THE ARCHIVE IS KNOWLEDGE IN VISUAL FORM – CHANGING THE WAY WE READ THE PAST AND PRESENT FROM AN INVENTION OF THE PAST FROM THE INVENTION OF THE PRESENT. THE ASSEMBLY OF FORMS BORN OUT OF A PROJECT, EITHER INDIVIDUAL OR COLLECTIVE OR MOVING THROUGH BOTH, MIGHT INCLUDE OTHER KINDS OF INVISIBLE FORMS TO BE MADE VISIBLE.
A version of the lecture and seminars delivered at the Rosebowl, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, November 3rd / 4th 2015 is presented below with links to a selection of curating subjects relevant to the topic
This short extract begins, for me, a journey that must encounter the problem of curating as a desire to reveal the limitation of the curator and realise relationships in the world intervening, producing effects in itself in how the ‘world’ may resist knowledge or suppress what is not ought to be made public. How is this to be undone? By the excavation of the forms, and explication of what it is and how it is performed, curating must be carefully thought of as ‘chronic’ over time so that its meaning is always to be rethought and returned as limited by the criticism in time. In some unorthodox ways of conceiving and perceiving, by long durations of assemblage, art whose continual resurfacing of ideas, puts a limit and test on its curating. The history of curating is therefore another question of excavation that has an impact on what can be done today, rather than yesterday. Key exhibitions have shaped these questions but they are still alive in retrieval of lost forms, or ones that emerge more alive today, having been leftover or missed. This is the use of instability. Things can be rearranged, or discovered in their relationships.
I am presenting a brief introduction here as a form of assembly – the assemblage itself speaks on my behalf, and shows curators and artists in their individual ways of addressing these questions, not with answers but with how to undo the questions themselves and present the work itself.
Questions of nomadic or temporary status are also brought up by the work for an institution. What is a curator’s position? Is it compromised?
The concept of ‘duty’ is – in the politics of space and of employment of labour, as the work of the official or supposed to know, agency to disclose the emptiness of the power of that agency, as a ‘duty’ to renegotiate the curatorial as ‘given’ or in eth ‘promise’ of acting for others [the traditional notion, to ‘curate’ or look after objects.
How does an artist return from curating or criticism to being an artist, such as we find in conceptual art practices– Dan Graham’s work spans decades of kinds of work and denys that it is conceptual, or philosophical yet is contradictory.
GLOBAL ART Hou Hanru
Curating is pre-formed as an intuition – before - as language is – as an assemblage of ghosts that are dispersed into works or from the works themselves via curating – but the curator is a conduit between the matter at hand and the art that is ‘elsewhere’ in the subject’s apperception– this is neither ‘normal’ nor crazy – it is a space somewhere to be dislocated from the convention of how we accord reality in the disposition of behaviour but paradoxically it has to be situated again and again through art. The situation is really the subject of curating, where the spectator is free not to behave, and interrupts her space-time, rather than being a programmed observer of objects arranged in a prescribed space. It also raises a problem about the subject herself. Or at least it offers as a changed possibility beyond ones notion of what is possible, and impossible, or in how this difference is unstable.
This is a performative lecture as a kind of biennial work involving a two-day educational base – inviting feedback and inclusions from the audience. It is also reflexive so that the projected writing is also read in different ways. At points I will refer to sections, skip other ones if in this presentation it doesn’t make sense to speak…letting images dictate the direction. I am also suggesting that in order to understand new practices in curating we assume we are not divided between the nominal titles as students, teachers, audiences and performances, in exchanging places, sharing between artists or publics, listeners or speakers necessarily -but that all are in terms that present both a passive and active form of engagement – passive in that consciousness is also a receiver as well as a sender, active, as the triangular relation with the object, the imaginary and a ‘real’, but as although this is our role –or nomination, we are also breaking down the distinction in these platforms and identities as forming a symbolic field and therefore in flux.
Its something we are doing on the MA since it is an international membership, whose constituency is the world. I see Leeds itself not isolated from everything – the world - that’s real, as a point of departure and arrival, the transit as a university in the proper sense of giving the city its meaning entering in the circuit of global cities, and university cities, and which correspond in sharing an idea about the problem of universal knowledge, or impossibility, as the critical thinking about the world itself and how the universal is to be structured. What is the world, or what does it mean being in the world as an artist or curator or in sharing these roles, to be finitely, ‘culturally’ placed at the horizon of subjective experience? It’s a mutual trust and belief in the activated memory of places and experiences. How to emphasise the role of artists to galleries is not just as sellers of luxury goods or as the vanity of self-promotion, but part of a system that brings art to the public forum, and from its organisations, in various antagonist forms and events.
This is described often as a horizontal plane, of curating since it moves across many cultural possibilities. How to best do that?
CONCEPT AND PERCEPT
What is conceptual art? It radically shifts from things we recognise, to representation, abstraction, and then to information, to indexes. – something is in part an index, since including signs and notational systems. The main objective is that it’s not purely visual – or retinal- ‘seen by the eye’. It’s reductive in the economy of means. [Born in early avant-garde and minimalism, concepts open on a limitless possibility and chain of signifiers]. The radical was established, as the ‘root’ or the irreducible. Now we multiply those roots. We rethink. This is the role of the curator moving identities and re-reading the past, inventing precursors.
Especially with conceptual art practices, there is no discernible object but an expressive distancing, our ‘identity’, in which we all have a place in making and consuming, so are all conceptual artists. It is not rational and intellectual – the conceptual artists are more like mystics not rationalists, they conceive beyond restrictions, where technology is pervasive, and knowledge arrives suddenly on google, in mass, or excess…but one could find all these in the spectator’s limitless individuation or demise. There’s also romantic conceptualism, that is both affective and idea. Romance affects us all in our hopes for a horizon of possibility, of freedom, through technology. We are all curators of our objects and tastes.
This raises some basic questions that contemporary global exhibition might ask about their role- Who are the new and older artists within the art system? – do they relate to a theme or concern say with a shared approach? What is the function of a biennial, art fair and museum, if it has now reached the ‘final’ state, if fully absorbed in culture? Art cannot maintain its non-instrumental role. There’s nowhere and everywhere to go…How does the history of a place figure?
What disagreements does it offer to established and decadent models around the ‘emergence’ or the ‘emergency’ of cultures? How does curating ‘publicise’ a country or a condition in the world context? What are the localised issues, the finite limits that it can deal with? Or contrarily how ambitious, and encyclopaedic can it be – what is its ideology, can it step back from the ideology, and struggle free or at least provide some principles = something practical about art and its relationships.â€¨
How has the art system redefined itself in the last three decades? How do dealers and galleries contribute to the picture, if they were in the 80s different participants in the structure of these appearances? Questions are many, since the global is a new dimension of immediate communications. An open space, yet also a shrinking one, a global village as was noted in the 1960s. The Biennial can offer itself as a ‘salon des refuses’ of the contemporary art still divided between those named and not named. This was the driver of the modern period, the 20th Century.
Biennials and auctions became important in the disagreements since we are part of the same system. But some things are disappearing such as art critics - who became perhaps curators or artists themselves. It’s a bigger space, the global multi million business world that impacts on lives, and the public might even so trust the new situations more than the more hierarchical one from the past with an elite firmly in place.
Art is important in the educational role it must assume in the delegation of its events. It is no longer a privilege of the rich and performs a multiplicity of such roles in the social dimension crossing over with design, curating and other disciplines. NOR was ever that in the terms of global cultures. A case in point…Frieze art fair…presents carnival public displays, celebratory festivals of art, etc. where one feels that in the real sense one does not have to ‘own’ a work, by buying it, are equally engage in the rituals of social formations and structures of hierarchy and meaning, and of religious meaning around art objects and practices. Everything is likeable, and equal. Time slows through such other concerns with a celebratory, and participatory roles. They [art fairs] are totemic and they respond in the sense of bonding around taboos. What are the new taboos? A collector usually -these days- might be a financier, or market individual rather than an educated representative of public institutions, or possessing new money someone requiring symbolic power, status, such as post communist oligarchs and those needing tax deductible investments etc. but that the new money markets like south east Asia are still precarious ones for artists that prioritise the sales potential of bankable art rest on an outmoded system of value and tradition set around the art object that drives the market as a kind of gold standard, a symbolic one, a fetish, or that will possess an aura of authenticity., or spiritual power [ of value]. But ontological questions open up at this point of metaphysical appearance. Capital’s first principle is to ‘grow or go’…which is not an ideal if we want to think about the way the artistic practices are to flourish as an intermediation between people. This is not art as investment but as an aesthetic, especially of how the installed work or constellation of works might destroy the stability of these traditions and power relations. So art can be an investment and also antagonise the systems of investment in the metaphysical power of its objects, yet be important in how artworks can move or change conditions of their social relevance through their organised perceptions and cognitions. Their ‘aesthetics’.
But the art magazine for example as a tool of the art world requires critics, curators and collectors to support the valuation - vetting– the advertisements constitute 90% of the publication and are legible to a specialist insider rather than a general public. Will these, as archives of a system achieve rarity value? Some kind of authentic relic forms the history of art in the 21st century? I am not sure, but as ‘history’ must provide examples in the evidences of material objects, – the museum will have archived all these publications and academics will research them - to unravel the meanings of a society long past and its systems of belief, its social and political drives, thus providing labour with outlets for ‘research’ that will feed into a perpetuating system, or a machinery of apparatuses, each carrying a specialised area of expertise.
Here we must return at the same time, in the other direction, to the ‘domesticity’ or privacy of studio practice. The unassuming notebook of an artist will always have the power to overwhelm these expanding conditions of the marketplace, into which it enters [or by which it is entered]. The ‘book’ withdraws from the conventions, the destruction of the codes, to recreate the market around itself, [I think of how Duchamp moved the situation] if it is seen in the future sense as an important advance in knowledge, or in a retrospective view contributed to a major work, unnoticed at the time, yet which changed everything. Here the future is an important imaginary to determine such systems of value, by changing the way we see the past and what can be reread as important. Curating is/must be sensitive to judgement, and to how lines of flight through aesthetics are to be assembled into a bigger picture of its fragments where fragments stand in for an artists work whether good example or a bad one.
Is it possible as Jerry Salz recommended to make a great show from bad art? Its rare.
We are, according to finance, to the warning of bankers, defaulting back to the time of the 1930s of mass poverty and hostile, virulent precarity. The top one per cent own just about everything. The peasants in China provide the American capitalists with cash/product, and the capitalists provide the Chinese government with security/stability in mass, cheap employment, which stabilises the global market, which would have collapsed without slavery, with severe unemployment. Well it has imploded. The boom / bust at around year 2000 affected the art world. Fast money. Act now, or disappear was the motto. The greater the inequality in income, the greater the art prices. This is ‘absolute value’ where the prices of works reaching accelerated hyper-reality, their ceiling price as auction or gallery sales go through the ceiling. And accelerates to infinite speed and entropy…as a bubble and bursts. The situation in Greece is very complex with the banks as a state crime perpetrated but the response from artists to the selling off of nations assets is to radicalise practice Hence the interest in Documenta to ask some questions here about artists relation to global economics and politics. Would a collector buy Primark or an expensive work of art inflated by inequality? He would possibly buy shares in Primark and work with the Chinese government, or mask his activities in charity. The two products are related and are a measure of the implosive heat of the bubble. The black hole around which art circulates.
"Art itself only exists as an unstable limit that has to be constantly crossed in order to exist". Jacques Rancière.
Curators talk about global art [e.g. see debates held at MACBA Barcelona] are specialised knowledge – as a think tank - also contributions from the non-profit public sector are complementary [a different species yet with a common objective] are also filters that legislate ‘permissions’ of new markets by allowing a critical dimension, signalling a democratic process that is falsifying.
The critical level of a curatorial practice we use an exhibition as an entity in itself. They are discursive. Mosquera [see video clips] puts in very simply that he was forced to invent a new kind of practice – as truly international in a wide range. Which goes beyond colonial interests. And self-interest. The best curating is argued on a basis of breaking the self-interest – and curating is also disinterested in the sense of presentation however difficult the task of making exhibitions and meeting some resistance in the political sphere. An example today is in Greece and in the artists working there right now, and also how the world’s most significant curatorial event Documenta will be held in part in Athens.
We would agree I am sure and yet also unsure about these unstable borders or limits. Are most evidently observed how the international biennale operates as an appearance of new art or discovery of existing work and art scenes, and equally so as a disappearance or submergence of those scenes as it becomes industrial, and ‘harvested’. It also anticipates the archiving of art in the digital sphere, as another simultaneous explosion of activity and recording. The recording itself is a form of recodification of the rapid accumulation of events that map a new cartography for navigating the world as a regulative system. It is therefore interesting in how artists might wish to resist the world’s regulation. However small insurgencies can be easily subsumed and often blindly co-opt regulative disobedience [within limits], are ‘tolerated’ for the very reason of justifying liberal democracy.
However the shifting borders that define the space of the global as one of included and excluded members - from a space or territory [in this case what constitutes the art activity in the world, and who counts and who does not count within that territory, and who is an agent and who is an audience for these events, so called, that art industries work to invent and reproduce]. What happens when there is no definable measure or limit to the organisations, and the new appearances of curators, and all the business of art – education, residencies, small independent works, new media projects and discussions in public forums and so on…how many attend is now contending with the scale of other kinds of spectacles that are also invisible, in the motives of networked global power. At a certain point of crisis the identity political issues are worn out as debates, since it is not so easy to categorise in the terms of particular groups [ethnic, sexual, as providing self-policed ghettos of political correctness].
I will show an example of how art can also be a dumping of quantities of its material regardless of any qualities into a kind of market place of ghettos which leads to a kind of distrust in the future of any universal ethos– in order to understand that contingency then, the historical is also examined, Biennales expose these relations, and where politics enters against aesthetics then the world questions its regulations or rules against universality vetted corporate slogans of art for all etc. The artist leads in fact, but needs the infra structure not to fall into these seductive universalist traps– so the visibility is a screen through which a legitimizing process is projected - yet cannot be seen as a law, as it also – in its passage, changes the rules of passage.
The future is occupied already by interests in dividing up the resources, of the artist, since patronage is different – in a democracy or a global market calling itself a democracy with its infra structures applying as a regulator –
Since there seems to be something being sold off about how we imagine or are to imagine the future – these are all quite clearly shared understandings in the proliferation of utopias and the future shocks…of an ecological and economic disaster. How does art contend in these scenarios? Between utopian wish and also for facing the real conditions and contingencies. ‘Burning down the house’
These mainstream TV reviews are telling in how the public can’t dissociate art from entertainment. But there’s always an edge.
Are we still able to trust in both the past and the future? So there’s really no sense of definition or value beyond the spectacle of something new, another big art event, like Venice, or Documenta, but on a superficial level, more a kind of secularized pilgrimage, or religious experience, but also impermanent, a fleeting one. And this is something to do with how the global is configured around a certain speed of its transmission of simultaneous time [so that its objects can be instantly made/ valued in the market, and which makes time itself a commodity, something of a cliché – ‘time is money’, and speed or acceleration of production is at an absolute value]. This is entropy, where value slips under the signifier for its status in the symbolic field. A lack of prediction is a decline into disorder, regarding future stability. However entropy is a creative state of mind; its imaginary allows some movement from ordered and predictable events. Disorder might explode as art…able to open things up to chance. Perhaps.
We therefore, in the global are talking about the ‘shape of time’ – of worlds of art at different speeds but brought into alignment. Media events happen to everybody at once –
Entropy is an alignment for me of differences into disorder, or equivalence and indifference. This is a limited world of possibilities, but still open to a kind of discovery, with limited room for changes. But as George Kubler writes that the past [in how we can pillage from its store of material] might offer, since the future is shrinking, as the curator Nicolas Bourriaud speaks of, and the past is growing before us. So this ‘past’ is an archeology of cultures, of ‘delays’ - some cultures were closer, faster, more distant, slower, as giving an illusion of time from no fixed point, that we assumed because of far away places from a fixed point of the west, so we make exotic this slowness of the south for instance as authentic, or ‘primitive’ ‘, from the past, but still living in…the here and now. Some artists would wish not to be recorded in the archive of the global apparatus of the art world. A selective process of recording…is best resisted. The art is underground or subsists against the given of visibility. We could say it wishes and embraces invisibility and finds more use in being and moving in the dark. This might be still nominally an avant-garde strategy following the history of art itself always as an unknown or unofficial entity.
This have been brought under one transcendent global position – the network was ‘mapped’ entirely, in 2001, - the last map filled all the wildernesses by the satellite geo-political mapping where there is no longer unknown territory…. What are the effects that having absolutely all territory of the world discovered already, there’s no place left unrecorded – it’s a continuous film, say of a car park 24 hours. But everywhere…. which is a kind of archival record of movements and non-movements. As a dead space it is an archive. We ask is the world such an enormous concrete space of surveillance, where no one is actually watching and no one is in control? It’s a twisted situation in which we cannot be part but are always included as under an umbrella of so called freedom without proper difference. Sometimes we hit the edges of that freedom, not as one expects.
Everywhere except the unrecorded obscure history itself – i.e. we excavate the past in all these cultural spaces, for a thinking of the past as a space that will appear in the light of the present.
Each ‘now’ is a kind of recognition, in a sudden illumination. The image forms a constellation, a dialectical image, past and present – in a flash – not just of the past of the present. Actuality is, between these illuminations, flashed in the dark, only glimpsed, unexpectedly, as signals of a new constellation. We are given signals to what is really out there. This is the hidden, in any conception of global art activity of memory as a flash of recognition. We see it in a flash; it disappears again in the time of the present. Its intermittent – so something happens – we cannot grasp it, until after the event. The problem of catching the glimpse of something in the world before the unconscious obscures us inside our ordinary reality. So working globally as a curator one is looking and having to turn from the expected horizon of knowledge to be surprised by the appearance of the horizon’s disappearance – the flash. This flash is like a returned look that illuminates the position of the eye from the object of its vision, so that we can see the correlation from outside, disappearing again. And so forth. Nothing here is absolute.
Not Art Basel
I am critical of art fair as poison chalice but again through their hedonistic commercialism other things open and absorb non-commercial practices, that might only have been underground overlooked or else cut short, institutionalised. These are all a kind of metaphysical ideal of art.
And we find something in them that speaks of a watering down or softening of intentions…the subjective absolute point of view, or as symptom, best to enjoy it.
We talk of monumental exhibitions and also being plural – showing many people and providing a place of research. So we still reconsider universal concepts about how we are to design events that are truly representative and recognise the limits of ‘universal’ concepts about inclusion and representation as absolutes. It is impossible to cover all ground and its ‘dark matter’ [outside of visibility] is also a question of asking the why and where of such a task. It’s a problem. Like fish in water, we can’t be the ones who discover what water is, as the experiencing organisms made of water, swimming in it, yet it’s always withdrawn from our attention. As Quentin Meillassoux says, it is the subjective circle itself, which is the ‘absolute’ of its own ability to not see beyond itself.
This is a question also of re inscribing, or marking against the determinations of regions such as the Gulf and its more or less sudden appearance on the scene. This is where I have worked personally so I have some understanding of the particular here, concerns with the history and the way the ‘rapport’ with past and present lies awkwardly, and a response to the bifurcation of east and west north and south, through specific themes again that default back to an absolute subjectivity, so that the region itself is claimed subjectively, turns the region into an absolute. Kassel itself has a hidden history of violence, and world [domination] is always beckoning from a point of absolute subjectivity, and always suffers as other cities such as Manchester in the industrial era from extreme exploitation. This kind of correlation of subjectivity and things, led to Marx and Engels developing a theory of communism and labour, around the production of goods. This still has a point today more relevant in how labour operates, as the will of the market of human production itself.
Catherine David answers a question here about the development in Middle East and the danger of ghettoisation. How we perceive from a global perspective.
Example from ubuweb: Bedoun section: compare Goldestan and Herzog as twin examples of documentary film one mystifying the other tragic. http://ubu.com/film/golestan_yek.html
Golestan’s film stands in stark contrast to Herzog’s beautiful and atrocious decontextualization game, Lessons of Darkness (1992), in that it recognizes that its subjects are not fuelled by madness, but charcoaled by despair.
The revolution and the subsequent artistic developments echo others from other national histories, most clearly Russian revolution and the political sense of contingency, rather than in any analysis of identity of an individual personality [a charismatic leader] – there’s always a complex of reasons why internally things change, and also these causes are always not purely visible. For example I have two videos by an American artist living here [Liliane Lijn] traveling in other parts of the world such as Greece, who gave me two videos she made there– about energy [symbolic energies and real energies, [filmed in factories, producing fire and water] and how industry as an image always has an allegorical force in how art is to absorb the images of energy, without delimiting the impact of real energy in the industrialised global industry, and military complex].
EXHIBITION AND FILM
AN EXAMPLE OF DESIGNING A CURATING CONCEPT
The film ‘Orfeu Negro’ 1959, directed by Michel Camus, from Brasil is as different from Jean Cocteau’s Orphée, 1950, in how specific cultural forces might add fragments to former fragments of narratives unrelated other than by a coincidence of its allegorical structure– which one is the original from a third, future point? The story of Orpheus is an ancient one with three versions all culturally different, so there’s additions or subtractions accordingly to how we are to read the story [and the music] receding into some pre-state or sci-fi regurgitation of its mythological resonance, in the terms of a neurological cognition and evolution of thought about the world and its geopolitical, and geological superimpositions, in diagrammatic maps. This story relates the underworld to the poet’s sensibility, and to the mathematical structure of poetic figures. A curator might wish to take this cultural/poetic idea of a marked out layering of space - an underworld -as a theme for example about the world itself as a deep space of poetry whose surface is politics. That the world is now like an H.P. Lovecraft novel, a ‘cthonic’ space of unknowable objects’ whose ontological ‘facticity’ denies any present embodiment other than death…maybe….
Wesee clearly these coincidences in a filmmaker and Marxist poet, Pier Paolo Pasolini. Here in Palestine he seeks out potential places for filming the ‘Gospel according to Saint Matthew’ which reinscribes the story of Christ into a materialist [atheist] work of real and mythological figures without the recourse to an ‘official’ propaganda of religion. This political work is a great work of art without art serving a political agenda. http://ubu.com/film/pasolini.html
The ‘Middle East’ region. It is clear that the regions are specific so I cant answer in any direct experience of different regions so will talk specifically of my own experience. The region of the Gulf has been effected by changes in the politics [democratisation and commercialism, tourism, running out of oil - for example and expanding the tourist / building programme through culture, inventing a kind of heritage fiction to build fact. The rise in the developed region of Sharjah – the cultural spaces having been built or invented – this is not a problem if it has understood the relation of heritage to modernity and modernisation, and global culturisation as opposed to ghettoization is in developing infrastructures for art and artists practice, through education and spaces of dialogue. If there is a way of locating the local artists production into new frameworks such as the global is in the syntax –of art fairs, the use of English language, parallel texts, translation, exactly being a way of using that loss of localism in a radical way– as working within a world standardization. Language – art - being a difficulty in these questions of identity but addressed in the individual artists works and in the domestic. There are so many variables for the existence of these biennales and for major international exhibitions and how they pose questions of change - which are politically set in a relationship to the aesthetic. For example the 6th Biennale that I made was under the cloud of [world] war…incursion of an illegal war next door in Baghdad.
Lets start by regarding this particular venue and event as a global one – at the Rosebowl. What is its function? Could this be a biennale platform where important issues are discussed regarding the function of art today? YES. Put it on your CV immediately, since you can participate in the first of these as self-organised discussions and presentations. All you need is to book some dates for an imaginary programme. You can invite speakers, and arrange how the debates and what the debates will feature as topics. The current structure in many of the museum shows, art fairs and biennales supplements artworks and installations with conferences, film screenings, and guest speakers, radio [local] or public forums integrated into the whole concept of the exhibition. You are I imagine aware of the internet as a platform for highly individualized presentations of images yet is not able to reflect.
We are already before we start at the end of finding ourselves positioned, having initiated in the imagination a new global centre for art - we are performing as global actors and are producing and reproducing a system, and we are changing it by arguing for and against it as we are sitting here. This is called a kind of movement and a voicing - which does not have to always follow setlines or fixed procedures. I think that global curating might be something like that. It does things with art and words not just to represents things. Does this mean that the curator is an artist? I leave that question to you since the important aspect of asking it is to interrogate why it is even a question. We can look at these [books] to see how different programmes were designed as alternative means of distribution and public interface.
Adam Szymczyk wants to open in Athens, for his Documenta, talking about experimental approaches to global art events. And their political relations. It’s a telling video in how a certain kind of media presence seems to be operating at a ritualistic level – we might need to see how the fetish of celebrity operates in the sense of a new bureaucratic model which has returned to an earlier charismatic kind of leadership – but also how the intellectual becomes a celebrity….the audience here is also something to examine in how things are done…this is diplomacy I think…
Here he echoed our own position about a thinking about space as site specific historically, meaning thinking that space as interrupting history rather than assuming that art and politics coincide absolutely as historical fact, but rather to influence each or aspire to– yet are in a relation constantly to be in questioning these identities, especially in the egalitarian motive to unify them.
Here north/south supposes by association conflicts also east/west …and is never settled. The compass moves and exchanges all these points. It’s a vertigo. The Mediterranean infuses Africa and Middle East and Japan in its waters.
Greece… “Athens Biennale is not an urban regeneration project or a means to raise the city’s attractiveness for prospective investors,” he said. “It is rather a project devised as an analytical tool, reflecting its immediate socio-political environment – constantly checking on its own status as a critical device – and changing strategies according to the needs of the moment, instead of defining its thematic scope according to the wilful decision of one or another curator.”
LETS EXAMINE A CENTRAL EUROPEAN INSTITUTION THAT HAS BEEN DEALING WITH GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES FOR SOME TIME.
I listen to Adam Smyzcyk ‘s introduction to the issue of Greece and how the history of Documenta leads to opening spaces of possibility in regard to ‘empire’ and its disassembly and criticism – how what Obrist names as an influence of ‘archipelago’ taken forward from Glissant reverberates in the work of intellectuals dealing with currencies of art as a value, and translations of fragments or islands of culture, whether these are connected or disconnected by economic rationing [say in the economic payback required of Greece to the banks.] We might then encounter power struggles and corruption, many mistakes [like football]. The situation of Germany might still therefore dominate in a sense the empire of signs of democracy, also corrupted by contemporary art/ in contemporary exhibitions. What is being exposed? How does the new global ‘blockbusters’ really operate as world changing devices i.e. Can art ever address the issue of change to a system of economies and politics, which seem to operate in an either/or way…how does the biennial set agendas for freedom or democracy? The negation of negation is a problem, that we are all under a regime of aesthetics – if we cannot negate or offer alternatives to dominant rules, even more so when everything becomes transparent and there opens a credibility gap…for example everybody knows but we still return to our belief as set in the systems of thinking, as given. But it is not given.
We can assume I think that ‘we’, or ourselves, as a constitution of people from different parts of the world, are speaking perhaps several languages, and coming here or staying for example here in Leeds England, or traveling like myself between different parts of the world –and using a number of languages and means of transport, transit itself is an evolved engineered language. We are thinking also about the studio in which we are each developing a new personal language, in relation to exchanges with established impersonal or inherited meanings, in art, and technology, that are breaking ground, adding and subtracting, or negating and destroying older ideas, and questioning what is new…e.g. installation as an ‘aesthetic’ – moving away from minimalism…to spatial divisions and subjectivities.
… That we are also contemporary to what is happening here and elsewhere and can hook up with any place by a number of systems that communicate our location and another’s immediately. [Generally speaking, his thinking seeks to interrogate notions of centre, origin and linearity, embodied in his distinction between atavistic and composite cultures, which has influenced subsequent Martinican writers' trumpeting of hybridity as the bedrock of Caribbean identity and their 'creolised' approach to textuality. As such he is both a key (though underrated) figure in postcolonial literature and criticism, but also he often pointed out that he was close to two French philosophers, Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze, and their theory of the ‘rhizome’.] We are part of a network in other words and are carried along through and immersed in it at speed. Something happens then it is recorded, or it’s not visible only because everything is in the light equally visible. It’s called I think an ‘infinite regress’. One signifier refers to another in an endless chain. We are in that chain of signifiers. At certain points we narrate in order to stop the infinite regression of signifiers. We become storytellers of our own subject as individuals.
But what has this to do with curating and global art world, and the kind of work that is being made today, what are the concerns of artists who are inside the global chain of signifiers or the network? What constitutes these networks? Is Africa and India and Japan, Brasil, Korea, Austrailia, Norway, Iceland, Germany, Italy, Morocco, Algeria, Africa, Russia, Kurdistan, Serbia, Greece all in the mix?
All these places are on a map, and what was not on the map has redrawn the map as a kind of dark matter, but that is not consistent. The map as also a digital code of numbers can be endlessly redrawn – and the power bases we used to discuss are weakened through the redrawing process. We can make a new map for example of the Mediterranean, and rethink the history of the region according to a fragment that we may add in the translation so we have two Mediterranean maps. We could call it the new Mediterranea that involves all the continents around the sea and stretch into Africa and to Turkey and Russia, to the Gulf, to Egypt etc. We can turn that map upside down as it once was drawn – it had been originally drawn from a different angle, many centuries ago and we move the sea to an asymmetrical relation to its present coordinates. Then it turns again, upside down, warped space and time, et cetera…but another space and another time zone that is not regulated, but changes the conceptual viewpoints. The clocks slow down here and speed up there. Something might appear in two places, freakishly and we learn to accept that double nature of the object, having a shadow in time or an uncanny double somewhere else. So we ask firstly where are we? Who are we? Or better who ‘is’ we? If we constitute a group not just of individuals but are a constellation here in the Rosebowl as a group individual. It’s a question again of the frame that defines us, what it excludes, what elides with it, of a combination of frames, that establish the human as a group and also how our technologies extend or break down the frames and edges that do not exclude the animal, the machine, the planet, as ‘conscious’ aspects of difference.
So in this space we are human, machine and possibly animal, connected in some ways we can define, to what we were also before we arrived here in this form, pre-ontic…as absent from the universe…and so forth. We can also say that in terms of transmission that there is no duration to speak of as significant in fact something might arrive in electrons before sending a message. So in the movement of peoples and of things like artworks and technologies that transmit where we are, performing a curatorial act, we have to challenge the state of those concepts of what is here, or there, if its art, is this lecture a performance and are we all part of it for example? Therefore we are currently in this place where events are staged – educational and cultural – so that we can discuss the meaning and purpose of these exchanges of knowledge and maybe, re-define what it means to be here especially as artists and designers, and [as we will see] ‘curators’.
We change the being here to maybe being here. I will return to these terms over the next hour or so to try and establish how, in global terms we have a certain role and task today, in terms of maintaining or even inventing difference – in not being subject to any singular perspective or control – or self-policing [thinking we are free when in fact following subliminal standards and impossible tasks, in labor. These complex structures of thinking who and where, and the what and how of making and doing art today is more pressing – there’s a feeling that the industry of art is no longer a space of freedom – what do I mean by freedom here? We ask today – about the present rather than the future or past – but the beginnings of this fragmentation of seeing from many viewpoints happened a long time ago when say Picasso appropriated African art and incorporated it into his own, or the Japanese scroll paintings on silk [the ‘silk’ road] influenced the European avant gardes in their art and fashion from early on centuries ago. We have termed the trade as an exchange or a hostility, or a byproduct of war / colonizing wars and the wounds inflicted by colonization as a kind of domination and the destruction of cultures. Despite the wound the destruction opens up another space of invention, through ‘creolisation’ – as an embodied translation…
“Creolisation is the process in which Creole cultures emerge in the New World. As a result of colonisation there was a mixture between people of indigenous, African, and European descent, which came to be understood as creolisation, traditionally used to refer to the Caribbean; although not exclusive to the Caribbean it can be further extended to represent other The mixing of people brought a cultural mixing which ultimately led to the formation of new identities. It is important to emphasize that Creolisation also is the mixing of the "old" and "traditional," with the "new" and "modern." Furthermore, creolisation occurs when participants actively select cultural elements that may become part of or inherited culture is a condition in which "the formation of new identities and inherited culture evolve to become different from those they possessed in the original cultures," and then creatively merge these to create new varieties that supersede the prior forms. “
A diaspora (from Greek διασπορÎ¬, "scattering, dispersion") is a scattered population whose origin lies within a smaller geographic locale. Diaspora can also refer to the movement of the population from its original homeland. Diaspora has come to refer particularly to historical mass dispersions of an involuntary nature, such as the expulsion of Jews from Judea, the fleeing of Greeks after the fall of Constantinople, the African Trans-Atlantic slave trade, the southern Chinese or Hindus of South Asia during the coolie trade, the deportation of Palestinians in the 20th century and the exile and deportation of Circassians. It would be impossible here to go into detail and the history of diasporas caused by internal wars and invasive colonization and these genocides, I remark here to the recent examples of post colonization wars and the retreat from an earlier mode to a new one of global consciousness for good or for ill.
Indonesian, Vietnamese, South American, Isreali, Palestinian, Syrian, Iranian Iraqi - incursions and subversions by American and European imperial designs on countries and economies, well documented in the media are also a hysterical body of opinions – not facts - as also the strategies of domination and of cultural homogenization for multinational company profit– I suggest that reading and learning from art and anthropology and ethnography in documentary, as much as from Hollywood, as equally revealing of what is ideological, is a good start – even youtube for example has a body of counter-cultural works [ a favoured medium for subcultural, conspiratorial desire], of excavating / lurid fear-mongering, yet clearly worrying, global control networks and operatives staged in occult figures such as the occult American illuminati] global art works operate through the particular situations –seeking a kind of counter-realism against evidential exposure of conditions and contingents] might help here if we are to understand how we got paranoid here, to a ‘global’ situation, with a resurgence in religious reason, since it has always been so, the world or worlds, plural, co-existing, fought out in piracy and brutality, in the appropriation of ‘value’, or ‘meaning’ as the cause to traumatic behavior is never evident in the plane of experience as other than always a metaphysical ‘reason’. But these foundations will serve to give us an idea of globalisation and art industry that rides on the back of new trade arrangements through corporate culture and the masks that are employed through representation, as the business supersedes the autonomy of nation states…which is a whole area of study on the evolution of capital into global control society… without independent societies.
As to curating at the global level curating has proliferated – its complex in how the term now means just about everything far beyond the museum. Warhol, Beuys, etc. expanded notion of art and of politics. But from that period of independent spaces, artists spaces, and also the activism of entering the academy and teaching [as Beuys and many others] from a point of criticism of the academy, which looks pretty much as if we failed to change anything, as also the practices of rebellion had underestimated the degree of commitment to the day after the revolution, needs to be attentive to the bureaucracy of change…. we still might persist in finding both entry points and ways of affirming the system in producing negations within it, of being able to destroy, subtract from, and affirm a process of reaching an independence.
What models do we have after the more oppositional ones of the 60s that failed? We have to leave some of these aspects of practice behind to find a new empty space. That is the ‘modern’ of the global possibility. Not at the edges of history, but as a reinvention or departure literally in the travelling of ideas between places, growing its own pathways as it travels…this is radical in a sense in how cutting back the old system opens that possibility.
As I suggest – the contemporary student of art should go beyond any sense of duty to these fixed notions of time and history and exhibition but at the same time ‘do it’ – maybe something great will happen…. we can steal from the future some ideas in the imaginary sense - of sensing the present – and of not embracing the ‘free trade’ ideology of capital.
Eduard Glissant is Hans Ulrich Obrist’s mentor. The Martinique author had written on the way archipelago islands could be a good spatial and social model for global curating. Obrist has many references to the past, and great knowledge of the historical even if its at times superficial – he is a new global curator, an uber-curator who wants to be everywhere at once…this could be a problem for artists and has been noted in the criticism of curating ‘big’ or monumental shows. In fact there’s a reaction of course in how to spread out, to spatialise, make space and how to remap the city, the suburban, ‘paysage’, that might host a biennial without centre. If we look at the research of ‘exhibition histories’, key exhibitions have been chosen to examine how these new strategies can be recalled to see from this point what is again to be drawn from these experimental practices…do these line up to show any constant, or variable? Can we maintain a detached view of the changes in society at a level of global penetration, and loss? There, in the loss is also one of loss of an imposition from outside. The changes are to be self-willed.
Who talks? What is an archipelago? The sheltering and welcoming of islands in their topographic relation, as curatorial movement? It is clear that once art leaves the museum it starts to want to go back into it. Why does this happen? Is not the digital space satisfying as a tourist spectacle in itself? We look again at history and obsolete forms. This is clearly something that crosses cultures and makes for hybrid form that will make future artifacts from small fragments. Perhaps not? Yet all these fragments are part of an enormous archiving of trends, short lived but never the less archived in more and more digital storage, more fragments, infinitely regressed? A catalogue of simultaneous events, and simulations, appearances of art, yet assembled and disassembled accordingly in social hierarchies and time-turning into a labyrinth of spaces. Amazon are opening a bookstore, with ‘real’ books displayed in it, is both actual space and virtual space, and the space of the book – its innards, or organs of fiction and stories can be cannibalized, enjoyed as fetishes. Vinyl is back –but banality rises out of the grave, being sold in Tescos, but Tesco represents a kind of ‘bad’ form of super marketing of products and provides a poor model – perhaps- for art. Or is it. Andy Warhol would say not…More supermarkets [themselves archives of modernity], more ads, more celebrity…more availability…more reproductions i.e. art that everyone can ‘own’ or play with…. As art frees itself it disperses into the ocean of trade and loses an identity, or purpose, it becomes like everything else, therefore the global project must not forsake the separation that allows it to stand without being an instrument to interests. This is of course very difficult to achieve and the curators always are debating this problem of disinterest, in secularization as merely a religion without religion.
Discoveries then in the global sense is a labyrinth of pasts that invent possibly new things as anticipations, modifications and gestures, physically folded at one time and unfolded in the other. This is like a new science where things meet at the same time but had not before. I think global exhibitions and events are built like this, since they appear as if from nowhere but have always been there but not in the field of vision. Museums are primitive examples of this passage of movements of exploration. But we also at the same are unfolding the idea of the museum especially the anthropology and the interpretations of things, materializing new possibilities. Inventing pathways throughout the global culture today. Obrist uses the motif of the ‘archipelago’ as a structure that allows both independence and mixing of cultures. It is on this form that he establishes a model for global art circulation. Exchange with the Other – the different - without diluting or losing the sense of self.
This problem is addressed continuously in conferences attached to Biennials and major surveys internationally
Conference "Why Biennial? Why Associate?" held at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin. Dates: 10th - 13th July, 2014.â€¨Panel discussion: “Biennial Writing—Re-assessing Art History”â€¨How do biennials as ephemeral exhibitions take their part in art history? What kinds of histories of the biennials are visible and readable? Is a new reading of art history based on perennial exhibitions possible? Are biennials as a format of the display of art exhausted or is it possible to think about different potentials?â€¨Bruce Altshuler, Director, Museum Studies Program, New York Universityâ€¨Nicolas Bourriaud, Director, École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts/Curator, Taipei Biennial 2014â€¨Juan A. Gaitán, Curator, 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Artâ€¨Victoria Noorthoorn, Director, Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires â€¨Moderated by Koyo Kouoh, Founding Director, RAW Material Company
Conferences on biennales, major international exhibitions, key historical events in art and curating
Press conference of the 56th International Art Exhibition - All The World's Futures. Venice, Ca' Giustinian, 5th March 2015. Speakers: Paolo Baratta and Okwui Enwezor.
A stroll through a fun palace - Swiss Pavilion at the 14th International Architecture Biennale in Venice 2014â€¨Marathon days 5/6 June 2014â€¨Okwui Enwezor, Rem Koolhaas, Hans Ulrich Obrist
As part of the Vitra Design Museum's exhibition "Making Africa - A Continent of Contemporary Design", Consulting Curator Okwui Enwezor discusses how our traditional design vocabulary needs to be redefined when we look at Africa.
The episode of THE AGE OF IMAGES dedicated to the 13rd Documenta in Kassel, Germany. The show was broadcasted in two hourly episodes.
interview with Okwui Enwezor
Global Art Forum, Dubai Art Fair - Forgotten Histories - early Documenta 1955
Further conferences on biennales and art fairs
Conversations | The Global Art World | Making Biennials (in English) â€¨Filmed on May 16 2014 at Art Basel Hong Kongâ€¨Juliana Engberg, Artistic Director of the 2014 Biennale of Sydney and Artistic Director of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Sydneyâ€¨Eungie Joo, Curator of the 2015 Sharjah Biennialâ€¨Jessica Morgan, Artistic Director of the 10th Gwangju Biennale and The Daskalopoulos Curator, International Art at Tate Modern, Londonâ€¨Moderator: Hou Hanru, Artistic Director at MAXXI Museum, Romeâ€¨With a focus on Gwangju, Sharjah and Sydney, this panel will discuss the range of types of biennials, what roles they play in the international and local communities, and to what extend they mediate across different cultural regions.
At the same time, as is so with the idea of a plural equivalency in staging ‘platforms’ – the fragments are exceeding the ability to contain or archive or select in any way other than making more fragments, so even if there is a multi-perspectival freedom to publish or exhibit the global industry of the digital platform makes the consumer also the spectator or the narcissism as a given. It’s the problem here then of the given - so called democratic universality and global business which not only created universal products, and machinery for both domestic and urban development…but also entertainment as an industry along with advertising and information as things in themselves, as objects on a par with global warming and natural disasters are re-run as life –styles choices etc.…natural and unnatural are all commodified for selling, including curation models and software packages, apps… Here’s some blurb about digital curating from a company advancing the future use of technologies.
ONLINE DIGITAL CURATING - AUTOMATIONâ€¨
‘The rise of digital platforms also highlights the evolving role of curation, as consumers look for better ways to find the culture they want the most. As power shifts to consumers—who can program their own content using powerful technology and simple interfaces—curation moves out of the hands of professionals and into communities, platforms and algorithms. This creates a real danger of a “tyranny of demand,” as indicated by the prevalence of franchises over original creation in increasingly risk-averse industries. Nevertheless, media players that can offer the right content—that is, not only what consumers want today, but what will surprise them tomorrow—are likely to prevail. Connected devices and services create new opportunities to watch, play and listen, increasing the total time spent consuming media In Western countries, for instance, almost 70% of subscribers to an online video-streaming service watch more video content than they did three years ago. Nearly 60% of subscribers to a streaming music service spend more time listening to music than they did three years ago. Connected devices tend to create new “times” for consumption (for example, while waiting or commuting), especially for shorter formats (see Figure 1.3). In a world where an unlimited supply of content is always at hand, the only limits are available leisure time.’ New curation models [advertisement] ‘The rapid development of social networks is changing the ways that content is curated and recommended. Every user is now a curator to friends and the larger community beyond, through services like Twitter and Tumblr. Distribution platforms are deepening their integration with social networks to respond to this demand for sharing. Facebook’s integration with Spotify gives any user the ability to share his or her musical tastes with friends. Sony has also announced that social network integration would be core to its new PlayStation 4 gaming experience. Our survey confirms that sharing playlists with friends, "liking" a film on Facebook or reviewing a book on Amazon have all become mainstream ways to influence consumer choices—now at par with or even above traditional source of recommendations. Half of videogamers in Western countries choose games based on their friends’ social network recommendations, up from 40% three years ago. By aggregating and analyzing user behavior—the often-discussed "Big Data"—curation is also becoming automated. More and more consumers trust algorithmic recommendation engines to determine their cultural choices (see Figure 3.2). A Deezer or Netflix user will find songs or films recommended by the service without having to search for additional information on whether the content will appeal to them. For books, 30% of respondents in Western countries trusted such recommendations in 2010, compared with nearly 40% today.’
The curation centres on a polyphony…plural voicing– that something happens at the same time as the object itself is displayed- structured in such a way as to maintain energy between order and its negative, disordering principle, to dismantle fixed identities and move into other kinds of relationships. This means a certain rule to change. So if we look at a general tendency to go beyond the conventions, or to actually destroy the older models, to keep or subtract some of the features of the exhibition – it is to ‘cannibalise’ - or to interject a new kind of discourse – an affirmation. Such a platform in fact can put a match to the changes in atomization in the world. So ‘worlds’ can also connect between realms of thought as new, within the arcane; a moment of complex relations, is brought to the attention. These would be social imaginaries, memories sudden appaearance. Maybe, these speculative relations of relations are restrictions or limits of thought, collapsing the metaphysical impasse of asking questions of being. Where do we stand, here and now? What do we consume, if not objects, but ourselves?
Making Art Global (Part 1): The Third Havana Bienial 1989: Part 1: Exhibition Histories Vol. 2 Paperback – 22 Mar 2011
by Rachel Weiss (Author), Luis Camnitzer (Author), Coco Fusco (Author), Geeta Kapur (Author), Afterall Books (Editor)
Making Art Global (Part 2): Part 2: Magiciens De La Terre 1989 (Exhibition Histories)Paperback – 25 Feb 2013
by Pablo Lafuente (Author), Lucy Steeds (Author), Jean-Marc Poinsot (Author)
Exhibition as Social Intervention: 'Culture in Action' 1993 (Afterall Exhibition Histories) Paperback – 15 Nov 2013
by Tom Eccels (Author), Helmut Draxler (Author), Joshua Decter (Author)
Exhibiting the New Art: 'Op Losse Schroeven' and 'When Attitudes Become Form' 1969 (Exhibition Histories) Paperback – 25 Nov 2010
by Christian Rattemeyer (Editor)
Just another exhibition. Histories and politics of biennials. Ediz. italiana e inglese(Multilingual) Hardcover – May 2011
by Federica Martini (Author), Vittoria Martini (Author), J. Knaeble (Translator)
Exhibition (Documents of Contemporary Art) Paperback – 9 Sep 2014