This post is loosely intended as a response to some aspects of Clive’s lucid and meaty post of last Monday.
Clive opens by stating that we should ‘consider what the network is or was [...] before calling its project organizing an “artwork” (and what is the hoped for gain of this description – for whom is it being described as such: for artists, critics, research funders, taxpayers, etc.?).’
On one hand this is absolutely right and necessary, and yet, at the same time, this makes a severance where there should perhaps not be one. i.e. for our discussion we are considering the curation of the network as artwork. We do well to remember that Filliou’s Eternal Network of Permanent Creation connects all artists across time and space. Just as we also do well to remember Filliou’s (amongst others’) project of ‘decommissioning’ the artist (the name, the role) and making time and space for everyone to see their activities in creative terms.
Personally, for better or worse, I was immediately pleased to see Roddy’s unabashed use of the word ‘artwork’ in the discussion topic title. While I have a lot of time for ‘decommissionist’ / revisionist antics and ideas, I also feel that we stray into the realm of delusion when we call our activities something other than art. However close our work might come to political activism, social regeneration, therapy, philosophy, free market capitalism, etc. it is still art. If it wasn’t, we simply couldn’t frame it in these terms. I feel we can, and should, take some pride in art. Just as those in other fields should take pride in what they do. Art is only a dirty word if we make it one.
The way I approach my ‘network’ work is as an artist/curator. It means generating particular forms of creative/meaningful exchange with other people that might be different to other creative/meaningful exchanges. Eg. for Art’s Birthday this year we approached a local ‘specialist cake designer’ to make 12 cake designs chosen at random from 150+ designs that we had received following an open call. The ‘novelty’ (possibly the wrong word) of this ricochets through all levels (including Council Health and Saftey regulations). So, something that might seem superficial can actually carry great complexity and substance – defined by and through the contributors and contributions over and above the concept. The importance of the concept, then, lies in generating something that can structure or frame or inspire the activities that really form the work. Needless to say, the cakes were eaten by all those who attended the Art’s Birthday celebration.
I suppose I have decided that I would like to spend a significant portion of my life taking part in creative exchanges. Sometimes I initiate them, sometimes I am invited to take part. Sometimes they go somewhere, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I enjoy them, sometimes I don’t. I can either think of creative exchange as a whole, in general or I can break it down to a project by project basis. I see Filliou’s system playing on this tension between perceiving an endless stream of creativity and a compartmentalised, rationalised collection of things done and felt.
To end. An interesting issue thrown up by Clive’s post concerns what we consider ‘official’ theory/philosophy and how we legitimate ‘unofficial’ theory/philosophy through ‘official’ theory/philosophy. Clive brings in Hall and Williams to reiterate/support/substantiate Filliou. Following Clive’s intervention (as but one example), does this now mean that Filliou can be used in the same way as we do Hall and Williams? Are Hall and Williams now open to accusations of copying Filliou (given the sequence of presentations)? Or are they seen to be working in such separate fields that the congruence is merely coincidental, and purely affirmative of the shared project?
Considering ‘La fete permanente,’ it occurs to me presently that what is at stake is the degree of importance we ascribe the ‘carnival’ to the ‘normal’ running of society and the terms of their relationship. Does ‘cultural theory’ et al belong to the carnival or to ‘normal’ society? And what kind or degree of impact do we acknowledge the two sides have on each other? Can we cleanly split these two realms? Is it inappropriate to do so? Should we look to Filliou and his collaborators for answers? Or to their inheritors? Or to other theorists and historians? Or to society directly?