Following on from my previous post, the second essay my tutor recommended I read was Claire Bishop’s controversial piece The Social Turn: Collaboration and its Discontents (2006). It did not put me off engaging with public space per say, but it did stimulate some self-reflection on just how involved I want to engage my work publicly and whether or not I was prepared to “…renounce authorial presence in favour of allowing participants to speak through him or her.” (Bishop, 2006, p.183).
Bishop is particularly scathing about the public sector art projects through the period of New Labour’s time of governance in the UK, where artistic practice could descend into social gatherings without any tangible output. Social intervention is an important aspect of contemporary art practice, as is the necessity to encourage multiple levels of meaning to how the work can be read. But still believe it is the artists role to provide a point of focus, a style and a framework that makes a work of art legible. I agree with Bishop when she asks “Is there ground where the two sides can meet?” (Bishop, 2006, p.180). I retain belief in the artists authorship and aesthetic, it is the artists research, way of seeing etc that is proposed as an act of engagement. However this can naturally mutate or be adapted by a following practitioner or the audience. It can be copied, mimicked, satirised and even rejected. The role of the artist is not to impose the way of seeing, but to present it for discussion. In the democratic context.
It also protects the importance of craft, something I defended after my tutor report for A2, before developing a contemporary relevance to my work in A3. I don’t believe it is egocentric if the artist pursues a mastery approach to the work. Quality of outcome should evolve not necessarily out of aesthetics, but what I consider a refinement of ideas and a desire to improve what are “…crucial elements…” in order to obtain “…new perspectives on our condition.” (Bishop, 2006, p.181). I don’t believe that art in its purist form should be a moral crusade (and by extension functional) or as Ryan Wong suggests, “…a way out” (2012), but more akin to research. It is the artists desire to explore a subject that should produce something for debate. And if successful it has the ability to “… shock, enrage and maybe even delight us into new possibilities, artificial though they are.” (Wong, 2012).
The first interaction or movement is for me, as the artist to autonomously initiate an intervention in the public space. Once competed I then relinquish control in the pursuit of an audience. Interpretations is the primary goal I have for the viewer to engage in my work, to decide independently what, if any level of meaning the viewer seeks to attribute to it. I would also be curious to see how my approach would evolve if I searched for a collaborative space. For example if in future I was to initiate a dialogue with an institution for an installation, demonstration etc, it would be under the conditions of human policies such as risk assessment and budget. But in this context my work would retain a sense of site-specificity.
To make a spontaneous intervention in a public space under the risk of being caught in the act, is perhaps more radical, but also more attainable approach I will take for A4. I can pursue further collaborative engagements when I enrol for SYP. My goal then will be figuring out how to balance the product (the work), as a means of income and profile vs a process, a means of expenditure and continued development.
Bishop, C (2006) ‘The Social Turn: Collaboration and its Discontents’. In: Artforum International, 44(6), pp 178-183
Wong, R (2012) ‘Art Cannot Provide a Way Out’. In: Hyperallergic [Online] At: https://hyperallergic.com/55068/claire-bishop-artificial-hells/ (Accessed on 19.03.19)