Status

            This week I submitted an entry to a Manifest Gallery show. This week also found me reading the excellent (and very critical) reply to the Yve-Alain Bois, Hal Foster, David Joselit Recessional Aesthetics questionnaire by Jakob Schillinger that appeared in the recent October 135 (pages 104-110). The Manifest Gallery entry form was conveniently online, with the usual: highlighted questions MUST be filled in or the machine spits the form back at you and emotionlessly informs that it can’t be accepted incomplete. You know: Who are you? What are you? Where do you live? How can you be reached (other than at the already given residence)? etc. Then there was “Status (select one): Student__ , Professional__ , Professor/Instructor__ , Novice__”. The nice thing about online forms is that you get time to think since some of these questions can be hard and can leave one completely dazed (like age, for instance). This happened to be one of those questions. I kept looking for the “All of the above__” and “None of the above__” selections, but there weren’t any; no professional student, no novice professor/instructor, no professional novice, nor professional student professor/instructor, etc. The thought of Schillinger’s reply appeared (the mind has got to go somewhere when it takes flight!). In a recent posting (Recognition Within Art, March 13, 2011) I suggest that in terms of Ranciere’s insights on aesthetics and politics and the equality of creativity (which cannot be taught and we all exercise until we are required to learn), recognition acts as the police aspect of consensus. This “Status” requirement certainly was a verification of not only the police function of recognition (for recognition is essentially the arbiter of what is novice and what is pro, what is student and what is professor, etc.) but also of the Ranciere Ignorant Schoolmaster equality of intelligence/creativity analogy (since there is likewise an assumed bifurcation in creativity between that of the novice and that of professor/instructor, etc.). But this “Status” requirement for entry form submission likewise verifies Schillinger’s position in that Manifest Gallery itself, within their own self-description of who is eligible to enter, states there is no distinction, all are eligible to enter (“is open to everyone. Professionals as well as students are encouraged to enter.”). So why is the distinction a requisite of entry? As Jakob says: “It seems we rely on these institutions, and we tend to trust the established criteria they reproduce and perpetuate. Why would someone who is doing interesting work not have an exhibition record, not have registered in the differentiated web of institutional structures? But wasn’t this the point? Didn’t we start from the very conclusion that these very structures are largely conditioned by the forms of the commodity, the spectacle, and entertainment? That they exert a “pressure to conform to [such] expectations,” which any artist (or writer, curator, etc.) who wants to succeed within them has to conform to?” (Pg. 109).

            Once there was a time when people were asked what their race was, whether they were married or single, etc. Feminism raised “consciousness” with regard to the structure of language and its use, and gave hope that change is possible. As Schillinger phrases it (Pg. 107) “X [X Initiative] is exemplary for a mode of operating whose success depends on the kind of discourse that conceals the fact that, unless we actively change things, things stay the same.”

            One doesn’t know whether it is technology which determines culture or culture that determines technology. This is an ambiguous question which if it was required to be answered on an online form would leave the one answering in a state of catatonic stupor. We all know that technology isn’t without categories, and that data in is data out. We also know that it is culture that supplies this very data. It brings to mind the history of American music in the 20th century as a verification of Ranciere’s dissensus within art. So much that “unknown”, unrecognized musicians were producing was considered as “not even music”.  But folks couldn’t get enough of it. I wonder how these musicians would be categorized in terms of “Status”- Student? Professional? Professor/instructor? Or Novice?

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