Posts Tagged ‘theory’

Art as Social Practice: Mapping New Relations Within The Social Interstice

[This is a recent research paper & is a foundational exploration in issues, theories, & history of art as social practice.]

In his 1998 essay, Relational Aesthetics Nicolas Bourriaud wrote about the theoretical concerns of a new form of contemporary art that addresses issues of the relational, that is, art that directly takes into its praxis particular socio-cultural concerns, and that situates itself out of the privatized spaces of the gallery and into the public sphere. Such a movement toward art as social practice shifts the understanding of art as object into one of encounter. In introducing the term relational aesthetics, Bourriaud wrote:

The possibility of a relational art (an art taking as its theoretical horizon the realm of human interactions and its social context, rather than the assertion of an independent and private symbolic space), points to a radical upheaval of the aesthetic, cultural, and political goals introduced by modern art. To sketch a sociology of this, this evolution stems essentially from the birth of a world-wide urban culture and from the extension of this city model to more or less all cultural phenomenon (14).

Bourriaud frames his treatise on this new possibility of art within a political and historical context, broadly tracing the origins of the modern political era to the Enlightenment period and then into the rise of modernity and the twentieth century avant-garde, specifically pointing to Dada, Surrealism, and the Situationists. Already within this brief passage, Bourriaud alludes to key factors, which not only organize and contextualize the world in which we in the capitalist West experience, but also the practices, production, and consumption of contemporary art – namely, economies, geographies, and socio-cultural divisions, specifically within an urban context. To trace this historical trajectory, we understand modern and contemporary artistic practices within a geopolitical context of conquest and power relations, wherein which the Enlightenment project of the 18th century and the anti-authoritarian avant-garde movements of the 20th century ultimately fell short of their emancipatory aims. Bourriaud writes, “Instead of culminating in a hoped-for emancipation, the advances of technologies and ‘Reason’ made it that much easier to exploit the South of planet earth, blindly replace human labor by machines, and set up more and more sophisticated subjugation techniques […]” (12).   Read the rest of this entry →

21

12 2010

Expressions of the Emergent: Korean Video Art, History & Memory

A recent paper I wrote concerning 3 Korean video artists & representations of modern Korean history & collective memory. It’s a long one, so if you want to read it in its entirety click on the link below.

Other relevant links:

Jin-Me Yoon
Park Chan Kyong
Koh Seung Wook
The Dongducheon Project @ Museum as Hub
Deleuze – Cinema 2
PDF version

Here it is:

Expressions of the Emergent: Korean Video Art, History & Memory

Video & the Project of Emergent History

Some say the nameless deaths buried in
the Sangpae-dong Public Cemetery
are ‘whores,’ while others say they’re
‘Yankee Princesses.’

Those who resent the violence of U.S. soldiers
call them ‘Sisters of the Korean people.’
But what shall I call them?
Those no one has remembered nor named?
No, why do I even want to call them?
-  Seung Wook Koh, “Driveling Mouth” (2008)
Single channel video installation with color and sound (emphasis added)

The lines of text presented here are from Korean artist Seung Wook Koh’s single channel video about the lives and memories of sex workers in Dongducheon, a military camp town that lies approximately in between Seoul, the Republic of Korea and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). This particular city, whose infrastructures were first designed and implemented by Japanese Colonists, only to be ravaged during the Korean War and later rebuilt by the U.S. Military, has become a symbol of Korea’s traumatic and contentious modern history, replete with historical narratives of colonization, rapid modernization, and postwar industrialization. Hidden somewhere deep within the gaps of these major historical narratives are the personal stories, memories, and histories of the people of Dongducheon, the civilians who have become the dispossessed of the U.S.-South Korean military order. Their lives have arguably been the most affected by the tumultuous shifts and displacements of war and colonialism yet have been rendered virtually silent and invisible from public discourses. Koh’s work serves as a documentation of these gaps just as it poses these critical questions: Who have been the people of Dongducheon and why should we remember them, or call them forth – those who have been forgotten, unnamed, and made invisible? What does this act of remembrance provide for our understanding of the present moment and our future trajectories?

I argue that the answers lie within the understanding that the authorship of history is a claim of orders of knowledge and power, and additionally, that the act of constructing history is a social and political one, giving legitimacy to certain experiences, meanings, and subjectivities while delegitimizing others. In this process of construction, what is accepted as official history, usually crafted by a dominant regime, becomes codified as “historical truth,” creating the conditions that perpetuate hegemonic determinations of reality and orders of knowledge that serve the interests of some at the expense of others. In the context of Western civilization we have seen the results of this in the histories that have been used to legitimate colonialism, racism, sexism, and other corruptions of the Euro-American Empire. Yet, in any so-called pluralistic and democratic society – where polyphonous voice is to be valued as critical in sustaining the principles of democracy and the individual’s right to self-determination, there is a crucial need to give voice to the subjectivities that have been muted and the histories that have been suppressed. To do this means to critically look backward into time to search out the stories that disrupt, complicate, and threaten accepted notions of historical truth, shifting and enlightening our present realities and unlocking future possibilities. As one possible answer to Koh’s question, “why do I even want to call them?” I will refer to Gilles Deleuze who stated, “History amounts only the set of preconditions, however recent, that one leaves behind in order to ‘become,’ that is, to create something new…Men’s only hope lies in a revolutionary becoming: the only way of casting off their shame or responding to what is intolerable” (1990, 171).

Therein lies the task of a certain kind of storytelling – for the purposes of this essay, a certain kind of videomaking – that concerns itself with issues surrounding the representation of personal and collective memory, and the histories rendered silent by official narratives. What stories must be told so that we may understand our set of preconditions? How do we remember the events of the past in order to create the spaces for a “revolutionary becoming”? Additionally, because I will be investigating the ways in which time-based media approach these issues, how does the audiovisual medium of video form these narratives that often lie in the realm of the Foucauldian unthought, awaiting a language in which to think them? Within the context of poststructuralist discourse on history and how the medium of film has created new spaces for critique and revision, Robert A. Rosenstone argues that postmodern theorists have yet to bring forth a kind of writing that “brings the ways we know or think of the past into line with the poststructuralist critique of current historical practice” (1998, 199). An alternative method is needed, one that can fulfill the postmodernist claims against official history. Where Rosenstone looked to film to support these claims, I look to single channel experimental video, and its integration with the practice of what I will term emergent history, for its unformed, uncodified, and indeterminate qualities, as well as its numerous potentialities in challenging the assumptions made by prescribed “historical truths.”  Read the rest of this entry →

03

12 2009