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Posts tagged ‘publicity’

HomeShop opened its library
to the public this summer. Although its collection comprises “not-yet 10,000 items,” the moment had already arrived for questions about the content, triggering a conversation that I joined the other day in HomeShop’s front space, on the issues of inclusion and exclusion.

As the library grows mostly through donations from friends and neighbors, certain patterns gradually emerge: all the books someone couldn’t take with them, some flea market novelties, something that “might come in handy.” To host anything, or hypothetically everything, would mean all the “bad” as well. Bad in the case of a library means the superfluous, the unhelpful, maybe the hateful; from another perspective, one never knows who will value what in a public library, and cutting away the inessential means cutting away part of a potential public. The central ambiguity of any archive lies on these fissures between values. This is also dependent on the reality of passing time, by which bad qualities are outlasted as a generation shifts and becomes other to itself; however, this process is most apparent in archives proper as opposed to libraries (who, in the future, will honestly cherish all of the pulp novels as books, as opposed to documents? Or do they, even at present?). One can then imagine, as did Jorge Luis Borges, a Babylonian library comprising all that was and is, in effect re-constructing the universe in type, a disorienting and endless universe in which we all dwell.

But of course other hard realities emerge to rebut this imaginary, unlimited possibility: space and order. HomeShop’s shelves are small, but not yet full. The intention of our conversation to edit the inventory—resulting, ironically, in only one or two withdrawals—therefore compromised on a discussion of what inclusion and exclusion mean. As an independent project initiated by individuals (namely, Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga and Elaine W. Ho), whose nurturing is guided by particular investments rather than indifference, the HomeShop Library recalls Walter Benjamin’s words: “But one thing should be noted: the phenomenon of collecting loses its meaning as it loses its personal owner. Even though public collections may be less objectionable socially and more useful academically than private collections, the objects get their due only in the latter.”(1) But with its simple principle of acquisition and circulation based on personal relations, the HomeShop collection becomes a living and metabolic portrait of a community, complicating the possessive fondness of Benjamin’s ideal bourgeois collector.

The ordering methodology can be recognized as not as rigid or as rigorous as that of Beijing’s National Library of China, though it shares the Chinese Library Classification system’s categorizations (starting, of course, with Marx & Mao, passing next through religion and philosophy, proceeding to the hard sciences at the bottom/base). But where the State institution speaks the language of publicness with its vast architectural spaces and purportedly unparalleled collection, the State’s very ordering protocols eliminate even the imaginary possibility of housing the universe on its shelves, where this could at least be a fantasy in HomeShop’s case. (A review of the oddities in the not unimpressive foreign languages section at the National Library is enough to wonder what is the basis for their acquisitions; recommendations are not invited, I was told.) The universe, after all, is composed of many, many small and particular things, not just the mapped planets and giant balls of gas. Even without space, attentiveness and affect define an alternative order of ordering. As the Indian archival project Pad.ma points out: “To not wait for the archive is often a practical response to the absence of archives or organized collections in many parts of the world. It also suggests that to wait for the state archive, or to otherwise wait to be archived, may not be a healthy option.”(2)

One pertinent irony of our contemporary media-saturated world is the State’s inability to accommodate the histories that make up the most intimate (ie. unofficial) parts of people’s lives, which actually make up the majority of all stories. But is the ambition of the (art) project to recover all lost histories, to pursue the exhaustion of this chaotic universe on its shelves? And do we hope that the State eventually takes up the pursuit of accounting for this breadth of experience? But isn’t it true that they already do to some extent, through the surveillance of all of our movements and stockpiling of all of our utterances? The gap exposed is therefore not the abyss of quantities, but the ground on which qualities are encouraged to develop. HomeShop’s library, emphasizing the knowledge and feeling that flow from individuals and can be borrowed—social exchanges, that is to say—hosts a potential to reflect the library as a universe despite or rather because of its modesty, its ethics-under-development. That said, at the end of our afternoon crusade of book-purging, we finally had to put off the decision of what to cut, until some other moment in the future.

Michael Eddy

The HomeShop Library is open daily for browsing and for borrowing. Please come by.

(A Chinese version of this text to appear in upcoming issue of Yishu Shijie Magazine / 中国版的这段文字会出现在“艺术世界”杂志。)

1. Walter Benjamin, “Unpacking my library” in Illuminations
2. From Pad.ma’s “10 Theses on the Archive.” Visit Pad.ma’s alternative video archive: http://pad.ma/

Michael EDDY (问题/questions) & 麦颠 MAI Dian (回复/responses)………[节选/excerpt

Does the way in which we live have to be visualized? Of course not; but it seems that visibility is an important part of both art and activism.

How do both art and activism approach a public?




即便是一种所谓的激进的政治艺术,大家也没有想过避免大众,相反,他们也在以自己的方式解释“为人民服务”, 比如戈达尔。东湖艺术计划的被发起的目的,是因为寻求在主流媒体与本地媒体被审查的新闻与事实,能够藉由另一种语言与信息通道—艺术的语言—从审查里挣脱出来。这个信息会发散到什么程度,不会有人保证,因为艺术毕竟在某种程度上“特殊的语言”。计划的发起人之一李巨川是戈达尔的爱好者,另外一个发起人李郁也是戈达尔的爱好者。李郁自己的摄影作品,是通过对新闻再现(news representation )的再现(representation of the news representation) 来试图反诘主流的媒体话语。他将类似的手法应用了东湖艺术作品中。对地图再现的再现(representation of map representation),不仅历史和媒体说谎,地图—-在某种程度上拥有科学的威严—同样也在说谎。那么,这种通过画面(照片+装置)展现出来的的艺术语言,会在哪些媒介上,被哪些人所接受?事实是,艺术媒体或者研讨会,讨论会。而接收者大多数是接受过专业艺术训练或者有所阅读的业余爱好者。艺术所能影响到的,可能只是一个“公众”集合中的少数人(甚至这些人具有某种专业主义倾向),更加无奈的现实是,艺术所关注的事件的直接“当事人”,比如,失地的农民,明确地告诉我们“看不懂”。





Do we need to produce things—models, discourses, trains of thought, if not outright objects—because of this program of visibility?


是否需要? 回想起过去的一些经验,我的问题可能不在于是否“需要”, 而是“如何”传递以及传递“什么”信息—-既然传递欲望是不可避免的,且现实中,我们也未曾“一概”避免。而且,这只是我们一厢情愿,从我们的角度来看这个问题。另一厢,Visibility/publicity本身也包括了其他的面向:visibility,除了所谓的亲密关系的范围,以及个人以DIY伦理自我表达,若是要面对所谓的大众媒体(无论是官方媒体还是商业媒体。中国并没有真正意义上的“公共媒体”—所以不便加以评论),那么它的“可见性/公共性”的生产机制是什么? 大众媒体出于什么动机要报道和传递“this program”? (某)艺术又如何籍此扩展其范围?其意义是如何发生外溢的?这个过程当中是一个“有选择的过程”,其结果是选择后有特定导向的结果吗?它是抱着“启蒙”的目的?或满足一种“满足与快感”的需求,还是其中包含着两者兼有的一种所谓的曲折的策略?也许,这需要细致且谨慎地考察媒体的话语生产。

那这所谓的visibility又是怎样出来的?是因为distinguishability?比如,我们这里所关注的“食物”,就其生产方面而言,它是否提供了一种对当前食物生产模式与安全危机的替代方式,甚至是现阶段一个可靠的an alternative to instead of capitalism for the future? 或者,它只是中产阶级的休闲方式,其意义和“农家餐馆”甚至“高尔夫球场”,旅游胜地并没有根本区别,它是新的fashion(就像记者总是以为的“时尚达人”,或者,通过“时尚达人”才能报道—-政治是要避免的)?

那么,这个program是怎么样被看的(how is it seen by the others, including media?) 如果你拒绝开放你的园子,另当别论。但如果你开放,那么你的生活(或者说实验)会如何被他人所解读,所阐释?你的实验可能的结果,常常被他人输入另一套(或者多套)话语模式,是不是?怎么来处理这样一种局面—当误读(misrepresentation, 且不说ignorance)?当然,这里需要往前追溯一下,即,在出发点,你打算想将你的生活方式当作一个开放的艺术品,放弃意义的所有权,对所有人开放?还是打算我应该说出我自己所想的(因为你已经在做你自己想做的)?完全的开放,可能会有危险,即所谓的“收编”。比如,被一家以lifestyle为主的媒体将你并置在咖啡馆、购物广场、美食以及美甲店或者创业成功案例的页面之间时,你的感觉是怎样的?



Does the way in which we live have to be visualized? Of course not; but it seems that visibility is an important part of both art and activism.

How do both art and activism approach a public?

I believe the desire to transmit occurs in everyone. As regards activism, even the most individualistic anarchist or the individual preferring spiritual connection long for sympathy from others. This is reflected in self-expressive anarchist brochures and independent media, regardless how large its public sphere extends. Yet for other social movement actors, social propaganda is a crucial tool, as the participation and support of the public is important, correspondence with media likewise, and especially reports from the mass media.

Viewing petitioning as a form of “activism with Chinese characteristics,” we see how much these actions rely on media. To the degree that reporters and opinion-makers become the saving straw for petitioners, hoping reporting and giving-voice can form and inform social pressure. For them this is an exceptional way of transmitting their “grievances” to the uncorrupted political upper classes.

Meanwhile an art characterized by absolute auto-discourse doesn’t exist. An artist working with text, images, sound in own his or her studio can be viewed as one involved in an auto-discourse. But once the work leaves the studio then it must face the public, again, regardless of the number or extent reached, which is out of control. The work no longer belongs just to the artist. Court artists served the emperor, religious artists serve god, and the majority of Chinese artists now serve the market, or some dubious “consumer,” an abstract collective. The newest edition of News Weekly consequently featured art’s “contractual fulfillment” on its cover. In this process, not only does art shun the taboo of the mass, on the contrary, it tries with all its might to enslave the mass: the artification of the object and the objectification of art.  De-politicization and innovative industrializing.

Even in so-called radical political art, artists don’t think about avoiding the public/mass. On contrary, they are defining “serving the people” in their own ways, for example Godard. The purpose of East Lake Project was focused on the liberation of censored contents through a different language and information channel, namely the language of art. The extent to which this information will circulate, no one will know, because art to a certain degree is a special discourse. One of the East Lake Project initiators, LI Ju Quan is a Godard fan, as is the co-initiator LI Yu, whose own photo work involves the subversion of mainstream media discourses through “representation of the news representation.” Employing similar means for East Lake Project, concerning “representation of the map representation,” showing not only history and media are lying, but also the map, which assumes the authority of science. Therefore, this art language manifests through image: what kind of media/people will find this language acceptable? In this case, photo + installation. The fact is those who accept these are art media, symposiums, seminars, workshops, in other words circulating within its own sphere. The majority of recipients received professional art training or make up amateur art readerships. Interested population more likely limited to a minority of the public. These people might have an inclination to professionalism. More disheartening are the responses of the protagonists of those events that this kind of art concentrates on, for instance the farmers who lost their land, who unambiguously and emphatically tell us they don’t understand.

Of course art isn’t the only incomprehensible thing. The articles on “My Donghu” website [wmddh.net; currently inactive] are just as incomprehensible: trying to demonstrate irrationality of the project from different angles, to reveal barbarism, violence, antidemocratic tendencies within the area’s development. So the question how art + activism approach the public while facing a so-called communication barrier is not only a matter of discourse and language but also of the value standards, immediacy and difference intrinsic to people’s opinions concerning a compact issue. The farmers, they need direct language, and the simplest logic: land is taken away, compensation is needed, such compensation should be just (also in a peaceful manner).

Yet the focus of art and activism in the main is concerned with regulative democracy/environmental protection (ie. the bigger issues), and here exists a big gap with the farmers. Most of the latter do not want to keep farming, and preserving the land is only a means or way to bargain for more compensation. Those who commit to environmental protection want to preserve arable land/ fisheries/wetlands and therefore the problem of compensation is suspended. The debate concerning “public space” is focused on democracy, not on the question of what kind of space is the public: parks and wetlands, which one is more public? Therefore the problems for art to investigate are whether art itself has become a “fact” or whether it is just using a fact as evidence for a political view. Activism and art are to a certain degree open to the media; this is a crucial path to reach the public. Of course, many singular problems will multiply into a plethora in reality.

Do we need to produce things—models, discourses, trains of thought, if not outright objects—because of this program of visibility?

Do we need it? Let’s recollect past experiences. Our problem may not lie in whether such undertakings are needed, rather the how of transmission and its what. Since the desire of transmission is inevitable, in reality we have not altogether avoided it. Furthermore, this is just our wishful thinking. On the other hand, visibility, publicity themselves have other facets. Visibility—other than its so-called sphere of intimate relations and the self-expression through DIY—if they are to face so-called mass media, what would their production organism be? What would their visibility/publicity production mechanism be? (note: If they are to face so-called mass media, be it official or commercial, China does not have “public media” in a true sense, so we can’t comment much about that.) Out of what motive would mass media report and transmit “this program”? How can a certain art extend its sphere of influence through this, how can its significance exceed its boundaries? Of course, there is a process one could choose, yet the result is the outcome of specific channeling (manipulation). Does it possess a goal of enlightenment or satisfy a demand of fulfillment and pleasure, or maybe it is a roundabout strategy that incorporates both. Perhaps this demands a meticulous and conscious investigation of how media produces discourse. How does this visibility come about, is it because of distinguishability? For example, the food we are concerned with here, in terms of its production, has it produced an alternative for the prevalent mode of production and its consequent safety crisis? Or is it just a reliable alternative, or a form of recreation for the bourgeoisie—then its significance at bottom is not so different from “farmers’ restaurants,” and even golf courses, and other tourist sites. It is  the new fashion (which has little to do with politics).

How is it seen by others, including the media, if you refuse to open up your garden, is a different issue, but if you do, your life or experiment will be interpreted/defined by others. The result of the experiment will often be imported into another mode of discourse, no? How do you solve this state of misrepresentation let alone ignorance? Of course, we must backtrack a little, to the the point of departure, which is the question: do you want your lifestyle to be an open work of art? Thus relinquishing your authority over its meaning, or do you want to do just as you think (because you are already doing what you want to do). Absolute openness can be dangerous, danger lies in being subsumed/coopted. For example, when media who features lifestyle puts you side-by-side with coffee shops, shopping malls, cuisine and nail salons, and other cases of entrepreneurial undertakings, how does that make you feel?

According to structuralist logic, if you do not speak, then the social structure will speak for you.