Art & Language Chapter 8

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S.R.: The question of resistance is a big question because after the 80s where even affirmation, after appropriation affirmation of capitalistic strategies were conceived as subversive. [...] I'm much more coming from a very political, critical art practice in the middle of 90ies, beginning of the 90ies.[...] We made some big events, invited many people and so on. We had exhibitions only for one hour and things like that. So for five days during the art fair in Cologne we had 50 exhibitions [...]. Everybody was for two hours or for three hours, he could put a painting or whatever. And there were a lot of discussions, discursive work [...] and political presentations and so on. And the interesting thing is that out of this group there were only one or two people at the last documenta, of the organisational artists. But of the other artist who were invited there were some invited to the documenta. It was only one step becoming an artist. Joining this very critical practice, doing this for one summer or so and then the next step. //It was a tactical move. // Or if you see somebody like Matthew Barney. His strategy is containing the point that when the first exhibition from his gallery is going on a world tour everything must be sold. This is part of the strategy. That everything is sold. You can only see the works and everywhere is a red point. [...]

Michael: [...] We received a kind of questionnaire from some researcher at Centre Pompidou. And the last question she asked was, is it possible to be subversive or is it mainly necessary to be cynical? Cynicisme ou subversion?[...] The only reply I could conceiving in the short time available to me was that as far as I'm aware most soi-disant subversive activities are cynical. This extreme bind that we seem to be in since [...] the various apostles of pragmatism from Rorty to Derrida to Deleuze [...] and the growth of a kind of academy of cultural studies, [...] the universityfication of certain sorts of practices, we have now a colossal middle-brow. So if I turn on the middle-brow radio station in England, »Radio 4«, and hear an arts discussion program, no discrimination is made between [...] the world from which Henry Moore comes and the world from which Tracy Emin comes, no distinction is made. They are merely famous artists with a profile of some kind or another. This is an extremely deleterious effect. You can say, I'm artist who works with that or you can say, »Okay get my Adorno done«. I say »fuck it, we've got to put the contact back«. This is very simple. This is rubbish. And at some point my patience run out a long time ago, [...] my capacity to divise didn't get any better, but certainly, grumpy Adornoishness seemed to me in many ways preferable to the fraudulent democracies we are presented with now. I'm no huge fan of Adorno. I don't know how to be a fan of Adorno because I can't understand a good deal of Adorno but what I can understand certainly seems to me to be still asking some questions. And that's a way to go. Go back to the better texts. [...] And I think some of the younger people are or find it possible to do that. I mean it's also very paradoxical and strange. When we had the misfortune to have to write a review of Gilles Deleuze's book on Francis Bacon, »The Logic of Sensation«, this was not a pleasurable read, it was very well written, but actually Deleuze's taste, the affirmations in his text are of tachisme and rudecent painting in certain regards and Beckett and a few existential bits of boiler-plate, but Deleuze himself has quite a conservative taste in art. Not that that's paradoxical, what I'm saying is that Deleuze got on Guattari's injunction that we have to find out a way art works, it's not in itself clearly an injunction to see the rhizomic world that they argue for as constitutive of circumstances in which art can be produced. And I think there is something that goes edging round it and is never very clear. I think there's a lot of shame in [...] failing to see the point in things. I'm old enough for it not to bother me very much but I think I remember the pressure is on us in your thirties to be convapuative and so forth. Again when we were younger it was not a pressure because it was not [...] heavily professionalized. There weren't the strategies and now you have circumstances in which young artists work on the best possible materials. It seems something indecent. Peter Bürger notwithstanding. There is a natural Bürgerishness to young artists. Now we've got the artists working on acid-free, the finest most expensive papers, archival quality stuff and so on. There's something comic about that. [...] There is an element which is absurd in conceptual art, it was always something that struck us frequently, [...] that it was less than it seemed. As artists we were full of ludicrous imposture. [...] There were circumstances in which we were never ever going to be able to lose that sense of imposture, so the best thing you can do is reflect upon [...] both its horrors and its joys. That's the way to go. [...] How do we make work that has significant internality, which at the same time is aware that it can't merely by becoming a reactionary thing like a painting. How it can both turn its self-description to the conditions in which it finds itself but at the same time preserve a degree of internality? It's a project that we are banging our heads on the wall to figure out. I don't know the answer. You can make little essays, little moves forward at best.

S.R.: Maybe one very important or very interesting issue is that philosophical people like Deleuze or Derrida - when they think or work on art they always have such a strange cosmos of reception that we maybe don't understand why they take this conservative practice. [...]

Michael: It seems unintelligible given the philosophical import of what they say quite frequently. It's quite strange. [...] But I think that also, we shouldn't say this in public, but philosophers are bloody awful readers of art. [...] The only one I know who was really good was Wollheim. He could look at painting quite well. But philosophers like a Magritte, don't they? (laughs)

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