Friday, February 10, 2006

Team Spirit

We had an excellent session Thursday night with the artist Paul Pfeiffer. He provocatively challenged our thinking on many contemporary art issues: what is cultural identity in shared media space? what is the art context for work that tries to isolate itself from the mass culture? is isolation from the mass culture even possible and, if so, is the art gallery the best place to hide? and what about all of those hippy-dippy theories of blurring art and life into one fluid signature-style event? is that the clear path to ideological victory?

Artists are in the business of disruption and defamiliarization. They take what commerce has made common and slice into its false consciousness so as to awaken in us a desire to see the world anew. The thing I love most about hanging out with different artists is that they show me different aspects of my own thinking that I did not realize was there.

The Situationists, who are making a roaring comeback (see the Artforum article here), were all over this. For them, a psychogeographical drift was best performed in collaboration with other artist-philosophers, where the "krew" would aimlessly wander the urban environment so as to see what effects it might have on their thinking, their art-making, their ability to intersubjectively jam with shared source material via creative acts of d├ętournemont.

One question that artists keep bumping up against involves how to maintain a fluid Life Style Practice. That is, how do you develop survival strategies for maintaining and enhancing your ongoing artistic and philosophical practice so that you can continue making art and living the life you want to lead?

The strategies are multiple and hybridized. I guess it's obvious by now that not everyone can or will follow the same path. Buzzwords like "style," "hyperimprovisation," "developing your schtick," "going meta with the data," etc., are just pointers to a more complex cluster of parallel processes that need to be experienced to even begin to put yourself in a position to survive as an artist.

Another buzzword that keeps coming up: defamiliarize. To defamiliarize is to "make strange." Paul's images do that in a beautiful way. You can see why some in the art world would find them precious, and that's partly what gives them their market value in this screwy art world economy. And then there is the fact that many of his works are just fascinating to look at and experience. Experiential value. Priceless.

And now this just in from ESPN (Extra Sensory Perception Network):

Will the "open source net art free love information sharing" religion defeat the "object-oriented limited edition gallery work of art" religion? Each team has been pilfering talent from both ends and what was once a clear division of style and substance is now starting to become blurry. Marketized media manipulation seems to be having its desired effect on the contemporary scene. What are the odds for victory? Whose victory? Vegas says "open source lifestyle" by 7 1/2.

But that's a mighty big spread and I just may put my money on the Situationist dreamers whose poetic athleticism will enable them to build their own fields of action to readily lose themselves in.

In fact, artists and athletes have a lot in common. They are both at their best when performing unconsciously in the field of action and are able to develop an intuitive sense of measure to deliver themselves in.

And you - Dear Reader - which team are you on? At what point do you switch sides? Two sides of the same coin? Coin of the art realm?

Tell me - Dear Reader - where's your team spirit?


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