Sunday, 8 October 2017

October 15th Blog Post

2nd year MFA: First blog post October 15th, 2017

I admit that I was struggling when I came back from Berlin. To say I wasn’t lost would be a lie. Maybe we sometimes need to go through a time full of upset to see with somewhat clearer eyes.

I take Jean Marie’s comments very seriously: ‘Are you in the work? You have so many projects going on simultaneously and that’s a concern for me. I think you can hone this thing down, which will be the key’.

It’s not that I know better now. I am still confused after all the hard work I had put into my studies last year.  What I know is that I used to work on several projects simultaneously and now that I sit down next to my canvas (in my garden) I realize that I need to slow down to get to the essence.

Even though I know what causes the heaviness in my being, I cannot translate my own story yet into words or art. But I am starting to establish a status quo of what I know to allow me to work with and through the information. I have never done more personal work than the work of the past two months.
(I hope this is not disturbing to anyone in my critique group or my advisors. If it is please let me know.)

What I started with were some short films in which I put together thoughts about things of importance for me:

-       ‘Grenzueberschreitung’ - about Freud’s and my thoughts about personal boundaries
-       ‘Heimat’ - about Nietzsche’s thoughts on Heimat (home land)
-       ‘Gott ist tot’ - about my thoughts about the non-existence of God

(Please find the links to those and more detailed descriptions under point 3).

1.     The Video ‘A la recherche de Michel Foucault’

What I did then, was to take a step away from trying to be very literal and explanatory, trying to shift the work.

Again, I would like to take the opportunity of being a student to experiment with video.

Here is my 8 min film:

If you don’t have time to look at anything else, feedback to this video would be most important to me.
Here is some background information on the video:
The idea for this video started when I was trying to find a connection between my personal past and some of the writers and artists who had been of utmost importance to me in my life: Schopenhauer, Hesse, Proust, Foucault, Hegel, Kiefer and Nietzsche. (I will write about this more in my project paper).
I am interested in how we Germans deal with collective memory, with forgetting and suppressing the past as opposed to remembering and trying to come to terms with the past. My memory is not only what I remember from my childhood but it is also connected to the collective memory of Germans. My generation has no personal experience of the war and the atrocities of the Nazis. The memory we are trying to create, comes through media of all sorts and surrounding origins. It is important to me to discuss this past and to learn from it.
I knew the beginning point for my video had to be Berlin and my connection to the city.
Another thing I realized throughout conversations with Farid in Berlin, was that Foucault came up a lot. During my studies of French and economics at the beginning of the 1980s and while I became a translator for French, I discovered Michel Foucault within the translation work.

At that time, I was interested in thoughts about power and how people impose power over others. I was interested in the psychological consequences of those who had been overpowered by others and what happens if a child’s boundaries compromised.

When you don’t learn how to protect yourself in your childhood then, as an adult you have a constant struggle determining how to protect yourself. It is difficult to find a proper way to reject those who come too close to me and do not respect my privacy and necessary mind space.

Farid and I discovered our common interest in Foucault, especially Foucault’s very interesting discussions about power. We both have experienced people having power over us without our consent. Farid is a Sufi and I admire his ability to forgive.

I was interested in Foucault’s writing about power structures, I was interested in how people can gain power over others and also I am interested in those people who are not necessarily in a power position but who enable those in that position by assisting them. I was interested in the power structure of the church and the power certain individuals have over others, reflecting on sexual abuse experiences of my childhood.

Farid was interested in Foucault because he relates Foucault’s ideas to the situation in his country through the Assad dynasty and his socialist father’s years of imprisonment, and eventually being killed by the Assad government 5 years ago.

This film is a very abstract approach to both our interpretations of Foucault. 
When one reads Foucault one can discover that he asks many questions and formulates how questions should be asked differently to give different perspectives about different ideas.
In my video, I travel by train or walk through Berlin. I inserted some excerpts of the shorter videos I filmed in September and mentioned previously. (more detail under 3.).
I have tried to abstract the film, be less literal and have used images that have meaning for me. The German text I speak are different Foucault passages and examples of my interpretation of power. 
How do I dissolve my problems from the past? How do I cope with those memories? I leave, I must go to find space for myself to breathe and to feel safe. The ending of the film shows images of leaving Berlin and going to a different place. In the film, I always travel from east to west, eventually leaving the city by plane in that direction. My metaphor of the only way I can deal with all of this is to go away.

The title A la recherche de Michel Foucault, refers to one of my favourite books, A la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust (1871 – 1922). In Proust’s novel, he recounts the experiences of someone talking about his memories of this childhood and youth, learning about art, participating in society, and falling in love. The most fascinating theme in Proust’s work is that he tells stories of involuntary memory. One example in his books is the ‘episode of the madeleine’, that eating a madeleine brought him back to an otherwise forgotten memory of his childhood. Involuntary memory, also known as involuntary autobiographical memory, is a subcomponent of memory that occurs when cues encountered in everyday life evoke recollections of the past without conscious effort. 

I have strong, comprehensive memories related to smells. Certain smells and odors can take me back to memories and experiences of my childhood and youth. It was important to me to make that reference to Proust and his book.

The music in my film refers to the fictional music work in Proust’s Novel, the Vinteuil Sonata which also triggered involuntary memory. The Chilean composer Jorge Arriagada recreated Vinteuil’s violin sonata for the film Le Temps Retrouve (Time Regained) for Raoul Ruiz’s film from 1999.

2.     Painting

While I was in Berlin I developed a very strong wish to paint with black and only with black. I imagined huge canvases of raw cotton and painting with tar. 14 years ago, when I started to create, I painted with tar because it was the most obvious medium to me besides pouring lead on metal. At that time, when my work was just for myself, I wanted to investigate what would happen if I bring together different materials, using lead, a medium which was very important in Germanic mythology.

Even though I am drawn to lead still, I do not want to use it anymore for health and safety reasons, however painting with tar and black paint seems like the only obvious solution to me.
After my presentation in Berlin, Michel Bowdridge asked me where my color palettes were coming from. Now that I have started to paint with only black for some weeks and have been reflecting on this question for a while, I think the color too, was hiding what was underneath.

These are some of the images I took in the garden after painting. So these are ‘cut outs’ of the big canvases.

Here are images of the big canvases in my studio

After having worked on 5 canvases during in the past two months,
I have started to respond to one of the canvases. The only logical response for me presently is text.

Why text?
Text seemed like the clearest means of response for me at that time. Any of my former shapes and elements in my previous painting work, did not seem to correspond to my current concerns at all. I wanted to see what would happen if I respond with text to what is there.

The red text is a text I wrote about my discovery about the nonexistence of God. Then, I felt a way to respond was to cover my text with a text about power structures by Michel Foucault. In preparation for the video I had been re-reading Michel Foucault’s Der Wille zum Wissen (La Volonte de Savoir) from 1983.

The more I thought about how I could possibly approach my work this fall, the more it became clear that Foucault creates the perfect connection for me to the work. His texts and ideas about power allow me to discuss German history and structures of power under the Nazis. At the same time, utilizing Foucault allows me to reference my personal history without having to discuss personal specifics.

3.     The three short films
When I started making this video, I initially put together some short videos that talk about my past:
a)    ‘Gott is tot’
Password: MichelFoucault
– this film refers to Nietzsche’s ‘Zarathustra’ and ‘Die froehliche Wissenschaft’ texts. They are texts about why I think there cannot be a god. I discovered this idea in my childhood while I was counting the lines in the carpet during sermons in church on Sunday mornings. My grandfather went there every Sunday to have his sins forgiven.
As a young adult, I discovered Hegel’s thoughts and discussion about the death of god. For me, at that time, it was important to find writers who would confirm for me that there was no god. Hegel wrote about the great pain of knowing that God is dead 'The pure concept, however, or infinity, as the abyss of nothingness in which all being sinks, must characterize the infinite pain, which previously was only in culture historically and as the feeling on which rests modern religion, the feeling that God Himself is dead, purely as a phase, but also as no more than just a phase, of the highest idea.’ (Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1845). Philosophische Abhandlungen. p. 153).

b)     ‘Heimat’
– This is a text by Nietzsche questioning what home land means. I question myself a lot about what home and home lands means to me. I am German and live far away from my former home.
Nietzsche has a conversation with himself. In the first part of the poem he describes the view of the lonely wanderer in the winter who is without home land. The wanderer looks at his lost home land and in his answer he rejects that he might be longing for it, in the ‘stupid happiness of the main room’ which he left as a free spirit, which he wants to remain, always.

c)     ‘Grenzueberschreitung’
This video is about what can happen when personal boundaries are not respected in childhood. I utilize my own writing combined with texts by Freud about that subject. I filmed the visuals at the former east/west border in Berlin between the former GDR and BDR, at the remnants of the Berlin Wall. (I will write more about this in my project report).

4.     News

As discussed with you in Berlin, after the solo exhibition in Edmonton in November last year, I had decided to not have any exhibitions until I have completed my MFA, since the pressure of creating new paintings for that exhibition did not work well together with the work for my MFA.

However, recently, I was invited by the curator of Victoria’s The Slide Room Gallery to participate in an exhibition called ‘GERMAN HISTORY AND PERSONAL MEMORY’. I feel the preparation for this exhibition coincides with my work for the second year of my MFA. The exhibition will run from February 9th to March 5th 2018. It will include works by two additional artists with a German heritage.

My plan now, for the next two months, is to create a new film that touches even a bit more on the ‘Personal Memory’.

5.     Critique Group

The critique group has started to discuss work at the end of September. Besides my critique group I have also been/will also be discussing my work with JoMichelle and Robyn.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Reading response - Artistic Research in the Era of Globalization

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, a Fellow of Harvard University, wrote a book published in 2012 entitled, An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization, a study of philosophic criteria for cultural discernment, its instruction, pertaining to worldwide economic processes. This is the summary of Chapter Sixteen, subtitled, “Imperative to re-imagine the Planet”.
Spivak, originally an educator in rural India recalled a speech he delivered at Stiftung Dialogik, an international civil society in Switzerland, in their series of presentations on refugees and immigrants. Her lecture became a renewed, global commitment to universal acknowledgement of Holocaust survivors’ memory. Vaguely described as community, resources, sustainability, ‘planetary’ is a situation of shared contentious issues to be addressed with challenging courses of action.
Spivak, born during WWll, her generation in India regarded that war as European because of the Holocaust, although a world war that became an device to end imperialism. Decolonization failed. That negotiated liberty is neocolonialism. She explained, significant Eurocentric economic migration affected consumer markets and from the fall of the Berlin Wall onwards, these demographics became unstable.
Her ability to contradict is especially available because Spivak is not an inherent member of sectors she critiques. She critiques the US and is not a US citizen, for example. She arrived in the USA in 1961, remains a resident alien or permanent resident, a designation that allows her to retain her Indian passport conceding “neighborliness rather than subjection” and allows objectivity.
Spivak explained the beginning of the evolution of Migration Studies as an academic sub-discipline, migration of people from countries other than their origin and displaced persons were not differentiated in the US and Europe. Europe is a conglomerate of small units each determined by its own colonial past, Switzerland being the exception, without a colonial background. European nations, including Switzerland allows “guest workers” adding that international aid / agricultural aid to support the growing populous.
Interpretive strategies are required to re-imagine the planet. Globalization, the imposition of the same system of exchange everywhere contradicts the otherness of cultural orientation.
Spivak suggested, the planet (which we inhabit) overwrite global (which we do not inhabit) that controls by digitally imposed variables. she determined this overwrite, replacement of old with new data, in the computer programming sense, a refreshed paradigm is needed for exchanges.

Referring to Charles Taylor’s "The Politics of Recognition", a Hegelian philosopher that wrote about a moral ideal, the subjectivity of culture, Spivak asserted, assumes the intellectual, political culture of Northwestern Europe was obliterated by imperialism. Spivak compared care with responsibly verses care as an obligation. She cited examples through history of how labour versus goodness view right and responsibility to work as the truth of being.
She contrasted views of nomads view of the earth, human habitation and work in community as planetary, collective responsibility as a human right. She says that learning the Aboriginal way of living as the ‘custodians’ of the planet was daily being compromised by the Development lobby’s drive to patent indigenous knowledge.

We are also reading one of Marx’s ‘subjunctive’ and very interesting formulas for the transition from capitalism to socialism. When we compare the world situation of Marx’s times to today, where there is a tremendous shift versus more capitalism and less social equality it is hard to imagine how mankind could possibly find ways out of this dilemma, where one percent of the world owns more than the other 99%. › Business › Savings

Debt and Study by Fred Moten and Stefano Haney

Die Schere zwischen arm und reich wird immer groesser. Rich countries profit from exploiting poorer countries, instead of giving and providing, the debt only rises and brings those who own into deeper and deeper debts. Resourses are exploited.

“Bad debt” is described as debt that cannot be repaid – debt as duty, as black commitment, queer promise, criminal liability. “Excessive debt, incalculable debt” is shared within communities and is a means of socialization.

Credit is asocial. It is means of business or community means to increase financial liability and diminish societal responsibility. Pairing debt with credit advances credit that can be expanded by debt. Credit is a means of privatization and debt as a means of socialization. Creditors want to destroy societal responsibility, the bad social debt that is widespread, in the shared state of indebtedness, people share, without wanting anything. Creditors keep track.

Students avoid credit. Credit offers to match credit for debt. Studying, the students builds debt they do not intend to pay. Debt cannot be forgiven. It can be forgotten and remembered.
Forgiven debt (unlike bad debt) is a means to restore credit, which is called “restorative justice”, but there is no compensation for communities suffering.

Only creditors forgive debt by offering credit, offering more from the source of the pain of debt. There is no justice for those suffering because the societal “bad debt” cannot be forgotten nor can it be paid. It cannot be forgiven.

A parallel example is described. An entity called “North” can be a person that spends with credit cards, becomes destitute or lends to a friend who will never repay. Another comparison is made with “Global South” regarding credit contributions to organizations that retains its debts, changes them for other debts, common business practices that drain community resources.

Credit can be rebuilt. Restored credit is renewed obligations to be met, “measured, dispensed, endured” that prohibits justice, the justice where there is no obligation or demand and no payback.  “Good (private) citizens” have consistent backgrounds, income and obtain credit for more debt.  Bad debt is not because of unemployment, no credit / bad credit. Bad debt is a state that is disconnected from creditors. It resists restructuring, seeks others in need. Bad debt cannot be perceived by wealth. Governance wants to reconnect debtors’ obligation to society. Interests allows policy development through credit to pay for interests.

What kind of a society is this? That does not substitute university fees? In North America one has to be rich to be able to be a student or risk to run into unbearable debts? It is a society that does not want poor people to study, a society that wants University knowledge to be available only to the rich and privileged community. In Germany, there are no university fees. Studying is free and is paid for by the tax payer. Education should be available for everyone who wants to study, no matter which social class people are from. In some countries like the US there are only a small percentage of well educated people, the majority does not have a good education and is prepared to work for minimum wage. Even if people work full time, their wages do not pay for their cost of living, often people need to work two jobs in order to be able to keep out of debt. How can a government want this? Billions are spent on weapons, only some get rich, and less money gets spent on education. The government does not have an interest to educate their people well. The less educated people are the easier they can be manipulated.

A co-written article by Fred Moten, Stefano Harney,
The University and the Undercommons - 7 theses

Professionalization Is the Privatization of the Social Individual through Negligence
This section addresses public administration courses, especially Masters of public administration, public health, environmental management, nonprofit and arts management, human service disciplinary clusters. The authors deny professionalization brings benefits of competence, practical advances or critical projects that would turn competencies to radically beneficial outcomes.
The authors declare they have ended any association with critical academics. They maintain “underlying negligence” is a cause for university labours’ anxiety. Average lectures are skeptical of government, modest in its social policy goals. Especially, the authors are concerned that there is no state theory in public administration programs in the United States. Apparently, passionate students are suppressed by professionalization.
“This is not merely a matter of administering the world, but of administering away the world (and with it prophecy)”, which “borders on the criminal”, they wrote. Questioning becomes a departmental breach. Public administration confronts socialization created by capitalism, which can be reduced to public or private socialization. This division invalidates scholarly opinions and creates a social deficiency.
Socialization divided between public and private denies common labour, in the Undercommons, for example. This is the negligent opinion of professional public administration scholars, according to the authors.

There Is No Distinction between the American University and Professionalization
Professionalism is shaped by compliant people that engage in education control, impose professionalism rather than intellectual rigour. Paradoxically, the Undercommons’ academics refuse to decline professionalization or “to be against the university”. Therefore, the university and by association professionalization is shaped what it cannot and will not acknowledge as its internal opposition.
A professional education has become a “critical education”. This does not refer to progress in professional schools, nor collaboration with the Universitas, but disrepute for those who refuse to criticize or dismiss the Undercommons. Those “critical” academic professionals tend to be regarded as safe and submissive. The university ambition mirrors the state’s ambition, because it, too, wants to control education and impose a worldview that threatens rigorous academia of the Undercommons.
In Derrida’s reading of the Universitas, he describes the university as intellectual and not a professional entity that always has the drive of State, the political power where the university is located. The university also has the power of enlightenment, and the pressure of State (governance) - state of being, or the lower case idea of state where politics remains theoretical. Derrida wrote that onto (name) and auto (self) – encyclopedic (information) refers to both the State as governing body and the state of theoretical politics., both being ambitious.

The Only Possible Relationship to the University Today Is a Criminal One
Quoting Shakespeare’s character, Pistol, a swaggering coward, “To the university I’ll steal, and there I’ll steal,” the authors explained that American universities repository of valuable thinking is located in a place of refuge for rebellious intellectuals, where ideas produced are stolen. The place, which is not a physical place, explicitly, is called the “Undercommons”, the academic retreat where the nonconformist thinkers and achievers congregate. Defining the optimal relationship to the university that needs academics but cannot tolerate the outcomes of academic achievement, academics are forced into the “Undercommons of Enlightenment” to continue their pursuits in a covert setting, maintain accompanying political rigour, “where the revolution is still black, still strong”, especially denoting the likely biographical experience of one of the authors, Fred Moten.
The work of the university as “Universitas”, the Latin word meaning the whole, total, the universe, the world, according to Merrium Webster dictionary, is a commitment to the discipline called education through the experience of being taught and teaching reciprocally between student and instructor, the world at large as teacher.
A student would ideally gather what they can from the university instruction, furtively (steal), because to do so is to acquire knowledge that cannot be bought. Knowledge is not an object for sale. Universities attempt to sell the knowledge as a product and therefore, students must steal, although what they seek is intangible. Students enter the Undercommons, where “fugitive enlightenment enacts” the demanding and passionate societal and personal expansion in students’ education.
The university needs to continually recruit new labour and it recruits from the Undercommons because of the academic rigour available there, in spite of its denunciation by the university, “Like the colonial police force recruited unwittingly from guerrilla neighborhoods.” Exceeding professionalism’s restraints, students, with life-long learning may return to the university, could consider themselves part of the problem of inadequate academic contributions.

Critical Academics Are the Professionals Par Excellence
Critical academics question the university, questions the state, questions art, politics, culture. The authors ask, “What can it mean to be critical when the professional defines himself or herself as one who is critical of negligence, while negligence defines professionalization?”
The academic critical of the university would be a professional par excellence and more negligent. To distance oneself professionally through critique is the most active consent to privatize the social individual.

Artistic Research in the Future Academy

Daniel Butt discussed the evolution of postgraduate programmes in studio art. Historically, artists rejected scholastic activity to minimize the challenges of art production (Wachter) or because art research opposed the intelligence inherent in art, “There is no solution, because there is no problem.” (Duchamp). Because art students often evade supervised written research reports, although insightful critics, most artists are unhappy with being told what to do. Failure to recognize artists as independent may occur when artists are required to write. Previously, the market saw artists as producers of mystery, not an explainers of mystery.

Butt recorded enduring questions regarding the expected and accepted outcomes pertaining to art production in relation to postgraduate studies. Art as a concept in a research paper exists for bureaucratic calculation of a student’s degree performance. Making art without written concept development allows direct, personal exchange with the viewer. Art materiality, its varied classification and understanding enables art to be, quoting David Joselit, “beside itself, decomposing stable identity into possibility.” He argued that the institutional (university / literary criticism / artistic research) audience, however, bound by sociological and political-economic dictums prevented art from being readable.

This readability was challenged by artists / researchers, now art theory writers. there is an evolution in writing because visual arts became theorized, unstable as a product as visual art. Erratically theorized writing, otherwise called work of art research was produced, intended to direct the reader to create worlds. Through reading the written delivery of art concepts, the reader became the creator. It is not the writer but the reader that produces. This reader / viewer role reversal requires independent critical interpretation.

Explanations (critical interpretation) of what was experienced through artists’ written concept development affected the independence of the work. To achieve a doctorate, artists must have artistic freedom to choose their medium, (written concept experienced by the reader). They must be evaluated on their contribution to aesthetic knowledge available through this choice, a scientific paradigm of technoscientific intuitions.

Butt identified institutional histories, conceptual frames and ideologies, bureaucratic, financial molding that transformed theological into philosophic, then technoscientific progressions that allowed fine arts into the university. Every university discipline is a market segment. Artistic research / explanatory writing became marketable, inquiry that experimented with the research degree as industry, countered the art sales market. Butt suggested radical growth, rationalized university teaching in creative disciplines allowed global art education to influence art production, more than the art sales market.

Butt explained global art education influence is a result of the correspondence of art practices through the research degrees as industry within the university market. Making work in the visual arts has become an institutional critique of the constraints of art production that contests universities’ knowledge making practices.

Because of the history of authoritative interpretation, it became habitual practice for artists rely on others to interpret their work. Writing about their own work gives artists authority, although the first in the chain of interpretation (curator / audience / critic) - “the correct interpretation can no longer be the artist’s property if the audience is to find their own experience of the work”. 

Heidegger restated that a “work of art” prompts an experience where we exist in our current present, remember a world outside ourselves, which capitalism would have us forget in our chase to improve what we already know.

As artistic production is incorporated uneasily into the constraints of university knowledge, artistic research becomes capable of pushing the future university to understand how to live on the planet. The goal of this book is to provide intellectual support to those practitioners making this critique of planetary life through their works, identifies the forces inhibiting this critique. For example, university limits artistic research to ask unconditional questions.

“Neo-liberalism” the catch-all term for capitalism, critiques globalization and international monetary policy. Foucault’s historical analysis of neo-liberalism showed governments manage populations, individuals through regulation. The capitalist concept of freedom embodies a civil society that trades outside the confines of the state.

The transition from the European nation state to electronic global capitalism dominates contemporary life. It is the context to analyse art education. Individualist freedoms have become a barrier to new forms of collective freedom that must be thought outside the neo-liberal conception of the collective as a sum of individuals that have been identified from within critical artistic practices from the late 1960s, particularly those associated with feminist, queer and anti-colonial movements. Institutional constraints on freedom are disavowed through the collective disruption of art’s organizing mechanisms.

The incorporation of the art school into the university continues to create productive tensions between scientific and artistic production because it brings the previously distinct university knowledge and artistic production into a shared logic and a shared economy. The transformation has included Ph.D.’s in studio art. Debates question if an art object can hold knowledge or produce knowledge in the scientific model. 

Other questions include:
·      How does the previous gatekeeper of culture’s historical disciplines conform to an educational industry, training ground for every field of production?
·      How does image production and circulation as the extension of artistic practice with its own medium and institutional context fit into a broader politicized affect?

Creativity has become inconsequential labour and production, where the entrepreneurial neo-liberal individual must creatively author their own life narrative. Debates about whether art is able to make a contribution to university knowledge requires that any university activity be profitable.