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Re: <nettime> Re: Signals, Statistics & Social Experiments
John Hopkins on Fri, 26 Nov 2004 00:31:29 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> Re: Signals, Statistics & Social Experiments


>"Having gone through that entire process though, I think Ayreen and I
>experienced/learned something quite specific, which was that as long as
>this sort of jamming happens to an "outside" force, things are, at least
>within the art context, all ok, but turned inside out, blurred, and when
>the art context itself is implicated within a certain matrix, the
>reaction  against such a thing can be quite fierce and un-accepting....

snip...

>The thing is, there is no outside - we're stuck with the institutions and
>their digestive capacities, all around me I see the activist-artists going
>in and out of the institutions, like I do, like you do. What's more, I
>think it's necessary, because if there is no contentious presence of
>discord within the various kinds of mediating institutions (not only art)
>then the power blocs will become even more violent and ugly, as they
>already have. The question is, how to play the controversies out in
>public, how to "resolve" them? Where "resolve" means that new compromises
>are hammered out after struggle. With no guarantees. I think back to the
>"art against Reagan" years, and stuff like "Piss Christ" and other awful
>Serrano pieces which I never saw the use in; and I wonder whether I missed
>the point, or whether it really was an awful failure. In which case I am
>even more nervous about what people like us are doing right now.

Speaking of the Reagan years, something popped up in my mind while 
both immersed in the hypocrisy of that period and retrospecting on 
its relative innocence compared to our present time.  It would seem 
that art which comments or engages the currents of the present regime 
of collective reality, there is the extreme and subtle risk that the 
work is, by definition, REACTIONARY.  The mechanism of reaction 
inexeorably links the artist to the original social situation in a 
dangerous symbiosis.  For example, very often artists in the 80's 
would exhibit a knee-jerk reaction -- Reagan would make some 
tremendous and offensive gaff, the artists would, as a cluster,  in 
the same manner that cameras cluster-click at a press conference the 
moment there is any kind of physical gesture, make some art about the 
event.  By definition, reactionary.  This symbiosis might explain the 
paradigm of the constant appropriation of oppositional strategy. 
Versus the impossibility of an existing social milieu to absorb 
revolution without deep change.

>Apropos of I can't remember what, Geert Lovink said: "Free expression?
>That's Theo van Gogh: a brilliant artist who called Muslims goat-fuckers
>in every third sentence of his films. Is that what we want?" But now it's
>too late for Dutch people or anyone else to ask whether we want it or not,
>because van Gogh is dead and there's a situation of extreme tension and
>violence, with no chance left for any "resolution" through the mediation
>of aesthetics, not any time soon at least.

This is where the distance between reaction and revolution might 
point to some possible solutions.  The revolutionary path is not 
rooted in reaction, but in generating a personally relevant pathway 
(that perhaps remedies or eases a critical situation) and simply move 
onto that pathway as a praxis (life-practice) which stands as a lived 
example of a possible alternate pathway for others. (walk the walk vs 
talk the talk)  Brilliance in art (as a both individually and 
collectively subjective value) may or may not have anything to do 
with this reaction/revolution dialectic.  But it is clear that 
confrontational conduct often has clear outcomes, and artists using 
confrontation risk the gross effect of escalation or the equally 
problematic effect of, through confrontation, propping up that which 
they would seek to destroy or discredit.  The Cold War is an 
interesting example of that reactionary/polarity-generating effect 
and the widely understood structurally symbiotic relation between the 
two Cold War states.  The US seems to need an "Evil Other" to locate 
its own identity as the "Godly Self."  The War on Drugs which 
immediately followed the Cold War had so much of the same rhetoric as 
the Cold War and the subsequent War on Terror.  The same effect might 
well be developing internally in the US now -- to unforseen 
consequence.   In the previous Reagan example, one thing that seemed 
to happen was that everytime somebody "did art" about Reagan that 
"Reagan" as a concept and political entity, became more powerful. 
And that each players location became "clear," defined, and definite. 
(Moving life into a simulation or static reduction of being) versus 
(life being indeterminate, unclear,  dynamic). Dwelling in reaction 
is a fundamentally impoverished pathway that lowers the overall value 
of creative living.  (of course, one can also use as example the 
operational policies of the Palestinian/Israeli confrontation where 
both sides explore violently creative solutions which are deeply 
rooted in reaction-on-reaction, while those who seek to make pathways 
between the two peoples struggle to make headway by deep lived 
practice of dialogue...

JH



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