[-empyre-] art and ethics

sawatzky.jacky sawatzky.jacky at gmail.com
Fri Jan 29 04:34:10 EST 2010

In my previous post I mentioned an article in dutch Post-propaganda  
by Jonas Staal I found an english translation here: http:// 
The articles name is Post-propaganda- An introduction by Jonas Staal  
(p 17) Here is hte link to his website: www.jonasstaal.nl

this article, of which I am still trying to formulate my thoughts, so  
I am giving here an improvised attempt: Jonas Staal is an artist who  
has the conversation with politics on the foreground of his practice;  
Robert Rauschenberg, has a conversation with materials on the  
foreground of his practice. (I love his work and each time in Buffalo  
i go to the Albert Knox gallery and spend a long  time looking at the  
same painting. I have never seen any of Jonas Staal's work in 'real'  
so I can't comment on it.)

I am opting the statement; ethics as a process, and the possibility  
of  democracy as a material that the artist processes This idea opens  
up the possibility for   ethics -process, materials and art to be  
situated on the same topological space.  Concepts then become  
materials and materials art and materials concepts, and so fort.  
Thinking about art in this way allows to have on aspect on the  
foreground with at the same time acknowledging the others, it also  
allows to add to the set of propositions that constitute an art- 
practice, without denying one consideration,- the topological space  
just expands. What makes this different then post-modern thought is  
that I think believing that one aspect is more important then the  
other, motivates and gives dedication. Believing as a drive to make art.
These are some careful thoughts I want to add to the discussion

Cheers, Jacky Sawatzky


On 27-Jan-10, at 6:33 AM, Gerry Coulter wrote:

> Jackie, Your point is well taken.
> Ethics must come sometime after process -- after art.
> I think Robert Rauschenberg is a good example of an artist who let  
> art work itself out through him, and for his part, he tried to  
> enjoy processing materials. From one experience of process led to  
> thoughts on the next and on it went for about 54 years during which  
> time he made one work, on avg.,  about every 4-5 days. When he had  
> millions of dollars and was at the pinacle of the artists  
> expereince he could work with more sophisticated processes and  
> materials. When he was young in New York and had not enough money  
> for food and none for paint and supplies, he took what little paint  
> remained and his bed, and he made the work "Bed". From bed to his  
> later days as a successful artistic millionaire, Rauschenberg  
> seemed to truly enjoy processing materials. To me, that is an  
> essential experience as an artist -- engaging with materials and  
> experiencing their possibilities (incluing the failures).
> Rauschenberg is also important in that he was wary of learning  
> outside of the experience of process -- his quote it runs something  
> like "every new thing i learn about art places limits on me as an  
> artist". That certainly goes for ethics and worrying about granting  
> agencies or travelling to shows or conferences. The best experience  
> of life I know is joy, and for someone through whom art chooses to  
> speak, if they are in love with process, a joyful life awaits --  
> even if no one else ever appreciates their art. I think if you try  
> to force art into various boxes (ethical or otherwise) the joy is  
> sucked out of it. If art wants to come out through you just try to  
> enjoy it, make art for yourself first -- its the same with writing  
> -- write for no one but yourself -- of others enjoy it -- wonderful  
> -- but if you do not enjoy it, the process of making, painting,  
> writing, whichever, what is the point of being an artist? We've had  
> far too much talk about ethics from wordsmiths who have been  
> punished by educations immersed in restrictive ideologies -- art  
> knows these places but does not live there. What does art know of  
> political correctness or ethical correctness or environmental  
> correctness? It little different for art in such restricitve places  
> of ethical constraint now, than it was for it during the Cultural  
> Revolution in China or during Soviet Realism [oops, there i go with  
> my xenophobia again -- there really was no CR or no such thing as  
> SR!], or during the hegemony of the Greenbergian narrative etc.
> Art becoming, the artist becoming... the joy of process... these  
> are rare, leave it alone and I hope you have frequently expereinced  
> this joy. Not many academics have - they have made work of art, and  
> the art of being an academic is to make your work into joy, into  
> play. The world is a game after all. It is completely indifferent  
> to us as any Haitian knows these days, or those who experienced the  
> big Tsunami a few years back. When we match the indifference of the  
> world with an indifference of our own, we open ourselves to the  
> experience of the joy of living as unencumbered as possible.
> On another note -- we began our month long dialogue a few weeks ago  
> by pondering art and complicity. Isnt one of the major problems  
> artist's complicity with the real? Is this not why so many really  
> terrible works are foisted upon us by museums? Art isnt about the  
> real -- it isnt about mirroring, its about dealing with the real,  
> this real which always lurks behind appearances, in other ways isnt  
> it?
> best
> Gerry
> From: empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre- 
> bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au] On Behalf Of sawatzky.jacky  
> [sawatzky.jacky at gmail.com]
> Sent: January 26, 2010 4:14 PM
> To: soft_skinned_space
> Cc: soft_skinned_space
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] art and ethics
> Dear all,
> I want to add an element to the equation of art and ethics ,  
> economical system that finance art. In my experience how I make a  
> living has an influence on my art-practice. (I am not talking about  
> only a cooperate, commercial situation but systems like grants,  
> private support, (family money or partners with money, ext.. ) The  
> requirements needed  to apply for a grant? How does this  
> requirement determine the artist that are able produce work and the  
> work produced? Is this requirement ethical?  Is getting a grant  
> more ethical then selling through a commercial gallery?  What are  
> the social and political implications of grants, fellowships, and  
> other funding?
> Even for teaching you will need to be part of a system,  to get the  
> job you need exhibitions and grants,  the more the better..  
> Resulting in traveling to exhibition, conference, artist talks,  
> ext. Sometimes the travel is far, for sort period, is this ethical  
> for the environment?
>  Often these issues are not discussed..
> It's a complex intertwined situation with many variables  that  
> determine choices of ethics in art or not always clearly defined.  
> Ethics and art is like peeling an onion and making choices when to  
> stop peeling, because art needs a system to support it. (Like David  
> says: But even a hermit is marking off a space and
>> time in relation to the dominant order.)
> What I think we need is less judgement and condemning of practices.  
> Awareness how these system work, not just taking the presentation  
> for an answer, but start looking further into how did the  
> presentation come to be? And the question how was I able to see it?.
> I read an interesting article related to these topic in 'De Groene  
> called 'Post-propaganda' written by the artist Jonas Staal It is in  
> dutch.
> In a later post I will try to  give a synopsis of this. (Writing is  
> difficult and slow ) But maybe  someone on this list heard about it  
> and has a translation in English?
> Chaio, Jacky Sawatzky
> http://jackysawatzky.net
> http://www.facebook.com/pages/reading-place/266350697437?v=info
> http://campwalks.blogspot.com/
> http://wagonthoughts.blogspot.com/
> On 25-Jan-10, at 4:29 PM, davin heckman wrote:
>> Gerry,
>> I finally feel like I am beginning to understand the various  
>> positions
>> being sketched out.
>> G. H. Hovagimyan writes, "I think being an artist is about arguing
>> above and beyond the current intellectual and
>> political millieu.  Optimally an artist liberates themselves from all
>> of that. They find a place that is actual freedom, perhaps poetic and
>> anarchic."
>> And Gerry Coulter adds, "It is rather the same for art is it not? Art
>> thrives not because of the art world or public or private  
>> institutions
>> but in spite of them. And art, like politics, is today, the recipient
>> of mass indifference. Pretty soon about the same number of people who
>> attend one art show per year will be the equivalent of those who  
>> vote.
>> The numbers are not so far apart right now."
>> I get the impression that sometimes we are talking across each other.
>> On the one hand, I do believe that art has a social role and
>> obligation.  On the other hand, I do not think that artists should
>> feel obligated to look to "politics" to find their vocabulary.  I  
>> find
>> that I share your sentiments in regards to mass indifference....
>> until I think about how the very political structures that we use to
>> interpret art (the galleries, the lectures, the collectors) should be
>> interpreted as the true targets of indifference.  Art can be found
>> just about everywhere where you can find people (Check out these kids
>> playing ball....  if this isn't art...  I don't know what is:
>> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgIi7sycfmk )
>> I think we are really talking about the role of artists outside of  
>> the
>> established discourse of the day, the potential that a work of art  
>> can
>> project new forms of knowledge, outside of the artist's intention and
>> the social/political/critical sphere's capacity to anticipate it.   
>> Art
>> is always a speculative endeavor, it never existed before
>> representation, so it is, at some level, silly to endow it with a
>> presence....  except to say that the intrinsic qualities of the work
>> are inherently representational.  They do not so much represent
>> reality as reality, but represent reality as representational (if  
>> that
>> makes sense).  And, while I would be reluctant to tell people what
>> "street basketball" means, I would say that it contains the elements
>> of performance, virtuosity, and improvisation.  It plays with
>> expectation and while there are clear objectives that are  
>> structurally
>> determined (taking it to the hole), such play is entirely about  
>> HOW it
>> is done.  On one level, such play is the furthest thing that I can
>> imagine from any sort of clearly defined political discourse, but I
>> think you'd do violence to the work to separate from its context
>> (which, in a sense, is what I am doing by presenting a youtube video
>> packaged by an apparel manufacturer). So while art necessarily  
>> exceeds
>> the mundane, its excess is also produced by that banality, and that
>> the force of a work can be lost when it is robbed of its context
>> (cleaned up, placed in a gallery, collected).
>> When I speak of the social obligation of the artist, I really mean
>> that art does not belong to any individual.  Rather, it belongs to
>> whoever encounters it.  We make art.
>> It is interesting that, for all the controversies about the
>> relationship between art and politics, even those who are opposed to
>> this relationship seem to come back to the point that political
>> discourse is debased, a lost cause, a sinking ship that threatens to
>> drag everything else down with it.  Yet, we are really talking about
>> historical specificities here.  That "politics" reminds us of
>> baby-kissing assholes or zealous blowhards does not mean that
>> politics, at its root, is destined to be synonymous with its bastard
>> offspring.  Politics means nothing more than the social relationship
>> with power.  If art is "beyond" the power of temporal authorities,
>> then it exists in a social relationship with power.  It might be
>> something of a hermit.  But even a hermit is marking off a space and
>> time in relation to the dominant order.
>> Having said all that, not all artists are called to be hermits.  Not
>> all art is alienated.  Rather, it is inherently speculative.  It is,
>> in the here and now, an alternative to the here and now.  Which does
>> speak to this desire to see art as apart from the dumb realities of
>> daily life....  but it is apart only insofar as it is within.  It
>> marks off a zone of autonomy in relation to various threats to that
>> autonomy.  Maybe I am way off the mark here.  But I remain reluctant
>> to draw lines between categories of human expression and social
>> activity.
>> I guess I'd like to imagine that we are all artists.  Or, at  
>> least, we
>> could all be artists.  And that there is a utopian potential tucked
>> away in there somewhere... that at some point, art IS a social  
>> reality
>> in competition (and sometimes cooperation) with many competing
>> notions, and life is a struggle to realize that our lives could be
>> much more than they are.  It could just be wishful thinking.
>> Peace!
>> Davin
>> On Mon, Jan 25, 2010 at 4:32 AM, Gerry Coulter  
>> <gcoulter at ubishops.ca> wrote:
>>> I appreciate your post and would make a link to the chatter we  
>>> endured about the US Supreme court's latest decision...
>>> It doesnt matter which rich people choose which pack of lawyers  
>>> to run government as it does not matter (Bush the Son is a good  
>>> example) who leads a country. Look at the pack of idiots who have  
>>> been President of France for the past 50 years. Nations thrive  
>>> DESPITE politicians not because of them.
>>> It is rather the same for art is it not? Art thrives not because  
>>> of the art world or public or private institutions but in spite  
>>> of them.
>>> And art, like politics, is today, the recipient of mass  
>>> inidfference. Pretty soon about the same number of people who  
>>> attend one art show per year will be the equivalent of those who  
>>> vote. The numbers are not so far apart right now.
>>> Maybe, I hope, in fifty years, we'll hold a major election in a  
>>> Western country and only the politicians, their friends and  
>>> families will turn out to vote. Or perhaps a blockbuster with no  
>>> lines...
>>> best
>>> Gerry
>>> ________________________________________
>>> From: empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre- 
>>> bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au] On Behalf Of simon  
>>> [swht at clear.net.nz]
>>> Sent: January 24, 2010 8:44 PM
>>> To: soft_skinned_space
>>> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] art and ethics
>>> Dear Empyreans,
>>> Having just picked up a copy of Philosophy in the Present (Polity,
>>> 2009), from its pages Alain Badiou announces incommensurability as
>>> constitutive of the philosophical situation, the situation in which
>>> philosophy can create problems (or concepts). This would seem to be
>>> pertinent to the turn this discussion has taken, to the  
>>> potentials for
>>> complicity between the corporation and art - perhaps I am reading it
>>> wrongly. But then again perhaps this turn can in turn be  
>>> characterised
>>> in terms of its Kantian inflection, specifically an inspiration to
>>> consider ethics as a shared ground upon which complicity  
>>> eventuates: on
>>> the Law. So, then, just asking for it, for a critique that goes to
>>> unground this implicit and unhappy co-incidence of art and ethics by
>>> this simple and easily repeatable formula: the time of art is not  
>>> that
>>> of power; the ethics - on which, the Law or from which, the Law -  
>>> the
>>> rules - of the power are incompossible with those of art - with  
>>> those
>>> little laws of difference, that immanent Rule, which in making  
>>> art is
>>> the only one worth listening to - and may just as soon make us  
>>> outlaws;
>>> in short, what we are dealing with here are incommensurables. So,
>>> Badiou, invoking Mizoguchi's /Crucified Lovers, /particularly the
>>> lovers' "withdrawal into the smile" as they are led to the  
>>> punishment
>>> which the law against adultery has conferred upon them -  
>>> crucifixion -
>>> says:
>>> "Well, in these magnificent shots, Mizoguchi's art not only resists
>>> death but leads us to think that love too resists death. This  
>>> creates a
>>> complicity between love and art - one which in a sense we've always
>>> known about." [trans. P. Thomas & A. Toscano]
>>> He is led here himself by Deleuze quoting Malraux to the effect  
>>> that art
>>> is what resists death and in this situation will not give that the
>>> lovers are happy to meet their fate but that in a sense they have
>>> already overcome it. So in a similarly philosophical situation -  
>>> one in
>>> which disinterest can possibly prevail - Badiou relates the story of
>>> Archimedes's summons to the Emperor Marcellus's court; wherein the
>>> soldier sent to collect the great scientist on behalf of the  
>>> great power
>>> of the victor is ignored and eventually takes his sword and ends the
>>> former's life: Archimedes has asked for time to complete his
>>> 'demonstration,' a drawing in the sand of geometrical figures.  
>>> Badiou
>>> glosses this confluence of incommensurables in terms of time: the
>>> impatience of the Emperor's emissary and the artist's time's  
>>> otherness,
>>> an internal time, created with the problem in the act of  
>>> describing the
>>> problem, or in the act of the problem's expression.
>>> However, I have followed this discussion with interest, because  
>>> of an
>>> experience of a complicity which I haven't yet found here, and which
>>> I've ever since thought of as the complicity of the artist...  
>>> with the
>>> destruction of the institutions on which the artist depends. In the
>>> early eighties in New Zealand theatre workers went out on strike,
>>> nationally. All seven professional theatres closed. Actors had  
>>> voted to
>>> back technical and backstage workers, against the management, at  
>>> that
>>> time a loaded word. And words, it must be said, were at the cutting
>>> edge, not of the dispute, but of the problem: the co-option of the
>>> language of the artform by the language of industrial relations.
>>> Productivity replaced productions. Industry displaced theatre or  
>>> art.
>>> Artists redesignated themselves workers, workers all. The unforeseen
>>> outcome was that the formerly egalitarian theatres were stratified:
>>> where pay parity had existed between backstage and acting  
>>> company, where
>>> in fact unity of the company had been the unofficial prejudice as it
>>> included back- and front- of the house, on-stage as well,  
>>> demarcation
>>> made it thereafter almost impossible that an actor might, say,  
>>> hang a
>>> light, and the theatres slipped back into star-systems, into  
>>> British rep
>>> style hierarchizations, into, therefore, older formations. One step
>>> forward, two back. Could actors have envisaged that by their  
>>> industrial
>>> action, by their complicity with, well, their ideological  
>>> complicity,
>>> they would reposition themselves at the top of the industrial  
>>> hierarchy
>>> and of the pay scale? positions of which the industrial action was
>>> intended as abrogating?
>>> And, to clarify what may appear a contradiction: yes, the actors  
>>> top the
>>> payscale, but professional theatres as institutions bankrupted -
>>> ideologically and fiscally. Who are here the artists? Theatre is
>>> possibly not an indicative demonstration or example; but it  
>>> surely goes
>>> to illuminate something in the sense that collaboration has been  
>>> talked
>>> about, particularly online?
>>> I present this sense of complicity for interest and diversion only.
>>> Best,
>>> Simon Taylor
>>> www.brazilcoffee.co.nz
>>> www.squarewhiteworld.com
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> empyre forum
>>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> empyre forum
>>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

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