Monday, September 16, 2013

By Accident: Forward Preface

“We cannot produce accidents to order” (William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, The Third Mind, 1978).

The following attempts to introduce, describe and explain every exponent and example coming to mind and recommended of a seemingly overlooked but nonetheless worthy idiom or genre identified.  This cultural area being fate striking work at any stage of production, exposure or whenever, only for drastically affected outcome to be kept by the authors, deliberately addressed and appearing as part of their output — as well as actually generating other work.  Existing, original, intentional and self-conscious meaning, expectations and plans can change beyond recognition, actually become further added to — or even lead to entirely new possibilities opening up.

Questions asked encourage and provoke playing with and defiance of proscribed constructs as to whether any process, product, experience or situation is ever predictable, fixed, definitive or controlled in ongoing and inconclusive reality — and also the feasibility of choice and freedom within any conditions.  

Such circumstances include (both foreseeable and unexpected): accidents, complications and mistakes; personal setbacks; interpersonal, political, legal, media and public etc adversity and backlash; grievances and disputes; resource and facility shortages; technical hitches; conservation, storage and transit issues; side effects, spinoffs, unfinished business and afterlife; changes of mind; hindsight, improvements, updates, amendments and retraced steps later etc.  Still more factors are flexibility, opportunism and capitalisation.

Without detracting from anything, consideration, definition and selection policy struggled with overlap and similarity with other (equally relevant) tendencies and instances not brought about or operating in the same way.  These include: usage of other’s work; “challenges” (attempting to influence other’s decisions); works engaged with important and serious episodes, phases and circumstances in the artist’s own life; the reappearance of imagery from and of other works; retrospectives, surveys and monographs as work; archival and preparatory / working material as work; involvement of other’s input in production; solicited and curated contributions submitted to works and projects akin to collections, archives, publications, programs and exhibitions.

Further addressed is explosion of clichés and constructs expecting specialness and supremacy to cultural practice, lifestyle and products –against the inescapable reality of external determining factors occupied; nothing is immune or exempt to social, political, cultural and economic forces or scientific and natural laws.  Much that’s included becomes real-life satire on the irrationality and superstition of anecdote, biography, legend, mythology and romanticism (most notably: Wassily Kandinsky’s famous “revelation” about the light filtering through tree leaves and branches, passing on further through his window onto some blank canvas or unfinished work-in-progress — supposedly the “inspiration” behind Kandinsky and other’s early abstraction).  Between the critical and creative approach, crossover arises with idea that great scientific and technological discovery and invention come out of mistakes or carelessness. 

While belonging more to the (ho, ho, ho) homage (of visual and lingual puns on attributes of major figures and works etc), certain artists and work falling outside this category deserve a mention for addressing issues at stake.

During the rise of the conceptual-era, the Belgian autodidact satirist and social commentator, Jacques Charlier identified ideological and ethical contradictory flaws and downright hypocrisy behind-the-scenes of these supposed radicals and manqué revolutionaries.  As well as other works parodying his contemporaries, Charlier photographed workmen struggling with the strain of carrying Daniel Buren’s rolls of striped wallpaper and textiles, Andre Cadere’s clashes and arguments with ordinary gallery and museum personnel about if or where he could place his “barre de bois-ronde”, also capturing the visitors and behaviour at vernissages and other occasions.  Additionally, Charlier drew deadpan cartoons and comic strips, including visual and written impressions of what each major male artist’s penis might look like, specific attacks on Buren and Cadere in particular — and even observing the procedures and speakers at a conference.  Around the same time, the U.K artist Tony Rickaby, as part of his concerns with class values, wrote and published his bookwork, An Unknown Art History (Art Net, London 1975) and Six Unknown Yet Influential Artists of the 1960’s in General Schmuck anthology (edited by Felipe Ehrenberg and David Mayor, Beau Geste Press, Cullompton, 1975).  Both of which are series of short fictional stories about well-known 20th century modern “master” artists crossing paths with some ordinary member of the public during everyday life — with coincidental similarity to their work.  More recently, the U.K contemporary artist, musician and educator, Bob & Roberta Smith produces his signboards telling stories which mix and match the people and events of art and cultural history.

© Douglas Park, 2009

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