Clueless: contradictions, malapropisms and tensions within a contemporary art practice

Dutton, S (2010) Clueless: contradictions, malapropisms and tensions within a contemporary art practice. In: 1st Annual International Conference on Fine and Performing Arts, 7 - 10 June 2010, Titania Hotel, Athens, Greece.

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At a recent gallery opening of the work of Terry Atkinson , I got talking to an artist friend, ‘M’, and both of us were singing the praises of a certain mutual acquaintance, ‘D’ who happened to be ‘cropping up’ all over the place, in shows, in magazines, in his writings, even his teaching was being talked about. It was a genuine pleasure to see our friend doing so well but when my other friend ‘M’ made the point that ‘D ‘was really focussed and knew what he was doing’, and added wistfully, ‘I wish I did, I haven’t a clue most of the time’, I felt an immediate sense of empathy and it seemed entirely appropriate that we would have this conversation within the context of work by Atkinson who has recently described the art world as a ‘swamp’. Like my friend 'M’, I too mostly seem to be little lost in my practice, but it’s a waywardness I seem compelled to cultivate in a far more profound manner than a simple inability to focus, yet something about this apparent lack of direction seems to indicate back to me an absence of something altogether more serious, of a sustainable intellectual argument perhaps, leading to the further academic threat of the loss of peer esteem or even more withering, the accusation of a shortfall of artistic ambition. When asked to describe my work I often still stumble like a first year art student on his or her first viva. However I know its not that I’m not articulate, it’s that I’m not able to articulate a practice, which I have steered all over the place, precisely in order for it to be un-speakable. So why is this, why am I forced to feel this sense of inadequacy of a practice which I could argue, wilfully refuses to settle, that it is precisely this refusal which lends the practice its method and its appearance in the world. Should I admit to my wayward processes resembling some form of modus operandi then I am, of course, entirely ‘knowing’ about what I am doing. In which case I am finely performing my lack of performance, I am focusing, via the invocation of diverse and contradictory strategies, on this lack. David Bohm, in 'On Creativity' suggests that we must ‘give patient and sustained attention to the idea of confusion’. My argument for my contribution to ATINER will be for a rethinking of practice, particularly within the contexts of research driven agendas of the Art and Design Institutions, in order to create conceptual space for this confusion and complexity to exist as aesthetic tensions, which are attempting to exist outside of the realm of the essentialising commodification of the art market whilst being implicitly sceptical of the progressive drive towards knowledge of the contemporary research culture. In the words of Jacques Ranciere, ‘Aesthetics is the ability to think contradiction’. I propose to explore an argument that refuses to isolate waywardness as a lazy or uncritical approach, and indeed, to suggest that such an approach is deeply engaged, politicised and recognises contradiction as an aesthetic force. It may be possible to argue that this impossibility of classification, this refusal (or inability) to ‘focus’ is in itself a highly charged and even ideologically informed approach, having its routes in libidinal forces, which, at their centre promote a deeply profound and necessary critical distance and attempt at detachment from what could be seen as the atomising effects of the confusion and manipulation of everyday media orientated life, presenting another model of confusion, in which tensions and stresses, contractions and disturbances have an aesthetic and dynamic dimensions which may experienced as a form of pleasure. I will do this by drawing attention to my own practice within my collaborations of Dutton and Swindells and The Institute of Beasts, but I will also refer to the work Art and Language, Terry Atkinson, Fischli and Weiss, Arakawa and Gins, Liam Gillick as well as some emergent artists within the UK (Andy Spackman, Brigid Mcleer) and the thinking of David Bohm, Claire Bishop, Jaques Ranciere, Grant Kester and Elizabeth Grosz.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions: Bath School of Art, Film and Media
Date Deposited: 28 Mar 2017 15:48
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:45
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