On Writing

On Writing

The display of text in relation to art (in a gallery or elsewhere) has become familiar.

Text in galleries appears to be of two types: writing about art and writing which is part of the art.

The separation of these two categories might not, however, be so easy to maintain. It might be more instructive to look at the assumptions underlying the production of writing for galleries, rather than overt claims to be art or to be about art.

There is writing that reproduces the dominant mythologies of art, that misrepresents both its own conditions of possibility and those of art; and there is writing that seeks a critical understanding of itself and of art.

For writing that seeks a critical understanding of itself and of art it will not be of paramount importance whether it is itself taken to be a work of art (or not).

Writing, qua artwork, is now a familiar and established strategy of art practice: seemingly one artistic choice amongst others.

What is often on display is the fact or the process of writing over against what is being written. The written text, qua aesthetic object, can usurp or marginalize the semantics of the text.

Nowadays, writing, qua artwork, must be aware that it will be taken as a commitment to style rather than content, if it is not to perpetuate the state of affairs that promotes style over content.

The familiarity of writing can be an obstacle to transforming an onlooker into a reader: in shifting the expectations of the onlooker away from looking.

Reading has become absorbed into the activities of aesthetic consumption.

This might be to say that there is no escape from the possible misrepresentation of the written text as an aesthetic object.

It is the content of the writing that can allow the possibility of the onlooker becoming a reader: that can make the activity of reading matter over against any putative aesthetic experience.

This is the door to the Gents; the other door is to the Ladies.

Language is social.

Language is at once both formed by the practises of its users and formative of those same practises. There can be no such thing as a private language.

Language is an open system, located in (and constitutive of) other open systems (society and history). The transformation of language, in and through use, is inevitable, necessary and perpetual.

Writing both presupposes and perpetuates a constituency of users.

Language is not free from division. The language of a divided society is marked by that division, as much as it forms and perpetuates those divisions itself.

The use of language is always partisan.

Language is always collective, or common, but never universal.

Writing can be a way of asserting the collective over against the individual: of promoting discourse against expression.

The claim to universality, in language as elsewhere, is the attempt to represent hegemonic and specific values of a dominant class as natural and timeless. The effect of this domination is the exclusion of the exception.

Against the claims of any universal truth it must be asserted that it is with the excluded and exceptional that truth lies.

The use of writing can be, amongst other things, a commitment both to some kind of collectivity and to the truth.

Any art that is not aligned towards the collective will misrepresent its own condition.

This writing exists in relation to a group exhibition. It is written to provide a critical context not only for itself.

Writing, qua artwork, can relate explicitly to its own location, both in terms of the work of others in a group exhibition and its architectural position.

The specific architectural position of a work in a group exhibition cannot be divorced from the fact of its relationship to other works.

The situation of a group exhibition imposes limitations and possibilities on the potential meaning for individual work within the group. Works are related to each other.

The curatorial discourses of a group exhibition go to justify the relationships generated by the choices involved: to explain connections. This is a practice of misrepresentation.

The group exhibition misrepresents the works within it.

One piece of art cannot exist by itself, whatever the situation.

The group exhibition provides a microcosm of a general condition. To think of a work as autonomous (under any conditions) is to misrepresent this general condition: to deny connections.

For the artwork to avoid the group is to misrepresent the collective condition of art practice.

The artwork is caught between misrepresenting itself and being misrepresented by others.

The only way to be true to the possibility of art is to be against art.

The only way to transform art is to act: to do things outside of the logic and presumptions of existing discourse and practice.

To act is always to do the impossible: to bring about a situation that was inconceivable beforehand. For an act to be genuine, its outcome cannot be known.

There are times when it is not possible to act: when the absence of possibility is all too keenly present.

There are times when analysis seems to be the only possible course: the only way of keeping alive the possibility of action in the future.

Writing can be the pursuit of truth.

It is not clear whether writing itself could be a kind of act.

For an artist, there are times when writing seems to be the only possibility of going on: when being articulate is the only possibility of resistance.

All writing, qua art, is not the same.