[-empyre-] art and ethics

sawatzky.jacky sawatzky.jacky at gmail.com
Sat Jan 30 06:36:34 EST 2010

I am dropping a few thoughts, before I run..

The argument can go back full circle, what constitutes this  
In teaching I talk about the ability to make choices and the  
awareness of the choices available (with a knowledge that the  
spectrum of choice can not be fully understood, a humbling experience.)
Words and intent , what is said and what it says.. understanding  
responsibility beyond the obvious.
Thats why I like Robert Rauschenberg's work, each time time I am  
confronted with this  painting in the Albert Knox, of which the name  
I can't recall, I see  something else, sometimes this not in the  
actual looking, but in the insight that comes after that. (for me  
this insight as a none writer comes before words, it's an action.)  
The painting has a conversation with me. it also humbles me.

I am very curious how others deal with these issues in teaching.

( becoming an artist has proven to be an irresponsible choice, my  
backaccount is proof of this)


On 29-Jan-10, at 12:05 PM, Nicholas Ruiz III wrote:

> ...absolutely, and a helpful way for artisans to realize that the  
> craftsmanship of policy - public and private - produces an always  
> malleable artifact, as in laws, in every conceivable sense...this  
> sort of idea can only enable the possibility of engagement...as  
> responsibility for 'artistic' engagement is another matter.
> nick
> Nicholas Ruiz III, Ph.D
> NRIII for Congress 2010
> http://intertheory.org/nriiiforcongress2010.html
> ____________________________________
> Editor, Kritikos
> http://intertheory.org
> From: sawatzky.jacky <sawatzky.jacky at gmail.com>
> To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Cc: soft_skinned_space <empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Sent: Thu, January 28, 2010 12:34:10 PM
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] art and ethics
> In my previous post I mentioned an article in dutch Post-propaganda  
> by Jonas Staal I found an english translation here: http:// 
> www.scribd.com/doc/15629480/NOWISWERE-4
> 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
> http://jackysawatzky.net
> http://www.facebook.com/pages/reading-place/266350697437?v=info
> http://campwalks.blogspot.com/
> http://wagonthoughts.blogspot.com/
> 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
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

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