UNIVERTITY OF THE ARTS LONDON LONDON COLLEGE OF COMMUNICATION
Reconsidering Art As Transactional Critical Context Paper MA Photography Full Time
Jesús Jiménez October 2007
To my family, my tutors and specially Gerardo Montiel Klint. Through his tutorials I have discovered my way.
Introduction ……….………………………………………….…03 Chapter I Disconections in the context …………….........04 Chapter II Culture as the new connector …………………09 Chapter III Unfolding transactions ……….….....................11 Conclusion ………………………………………………………...14 Bibliography ………………………………………………………15
Introduction The point of departure for the selection of this field is the personal mistranslation of D.W. Winnicott’s Transitional Phenomena (1971), probably my background in the finance field made me use the term “Transactional Object” instead of “Transitional Object”. After the first assessment the tutor told me the following: Your mistranslation of the Winnicott term as a transactional object is actually more interesting in relation to your use of photography than the original idea of the transitional object (Williams 2007). After this feedback, I decided to use the transactional object as the field of my research paper. This research is based up on reconsidering Art as a transactional process. Essentially art objects are transactions; by transactions I mean objects of exchange and interaction, in the terms of emotions, and experiences in between the audience, the author, and the object.
03 This research paper is about establishing if there is any space in the Cultural Revolution (Slide 2007) to reconsider art as a transactional process. The intention is to consider creators as operators of the system, operators of the market in order to continue with the creation and development of values and models, to continue unfolding primary important questions. The intention is not only to continue our work with our voice, but without being absorbed by the corporate system, which branches and tentacles are close to artistic cartographies. The personal concern within the context, and the confusion about art sphere elements’ roles are the drivers for this research. The context presents itself in an ambiguous way. On one hand there are global challenges that are driving deeply changes in our society, on the other hand artists had created pieces to trace possible paths to follow, at the same time these creations have been synthesized and projected by intellectuals, however these connections are distorted
once they are embraced by the art sphere’s institutions. Global challenges have reappear in a cyclical way, it seems that we are immerse in a vicious circle, in which nothing have changed in its roots, the viewer continues in a passive role. The individual not only has become mediated and blinded, but also nowadays is becoming corporate. Singularity is becoming hard to find. The journey through this essay embodies these facts. The context presents itself as a puzzle, in which my intention is to try to find not only an active and participative exit, but also a new negotiation option.
CHAPTER I Disconnections in the context To begin with, it is important to clarify some key concepts. The Oxford American Dictionary defines Transaction as (a) An instance of buying or selling something; a business deal. (b) The action of conducting business. (c) An exchange or interaction between people. (d) An input message to a computer system that must be dealt with a single unit of work. For the purposes of this research paper it is important to consider the term transaction as an exchange or interaction between people. Also, it is important to make a distinction between exchange, interaction and relation. The later is concerned with the way two or more people or things are connected. The former are concerned with reciprocal action or influence. For Bourriaud “artistic practice is always a relationship with the other, at the same time as it represents a relationship with the World.” (Bourriaud 1998, p. 85). Essentially, art is transactional. On one hand, it is about transactions of experiences, thoughts,
feelings and ideas. It is close to the transactional analysis in psychology, which is based on the idea that one’s behavior and social relationships reflect an interchange between the ego states; parental, adult, and childlike aspects of personality established in early life (Bern, 1950). It is about how one’s creations and relationships are the synthesis of our context. In the case of the artistic practice these relations formulated through the artist’s creations are the traces of our time, the announcers statements of future eras, and the statements of important existential questions. The model allows participative viewers to take active participation in the transactional process, which is only completed with their participation. The insertion of people’s connections with the context through the piece of art allows the artistic creations to expand in time and space. On the other hand, we cannot deny that art is transactional as a generator of business deals. Culture has become an important strategic, tactical economic
tool for First World economies fifty percent of their Gross Domestic Product comes from cultural events (Slide 2007). However nowadays the balance in the art scene as in society is charged to the transactional concept just like a business deal, which is basically the core concept of the capitalist rationality. To continue with it is important to consider that not only institutions are following capitalist rationality path, but also young art creators and the entire spectrum in between these two points. The aim of the essay is to reconsider art in its transactional essence as I stated, and find a “negotiating space” (Bourriaud 1998, p. 80) within our context, in which we can explore dialog, exchange, and interaction, without being played by the market (Saltz 2007).
05 It is important to clarify that the figure of the market is not new it existed even before capitalism. “Commerce is above all a form of human relations, indeed, a pretext destined to produce a relationship” (Bourriaud 2002 p. 39). The problem in the contemporary model of the market is that relations are mediated and blinded, they are immersed in a trap to serve the system (Curtis 2007), and the market is playing on us. Now that we have more than 7,000 objects that surround our daily lives our lives are not more easy people have to work harder to buy these objects (Pawson 1949), our lives are immerse in a trap that is creating less freedom. Institutions and companies are selling the idea that what is good for them is good for us, which in fact is not good for everybody (Savater 2006).
Murakami’s supporters call him "the Japanese Warhol." They say he’s enacting Warhol’s deal-making dictums that "good business is the best art" and "business art is the step that comes after Art." He has his own "factory" where assistants make his paintings, his Kaikai Kiki Company represents a brood of Murakami clones and he’s engaged in product design. To his credit, Murakami’s eagerness to outmarket everyone makes artists like Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons seem decorous by comparison. But Murakami has fallen into his own trap. He didn’t heed one other Warhol bon mot, "Commercial things really do stink. As soon as it becomes commercial for a mass market, it really stinks." Murakami is no longer In the case of the art playing the market; the market arena there is a lack market is playing him -- and of professional objective so many others. (Saltz 2007) critics, the fact that almost everything was sold before the opening of Art Basel is symptomatic about the status of the arts, it is highly commercial, few people is
concern about this fact. “It exists a silent agreement in between the creators, galleries, and institutions in order to not express an objective critic of the pieces of work” (Young 2006). In this uncritical system everybody is immersed in the same boat. “ The enemy we have to fight first and foremost embodies in a social form: it is the spread of the supplier /client relations to every level of human life” (Bourriaud 1998, p. 83). It is undeniable that contemporary art exhibitions, fairs and events could not be possible without capitalism (Smith 2007), but at the same time we need to remember that capitalism is not perfect, unethical capitalism practices are collapsing capitalism itself. The devastation of entire cities by hurricanes, and tsunamis, the pandemics as the bird flue, and the gradually fall of the dollar over the recent years are some problems that have roots in the imperfection of the model, these negative effects are driving deeply changes in our society. One of the roles of the arts is not
06 to support, but to denounce these imperfections. Nowadays it seems the capitalist rationality system is invading the art arena. Those imperfections are becoming the leftovers of this era. Facts that are asking for new paths and ways, but at the same time there is too much arrogance in the World to accept change. The key factors are economic, that is they are related to power and competition (Guattari 1992). Perhaps Relational Aesthetics (Bourriaud 1998) unfolds a new model to solve capitalist rationality. The movement promotes a more relational, participative and active viewer, the boundaries of this model can expand in time and space to create new connections and relations not only in the art viewer, but also in mediated and blinded societies, for a more active singular individual. The energy for this essay comes from the personal feeling that even in the art sphere, in which we know the problems, and the possible solutions nothing is happening. The efforts to communicate contemporary artists ideas and intentions,
about important folded questions of our context are not enough. As for example, even with the Relational Aesthetics movement (Bourriaud 1998), which is opposed to the capitalist rationality, institutions are showing such cynicism in using this movement in the terms of the capitalist rationality. In the end it is about how institutions are embracing an art movement for its financial benefits, not for its artistic and philosophical boundaries. The movement is incredibly wonderful in its boundaries, its feelings, and its aims. It gives us hope for the future. From Eccoâ€™s the poetics of the open work (1972) Guattariâ€™s Chaosmossis (1992) to Bourriaudâ€™s Relational Aesthetics (1998), the temperature is the same: create a more active participative human conscience. However, the true is that there is a gap in between the intellectuals, artists and the institutional aims. On one hand institutions show highly produced relational aesthetics pieces of art, but on the other hand they present them with capitalist
rationality practices, which is contradictory. In this sense, it is imperative to find new models for the arts movements to spread ideas, thoughts and creations, not only without losing their essence, but also reinforcing their voice. This paper is not about resting importance to institutions in their role as dissemination channels for art creators. The force for this essay comes from what is driving institutions to commission exhibitions, and creators to create. There is confusion in the context on one hand intellectuals and artist appeal for a less corporate World, but on the other hand the art system is reinforcing it. Financial objectives become more important than the content objectives. As for example, institutions are commissioning curators to launch ignored photographers and insert them into the art main stream, but just because their pieces are not highly priced and therefore are more affordable, as in Photo London 2007, which was mentioned in joking fashion:
07 THE EVOLUTION OF CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY SINCE 1970 Moderator: Vicente Todoli, Director, Tate Modern Panellists: Charlotte Cotton, Department Head and Curator of Photography, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Paul Graham, British Photographer, Mark Haworth-Booth, Former Curator of Photography V&A, Marta Gili, Director Jeu de Paume, Paris . (Photo London 2007) The Tate Modern is another case. Not only because it is a central institution in the contemporary art World, but also because is the closest reference, it only take me three tube stations to arrive there. Thanks to the massive audiences that are attracted by recent relational aesthetics exhibitions Tate Modern is increasing revenue. In 2006 over 5 million visitors joined Tate Modern (Barney 2007), it was the most visited tourist attraction in London, followed by the British Museum and the National Gallery. However, exhibitions had focus on investing for the highest
profitable return, creating exhibitions to seduce mass audiences in order to increase their income, locating the essence of artistic movements, models and ideas in a second place. The first time I went to Tate Modern I went with my family. On one hand, from my personal point of view the experience was exiting it is a privilege to see and feel real pieces in real time and space as the artists conceived them. It was like seeing for the first time, I knew some of the art pieces from books and media. In the other side, my family and specially my father was bored he said to me that he didn’t understand anything, I just said to him it is about feeling. He is a Mexican businessman with 50 years of experience he is a good example of a rational capitalist being, I am afraid relational aesthetic aim through Carsten Holler’s slides project (2007) commissioned by Tate Modern was wasted on him. There is not a clear effort to communicate the purposes of the works of art for massive audiences.
”Down and up: Carsten Holler’s slides have helped make the Tate Modern London’s most popular attraction” Barney. (2007) Image from [internet] Available from: www.thisislondon.co.uk [accessed 5 June, 2007]
In terms of rational capitalist practices branding is a powerful tool in business that Tate has mirrored. “For purposes of branding the museum Tate Modern is a successful example. From the titles of the exhibitions, the logo, the building it self, to the Tate shops and the merchandise the message is clear brand becomes more important than the content” (Stallabrass 2007). The consumption of the brand becomes more important than the consumption of the art pieces. Basically, institutions locate the essence of the pieces in a periphery intellectual
08 cartography that is only reached by a skilled audience. In the end, the aims of the artistic movements are distorted, which is a contradiction in between the artistic, and the institution aims. Essentially the art space is for reflection, artistic cartographies are essential to fold important existential questions, to create in free value way transactions, but corporate capital rational practices are not good for these purposes.
the boundaries of artistic movements, not only in intellectual levels, but also in a mass audience levels, Institutions must need to refine their role and identity, so then they can use business tools to spread the ideas of the artists and the arts movements they embraced, without distort them. The question is why are they not using these and other tools to spread the aims of the artists and intellectuals? The answer might be that they really do not care and it is not their “It is a contradiction aim as we can read in Tate’s because advertising and mission statement branding are not good for criticism. There is a “Tate's mission is drawn contradiction in between the from the 1992 Museums and art world, the engaged of the Galleries Act, which is to artist, the institution and the increase public knowledge, consumption of the art understanding and pieces and art movements. appreciation of British art The more corporate the from the sixteenth century institution is, the less useful to the present day and of it becomes. The truth is that international modern and Museum space is producing contemporary art” (Tate���s individuals for the inputs mission [internet] 2007) they consume in the forms of merchandise or art Perhaps their mission experiences is too abstract; perhaps they (Stallabrass 2007). only reckon their strategic position in contemporary In order to generate society only in financial models of transactional terms, perhaps they do not relations between people, in believe they can create and order to spread to the World give hope to the World.
Perhaps is not their function, but what if? On one hand institutions need not to perform models in the way rational capitalist society does, but through the research and development of new models with the hands of the artists and art movements. This option is the way in which we can deposit and generate values for a better participative active society. On the other hand more than ever the artist is the one who has to take more care about important questions and issues, than the institutions (Smith 2007). In a society that is becoming corporative, and the fact that more and more individuals as institutions are becoming corporative (Young 2007), Culture can become a global strategic, tactical piece to find participation and singularity and tackle the problems I stated. It is imperative as artists not to deny these facts, but to know them and enjoy them with responsible consciousness in order to use tools and skills in a positive way, to spread our aims and intentions through the system.
CHAPTER II Culture as the new connector 09
Cultural Revolution is the next Revolution fifty percent of the First World Economies’ GDP comes from cultural events (Slide 2007). On one hand, it is clear that economics is being absorbed by culture: what, in the past was seen, as a simple hobby today is a key factor for business makers. On the other hand culture is becoming an option for tackling the challenges I stated. Culture is becoming the path to follow for a better change. The new monumental architectural projects across the World are based on culture, as it was staged clearly with Art Centers, Opera houses, and Museums at the Zaha Hadid’s architecture and design exhibition at the Design Museum in London in 2007. As we saw in the last World Cup in Germany, as it would be staged in the Olympic games in China next year. It is a probe that not only culture has been positioned as a driver for the value of a city, but also it is becoming a clear option for future.
In this Cultural Revolution, in which money is more than ever a clear option for creators and operators, suppliers and consumers in culture and especially in the arts and photography. It would be important to observe how these economic factors would metamorphose relations and interactions in the arts arena between the artist, the audience and the objects. Hopefully this metamorphosis would be attached to a transactional value free space, in which we can approach our minds, words and feelings to that primitive condition in which humans were surprised with every day life, in which the universe was the center of the life. Hopefully this metamorphosis would enable us to see the sky and the stars for another time.
what intellectuals request as long as the creators continue being their selves, keeping true to their voice and do not lose their heart by being seduced by power and money. In our Cultural Revolution it is true that artists had not the impact yet of David Beckham, but what if artists use codes and models through these institutions or celebrities to communicate and spread our aims and intentions effectively? As some artists have done; Sam Taylor Wood’s video portrait of David Beckham (2004), Chuck Close Kate Moss’ Daguerrotipes (2007), Carey Young’s My Megastore mixed media installation in Virgin Mega store (2001), or José Félix González Torres Untitled Billboards across New York City (1989).
The importance of the artist in cotemporary society is undeniable. In this Cultural Revolution, the importance of our role would grow even more. The gap in between the artist’ piece and the projection of the future Wood from [internet] “Culture is the heart of might be shorter. These new On(2004) theImage hand of the available from: knowledge in development” forms of relations and artists the challenge in this http://www.telegraph.co.uk [accessed (Mulder 2007). transactions might create Cultural Revolution is to, 2007] 28 October
art creators to be an active arena. Our role is to make “Not so many artists part of the revolution, with mediated people understand, understand both spheres. In our voice and without being participate and feel. fact in my extensive played by the market. experience (many years The final nonlooking!) there are very few capitalist forms of trained, contemporary “The more we transactions between the artists who have an insight approach absolute definition, object, the artist and the into how business operates.” the more the power of audience could become the (Young 2007) illusion is lost” (Baudrillard basis for future generations, 1996). as conceptual art was. This Hopefully new forms movement was the of negotiation, new relations announcer of important facts and interactions would take of our time, through their place in a society that is not “It is very difficult to illusions they not only speak of painting because announced a new era, but only mediated and blinded (today) it is very difficult to their conceptual creations but also senseless, immersed see it. So this is the best were side by side connected in the society of the discourse about painting”. with their context at that spectacle, to create a more (Baudrillard 1996). time. Perhaps we can find human and sustainable era, eradicating the deterrence of space for the development of As art creators we these kinds of honest and the Third World and tackle the problems I have have to deliver imagination risky movements in a mentioned. It would be to the world, we must take context that is becoming worthless to be part in a an active part in order to more and more corporative. cultural revolution if our deliver to the World our sensitivity is more than ever sophisticated sensibility for closed to life, and closed to life, painting, music, theater, the lives of others. It would cinema, and photography. be worthless to be part in a Time is to rescue and spread cultural revolution on the the aims of the arts from transactional business deal their intellectual refugee. It side only. In this particular would be a waste of time if events happen case I think time is to learn cultural from history how past globally and people don not the condition to generations of audiences and have art creators where humans understand and feel them. It with a profound and would be a waste of time if sophisticated sensibility for not only painting, but all art continue finding life. In this Revolution it forms would be imperative as an refugee in the intellectual
CHAPTER III Unfolding transactions 11 In our capitalist “spectacle”, the spectacle – as a social relationship between people mediated by images – is pacifying and divisive, uniting us only through our separation from one another (Bishop 2004). I have found difficulties finding this honest transactional space. Everybody is self-centered in their spectacle; competitions, exhibitions, prizes, etc. From Mexico to London the ego stage of our society is making it difficult to have exchanges and interactions between people, they prefer to exchange and interact in the virtual world even artist are immersed in the spectacle. Therefore it is essential to create exchanges and interactions not for separation but for communication. The recent relational exhibitions at Tate Modern are not enough, and probably they are a waste of time. The boundaries of these commercial exhibitions are that the audience not necessarily has to think, but participate; at the end they are part of the spectacle. In order to create interactions for communication the open
work is more effective for research paper, Documenta the purposes of Relational 12 was unclear, unAesthetics. commercial and open to interpretation, which is “Sartre notes that the good. Documenta 12 was an existent object can never be exhibition in which we had reduced to a given series of to think. In Documenta 12 manifestations, because each we could find possibilities for of these is bound to stand in the development of the arts, relationship with a surely Documenta would be continuously altering a trendsetter for the arts subject. Not only does an arena. I must say that at object present different some point I felt confused Abschattungen (or profiles), and depressed by the fact but also different points of that I was getting nothing view are available by the way from the pieces in terms of to the total series in which, feelings or concepts. I was by virtue of being one thinking maybe I am wrongpossible apparition, it is a what is happening here? It member. This sort of was when I realized that the openness is at the heart of not expensive catalog was every perception” (Ecco really important in order to 1962). understand the pieces. Documenta 12 was about How ever, one of the that art is about learning problems in the neo-liberal through history. But most of economy is that we have a all it was about relations, great educational system, transactions in a value free but people are stupid. The way. problem with the open work is that massive audience has to think, and massive audience does not want to think. During the preparation of this essay Documenta 12 took place. It was a great surprise to find similarities in the event’s thoughts and ideas for this
Image from [internet] from: www.document a12.de [accesed 20 October, 2007]
12 " The experience of art is always the experience of a life context, the experience of a particular relationship of individual, society and environment. If we wish to observe this relationship soberly and in a value- free way and perhaps even redefine it, we need to find something that will remove us from our immediate life contexts. Documenta is a space of possibility" (Buergel, Noack 2007). Documenta was about “Asking Serious Questions in a Very Quiet Voice” (New York Times 2007) This transactional space in the form of exhibitions, studios and academies is primordial for existential questions and relations. This space has created movements, trends and eras. Photography is not the exception not only because in terms of transactions it is one of the most used mediums in our time, but also because there is an utmost example now days of the importance of this space for the artistic photography practice. Bern and Hilla Becher are two of the most influential figures in contemporary
photography; they always worked together as a team. They created the German School of Photography movement, through this time and space Andreas Gursky, one of the most important contemporary artists, Candida Höfer, Thomas Demand, Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff found their ways.
“ Bern Becher was a teacher without being a teacher. It was not about photography, it was more about the time in which we lived and about interactions. Through Bern and Hilla I have found my own way” (Höfer 2007, cited at Bern Becher Obituary, Art World Magazine issue 1 Oct/Nov 2007) “For there are famous artists actively teaching everywhere” (Gursky 2007 cited at Bern Becher Obituary, Art World Magazine issue 1Oct/Nov 2007)
Gursky A. Rhine II. (1999). Chromogenic color print, 61 1/4" x 10' 1 1/2" (155.6 x 308.6 cm). Gift of Thomas W. Weisel. © 2007 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Image from [internet] from http://www.moma.org/collection/ [accessed 25 October, 2007]
13 Thanks to the German School of photography, I began to discover my passion for the arts and for photography. I met the movement in Foto Guanjuato 2004, which was a space for interactions created by the Mexican artists Ana Casas, Gerardo Montiel Klint, Gustavo Prado and Gerardo Suter. While I was taking the course I went to the MOMA in New York City, there I discovered in a free value way the breathtaking Gursky’s Rhine II (1999). I was seduced by the piece, and I stayed for fifteen minutes seating on a bench in front of it. I had feelings, I had emotions, and I had thoughts. At that time and space I realized what I wanted to create in the viewers mind. Now I know that this image is one of Gursky’s favorites, he used to run in within that space. Therefore the transactions that were born at the German School of photography expand in time and space to continue creating and asking important questions for our World.
During the MA Photography Program at London College Of Communication I had created a mix media portfolio, which was born thanks to the connections that I have created and found within the context. From a stranger’s comment –Oh you know find art in every where, during the flying tissue paper at Tate Britain toilet project shoot (2007), to the creation of a 621 calorie circle on the grass as a connection of my personal life with Coldplay’s song the Scientist (2002), transactions and connections are always present, indeed. They have been imperative for the development of my projects. Artistic cartographies have always been an essential element of the framework of every society. This space is not only important for the artistic practice, but also “This space is vital for artistic practice and reflection” (Williams 2007). Through the interactions and relations in value free way in these cartographies is that we can continue enouncing important questions. As long as these cartographies can
find space in our context they will continue facing what people don not want to see, feel or think.
Flying tissue paper Tate Britain Toilet 2007. Jesús Jiménez
621 Calorie Circle 2007. Jesús Jiménez.
...Perhaps artists today constitute the final lines along which primordial existential questions are foldedâ€Ś Subjectivity is now returning as a leitmotiv. It is not natural given any more than air or water. How do we produce it, capture it, enrich it, and permanently reinvent it in a way that renders it compatible with Universe of mutant value? How do we work for its liberation, that is, for its resingularization?â€Ś all the disciplines will have to combine their creativity to ward off the ordeals of barbarism, the mental implosion and chaosmic spasm looming on the horizon, and transform them into riches and unforeseen pleasures, the promises of which, for all that, are all too tangible. (Guattari, 1992 cited by Bishop Participations 2004). The role of corporations, institutions, artist and intellectuals is confused. Their identity is unclear. It seems that we are communicating by separation as the society of the spectacle does. However the forces that are driving
deeply changes in our society are here. Hopefully at the end art would be art and life would be life, individual imagination would find its place to continue creating, researching and developing ideas, models, and values. Art as always would find its identity by it self so as the individual, and mean while institutions, corporations, art fairs, museums, biennales, collectors would be competing for power, money, and the definition of the art. At the end a Darwinian selection process would challenge the arts as the individuals. Artistic cartographies would find their refuge in time and space to create, and to continue folding and unfolding important existential questions, but at the same time individuals would use the business, institutions and corporations platforms in Cultural Revolution to spread to the World in a more effective way their creations that perhaps will arrive more attached to their essence. Subjectivity is an important leitmotiv in our contemporary society it can be enriched and unfolded in
these transactional spaces, in which we can find a place for the discovery of our voice and our way. Subjectivity needs to be spread not only to more and more corporate individuals, but also to institutions and corporations to redefine them and enrich them. Finding our way and our voice is the path to create something unique, and uncommercial. Through the creation of something from the heart or our mind in a free value way is how we can give something to the World. Consciously, or unconsciously the artist is an important piece in this Cultural moment, in which we are immersed. It is imperative to join this Revolution responsibly with the benefits of it, but without losing our heart and our voice. Perhaps if we let our life be our art (Anderson 2007), if we create honest transactions through our voice between the objects, the audience and us, we will continue unfolding primary existential questions to project, trace, face, and operate our context.
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