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Al notes on Kester

notes for a discussion / notes on a discussion

In Conversation Pieces, (2005), Garnt Kester is really concerned with a narrow range of art within contemporary activist-related art practice... specifically art practice in which an empathetic conversational exchange is central to the creation of the work... either in its conceptualization or in its performance.

He is concerned (overly-concerned I would say) with contextualizing and legitimizing these practices within the fine arts.

The article by Gregory Sholette I brought in “Dark Matter: Activist Art and the Counter-Public Sphere” <http://www.journalofaestheticsandprotest.org/3/sholette.htm> also has a concern with placing related practices (including Tactical Media, exchange-based art, etc) within the fine arts. What interested me, however, is that he also makes reference to a variety of other practices which veer further away from fine art such as 'zine production and prankish workplace sabotage. It brings up for me the idea of drawing a  different circle around the practices and framing them differently. Instead of drawing a circle around the practices for which we might realistically make an argument for including within the definition of art, why not draw a circle around the activities which share a certain conceptual intent and work to create a theory around that. I throw out a few phrases: “Experimental Social Work,” might be a more fruitful way to look at Suzanne Lacy's work with police and teens in Oakland, and WauchenKlausur's work with drug addicts and policy makers in Zurich.  “Experimental Social Poetics” might encompass this type of work and also a range of other activities: “Buffalo Got Hacked,” the kids I saw dressed as zombies and walking through a shopping mall in Toronto, graffiti, culture jamming, subversions of audience/performer mode, 'zines and independent publishing, and even workplace sabotage.

Consider the difference between professional baseball and a regular Sunday softball game in the park. Professional baseball is a major spectacle. People keep records of what happens and argue over it and analyze it for years to come. It supports a major industry and a host of dreams. The Sunday game plays by the same formal rules but has entirely different aims. These may include good exercise, community-building, socialization. These things are all valid and perhaps more important than the spectacle that pro sports provides. Does it make sense to say, “Our Sunday game is a valid sporting event just like the World Series.” ? Do we need validation from the Sports section of the paper? Should we keep stats?

Trebor responded with much incredulity and amusement when I described the article as poorly thought-out and from an obscure no-count website. OK, I now see that Sholette has an impressive CV, that a longer version of the piece was published in a journal, etc etc. Obviously, I am wrong then! Seriously though, my point was not to knock the article but rather to say that just as we can find interesting, exciting and important work which is not accepted in the art world, we can find valuable and illuminating ideas even in texts which are generated and disseminated away from the journals and which we do not feel are entirely conceptually cohesive.

Wochenklausur -> conversation on boat (compares to John Heartfield collage – elements “break free” of cultural determination)

Compares Suzanne Lacy to impressionists attempt to challenge neo- classicism

Routes project in Belfast -> bus drivers union kept Protestant and Catholic drivers working together and driving all routes... project involved oral history

Kester situates the work within the avant garde pg 9 (“elicit a more open attitude  toward experience”) also wants to challenge that avant garde must be shocking or difficult

“...what we urgently need are models for how (communication) can succeed.” (pg 9)

The three projects share a concern with dialog as a central feature of their construction and composition - > not just after the work is created (different than conversation as reaction or in the reception which is more the relational aesthetics idea)

(pg 10) Kester says dialogical projects go against “banking concept” where artist     “puts meaning in” which gets withdrawn later (says dialog unfolds). I would say: the art exists in two parts - > the experience and its documentation -> it is mostly  through the doc. that it gets “framed as art” ... it enters  the area of ideas and art     discussions, in this mode it might behave in the same “banking” way. 


RESOURCE LEVEL > change in policy, redistribution of food, etc -> “dialogical moment”
IDEA LEVEL --> documentation, “another world is possible” -------> “banking concept”

Kester seems intent on finding an aesthetic appreciation of the activities on the Resource Level... I would say that the aesthetic activity is on the Idea Level (a compelling poetics to the idea)

pg 12 Kester Should differentiate between Participants and Audience. I would         say that they are different. Participants are in the Resource level (and the Idea level) whereas the Audience are fully in the Idea level.

Chapter 1: Eyes of the Vulgar...
Cement House vs “West Meats East”

Enlightenment Aesthetics - > Avant Garde shock

Chapter 2: Duration Performativity Critique
Dada, Derive, Fluxus etc. pg 58 three art modes       

References/ Recommended Reading

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