Re: [-empyre-] Re: Critical Spatial Practice

Enjoying this thread a great deal more than I have the capacity to contribute, but two brief thoughts from a deconstructive vein that has been productive for me recently:

Firstly, given how thoroughly I tend to agree with them usually, I am a little surprised at Ryan and Kevin's concerns with escaping art as context in the service of art as process (to be a bit ham-fisted about the summary, please correct me if I have this wrong), as if interdisciplinarity and the refusal to locate practice allows flight from the power relations of assimilating cultural institutions. It reminds me of a certain repetition of Conceptualism in the new media arts sector; and also (as Brett perhaps suggests) a new media studies repetition of "criticality" which seems not-well-enough-connected to previous debates on the limits and exclusions inherent in the critical enterprise's attempts to find distance from power. This is not to say that I am not interested in institutional critique, but my reading of post-60s critical artistic practices is that they are marked with the recogniiton that it is precisely in the moment of recuperation that one's criticality finds its disruptive effect in the fabric of disciplinarity/genre/institutional practice. (I am thinking especially of US feminist work from the 70s and 80s, inc. Lacy as Kevin mentioned, included/reframed/assimilated in the recent MOCA feminist art restrospective which I didn't see but would love to hear more about w.r.t. this discussion from those in the LA area, and also thinking of Faith Wilding's comments on the problematic of reprising "Crocheted Environment" in a new institutional site). (In fact, this whole point seems heavily gendered). In the end, surely, we have to choose our sites of participation with a much more modest sense of our capability to escape the power relations that pre-exist our participation in whatever cultural scripts we are performing. For me, the power of interdisciplinarity is in the "and/against", rather than the "not just".

So to take that out to the broader questions of sensation in space that Christiane, Sally Jane, Catherine have opened up in Kevin's "instruments" for us; our ability to comprehend and control instrumentalising behaviour (as Sally Jane points out, not deserving of a purely negative connotation) might be less voluntaristic than some of this discussion might imply. We are having these conversations within heavily over-determined embodied subjectivities which to me DO make the de Certeau-esque tactical walk seem romantic in its assumption that sensitivities to one's own body are communicated intersubjectively through conversation or co-presence. My experience is that, contrarily, difference is made more visible. Just think about race, body and law enforcement/policing. [This is simply Spivak's critique of the baseline assumption of a shared subjectivity in Deleuze's flight from the subject outlined in the Can the Subaltern Speak? essay].

Perhaps instead, I'd suggest, one's movement through space is instead developed the way one learns a language - very slowly, and the effects on one's native bodily "language" will never quite be understood as one attempts to learn another way of being in space, yes through the infinitesimal mechanisms described by Kevin - experience is irreducible - but requiring a much longer period of time than the logic of the "intervention" seems cut out for. Here then, with the question of time, we have to attend to the history of the psychogeographic walk's intimate relationship with exploration/ anthropology; and this raises the fundamental aporia between the subjectivities of the explorer and their informants, and their different temporal orientations to the encounter. My take on the history of the debates in anthro is that there is a clear ethical decision to make when we travel: we either focus on our own experience and what we can extract for those "back home" in our disciplinary/subjective locations; or we test our own desire to enter different spaces by giving ourselves over to the maintenance of someone else's pathway, where our bodies do not "learn" but instead give us away constantly, but through our inability to ever be adequate (or critical ;) ) to this situation we develop our ability to attend to the exclusions embedded in our own practices/being.

Mieke Bal's work on travelling concepts is perhaps pertinent here.

Reading back on this it doesn't seem like I've said anything useful, but I'll send it anyway. Many thanks for all the stimulating contributions.



On 11/09/2007, at 6:17 AM, Ryan Griffis wrote:

Sorry, i meant to also reiterate Kevin's pointing to Nick Brown and Ava Bromberg's "Just Spaces" program (if i may shamelessly promote some friends), as it is deliberately, i think, inclusive of practices other than Art. Or to paraphrase Matthew Fuller, projects that are "not just art" (or architecture, or planning, or activism for that matter). Which leads to some of the concrete concerns about the shifting of power when structurally exclusive cultural institutions attempt inclusion...
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