RE: [-empyre-] politics of critical fusion?
I?m really interested in your inquiry as it urges us to ask the real
questions. I don?t know if your reaction is aimed to my works as well but I
want to take it like that because it becomes a good opportunity to go deeper
inside what we mean by ?critical? and ?politic? related to art works.
I can say I agree with 90% of your ?inquiry?, if I understand correctly your
words, putting the emphasis on what could be ?politic-like? actions and
inappropriate media and forms that could lead to the opposite of the
The 10% I would like to discuss is something presented as an obvious and
that for me deserves to be detailed.
?(?)what we have come to recognize as social or protest art.?
This for me needs to be a bit more specific: who are ?we?.
How do you define ?social art? and ?protest art?.
If I put it this way is that I think we should question the eventuality of
of ?critic? works ?I could say ?critical?- that don?t pretend to be
political not because it as no political stakes or meaning but because they
are more and more works that pretend to raise social and political issues in
order to reach the minimum level of political correctness in order to fit
the main frame.
I rarely mention the political side of my work as I always consider the more
it pretends to be so the less it is. I?m a concrete mind and I?ll take some
examples in my work to explain how sometimes critics are inside exploring
the boundaries of PC (i.e. Political C.)
When I did a work ?Is God Flat? Many people was thinking that I was a new
kind of evangelist. With ?Is the Devil Curved?? (95) The sound of the
seductive element that was obviously a female voice getting pleasure it was
taken by few people as an attempt to female dignity. This work was about the
strategies used by mass media (TV programs) to broader their audience using
any obscure or obvious ways.
When I do works like Watch-Out! I have in mind this question. Asking
passers-by to send warning messages to the world, I seam to pretend offering
the network promises of direct democracy. Of course I know that in this kind
of situation people think about the clichés of ecological, social, and
political awareness as they are expressed by the mass media (as you
mentioned it already) as a perfect way to defuse any kind of action.
Of course this work is not about democratic feed back but about individual
responsibility. When the visitor eye becomes a big brother eye watching the
world, it becomes something else. We can complain about many things on the
planet, but the question is also what our level of responsibility is. We can
complain about the panopticon made real thanks to networks and generalised
surveillance but aren?t we the first (it?s a general ?we?) who want to know,
to see, to overview and if possible to over-control? I?m not sure this work
pushes people to promote a revolution. I just try to ask questions, not
giving a truth but to go one step beyond the official list of acceptable
problems to stay easily understandable. I think that some works can help
thinking in a different way and contribute to the global awareness.
I can propose another example that is not obviously political even if the
landscape of war is omnipresent. In World Skin I?m not saying ?war is bad?,
I?m not saying they are the ?good? and the ?bad? ones ? I always was
suspicious about this work by Jenny Holzer, that I respect for the rest of
work, using VR to presents places with sound of raped Croatian women and
other places with the voice of Serbian rapists ? World Skin is more about
individual behaviour in a specific context. What would we do in the
situation that put a gun in our hand and takes us outside of the comfortable
environment we usually know, changing the rules? It is also a work about how
to produce documentation becomes the best way to forget; the action of
erasing traces and hints by shooting the war scene with a photo camera
becoming a not so innocent weapon. People getting out of World Skin don?t
leave the place with an alternative as a good book or TV documentary could
have explicitly proposed. But I hope to have contributed in the
understanding through the experience of a symbolic situation that visitors
usually remember. I know some of them telling me afterward that they can?t
see photos of war without thinking about the WS situation.
This could take pages and maybe my interpretation of your comment is not
right, but I really would like to express that there is a kind of critical
action that is more about contributing to interrogate the boundaries of our
social behaviour and our global environment and I strongly believe that what
I call ?critical fusion?, just at the limit of the expected explosion, is
the right place to play this role.
De : firstname.lastname@example.org
[mailto:email@example.com] De la part de saul ostrow
Envoyé : samedi 22 septembre 2007 18:06
À : soft_skinned_space
Objet : Re: [-empyre-] politics of critical fusion?
This is less a response than an inquiry to those who make either work
oriented to social issues or politcs - how often are your works self-
reflexive - that is an interrogation of your work's politics - that
is how they participate, replicate, or are complicit in the very
economy of power they seek to either address, expose or intervene in
- I am particularly suspicious of work that assumes a politic in
that it dresses up in what we have come to recognize as social or
protest art - but offers no other than the negation of what is as an
alternative - consequently, I would like to know what the politics
are of the successful visualizations of political issues, what is a
meaningfully subversive fashion and what is being subverted and how a
meaningful image may function differently than those that you would
consider meaningless - or do all these compete in the same economy
and are merely signs of the other- and as such a sign of liberal
society's ability to defuse all challenges that might b y allowing
them to expose society's ills without offering a concrete alternative
to the system that gives rise to them - in other words what is the
political act you partake of - is merely one that calls for reform
On Sep 22, 2007, at 11:43 AM, Alice Miceli wrote:
> Hello Tim,
> Yes, political connotation is something that is definitely present
> in the "Chernobyl Project", in the most fundamental and active way.
> As the artistic act that the project makes - seeing the invisible,
> a very specific ?invisible? particular to a very specific space -
> is, intrinsically, a political act as well, that addresses
> different layers of ?invisibility?, as we have discussed here.
> I have been interested in creating unexpected , which I believe
> should be . As it is the case with Chernobyl, I am intensely
> concerned with the invention of particular devices designed to
> display images in specific ways - with special attention to the
> different possibilities it opens while producing meaningful images;
> and by that I mean meanings that are integral part of the virtually
> endless ways in which an image can be generated.
> That was also the point of previous project, the video ?88 from
> 14.000?. While Chernobyl requires the invention of a whole new
> device for creating images, this one required the invention of a
> specific display. It displays images of people who were imprisoned
> and murdered by the Khmer Rouge regime, in Cambodia. The pictures,
> taken at the time of their detention, are projected on a veil of
> falling sand; the actual time of projection being proportional to
> the individuals' time in prison (1day of life at the S21 prison =
> 1Kg of sand = image displayed during 4 seconds).
> To a large extent, the ongoing consequences of the Khmer Rouge
> period shape the social reality in Cambodia, but they are not on
> newspaper covers, even though they are urgent issues, that deal
> with questions about how we relate to our past nowadays and affect
> the life of millions of people. These are questions concerning
> social responsibility, especially ?at the intersections of art,
> geography, architecture, and activism?, as you formulated very
> On Sep 21, 2007, at 2:56 PM, Timothy Murray wrote:
>>> It's nice to have you back online, Alice
>> I've been meaning to ask you about your commitment to creating art
>> "events" that have an inherently political undercurrent, as does
>> Chernobyl, whether from a "green" standpoint or from the
>> perspective of international relations. Is this just something
>> that pertains only to the Chernobyl project or is it reflective
>> of your work as a whole? I'm asking in relation to our framing of
>> "critical spatial practice" as what "entails the claiming of
>> social responsibility at the intersections of art, geography,
>> architecture, and activism.
>>> Hi Maurice,
>>> From reading the posts, I had in mind a similar idea, but was
>>> uncertain about the relation between "critical fusion" and
>>> "fiction". Thanks for the explanation. I think it should apply
>>> then to all powerful works of art?
>>> It seems to me that in creating specific ways to access some
>>> reality, even if in very temporary and contingent forms, the
>>> inquirer inextricably formats what is seen and created.
>>> Considering that in a painting, in a film, in an installation and
>>> so on, the way in which we formulate questions to something
>>> called reality shapes in an intrinsic way the results that might
>>> be created - there always should be, I think, a critical fusion
>>> taking place in good (strong, powerful) artwork, in different
>>> degrees of information, fiction and "reality"?
>> Timothy Murray
>> Professor of Comparative Literature and English
>> Director of Graduate Studies in Film and Video Studies
>> Curator, The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell Library
>> 285 Goldwin Smith Hall
>> Cornell University
>> Ithaca, New York 14853
>> empyre forum
> empyre forum
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Chair, Environmental Chairs Council
Chair, Visual Arts and Technologies
EXPECT EVERYTHING / FEAR NOTHING
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