Social Practice - Revelry and Risk - Art/Life

In April of this year, on Friday the thirteenth, the founder of LeisureArts initiated a field trip to Reno, NV (by way of Carson City and Virginia City) for some students in the Social Practices program at CCA. We visited, among other things, a gold nugget collection, the Donner Party Museum, happy hour at the Peppermill Casino and subsequent buffet, a replica silver mine, the Bucket of Blood Saloon, the Red Light Museum housed in the bottom of a Chinese restaurant, the Wagon Wheel diner, and the craps tables at Circus Circus. The following piece of writing was a reflection on the experience and is published in Revelry and Risk: approaches to social practice or something like that.

Gambling in Reno, Some Notes on a Social Practices “Field Trip”

“After the conference papers are over, we go slumming in their bars.”

Like many things in my life, this essay begins somewhat obliquely. The above quote is from Richard Shusterman's Pragmatist Aesthetics: Living Beauty, Rethinking Art. He's writing about what comes to count as legitimate experience in the professional world of philosophy and literary theory. For an experience to count in these domains it has to take an institutionally recognizable form as a conference, a paper, or a book. This same question of legitimacy plagues the professional art world - roughly analogous substitutions might be exhibitions, works, and projects. Shusterman writes that we are impoverished by academic practices “...[which fail] to recognize the value of non-professional responses which seek neither interpretive truth nor publishable novelty but simply enriched experience, experience which may perhaps be communicated in writing but does not need to be to count as legitimate and meaningful.” When one engages in such non-professional practices, when one goes “slumming” in Reno, you run the risk of academic oblivion.

How does “enriched experience” find articulation? Does this essay enhance or undermine the experience of our field trip? How do you provide enough of a structure for something to become legible without allowing the structure to be the only thing that's experienced? Perhaps these considerations are central to social practices, or maybe this is merely my conceit. My interest has always led me to teeter as far on the edge of evanescence as possible – allowing, for example, the trip to Reno to live or die in the memories of my fellow travelers rather than making a video, or taking photos, or creating a Jeremy Deller like travel guide.

This essay may undermine this anti-ambition, but it can at least specify that no guide book is possible for the trip. It was a singularity comprised of a specific set of people at a specific moment in time. This is not to say that fruitful discussion/interpretation cannot take place, but if the trip was “successful,” discussion, documentation, and exhibition, would never adequately capture its complexity. This is dangerous territory. I'm sounding awfully “arty.”

Perhaps there's little else you need to know about the trip other than the fact that it was bookended by free appetizers when we arrived in Reno, and sage cheddar cheese on crackers on our way home in the white mini-van. Perhaps that is all you can know unless you were there. It was never a “project,” but it was something more than spontaneous revelry, although that happened too. Above all, it was a gamble.

I've gambled with others in Reno before, in more and less serious ways. Neil Young has indirectly asked – Tell Me Why Only Love Breaks Your Heart? To this I can only offer the corniest of replies – love is a gamble, and that gamble, if it is to have any meaning at all, must have failure as one of its real possibilities. Without the risk of losing everything, gambling/love is just another game, one hardly worth playing. Maybe my deepest ambition for social practices and the art/life tension it embodies for me, is that it too is a game worth playing, something more than a profession, something more than a series of projects, a game with something tragic at stake – something that could break your heart...

The eye of the storm...

The LeisureArts Mobile Command Center is currently anchored off the coast of Galveston, TX and hoping to ride out Humberto gracefully.
















AT 700 PM CDT...0000Z...THE CENTER OF TROPICAL STORM HUMBERTO WAS
LOCATED NEAR LATITUDE 28.8 NORTH...LONGITUDE 94.8 WEST OR ABOUT 35
MILES... 55 KM...SOUTH OF GALVESTON TEXAS.

HUMBERTO IS MOVING TOWARD THE NORTH-NORTHEAST NEAR 7 MPH...11 KM/HR.
THIS DIRECTION OF MOTION IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE WITH A GRADUAL
INCREASE IN FORWARD SPEED OVER THE NEXT 24 HOURS. ON THE FORECAST
TRACK...THE CENTER OF HUMBERTO SHOULD BE CROSSING THE UPPER TEXAS
COAST WITHIN THE WARNING AREA LATER TONIGHT OR EARLY ON THURSDAY.

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 50 MPH...85 KM/HR...WITH HIGHER
GUSTS. SOME STRENGTHENING IS EXPECTED PRIOR TO LANDFALL.

TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 60 MILES...95 KM
FROM THE CENTER.

THE LATEST MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE REPORTED BY AN AIR FORCE RESERVE
UNIT RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT WAS 998 MB...29.47 INCHES.

the new "is the new"

We published "is the new" some time ago and interest in it flares up every so often. Roo Renyolds has done a new "is the new," but he did it using automated techniques. We did the whole damn thing manually. Nice to see this thing live on.

Our old school style diagram:










And the gateway to the new "is the new" :

More recent reads - Meeker - Stebbins - Rothenberg/Fine

The LeisureArts research wing has been on a tear lately. We've finished two books and last night read an interesting article. Here are the quick takes:

After Work: The Search for the Optimal Leisure Lifestyle - Robert Stebbins
We've written about Stebbins before: Robert Stebbins - Amateur - Greg Sholette This book describes what "serious leisure" is, and provides resources for pursuing it. We will devote a whole post to this material in a couple of weeks as it is of central importance to our practice.

The Comedy of Survival: Literary Ecology and a Play Ethic - Joseph W. Meeker
Billed as "the founding work in the field of literary ecology," this book's most useful material for LeisureArts involves Meeker's theorization of comedy as a way of thinking, as a "strategy for living." It dovetails nicely with much of our recent reading of pragmatism as he notes that comedy is a mode "...of acting according to the needs of the context and the tenor of the time." In all honesty, the book is mostly interesting for its historical status rather than its philosophical strength.

"Art Worlds and Their Ethnographers" - Julia Rothenberg and Gary Fine
A solid essay arguing that ethnographers of art need to be cognizant of the specificities of art world social systems. The essay provides a tidy summary of the central issues for the sociology of art. One big problem in our estimation is the incredibly limited scope of the definition of "artworlds." The authors produce, perhaps predictably, a hierarchical overview of various artworlds and presume that the same interests are driving all participants. As they state, "Artworlds are tournaments with winners an losers." [speaking of tournaments, see here and here] This implies that all of the artists in lower tiers strive to enter the so-called higher tiers. Their artworld as "reputational tournaments" conceptualization clearly excludes sunday painters, hobbyists and other types of artists who have no interest in selling their work or even exhibiting it [the above linked Sholette post deals with this "dark matter" as does this post: Gregory Sholette - Creative Dark Matter - Carlos Basualdo] . A major flaw, but just about everyone who writes about art suffers from the same myopia...