Reading Diary: Line Beyond Drawing (Avgitidou)

Beginning with Martin Patrick’s article, issues of interest include the choreographic, temporal, and ephemeral shift in art toward engagements in non-space. The work becomes less about the hard objects located within the site itself, but the negative space between and beyond the location, people involved, and the artwork itself via documentation and dissemination strategies. The deterritorialization of a site thus opens its meaning and potential convergences between viewers, histories, contexts, and other unpredictable references. This shift in site-specificity aligns with changes in notions of person-hood and place-hood, becoming more diluted, and transient. Other predominant social changes include the shift from public to private space, spending most of our time etching out individual spaces, and individual experiences, through the lens an iphone for example, whereby even when situated within a public space, a private space can be occupied.

These changes in the notion of public space change how an artwork might be located, and critiqued, to include a more expansive set of parameters. This is of particular interest to works that include political critique, as they become less direct in terms of reenacting a familiar narrative, or the trope of playing out in order to bring attention to an existing political reality. Instead, as in the work of the Yes Men, a changed situation is envisioned and communicated through an existing ‘place’ of the ‘media network’, or a desired response is activated as in the work of Jane Tsong, and an action can be set in motion beyond her own initial involvement, pointing to the ephemeral position of the artist herself. Furthering the ungraspable qualities of space, Toby Huddlestone ventures into the psyche as political territory, again confirming that what transfers between people is a potential space for art. Although these territories become difficult to grasp or talk about, I think that is also their potency. If art sits on the cusp of articulated knowledge and the unknown, then dissent should affect a state of production as opposed to laying out an informed and mediated resource for political research for the ‘system’s guardians’. How might political artwork reinforce the dogma of an existing system, and how might it produce some other possibilities that slip between the cracks? (Apparently revolutions are initiated from and by the overlooked compilation that has slipped between the cracks). How does one not produce, reinforce, recentre, or harden the thing they are trying to change? Should we avoid the reference completely? Or are there parallels that can be traversed?

McGarrigle’s article discusses the lineage of locative art to Situationist International, and its differences. Of particular interest is the argument that SI didn’t succeed in actually constructing /playing out the situations upon which their theories rest, and that locative art is a field in which tactics for such constructions are being produced and experimented with, bringing theory into action in a concrete way, but also changing that theory in the process. She mentions the function of the spectator as not passive, but a co-agent in the activation of a situation. I have questions about the distinction between active and passive viewership, or when exactly a participant becomes a part of the work. Do they have to get up and move around, or do they get to make decisions about the work’s aesthetic outcomes? It is my position that we are never passive, and that witnessing can be just as active and charged as getting up and walking or producing with the work in more concrete ways. Consequently, I disagree with the SI notion that human beings are moulded by situations. Nature is only one part of the equation. And don’t we affect situations, even if not consciously attempting to produce SI's ‘total opposition’? The knowledge that doesn’t know itself is generative, whether we notice it or not.

Detournement feels like the strategy of intentionally psychedelic political satire, rolled into a public art practice. ‘Life can never be too disorienting’ encapsulates the goal of this practice for me. The problem with disorientation is that you might lose intentionality, and the goals of SI seem far too strategic, lucid, and systematic to also incorporate getting lost, and tripping out…

What strikes me about Lynch’s writing is how the ordinary, or familiar, can become imprinted on the individual resident, and collective identity of a city. Despite a city’s density and fragmented sensorial elements, it is their collection that produces the entity 'city', and their segments that qualify the city’s characteristics. I like thinking about the locations in my own city that when zoomed-in on could be anywhere, but zooming out just a little triggers a familiar sighting. No matter how many movies I see filmed in Toronto, but set in New York City, I can pinpoint Toronto-ness (note: I only notice when it works out though. I can’t measure how many times I haven’t noticed Toronto masked as NYC). Traffic lights, buildings, streets, density on sidewalks, or how something just ‘feels like’ Toronto. Is it vibe, or something more quantifiable that triggers my 'Toronto' mental landscape? This blurring is interesting to me.

My response to the homunculus-derived art is that it’s the way the collected data is presented that makes it effective. The volume of the personal information collected otherwise becomes too much to filter through, but if there’s a way to demonstrate patterns, or overarching changes in perception from this research then I experience the possibility of the ‘adaptive solutions’ that individual input can generate. I am either too lazy, or too over-tapped by apps that want me to generate and perform my own version of things to come to some of these works with open interest (in particular, the PDPal example).

I was moved by Rachel Whiteread’s House because of its manner of materializing space, shaping a void, and bringing form to temporal, ephemeral, emptiness. The work stimulates a way of looking, of projecting a story, of contemplating the familiar differently. It’s downright eerie, and despite its material concrete form, it will be demolished. A hard and temporary sculpture. These contrasts are at play in many ways. Note: I have to disagree with the author’s assumption that this work is a portrayal of how we all live. Yes, the desire to have an enclosed space, a home, is shared by human beings, but this representation of that home is of a centred, privileged perspective. I read more into the documentation of middle class architecture than a space we all relate to as ordinary and shared.

In regard to the texts on Francis Alÿs, I appreciated the complexity of his work as presented through a simple action, and how this simple action could produce its own dissemination process or ‘rumours’ due to a twist that provides access to, or indicates to an audience that they are witnessing a performance. I’m interested in not only the line of his walking pathways, but also how his work straddles pedestrian movement and poetic symbolism, activism and absurdity, theatrical tropes with commonplace action specific to his performance location, and documentation with live performance. I enjoyed thinking about how walking, and movements within a city, are what create that city, and how these movements could become a space for articulation, critique, reflection, and play in an art practice that provokes an interruption, or new ways of looking at the familiar.

Notes on the other artworks put forward: I appreciated the differences between works that are articulated as maps, or share a similarity to that familiar object although manipulated to some degree, and works that emerge in other ways, as actions, documentation, or sculptural traces. The map functions as a navigation tool for the artist, or the viewer, or both, and it’s interesting to think about how this mode of documented navigation could be used in process, or represented in product.