We may be anti-work, but we're pro-labor.

Sailing until mid-January.

Marine Division!

Shop Powell's - Another ILWU Member!

Ben Highmore - Writing vs. Research - The de Certeau remix

Ben Highmore's most recent book Michel de Certeau: Analysing Culture adds to his already impressive output (see also Everyday Life and Cultural Theory: An Introduction and his edited volume The Everyday Life Reader).

There are too many useful ideas in the book to address here, but he argues that de Certeau offers more than a series of catchy terms (tactics vs. strategies, poaching texts, etc.) for application in cultural studies/theory, but articulates a "metamethodology," or an exemplary practice of cultural analysis.

Of particular interest to us is Highmore's discussion of university research. He notes, "...research is encouraged as long as it follows a prescribed pattern." This pattern, of course applies to nearly every liberal art discipline, "...'research' is a euphemism; what it really means is 'publication' - production..." Writing, and a very specific form of writing at that, becomes the only way to explore ideas, the only embodiment of research. Highmore argues de Certeau shows that "writing works antagonistically to the business of research." Highmore quotes de Certeau: "While research is interminable, the text must have an ending, and this structure of finality bends back on the introduction, which is already organized by the need to finish..."

This writing vs. research concept provides further context for why LeisureArts operates within the domain of art so frequently - it is merely the most flexible arena for conducting research. It also points to our problem with so much project-based work which itself tends to possess the same "need to finish" of writing and quickly leads the exploration of research to its own structural demise.

As Highmore puts it:

Here writing isn't simply a constructivist architecture that produces the past; it is more characteristically directed against research, interning the past in variously ornate mausoleums:

Writing speaks of the past in order to inter it. Writing is a tomb in the double sense of the word in that, in the very same text, it both honours and eliminates. Here the function of language is to introduce through saying what can no longer be done...[Highmore quoting de Certeau - edit not in original]

Highmore goes on to caution against any absolutist stance relative to all this. He says that de Certeau is not seeking a "pure writing," but looking to develop writing as an operation, seeking to engage the practice of research within an ethic of commitment and sees this as an "invitation to participate in world-making."

Ferry - Everyday Life - Todorov

Excerpts from Tzvetan Todorov quoted by Luc Ferry concerning 17th century Dutch painting in Ferry's What is the Good Life?

"...Beauty is not beyond or above commonplace things; it is at their very heart, and one look suffices to extract it and reveal it to everyone. The Dutch painters were, for a time, inspired by a grace - in no way divine, in no way mystical - that enabled them to dispel the curse that weighed on matter; to rejoice in the very existence of things, to intertwine the ideal and the real, and therefore to find the meaning of life in life itself."

"...What is needed is not to abandon daily life (to contempt, to others), but to transform it from the inside, so that it is reborn illuminated with meaning and beauty...That is when daily life would cease being opposed to works of art, to works of the mind, to become, in its entirety, as beautiful and rich in meaning as a work of art."

Charlie's Angels Pose Archive Update

The Charlie's Angels Pose Archive has over 900 images thus far. We are still seeking submissions in an effort to reach at least 1000 examples. Behold the glory:

Cooking, Eating, Thinking - Recipes for Values - Thoughtful Practice

Cooking, Eating, Thinking: Transformative Philosophies of Food, Deane W. Curtin and Lisa M. Heldke eds.

The book seeks to consider and construct a philosophy of food. The standout essays in this edited volume are from the editors themselves.

Curtin's "Recipes for Values" and Heldke's "Foodmaking as a Thoughtful Practice" both

Norman Wirzba - LeisureArts - Agrarian Philosophy

Recently finished reading The Essential Agrarian Reader, Norman Wirzba ed. Wirzba's own essay in the volume, "Placing the Soul: An Agrarian Philosophical Principle" argues for an embodied and place-centered philosophical and religious perspective. Otherworldly and disembodied philosophy/theory has played a large part in the decimation of agrarian values and communities. Wirzba looks to articulate a counter-philosophical perspective for agrarianism.

Wirzba's account of ancient philosophical endeavor cuts to the heart of the LeisureArts paradigm:

"...what becomes clear is that the philosopher was first and foremost interested in practicing a way of life [emphasis ours]."

Wirzba contends that philosophers developed complex theoretical constructs of the world, but that was secondary to the experiential working out of what an "ideal human life" might be:

"In other words, philosophical reflection was intimately tied to experience, to the testing, trying, and experimenting of life that constitute our condition."

The modern period pretty much eradicates experience-based reflection under the aegis of pure cognition - thus begins the reign of the scientific method (detached, formal, objective). Wirzba cautions:

"...our thinking is never merely 'about' the world, but also 'from' the world."

This leads us to our ongoing (and perhaps tiresome) complaints about social practices in art. Far too often these activities are bounded conceptually as well as institutionally as "projects." They become another body of work (like a group of paintings) set aside from lived experience. They are professional (used here in Ivan Illich's vitriolic sense). In Wirzba's account, they would be considered philosophical failure, for philosophy demands "...an open life...not just an open mind..." Too much of contemporary art practice is merely open minded, content to think things through (even though this thinking through might take the form of "experience" it is often in a highly contrived and discrete form) rather than live them. LeisureArts, like Wirzba, believes that it is important to "...abandon ourselves to the experiences of life..." and to understand that this requires "tenacity and commitment." This is more than philosophical/art work - it is the work of love - "...for it is in terms of love that the true marks of knowing can emerge..." Sappy perhaps, but urgently so...

Chris Gilbert - Artforum - Liam Gillick

After having lapsed for a couple of months, our unsolicited subscription to Artforum appears to have been renewed by our mysterious benefactor just in time for the Liam Gillick and Chris Gilbert showdown. One is reminded of a number of other spats, most immediately perhaps, the exchange between Grant Kester and Claire Bishop, also in Artforum. Two other public "feuds" seem more apropos (or at least fun) to invoke here - Ryan Seacrest vs. Simon Cowell and David Letterman vs. Bill O'Reilly. Gillick mirrors the first figure in the pairings and Gilbert mirrors the latter.

In Seacrest/Gillick we have the media/art world darling whose very ubiquity makes him both endearing and eminently annoying. Seacrest has said of Cowell in a CNN interview:

"He's arrogant, he's pompous, he believes that everything he says is right...But he does know what he's doing."

This is a neat summary of Gillick's response to Gilbert's recent Artforum salvo.

In contrast to the crowd-pleasing Seacrest/Gillick, we have the stern Cowell/Gilbert who believes that his judgments should be final. Admittedly, it is a bit of a disservice to Cowell to to equate his wickedly funny self-regard with the humorless Gilbert, but go with it.

In Letterman/Gillick vs. O'Reilly/Gilbert we have the smug vs. the self-righteous. Just before O'Reilly made his entrance, Letterman said:

""I'm secretly hoping when Bill O'Reilly comes out here, I'll have the opportunity to call him a bonehead."

This also might be an accurate depiction of Gillick. He seems to relish any opportunity to call out what he sees as art world "boneheads" - witness also his exchange with Claire Bishop in October.

O'Reilly, at one point in the verbal sparring on Late Night accused Letterman of being:

"guilty of oversimplifying a complicated situation."

This, of course, is from someone who makes a living by doing the same thing. Gilbert utilizes an interesting twist by using tediously constructed theoretical arguments to oversimplify his vision of class struggle. Or as Gillick put it "[To Gilbert] It is a time of gross dualisms once more..." The Gilbert/O'Reilly parallel is succinctly drawn by the letter which appears after Gillick's response to Gilbert. In it, Renny Pritikin describes Gilbert as a "self-glorifying, deluded naif."

In all seriousness, Gillick (who's intelligence is irrefutable despite comparing him to Ryan Seacrest), the "petit bourgeois" critics, and the "manipulated" micropolitical theorists have this one right. Gilbert's faux vanguard politics are more than a little tiresome and reek of the righteous indignation so common of rigid ideologues. It is telling that Gilbert allows himself to be the final arbiter on how much 'selling out' is acceptable revolutionary behavior. When he engages the "deeply corrupt bourgeouis" subculture of art, he is furthering class struggle, but when others do the same they are "opportunist." Only Gilbert and those he deems as properly revolutionary are able to see, describe, and adequately intervene in, the "endemic corruption" of cultural institutions. Gilbert clearly sees Lenin, Marx ,and Gramsci as his peers, but given the messianic tone he adopts when he blesses the petit bourgeois with the truth, it seems more appropriate to situate him in the context of various apocalyptic cults. Of course, we at LeisureArts are probably just counter-revolutionary pawns anyway...

Gilbert's resignation letter (and follow-up at Metamute)
Gillick's response in Artforum

New Project: Charlie's Angels Pose Archive

LeisureArts has started a new archive documenting the ubiquity of the Charlie's Angels pose in vernacular photography. Contributions to the Charlie's Angels Pose Archive are welcome! Over 600 [UPDATE: now 800] images can be seen here. This is a work in progress - further exposition and analysis are forthcoming.

Definitions of Leisure

From: Leisure and Life Satisfaction: Foundational Perspectives 2nd ed.

Affected Provincialism - Thrilletantism - Dandyism

We finally secured a copy of:

The Affected Provincial's Companion Volume One: A Bounteous Selection of ESSAYS, PHILOSOPHICAL DIAGRAMS, POETRY, and Other Arcadian Follies Concerning the Art of CURIOUS LIVING and the Reintroductions of ANCIENT CHARM into This Vale of Mud and Tears Known Heretofore as the MODERN LIFE by Lord Breaulove Swells Whimsy

We watched it blossom from a web-based collection, to a bound pamphlet, and into a full blown book. It is yet another core theoretical text for LeisureArts (we will eventually publish a comprehensive LeisureArts bibliography). Lord Whimsy's book is far too densely packed with material to adequately preview here, but we'll offer up three key concepts.

Re: the Affected Provincial - "...is a mischievous child of the Enlightenment; a playful syncretist who pays little heed to the illusory chasms placed betwixt the disparate spheres that lie within humanity's purview. Deeply interested in ideas and enterprises of modest, human scale that enhance everyday life, the Affected Provincial has A Rebours on the desk, an ant farm in the study, and a half-built dirigible in the garden."

Re: Thrilletantism: Or the Beneficial Effects of Artistic and Philosophical Lycanthropy by Means of Incessant Dabbling - "...not burdened with a blinding omnipotence in any one field of endeavor, he or she may focus on exploration and on using said exploration as a foundation on which to build an interesting, broad, yet thoughtful life - the fruits of which are generously shared with others...The Thrilletante understands the value of play, its fluidity of mind, and the interesting failures that are its children...thereby creating a vast network of interrelated nodes of erudition that serve as a kind of improvised expertise in their own right...Thrilletantes know that the most interesting coordinates by which to plot one's course are 'around' and 'between.'"

Re: Dandyism: A Curious, Slightly Venerable Practice - "Nothing is trivial to the dandy, except perhaps a trivial amount of thought. By paying considerable attention to detail, the dandy can cultivate a personal sphere in which everything is of great importance...The dandy is the focus of his own artistry; his dress, manner, speech, and mind are his palette. Because of his strong desire to become what Oscar Wilde dubbed 'a living work of art,' the dandy is a creature often compelled to seek communion with the exquisite, the inanimate, and the serene."

Lord Whimsy provides a manifesto for curious living, generous self-cultivation, and playful dabbling. In short, it is an articulation of the sort of everyday practice that LeisureArts covets. To misquote Lord Whimsy, "Rather than having hobbies in life, make your life a hobby."

Appropriate Failure

Perhaps predictably, we failed to deliver our project for the show.

We are not dead.

"Beautiful sea, beautiful sea, Oh, how I love on thy bosom to roam; Foaming and free, foaming and free, There is my resting place, there is my home." - sung for Bas Jan Ader's In Search of the Miraculous, Part II farewell.

Setting sail...

This is a final reminder that the Dilettante Ventures empire will be entering a perpetual cycle of three week periods without posting followed by a three week period of moderate posting. If you are interested in keeping up with LeisureArts, try subscribing with a blog subscription service. Or you can just return after the 18th of October.

Info 1.
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Baudrillard - "as art" relational art - Kaprow

Classic LeisureArts - A response from Deborah Fisher

Reading about the research threads on a new blog, The Necessary, has prompted us to gather some thoughts on the notion of critically negotiating various activities "as art" rather than constructing some other framework for comprehending them.

In The Mirror of Production, Jean Baudrillard writes about the colonial intellectual impulses of the West. Concerning the criticality of Western culture he notes:

"...it [Western culture] reflected on itself in the universal, and thus all other cultures were entered in its museum as vestiges of its own image. It 'estheticized' them, reinterpreted them on its own model, and thus precluded the radical interrogation these 'different' cultures implied for it."


"Without bias, they have attempted to 'relocate' these 'works' [so called primitive art] into their magical and religious 'context.' In the kindest yet most radical way the world has ever seen, they have placed these objects in a museum by implanting them in an esthetic category. But these objects are not art at all [Emphasis ours]. And, precisely their non-esthetic character could at last have been the starting point for a radical perspective on (and not an internal critical perspective leading to a broadened reproduction of) Western culture. "

This critique can easily be applied to the critical appropriation of any number of new "art" practices, most notably relational art. We see quite clearly how a variety of activities and modes of research that began to stray from the flock were quickly recuperated under the banner of "relational aesthetics." This needn't apply necessarily to the stars of the movement (Liam Gillick and Rirkrit Tiravanija are obvious) as their work was never really intended to offer a radical perspective on anything, but Oda Projesi (who are not nearly as gallery friendly, and don't engage in the same sort of faux art institutional critique) has certainly become a bit of a flashpoint. The debate surrounding them provides an interesting model as Claire Bishop begs to read their activities "as art," making sure they are safely inscribed within the known parameters of self-criticality that the museum Baudrillard describes above tolerates. Maria Lind, however, prefers to read their actions without preemptively applying critical classifications.

Allan Kaprow in his essay "The Real Experiment"describes the "as art" impulse as well:

"'Look,' I remember a critic exclaiming once as we walked by a vacant lot full of scattered rags and boxes, 'how that extends the gestural painting of the fifties!' He wanted to cart the whole mess to a museum. But life bracketed by the physical and cultural [emphasis ours] frames of art quickly becomes trivialized life at the service of high art's presumed greater value. The critic wanted everyone to see the garbage as he did through art history, not as urban dirt, not as a playground for kids and home for rats, not as rags blowing about in the wind, boxes rotting in the rain."

We see here the application of the art historical gaze, the "as art" gaze. And not unlike the "male gaze" (although obviously the parallel is in how it operates, not in its social effects) it becomes a way of subjugating the world to a particular critical regime and seeks to infiltrate the self-perception of others, so that they see themselves and their activities through the "as art" lens.

We return in closing to Baudrillard's critique of Marxist anthropology which can be seen to possess the same impulse to universalize its history, its criticality:

"...because the system of political economy tends to project itself retrospectively as a model and subordinates everything else to the genealogy of this model...Thus in the strict sense, it analyzes only the conditions of the model's reproduction, of its production as such: of the separation that establishes it...By presupposing the axiom of the economic, the Marxist critique perhaps deciphers the functioning of the system of political economy; but at the same time it reproduces it as a model."

It is evident that the "as art" perspective functions to accept as a given the art model, thus binding itself to merely reproducing the logic of art production rather than challenging it in any substantive way. It presupposes the axiom of the artistic, and shields itself from the messiness of rotting boxes, leaving us in the "internal critical" hall of mirrors, trapped in the "as art" aesthetic fun-house.

Cultural Production - LeisureArts - MFA alternatives

Two alternatives to an MFA that seem to "get it:"

This program is noteworthy beacuase of its broad field of inquiry and acknowledgement of the need for new critical persepctives.

The interdisciplinary M.A. program in Cultural Production at Brandeis University

They offer three areas of concentration:

Cluster 1: Performance: Object/Body/Place
Courses in performance theory, theater, discursive practice, embodiment, mythopoesis, adornment, and the city as lived text.

Cluster 2: Visuality: Image/Media/Signs
Courses in comparative experiences of vision, cinema, television, semiotics, digital and other new media, Internet studies, materiality, photography, advertising, and mass communications.

Cluster 3: Memory: Museums/Preservation/Archives
Courses in historical consciousness, the cultural politics and poetics of museums and memorials, traumatic memory, historiography, artifact conservation, documentation, and archival practice.


This program offers a practice based Phd, allowing research to take any necessary form rather than forcing all modes of inquiry into the dissertation formula. Additionally, many courses allow responses to course material to take the standard paper form and/or alternate forms.

The Ph.D. in Humanities from UT Dallas

Dilettante Ventures Announces Studiolo54!

Notes toward a new project (LINK TO PROJECT HERE and BELOW):


An ornate private study or small room in a house where an intellectual may retire for contemplation. via http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1201427

But most inclusive was the Wunder-kammer, the Studiolo, the Rariteitenkabinett--Curiosity Cabinets, which were as thorough representations of the world as lay within the means of the collector. via http://microcosms.ihc.ucsb.edu/essays/002.html

The Italian Cabinet Galleries contain paintings and precious objects like those that would have been in the small private chambers or studies (studioli) of an Italian Renaissance prince, humanist, or well-to-do merchant. In such rooms, collectors expressed their individual taste and interests through the rare and beautiful objects they chose to display. via http://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/gg25/gg25-main1.html


"mixing beautiful 'nobodies' with glamorous celebrities in the same venue." via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studio_54

"...notorious epicenter of pop-culture and style." via http://www.vegasexposure.com/studio_54.htm


Archive/Collection/Reblog of high and low, precious and base, contemplation and exaltation...a small room for idiosyncratic consideration...reclaiming dilettantism...we are desultory and we don't care...

Not Art - Shana Lutker - Relational practices

Shana Lutker's essay NOT ART: “Every garden a munition plant” from Volume 8 Issue 4 of X-tra provides a compelling example of the sorts of activities we at LeisureArts have been pointing to as a way out of Claire Bishop's (and other critics of relational/littoral/blah blah practices) art-centric critical perspective.

In the essay she outlines the work of Fritz Haeg and his Edible Estates project ("a plan to turn nine front lawns around the country into edible landscapes."). Lutker notes how Haeg does not fit neatly into relational art evaluation citeria:

"First, Haeg does not identify himself as an artist, though he is often working with and around artists. Secondly, Haeg is approaching this project with a specific goal in mind—his aim is not to see where the collaboration leads, or how the families’ needs are best met—his goal is to invigorate a dialogue around personal responsibility for a public good. Thirdly, Haeg’s project does not harbor any ethical questions about the nature of collaboration or the potential for manipulation of his chosen communities."


"And, in not being an artist, Haeg may be able to expand his potential audience. As an artist’s project, the Edible Estates would either be too readily contained within the discourse of contemporary art, or contradictorily, would be seen as too design-oriented—not art at all. On the other hand, as an architect’s project, it is too arty. The Edible Estates project is a hybrid, and it is too contaminated by its makeup of part architecture, art, ecology, and design to be accepted by any one of these disciplines. Haeg is dependent on contemporary art networks for exhibition venues and financial support, partially because he is already familiar with them, but also because few other venues could house this kind of project. [emphasis ours] But ideally, he envisions the project moving beyond the art world."

The emphasized portion of the quote above resonates with the notion of artist by convenience rather than choice that we have written about extensively. It also resonates with Kaprow's "unartist" in a very direct way. The art network is utilized not because it is ideal, but because it is the best choice currently available. Shana Lutker provides a useful profile for building the new critical and creative frameworks that LeisureArts is hoping to think through and that might eventually lead to the construction of more appropriate networks.

Interesting Ideas - Vernacular Imagery - Gyros

Once again we've decided to call attention to one of our longstanding links :

Interesting Ideas - self described as "Outsider art, roadside art, eccentric culture."

The site is an incredible archive of Ominous needlepoint, Roadside ruins, Strange store names, and much more.

An especially beautiful item is The Gyros Project - a treasure trove of gyro signage in Chicago. Interesting Ideas also maintains a much broader survey of vernacular signage: Great signs from all over.

You can keep up with updates to the site here.

Lebenskünstler - LeisureArts - Notes

One of the nice things about Lebenskünstler is the way that it resonates with dilettante and slacker and evokes something like "the practioner of conviviality" - all major themes of LeisureArts.

Lebensfreude = joy of living
Lebenskunst = art of living
Lebenskünstler = master of the art of living
via: http://www.heilkunst.com/rebuttal.html [not a useful site]

The word is “Lebenskünstler.” It is a German word and connotes a person who approaches life with the zest and inspiration of an artist, although he or she may not be working recognizably as an artist.
via: http://www.iwwg.com/index.php?section=words [interesting award concept]

Lebenskünstler - chilled-out dude
via: http://www.proz.com/glossary-translations/german-to-english-translations/2 [obviously not very helpful]

Lebenskünstler - someone who knows how to live, survivor, a person who always knows to make the best of things [see our discussion of the bricoleur], bon vivant.
via: http://forum.leo.org/archiv/2005_07/01/20050701115507e_en.html [brief discussion of how to translate]

* Lebenskünstler ("life artist", someone who masters life in a somewhat eccentric way)
* -meister (primarily satirical usage)
via: http://www.hongfire.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2621&page=83 [nothing else relevant]

Oscar Wilde once purportedly said "I put my talent into my work, but my genius into my life." A suitable introduction to this week's entry, Lebenskünstler. Literally translated, it means "life-artist." ... He is a Lebenskünstler. Someone who pieces together his living from various activities that, collectively, bring in just enough money to live. No office, no suit, no boss, no rules. German has a word for such people, and English doesn't. There's even a higher form of Lebenskünstler, and that is the Überlebenskünstler, or "survival artist."
via: http://andrewhammel.typepad.com/german_joys/2006/02/german_word_of_.html [best portion here]

Lebenskünstler - one who recognizes opportunities in life and takes advantage or makes use of those opportunities to make the most out of one's own life; one who lives life deliberately and to the fullest capacity (concept from Henry David Thoreau of “living deep and sucking out all the marrow of life”); one who gambles with the outcome of his/her own life by seizing opportunity; one who makes living an art.

Lebenskunstler - artist of life

Lebenskunstler - an architect of his own achievements
via: http://www.theharmonicaman.net/lebenskunstler.htm [a bit more there - but sourced from a neo-nazi site!]

connoisseur of the art of living - Lebenskünstler {m}
via: http://www.dict.cc/english-german/c264.php [only relevant portion]

Lebenskünstler (life artist): someone who manages to get his living in an eccentric way (such as through piecing together odd jobs, mooching, etc. -- think of Kramer on Seinfeld)
via: http://kellysearsmith.livejournal.com/tag/words [only relevant portion]

Technical Bulletin

Believe it or not, there are people who read this blog on a regular basis!

LeisureArts will be undergoing some changes due to the migration to the new version of Blogger. There will inevitably be some glitches as a result.

We recommend that those of you who do not currently use a blog reader/subscription service (Bloglines, Feedburner, etc.) go ahead and do so. It will make your life much easier. Starting in late September, the posting here will be entering a perpetual cycle of three weeks of no posting followed by a blitz of posting (due to scheduling issues in the Dilettante Ventures empire). Subscribing to this blog will avoid weeks of fruitless searching for new material. Of course some might argue that even new material is a waste of your time...

Lyceum - LeisureArts - Chautauqua

"What shall you do with your leisure? I understand that Chautauqua is trying to answer that question, and to open out fields of thought, to open out energies, a largeness of mind and a culture in the better sense." - President James Garfield, August 1880

In searching for historical models for LeisureArts, we discovered two related movements from the 19th century - the Lyceum movement and the Chautauqua movement. Links will do more to explain what they were/are than we are able to. Although Chautauqua should be noted to be the more apropriate model for our activities and philosophy for its multiple meanings and particularly for its blend of pop culture with "higher" forms of knowledge/learning.

What was Lyceum?

What is/was Chautauqua?

Another take on Chautaqua.

The comprehensive web resource for Chautauqua/Lyceum.

Leisure Team Productions - LeisureArts - The Art of Living

The good folks over at Leisure Team Productions were gracious enough to send us the first chapter of their book Time Off! The Upside to Downtime. It is "The Art of Leisure." The chapter definitely borders on the self-help/pop psychology side of things, but has some decent moments:

"Every hour of overtime is an hour that you don’t spend playing, singing, dancing, learning,or enjoying the company of others. It’s an hour that you’re not spending on an experience that you choose purely for its own sake, whether or not anyone rewards you for it."

"Playing and dabbling are not only hedonistic and relaxing, but can also generate new ideas. All the major arts and sciences, especially the humanities, developed from the creative use of leisure. Constructively used, free time leads to cultural, societal and individual enrichment, all crucial to the evolution of advanced society."

"Leisure isn’t a luxury to squeeze in after taking care of your basic needs. Leisure is a basic need."

The final sentence of this quote could of easily been found on a univeristy wall in France around May '68, or found in one of the early documents of incorporation for LeisureArts:

"When you think in terms of what you might have lived or done, leisure becomes nothing less than crucial. The art of living will never be perfected without practicing the Art of Leisure."


The following message was posted on the NeMe Forum discussion thread regarding the Manifesta 6 debacle:

The Vanity Core that supplies the fuel for the Culture Engine is too big to fit through the Disciplinary Orifice. Dismantle it and send it through in fragments...reassemble it after the work is through.

Best Regards,
the mechanic

...is the new...

This project has been relatively well received and since we're not above self-promotion from time to time, here's a link. (Download the pdf)

The Social Turn - Claire Bishop - Response to LeisureArts

Related LeisureArts posts:
Grant Kester - Artforum - Claire Bishop
Claire Bishop - Aesthetic/Ethical - Critical Modalities
Maria Lind - Tactical/Agnostic - Ted Purves
ARTFORUM - New Art Practices - Cross Pollination

In a recent interview (Socially Engaged Art, Critics and Discontents: An Interview with Claire Bishop), Claire Bishop is asked about the initial LeisureArts response to her much discussed article "The Social Turn: Collaboration and its Discontents." In her answer she displays a fundamental misunderstanding of our position and continues to display a rather conservative notion of what forms of cultural production are valid or "consequential." The full text of the exchange:

Your article stimulated a lot of conversation. One discussion on the Web, in LeisureArts blog, raised a compelling point. The writer said:

I think (Bishop) misses something very important … namely that many of these practices might be better served by not considering them via art critical methodologies at all. There are a number of forms of cultural production that might call for new theoretical tools to interpret properly … I suspect there are many people operating in the domain of art discourse because they have nowhere else to go, even though their interest in connections to an art historical lineage is ancillary at best.

What do you think of this?

CB: I completely agree that turning to other disciplines can help to sharpen our mode of discussion about works of art, particularly those that step into the social arena. Political philosophy and psychoanalysis have helped me to articulate my reservations about the political claims made for relational aesthetics. I am currently looking at sociology as a way to be more precise about the idea of "inclusion" and "participation" in socially engaged art. The task is to bind these ideas together in a discussion of the work’s overall meaning as art.

But what this quote implies – and which I resist very strongly – is the idea that art is the "last place" to go for engagement, that it is the only remaining "free space." This idea is dangerous and lazy. It signals a retreat from the political, rather than the invention and assertion of new territories. It is fine for socially engaged and activist work to operate within the domain of art discourse, providing it also contributes something to that discourse (which actually does have an art historical lineage – think of Situationism, Joseph Beuys, Group Material…). It is comparable to a practice-led PhD: the practical work and the theoretical text both have to be PhD standard, equally important contributions to the field. But if the claims for transdisciplinarity are to be taken seriously, then these projects should also function within other discourses too. The situation I would want to avoid is of inconsequential practices that make no impact on either field.

Notice how she agrees with us before qualifying her answer by declaring our idea "dangerous and lazy." Now obviously being called lazy is hardly something that bothers the LeisureArts team, but dangerous?

To clarify, LeisureArts is not at all interested in "turning to other disciplines to sharpen" discussions of art. As should be clear to regular readers of this blog, art is only interesting to us in that it allows people to escape the rigidity of academic disciplinarity. It offers, rather imperfectly, the "invention and assertion of new territories" that Bishop complains we are retreating from. Her interpretation couldn't be more wrongheaded. We say "imperfectly" precisely because of Bishop's (and many others) continued refusal, or inability to, allow "new territories" to be invented. She argues quite forcefully against it by subsuming hybrid/relational/social/littoral art practices to the dictates of a "PhD standard" and insisting that they contribute to art discourse rather than allowing true "transdisiplinarity" to occur.

Bishop seems to be thinking about either "inter" or "multi" disciplinarity rather than transdisciplinarity. In both of the former iterations, practices and knowledge are exchanged, but disciplinary authority ultimately remains untouched. In transdisciplinary practices, cultural production is not confined to proscribed professional standards, but allowed to be in dynamic flux with regard to form and content of research and activity (these distinctions are informed by Florian Waldvogel's essay "Each One Teach One").

Although we admire Bishop's attempt in "The Social Turn" to challenge the critical orthodoxy around relational art, she really wants to assert and even greater restriction on how to negotiate the complexities of new forms of cultural production. She wants the nature of these activities to be neatly inscribed within existing critical and academic frameworks rather than allowing them to form new networks of meaning, or new forms of thoughtful engagement. Nothing could be clearer than her continual assertions of the importance of rehabilitating these wayward activities "as art." She seeks to contain them, or as she puts it, "The task is to bind these ideas together in a discussion of the work’s overall meaning as art." The use of the word "bind" here is instructive - it means, among other things, to restrict, to oblige, and to constipate. LeisureArts believes quite strongly that continuing to "bind" new avenues of cultural engagement to the safe and often stale strictures of art historical/critical discourse is truly "lazy."

Minnesota Museum of the Mississippi

We've linked to this site from the get go, but thought it might be time to be a little more emphatic about directing traffic in its direction. From their mission statement:

The Minnesota Museum of the Mississippi is an institution devoted to the protection and documentation of curious natural and man-made phenomena.

Be sure to check out the Pancakes Across America exhibit. At some point LeisureArts hopes to delve into the amazing array of pancake related activities in the art world and beyond. Also of note, Garden Delights: Concrete Curiosities and Accumulations which provides a guide to unusual and/or inspired gardens throughout the midwest. Finally, the (1999) experiment - A marathon tour of every mile of the Chicago L system on one train fare - is also worth a look, if not an updated attempt and report by someone.

Oh and speaking of the Mississippi, a friend of ours recently completed an 1800 mile trek down said river in a 30 something year old pontoon boat. Details of the adventure (and many other adventures of hers) can be found here: Cubicle Escapee. The amount of material (photos load slowly, but hang in there) can be overwhelming, but you won't be disappointed, especially if you've ever yearned of quitting cubicle life and hitting the road (and frankly if you haven't yearned for that, you are a broken human being).

Roberta Smith Gets Served!

A rare re-blog here at LeisureArts (relevant to many current blog discussions):

Via Catherine Liu at Don't Ask Me! - The unbearable banality of art journalism

"Museums as engines of social change? This is either totally dishonest museum adminstrator flattery...or else it is extremely lazy thinking."

Lifelike Art/Artlike Art - Kaprow - Elitism/Populism

This post is a kind of response to the discussion oozing across the art blogosphere (among other places it's here, here, here, and here).

In the essay "The Real Experiment," Allan Kaprow lays out what he believes are the two avant-garde strands of Western art - artlike art and lifelike art. He summarizes:

Simplistically put, artlike art holds that art is separate from life and everything else, whereas lifelike art holds that art is connected to life and everything else. In other words, there is art at the service of art and art at the service of life. The maker of artlike art tends to be a specialist; the maker of lifelike art, a generalist.


The root message of artlike art is separateness and specialness; and the corresponding one of all lifelike art is connectedness and wide-angle awareness.

LeisureArts situates itself a bit outside of this dichotomy. We're not all that interested in "art" in the first place, but if we had to choose, it would certainly be the lifelike camp. This camp doesn't concern itself so much with which conceptual category a particular activity falls into, but rather what this activity does, how it resonates within a personal or social milieu, whether it makes one laugh. Lifelike art "...is a weaving of meaning-making activity with any or all parts of our lives...This definition shifts the model for art from the special history of the field to a broad terrain embracing not only lifelike art but religious, philosophical, scientific, and social/personalexploration."

Artlike art is the realm of the "mainstream" avant-garde and "...artists in this tradition have tended to see their work as engaged in a professional dialogue, one art gesture responding to a previous one, and so forth." It is, therefore, a closed conversation, one open only to those who have been fully inculcated by the various institutions of artlike art.

These same institutions also try to colonize the realm of lifelike art, often to the dismay of artlike art proponents. They often feel like it trivializes their "serious" work. Of course from our perspective, these institutions trivialize life by transforming it into mere art. As Kaprow says, "These institutions 'frame' lifelike art right out of life into art (more or less ineptly at that)." Or even more succinctly, "...achieving a respected place in a museum or opera house nowadays may be flattering, but it is pointless, because it reframes lifework as conventional art."

One of the confusing points here (especially for many of the proponents of artlike art in the various blog discussions mentioned above) is that many people equate having standards with elitism. They also falsely believe that what Kaprow calls lifelike art is basically an "anything goes" philosophy, or really an "everything is good" philosophy. The thing is, one can be for standards and against elitism. And Kaprow's lifelike art can be for the breakdown of boundaries and a more inclusive idea of what may be art (or as we would put it - what may be considered in the manner of art), without saying everything is art or that it is worthwhile art. Elitism is really not about standards, but about expecting a de facto position of authority or special consideration merely because one is an artist, curator, gallerist or other self-important art professional. We at LeisureArts are happy to be plebs!

Allan Kaprow - Refusal/Un-artist
Beautiful Privacy - Kaprow - Fame

Augustine - Collecting - Mark C. Taylor

Mark C. Taylor, in his book The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture, provides a nice quote of Augustine's conceptualization of thinking as collecting (this quote is a modified translation of Rex Warner's translation):

By the act of thought we are, as it were, collecting together things which the memory did contain, though in a disorganized and scattered way, and by giving them our close attention we are arranging for them to be as it were stored up ready to hand in the same memory where previously they lay hidden, neglected, and dispersed, so that now they will come forward to the mind that has become familiar with them....In fact, what one is doing is collecting them from their dispersal. Hence the derivation of the word "to think." For cogo (to collect) and cogito (to think) are in the same relation to each other as ago and agito, facio, and factio. But the mind has appropriated to itself this word (thinking), so that it is only correct to say "think" of things which are "re-collected" in the mind, not the things that are re-collected elsewhere.

If we move beyond the mind's appropriation and allow this collecting and recollecting to happen materially, we can see collecting as a practice. Thus, to select objects from the world, to gather them together from the "disorganized and scattered" flux of material culture is to think. This provides a nice way to discuss various activities of collecting beyond the usual mania/neurosis and mindless consumerist explanations.

Taylor's book, by the way, has nothing to do with this line of thinking. It is worthy of extensive commentary beyond the scope of our time constraints. A review is here.

Philosophy - LeisureArts - Passion

A rather unfashionable topic, one we're loathe to talk about due to its hokey connotations, is spirituality. Yes, that's right, we're going to risk evoking images of crystals, aura readings, and other trappings of white middle class new age culture, in order to briefly offer up Robert C. Solomon's Spirituality for the Skeptic: The Thoughtful Love of Life. We mentioned his Joy of Philosophy before, and this new book is a revision/expansion of the themes in that volume.

Spirituality for the Skeptic is an attempt to develop what Solomon calls "naturalized spirituality," a vision of spirituality that is not uncritical or antiscientific. The book has become a core theoretical text for LeisureArts, particularly for Solomon's brilliant defense of passion and its complementary, rather than oppositional, relation with reason. His notion is a veritable checklist of LeisureArts thematics. The everyday practice we're trying to theorize and embody here resonates with his quick summary of what sort of spirituality he is writing about:

"Spirituality means to me the grand and thoughtful passions of life and life lived in accordance with those grand thoughts and passions. Spirituality embraces love, trust, reverence, and wisdom, as well as the most terrifying aspects of life, tragedy, and death. Thinking of spirituality just in terms of our terrifying realization of loss of control and impending death is morbid, but thinking of spirituality only in terms of joy or bliss is simple-minded, a way of (not) thinking that is rightly summarized as 'la-di-da.' If it is passion that constitutes human spirituality, it must be the whole spectrum of human passions - and thoughtful passions - that we must consider. Thus when I have to summarize naturalized spirituality in a single phrase, it is this: the thoughtful love of life."

Note: We admire Solomon's penchant for adopting topics that are unpopular in academe - see this excerpt of a review of In Defense of Sentimentality to get a clearer picture.

Popular Skill Search Inventory

According to Yahoo!'s Buzz Log, these are the top 20 "how to" questions on the web. The items marked green are ones we are especially skilled at; the yellow ones are items that we are merely proficient in, or do infrequently; and the red ones are items we either don't know how to do, or never engage in despite knowing how.

1. How to Tie a Tie
2. How to Write a Resume
3. How to Draw
4. How to Lose Weight
5. How to Get Pregnant
6. How to Kiss
7. How to Draw Anime
8. How to Gain Weight
9. How to Make Money
10. How to Play Guitar
11. How to Write a Bibliography
12. How to Play Poker
13. How to Write a Cover Letter
14. How to Dance
15. How to Start a Business
16. How to Levitate
17. How to Build a Deck
18. How to Make Coffee
19. How to Write a Book
20. How to Flirt

We did not sing, we did not sail...[LeisureArts' official bird]

The Dilettante Ventures empire has been crippled by technical issues. We will be up and running again very soon...