Trust Exercise

Trust Exercise
Just imagine if old Bas Jan had mates like these...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

email invitation

We were raised that maybe we should die in our own name to serve the market, and lived in each other, taking ownership of everything and nothing...

I am still quite unwell. I have been hoping to get it together to say what I needed to say before now, presuming there is anything left to say at all. I suppose it works out for the best that I am in some kind of state and am left reliant on my friends to convey what it was I was sort of unsuccessfully trying to get at... that I was trying to put this together as a shared enterprise, to facilitate things happening as well as contributing my own ideas, because I love this life that I share. I love that so many nights are taken up going to look at things and talk to people who put things into the world usually at a cost- both financially, and in the acceptance that regardless of the calibre of the work they will be judged harshly by some; knowing that they are unlikely to ever profit by choosing this path, or mode of being. At best, what we have is what we share and it is something beyond anything that could be measured in monetary terms or defined by any self-interested theory of value (citing status). Every person I have involved in this exhibition has my trust, my respect and my love. The people exhibiting in this exhibition are people that have shared things with me... too much wine... or sent me emails about things I might like... or mixtapes... they've shared knowledge and ideas that were exciting and interesting to me. I am grateful to have the opportunity through Sean (Breezeblock) to be able to in turn facilitate passing some of that on... that's really all I have to answer for a curatorial statement.

I would love it if you would join us.

Zoe (O'Mahoney/Robertson)

(get on the email list:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Initial Response from Mitchel Cumming


All of this lines up almost too perfectly with my current line of thinking, so I would be a fool to refuse the invitation.

"I am a primary producer and I deal in raw material, just as I believe all of you are and do."
Primacy confuses me, especially a consideration of the curatorial act as primary. That said, I certainly don't think it impossible to think of the curatorial role this way, and personally have been thinking a lot about how it may be done. I think the question comes in two parts. The first is more obvious and connected directly to your desire to critique the institutional frame eg i) How does the curatorial act not overshadow the individual voices it attempts to present (eg Szeemann vs Buren @ Documenta). The second is more a question of identifying the difference of the act of curating to the act of artistic presentation eg ii) How does the curatorial act perform?

This second point has been taking up a lot of my time. As does the curatorial act. As such, a lot of my thinking has gone along with Jan Verwoert. 
( Verwoert: To All Those Who Set the Stage -
He identifies a key difference between artist and curator as the difference between performer and host. For Verwoert, while both the curatorial act and the artistic act can and should be valued to the same degree - as integral halves of a whole that seeks to bring work into view - it must be remembered that they operate on different temporalities. Where the artist must perform on the stage in a triumphant act of presentation, the curator's labour is tied to an ongoing and developmental position. Following this thinking, in order to honour curatorial activities as vital, bringing them onto the stage is perhaps an unfair act.

This becomes interesting in relation to Buren's conception of the studio, and the truer connection felt to the work when it remains in the place where its own developmental labour is evident. 

I think this is an interesting way of drawing together strands of practice that exist in interesting curatorial approaches AND in the practice of artists who feel the strong need to actively frame their own work. Both share an understanding of the activity of artistic production as ongoing, as daily, as incidental, as conversational, as communicative, incremental, occuring both actively (exhibiting) and passively (conversing). I think often about resituating artistic practices in this way, and believe critical and theoretical approaches toward the arts would do well to observe them. 

I'm very interested in where the act of exhibiting, and the desire to exhibit, fits here. If art can be thought by its practitioners as all of those previous things (ongoing, incremental, incidental etc) then the exhibition seems almost an anomoly. But we still do it, we still need it (I still need it?). Maybe its best to think of it simply as a stoppage. This would fit with the variation in temporal structures of the curator and the artist (although maybe I've made the case they are not so different after all?). Any timeline, whether performative/theatrical or durational/ongoing needs these stoppages to ground itself.

This is starting to spiral. Look forward to more talk.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

very long email invitation: trust exercise

I would like to invite you to be trusted by me, asking of course that you first trust me, as is the nature of the exercise. I was asked to curate something at Breezeblock in September ( by Sean Rafferty whom apparently trusts me to do so. Obviously my first instinct is to attack the project in much the same way as I always do: to critique the institutions and processes involved by way of obtuse poetry.

I realise I do not know what curatorship means.

From the online etymology dictionary ( (my favourite website):

late 14c., "spiritual guide," from Medieval Latin curatus "one responsible for the care (of souls)," from Latin curatus, past participle of curare "to take care of" (seecure (v.)). Church of England sense of "paid deputy priest of a parish" first recorded 1550s.
mid-14c., from Latin curator "overseer, manager, guardian," agent noun from curatus, past participle of curare (see cure (v.)). Originally of those put in charge of minors, lunatics, etc.; meaning "officer in charge of a museum, library, etc." is from 1660s.

Thus, in some sense, to assign me as curator is to put me(lunatic) in charge of the asylum, though I am uncertain as to whether it is to dictate the care of your souls or whether that would not, in fact, be preaching to the choir.

To be asked to curate is to be asked to assemble works already perfect, in the sense of the "perfect tense," that they are in the past; or else it is to develop work alongside an individual or individuals whom you believe have the potential to create new work that will function within and potentially beyond the limits of your own ideological concerns. This process means that you mean something, much in the same vein that you might vote with your wallet, select from an endless yet finite number of products/brands made available to you as a consumer in order to create an identity... but it also allows for the possibility of transcending its own context as reasoned consumption may approximate some kind of buying back of humanity, where all else is rationalised into obscurity.

I am a primary producer and I deal in raw material, just as I believe all of you are and do. That is not a small thing. I have been thinking extensively recently, may have even mentioned it to you... on the different way that (some) artists and (some) curators perceive and experience art, as somehow apart from institutions and capital. I have become convinced that it is something that is part of our lived experience. I will now share these three source thoughts with you, somewhat isolated from their original sources.

From: Eileen Myles, An American Poem: (via Eleanor Weber)(
"And my art can’t
be supported until it is
gigantic, bigger than
everyone else’s, confirming
the audience’s feeling that they are
alone. That they alone
are good, deserved
to buy the tickets
to see this Art."

From: Daniel Buren, the function of the studio, 1971 (
"By producing for a stereotype, one ends up of course fabricating a stereotype, which explains the rampant academicism of contemporary work, dissimulated as it is behind apparent formal diversity. In conclusion, I would like to substantiate my distrust of the studio and its simultaneously idealizing and ossifying function with two examples that have influenced me. The first is personal, the second, historical.
1. While still very young-I was seventeen at the time-I undertook a study of Provencal painting from Cezanne to Picasso with particular attention given to the influence of geography on works of art. To accomplish my study, I not only traveled throughout southeastern France but also visited a large number of artists, from the youngest to the oldest, from the obscure to the famous. My visits afforded me the opportunity to view their work in the context of their studios. What struck me about all their work was first its diversity, then its quality and richness, especially the sense of reality, that is, the "truth," that it possessed, whoever the artist and whatever his reputation. This "reality/truth" existed not only in terms of the artist and his work space but also in relation to the environment, the landscape. It was when I later visited, one after the other, the exhibitions of these artists that my enthusiasm began to fade, and in some cases disappear, as if the works I had seen were not these, nor even produced by the same hands. Torn from their context, their "environment," they had lost their meaning and died, to be reborn as forgeries. I did not immediately understand what had happened, nor why I felt so disillusioned. One thing was clear, however: deception. More than once I revisited certain artists, and each time the gap between studio and gallery widened, finally making it impossible for me to continue my visits to either. Although the reasons were unclear, something had irrevocably come to an end for me.
I later experienced the same disillusion with friends of my own generation, whose work possessed a "reality/truth" that was clearly much closer to me. The loss of the object, the idea that the context of the work corrupts the interest that the work provokes, as if some energy essential to its existence escapes as it passes through the studio door, occupied all my thoughts. This sense that the main point of the work is lost somewhere between its place of production and place of consumption forced me to consider the problem and the significance of the work's place. What I later came to realize was that it was the reality of the work, its "truth," its relationship to its creator and place of creation, that was irretrievably lost in this transfer. In the studio we generally find finished work, work in progress, abandoned work, sketches-a collection of visible evidence viewed simultaneously that allows an understanding of process; it is this aspect of the work that is extinguished by the museum's desire to "install." Hasn't the term installation come to replace exhibition? In fact, isn't what is installed close to being established?
2. The only artist who has always seemed to me to exhibit real intelligence in his dealings with the museum system and its consequences, and who moreover sought to oppose it by not permitting his works to be fixed or even arranged according to the whim of some departmental curator, is Constantin Brancusi. By disposing of a large part of his work with the stipulation that it be preserved in the studio where it was produced, Brancusi thwarted any attempt to disperse his work, frustrated speculative ventures, and afforded every visitor the same perspective as himself at the moment of creation. He is the only artist who, in order to preserve the relationship between the work and its place of production, dared to present his work in the very place where it first saw light, thereby short-circuiting the museum's desire to classify, to embellish, and to select. The work is seen, for better or worse, as it was conceived. Thus, Brancusi is also the only artist to preserve what the museum goes to great lengths to conceal: the banality of the work. It might also be said-but this requires a lengthy study of its own-that the way in which the work is anchored in the studio has nothing whatsoever to do with the "anchorage" to which the museum submits every work it exhibits. Brancusi also demonstrates that the so-called purity of his works is no less beautiful or interesting when seen amidst the clutter of the studio-various tools; other works, some of them incomplete, others complete-than it is in the immaculate space of the sterilized museum.5 The art of yesterday and today is not only marked by the studio as an essential, often unique, place of production; it proceeds from it. All my work proceeds from its extinction. 5. Had Brancusi's studio remained in the Impasse Ronsin, or even in the artist's house (even it removed to another location), Brancusi's argument would only have been strengthened. (This text was written in 1971 and refers to the reconstruction of Brancusi's studio in the Museum of Modern Art, Paris. Since then, the main buildings have been reconstructed in front of the Centre Baubourg, which renders the above observation obsolete-author's note.)"

From: "God didn't die, he was transformed into money" - An interview with Giorgio Agamben - Peppe SavĂ , 2012 (also via Eleanor Weber)(
"The only place where one can live in the past is the present and if the present ceases to feel the life of its own past, then the museum and art, which are the most well known images of that past, become problematic places. In a society that no longer wants to have anything to do with its past, art finds itself trapped between the Scylla of the museum and the Charybdis of commodification. And since our museums of contemporary art are so often temples of the absurd, both of these things go hand in hand. Duchamp was probably the first person to become aware of the dead end in which art had become interred. Just what did Duchamp invent with his “ready-made”? He took some ordinary object, a urinal, for example, and by introducing it into a museum he compelled the museum to show it as a work of art. Naturally—after a brief period of surprise and shock—nothing can be attributed to its presence there: not the work because it is an ordinary object, just any industrially-produced object, and not the artistic work because it involved absolutely no “poiesis”, no production—and much less the artist, except as a philosopher or a critic or as Duchamp liked to say, as “one who breathes”, a mere living being. In any case it is certainly true that he did not claim to have produced a work of art, but to have cleared the way for art, which was stuck between the museum and commodification. As you know, what happened instead is that a class, one that is still active, of clever speculators transformed “ready-made” into a work of art. And so-called contemporary art does nothing but repeat Duchamp’s gesture by filling the museums, which are nothing but organs of the market devoted to accelerating the circulation of merchandise which, like money, have attained a state of liquidity and which they want to continue to value as if they were works of art, with non-works and non-performances. This is the contradiction of contemporary art: it abolishes the work of art and then puts a price tag on the result."

Thus, this email acts as a proposition more than a request for physical work... the way my thoughts are going it is supposed to manifest in order to (re)create the space of our kind of domestic engagement within the limits of the vitrine-like space that is Breezeblock. All of you have been chosen for being in the habit of sharing ideas and research with me, and for your active role within this(our) context... For me, ideas are the real currency of art, the real potential for freedom, the only meaningful space. So I suppose I am initiating this exchange in order to ask for your contribution, in name and in thought... later perhaps even for objects of ritual domestic significance. I realise that I have not mentioned anything especially concrete as of yet, but your responses are the first step. You may respond in kind (with a lengthy treatise) or in any other way you see fit, a YouTube clip, a song, an object, a flat denial and rejection, what evs.

I find that I still have little interest in reading aesthetic theory written by those who do not participate in the dissemination of the aesthetic. Aside from interesting but somewhat irrelevant sources I find myself going directly to cultural producers to speak more to the way that things are and what we do. I suppose that this may manifest as an interview process, more than anything, so be warned. (LOLs.)