[iDC] Social Ethics, Social Aesthetics, Social Beauty

Sal Randolph salrandolph at gmail.com
Sat Jan 26 17:45:44 UTC 2008

Hi Katie, everyone,

Yes, Hideous Beast's reenactments/peer reviews are a great thing to  
bring up -- I hope they will be collecting some of their results and  
putting them online soon.  I do remember there was quite a lot of  
tension at their talk!

It makes me think also of the recent spate of performance art  
reenactments - Marina Abromovic's Seven Easy Pieces ( http:// 
www.seveneasypieces.com/ ), the very carefully researched "re-doing"  
of Alan Kaprow's 18 Happenings in 6 Acts (there's a great description  
here http://www.lucazoid.com/bilateral/18-happenings-in-6-parts/  ),   
and Eva and Franco Mattes' translation of classic performance artwoks  
into Second Life ( http://0100101110101101.org/home/performances/ 
index.html or see on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch? 
v=C8aTHkjaOF8 ).  Even though this other group of reenactments  
weren't explicitly critical in nature, they did allow for some  
critical thinking about both the original pieces and their remakes.

As Judith Rodenbeck mentioned in her wonderful (idc sponsored) talk  
(if you haven't heard it, seriously do give the mp3 a listen: http:// 
the_open_work_p.html ), some of the most influential works of the 60s  
included (even courted?) boredom, discomfort, and danger.  In this  
context, I actually think "boredom" is the most intriguing.  A number  
of audience members for all these reenactments have expressed  
feelings of boredom, at the same time they found the project  
themselves (original and reenacted) "interesting."  It makes me think  
of John Cage's remarks on boredom: "‘If something is boring after two  
minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen.  
Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all."

I remember sitting in the audience at the Kaprow reenactment, looking  
around at who was there and thinking to myself "wow, the original  
audience for these pieces must have been so much more interesting  
than this" - I imagined a bunch of crazy 60s bohemians and hippy  
artists, I guess.  I just assumed that there was some kind of live  
electricity in the original that I was missing out on.  But actually,  
when I looked at the historical photographs, the audience was just as  
formal, polite, and art-worldy middle-class as the one I had been  
sitting in.  I if you had mixed up a stack of black and white  
snapshots from both events, I think you would have been hard pressed  
to pick out the ones from the present.  It was as if they had managed  
to reenact both the piece and the social circumstances which  
surrounded it.  Or to put it differently, I had assumed Kaprow  
happenings were about the most exciting things I had ever missed out  
on, and now I see that they were perhaps a bit boring, but in an  
interesting way.

Maybe as the idea of "newness" loses value, as we are less enraptured  
by the romance of an avant-garde as a group of artists way out in  
front of everyone else, one of the things we can do in the current  
more egalitarian plurality is spend a bit more time on critical re- 
making.  Scientists do this all the time, and very productively.

-- Sal

On Jan 21, 2008, at 9:20 PM, katie hargrave wrote:

> Hi Sal,
> Kanarinka's proposition is an interesting one, and I think that  
> social practices is an interesting case for consideration.  As  
> artists, criticism is something we have learned to do: critique our  
> experiences, our world, our peers, and supposedly our own  
> production.  For our own work, however, this is intended to occur  
> in the pre-production and production stages so only complete,  
> successful projects are presented to the public.
> For me, the moments where my actions do not butt up exactly with my  
> intentions often appear like failures initially, only to slowly  
> reveal themselves as probing deeper (more successful, surely not)  
> than projects that look the same on paper as they do in action.  
> When we propose a project to a space, a long negotiation commences  
> between that point and the projects completion.
> As Sal has already pointed out, weeding out projects that are not  
> quite right is very simple for studio based practices, but I have a  
> hunch that social artists engage a similar editing process (even if  
> they fail publicly, as suggested).
> It is telling though, that we do not publicly discuss our failures  
> and questions, when oftentimes, those failures present spaces for  
> an increased discourse to occur.
> This reminds me of Hideous Beast's current project "Field Test: A  
> Peer Review" (also presented at the Open Engagement conference).
> From the Open Engagement website: " Hideous Beast is invested in  
> creating alternate forms of social exchange.  Entertainment is a  
> platform we use to this effect.  To further this practice, we  
> investigate the efforts of other artists and cultural producers who  
> work in the field of relational art.  Many of these examples carry  
> an imperative for the gesture to be repeated.  This is apparent  
> either implicitly in the ideology and logic of the activity, or  
> explicitly in the form of instruction sets or public presentation.   
> As an extension of our own search for new tactics of engagement and  
> in order to evaluate these reproducible actions, we will recreate a  
> number of projects that attempt to foster social exchange through  
> entertainment.
> Entertainment resides in a muddy space between the everyday and  
> escape from the everyday.  It is a potential place for public/group  
> exchange and collaboration.  For the conference we will initiate  
> Field Test: A Peer Review, to select from a range of artist  
> projects that call to be reproduced, and not only recreate these  
> activities, but also open a dialogue for conference participants to  
> evaluate their effectiveness.  Reproduction and criticism are both  
> essential to sustaining social/relational practices and the  
> communities that generate them.  We believe the OPEN Engagement  
> conference will be a productive place to carry out these  
> investigations."
> At Open Engagement, HB reproduced N55's Shop, where the  
> coordinators of the shop label objects as being free to take, use,  
> or, borrow. In representing these types of projects, they seek to  
> open a dialog about the success and failure of the original  
> project, while developing a toolbox of ways in which to potentially  
> make the project more successful next time around.
> While at Open Engagement, their language made for a tension filled  
> artist talk.  They were openly asking where their projects (and  
> others) were successful and where they failed. Charlie Roderick,  
> one of the member of HB, told me that he was curious why the social  
> practices folk at Open Engagement were so unwilling to confront  
> those terms. Is it useful (I remember Darren O'Donnell and Harrell  
> Fletcher having particularly strong feelings one way or the other)?
> I am not quite sure where to go from here.  We could, i imagine  
> quite easily open a forum for our questions of success and failure  
> in public lectures, but in practice would this be anything  
> different than what occurs now within the networks of our friends  
> and peers whom we discuss these issues with already?
> Documentation of Hideous Beast's Field Test can be seen on  
> Charlie's Flickr here.
> best,
> Katie
> -- 
> Katie Hargrave
> http://www.katiehargrave.us
> http://opensource.boxwith.com
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: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Sal Randolph
salrandolph at gmail.com

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