David Garcia on Sun, 16 Dec 2001 00:20:54 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Interview with Charles Green

This is a timely and critical discussion and Išm looking forward to getting
hold on Charles Greenšs book. Nettimešs history of a "creative tension" with
the visual arts and artists makes this an interesting context to explore
these ideas. There are so many points to be raised by this interview but I
just want to develop a few. And I want to add that as I am yet to read the
book the points raised are addressed to the interview only.

Charles Greenšs desire "to see political action in art through collective
work increasingly replaced the desire to see if collaborative action could
facilitate, through the removal of the artist, a new zone between art,
writing and history. THIS zone fascinated me, not the ability to connect art
and politics"

Although I accept that every author must focus on what fascinates them I
really wonder whether it is possible to understand any of the significant
work of this time outside of the political. Not in the sense of art in the
service of particular campaigns but of a broader movement. This period was
saturated in utopian optimism of an intensity that is difficult to imagine
today. The freedoms won when large numbers of artists threw off Greenburgšs
formalist constraints and began making works unmediated by the conventions
of spescific mediums was widely perceived as part of a wider emancipatory
movement. This is the era which marked a move from experimenting with form
and materials to experiments with language, contexts and roles. In this
regard Dan Graham is an interesting figure.

Lucy Lippard..Dan youšve been called a poet and a critic and a photographer.
Are you an artist now?
Dan Graham: I donšt define myself, but whatever I do, I think is defined by
the medium....

He might have added that what he does is defined by the role he adopts. The
point is that once released from the requirements of any spescific medium
the artist is free to explore hybrid identities:"artist, scientist,
technician, craftsperson, theorist, activist, could all be mixed together in
combinations that had different weights and intensities."

This is the moment when the aspect of the art-world which nourishes
atavistic personality cults is momentarily weakened not only making
collaboration easier but also allowing a more spescific role to emerge:
artist as visual researcher.

When regarding the emergence of new approaches to research and collaboration
in this era it is important not to overlook the immense influence of radical
forms of psychology. At the time a battle raged (every bit as bitter as
between free software and propriotory coders) between the two rival
psychological models of the age; American behaviorists and the European

R.D Laing one of the the leaders of European phenomenological psychology
(seldom read today) described the polemical divide in a way that could also
be seen as almost programmatic for much of the important art of this era:
"We can see other peoplešs behavior but not their experience. This has led
some people to insist that psychology has nothing to do with the other
persons experience, but only his behavior
The other personšs behavior is an experience of mine. My behavior is an
experience of the other. The task of social phenomenology is to relate my
experience of the otheršs behavior to the otheršs experience of my behavior
Its study is the relation between experience and experience: its true field
is inter-experience"

Interestingly although Dan Graham and a number of others who were generally
on the Laingian side of the argument but the actual works, the video
recordings, installations and performances tended towards the cool
laboratory like approach of the behavioral psychologists.  Without wishing
to descend into technological determinism the introduction of video in this
era plays an important role.
It was in the 1960šs Sony introduced the "industrial standard" video
"portopacks". Although never a commercial success this format immediately
became a vital tool for three distinct classes of practitioner; artists,
political activists and behavioral research scientists.
The role of video in articulating the importance of representation for both
artists and political activists has often been explored, and we might even
speculate that the shift from class politics to the politics of identity may
in part have arisen through greater access to the tools of mass media
representation. But although this kind of work can be seen in general terms
as part of this process, in other respects it is closer to the methodology
other great beneficiary of video; the behavioral sciences.
The critical importance of the introduction of video for certain areas of
behavioral research is often overlooked.  Researchers (particularly in the
field of Developmental Psychology) have stated that its introduction has
been of comparable importance to the telescope for astronomy or the
microscope for life sciences. Even today video remains the basic research
tool for almost all close and systematic observation of human, non-verbal

The artists who understood this fact also gave primacy to reception and
behavior, allowing them to extend the notion of collaboration to the
audience. In these works the psychological and social nexus created by the
social context becomes the subject.

David Garcia

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