Thursday, April 09, 2009

Arguing with Ted Bracey


A couple of months have gone by since the Christchurch-based Garage Collective declared war on New Zealand's arts community , whom they accuse of propping up capitalism and creating a breeding ground for fascism. According to the Garage Collective, artists who do not go 'onto the barricades' - ie, produce instantly comprehensible statements advocating the 'abolishment (sic) of the capitalist system' - deserve to 'die'.

Garage Collective member 'Jared', who seems to have followed the lead of Kylie Minogue and jettisoned his surname as a bourgeois encumbrance, took the trouble to visit this site and explain the nuances of his group's statement to the enemies of the working class who lurk here. When I timidly suggested that Jared might like to visit an art gallery to find out more about the painters he professes to hate, the stern young foe of bourgeois ideology informed me that galleries were the haunts of 'elitists' who oppose the 'full participation' of the masses in art. Visiting an art gallery, according to Jared, is like 'voting once every three years' - that is, an exercise in 'sham democracy'. Because they merely 'contemplate' artworks, and do not participate in the creation of these works, the poor souls who visit Te Papa to look at Rita Angus or the Gus Fisher to view Milan Mrkusich are accomplices in their own oppression.

What the Garage Collective advocates is the obliteration of the distinction between the producer and the viewer of art. In the ideal world of Jared and his comrades, the 'masses' would spent a proportion of their time painting enormous colourful murals expressing their democratically-formulated viewpoint on walls expropriated from the bourgeoisie. Resolute slogans about the 'abolishment of capitalism' and heroic images of muscle-bound workers manning the blazing barricades would be the order of the day. Though Jared would indignantly protest the comparison, the aesthetic credo advanced by the Garage Collective has much in common with the 'socialist realist' dogma which saw Stalin-era Soviet artists forced to paint smiling peasants harvesting wheat with shining sickles, in front of tableaux of soaring, smoke-capped steel mills built to fulfil the requirements of the latest five year plan.

To be fair, Jared and his chums seem to have developed their aesthetic through a flawed thought process, not out of a desire to damage art. On paper, or on an obscure anarcho-Situationist website at three o'clock in the morning, the demand for the removal of the division between producers and viewers of art might seem admirable, and even workable. The demand lends itself to snappy slogans, and threatens to put the hustlers making a fortune from an out of control art market out of business.

In the cold light of the offline day, though, it should be apparent that the destruction of the distinction between artist and audience is neither practicable nor sensible. Good art is usually a dialogue between its maker and its audience - a dialogue that depends on their differences, as their similarities.

When we look at a painting or read a poem, we encounter a different view of the world, and we are forced to open a part of ourselves up to this different weltanschaung. At the same time, we interpret the work we are encountering in terms of our own experiences, and the world that created them. We enjoy a dialogue or, as Hans-Georg Gadamer called it, a 'fusion of horizons', with the work and the person we are encountering. And one of the great joys of art is the way that it allows us some insight into the ways that people from very different eras and cultures felt and thought. We are enriched when we experience ancient Greece through the poems of Theognis, or nineteenth century France through the paintings of Cezanne, or the history of the Tainui people through the sculpture of Brett Graham.

Sometimes the dialogue between artist and viewer can be difficult, or even ill-tempered. For the past month, for instance, I have been having a series of rather fraught conversations with a man I never met and had barely heard of before he died early this year.

Ted Bracey was born and raised in Britain, but in the sixties he emigrated first to the United States and then to New Zealand. Disgusted by the violent, dog-eat-dog society he found in the large cities of the States, Bracey settled down happily in the Waikato, where he soon found work teaching art. Bracey was a painter as well as a teacher, and he was soon at work on a series of canvases inspired by his new home. Bracey moved to Christchurch at the beginning of the seventies and stopped painting, but his bold, semi-abstract depictions of the Waikato landscape are still celebrated by critics and curators.

The Waikato Museum and Art Gallery has decided to mark Bracey's death by exhibiting three of his paintings: a bright, furious abstract composition created during the artist's unhappy sojourn in North America, and two of his tributes to the Waikato landscape. All three works are worth seeing, but the canvases that have obsessed me for the last month are Winter Land Signals No. 8, which was apparently inspired by the landscape around the little Waikato town of Cambridge, and Tuatuamoana 2, which refers to an ancient, partially drained swamp in the eastern Waikato.

Some of my in-laws reside in Hamilton, and I have found myself repeatedly taking long walks from their suburban neighbourhood to the art gallery, just to view Bracey's work. I've mysteriously vanished from a couple of family shopping expeditions to the central city to view the paintings, and I even left the test match between India and the Black Caps at Seddon Park early so that I could get in a quarter hour at the gallery. What, you might ask, am I getting so excited about? I can only begin to answer this question by reconstructing my first experience of Winter Land Signals No.8 and Tuatuamoana 2, the second of which is reproduced above. Bracey's canvases are an exercise in simplification, but that does not make then simplistic. He has taken some of the distinguishing forms and colours of the landscape around his adopted home, and eliminated what he considers inessential. Bracey's limited range of colours and repetitive forms give both paintings an 'all-over' effect that instantly reminded me, when I first set eyes on them, of the flatness of the Waikato landscape. It seemed to me that Bracey was taking a pilot's, or a bird's, or a God's-eye view of the land.

Some of the paintings' forms - the dark, raggedly triangular shape in the upper left corner of Tuatuamoana 2, for instance - suggested the volcanic hills and mountains that punctuate the Waikato plain. Others, like the smaller, lighter-coloured triangles, might have represented human imprints on the land - they made me think of church steeples, of the arched backs of old farmhouses, and of old-fashioned TV aerials. But it was not possible for me to 'read' the shapes in Bracey's composition in a straightforward manner - he had provided just enough detail to stimulate my memories of the Waikato landscape. The rest, it seemed, was up to me. The colours in Winter Land Signals No.8 and Tuatuamoana 2 seemed similarly mysterious and liminal: somehow, they managed to be both sombre and bright. Bracey had applied his paint thickly, in rough, almost sensual brushstrokes, and even his dark greens seemed to emanate light.

It is difficult for me to describe Bracey's canvases in this way, because they appeared to me not as assemblages of forms and colours but as complete, perfect objects. In fact, Winter Land Signals and Tuatuamoana 2 seemed so complete and so devoid of superfluity that I had difficulty imagining a time when they did not exist. Like the landscape which they so elegantly depict, they seemed utterly incontrovertible.

There is no doubt that Ted Bracey loved the Waikato. In a tribute reproduced at the Waikato Museum and Art Gallery, he called the place 'generous on the one hand yet sheltered and intimate on the other', and compared residing there to 'living a long rich evening'. In a piece published in Art News last year, John Hurrell revealed that the Waikato reminded Bracey of the Hampshire Downs, where the artist had spent a happy childhood.

It was not hard for me to assent to Bracey's picture of the Waikato as a rural paradise. The evening after I saw Winter Land Signals No.8and Tuatuamoana 2 for the first time, I spent several hours helping Skyler's mother rid her garden of a number of massive palms. We dug the palms out of the cool, dark soil of her backyard, and threw their sharp-edged fronds and thick, rubbery trunks over her fence, into one of the deep volcanic gullies that course dryly through the outer suburbs of Hamilton. As the sun slowly set, a mist from the Waikato River spread over the fields and subdivisions on the far side of the gully, and blurred the view of Maungakawa, Maungatautari, and the Pukeatua Hills. The far-off hum of Hamilton's only motorway only added to the peaceful feel of the Saturday evening. My head was full of the gorgeous shades of green and enigmatic, obscurely welcoming shapes I had found on Ted Bracey's canvases. As I walked toward the edge of Skyler's parents' yard to retrieve a palm frond which had failed to fall all the way into the gully, I slipped in the semi-darkness, and felt the heel of my shoe scrape something just beneath the lawn. I looked down, squinted, and saw a pile of small, bone-white shells. A midden. A pile of coins, their faces worn smooth with age. A pile of rubbish, which might one day become a small treasure, if a Masters student ever got around to excavating this small corner of the Waikato's immense plain. I carefully laid the green skein of turf back over the shells, and hurried off to the safety of a well-lit living room.

My discovery had not been particularly remarkable - there are middens scattered all over the Waikato, and over most of the rest of North Island - but it did make me think again of Ted Bracey's canvases in the gallery down the road. Bracey found the Waikato idyllic, and drew comfort and sustenance from its landscape and light. How aware was he of the region's history? Did he know about the hundreds of years Tainui spent settling the area, fighting their way north from their base in Kawhia Harbour, defeating ragtag bands of maero, or wild men, planting stone mauri in the soil, to make it fertile, raising kainga and marae, and burying placenta close to the places where their children were born? Did Bracey know the names of great Tainui leaders like Hotunui and Te Whereowhero?

Did Bracey know about the Waikato Kingdom, which arose in the middle of the nineteenth century to meet the challenge of the white settlers in Auckland, New Plymouth and other outposts of imperialism? Was he aware that the people of the Kingdom adapted the tools of the white man to produce and mill wheat, and to grow vegetables on a massive scale? Did Bracey realise that the Waikato Kingdom was the breadbasket of Auckland and a major exporter to Australia, before the British invasion of 1863, and the series of battles which broke the back of the Kingdom's army and ended with the retreat of the Tainui people across the Puniu River at the bottom of the Waikato, into the rugged country of the central North Island?

Did Bracey care that the Waikato were punished for their 'rebellion' against the British Crown with the confiscation of most of their land? Did he know about the speculators and absentee landlords who bought up the confiscated land at bargain prices, then sold it on to struggling settlers who paid Maori a pittance to labour on fledgling dairy and sheep farms? Did Bracey suspect that the flat, symmetrical fields, hawthorn hedges, and oak groves he loved had taken the place of stands of massive kahikatea, deep swamps where millions of eels squirmed and swam, and vast kumara plantations surrounded by crooked stone walls and gravel pits? Was Bracey aware that the very Englishness of towns like Cambridge, with their white picket fences, picture postcard Anglican churches, and gridded streets named after Victorian generals, was intended to disguise the real history of the Waikato? How, I wondered, had I succumbed to Bracey's sentimental naturalisation of a wholly contrived environment? How could I have been so gullible? In an effort to answer these questions, I sneaked away from a family trip to the Sunday morning markets in central Hamilton, and once again confronted Tuatuamoana 2 and Winter Land Signal No.8. I brought my exercise book with me, because I intended to scribble some notes toward a critique of the colonialist art Ted Bracey had inflicted on the people of Hamilton. I would bring the man to account.

What I found in the gallery's deserted exhibition room astonished me. The canvases which had yesterday shown a rich, gentle, welcoming landscape now looked coarse and claustrophic. The dark, thick brushstrokes which ran so boldly across the canvases looked like stains and cuts; the blocks of light green which had seem so lush now reminded me of gangrenous flesh. Bracey's canvases were indictments of the misuse of the rohe of Tainui, indictments of overgrazed dairy paddocks eroding into the Waikato River, of gorse and scrub clogging ancient tributaries of the great river, of urupa being over-run by blackberries...
What had happened? Had some mischevious member of the gallery staff put new paintings in place of the ones that had wowed me only a day ago? Had I misunderstood Tuatuamoana 2 and Winter Land Signal No.8 a day ago? Did I understand them then, and horribly misunderstand them now? Was Ted Bracey’s Waikato an idyllic, unspoilt place or a complex landscape marked by a long and difficult history?

I was unable to answer these questions a month ago, and I am still unable to answer them today, after viewing Bracey's work on several new occasions. If I were pushed, I would say that I feel deeply ambivalent about Winter Land Signal No.8 and Tuatuamoana 2, and that this ambivalence reflects the way I have long felt about the landscape of the Waikato and other parts of New Zealand transformed by colonisation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

I did, after all, grow up on a dairy farm in the lower Waikato region, surrounded by hawthorn hedges and groves of oak and other British trees, playing cowboys and Indians in flat symmetrical paddocks laid out over secret middens. Even if I had grown up at the other end of the Great South Road, in one of Auckland’s inner city suburbs, my head would have been filled with the imagery of New Zealand’s rural heartland, thanks to the cult of the farm which is still so ubiquitous in the media and popular culture of what is, in demographic terms, a very urban country. I can neither reject nor unambiguously celebrate a landscape which has so deeply embedded itself in my life. The Garage Collective will no doubt denounce me as hopelessly bourgeois, but I will keep arguing with Ted Bracey. Note: the first painting reproduced in this post is Tuatuamoana 2; the second is a Bracey canvas from 1967 called North Island Synthesis Number 10. And no, I don't understand how the Waikato Museum and Art Gallery's photographer got such a nasty 'flash' effect on both canvases...

64 Comments:

Blogger Katherine said...

Keep thinking. Keep an open mind about the meanings.

11:30 am  
Blogger Giovanni said...

To be fair, Jared and his chums seem to have developed their aesthetic through a flawed thought process

I don't want to be around you when you're being unfair.

7:36 pm  
Blogger Ross Brighton said...

I've just written a fair bit on this - feel free to check it out:
http://ignoretheventriloquists.blogspot.com/2009/04/politics-art-praxis-and-artists-some.html
Garage Collective and Jared (Davidson) are one and the same, it's only one dude, and i think he's studying Graphic design at Canterbury University's Ilam School of Fine Arts (or has just graduated).

essentially he's just some punk kid, and i don't see why people are getting worked up about it. Then again, so am I (both the punk kid thing, and the responding to his antagonism)

8:10 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Maps - this is how we all see things - art included - and people are also changeable - of course - you and I know that you did also did a thesis on art history!

But that aside - Maps I can attest - has a deep sensitivity to art, history, politics, people; and literature.

Bracey may or may not have been aware of that history - there are so many histories. Too deep into such history and all European art almost looks fascist (sometimes one wants to become a Garageologist - anger does that or it can - but then the righteous feelings subside - we cant keep on being angry) - not enough in - and we see nothing - or if we eye such works liminally only - then - well that is another realm...

The debate continues.

1:51 am  
Blogger Garage Collective said...

Hi Maps,

Ross at least had the decency to let me know he was bagging the ideas I put forward a while back. And he even allowed a right of reply. I've tried to contact you to talk in person, but it seems you'd rather twist my words to your own agenda (from one who is accusing me of being a Stalinist!) For example, I never said artists deserve to die if they don't make socially concerned work! Rather we should be questioning privileged positions and elitist aspects of art, including it as a praxis separate from everyday life.

I'm flattered that Maps thinks I'm waging war on the art community all alone, or that no one else has ever tried to do it before (think, say: Dada, Lettrisme, Situationsim, Fluxus, Provo, Black Mask, Punk, Class War, Neoism, Art Strike 1990-93). It's also odd that Maps equates the end of art as a separate category from everyday life with mural painting! Instead of, say, life itself as a creative act.

I am interested in the notion (proposed by the people such as Black Mask, Stewart Home, Art Strike 1990-93, Tony Lowe and to some extent Situationism) that by continuing to make work, and therefore to define ourselves as 'artists' — we deny others the equal gift of vision and keep art firmly separate to everyday, creative acts ie life. In this way, we perpetuate a system of inactivity, passivity, hierarchy — and most importantly — privilege. After all, Capital is first and foremost a social relation.

It should be plainly obvious by now that art making, in itself, is an insufficient response to social crisis. The libertarian possibilities of disavowing art as an individualistic activity that is somehow special or superior to other human activities are endless. Creative energies could be channeled into any (or every) action one could imagine. To give up artistic privilege, consumption and productivity — addictions which capital has convinced us gives our individualistic lives value — is the negation of art, the negation of domination.

You can decide if this means mural painting, sloganeering, or muscle-bound workers — or a new form of social interaction, based on participation, equality and social freedom.

From some punk kid,
Jared Davidson

5:10 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Jared - I've known Scott for ages and he specialises in exaggerating - he means well - but he tends to put words in mouths - I don't think he really means you are Stalinist or you want
to kill elitists or perhaps introverted artists who are terrified of politics as such - or
whatever: he is getting people to think about the political nature or not of art and so on.

In fact this post is about his own own struggle with looking at and being excited about a (relatively) abstract but landscape artist: and then how it "changes" when or in fact he
recalls his reading and his political and social knowing of history...

I think that Maps is against the idea that art "should" be always political - after all - what if - one day - the State has withered away and there is no need for the kind of struggle against the ruling classes we have now - what art to do we do then? There is then perhaps room for art that is completely non political. Or there is a strong argument for this...

If you are saying that socialists etc could direct their energies perhaps to new forms of participatory and "activist" art, or art that challenges the status quo etc - art that is
done by the people - you are leading onto something. I think maps is deliberately provoking a discussion of that possibility...but resisting the command of certain of The Left to do simplistically realistic art ... or to necessarily do "political" art.

I can enjoy Jackson Pollock - even but he is work or take an interest in conceptual art or whatever - but this doesn't mean at some stage my art if I "do" art - might not become a tool to be used for change. But this has to be voluntary - I'm not saying your ideas
imply commandism or whatever - but that is the way it must happen - all the revolutions so far have misused art as much as the present ruling class does - and I have an ambiguous
feeling about art galleries and the art market myself - art as such - for a start the prices of paintings etc are massive...they are way out of proportion - who benefits? -
the artist Hans Haake* actually challenged (or challenges) the art market - he is someone you could have a look at... (of course he is still published and "feted" and probably does well out of art - it is a paradox...art is valued but if someone attacks it he or she is sometimes then acclaimed & absorbed into the process of the art market itself... )

maps (I think) knows all this - he just do doesn't want Art (however it is defined) to be pinned down.

There has to be good and creative participatory art that indeed can help social and political change. But this doesn't rule out the art of Mrkusich etc

I am reading Art as Culture - art in art Galleries is only some of the art -and poetry (as an example) is mostly - in terms of interest - way down - "visual" or art gallery art gets big money and interest - people can show it off, as they own it and so on - also it has impact. But the other arts are relevant also - all culture is in question here.

But any artist of whatever kind needs to feel in doing his or her work that they are completely free - or as open and free to create as possible.

* There are many others - even Beuys wanted everyone who applied to be allowed to enter his art classes -or that is how the story went - and he - it is said - resigned from quite well paid teaching position - but how political or "real" he was I am not sure - but I like that idea. The Language Poets also came under attack - they started from political with Marxist theory etc) or Utopian motivation and mixed their Postmodernism with Marxism but came under attack in NY (about 1999) particularly for "selling out" and getting high paid jobs or getting "tenure "and so on - but many are still doing interesting and challenging work - Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein are perhaps the most obviously "political" but they are cloistered (and well paid) academics - not a crime but...the whole area is fraught... Marjorie Perloff who I admire as a theorist and a critic was very much pro the war in Afghanistan etc as it saved Western civilisation (US Poetry) and there was quite a vigorous controversy - others of the language poets were strongly critical or changed their views (of Bush et al)

But I saw Bruce Andrews (search YouTube) standing up to some fascist (O'Reilly) on
Fox News who was lambasting him for suggesting that students be allowed to study texts attacking Bush etc and then discuss that book. I feel Andrew contributes - he can be subversive in his use of language - his humour also is good. He takes language apart. But he is only one - there are others...

Here are links to Andrews on YouTube:

Andrews under attack for being un American.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-CIIw2SCOg&feature=related

Andrews reading

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MGyIPoWDCM&feature=related

8:16 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Jared.
A kid could do those paintings.
Abstraction - what a con.

10:04 am  
Blogger Garage Collective said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:04 am  
Blogger Garage Collective said...

Richard,

I'd like to think that I'm putting forward a notion that art could become something everyone participates in — not in its current form, but rather simply as life itself. I am not saying all art should be political, I'm saying all politics/organising/life itself could be art — a holistic and total act. And once we have smashed the state and brought about new social relations, we can continue as holistic and creative.

Nor is this relegated to just socialists! This is the very problem with say, a workers party or even activism in general — a false representation of 'the people' will never be of the people. It comes down to direct action and full participation for everyone, in the 'cultural' realm as well as the self-management of everyday life. That this sounds hard doesn't make it any less worthwhile, as movements of the past has clearly shown (ie the initial days of Russia 1917, Spain 1936, Hungary 1956 and so on). Far from some idea on an obscure anarcho-Situationist blog (Situationists were anarchists/autonomous Marxists by the way), this libertarian strand of socialism has a rich and vibrant history, one of which I am far from adequate to define and describe!

I'm starting to rant, so I will stop now. I extend to anyone an invitation to discuss these ideas, and look forward to doing so.

Cheers

Jared Davidson

11:06 am  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

"Anonymous said...

I'm with Jared.
A kid could do those paintings.
Abstraction - what a con. "

This is simplistic (and it is said endlessly by people who are quite ignorant usually) clearly by someone who has no idea of what art is (or has only studied the subject superficially) - or what abstraction is - for the mind to work it needs - necessarily - to abstract.

I'm assuming that Jarad has some intelligence. And some children in fact do some very great art as they are free from preconceptions - but that is another debate.

Some very great art is "abstract"; and all art, all human activity combines the abstract - so called - with "concrete" or what one might suppose is the real, - this I don't see as directly relevant to the issue - a "people's" art as we might imagine it might combine abstract and other art forms.

2:48 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Jared - you made some good points.

maps is chasing the Easter Bunny in Whangarei or somewhere equally uncivilised outside of Auckland I believe...so when he returns - he will clearly attempt to demolish your thesis...

2:52 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

"I'm saying all politics/organising/life itself could be art — a holistic and total act."

This is one of the ideas behind my The Infinite Poem - which substrates my Blog EYELIGHT.

However for me it is a conception only so far...

I am doubtful of the possibility of any further human "progress" - however "Hope spring's eternal" as Pope wrote ...

Jack Ross should be mentioned at this point...

2:57 pm  
Blogger Ross Brighton said...

Bruce Andrews is fantastic, and I debate any accusations of "selling out" against such figures - Though Bruce does tend to parrot the same thing again and again in his criticism- see "sucking on words" at UBUweb.
The landing of academic positions doesn't seem to have defanged these poeple's work, esp Susan Howe at SUNY Buffalo, and Johannes Johannes Göransson and Joyelle McSweeney both teach at Notre Dame.

Perloff though... I'm not sold on her. see comments here:
http://exoskeleton-johannes.blogspot.com/2009/04/gothic-and-hysteria-vs-contemporary.html

6:10 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Ross - I agree with you about Andrew's repetition - we all tend to do that - but I couldn't follow anything at all on that post on Exoskeleton in may as well have been in Martian or Sanskrit written by a drunk man looking at thistle!

What is your objection to Perloff? Mine is her politics not her poetics - although these can merge of course...

The point is that soon after 9/11 there were some strange responses to that event on the SUNY Poetics List - including my own; I am afraid - Bernstein's response of simply recording what when we interesting - but Perloff and Silliman (a writer I like a lot - he is good I think in most of his Alphabet) wanted to attack Iraq and Afghanistan, and Antin - whose work esp. His "talk poems" - maps and I liked a lot - satrted raving on about rats (meaning - I assumed - terrorists and perhaps Arabs in general; he sounded like a Nazi but perhaps he was on drugs at the time...)...and Silliman and Perloff warned that unless the US went on the attack there would no wonderful Western civilisation left - this is almost literally her words.

But I really liked her book "Radical Artifice" (I have a copy of it) and maps was influenced by her "Wittgenstein's Ladder" to start reading Wittgenstein etc (and I read "Watt" by Beckett and so on).

But indeed the whole Language poetry movement I feel was valuable and still is (although I feel they tended to have so much theory they seemed to much to conform to these theories, and thus to too much shut out other writing ...instead of just writing) - and yes Howe is a great writer.

But I think their innovations and the whole "debate" was and still is good; and indeed the "group" (I mean really those put into the book "In the American Tree") is very diverse. Some very talented and bright people involved - many now going in their own interesting directions.

Even Kathy Acker (and her friend Alan Sondheim) was involved in the Language Poets "discussions" but I don't know how much they were card carrying Langpos...I just watched YouTube of Michael Palmer but I wasn't impressed - the reading was rather muted - but I haven't really looked at his poems on the page... but there are many readings under "Lunch Poems" of various interesting writers...

10:53 pm  
Blogger maps said...

I'd like to reply to Jared, but he never says anything about the subjects of my posts. What do you think about Ted Bracey, old boy? Are my arguments with him a symptom of thought crime, or are they permissible, according to your strict and secret logic?

11:25 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

umm, I did reply to the subject of your post — that being a total misrepresentation of our earlier discussion!

I have no thoughts on Ted Bracey. In fact, I couldn't think of anything worse than reading another art review. Whether that is thought crime or simply because I'd rather be living 'art' rather than consuming it, well. I'll let Maps put words in my mouth for me.

Hope you had a lovely holiday.

Jared

8:23 am  
Blogger Giovanni said...

umm, I did reply to the subject of your post — that being a total misrepresentation of our earlier discussion!

Not the first time he does that, either. Just sayin'. But then as he explained on another blog at the time, his "written polemics are just semi-sober appendices to drunken conversations that rage good-humouredly into the early hours of the morning." Which I would have enjoyed, had I happened to still be eighteen I guess.

8:41 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh oh, seems art criticism is banned, too. All in the name of the proletariat, course.

4:20 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

No, its bad for me. I've made it very clear that I speak for myself and my own opinions, and would appreciate it if you were going to comment to at least put a name to your voice.

Cheers

6:13 pm  
Blogger maps said...

I don't see a great deal of difference between the arguments I've had with Comrade Jared the one-man collective and the arguments I've had with the mob at Uncensored magazine. Just like Uncensored, Jared made a series of nasty charges against a community which has traditionally been a target of reactionary movements and regimes.

Just as I object to Jews being blamed for 9/11 and the global economic crisis, so I object to artists being accused of being propagandists for 'the bourgeois or corporate class' and to Jared's claim that 'one doesn’t have to look much further than the world of art and culture in our society to see where fascism breeds'. I don't think many of my friends in the arts community will enjoy being accused of being incubators of fascism.

If I ridicule Jared and Uncensored, it's because ridiculous ideas invite ridicule.

8:26 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

Your narrowness of the definition of 'collective' is interesting, but what is more interesting is that you simply label a thought you are unwilling to deconstruct further as being 'ridiculous'. Especially when that quote was not mine, but from a well established community arts patron, and given the tradition of these ideas within and from outside the art world.

I'm sorry you and your friends feel upset Maps, but sometimes it hurts to deconstruct ones identity and privilege. As I've illustrated throughout this discussion (and quite resonably I think), the values of art are set by those who control the social relations of a given time/epoch. At the moment, that takes the form of Capitalist social relations — individuality, outcomes, values of wealth, identity, production and consumption — and the class which privileges from those relations. Your friends may not be conscious of the fact, but they do indeed perpetuate these relations — we all do, including myself. Truth hurts, as they say.

Jared Davidson

9:27 pm  
Blogger maps said...

You have the same jejune self-confidence as the Uncensored crowd, Jared. Do you seriously think you've proved that Kiwi artists are mouthpieces for capitalism and breeders of fascism, when you've neglected to cite a single artist or artwork during your whole discussion? I'm beginning to doubt whether you even know the work of any contemporary Kiwi artist in any detail.

On his blog Ross Brighton has given you half a dozen examples of artists who are obviously not guilty of propping up capitalism and breeding fascism, and I've offered my encounter with Ted Bracey as an example of how the relationship between an artist and a viewer of art need not be hierachical and formulaic, but can instead be - and indeed often is, I would argue - creative and dialectical. You refuse, though, to discuss the examples that have been offered as challenges to your thesis. Again, I'm reminded of the conspiracy theorists of Uncensored.

Now you've advanced a new argument in favour of the thesis that Kiwi artists are servants of capitalism: you claim that 'the values of art are set by those who control the social relations of a given time/epoch'.

This is the sort of crude economic reductionism which sustained the socialist realist school of aesthetics that Stalin was so keen on. It holds that the character of the cultural content of a society is determined by the nature of the economic base of that society, and the interests of the ruling class of that society. A moment's thought should be enough to convince you of what arrant nonsense it is.

Although all artists work within a certain historical context, their work is capable of elaborating values which contradict the values of the ruling class of the society in which they work. If they couldn't, then governments wouldn't be so keen on knocking off artists who annoy them!

Mandelstam was sent to a gulag to die not because his poems reflected the values of the Stalinist rulers of the Soviet Union, but because they contradicted those values. Pablo Neruda was persecuted by the Pinochet regime because his work expressed a view of the world which flew in the face of the fascist values the Chilean ruling class adopted in the '70s.

You've talked on this blog about being uninterested in the art of the past; it's easy to see the theoretical underpinning of your disinterest. If all art produced in non-socialist/anarchist societies reflects the exploitative nature of thsoe societies, then by definition it will have little place in a post-revolutionary society.

I don't believe that great art is bound by the limitations of the societies it is produced in - to me, the Lascaux cave paintings of the dendroglyphs of the Moriori or the drawings of Aporo or the painted meetings hosues of Te Kooti have a universal, trans-historical value, despite the fact that the societies in which they were produced have disappeared and will not return. In other words, their values are not 'set by those who control the social relations of a given time/epoch'.

10:44 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

maps - I cant agree - I see much of what Jared has said as stimulating (O.K. the rhetoric was typical say of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets and those "postmodern" writers who used also Marxist ideas (and indeed many of them did develop and point the way to stimulating innovations and practices) (but others ossified inside establishment)) - but I still think he is pointing to the possibly that [because] art - much art production is co-opted by the bourgeoisie - think - how many art works has the average working man bought?

I have gone to hundreds of Art openings - I only bought one work - about NZ$700 - and what are the other prices - nothing seems to be less than NZ$2000 (but prices obscene up to $20,000 and higher and higher artworks get $Millions [the Art World is Capitalism on heat] is - they become investments as much as gold is by Capitalists) - great art becomes a commodity as it was when the Church dominated society and people's minds - it seems it always has been - but street poets and artists who get almost nothing from their art or work - OUTSIDE the galleries and so on - there are those who in many ways are both artistically revolutionary and politically also...maybe as the revolutionary artists of the Soviet Union were in the early days of that experiment... (Tatlin etc) which failed ultimately...but great stuff came out - and also as in the Dada movement and so on ... and the Futurists. But artists get fucked over - used - spat out - or corrupted by cash.

Even Barthes was against the bourgeoisification of writing and art.. he was constantly redefining - after his "Writing Degree Zero" - and was in his own way a revolutionary - but he also succumbed to Academia and the system... (like us all he needed cash, a cushy well-paid job which he got of course, in Academia) - he did well - and a lot of artists start out radical but they do too well - they get too much money - Picasso) but he (Picasso and Barthes) is / was stimulating as was Foucault and others.

I don't agree with all of what Jared is saying - but quote him accurately - then attack if need be - this is a serious discussion. I thnk Jared is sincere.

Jared in his turn refers - to 'your friends' - Jarad we are friends with maps - some of us - but we may disagree - in his turn Jared swipes at all of us - but given my own reservations I admire his impulse -

I don't think he is anything like the mad anti-Maori racists and Holocaust deniers and other Nazis (that is over the top maps) ... he is on the Left...

If he is an anarchist - all power to him - we need it - communism - with ultimately no state - is anarchism -
we see it wonderfully in potential action in London and other places.

Your description of your reaction to Bracey is not quite relevant - or not quite parallel to - Jared's ideas - it, in fact, if anything, your parable supports - in a way - his approach - the way one sees a work of art is influenced by many factors - these range from physiological (the viewer or consumer) may be tired,) to psychological (one may ave a certain reaction to certain shapes or one may have just have had an argument or something with a partner or whoever) or political - you showed the two sides of seeing Bracey and that is good - this is a part of aesthetics - thinking about the political significance almost lead you to reject Bracey's art and - then the next step could well be toward an art - as Jared describes it; that is alive, living, doing something, and acknowledging and cherishing history and thus the future...then action.

His vision is thus Utopian -

He has a place for revolution in art and art in revolution and he clearly doesn't mean the comic book or Stalinist Social realism of slogans tanks and morons with big muscles...

He is a young man - with ideas and dreams - maybe he is too hopeful ...

But the question that is raised -what form would a revolutionary art take - a working class art - where people participate and benefit and learn - that helps and inspires people - that is free and non elitist...??

Many young people and workers feel shut out from art galleries and Universities and the - I often found it virtually a sick scene - often it is a poncy and pretentious art world...

Yes there is some good stuff going down - but is not Jarad asking the why of it all? I have Hans Haacke as an example...but there are others outside the gallery / publishing world altogether...

Intellectuals and academics have great value - but they tend to devalue working class power and spontaneity - as I see in the great street poetry and imaginative and real - creativity and word spinning for example of Murray Haddow...as working class as you can get.

The literary - the art establishment (even such as Davis) world could well destroy such a man's great innovative powers...Jarad is pointing a vital new way... O.K. Utopian perhaps and possibly jejune...but let him have voice.

If we are to listen to the Postmodernist ravings of Brighton: then let's hear Jarad come onto maps and have his say in detail - let's see what has to say...on here. IN full - uncensored.


Jard - make a detailed - as long as you like - statement (with examples if you can or want) of what you are doing or proposing and I will post it without comment or censure in - complete - on my Blog EYELIGHT - of course you will get "attacked" but anything worth while is attacked...

What are the alternatives?

12:54 am  
Blogger maps said...

I think you'll find the 'alternative' in the title of Jared's original article, Richard - 'Give up Art and Save the Starving'. And it's that blanket rejection which is behind the rancorous nature of the debate here.

This isn't a debate about one or another style, or the philosophical position behind an artist's work - it's a debate about whether artists should abandon their work or not.

Ross Brighton puts it like this:

'The Major ploblem that i have with Jared's position is stated in his final paragraph, that "it should be plainly obvious by now that art making, in itself, is an insufficient response to social crisis"...

If anyone argues that art is a sufficent response, they are either stupid or naive. The problem is twofold though, as such a statement presupposes that art can and should be politically effective, and that all art is an expression of a political ideal. It also assumes that an artists production is his/her only form of political engagement. None of these are true...

What about the problems of ethics involved in the censorship advocated by statements that certain practices "should be left to die", and their echoing of Plato's Republic? And the ahistorical perspective that such an erasure advocates I find very unpleasant.'

http://ignoretheventriloquists.blogspot.com/2009/04/politics-art-praxis-and-artists-some.html

9:09 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

art is a product of bourgeois society.
it expresses alienation from reality.
of course the bourgeoisie cherishes it.
in a post-revolutionary society art like religion will fade away as people see no need to be alienated.

11:00 am  
Blogger Giovanni said...

Speaking as Marxist, that is the best advertisement for defending the status quo that I have heard in a long time. Kudos.

11:04 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'GIVE UP ART SAVE THE STARVING

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Imagine a world in which art is forbidden! Art galleries would close. Books would vanish. Pop stars would shed their glamour overnight. Advertising would cease, television would die. We could refocus our vision not on a succession of false images but on the world as it is. A stillness would fill the air. Art has provided us with fantasy worlds, escapes from reality. For whatever else it is, art is not reality. Soap operas, novels, movies, concerts, the theatre, poetry. None of these are real as a starving child is real, as a town without water is real. Art is the glamorous escape, the transformation that shields us from the world we live in. Injustice, endemic disease, famine, war. These are real. Art has replaced religion as the opiate of the people just as the artist has replaced the priest as the spokesman of the spirit. Once men reached inside themselves to find God. Now they find art. We are regulated by our addictions and art has become an addiction. We struggle through life in a drugged dream, searching for escape, for brighter fantasies, longer voyages of imagination, louder music. Another man's life is always more interesting than our own. It is only those who have given up art who can experience the true nature of creation. Now a self-perpetuating elite market art as a commodity for the wealthy who have everything while making the artists themselves rich beyond their wildest dreams. Art is money. It is ironic that the myth of the artist celebrates suffering while it is those who have never heard of art, the poor and wretched of our earth, who truly suffer. To call one man an artist is to deny another the equal right of vision. Paint all the painting black and celebrate the dead art, there is no booze in hell. We turn away from mountains of food that rot in storage while across the globe men grow too weak to eat because it is time for our favorite TV program. We live up to our knees in blood, wasting not only hours but days-whole lifes-in the blind belief that art is good, art is pure, art is its own justification-and a nightmare scourges our planet. Until we end famine there will be no peace. Artists are murderers! Artists are murderers just as surely as the soldier who sights down the barrel of a gun to shoot an unarmed civilian. Without art, life would be unendurable! We would have to transform this world. Overnight, one man's dream can become a nation's future-but we do not seize power because we are enchanted by art. Forbid art and revolution would follow: the withholding of creative action is the only weapon left to men. Seeing and creating are the same activity. Those who create art are also creating the starving. In a world in which art is forbidden the deserts would flower. Give up art. Save the starving.'

11:08 am  
Blogger Edward said...

I'm no authority on this particular issue, and to be honest i'm rather naive to these kinds of arguments. So forgive me. But with regards to the above quote of 'Give up Art Save the Starving' I have a few issues. Firstly how does one define art and art production. Is it merely an isolated cognitive creative process or can it involve communities, the passing on of knowledge, and material culture? And what of instances where art production has benefited those communities in the lower socio-economic demographic - the "poor and starving" (a bit of a condescending view on Jared's part to assume art only functions in the way he is accustomed to in affluent western society) - such as cases in the Northern Territory of Australia where local tribes (at least during the 80's and 90's) were able to create wealth for thier communities through the sale of traditional art. Should this be banned? What of the material culture aspect of art - there can be a very thin line between art and other forms of materiality.

As for "We could refocus our vision not on a succession of false images but on the world as it is" then how does one communicate the thoughts, inspirations, and experience of the world with others if the mediums of 'art' (i.e. story telling, poetry, painting, creative writing etc.) are removed?

This one is a bit simplistic "Art has provided us with fantasy worlds, escapes from reality. For whatever else it is, art is not reality. Soap operas, novels, movies, concerts, the theatre, poetry. None of these are real as a starving child is real, as a town without water is real. Art is the glamorous escape, the transformation that shields us from the world we live in. Injustice, endemic disease, famine, war."

Art certainly can provide an escape from reality so to speak - but again it is also an important form of human communication. As for the Soap Operas etc. It seems you are commenting on the contrast between western decadence and third world poverty, which I can understand. But for all of the talk about the worst parts of humanity I wonder have you actually done anything yourself to help or are you yet another 'floating head' that pontificates and complains but never acts? It seems to me that an apparent "post-revolutionary" bla bla bla modern world full of all the "isms" you like to throw about are an attempt to convey an apparent humanism, but in actuality your position seems more akin to nihilism reinforced by a rather rudementary understanding of culture in the anthropological sense.

Again, I apologise for my ignorance in this specific kind of discussion, but I felt compelled to reply in the light of reading such a one-eyed view of art divorced not only from its more scientific aspects such as human social psychology and evolutionary psychology, but from its anthropological aspects such as communication, community, and culture.

12:35 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

Well I'm not sure where to start, there seems to be a flurry of activity! Thanks Richard for staying sane, and thanks anon for posting up the Yawn version of 'Give Up Art and Save the Starving'. Maybe Maps will now acknowledge that I'm not just coming out of a void with these ideas, but rather a bad re-hashing of them!

"It holds that the character of the cultural content of a society is determined by the nature of the economic base of that society, and the interests of the ruling class of that society. A moment's thought should be enough to convince you of what arrant nonsense it is."

Why is this nonsense? You give examples of those who challenge the assumption, but it negates the fact that the system of relations they question still exists! I try to challenge Capitalism, through community and workplace organising and operating with different social relations. Does this mean Capitalism doesn't exist? Even though a small number dissent to the system, it doesn't change the fact that for the overwhelming majority of society Capitalism was, and is, and will continue to be the dominant system of our times. To deny this is nonsense. Do you mean to tell me that Capitalosm, Class and hierarchical social relations do not exist?

It is also nonsense to reject such relevant ideas brought up by Marx simply because they have been distorted and misused by not-so-faithful adherents years on from their original conception. I am a libertarian communist, but that doesn't make me a Marxist, Stalinsit, Maoist or any other stripe of that thought.

"If all art produced in non-socialist/anarchist societies reflects the exploitative nature of those societies, then by definition it will have little place in a post-revolutionary society." Exactly true, if art is understood in those dominant terms. However, if we decided to develop a kind of creative practice more in line with dissident and liberatory relations (which therefore equates to ending art as it is mainly practiced now) then we go some way towards creating the new in the shell of the old. And you can't do that with the current values and praxis of art.

"This isn't a debate about one or another style, or the philosophical position behind an artist's work - it's a debate about whether artists should abandon their work or not."

That's right, to abandon their CURRENT mode of working for a new way of operating. This is the ALTERNATIVE Richard asks for, and here I will try to deliver what it is I think may be more egalitarian and worthwhile. Maps uses my quote: "art making, in itself, is an insufficient response to social crisis" without posting the end of it:

"The libertarian possibilities of disavowing art as an individualistic activity that is somehow special or superior to other human activities are endless. Creative energies could be channeled into any (or every) action one could imagine. To give up artistic privilege, consumption and productivity — addictions which capital has convinced us gives our individualistic lives value — is the negation of art, the negation of domination."

Here is the alternative myself and others feel excited (and challenged) to explore. It is not simply to give up work and put and end to creativity — it is to be MORE creative outside of and against the values and privilege upheld by the capitalist system. To make everyday life creative, to no longer have artistic production removed from everyday life in a gallery somewhere. To approach life in its totality.

From Black Mask #4:

"The call for revolution can be no less than ‘total’. To change the wielders of power is not enough, we must finally change life itself. One must seize direct control of their environment — socially, economically and culturally. We can recognise no power outside of the people, no elite (whether it calls itself revolutionary or not) which determines the political direction, no separation between politics and the rest of life. The same must be done culturally — a ‘total’ culture needs no experts, no artists — it needs only us."

As the proponents of the Art Strike 1990-1993 made it clear: "there is almost an infinite variety of substitutes for the ideological or economic functions which art services capitalist society". Simply making more socially concerned work, or more particpatory modes of working (while it is a good start) won't cahnge the fact that capitalism exists. Surely the task at hand is to explore a holistic approach to creativity, creativity towards the end of capitalism and the ushering in of a better way of living. As anon mentions, art will always exist as a tool of capitalist social relations as long as capitalism exists.

Cheers

12:50 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

Edward, that text is not mine, and taken from the Art Strike Papers. It was written in 1989. I simply used the title in another text (which Maps refers to).

"how does one communicate the thoughts, inspirations, and experience of the world with others if the mediums of 'art' (i.e. story telling, poetry, painting, creative writing etc.) are removed?"

These are not to be removed, in fact they are to be encouraged and pushed to their maximum use — not in a gallery or in current artistic notions of value and culture — but based in all aspects of everyday life.

"But for all of the talk about the worst parts of humanity I wonder have you actually done anything yourself to help or are you yet another 'floating head' that pontificates and complains but never acts? It seems to me that an apparent "post-revolutionary" bla bla bla modern world full of all the "isms" you like to throw about are an attempt to convey an apparent humanism, but in actuality your position seems more akin to nihilism reinforced by a rather rudementary understanding of culture in the anthropological sense."

Like I said, those were not my words, but feel free to check out more on anarchism and libertarian communism at www.anarchistfaq.org or www.libcom.org. These are not far removed 'isms' from real life, but based in the anthropology and sociology of our own lives (see Kroptkin's 'Mutual Aid' for example). In terms of acts, I am currently involved in community and workplace struggle towards these ends — they are far from mere musings!

Jared

12:57 pm  
Blogger Edward said...

Jared,
My apologies for assuming this was your work (I still stand by what I said but in the context of the original). As I said I am naive to this type of discussion. Also I am glad to hear you are not just another 'floating head', so again my apologies for the confusion. I can see on the surface what you are saying about galleries, but I think there is more to it involving social space and expression. And I think that just because art is sometimes institutionalised in a similar way to how material culutre is in a museum setting (albeit you are concerned with the capitalised nature of a particular type of gallery), this does not, to me, call for the abandonment of such institutions. I'm in some way reminded of the punk / anarchist movement involving reacting against Universities due to thier institution status. A movement I absolutely deplore as I see it as an irrational attack on education. While I admit i'm no authority on such topics, I suppose I disagree with you on similar grounds, being the risk of revolution for revolutions sake and the subsequent call against institutions which, in this case, involves artistic expression and history. I don't see this particular line of thinking as productive or positive.

Anyway, I will leave it to those better equipped than I in this topic to further the discussion. Sorry again for the misunderstanding.

Cheers

1:35 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

Hi Edward. Please don't stop! Your comments are spot and welcomed. I hope I didn't mean to sound harsh towards your ideas.

Essentially, I agree with a lot of your last comment. I do have some comments to make (as usual!) with regards to institutions.

We have to remember that institutions are essentially empty spaces (as is the gallery, community centre etc) — that the values of a particular institution are determined by those running or controlling those spaces. In this sense, to be against the Universities and to advocate for another type of leaning/pratcice — and to question the values of that space — is totally valid. This doesn't negate history — in fact, I'd suggest it is an attempt to illustrate and fulfil histories often overlooked, marginalised or outright ignored by such institutions. For example, class struggle, indigenous histories, radical histories and stories not related to notions of consumption, hierarchy and authority. It is not an attack on education (or in our other discussion: art) per se, but on what, how and why is being taught.

This is what it comes down to, and for anyone who hasn't followed this rather niche discussion, I'll try and make my position more clear:

I am interested in how creative acts such as making 'art', storytelling, writing etc etc can be used in such a way that is the most equal, most inclusive and based in everyday life — with values that resonate towards the empowerment, not only of the maker/viewer, but of society as a whole. I simply do not think we can do this via the gallery, the institution or any space currently based on the values of capitalism and removed from our direct, lived experience. They key is not to simply reform capitalism, but to smash it and put in its place something much more valuable and logical.

As history has shown, to try to do this within capitalist channels is doomed to fail — anti-art movements, subcultures such as the counter-culture, punk, the green movement etc etc have all been co-opted and washed clean of their original meanings. The same can be said with socialism via elections — no socialist party in history has ever come close to ushering in libertarian socialism through parliamentary democracy. We have to do it ourselves, for ourselves and our own values, and on our own terms. Hence my view on current western art practice.

Phew!

Jared

2:03 pm  
Blogger Edward said...

Jared,

Not at all, I wasn't offended.
I don't entirely agree with you that the values of institutions are determined by those running them, I would suggest that values (again using the University example) are fluid and dynamic and are derived from the public for the most part. Of course someone or someones will direct it by definition, but I think the idea of institutional values reflecting static desires of those in charge is overplayed. In universities, values are based on critical thinking, knowledge, and research. I don't really see how these can be defined in terms of 'dictated values'. Further, if institutions should, for the most part be challenged, then in the case of Universities you encourage an 'alternative' movement where, like maps points out with the Uncensored conspiracy nuts, there can be no expert or authorities, and thus knowledge corrodes into a form of subjective relativism. Imagine if you will, how wonderful the world would be if there was no unifying concept of science and scientific method, imagine how great our hospitals would be, full of Doctors with no institutionalised training, some might guess at the concept of anatomy after a few cadavers, while others might treat you by rubbing a goats bladder on your wounds. Indeed, others have argued for an 'alternative learning', most notably for me as an archaeologist is Matin Doutre, a self-proclaimed 'astro-archaeologist' who has done damage to science and culture in this country. He might be termed an anarchist. So might the Intelligent Design proponents in the states that "challenge the institution of science" to the detrement of high school students. What I am getting at is that anarchism in the form of challenging institutions merely on the grounds as an authority is illogical, detremental to social health, and meaninglessly revolutionary.

As for your assertion that anarchism (in whatever form you ascribe to) presents an attempt to tell the untold histories such as indigenous ones, as a student of indigenous history in this country I find that rather ironic considering that Universities here are the main tool for learning about and learning how to learn about indigenous histories and rights, and often present political platforms from which these rights can be emphasised. The public at large certainly doesn't seem to care too much about it (our schools are pitiful in this regard), so without institutions to help indigenous minorities educate the wider public, wouldn't that be a little counter-intuitive?

You say it isn't an attack on education per say, but an attck on how and why they teach. This might be fine in the realm of relativism such as fine arts, but i'm sorry it just doesn't work in other disciplines such as natural science.

I have used the analogue of universities here because my familiarity with galleries is more limited, though I would argue the same applies (in a slightly different way with differing mechanisms). The ideology of "challenging the establishment" is healthy only if the establishment actually needs to be challenged. The underdog narrative can be positive, but only if used in a constructive rather than merely reactionary way.

Lastly, the repeated references to history are strange in that the philosophy underlying your brand of anarchism seems to be anti-government and thus decentralisation. I know of no single society or culture in the history of humankind which, after becoming sedentary and developing complex urban communities, attempted or was successful in a coherent social organisation or social structure without some kind of governance of resources and a centralisation-redistribution dynamic. This is over a 10,000 period. A complex urban society while at the same time not needing some form of redistributive governance is apparently not a possibility. 10,000 years is a long time. This is why I think anarchism is illogical and more damaging than good.

3:09 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Another thousand words of waffle from Jared and still not one reference to a single artist or artwork. For a man who valourises 'everyday life' he speaks in extraordinarily general terms.

Here's the closest Jared comes to giving a concrete answer to the question of what we're all supposed to do instead of publishing books of poetry, exhibiting in nasty counter-revolutionary galleries, and so on -

'The libertarian possibilities of disavowing art as an individualistic activity that is somehow special or superior to other human activities are endless. Creative energies could be channeled into any (or every) action one could imagine [though you'll never get Jared to do anything so bold as mention one].'

What Jared seems to be saying is that we're supposed to act collectively, in pursuit of anti-capitalist political projects, instead of creating art individually for contexts like the art gallery, the small-print book of poetry, and so on.

I really do see this as nothing more than a rehash of the old socialist realist belief that art must be subordinated to political struggle, or even abandoned in favour of full-time participation in political struggle. 'Come out of the gallery/library/study' and get on to the streets' seems to be the slogan. It's philistinism disguised as political radicalism. I don't like the prospects for your poetry when Jared becomes Commissar for Culture, Richard ;)

3:18 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Hi Edward,

I made the point in the original thread on this subject that there's been quite a long struggle by Maori artists and communities to get their perspectives into art galleries and museums - I've got a friend in your department writing a thesis on this subject right now. It was a real battle, but the difference between the way many institutions represent Maori have changed unrecognisably over the last fifty years.

By condemning museums and art galleries out of hand as hopelessly bourgeois institutions Jared actually dismisses the struggles of Maori and other marginalised groups to achieve representation there.

The same point could be made for education, with the winning of victories like the establishment of Maori Studies, and the achievement of state funding for kohanga reo.

3:26 pm  
Blogger Giovanni said...

That's like saying that questioning the ownership and structure of the means of production means dismissing the struggles of unions who have fought for better working conditions. Maori rightly fight for equal access to the institutions that we have. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't struggle for better institutions.

3:30 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Fight for better institutions, but don't that there is much that is positive about them now. That's what John Banks and the philistines of the right in Auckland would like to do. There is a real danger that the best parts of institutions like the Auckland museum and the public library system could disappear if the right is able to use the recession as an excuse to attack state spending on culture and heritage.

As far as unions go - don't get anarchists talking about them, or more likely than not you'll get another denunciation of compromised bourgeois institutions that must be abandoned in favour of revolutionary purity!

3:50 pm  
Blogger Edward said...

Heya Maps,

Yes I definitely agree with you on that score. The struggle for recognition of Maori in institutions including universities has been a long one. As you point out these are now unrecognisable to how they were 50 or even 10 years ago. That was the point I was making earlier - that the values of institutions are ultimately influenced by the public and other external pressures. These institutions have however, to varying degrees, been at the forefront in working with Maori and, due to thier change in values due to this relationship, have helped form a platform for which Maori can educate the wider public.

I agree with Giovanni that we should always struggle to better these institutions, but I don't agree with the anti-institutionism inherent in anarchist philosophy.

3:52 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Fight for better institutions, by all means, but don't deny that there is much that is positive about them now. That's what John Banks and the philistines of the right in Auckland would like to do. There is a real danger that the best parts of institutions like the Auckland museum and the public library system could disappear if the right is able to use the recession as an excuse to attack state spending on culture and heritage.

3:53 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Ah! Sorry for the double post!

Here's a link to an article by Te Pu Nehenehe which explains how academic history and Maori studies changed his life and his thinking, by challenging ideas he'd grown up with:

http://www.salient.org.nz/features/maori-history-symposium

Nehenehe discusses the emergence of a cohesive group of Maori historians which is now doing important work. I hope that the recession doesn't threaten any of their projects.

4:01 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

"In universities, values are based on critical thinking, knowledge, and research."

This is true, but to what end? So you and I can comfortably fit into a teaching job, or to become a professional to service Capitalism, or maybe an academic in the very institution that has supposedly pathed the way to free-thought and liberation? I'm sorry, but fail to see how universities are nothing more than capitalist think tanks and training centres for a further life in capitalism. Harsh, I know.

Where do I say that the world needs to get rid of experts? Where does anarchism imply this? And I don't mean your tv anarchism, but the rich tradition of libertarian thought. Anarchism argues that no one should have control or dominion over another. This doesn't mean that experts are to cease in their expertise — it simply means no one should use that expertise to order another around, or to invest in that expertise some kind of hierarchy or privilege over someone without it.

It isn't simplpy to challenge the establishment for the sake of action! Anarchism means self-governance, based on direct democracy, recallable delegates invested with the mandate only to administer the decisions made collectively and above all, from below. It means direct control over ones affairs, de-centralised and freely associated councils working on the notion of mutual aid.

"I know of no single society or culture in the history of humankind which, after becoming sedentary and developing complex urban communities, attempted or was successful in a coherent social organisation or social structure without some kind of governance of resources and a centralisation-redistribution dynamic. This is over a 10,000 period."

A governance of resources does not equate to centralisation, as the successes of libertarian communism was proved in the Aragon collectives of the Spanish Revolution, as well as the industries of Barcelona. These were highly complex societies run from below, in a de-centralised fashion. The anarcho-syndicalist CNT, who played a big role in this, at its peak had a membership of over one million unionists with no more than two paid officials. This should illustrate that anarchism is actually about direct and collective self-governance — not simply anti-government.

"A complex urban society while at the same time not needing some form of redistributive governance is apparently not a possibility."

With the use of modern technology, anarchism is actually more suited to complex societies. The fact that we have the technology available to only have to work a maximum of 2 hours a day to meet our communal needs should illustrate the fact that it is capitalism which is not suited to our times!

"'Come out of the gallery/library/study' and get on to the streets"

How else to you expect substantial change to happen Maps? What is your suggestion? I look forward to your ideas on this.

More on indigenous studies when I finish work!

Jared

5:26 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

"so without institutions to help indigenous minorities educate the wider public, wouldn't that be a little counter-intuitive?"

Again, I point to my original reply — to what ends and whose values are institutions as they currently exist catering to. Universities in Aotearoa have predominantly moved towards business structures and models of management. It happened at Canterbury and is indicative of the kind of values that dominate those institutions. Like I said, it's not about doing away with institutions, but Capitalism and the social relations that entails.

"By condemning museums and art galleries out of hand as hopelessly bourgeois institutions Jared actually dismisses the struggles of Maori and other marginalised groups to achieve representation there."

Condemning those institutions does not dismiss the struggles of Maori who tried to achieve representation there — it just identifies the idea that those struggles may have been misplaced. I am against parliamentary democracy and voting — but that does mean that I do not recognise that many have struggled for that franchise. As I mention in my original text "A tree that has turned into a club cannot be expected to put forth leaves". The fact that Maori have gained representation in institutions does nothing to the aid the concrete denial of Tino Rangatiratanga, nor does it recognise those militantly against using those avenues for social change. It comes down to how we can achieve real, mass, social change. For me, this will not come from education alone — education, coupled with the drive to social freedom would be a start.

Now, here are some questions for anyone to answer, if they so desire. Do we learn to question capitalism in our current institutions of higher education? And I mean on more than just a theoretical/academic level... Again, does contemporary artistic values do more than simply perpetuate capitalist notions of identity, value, production and individuality? And if they don't, then towards what do they now point?

6:12 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

Sorry that should read "if they DO..."

6:14 pm  
Blogger maps said...

'Condemning those institutions does not dismiss the struggles of Maori who tried to achieve representation there — it just identifies the idea that those struggles may have been misplaced'

So you're arguing that the struggles to establish Maori Studies in universities and to get state funding for kohanga reo were 'misplaced'? Seriously?

Your monomania is showing Jared. Because you can't relate the Maori struggle to get state resources to save their culture and language to your vision of an anarchist revolution, you're inclined to deny its value.

But the saving of the language has its own value, regardless of whether it fits in with your teleology. And the language wouldn't have been saved without the campaigning of groups like Nga Tamatoa - groups which were based on campus.

I could give you a long list of other radical groups which have been born on NZ campuses, and a long list of academics, some of them reading this thread, who have been involved in left-wing activism as well as research programes inimical to capitalism, but I suspect you'd regard them as mere tools of the system, because they don't fit your definition of what is revolutionary. You really have painted yourself into a rather tight corner.

'does contemporary artistic values do more than simply perpetuate capitalist notions of identity, value, production and individuality?'

Do you really think this is all that Ted Bracey's beautiful and complex paintings of the Waikato do - 'perpetuate capitalism'?

'And if they don't, then towards what do they now point?'

Why don't you read my piece on Bracey and get back to us? Better still, drop the dogma and try to engage with Bracey or any other artist as an artist, rather than as a failed poster designer.

7:17 pm  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

You are very nifty at placing words in my mouth, as well as answering questions with further questions. I'll try to respond, but I realise we are talking past each other most of the time. Also, please refrain from childish attacks on my personal life re my supposedly failed poster career — it's unfounded and detracts from the debate. I've managed to conduct this discussion in an orderly fashion, and we'd all appreciate it if you keep your knee jerks form;y under the computer desk.

"So you're arguing that the struggles to establish Maori Studies in universities and to get state funding for kohanga reo were 'misplaced'? Seriously?

Your monomania is showing Jared. Because you can't relate the Maori struggle to get state resources to save their culture and language to your vision of an anarchist revolution, you're inclined to deny its value."

When have I denied the value of those struggles? Do I need to repeat myself again? Do you have selective memory? As I said previously:

"I am against parliamentary democracy and voting — but that does mean that I do not recognise that many have struggled for that franchise"

I do not deny the value of those struggles, rather I would suggest that they could be taken further with more concrete results:

"For me, this will not come from education alone — education, coupled with the drive to social freedom would be a start. "

I acknowledge and thank all those (who may or may not be reading) who have struggled to save and cultivate indigenous culture. Now, why not build on those struggles? After all, most change/education/exposure comes from direct action. Sure, those who are privileged enough to go through university can gain knowledge on Te Reo and Maori struggle (from that institutions point of view), but those not able to go to university have learnt of the struggle of Tino Rangitiratanga through the struggle itself: occupation, protest, hikoi etc etc.

"Do you really think this is all that Ted Bracey's beautiful and complex paintings of the Waikato do - 'perpetuate capitalism'? "

This comment makes me think whether you've even given my thoughts or texts a chance — have you been reading them at all? Do I have to spell it out again? So you saw some landscape in the gallery which spurred you into thought and art talk drivel. You seem to have changed your mind on how you felt about them. You asked some questions about whether this individual knew any colonial history of the area. Did you get a response?

Did Ted answer you back with a defiant yes? Or no? I doubt it. Why? Because as an artist, Ted doesn't have to make those kind of statements. Ted's status as the revered genius allows him to transcend everyday unpleasantries, and allow you to ask such important questions about, say, does this landscape have any meaning whatsoever? Hurrah for art! Hurrah for Ted, and his nothingness!

Yes, Maps, Ted has perpetuated capitalism. As have you by elevating such tripe to psuedo-thought. As have I by continuing to comment. Alas. And here's why. While we can debate about the content and content of art, while we debate the merits of an artistic practice, while Ted as an individual made work, defined himself as an artist, was showing in the gallery; while you and I go along and revere his individual talent, while you wax poetic over the intricacies of meaningless details of supposed meanings, while we place more emphasis on his talent rather than his social commitment, while his work can be purchased at a reasonable price and hung inside our private dwellings; we perpetuate the values, privileges and individualism of Capitalism — the inevitable outcome of a culture (itself the result of a socio-economic system) which is divorced from real life and obsessed with irrational reverence for activities which suits its own needs.

Stewart Home:
"This process posits ‘the objective superiority of those things singled out as art, and thereby, the superiority of the form of life which celebrates them, and the social group which is implicated’. This boils down to an assertion that bourgeois society, and the ruling class within it, is somehow committed to a superior form of knowledge.

From this we can deduce that art will continue to exist as a specialised category until capitalism itself has been abolished."

So in short, yes Maps, I do believe that Ted's work perpetuates capitalism.

8:44 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Interesting discussion - I see merit in some of Jared's ideas (or the impulse therein) - I am wary of Unions (virtually all I was in - I have worked in many factories and so on - were corrupt and just took money off the workers to fuel their own rise out of the ditches - I never got any help from any union - quite the opposite)) and other institutions - science also (scientists are far from objective - a lot of then are too scared to challenge the status quo - read BTW Sandra Coney's book "The Unfortunate Experiment" to see how the scientists are so good to workers! They experimented on women with cervical cancer for crap's sake!)) - sure great things from science but also take such as Teller who wanted a preemptive strike to obliterate (exterminate by nuclear bombs and radiation the people of) the USSR immediately he had developed his Hydrogen bombs; and from science came napalm; Science - and these various institutions need to be in the control of the people.

The art market is corrupt and full of phoneys...

Sure we still need spaces - but who controls these spaces?

10:36 pm  
Blogger maps said...

I wasn't referring to your career as a poster designer, Jared - I was echoing EP Thompson's dictum that a propaganda poster and a painting are two different things. Your basic problem, and the reason you haven't learnt anything thus far from our discussion, is that you don't understand that.

If you want to start to understand art, you need to put aside the idea that a painting is supposed to communicate an unambiguous political message to as wide an audience as possible, and instead consider that a painting, or any other work of art for that matter, might be something which gets us thinking in a creative, contemplative, dialoguic manner - something that opens our minds to new possibilities, rather than communicates what we already understand.

Ted Bracey's paintings speak powerfully of the connection that he felt with the Waikato landscape - a connection that was rooted in his rejection of the ugliness of urban American society, and which relied upon his memories of his childhood in the Hampshire Downs.

Bracey's vision of an agrarian paradise probably owed a great deal to the Romantic tradition, which is an important source of social critique in English history. Bracey's praise for life in the Waikato might remind us of William Morris' counterposition of rural English communities to the ugly chaos of industrial Victorian cities.

Yet Bracey's vision cannot be accepted unproblematically, because it glosses over the fact that the Waikato landscape, like the landscape of post-enclosure England, is an artificial creation, predicated on the dispossession of the people who once lived there. There is an ugliness that aches under the beauty of Bracey's canvases. And I think Bracey is aware of that ugliness - I think it lurks at the edge of his vision.

Now, I'm sure Bracey seems like a silly old fool to someone as politically sophisticated as you, Jared, but this condition of being in love with the beauty of a landscape and being uneasily aware of the history that lurks under that landscape is a very common one in the culture of a settler colony. As I noted in my post, I feel it myself. It's not easy to expurgate such a feeling, without expurgating a part of one's own heritage, and one's way of seeing.

As I've often argued on this blog, simply rejecting the whole Pakeha experience in New Zealand, and all the landscapes and culture Pakeha have created, is not possible; nor, though, is the demand that Pakeha culture and ways of seeing the landscape be treated as something 'natural'.

I think that many Pakeha feel, today, that they exist in an uneasy twilight zone, caught between a desire to acknowledge the injustices done to Maori and an awareness that they cannot disown their roots.

The right attempts to dispel this feeling of unease with assimilationist rhetoric about how 'we're all New Zealanders now'; the far left often tries to banish the same unease with rhetoric about how working class unity is what's important, and that ethnic and cultural differences are mere diversions from the struggle.

I think Bracey's paintings are powerful works because they do not dispel the ambiguity of feeling which is the part of the heritage of Pakeha. If Bracey had denied his emotional reaction to the Waikato landscape, and covered his canvases with some politically correct slogan about the theft of Maori land, then he may have created effective posters, but he would have failed to make art. By letting both his conflicting feelings into his Waikato paintings, he captured something of the truth of Pakeha experience, and also created a space where viewers can dialogue with him and develop their own thoughts, rather than have a pre-prepared political meaning shoved down their throats.

In the long-term, the subtle method in which artists like Bracey raise questions is just as important to left-wing politics as the work of poster makers. Historically, the New Zealand left has been weak in the areas of theory and analysis, particularly as they pertain to local experience. Too many activists have been dissuaded from thinking about issues like Maori nationalism and the nature of Pakeha experience because they have been supplied with readymade slogans by politicians and poster makers. By encouraging us to think for ourselves, artists like Bracey open a space beyond political rhetoric where creative analysis can be done and new concepts can be coined.

12:34 am  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

"If you want to start to understand art, you need to put aside the idea that a painting is supposed to communicate an unambiguous political message to as wide an audience as possible, and instead consider that a painting, or any other work of art for that matter, might be something which gets us thinking in a creative, contemplative, dialoguic manner - something that opens our minds to new possibilities, rather than communicates what we already understand."

If you want to undertsand what I have been saying this entire time, is that it doesn't matter what paintings, posters or other mediums are SAYING, it is how and in what context they say it. I understand all your rhetoric about contemplation, and that is great — we all know work of any kind (and not just painting, which you seem to elevate in status to say, poster making, a result of the hierarchical art world?) can provoke thought. But within those frameworks of the capitalist institution, through the capitalist mode of production, and with values inherent due to the overiding system we live in (consciously aware or not) that which is provoked does nothing to change the social relations of our time. Even if we did have an anti-capitalist message or thought as a result of Ted's work, it is limited by the fact that the channels we got to that thought negate the thought itself.

"I think Bracey's paintings are powerful works because they do not dispel the ambiguity of feeling which is the part of the heritage of Pakeha."

I think only someone like yourself, or myself, who has been through an art institution, has higher education and access to the privileges of contemplating art, would ever come to that conclusion. I don't mean to write of 'the masses' but it is a fact that most working people simply take from a work what the little white box on the gallery wall tells them to take from it.

"By encouraging us to think for ourselves, artists like Bracey open a space beyond political rhetoric where creative analysis can be done and new concepts can be coined."

I just don't buy that. He could have done the same thing, say as a collective, in a Treaty of Waitangi Workshop or similar local experience, and empowered a larger number of people than some artistic output ever could. This is what I mean by using creativity, storytelling and so in ways that are the most empowering and egalitarian, and free of capitalist restrictions.

Cheers
Jared

8:22 am  
Blogger Edward said...

Jared,

I'm afraid I cannot disagree with you more. With regards to University values I pointed out critical thinking, knowledge, and research to which you reply:

"This is true, but to what end? So you and I can comfortably fit into a teaching job, or to become a professional to service Capitalism, or maybe an academic in the very institution that has supposedly pathed the way to free-thought and liberation?"

You might not be aware of it, and I don't mean to sound harsh, but that is quite an arrogant view you hold there. The point is the pursuit of knowledge through honest research, with the aim of adding to the sum of human knowledge and thus benefiting humanity. This is what university education stands for. And what is wrong with a teaching job anyway? One of the most important things people can do is teach and pass on knowledge to the next generation. As for the capitalism link, well need I point out that Universities are a tad older and have and continue to be the sounding boards of political movements and struggles (anti-war, feminist, indigenous, civil, and human rights to name a few). Indeed you seem to have a rather glum view of why people go to Universities.

As for your next point:
"Where do I say that the world needs to get rid of experts? Where does anarchism imply this? And I don't mean your tv anarchism, but the rich tradition of libertarian thought. Anarchism argues that no one should have control or dominion over another. This doesn't mean that experts are to cease in their expertise — it simply means no one should use that expertise to order another around, or to invest in that expertise some kind of hierarchy or privilege over someone without it."

First of all I got the anti-expert anarchist link from the anarchist/libertarian anarchist link you have on your website, not from a TV show. Your assertion makes no sense. If an expert can't assert thier expertise because to do so would be to count the expert's argument as stronger than the layman's argument - again all things being equal you reach a nagative relativism - then there can't actually be any experts due to the authority status they might hold on a particular research area, which according to your website and the links you provide is inherently wrong. You simply can't say that you support experts on the one hand, then turn around and undermine that position by asserting extreme relativistic egalitarianism.

"With the use of modern technology, anarchism is actually more suited to complex societies. The fact that we have the technology available to only have to work a maximum of 2 hours a day to meet our communal needs should illustrate the fact that it is capitalism which is not suited to our times!"

Who made that technology? And where was that technology made? Funny thing about technology is that it is highly cumulative. Without an institution (university) to centralise, standardise and store the what where and hows of the past, that cumulative process is damaged on the scale to which you are talking about. Without universities to train people, your collective utopia of individuals won't be able to reasearch what has gone before them and thus build upon the standardised (thouroughly tested) work of others. Without this institution of learining the knowledge would again deteriorate to subjective relativism, and your thesis of anarchism with technology would fall apart - you need someone to design new technologies for your thesis to work, and how will they do that when you take the main resource away?
I've also heard the "work maximum of 2 hours a day" bull before. Really, where did you get this pseudo-calculation or factiod from? I've heard it time and again but never from a maths or statistical theorist, only from people who are desperate to prove the anarchist philosophy can work. Again, economic (i'm talking about human economic factors or universals, not Capitalism or any other specific), social and psychological factors need to be controlled for if you want to work out "facts" like that. And i'm talking about human behaviour here - you cant escape your biology.

Finally I can't help but note that you really just don't get it - for science and technology to progress a centralised and standardised repository such as a university is a necessity. Your background seems to be in the fine arts am I right? I am not trying to dismiss the worth of the fine arts or your own intelligence, but you obviously have no clue what is involved with studying the natural and human sciences. Your arguments about universities involve challenging what and how we are taught and an apparent wish for such institutions to be replaced by 'alternative' models education. Without the unifying institution of universities the disciplines of biology, psychology, anthropology, geology etc etc would cease to exist as you know it. As previously mentioned they represent repositories of human knowledge. Take the repository away, and you have to start pretty much all over again or at the very best case scenario are unable to progress technologically and scientifically - again to the detrement of all humanity. The natural and human sciences for example, not to mention other pure science such as physics as well as engineering are all underpinned by laws. Laws of nature, laws of human behaviour. These just aren't open to or able to function within the relativist anarchist framework you subscribe to. Where does that leave your utopia? Without medical doctors, surgeons, psychologists, engineers, etc. etc. etc. not to mention the people who made that computer you write on.
So you see universities are already fulfilling the idea of humanity working together. That is kind of the point - the cumulative process of adding to the sum of human knowledge in ways including technology, science, and the arts. This is apparently a point you are missing.

9:06 am  
Blogger Edward said...

By the by, my appologies if I haven't been able to articulate myself properly. As I said this kind of topic isn't exactly my forte but I hope I have added something constructive to the debate. Also, i'm not exactly pro-capitalism either, but I think that your position is too extreme and is unworkable.

At any rate, I have a thesis to write and this is causing me distraction, though I suppose you would say my thesis is merely alligned to capitalism rather than science and culture ;)

Cheers

9:24 am  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

I can't comment in fullas I am at work, but a quick note:

"So you see universities are already fulfilling the idea of humanity working together. That is kind of the point - the cumulative process of adding to the sum of human knowledge in ways including technology, science, and the arts. This is apparently a point you are missing."

As I have said many a time, I am not proposing the end of that institution, but a transformation of the ownership of that institution. For example, in Spain, universities were opened up to all, and used to share knowledge. It wasn't simply destroyed and left by the wayside! So please understand that it is not the intention to do away with anything previously established, but to convert and reform them to their most liberatory function for the social good and wealth of all.

"As for the capitalism link, well need I point out that Universities are a tad older and have and continue to be the sounding boards of political movements and struggles (anti-war, feminist, indigenous, civil, and human rights to name a few)"

Universities do not predate capitalism. But I do agree that they have become hot beds IN THE PAST for radical thought (May 68 in Paris for example). That doesn't change the fact that students and academics will never bring about the radical social change we need. The may be the catalyst, but I think that those who manage production have the power to really change things. Just my view though...

10:58 am  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

"If an expert can't assert thier expertise because to do so would be to count the expert's argument as stronger than the layman's argument - again all things being equal you reach a nagative relativism - then there can't actually be any experts due to the authority status they might hold on a particular research area, which according to your website and the links you provide is inherently wrong. You simply can't say that you support experts on the one hand, then turn around and undermine that position by asserting extreme relativistic egalitarianism."

Its not about relegating everyone to the same level, but allowing everyone equal involvement and opportunity. Of course an expert or someone can use their expertise! Anarchism is not some crazy dogmatic cult, it's living life to its logical conclusion. But that expert should not assume that their expertise allows them a hierarchical position over the laymen...

11:04 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jared wrote -

"I don't mean to write of 'the masses' but it is a fact that most working people simply take from a work what the little white box on the gallery wall tells them to take from it."

a 'fact' according to who? what patronising shite! who are you to speak for 'working people', anyway? do you work?

11:31 am  
Blogger Edward said...

Jared, alright. Reform rather than abolishment re: institutions such as universities. I still think what you subscribe to would do more damage than good in this situation but I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.

However, i'm not sure where you get the idea that Universities do not predate Capitalism. A quick wiki search (I know, its wiki but i'm short of time at the moment) reveals:
"The University of Constantinople, founded as an institution of higher learning in 425 and reorganized as a corporation of students in 849 by the regent Bardas of emperor Michael III, is considered by some to be the earliest institution of higher learning with some of the characteristics we associate today with a university (research and teaching, auto-administration, academic independence, et cetera)."

While Capitalism:
"According to the Oxford English Dictionary,[46] capitalism was first used by novelist William Makepeace Thackeray in 1854, by which he meant by having ownership of capital".
and:
"While some scholars see mercantilism as the earliest stage of modern capitalism, others argue that modern capitalism did not emerge until later. For example, nothing the pre-capitalist features of mercantilism, Karl Polanyi argued that capitalism did not emerge until the establishment of free trade in Britain in the 1830s.[70]"

So good old wikipedia has come through in this instance leaving your assertion bare of validity. Of course, looking at the above quote you might cite merchantilism as synonymmous with Capitalism (which it isn't) in which case:

"The earliest forms of mercantilism date back to the Roman Empire. When the Roman Empire expanded, the mercantilist economy expanded throughout Europe. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, most of the European economy became controlled by local feudal powers, and mercantilism collapsed there."

To which I can point to the origins of the university in a similar way:

"The original Latin word "universitas", first used in a time of renewed interest in Classical Greek and Roman tradition, tried to reflect this feature of the Academy of Plato (established 385 BC)."
and:
"The Academy (Ἀκαδήμεια) was founded by Plato in ca. 387 BC in Athens. It persisted throughout the Hellenistic period as a skeptical school, until coming to an end after the death of Philo of Larissa in 83 BC."

Now, I don't really want to sit here typing tick for tack as like I said i've got work to do. I know that it is really only a matter of a few trivial details, but I think it is important to try and get these details right. Universities are NOT synonymous with Capitalism.

Again, with the rest we have come to the point of the discussion where you and I will just have to agree to disagree unfortunately.

Cheers

11:32 am  
Blogger Jared Davidson said...

Hi anon,

Yes I do work. I work 9-5.530 monday to friday at Seventhwave Wetsuits. We manufacture and custom make wetsuits. I am also involved in workplace struggle and have worked all my life, so don't please don't assume that I have no experience of selling my labour in order to survive.

Out of our small workforce of 10, I asked around on opinions on art. Most had been to the new CHCH gallery once, but had not heard of say, HSP or fringe galleries. Most also agreed they felt like the had no knowledge when it came to looking at work and what to make of it. From this I make my assumption. Sorry if its not a call centre survey, but its the best I could do at work.

Edward, point taken. Thanks for that clarification.

Jared

12:08 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Edward - this is true - but capitalism - while it didn't really get roaring until the 19th Century had it's origins in (say) the Venetian Republic. Capitalism as we know it roared away in the 16th century until now...

But these 'factual' errors don't necessarily invalidate what Jarad is saying - as I said before I am interested in the IMPORT of what he is saying - I don't want to see an end of art galleries as I love art of all kinds actually - I see a place for many kinds of art - I see the value if of science etc (I at one stage wanted to be a biochemist - I still take an interest in science and tech - at an "intelligent layman's level") and fact all culture...[to me human culture is science - Scientia - knowledge in Latin - science as it is now is just (part of) that culture fragmented - or it can be]

How much does the art market and to what extent are such institutions as universities and the various "disciplines" (!) such as science - to what extent are they controlled or at to what extent is academic learning valuable and how much is it distorting - I think anyone with a good mind, open to ideas, and a degree of skepticism etc, will gain enormously from university study (I did - when I studied literature and some philosophy until 1994 when I got a BA)] [previous to that I studied electronics and telecoms through technical institutes, that was also of great value to my knowledge of the world and so on]] - however there are "dangers"* - but it seems Jared is advocating not the destruction of these institutions but a "radicalisation" of them...not sure how that would happen in practice


* Some of these dangers are these talked about by Foucault etc - a postmodernist, to boot, so we have the paradox here of postmodernist-Marxists sometimes supporting Jared and sometimes getting angry for his supposed attack on art and then certain Science Phd Boffins (although Edward may fail to become one if he gets into too many long debates!) "attacking" or grumping Jared for "relatavism" (but here Giovanni needs to be attacked! Well smacked soundly!); myself sitting on the philosophic fence as usual and blasting at Unions and Science - as practised SOMETIMES - hence unions can be good but in practice they are often corrupt (or uninterested) - but certain good things came via them - Awards etc used to protect conditions and set minimum wages... and science of course has many benefits - the problem or issue is control - who controls art, science and so on? Who gets to participate in Art, or in all those activities - theatre, art, music poetry, crafts etc under that term ART

In 1968 there was a (nearly totally successful) - revolution in France - the students took over factories and universities - also this happened in the US and elsewhere - it didn't last - but it showed the possibilities - the students were betrayed by the French Communist Party who told the workers to turn against them...

... relevant I think to that event, and this "debate"; are again map's valuable writings on E P Thompson who deals very much with these issues in fact even his "History of the English Working Class" is not irrelevant to this discussion - I feel that Thompson, while he was in no way someone to tear down institutions and had wide cultural and historical, as well as political interests; would have some sympathy for Jarad's "anarchistic leanings" -[perhaps not of "official anarchism" itself...but certainly its challenge to the most dourly dogmatic Marxist developments and Stalinism etc] - and the idea of an alternative to the power-nexus that is or can stultify creativity and the liberating possibilities for working people; that said I feel map's continued interest in art is good - here is someone very much into the "left" who is not simply an economist or a dull grey "realist" - there is more to the picture - the great Marxist leaders and thinkers have always recognised the need for theory AND practice...

So - I feel some of us in some of our thinking are much apart - but in other ways we meet - I certainly don't think Jared is as dangerous as the Doutre-Nazi nutters as maps suggested once...at worst he is, well, anarchistic, at best be is a breath of fresh ideological air - but I feel he perhaps too strongly wants to attack the great culture we have.

(In the late 60s to 70s I came close to being kind of communist-anarchist [but we had debates about culture - its need, its place even then - the C.P. was split on the issue of "intellectuals" and other things - for example Shadbolt was liked but looked upon as bourgeois individualist and so on] - and I myself, at various times - being ready (theoretically) to sacrifice all culture to a people's revolution) but I slowly got old and soft!))

..so Jared's "attacks" have some significance - but how to achieve this? Jarad is maybe rejecting art (or how art is produced, commodified, fetischised, and controlled etc) and wanting to make radical changes, without appreciating that in that critiqued culture already; there is or are seeds of "revolution" - or if not revolution - new ideas, new ways.

8:39 pm  
Blogger Edward said...

Richard,
Thanks for contextualising it more clearly for me. You raise some good points. And, as I admit, I am a novice at this kind of discussion. I'm not too concerned about any factual errors, as they are only trivial, but I just think its important to sort them out. As for the dangers involved with academia, yes, I agree that issues such as the ethics/morals of how science is used should (and increasingly are) centred on public consultation. This is important, as is an open door policy for the public and the growth in academia of public educational mechanisms such as resources for the 'public understanding of science' etc.

I also understand now that Jared is not advocating the destruction of such institutes so much as 'radicalising' them, but i'm afraid he's comparing apples with oranges here. With the natural sciences, human sciences, and engineering as well as other technology disciplines, what does 'radicalising' them actually mean? They are underlain by laws which are imovable by human agency. Now, i'm not pushing scientism, as I think the 'worth' of science is the same as the arts, only a different kind, but I do think that on a fundamental level science and anarchism can not coexist, and I think Jared is very naive of how science works in this regard. It seems to me that such brands of anarchist philosophy take for granted to a huge degree the culture surrounding them. Take the "modern technology = only 2 hours of work per day" rhetoric. The number of primises involved in such a rediculous assertion (i know this isn't Jared's original idea, but one popular in anarchist thinking) are mind boggling to the point where Occam's chainsaw is needed.

With regards to art and art galleries, I don't see why they need always be aligned with politics. Indeed certain kinds of art are sure to loose thier intrinsic value if they are, in a similar way to how certain types of science would loose intrinsic value if always and only aligned to politics.

Also, I see an illogical line of thinking to propose that 1) Capitalism capitalises on labour and material culture; 2) (most) art is a form of material culture, so; 3) we should change/restrict (art) material culture to stop capitalism. This is illogical because, while material culture can take on its own agency, it does not dictate social and economic organisation. Rather, social and economic organisation dictates material culture in a dynamic feed back. Besides, I don't really see how dictating that 'art' should be confined to political spectrums only, is any better than having some forms of art (or area of art culutre) as representative elite status items. In fact, I think it is far worse as it is a restrictor of personal creativity and agency, and thus goes against human rights.

Lastly I definately agree with the last few paragraphs in your post. There are a few points on which i'm sure Jared and I agree, and others we dont. His ideological framework (as far as I can assertain) is not attractive to me because I think such dynamics are socially detremental and too 'forced' as well as the fact that I think they reflect too strongly an 'in-group out-group' mentality even though this seems to be the thing he wishes to avoid. But that is just my opinion, and I have in fact enjoyed debating with him. It is at least a good thing to be thinking and questioning, and in turn to make me think and question.

9:41 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah stuff this education system.. its f'd up. my dads side is poor, and my mothers side is ok. not rich. but selfish and wont spend on us to further our minds in education... im from taranaki.. hawera.. thats a ghost town almost.. even the teachers were corrupt. and allowed, alcohol and drugs run through the school. you know why?? because their were on it.. silly 70's?? anyway the government invented the hard drugs overseas for military.. lol stuupid aye. then they make out users are corrupt, when it was authority figures whom started it...thats power for you, anyone who disagrees hasnt got a brain.

1:51 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

"... I also understand now that Jared is not advocating the destruction of such institutes so much as 'radicalising' them, but I'm afraid he's comparing apples with oranges here. With the natural sciences, human sciences, and engineering as well as other technology disciplines, what does 'radicalising' them actually mean? They are underlain by laws which are imovable by human agency. Now, i'm not pushing scientism, as I think the 'worth' of science is the same as the arts, only a different kind, but I do think that on a fundamental level science and anarchism can not coexist, and I think Jared is very naive of how science works in this regard. It seems to me that such brands of anarchist philosophy take for granted to a huge degree the culture surrounding them. Take the "modern technology = only 2 hours of work per day" rhetoric. The number of primises involved in such a rediculous assertion (i know this isn't Jared's original idea, but one popular in anarchist thinking) are mind boggling to the point where Occam's chainsaw is needed..."

By 'radicalising' I think I meant (lol) not that the laws or even the methodologies of science etc can be distorted - I'm not one of those who'd say - with any certainty! - that e.g. the speed of light is relative! It clearly is a constant wherever or whoever you are...as is e and pi or absolute zero. In fact if engineers and scientists didn't know about the speed of light and of thus the speed of all electromagnetic waves and e.g. that the cable factor causes electromagnetic waves (electricity) to slow down in cables depending on the Zx (Characteristic Impedance) of a cable they would not be able to design such communication systems as the internet... but this doesn't mean that there are not problems with "certainty" and so on...but these issues don't mean science cant be used and cant be highly enhancing (in the wrong hands of course it can be lethal weapon...)

The question is not the validity of science but of who controls the resulting technology and who benefits from it.

But art and science (they are not so divorced as you think Edward - you are getting a bit brainwashed by being in one department! Go - I admonish thee - randomly to a Philosophy or Art or Clasics or Music lectures or a lecture on Economics or even Sociology! - don't stay stuck in your Department! The same applies in reverse to people in the arts...I dragged a scientist (a Physicist) - an old chess playing friend of mine along to the launch of my poetry book...! He suffered but not too much!! I had to tell him that though I am quite a mean chess player (only on good days though) I am no good at programming or computer software, and only average (slow in fact) at maths, etc - he was astonished... );;;;;;;;;;


...art and science, I repeat, like all human knowledge, is something we seem to know in ourselves, is basically a good thing to seek. It is who by and how it is used that affects us.. Mostly art is enhancing - my own feeling is the state of the art market is not too good... but well ...art has always depended on patronage and so on and there are always those working alone - like me. [But no one really works totally alone]

But there is room for the possibility of a more radical world at includes a more empowered people who have ore saying how art is used (I don't mean how it is made or what messages it tells (unless taken to certain extremes but we can use common sense on that) - the artist needs to be free as does the scientist when working on science as science - that is why I support all art forms or movements and such things as genetic research and even genetic modification and how science is also)) - this (the control of the output or the "sale" of science and art etc) is however problematic as interference per se in either is not what anyone wants.

BTW - you shouldn't worry about what you are qualified to do - just comment - don't be so non Rennaisance! I comment on just about everything - and I mostly I don't really know what I am talking about!

maps will confirm that... And I contradict myself*...who cares?? It's all good fun...it's called The Random Principle of Invalidity and Elevated but Somewhat Ethical Method of Ambiguity and or Absurdity. [Or "Arguing the toss for the hell of it...."]


* "I contradict myself? Well then, I contradict myself!" (Oscar Wilde).

10:28 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

To bring it to 60 - I say that Einstein was an artist - an artist of infinity.

And think how millions of people welcomed him to the US (and lauded him throughout the world) - and most would never - like myself - understand his ideas...but of what I hear and somewhat know of them they are beautiful and complex (the ideas sometimes having the paradoxical genius of simplicity,of poetry, and the ambiguity of great art and great poetry or literature) - but people recognised the quest for knowledge - the beauty of ideas - the ordinary people sensed the greatness of this great fellow human being...

Einstein was a German Jew.
He evaded the Holocaust - unlike Anne Frank.

10:38 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

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8:23 pm  
Blogger so you tell me said...

You could almost hear the cry of pleasure as teh fingers crashed teh keys, but for the defensive soulessness of being a colonial nzer. Arguments like moving mulch.

12:57 pm  
Blogger so you tell me said...

In 1992 I was elected student rep for our Photography class taught by Glenn Busch, and Catherine Shine at Canterbury University. I presented a list of concerns the class had with the course content to the Head of school, Ted Bracey. I can't remember if Bracey said anything, but for the rest of the year both Shine and Busch ignored my requests for meetings, which was very intimidating. That year I received an E for my years worth of submitted work. I wasn't ignorant of the politics at play, Canterbury ran a guild like biz under siege, I just disliked the blatant abuse of power these people enjoyed against criticism. Though some of these people are gone the culture is stronger than ever.

12:27 pm  
Blogger so you tell me said...

I'm still arguing with "Ted Bracey".

12:29 pm  

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