From Archiving as Artistic Practice towards Otherwise Exhibiting:
the essay archivingartisticanxieties.me
Through the overview of the previous reports on activities and formats of the bigger research named Archiving Artistic Anxieties (that focuses on other ways of exhibiting), this research paper represents one of the methodologies that aims to explore a generative tension of – exhibiting ambiguous distinctions between practice and theory, theory and confession, documentation and production, artistic and curatorial writing and editing – as a potential to constitute new modes and methodologies of researching in public.
The research paper is being carried out through an online publication: arhivingartisticanxieties.me, an essay of sorts that is being shaped by several people. As visible editors, friends and family, those artists and researchers got a double role:
– to help the text (and the essay) and by doing so to introduce their own practice/research/thinking.
The aim of this kind of editing is to give the essay plurality of voices, to expose the shared authorship in writing and editing and an element of publishing in reading.
Initial Activities and Investigation
The research Archiving Artistic Anxieties began two years ago thinking 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. This is where the idea of working with ‘artistic anxieties’ started from. In the works “Chace Experience” and later “Happy Detective” and “Guided Tour” I tried to understand and describe this position. As an artist in residencies, I was telling stories in my residency rooms, taking the roll of amateur detective and setting up and discovering for the audience the clues that there was crime against art. This is the text announcing Chace 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 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.” The story starts with the text written on a steamy mirror in a bathroom: 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 – the work-statement-thought written by Mladen Stilinović, 1977. He 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?
In the story, artist-researcher takes the role of amateur detective: not professional archivist or historian, but the lover of art who intuitively identifies a problem, looking for clues to prove that idea of ‘freedom in art’ is not inheritably there, but it is to be constantly redefined and practiced.
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. Not only by developing new circulation networks through which art can encounter its publics, but also to explore the already existing conventions and their potential to host practices and not artworks. As in that time, the exhibition was the (only) space that was already given to me as an artist and as it is a dominant form of dissemination of art – it is a subject of the research.
To compare this with the story – being an amateur detective – the artist eagerly decides to put herself and her practice in a problem, to stay in the trouble.
With Artistic Anxieties, to stay within the Exhibition.
I used to write, when I was trying to quickly propose the goal of the research that this artist within the trouble and the amateur detective have to resolve their anxieties through resilience and develop elastic practice, which means to adapt. This was exactly the opposite of what I was aiming for when I intuitively found the relation between the artistic anxieties and the exhibition. Thanks to the environment of researchers and artists I was part of in the last two years, and their ‘weird’ practices, I was able to resolve this initial confusion with necessary resilience from anxiety. (Here I used ‘weird’ thinking of my fellow researcher artist Pia Louwerens and her presentation when she discovered that she makes weird situations, using weird techniques (the sliding through ontological levels, for example), – as described in “The Weird and the Eerie”, a book by Mark Fisher (2016).)
The interest of the research 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! After understanding (though practicing collectively) that there are ways for critical thinking, which are not confirming a center, when the artist becomes aware of this understanding, she needs to create the environment, to arm herself with methodologies that can be shared and/or to build minimal infrastructure that can support this different environment. Together with my mentor at the time Femke Snelting, we came to the scheme of the research:
Reading of the scheme: 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.
Questioning the role of the artist and her responsibility, this research is to understand the institution within, recognising (self)censorship driven by our own interests and benefits we derive from it. (From Institutional Critique to Institution of Critique, by Andrea Fraser. 2005) In relation to this history, I find challenging to think 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 what Artistic Anxieties Otherwise can be. In the notes of the essay: “Paranoid Reading and Repetitive Reading, or You’re so Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay is About You” (in “Touching Feeling. Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity” by 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 flattering 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.
The Archiving: applying different procedures for categorisation of references and influences, which often includes public presentation. Otherwise Exhibiting, I see now 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 the 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.”
Through the Otherwise Exhibiting 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 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 interested so much to describe the world of art and certain positions 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.
How did it work by now?
objects and materials, taken away from other artists’ exhibitions and public presentations
As a base for the project, the collection includes material from the different places that artist-amateur detective moved through in the last five years, which enabled and conditioned her artistic activity. It is itself a material evidence of one of today’s artistic anxieties: the nomadic nature of 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 the stable structures. This collection also addresses the double side of an artist’s privileged position. On some other, more personal level, this collection is perhaps a material consequence of moving, of an artist living as a foreigner, faced with constant uncertainties, keeping something that marks the presence. In the beginning, the collection was named Anxieties as Artefacts, but later I decided not to frame it with the name. In the overwhelming organised structure of the exhibition, these artefacts are what I recognise as a space for uncertainties, delineated as a ‘periphery’ in exhibition making that are reflecting the anxiety in the art-worlds. They tend to leave the exhibition room, escaping the rules of the market while still being the artefacts and extrapolating the space of exhibition into daily life. The idea is to continue this collection, not to establish the archive but to keep archiving: to organise, to put in relation, to 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.
Within the night of performances for “Subtracted Seduction,” I presented under the title: “7 anxieties and a world”, together with a smoke machine, a blue light, a microphone, a music of stone sculptures, a written script and a box publication with 22 cards. On these cards I printed photos, of 22 items from my collection of take-away material, I picked up from different exhibitions of other artists.
From this public presentation “7 anxieties and the world”, I have 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, though 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 from the collection with a negative critique. Meaning that the material I can relate only through the negative critique – I don’t speak about, I don’t give it a space in the conversation and in the card-reading.
This choice opened the door for the other events, where the objects and items from the collection became even more of catalyst for activities than research data.
For example, starting from A4 take-away exhibition paper (picked from the exhibition “Soft Knees” at WIELS, by Stefano Faoro) I developed the cyanotype workshop.
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 Pia Lauwerence, take-away information sheet from the performance (“How to infuriate a historian”) by Goda Palakaite, Eleanor Ivory Weber’s reader for an excursion to the library, but also Emma Heddich’s essay on Adrian Piper “Stay Away, Don’t Stay Away”. This essay was not picked up from the art event, but Irene Revell suggested me to read it, in her written feedback on my presentation “7 anxieties and the world.”
I started to use the items from the collection next to theoretical writing, next to my work. In the work To a Young woman of bright future, within the project midi-spoor-7, I tried-out the ways of archiving and publishing, which inspired this online publication.
Current website project is based on two parts that make one essay: The first part is the essay as an essay. The second part is the website as an essay. For both of them a reader navigating through the website, edits what can be her version of the essay. 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”.
DISCUSSION on the ESSAY arhivingartisticanxieties.me
As one of the methodological ways to show the Otherwise Exhibiting, I am suggesting the essay arhivingartisticenxiety.me. The aim of this essay is to give visibility to the editing process. Which challenges the editing and the writing. I wrote the text referring to the old writings that preceded the thinking today and exposed the last two years of my research/art/doings.
I invited three researchers to be the editors: to comment, question, to propose a change or an exercise that I will work with. This gave different texts: a research paper, a written discussion, associative analysis of conceptual metaphors, a story about historical character and a complementary parts of scripts.
The propositions were: it is an online publication that comes in the form of an essay. The editorial team is composed, based on trust and shared interest, through professional and personal relationships: Sina Seifee, shaping the material through design and coding, Goda Palakaite, Pia Lauwerens and Kristina Gvozdenović through their comments, suggestions and questions. These are authored and visible. They are invited to explore the double role: helping the essay and making this process relevant for their own research/practice. It is not just about making the process visible, but changing the focus: from the product, which is the text, an essay that is usually shaped and edited for the reader to be understandable and to communicate concepts in it’s best way -> to the collaboration, to the gestures and decisions that create a structure for writing, where the text is more of a tool.
The design and the structure of the website is done by Sina Seifee and represents his response to the proposed 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 middle cursor allows the reader to decide which one she wants to focus on. The option to ‘print history’ generates a pdf, that is a paper version of navigation though the website and reading of the essay.
The publishing as exhibiting as making-public
I approached this publication by making some kind of repository of traces. The traces of events and activities I have done, references I collected, practices of other artists that moved the thinking, that moved the conditions. Writing as a mode of activating these traces. As any essay does, but this one wants to take the conditions for essay writing as content too.
The 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. It will be used to perform the research. As any artist’s website does, one can say. This one is explored as a tool for thinking, still researching while making-public.
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. I prepared, arranged, assembled, organised, put together the material for a publication; they decided to follow by correcting, approving, condensing, proposing shifts or otherwise modifying. And then I improved, revised, rescript, adapted, rewrote. As any editing does, but here the reader is able to see where exactly they intervened and how.
A way of Archiving that accumulates and also generates material.
As aforementioned, the idea of the essay arhivingartisitcenxieties.me is that it should be visibly shaped by the five of us. Depending on what editors (Sina, Pia, Tina and Goda) did, I kept on writing the text, but in the beginning they weren’t able to see each other’s comments and suggestions. They could layout, correct my English, leave comments in the document or choose some other way of editing. They could send me voice messages, call me, send me a reference, a picture… Whatever they found interesting or suitable and we could also decide not to include everything in the end.
The text was written and sent to them as a block, without any new lines and paragraphs. I sent each of them a document with the first text, to see what they think, where they suggest me to concentrate, to elaborate, to (not) explain and (not) complain.
After their first suggestions, I shared the text documents with Sina, and I put us all together in one moment, since they were interested in reading and commenting on each other.
The idea was that we take from this experience something for each of our researches. This is what I think happens in editing, and that’s the aim of this publication as a whole – through dispersed authorship to expose the decision making and negotiations within the creative process.
The proposal of Otherwise Exhibiting for an artist, is to use what is on her disposal, not pointing finger to the world she reflects on from some other place but to think of ‘exteriority that is with-in’. Through performative events (which the essay arhivingartisticenxiety.me presents) I aim for destabilisation of the relations in the (self)institution – towards 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, by Karen Barad)”
What’s the value of this research? Not to make a coherent whole, not to embody artistic anxiety of making a solid, finished work, put out there for someone, but instead to work with Artistic Anxieties here is to expose a relation with the material, a collaboration coherent to each of our practices and to follow many paths where this can lead us, to put it out there for someone who also has to arrange, assemble, organise and put together. I imagine a reader, meandering through this website, hoping she will recognise something vigorous in it’s redundancy.
What am I looking for? There is an attempt to go beyond cataloguing hidden structures and invisible powers of the art-world produced by and induced with anxieties. Through the essay archivingartisticanxieties.me 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.
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.