Marcel Craven > STATE OF UNPLAY – BUCHAREST
STATE OF UNPLAY – BUCHAREST
‘A State of Un-Play.’
Curated by Diana Ali (UK)
15th-28th July 2013.
Curator and Visual Artist, Diana Ali in collaboration with Atelier 35 is pleased to present the exhibition ‘A State of Un-Play’; an exhibition of contemporary art work investigating the ethics of game playing tactics in our daily lives.
What does game playing become after the innocence of childhood imagination? We are often confronted with playing games subconsciously as the controller or the player whereby we have our own rules, routines and rituals.
Game is defined as adopting goals, rules, challenges and interactions but as the philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein claims, games can be a misconstrued meaning of language and the mind. Because we misunderstand language, we use indirect communication, thought experiments and mind games to get a sense of one-upmanship to empower or demoralize. What extremes can we go to for feeling recognition, wanting, acceptance and achievement?
Featured international artists exhibit their work to visually explore an avenue of mind games, strategy and philosophical investigations as well as an appeal to take part. The exhibition includes video, film, photography, installation, interventions, painting and drawing.
For a full list of all the artist’s details please visit:
( photos of event can be seen at above address. )
Exhibition dates: Monday 15th July 2013 – Sunday 28th July 2013
A crossing over, a word play as a conceit of ‘x’, the chiasmus letter is chi, in its normal transcription. ‘…Everything passes through this chiasmus; all language is caught in it—frequents it.’ Derrida
‘X’ also denotes the demiurgic operation in the Timaeus as described by Plato.
A slide, a crossing, thus a chiasma/chiasmus-a word game of multi-layered dialogue and discourse, each reading at ‘face value’, as seen above, is a chiasmus, these however can be rotated through various degrees to offer new readings and discourse-there are six ‘set narratives’ and numerous variants dependent on choice of ‘integer movement’.
A stripped down version of an atypical board game- variants of this form of board game are played worldwide, the elements and rules are play are simple, and representative of social interactivity within and across similar or differing cultural backgrounds, the main element of play is territory advancement, gain and loss.
These pieces not only represented the ‘rationale’ of the exhibition they were included in they, which became more important for me, explorations or extrapolations of a nation in its embryonic stage of inclusion into a bigger and more profitable ‘state of nations’, this inclusion-however- requires as a necessity ‘moments’ of exclusion for certain minorities within this period of assimilation.
Explorations and discourse at ‘street level’ proved a fruitful avenue of research which informed my practice and project development- and indeed- continues to do so.
STATE OF UNPLAY – Damn Braces: Bless relaxes
Conceived in collaboration with the Contemporary Art Society and Whitechapel Gallery as part of their programme to open up public and private collections.
With work by John Constable and William Blake, this exhibition represents scenes of the English east coast from the past 200 years. Artworks consider the influence of technology and local art schools and are drawn from the collections of Contemporary Art Society member museums and galleries in the region.
The display’s title is taken from William Blake’s The Proverbs of Hell, from his illustrated poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (c 1789) and a copy of Blake’s Illustrations to the Book of Job owned by poet Lord Alfred Tennyson is on show here, complemented by a recording of Tennyson’s written descriptions of the Lincolnshire countryside.
From the early Norwich Society of Artists (1803–1833) to the progressive Time-Based Art course in Hull during the 1990s, artists and students have looked to the local landscape to express their ideas. John Sell Cotman and Peter De Wint see it divided by landowners and industry in the 19th century, while Fran Cottell and Simon Poulter look at the privatisation of land during the Thatcher era. Their responses make a case for freedom of movement through use of medieval common land law and more recently an open source ‘creative commons’ culture online.
This exhibition originated at the Whitechapel Gallery, London and is one of a series of displays exploring the theme of art and philanthropy. It is conceived in collaboration with the Contemporary Art Society by Arts Council-funded Curatorial Fellow Helen Kaplinsky supported by the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull.
For over 100 years, the Contemporary Art Society has encouraged an appreciation and understanding of contemporary art by donating works to museums and public galleries across the UK. These displays draw on the collections of Contemporary Art Society Member Museums.
The culmination of an event which originated at a symposium at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, Hulls links to this project are outlined above, Hull School of Art and Design were invited to be included at both the symposium in London and this follow on event at MIMA and surrounding area.
A group of undergraduates were invited to respond to a piece of work by Fran Cottell entitled ‘Source’, these responses were to be included in a ‘half hour slot’ at the Whitechapel symposium, Fran Cottell’s involvement is mentioned above, her links with Hull College during the aforementioned time period-the Thatcher era- and links with Hull Time Based Arts inspired my involvement with the project.
Hull Time Based Arts became the ‘outsiders’ of the time, shunning involvement with London in favour of continental collaboration and links, I found myself, at this time, as an outsider to these outsiders, having a more ‘silent approach’ to that of the group and certain embryonic strategies of working practice and methodology that began then have continued to develop – relational aesthetics being one.
As well as being involved with the undergraduates in group performance readings for London symposium I developed a collaborative piece of film/sound work which was shown at the event. The context behind the piece being informed and entwined with the rationale behind the Damn Braces event, themes of enclosure, inclusion/exclusion-whether mental, physical or metaphysical-and the concept of common land, community, territory and DE territorialisation-factors that continue to inspire and inform my work, and the development of the concept of cryptic space.
The ‘game/footage’ video byte, the piece I included at the London symposium, is a short clip from a longer half hour film that I had created, with other pieces, as development and explorative work for my MA practice.
In format it is a triptych, the three elements that make up the piece are the time delay film footage, the game animation/render which runs alongside the film and in the left hand corner a ‘word square’ in this instance reading ‘living no existing’. This word square in the full feature changes at intervals and appears as an engraved epitaph on the stone base of, which is not evident in the film, a telephone kiosk.
This piece could be seen as a very direct response to another work featured in the archive of the Damn Braces…exhibition, ‘the thin blue line’- in the film piece the same locos is used, a busy shopping arcade, and similar issues are discussed, issues that in reality have changed little in the thirty years that bisect the two pieces. The general progression of themes discussed then, are the themes I continue to discuss and explore in my artistic practice to date. Indeed at the time ‘the thin blue line’ was produced I myself, as discussed earlier-being an outsider of the outsiders’, was producing work that had a similar discourse with issues and events of the day, albeit in a more clandestine, fugitive and often silent modus operandi.
In a ‘conversation’ Fran Cottell gave recently at the MIMA symposium she related how, at the time of ‘the thin blue line’ and other works, funding was easy to come by for projects, indeed in many cases it was thrown at the protagonists perhaps as a means of capitulation and silence, a strange concept as the work produced at this time was usually a means of ‘attacking the systems and structures’ that were funding their production.
My input as an outsider to the outsiders was low key in comparison, unfunded and therefore, in my opinion and rationale, unfettered by any ideological dichotomy I produced work in a way I consider ‘silent’, in retrospect I consider this period in my artistic practice as an almost ‘Chaplinesque’ era, in a time of fireworks, noise and explosive representation I purported my apparent ‘voiceless invisible persona within society’ in an almost invisible fashion, I didn’t follow the vogue as it were.
The ‘word square’ which appears in the ‘game/footage’ film first appeared in this ‘Chaplinesque’ era, and has become a leitmotif in my ongoing practice through various forms/guises and through varying media and material responses, at the time of its debut I was exploring issues of self and placement, inclusion and exclusion within the parameters of’ The Thatcher era’ as aforementioned in the Damn Braces… overview above.
Contextually this was a period, in Britain, of deep social change that mirrored similar elements worldwide-namely America.
Thatcher became Prime Minister on 4 May 1979. Arriving at 10 Downing Street, she said, in a paraphrase of the prayer Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace:
Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.
This paraphrase and its grammatical ‘chiasma’, the crossover from question to statement-…may we bring harmony. /?-is perhaps a well-chosen rhetorical conflate that has become a mainstay of political discourse to date.
Thatcher defined her own political philosophy in a major and controversial break with One Nation Conservatives like her predecessor Edward Heath, in her statement to Douglas Keay, published in Woman’s Own magazine in September 1987:
“I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand “I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it!” or “I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!” “I am homeless, the Government must house me!” and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations”.
The number of adults owning shares rose from 7 per cent to 25 per cent during her tenure, and more than a million families bought their council houses, giving an increase from 55 per cent to 67 per cent in owner-occupiers from 1979 to 1990. The houses were sold at a discount of 33-55 per cent, leading to large profits for some new owners. Personal wealth rose by 80 per cent in real terms during the 1980s, mainly due to rising house prices and increased earnings. Shares in the privatised utilities were sold below their market value to ensure quick and wide sales, rather than maximise national income.
Thatcher’s premiership was also marked by high unemployment and social unrest, and many critics on the left of the political spectrum fault her economic policies for the unemployment level; many of the areas affected by high unemployment as well as her monetarist economic policies have still not fully recovered and are blighted by social problems such as drug abuse and family breakdown. Speaking in Scotland in April 2009, before the 30th anniversary of her election as Prime Minister, Thatcher insisted she had no regrets and was right to introduce the poll tax, and to withdraw subsidies from “outdated industries, whose markets were in terminal decline”, subsidies that created “the culture of dependency, which had done such damage to Britain”. Political economist Susan Strange called the new financial growth model “casino capitalism”, reflecting her view that speculation and financial trading were becoming more important to the economy than industry.
She has been criticised as being divisive and for promoting greed and selfishness. Many recent biographers have been critical of aspects of the Thatcher years and Michael White, writing in the New Statesman in February 2009, challenged the view that her reforms had brought a net benefit. Some critics contend that, despite being Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, Thatcher did “little to advance the political cause of women”, either within her party or the government, and some British feminists regarded her as “an enemy”. Her stance on immigration was perceived by some as part of a rising racist public discourse, which Professor Martin Barker has called “new racism”.
Influenced at the outset by Keith Joseph, the term “Thatcherism” came to refer to her policies as well as aspects of her ethical outlook and personal style, including moral absolutism, nationalism, interest in the individual, and an uncompromising approach to achieving political goals. The nickname “Iron Lady”, originally given to her by the Soviets, became associated with her uncompromising politics and leadership style.
This is of course a short overview of the socio-political environment of the late seventies early eighties under the Thatcher Philosophy, and as such it only touches on a few aspects of this period however, this suffices as a ground plan on which I can lay out this period of exploration of my practice and its subsequent development.
I grew up in an age of 3 day weeks, power cuts, strikes and general mismanagement, milk lakes and butter mountains appeared daily on the news in juxtaposition with images of starvation in other areas of the world. And not that far away, maybe three or four doors away, families were struggling to clothe and feed themselves-not through overindulgence in other areas of their lives such as gambling, drinking, drug abuse or purchase of consumer items/luxury items. This is the absurd landscape I inhabited and which I began to comment upon.
The selfishness proffered by the political regime of the day became the underpinning of the ‘word square’, the square epitomising the self-contained, regulated unit of measure which we all should be. It denoted a unit, a measure-in my early schooling a single small wooden cube symbolised 1 in mathematics-equal on all sides, ortho, correct, and proper and right. It also denotes a placement, again a singular among others, a square on a board or on a map perhaps. Using this concept of self and placement and regulation I would impose myself upon a variety of environs and situations carrying a square paving slab, this I would then place on the floor and stand upon-in silence. The square may be blank, may have words chalked upon it or the surface may have been pre-painted in a requisite colour dependant on location, the dialogue or discourse which these events provoked became the record of the event, there are a few visual records of these or some of these events somewhere, I know my girlfriend at the time took some photographic responses to these endeavours, however the use of filmic reportage or sound recordings I discouraged due to the fact that when a camera or indeed a microphone appears peoples responses can alter or dissipate completely and this would also remove the ‘silent’ and apparent ‘fugitive’ approach I endeavoured to explore.
Aesthetically the ‘square’ became an explorative avenue in my painting work at the time, being neither landscape nor portrait format it negated either ‘structural’ reading, I had begun a series of works under an exploratory title of power squares, one of which ‘bxp’ became the focal point of an exhibition at the time and gave me a ‘voice’ in the form of a detailed interview and two page ‘spread’ in the Hull Daily newspaper. The Architectural concept of Cartesian formation, Le Corbusier’s developmental and social planning, Bauhaus, Structuralism and Formalism were sources of enquiry as were the Fluxus movement and the Situationalists, music and the packaging also played an important role in this period-and continues to do so, the packaging simply in the respect of a square encompassing a circle-containment of possible movement, a minutiae of detail that can be an important informative aspect.
So this leitmotif of the square has been in evidence-in varying forms-throughout my practice, I must say here it is a part of my methodology as an artist to recall elements of past work or practice as and when I feel they are needed or they have some relevant factor within contemporary practice, I may leave or shelve an idea mid-process until a later date.
Within the ‘game/film’ footage the ‘word square’ sits silently in the corner as the passage of people and time goes by, nothing really changes, this passage of beings in transience set upon their quest-what for? The animation that runs alongside gives a respective view of this passage, from one point to another, a seemingly pointless endeavour mirroring the ongoing search for ‘something’ that we may consider, in absurdist terms, the way of life.
This animated experiment/game is derived from a piece of work developed in Module 4 of my MA practice:
This piece was a direct response to a series of events that occurred in November 2013, the morning of the delivery of Module 4, in brief having discovered I couldn’t move my paper, which I had to deliver that afternoon, from my desktop-due to operating system non-compatibility-to memory stick, DVD, CD, or even print format I hurried to college to deliver bad news, en route-down the aforementioned busy shopping way that appears in my film- I encountered and became embroiled in an absurd enactment.
A young mother pushing a ‘buggy’ was chatting away on her mobile device ignoring the child’s protestations/voice and the errant route of the ‘buggy’, the mother was looking in shop windows and chatting loudly about the wares on sale, meanwhile coming up behind her and her child was an old woman on a mobility scooter pipping her horn, coming the other way a delivery van pipping his horn, either of these vehicles could’ve hit the ‘buggy’ and the child if they hadn’t been observant to the events.
The old woman swerved towards a shop front and braked, the van the same, shouting at the mother ensued who told them all to **** off, as the van pulled off in front of me and I walked on in disbelief at what I had just seen I slipped on something, looking down I noticed the freshly squashed remains of a pigeon that had obviously been unable to move from the vans wheels, I had stood in it.
The levels of communication and miscommunication of the whole series of events from the computer error to the series of events I have just described and after, the paper I couldn’t deliver and facts I subsequently discovered led to a line of enquiry that became very fruitful.
The above piece being an integral part in this enquiry, a fin de siècle, I had been researching Arnaulds ‘theatre of the cruel’ and the living theatres adaptations of Frankenstein and Gelbers ‘connection’, alongside Adamovs’ ‘ping pong’ and other absurdist playwrights, I had revisited Beckett , Baudrillard’s ‘America’s’ and apocalypse, Camus, Sisyphus and other myths.
The piece above was in its initial forming a faceboard for a pointless game, a sort of pinball table as it later appears in the game/film comparison, the circle motif an arena, the symbols below some maze to work through to get to the centre, with no apparent reason or purpose-a representation of life.
I decided to make the game virtually, to use the same language and technology that had begun the day’s events, which had continued the day’s events to some absurd climax which in some way mirrored the death of the pigeon.
One thought kept coming to mind was if the child had died as a course of the events, would the mother blame either the van driver, the scooter driver or herself for being wrapped up in her multimedia mobile device, would she be able to apportion blame to herself and the device, and if so would she be able to relinquish the said device?
This may seem an absurd thought or line of enquiry but it is worth asking and worth exploring, how dependent on these devices and the language they transmit-and moreover the language that drives them and us- are we?
It was this questioning that led to the development of this piece and one its family members as some absurd ‘monuments’ to the events of that day.
A similar question was asked by another participant at the London symposium, Heath Bunting, he raised questions of our reliance on our mobile devices, how these are used as monitoring devices by the powers that be and asked if any member of the audience would like to donate their mobile device for destruction.
This concept of monitoring by outside forces through mobile and other technological devices came to light with me through a former girlfriend. She worked at Filingdales, a cold war listening and early warning centre which since the ‘apparent’ end of the cold war has been used as an inland monitoring station. Land line calls, mobile calls, text messaging and computer messaging are monitored for security reasons, every day a list of known or suspected code words are given to the employees or ‘listeners’ who then watch out for the usage of these coded words.
If we consider what initiated the development of the internet and what it was used for in its embryonic form then we shouldn’t be surprised of facts such as these, indeed the same languages we use to converse and interact with each other today-the new languages that power the systems and mechanics of our lives- are the same languages that survey our daily lives and routines.
This line of enquiry led to the development of the two pieces above, had also led to the development of the game piece and other film/animation assemblages from this time such as ‘dummy’, ‘bottle’ and ‘happy meal’, the concept of product manipulation for an ulterior end: the production of something that had a desired and open purpose but also, perhaps, a more clandestine purpose.
(The film pieces mentioned above will be uploaded shortly, with a general overview and context)
The photograph above, which became the poster-as it appears here for an event I will discuss later, was taken by a colleague sometime after the fin de siècle of events I aforementioned. It was taken using her mobile device, which had some absurd binary connections with the whole series of events.
The same technology and language which created the ‘death on the street’ was used later to capture the aftermath, whilst-as happened as the events unfurled-people just passed on by on a cold and wet November day.
This added another layer to the already multi-layered exploration, that of image by disaster and the myth of Mnemosyne and Simonides, the myth of Sisyphus was already linked in the game footage format of the piece in its developed stage, but the concept of this piece and its cousin as multi-layered transceivers/monitoring devices became an overriding route of explorative development.
The large circle motif which in the game film was symbolic of some sort of arena or goal also adopted the persona of a screen, a sonar device, a monitoring device, perhaps an all seeing eye as HAL in 2001, this evoked the whole myriad of connective possibilities that arise through modern technology and how it has become so embedded in our daily lives, its progression and our seemingly willingness of assimilation-surveillance, monitoring and evaluation through ‘new language’ in the guise of mobile technology and communication which is packaged and delivered to us in the guise of ‘freedom’.
The two pieces as they stand to date are ‘monuments’ to this obsequious and clandestine ‘freedom’, modern, designed and manufactured in process and usage. They appear in a state of ‘working’- that is what lies beneath the surface of these devices beneath the sheen and polish, the first piece without its fascia and command buttons, the second piece a simulacra of a SIM card with its multi layered storage and delivery capacity, both adopt the institutional colour regimen in their appearance.
The above dialogue and discourse highlights the ‘allegiance’ in many ways between my developing practice/MA project and the Damn Braces… event and its rationale, the concept of ‘enclosure’ in any of its guises an integral ‘parabiotic’ element. The romantic and sometimes idealised notions that are depicted in the exhibition are somewhat mirrored by the ‘death of the pigeon’ events and the work that developed from this. The pigeon, a descendant of the dove, killed in the foray of mechanised production and modern technological advancement harks back to visualised scenes of the end of innocence, the end of peace. The dove/pigeon has also been used as a method of information transferal throughout history and so the demise of the dove/pigeon could be seen as a death of old data transferal and the rise of the ‘new’.
STATE OF UNPLAY-THE ISLAND DONKEY DROPS A DOVE
The British and especially the English are known as ‘…island donkey’s’ especially by the Germans, stubborn, unmoving, unyielding perhaps on par with the apparent ‘light hearted jingoism’ of colloquialism that appends itself to races, the Germans often being ‘cast’ as the ones who attain the best areas at holiday resorts by towel placement. Either of these traits could be extrapolated on and given further provenance by historical referencing and exploration of social-geology. In essence they could be metred down to nothing more than ‘jovial territorial pissings’, but many a true word is spoken in jest and other such rhetoric and idiomatic phraseology.
What does this have to do with anything? On face value nothing on deeper excavation everything, the prevalence of ‘parabiosis’ as a means of research and context which has much to do with my practice and methodology.
Parabiosis a scientific (biological) term with two distinct meanings (a) a state were two living organisms share physiological systems-e.g. circulatory blood supply, (b) a temporary cessation of nervous and other system functionality, a hiatus until conditions are more suitable for life.
For me it is the ‘adaptability’ of the terminology of parabiosis that offers a myriad of possibilities in both research and context, not just the physiological definition, one could argue that in a Darwinian trope we are all connected by a parabiotic ancestral bloodline, however it is more the conflate of social insects and social behaviour that informs my research, the work of Morton-Wheeler and Forel et al. This ‘social parabiosis’ incorporates the elements of inclusion and exclusion, territory, community and deterritorialization , the restrictive practices that any of these may incur and of course the ‘power narratives’ used to uphold the structure of these concepts-A common, universal language system being, perhaps, the main unifying or parabiotic connector within the ‘framework’ as envisaged by Marshall Mcluhan some 50 years ago.
The Global Village
In the early 1960s, McLuhan wrote that the visual, individualistic print culture would soon be brought to an end by what he called “electronic interdependence”: when electronic media replace visual culture with aural/oral culture. In this new age, humankind will move from individualism and fragmentation to a collective identity, with a “tribal base.” McLuhan’s coinage for this new social organization is the global village (…the source of the term global village, Mcluhan studies, issue 2, 2008)
The term is sometimes described as having negative connotations in The Gutenberg Galaxy, but McLuhan himself was interested in exploring effects, not making value judgments:
Instead of tending towards a vast Alexandrian library the world has become a computer, an electronic brain, exactly as an infantile piece of science fiction. And as our senses have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside. So, unless aware of this dynamic, we shall at once move into a phase of panic terrors, exactly befitting a small world of tribal drums, total interdependence, and superimposed co-existence. […] Terror is the normal state of any oral society, for in it everything affects everything all the time. […] In our long striving to recover for the Western world a unity of sensibility and of thought and feeling we have no more been prepared to accept the tribal consequences of such unity than we were ready for the fragmentation of the human psyche by print culture (Mcluhan, 1962, p32)
Key to McLuhan’s argument is the idea that technology has no per se moral bent—it is a tool that profoundly shapes an individual’s and, by extension, a society’s self-conception and realization:
Is it not obvious that there are always enough moral problems without also taking a moral stand on technological grounds? […] Print is the extreme phase of alphabet culture that detribalizes or decollectivizes man in the first instance. Print raises the visual features of alphabet to highest intensity of definition. Thus print carries the individuating power of the phonetic alphabet much further than manuscript culture could ever do. Print is the technology of individualism. If men decided to modify this visual technology by an electric technology, individualism would also be modified. To raise a moral complaint about this is like cussing a buzz-saw for lopping off fingers. “But”, someone says, “We didn’t know it would happen.” Yet even witlessness is not a moral issue. It is a problem, but not a moral problem; and it would be nice to clear away some of the moral fogs that surround our technologies. It would be good for morality.
The moral valence of technology’s effects on cognition is, for McLuhan, a matter of perspective. For instance, McLuhan contrasts the considerable alarm and revulsion that the growing quantity of books aroused in the latter half of the seventeenth century with the modern concern for the “end of the book”. If there can be no universal moral sentence passed on technology, McLuhan believes that “there can only be disaster arising from unawareness of the causalities and effects inherent in our technologies” (Mcluhan, 1962, p254) (See also Vilem Flusser)
Though the World Wide Web was invented almost thirty years after The Gutenberg Galaxy, and ten years after his death, McLuhan prophesied the web technology seen today as early as 1962:
The next medium, whatever it is—it may be the extension of consciousness—will include television as its content, not as its environment, and will transform television into an art form. A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve the individual’s encyclopaedic function and flip into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind. (1962) (Mcluhan, 1962, p148)
Furthermore, McLuhan coined and certainly popularized the usage of the term “surfing” to refer to rapid, irregular and multidirectional movement through a heterogeneous body of documents or knowledge, e.g., statements like “Heidegger surf-boards along on the electronic wave as triumphantly as Descartes rode the mechanical wave.” Paul Levinson’s 1999 book Digital McLuhan explores the ways that McLuhan’s work can be better understood through the lens of the digital revolution (Routledge, 1999)
It is these concepts that formed the basis of my symposium paper and outlined my project development and my envisaged ongoing practical and research work, the outcome of certain events I have highlighted only served to strengthen the line of enquiry that I had begun.
A piece of work may share contextual and material based/processes that inform its ‘presence’ and yet the connections may not be immediately apparent, the piece may work on different levels and is linked by a form of parabiosis-and, of course this may occur in the contra, a body of apparently unconnected work may share a fibrous connectivity of contextual and analytical practice.
The game face board or base board I discussed earlier is a good example of this-in the first instance-what began as some architectural base plan discussing the routine and ritual of modern life, trying to attain some ‘goal’, in parallel with the ancient myth of Sisyphus. The circle motif representative of some architectural arena and, similarly, of the boulder or weight that is borne in the aforementioned myth. The letters, signs or symbols that accompany the circle, on the one hand, serve as some labyrinthine landscape to traverse or navigate and, similarly, as the landscape to navigate the weight or boulder over. In essence all the elements were in place for the development of this piece from its embryonic beginnings through to its present state of being. It may also be seen as some kind of recording device, receiver, and transceiver and perhaps a record player.
This architectural layout of the piece (seen in the two diagrams), using the programmes and language to render the flat two dimensional base form into a three-dimensional virtual arena of ‘life’, the blue print construction diagrams, themselves, became informative pieces and avenues of further extrapolation into the contextual layering that underpinned the work.
The constructive diagrams or blueprints became source material for the development of the experimental film/animation assemblages ‘dummy’ and ‘bottle’,- these can be seen in the video section-which explore the manufactured development of products, that have become intrinsic in the developmental stages of childhood, in a calculated and what could be argued clandestine fashion, perhaps a threnody of what is to come-we are after all nothing but commodities from inception onwards.
The above piece is a blueprint diagram of the individual character elements from the base board in developing stages, this piece-and others similar- show both aspects of the contextual underpinning aforementioned.
Act one, as the image denotes. The elaboration of two myths-one ancient the other, in historical terms and timescale, very recent-the myth of Sisyphus from ancient Greek culture and from modern philosophical debate through the essays of Camus and the concept of Absurdism, alongside the myth of ‘revolutionary practice’ through the production of the teenager and the ‘counter-culture’, the world of fashion and music that they inhabit-in this instance my teenage involvement in the myth of ‘punk rock’, it is word-play, it is rhetoric, it is myth, it is a fashion. Excuse the bon mot that I will use here to connect the two-‘The great Rock and Roll swindle’.
Act one being also an anagrammatically conflated version of one cat- the idiomatic ‘cat among the pigeons’ with all its contextual variants as the developed piece and its background denotes.
Putting the cat amongst the pigeons, causing a stir, whatever the idiom, it is an ‘allowed’ stance, allowed by the very system the protagonists are ’kicking against’, although it may seem very real and ‘revolutionary’ at the time-whilst within it-we could consider an instance from the ‘mockumentary’ the track ‘Belsen was a gas’, the song was another attempt by the group to outrage that generation they believed were responsible for many of the ills within Britain at that time-and they were deemed the same by the press- by writing about highly sensitive or controversial subject matter. Sid Vicious often wore a swastika shirt for the shock value and in keeping with the musical Cabaret’s style of dress for members of the Kit-Kat Club adopted by members of the Bromley Contingent.
Money makes the world go round…enter a ‘trickster’ as Levi-Strauss denotes in his structuralist ordering of man and myth, the basic paradox that myths appear fantastical-unpredictable were anything can happen: the content and events seem completely arbitrary. And yet the myths from different cultures are surprisingly similar.
Cabaret was popular among the early punk rock movement, because many saw similarities in the decline and degeneracy of 1970s Britain to the last chaotic years of the Weimar Republic that this musical was set in. As shocking as this behaviour seemed to some to others it was the naivety or ignorance of youth coming through that could be manipulated through rhetoric to nurture and cajole, fear and paranoia being a major ‘collection point’ of political persuasion, more so now in the age of 24/7 media coverage. All punk rockers are fascists was the clarion call, which was nurtured by its main protagonist-get something banned and it becomes more wanted which somehow works on the same cerebral level as Warhol’s crash and death row prints and Simonides party invite from Mnemosyne-human nature on an absurd level.
All self-perpetuating myths, as the Sisyphian boulder-the rolling stone gathers no moss-the youth grow up, fashion moves on, fears are eradicated by general assimilation and another movement is fashioned, a new craze and a new fad, a new style and new gadgets. And that’s how it began, youth culture, it drove into existence in the early 1920’s in regimented ‘black’- Fordism, but took root and fibrously spread in the 1950’s with Sloanism-any colour you like. The automobile and t.v and film advertising sold the dream-the myth was born, kerching.
What may have begun with the ‘flappers and Freuds libido prominence’ in New York in the 1920’s or the Bright young things in England in the same decade-both frowned upon because of their inherent ‘degradation’, their jazz lingo, their joie de vivre and their casualties such as Brenda Dean Paul who was hounded by the press for her car crashes, her drug use and her abortion-soon became a commodity after the second world war, the production lines and manufacturing systems continued to roll on either side of the iron curtain, under either ideology.
And it is here that I again take note from Mcluhan who’s 1951 collection of essays-The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man- examines this ‘new order’ of events, not with anger but with… absurd amusement. On the technique of amusement McLuhan quotes Edgar Allen Poe’s sailor, when he’s locked into the whirlpool’s walls looking at floating objects:
“I must have been delirious, for I even sought amusement in speculating upon the relative velocities of their several descents towards the foam below.” (Mcluhan, 2001, p5).This amusement, McLuhan argues, born “of his rational detachment as a spectator of his own situation,”(Mcluhan, 2001, p5) saved the sailor’s life. By adopting the position of Poe’s sailor, readers of The Mechanical Bride… can escape from the whirlpool of popular culture, sex merging with technology in advertising-through all media. And of course these themes were elaborated on by Berger and Baudrillard amongst others.
He says…- “The time for anger is in the early stages of a new process… the present stage is extremely advanced.” (Mcluhan, 2001, p134) Amusement, then, being the only foil. The folklore or myth is an important factor in mediation of time and place, we need myths to perhaps understand and cope with modern/post-modern life and as Wallace Stevens suggests a mythology can reflect its region or locos, but as Wyndham Lewis discussed in the Death of Youth, F.R.Leavis and Denys Thompson in Culture and Environment and Mcluhan in The Mechanical Bride…the perpetuating myth is a product which is enhanced and deprecates in its emergence-in effect it is Temporary Like Achilles. (Mcluhan was originally going to entitle The Mechanical Bride…as Typhos, the deadliest of the Titans)
Black gold powered all; it greased the wheels, ran the engines, produced the plastics and interiors, the consumables and technological gadgets and carried the music. Described by Knopfler in Telegraph Road-well-worn desire lines- and deliberated on by Derrida’s post cards and the profligate ‘chess grasses’, networking its way across the landscape. The play of the ‘raw and the cooked’ as Levi-Strauss may have said, and the oncoming new network, that crosses unseen boundaries that Mcluhan envisaged.
Which brings me back to donkeys in a roundabout way, or in an about round way, structured deconstruction which may, perhaps, be Marcel Mauss’s ‘gift’:
DERRIDA – DERIDER – FOUCAULT
CI – CA
The stabilised saw, see?
Intellectual squabbling is, well it brings the true meanings into place, strips away the ‘wordiness’ so it can be well understood by all, the hierarchical bride of philosophy/theoretical posing stripped bare by the Bachelors, then!
Playgrounds and games:
The nodding donkey pumps the oil, the Black gold, worldwide-a namesake, a simile, a double perhaps. Whilst researching for Romania the ‘donkey’ came to the fore, in the short time I had I read of Brancussi’s pilgrimage to Rodin-following his nose perhaps, the ‘lettrists’ et al, the recent and not so recent history and the socio-political scene of an embryonic state being welcomed into Europe’s open arms. As part of this inclusion and exclusion would be needed, 70% of the nation’s population relied on donkeys or other quadrupeds as means of transport and as beasts of burden, this was not deemed as a suitable advertisement, they would be banned from all major road networks and cities.
This exclusion through inclusion and the narratives it discussed was the avenue of exploration I would ‘ride down’. The state of unplay exhibition which I discussed earlier was a mystery; I knew the rationale, but little else, I had sent examples of recent work and my own rationale and suggested proposal and awaited further information. Address, site, location and estimated floor plan came through and later my estimated exhibiting space, I had a wall to work on and work with.
The rest would follow, the donkey would be my vehicle-worldwide donkey being a ball game played by children, either singularly against a wall or as a group were the ball is thrown and caught if dropped the protagonist adopts the first letter of the word donkey, this continues until donkey is spelt then exclusion from play is the rule, this continues until there is a victor.
I had a wall, I would wait till I knew the locos or chora-and use this site as generator, this turned out to be a ground floor shop front in an ever busy area of cafes, bars and restaurants, I would play donkey, in this particular playground.
The performance piece I proposed began, in view of the clientele of the bars and eateries outside and in view of the curator’s and other exhibitors; I threw the metaphorical ball-in the shape of explorative phraseology and idiomatic text-at the wall and waited for the inclusion/exclusion of those gathered. Dialogue ensued and dissipated; I finished the performance in its 1st instance, went for some food and awaited the call.
The call came-from the curator-‘could we meet, have a beer, there’s a slight problem?’ We met, drank beer and I listened to the expected exclusive verbalism, could I remove certain aspects of the work, it was to challenging, to different to the rest of the work-it didn’t sit on the aesthetic line, it was a bit raw.
Of course I could, this was expected, performance pas deux would take place tomorrow, and the curator looked puzzled. The following day I arrived at the gallery and removed the discourse from the wall, the strips of metred, measured tape with words upon was removed and rolled-the tape formed descriptive grids, symbolic of the Cartesian grid systems of most European cities and the ‘unit’ of persona or ‘individuation’ I discussed earlier- at the end of the performance a ‘real ball’ of text and dialogue was placed in the bin, the work that was left was safe, polished and inclusive of all else that was on show, it sat within the spacial and aesthetic parameters that the show adopted-it was easy to understand and not as ‘challenging for the audience’.
This whole event and subsequent dialogue with inhabitants of Bucharest over the period of my stay was a hugely informative period, it encouraged the re-exploration of both cultural deterritorialization as espoused by anthropological studies and the deterritorialization informed by Deleuze and Guattari, the unfolding state of unplay Which I had performed was wholly reflective of the ensuing events of Neoliberalism and enclosure.
Ah the beautiful smell of smoking oil on gears, the onward linear progression of neoliberalism whether in the new hegemonic favoured partner or in the older predicate the same template world-wide and historically, diversity succumbing to the general mediocrity.
Many languages and customs are lost annually through economics, and this will continue-one only has to look at NAFTA and its onslaught into Mexico et al-my time in Bucharest underpinned this, my position was not only as an outsider looking in or on events but also, as I revealed in conversation to Pieter the Ukrainian head waiter at the Ramada Hotel, as a ‘product’ of neoliberal and economic mismanagement. Britain’s place in Europe, in Pieters words, was welcomed, having its own identity and stubborn stance towards France and Germany; we as a nation state were trusted within this economic ‘community’.
I pointed out that when we entered the ‘community’ it was at the expense of many of our commonwealth trade links and, more to the point, many communities within Britain, citing mine as a main example. The total decimation of a community by exclusive trade legislation ,that eroded the very infrastructure of the city, and its surrounding area, causing irreparable damage, which can still be seen today.
Back in hull
Remnants of NAFTA and Berger, inclusion and exclusion and general mediocrity, how it all felt at the time, and reading Henry Rosemont’s ‘Whose Democracy anyway?
The above show- which has its own posting and images- was an opportunity to explore, for myself, elements of my year 1 MA output as a collective body of work. I will spend little time on this however it was a productive event. Exploring elements of my methodology, process art, fluxus, arte povera- with links to the theatre of the absurd through ongoing research into the living theatre, Artaulds theatre of the cruel with his concept of the removal of aesthetic space between the audience/viewer and the performance/work to enable a more personalised connection and include the viewer’s imagination into the event-relational aesthetics and the ‘openwork’ theoretical discourse of Umberto Eco’s post structuralism.
This event also afforded me the opportunity to investigate the concept of cryptic space- having researched Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of nomad space and state space and their schizophrenic tendencies-in a Thousand plateaus and Anti-Oedipus: state space being part of the embryonic stimuli for the developing film/assemblage pieces-a gridded insidious environs in which the most apparently mundane objects are designed and positioned with economic diligence. Nomad space explored through the four black canvasses that made up the exploratory work of the ‘black box theatre ensemble’ – extrapolation of time, space and being within and without the panels. The cryptic space concept was arrived at whilst reading Heidegger and Benjamin’s work on the same, places that are not strictly designated as dwellings but as connections between or that could be envisaged as dwellings in a metaphysical or phenomenological way.
For me the concept of cryptic space-which can be physical or metaphysical- was an elaboration of all three, a space that had an element of both ‘state space’ and ‘nomad space’ but was neither-a cryptic space, the locos for the above event had this in a physical sense and also, as the event ran its course, in a metaphysical sense.
I will not go into too much detail regarding this, there would be a danger of marginalizing and alienation by doing so, and this would also further the ‘apparent rifts’ that exist in the hierarchical artistic contingent that exists in the region today and for quite a few decades now, suffice it say the locos for the event was offered by its proprietor’s in true artistic spirit and welcomed as such-knowing of these rifts it also seemed an opportune moment to perhaps dispel some of the myths that perpetuated this hierarchy.
The show or ‘playground’ was well attended over the period of its tenure by the public, friends and peers, contemporaries and staff alike-the Dean of the Faculty of Arts attended –however some who I thought may attend, who could have used the opportunity to enter into a physical and metaphysical discourse with both the process of Art and the process of Curation, who could examine the practical side of artistic endeavour, materials and processes, direction and methodology were conspicuous, not only in their absence, but also in their apparent indifference to the event during and after.
At several seminars within and without the timescale of the show no comment or enquiry was opened for debate or conversation even though the event had been highly advertised throughout the Faculties. This had happened earlier in the year when in January I had been asked to curate a joint AA2A and MA1/2 show in the foyer/exhibition area at HSAD, similarly there was no ‘apparent’ interaction with the event and again no discourse was entered into regarding the show, its curation or any elements to do with it, by certain parties.
On evaluation and reflection on these events I could only surmise that either a certain level of indifference was at play or extenuating restrictive practice made attendance and discourse, regarding the events, impossible. This also furthered my enquiry into the concept of cryptic space and the ‘power narratives’ and rhetoric which had been embryonic in my MA project, the discourse which is embedded into institutions and their methodology seeming to be, no more than ‘buzzwords’ in, perhaps, the economically structured hierarchy of the institution.
On the ground level and upwards to the, what was once, head of the ‘structure pyramid’ the established workings, ideologies and rhetoric are now suppressed and outweighed by the higher inverted ‘structure pyramid’ whose own brand of rhetoric is economic and bureaucratic, perhaps, to the extremes of a Kafkaesque existence.
On this level pro forma, on line registers, new systems and rebranding outweigh the original hegemony of the institution, on this level where does art figure and does it matter? The production and display can only exist in the numbers in vs numbers out percentage ratio of grade attainment, the end product being statistical data rather than artistic endeavour?