Letʼs All Sacrifice Marilyn Monroe a comparative analysis of potlatch and polyphony as creative processes
“Production, after all, is the excretory phase in a process of appropriation.” Seth Price, Dispersion, 2008
tower blocks and excretion
This paper intends to examine the concepts of polyphony and potlatch, proposed by Mikhail Bakhtin and Georges Bataille respectively, as methods of the creative process through illustrated analysis. Polyphony was first presented in Bakhtinʼs Problems of Dostoevskyʼs Creative Art (1929) and potlatch in Batailleʼs The Accursed Share: Volume 1 (1949). The artist that provides the illustration, Norma Jeane, has been chosen because of his / her whole engagement with the concepts in his / her practice1. In this paper the analysis of the base concepts is complimented by presentation of their etymological histories prior to their appropriation as theories of creative process. Polyphony and potlatch are inseparable parallels as forms of creative processes, due in part to their influence from Marxist philosophy and their qualities in relation to entropy. They are both concerned with the notion of human relations, the social context and the consequences of these to production.
historical data : I / II / III
historical data : I / polyphony
Polyphony is a term for a musical texture that consists of two or more independent melodic voices sounded simultaneously to produce a single harmonic melody. Derived from the Greek for ʻmany-soundingʼ, the term is used in distinction to monophony, ʻone-soundingʼ, and homophony, ʻlikesoundingʼ. The term polyphony was first described in the 9th century culminating in what was described as the great polyphonic era of the 15th and 16th century. The structure of polyphony is concerned with the relationship between the multiple independent voices, their tones, points, references and
Â Â especially the implicit process of dialogue required to produce a single harmonious melodic texture.
historical data : II / potlatch
The word potlatch is derived from the language of the Chinook, an indigenous tribe of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America, meaning to gift or to consume. The term is used to describe a festival ceremony, with the main function of re-distributing accumulated wealth and the tendering of services intra- and inter-clan, tribe or family. Similar elements have been observed in archaic societies worldwide. Potlatch, when observed in social sciences, is described as a gift economy which stands in contrast to a barter or market economy. A gift, as the basis of the society, enters the people, be they giver or receiver, into a cycle of redistribution of surplus and hierarchy. This act of giving has been observed as antagonistic, resulting in rivalry between communities and the destruction and sacrifice of wealth, as a consequence of its relationship to the hierarchy structure.
historical Data : III / norma jeane baker Norma Jeane Mortenson was born on the 1st of June 1926, in Los Angeles, California and was later christened Norma Jeane Baker. Born to a single mother in poverty she entered foster care at a young age. By 1956 she had legally changed her name to Marilyn Monroe and had begun to build a highly successful career as a model and movie star. Following a series of praised movie roles and a string of marriages and relationships, Marilyn Monroe, the most famous girl in the world, died from an overdose of barbiturates, which was officially classified as a probable suicide.
the espousal based tribute a: the adoption of a previously banned musical theory of melodic harmony and its process of composition from the middle ages. Polyphonyʼs use in relation to literature began during the later half of the 19th century, either as polyphony or its close relative in music counterpoint, describing vast scenes of dialogue that exist with a multitude of characters with conflicting voices. The method of presenting multiple voices in conversation or argument was central to the writing of Fyodor Dostoevsky, the work on which Bakhtin based his concept of polyphony in his 1963 edition of The Problems of Dostoevskyʼs Poetics2.
The adoption of the term polyphony was not a straight exchange of opposed musical voices for the voices of opposed characters, which was its prior utility but Bakhtinʼs espousal was the basis of an alternative view of the world that polyphony allows.
Bakhtinʼs presentation of polyphony has led to many critics misunderstanding of the concept, for example René Wellekʼs reading of polyphony as “after all, only a metaphor.” (1980 p.32) This is due to the fact that polyphony is never explicitly defined in The Problems of Dostoevskyʼs Poetics or in any reworking of the texts and that Bakhtin is not providing us with an analysis of Dostoevskyʼs work but rather the possibility of a new alternative form of thinking.
Although Bakhtin does not present an explicit definition, it is possible to build our own components, from his writing, to understand what polyphony is. The first and possibly most important component is the notion of the “new position of the author” (1963 p.63). This notion is important because without which, it would not be possible for the other components to exist, restraining them to
monologic thought. From this new position, the author is able to explore the second important characteristic of polyphony, “the dialogic sense of truth” (1963 p.110). The “new position of the author” and the “dialogic sense of truth” are components of a single phenomenon of polyphony, the “formshaping ideology”, without which none of the other traits of polyphony can exist (1990 p.234) and allows polyphony to be a pursuit for new perspective of thinking that is able to renounce the “principles behind the entire ideological culture of recent times” (1963 p.80).
The result of this shift in the authorial position, Bakhtin explains, in part, through the renouncement of the “essential surplus of meaning” (1963 p73). Here Bakhtin is referring to the notion of the surplus of power that a monologic author holds over the characters that he has created. Bakhtin also introduces a second trait of polyphony; a monologic surplus creates finalized character identities, whereas polyphony allows for the existence for unfinalized personas (1963 p.63). The renouncing of the monologic surplus creates the possibility for independent voices to exist in harmonious dialogue, referencing its musical origin.
The existence of unfinalized personas that exist on the same plane as the author allows both to engage in genuine open-ended dialogue (1990 p.241). Bakhtin develops this desire for the equality of voices and the possibility of true dialogue into what he terms as event potential or eventness (1963 p.81). A work of polyphony, in contradiction to a monophonic work, allows for not only the reader, but for the author, to be genuinely surprised by the responses of the plurality of consciousnesses (1990 p.257).
Each of these components, although not a definitive list, requires not only the need for a radical change in authorial position (1990p.233) but suggest that the manner in which Dostoevsky composes his literature “differs sharply from that of other writers” (1963 p.39). This difference develops the notion that not only is polyphony a renouncement “ideological thinking of recent times” (1963
p.80) but that polyphony is an alternative method of the creative process that can exists beyond the limits of literature.
b: the adoption of a previously banned socio-cultural institution of the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest of America. During the beginning of the 20th century a focus on archaic societies to help further the understanding of how contemporary homo sapiens behave in social groups emerged through the work, of primarily French sociologists, especially that of Èmile Durkheim. The publication of his The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912) and his position as the founder and editor of the French journal LʼAnnée Sociologique (est.1898) heavily influenced the field of modern social science. One of Durkheimʼs students Marcel Mauss, who was also his nephew and a contributor to LʼAnnée Sociologique, was one of the first people to observe and study the practice of potlatch among the indigenous tribes of the Pacific Northwest of America3.
Maussʼs Essai sur le Don (The Gift), 1950 not only has become a seminal work on the anthropological study of the act of giving but influenced George Bataille to produce his own study, The Accursed Share, (1967), on which our investigation is built. Whereas Maussʼs study was rooted in the act of giving from an anthological perspective, Bataille furthered this basis in anthropological methods of understanding and pursued the possibility of a reformation in political and economic theory.
The Accursed Share (1967) presents Batailleʼs proposal for an alternative cultural structure in his theoretical introduction and follows the meaning and laws of his General Economy with the presentation of historical data that supports his proposal, including the institution of potlatch.
This proposal of an alternative form of political economy is built from the reduction of his study to, not as production and consumption as a whole but rather as relatively independent components of productive society; the study of how it consumes (1949 p.19). To progress this Bataille introduces consumption on a base, biological level;
The living organism, in a situation determined by the play of energy on the surface of the globe, ordinarily receives more energy than is necessary for maintaining life; the excess energy (wealth) can be used for the growth of a system (e.g., an organism); if the system can no longer grow, or if the excess cannot be completely absorbed in its growth, it must necessarily be lost without profit; it must be spent, willingly or not, gloriously or catastrophically. (1949 p.21)
This illustration contains the base principles that define General Economy; the natural movement of energy, the notion of an excess or surplus for any given organism, the inescapable need for unprofitable loss and the inevitability of the re-balancing of accumulated excess wealth.
Utilising the historical and present data that Bataille collates in the later part of The Accursed Share, the base illustration of consumption is expanded. Through the study of this data two modes of necessary expenditure are formed. Either there must be a conscious and luxurious consumption of excess, which is drawn from the opulent festivals of archaic societies or there is an unconscious and catastrophic squandering of excess, which most commonly found in completely destructive acts of sacrifice or war.
So here arise two other aspects of Batailleʼs General Economy, the desire to consume in communal opulence as spectacle or ceremony and the necessity to consume accumulated wealth in destructive acts. For this study it is important to note that potlatch accommodates both of these aspects through the cycle of the gift, for the act through obligation requires continual redistribution of wealth, sacrificing possession, but also through human rivalry can take the form of the expenditure of wealth as a social spectacle of destructive sacrifice.
The notion of rivalry in relation to potlatch sets the act of giving into a paradox of acquisition (1949 p.68). The paradox is the contradiction of the desire to squander material wealth and the inevitable acquisition of rank above others it succeeds, until the possibility of “the one who has the last word” (1949 p.71).
Through Batailleʼs reduction of social behavior to the general movement of energies on the surface of the globe (1949 p.21) it is possible to apply the laws of thermodynamics and importantly the concept of entropy;
Every time a certain quantity of energy is converted from one condition to another, an amount of energy that cannot be harnessed remains. This inaccessible energy is described by the term “entropy”. (2004 p160)
This application builds a parallel between Batailleʼs understanding of potlatch and the second law of thermodynamics, where the “absurdity” of the acquisition of rank through expenditure is the remaining energy that cannot be harnessed after an energy conversion.
c: the adoption of the most famous girl in the world.
Norma Jeane Baker, who was in fact the actress and icon Marilyn Monroe, was born in Los Angeles on the 1st if June 1926. Her death, whether through accident, conspiracy or suicide, occurred during the night between the 4th and 5th of August 1962. Norma Jeane (the artist) was born when Norma Jeane (the movie star) died4.
The paradox of her birth, a conscious decision on behalf of the artist, renounces biography that has become “a common sin when talking about artists” (2004 p.177)5. The freedom of identity allows the artist to exist as multiples, as uncountable versions but also, as opposed to the Norma Jeane (the movie star)6, Norma Jeane (the artist) never appears in public.
Norma Jeaneʼs conscious decision to exist in an overabundance of identity and information (2007 p.6), reinforces the physical absence of the artist while allowing the artist to focus on specific issues that make up his / her practice. These issues have been chosen as consciously as the paradox of the artistʼs identity. A number of works exist as tributes to the work of other artists and intellectuals, building on the notions of the authorship of the art of work and uniqueness (2004 p.179) and appropriation. This issue develops in three distinct forms of collaboration; the notion of a tribute, the audience as participant and collaboration in the manufacture. Alessandra Galasso goes as far as to say that, the presence of other entities is a prerequisite that the artist cannot give up. (2004 p.179) The most significant appropriation in relation to Norma Jeaneʼs practice is the concern of the movement of energies, especially the notion of entropy and potlatch.
d: Ptolemy and Copernicusʼs gift
Changing from the perspectives of restrictive economy to those of general economy actually accomplishes a Copernican transformation: a reversal of thinking – and of ethics. (1949 p.25) Dostoevsky carried out, as it were, a small-scale Copernican revolution when he took what had been a firm and finalizing authorial definition and turned it into an aspect of the heroʼs self-definition. (1963 p.49)
With the printing of De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestrium (1543), Nicolaus Copernicus offered the world an alternative model of the universe to the ancient Ptolemaic model of a geocentric universe. Copernicusʼs alternative placed the sun at the center of the universe – heliocentric – rather than the earth, which created a paradigm shift in thought resulting in the scientific revolution of the 16th century.
The fact that both Bakhtin and Bataille were familiar with the consequences of Copernicusʼs proposal indicate that in their referencing they are in the process of proposing alternatives to contemporary common thought in an attempt to cause a “reversal of thinking” (1949 p.25) in the principles of “the entire ideological culture of [their] time” (1963 p.80).
It is possible to interpret two books within each book, perhaps most obviously with The Accursed Share. Both are rooted in their analysis of their independent subjects but by appropriating Copernicusʼs gift of the possibility of revolution through theory, their prerogative is to present an alternative perspective, through the commentary of their contemporary ideological culture; a perspective that allows a common self consciousness (1949 p.190) as one of a plurality of independent and unmerged voices and consciousnesses (1963 p.6).
the entropy of 4 hoovers and other electrical appliance stories
But “you canʼt have your cake and eat it too,” the saying goes. (1949 p.70)
Norma Jeane (the artist) began his / her artistic career in 1994 with a portfolio entitled Who is Norma Jeane? and since then, the production, accumulation and dispersion of energy have remained central themes to his / her entire practice (2004 p.181). As much of a conscious decision as the paradox of their identity, the artist represents his / her fascination with the movement of energy through the concepts of entropy and potlatch. These two concepts are not by definition theories of the creative process, in contradiction to polyphony, but by appropriating the concepts Norma Jeane utilises their potential as creative processes7.
Since 1997 Norma Jeane has produced a series of works under the title potlatch, explicitly appropriating the notions of the concept, described by Galasso as “contemporary version[s] of ancient sacrifices” (2004 p.184). This having been said it is not possible for Batailleʼs understanding of potlatch within his broader General Economy to exist without the concept of entropy, although here, mirroring Batailleʼs study of consumption they shall study them relatively independently of each other8.
The practice of potlatch amongst the indigenous tribes of the Pacific Northwest of America, at first observation, can be seen as an attempt to redress the accumulation of the surplus energy that cannot be used in the maintenance of life and the growth of the collective society. Prior to the consequence on the societyʼs hierarchy, it is possible to view the act of the gift or even the act of destruction as a means of squandering excess resources without profit, potlatch as a mode of loss not acquisition (1949 p.67) precisely illustrated in Norma Jeaneʼs first work in the potlatch series Potlatch 1.1
The autonomous destruction of 140 bottles of mineral water though freezing is an action, not considering external consequences, completes Batailleʼs desire for the consumption of “senseless luxury” without profit (1949 p.35). The senseless luxury in Potlatch 1.1 can be seen as commercially bottled water, the retaining of a base requirement of life for profit accumulated and exuberantly destroyed in a public arena, the art gallery. The same can be said for Potlatch 3.1 / A bout de soufflé (1998) with the autonomous mutual destruction of four vacuum cleaners, a technological commodity of wealth (fig.9). In contrast, Potlatch 10.1 / I am that which must ever surpass itself (2005), involves a physical sacrifice rather than one of technological autonomy. One single strand of hair was produced from the cutting off of one persons uninterrupted hair growth of several years, the material object sacrificed reintroduces the idea of the desire of vanity as a personal luxury (fig.10). These actions are isolated gestures towards the fulfillment of a limitless loss (1949 p.23).
It is impossible to view Norma Jeaneʼs work as isolated actions, as it is impossible to view the act of the gift or the act of sacrificial destruction within potlatch, as an isolated action without consequences. This is what Bataille calls “the paradox of the gift” (1949 p.68). The problem that arises is the relationship between the giver and the receiver and significantly the human condition with consumption without gain, “hence giving must become acquiring a power” (1949 p.69); “the power of the gift” (1949 p.70), the power of obligation. This obligation undermines the actuality of a gift, as an agonistic gesture towards social hierarchy (2001 p.15);
“[…] - what is appropriated in the squander is the prestige it gives to the squanderer (whether an individual or a group), which is acquired by him as a possession and which determines his rank;
- conversely, rank in society (or the rank of one society amongst others) can be appropriation in the same way as a tool or a field; […] it is ultimately a source of profit […]” (1949 p.72)
What this outline displays is the paradox of the gift in whole; through potlatch, comes not a glorious squandering of excess energy rather the retention of it. This having been said, this statement is reflexive, because for “the man, [in the potlatch,] claims to have appropriated what is essentially un-appropriable” (2001 p.23), this un-appropriable entity is the societies ideal of religious equilibrium, he has attained the sacred9. For Batailleʼs reading in relation to the formulation of General Economy this does not suffice. The basic laws of potlatch, as an “institution whose meaning is to remove the productive consumption” as it does withdraw commodity from circulation in society (1949 p.75), but the obsession with the accumulation of rank as a wealth and the rivalry that is associated with its position in society means that the man is doomed to destruction himself (1949 p.75) and his amassed excess will be appropriated by another.
Here, uniquely, it is important to apply the second law of thermodynamics;
The entropy of an isolated system consisting of two regions of space, isolated from one another each in thermodynamic equilibrium, but not in equilibrium with each other, will when the isolation that separates the two regions is broken, so that the two regions become able to exchange matter and energy, tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value when the jointly communicating system reaches thermodynamic equilibrium. (2007 pp.47-79)
Introduced in 1865, the second law implies that all energy is constant, the entropy, the remaining energy that cannot be harnessed in reactions, accumulates indefinitely until equilibrium. The entropy is therefore what Bataille is describing as the “excess energy” that every system receives and has the necessity to lose (1949 p.21). The application of entropy allows us to further this necessity; the necessity to lose until all systems on the surface of the globe10 to exist in communal equilibrium.
Having discovered the coexistence of entropy and concept of excess energy it is possible to view Norma Jeaneʼs practice not only as “contemporary version[s] of ancient sacrifices” but as illustrations of this coexistence. Potlatch 1.2 / Cool Under Pressure (1998)11, a commercial freezer unit was filled with distilled water, closed with automatic locking stapes and left to destroy itself, illustrates the danger of retaining and not squandering the excess (fig.11). Here the squandering of a commercial commodity is not dependant on the act of initiated sacrifice but on its inherent excess energy that leads to its own destruction.
Galassoʼs quote of Bataille that “potlatch is the opposite of a principle of conservation” (2004 p.184) is misleading to the point of misinterpretation unless considered with the concept of entropy and that of rank as excess energy. For without this, it would be possible to see potlatch as opposed to the conservation of mass, or as Bataille puts it, a “complimentary form of an institution whose meaning is in the fact that it withdraws wealth from productive consumption” (1949 pp.75-76). This however places excess energy as a material thing and as we have seen the excess energy is transferable to a perception of rank, an immaterial thing, reinforcing potlatchʼs compliance with the conservation of energy and the laws of thermodynamics. Therefore it is not possible as Galasso puts it to “constitute[s] the possibility of reversing the principle of entropy” (2004 p.184). This misinterpretation may come from the omission of potlatch, through metaphor, “as a game” (1985 p.122) prior to its completion as a game “at the mercy of provocation” and then as a system of social energy dispersal in The Accursed Share12.
Potlatch 9.1 / Entropy Department (2004) is the most aesthetically successful of Norma Jeaneʼs work to fuse together appropriated concepts. Throughout its installation an industrial boiler continually evaporated bottled water, with the empty bottles accumulated around the boiler (fig.12). The process of evaporation, sacrificing the commodity of bottled water usually used in commercial office spaces, is intrinsically an illustrative process of the principle
of conservation. Although, normally completed with the collection of the condensed steam, Norma Jeaneʼs chooses to illustrate the process with the accumulation of the empty bottles. Even with the sacrifice of a necessity of life entropy, excess energy, accumulates.
The notion of entropy in Norma Jeaneʼs work is not only confined to the Potlatch Series, for example Everyday Sight / Tribute to Aldous Huxely (20022003) where the disposable contact lens used daily, were no longer disposed of and achieved completing the cycle of one year (fig.13). In another work To Die For (2001), again not a part of the potlatch series, the concern of the desire for material luxury and wealth in the face inescapable catastrophe is raised (1949 p.25). To Die For (2001) comprises of a set of jewelry made from blown Pyrex that contains pure sulphuric acid, “thus they correspond to all those features that make an authentic piece of jewellery an object of desire (fig.14): rarity, beauty and the danger that comes from wearing it” (2004 p.81) emulating Bataillieʼs description of luxury the thing that “presents living matter and mankind with their fundamental problems” (1949 p.12); the problem of restricting the flow of energies through luxurious accumulation.
The most common object appropriated by Norma Jeane throughout her practice is the use of commercially available electrical appliances. We have already seen their use in Potlatch 1.1, Potlatch 3.1 / A bout de soufflé, Potlatch 1.2 / Cool under pressure and now in Potlatch 4.2 / Sleeping beauties will never wake up (2009). Their use is relative to their production as commodities, which can only take place by a system in excess, and their position as objects of desire since their mass domestic appeal. In Potlatch 4.2 / Sleeping beauties will never wake up (2009) four kitchen electrical appliances, a freezer, a refrigerator, a washing machine and electric oven were place on a base of polyethylene, the same material used for butcherʼs chopping boards (fig.15). On the opening night of the exhibition four Norma Jeanes destroyed the appliances, using the tools visible in the documentation,
in front of an amassed public. For the rest of the exhibition the residue remained as it was left from the public sacrifice.
This act of public sacrifice evokes the desires of luxury, the relationship of entropy with excess energy but also importantly “the social phenomenon of the potlatch” (2001 p.4). This “social phenomenon” is an area of the institution of potlatch that we have not approached in depth in this section, besides its relevance for the activation of rank as wealth, this will develop through the observation of the social role of in Norma Jeaneʼs work.
manifesto of an unfinalized character identity
Norma Jeane (the artist) began his / her artistic career in 1994 with a portfolio entitled Who is Norma Jeane?, a question that reinforces the artistʼs decision to exist in, what Anthony Huberman describes as, an “overabundance of identity” (2007 p.6). The position of a created artistic identity that exists with and in many “conflicting identities” (2007 p.6) alludes to the basis of polyphony in literature; the dialogue of a plurality of, fully valid, independent and unmerged voices and conflicting identities in genuine polyphonic harmony (1963 p.6)13.
The conscious appropriation of another personʼs identity not only allows the artist to “sweep away […] any biographical celebration” (2004 p.177) but also provides the opportunity for what Bakhtin calls a “new position of the author”, a prerequisite for the creative process of polyphony (1990 p.234). Norma Jeane (the artist) has taken this opportunity, forming “a proliferation of personalities” (2004 p.177), creating himself / herself as polyphonic.
The polyphonic position of the author demands for a “dialogic sense of truth” as opposed to a monophonic sense of truth that had comprised the novel before Dostoevsky (1990 p.234). What is at question is the conception of truth and expressly where “sematic authority” lies (1963 p.187). A work in a monophonic tradition is where authority lies solely with the author and the truth of the novel and characters is measured “against the authorʼs own ideology” (1990 p.238) where as in a work of polyphony, the characters are “not only objects of authorial discourse but also subjects of their own directly signifying discourse” (1963 p.7). Bakhtin here is developing the necessity of a polyphonic author to exist as one consciousness amongst a plurality of consciousnesses who have “partially escape[d] his control” (1990 p.240). This conscious partial loss of control over the semantic authority results in a “plurality of independent and unmerged voices and consciousnesses” (1963 p.7) that are able to enter in dialogue as equals, including the author, with the
direct power to mean “belong[ing] to several voices” (1990 p.239), distinct from that of the author. Bakhtin proposes that only this will build a genuine sense of truth rather than monophonic authorial bias.
The characters of a polyphonic novel, it therefore can be said, can only exist as genuine equal consciousnesses with the author under a “radical change in the authorʼs position (1963 p.67). Bakhtin explains the new position of the author with the use of the term “surplus” (1963 p.70), specifically the notion of a monologic authorʼs “surplus of vision with respect to their characters” (1990 p.241). This can be explained by authorial access to “knowledge of essential facts unavailable to the character” (1990 p.241) over and above the surplus of vision that is encountered in daily life. A monologic authorʼs access to this surplus creates characters that are finalized in their existence, placing him above them, restricting them to his will and not allowing for genuine dialogue (1963 p.72). A polyphonic authorial position creates unfinalizable “characters capable of answering him” in genuine dialogue (1963 p.63), which only occurs when this essential surplus has been sacrificed.
Huberman describes Norma Jeaneʼs choice to exist in an overabundance of identity as a strategy to “remain elusive and hard to pin down” (2007 p.6) but in relation to Norma Jeane taking the opportunity to create his / her identity as polyphonic it would be more apt to say that his / her strategy is to remain unfinalizable to any biographical information or physical presence. When the necessity for him / her to appear in public, a Norma Jeane is present but this is just a person who, for the duration, is Norma Jeane. His / her identity is appropriated by a plurality of personas, who perform given roles as Norma Jeane. For the work P4 Sky (1999) a Norma Jeane lay on a massage bed while being massaged by electro stimulators (fig.16) or for Drum Machine (2000) a Norma Jeane danced to the rhythm of her own heart (fig.17). Each independent Norma Jeane acts within his or her own capacity in dialogue with the artist, with the Norma Jeane of one piece existing as one consciousness within a plurality of consciousness that exist within the artist. Norma Jeaneʼs
“identity is administered” (2008 p.17) allowing her to renounce his / her dominant authorial surplus.
It is important to note that this renouncement of authorial surplus is not total. Polyphony is a theory of the creative process and an author must retain the surplus “necessary to carry forward the story” (1963 p.73), the retention of a surplus that allows the initiation of dialogue; “a purely information baring surplus” (1963 p.73). Bakhtin also suggest that within this retained surplus lies the ability for the author to use his “outsideness and experience to ask the right sort of questions” (1990 p.242). It would be possible to define this type of retained surplus as that which allows the author to create situations in the pursuit of a dialogical sense of truth.
Bakhtinʼs vision of a work of polyphony is built on the creative process of the novel but it is “not limited to [Dostoevskyʼs] works” and that it “should be used in many more ways” (1990 p.231). For this to be possible there must occur an appropriation of the components that make up polyphony. The radical new position of the author, is perhaps that most difficult to achieve, but as Norma Jeane has shown it is possible, whereas the creation of dialogic situations are easier to appropriate in contemporary art. To expand the creation of provocative situations Bakhtin explains this issue as a “dotted line drawn and redrawn” that has the possibility to not only surprise the readers but also the author; a polyphonic work “can be realized only if there is genuine surprise” (1990 p.257). Surprise can only occur with characters that are “genuinely unfinalizable”. The polyphonic created situation Bakhtin terms, as “event potential” (1963 p.81).
The event potential, simply observed as a “live event, played put at the point of dialogic meeting between two or several consciousnesses” (1963 p.88), is an aspect of polyphony that deals with human relations and the social context of creation. Potlatch 7.1 / Reasonable Excess (2001) is the purest example of this in the work of Norma Jeane (fig.17); at PS1 in New York, a freezer unit
was installed with the potential for participants to consume its contents, 700 cans and bottles of beer. In addition, music was played and in contradiction to local laws participants were able to smoke inside the gallery. This installation builds a situation that by its very nature is full of event potential (1963 p.81) While this form of artistic appropriation is applicable to many artistic practices14, what differs here is Norma Jeaneʼs position as the author (artist), as he / she himself / herself is as unfinalizable as the characters that participate, allowing him / her to engage in genuine dialogue. In contrast a monophonic artistʼs, one whose biography can be celebrated and recognized, “consciousness is placed above” (1963 p.81) other entities, not allowing for a polyphonic artist to exist on a communal single plane (1963 p.84).
To reinforce Norma Jeaneʼs existence on a communal single plane with others Galasso describes her relation with others as; “the presence of other entities is a prerequisite that the artist cannot give up” (2004 p.179). This prerequisite occurs in a number of different methods, as the participation of others in a social context, Potlatch 7.1 / Reasonable Excess (2001), the collaboration of participants to complete the work in the absence of the artist, The Straight Story (2008)15 (fig.19) and collaboration the manufacture of the work, Potlatch 6.1 / The Happy Surrender (2001-04)16 (fig.20) or Diamona / Tribute to Federico Fellini (2004)17 (fig.21).
Another aspect in which Norma Jeaneʼs work exists with multiple consciousnesses, besides that of other entities, is that of the use of versions within his / her practice. In a similar vein to the renouncement of hagiographical temptation, described as “a common sin” by Galasso (2004 p.177), Norma Jeaneʼs works maybe financed or initially bought but the works may not be, through legal contract, sold on although they can be gifted or destroyed (2007 p.65). This fact, together with the volatile existence of his / her work, either through their own sacrifice or the ending of the permitted situation construct and of a polyphonic plurality of voices18 lead to the existence of multiple versions that are each distinct. Potlatch 1.1 (1997) and
Potlatch 1.1 (2002 – 03) (fig.22), exist as virtual clones of each other whereas Potlatch 3.2 / Kick the Shit Out (2009) is an extension of Potlatch 3.1 / A bout de Souffle (1998) involving increased audience control, removing the responsibility of sacrifice from the artist to an audience conspirator (fig.23).
Polyphony as a creative process demands a “radical change in authorial position” (1963 p.67) that desires the pursuit of the realization of genuine dialogue between a plurality of unfinalized consciousnesses. For its appropriation from a creative process of literature to that of contemporary art, situations of genuine dialogue, whether literal or theoretical, must be created by the radical renouncement of artistic dominance. Norma Jeaneʼs existence as a polyphonic artist can only occur through the appropriation of both polyphony, as a theory of the creative process through a social context, and potlatch as a social phenomenon of destructive practice.
curiosity castrated the cat / dispersion of dotted lines
“We place a living cat into a steel chamber, along with a device containing a vial of hydrocyanic acid. There is, in the chamber, a very small amount of a radioactive substance. If even a single atom of the substance decays during the test period, a relay mechanism will trip a 19 hammer, which will, in turn, break the vial and kill the cat.” (1935 p.331)
Norma Jeane (the artist) is the most complete illustration of the fusing of the concepts of potlatch and polyphony as creative process, through the manner in which he / she has appropriated them. It would be possible to cite a vast number of artists who utilise aspects such as destruction or sacrifice and a focus on a social context, but none appropriate either base concepts as full creative processes20. To explain this by example, it is intended to examine what has become a defining text of contemporary practice of the 1990s onwards, Relational Aesthetics (2001).
Nicholas Bourriard first coined relational aesthetics in 1996 in regard to “a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social contexts” (1998 p.113). Initially this statement seems to fall in line with aspects of both potlatchʼs social phenomenon and the dialogic nature of polyphony as creative practices but in considering each as intended, simple problems arise.
Relational Aesthetics fails to recognize the antagonistic play of the gift in Batailleʼs concept of potlatch in the General Economy and, by example of Norma Jeane; it does not complete the renouncement of the entropic wealth that is a result of artistic production21. Although Bourriard attempts to address the notion of consumption in society, he does no more than to leave Batailleʼs proposed concept as a question on the brink of being answered (2001 p.56) returning the theory to the antagonistic moment of embryonic conception in critique of the “riches an unforeseeable pleasures”(1998 p.104) that surplus accumulation and production brings.
Relational Aesthetics also falls short of producing work that can be considered genuinely polyphonic. Aspects do align themselves when applied to polyphony but a fundamental component is overlooked “the new position of the author” (1990 p.237). Bourriard does position relational art as an “arena of exchange” (1998 p.18) built on “human relations and their social context” (1998 p.113) akin to the constructed situations for social exchange in polyphony. Where its limitation arises is the retention of the artist, and only the artist, to semantic dominance. This quells any opportunity for genuine polyphonic dialogue of the sense of truth from contrasting and unmerged consciousnesses, as relation aesthetics “rest too comfortably with an ideal of subjectivity as whole and of community as immanent togetherness” (2001 p.67). For Bourriard, the artist holds semantic dominance as “the mannequin of his own subjectivity”22 (1998 p.103).
Another trend in artistic categorization saw resurgence in the 1990s, partially due to relation aesthetics, was community based art practices. These practices are typified by work that;
“Decisively shifts the locus of aesthetic meaning from the moment of creative plentitude in the solitary act of make (or the viewers imaginative reconstruction of this act) to a social and discursive realm of shared experience, dialogue, and physical movement.” (2004 p.54)
This definition of contemporary community based practice comes much closer to satisfying both concepts, allowing for the possibility of a genuine dialogue in polyphony and also attempts to reach the social phenomenon and energy movements of potlatch but once again it fails in relation to the renouncement of the essential surplus of both concepts23.
These brief examples show the difficulty in successfully appropriating potlatch and polyphony as creative process, something that Norma Jeane has fully accomplished, utilising an unrelated analogy it is possible to illustrate how Norma Jeane has accomplished the appropriation.
The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics (1935) published by Erwin Schrödinger, which contained the thought experiment that has become known as Schrödingerʼs Cat. Its nature, as a thought experiment, allows a plurality of independent consciousnesses to enter into a genuine dialogue regarding the truth of its outcome, a polyphonic dialogue of the sense of its truth. This renounces Schrodingerʼs authorial dominance, for he only creates a situation for possible outcomes. Theoretically the possible sacrificing of a cat is replaced by a possible consumption of excess energy therefore turning it into a pure example of potlatch. The fact that there are a multitude of possible outcomes aligns it with the dotted lines of event potential. It was also proposed as an alternative to the academic norm of quantum mechanics comparable to both Batailleʼs and Bakhtinʼs desire for an alternative mode of thinking24.
The base of this thought experiment lies in the speculation of the paradox of whether the cat is alive or dead. If curiosity is satisfied then the thought experiment becomes, in a polyphonic sense finalized or in a potlatch sense the knowledge is acquired. To exemplify this, it is possible to utilise Hubermanʼs mediation on information, curiosity and knowledge; when finalized information is given “speculation gives way to consensus […] eventually, we have a dictionary definition” (2007 p.4) Norma Jeaneʼs creation as polyphonic and his / her continual pursuit of redressing accumulated wealth keeps her position in speculation.
Only one issue remains in relation to this illustration and Norma Jeaneʼs practice, the entropic surplus of both polyphony and potlatch as creative processes and where it exists, which if not addressed will regress them to accumulative monologic thought with the inescapable catastrophic expenditure. The only place in which it can exist is in the residue of the thought experiment and therefore in the residue of Norma Jeaneʼs work; entropy is the excretion of a creative process.
Referencing Batailleʼs notion of consumption at a base level and this studyʼs application of entropy, “if the excess cannot be completely absorbed […] it must necessarily be lost without profit” (1949 p.21) until the “jointly communicating system[s] reach thermodynamic equilibrium” (2007 p.50). This can only be reached by dispersing all accumulated surplus equally among all living organisms.
Therefore, Norma Jeane needs to have adopted a means of dispersing the entropic excretion that his / her creative process. The method employed is relative to a repositioning of an artist and the value placed on what is produced. As we have seen, for Norma Jeane, this comes in three forms; the legal contract that prohibits re-sale of the work, the one time sacrificing of commodity leaving energy that cannot be harnessed and the focus on a plurality of consciousnesses. These factors mean that, everybody, not just the artist “is called to take responsibility for his / her own actions” (2004 p.177), in contrast to the prevailing convention, through the social dispersion of the entropic excrement that demands the pursuit that lies on “man and only man” (1949 p.40) to exist within a plurality of independent self-consciousnesses (1990 p.265) expend in thermodynamic equilibrium.
Thus, Norma Jeane presents an appropriated creative process that provides the possibility of an object that is nothing (1949 p.186); letting us all sacrifice Marilyn Monroe in equal proportion.
endnotes tower blocks and excretion 1. It is important to note that for this study Norma Jeane will also be referred to by an undetermined use of the pronoun; he / she, his / her, himself / herself. This is because Norma Jeane dose not exist as a physical person, as will be studied through this study, who has renounced sexual gender amounts other characteristics.
the espousal based tribute 2. In 1929 Problems of Dostoevskyʼs Creative Art was published. In 1967 a second edition was published under the name Problems of Dostoevskyʼs Poetics, which had a lager emphasis on polyphony as a creative process. This second edition is the one referenced in this study. 3. The first documented reference to potlatch is in the work of Frank Boas in the 1880s with his observations of the Kwakiutl people (although this is his own created term) of the Pacific Northwest Coast of America. The preferred term is Kwakwakaʼwakw and describes the indigenous people of modern day Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. 4. There is the possibility to say that through Marilyn Monroeʼs suicide, if it were indeed suicide, was her attempt to redress the in balance that her phenomenal fame had brought. It is also possible to say that the way in which she led her life, through luxurious consumption, promiscuous sexual relations and her early death, by any method, were symptoms of the imbalance of the “superabundance” of excess energy (1949 p.27). 5. Norma Jeane renounces all biographical information. This having been said, various people have begun to apply information on the artist. For example Huberman refers to him / her as “Norma Jeane (Italian Artist)” or the appropriation of the paradox his / her birth acting as a CV or biography for a number of galleries. See Appendix 2. In contrast it should be suggested that Norma Jeaneʼs biography actually comes from the body of work that has been produced; the body of the artist is the body of the work. See Appendix 3. 6. Even through the multiple identities of Norma Jeane Morterson / Norma Jeane Baker / Norma Jeane Dougherty / Norma Jeane DiMaggio / Marilyn Monroe she was still under the same dominant consciousness, even when trying to escape the celebrity undercover (fig.7).
the entropy of 4 hoovers and other electrical appliance stories 7. It should be noted that for any creative process to be undertaken, the system that undertakes it must be in excess energy as it is a process that is devoid of maintaining life (1949 p.21). This, along with the application of material value or wealth to products, leaves creative production as a method of retention and accumulation of the excess energy. 8. “Production and consumption are linked together, but, considered jointly, it does not see, difficult to study them as one might study an elementary operation relatively independent of that which it is not” (1949 p.19). This method of analysis is not only suited for this study but the referencing of it, is an attempt to illustrate the close tie between entropy and Batailleʼs potlatch as the same as the tie between production and consumption.
9. For this study, the notion of the sacred does not need to be addressed besides the understanding that the system of potlatch, while performing the role of re-distribution of wealth and hierarchy in society, these societies were built through early forms of religious institution. The notion of the material and human sacrifice and expenditure, discussed in The Accursed Share (1949) come from societies that hold distinctly different traditions to those of the present. This footnote refers to the notion of a man in potlatch attaining the same state as the sun; “which dispenses energy – wealth – without any return” (1949 p.28). 10. “I will speak about the most general conditions of life, dwelling on one crucially important fact; solar energy is the source of life exuberant development” (1949 p.28). This communal equilibrium therefore is not limited to the human race but all organisms that utilise the solar energy, in any form, whether directly or through appropriation through others. 11. Potlatch 1.1 (1997) and Potlatch 1.2 / Cool under pressure (1998) – fig. 6 and fig. 9 respectively – are possibly the most straightforward realizations of the laws of thermodynamics. Fulfilling the first law of the conservation of energies through the consumption of potlatch and the residue of said energy transfer. The second is accomplished in the residue of the piece and through the use of freezer, the entropy approaches absolute minimum – the third law – while completing the sacrificial notions of potlatch and general economy. 12. This misinterpretation could perhaps be better understood by placing the development of Batailleʼs concept of expenditure and consumption as a chronology of appearance. Batailleʼs mediation began in reference in a number of texts, The Solar Anus (1927) Sacrificial Mutilation and the severed eat of Vincent Van Gogh (c.1930) prior to 1933, but took form as The Notion of Expenditure (1933). The notion of a “general economy” where expenditure or consumption rather than production was “the primary objective” (1949 p.9) was realized in the mediation and publication of The Accursed Share (1949). Therefore, not that Notions of Expenditure (1933) is wrong, The Accursed Share (1949) is a complete proposal rather than a meditation on a notion.
manifesto of an unfinalized character identity 13. Polyphonic here is intended in its original musical definition. 14. This consideration is expanded in the chapter Curiosity Castrated the Cat on page (?) 15.The Straight Story (2008), was commissioned by Frieze Projects for installment in the London Frieze Art Fair 2008. It consisted of three smoking cubicles, with a single chair, water dispenser and ashtray in each which allowed participants to smoke inside the Fair, in contradiction to the local laws. Each participant completed the installation in the eyes of Norma Jeane, becoming a Norma Jeane for the duration of a cigarette, as outlined in the liability waver that had to be signed before entering. 16. In Potlatch 6.1 / The Happy Surrender (2001-04) Norma Jeane collaborated with the innovative Swiss Cheese maker Willi Schmid to produce a small cheese made from donated human motherʼs milk.
17. “Scientists have been carrying out research on animal pheromones for several decades now. The discoveries have clarified the role of these substances in the processes of sexual attraction and, in some cases, led to practical agricultural and industrial applications. With respect to human beings, the matter is more complex. The degree to which pheromones influence courtship or purely chemical attraction has yet to be
elucidated. What has been determined with certainty is that our body produces pheromones in specific areas (armpits, around the nose and in the pubic area) and that we possess receptors which are able to detect them. Diomona is a fantastic name that was inspired by the character of Casanova in Fellini's eponymous film. It is a space that has been saturated with pheromones (both feminine and masculine) especially produced by the zurich polytechnic, and offers the viewer the opportunity to experiment personally with the effectiveness of these active principles. As s/he sits on the sofa, the pheromones contained in the furniture are transferred to her/his clothes, where they remain active for several weeks. The viewer is thus charged with a potential force of attraction that works at a chemical level, making her/him able to arouse sexual fantasies and desires.” From http://www.italianarea.it/index.php/Norma_Jeane/?idartista=1260874266#p [accessed 31 October 2009]
18. Polyphonic plurality of voices here is intended in its original musical definition
curiosity castrated the cat / dispersion of dotted lines 19. This quote is paraphrased from Schrödingerʼs original text; The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics (1935). Please see Appendix 4 for the original extract of the text. 20. There are a multitude of specific artist and movements that can either be seen to appropriate components of potlatch or polyphony or that in hindsight can have components applied to them. Examples include the practice of Michael Landy (Break Down (2001) and Art Bin (2010)), aspects of John Lathamʼs practice, especially Art and Culture (1966-69), Marcus Coatesʼ Journey to the Lower World (2004) and the practice of Stephen Williats. Relational Art of the 1990s and early 2000s also holds strong correalations with both concepts, as outlined in this chapter, Curiosity Castrated the Cat / Dispersion of Dotted Lines. So does the renewed contemporary interest in Community Based practices, for example, WochenKlauser and Helen and Newton Harrison. 21. Here it is necessary to say that Norma Jeane does complete this renouncement through her position in relation to the contemporary art market; “The works created can be financed or bought, but the artist does not allow them to be sold on (a contract has be signed). They can, however, be donated or destroyed” (2007 p.65). 22. The work of Rirkrit Tiravanija is a possible exception to Relational Aesthetics failure as successfully appropriating potlatch and polyphony. 23. The work of the organisation WochenKlauser is a possible exception to community based practices failure, as their practice is pursued without authorial dominance of one artist in the collective and their focus of community input, for example Shelter for Drug Addicted Women, Zurich, CH (1994). See [http://www.wochenklausur.at/] 24. An alternative ending analogy can be found in Appendix 5. It is possible to freely interchange the two analogies, Schrödingerʼs Cat Analogy and The Tetris Analogy.
appendix 1 / list of figures the espousal based tribute a:
Fig. 1: 1598 example of polyphony as a musical texture, Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina, The Kyrie, 1598. From http://www.gracenotes.esmartmusic.com/Resources1.html [accessed 12 December 2009]
Fig 2: Johann Sebastian Bach, The Art of Fugue from Contrpunctus XIV c.1658 From http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/66/Bach-unfinishedfugue.jpg [accessed 12 December 2009]
Fig 3: Edward Curtis, The North American Indians, c. 1907 From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Edward_Curtis_Image_005.jpg [accessed 12 December 2009]
Fig 4: Edward Curtis, The North American Indians, c. 1907 From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Edward_Curtis_Image_005.jpg [accessed 12 December 2009] FILE NO LONGER AVAILABLE ONLINE [09/01/2010]
Fig. 5: Marilyn Monroe in Seven Year Itch, 1954 From http://www.gabrielleteare.com/blog/wp‐ content/uploads/2009/06/moonro2.jpg [accessed 12 December 2009]
Fig. 6: Marilyn Monroe as Playboy Centerfold 1953 From http://caraphillips.wordpress.com/2007/1 1/09/photo‐subject‐meaning/222/ [accessed 12 December 2009]
Fig. 7: James Haspiel, Norma Jeane Baker / Marilyn Monroe Incognito in Los Angeles c. 1950s From http://drawsomethingawful.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/haspiel9.jpg [accessed 12 December 2009]
the entropy of 4 hoovers and other electrical appliance stories
Fig. 8: Norma Jeane, Potlatch 1.1, 1997 From http://www.25sec.net/archive/lecture‐lounge/vol01/_05.30.html [accessed 13 September 2009]
Fig. 9: Norma Jeane, Potlatch 3.1 / A bout de soufflé, (1998) From http://www.25sec.net/archive/lecture‐lounge/vol01/_05.30.html [accessed 03 February 2009]
Fig. 10: Norma Jeane, Potlatch 10.1 / I am that which must ever surpass itself, (2003 ‐ 05) From http://www.italianarea.it/index.php/Norma_Jeane/?idartista=1260874266#p [accessed 31 October 2009]
Fig. 11: Norma Jeane, Potlatch 1.2 / Cool under Pressure, (1998) From http://www.italianarea.it/index.php/Norma_Jeane/?idartista=1260874266#p [accessed 31 October 2009]
Fig. 12: Norma Jeane, Potlatch 9.1 / Entropy Department, (2002 – 03) From http://www.italianarea.it/index.php/Norma_Jeane/?idartista=1260874266#p [accessed 31 October 2009]
Fig. 13: Norma Jeane, Everyday Sight / Tribute Aldous Huxley, (2003 – 04) From http://www.italianarea.it/index.php/Norma_Jeane/?idartista=1260874266#p [accessed 31 October 2009]
Fig. 14: Norma Jeane, To Die For, (2001) From http://www.italianarea.it/index.php/Norma_Jeane/?idartista=1260874266#p [accessed 31 October 2009]
Fig. 15: Norma Jeane, Potlatch 4.2 / Sleeping beauties will never wake up, (2009) From http://www.sextantetplus.org/index.php?/projets/sleeping‐beauty‐goes‐wild/ [accessed 30 December 2009]
manifesto of an unfinalized character identity
Fig. 16: Norma Jeane, P4 Sky, (1999) From http://www.italianarea.it/index.php/Norma_Jeane/?idartista=1260874266#p [accessed 31 October 2009]
Fig. 17: Norma Jeane, Drum Machine, (2000) From http://www.italianarea.it/index.php/Norma_Jeane/?idartista=1260874266#p [accessed 31 October 2009]
Fig. 18: Norma Jeane, Potlatch 7.1 / Reasonable excess, (2001) From http://www.italianarea.it/index.php/Norma_Jeane/?idartista=1260874266#p [accessed 31 October 2009]
Fig. 19: Norma Jeane, The Straight Story, (2008) From http://www.db‐artmag.com/cms/upload/57/news/frieze/20_DSC_4303.jpg [accessed 11 March 2009] From http://www.artreview.com/profiles/blog/show?id=1474022%3ABlogPost%3A523893 [accessed 17 December 2009]
Fig. 20: Norma Jeane, Potlatch 6.1 / The happy surrender, (2001 – 04) From http://www.italianarea.it/index.php/Norma_Jeane/?idartista=1260874266#p [accessed 20 March 2009]
Fig. 21: Norma Jeane, Diomona / Tribute to Federico Fellini, (2004) From http://www.italianarea.it/index.php/Norma_Jeane/?idartista=1260874266#p [accessed 31 October 2009]
Fig. 22: Norma Jeane, Potlatch 1.1, (2003) and Potlatch 1.1 (1997) From http://www.italianarea.it/index.php/Norma_Jeane/?idartista=1260874266#p [accessed 31 October 2009] From http://www.25sec.net/archive/lecture‐lounge/vol01/_05.30.html [accessed 13 September 2009]
Fig. 23: Norma Jeane, Potlatch 3.2 / Kick the shit out (2008) and Potlatch 3.1 / A bout de soufflé, (1998) From http://www.sextantetplus.org/index.php?/projets/sleeping‐beauty‐goes‐wild/ [accessed 30 December 2009] From http://www.25sec.net/archive/lecture‐lounge/vol01/_05.30.html [accessed 13 September 2009]
appendix 2 / appropriation of the paradox of Norma Jeane used as a CV
“Norma Jeane (the artist) was born in Los Angeles when Marilyn Monroe (the movie star) died: in the night between August 4th and 5th, 1962. By taking possession of somebody elseʼs personal data, renouncing a specific gender, and creating a proliferation of personalities, NJ produces uncountable “copy and paste” versions of the persona in whom different features coexist, transcending any possible existing person. S/he is an artist without a body, and therefore without a personal biography that extends beyond his/her artistic curriculum.”
CV produced for Norma Jeane used for the Greenwashing exhibition at the Sandretto Rebaudengo Foundation, February 2008 Based on Alessandra Galassoʼs essay Art as a Virus 2004 http://www.thebookmakers.net/greenwashing/cv/NORMAJEAN.pdf [accessed 28 September 2009]
appendix 3 / building the body of the artist (selected views) partial biography of Norma Jeane (the artist) All images from http://www.italianarea.it/index.php/Norma_Jeane/?idartista=1259674028#p [accessed 31 October 2009] unless otherwise stated.
Promolightbox, 1994 C‐Print, Lightbox Advertisment for Norma Jeane’s first solo exhibition at Palatrashardi, Milan in 1994. A silver spoon branded with the artists initials NJ.
IKB Cocktail / Remix, 1995 IKB Cocktail, dispensers, glasses, table A cocktail buffet, offered to the audience of the Norma Jeane’s first solo show, where the cocktails have the hue of the trademarked Internation Klein Blue, in homage to the artist Yves Klein.
Perfect Lovers Remix / Tribute to Felix Gonzales Torres, 1996 C‐Print, aluminum fames Tribute to Felix Gonzales Torres’s 1987 piece Perfect Lovers, two detail prints of identical commercially available photographs.
Potlatch 1.1, 1997 Display Freezer. 70 bottles of natural mineral water, 70 bottles of sparkling mineral water. The first in Norma Jeane’s potlatch series. The freezer was installed with all 140 bottles of water and left to explode.
Potlatch 2.1, 1998 Microwave, 100 eggs, wall paint, polyethylene The egg is an element that appears in a number of Norma Jeane’e early work, here the installation is in waiting for all 100 eggs to be destroyed by the microwave.
Potlatch 2.2 / The Hot Spot, 1999 2 UVA lamps, silver tape, chain The two UVA lamps are locked in an embrace, which will inevitably bring about their mutual sacrifice.
Blue, 1999 Inkjet on PVC, billboard Two contrasting photographs, one of an washing machine instruction manual and one of an advert for sanitary towels for women, with a blue stain, the colour used commonly, in advertising, for the representation of bodily fluids.
RPM / In the absence of her mistress the bitch jerks off screaming / Rouh Mix, 1999 The motor of a motorbike is left idling. As somebody approached sensors accelerate the vehicle proportionally to the proximity of the person. This, especially the title is in reference to Georges Bataille’s Historie de l’oeil.
International Flight #4, 2001 Lambda print, Plexiglass, aluminium International Flights, Illy Artists Collection 2001 Series of 6 coffee cups with saucers
Small magnets from electrical appliances where scanned and then enlarged to the size of the appliance where everything including dust became macroscopic. This formed the basis for the commission for Illy Artists’s coffee cups series.
Red Sweet Crush, 2001 Video projection of 28 amateur mpegs of food crushing downloaded from fetish websites.
Potlatch 5.1 / Eyes Wide Shut, 2001 Eggs in public toilet bowl Both a tribute to Stanley Kubrick, from where the piece draws it’s name, and to George Bataille’s Historie de l’oeil. This is a record of an action that took place at P.S.1 in New York where users of the toilet where obliged to urinate onto the eggs.
Potlatch 8.1 / Sustainable Underdevelopment, 2002 Concrete, stones, metal net, earth and grass seeds over a Swiss Army bunker As time goes by the bunker, which has been covered in earth and grass seeds, will be reclaimed by the landscape and its location will be removed from military maps and from the visible landscape itself and yet it will always exist.
RPM / In the absence of her mistress the bitch jerks off screaming, 2005 The motor of a motorbike is left idling. As somebody approached sensors accelerate the vehicle proportionally to the proximity of the person. This, especially the title is in reference to Georges Bataille’s Historie de l’oeil.
Lady Loo / Rose Selavy vs. R. Mutt, 2005 Ladies restroom for the 2006 Soccer World Champonship in Germany Rows of female urinals manufactured in Malaysia and predominantly used in Muslim culture, installed in what is a generally male orientated spectator sport venue, with a tribute to the various pseudonyms of Marcel Duchamp.
ACME inc., 2005 Light bulbs, microphones Presented at Norma Jeane’s Body Proxy exhibition at Helmhaus Zürich the sound of the audience is amplified and converted into light, creating an immersive environment where the disembodied sound finds visibility.
Heaven Can Wait, 2006 Bed, sun umbrella, chair, waste bin At the highest point in Rome, the terrace of the Villa Maraini on the Pincio Hill, Norma Jeane installed a motel room that can be booked for two hour periods. The participant’s enjoy complete privacy despite being outdoors and in the center of the city. Fresh laundry is provided to each participant.
Potlatch 11.1 / The Dead End Strategy, 2007 Reclaimed sewage soil, seeds, industrial pallets
From http://www.biennale-de-lyon.org/bac2007/angl/ [accessed 28 October 2009]
Potlatch 11.2 / Bonfire of the Vanities, 2008 Seeds, mud from the Turin drainage system and river beds, industrial pallets In collaboration with microbiologist Dr. Guisto Giovanetti, to produce non‐toxic soil from a toxic source. The flower beds are continually tended to ensure a sustainable micro‐environment.
From http://www.biennale-de-lyon.org/bac2007/angl/notices/carmin01.htm [accessed 28 October 2009]
Potlatch 12.1 / Sunset Boulevard, 2009 display refrigerator, various vacuum packed foodstuffs Each foodstuff, locked inside of its own vacuumed packed environment, begins a life independent to that of the foodstuff in close proximity. From http://www.sextantetplus.org/index.php?/projets/sleeping-beauty-goes-wild/ [accessed 28 October 2009]
Potlatch 14.1 / Wild At Heart, 2009 cigarette, projection In tribute to David Lynch’s 1990 film Wild at Heart, Norma Jeane creates an environment were a cigarette appears to be smoking itself isolating itself in the non event. From http://www.sextantetplus.org/index.php?/projets/sleeping-beauty-goes-wild/ [accessed 28 October 2009]
appendix 4 / extract from The Present Situation of Quantum Mechanics (1935)
“[…] One can even set up quite ridiculous cases. A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat): in a Geiger counter there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small, that perhaps in the course of the hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges and through a relay releases a hammer which shatters a small flask of hydrocyanic acid. If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The psi-function of the entire system would express this by having in it the living and dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts. It is typical of these cases that an indeterminacy originally restricted to the atomic domain becomes transformed into macroscopic indeterminacy, which can then be resolved by direct observation. That prevents us from so naively accepting as valid a "blurred model" for representing reality. In itself it would not embody anything unclear or contradictory. There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks. […]” From http://www.tu-harburg.de/rzt/rzt/it/QM/cat.html [accessed 09 January 2010]
appendix 5 / alternative analogies schrödingerʼs cat analogy / the tetris analogy
This is an alternative analogy to Schrödingerʼs Cat Analogy used in Curiosity Castrated the Cat / Dispersion of Dotted Lines; The Tetris Analogy. The reasoning of this is to begin to provide alternative endings, therefore giving a multitude of possible “dotted line” outcomes;
the tetris analogy A random sequence of tetrominoes – shapes composed of four square blocks each—fall down the playing field (a rectangular vertical shaft, called the "well" or "matrix"). The object of the game is to manipulate these tetrominoes, by moving each one sideways and rotating it through 90 degrees, with the aim of creating a horizontal line of blocks without gaps. When such a line is created, it disappears, and any block above the deleted line will fall. As the game progresses, the tetrominoes fall faster, and the game ends when the stack of tetrominoes reaches the top of the playing field and no new tetrominoes are able to enter.
The video game Tetris was devised by Alexey Pajitinov in 1984, reaching global recognition with its release as a bundle package with Nintendoʼs GameBoy in 1993. Its nature, as a possibly never ending video, allows a plurality of independent consciousnesses, due to its global release to enter into a genuine dialogue regarding the truth of its outcome, a polyphonic dialogue of the sense of its truth. This renounces Pajitinovʼs authorial dominance, for he only creates a situation for the endless possible arrangements of tetrominoes. Theoretically, as the aim is to complete lines of blocks that are then destroyed, Tetris can be equated to the sacrifice of accumulated excess, with the different blocks representing different forms of wealth, therefore turning it into a pure example of potlatch. If the wealth reaches the maximum height of the playing field, which becomes harder to avoid as the game plays, the game is over, comparable to the accumulation of wealth and the inescapable catastrophe in Batialleʼs General Economy. The fact that there are a multitude of possible outcomes aligns it with the dotted lines of event potential. Tetrisʼs global reception, provided an alternative to the narrative driven games that had been the norm before, comparable to both Batailleʼs and Bakhtinʼs desire for an alternative mode of thinking.
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Jammie Nicholas, Let’s All Sacrifice Marilyn Monroe, 2010