Sunday, 25 March 2012

the last bird ( 2 )

Apologies for technical problems....

Thanks  to Patrick Ward for his message regarding the translation of  Peter Sloterdijk's 'Spheres' trilogy. I agree, it is very much of interest.

Thanks also to Andrew Stones for the paragraph below. Andrew posted it as a comment on one of my drawings below but I think it relates just as well to my previous post on Virilio's 'sphere' so I'm re-posting here. 

'To prove discovery of a previously unknown species, an ornithologist kills and preserves a specimen... but what if it's the last breeding male/female of the species (this could well not be known at time of discovery). The beginning of a new thread of ornothological knowledge might then be contingent on the destruction of the objects to which the knowledge pertains; knowledge destroying, piecemeal, the world in which it holds sway'.


Saturday, 24 March 2012

A loop of endings

One of my favourite analogies is Paul Virilio's descirption of knowledge being like a constantly expanding sphere . I understand there is some doubt as to the accuracy of his model, but in the spirit of a blog, and for the sake of attempting to articulate a thought or an image which has been troubling me in my sleep ( niggling me, my Dad would have said ), I'm just going to run with it.
My apologies to Virilio.
Imagine an uninflated ballon of some amazingly flexible material that will just keep on expanding and never pop. Now imagine that instead of air this balloon is filled with things that become known. So, the more research is undertaken the more we know, the more what we know goes into the balloon, the more the balloon just keeps on growing.
As I understand it what Virilio then said was that as the surface area of this expanding sphere increases, the boundary ( the membrane of the balloon/sphere ) between what we know and what we don't know ( i.e.what is inside the sphere and what is outside the sphere)  actually gets bigger all the time. The implication of this is quite simple; the more we know, the more we know what we don't know.
So, this morning I'm lying in bed thinking about the work I'm doing with Neil Webb for Bend in the River. This is the "End of Ends" project. The premise of this is simple, the reality pretty complex. We are creating a potentially never ending list of endings, the list of endings has to keep growing, if it doesn't then things ( things being things in human consciousness ) will have ended. In other words as long as we are imagining ends 'we' are not ending.
The thing that's been niggling me is the form of the list. As it stands the list is being generated and then played back at 4 endings per second over a screen, the list currently lasts around 4 minutes and is looped. As more endings are introduced the list will of course get longer.
But, talking with Neil yesterday about the sound element, and working with Kate Buckley on the form of the outputs, has made me realise that this image of the  sphere  and the expansion of the sphere might be key. I imagined the list as an expaning membrane in space, instead of a linear, top to bottom, left to right structure, the list is added to from the inside and at each addition the list doesn't get longer, it gets 'bigger'. If the list is a membrane of some form, then the boundary between what is in the list and what is outside of it gets bigger. The more endings we imagine, the more we know there are yet to imagine.
The  boundary in this instance is the loop itself.
This is what I love and hate about this project, and I've posted on it before. I can't get a fix whether it is reductive, ruinous, entropic, desperate, hopeless or expansive, open, infintie, transcendetal, and hopeful.
I guess, this is the  point, that the work itself operates both about a boundary and as a boundary.
Thanks Neil and Kate ( and Paul )

Saturday, 17 March 2012

What am I doing?

Am I doing what?

Endings in action

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Trying to work through various issues in relation to our project at Bend in the River (collaborating on this with Neil Webb and supported by Kate Buckley). Developing a title for the work is tricky. This is because the work involves creating a piece of software which allows us to download a potentially finite list (or infinite depending on where you are coming from) of 'endings'. For example "all planes grounded", " all sleep slept", "all hopes dashed", "all eyes peeled", "all clothes washed" etc. etc. ad infinitum. Of course, the list needs to imply that it is productive rather than reductive, that is, by producing endings, or by gathering them and 'showing' them that it is a form of ongoing labour in some way, and that, like Arakawa and Gins' philosophical play on their decision 'not to die', the very fact that the list is being produced, is confirmation that the list is never going to end, and thus, 'we' will not die. The fact that this incarnation of the work will exist in a deconsecrated church adds to its eschatological leanings.

But key issues are, is it a production, or a gathering? Is it a representation or some form of ruination of representation? Is the ruin then productive or reductive?

We started with "end of ends" may be fitting that is where we finish.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Brigid McLeer

Brigid asked me to write an intro to her show at Highlanes Gallery in Drogheda. At the same time I am reading " an ethics of everyday infinities and powers" by bertelson and murphie and the two are overlapping

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Biennial's Radical Heart

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The Biennial's Radical Heart


here's one I made earlier....

First published in AN magazine.

What can there be left to add to the already hyper-inflated discourses around the global Biennial phenomenon? What could possibly be left to be said on the phenomenon of forever asking what may be left to be said?

Never one to pass up the opportunity of labouring over a point, five years ago I suggested (with tongue only slightly in cheek) to an audience in Sheffield that the international globalising Biennial model, (of which I denied ArtSheffield05 had any aspirations to become) was past its sell by date and was in need of a drastic overhaul, only to then struggle in vain to articulate what form that overhaul might take. My feeling was then, as it is now, that ArtSheffield incarnations (05, 08, 10) were attempting to refuse 'Biennial' status in an attempt to outmanouvre what I saw as the paralysing effects of a ubiquitous, uncritical, overblown, market orientated Biennial model.

Of course, in reality, there is no single Biennial model, and many Biennials are incredibly informative and ambitious projects. Yet looking back over the last decade or so, a skeptic might argue there was little or no substantial difference between them, that they were more or less an endless proliferation and reproduction of the same, with the odd new slant often conveyed by some quasi-thematic hyperbole, and that these often enormous events were part of some elaborate conversations which more or less agreed to maintain the status quo. Even Manray Hsu and Vasif Kortun's flirtation with Activist practices in the 2008 Taipei Biennial, though brave, felt somewhat hollow and depressing within the vast sweep of the Biennial itself, which effectively neutralises all it comes into contact with.

The Biennial kills all that it attempts to claim by framing and 'housing' its art and artists. Like an extraordinarily elaborate conceptual yet flexible frame of quotation marks, the Biennial 'houses' work alongside other work within a growing taxonomy and currency of 'biennial art'. The work is reduced by the Biennial's encircling grip to a series of generalisations and cyphers, as encyclopedic signs and examples of 'art'. Occasionally work breaks out of course (sometimes literally like Mike Nelson's installation in Istanbul in 2003 which encouraged the viewer to get totally lost in an edgy part of town) and becomes particular and specific again - alive even, if only momentarily - but it seems a rare thing for this to happen. The Biennial, often complex, skillfully curated and brilliantly conceived in many respects, is nonetheless often a monster survey, which, as if by its very nature, ultimately foregoes depth, difference and slowness for speed, homogeneity and surface.

Like the Art Fair, the Biennial also exists as a significant force in social, financial, political and geographical space and time. Yet precisely by doing so it reduces the art it houses (or contains and limits) to a series of non-specific generalities subservient to the Biennial's performing of its own considerable presence. In this sense it is the Biennial as an entity rather than its art, which is always somehow more specific than much of the work within it. In an intriguing process of transference, the Biennial becomes or appears in the world often at the expense of the disappearance of the art and artists it houses. This is a dual operation: on the one hand a curated gathering and survey, on the other a performing operation which exists above and beyond its constituent parts as both an object and an event with a force all its own.

Of course, curators have been publicly agonising over how to embed the practices of art back into the world using a range of tactics. In a fairly recent spate of Biennial discourse, much has been made of considering locality as a means of 'grounding' the event and the work within it into the here and now. But despite these appearances the Biennial still continues to confirm itself more as a commercial branding event/spectacle than a genuine attempt to get down and dirty with the matter of 'art and people'.

This year's incarnations in Taipei and Guangju offer a glimmer of hope. Both have opted for high degrees of self-reflection, though in entirely different ways. Most immediately noticeable is that the Taipei Biennial 2010 has no overarching thematic title. The curators Hongjohn Lin and Tirdad Zolghadr have dramatically decreased the size of the project, blankly refusing the grand theme almost in a self-reflexive snub of past pretensions. Taipei 10 openly reconsiders the Biennial format through a number of structural proposals and confesses to having "no curatorial master plan to scream from the rooftops" other than a "question of what is distinctive of Biennials today?" asking: "What are the conditions of production a Biennial creates; what can you do with a Biennial that you cannot do with anything else?"To take things even further there is a transfiguration of Taipei 10 into a two-year process leading to a series of smaller exhibitions in 2012, the process being sustained by an academic framework "ideally resulting in sustainable art-pedagogical infrastructure".

Guangju Biennial 2010, curated by Massimiliano Gioni, though equally self-critical, is huge. This Biennial practically posits a case for a programme from which it might be possible to formulate a theory and practice of specificity on which the discourse on locality is only a part. Taken as one whole experience, Guangju suggests, by the nature of the work within it alongside its overall sense of presence, that it is not the gesture (whether it be token or genuine) towards locality which makes for something meaningful for an audience, but a recognition and respect for specificity and difference - of which a respect for locality is only a part. (By specificity I mean the tangible, here and now, the subjective, the individuated, different, oppositional, discursive, brilliant and textured.)

Where Taipei 2010 is deeply self-reflective, vastly reduced, and almost humble, Guangju directly addresses the labyrinthine complexities of the 'human image' and in doing so actively performs something very singular and particular. The project, titled '10,000 Lives', is like a vast mirror reflecting our images right back at us. In some senses Guangju goes back to basics, much like Taipei's self-reflections, by eschewing grand themes and trying to rethink itself in front of us. Yet it is able to appeal to the highly specific (what is it to be me? to be you? to be her, him, them, us? to be human? to die?) without losing a sense of the epic, sprawling nature of art and human creative endeavour Significantly Guangju also doesn't get hung up on 'art' and allows a number of varied anthropological strands and documents into the frame which light up the whole project. This vast show is shot through, top to bottom and inside out, with a special care and attention full of disturbances, refusals, little shocks, stories, details, narratives, layers, textures and worlds within worlds and in its own way has a radical heart.

What Guangju offers is something cohesive and solid, yet still in a process of becoming something as an operation always to be completed by another human being. The abiding theme of Guangju is supplied by the yearly photographic portraits taken of Ye Jinglu, a simple annual pose for the camera, from 1901 to 1968 - not art; but not not art. By focusing on people and time, Guangju develops into an enthralling, four dimensional experience in which multiple strands, layers and histories make up an event which is nothing less than a profound durational performance in which the whole is an equivalence to its parts. This is a 'Biennial' as an event which neither overshadows the 'work' nor is overshadowed by it, and it is the dual performance of this dynamic, of the Biennial as an event/object and of the work operating within it on equal terms, that artists and curators might carefully consider.

I hadn't realised there was so much that could be done, that there was so much that was being done and that there was so much yet to do.

the epistemic realm and the aesthetic realm

Are the aesthetic and epistemic realms inseparable? I suggested this at The Journal Of Artistic Research Conference in The Hague over the weekend. It seems I may be in the minority. So I must be right....

Rummaging through some work of mine and found this, quite liked it again after all this time. Park Hill in Sheffield with an other intervention...

by way of a test...Park Hill Sheffield with a intervention

News : Steve Dutton

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About : Steve Dutton

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Here is a also link to news on my web-site

News : Steve Dutton

As part of my increasing interest in the ( anti ) aesthetics of institutional  forms and rhetoric I will be giving a paper at the this year's ELIA conference in Porto in June.
The Paper is Entitled, 'In the Age of Extreme Institutionalization and Hyper-instrumentalisation of the Art School; How is it Possible for Artists/Teacher/Student Relationships to Flourish?'
The Teachers’ Academy 2012, ‘INTER-ACT', focuses on the challenges and developments currently facing lecturers in art schools, particularly in relation to the increasingly fluid boundaries between disciplines and modalities. 
As a result of this increasing cross-pollination in the arts field and arts education, new relationships and interactions are rapidly manifesting. 

My website also has a news section which I am trying to link to this Blog


It looks like the ACE funded 'end of ends' project with Neil Webb for the wonderful Bend in the River x- church space in  Gainsborough will open May 18th.

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OK, I'm about to start using  a Blog, never done it before, but I need to see what happens!
So see this as a test. More proper info to come soon I hope!