Sunday, October 24, 2010

NO PLACE TO SIT (a walk around the new context), Federica Bueti

The last hundred years of work indicate that it’s demonstrably impossible to destroy or dematerialize Art, which, like it or not, can only gradually expand, voraciously synthesizing every aspect of life. Meanwhile, we can take up the redemptive circulation of allegory through design, obsolete forms and historical moments, genre and the vernacular, the social memory woven into popular culture: a private, secular, and profane consumption of media. Production, after all, is the excretory phase in a process of appropriation. (From Dispersion by Seth Price)

Today we are constantly faced with the option of being able to transgress spaces, to reconfigure our positions from bygone eras towards the immanent future. We are all nomads in spaces and time. We are travelers from country to country. From one form to the next, we are surfing between contents in an endless negotiation with the Other. Our struggle has become more clear in the here-and-now sense as being part of a configuration of what the future might hold. See you there, in that interstitial space (that we are currently working on). We are trying to define our position in relation to the socio-cultural context. Nomadism, hyper-mobility, hybridization, de-territorialized space and the idea of liquid-modernity are all terms used to define a general tendency within our current cultural climate. Our contemporary reality in which we live and work as artists and critics is in a free-floating state. Here, the site is our starting point, and time is our tool.

There is a fundamental shift that is taking place that transforms spatial necessity with temporal contingency, temporal presence that makes spatial experience possible1. Contemporary practices are engaging in the use of time in an attempt to activate reflections, not only through forms but also in the way that they are producing discourses. These contemporary modes of production are based on nomadic practices, not simply in terms of freely moving around or upon merely physical space, but upon time-based practices, which are allowing individuals to engage in different time based dimensions, floating in a universe of expanded forms and meanings, where past, present and future are unique fragments of the real. Nomadism is a practice of time-displacement, a process of remembering or actualizing, where virtual actualization is a form of creation (Gilles Deleuze). This form of nomadism is not simply a form of post-production, it is a way of rethinking the past by changing the point of view of reflection, opening up minds with the aim of finding alternatives in terms of production, distribution and in general with the fruition of culture. We are no longer in a society of the spectacle nor in a society of total control. We are stepping out, using what society has produced in terms of mechanisms and products, and going beyond. We have become radicant as Nicolas Bourriaud points out, in a measure in which our consciousness of the real, in all of its forms has become the instrument of change. We are settled in being ‘in motion’. The crisis has shifted and has become our potential for rethinking our previous models. The consequence of the crisis is a state of precariousness, where the ephemeral constitutes our contemporary aesthetic. Artists are working within a critical discourse by transgressing media and engaging in political issues using means like writing or intersecting boundaries between different media, using different disciplines as instruments to broaden the trajectories of their discourse. This is an attempt to reflect on the present and the immediate futures, taking into account all of the perspectives offered by the multiple languages of contemporary culture. To be political also means to think of possibilities of the future.

The new generation share a transmedial attitude which brings them to broader and more diverse forms and contexts within their practices. In what we can define as a practice of Nomadism sets in motion the real in all its forms tending to an endless displacement where thoughts and forms are translated and reassembled into new narratives, producing alternative social contexts using existing materials. There is no longer one tendency or specificity, but a broad range of approaches using different practices as tools for subjective narration. In this process of embracing multiplicity, it is difficult to define and distinguish between those who are truly engaged in a critique of the social and cultural system with the aim of inciting real change, and those who are trying to ride the wave according to the roles of that system. But from our point of view, we will always be partial and each possibility will imply the exclusion of another who is different.

Between the good and the bad there are many shades in between and what has to be recognized is a generation of artists, curators and critics who are aware of the present condition, who are working on new definitions and parameters. Those working with or without the banner of history, using fiction or science, comics or sculpture, writing, or any other discourse. We are all using a range of possible materials. Now the problem is not WHY we use them but HOW we use them. Artists are responding to a new globalized perception. They traverse a cultural landscape saturated with signs and create new pathway between multiple formats of expression and communication (Nicolas Bourriaud). This is not about chaotic movement as it probably appears, but it is an organized and fully conscious path that opens up to infinite progressions and changes. Nomads don’t move randomly, but plan their journeys by drawing them on a map. These contemporary artists reconfigure cultural practices through the use of existing codes and practices. Culture is a mobile entity, a multiple proliferation of the visual and of narratives bound within. We could also use the term nomadism-in-time, as a way of describing a certain propensity to engage with time as a place of critical thought. Here we are enabled to build a new social aesthetic based not only on the practice of collective movement, but on the unfolding of individual mythologies 2 (collective experience is now based on simultaneous private experiences, distributed across the field of media culture, knitted together by ongoing debate, publicity promotion and discussion- Seth Price). We are no longer in search of a collective doing, but we operate as monads in the flow of the real.

Every monad, as Leibniz explained, is characterized by the power of representation, through which it reflects every other monad so that one can look in every other monad to observe the whole universe reflected there. In the same way, contemporary culture is a proliferation of individual mythologies or subjective narratives that contribute to the definition of a cultural landscape, opening a multitude of points of view. Different from the Postmodern era, that proliferation is not so much a lack of inclusive ideologies and a naive multiplicity of claimed cultural diversity, but it is instead a consciousness of us and of all that surrounds us, it is a critical dimension in which we are able to put into question neo-liberalism in all its dimensions and build on our functional utopias 3. If we consider the current situation, many artists share a sense of engagement that is completely different from its political connotation, which points more to the will of making the world work. They are no longer required to represent anything. They produce discourses, improving their practices with their existences within the cultural field. We often misunderstand the sense of these progressions, which take place slowly and are often imperceptible, but for this reason they are more complex and probably more effective than a quick fall of the Bastille. In this flow between bodies, sounds, images and words there are some artists using time-based practices with the aim to re-access meaning and produce discourse using the short-circuit as a praxis of reenactment. They don't occupy any specific place, but instead move backwards and forth on a kind of timeline, never quite taking a seat. Quite to the contrary, they try to perform a dialectical relationship with the environment that surrounds them. Nomadism-in-time may not be quite the right definition, but it is certainly functional in defining an interest in breaking with the modern and the post-modern and with its conception of time, overstepping any clear definition and trying to produce alternative energies.

In a recent article Dieter Roelstraete4 put into question the tendency of many contemporary artists to use history in their practice, like he defined it as a “historiographic turn in art.”5 Even if I don’t completely agree with his perspective, I’m interested in the difference between the notions of the historical and the historicist. While the historicist suggests a tendency of conforming us to a state of affairs where history is determined by immutable laws, the historical seems a better term to identify the social and cultural phenomena that changes throughout time. The nuances in these two terms seem loaded and open to consideration. Of which, they might be the kinds of approaches that we will use in considering history in the development of our future. Thinking in historical terms is one way that we approach the endless possibilities of a critical thought, of building a future with a consciousness of how things can be transformed and elaborated upon by the passage of time. Re-enactment is a form of reassessing our trajectory, not merely as a cut and paste of anachronistic forms of expression. In the past year the phenomenon of these historical tendencies in art practice has taken place at all levels. However we must ask: do these tendencies represent obstacles towards the consideration of the importance of history, both personal and collective, in the writing of a new future?

Situating nomadism in-time clarifies the concept through specific analysis. It positions events and points of view, re-appropriating ideas and overcoming myths. Today some artists feel the urgency in practices to incite change. Their strategies involve the sharing appropriating from everywhere and everything: the present, the past and the future in the form of images, google maps, wikipedia tools, symposia, workshops, dance floors, critical discourse, informal conversations, sculptures, installations, video, sound, performances and so on in a heterotopia that implies fluctuation in a universe of signs and meanings, inhabiting spaces in between. Never filling a seat, these modes of working occupy different positions in different moments, depending on the contingencies that affect the direction of their efforts. In conclusion, what seems to emerge from this panorama is a progressive change that could be defined in terms of a re-appropriation of time. The various practices of temporally based artists are responding to this new re-appropriation, they are based on the will of creating a condition for the discursive.

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