recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : sensoryprosthetics   1

The Uses of Art: Little Beasts | The American Reader
"Let us in our imaginations allow all this critique and disappointment to raze participatory art to the ground. Let us do away with it along with the other outmoded utopias. We live now in a world so saturated with the engagement (post, snap, tweet, comment, yo) that even commenting on that situation has become superfluous. We might think of ourselves as in a post-participatory condition. In mood, there is little hope. Change occurs as fitfully as it always has. Personal transformation passes through us convulsively, but cure eludes.

If we destroy as much as we can, oddly, the sense of possibility pokes back up, stems of quackgrass in the rubble of a vacant lot. Pretty soon we have a post-apocalyptic grove of frondy locust trees to contend with. There is something stubborn and persistent that remains, some reason that people keep trying to do this impossible thing.

Participatory art survives and not just on the margins. The less hope we have for art’s political and social efficacy, the more hyper-optimistic work appears and proliferates, under new names and old: Durational Performance, Neo-situationism, Intervention, Social Practice, Socially Engaged Art. Sometimes it’s just called “art.” Often it takes the form of “projects” which try to escape claims in relation to art history or art discourse.

Whatever we think of its chances, participatory art is an explicit antidote to the extreme narcissism of the ordinary material work of art. Walking through white cubes it becomes obvious that the expensive celebrity objects in our museums and galleries do not need us. That’s what they proclaim in their serenity and their stillness. They exist outside of time, complete unto themselves. We are patient before them, ready to be affected, but we cannot affect them in turn. Landscapes shimmer, the depicted stare out, bodies present themselves for our gaze. But the artwork fundamentally doesn’t care whether we are moved or indifferent, aroused or disgusted. It doesn’t even care if we look at it or turn away. It is unchanged by ignorance, by knowing little nods, by crowds of swooners, by expert dismissals. It sails on through time, accepting its preservation, its custodial care, as its due."



"Clark, along with several contemporaries in the influential Brazilian Neo-concretist movement (Amilcar de Castro, Ferreira Gullar, Franz Weissmann, Lygia Pape, Reynaldo Jardim and Theon Spanudis) argued for an art that was “always in the present, always in the process of beginning over,” an art which brought back “a primal—total—experience of the real.” Beginning in 1960 with her series of Bichos (beasts), she made the leap from ordinary geometric abstraction to objects meant to be handled directly by the viewer."



"Clark and other participatory artists are part of a long tradition of demystification—of deliberate attempts to destroy the mana of the work of art by treating it casually, and in so doing to destroy the political gradient between the work and the viewer. In this way, participatory art aims to change the deep structure of the art experience.

To the extent an artwork signals its hierarchical relation to the viewer, to the extent to which it is considered more valuable (financially, absolutely) than the viewer, the form of relation it offers can overwhelm any subversive “content.”

Clark’s Bichos, by demanding touch and rearrangement, propose that art can move from icon or totem to toy. A toy acts intimately. A toy does not and cannot rule its player. It can only invite. As Johan Huizinga suggested in his classic Homo Ludens, play is a free activity. “Play to order is not play: it could at best be a forcible imitation of it.”

This, in potential, gives another register to my self-consciousness and my failure to fall immersively into play with Clark’s Bicho. Between me and the Bicho is a question, a field of possibilities. It is precisely in uncertainty, in the possibility of saying no, or being unable to play, that the desire for real relation can be discovered."



"As I move the plates and hinges she says: “You are the artist, you can make whatever you want.” Generally, this is a sentiment I like, but here it strikes me as missing something crucial. It encourages you to notice your own agency but obscures the curious counter-agency of the object in your hands.

Kids, she says, are better than adults.

“Better at playing?” I ask.

“They ask permission. The adults, if they push too hard, they could break the piece.”

Even though the guard is friendly, and easy with me, her watching makes it even harder to really play. I don’t feel like either an artist or a child."



"As the Sixties ended, Clark moved away from art and especially from museums and galleries. She shifted her work to a class she taught at the Sorbonne in Paris on gestural communication. There, she developed new “relational objects,” sensory prosthetics, and experimental rituals. Imagine a group of Sorbonne students enacting Baba Antropofagica (Anthropophagic Drool), unspooling thread from their mouths and layering a tangle of saliva covered strands over a fellow student, or picture them blindfolded and trying to eat a piece of fruit from a pouch of another student’s suit.

In the milieus of Paris and Rio, rich with psychoanalytic theory and practice, Clark began to call her work psychotherapy, and when she moved back to Rio de Janeiro in 1976 she worked privately with therapeutic participants in a project she called Estruturação do Self (Structuring the Self).

In the account of Suely Rolnik, who knew Clark and has written about her extensively, “[Clark] dedicated a room of her flat to a sort of installation, where she received each person individually for one-hour-long sessions one to three times a week over a period of months, and in some cases, even a period of years. The Relational Objects were the instruments conceived by the artist to touch the bodies of her ‘clients,’ as she referred to those who were available to experience this proposal. Naked, they would lay on one of those objects, the Grande Colchão (Large Mattress), and the session would begin.”

Although Clark called this private practice therapy, she also said that she never stopped being an artist. Estruturação do Self opens the possibility of a way of art which is not merely participatory, a form of art in which the body of the artist is copresent with the art object and with the participant in a mutual relation. Too intimate, perhaps, for most. When I imagine it, I keep picturing the sensation of being covered with drool-soaked strands."



"Clark says, “True participation is open and we will never be able to know what we give to the spectator-author. It is precisely because of this that I speak of a well, from inside which a sound would be taken, not by the you-well, but by the other, in the sense that he throws his own stone.”

My own stone falls as into a shallow street puddle. Thudplop.

The problem is one of time, and of giving in. I can’t seem to give into the Bicho’s time. Its movement, yes, its lived time, no. Maybe for others this lived time would emerge more easily. Perhaps if I were a child, the fascination of the changing forms would absorb me totally. Maybe they would become dreams and stories. I want them to.

It’s as if I need the Bicho to step forward like a pet and command my attention, butting my hand with its head. Yes, now, play with me, no, don’t stop petting, don’t stop throwing the ball."



"Wanting to walk with her, I rummage around my studio for a roll of adding machine paper, glue up some Möbius strips and go out for coffee while the glue dries. When I come back, I begin cutting. “Pierce,” says Clark, so I stab the paper with the open blade and start. My scissors aren’t the best, they’re sticky and the grip seems to be made for child aliens, but despite that I am soon in a rhythm of cutting. I think of the tiny blunt scissors I saw in the hands of visitors at MoMA. I cut and cut, going around. As you meet your original cut, where the scissors have torn awkwardly into the paper, there is a choice, cut to the right or the left. I go left and steer towards the edge, to preserve as much thickness as I can. As I come around to that mark a second time I realize I’ve mistaken the geometry for a loop, my left and right are now reversed, and I’ve saved nothing. Keep going. It is indeed a little like walking. And like making. There’s a shivery doubling or layering of experience—walking is making, making is playing, mine is hers. It doesn’t much matter in that moment whose the making is, Lygia Clark’s or mine. I know I’m not having as romantic an experience as she might hope for, but there, in my studio, as the ribbon of adding machine paper gets thinner and thinner in a geometry that quickly escapes my full imagining, something is happening that wouldn’t otherwise happen. From my scissors, a tangle that is one continuous piece of paper collects at my feet, a paradox object. The making of the object is not in service to the having of the object. There is a sense of going somewhere and nowhere at the same time. There is the hope of being able to go on forever as the paper narrows and narrows until one tiny slip severs the piece and you know you’re done."
salrandolph  art  participatory  lygiaclark  walking  sensoryprosthetics  glvo  babaantropofagica  play  making  doing  conversation  audiencesofone  toys  learning  touch  rearrangement  homoludens  possibility  possibilities  uncertainty  unfinished  demystification  interaction  taboo  situationist  socialpracticeart  performance  prosthetics 
july 2014 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read