FEAST TOGETHER ~ Lunch

Katie Holten collaborated with Nicholas Mosse Pottery to create a set of dinner plates especially for the lunch. These unique, hand-drawn plates depict a sequential time-lapse drawing of the planet’s shifting tectonic plates changing over a period of approximately 600 million years. The slow theme is carried through the lunch conversation, which was provided by the contributors to the next issue of Fugitive Papers ~ Slow Visibility. Photos: courtesy of Katie Holten.

SLOW VISIBILITY ~ Discussion

A Fugitive Papers Event at Tulca 2013

Saturday November 23rd, 2pm – 6pm
Nuns Island Theatre, 23 Nuns’ Island, Galway

Since the turn of the century, Ireland has seen a surge of art practices alternatively termed community-based, littoral, contextual, social, dialogic, collaborative, research and/or time-based. Often overlapping, these practices share a common emphasis on process. However, this growing number of practices are inadequately represented in the forms of visibility available to artists: gallery exhibitions, collections and critical reception, with their routine leaning towards the individual producer of objects. In turn, these double up as criteria of selection in the reputational economy of the arts, which accentuates the exclusion.

[PHOTOS]

On Saturday the 23rd of November, in parallel to the publication of Fugitive Paper # 5, for which seven artists were invited to reflect on the condition and theory of their practices, Fugitive Papers will hold a discussion in Nuns Island Theatre as part of Tulca Festival of Visual Art. This event proposes to open up the discussion by inviting curators, commissioners and publics to join the participating artists: biographies here

The discussion will be followed by the launch of Fugitive Papers # 5 at 5pm.

This event is supported by the Community Knowledge Initiative, NUIG.

tulcafestival.com

Transcript of the Slow Visibility Discussion

Available to download: Edited Transcript of the Slow Visibility Discussion, Tulca Golden Mountain, Nun’s Island, Galway, 23 November 2013. Many thanks to the Community Knowledge Initiative and the participants for their help in getting it done.

Download Transcript

Slow Visibility discussion and launch of Fugitive Papers # 5 as part of Tulca Golden Mountain, Nun’s Island, 23 November 2013. Image: Ruby Wallis.

Factory Garden

Katie Holten

Project Documentation, Factory Garden (2013)

Factory Garden is a VOID SITES project commissioned for Derry City of Culture 2013.
It is located in the courtyard of the City Factory in Derry, Northern Ireland. Curated by Gregory McCartney.


(Featured in Katie’s artist project ‘The Reluctant Garden’ for Fugitive Papers #4)

[PHOTOS]

On Waterloo Bridge

DANIEL JEWESBURY

This is an extended version of the text that was read out at the Launch of Fugitive Papers #4 at CCA Derry~Londonderry on the 15 June 2013.

SITTING in the Hugh Lane looking at Monet’s painting of Waterloo Bridge, I realise that I am being impelled backwards to my own point of embarkation, sitting underneath the same bridge and drawing its massiveness for my Art A-Level. What did I believe was the purpose of my intended career then, and why did I think I would become an artist, about 90 years after Monet painted his view of the bridge? What do I think now, 20-odd years later?

For more than 15 years I have been writing about a few things that are, to me, inextricably interrelated. These are, firstly, the recent historiography and institutional history of Northern Irish art; secondly, the various ways in which Northern Irish art has been positioned and presented in relation to broader historical and political factors; and thirdly, the ongoing privatisation of the Northern Irish public and political spheres. Over many years, I have encountered a general apathy towards the connection of these three strands; Northern Irish art[1] is particularly reluctant to politicise its own processes of representation, or the conditions of its production. There’s some irony in this given that, for such a long time, it was characterised as inherently ‘political’; but this calls to mind Victor Burgin’s famous distinction between the mere ‘representation of politics’, which is always a superficial affair, and the more complex, involved ‘politics of representation’. I have very often been nonplussed by the responses of Northern Irish arts institutions to social, political and economic conditions here. I have found inexplicable, or at least inexcusable, the poverty of imagination amongst our cultural policymakers. But I have never been as disillusioned and disappointed as I am now.

When I consider the landscape of Northern Irish art now, I see something that is thoroughly compromised, complicit with policy agendas that were designed exclusively to benefit private interests and private capital. In the decade after the Good Friday Agreement, the institutions of art deserted completely the notion of public critique, or even public relevance; this goes for the galleries and the policy agencies as well as the artists and curators. I find it breathtaking that five years on from a crash that might reasonably have been expected to bring about the collapse of Peace Process Plan A, nothing has changed; in fact artists and their institutions seem more supine and redundant than ever.

You’ll remember Peace Process Plan A; essentially, it was the rapid privatisation of public life in the North, through clever things such as ‘retail-led regeneration’; any opportunity that ‘peace’ may have presented – for, say, constructing a genuinely democratic and inclusive civil society – was colonised immediately by developers and speculators, facilitated by their friends in political office. A narrative quickly developed that there could be no social regeneration save that brought about by private development, urban regeneration and property speculation. Accordingly, all these things acquired a morality of which they would ordinarily be assumed to be devoid; shopping centres and unwanted apartment blocks became the preconditions of social cohesion in this new moral economy. Northern Ireland after the Agreement resembled a rapidly liberalising former Eastern-bloc state; while details like democratic oversight and participation were stalled indefinitely, while the sectarianism of representative politics was enshrined in the very workings of the Assembly, brown envelopes were changing hands, planning permissions were being granted, and massive parts of the city were being torn down and rebuilt.

This all happened in ways that were so obscured from public scrutiny, that to some degree it’s no surprise that there was a failure to respond to it. Plan after plan was unveiled; the city was branded into quarters, beginning with the Cathedral Quarter, a ‘cultural district’ dreamed up by the unelected redevelopment quango Laganside Corporation; the enormous Victorian sheds in the shipyards were demolished, literally overnight, and replaced with the privately-owned, publicly-serviced financial instrument known as Titanic Quarter (now crowned with a museum that swallowed up £90m of public money); after the fiasco of Imagine Belfast’s failed bid to host the European Capital of Culture 2008, government agencies decided that the entirety of 2012 should be a Titanic-themed festival, liberally dotted with opportunities to waste money, and leading seamlessly into Derry’s 12 months as ‘UK City of Culture’ this year. More insidiously and invisibly, large amounts of previously public space in the city centre have been turned over to private hands: most would assume that Lanyon Quay, the land around Belfast City Council’s Waterfront Hall, was in public hands, but in fact it is owned by two of Northern Ireland’s wealthiest property developers, whose company is responsible for most of the unoccupied and incomplete office space lining its perimeter. Victoria Square, a covered shopping plaza beset by financial problems since its opening just in time for the financial crash in early 2008, occupies a chunk of land that used to be public streets, and is policed by private security guards. Meanwhile, the city continues to be more divided by class and ethnoreligious affiliation than at any time during the conflict.

A number of years ago I wrote about the failure of artists in Northern Ireland, in the years of the Troubles, to make any genuinely insightful or useful responses to the political situation; with very few exceptions, curators and artists dwelt on giving vent to anguished, expressionistic wails of incomprehension. This was probably understandable but it gave the lie to the claim by some that artists in the North were the conscience of their society; they were no more articulate or insightful than anyone else. The reason, for me, that Willie Doherty was singled out early on in his career is that he was one of the very few artists of his generation, in the North, even attempting to make the job of representing what was happening more, not less complex.

The failure persists today, if anything in a more egregious form, because it has about it none of the impotence and naivety of before. Just as artists failed to say much that was relevant about the war, so they’ve failed to confront the terms of the peace, to object to its inequalities and disparities. Curatorship in the North, to the extent that it exists at all, is a consensual, unchallenging, forelock-tugging affair. Curators and gallery managers, from the youngest to the most established, have not sought to question the terms by which they are expected to operate, which is as content providers to an economy of cultural tourism, spectacle and lifestyle consumption; they seem happy to be the midwives of mediocrity. Looking around me now I see a visual arts ecology which has become entirely irrelevant to Northern Irish life. It has made itself irrelevant, by parroting obediently a celebratory, boosterist line handed down directly from the Executive and the political establishment, via tourism agencies and cultural quangoes. It’s not just that artists are failing to say anything relevant, or critical, it’s that it is now impossible for them even to attempt to do so.

It must be early morning in Monet’s painting, the sun seems to be in front of him, low in the south-east, and there’s a pink glow in the sky and on the figures on the bridge. I know this view, well, not exactly this view, since Monet painted it from his room in the Savoy.

The enterprise of art and its discourses, the whole edifice, now seems shabby and dishonest, merely banal. The worst one could say about it is that it’s inconsequential, a bit distasteful, a self-satisfied industry more than happy with the crumbs that are swept to it from the table of public policymaking.

I was going to write that there is no institutional critique, no self-awareness in the institutions of art now. That’s not true: in fact the galleries and museums make self-critique a kind of fetishised part of their existence: “let’s stage an event to talk about how and why the enterprise we’re engaged in is compromised and ineffectual; but let’s do it in an essentially polite and unchallenging way”. This goes beyond the hand-wringing of so much multi-million-Euro discussion of ‘bare life’ in the kunsthalles and biennales of Europe. It goes beyond Eurocurating and its pompous self-justifications. It’s now an utterly corrosive thing. Critique is colonised and repackaged, and made vacuous too. What is there left for ‘art’ to pretend to do, and who cares?

I was included in an exhibition this year documenting thirty years of Northern Irish photography.[2] After seeing the show, I felt embarrassed to be part of it. On one level it was just another excuse for a celebration: not, this time, of the all-round splendidness of Belfast, but of itself, an opportunity for artists and curators to remind themselves how important they are and have been. No problems are raised with the course of Northern Irish photography during the period; no uncomfortable questions are asked of its different strategies. Works which ask those questions are themselves neutralised through the manner of their inclusion and presentation. It’s as if this is a Whig version of photographic history, like Hegel’s defence of the perfectness of the Prussian state: we could never have had peace if we hadn’t had dull pictures of the Maze. But beyond this pointlessness is a kind of desperation; because although the work is badly contextualised and badly presented, artists have learned not to criticise things out loud. This is true even when they’re not in the show; you wouldn’t want to risk alienating a particular gallery or curator, after all, because you just might get a show from them at some point.

We need the courage to stop joining in, or just to disagree. We – resolutely ‘we’, since individual voices are irrelevant, just like this one – we need to ask whether every city-of-culture gimmick is always a good thing, whether every million-pound firework display brings peace a step closer, whether all the millions spent on staging the Turner Prize in Derry are worth it (or whether they are a slap in the face to every artist who’s tried to make a living in Derry, only to be told that visual art in the city began in 2013). We have to stop desperately seeking affirmation with every ‘opportunity’ offered, and to stop speaking the language of complicity in our funding applications and public statements. I used to celebrate artist-led and artist-run activity in Belfast because as far as I could make out it didn’t have the same characteristics as artist-led activity in Britain, where it was generally used as a fast-track into the commercial mainstream. We didn’t have a commercial mainstream; we had nothing, which was why artist-run activity was both necessary and important – without it, you just couldn’t make or show work. Today, much artist-run activity seems designed in part to bring the young curator to the attention of someone who might be able to get them a proper paid gig elsewhere; except that there are no proper paid gigs elsewhere. So why are we still playing the game? The less said about the disabling power of the big institutions, meanwhile, the better; what are they for, other than to make art safe, to sterilise it, and ultimately annihilate it?

If it’s early summer (and if the sun is rising at that angle, it must be), then it could be about 6 am in the painting. This is the beginning of a century. An old, reclusive queen is in the last years, the last months of her life. Crowds flow across Waterloo Bridge (so many; death has undone so many). Monet will paint this scene again and again. The bridge was designed by John Rennie, who also designed London Bridge; ironically, Rennie’s London Bridge destabilised his Waterloo Bridge, since the current upstream was increased when Old London Bridge was demolished. Both bridges are gone now. London Bridge is in the desert in Arizona; stones from Waterloo Bridge were sent to countries around the world when the new bridge was built.

*PLEASE EMAIL YOUR COMMENTS (INCLUDING FULL NAME) TO: fugitivepapers@gmail.com
We will upload your comments here in a comment box as soon as possible, thank you.


Notes

1 I mean, the institutions, critical discourses and practices of Northern Irish art.
2 The exhibition was staged to accompany the launch of a detailed and considered book examining the same subject.
Comments in this text relate to the exhibition only, and not to the publication.

Shock Encounter

Michaele Cutaya

Brendan Earley

‘A Place Between’

Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA)

15 March – 29 April, 2012

I am not here proposing a review of Brendan Earley’s exhibition at the Royal Hibernian Academy, but a meditation of sorts on a series of objects the artist proposed to our attention: the sculptures built from and around discarded parts of styrofoam packaging. To discuss these works, I may have to consider the use of a pseudonym, as I will have to confess to transgressing a taboo of art institutions: I touched the artwork does writing it down makes me liable? However tempting, I do not do it often and I only mention it here because I believe it played a crucial part in my understanding of the work: it was in the moment of touching that the work ‘happened’.

At first glance, A Million Years Later presents itself as a piece of packaging that has been painted in black, the paint not quite covering the whiteness of the polystyrene underneath. A pool of a congealed dark liquid has formed on the floor seemingly leaking from the block. Eventually spotting the artwork label on the wall, I was baffled to find that it is made of bronze and silicone as, no matter how closely I look, I cannot see anything else but painted styrofoam. And thus I touched. And bronze it was!

Then all kind of ideas rushed in. My train of thoughts that had been lazily spinning notions of ready-made cheap materials as sculpture, suddenly geared up: a pure alchemical reaction. Or rather a reverse alchemy since it is here a matter of transforming the noble material of traditional sculpture into the base material used for packaging. Turning the gold into lead. A quick succession of question follows: why do we consider certain materials as noble and others as base is one, and if bronze is looking like styrofoam does it ennoble styrofoam or debase bronze?

What, in any case, warrants our classification? Is it durability? We use durable materials for what is precious? Leaving aside the how we decide what is precious and what is not, the durability factor does not stand up to enquiry: bronze has been a less than adequate material to protect the forms that was entrusted to it as it proved all too adaptable to changing circumstances the peacetime works of art gave way to war time demand for cannonballs. Whereas the utterly disposable piece of packaging, as the title of Earley’s work points out, may well still be there in a million years and constitute our lasting legacy to posterity.

The transmutation of polystyrene into bronze also gives a new prominence to the tension between positive and negative space; between autonomous and non-autonomous objects. A styrofoam piece of packaging is basically the solid form of the empty space between an object and its container, filling that space, its form is determined upon: it is the non-autonomous object by definition. Does the change of material give it the supposedly autonomous status of art object? And how exactly do we determine the passage from one to the other?

I could go on about the leaking dark liquid as either melting bronze which turn out to be silicone in a counterpoint effect or crude oil, as the original form of polystyrene in an impossible reversal of chemical process, but that was an afterthought. In and of themselves none of these ideas are particular to this work, but the way they spun together is. And somehow bound up to this moment of encounter through touch. Would art institutions consider reviewing their policy on touching?

On a last note: the skills involved to pass a block of bronze for a piece of packaging may be compared to those of molecular gastronomy whose art is to manipulate forms and textures to deceive expectations. Chef Ferran Adrià who prefers to call his cooking ‘deconstructivist’ declared, in his biography, aiming to “provide unexpected contrasts of flavour, temperature and texture. Nothing is what it seems. The idea is to provoke, surprise and delight the diner. […] the ideal customer doesn’t come to El Bulli to eat but to have an experience.” But, and in spite of the ongoing tendency to level all arts under such names as ‘creative media’* here lies the difference: no matter how sophisticated the artistry involved to create these culinary contrasts, the concept behind them is always “Nothing is what it seems.” A far cry from the flurried series of ideas and questions triggered by a work like In a Million Years, and a reminder that Art is conceptual as well as sensuous.


*Galway-Mayo of Technology, for instance, has just changed the name of its fine arts department to ‘Centre for Creative Media’ to say nothing of the re-christening of the School of Humanities as College of Tourism and Arts.

Longing for Author-ity

Michaele Cutaya

A response to Roberta Smith’s “conclusion…that reports of the death of the author have been greatly exaggerated.”

The New York Times

We know that a text does not consist of a line of words, releasing a single “theological” meaning (the “message” of the Author-God), but is a space of many dimensions, in which are wedded and contested various kinds of writing, no one of which is original: the text is a tissue of citations, resulting from the thousand sources of culture.

Roland Barthes, ‘The Death of the Author’, 1967

Roberta Smith’s review of Cindy Sherman show at MOMA is rather typical, with not much, on the face of it, to be offended by. It is partly this very typicality that prompted this response. And partly, the casualness with which the critic dismisses the claim of the death of the author. Smith opens her review with:

There are several conclusions to be drawn from the Museum of Modern Arts magnificent if somewhat flawed survey of Cindy Shermans brilliant career. But one of them is surely that reports of the death of the author have been greatly exaggerated.

She certainly is playing to the crowd; having a go at the highflying post-modern critics of October that had Sherman as their muse, while giving those French poststructuralist loonies their comeuppance. But in doing so, she presupposes the ‘author’ to be something that exists independently of her own construction as a critic for instance. Which was precisely what both Roland Barthes in ‘The Death of the Author’ and Michel Foucault in ‘What is an Author?’ set out to challenge. The author is not to be confused with the writer, painter, photographer or filmmaker. John Ford, for instance, was making films long before the critics of Cahiers du Cinema anointed him as an ‘Auteur’, and Ford himself always made light of their pretensions with such remarks as: ” it’s no use talking to me about art, I make pictures to pay the rent” which were only partly in jest.

The author is a historical construction that fulfils certain functions. Of these, the one that is most difficult to let go, is the possibility to elucidate through a biographical subject, all that is confusing in a work. Which is much better phrased by Foucault as:

… the author serves to neutralize the contradictions that are found in a series of texts. Governing this function is the belief that there must be at a particular level of an author’s thought, of his conscious or unconscious desire a point where contradictions are resolved, where the incompatible elements can be shown to relate to one another or to cohere around a fundamental and originating contradiction.*

Hence our infinite longing for authorship. And Roberta Smith to promptly provide us with a re-assuring childhood insight to clear away the difficulties we might have to handle Sherman’s work:

But an uncommonly intense attraction to dress-up and masquerade dates to her childhood: It was in her blood. The catalogue includes a photograph of Ms. Sherman and a friend around age 11, dressed and made up as old women; her stooped creaky posture already signals the ability to crawl into other peoples skins.

This critical posture was summed up by Barthes:

To give an author to a text is to impose upon that text a stop clause, to furnish it with a final signification, to close the writing. This conception perfectly suits criticism, which can then take as its major task the discovery of the Author (or his hypostases: society, history, the psyche, freedom) beneath the work: once the Author is discovered, the text is ‘explained’: the critic has conquered.

Craig Owens, in his essay ‘From Work to Frame’, developed upon Barthes and Foucault to consider the work of artists that since the 1960s have investigated the conditions of artistic production and how this shift relates to a crisis of artistic authorship. The work of Cindy Sherman is a case in point:

ln this respect, Richter’s practice can be compared with that of Cindy Sherman, who “implicitly attack[s] auteurism by equating the known artifice of the actress in front of the camera with the supposed authenticity of the director behind it.”

Smith, while busy making an author out of Sherman, does concede the artist had a point when she said “that collectors prefer works in which she appears”, rejoining: “it is unfortunate that the Modern reinforces this view.” But instead of taking a moment to wonder how much of the artist’s persistent presence in her photographs depend upon the taste of collectors, Smith ploughs ahead with “deep psychological needs”.

The question whether the author is dead or not could be considered academic if the acknowledgement of the conditions of artistic production, which we have all but given up hope to change, was the only issue. But according to Foucault the author’s ideological function is elsewhere:

We are accustomed, as we have seen earlier, to saying that the author is the genial creator of a work in which he deposits, with infinite wealth and generosity, an inexhaustible world of significations. We are used to thinking that the author is so different from all other men, and so transcendent with regard to all languages that, as soon as he speaks, meaning begins to proliferate, to proliferate indefinitely.[…] we are accustomed to presenting the author as a genius, as a perpetual surging of invention.

Whereas the author serves as:

a certain functional principle by which, in our culture, one limits, excludes, and chooses; in short, by which one impedes the free circulation, the free manipulation, the free composition, decomposition, and recomposition of fiction.

Thus the author-function like its juridical counterpart, the Copyrights, while presented as protectors and purveyors of fictions/creations, actually serve to control their circulation. If an example was needed to illustrate this paradox, James Joyce copyrights issue might do. Just as a collective sense of relief have welcomed the end of the copyrights on James Joyce’s published work, because they were so restrictive, the irony is that Joyce, whose work is an exemplary overlaying of sources, would have had great difficulties to do anything if confronted with rights as tightly guarded as his own.

If the issue is not new, it has regained intensity over the last few years with the juridical battle for the control of Internet content. In a world where privatization is wholesale and includes everything from natural resources to living organisms, to maintain the function of the author is far from neutral. The very casualness with which Roberta Smith embraces it, is all the more offensive. Foucault concludes ‘What is an Author’ with:

The question then becomes: How can one reduce the great peril, the great danger with which fiction threatens our world? The answer is: one can reduce it with the author. The author allows a limitation of the cancerous and dangerous proliferation of significations within a world where one is thrifty not only with one’s resources and riches, but also with one’s discourses and their significations. The author is the principle of thrift in the proliferation of meaning.


Notes
All emphases are mine

*Interestingly Craig Owens, writing in 1985, used this quote from Foucault in relation to criticism of Gerhard Richter’s work, commenting that: Criticism has been demonstrably uncomfortable with Richter’s shiftiness and has therefore attempted to locate precisely such an originary contradiction governing his production – characteristically, the tension between painting and photography; however, this argument reveals less about the artist’s desire, and more about the critic’s desire for a coherent subject backing up – authorizing – works of art. Writing in 2011, T. J. Clarke in a review of Richter’s retrospective at Tate Modern, proves that Owens’ remark is still spot on. Through biographical elements and in singling out certain works as more significant – originary – Clarkes strives for a sense of coherence that the critic and the baffled spectator that I for one, am, longs for.

[1] Roland Barthes ‘The Death of the Author’, 1967.
[2] Roberta Smith, ‘Photography’s Angel Provocateur’, New York Times, Feb 23, 2012 [http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/24/arts/design/cindy-sherman-at-museum-of-modern-art.html]
[3] Michel Foucault ‘What is an Author?’, 1969.
[4] Craig Owens ‘From Work to Frame, or, Is there Life After “The Death of the Author”?’ in Beyond Recognition, Representation, Power, and Culture, University of California Press, 1994.
[5] T.J. Clark ‘Grey Panic’, London Review of Books, Vol. 33, No. 22, 17 November 2011, pp. 3-7.

Andrea Fraser Activated

Michaele Cutaya

A response to ‘A Proposal For Activation in Visual Art Writing’ by Adrian Duncan [1]

Adrian Duncan’s essay on visual art writing raises interesting points and is to be commended for its thoroughness. The idea of activation in writing is absolutely exciting and his remark on the lack of creative interaction between editor and writer in the art-writing context of Ireland is thought provoking. He takes issue with writings that complicate ideas rather than make them accessible. We have all read art writing that are full of cliché, flab and legitimation in place of argument. It was to Duncan’s merit not to be content with a general allusion but to demonstrate his point through an actual example.

How unfortunate that he should have chosen Andrea Fraser’ ‘Speaking of the Social World’ as his case study! Duncan extracted a sentence from Fraser’s text to demonstrate the incomprehensibility of her writing:

Increasingly, I see art discourse, like art itself, as dominated by a set of strategies that are inseparably social, psychological and artistic or intellectual, and that aim to maintain a steady distance between art’s symbolic systems and it’s material conditions, be these economic in the political or psychological sense, located in a social or corporal body; that serves to isolate the manifest interests of art from the immediate, intimate and consequent interests that motivate participation in the field, organize investments of energy and resources, and that are linked to specific benefits and satisfactions, as well as to the constant specter of loss, privation, frustration, guilt, shame, and their attendant anxiety.[2]

One could point out that unlike Brian Dillon, whom Duncan uses as counter-example, Andrea Fraser is not a writer, or that the text was meant, as he acknowledges, as a contribution to a panel discussion, which only moves the blame in Duncan’s argument onto the editors of Texte Zur Kunst. But what was most striking was how uncharacteristic the incriminated sentence – which is indeed far from illuminating – was of a text otherwise memorable for its clear and persuasive argument.

Duncan concluded his analysis of the sentence by writing:

At the end of this sentence segment, I am in no position to enter the next segment, never mind apprehending the sentence as a whole.

Which is a pity as it might have given him a better insight into its meaning than its grammatical autopsy, the next sentence in Fraser’s text goes:

Prominent among the sources of shame in the art field are “the reductive”, “the schematic” and “the merely illustrative”, to borrow terms from the description of the panel – all of which I’m very anxious to avoid in my presentation, so I’ll try to make it as complex as possible.[3]

Which reminds us that Andrea Fraser, in her practice as an institutional critic, has often used the mode of ‘performative lectures’, and that she is well honed in the art of switching between discourses – see for instance the transcript of May I Help You, 1991. Since we don’t know what the lecture was like, a statistical approach to her text may shed some light on how representative of her writing was the selected sentence: her overall text is 1848 words long and is made up of 54 sentences with an average of 34 words length. The sentence is 110 words long: three times the average. It is the longest sentence in the text, the runner up, a quote from Bourdieu, is 70 words long.

Thus, far from being the norm, the sentence Duncan chose to illustrate his point about the whole text was actually exceptional.

Duncan did admit that “it might seem unfair to extract this sentence out of the context of the printed contribution” but it was a rather self-defeating strategy to apply to the work of an artist whose whole concern is context.


Notes

[1] Adrian Duncan ‘A Proposal For Activation in Visual Art Writing’
http://papervisualart.com/?p=7288
[2] Andrea Fraser ‘Speaking of the Social World’, Texte Zur Kunst, 81.
http://www.textezurkunst.de/81/speaking-social-world/
[3] Ibid.