CRITICAL DREAMING: POLITICALLY ENGAGED ART IN AN UNREASONABLE WORLD.
Or, metamodern avant-garde propositions to aide in the reintegration of human to human and to cosmos (all as one in multiplicity and chaos)
There is no central or single concern.
Rather a complex of methods investigating the usefulness of an art, now, formed beyond a system of capital and into a realm that helps us to redefine and re-understand who we are, in relation.
In this way (my) research embodies various theoretical methods and positions.
Why? Because they are already connected anyway, and it would be dishonest to not try and re-newly connect the dots. We live in a world of dream and lore that is hauled into an invented space for competition and conformity. A space in which we are forced into submission, as subjects and objects of power.
There are not too many free spaces left. As artists we work in the mindfield. In a whatmire. What are we going to do with our time in the field of mind? We ask ourselves this question every day and night without knowing it. It is an essential and moral problem of knowing being.
As I said before there are not too many free spaces left. Where can free-seeking agents of agency turn? In my view this is the realm of the artist-philosopher. Some have argued that the artist has no place to hold a moral high ground, that throughout history and especially now they are an affectual problem of the capital elite. They are the access class, they access the elite through the performance and production of capital. They are an imposter, fixed in a symbiotic relationship. Producing and performing desire. The (cultural tourist) elite pay to feel they are culturally superior, elevate themselves even further away from the classic oppressed. If they perform the right manners, the artist gets an invite to the dinner table. BUT I am not talking about that kind of artist. I am also not interested in understanding how the word artist becomes a Creative, who’s purpose is to sweeten product to market. What I am interested in is the type of artist I would like to think I am, and the types of artists I think all of you are, and the million other hearts and minds across the globe who also wake up every day unconsciously asking: what am I going to do with my time in the field of mind?
I can’t differentiate the two anymore: the artist from the philosopher, the philosopher from the artist, or either from the human. This process of research-practice has further entangled that. If I ask what kind of artist am I, will it suffice to say I am a philosophical one? Perhaps, but that may be inaccurate. It may be more true to say I am a problematic one. One who enjoys problems. One who requires them to wake up to the world.
The problem of time is a real one, it’s an important one, it is one we have a privilege to play with in a way that many others do not. And THAT is a problem. Perhaps it is the problem.
It is important. To understand the type of artist I am. Or the one I should be. Or maybe it is discovering I am not one at all. That through the deepening into discourse on what it means to be an artist, I discover it was fakery all along – like the language I speak that is not of this land, like my performances of being, me.
In my 2018 work Humans Can Be Artists, art students sold themselves to the highest bidder in a museum in Nanjing, China. Whilst ‘sold’ they had one role, to be a burden on the buyer, to talk with them about the kind of artist-person they are, or want to be. The buyer, on the other hand had no obligation other than to be physically attached by rope to the student-artist during the length of time they spent in the gallery; how the two spent time together is largely unknown.
Almost a year later the same group of students took on another aspect of the original provocation I made; to accompany their buyer to their home and continue their work in burdening and proposing their self. I was unawares this project continued. It’s a small meme, an appropriation of appropriations. It is theirs now.
And isn’t this interesting, at a time in academic and wider cultural discourse where we are rightfully concerning ourselves over questions of what is human, what is person, who can be human. The moral-political agenda informing these questions has always been critical but now it is urgent as our current paradigm requires a radical re-shifting. A project of undoing (and re-imagining) who or WHAT we all are. If we survive it, perhaps we can all be artists.
This brings me to the place of further definitions. What then, is an artist? As Noam Chomsky points out in the 1971 discussion with Michel Foucault on the ‘ideal society’ – all human beings are creative. The very act of learning language requires not only the intrinsic brain that can allow for it, but that individual creativity is required to make the leap from mere sets of signs to systems of meanings.
As Foucault and Chomsky go on to disagree with each other as more than just a sport of different perspectives we also learn that the external conditions, the historical and physical apparatuses, bare significance in whether the child (or the scientist or artist) can creatively leap between frameworks of knowledge in order to make sense, or, anew, of the limited data in front of them.
As Foucault points out this is a “matter of transforming the same knowledge” or, as Chomsky adds, of “forgetting certain problems and leaping to new theories” .
The position of individual creativity becomes paramount then when considering the conditions a society puts on its people, as Chomsky states:
if it is correct, as I believe it is, that a fundamental element of human nature is the need for creative work, for creative inquiry, for free creation without the arbitrary limiting effect of coercive institutions, then, of course, it will follow that a decent society should maximise the possibilities for this fundamental human characteristic to be realised.
And this was in 1971.
And it remains as immediate and real a concern as ever. What are the measures that should maximize these fundamental human characteristics like creativity? What changes need to occur to allow for it to flourish and be central to our way of life, every day, and leading to every other day? It is not so difficult to imagine an ecology that puts human creativity as a driving force of its economy. You could rewire that sentence: It is not so difficult to imagine an economy that puts human creativity as a driving force of its ecology. As Chomsky says, “There is no longer any social necessity for human beings to be treated as mechanical elements in the productive process”.
In my work Humans Are Horses, (2017) https://vimeo.com/251905839
I spoke of the simplicity of re-perceiving oneself not as a cog in the machinery of disaster capitalism, but as a free-seeking agent of change who can use their time to creatively care for and uplift fellow others. In this work – which was performed in my domestic home, and which stepped through body-sculpture, video installation, performance-lecture-ritual, feast, and dialogue – I proposed a few simple mechanisms of how an artist-led economy could and should “change the world”. There were a few tongues in cheeks. But a few nice things have come out of it. The donations given upon entry have been invested in the first crypto universal basic income, which is growing, and which will be fed back into a collective, commoning project I am working toward.
A friend and curator-artist colleague recently pointed out to me there is a significant element of care in my work and life. It is central to my methodology. In her words:
You hardly ever make work for galleries because they are cold alienating spaces. You don’t simply cater for people you cook for them. You make them comfortable in spaces, you drive people to the airport in the middle of the night and talk with them about their ideas. BUT WHY? This love (or care) is a subject worthy of critical attention.
This leads me to what may be actually be the central tenet of my theses. That it is now the role of the artist-philosopher to take up the charge to overcome oppression and mechanistic reductionism by forging (urging for) “a society of freedom and free association in which the creative urge… will in fact be able to realise itself in whatever way it will.” (Chomsky, 1971).
In other readings, such as from a depth psychology or contemporary shamanistic view the term creativity could be re-classed as desire but more on that another time.
As I have contemplated this problem, I have come to understand it in a complex way. When Chomsky refers to free association, he is likely referring to the ability for people to freely associate with others, for civil liberties to be open, for human mobility to not be encumbered by laws of private property and the nation state. I would add another layer of meaning/need to this term: the free association of phenomena, of psychological experience, of meaning making, of new language forms, of signs, of an embodiment of the unconscious through daily (creative/ collective) praxis. An identarian heuristics informing our personal-collective.
If we assume that the space of artistic investigation is free, and if we further acknowledge that the bulk of social relations are ordered through a mechanistic framework of capital growth through production and resource extraction which is harmful to our human and other-than-human ecologies, then it becomes clear that the role of the artist, and the spaces which artists inhabit, have the responsibility to open to, and be imperative to the struggle for freedom and free association.
Ultimately then maybe I come back to the places of inquiry that launched me into this investigation. The effect of history on my bodies, the effect of histories on my body. And the responsibility we have to re-embody a history that could have been, and through this rewrite our future. This is not just words. This is the playing field of ritual-body-communal-dream-world-making. Whether we know it or not we are in the practice of it. I have become aware of this. And I choose to follow it.
PRESENTED AT LOOP FOR THE ART & PERFORMANCE GROUP, DEAKIN UNIVERSE 9th July 2019, Melbourne