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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  February 2013

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING February 2013

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Subject:

W.O.R.K.S. We.Ourselves.Roughly.Know.Something.

From:

Clive Robertson <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Clive Robertson <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 6 Feb 2013 16:14:33 +0000

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text/plain

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Dear Ken: 

Thanks for your response and reminder to be nuanced. I agree. There's no point flinging around what might appear to be provocations e.g. faux essentializations of artists, or Q's about gender and Fluxus. Nor was that really my intention - although it does happen in mixed company :) You are right, and once I pressed send I realized I did exactly what you said - revert to discussing more male contributions, except that Jos Tilson is a woman. 

Tx. for your link to your writing about G. Maciunas - attempting to control people in or out of the guise of collective-ization is a common problem. My book, Policy Matters: Administrations of Art and Culture, YYZBooks, Toronto, 2006 interrogates the political shifts across the supposed utopic and post-utopic moments in an alternative/mainstream art system, locally-grounded, covering a period from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s. The book owes much to the bottom-up field of cultural (policy) studies which in turn is all about culture and citizenship developed from Foucault's work on governmentality and self-governance. Apologies for the (re) biographical introduction but I did not, as you posted earlier Ken, find income security or peace working as an academic. I was 58 by the time I finished my doctorate in Communication Studies and it was both accidental and deeply ironic that I found myself employed as an art historian, a discipline that most of my contemporary modern/contemporary field peers despise, calling ourselves cultural historians, or re-assigning ourselves to Cultural Studies. 

As for the "good fortune" of living in Canada (or Australia) with public art subsidies, unlike Fluxus and their moment, artist-run collectives/centres here in the early 1970s were a movement and an apparatus and (for the same period that my book covers) we had 'movement organizations' that could influence govt policy. As probably all of the respondents know and/or appreciate, mixing the organic with the bureaucratic is above all else an exercise in frustration - like good theory. As I think you know Ken myself and others did create curatorial prototypes for this in the earliest period of our practice without any financial support or ability to pay artists for their work. A lot of infrastructure (the privilege and curse) had to be built from scratch - the network was in a way materialized through our own self-exploitation as badly paid or unemployed cultural workers who like George M. paid to work. Some of us like Robert F. went bankrupt.  It was and remains a world very different from academia. 

I think you are being a tad unfair in your estimations of Robert Filliou and George Brecht. George, whom I never met, gave us the "event" (please resist the temptation to argue who also authored "events" - La Monte Young, Yoko Ono, etc..) and the tampon which I think is enough. The economist drop-out, Filliou was by necessity a nomadic (self-described) flanneur whose travels gigging in many countries (including Canuckizstan) helped inspire the next generation of artists, even if we didn't quite understand his "continental" philosophical thinking and methods. He absorbed, as he said, "works of vulgarization" i.e. popularly-directed texts on all and sundry that lead to Propositions and Principles. This is deliciously (?) different from the literary inheritance-aided scholarship of Dick Higgins, or Emmett Williams or the art herstory of Carolee. Without clumsily icing the cake, Filliou really didn't need to "enter the arena of politics" (of mail art?) let alone deserves wearing the tag of a "political scientist" who thinks but does not 'act.' If memory serves, I believe that Filliou was a member of the French resistance? And even if Robert was spiritually committed and spent the last years of his life in a Bhuddist monastery with his wife, Marianne, Robert was a "monk" – like Leonard Cohen was a monk !!

By the time in your note you get to Winston Churchill, you lose me. Please don't romanticize political and economic history studies. Both endeavours (in the wrong or merely smug hands) can wreak more social havoc than little, old art history has ever dreamt of.

Finally, finally - as my writing for FUSE attests, I am pretty well conditioned not to write about white, male, heterosexual artists or theorists - it must be this Fluxus stuff that is causing me to fall off the wagon?

Bests, Clive 
 

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