Interstices 2 March 2011, 6.00-8.00pm
Rhizomes. The company you keep? What is the nature of human connection? Is there a way of connecting that comes out of a sense of being an artist? What happens underneath a conversation? How does value and consciousness operate? What is packed into instinct?
Special Guest: Richard Wentworth: Head of RCA Sculpture
Bruno Latour in Actor Network Theory and after (1999)
I will start by saying that there are four things that do not work with actor-network theory; the word actor, the word network, the word theory and the hyphen! Four nails in the coffin.
The first nail in the coffin is I guess the word ‘network’, as John Law indicates in his paper in this volume. This is the great danger of using a technical metaphor slightly ahead of everyone’s common use. Now that the World Wide Web exists, everyone believes they understand what a network is. While twenty years ago there was still some freshness in the term as a critical tool against notions as diverse as institution, society, nation-state and, more generally any flat surface, it has lost any cutting edge and is now the pet notion of all those who want to modernize modernization. ‘down with rigid institutions’, they all say, ‘long live flexible networks.’
What is the difference between the older and the new usage? At the time, the word network, like Deleuze’s and Guattari’s term rhizome, clearly meant a series oftransformations – translations, transductions – which could not be captured by any of the traditional terms of social theory. With the new popularization of the word network, it now means transport without deformation, an instantaneous, unmediated access to every piece of information. That is exactly the opposite of what we meant. What I would like to call ‘double click information’ has killed the last bit of the critical cutting edge notion of network. I don’t think we should use it anymore at least not to mean that type of transformations and translations that we now want to explore.”
Nicholas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics (2002)
“The possibility of a relation art (an art taking as its theoretical horizon the realm of human interactions and it social context rather than the assertion of an independent and private symbolic space), points to a radical upheaval of the aesthetic, cultural and political goals introduced by modern art. To sketch a sociology of this, this evolution stems essentially from the birth of a world-wide urban culture, and from the extension of this city model to more or less all cultural phenomena.”
“Art is s a space that produces a specific sociability … Over and above its mercantile nature and its semantic value, the work of art represents a social interstice. This Interstice term was used by Karl Marx to describe trading communities that elude the capitalist economic context by being removed from the law of profit: barter, merchandising, autarkic types of production, etc. The interstice is a space in human relations which fits more or less harmoniously and openly into the overall system, but suggests other trading possibilities than those in effect within this system. This is the precise nature of contemporary art exhibition in the arena of representational commerce: it creates free areas, and time spans whose rhythm contrasts with those structuring everyday life, and it encourages an inter-human commerce that differs from the “communication zones” that are imposed upon us.”
“As a human activity based on commerce, art is at one the object and the subject of an ethic. And this all the more so because, unlike other activities, its sole function is to be exposed to this commerce.
Art is a state of encounter.”
Virgina Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1928)
“It is a curious fact that novelists have a way of making us believe that luncheon parties are invariably memorable for something very witty that was said, or for something very wise that was done. But they seldom spare a word for what was eaten. It is part of the novelist’s convention not to mention soup and salmon and ducklings, as if soup and salmon and ducklings were of no importance whatsoever, as if nobody every smoked a cigar or drank a glass of wine. Here, however, I shall take the liberty to defy that convention and to tell you that the lunch on this occasion began with soles, sunk in a deep dish, over which the college cook had spread a counterpane of the whitest cream, save that it was branded here and there with brown spots like the spots on the flanks of a doe. After that came the partridges … many and various came with all their retinue of sauces and salads, the sharp and the sweet, each in its order … Meanwhile the wineglasses had flushed yellow and flushed crimson; had been emptied; had been filled. And thus by degrees was lit, half-way down the spine, which is the seat of the soul, not that hard little electric light which we call brilliance, as it pops in and out upon our lips, but the more profound subtle and subterranean glow which is the rich yellow flame of rational intercourse. No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.” [emphasis mine]
Gift and exchange. In a networking situation between two people there is a gift and exchange. Networking has to be a selfless act.
A gift economy is separate from a market economy. How does a gift economy work?
The real value of this bottle of wine is more than what it is – a gift creates a bond, it is received and circulated and it comes round.
Art opens up a gift economy.
Wine is the nearest thing to art.
There is ‘tending’ in wine. ‘Tending’ – to tend, to attend, to take care. Tend, Tender, to Tender.
“Art is like football.”
Does ‘gift’ create a social space?
– relational space/aesthetic
– symbolic experience
The Network brings about corporate power. It flattens.
The work of art can exist in both states at the same time: as as gift object and a commercial object. But what is the tension/balance between the two properties in the work of art?
Generosity – is it the art or the art object that encompasses that?
A gift implies something coming back. when you put art on display, it / the artist / the gallerist is demanding something back.
Art work as social interstice, as a language, it is activated somehow – it is communicating.
What is an interstice? – it is the (small) gap in between.
The artwork occupies the gap.
What is the quality of this gap then that the art work occupies?
If an artwork is a social interstice that is activated, what is the gap’s relationship to activation? Does the artwork create a gap that is activated, or is anything that is presented in the activated gap artwork?
Does the gap/art detain you?
What is interstice? I thought it meant ‘intersection’ and not ‘gap’.
In the brain the psynapses are intersections but they are also tiny gaps.
You know one by the other. The gap is a space of transformation. Fluidity in the gap.
In music, the interval is a kind of gap but it is important because it is what gives musical meaning. Meaning is generated in music by the shift or change in notes.
, a contemporary of John Cage, claims that silence is the first note to any symphony or music.
When you sing or play before an audience, silence is also the last note. Holding the silence in the air is what singers/players do. And there is an understanding between player and audience in how long that last silent note lasts before the applause happens.
There is a relationship in the spectacle between the acknowledgement of otherness and yourself. Artwork is an acknowledgement of otherness between yourself and the Other.
The interstice is an open platform. There is no hierarchy. It is rhizomic. Subvesive.
The rhizome. A plant with no central core or trunk. Ginger. Crab grass. Strawberry.
Does the rhizome jump across time too? Yes. Through cannon? But then it can’t go backwards in time so it can’t be truly rhizomic? Perhaps time itself is rhizomic and non-linear. Ask a quantum physicist.
The rhizome is messy. The work of art is a messy object.
How does a meme work? Is the internet meme just purely a mechanism for exponential transmission of information? What is the meme’s implication for the gap, for transformation.
Memes to transform. As ideas/video/text get passed on, people add to it.
What is Mimesis
? Is it rebirth or reproduction?
People and animals mimic. There is an agency in mimicry as opposed to copying or reproduction. Mimicry relates to a person saying something – learning the meaning.
The Broken Network – the territory is known, no longer shifting, going back to the same points of call.
Artists have to network. Did the masterpiece make a sound if it is in the studio and noone has heard about it?
Some things feel like work.
I am drawn to the idea of the encounter.
It is more like Breathing.
You cannot have a selfish network. You cannot network completely selfishly. It is like shareware.
The gift is not enduring if it is made purely in exchange, only made for a return. No longer a gift but barter.
What then is the excess in the gift that is beyond its commercial or barter value?
The M.A. is an interstice. But the RCA is not a rhizome. It is a hierarchical structure framing the M.A.
Winning does not equal Success.
Winning speaks to an End.
Success speaks to an Elevation.
Success relates to Satisfaction.
‘faction’ in Satisfaction relates to: manufacture, factum (deed), making work, constructing.
People who come here are anxious. The axiety relates to dissatisfaction, ambition. Ambition in the sense of ‘walking around something’ – like a dog who doesn’t know where to lie down.
Anxiety is a way to deal with work – perpetual transformation.
Satisfaction comes in the making and moving, as in the music interval. We can only gain satisfaction from a sense of change which is why we keep working. The finger only senses objects acutely if it moves.
The work of art calls values into question constantly.
All of this discussion has a moral undercurrent. Nothing is value neutral and the moral/political element has to be acknowledged.
Are we asking if the ‘flux’ work of art is better than the ‘exchange/return’ work of art?
We measure the value of our existence differently – not based on who has the most money at the end.
Art becomes a cynical gesture if it is calculated purely for return.
Is it then even a work of art?
A work of art role is challening assumed notions.
We are always looking at things with different sets of values all the time. Trust our opinions.
If a work of art is there purely to challenge assumed notions, then does it simply become an instrument of a political/moral project?
Is it then even a work of art?
That is also when a work of art fails. It becomes didactic. If it serves a function, it is a one way conversation.
We could look at Play. Something done for its own sake and not for money or health.
The rush I get from art is the awareness of a gap opening up. It allows the mind to flex?
If the defining feature of a work of art is not its commercial value, its use value, its political value, its moral value, then what is it?
Perhaps the work of art can only be defined by defining what it is not. We define art by mapping the negative space. The gap/interstice.
Perhaps what artists do is to map the unknownable by using the knowable stuff of the world.
Society’s optic is the known. Art’s optic is the non-known. The difficulty in justifying art (and funding for art) is that there is no language for the non-knowable that society can understand – no intersticial knowing.
We all know each other in an intersticial way. This is something you construct and need a lot of trust and fear for.
People care about art and music and understand that it should be a part of society.
– minding – tending;
– care is not always a good thing;
– care creates tribes;
– would not want to talk about care in a large group – something to do with scale.
Care is related to making stuff. A kind of attending (tending, factum, construction … satisfaction) or attention to something or someone. Care as an intersticial way of relating (a generous, as opposed to broken, network). Transformative – but for who?
On mimicry and Mimesis:
Michael Taussig, Mimesis and Alterity
On Gifts and the Gift Economy:
Marcel Mauss, The gift: the form and reason for exchange in archaic societies
On Rhizomes and Networks:
Deleuze and Guatarri, A Thousand Plateaus
Bruno Latour, Actor Network Theory and after
John Law, After Method: mess in social research
Guattari, Chaosmosis: an ethico-aesthetic paradigm
On Art’s relationship to Economy, Society, Power:
Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production
On Music and Silence:
Takemitsu, Confronting Silence