To see the colophon click here.
I want to share one story with you – which is a sort of a comment to the research Archiving Artistic Anxieties. It is a story I recently wrote about anti-resilience, staying with your practice, narrative eroticism, woman and magic, weaponisation with nakedness, dramatic spectacle, anti-representational criticality, and through these subjects, I believe it talks about both, yours and my work.
You can read it here.
Some other introduction notes:
This online publication is about making public what has been done and where is at the moment the research project Archiving Artistic Anxieties. As a website, the publication can host the future thinking and events of the same research project.
The parts developed in the collaboration are the structure for working. The writing process is, in a way, outsourced to Sina, Pia, Tina and Goda.
From the discussion with Tina, about what makes an essay an essay, we decided to write a research paper From Archiving as Artistic Practice towards Otherwise Exhibiting: the essay archivingartisticanxieties.me, which presents the concepts of the research in relation to this online publication.
Pia contributed to the essay with parts of her performance scripts, she improved the language and proposed a layout. You can read this version here.
The design and the structure of the website is done by Sina and represents his response to the propositions of the essay. All the elements of the essay: the text, the documentation of events, the hyperlinks and the comments take place together on the screen. The ‘anxiety egg’ – can be dragged, allowing the reader to decide where she wants to focus on. A click on this egg, gives an option to
– to generate a pdf, which is a paper version of navigation through the website and reading of the essay.
The following block of text is written ‘in one breath’, it exposes the initial writings related to this research project and explores the shifts in style, language and thinking.
This is the version that Sina, Pia, Tina and Goda got and from there we shaped archivingartisticanxieties.me:
The text describes a process of shifting subjects:
Practice-led research in the arts that focuses on the sovereignty of the artist in the context of exhibition practice → Analysing exhibition as a dynamic structure, from the position of the artist, displacing the artwork to bring focus on artistic activities → Focusing on the temporality of the exhibition → The decisions made by the artist in managing the art world can be discussed as creative approaches and intellectual efforts as much as the art products/works/pieces do → Artistic Anxiety as both ‘stressful eagerness’ and ‘being troubled by’ → Archiving Artistic Anxieties for Artistic Practice that produces Exhibiting Otherwise. Archiving as Exhibiting. Artistic Anxieties Otherwise. Exhibiting Otherwise for Artistic Practice that produces Artistic Anxieties → …
I am going to pretend now that this writing will be an essay. Or a part of an essay, and the whole website we are making is the essay. Actually, a reader navigating through the website reads and in that way edits what can be her or his version of the essay. But I still have to pretend that this writing will be an essay, otherwise, I won’t write it. I mean: what’s the point? The events have already taken place, there are short descriptions, posters, invitations, publications, publications that were performed and activated. There are links for online material, posts on social networks and all the other printed matter that follows the art events. The idea of the ‘online publication’ or ‘an essay of sorts’ came from a need to put things together, to have something solid from all the promises, predictions and try-outs within the research project Archiving Artistic Anxieties. But that solidification would be in contradiction to what the project stands for. And I can not pretend all the time, or I can not pretend all the time if I am the only one pretending. It just becomes very boring. Once, I invited some friends over to see my collection. Also, I do a card reading about artistic anxieties. Or we pretend we are going to do a horror workshop. Oh no, now this writing sounds like another of my performance/readings texts. They used to be better in the beginning, later they became self-concerned and Who needs another woman talking about her problems with art? and Just do it, you just have to do things not talk about them! (from the conversations after presentations of this project). The question is then, how do you share your struggles and concerns so the others trust you? Sometimes it seems to me that you are allowed to expose vulnerability only if you deliver successful results in the end. Ok, this is definitely not an essay introduction. This essay will start again, as a report on activities and formats that aimed to explore a generative tension of – exhibiting ambiguous distinctions between practice and theory, theory and confession, documentation and production, artistic and curatorial, oral exchange and artistic form – as a potential to constitute new modes and methodologies of researching in public. Two years ago, I wrote: “This research proposal begins from the position of certain artistic practices that are left powerless and stifled when faced with today’s art system. The artistic efficiency and a prolific practice, as well as a commercially viable one, are not only revering the art market but reinforcing it with its ability to adapt to trends seamlessly and reproduce itself with what seems like the only objective: economic and cultural consumption. I hear them talk about the death of art, the death of art is the death of the artist, someone wants to kill me, help. – Mladen Stilinović, 1977. With this work-statement-thought, the artist uses the philosophical subject of grand narratives in Western canons of art, and relates it back to himself, questioning his own artistic responsibility. With a peculiar sarcasm, but very precisely, the artist refers to the absurd position of artists in the art system. Who are ‘them’ who announce the death of the art if they are not the artists themselves? And who are those that the artist asks for help?” Another artist perhaps, an artist in residencies, telling stories in her rooms. This is the text announcing Chase Experience: “It all started shortly after the arrival at the residency hotel when Adrijana discovered the text written on a steamy mirror in a bathroom. It was a call for help from an artist left powerless when facing today’s art system. Although she was resisting taking part in many ways, reading this message as one of the varied strategies of myth-making common to the art field, that has as its sole intention the speculation of value-like it is in all mystery stories, guided only by personal motivation and a desire to help, she took the role of an eccentric, amateur detective. What was found and discovered in this investigation continues to be the case for itself and the intellectual exercise behind the puzzle of possible crime against the artist. First conclusions were presented and the audience was provided with clues from which the perpetrators may be concluded before the story gives its revelation.” Going through these old writings, I am surprised to see that some years ago, I wrote with a kind of assertiveness that I thought I never had. Probably because most of these writings came to be, with an attempt to make a successful PhD application. And perhaps, the problem of the exhibition and exhibiting was more clear as a proposal, it is the artistic research that allows for complexity. From a version of the proposal: “By questioning artists’ motivation and responsibility in the general context of art and art-related politics, there is an attempt to further expand the space of art. In relation to these challenges, within the art system that is mainly powered through conventions of exhibition-making, …what urgently needs to be done is to further expand the space of art by developing new circulation networks through which art can encounter its publics—through education, publication, dissemination, and so forth—rather than perpetuate existing institutions of art and their agents at the expense of the agency of artists by immortalising the exhibition as art’s only possible, ultimate destination… (Art without Artists?, Anton Vidokle. 2010) These different forms of communicating artistic research can still reproduce the same model of the already existing structure, hence my research is about developing methods for elastic artistic practice from within the complex structure of the exhibition.” Elastic practice? Ovo mogu pripisati mom početnom nerazumjevanju u kom odnosu su umjetničke anksioznosti sa kritikom dominacije izložbi u diseminaciji umjetničkog rada. I was confused for some time with the intuitively put connection between artistic anxiety and exhibition. This idea of ‘elastic practice’ originated in relation to developing resilience to artistic anxieties induced by the exhibition-market system, which I thought for a short time, defines what I aim for. Looking now at this quote, in the text above, I am glad I stopped following e-flux and to add to that, I think that maybe this understanding of necessary resilience from anxiety, has to do with the environments I was part of: art schools with their masters and masters’ tools. Reaching to theoretical texts about contemporary art, those seductive writings that give you the idea of understanding how things work, in a way that the only choice you have is to think the same, otherwise, you are between the manipulated others. A year ago, I defined it differently: “The interest of this project is to look at how this symptomatic artistic practice can recognise its anxiety as a state that is a prerequisite for criticality but does not necessarily make it possible. And then: weaponise!” – I remember this last sentence came during the mentoring with Femke S. This session was an important turn in my thinking of the project. She just kept on asking me simple but crucial questions and I was able to define in words something that comes more as a feeling though the experience of being, let’s not call it a professional but an exhibiting artist. ‘And then: weaponise!’ was her sentence, koju razumijem kao podsticaj i podršku, koja mi je trebala u tom trenutku, da postoje načini za kritičko promišljanje koji ne potvrđuju centar. Ali i da tom osvješćenju predstoji naoružanje, naoružanje argumentima i znanjem koje se može prenijeti ili stvaranjem bar minimalne infrastrukture koja može podržati ovakvo drugačije okruženje. During this mentoring we came to the scheme of my research (December 2018):
The writing continues: “To be able to look critically at the changes in what is considered artistic practice and whatnot, as a direct consequence of changing mechanisms in the art market. To be critical of the way precarious art practice and collective subjectivity are being manifested in art. Therefore, the exhibition has been defined as a dynamic constellation that is connected to a larger social and economic development, a configuration of agents and things in different temporalities. (a reference to ‘exhibition as a dynamic structure’ further discussed in public seminar Of(f) Our Times: The Aftermath of the Ephemeral and other Curatorial Anachronics) From this perspective, the question arises: Can we identify and experience art, in the frame of the exhibition, through the artist’s activity and decision making in the given (social and historical) context, potentially displacing the artwork?” Of course, we can and of course, we know that art is not the artwork (only). But still, the whole art system and the exhibition as the dominant form of dissemination, operate in the way that places the artworks, physical objects, performance pieces, or documentation of artistic gestures in the centre from where the value judgments are being created. I wrote in the proposal, what I think is happening with making this online publication too: “Aiming to destabilise what is considered to be the role of the artist, the artistic subject becomes its own object of study, developing a discourse about the status of the artistic subject by mapping different activities and functions that artists assume (or are ascribed to).” In our presentations and in the sound publication for the Subtracted Seduction this was addressed in different ways and different formats. The question of authorship, that we were never ascribed to. (quote from the sound publication Subtracted Seduction) The institution of the artist, of the text, of the exhibition, is being deconstructed and their frameworks are being performed to expose how the creation of meaning happens in relation, for the subjectivities becoming, being constructed through protocols. For the Subtracted Seduction I presented under the title: 7 anxieties and the world, together with a smoke machine, a blue light, a microphone, a music of stone sculptures, a written script and a box publication containing 22 cards. On these cards I printed photos of 22 items from my collection of takeaway material, which I picked up from different exhibitions of other artists. This collection is a base for the project and I recently described it: “The collection includes material from the different places that the artist-amateur detective moved through in the last five years, which enabled and conditioned her artistic activity. The collection is itself material evidence of one of today’s artistic anxieties: the nomadic nature of the artistic activity. To move through different structures while doing exhibitions, giving talks, participating in residencies is at the same not being dependent on one economy but it is also conditioning these symptomatic artistic practices not to be able to permanently change stable structures.” I guess I was also addressing the double side of my privileged position. On some other, more personal level, this collection is perhaps nešto što me uvjerava i što materijlno svjedoči i podsjeća me da radim i da (ne)pripadam negdje i nigdje, kao reakcija i posljedica neizvjesnosti koja je prisutna poslednjih više od 7 godina od kad živim van Crne Gore kao strankinja. Some years ago, when I was more assertive, I called the collection Anxieties as Artefacts and wrote: “In the last three years I have been collecting exhibitions’ artefacts – materials produced for an exhibition as a takeaway printed matter or affordable objects of a limited edition. In the overwhelmingly organised structure of exhibitions, these artefacts are what I recognise as a space for uncertainties, delineated as a ‘periphery’ in exhibition-making, which are reflecting the anxiety in the art-world.” Now I would say art-worlds. “They tend to leave the exhibition room, escaping the rules of the market while persisting to be the artefacts and extrapolating the space of exhibition into daily life. The idea is to continue this collection and to establish the archive that will be occasionally activated and performed, which will construct the critical discourse around the possibilities and constraints of exhibition practice and the role of the artist as a sovereign agent in the art system.” How did it work until now? As I mentioned, first I was telling stories about the crime against art, staging the material from this collection as evidence, as clues and references for the story to be constructed. Through the events: Happy Detective and Guided Tour – artist in residence, I was performing a script, arranging material and objects (left-over, take-away and accompanying material from public presentations of other artists) in my living and working space and referencing those as clues of the investigation. This archiving as artistic practice, this methodology, expands to an artist and researcher metaphorically being an amateur detective: not professional archivist or historian, but the lover of art who intuitively identifies a problem, looking for clues to prove that the idea of ‘freedom in art’ is not inheritably there, but it is to be constantly redefined and practiced. As in Artistic Anxiety – being an amateur detective – the artist eagerly decides to put herself and her practice in a problem, to stay in the trouble. First, promiscuously plucking out fibers in clotted and dense events and practices, I try to follow the threads where they lead in order to track them and find their tangles and patterns crucial for staying with the trouble in real and particular places and times. (Staying with the trouble, Donna Haraway. 2016.) From the public presentation 7 anxieties and the world, that was already mentioned, I developed one-on-one card-reading, a conversation of sorts, based on the anxieties of the artists I do reading for. The conversation is recorded as research material, for different artistic anxieties to be noted down, shared and published. As it was in the detective stories in my residency rooms, in the presentation 7 anxieties and the world, through the card-reading and later throughout different activities, I was citing and referencing the works, exhibitions, public events and artists that collected material comes from. What happened between these two periods is that I decided not to relate to the material with negative critique. Meaning that what I relate to only through negative critique – I don’t speak about. This choice opened the door for other events, where the objects and items from the collection became even more like catalysts for activities than research data. For example, the cyanotype workshop started from the A4 takeaway exhibition paper (picked from the exhibition Soft Knees at WIELS, by Stefano Faoro). The lecture Developing strategies from the artistic anxiety of being invisible and useless or Anxious parasites will save the worlds was conceived around the notes from the performance From I to We – excavating Reality together, at Home by Pia Louwerens, take-away information sheet from the performance How to Infuriate a Historian by Goda Palekaitė, Eleanor Ivory Weber’s reader The World Today All In The Mind, from an excursion to the Royal Library of Belgium, but also Emma Heddich’s essay on Adrian Piper Stay Away, Don’t Stay Away, which is not picked up from the art event, but Irene R. suggested me to read it in her written feedback for the presentation 7 anxieties and the world. So, I started using the items from the collection next to theoretical writing, next to my work. This is the Archiving in this project: an activity of accumulating but also generating material. Applying different procedures for categorisation of references and influences, which often includes public presentation. In the work To a Young woman of bright future, within the project midi-spoor-7, I tried out ways of archiving and publishing. At the moment I see Otherwise Exhibiting as a platform that can be at the same time a way of self-archiving through others, and a mode of knowledge production through art for others. “This means that dealing with what I call Artistic Anxieties through performances that coincide with developing research methodologies – Archiving, I look to define ways of making public – Otherwise Exhibiting, which are the outcomes of this research.” Two years ago I came to a.pass with what I can define now as an obsession with a form that not only gives shape to meaning but shapes the meaning itself. Heavily influenced by the practices of other participants and co-creators of this environment, I understand now that the performative events we do tend to coincide with developing research methodologies. And I see this as radical. But, this wasn’t always so clear. Already more than two years ago, I developed the following charts and schemes and wrote about them: “Analysing an exhibition as a complex medium itself:
The space for the exhibition can be real or virtual. It can be any private place or any public space, but in practice, it is mostly held in an art gallery or museum or at a trade fair (The Exhibition – according to Wikipedia, which I used here to mark what is generally considered to be an exhibition space). Even though digitalisation is advancing, the exhibitions are still mainly in real (white cube) spaces, with their digital extensions on the social networks and official websites that provide their announcement and parts of the documentation. This chart of flow is made thinking of the big exhibition, where the artist comes through invitation or some sort of selection. It’s here to illustrate the decision-making and responsibilities over the production of art. It gives a picture of the exhibition as a space between the artist and the public. The artist, after being involved in the process of contemplation and work for the artwork to become, she takes an effort in presenting it to an audience. The artist is further (partially) involved in the communication with the curator who is hired by an institution (gallery, museum, art fair) to design the ways the art will be translated and transmitted in the framework of the exhibition. From here arises the question: What are the tools on disposal for the artist to take more responsibility in the decisions over how her art will be communicated within the frame of the exhibition?”
Using the model of Aristotle’s dramatic arc of a drama play, I made the illustration of The Exhibition as a Spectacle: The exhibition is organised. The exhibition happens. The time of the exhibition has a dramatic line of tension. Exposition => conditions of creating the artwork; Rising action => time of communication with the curator and other agents in the production; Crisis => there is a deadline and the setting up has started; Climax => the opening; Falling action => duration of the show; Denouncement => finissage (as in drama it can be tragic or comical with a happy end) for the artist the happy end would be selling the artwork or being invited for another exhibition. According to this timeline, the opening is a climax the most spectacular moment for the artist, artwork and the audience, especially if followed by a speech or a performance. The calm period of the duration of the exhibition sometimes is animated with an artist talk, workshop, symposium and/or similar activity. What is not visible to the audience is everything before the spectacle, before the climax in the scheme above. In the coordinate of Time, this is the longest period. It is a relationship between the artist(s) and the other mediators involved in the production of the exhibition, the decisions about the distribution of the production budget, it is a time of working (sometimes with architects and/or team of technicians) for putting up and down the show. To bring another comparison with the theatre, what the audience doesn’t see is the rehearsal. I will quote a part from Brecht’s notes on theatre, where he describes what the job of a rehearsal director is, implying with this what I see very close to artistic activity, especially when involving others in the production of the art. Rehearsal director does not enter the theatre with an ‘idea’, a ‘vision’ a ‘blocking plan’ and a ‘finished set design’. He does not wish to ‘realise’ the idea. His task is to stimulate and organise the productivity of others. An important task for him is to expose all the schematic, customary and conventional solutions to these challenges. He must unleash crisis. (Brecht On Theatre, by Bertolt Brecht. The Attitude of the Rehearsal Director. 1964) Rehearsals are experiments, aiming to explore the possibilities of the here and now. If we follow this comparison, it becomes clear that everything around the spectacular and most public part of the exhibition is what actually matters in art.
Discourse over the ‘here and now’ through narrative practices: Drawing an illustration of reality, as a double-sided mirror (in this kind of mirror you can see your reflection but also you can see through what is behind), subject A sees the virtual world reflecting the real one. Today the digitalisation of the present evolved, the Internet, as ‘Le Musée imaginaire’ (“Imaginary Museum” is an essay by André Malraux, published 1947, in which he proposed that the perception of artworks and also the teaching of art history must be reconsidered, because of the possibility of photographic reproductions of artworks, that allows works that are distant to be next to each other in books to be compared and that such a dialogue produce new meanings) provides images of artworks, videos, information and reviews about museums and galleries exhibitions and at any time. New digital platforms are created all the time, as one of the alternative ways to build networks for the production and distribution of culture and information. It seems the physical presence of the artwork in a particular place is becoming less important in view of the global circulation of its diverse reproductions. Or it can be that because of the amount of circulation the importance of the presence and a particular place is even more important. Depending on which position and interest are we approaching this issue? From the position of power institutions, it can influence developing a new format of working in search to find a way to continue making exhibitions as distribution for art pieces. But for the artist ‘here and now’ is not a vanishing idea, the new and already existing channels have been always used to facilitate and circulate contemporary art discourse (as it is now printed material, magazines, online projects, classes and other mediums). The focus is like it has always been on communication and discourse over the ‘here and now’. There is no justice through technology, there is only justice. (Stated by the physicist Ursula Franklin, in the interview All problems can be illuminated not all problems can be solved) What I find to be an outcome or consequence of the overload of information, is the rise of ‘narrative practices’ in art today (it belongs to the field around the gaze in the mirror on the image above). This is followed by an increase of fictional institutions and ‘aesthetic journalism’ in art, archives are seen not only as a site for storing information but a place where the knowledge can be also produced. The writing of contemporary art history has been approached with storytelling techniques.” The later description of the same scheme: “Exhibition as a narrative form to discuss the Here and Now – I approach the exhibition as a narrative form. It is a process, a type of action that can lead to a mutual opening and connection between all agents involved, an opportunity to re-examine and re-narrate stories and histories. Without an end result, without a final cut, these potentials of the process continue to appear in different forms over time.” I remember the exhibition I saw in Vienna in 2015, which moved my understanding of what an exhibition can be and influenced these writings. “Around 1990, with the introduction of identity politics in art, there was a proliferation of artistic practices that were questioning traditional forms of exhibiting, addressing the social challenges of their time and adopting diverse practices such as activism, politics and exhibition design as artistic efforts. Instead of being a neutral shell to be filled with artworks, an exhibition became a complex medium itself—produced by specific social, political, and economic conditions. (Quoted from the review about the exhibition To expose, to show, to demonstrate, to inform, to offer, 2015. in MUMOK Vienna, about artistic practices around 1990.) The exhibition-market system of today tends to transform the social activities in the art to ‘pop activism’. In the vocabulary of what is considered to be an artistic activity, the organisational activity and the modes of working that position the role of the artist are still seen as ‘peripheral’ activities in exhibition practices. This leaves us with the complexity of the image that uses the language of the ideology and only features the contemporary global crises by ‘sharing’ up-to-date topics. The flow-chart of the exhibition as an outcome that considers proposed methodology:
If the artist uses the structure of the exhibition not to exhibit but to experiment with its space and time, how will this then change the relationship with other agents that conform to the structure?” This Exhibition Otherwise changed to Exhibiting Otherwise, and then to Otherwise Exhibiting, with an understanding that I am not looking for a new or alternative model but a certain shift in thinking. In a turn, we turn away from something or towards or around something and it is we who are in movement, rather than it (Turning, Irit Rogoff, 2010). Introducing the Otherwise Exhibiting is also a position to affirm a territory of activity, such as exhibiting (that is able to involve time, space, artist, curator, institution, audience..), and then to propose a shift, to declare a disconformity, which allows for a space of freedom and transformation of what is already given (habits, prejudices, accustomed ways of operating…) to induce Artistic Anxieties. The term Artistic Anxiety is an affect, it does not refer so much to a particular reality, but to the subjective way of perceiving and relating to it. In this sense, I am not so much interested to describe the world of art and certain position of (im)potencies of the artist in relation to it, but more to allow and make visible different and many concerns, doubts, apprehensions in their interconnectedness. And what was the point? Why? What was I looking for? “The proposal is to use this space that is on my disposal as an artist, not pointing finger to the world I reflect on from some other place but thinking of “exteriority that is with-in”. Through performative events, I aim for destabilisation of the relations in the (self)institution – towards something that can be possibly called anti-representational criticality that allows new subjectivities. Representationalist tendency to see matter as passive, in need of the mark of culture or history to complete it. Instead of being above the world we “reflect” on, a performative account insists on understanding thinking, observing, and theorising as practices of engagement with, and as part of, the world in which we have our being. (Meeting the Universe Halfway. Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning, Karen Barad. 2007)” What am I looking for? There is an attempt to go beyond cataloging hidden structures and invisible powers of the art world produced by and induced with anxieties. Through the documentation of events that took place, there is experimentation in the form of publishing research while it’s taking place which I see as a practical approach that aims to diffract the meaning while it is producing it, instead of describing it from the distance (reflecting on, a word which I still have a strong habit to use). “This thinking belongs to and probably is enabled by the complex staging of the cultural display, using the exhibition as a medium done by the artists that are now recognised and institutionalised as ‘institutional critique’. Questioning the role of the artist and her responsibility, this research project is to understand the institution within, recognising (self)censorship driven by our own interests and the benefits we derive from it. (From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique, Andrea Fraser. 2005)” In relation to this history, I find challenging to think about what comes after pushing the walls of the exhibition space or exposing their (hidden) structures, focusing on the Here and Now of relations generated between those walls and by their structures for it to be a space for new modes of research but also a social and political (ex)change. In relation to these strategies, I look at what Artistic Anxieties Otherwise can be. In the notes of the essay: Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or You’re so Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay is About You (in Touching Feeling. Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. 2003) I have found a description relevant to what I intuitively hope to find looking through the duality of anxiety as ‘being troubled by’ and ‘stressful eagerness’: it is Timothy Gould’s interpretation of Emily Dickinson’s poem putting close the feeling of hope and the feeling of severe anxiety Hope is the thing with feathers -/ That perches in the soul. He suggests that the symptoms of fluttering hope are rather like those of posttraumatic stress disorder with the difference that the apparently absent cause of perturbation lies in the future, rather than in the past. By putting together the anxiety and institutional critique I aim to create spaces and mediate events to probe Otherwise Exhibiting for Artistic Practice that produces Artistic Anxieties. Irit Rogoff describes the movement from the experience of art as individual reflection to look at art as a collective activity in the process that produces new forms of mutuality, of relations between viewers and spaces rather than relations between viewers and objects. In this movement, I look for a certain mode of criticality, embedded in what takes place, therefore ambiguous, not yet defined.
And here bonus track for my friends, 5 min pitch I was ask to prepare for a PhD interview last year.