forth year: 2001/2002 series of lectures: lectures / conversations with lecturers / lecturers

course for curators of contemporary art: course participants / study excursions / program collaborators / exhibition / course participant's texts


Marko Košnik
Abstraction and action

With the lecture based on the presentation and commentaries of the vast video documents on projects from the last fifteen years (adopted from my own archive) I wish to take a critical stance to that intermediate space, which binds artists into groups or larger formations. I wish to show that the idea and practice of socialising around a joint presentation changed in relation to technological, political and cultural frames. I distance myself from the wing that has, since the 1980's emerged into social movements and later on activism (which some artistic movements recently celebrated also in the form of net-activism) in order to enlighten the fact which is maybe of great importance to the Slovene social space, the fact that also the rare artists leaning towards structuralist approaches, abstract art and formalism had to turn to activism.

I place the time frame and qualitative boarder into the mid 1980's, when the first attempts of creative platforms (conceived and executed by the artists themselves) emerged. In opposition to the classical theatre and ambience projects (at which the performers are hired from the existing professional lines and the execution is based in a subscription manner within the frame of the existing social exchange) we had to invent the mutual relations, means and ways of work in the early multi-media projects as we went along. Even if we were dealing with guest appearances in already existing spaces, rented equipment and the use of existing media channels, the inter-disciplinary form of work demanded new ways of self-organisation, self-education and constant dealing with the intermediate space (the space of translation), which would supposedly enable agreements between collaborators that originally came from otherwise delimitted fields. This held true for the early Laibach as well as later on for the groups Cavis Negra and Most.

In order to understand the development of consciousness as regards self-organisation one has to understand also the difference between the orientation into symbolic enterprises, manipulation of the image and presentation of a certain artistic project in the political-media environment as well as the efforts which try to touch those structures which actually define the flow of information and the gathering of knowledge. At this we are not necessarily dealing with the polarity or opposing activities, however, we can certainly (especially as regards the Slovene space) talk about a certain disproportion. The effort and means invested into the representation of the existence incredibly surpass the movements of the other wing, where we miss the deepened and constant research and changes - especially of those relations which enable access to data and knowledge and which truly define the quality of existence.
If the multi-media group in the beginning of the 1980's was still exclusively bound to language, self-understanding and communication through it on one side and on the presentation on the other side, then an important shift appeared in the end of the 1980's when reaching and taking over creative means emerged, however, at the time this appears to be merely a formal shift. With the construction of their own production and communication systems electronic art and communication projects could finally be executed by the artists themselves. The characteristic of these systems was (and still is), that they must, first of all, work and only then can they become an instrument of expression. With this we loose merely the aura of the work of art, while the creative process becomes something which is predetermined by the programme, or the programme language. Such a situation forces the artists (those that still operate within self-organised structures) to socialise and co-operate on the basis of actual exchange of knowledge. In their co-operation we can trace the variations on the theme of corporate forms, which force the artistic agreement to outgrow the merely technological understanding, which still has to remain fulfilled as a precondition.
In this immense crossways stranglehold in the time of establishing technological networks, the organisational form finally establishes itself as the main medium of operation. As all newly invented media it has to go through its childhood diseases and states that has not been made conscious .

At first the group medium was invented by the artists as a way of confrontation between the generations. This was followed by stylistic formations, which were reminiscent of the necessary grouping into guilds, oriented mainly at the opposition on their own territory. The appearance of the group as an authorised entity can be noticed only after the Great War. The historical avant-garde took advantage of the group forms of operation also in order to breakthrough to the political level, to the intervention into life outside the prescribed operation of the art field. Regardless of the great variations and new inventions of the group presentations it is typical for the period between WWII and today that the artists have not spoken in their own organisational language but they could only act it, summarise it and pretend with behind it. In short, the history of groups in art is mainly a history of presenting ideas and tricks, and not a useful agreement or invention of the new, operating social forms.

Regardless of the fact that also the contemporary artistic trends are still trying to force the self-organisation into the field of utopia (an utopia condemned merely to the dreams, to the non-fulfilment) I stand hand in hand with the ones who understand utopia as a development step on the way to the realisation of the artistic visions all the way to actual existence, and at this I do not mean merely the artefact but also the life process itself.

Throughout the last fifteen years the Institute Egon March projects have moved through a broad spectre of forms of operation. From the very beginning the limit of experience in these projects is placed on the individual. This means that the operation of the Institute was already from the sole beginning limited to synthesis, which can be reached by individuals in their intimate experience, and strengthened by the medium of the group comprised of individuals with the same interests. The final goal remains the same from the very beginning: invention of knowledge which enables the individual to freely synchronise into group projects. However, these are projects which are not submitted to the growth outside reach of the experience of the individual.
An individual as a medium is even younger that the hardly existent medium of group organisation. In the lecture based on the documents of individual projects I see his role within the cross-section of space, time and information, i.e. those lines of force, which are seemingly charged by the unlimited energetic flow, pumped by the Western civilisation from throughout the entire world.
In the tempest of primary forces (as well as second, third and fourth grade forces - already of a completely informational nature) the concept of the individual, thrown into the synthesis of knowledge because of the perseverance to round the world in an unified event seems like an astray monster in comparison to the power of corporations and team forms of work. On the other hand, the primary invention of the corporate body is based on the body of the individual. The reciprocal organisation of people will (for a long time) remain doomed to the notions of it, the only notion that its agents are able of having. The idea of the human society is always an idea of the body, limbs, units and regardless of the fact to which stage we demolish it, it always reassembles into new yolems, Frankensteins, Aliens, Vatican pyramids, conical or domed parliaments, chambers, assemblies, i.e. corpuses. Even if we say rhisomatic structures we return to the image of mushroom undergrowth. In its extreme perspective the organisation is based merely on the image, belief and the decision of the individual. The individual can not step out of his organisation which is interwoven into his everyday life or substitute it with an organisation which would fit him. Therefore we should not be surprised by the ascertainment that the first attempts of group operation in art on the level of an idea notion as regards one's own organisation were nothing more than superficial copies of corporate structures. Of course, not those which actually run these corporations but those with which the corporations represent themselves and pride themselves with.

Today, the conspiracy of individuals for individuals is a complex operation in the shade of large corporations. It talks through their media and uses their means, everything takes place within the rules of the game (but with additional rules and goals, which can not be anticipated or reached anymore through the corporate forms). The conspiracy of the individuals for the individuals does not have a leader, centre, parliament, patrons, freemasonry lodge or a hidden political godfather.

It always takes place in between, between active individuals and is translated through the language called synchronisation.

In this sense, the intercession for the understanding of structures which define the contemporary, is a call back to abstraction which will be able to establish the action on a more basic level, where the events are planned and not only in places where the symptoms break out in the midst of media outbursts or after the demonstrations against them.
The effort for the shift of the artistic operation towards social and political activism is an empty effort for the substitution of the real moves in life, in another, much more appropriate time and space, with its allegorical substitutions. With this I do not renounce social activism, but the subordination of the aesthetic sense, which I have formed in order to recognise the structures in the midst of life itself, for a sturdy group repetition of the ordered pamphlets. In the morning I am a teacher, in the afternoon a social worker, and in the evening finally an abstract artist. And in between, at five, if necessary I can also go to demonstrations instead of having the five o-clock tea. At the demonstrations I sing in harmony with the herd, and during the night I calculate the wave forms arising from the acoustic tuning for the purpose of single tone melodies.

In order to establish the environment which could motivate me to future creation and research I have to constantly exchange ideas through the self-organised parallel systems, between individuals, who slowly but persistently weave the hardly noticed threads throughout the tired, with white castles covered, evening mist of the old world.

I dedicate this lecture to the memory of Bojan Štokelj.