A continuation of the conversation between the members of Type A…did you miss the first Type A post?
Hey MC Blogmaster 5000,
Here I am again, getting back in the writing groove. Funny enough, just read a story in the last New York Times Magazine (August 3rd) about a group of internet pranksters that generally call themselves “trolls.” Seems they like to nuke web sites and mess with people very aggressively. One of them is quoted as saying that he “wants everyone off the Internet. Bloggers are filth. They need to be destroyed.” Guy seems like a real party. Too much free time, if you ask me.
But back to the arts.
The project has evolved significantly since we last exchanged thoughts this way. We’ve completed our first two-day workshop with everyone in the Team Building project and have been talking about what it all means ever since. Right after the second day concluded we went out with Lisa (Freiman) to discuss where this was going and exchanged some really interesting ideas.
Type A has always made work that respects the idea first and the medium second. Ultimately the medium we choose for a project must be in response to the concept driving that project, and, in fact, the medium ideally helps to inform and reinforce the concept. Different media can do different things well, and we would never choose video to do what a photograph can do, nor would we choose to make photographs when the weight and authority of a sculpture is what’s called for. In the end, then, the medium is simply a conduit and is chosen for its ability to channel the idea properly. Reveling in the medium makes sense only when it’s functioning as a good conduit. Once that purpose has been fulfilled, we can roll around in the formal glory of whatever medium we happen to be working in. In the end, the medium should practically disappear.
This is a way of working which has been liberating for us because it means we are free to use whatever path is best suited to the concept and can focus completely on developing that concept. Although we’ve always loved the OBJECT in art, whatever that object may be, in the end it is disposable and is in fact not the art itself. This is where the Team Building project comes in.
When challenged with developing a piece for the Art and Nature Park, we realized early on in the process that an object-oriented piece would never be able to achieve what we wanted. We are too concerned these days with the shortcomings of art-as-commodity and the dangers of institutionalized mediation and intimidation messing with the experiencing of art by the public at large. Object-oriented art reinforces this, with the aura of the object being preserved and augmented through access control, provenance, market fluctuations and an accretion of expertise that a very small community of people continues to guard as their own. In short, it is often intimidating for people to go into a museum and restrictions on how one can understand art are inferred at every turn. This can be reinforced by an institution or it can be challenged. There are now significant discussions at the IMA to lead things towards a more open way which encourages a sense of entitlement in how the community can access and experience art, and we are privileged to be a part of that.
You and I decided that we wanted to create a gesture as well as an object and that the gesture is the primary component of the project. The medium we chose is Experiential Education, one which has no physical result (other than minor injuries) and which is direct and unfiltered by the history or art or any other discipline other than its own. The Team Building project can’t be touched or held or bought or sold. It can be experienced, either as a participant or as a viewer. It has an presence beyond what happens within the core team of participants, but defining that is as elusive as defining an invisible man. You can only see his shape when something is draped on him, when some piece of fabric or a mattress or a bathtub full of water betrays his outline and weight and movement. In a sense we have done away with the object and the medium altogether and instead have started a relationship with a cross section of people at the institution which has invited us to make work. What happens within that group is the piece itself, the draped fabric that gives this invisible man shape. The work we do is based on a set of principles and ideas that’s constantly changing, but has a foundation in trust, respect, inquiry, playfulness and honesty.
The project does have an object-oriented component as well, and how. It’s going to be a huge sculpture (we think) and, as such, will function as a counterpoint to the experiences we are sharing as a group. At this point we are feeling an increasing need for the group to have a hand in the design and fabrication of the piece and that will play out in the weeks to come. Having a huge sculpture is arguably the complete flip side of the principles that inform the intangible, performative heart of the project. But is it incompatible? Are we having our cake and eating it too? Seems pretty clear that the answer is yes, but is that so bad? Don’t these two components complement each other and in doing so set the issues in relief?
There’s a lot to consider. This has been an amazing experience so far and we’ve got a long way to go.
Yours in rubber chickens,
Dear B-Lo (again with a new name, this one with a trendy feel),
“Trolls” going onto the Internets to get everyone off the Internets? Hmmm, irony can be pretty ironic.
Anyhoo, it has been a while since our last blog-fession. What’s the penance for that? I’m guessing it has something to do with getting on Facebook.
So, in the last three weeks, much has happened, as you mentioned, with the Team Building project. The blog has the potential to be a place to expand our conversations, to continue to leave residue. I say “potential” mainly because we haven’t exactly… written. Instead, the ideas stayed where, I guess, they are more comfortable: in the ether just above our head waiting to be referenced. Holding the concept to be primary and leaving it formally undefined is a way to avoid losing it. Trying to contain ideas by writing them down, for example, can be a foolproof way of having the concept become slippery, more evasive. At the same time, I want to get some of this stuff down on paper (or, at least, on The Internets). The idea that things cannot be defined is a nice bit of theoretical play but winds up creating paralysis. Sure, no one can know exactly what I am trying to convey. So what? Trying is a noble failure.
So, on to the residue or, more specifically, the Invisible Man (I like to capitalize this as a proper noun since I prefer to believe he actually exists). He’s wrapped in bandages in order for his shape to be seen (he also wore those funny, goggle-like glasses and, if memory serves, a dashing smoking jacket). In order to be identified as a human, these “drapings” were necessary. Sure, no one could tell exactly what he actually looked like, but they could tell where he was and what the hell was holding that pipe up in mid-air (By the way, if he smoked or drank, wouldn’t we see the substance ingested? I mean, the invisibility didn’t extend to external objects, right?) From there, we realized that the “drapings,” or residue, can initially be acknowledged as a need for everyone else to know where the Invisible Man was at all time. Otherwise, he would be undefined, undetectable and, at some point, able to see them naked. Though the residue was for the protection of the visible, we soon realized that they were much more important for the Invisible Man himself. Without it, he would not know where he was. And that would be maddening (not in an irksome way but in a loony-bin way).
Without a sense of self, without the ability to have some identifiable aspect shown to someone or, more importantly, reflected back to oneself, there can be no sense of self. Sure, the reflection can only approximate and is inaccurate (Check this out), but they are somewhat beneficial reference points. And don’t get me started on Lacan’s Mirror Stage (You have read your Lacan, haven’t you?). Inaccurate reflections may create anxiety that sends us to analysis, but they do provide for some psychological stability. The alternative would be much worse. In art, we need our concepts to have a physical or psychological remnant. In a cynical way, art can be too interested in the physical object. People can use their knowledge of what the object “means” and what someone may or may not understand about it to create a culture of intimidation. The residue can, and often does, end up in the hands of someone with an agenda. This happens quite often when the artist is unreachable or, more so, dead. When the gap between artist idea/experience and audience is so vast, some feel the need to create authority in order to tell people when they are experiencing art. Perpetuating the myth that people need to be led through art in one way or another is a way to keep a lot of people employed (art consultants, anyone?). This has gotten us a bit P.O.’d. We’ve been around too many people who make such a point of being told what to see and, more specifically, what to buy. Now, we are definitely calling for a egalitarian, non-commodified, peace, love and understanding hippie like art world. But, we’d like to see a bit more direct experience as the rule, not the exception, right? This has been the driving force behind Team Building. Give some people some direct experience and see what happens. Let the art be made from that.
So, the project needs the residue. Without it, it could not be identified. More importantly, without it, we could not identify what we’re doing. We set up situations and then leave a lot to chance. But, the residue has become a prominent point for us to reevaluate and understand our need to get some of the ideas down. Without it, we would not be able to point to what we’re doing. And, without that, we would not be able to point to ourselves.
As for the sculptural element, this “big tower” that we’re constantly referring to, it is as necessary as we want it to be. It can be the largest bit of residue that our involvement with the IMA could produce. I’ve been struggling with the “having the cake and eating it to” thing as well. It’s always seemed like the Team Building and Tower endeavors were separate but connected. After our last meeting with The Group (capitalized for the same reasons), we’ve become much more focused on how the tower cannot be discrete from the experiential education. Each part keeps seeping into the other; and while it’s akin to osmosis to maintain homeostasis, the environment keeps changing. So, we continue to attempt to bring the various elements into balance while acknowledging that tension is necessary in art as it is in life. So, these seemingly antithetical elements maintain a stress but also provide a release. I have to believe that we have internalized Experiential Education’s message of self-challenge to such an extent that we are seeking out struggle as a choice to expand our lives and, by extension, grow. The two components don’t have to be resolved; that would be improbable, unrealistic and just plain misguided.
Our goal now is to continue to push to find ourselves in new situations providing new experience, tension and all. We can then offer ourselves and others the opportunity to drape something. To not do so would be insane.