STATEMENT This documentation contains no material which has been accepted for the award of any other degree or diploma in any university or other institution and, to the best of my knowledge, contains no material previously published or written by another person, except where due reference is made in the text of the documentation.
2012 / January
â€œThe Dialogic Turn: How Communication and Collaborative Modeling Can Enhance the Educational Turn.â€?
Oliver Cloke 22681345
Master of Fine Arts by Research
This intertextual documentâ€™s intention is to highlight how and why dialogue is a social necessity and a collaborative education tool for the creation of a more engaged, engaging and inclusive education system. These ideas are considered as a part of my artistic practice, that becomes part of an evolving methodology. In this document the working tactics created over the past two years are utilised to explore the general philosophy that has underpinned the artworks. Where I ask; What is needed to encourage greater participation with artworks? I put forward that the multiplicity of signage and coded deceit is so prevalent in our social comprehension that it means we conduct ourselves more carefully in group-type situations. Our individuality is too great an imposition on group psychology and therefore we have not created a language of the participation, even though we already know the languages used for networking. Yet, collaborative or â€˜interactiveâ€™ groups are filled with networks of social boundaries and bonds that make collaborative work too hard to define. Finally, what operates within the realm of the artwork that allows a further questioning is the very essence of questioning within our social sphere.
I would like to thank everyone that I have conversed and collaborated with. All exchanges have influenced the progress of the work and the nature of this document. I would especially like to thank everybody involved in “Meeting Space for the Organisation of World Domination by Short People Who Have Too Much of an Ego”, “Uniqely Yours” and “The Mind Itself and the World.” Special thanks to certain people for their time and efforts: Stephen Garrett, Katherine Heyward, Lilly Hibberd, Melanie Neal and Freya Robinson
Concepts Inherent in the Practice: Art Pessism vs. Art Idealism
Societal Values: Ideals for Communication
The Concept of The Gift...Communication and Collaboration
This introduction explains the format in which the paper will be presented and then initiate ideas that are further developed within the document. The exegetic document will be written on the left hand side of the publication and will continue to be displayed, in this way, throughout. The right hand side will be reserved for what will be described as a parallel text; conversing with the main text and which will be a mix of explanations, musings and research that I have conducted throughout the compilation of the document. This method is appropriate because, in the research, notes and smaller avenues of investigation have become far more stimulating. I understand my practice as being an expansive gathering of information from varied resources that support a core of knowledge. Therefore, the methodology for this exegesis supports and highlights this and also allows for the writings to be considered dually, as envisaged; allowing the paper to both stand alone and be read alongside the artworks. This document is submitted to the canon of an education system that I propose should be more creatively engaged and engaging, and so is symptomatic of this belief. The intertextual nature of this document allows for both itself, and the research field, to become more available.
Documentation of my work is presented in a secondary publication; which includes notes and imagery that reference the conversations, happenings and meetings I have been involved with. All notes were consciously created as documents to inform othersâ€™ art practices, as well as my own. Publications are a standard outcome of the artworks and have become necessary as evidence for the processes undertaken. They are not the artwork: simply an artwork in themselves and a methodology for dissecting and re-evaluating the project through editing and collation.
Practical research is defined in two modes: that of my own creation and that where an existing or ongoing project is supported. However, both are about generating situations wherein others are enabled to make art. The research focus has been in bringing people together, diagnosing concerns and the problem solving that is generated through the articulation of ideas. 1
Artwork enfunctioned by myself usually involves collecting people and organising events that explore creativity on an individual level, allowing the collected participants to discuss ideas 1
and then conceive of creative outcomes. Sometimes this generates further interest for individuals and groups, which then in turn allows for further investigation of collaboration models. The intention of this document is to outline problems inherent within my specific practice and discuss 2
these problems through the observations and feedback, made and received. Problems perceived, especially with artworks, become the essence of an argument for the making of art. The ability to ask questions is encouraged and supported until satisfaction in comprehension is established. These questions are seen as a form of critique for the projects whilst also promoting individualsâ€™ 3
participation. This promotes further questioning of form and the creation of understanding.
I have written this proposition in a particular predisposed language, which itself, 5
intrinsically infers a hierarchical position. This is problematic for me; however, I wish to display a full and exact explanation of ideas. Our relations with artworks are symbiotic, just like a conversation needs two participants so does an artwork. Just as a conversation could take any path the participants wish, art can generate diverse conversation. We are able to comprehend some parts, disregard others, muse over aspects and fantasise about elements. However we decide to interact with art, we subconsciously retain knowledge of it. We learn ways of being and socialising through many unrelated and unconscious events, artistic or otherwise, and these form part of the map through which we understand ourselves. Art gives opportunities to reflect upon this just as we regard ourselves through our observations of others.
In making artworks that recognise others as the catalyst for the work, I term my practice as 6
collaborative, based on terminology set out by Nikos Papastergiadis. This has created problems of its own, despite the fact that I am investigating communication and miscommunication within the language used for the making of art, specifically looking at the identification of relations and 7
equality within artâ€™s language.
1 Enfunction [in-ˈfʌŋkʃən] v 1. The creation of an action or intended purpose of a person or thing in a specific role. 2 Which encompasses examination, assessment and appropriation of what already exists, enabling a discussion about the possibilities for change. 3 This process becomes self referential and complicates the reading, but this is not problematic because every individual that takes part in the work makes and takes their own understanding away from it. Critique of my own artworks and myself is part of my methodology. I conduct this in the same fashion that I would analyse others. Therefore the knowledge/understanding of my failures promotes the creation of new material and ways of making that are more consumable on multiple levels. However, knowledge of previous artworks is not mandatory for the consumption of the existing model, make or format of the present artwork. 4 The core of my practice is directed by my conscious need to redress some of the problems, as I understand it, that artists face in investigating the expansive field of what Nicholas Bourriaud termed ‘relational art’. After reading Bourriaud’s “Relational Aesthetics”, I find myself still querying what he means by ‘relational art’. Bourriaud doesn’t really explore the idea of relations directly but merely relates back a history of western, Avant-Garde thought. Claire Bishop, in “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics”, asserts that the relationships inherent to Relational Aesthetics are rarely examined or called into question; Bourriaud assumes that they all form dialogue that is democratic due to a common interest in art. He places himself not as a critic of ‘art’ but as a writer on ‘form’, and it is this assessment of ‘form’ that intrigues me. What do we mean by form? A coherent unit, a structure (independent entity of inner dependencies) which shows the typical features of a world. The artwork does not have exclusive hold on it, it is merely a subset in the overall series of existing forms. In the materialistic philosophical tradition ushered in by Epicurus and Lucretius, atoms fall in parallel formations to the void, following a slightly diagonal course. If one of these atoms swerves off course it “causes an encounter with the next atom and from encounter to encounter a pile up, and a birth of the world”, Nicholas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, ed. Simon Pleasance, Fronza Woods, and Mathieu Copeland, (Dijon: Presses du reel, 2002), 19. Bourriaud touches on a notion of the possibilities for history to stick with us and to inform our present and therefore our futures. This is a notion that I believe to be true and the foundation on which I base the formulation of my artworks. Bourriaud writes about how ‘Art was intended to prepare and announce a future world; today it is modelling possible universes.’ Nicholas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, ed. Simon Pleasance, Fronza Woods, and Mathieu Copeland, (Dijon: Presses du reel, 2002), 17. Is that still so nearly fifteen years later? Is art in the second decade of the new millennium looking back and re-contextualising what has gone before, or is mimicking the repetitive routes of our memory functioning and therefore the creation of our own possible universes, highlighting the links between? Or, further still, is it referring to the instantaneous web of networks and social interactions, which we have to keep a hold of now? And why doesn’t he label himself an art critic? 5 When utilising the word I, I don’t just mean I. Due to the nature of my work, ‘I’ brings with it everything anyone I have ever worked with has ever thought or said within the context of a project. ‘I’ isn’t just me. ‘I’ is the only manner through which I can comment (I wish to illustrate how works are participatory through the document I have labelled Book2. These images and writings display some of the formats that have been used encourage participation and to make the artworks). 6 ‘It is the combination of humanist ideals of sharing and the market logic of outsourcing that has been a source of considerable critical irritation. The idealism is quickly dismissed as evidence of naivety, whereas the mercantile spirit is considered as proof that the sole aim of the artist is to exploit others. What is more difficult to register is the possibility that this conjunction does not necessarily lead towards either the absolute elevation of one part over the other. Surely the task of the critic is to go beyond either a dismissal of every principle because of the whiff of artistic opportunism, or participate in a premature celebration of the promised utopia, but rather it to evaluate the capacity for collaborative art to redefine its aesthetic materiality in the way it ‘traverses’ the subjectivity of diverse groups of people.’ Nikos Papastergiadis, “The Global Need for Collaboration”, http://collabarts.org/?p=201 (accessed August 17th, 2010) 7 “Politics… Is that activity which turns on equality as its principle. And the principle of equality is transformed by the distribution of community shares as defined by a quandary: when is there and when is there not equality on things between who and who else? What are these ‘things’ and who are these whos? How does equality come to consist of equality and inequality?” Jacques Rancière. Dis-Agreement : Politics and Philosophy. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), ix.
Although my art has been described before as; ‘parasitic’, a ‘catalyst’ or like ‘an enzyme’, I prefer to refer to my work as enfunctioning, the act of functioning. The prefix en illuminates the fact that the collaboration is being brought into the condition of, whilst functioning describes 8
the achievement of matching a person to an action. Grant Kester writes about the possible terminology for such a practice, “UK-based artists/ organizers Ian Hunter and Celia Larner employ the term ‘Littoral’ art, to evoke the hybrid or in-between nature of these practices. French critic Nicolas Bourriaud has coined the term ‘relational aesthetic’ to describe works based around communication and exchange. Homi K. Bhabha writes of ‘conversational art’, and Tom Finkelpearl refers to ‘dialogue-based public art’… These projects require a paradigm shift in our understanding of the work of art; a definition of aesthetic experience “that is durational 9
rather than immediate.” Is this misunderstanding and lack of defined language yet available to describe this type of practice or simply because it is using the rudimentary social practices that we don’t necessarily register that we are performing?
I have collaborated on many projects only to discover my place within the collaboration and utilise my experiences to document and understand learning and social activity and how 10
they can inform and relate with each other.
The making of artworks becomes further research
into participatory projects that, in turn, become part of ongoing development. I want to forge links between peoples’ comprehension of the usefulness of artistic collaborations, from both the participant and the respondent’s points of view; underlining the quantifiable and unquantifiable educational abilities of such practices.
Many references are made to concepts significant within both art and educational contexts, in terms of an attempt to define a socially conscious practice; looking at the archetypically defined roles of the master and the student, the artist and the viewer. There are obvious parallels and significant misunderstandings in both sets of relationships. I am interested in the possibilities 11
of what a dialogue could be.
Looking at the problems that face a viewer of art, specifically
highlighting the interactions that are possible when inhibitions become a secondary factor in the socially constructed place of creative output. 5
8 The use of scientific language to describe my actions interests me but has not been of enough concern to warrant investigation in this particular document. 9 Grant Kester, “Conversation Pieces: The Role of Dialogue in Socially-Engaged Art”, in Theory in Contemporary Art Since 1985, ed. Zoya Kucor and Simon Leung (Blackwell, 2005), 76 – 88. 10 Claire Bishop, in this essay and in other interviews and essays, contends that it is often hard to respond to relational artistic events with anything other than moral approval. Art projects that directly research or criticise social policy or models of those policies, are described as: “pleasantly innocuous art. Not non-art, just bland art - and art that easily compensates for inadequate governmental policies.” Bishop seems more interested in socially engaged activities that are perverse or antagonistic and evade being able to be instantiated as a ‘model’. The author disagrees with reproductions or recreations of situations which are often praised for providing a ‘good model’, but on an aesthetic level believes only repeats formulae, without discussion. Bishop demands artworks that reinforce a distinction between aesthetic and activist works. This is explained this through Carsten Hollers’ The Bardoin Experiment. The lack of documentation leads to the confronting question of did it really happen? The participants were uncontactable for that day. The action was not recorded. This is explained, as the intention (which I will discuss later in the writing). There is a wish to espouse work that provides dialogue, for provocative artworks, that stir the conscience. In examination of Jeremy Deller’s The Battle of Orgreave, writing in depth about how the re enactment was ‘politically legible and utterly pointless’ and describing how we, as an audience can perceive this pursuit, as a historical document of left wing action against a government passed. Pointing out that the parallels of the event being that of re enactment societies with a village fair atmosphere. Detracting from the passion that people felt for their livelihoods. Contending all of these things; Bishop’s writings are influential on my practice, encouraging and interpreting a post-Bourriaud aspect on relations in art. The writings have a very particular sociological angle that are stuck to very firmly, maybe it is because it reflects certain Anglo-American critique that deals with the relationships that artists are facing in contemporary practice. Bishop contests Relational Aesthetics and uses Rancière’s 2004 writing on politics and aesthetics as a framework. Rancière states that politics is the struggle of an unrecognised party for equal recognition in the established order, where as Bourriaud promotes artwork that functions as a hierarchical artists’ joke, that it is often hard to comprehend. 11 Dialogue has its western history rooted in argument, utilising Socratic methodologies as its foundation. However Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of dialogue emphasized the power of discourse to increase understanding of multiple perspectives and create myriad possibilities. Bakhtin held that relationships and connections exist amongst all living beings, and that dialogue creates a new understanding of a situation that demands change. Dialogic relations presuppose a language, but they do not reside within the system of language; they are impossible among elements of a language. “Dialogue provides a meeting ground, communitas, and manifests itself in a variety of spontaneous and ritual modes of discourse in which nature and structure meet. I will further suggest that in its classical, German romantic and modern hermeneutic manifestations dialogue has served important functions not only as a discourse but also as a way of viewing discourse.” Sven Daelmans and Tullio Maranhão, “Psychoanalytic Dialogue and the Dialogical Principle”, in The Interpretation of dialogue, ed. Tullio Maranhão (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1990), 219- 241. Maranhão goes further using Bakhtin’s ideas to state that dialogue in its modern interpretation is anti Platonist, because it rejects the idea that there are patterns to be found in speech, and is defined by the multiple network of meanings.“In Bakhtin’s methodology there is no pure wisdom, no idea with capital ‘I.’ There are only wisdoms, ideas, which are dependent on each other; they are interdependent, under direct and indirect influence of each other. This may seem dialectical, but it is not: in dialectic there are only two opposed forces, in dialogic many; dialectic, quite like the monologic world of the epic is utopian; it wants the two forces to lead to a unified whole, a synthesis; dialogics, leads to a study of the different forces: it leads to epistemology . “When novel becomes the dominant genre, epistemology becomes the dominant discipline”. What is of great significance is that while dialectics narcissistically leads to a self discovery, dialogics leads to the discovery of the other; dialectics leads to a totalitarian system, dialogics to a democratic society.” From Esmail Yazdanpour; “Idea of Novel to Novel Ideas: A survey of the Ideas of Bakhtin”, http://www.geocities.com/yazdanpour/y-ch2. htm (accessed November 17th, 2011)
Concepts: Inherent in The Practice Art pessimism vs. Art idealism
What I encounter, in some arenas, is a difficulty within the populous to interact with artworks. This is a very broad statement, however it seems that even though people are interested in cultural activities they sometimes leave situations without gaining any immediate and tangible knowledge. People become frustrated. So much so that a common statement can be summarised by the exclamation of a woman overheard in the Tate Modern. “My Grandchild 12
could have done that!” was touted in reference to a Burri that hung singularly on the wall.
do not wish to explore what the viewer sees, but explore the potential for participation of the viewer with artworks. What should the participant/viewer get out of their experience, and who is responsible for that? How do they understand their knowledge of art? And how is authority 13
designated to certain individuals?
Jacques Rancière, in his interpretation of the text The Ignorant Schoolmaster, writes that 14
most people become stultified because they believe in their inferiority.
Superior minds can only
be superior if they can make everyone else inferior. Thus, we never break free from this circle. 15
Rancière believes that everyone has the same intelligence.
What is argued is that a statement
defining one person as smarter than another, is merely a tautological statement that explains nothing.
Rancière declares that people will produce different types of work and he doesn’t see
this as the result of different intelligence but as a result of not giving sufficient attention. The woman’s grandchild described at the beginning of the chapter, in Rancière’s opinion, is equally able to produce the artwork worthy of belonging to the Tate. Most importantly, he questions why the woman was so dismayed at the artwork that she would perceive it as inferior to her expectation. Or in reverse, does she just identify her grandchild’s artwork as inferior?
Through his role as curator/artist/educator, critic and artist Paul O’Neill attempts to understand and consolidate/make obvious such problems, within the framework of group shows. 7
12 Alberto Burri, “Sacco e rosso” Sacking and Red, 1954, Tate Modern, London. Alberto Burri, Italian painter (1915–1995). Burri is renowned for stretching utilitarian sacks and reworking them with pumice and tar into painted collages. He also liked to use materials like shaped hunks of wood, iron and plastic and transform them into powerful, expressive forms. His use of non-art materials is associated with the subsequent Arte Povera or “poor art” movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. He is now seen as a critical influence on much contemporary work and at the forefront of postwar avant-gardism. 13 “Patrick Wilson developed the cognitive authority theory from social epistemology in his book, Second-hand Knowledge: An Inquiry into Cognitive Authority. The fundamental concept of Wilson’s cognitive authority is that people construct knowledge in two different ways: based on their first-hand experience or on what they have learned second-hand from others. What people learn first-hand depends on the stock of ideas they bring to the interpretation and understanding of their encounters with the world. People primarily depend on others for ideas as well as for information outside the range of direct experience. Much of what they think of the world is what they have gained second-hand. Wilson argues that all that people know of the world beyond the narrow range of their own lives is what others have told them. However, people do not count all hearsay as equally reliable; only those who are deemed to “know what they are talking about” become cognitive authorities. Wilson coined the term cognitive authority to explain the kind of authority that influences thoughts that people would consciously recognise being proper. Cognitive authority differs from administrative authority or the authority vented in a hierarchical position.” Soo Young Rieh, “Cognitive Authority”. In Theories of Information Behavior: A researchers’ Guide, ed. K.E. Fisher, S. Erdelez, & E. F. McKechnie, (Medford, NJ: Information Today. 2005): 83-87. 14 The Ignorant Schoolmaster, Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation is a text written in 1987 by Jacques Rancière, where he recounts the story of Joseph Jacotot, a school teacher driven into exile from France in 1818. His enlightenment era experiments with language and knowledge seemed for Rancière to highlight some of the issues that were debated in post 1968, French educational reform. 15 The word intelligence is often understood as a number, or variable, that describes different people’s capacities to comprehend complex ideas or solve logic problems. 16 Tautology, in Rancière’s opinion, because of the use/misuse of words in this context.
He regards the experience of being in a gallery space within three dimensions; the foreground, middle-ground and background. One example of this is could be; ‘Background’ would be the architecture of the building, how you approach the gallery walls and floor, pillars and other structural elements. ‘Middle-ground’ would be the ‘furniture’ within the gallery, the elements that allow the presentation of artworks; for example the plinths, the hooks in the walls. The third section is the ‘foreground’, the visual elements, and the paintings that hang on the walls, the video work, sculptures and so on. O’Neill’s practical research into these three elements has produced shows that attempt to bombard the participant with what can be described as 17
a form of sensory overload.
With a confusing mess of ideas and overlapping themes that
seem to contradict each other, the consumer must make sense of the gallery space. Through this act they have to indentify their relationships with the different elements and analyse them individually. O’Neill’s intention is that this process will produce a more conscious participant and, upon visiting shows proceeding their initial experience, one that can claim to indentify the system within which such artworks function and also those works that do not. O’Neill tries to amalgamate artworks that are conceptually layered, and hopes that by contextualising them through a particular gallery spatiality, they will become more accessible. I can appreciate how some art’s highly layered contexts and self-reflexivity can alienate viewers (like the grandma mentioned above), leaving gallery goers feeling inept and unable to interact with artworks. In actuality, artworks should allow viewers to commune with them, which in turn enlivens the work 18
for each individual, individually.
Essentially, the idea of art making is about the display of
thoughts and encouragement for communication of ideas. In whatever ways political aspirations for artworks have grown, expanding the normative assumptions of artist and critics, the viewer is still rarely considered as part of the processes of art making. The multimodal interactions and linguistic transference of artwork is only successful if highlighting something that the viewer comprehends. Only then is the work functioning as a conduit for thought processing within that artistic space. This language of art’s exchange or ‘textual paradigm’, as Grant Kester describes it, emerges out of the collision of post-conceptual art making and continental theory of the 1980s. The dialogue around semiotics promoted a consolidation of the textual paradigm and a body of theory formulated for linguistics was transposed onto discussions of visual art. This then led to 9
17 Paul O’Neill lecturing on, “The Exhibition-As-Medium, the Exhibition-As-Form - Three Principal Categories of Organisation: The Background, the Middle-ground and the Foreground.” National Gallery of Victoria, Monday October 24th 2011. 18 This sets up a fantastic opportunity for diverse and interesting conversations about specific artworks, collections, galleries, and the outside world: the opportunities are infinite. The exchanges that generate my artworks are to counteract the distance that exists between art production and consumption. The ideas are subtle and are initially overlooked as they are usually presented in an easily comprehendible format in order for participants to be able to engage readily. As with O’Neill’s research, I am hoping to instigate further understanding of artworks other than my own, through the comprehension of the context of my artworks.
a fundamental re-reading of visual art and a dismantling of the idea of the image. This process has highlighted a lack of communication within the visual arts, with its audience. In the 1990s, relational artwork established as a response, its function as a Rosetta stone device, through which the viewer explored an immersive situation and the gallery going experience was deliberately subverted. O’Neill, when writing about emergent culture, argues that subversion is the critical feature of emergent practice, whether in explicit or implicit dissent of the marketplace. This external positioning is a dialectical stand, opposing the dominant and opening up further discourse about the constitution of originality. However, the art world seems to hunger for the “new” and “emergent” co-opting it into the mainstream, complicating the reading of what is defined as innovative. “The precariousness of dissent within a largely market-driven culture and society has required us to generate new rhetorics of impurity and contingency: curatorial discourse has generated – and will continue to generate – these enabling figures, metaphors and tropes.”
O’Neill and Kester both suggest that the newest format of the ‘emergent’ is through the
exploration of micro-politics, education and the dissemination of information. So will the viewer be given tools to understand the signifiers of artistic intent, or will the practice of art be forged in a new linguistic trope where it moves out of codified language and becomes about dialogue? Either is successful if it aims to uphold metacognition in the viewer, which has to be evident and supported. However, art practitioners are not wholly at fault. Rancière distinguishes between two human traits: intelligence and will. In Joseph Jacotot’s classroom, there are two wills (the students’ and Jacotot’s) and two intelligences (the students’ and the book’s). Students may need to follow the teacher’s will, which guides them towards the subject, but stultification occurs when the students’ intelligence is linked with the teacher’s; when they have to rely on the schoolmaster to explain what they have learned. The conventional view of the teacher is to ‘explicate’, but Jacotot noticed that his Flemish students were able to learn French using a bilingual text of Télémaque without any explication from him. What Jacotot asks, is whether schoolmasters’ explications are superfluous? Rancière believes that explication stultifies learning by short-circuiting the journey that students are able to make on their own. Teachers who rely on explication inadvertently create a buffer in language between what the student is expected to learn, and learning itself, thus creating a world of the 11
19 Paul O’Neill & Mick Wilson, “Curatorial discourse and the contested trope of Emergence”, Institute of Contemporary Art Lecture Series, http://www.ica.org.uk/17186/Essays/Emergenceby-Paul-ONeill-and-Mick-Wilson.html (accessed October 30th 2011)
superior; the master, the explicator and the inferior; the student, the ignorant. Rancière believes that the only way to emancipate is when intelligence becomes self-reflexive. “In reality, universal teaching has existed since the beginning of the world, alongside all the explicative methods... Everyone has done this experiment a thousand times in life, and yet it has never occurred to someone to say to someone else: I’ve learned many things without explanations, I think that you 20
In Jacotot’s class the students learnt by means of their own methods, not his, using 21
the oldest technique in the world: universal teaching. 22
while will has to do with the “power to be moved”.
Intelligence has to do with attention
Rancière argues that each of us represents
a will that is served by intelligence. We see, analyse, compare, reason, correct and reconsider on an everyday basis. We do not always learn the same things because we do not pay the same amount of attention to the situation. Furthermore, he suggests, “meaning is the work of the 23
Grant Kester takes this up in his essay, The Pedagogical (Re)Turn in Contemporary Art,
misunderstanding Rancière’s textual paradigm as being defined by the concept of an agency; where the compositional and receptive roles are fixed. This, Kester correctly assumes, would shut down utilisation of the incidental possibilities that encounters could have. Kester believes that Rancière understands agency as being fluid and transpositional only over the course of the given process, rendering production as only delineated through spatial or time based means and functions as a direct representation of the artist’s conception. This would regard situations only through their constructed linguistic properties, leaving out the participants. But Jacotot and Rancière both distinctly articulate that truth cannot be told, because it becomes fragmented when expressed in language. Intelligence does not have a language, Jacotot argues; we are not intelligent because we speak, we are intelligent because we exist. Rancière calls our expression through language as a form of art, like improvisation. ‘Telling the story’ and ‘figuring things out’ become the two master operations of intelligence. What Rancière believes is that the artist is the exact opposite of the professor. What is argued is: “Each one of us is an artist to the extent that he carries out a double process; he is not content to be a mere journeyman but wants to make all work 24
a means of expression, and he is not content to feel something but tries to impart it to others”.
This is where participation in the conversation with art is necessary to the understanding of art. The active nature of collaboration undermines the given hierarchy of both educational and 13
20 Jacques Rancière, The Ignorant Schoolmaster / Jacques Rancière ; Translated, with an Introduction by Kristin Ross (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1991).,16. 21 Rancière believes that all people are capable of learning without explication because they have all acquired their mother tongues without explication. They learn, imitate, and correct themselves, and universally, all children will grow up to understand their parents without ever spending a day in school. Why do we presume this intelligence goes away? 22 Rancière. 54. 23 Ibid. 56. 24 Ibid. 70.
artistic practices and so the language that we define in order to generate collaborations is our own and allows for an understanding of greater aspects of the self. Kester, surmises that there are two forms of contemporary ‘pedagogical’ art making emerging; the first is within the rubric of the institution, utilising mimesis or teleology and the other unfolds organically and becomes part 25
of the fabric of our daily experience.
Jacques Rancière also defines language as a structure for identifying things and events in the world, while at the same time identifying the existent distance between words and things. This notion became a catalyst for the creation of an artwork titled, Meeting Space for the Organisation 26
of World Domination by Short People Who Have Too Much of an Ego.
Rancière defines democracy as the experience of the distance of things; man acts as though his voice can be heard, but is always a proper distance from it. This is due to the structure of language. The problem becomes that it is not about knowing what you are doing, rather, that there is a need to think about what you are doing and to remember yourself (metacognition). In The Future of the Image, Rancière argues that it is not an artwork, in itself, that provides this revolution; it is the search for participation with the artwork that becomes the impetus for emancipation. The inferiority complex that Rancière requests that we transcend, allows for personal understanding. Here, the ability to consider much more widely and holistically the implications of artistic practice and the perception that we are all creatives in our own particular way will come as soon as we regard ourselves as such. According to Rancière, this ability allows liberation. This is not the same as political liberation but a form of self-liberation and seemingly more powerful. What is needed to encourage greater participation with artworks? Is there a need for defined artistic terminology for the encounters that we have daily? There are simply no specific words for these encounters because we don’t understand them; as such these situations are far too ephemeral. The communications that we have in our societal groupings defines who we are, and the ways in which we conduct ourselves. Could it be that we already know the languages used for networking, yet, collaborative or ‘interactive’ groups are filled with networks of social boundaries and bonds that make collaborative work too hard to define? 15
Mimetic [mi-met-ik] adj 1. As delineated through spatial or time based means. Telelogic [tel-ee-uh-loj-ik] adj 1. The art functions as a direct representation of the artist’s conception. 26 This tongue in cheek title reflects the context within which the artwork was posited. It is selfreferential and pokes fun at the seeming necessity for artwork titles. However transparent titles seem, there always underlies the impossibility to capture a works’ essence. The humor, I hoped, would disperse any seriousness within the artwork and deviate from the usual paths of inspection of artwork within art institutions. The placement of the work was within Monash University’s end of year Colloquium; a three-day intensive critique. I was emphatic in my need to produce an artwork for this colloquium and wished to investigate the institution’s parameters for artwork. My other intent was to explore how a particular construct could develop a particular audience; and this is in reference to both the Colloquium as well as the piece I developed. The setup of the furniture was essential to the workings of the artwork. The key to achieving communication on multiple levels, as was my intent, would be due to a particularly planned procedure. Four tables were arranged together into a square format with ten chairs placed evenly around. In front of each chair were two piles of A4 paper, a biro and a pencil. When the pre selected participants, referred to as the agents, arrived they were shown a seat and it was explained that they could only communicate with each other, through drawing. The participants were chosen because they did not know each other, and would not have had any prior communication. It was also explained that the two separate piles of paper were arranged so that the right hand side would be for drawing and communicating using the pencil and the left for use with the biro, taking personal reference notes about being involved in the process. This set of participants I have labeled agents, simply to elucidate the situation more easily to you, the reader. Agents were able to drink tea, coffee and eat homemade bagels and cream cheese that was displayed in the middle of the table. (please freely explore the photographs, drawings and commentry that is associated with the work, inside the secondary publication book2. Pages 5-17) When the critique period began, a second set of participants encircled the table. I have referred to these as the visitors. These visitors were allowed to talk freely, however they could not partake in the refreshments, nor get a response from the agents. Interestingly, power play started immediately; as the visitors started to critique the ‘artwork’ the agents decided to critique the visitors’ critique. They had built up enough pictorial language through the simple tasks of requesting tea or a bagel, to be able to realise the power that they had in their form of communication. I wished to enfunction the participants further by allowing them to devise their own language (see p17 of Book2 for an example of a partcipant talking about a foreign toungue), something that they could take charge of and understand as a common experience. Rancière was the influential factor in this artwork as it tried to underline and explore the ideas that are expressed in The Ignorant Schoolmaster; Promoting the idea that education can be based in equality of intelligences. What was being learnt was of less importance than the fact that learning was taking place, the fact that the private practice of learning was being made public on multiple levels. The conceptual frame was engineered to display the unique abilities all individuals have to self-teach and learn and activate each others’ learning. I wish to make the project outline clear: there were no parameters for the creation of the drawn language. This practice was criticised by the visitors, however I wanted to give the agents the freedom to construct language for themselves. The common start point I gave them was food and drink, (see p16 of Book2 for an example of the participants asking for a bagel) which seemed to interest all the agents; instigating the foundations of basic communication and constructed relations and built into the basic formulations of their language. If I had driven the subject matter I would suggest that the foundations would be more collaborative instead of enfunctioned. The visitors suggested within the critique, that the agents should solve world peace through this new language and so the agents duly started; they created a symbol for world peace and then diagrammatically started to find solutions. I would suggest that the language created was arbitrary. The very fact the participants engaged in the artwork, hopefully made them consider their own power, abilities and also the inherent problems of language. The consequences of miscommunication can be subtle but effecting. Overall I sought to explore the very ideas of equality that Rancière describes, the notion that understanding comes through being able to apply your own judgments. The rules of the artwork defined that some people had, whilst others did not. Some could eat food, but could not talk, whilst those who could talk were prevented from being the subject matter. They realised that they could not understand what it would be like to participate in the work. This turned the critique on its head, as the ideas that could resolve the work for the visitors created a vacuum, where they realised the barrier of their understanding. They had to participate wholly to comprehend the artwork fully. They became the documentation, the cognition that makes the project exist. This is because their interpretation of the event will be far more similar to each other compared to the agents, who interacted as individuals adding something of themselves to the artwork.
Societal values: ideals for communication and appreciation
Gaining understanding of the world that surrounds us is filtered through an understanding of society. The way that individuals develop is in reference to infinite situations and decisions that are both measured and impetuous. The decisions made, and an understanding of the decision makers, correlate to create a map of what we do, and what we do not, know.
Pierre Bourdieu, talking in the biographical documentary Sociology is a Martial Art, says about his youth that ‘It happened two or three times, the answer I gave determined whether I would come out dead or alive, also how the question is asked. I had no other protection in a civil war, a war of liberation; I had no protection other than my demeanor and my wits, my way of doing things and being careful. And this I believe taught me a lot. You can read methodology books; there are lots of essential things they don’t mention. That is how I learnt, because you had 27
to watch out for everything.’
Bourdieu’s understanding of society is formulated through this and his other experiences.
All have given him the ability to understand others through his own self-reflection. He is endorsing individuals to break the social order that is imposed. Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital, is an attempt to expand the idea of economic capital.
This includes social capital, symbolic capital
and linguistic capital. However, what all Bourdieu’s capitals share is that each requires, and is the product of, an investment of an appropriate kind and each can secure a return on that investment. Bourdieu’s concern in relation to cultural capital was with its continual transmission and accumulation in ways that perpetuate social inequalities, as he defines all goods to have a value, whether material or symbolic. Cultural capital encompasses a broad array of linguistic competencies, manners, preferences, and orientations. Bourdieu explains school success by the amount and type of cultural capital inherited from the family background rather than by measures of individual talent or achievement. He describes a process in which investment of economic capital in academic settings is also an investment in cultural capital, for the optimum education. From this perspective, educational institutions can be viewed as mechanisms for 17
27 Pierre Bourdieu: La sociologie est un sport de combat. (Sociology is a Martial Art), DVDROM (First Run/Icarus Films, 2002 - 2001) 28 Bourdieu argues that judgments of taste are related to social position, or more precisely, are acts of social positioning. Each individual occupies a position in a multidimensional social space; where capital defines social relations. That capital includes the value of social networks, which Bourdieu showed could be used to produce or reproduce inequality. His argument tries to resolve the influences of both external social structures and subjective experience on the individual. The individual develops through his engagement with the multidimensional social world through; understanding of the field and of social order, a practical sense, a practical reason, a way of classifying the world, opinion, taste, body movements and mannerisms, etc. Through this, the social field becomes more complex so the individual develops a certain habitus that is relative to their position in the social space. Bourdieu believes education engenders a specific complex of social relations where the agents will engage their everyday practice. Through this practice, they’ll develop a certain disposition for social action that is conditioned by their position on the field; dominant/dominated and orthodox/heterodox. This then allows for social forms of domination and prejudice to take place, and to be repeated. These ideas are taken from, Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction : A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984). 29 Cultural capital can exist in three forms: in the embodied state, i.e., in the form of long-lasting dispositions of the mind and body; in the objectified state, in the form of cultural goods (pictures, books, dictionaries, instruments, machines, etc.), which are the trace or realization of theories or critiques of these theories, problematics, etc.; and in the institutionalized state, a form of objectification which must be set apart because, as will be seen in the case of educational qualifications, it confers entirely original properties on the cultural capital which it is presumed to guarantee. Pierre Bourdieu, “The forms of capital”. In Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education, ed. J. Richardson (New York, Greenwood, 1986), 241-258.
generating social profits. Achievement therefore is socially constructed and is the result of individuals having access to large amounts of cultural capital.
I want to forge links between peoples’ comprehension of the usefulness of artistic collaborations, from both the participant and the respondent points of view. In an artwork exhibited titled Uniquely Yours, I utilised Bourdieu’s notions of economic capital and social 30
capital, to underline the quantifiable and unquantifiable educational abilities of such practices.
In terms of quantifiable assessment tasks, in a paper on collaborative retrieval and memory, Blumen and Rajaram found that “when later individual memory is assessed with a recognition task, repeated collaborative recognition generated better individual memory than repeated collaborative recall.” What they determined was that following group sessions the collaborative participants individually succeeded in remembering greater detail than participants who had not had such an opportunity. This demonstrates that group situations involve a more complicated engagement with the ideas being understood or discussed however; the overall ideas are retained more fully. There are, of course, problems associated with group work. Studies highlight the notion of collaborative inhibition, which may be due to “motivational factors that can influence behavior in group settings, such as social loafing, which occurs when people working in groups 32
reduce their individual effort… that retrieval interference underlies collaborative inhibition.
What is suggested is that hearing other group members recall material disrupts one’s own 33
subjective organisational and retrieval strategies.”
Through work with different collaborative
projects I appreciate that verbal exchange is problematic, the fundamental desire to interact and 34
express ourselves is fraught with miscommunications.
Our understanding of a word clouds
comprehension and when added to the complications of conversing with others, this creates more factors for contention: intonation, body language and numerous and varied difficulties with 35
expression. Can this be used creatively, though? Are we not able to understand and create further 36
dialogues through the pursuit of linguistic problems?
Perhaps the issues with group situations
are not about verbal language at all, instead, might issue actually lie within what is not said? I contend that some of the factors that influence us in collaboration are simply a struggle between the history, psychology and social nuances of previous collaborative miscommunication. 19
30 Four agents were involved in the Uniquely Yours project: the principle two being the OK Collective; Katherine Heyward and Myself and the other two being Melanie Neil (a practicing artist, see p31of Book2) and Peter Marcovic (a Real Estate Agent, see p24 of Book2). Through multiple conversations (example shown on p 23 of Book2) we formulated a distinctly planned experience that involved a threefold outcome. Firstly, we would dress the Seventh gallery space, (Gertrude Street, Melbourne) as if it were a residence (see p28 of Book2). It would then be auctioned off to the highest bidder who would live inside the gallery for the duration of the exhibit. The reasons for this were due to The OK Collective’s exploration of spaces delineated by certain physical activations (in this case furniture) and interests in the imminent sale of Gertrude Contemporary and artist studios. This brought even more relevance to the project, as we wanted to explore the contemporary gentrification of Fitzroy’s local populous and what it means for Fitzroy’s history and its future. We advertised the sale of the residence locally, and asked Peter Marcovic, a local and prominent estate agent, to collaborate with us on this project as our auctioneer. In the end the property sold for $5000 for the three weeks. The auction was played and performed and the crowd became part of the process, as they tried to outbid each other for the furnished single room. This bidding war was demonstrative of the marketplace in which we exist. As much as I was interested in the economics, I was more interested in the social interactions that exist within the gallery and so hired a bidder (Mel) that would utilise the space and create research questions/ conversations with visitors and myself. The social game would develop as a form of artwork and allowance is made for direct observation of how people function within private space. The irony of course being obvious: what privacy? Whilst not denying the problems of public interacting with art, we aimed to facilitate a space where people could interact with a different type of art and to challenge them to respond. Mel was willing to engage with gallery visitors in exchange for the ability to make her own particular style of institutional questioning; through the casting of the space and therefore physically describing and making obvious what is substrate and overlooked (see p29-31 of Book2). As the project was devised to encompass three individual artists’ work programs, there arose contradictions and discussions about the levels of deception that the performativity within the project could and should undertake. This led to questions about the validity of documentation. Begrudgingly, documentation was amassed because of the need of each of the participants to fulfil their subsequent educational requirements (as a secondary source for reference of the existence of the artwork). The issues that occurred were when The OK Collective needed to decide how we were going to auction the abode. The issue became about the way in which the purchaser would understand the situation; Kathy wanted to pretend that the contract would be long term and therefore more theatrical, creating more potential to impress on the audience that galleries were going to be gobbled up and that they were witnessing the end of that, and similar, particular space. However, my particular criticism was that the contract had to be upfront and outline what the purchaser would in fact get. The artwork, for me, was that act in which a potential participant actively sought after the space - in order to possess it - regardless of the duration of occupation. The predominant issue was that visitors didn’t feel comfortable entering someone’s living space. This was expected and so people were invited to enter, whenever they showed an interest. The next goal was to inquire about whether the visitor/s understood themselves as being a part of an artwork, or whether they refuted that claim. The idea was to promote discussion and understanding that the viewer of the artwork could also be a participant, or activate the artwork’s identity. We tried to interview the participants and record the conversations that could happen. However, people who visited were either uncomfortable with us recording their conversation or seemed to regret allowing us to record them by either not really responding to conversation proposed or politely leaving without saying a word. They seemed scared by the idea of getting the situation wrong; saying the wrong thing, offending someone, feeling foolish. They obviously do not believe themselves to be correct in their own abilities to judge an artwork, and especially one that they are sure that they won’t understand fully. Another underlying problem that I did not foresee was that Mel didn’t push for conversations with visitors as forcefully as I would have liked. She also had work commitments and had therefore to leave the space at times. Because of the inconsistency of occupation, some visitors were unsure about what was happening in the space and were left wondering what would activate the space beyond a furnished room (a completely different art piece).Some viewers could not perceive the artwork as such, to the point where an eager estate agent saw an opportunity to make some money. This earnest visitor came into the gallery and left her card repeatedly claiming that she was sure that she could get more money for the space, for the owner, when it was next on the market. A potent summary of both the issue that spurred the piece’s development and the validity of its subsequent production.We tried two different modes of explanation for the viewer, we had Mel in the gallery space, speaking face to face with passers by, introducing them to the project and starting conversations about the value of art and the position of Artist Run Initiatives within the framework of the art institution. The second mode of explication was through Facebook (see p29 of Book2 for an example), where people could log on the Collective’s page and find picture stills documenting the progression of the space and the evolution of the project. Participants were invited to login at the opening night and proceeding three weeks in order to obtain updates. Throughout the whole project the collective aimed to create, with the scope to develop through process, and grow organically. What we intended is that it might become artwork that demonstrates and mimics the processes that we all partake of, whether consciously or otherwise.
As well as the permanent issue of miscommunication, we are also aware of deceit.
of our surroundings is filtered through the creative need to keep ahead of each other and we are always suspicious of the potential for deceit that surrounds us. This seems an overcomplicated analysis however; humans have been deceiving since they were born. In fact, it is a part of the development our psyches. A child who lies well is also demonstrating a creative intellect and the ability to imagine alternate versions of reality in the first place. Even very simple lies require a large leap of imagination.
Through re-appropriation, the temporary space aimed to de-centre the viewer; the inhabitant develops their relationship to the space through action and alteration (dependant on the visitor) and the viewer becomes not unlike a domestic visitor or, alternately, dependent upon their own resonance within the space, a voyeur. In actuality, the openness of the project was so porous that people escaped without making an impact on the work. Both trundled along, paid attention to each other and then moved on. To be able to analyse how a participant encountered the piece and whether they used that knowledge again would be useful information. 31 Helena M. Blumen, Suparna Rajaram, “Effects of Repeated Collaborative Retrieval on Individual Memory Vary as a Function of Recall Versus Recognition Tasks”, Memory 17, no. 8, (2009), 8. 32 Social loafing is the phenomenon of people exerting less effort to achieve a goal when workng in groups. This is seen as one of the main reasons groups are sometimes less productive than the combined performance of their members working as individuals, but should be distinguished from the coordination problems that groups sometime experience. Social loafing is also associated with two concepts that are typically used to explain why it occurs: The ‘freerider’ theory and the resulting ‘sucker effect’, which is an individual’s reduction in effort in order to avoid pulling the weight of a fellow group member. The first known research on social loafing began in 1913 with Max Ringelmann’s study. He discovered, that when he asked a group of men to pull on a rope, that they did not pull as hard collectively, as they did when each was pulling alone. This research did not distinguish whether it was the individuals putting in less effort or poor co-ordination within the group. In 1974, Alan Ingham and colleagues replicated Ringelmann’s experiment using two types of groups: 1) Groups with real participants in groups of various sizes (consistent with Ringelmann’s setup) or 2) Pseudo-groups with only one real participant. In the pseudo-groups, the researchers’ assistants pretended to pull on the rope. The results showed a decrease in the participants’ performance, with groups of participants who all exerted effort suffering the largest declines. Because the pseudo-groups were isolated from coordination effects (since the researchers’ confederates did not physically pull the rope), Ingham proved that communication alone did not account for the effort decrease, and that motivational losses were the more likely cause of the performance decline. 33 Blumen, Rajaram, “Effects of Repeated Collaborative Retrieval on Individual Memory Vary as a Function of Recall Versus Recognition Tasks”, 8. 34 Usually understood as the process of communication through sending and receiving word messages. However messages can be communicated through gestures and touch (haptic communication), by body language or posture, by facial expression and eye contact. Speech contains nonverbal elements known as paralanguage, including voice quality, rate, pitch, volume, and speaking style, as well as prosodic features such as rhythm, intonation and stress. Much of the study of communication has focused on face-to-face interaction, where it can be classified into three principal areas: environmental conditions where communication takes place, physical characteristics of the communicators, and behaviours of communicators during interaction. ‘Verbal’, usually means ‘of or concerned with words’, and ‘verbal communication’ a synonym for oral communication. Nonverbal communication (and learning based on such communication) can occur through any sensory channel: sight, sound, smell, touch, proprioceptive or kinesthetic channel or taste. Nonverbal communication is important when we speak (or listen), our attention is focused on words rather than body language. But our judgment includes both, an audience is simultaneously processing both verbal and nonverbal cues. Body movements are not usually positive or negative in and of themselves; rather, the situation and the message will determine the appraisal. 35 I attended a lecture where the four dimensional language that deaf children can potentially learn for communication, was described. It was fascinating to observe how Auslan can describe the past and present concurrently; detailing somebody else’s conversation in which the person was describing a previous event. This ability to relate third hand information came from describing particular features of the character, or just through the storyteller differing facial directions, creating an ability to suspend one character and describe the expression of another. “Children’s Play, Storytelling and Pretence,” University of Melbourne Linguistics Department, July 14-16th 2011. 36 For example: on hearing a new word, after initially understanding this new word, we are able to use it in a range of new contexts. This is done through application of previous language knowledge combined with our understanding of a new context and then utilising our acquired word. By solving a linguistic problem we are able to formulate diction. 37 Studies have found that we lie, on average, about 1.5 times a day. It started with our hominid ancestors who, about two million years ago, started to grow brains rapidly and this has recently been determined because it enabled them to deceive, or more precisely to become inventive. This is a divergence from reacting to situations, as mammals are prone to do. The species grew the ability to have foresight and imagination, which can still be observed in primates today. This led to a greater ability to glean food and sexual partners, which led to competition. Therefore an even greater ability to predict the effects of behavior on others, and visa versa, meant a greater ability to survive against predators as well as in group situations.
When a group of pathological liars were scanned they were shown to have displayed a significant excess of ‘white matter’ - the brain fibers responsible for making neural connections. Therefore the “more neuronal networking there is in the brain, the more varied and original is a 38
person’s thought, and the higher their verbal skills.”
There are many educational labels that
you could attach to this kind of skill. Ranging from ‘Divergent Thinking’ to ‘Theory of Mind’.
It seems that conversation enhances our neural connections and enhances our verbal skills; it also helps us to lie. Ask any politician and they may well tell you that a white lie is helpful from time to time. But how many people can we lie to? Interestingly, based on the size of our brains, scientists can predict that the size of functioning groups that we should associate with should be no larger than one hundred and fifty. This is interesting, as many human groupings have evolved to roughly that number, from hunter-gatherers to modern army units and company departments. This highlights that there are certain ranges of capabilities our brains can sustain. As Blumen and Rajaram posit, the main reason that participants do not work well in groups is due to social loafing. However, researchers at the University of California found that when given a monetary incentive to undertake a group task, all participant performances increased, whether assessed individually or in interacting groups. This indicates that the award was sufficiently motivating in inducing people to work harder. However, it failed to eliminate the ‘impaired’ performance of the collaborative group compared to the individuals and therefore other factors outside of motivation were considered to be at play.
Do the motivational factors for participation in artwork simply boil down to the ability to 40
formulate a language in order to enable participation? Stephen Willats thinks so.
learning routines by which an audience can acquire new patterns of behaviour, concepts and attitudes, interactive Task-Orientated situations are more likely to be meaningful to the audience, or the participant, and thus will ultimately be more successful than symbolic, passive, referential techniques. Interactive Task-Orientated learning techniques present the participant with an immediate environmental context that is responsive to her or his approach and ability to learn, 41
the environment interacting to provide feedback at a level of direct experience.” Willats goes on to further describe how he derived that the most effective instigator for interaction and learning 23
38 Ian Leslie, Born Liars, Why We Can’t Live Without Deceit.(London: Quercus, 2011), 78. 39 Psychologist J.P. Guilford, saw divergent thinking as a major component of creativity and associated it with four main characteristics: fluency (the ability to rapidly produce a large number of ideas or solutions to a problem); flexibility (the capacity to consider a variety of approaches to a problem simultaneously); originality (the tendency to produce ideas different from those of most other people); and elaboration (the ability to think through the details of an idea and carry it out). Divergent thinking is a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. It typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner, such that many ideas are generated in an emergent cognitive fashion. Many possible solutions are explored in a short amount of time, and unexpected connections are drawn. After the process of divergent thinking has been completed, ideas and information are organized and structured using convergent thinking. Psychologists have found that a high IQ alone does not guarantee creativity. Instead, personality traits that promote divergent thinking are more important. Divergent thinking is found among people with personalities that have traits such as nonconformity, curiosity, willingness to take risks, and persistence. Activities which promote divergent thinking include creating lists of questions, setting aside time for thinking and meditation, brainstorming, subject mapping / ‘bubble mapping’, keeping a journal, creating artwork, and free writing. “Divergent Thinking.” Encyclopedia of Psychology, 2nd Ed., ed. Bonnie R. Strickland, Gale Cengage, 2001, eNotes.com, 2006. http://www.enotes.com/gale-psychology-encyclopedia / divergent-thinking, (accessed Nov 6th, 2011) A theory of mind remains one of the quintessential abilities that makes us human. By theory of mind we mean being able to infer the full range of mental states (beliefs, desires, intentions, imagination, emotions, etc.) that cause action. In brief, having a theory of mind is to be able to reflect on the contents of one’s own and other’s minds. Difficulty in understanding other minds is a core cognitive feature of autism spectrum conditions, and theory of mind difficulties seem to be universal among such individuals. Simon Baron-Cohen, “Theory of Mind in Normal Development and Autism.”, Prisme, 34, (2001),174-183. 40 Stephen Willats is a pioneer of conceptual art. Since the early 1960s he has created work concerned with extending the territory in which art functions. His work has involved interdisciplinary processes and theory from sociology, systems analysis, cybernetics, semiotics and philosophy. Willats writes; “It is both an intention and an outcome that the development of my art practice encompasses the polemics and issues of our contemporary culture and society as a means of consciously examining the function and meaning of art in society. This necessarily takes it beyond the norms and conventions of an object-based art world, rather seeing it as a function of my work to transform peoples’ perceptions of a deterministic culture of objects and monuments, into the possibilities inherent in the community between people, the richness of its complexity and self-organisation. The artwork having a dynamic, interactive social function. Some of the polemics and issues that impact on my work involve seeing culture and its society as fluid, transient, relative and complex. I view the world we live in as a multi-channel experience in time, that our encountered fragments of reality are in themselves random variables, that we create the order we choose to see, and in this respect art practice itself becomes a social phenomenon.” Stephen Willats, “Context”, Stephen Willats.com, http://stephenwillats. com/context/, (January 2nd, 2012). 41 Stephen Willats ,The Artist as an Instigator of Changes in Social Cognition and Behaviour, 2nd Ed. (London: Occasional papers, 2011), 29.
was conflict, recounting how this creates arousal. “Conflict occurs when there is indecision about which stimulus to respond to on the part of a subject (the subject being the artist’s audience) and can create high states of arousal in the subject, which can be used to produce learning drives in a number of ways. One of the ways in which conflict can create a learning drive is when a subject’s 42
normal routine is varied” and he goes on to define why arousal promotes creativity and learning.
Through problem solving, Willats states that new paths of thinking about how to solve problems are found, meaning that the subject could find new solutions to old problems that they had.
Hector Rodriguez’s essay Constraint, Cruelty and Conversation, is an exploration of Johan 43
Huizinga’s book Homo Ludens , which examines the concept of ‘play’. Huizinga believes that play differs from blind physiological processes like respiration and digestion, because it presupposes a conscious player who understands the aims, rules, strategies, conventions and resources involved, so that there is also meaning. Play differs from logic in a fundamental way; the aim of logic is to guarantee thought processes that will follow distinct pathways, whereas the aim of play is the understanding of human experience. The experience of the player is essential to the very nature of play. Rodriguez believes that play can be used as a tool to show how education can be all encompassing, the understanding of which can lead to personal journeys that are creatively 44
experimental but, more importantly, incorporated into every activity.
These ideas of receptivity
and extension for both maker and viewer are also a type of conversation, one that guides and sustains, that we are well versed in but is not one that is consciously considered. This brings us to the question of what constitutes the difference between play and games? Caillois proposes that, ‘paidea’ as an equivalent to the English noun ‘play’, and ‘ludus’ for the noun ‘game’. This is related to the fact that play activities are associated with children, while games are thought to be more adult activities. The reason is, that games have a strong social component and that young children need first to be socialised in order to perform that kind of activity. Obstructions or conflict constitute a game and play, establishing that we are learning, whether young or old, teacher or student, a language of play is constructed by participants in order to understand their 45
This is directly translatable to experience outside of the game.
42 Ibid., 30. 43 In his 1961 book Man, Play, and Games, French Sociologist Roger Caillois, also revisited Huizingas’s Homo Ludens, to assert that there are two types of play, which he defines as Padia and Ludus. Padia is the free and spontaneous enjoyment of play that is impromptu, uncontrolled and disorderly, and encouraged through sensory stimulation. Ludus, on the other hand, grows out of Padia and is the extension of initial play in which arbitrary challenges are incorporated. The difficulty of the game is thus the point of playing and the challenge or obstacle is gratuitous but still necessary. The practice and acquisition of new skills are necessary to overcome the obstacle, which is consequently incorporated into the game. There is also the inevitability of suspense, generated by the anticipation as to whether success might be feasible, so that without such tension the purpose of the whole endeavour is additionally diminished or lost. 44 Hector Rodriguez, “Constraint, Cruelty and Conversation”, in On the Five Obstructions, Dekalog, ed. Mette Hjort and Susan Dwyer, (London: Wallflower Press, 2008). 45 If the person‘s sense of identity becomes overly focused on being “good” and not “bad”, it is a small step to becoming obsessed with being “better than” and trying to be “good enough.” The ironic truth is that the majority of behaviors in real life are neutral, neither worthy of praise nor blame. Play contains a preponderance of activities that exist in this realm of indeterminate value. Unfortunately, it sit sill quite common for people to be raised so that they become addicted to praise. In this unhealthy state they are driven by insecurity and live almost constantly in low-grade anxiety about being vulnerable to blame. In such a frame of mind, the freedom of imagination is transformed into a realm fraught with the potential for making mistakes. Adam Blatner and Allee Blatner, The Art of Play : Helping Adults Reclaim Imagination and Spontaneity, Rev. Ed., New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1997.
Willats writes, “If an interactive Task-Orientated learning sequence embodying a problem that needs a solution is presented to the participant to solve, she/he is able to establish her/his own heuristic approach to learning based on the frame of reference gained from previous learnt tasks in the same sequence, or from making parallels with an experience encountered at some time in 46
He defines that the problem with art is that if “the ‘audience’ went there to
look for icons of certainty, icons which were the verified ideal projections of society, and which had an emulative and authoritative role in the formation of consciousness…I wondered what would 47
happen if the audience found only uncertainty, even confronted chaos or a random variable”.
What Willats wanted to amend was the ‘coding structure’ artists use, to make their work abstract, less available and requiring previous knowledge to access the works intent, yet create ‘chaos’ through giving the participant the ability to espouse their own views and attitudes.
Translated through Bourdieu’s thinking, Willats question becomes even more profound. He touches on the ideas of cultural capital, social capital and linguistic capital. Cultural capital is a relational concept and exists in conjunction with other forms of capital. Therefore, it cannot be understood in isolation from the other forms of capital. Social capital is generated through social processes between the family and wider society and is made up of social networks. This is linked to linguistic capital as it is enforced in formats of education of cultural capital, accrued in the institution. This is where the audience learn to appreciate their ‘icons of certainty’, and would be distressed if they found themselves uncertain. This is because firstly; membership in groups, and involvement in the social networks developing within these and in the social relations arising from the membership can be utilised in efforts to improve the social position. Secondly, a lack of knowledge would not be socially acceptable, to not know the language would mean that you cannot utilise your capital. Knowledge, like social capital, is based on mutual cognition and recognition. This is how it acquires a symbolic character, and is transformed into symbolic capital.
Is our individuality too great an imposition on group psychologies or is the lack of participatory language and understanding the problem? The multiplicity of signage and coded deciet is so prevalent in our understanding that we conduct ourselves more carefully in 27
46 Willats ,The Artist as an Instigator of Changes in Social Cognition and Behaviour, 29. 47 Ibid., 7.
Within these socially constructed environments, can a structure be
created that evades or contradicts the pre ordained organisation? Or, are the ethical dilemmas binding the participant and the artist, who is also situated within the social norms, greater than their will? It is easier to follow a trajectory driven by the facilitator, but does that allow for the seemingly incidental moments of creativity or transgression? Finally, is it possible to show this progress and process of a participant, especially in these moments?
The concept of The Gift...Communication and Collaboration
The concepts within my artworks are distinctly concerned with the problematic notion of ‘gifting’. It is an attribute within our society that is pursued in order to communicate with one another, but the understanding of complex social politics is necessary in these exchanges. These 49
matters are deeply explored by Marcel Mauss
were he defines the idea of gifting as “a complex
notion… a notion neither of purely free and gratuitous prestation, nor of purely interested and 50
utilitarian production and exchange; it is a kind of hybrid”.
Early in his writing, Mauss describes gifts, as “prestations, which are in theory voluntary, 51
disinterested and spontaneous, but are in fact obligatory and interested”.
He illustrates the
procedure of exchange as “formal pretence and social deception, while the transaction itself is based on obligation and economic self-interest…the various principles behind this necessary 52
form of exchange (which is nothing less than a division of labour itself).”
The division of labour
is created only in terms of the market place, where skills are evaluated. The exchange of these is regarded as gift giving (Potlatch), which is the oldest economic system that we know, a singularly 53
human phenomenon, which is familiar to every known society.
The concepts of value are
referenced through the ideas of the marketplace, and giving everything that you are ‘worth’ (including your daughter) to outdo or be at a similar social standing with a rival/friend. This idea of value is a complex notion and this is where the problems of a collaborative practice occur. Because notions of gifts are concreted in the concepts of market value, the use of our time is also associated with this. To give over our time is a gift and in return we require compensation. 29
48 When asked if I am an artistic parasite, which is not unusual, I agree that I am bound by the need to exchange with others in order to expand notions of myself, and I hope to offer something of myself to them. Maybe these occasions have been on my terms, but that does not always mean that I gain something. 49 Marcel Mauss’ The Gift is written about the sociology and politics in the exchange of gift giving. Distinguishing between three obligations: giving - the necessary initial step for the creation and maintenance of social relationships; receiving, for to refuse to receive is to reject the social bond; and reciprocating in order to demonstrate one’s own liberality, honour and wealth. Prestations are translated from the French to mean; benefit, the rendering of a service, a toll or duty, performance. For example: “Je ne reçois pas de prestations de mon patron.” – “I don’t receive benefits from my employer.” Marcel Mauss, The Gift; Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies, The Norton Library, (New York,: Norton, 1967). 50 Ibid., 79. 51 Ibid., 4. 52 Ibid., 63. 53 Potlatch; Chinook word meaning ‘to nourish’ or ‘to consume’ Transitive Verb, 1: To give (as a gift) especially with the expectation of a gift in return 2: To give or hold a potlatch for (as a tribe or group). First known use in 1898.
To then have to share that time with others, seeking the same compensation, will mean that there is less reward than the time given to something else. The reception of gifts is yet another fraught activity. Mauss also states that “for a gift to be made, there must be presupposed 54
an object or service which creates an obligation”.
This obligation is what becomes problematic
as it enforces a need for an end point and therefore an achievement. Creation of an achievement is counterintuitive to creativity. Livingston and Archer define a major problem with group practices in their essay on what defines a conclusion to a collaborative artwork. “In sum, while the innovative rules and procedures of contemporary collective art-making involve interesting variations and twists that constrain and thereby enhance creative activity, we have yet to find a species of collaborative art-making that constitutes a telling counterexample to the proposed 55
analysis of work completion with its disjunctive ‘effective completion decision’ condition.”
is deduced through this writing is that when agreeing to participate in a project, the participant agrees to abide by the artist’s constitutive rules, which include a method for determining when the process of making will terminate. This ensures that the artist’s decision is authoritarian. This also reduces the opportunity for creative dialogue, the actual gift of inclusion.
What they have not questioned in the document is; what if the participants do not know that they are part of the artwork? And what, suppose, if a collaborative group democratically decides to ‘finish’ the artwork because they cannot conceive when the artwork might finish of its own volition? Why couldn’t an artworks’ finality be self-determined like a Mandala or an Exquisite 56
Livingston and Archer do reflect swiftly on Surrealist ‘cadavre exquis’ but
determine the output to be “liberation, through spontaneous expression, of repressed drives and impulses. The procedure constitutive of a cadavre exquis (and which generated this strange 57
label for this very game) is prized as a means to the latter end.”
I see no problem with using
procedures to achieve more interesting artworks however, maybe this is because I comprehend 58
the ways in which many contemporary practices use concepts generated specifically by process.
Whilst I grasp the concepts within their writing, Livingston and Archer have not accounted for this ‘porous’ nature of art; the realities of artists re-contextualising artworks, creating differing individual meanings and narratives and even the idea that a conservator will eventually 31
54 Mauss., The Gift; Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies, 50. 55 “Drawing these threads together, our proposed analysis of work completion runs as follows: a work of art is finished if and only if the artist, working in the absence of severe coercion, makes an effective completion decision of the simple extended form … A decision is effective, we have proposed, whenever the artist does not subsequently override the decision to make or authorize artistic changes incompatible with that prior decision.” Paisley Livingston and Carol Archer “Artistic Collaboration and the Completion of Works of Art”, British Journal of Aesthetics, Vol.50, Issue 4, Oxford Journals, (Oct 2010), 439-455. 56 Exquisite corpse, also known as exquisite cadaver (from the original French term cadavre exquis) or rotating corpse, is a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, either by following a rule or by being allowed to see the end of what the previous person contributed.(refer to p33 of Book2 for an example, created by the OK Collective. Its simple formula allows for a creativity within the space of the page.) 58 Paisley Livingston and Carol Archer. “Artistic collaboration and the completion of works of art”. British Journal of Aesthetics, (Oct 2010), 439-455. 58 The ‘process’ in process art refers to the process of the formation of the art: the gathering, sorting, collating, associating, and patterning being more important than the final outcome. Process art is concerned with the actual doing, its employment of serendipity has a marked correspondence with Dada. It often entails an inherent motivation, rationale, and intentionality. Therefore, art is viewed as a creative journey or process, rather than as a deliverable or end product.
‘tamper’ with a finalised piece after it has been oxidised (is even the air a co-conspirator?). Their guidelines of philosophical review have not allowed them to consider the nuances of life.
Through understanding the complexities of giving, Mauss hopes to unite all persons under an umbrella of the common denominator of the exchange. He believes that “the basis of moral action is general; it is common to societies of the highest degree of evolution, to those of the future and to the societies of the least advancement. Here we touch bedrock. We are no longer talking on terms of law. We are talking of men and groups since it is they, society, and their sentiments 59
that are in action all the time.”
The real call to arms lies in the statement that; “Once again
we shall discover those motives of action still remembered by many societies and classes: the joy of giving in public, the delight in generous artistic expenditure, the pleasure of hospitality in the public or private feast.”
Mauss is attempting to locate an historically significant ideal about
what society has, and is, capable of, but in reality every group consists of individuals who have their own particular wants, needs and specific agendas. These agendas are then filtered upwards towards a collective want. So, is it possible to traverse our individuality and yet retain a collective motive? Bourriaud believes that the art world is ‘porous’, and that it is through the relations between its agents of production that creativity is a propelling motion. He defines this as an interstice; something that eludes trading capital and hints towards an essence of harmonious production within the system, that allows for creativity beyond the very same system that enables 61
Many contemporary modes of collaboration are founded in the communal rejection of hierarchical art making models, espousing and promoting an essentially egalitarian or democratic ethos. One manifestation is the tendency to favour decisions based on egalitarian procedures, as opposed to reason based decision-making informed by superior expertise and discernment. The other, and an extension of this egalitarianism, is through blind collaboration, where the participants discern their collective roles through processes of involvement. To explore these ideas through process based art practice, I attached such notions to the formulation of my work 62
in a project called The Mind Itself and the World.
59 Mauss., The Gift; Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies, 68. 60 Ibid., 67. 61 “It is well worth reconsidering the place of artworks in the overall economic system, be it symbolic or material, which governs contemporary society. Over and above its mercantile nature and its semantic value, the work of art represents a social interstice. This interstice term was used by Karl Marx to describe trading communities that elude the capitalist economic context by being removed from the law of profit: barter, merchandising, autarkic types of production, etc. the interstice is a space in human relations which fits more or less harmoniously and openly into the overall system, but suggests other trading possibilities than those in effect within this system. This is the precise nature of contemporary art exhibition in the arena of representational commerce: it creates free areas, and time spans whose rhythm contrasts with those structuring everyday life and it encourages inter-human commerce that differs from the “communication zones” that are imposed on us.” Nicholas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, ed. Simon Pleasance, Fronza Woods, and Mathieu Copeland, (Dijon: Presses du reel, 2002),16. 62 This complex multidirectional project had a very simple instigation. The encompassing aim was to define a common understanding of the term consciousness between the six participants. Fortnightly meetings over six months preceded an outcome of three weeks duration (p41 of Book2). The defined project evolved through discussion about the organisation of its multi faceted potential, which aimed to incorporate and support myriad aims and outcomes. Conceptually the show needed to encompass all the artists’ needs, and representing their work wholly without compromising the theme of the show. Ethically, we needed to question what was representative of the group notions about the concept, and through the process of making, the show encouraged participation in all aspects of the organisation in order to enable a cohesive exhibition. I believe this was aided by the simple task of sharing food together. The act of communing over food led to praise, thanks and cohesion between the participants, an icebreaker and also a constant(p40 of Book2). Funnily enough it allowed for people to be consumed by an external ‘something’, perhaps while they thought, or pondered questions. The initial discussions were acknowledged as introductory and became explorations of individual perceptions of faith, religion and other opinion driven matters (see notes on p3638 of Book2). These then expanded over the coming months into agendas, ethics and further personal opinions. To keep the schema on track and in order to raise further routes of discussion, participants were requested to make and show small artworks. They were then asked to swap, and collaborate on, the works. This proved illuminatory for the participants and sparked discussions on the periphery of the concepts of consciousness. Broadening this field took the gallery based show further away from two or three-dimensional outcomes. Growing interest lay within conversations. Delving further into the task of determining a representation mode for this ephemeral notion, individuals realised their own particular definition about what consciousness could be. Utilising Mauss’ ideas about gifting and exchange I wanted to investigate the value of ideas and questions. Questioning highlighted the qualities of an artwork or idea, which lead to many discussions, sometimes off topic and irrelevant to consciousness, but upholding the essence of the artworks and original ideas dissected. Like the Socratic methodologies of finding the core of an idea through questioning, we all would find open questions that resolved issues with concepts that we were unsure about, using the participant’s answers to find our own solutions. Established, was a rapport amongst the contributors and the conversations expanded beyond their own knowledge, linking previously disparate ideas and discerning information relevant to one another’s research. I tried to use the different occasions of meeting and meeting sites as segments and proposed different styles or methodologies for each meeting, in order to find new ways to speak about artworks and concepts of consciousness. These varied from casually sharing objects and found articles to more formal presentations (an example of something brought in p39 of Book2). What I provided was a constant, a basis to which the participants proposed their knowledge and a space where this intermingled with the knowledge of others. My absolute intention was to create a conversation that was encompassing and equally engaging for all participants. Specific knowledge was not preferred over opinion or questions; all forms of dialogue were encouraged, and the generated atmosphere was solely about engaging in conducive conversation. Some of the pre-planned methodologies were educational and others were formulated for the participants’ particular needs. These ranged from bringing personal objects to describe to creating collaborative artworks that brought specific participants together. This conversational modelling was decided as an essential extension of the project and it created a two-fold outcome, one end of which was achieved through the introduction of participants external to the core group. Labelled as interviews, these exchanges were arranged due to the external participants’ specific interest in the project as well as their own knowledge based relationship to the topic. All were encouraged to question, analyse and dissect the work made in specific forums, which were formulated in three sections. Firstly, the external participant would describe their own art practice and then an artwork or idea would be presented from within the group and discussed. The third section would entail analysis of a chosen participant’s artworks and a detailed positive analysis for the artworks, usually staying within the remit of the chosen topical arena. The second outcome was drawn from the initial conversations and meetings. The frameworks for these conversations were designed to encompass a wide variety of subject matters and also to enhance collaborative practices within the group. The meeting formats explored varied from basic ‘show and tell’ style investigation of personal objects, regarding them within
Mauss’ chief ethical conclusion is that the attempt to create a free market for private contracts is utopian and just as unrealisable as its antithesis, a collective based solely on altruism. Human institutions everywhere are founded on the unity of individual and society, freedom and obligation, self-interest and concern for others. Mauss’ aspiration to embrace the human condition in its entirety by exploring the moral relationship between concrete persons and society as a whole, defines the ethical conundrum that is addressed in the discussion of my practice. Questioning has arisen as to whether there are moral issues inherent within my practice and that perhaps I should instigate some sort of code to counter this. If so, then how might that be presented to participants? Could defined ethics destroy the point of the practice and could they be abandoned at will? If so, is that in itself, unethical? Chris Bannerman seems to find a fantastic solution in his conclusion, when writing about the ethics of dance practice; “greater awareness of the ethics of collaboration in training and education would be useful. This should not mean that art making is subjected to anodyne and meaningless bureaucratic forms, or unnecessarily constrained. Instead, our involvement with ethics could enhance consciousness of our actions in our work, and add to the landscape of the reflective practitioner. This would benefit our discipline and the development of practice as research. Equally we have much to offer the academy as the very circumstances that make this work complex…could also serve as a laboratory for revealing ethical issues and for debating them through action and reflection. How better to activate and test the conscious and unconscious ways in which humans interact and, through reflection, to reconsider the values that inform our interactions and working relationships? These aspects of our working practices complement the work done in art and design noted above, which often involves a solitary creator. The performing arts could benefit from a more formalized investigation 63
of ethics through case studies but this would also contribute to a wider debate.”
There is very little written on the ethics of relational artworks, and the key debate is concerned with the recognition of contributors in artworks. A major problem is the very labeling of artist, or author, because even the claim of not being an author/artist/director signifies that 64
at one point you must have been labeled as such, or have taken that role on.
There are many
reasons that this label may have been given, mostly to do with previous experience and the 35
the idea of consciousness and human experience to dissection of theoretical texts (some written by participants others by philosophers and theorists), whilst also building up the collaborative aspect through utilising these objects to make works, or using each other’s artworks to generate new artworks (a form of individualistic collaboration). The culmination of all the different projects generated the idea that we should complete the entire process with a concluding conversation, within the gallery context. We set up a lunch, as we would do at most of the meetings, however this time we would invite friends, family, locals and other participants to sit and eat with us (see p47 of Book2). The idea being that they would have knowledge about concepts that the initial participants on the project would not. The questions were more guided and addressed topics that were unresolved in our conversations about consciousness. A great deal of our questions were discussed in full, however – and somewhat ironically - because there were more people participating, a lot more questions were divulged, therefore intriguing all participants to search further answers in their own time, and modes. The project initially had no planned project outcome and as Anna Craft writes in Creativity in Schools, “there are limits to creativity; a way of promoting creativity is through the creation of boundaries”. Therefore It precipitated that, because of the initial conversation setups, participants agreed that a more performative relationship had been generated around the ideas of consciousness and therefore a more performative outcome would suit the project. This was then to be framed within a free publication that would be available in the space(see p39-40 of Book2 for examples of layouts), for visitors to enjoy, alongside some performances and static artworks. This worked in multiple ways; it concreted an outcome for the show, became a guide for the participants to push against and be creative with and, most importantly for myself; it resolved a lot of issues with documentation. There was, I found, a large discrepancy between what was produced within the realm of the show and what was arrived at in the publication. There were many associated conversations that tried to find a way of producing an art show that could resolve these ‘problems’ however in retrospect we always a solution in the associated publication. Because it is an edited, by-product of the show, I do not consider it problematic as documentation due to its own, finite, nature. 63 Chris Bannerman, “Collaborative Ethics” in Practice-as-Research in Performance and Screen, ed. Ludivine Allegue, Simon Jones, Baz Kershaw, Angela Piccini, (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 66-72. 64 The artist as genius is a socially produced idea from the Renaissance. This beginning of the modern era starts in a particular cultural situation, Italy had sought to get rid of its Feudal past. Merchants and commercial interest designed what replaced it. Which is co-incidentally at the same time that the idea of the bank was produced, and people broke the feudal shackles of the dark ages. Communities and social structure were created around the virtues of fairness, justice, republicanism and good administration. Although in practice these were oligarchical, and bore little resemblance to modern ideas of a democracy. Art previous to this was produced in workshops, artisans working their trade. Until Vasari and the Medici family created the art superstar, which has carried on since all the way up to the Young British Artists who were patronised by Charles Saatchi. You can trace the roots of the idea of the individual artist phenomenon all the way back to Gorgio Vasari whose book “The Lives of the Artists” single handedly created the cult of the individual. He was well known for his paintings at the time but he also wrote an encyclopedia of artistic biographies. He coined the word “renaissance” and according to the historian Richard Goldthwaite, Vasari was one of the earliest authors to use the word “competition” (or “concorrenza”) in Italian in its economic sense. He used it repeatedly, but perhaps most notably while explaining the reasons for Florentine pre-eminence. In Vasari’s view, Florentine artists excelled because they were hungry, and they were hungry because their fierce competition for commissions each with the others kept them hungry. Competition, he said, is “one of the nourishments that maintain them.” His texts are renowned as biased and interspersed with gossip. However more interesting for me is that he is patronised by the Medici family, renowned for owning the first bank “in the modern sense of the word”. The obvious conclusion for me is that the ideas of “competition” and “banking” go hand in hand. The Medici family also associated with banking has I understand, in no small way also promoted the idea of artists as individuals. Education was also enhanced through this period. In alignment with the new society a new formula for education had to be conceived. This was a revival of ancient texts and a rejection of the medieval scholastic mode. The introduction of what could be loosely claimed as a syllabus becomes the beginnings of modern education; it was mainly composed of ancient literature and history, using empirical evidence to reach conclusions. It was thought that the classics provided moral instruction and an intensive understanding of human behaviour. The flourishing of Florence as an intellectual hub is documented as due to the role played by the Medici, as the catalyst for an enormous amount of arts patronage, encouraging countryman to commission works from Florence’s leading artists. However the Medici family also had an agenda, they wish to promote Florence and themselves as a wealthy and powerful banking family, the Medici were innovators in financial accounting. At one point, they managed most of the great fortunes in the European world, from the members of royalty to merchants. There was even a time when the currency issued by the Medici’s was accepted and used throughout Europe as the preferred currency. Is Art not, now a preferred world currency?
value associated with the name and usually for the attainment of funding. Bannerman is more interested in how to acknowledge all participants’ contributions, especially because of the implicit trust given by those taking part. This creates a highly complex web of suggestions that becomes the experience of being involved in a collaborative project, which can range from formalised or pre arranged avenues of discovery to more free or serendipitous events.
The existence of intra-relationships between collaborators is sometimes the essence of an artwork in itself. The creative engagement between the participants defines and promotes the fundamental nature of the artwork; “the care and sensitivity of the interactions, the physical and emotional trust are also key features. In many ways this is an exemplar of collaborative practice that is driven by a shared sense of purpose and which only succeeds because of the trust between 65
Here Bannerman acknowledges the delicate balance of collaborative creative
endeavors. The author understands that the process extends far beyond the output, and so writes fluently about the value of ideas that are conjured through group work. Bannerman goes on further in this vein, attempting to define the qualities of this type of research, even exploring the fundamental problems that afflict the credence of the process; “Attempts to capture or represent the creative process are arguably always limited to the creation of another symbolic document that only partially covers the original, in large part as the edges of the creative process are blurred by the frequently significant contributions that arise at times when the artist is ostensibly not ‘working’. These might be the insights, reflections and analyses that can take place at any time of night or day, or interactions with performers that may be subtle or even seen inconsequential at the time.”
This reference has me excited for two distinct reasons. Firstly, Bannerman tries to distinguish the artwork from the documentation, which is not revolutionary; but defines it as a discreet artwork that cannot reveal the whole process, especially the co-mingling of ideas that occurs. Secondly, he highlights an awareness of the interactions and the nuances that promote creativity, but those that may be unseen or ‘inconsequential’.
65 Bannerman, â€œCollaborative Ethicsâ€?, 66-72. 66 Ibid., 66-72.
First; that documentation stands alone as a distinct artwork. Because of this, documentation in its traditional sense, becomes a poor secondary format for understanding original artworks. It is assumed that through document, a viewer could reconstruct the artwork, therefore it is presumed that the event precedes the document and the document authorises the event. I am more concerned with the idea that the document cannot give the viewer access to the reality of the performance. If anything, documentation allows for an extremely controlled representation of artworks, especially performative works, thus again allowing for the artist to promote a particular aspect of an artwork and deny the voice of their collaborators. Philip Auslander writes; “If we are to insist on a criterion of authenticity when contemplating performance documentation, we must ask ourselves whether we believe authenticity to reside in the circumstances of the underlying 67
performance, which may or not be evident from the documentation.”
This duality could be viewed as counter productive or could be upheld as more satisfactory for the artist and more ethical in terms of encompassing the participants (as both viewer and agent). This responsibility to the viewer is also twofold; there are the initial audience members and then the secondary audience that only understand the artwork through its documentation. Auslander outlines the problems, as “the presence of the audience and the interaction of performers and audience is a crucial part of any performance, the tradition of performance art documentation is based on a different set of assumptions. It is very rare that the audience is 68
documented at anything like the same level of detail as the art action.” 69
between performativity and performance diverges.
This is where the line
Performance is signified by the audience
(whether a camera or person), whereas performativity is the action of making that performance. The recognition of the act of interaction is performativity. Here lies the problem. “The purpose of most performance art documentation is to make the artist’s work available to a larger audience, not to capture the performance as an ‘interactional accomplishment’ to which a specific audience and a specific set of performers coming together in specific circumstances make equally 70
When an artist decides to document their performance, they assume
a responsibility to an audience other than the initial one, a gesture that contravenes the act of performativity for these primary consumers. The assembly of documentation cannot relay this 39
67 Philip Auslander, “The Performativity of Performance Art Documentation”, Performing Arts Journal, 84, (September 2006), 1-10. 68 Ibid., 8. 69 Performativity is the conscious act of performance, it is the construction of identity or position through active expression. It is an interdisciplinary term often used to name the capacity of speech and language in particular, as well as other non-verbal forms of expressive action, to perform a type of being. It is a forum, a performative act, a ritual, a social action that is omnipresent and without restriction; it extends socially, beyond constraints of system or structure. 70 Auslander., “The Performativity of Performance Art Documentation”, 6.
communication. Therefore it makes more sense to produce another format for understanding the performance, which might reflect a certain sensibility or an aspect of intention for the work. This will engage the audience further as the intent is more apparent, because they are not missing the essential aspect of the event. However documentation is created and presented it needs to be distinct and explanatory of its entire aim.
To take up the second half of Bannerman’s point, looking into the inconsequential nuances that stimulate creativity in order to help promote originality, divisive strategies can be utilised. However, and more interestingly in my experience, it is when those strategies or structures are overtly open for negotiation and available to be exploited, that creativity is more explicitly realised. This is when the formed content is far more unilaterally understood and contributions from participants are more likely to expand the exercise and take some sort of occupancy. Naturally, this does create problems of structural clarity, as the openness will only generate a more inconceivable endpoint. Because openness of the process is fundamental and it is virtually impossible to offer clarity about where the process will lead, to analyse the outcome without the recognition of the process seems unreasonable. It is this strategic educational model that will allow for nuances to be elevated to a level at which they can be questioned more directly. Education becomes more than criteria or assessment value, but an actual engagement. Education permeates our every action, both thought and movement. Our knowing and understanding is compared and understood in reference to every similar action previously performed. When we consciously begin to realise our learning capabilities is when the outcome differs from our expectation. This awareness can be 71
constructed, so does the problem lie with the teachers, as Bannerman alludes?
Or, is it possible
for artists to diversify through their own variety of discussion? Would this create an impetus for change? Through this document I suggest a contagious mix of both. Anna Craft, writing on Creative Education in Schools, notes the need for wisdom as a mediating field of awareness in 72
which creativity can be located.
“The role of educators is perhaps to encourage students to
examine the possible wider effects of their own ideas and those of others, and to evaluate both 73
choices and worth in the light of this – in other words, to nurture wisdom”.
71 The problematics of education derive from its history. The origins of pedagogy or the idea of the pedagogue comes from its etymology. The Greek word paidagogos, is derived from pais (gen. paidos) “child” + agogos “leader,” from agein “to lead”. Teachers are defined as “Childleaders”, not co-learners or even facilitators of education but implementers. This defines them as the owners of prepossessed information, which is then carefully imparted onto localised youth, instead of an individual who structures a lifelong journey of self-understanding and self expression that education should stand for. When this precondition is understood, the abilities and the functions of learning and the learner starts to change. 72 Anna Craft analyses the problems of creativity in education, distilling the semiotics of the word creativity. Questioning whether creativity doesn’t have two levels the extraordinary and the ordinary: The ordinary being everyday innovations, that we engage in and have adapted to live in our perpetually changing modern environment. Extraordinary creativity implies the production of new knowledge, this has to be validated by experts. I personally wish to blur these lines and I don’t see a distinct difference between the two, surely to define creativity in such terms is what is alienating. To embrace and promote all styles of creativity will surely enhance education and as she writes ‘The implication is that the economy demands creativity, and a healthy economy is necessary to a wealthy society which then produces assets for general consumption; better public amenities and services. But it also produces individual assets.’ Her view of the education system is not one that I can take up. However, when she talks about creativity as a culturally specific, where social context, choices and personal autonomy are severely restricted, the ability to find alternatives becomes the inventive force. This at the time may not be understood as creative but shows the power of resourcefulness. 73 Anna Craft, “Creativity in Schools,” British Journal of Education Technology, Vol. 38, No.1 (January 2007), 171-172.
Conclusion74 The discourse generated through the symmetry of writings has allowed a dialogue to be expressed which, it is hoped, engages the reader and develops a greater understanding of the research process. There seems no ideal format for documentation for the kind of work represented. The essence of the works lie in the moment of enfunctioning and it is the cognition, emotion or thought of the viewer, participant or visitor that activates the work. There may never be the ‘correct’ or most perfect way to capture and re-represent this. This impermanence and irreducibility leads only to residual documentation, which will interminably fall short of the ideals of the artworks. It is enjoyable to find documentation that plays with the reader, allowing them to explore aspects of the initial artworks intention without being a part of the action. Documentation should be explored with a note in mind; that it is always necessary to experience work first hand, to understand more than the documentation.
What may not have been acknowledged to a satisfactory end is the dissection of the notion of authority and its specific referencing and definition. Further questioning, that which incisively analyses and inspires specific projects, that themselves examine the principles, rules and hierarchies, would enhance knowledge of the acquisition and loss of authority. These notions are particularly prevalent in the questioning of performance. There seems a very thin line to be drawn between the ideas of performance and performativity. The idea that we are perpetually performing roles that we lay out for ourselves is appealing to me, because when I ask people to make art with me, they are becoming a part of my performance of an enfunctioning role. This disrupts their performance and awareness of their own performativity. This could be key to gaining comprehension of my work as it references understanding of participants’ actions and thoughts through the completion of the same. This performativity is not delimiting, but a progression through a performance that can be reinitiated.
What is also not conclusive is research into ‘play’ and all the nuances, intrigue and word play that it affords me. I understand play to be part of a sociocultural leap, where our culture is 43
74 One of the things that I have discovered through research is that the work lives in a state of inconclusiveness. To be able place a full stop seems presumptuous, as I wish my proposals to continue to evolve. They already permeate my research, working life and my artistic practice. What I will do through this is substantiate my trajectory in order to conclude this document and realise the potential of the achieved goals.
transforming into a homogenous mass of technology, lifestyle and consciousness and wherein the role of creativity requires reevaluation. The art of play can be proliferated through engaging new and original forms of inventiveness. The natural human instinct of curiosity has lead to greater interconnectedness and experimentation through technological advances. Meeting different kinds of people from a playful stance can become an authentic exchange, rather than one in which differing sides take superior, patronising, or paranoid attitudes. I am looking for a rejuvenation of arts’ potential; its role as a conduit between understanding ourselves, our place in society and the rule makers has been lost. In the Art of Play, Adam Blatner and Allee Blatner write “Pleasurable activities existing within the free market will exert a gentle competitive pressure on the ‘serious’ organisational systems in order to attract participation by the population. A future result could be that instead of the individual being pressured to adjust to society, both individual 75
and societal needs might be balanced by co-creating the necessary systems.”
In essence I have
demonstrated in this document a few main concerns and trajectories. Essentially my work has evolved around these and has teetered along the balance between, as a way of exploring the dual notions of myself and my concerns for my surrounding environment. This symbiotic relationship is essential to my artwork, because I comprehend society as much as I don’t comprehend it. I am perpetually learning and enjoy that fact. The misrepresentation that an artist is out for singular gain is hopefully disappearing and a new era of collaborative wealth is coming into grasp.
However, the questioning of my motives is perpetual and is part of the fabric in which I manufacture the work. Control and freedom are opposing forces that explore the nature of humanity. To underline one over another will still forge an inconclusive statement that yields no real gains. I am not trying to create an overarching rulebook to making relational art, more establishing a philosophy that can underpin my practice of encouraging making and talking for myself. I wish to find a way of accessing high order thinking through open questioning. I wish also to encourage an exploration of the world that doesn’t hinge upon a predictable regime, but opens up recognition of creativity, upholding an appreciation of unpredictability as a mode of self discovery, using our everyday learning to promote further discovery. Grant Kester writes more eruditely when stating “[t]hus Jean-François Lyotard disparages art which is based on the 45
75 Adam Blatner and Allee Blatner, The Art of Play : Helping Adults Reclaim Imagination and Spontaneity, Rev. ed. (New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1997), 175.
assumption that the public ‘will recognize...will understand, what is signified.’ Lyotard, like Clement Greenberg earlier in the century, defines avant-garde art as the other of kitsch. If kitsch traffics in reductive or simple concepts and sensations then avant-garde art will be difficult and complex; if kitsch’s preferred mode is a viewer-friendly ‘realism’ then avant-garde art will be abstract, ‘opaque’ and ‘unpresentable’. In each case the anti-discursive orientation of the avantgarde artwork, its inscrutability and resistance to interpretation, is juxtaposed to a cultural form that is perceived as easy or facile (advertising, propaganda, etc.). Lyotard can’t conceive of a discursive form that is not always, already contaminated by the problematic model of ‘communication’ embodied in advertising and mass-media. The viewer or audience-member is, in turn, always defined by their epistemological lack: their susceptibility to the siren song of vulgar and facile forms of culture. The artists and groups I’m discussing here ask whether it’s possible for art to reclaim a less violent relationship with the viewer while also preserving the critical 76
insights that aesthetic experience can offer into objectifying forms of knowledge.”
The work that I present here has always been inconclusive; I am not trying to create solid answers but merely trying to provide the tools and formats for questioning. On the most basic level, I am trying to answer with the help of others. The presumptions that occur are for my research and provide material for further presumptions. However, maybe the idealist in me wishes to engage with others’ presumptions. Creating situations that are able to break down those presumptions into particular aspects or biases, can that allow others to re- explore certain ways that they interact with others. Which provide the basic foundations of education, to learn that you have to want to learn. This is, as Ranciere describes, our ‘will’.
The ideas of success and failure are absorbed into our everyday language, understood 77
as achievement or lack thereof.
This is essential to an artwork. However, what if an artwork
tried to fail? It would be successful in its failure. What if it is inconclusive? It is not a failure merely in its lack of success. It is the inbetween, here, that needs traversing. This is not a linguistic problem, although I am interested in the language that has created it, or maybe that it is representative of. It is, in fact, a philosophical problem, created by a history of societal issues. 47
76 Grant Kester, â€œConversation Pieces: The Role of Dialogue in Socially-Engaged Artâ€?, in Theory in contemporary Art since 1985, edited by Zoya Kucor and Simon Leung (Blackwell, 2005) 77 A lot of the discussion recently about Relational Aesthetics style artworks is the idea of success and failure. It would be apt to discuss this within the document, but I have decided to address it in a much smaller dimension, because it has not been a major concern for the work thus far. It seemed too clinical and would in my opinion not provide an engaging ongoing research.
This has not been eased by pedagogy. As a conceptual framework and as a reality, pedagogy has failed to provide an understanding for the inbetween notions that pervade our lives constantly, which we have to battle, in order to substantiate ourselves. So, is it the responsibility of society to ask for change or the change to be implemented onto society? I believe that technology is leading the change and society is now, as a constant, trying to catch up. What is funny is that society is only just realising that this technology is giving it the power to implement change.
Claire Bishop states that “today political, moral and ethical judgments have come to fill the 78
vacuum of aesthetic judgment in a way that was unthinkable forty years ago.”
It is agreed that
there is art here, but Bishop wants the boundaries to be pushed in order to disrupt the status quo, not to reproduce it, and give it back for the viewer to fill. “The tasks facing us today are to analyze how contemporary art addresses the viewer and to assess the quality of the audience relations it produces: the subject position that any work presupposes and the democratic notions it upholds, 79
and how these are manifested in our experience of the work.”
I consider this as problematic
because of the notion of quality; which Bishop seems to quantify as an acknowledgement of the “tension between art and society, conceived as mutually exclusive spheres – as a self-reflexive 80
In my opinion it is not only about the quality of the tension but the quality of the
interaction that tension provides. Grant Kester describes this beautifully; “Rather than entering into communicative exchange with the goal of representing ‘self’ through the advancement of ready formed opinions and judgments, a connected knowledge is grounded in our capacity to 81
identify with other people.”
Earlier in his writing he describes a much more fluid attempt at
formula for analysis of dialogic works, He states “Through a cumulative process of exchange and dialogue, rather than a single, instantaneous shock of insight, precipitated by an image or object. These projects require a paradigm shift in our understanding of the work of art; a definition of 82
aesthetic experience that is durational rather than immediate.”
The research has taught me that the conditions for art making have to be defined within its conclusion and quality. The ideas of success and failure are wrapped within these concepts and are due to political and ethical judgments. Exploring these through; dialogue, because the 49
78 79 80 81 82
Claire Bishop, “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics,” October 110, (Fall 2004), 51-79. Ibid., 51-79. Ibid., 51-79. Kester, “Conversation Pieces: The Role of Dialogue in Socially-Engaged Art”. Ibid.
participants have a conceptual grasp of what is a good conversation and what is not and performance and documentation, as they both go hand in hand giving an opportunity to contextualise the exercise of making the artwork, whilst upholding the learning. Finally play, as it allows for the freedom of creativity on an individual basis to give the artworks of an educational framework in which the safety of knowledge making is understood and needs to be disseminated.
Artists could benefit from a more formalised investigation, not only into the semiotics of these words and their applications to contemporary art making, but the utopian ideals that they try to re-invigorate to contribute to the wider debate surrounding ‘Relational Aesthetics’ and the ‘Pedagogical Turn’. So where are these ideals now? Can the legacy of utopia be denied? It is clear that there is always a question of how things can be made better. It is definitely possible to facilitate limitless and undefined educational propositions, even though this is a contradiction in terminology, due to the delineated convenience of the singular concept (back to arguing semantics). It is possible to facilitate limitless and undefined propositions, especially through artistic modalities, as artworks are able to test utopian ideals. Artworks are free of the boundaries that inhibit; this is their emancipatory and educational power. Whilst saying this, it quickly becomes hard to balance artworks on very discrete line between ‘chaos’ and ‘emancipation’. This is a fine balance that easily tips either way. Too much organisation and formula leaves little room for play and investigation, but does encourage platforms for providing a stimulating environment, whilst 83
too much freedom lets chaos reign, leading only to participation in an experience of chaos.
Conflict will always be rooted in society and this friction is what halts the stultification of culture and allows for societal movement. Ethically, mass application of ideals can never be made. What we need are interventions that activate something personal; what Rancière describes as ‘will’, to take the stultification out of existence. This would reinvigorate the communication that binds us and makes us who we are, as individuals and as groups. Communication, positive or negative burrows at our persona, enabling us to appreciate cultural signifiers more. Through emancipation, participants are encouraged to appreciate themselves and so they are able to carefully assess the relationship between their presented self and the reintroduction of ideas produced through 51
83 Chaos is a platform also, and therefore is technically not chaotic, because amongst other things it creates leaders and followers and as Bourdieu claims the dominant create the dominated, to create change you must lead change, which will provide another format for societal rules.
their discursive self. These are the very circumstances that make an artwork complex; the spontaneity and the collective search for conceptual stimulus and exploration serves as a laboratory for revealing issues. Expanding these through both action and reflection can only increase the interest in debate. Communication activates and tests the conscious and unconscious ways in which humans interact, through reflection, and allows for reconsideration of the values that inform our interactions and working relationships.
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Garoian, Charles R., and Gaudelius, Yvonne. Spectacle Pedagogy : Art, Politics, and Visual Culture. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008. Gillick, Liam. Five or Six. New York: Lukas & Sternberg, 2000. ________. “For a... functional utopia? A review of a position,” in Curating subjects. edited, Paul O’Neill, London : Open Editions, 2007. 123-136 Harris, Roy, and ebrary Inc. The Necessity of Artspeak the Language of the Arts in the Western Tradition. London ; New York: Continuum, 2003. Kester, Grant H. Conversation Pieces : Community and Communication in Modern Art. Berkeley, Calif. ; University of California Press, 2004. ________. . “Conversation Pieces: The Role of Dialogue in Socially-Engaged Art”, in Theory in contemporary Art since 1985, ed. by Zoya Kucor and Simon Leung (Blackwell, 2005), 76 – 88. ________. “Reprint reply in Artforum;” edited Gorschlüter, Peter, McKane, Antoinette, Pih, Darren, and Tate Gallery Liverpool. The Fifth Floor : Ideas Taking Space. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2009. ________. . “The pedagogical (Re)Turn in Contemporary Art”, Keynote address for Encuentro Internacional de Medelin (2011), (Accessed June 17th 2011). http://www. grantkester.net/2.html Leslie, Ian. Born Liars, Why We Can’t Live Without Deceit. (London: Quercus, 2011). Livingston, Paisley, and Archer, Carol. “Artistic collaboration and the completion of works of art”. British Journal of Aesthetics, Vol.50, Issue 4, Oxford Journals, (Oct 2010), 439455. Rieh, Soo Young, “Cognitive authority”. In K.E. Fisher, S. Erdelez, & E. F. McKechnie (Eds.), Theories of information behavior: A researchers’ guide, Medford, NJ: Information Today. (2005): 83-87. Mauss, Marcel. The Gift; Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies, The Norton Library,. New York,: Norton, 1967. O’Neill, Paul, and Wilson, Mick. Curating and the Educational Turn. London: Open Editions, 2010. ________. “Curatorial discourse and the contested trope of Emergence”, Institute of Contemporary Art Lecture Series, Institute of Contemporary Art, London, http://www. ica.org.uk/17186/Essays/Emergence-by-Paul-ONeill-and-Mick-Wilson.html (accessed October 30th 2011) Papastergiadis, Nikos.“The Global Need for Collaboration”, Collaborative Arts, Conversations on Collaborative Arts Practice, http://collabarts.org/?p=201 (accessed August 17th, 2010) Perkins, D. N., and Getty Center for Education in the Arts. The Intelligent Eye : Learning to Think by Looking at Art, Occasional Papers. Los Angeles, Calif.: Getty Publications, 1994. Rancière, Jacques. Dis-Agreement : Politics and Philosophy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998. ________. The Future of the Image. English ed. London ; New York: Verso, 2007.
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Prologue The intention for the examination artwork for my masters research is to provide a unique opportunity for all of the participants. What will be created is a new document that allows for a very particular conversation to occur between the people involved with the past projects as well as between participants and the examiners. The participants will be directly responsible for the making of a determinable object and it is their very conversations and understanding of their own level of involvement with their respective projects, which will generate the ‘solution’. The curious notion is that past participants have not been witness to this particular document – yet the examiners have, and through this framework the examiners establish their own particular standpoint from which to interact with the past ‘works’ – the participants. The space will be setup as a communal workroom. There will be a table arranged, upon which will be stacked ordered, chronological piles of all the documentation collected from the three projects illustrated in this book. These articles can be collated and rearranged in any manner that the participants determine. The group can cut, rearrange, photocopy, and so on, any or all of the documentation components according to the materials and equipment available.
Book2 Introduction This document is not a manual, a “how to….” or an IKEA diagrammatic map, identifying all the differing Allen keys necessary to uplift your conversations. It is simply a collation of words and images that give the reader a glimpse into what participating in a concluded artwork might feel like. The problems start with the word ‘documentation’, belying the fact that it can never wholly represent its client. This document collates outcomes of various parts of my research. Some compositions are more of an insight into my personal experience of a conversation, through notes and jottings; these are usually divining the flow of particular conversations. All of these notes were consciously created as documents to inform others’ art practices, as well as my own. Publications are a usual outcome for my artworks. They give me an explicit format, which is quickly recognisable, but can also be played with. This initial comprehension of the format is important to me, as it allows the reader to feel that they can relay their impressions quite easily. Publications also are implicitly understood as edited and contrived in a particular fashion. This suits my purpose, as my narrative needs the support of the realms of the page. This is not binding, as it functions to expand my choices in particular things like; paper stock, fastening, size, fonts, margins etc. The greatest issue occurs when these objects become necessary as evidence for the processes undertaken. They are not the artwork: simply an artwork in themselves and a methodology for dissecting and re-evaluating the project through editing and collation.
All images courtesy of the artists; Talhia Jolley, Brooke Shanti Fenner, Melanie Neal, Katherine Heyward, Oliver Cloke. Many Thanks to Freya Robinson, Melanie Neal, Katherine Heyward, Tahlia Jolley and Adriana Bernado, for their contributions and their help. Handwritten notes used with consent from artists. Thankyou.
‘Meeting Space for the Organisation of World Domination by Short People Who Have Too Much of an Ego’.
a personal note on the drawing event oliver created an opportunity. he offered bagels, tea and coffee. he supplied pens and paper. he collected a group of strangers. the only condition was to communicate using the tools on the table. initially, it was like being left alone for the first time with your mother-in-law, whilst you need to pee, only to discover she doesn’t speak the same language as you, and thinks ‘toilet’ might be an insult. curiously, i felt compelled to make a connection with the strangers that surrounded me. after many, sometimes frustrating (but often funny) mis-interpretations, i found i was able to have elaborate conversations through a rapidly evolving language of pictures. some people conveyed meaning in a similar style, which made interpreting their ‘language’ more immediate and satisfying. the event surprised me in that the playful exercise actually allowed for great discussion and problem solving of issues that may perhaps be taboo to discuss with strangers. by then end, everybody seemed to be involved in heady conversations that flowed atop one another from global issues to family history, and many curiosities in-between. i walked away from the afternoon, bagel in hand, feeling as though i was part of something. i felt amused and excited, but also re-invigorated about the power of language.
As you can see we are in the dining room, talking abou the upcoming project and how the structure of the artwork is going to work for all of us. This section of transcription is about how Mel is going to interact with people that are going to walk in off the street.
Melanie Neal: I’ll always talk to someone if they are there but it’s a matter of what you want the conversation to become. Katherine Heyward: But you might not want to give a list of questions, but you might want to give a directive. (pointing at Oli) Mel: Yes Kath: For constructing the conversation, or driving the conversation, or steering the conversation. Do you know what I mean? Like… on Mondays you talk about your weekend, on Tuesday you talk about the weather Oliver Cloke: No, (looking at Mel) but I think that your perspective on our different modalities of making artwork is good enough, to talk about, with the people walking in. Mel : Yeah, I hope I can capture the meaning of the conversation. Kath: Do you mean capture as in record or capture as in get the essence of? Mel : I meant capture as in to get across the meaning of the work for all three of us. But yes how am I going to document these conversations for Oli? Kath: If someone comes in, I don’t know what the flow is like, but if someone comes in, and they seem keen to have a chat. Just go look do you mind if I record this? I know people might become shy but I think you will be able to tell if someone is keen to have a yak. Because I think for Oli, even fragments of documentation are fine. Don’t you think? Oli : Ummhuh Kath : Even if you have bits of here and there. Because the problem is that, and its Oli’s biggest paradox with his work is that, it existed, but you have to prove that it existed. Mel : Oh yeah, I understand that.
In early 2011, with scraps of paper sprawled over a timber bench in a South Melbourne café, Cloke, whilst scrambling through the scribbled notes, began to describe the conception of what became “Uniquely Yours”. Upon the invitation to take part in the project both Cloke and Heyward established that this would not become a collaboration where three artists bring their own understandings and their own practices into one project to achieve an end result, rather “Uniquely Yours” would be an endeavour where each practitioner could use the project as a vehicle to create questions and possibly answers in regards to what they’re trying to understand and create within the studium of their own practice. With an interest in the physical and non-physical framework that underpins institutional architecture, I embarked on this project with an interest in what happens to this space once it is covered with the theatre of a domestic, living place. With only a minor instruction from Cloke and Heyward- to play the role of the tenant from my success at auction night until I moved out- I set myself up in the space to live in it but simultaneously, create small works that highlighted the institutional history of the site, or portrayed similar methods of institutional or spatial control that a gallery space would impose upon their patrons. Throughout the period of the show we received an assortment of responses from those entering the space. At the beginning of the allotted period, those passing were happy to peer in, occasionally participating in the project by leaving a note about remembering the milk or the bills while I was out. At this point some were even willing to play into the theatre and sit down for a cup of tea, not necessarily to discuss the project and its comment regarding the gentrification of the area, but to chat in niceties that we naturally do within the social contract of a cup of tea. Throughout the week or so, both the audience and myself would consciously play the part. Act out the role of guest and owner. However, as the onsite part of the project went on, and the site began to appear more ‘lived-in’, those that entered the gallery were not as inclined to enter into my humble abode or even recognise it as an exhibition space. Some thinking that it was a residence attached to the back of the gallery, despite the space’s lack of front door. Throughout this period the conversation shifted to one that explained the project to those who nervously stood at the threshold of the space, still willing to learn about the works intentions, but not as eager or enthusiastic about becoming an active participant in the project. Melanie Neal
For me, The OK Collective presents reasons, and opportunities for the continued making of art. And these do not have to be big world; grandiose art statement type projects either. What the Collective allows for is a continually open line of communication – it is the Push Notification of our day to day – which sees myriad thoughts, concepts, possibilities and conversations pass back and forth through it. From the smallest and most superficial projects like the Exquisite Corpses and to the most complex and contentious such as Uniquely Yours – all tasks are approached with the same attitudes. Nothing is considered unimportant or trivial in the same vein that nothing else is considered most pertinent and of a superior context. And that is where the essence of the Collective, in fact, lies; that the most important thing to be doing – is simply talking and doing. For any collaboration to work, any relationship of any nature to work, communication is paramount. From this grounding point, the actions, projects, tasks, conversations that are embarked upon become just as valid in their doing, as any physical outcome that might be generated. This is the most inspiring aspect for me. Art making in the present state art world is so driven by spectacular theory and outlandish posturing and is so trivialised by this 21st Century Pop-Make-Me-an-Idol-Talent-Model-I’veGot-It–Fifteen-Minutes-Gimme-Gimme-Gimme syndrome that there comes with it a certain anxiousness for the validity of one’s work. What working within a collective such as this brings, is not necessarily an antidote to this or a guaranteed Fan Club (far from it!), but it provides the space for play and is a reminder that anything that is being done that is the least bit creative and/or communicative, is worth being done. Of course, as mentioned, it isn’t all – always – good. Perhaps the hardest fact about working so closely with someone is the notion of expectation. This can often disrupt the clarity of the communication process; providing holes for lost interpretations, empty assumptions and general miscommunication. Allowances must always be made for this problem and at times one almost needs to remove the ‘personal relationship’ hat and don a more casual bonnet in favour of avoiding subversion of the directive of the collaboration. Kathy Heyward
“The Mind Itself and the World.”
Collaborative Practices facilitated by Brooke Shanti Fenner and Oliver Cloke
AG But do you need shock?
AG Well it doesn’t really work as theatre.
BSF I just don’t think that those devices, in that context, is enough to com municate that the audience’s role is being framed in the way we have been speaking about.
BSF Then that to me says that you have a notion of what theatre has to be. AG Okay, well art. It’s just very nega tive, everything is hollowed out, every thing is empty. And then what?
MY In a tute today, a theorist called Hans-Thies Lehmann was brought up, 50.10 - 54.18 he wrote a book called Post-dramatic Theatre. He talks about hot and cool MY …Maybe political art is vitally-im theatre. Hot theatre is theatre that con portant. Maybe it’s a way of addressing nects with people on a visceral level, so issues without a capitalist framework. it engages a physical reaction in some Not in all cases obviously. ways. And cool theatre is one that distances itself. AG Perhaps we need to expand what -po litical art is. There is this fantastic essay AG So its kind of Brechtian? by (Felix) Guattari called Three Ecologies where he writes about the need for MY Exactly, it asks the audience to revolution on three levels. A personal or bodily level, an ecological level and a consider something intellectually. social level. The problem with differ ent things that try to deal with political AG I think that’s where Brecht was and ecological issues is that they don’t wrong. The idea was that you would deal with all three threads simultane distance an audience emotionally to allow them to have an intellectual-re ously. We structure and create fascism, sponse. The idea that that was the role because we are all mini-fascists, we all of theatre, to me that’s just completely structure and control and hybridize our wrong. own bodies, as we do with other people, as we do with society. And if you have BSF But why? Because I think that’s an ecological movement which doesn’t really interesting. embrace the problems of political power struggle or the struggle of our bodies:
define sexuality, define race, and keep people in those categories, all of which limits freedom of experience, then they are all bound to fail. You have to have personal revolution as well as societal revolution or you’ll just end up with a- dif ferent dictator. You can see that endlessly in society – every revolutionary becomes a dictator. So you have to embrace all those things which is much more political than ‘politics’ politics. LCPolitical is just such an umbrella term, it’s so complicated because all art by nature is political, it just depends on how you break it down. AGMaybe that’s the problem with Brecht then. Trying to reduce one of those levels of experience by controlling it, by saying “you aren’t going to have this emotional response, I’m just not going to allow that, its just going to be intellectual,” that’s just assuming the mind is more important that
can become. Fundamentally, it shows that our everyday interactions are important to our being (not to mention the knowledge of our own perceptions). So to conclude and come full circle, it seems that a direct analysis of the word consciousness is necessary to justify our aims. If you investigate the etymology of the word as a noun, or an adjective, it derives from the Latin; Conscius,(which means sharing knowledge) made up of com (with) and scire (to know). Therefore, it is understood that both our activity and our subject matter areinterrelated, intertwined and mutually beneficial to each other’s examination.The slippery words always seem the most interesting to scrutinise because theremay not be hard and fast answers, but surely that is the most intriguing element of education.
the body. And now hopefully we can say the body is as much a part of conscious ness as the mind. There are plenty of theo ries which embrace that. Consciousness is embodied in all parts of us. That is what makes up our sense of ourselves. Because if you have a different body you are going to have a different experience.
The Mind of Itself and the World At Light Projects, Northcote 2011
For near six months leading up to the opening at Light Projects the seven of us attended regular meetings to discuss our notions of ‘consciousness’. This word was our starting point, however, if an outsider had walked into one of our meetings I am sure they would never have been able to guess that this was where our conversation stemmed from. More often than not our conversations would diverge from this central idea as we assembled around one of the group members kitchen table laden with green tea and food and discussed everything from Guy Debord to Professor Dumbledore, from showing works in progress to reading children’s books. The group sometimes found common interests, often disagreed, mildly confused each other, however, we were always curious and found common ground in our willingness to talk, listen and learn.
After the initial six months came the exhibition at Light Projects ARI where somehow we had to translate our semi private conversations into art that would exist in the public realm for three weeks. This is where I believe we ran into some trouble. We scheduled film screenings and performances, interviews, open studios and lunchtime forums, which were all successful in their own way however looking back our lack of structure meant our goals for the ‘exhibition’ were forever unclear and although the events were entertaining and interesting I am uncertain if the project lived up to its potential. Most problematic for me was the closing party event which was also the launch of the publication which contained fragments of material, images and text, collected throughout the entire duration of the project and the first and final public install of artworks. The publication was useful as a document explaining in a rather abstracted manner how the project progressed and materialized; the artwork unfortunately was less successful in this area. In the end I recognize that artwork was produced to hang in a final exhibition because we believed that artwork should be shown. Only after it was hung and unveiled to the public did members of our group realize that the ‘exhibition’ part of the exhibition was probably not necessary. The conversations and workshops communicated our purpose much more effectively and were enough on their own.
I think if I could choose a term (or two) to sum up the project it would not be consciousness, it would be curiosity and conversation.