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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  February 2013

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING February 2013

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Subject:

More on Filliou's approach to research and epistemology

From:

Clive Robertson <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Clive Robertson <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 25 Feb 2013 17:37:08 +0000

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Hi all: 

In part this is a response to Ken’s post: his disagreements with Filliou’s concept(s) of research that Filliou later coupled with a description of his method. Moreover Filliou's challenge/reminder was intended as an epistemological prompt i.e. what counts as knowledge? "Everytime we turn our attention to what we don't know" later sounded to me like aspects of cultural theory. Where Filliou's attention to research took him is not so greatly different from Raymond Williams who traversed through literary studies, adult education, and a sociology of art. Both of these histories of informal and more formal modes of enquiry remains of interest to those of us who trouble what it means to be engaged in art as/and research.
 
First though a shout out to a longtime friend and colleague, Tom Sherman who jumped out of the bush admirably posting a reminder about the horizontal axis of culture (i.e. belonging) and how this concept of ‘network’ had and I would argue still has – despite our digital data connnectedness - a different import if you live in a location that does not resemble a “fully-equipped” or diverse populated live metropolis. Footnote: I now live in a city of 130,000 whose major employers are one university, one community college, one military college, six or seven federal penitentiaries and retail services, and – it’s a historic, pretty place by the water - ‘cultural tourism.’   (BTW if you haven’t seen it, Tom’s book, “Before and After the I-Bomb – An artist in the information environment,” Banff Centre Press, 2002 remains a very inventive and rewarding read.” ) 

I agree with Ken’s observations about networks as “not being disconnected events” though I found it useful scholarship to theorize the “artists network” as a movement that is distinct from movement organizations, that can and will fail/expire (see Nick Crosley’s “Making Sense of Social Movements,” Open University Press, 2002).

Ken asked about the cite for Filliou’s “everytime we turn our attention to something we don’t know, we are doing research”  and “knowledge is not the domain of those who know…”  I don’t know if these words appeared in publication earlier, but it was included during our production of Filliou’s videotape, "Porta Filliou" in 1977, and thereafter in Centerfold magazine and again in the Filliou exhibition and catalog, “From Political to Poetical Economy” organized by Scott Watson, Sharla Sava and Hank Bull for Vancouver’s UBC Belkin gallery in 1995. Porta Filliou, which I produced as a prototype video publication (on ¾” video cassette), was re-editioned by Hank as a videodisc that included Filliou’s videoworks produced at the Western Front, Vancouver. Porta Filliou will have a third iteration as a DVD + book, published by Richard Martel at Inter/Le Lieu in Québec City within the next year.
 
I saw and still see "Porta Filliou" as Robert’s follow-up to his book, “Teaching and Learning” (1970) where he writes that, “economics has been defined as the study of mankind in the daily business of making a living. Poetical economics could be a study of the artist in the daily business of making a living.” For different fields and closer to the present, concepts of a “poetical economy” can be useful as an antidote to or a bypassing of where a political economy analysis approach can lead: that is to dead-ends or simply conclusions we already may have before we conduct research. (Yes Gary, the Stuart Hall “no guarantees” clause.) "Porta Filliou" also resembles a self-retrospective of Filliou’s many research projects that he had been working on simultaneously for what in 1977 was then 15 years.  I’m really not a Filliou expert -Sharla Sava did great research for the exhibition and for her MA thesis - but I can’t see Filliou as quite the disguised fool that others can. Filliou’s praxis as “institutional critique” and as a poetic sociology of art is simply trailblazing. Particularly if you consider that a later scholar like Nicolas Bourriard has enjoyed widespread recognition as the breakout author on relational aesthetics theory. 

So, no, I don’t think of Filliou’s statement on research and knowing (or not knowing) as “oracular or nearly mystical” Ken. I think Filliou as the economist turned  ‘artist economist’ was aware of what the condition of being a ‘de-centred subject’ was at a moment (as Sharla points out) when in France and elsewhere there was a focus on what to do with increased leisure time. As a trained economist capable of being humane and anti-humanist, Filliou was ‘obsessed’ with artists “contributing to the creative use of leisure” which is so very different from Richard Florida’s later use of the term “creative class.” It is hard to imagine Florida successfully advising what Filliou wrote: “Optimum production, distribution and consumption of goods and services will be achieved when everyone is rich enough to live like the poor.” (Teaching and Learning, p.70)

Filliou’s approach to research (as he wrote accompanied by “condemning oneself to poverty and extreme want” ) is challenging and bracing today and was even for those who trod the “economic of survival” routes of the 1960/1970s. Unlike many of us (as artists or as scholars) he chose not to go back to school to update his degrees and/or to seek paid employment teaching. It remains true for most artists in most places that it is more or less impossible to glue together a continuous annual ‘living wage’ solely by selling whatever it is we want to make or do as art. On the contrary, our role when we chose to live “as artists” remains to subsidize cultural production even when we are paid to engage in what Williams called ‘the ceremonial function of state culture.’ 

“Actors talk about acting, doctors about hospitals, and artists about money.” (Filliou quoting Emmett Williams)

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