NICOLAS BOURRIAUD 'TODAY'S ART PRACTISE' - 21.09.2001

The artist works like a social worker and the result, work of the artist, which is the work of art, documents these works the artist did. These are some artistic activities, which really develop according to scenario, in other words the work of the art itself can not go beyond being a moment any more, it takes part in the artistic activity and it is not the final point, destination of the artistic activity. We can give many examples of course; of artists, of these artistic situations, but anyhow you will see these in the halls of the Biennale abundantly.

If we talk about the scenario may be we can also talk about another aspect of this scenario. This aspect had always existed during all of 20th century, and this the relation between cinema and art. It can ensure to better understand of what is going on in the art galleries and museums, for this reason I want to make a flash back and return back to the invention of cinema. The cinema has been invented in 1895; this is the official date. Let's ask this question, what has been brought by cinema ? If we reply in a very simple way, "It produces meaning", but while doing this, it does not produce symbols. Instead of making a sculpture or a drawing of this bottle, I can give a meaning to this bottle by just passing it in front of the camera. The Italian writer and director of motion pictures, Pierre Paolo Passolini had said that, "the reality has a written language", in other words the movies are the written language of the reality. Less than 20 years ago, there were some products, called as 'ready made'. When we say "ready- made", it is said that, "it was the emergence of the consumption object as a work of art", as though, it was the technical redefinition of art. In other words, it is said that it enriches the definition of art, however I think in a concrete way that it is the first art, which takes into consideration all what the cinema has brought…

As you know, from 1913 on, Marcel Duchamp was presenting a very ordinary consumption product like a work of art. However, in reality Marcel Duchamp was creating an analogy, a similarity between the camera and the exhibition place. In other words, the moment you pass this bottle in front of the camera, it will have a meaning and it will be a part of the movie. Or if it has been brought into a gallery, museum or art gallery as a bottle holder, it will be perceived as a work of art, this will cause the art galleries to be apprehended like movies without cameras. In other words, without showing the reality it gives meaning to reality and I suppose from this point of view this date is important. Because then it will also determine the esthetics of the 20th century.

Profiting from these opportunities, which the cinema has brought, the museums, art galleries have been transformed into record rooms. Today the big majority of the exhibitions have really functions like movies without cameras. Yes, I'm talking about the cinema in context of the scenario. Our daily life could also be the object of scenarios, of some exemplary scenarios, of scenarios that could be reproduced anew endlessly. Those of us who are more original and creative are really creating some things about what will happen at the beginning of 21st century, however we are really under the influence of images and exemplary scenarios continuous, proposed to us, influencing our behavioral selections.

For example, the way we work, what we do and our activities are parts of predetermined scenario or of a scenario that develops always in the same direction, because there are intersections of the same data. In 1895 the cinema was invented and 4 years earlier, in 1891 the pioneer Frederic W. Taylor, invented Taylorism. Why Taylorism? This is a new work organizing method and it accompanies the industrial society. Every worker in a factory should carry out only one duty. We see this in the movie 'Modern Times'. Chaplin screws a bolt and does the same gesture for hours. The rationalization of the work and the invention of cinema are in the same century, in my opinion is a coincidence that has always caught my attention. There's a kind of same logic, logic about time management. As you know, there was a big struggle all along history, it was a quite a secret struggle. For a century long period, the struggle about regular time, in other words the determination of the longevity of working hours, has continued. In the industrial society and capitalist economy the attacks were always against "time". The time that is lived by everyone, for example "the invention of free time" is a new invention, and is really the victory of rationalization of time. In other words, there is a limited time for working and a limited time again is reserved for entertainment as "free time".

The industrialist Henry Ford was the person who really worked intensively on the application of Taylorism in his factories. He said: 'Walking is not included in the salary'. His workers were always working at the same spots, as connected and fixed to their spots. For this reason, there is a connection between the artistic activities and the standardization, rationalization of work, I mean, "the factory as the symbol of working". How was Baudelaire defining the modern artist for example? He was defining (the artist) as an idle man. An idle person, idleness must be eliminated, excluded from the working process. It has really to be excluded from people's daily life and it is something that deserves the least salary. For Henry Ford, every gesture that is done by a worker during his daily life, should produce something, in order words, it has to be equivalent of salary. The history of modern art is really a quarrel between the idleness and virtues of freedom and the rationalization, evaluation of time lived. The artist is always the person who struggles against this separation in work time. For this reason, many works of art have concentrated on idleness starting with the beginning of 20th century. Artists like Langert, Jack Lang and conceptual artists like Stanley Brown. Their works of art consist of idleness. For example, in 50's, 60's Thiery Moens was a member of the realists; he was also talking about a big idleness between signs. And we see how these two worlds are opposite to each other. Both of these two worlds are big and the quarrel between these two worlds will also constitute the history of modern art in 21st century.

On one hand there is an inclination for the realization of the gestures that should be done in the factory, the rationalization of mass production and the creation of consumption objects, and on the other hand, in spite this, we see the trends that try to decrease the importance of the objects against the gesture. In other words, on one hand gesture disappears in the name of object, on the other hand the object disappears in the name of gesture. At the same time, after the evaluation of this gesture, the prevention of any kind of waste, for example the prevention of energy and time waste, which is really a basic waste. In this case we can say this: There was a period in history, where those two worlds were not opposite to each other and the art was mostly included in the society. The society also was not in opposition , the producers were not contrary to their society. However that is not the case any more. In this regard, there are more interesting activities, applications and works in the shared area between these two parts.

Everything occurs really far from the absolute certainty we see in every day life. Because in fact we should talk about the one that is out of this materialization, for example a sign or a material work of art is not more or less interesting than the contrary one, however in modernity in fact works of art which constitute of material elements, facts are being considered. But we should not be mistaken, there's no style, which is more interesting than the other one. By our time there could be an artist who belongs to his/her time completely. One artist draws pictures with ballpoint pens; another artist shows a totally different reaction and uses the Internet. Fortunately, what constitutes the show here is not the medium…

I have started this conference by talking about the alienation; I want to finish by considering the other sides of alienation. I also don't want to be perceived very pessimistic, because on the contrary, I think that the artistic activity sustains this capacity. This capacity is our reaction capacity to our circle; our capacity to refuse of being exposed to some kind of cultural and political conditionings. The artist gives some kind of lessons to be unique, special. The artist puts us in front of our life.

I want to express this in another way. For example, in our time another element of alienation is abstraction, in other words, the exclusion of our daily life from reality. If you are fired one morning, and if you are working for a multinational company, you would not even know by whom you have been fired. Generally, the shareholders can make these dismissal plans. A retired person in Miami can decide for that. Because of his attitude you could be fired by him, who is thousands of kilometers far away from you.

For example, the news updates on the television start with the stock exchange news. Of course the stock exchange is really important, but all these are abstract knowledge, because, there is no more a concrete relation between this image and the relations at the stock exchange and the human activities. In the mean time, the images we see every day and our daily life are separate from one another in this void. And here exactly at this point, there is also a role which art must and can perform.

We can give many examples, for example I think about an artist who is called Liam Killing. I will talk about one of his works to explain what kind of works of art he creates. Liam Killing has realized a work of art in the form of opera. This opera was aimed to the vice-president of Sony, to Mr. Ibuka. We realize that there's a person, whose name is Ibuka, a person of flesh and blood. This is a way that is created by the artist by means of this multinational company.

An American painter, called Sarah Morris has done an entity of paintings. When we look at them we think that they were inspired by Mondrian's works, because they are geometric abstractions, with very geometric forms with dense colors. However, when looked at with a different perspective, these paintings represent totally the façades of multinational companies like Chanel or Revlon. Here the manifestation and also the process are the same. In other words, in regard to human being, it shows a concrete activity about the things, which are now totally abstract for painting. As we miss the world we live in totally, art enables us to grasp this world again.

This is a kind of anthropologic work what art always does, in other words representation, starting with the first cave paintings, as in the La Sceau Cave in France or Altamira Cave. What was represented there helped the prehistorical people to approach the reality. If I could kill the buffalos in the picture, I could also kill the ones outside, that was the logic, and I think that art really helps us still to kill the buffalos, although the nature of the buffalos had changed.

At the same time it provides to understand the reality intuitively in advance to see its concrete sides and to save the world from a certain state of belonging in a way. I mean, when we go out we see that things that affect us in the future are abstract places and now any kind of domination on these is out of question. This role of the artist was always the same, however while doing this, the methods and the possibilities the artist applies willingly or unwillingly are different, because the reality itself has changed. We can't define the reality, today's reality, we feel this, while doing this we can not use just only yesterday's materials.

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I don't know, how much time I have, because I don't have a watch.

We now move on to questions:

Question: Orsan Özcan (Department of Multi Media, University of Yıldız)
In the middle of your speech you have talked about the infinity of the Internet, of art and also about the limits of interactivity. According to this view, the interactivity, the meeting of the messages is a very rich concept. Why do you think that the Internet will limit this? In the future there will be new forms and formats. What would be the Internet's role in that?

Reply: In fact, the limits I set out for Internet are not the limits of the medium itself; these are the limits, which are brought about by its applications. For example, I talked about a danger, the interactivity between the human beings. For instance, why are there highways? There are some pay tolls, ticket offices on the highways. Generally this is the tendency of the capitalist economy, to provide the commercialization of some things more easily, by concentrating these on preordained places and spaces. I mean, the limits are not selected by the medium, regarding the Internet I spoke about the limits of the application methods or the commercial circle, the ones which will block its possibilities in the commercial and ideological circle.

For example, a technology is not neutral, it is not impartial, because there is a certain ideology behind it, there is a certain will behind a medium, which political and social at the same time. The important thing is what is done with it. From this point of view, the Internet is really such a special invention together with the invention of the telephone at the end of the last century that creates new possibilities, also by art. However, the Internet users are not always the artists. The artists who use the Internet did not become the most interesting or the strongest artist, because every new technology affects the art of its era and creates new thinking zones, fields.

For example, if there were not the photography, there would not also be the impressionism, because photography was a new medium at that time as it had brought many things into light by means of light, I mean, after providing the representation of the world by means of light, the impressionism also became possible. Being, opposite, contradictory to this, the first photographs are academic photographs. And I think that it exists the same things in the Internet today, the artists' concepts, the ones realized in the Internet, of course I'm making huge generalizations here. Some artists who don't use the Internet are different than their creativity starting with what they give for Internet.

I don't know if I have replied your question properly.

Question: ( Haşim Nur Gürel ) Today all the museums in the world share the works of art they have with the rest of the world through their virtual galleries on the Internet. Does not this bring a possibility to educate a new generation? We are now in the Internet era and the Internet contributes to the visual education of new generations, in the same way, for example Eczacıbaşı Virtual Museum 's principal aim is also to take place in these efforts too.

Reply: Of course I was telling before that the Internet is a field that creates extraordinary possibilities. However, naturally it turns a medium into a very fetish state. The new one is not important. The important thing is what to do with this new medium. There are really big opportunities in The Internet…

However, I suppose that the most important thing concerning Internet that it leads us to think. Making us think in a different way is the most important thing. On one hand there is a broadcasting that steps out of the mass broadcasting logic, and there is another advantage. There is a basic advantage, when you surf in the Internet there's something that breaks the passivity that for example binds the T.V. watchers to the T.V. Everyone can create his/her own way and establish completely personal connections. However, this is not possible between the producers and consumers classically. And really, this is what is important. Because suddenly every one has to understand that is possible to establish a different relation than the relation between culture and image. I mean, it is different than zapping and this seems to me as the most important phenomenon. Essentially I think that it may be possible very soon to surf in the Internet through images using some kinds of computer programs, and to form image collections for this, just as it is being done with the words today. With some key words…

Question: (Ayşe Tener - Cumhuriyet ) What do we expect from the concept of curator in the world. Would you tell us something about that?

Reply: We can say that, he is a person who establishes his/her perceiving circle, art perceiving circle starting with his /her own culture. At the same time he/she will also function in the text or exhibition medias to transfer his/her vision of the world, and also to be engaged in the world. To defend that artist instead of this artist is an engagement. As it means most likely that you defend other values by leaving aside some others. I mean basically, it's very ordinary, banal. At the same time this has something to do with being a D.J. When you make an exhibition you try to put these (works of art) together, side by side aiming to produce a meaning. This existence, side by side is also highly important, because what will happen in a museum or gallery when you look at it in a very shallow way? There are some people; they have relations between themselves, and they also have other relations with an object apart from these relations between them. I mean, in this manner; there are objects and humans in a space, in other words, there are forms of people. I mean there are forms and people. The art itself is the history of all these, the history of the relation of all these and the history of the struggle of how to settle down, how to create stories among all these, setting out with these forms. For example, we can handle the word 'curator' in a different way and we say that, for example there are people who serve the ball very well in tennis, and there are also people who receive these services very well. In my opinion artists serve the ball, and I try to throw back the ball they have thrown at me.

Question: (Master Student of History of Art- University of Mimar Sinan)
During your speech you have talked about the production, consumption, productivity…When you look at the Oriental, Eastern societies how do you see their interactivity? How do you preserve the rational aesthetic of the Eastern societies, not to call them Oriental?

Reply: I have a principle and that is never to put myself in another person's place. Serge Dany was a critic for the cinema and I used to like him very much. When he was visiting a country he never took any photos. He used to buy postcards, because postcards bring into light how the citizens in that country want to show their own country, while photography is something which is taken away from them.

For this reason, I can say this: The way I perceive this or that geographical region on the world goes really through an art filter, because this is the filter I know best. And this helps me to enter into the heart of a country or a city. And this is through the very limited view of a person who is called an individual who produces a work of art. Or it consists of the views of the persons who exhibit these works of art. I think this is very important. Saying that as a declaration of principle is very important, and that is not to put you in other people's place. I see how the life in Istanbul is. Through artist's works I will try to understand how the people living in Istanbul see their life. This is a very important side of the art critic. I mean not only making criticism of art, not of making an artistic criticism of the world, but to look at the world through an optic tool which is art.

For example, I was talking about the difference and the difference between the persons is the biggest richness, goodness and the most positive thing, and as you see this richness has started to get poor gradually. And if I have a utopia that is to establish relations between persons and cultures, not through one way, I mean not only through one measure, a measure which global culture constitutes, but through relations which are reinvented each time. There is a physical reality, which is that sowing always the same crop makes the soil dry. If always the same thing is produced, if as mass production always the same product is produced, that also will destroy the eco-system. That is the difference, the difference of the cultures, which constitute the richness, the production and the human productiveness. I did not reply your question in one sense, because I can't reply this.

Question: (Pause in Band) … Work on the benefit of art, social theory, let's say the pact of this theory on that. He makes a connection between the social sciences and the art. He is a critic known in France, however on the other hand in other Anglo-Saxon countries like Germany, there are a lot of discussions about his writings. Well, I would like to you to continue now…

Reply: Apart from new artistic applications, to talk directly is risky. In other words, it means making an exercise; we have to define properly what we are talking about. Everyone among us can have a different definition for art. One says that art is this and this and contains that kind of activities. As for me among all these objects, I think that the relation between the objects that are called works of art is pretty simple, at least for me. And this helps me to work. As for me the definition could be that. "Art is an activity providing the world to establish relations, and relations with this world are established, concretized through some objects, forms, signs and gestures." However what is basic, fundamental, that art is an activity to establish a relation with the world we live in, which makes me interested also in art. That's why art is not a whole object. It's much more then that. This is one of the characteristics of being an artist which is a weird occupation, together with the technical baggage you have to have or against it, as in the in this art school (I am speaking now.), to produce some images, forms, some methods are learned.

However, at the same time, being an artist today is maybe one of the rare activities, which is not based on a technical knowledge, technical baggage, which is defined in advance. For example, when you have to be a baker or an insurance agent there is a whole of some techniques and rules, which are not changeable. Or at least to carry out these professions there are some procedures, methods that have many codes and are very definite. However, the artist's problem is that all the techniques he/she could learn cannot constitute the base of his/her activity. The artist has to determine the techniques and methods, which are going to be used to carry out his/her activity. From the very beginning an artist should decide in what kind of circle he/she will work and through which medium. Are these objects, lines or paints? The artist faces endless possibilities. And within these defined styles the artist should constitute a whole of gesture, method, system and be an artist in this regard; I mean to produce a work of art.

Finally we can come back to this idea. The basic, fundamental thing for an artist is to materialize his/her relation with the world; this could be done in hundred different ways. As an art critic, my first criterion is how original is the way the artist looks at this world. That's his/her power. In addition, another characteristic of this weird activity, which works according to non-predetermined codes, is its standardization gradually. In other words, there is a development towards materialization by human relations. Today, the relations are becoming commercial and turning into a kind of commercial product. And in this regard I suppose that art has a basic role in our civilization, because art and artistic activities help to fight against the standardization of the applications, performances, cultures and forms. Today this is an issue on our agenda. We see that human relations materialize gradually.

By human relations there some places, for example at the airports there are meeting points. Let's say that you are going to meet with someone and the meeting place is determined in that airport. It determines a place. In some places for tourists there are signs. It is said that this is "the point for a good view". This is a point where the city could be watched with a different and interesting perspective. I mean that daily life becomes neutral gradually. The places where this and that activity shall be realized are determined as original places. I think that today art's power is to chance materialization, that materialization of the world. For this reason, what I tried to define here as relational aesthetic that it starts with a very simple observation. And I see that this formal point is based on a very simple thing.

It seems to me that an artistic activity, as a matter of fact, is not essentially pure. It is far from being pure. It is cherished of many things. It is cherished of thousands actions. And of course afterwards, people like me have to come to you and tell stories. Clement Greenberg also makes a narration of culture. This also reminds me of the storytellers in Africa. They sit under the "Tale Tree" and tell the story of that tribe very often, and each time this story is interpreted in a different way.

It seems to me that to find a connection between the objects is the most important part of the profession I carry out now. The artist and the artist's activities remind the activity of D.J. 's, because of a very simple reason. Because a D.J. plays a long play and mix the long plays and carries out his/her work starting with an existed material. In other words what is discussed is not compose something and play it with an instrument, nowadays it is needed to play the culture like playing an instrument as 'just play it', it is needed to create some routes in the culture, to pave some ways between the signs. We can call this application as 'semiology'. 'Semiotical', I mean signs, and 'notos' are notes, in other words people traveling between the signs, determining the way, the route.

However, for example when Tina Danigra -I always mention her name, because she is in the Biennale - created a plan for the New York Modern Art Museum and used Philip Johnson's architectural work for that, she gave this building to kids, to kids in nursery schools to organize a painting, drawing contest, again the idea of this usage was more important than the idea of what will be produced there. For example, when Douglas Gordon recaptured a play called 'Searchers' in John Ford's movie and when he has reduced the time of the action to the movie's duration, I mean when he correspond it to one year, we face a problematic here also that is similar to the D.J.s. You take up some present elements and give them new meanings. In other words, you use culture as a toolbox.

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The Swedish artist Sylvie Fleury's work is index-linked to the fashion world. For example, the artist who has created a series of works of art has selected the colors of her works from the colors that Chanel has selected. Another scotch artist who is called Jonathan Monk has also created movies based on Sol Lewitt's works of art. We can name many works here. I think that they do not work starting with something new, because the artist does not exist in the base of a work of art; it is done according some persons who determine a situation in the culture. These persons use this culture, all the objects of this culture like works of art, movies and books like the D.J.' s, who play long plays and remix them. I mean like someone, who mix different works of music and change the rhythms, tempos of the long plays. In other words they work with the materials, which are supposed to be finished materials. However I think that today it is said that nothing is finished. For example when you join a chat or discussion you know that our phrases could be considered, examined, interpreted, changed by anyone, because The Internet is a way without a center. And the contemporary culture has also no center. It is constituted of certain chains, gesture chains. Someone else could reconsider these too. For example, today the finished product or work of art is opposed, protested by these new applications. We can talk about the artist like a person, who makes up scenarios in the culture. The artist puts a work of art or any object into a large scenario, and the redefinition of this place between the very definitive interpretation and the work of art, the re-usage of the forms.

Many artists use social buildings for their works, as if these are 'art-fact's, I mean objects. An American artist called Alice Lambert has created a work of art called 'waiting peace'. Here there is a whole of documents. In one week she has married 5 times. And she took up this week, the period these 5 marriages occurred in U.S.A… Of course she did this in U.S.A… And once she was married with a woman. Another French artist establishes an offshore bank, her name is Maria Loret, a bank called 'Loret Unlimited'…

(End of Tape)


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