Maria Lind - Tactical/Agnostic Artist - Ted Purves

To extend on the Claire Bishop - Aesthetic/Ethical - Critical Modalities, post and as a continuation of sketching out new critical modalities, we'd like to address Maria Lind's contextualization of Oda Projesi relative to the art world as it intersects with Ted Purves' "Blows Against the Empire" which appears in his edited volume What We Want is Free: Generosity and Exchange in Recent Art.

It is helpful to start with an excerpt from IC-98's website in which they explain the rationale for their activities within the domain of art [full quote is available on their site and in our previous post]:

" a reaction to the restrictions of academic writing...In practice, the world of contemporary art has proved to be the most flexible environment for diverse projects, being a free zone of experimentation within the society at large...[it] offers possibilities to put forward ideas without the preconditions of academic work ...the market...or activism...the projects are labeled art only for strategic reasons – the strategy works as long as the concepts of art do not come to dominate the discourse. The same applies to the individuals working in the group: you call yourself artist, just because it is institutionally convenient, [emphasis mine] because the very concept of ARTIST is obscure."

We see here another option outside of Claire Bishop's believer/nonbeliever dichotomy - the agnostic. Lind writes of Oda Projesi, "They have loose connections with the art world and are less occupied with discussing what is and is not art; it seems to suffice that art offers a method and a zone for certain types of activities." This is strikingly similar to IC-98's "free zone," and points to the tactical utilization of art structures and institutions that we believe gets mistakenly interpreted as art by design, rather than convenience.

Ted Purves offers yet another complication for us in writing about the San Francisco Diggers. The Diggers were an eventual splinter group from the San Francisco Mime Troupe in the 60s. They offered free food to people in Golden Gate Park with only one requirement, they had to step through a wooden frame which represented stepping into a "free frame of reference." Purves is struck by the fact that they "...made an actual doorway that people had to cross over." He notes that the Diggers' activities "...reveal a shrewd conceptual bent that would certainly brand [them] as 'relational artists'..." if they placed themselves in that context.

The point, of course, is that they did not contextualize their activities as art. Just what it was is a matter of debate. Art or not art? It's a debate art critics love to have, but one we think is somewhat trivial. What new generative social possibilities do these activities create? How do they interface with broad political and philosophical themes? Are they fun? These are questions that seem infinitely more useful than, how they function "as art."

This brings us back to Bishop's argument in "The Social Turn: Art and Its Discontents." She's right to ask that these activities be judged by their "conceptual significance," but the real reinforcement of "art's autonomy" is not from the so-called self-marginal impetus of these activities, but from accepting the very notion that they are marginal if they ignore the trappings of art or use them as IC-98 says, "because it is institutionally convenient."

The discussion continues in this post: Grant Kester - Artforum - Claire Bishop