Some suggested guidelines for recognizing signs of artistic agency in our contemporary culture of high performance:
Refuse false binaries, such as ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Opt instead to linger
between opposed absolutes in gray areas, shadows, interstices, and soft underbellies.
Mysterious and volatile, vagueness and abstraction can be provocatively
uncooperative, resistant, and reticent. Abstraction’s simultaneous
address and non-address of its subject, the latency and seeming
illegibility of its meaning make it a model of agency and autonomy. One
need not be readily understood nor immediately useful. Don’t expect to
get anything right away. Easy answers are no fun. Understanding takes
time, developing in quiet and often unrecognizable ways.
2) Claim and occupy time according to your own terms. Open it up. Question regimented notions of
time that perpetuate social expectations of increased speed,
productivity, efficiency, consumption, and cyclical obsolescence. The
ineffable, often invisible and intangible, process of conceiving and
making art alone in the studio can be a way to reconfigure one’s
experience of time. Re-commit to abstraction that testifies to an interrogated logic of decision-making.
Maximize time given to looking and thinking, minimize gratuitous
spectacle and budgets. Art promises continual questioning, mutability,
and delayed fulfillment.
3) As with time, so with space. Look for
relationships to locality, particularity, and difference, as well as
absence. Generate heterogeneity as a form of defiance.
4) Beyond announcing a political platform through slogans, physically embody a politic in posture and attitude. Find political agency in unlikely places and gestures. Consider softness, sponginess, resilience, limpness, looseness, exhaustion, collapse, wear, and being-used-up as rich political conditions. Prolong the recuperation and
convalescence that follows exhaustion as a period of fascination and
potential when so much is still possible. Represent the possibility of latent possibilities.
Dispense with the antiquated notion of ‘political art’ as separate from
art. All art either advances or betrays a political climate and
position. The question of politics is one of perception and recognition. Will you know it when you see it?
by vague convictions, I articulate these guidelines to myself. In doing
so, I draw heavily on the ideas and words of Jan Verwoert and Bruce
Hainley. I don’t presume to know their relevance to you, though I hope
and trust you can identify that for yourself.