We opened the discussion with samplings of Rirkrit Tiravanija’s work. Inspired by R.M. Schindler’s architecture, he built Untitled 2002 at the Guggenheim, an interactive space for barbecues, massages, etc. Lane asked what we thought of the shiny stainless steel – but the question didn’t quite get answered and got lost in discussion.
And there was that piece where Rirkrit hosted a Thai banquet for viewers who came to the opening. The artist himself was dressed as a caterer. The rest of the show was an exhibit of the debris from that meal.
They’re like happenings, someone said.
Emma mused, when reality becomes art, does reality become artificial? It was a question that hadn’t occurred to me. I guess I would substitute artificial with orchestrated. And reality with the everyday. Rirkrit, the artist, used his Rirkritness to orchestrate an everyday occurrence inserted into the context of art (-world, -history). As a result, he not only enabled social interaction, but also communicated his – let’s say, essence – through the banquet and the leftovers.
Lane pointed out that Henri Lefebvre makes a point about forms, structures, and functions: “In the past, each banal object is apart of a style.”
Christian referred to a commercial about ‘stylizing your life,’ which reminded Lane of integrating design, such as the success of Apple. So what’s the difference between Rirkrit and functional integration? With Rirkrit, it’s not strictly anthropological. Lefebvre was getting at a difference between a period style and a life style. Life style is what happens after the big break with modernism. Signature style, life style, personal style. Rirkritness.
Backing up a bit, how is Rirkrit emblematic of relational aesthetics? Let’s go back to Miwon Kwon, Andrea Fraser, and Nicholas Bourriaud.
Dematerialization of the art object, for one. And emphasis on space, context, and social interaction (which is a big one for Bourriaud). Change from consumer to patron. Relationship with the client. Cutting down on transferability of object. An event like the Thai Banquet is free!
Here’s the thing about Andrea Fraser: there are two kinds of post-commodity artworks: 1) service model 2) readymade model. The readymade model would be: Carl Andre, Dan Flavin – people who work with prosaic store-bought everyday materials. At a certain place (say, gallery), they arrange them a certain way. For that specific show. That was a certain way of moving beyond a traditional studio practice. The artist does a certain thing in a particular space, and the work is contingent on the space. An example of the service model: Douglas Huebler, “The fugitive.” It’s a work modeled on the contract of the wanted poster, and has to do with people entering into agreements.
Perhaps Rirkrit is building the service model with readymade. It’s different than Dan Flavin because Untitled 2002 doesn’t just sit there. The participation of viewers is absolutely necessary for the success of the artwork.
Miwon Kwon says that what we don’t want anymore is the idea of the transferrable object. There’s an unrootedness, which Miwon Kwon gets to at the end of “From One Place to Another.” The place itself becomes mutable, inpermanent. How does Rirkrit’s work parallel or work through the change to the New Economy? How does he deal with the conditions?
Here are the hallmarks of the New Economy: flexibility; planned obsolescence (actually, sometimes objects evaporate on their own) – in Untitled 2002, when it’s just about backrubs and hanging out, the experience evaporates. There’s no surplus of paintings to be tucked into the backlog of a studio; information; creativity; market saturation; overproduction.
Lane pointed out that MFA programs are a form of overproduction. In 1965, with the creation of the NEA, it was mandated that money had to go to all 50 states. But most states outside New York didn’t know what to do with it. So every state sets up a state art council, which leads to Gallery spaces, which lead to MFA programs. Rirkrit, you can say, has solved the problem of overproduction by only making enough work for the show, not more.
It’s not just a market anymore, it’s about visiting artist programs, It’s a mixed economy, with private money, public money, foundational money.
Structuralism as a big turn off for a lot of people because you, the subject within the it, is thoroughly determined by your place, your time in the structure.
There is water to swim in outside the market. There’s room for subjectivity, for pranks, for creativity. “Wig” in French apparently refers to the pretending to be everyday while exercising a prank.
A bit of a digression: Ryan suddenly brought up fashion trends as a grotesque combination of layers. One person can be simultaneously business, punk, safari. etc. Christian pointed out that it’s just the cause of collage culture. And Tim refuted the fact that fashion magazines dictate fashion, and insisted that street feeds fashion, and back out. Readership is not passive. It reminded me of that Burberry button guy that Michael’s always talking about – apparently this guy made tons of buttons one year with the stolen Burberry design and they became popular. The next year, the models in Burberry’s catalog were all wearing buttons. I wish I could remember his name.
Well actually, this is a good transition the DIY show. There’s a lot of material culture there–jeans, T-shirts, plastic. People are trying to make what they wear signify, and to make sense semiotically.
Our big problem with DIY culture two discussions ago is that everyday life isn’t necessarily semanticized. Brushing your teeth, sleeping, what you sleep in, doesn’t always speak volumes about you.
We constantly speak ourselves, and we do that because there is no other a priori for everyday life other than to express yourself. Why? you instantly go to the big meaning. Meanings that are beyond our processes. Because the universe is ruled by a strict law of meaning. Modernism gets rid of all that. Suddenly the references become very floaty. Everything becomes about choice.
What you do when you make visual art is you try to compete with the best, the unquestionably approved art that’s out there. So, when Andrea Fraser speaks about autonomy she’s not saying it is not bad per se, it’s the but falsified autonomy that we must watch out for.
How can art go with the idea of autonomy without being genius? What are the other types of autonomy?
Heidegger argued that the only way to take solve the problem of the everyday is to take yourself out, beyond, higher than it.
But there’s also a place for work which doesn’t alienate the everyday, and instead points out what’s sinister, or what’s comical about the everyday. Critical thinking. Free expression. Politics. Art as a commodity. Social freedom. Freedom of the art world to name its geniuses, to name its hot topics.
These things we call art now, what we know about art is this thing that has a lot to do with freedom. This sense of being able to make the world we live seem meaningful. The idea would be fairly simple. There’s a kind of development of culture–this is a very western, modern notion, that gains its first true articulation in the Renaissance. Before that, people developed “art” out of need.
What does it mean when we can make outside of the demands of need? Something about humanness? Beyond humanness? When you do out of necessity? Create some meaning besides – I need to eat, I need it to rain to grow crops, etc.
This would be a very modern idea, these notions of creativity. We don’t do away with need, but we fold that need into meaning. Make life a work of art. Reconcile them–freedom, need. Even T.S. Eliot talks about the notion of artistic expression – seeing society as a work of art. Michael Fried. Theory of visual art. One of the things that constantly reoccurs is the desire to reconcile the individual as that trope for creativity freedom with the structure. So as to be able to take individual poetic and reconcile it with public rhetoric. To make subjectivity manifest in objective facilities of society. To make the internal external.
And the notion free space – Fraser is arguing that in the studio (when you’re off in your own space) you get no renumeration, but you get to make all your decisions. Isn’t that great? Andrea Fraser says that’s the problem. It’s too much conformed to the ideology of freedom, partly because of its connection to the genius. The genius and the non-genius have always been the means to achieving a secular utopia. That means that nature and necessity have been reconciled with freedom.
Then what’s wrong? Why aren’t we in utopia?
Julie: “Utopia is boring.”
Like Clement Greenberg said: “I’ll take Utopia over art.”
Curt: “Our luxury is on credit. We’re not in Utopia.” Meaning, we’re overlooking the fact that there are people in the world who don’t have the freedom to do beyond necessity.
Ryan S exclaimed, “Commodities don’t exist without market. Market doesn’t exist without consumers. It still feels like an alienating system where pursuit feels like dispossession! The demand to express oneself feels like a necessity.”
Utopia becomes a sales pitch. Ryan F talked about the “existential vacuum” we need to fulfill by the consumption of goods.
Brian Holt talks about how advertisements now are – be really cool. Be slightly ironic, slightly distanced – through practice of consumption.
Andrea Fraser talks about the constant contradicting of artistic autonomy. We want it, we should be there, we’re not. Utopia’s the newest sales pitch. A lot of modern art has been monuments to this condition. Why does art always have to answer correctly the notion of free choice? Like Schendal sai, “Now art can be our promise of freedom.” Adorno said, “Yeah, it’s a promise because it’s always broken.”
Even Andrea Fraser says, we can bring distinctions in. Maybe distinctions can be work that create contradiction instead of just papering over it as a false utopia. Utopia doesn’t mean the end of death. But it’s going to feel authentic. It’s going to feel like we all have stakes and we’re working at it. This is one of the attributes about it. This is what makes people like everyday life. It doesn’t oversocialize everyday life, but it doesn’t allow for undersocializing of the individual. It allows for some agency, the agency that is always articulated outside the social scene. It allows for differences. If you go with Lefebvre’s version – he went for the Paris commune. When France is at war with Prussia, Paris gets surrounded by enemy troops. The everyday life dramatically, qualitatively and quantitatively changed. Butchers and bakers are constantly running around rampant. Supposedly it was joyous!
The social production of autonomy can be very radical. Fraser opposes the social disconnectivity of autonomy. Creativity is only expressed through social structure. The contradictions are expressed through social structure.
Everyday life of consumer culture is not just images of fancy cars, but je ne sais quoi. It very much is life. In media, you used have the product placed some fantasy world. Now product advertisement is about networks of consumers talking, reviewing products, recommending products to each other.
Lefebvre sees the idea of the everyday as a weird glue. It’s material unconscious. At the middle level is the activist. Rimbaud. Marx. Change material life. Change how we do shit. Classic surrealist technique – to take something that is so normal and so everyday that it makes you speechless. Going precisely at the point of the world that is unthought. Turning into the fantastical. You don’t even get fantastic technique in Surrealism. Dali – make it normal so as to rupture the very register.
The third is the consumer everyday.
The interesting thing is trying to locate within these three versions, what are their potential? Where do the artworks sit in relationship to these three? Christine Hill is definitely more about commodity culture. Rirkrit is about the everyday.