becomes an isolated event, a method that preserves the singular by annihilating existence and by elevating the act of annihilation to a historical sign. But is this really a matter of method? Artistic practice always holds a layer of experience, even when it takes any chance to exclude or negate it. Art can never be fully separated from life practice. Mishima’s theatrical suicide is all about a philosophy of tragedy. On the way to the final chapter this philosophy is inhabited by dramatizing gestures. At the end, the melted iron of ideas has been forged into a sword, but this doesn’t mean that art has found a method that amplifies its virtuosity, its critical capacity or its potential to rearrange the world into unexpected constellations. When the strike hits the neck the performance is still secondary to philosophy’s dreams about omnipotence and its inability to fulfil them. The headless Mishima is sent to the office by Maja Hammarén. She stages a drama in which whatever appears onstage has to leave the certainty of itself behind and be sucked into the whirlpool of theatricality. A philosophy on the scene of art is always a stage effect. So there is a difference between philosophy and philosophy on the scene, and the difference is made possible on the scene, not in philosophy.


333 § 10.2 A drowsy morning and some buttery croissants later, another curious character shows up at the office. No one had noticed Amanda Baggs entrance, and when asked something she replies: – MY LANGUAGE IS NOT ABOUT DESIGNING WORDS OR EVEN VISUAL SYMBOLS. / IT IS ABOUT BEING IN CONSTANT CONVERSATION WITH EVERY ASPECT OF MY ENVIRONMENT / REACTING PHYSICALLY TO ALL PARTS OF MY SURROUNDINGS. Her answer is apparently not the expected. The crowd is silent. The door opens and the director appears. She doesn’t say that Amanda Baggs is an example (an example and a scene is not the same thing), her argument turns in an other direction: – The public debate no longer wants to keep a reserve for production of aesthetics and critique... Like everything else our work is subordinate to the same linguistic standards. Categorization keeps insecurity away. The Bologna process – the same principle as racism: it is a matter of putting everything in its place. The uncertainty in a gingerbread cutter becomes a goat or a heart. This is not a circus, but what then happens seems quite peculiar and if it is not a circus it sure is grotesque. One of the officials of gou balances a coffee cup on his forehead while claiming that augurism has to be included in the report, “the ending is two drumbeats and then – silence”. One of the others, the one who most often relies on logical thinking, stands up and loudly pronounces that “language is a differentiating process that emerges when a cat’s body rests on a stone.” The third one sits quietly by the window, he says that the next dove that passes will carry the end of the report around its neck. None of them notices that the curtain is already down. [The sound of raindrops pattering the roof of the galleria.]


334 The scene-shifters have arranged an auditorium with rows of chairs in front of it. They have gathered a large crowd of cultural workers, pensioners, a school class and the culturally starving citizens who always show up. The curtains open and there stands Irga Vadmund, recognized by her rhythmic knock on the door. She will now share the experience of what it means to appear in someone else’s language – and to resist it. As if the inclusion would be different there. As if the one or the other always has to be distinguished by a third: the spectator’s gaze, gou, others. A logic of confusion, ambiguity, that is what Irga wants to discuss by reading a story from back home. [For the last time, Maja Hammarén appears onstage.] – In what economy is it lucrative to write about method? [After the story reading, some kind of lecture starts. Silence, papers rustling; an official from gou wants to declare that no wages are paid here but he is held back with some force by one of his co-workers. The crowd whispers, gradually raising their voices. Faraway music, like angels playing on trumpets in the sky.] Something must be built, in materials, shapes, functions that constantly change, or something that only exists as the image of an unpredictable future. A future where great plans and great methods are suddenly torn apart by the imminent flash of reality, like the feeling of embracement when you look into the eyes of your adversary and realize that you cannot hate him. Not a great ethical moment or a metaphysical revolution, only the fact that your fantasies were only fantasies. And as the crowd disperses, unsatisfied by the reality of things, everything appears to be the same: empty corridors, a fading light as the sun hides behind a cloud, the mess in the office that should have been taken care of months ago. New plans, methods, fantasies and thoughts begin to take form. New life growing on the nutritious corpses of the gou officials.


TheMethod Quarterly

On the theory and practice of method

1st issue December 2008


Geist ISSN 1651-3991 pris 150 SEK 16 EUR


GOU #1 «Method»