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“Ingredients” Riga Art Space

May 5, 2013
By Inga Steimane, curator:

What happens next?

This exhibition is based on the belief that there are good aspects of postmodernism.  The exhibition has been designed on the basis of reliance on the idea that the present day, which is often discussed as a sum of losses and disappointments, is not based on the failed future of the celebrated past; instead, it exists in and of itself.

So, don’t think this is a show about culinary issues, even though the title is based on a word which is usually found in recipes.  Visitors will not seek out sense of taste in art as if the issue had to do with the most hopeless opuses of Post-Modernism.  Instead there will be research related to the recipes of culture and the possibility of art.  The existence of art as such is a durable recipe for culture – one which sometimes disintegrates into ingredients and is then reassembled and transformed.

The foundation for the “recipe” of contemporary art is a colossal dead end – the impossibility to create new things even though there is nothing and no one who would ban artists from doing so.  It is said that everything has happened, all of the “cards” have been played, and as long as there are no new cards, it is not possible to create truly new art.  It goes without saying that this damages the culture of geniality that has been nurtured for centuries in Western art – geniuses who can create new things are dying off.  Creation is in the hands of those who cannot create.  We often hear such claims, but how are we to understand them?  There are self-critical and also limiting postmodern recipes for art such as Eclecticism, Mannerism, or even pure kitsch.  A politically neutral designation for this is pluralism with many “neo-s,” but people continue to talk a great deal about kitsch, Mannerism or Eclecticism in the area of contemporary art.  “Ingredients” is an exhibition which focuses on that which happens to art when it seems that nothing at all is happening.  What happens next?

In response to the question “What is genius?”, Marcel Duchamp responded way back in 1945 with a “no”:  “L’impossibilité du fer.”  This refers to “impossibility of iron” if we do not see a word game in the statement.  Though the challenging statement by Duchamp has been interpreted by art historians as “impossibility to create” (French “faire” means “to prepare” or “to do”).  A few years later Adorno argued that poesy was not possible after Auschwitz.  Even though each of these “no’s” has its own reason and morale, the common judgment is that there is a “no” for art even though no one has really ever believed in that.  Why?  During the brief period of the 1950s and 1960s, there was many equally ambiguous “no’s.”  John Cage composed silence (“4:33”; 1952) and denied music as such.  Beginning in 1960 and until his death in 1967, Ad Reinradt painted monochrome canvases on the basis of a single example of surface finishing.  The canvasses were all of exactly the same side and the artist explained that he was “simply making the last paintings that can ever be made.”  In “Paragraphs On Conceptual Art” (1967), Sol Lewitt argued that the idea itself, even if not made visual, is as much a work of art as any finished product is.

Toward the end of the 20th century, the popular theorist Arthur Danto tried to summarise the philosophy of “no” in art in the essay “The End of Art” (1984), and then in the book “After the End of Art” (1997).  What happens after art “ends”?  Danto points to a characteristic of contemporary art – you look at something, but cannot tell whether it is art.  That is because art can be anything, and the artist can be anybody.  This idea shows that Danto’s philosophy is based on the context of the consumer society, which means that it is political, not abstract.  Experts determine what “is” or “is not,” while the audience is left to choose from among several things that “are.”  Still, this philosophy says nothing about the artistic criteria that experts have to hand so as to choose art from anything and anybody.

The conceptualist Lewitt and the philosopher Danto said one and the same thing with a time separation of 30 years – that art no longer has any laws in terms of what exactly it is.  Still, this also shows how artistic and cultural relations changed between 1960 and the 1990s.  Lewitt argues that conceptual art is good if its idea is good, while Danto no longer talks about good or bad art.  From today’s perspective, this allows us to dispute the precision of Danto’s book title.  Art has not ended, but the relationship between art and culture has ended to a certain extent. Culture lost it’s expectation towards the art.  Art is no longer the centre of culture, but one of ingredients, but that does not create any reason to announce that art is dead. Here it is worth pausing to ask how that happened.  Why has the power of art declined in society if criteria related to art are just as high in the environment of art as they were in the good old days?

For several centuries, culture nurtured art as the main component. During the 20th century art was appointed as the highest monad. This utopian situation bemused art and led it to escape the arms of culture and then deny it.  That may sound too Freudian, but that’s what happened.  The Avant-Garde raised its hand against culture, and contemporary art has not moved too far away from the principles of the Avant-Garde – objections, criticisms and challenges on culture continue to exist as methods.  This is the right time to address seeming contradictions between two of the aforementioned claims – that geniuses who can create new things are dying out and that those who are creating things are unable to create.  What are contemporary artists able and unable to do?

We have to come up with a more precise definition of words such as “create” and “be unable.”  Let’s get rid of our stereotypical understanding of creation, when “something” emerges from “nothing.”  In the world of art, this traditionally refers to the substances and raw materials which an artist uses to create form.  Let’s also forget about the traditionally negative sense of denial – the sense which links “inability” to failure, mistakes or losses.  If we use access to words without a narrow cultural memory, we are free to program new meaning.

In analysing Duchamp’s passage from painting to the readymade, the prominent art historian Thierry de Duve has claimed that ready-made art was the only possible manifestation for a genius when creating had been proclaimed to be impossible.  Duchamp’s challenging statement about impossibility is attributed by de Duve to a true and contemporary Post-Modernist intelligentsia, which based its thinking of the form of language which offers games and webs of context.  The intuition of contextuality in understanding phenomena today is replacing scientific clarity.  The intuition of contextuality is the basis for the new theories of art such as Nicolas Bourriaud „Postproduction” (2002), where he succeeded to define the essential principles of contemporary art which were called Eclecticism or so in the light of ideology of the modernism: artists today program forms more than they compose them: rather than transfigure a raw element (blank canvas, clay et.), they remix available forms and make use of data.

What is the moment of appearance for the idea of “the impossibility of making / creating,” and how is this to be understood?  De Duve offers a sensible symmetry which can declare that the context for the impossibility to create is “the figuration of a possible.”  Progression of contemporary art affirms that statement. “No” is “yes” and vice versa.  Cage could not compose music, but he composed opuses of “silence,” thus expanding on the understanding of what music is.  To compose / Not to compose.  Duchamp could not create by producing paintings, but he was able to create by utilising objects and using pictorial nominal. To paint / Not to paint. Contemporary artists today propose the next step of “no”: impossibility to question the limits of art. When Rirkrit Tiravanija offers us a food he is not looking for the other meaning, he is looking for the use. If we wish to think about something local here in Latvia, then we have the theatrical director Alvis Hermanis, who once announced that it is impossible to stage Shakespeare’s plays, instead staging plays such as “Latvian Stories” and “Ziedonis and the Universe.”  There are readymade documents instead of the play. Is that not genial?  I have purposefully avoided the word “freedom,” because in the art it is a banality.  Geniuses of postmodern art can be called geniuses of “no,” but only if the postmodern intelligentsia is taken into account – without a good “yes” and a bad “no.”

This is where the story of “INGREDIENTS” starts – films, installations, objects and paintings. Research into cultural recipes. Observing and performing collective actions. From time to time showing how pictorial nominal works as the factor in the age of spatial concepts. Spectator will be lead through a variety of experiences of “impossibility of art” and will see what happens next.

The exhibition features the work of 15 international artists and collectives: Jeremy Deller & Nick Abrahams, Maarten Vanden Eynde, Christiane Fichtner, Inga Ģibiete, Christian Helwing, Ragnar Kjartansson, Ogino:Knauss, Tinka Pittoors, Laura Prikule & Eva Vēvere, Ari Saarto, Krišs Salmanis, Wilhelm Sasnal, Michal Škoda, Katleen Vermeir & Ronny Heiremans, Kaspars Zariņš.

Ehhibition is produced by SIA „Rīgas Nami”. Supported by: Flanders Road Service, P. Avens Charity Foundation „Generation”, Goethe-Institut Rīgā. Thanks to: Royal Embassy of Belgium in Riga.

Riga Art Space

May 5, 2013

Eröffnung am 26.04.2013 im Riga Art Space mit der Ausstellung “Ingredients” und Fotos zur Präsentation des Biografien Buches:

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