I am rereading the Molesworthy, and the end of the article has me thinking. It is dealing with the idea that art periods, such as dada, revive themselves, as a form of a sort of check and balance system to keep the traditional art instituions in bound. I am not sure I accept this- history in and of itself repeats itself- societal events wax and wane according to who is in power, economic conditions. This wax and waning approach reminded me of a book by George Kubler- The Shape of Time. In it Kubler presents a radical approach to the problem of historical change. Using ideas in anthropology and linguistics, he pursues such questions as the nature of time, the nature of change, and the meaning of invention. The result is a view of historical sequence aligned on continuous change more than upon the static notion of style—the usual basis for conventional histories of art. The ideas of periods is replaced by ideas of fluidity and response to circumstance, that would in and of itself resemble earlier events.
I'm also thinking about ideas of authorship and anonymity- happenings seem to assimilate the everyday into an event, its less about the individual artist. The thinking is that the artist removes himself from the work. Ok. I get that, but in the documentation of the work links itself right back to the artist. The idea of art not being an object? I think of a performance as an object that has been created, an act that calls itself anti-art is pointing itself right back to the act, which for me, cycles right back around to- ART.
Just my meanderings at this point.
Life is messy and non-linear. We meander. Two steps forward, one step back. Turn. One step forward, two steps back. Stumble. Try again. Ten steps forward, never look back. Start over.
And so it goes.
However, the art world historically reflects something completely separate from real life: Idealism. Perfection. Utopia. These disconnects are what spurred the art movements known as the Futurists, Dadaist, and Fluxists, as they challenged both the cultural art domain (juries, curators, critics) and their audiences alike, forcing them to consider art that was noisy, unpracticed, and unperfected. More like real life.
Learning about these movements has expanded my view about personal ability to make art. I recognize that I’ve been clinging to a few ideals of my own. I’ve often considered myself at a disadvantage in this program because I have no skilled art training; this has been my ‘reality.’ I’ve allowed this void to hold me back from pursuing certain ideas or projects that I consider because I simply don’t know how to do them.
But the sentiments of these art movements, and in particular, George Macuinas's "Manifesto on Art/Fluxus Art Amusement" offer content that causes me to ruminate. In part, his manifesto states:
Comfort! Relief! Anticipation! Zing! Zwompf! Pow!
Like all matter in the universe, I’m in a state of flux. Flowing, shifting, morphing, expanding, changing. It’s time to start meandering through art production. Two steps forward, one step back. Turn. One step forward, two steps back. Stumble. Try again. Ten steps forward, never look back, working on art that reflects the web that connects us all in its endless permutations, twists, turns, and baffling contradictions.
In Fluxus: The History of an Attitude there is a statement from Duchamp that the "effect of personlaity and taste should be removed from the art making process". I have read this several times, tossing the words around in my head, searching for what Duchamp was really trying to say. For me, this seems difficult, almost an impossibility. I have rarely made art where I did not put a bit of myself, or my personality into the work, or at the very least, the process. However, when I stop and think about how the Dada movement encouraged the use of chance and designation, I can see how the person can become removed. I cannot say that this is how I would like to do things, but is interesting to ponder how to completely remove the artist from the art, and yet why would we want to?
I have no clue if this is true, but it does add a little to the notion of mixing art and life.
In reference to the difference between futurism and dada-
Futurism favored violence, incited a response grounded in a negative reaction, and in this way mirrored a world ripe for the eventuality of war. They were obsessed with movement, technology and power. War was seen as a way of reaching an end, that the futurists endorsed.
Dada, on the other hand came as response to the destruction of war. If a society could be so misguided as to seek answers athrough and let such anhilation happen, the question is posed- What else are they wrong about? War became a metaphor for a whole structure that was headed in a direction that Dada wanted to remove itself from. Their work was anti-work in that it opposed the oppression, and the idea of the laborer, or the artist working for or producing to support a social system- capitalism.
Though the Molesworthy reading talks of these periods reviving themselves as a reaction to a capitalist art domain, I think that their real lifespan is limited to the context in which this sort of anti- art was new. Once it has been done, it ceases to really have the ability to continue to incite the same shock value and reaction.
Both Dada and Neo-Dada's attitude toward labor as discussed in the Molesworth reading showed an attempt to stay outside of the ability of capitalism to integrate whatever attempts to oppose it. The Dadas refused to work for profit, the basic understanding of a laborer in the capitalist framework, thus removing the artist from the cycle of commodities. The worker produces only in order to convert his or her labor into money in order to feed that very pay back into the system of commodities. Refusing to work as artist for profit directly undermines the desire of the capitalist system to swallow the artist, redefined now as some sort of businessman, and then regurgitate the works as commodities. The Neo-Dadas take this one step further with the ironic stance of mimicry of the position of the worker in the capitalist system. In this way, the artists see the role that capitalism sets out and makes of themselves and their work a double that acts as a sort of parasite upon the body of capitalism. It undermines from within rather than demanding to stay external. The Neo-Dadas take on the mask of production in order to pour anti-production, like a poison, into the very veins and heart of the capitalist system.
"The old avant-gardes, Bourriaud tells us, were oriented toward conflict and social struggle; relieved of this dogmatic radical antagonism and macro-focus on the global system, relational-alleviational art “is concerned with negotiations, bonds, and co-existences.” (p. 45)" (From the article "A very shoet critique of Realtional Aesthetics, written by Radical Culture Research Collective, found in Histories & Theories under "Art & Culture.")
This highlights the discussion that Johanna and I have been promulgating about the Futurism and Dadaism. This article has the view point that I have been searching for. That as artists we must understand that we are relationally tied to the environment we are in, and so is everyone that we are addressing. The social structures that we live within may cause "alienation and misery", but we must understand that these systems are too large and nessecary to tear apart. In order to affect positive change it is imperitive for us to accept the "Existing Real", then play and explore within the social framwork that is given.
I'm all for radical change but only within the ethos of positive reconstruction. I still, maybe naively, believe that non-violence is the first step which should be taken. This allow for the freedom of dialectical discourse, which I believe the be the path to a newer enlightenment.
Although the styles and methods of the Futurists and Dadaists do not match my own, what I find admiral about them are their convictions and their intent on jarring audiences out of the status quo.
Discomfort can be an effective tool for instigating change and provoking thought. All the movements we have studied so far this semester have caused their audiences to be uncomfortable. Examples of specific pieces include Fluxus artist Dick Higgins’ 4’ 33, Futurist artist Marinetti’s Zang Tumb Tumb, and Dada artist Duchamp’s The Fountain.
Like with most discomfort, meaning is not derived until time passes and contemplation occurs. This phenomenon explains why these movements were typically misunderstood by the public during the time in which they thrived. At the time, the audiences were captivated by the artists’ drama and mêlée, which evoked knee-jerk emotions like anger and hostility, leaving no room for insight. In most cases, the importance of their work was derived long after the work was over.
As I consider these movements, I also relate them to my own work and practice. I have come to the conclusion that the last thing I want is for my work to be misunderstood during the time in which I make it. Clarity and meaning are of the utmost importance to me. I reject the notion of using shock and chaos to convey empathy and human compassion, which are important elements of my work.
The Fluxus artists, Futurists, and Dadaists had specific goals and agendas and the conviction to act on them. I admire their clarity as I work on sorting out my own.
I have read through the history of Dada, and presequentially Futuristism, and wondered what their impact on the world was. I have been perseverating on this question for quite sometime because I am concerned about my own artwork. I have some pretty heavy things to say and want to use my art and life to speak my mind. To those of you who do not know me or my situation I will say that I am in a precarious position. As a felon, and because my criticism of the incarceration system can be interpreted in many wrong ways, I hope to understand how to stand up and shout my opinion through various media and have more than most of the people listen and at least consider what I have to say.
Instead, many people turn themselves off to whatever they don't want to hear. Especially if it challenges their views of reality, meaning, and safety. If you point at someone and say "Your a hypocrite" they are probably not going to stop what they are doing and say "Oh geez, your right let me change my ways to suit your perception!" No, unfortunately what is likely to happen is they will get defensive, in a mindless reactive manner, dig a trench and stand their ground even if you could get them to agree with you through a positve dialectical discussion. This is what I think the myriad reactionary forces of the Futurists and Dadaist didn't undertsand.
How is attacking people going to get them and others in society to believe in what your trying to say. I admit that as a younger and more uneducated person I would generally look at these artworks and actions and call it nonsense that has no effect on my world view and move on. If someone were to atack me or my ethos I would probably staunchly defend what I am not even sure of in the first place. I think most people are like this. Of course, we could use this this to our advantage as artist/social activist. Sort of a reverse social action. Maybe I'll go out an join the republican party and push that we build prisons to incarcerate anyone that doesn't think like us. Though, I'm afraid that would work too well and not achieve it's reverse affects!
This is why I like what I have read about Kurt Switter. He seems to be the answer I am looking for. If you want to affect a social ethos and perception then maybe the best way is to make allies and find pathways that are alluring that free and democratic people will want to follow themselves. To me this is the most organic way of growing anything. Simply provide all the nesscary resources for enlightenment and sing to the people a song that makes them want to come and look. If they believe in and love what they find enough they will defend it, and for that moment it will be right.