Burgin Chapter 8

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V.B. You can ask the question, but it's one that, in a sense, can't be answered, otherwise there would be no practice. ... It's very difficult to put in words that would make any sense I'm trying most simply what I'm doing what I'm working: I'm trying to formulate something, and I'm trying to discover what it is I'm thinking about, because when I start I don't know. There's also the question of affect, there's also the question of the emotional relation. And again, the origin of that is largely enigmatic and mysterious. What remains of interest to me in the field of what we call generally »art practice«, what keeps me »at it« with that work is the undecidability of it; that even though writing - and I do write obviously - has an element of that undecidability and I imagine that for creative writers, and I as most of my writing has been creatively, I hope, nevertheless in the area of theory, mainly in the context of the University. Most of my writing today has been an intervention within the Academy, so a lot of it has been aimed at mainly graduate students from thirteen years up to three years ago purely graduate theory on the University of California. So the writer's intervention and the kind of the poses many questions on identity, identity politics very much in forefront of debates in the US academy, while I was there; the writing was aimed as in intervention in those debates and not simply use theoretical tools but introduce theoretical tools to students, so there would be quite detailed explanations of, for example, psychoanalytical concept. Even though writing, when you begin to write you don't quite know what it is you are going to write and you don't know quite how you're going to formulate things, by the time you get to the end it's always something of a surprise; nevertheless there is more of an element of being able to predict what the result is going to be; there is certainly a goal, the sense of a goal - to come back to the idea of a goal here - as my goal there was to intervene in a set of debates. Largely to say: the identity that you think is given to you by - I'm not going to say "class position", that's the last thing say talk about in the States - but certainly by an ethnic position, a racial position, it's not as simply as that and I try to bring in some of the complexity of issues of identity into identity politics, a complexity derived mainly from readings through psychoanalytic theory. I can't say in a same way or even in a comparable way, when I'm working, as I'm working know, thinking about a new work, I can't say that I have a goal in that sense; I can't say I'm going to make this intervention; I would think that maybe in the late 60s, early 70s, one could have that sense because one was still working in the line of modernism, in the line of a Greenbergian teleology where you had a sense of questions raised and solved by one generation that would raise further questions to be solved by the next. In fact, before Greenberg, it was Vasari who introduced that scheme; for example with Vasari it was cyclical and with Greenberg it was the teleology into the perfect future where the painting would be nothing else but a painting. So that notion of having a goal, of making an intervention in an art historical progress ...a teleology that was possible within in the context of modernist aesthetics; minimalism was a contribution to modernism in that sense, and conceptualism, in its turn, also was very much caught up in these modernist aesthetics and I feel that the hermetic tendency in conceptualism never escaped the gravitational pull of Greenberg - so art is enough for them, you know they can only think about art and it's about art. But although in the early days one could have a sense of a goal and a sense of an intervention in an ongoing history, it's more difficult now. What I would retain from Greenbergian aesthetics is the notion of specificity; so Greenberg would say for example about any art, what the »best« art –  tautological definitions  –  it concentrates on what it does, what other arts don't do. So you don't perform dance i a painting and you don't do musical painting. I think the notion of specificity can still be useful in terms of defining an art practice: What is it that I'm doing or may do as an »artist«? – which is not a personality trait, it's an occupation or a vacation whatever or a fantasy ... but what can I do in this practice that I don't see being done in other practices? I think that's one way of thinking about a reason, but not necessarily thinking about a goal. Which is to take a lot of time to evade your question - to deal with these questions. I think that are the questions of content, the questions that one has to circle around, perhaps quite simply the unanswerable questions.

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