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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.
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
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...
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 - self described as "Outsider art, roadside art, eccentric culture."
The site is an incredible archive of
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.