Reading Deleuze's texts has been quite a personal experience to me (as opposed to solely intellectual or academic). Therefore, such are my present thoughts. Both a wonderful and disturbing experience. Besides the fact that I have been encountering many of my own and long cherished thoughts and ideas now expressed through mostly different metaphors and thus enhanced and deautomatized in my own perception, the disturbing has been the realization that some of those very ideas had started ossifying inside of myself without my fully being aware of that. Therefore, to me, these texts have not only been inspiring but also animating. Along such a journey, to read Bourriaud's text was an annoying astray that turned into a fortunate touchstone for the hitherto developed or awakened thoughts, finally into a peculiar affirmation of them.
Being an art critic (and I suppose, an art historian, as well), therefore aware of the importance of the change, shift and novelty, Bourriaud naturally aspires to bring some of these himself. What in my view his text actually offers is a manifestation of an impotent and more importantly, destructive sort of both art practice and social thought.
His "democratic" art suggested through this cheesy and ridiculous notion of "giving everybody a chance" to the point of disgust, is what I see as a manifestation of the highest level of arrogance, which is itself nothing but an embodiment of a deepest although the most perfidious kind of racism, or fascism (to use this so dear contrasting word to all these democracy promoters). This racism is utterly unaware of itself for it never questions itself as such. It however, leaks through personal attitudes, notions and actions. What is an artist to give everybody a chance?! Is he a god? The one who gives and takes away? Or is he the omniscient? My point here is neither to affirm nor to deny the artist as a divine creature, but to focus on Bourriaud's axiomatic maintenance of the artist as such. This is important because this notion "naturally" becomes applied to the admirers and those who understand and appreciate these artists and their work. Consequently, we have a consecrated group that gives a chance to everybody who thinks the way they do.
And chance for what? To justify your own thoughts, beliefs, ways of leading your life? To soothe your pains, dilemmas or fears? Or to hear that you are ok, I am ok and everything will be just fine – we'll have a democratic dialogue. Although I haven't read Bishop's article yet, from what I've heard about it, I believe we'd agree that a democratic society is not the cohabitation of bunch of zombies producing "a specific sociability" while "harmoniously" exchanging frozen smiles, whereas any potential wondering face whose muscles might be moving toward an expression that would suggest a criticism of any kind is treated as intolerance. The two-clocks-put-next-to-each-other endlessly and pointlessly (but democratically!) striking their seconds, to me is a marvelous plastic example of the utterly vulgarized notion of democracy – a society where any genuine (re)questioning is a taboo, where contractions are anesthetized, shifts in dynamics banished and differences …well, this is the Houdini level of illusion! Differences, today, have been existing and are cherished only within the "communication" – the one Deleuze is talking about.
Opposed to this Bourriaud's ever-giving art is the "authoritarian" art of all those obsessed megalomaniacs who used to fight and sweat while persisting in the process of conceiving and creating their "private symbolic spaces". I must say that I am very mistrustful about this "invisible glue" that Bourriaud's artists are using… Maybe because I usually miss to see parts and layers that can be glued at first place. The importance of the process that precedes a finished piece of art is not in the effort itself – an artistic value certainly has nothing to do with the amount of effort that is put into creating a piece. The basic problem that most of such pieces have in common is that they are single-layered. They tend to remain on the level of a more or less (and less than more) witty, interesting or lucid idea (in the sense of a "lucky" thought, pun and the like), which they then hurry on to present to the rest of the world. But there was no journey along which "witty ideas" become questioned and re-questioned, where personal feelings and experiences become exceeded, thus preventing an artist to make a piece that is nothing but an "imagination and projection of his own ego". Again, it is not about the amount of time, tools, materials or money invested and spent, it is about a multiplicity of layers existing within a piece. For, this multiplicity is what allows me to enter a piece, forget my former self and become another, and another, and another… It is the single-layered pieces that are inevitably authoritarian, or better – totalitarian, for they always offer one – a self-sufficient, flat one. Consequently, they disable me entering them unless I agree (with whatever is the content of the layer). And if I agree, I can rejoice in the recognition of my own self. Thus undisturbed, I go home, back to my harmonious democratic life.
This is why such pieces, besides their very questionable artistic value, have some seriously problematic political implications. Even more so, for the fact that the artists themselves usually designate their works as socially engaged, political and so on. This again brings me to the one of the biggest scams of our contemporary society – the notion of democracy that safely keeps under control any unanticipated movements behind the two-clocks mask, under the pretext of a banal and vulgar, yet deeply indoctrinated understanding of harmony and tolerance as static and limb states of mind. The Middle Ages had their rich subculture that emphasized the body sometimes to the extreme, thus creating a contra balance to the dominant Christian culture. Former totalitarian systems had their underground formations that in their own ways kept persisting in subverting them. But they had iron boundaries to deal with – when they hit against them, their bodies were bleeding. Our boundaries are elastic, made of silicone. Not only that they are indiscernible, but also smooth and soothing – when you hit, you get anesthetized.
… Maybe it is not about hitting anymore – about attacking and aggression, but about acknowledging and creation. Deleuze says: Good destruction requires love. I am sure he did not have in mind some kind of post-modern flower children (of which above discussed artists actually remind me). So what does it mean? To me, it is a very deep, multi-layered and difficult thought. The one I used to find only in texts of some Eastern artists, thinkers, healers. One of the ways I interpret it: to be able to create is to forget. But, forgetting here is not rejecting, starting off as some kind of a tabula rasa (which we never are), but rather allowing oneself to be deeply involved with the world, to look and see, to observe and learn, to accept it in a way of acknowledging it, thus to know it and, to use Deleuze's thoughts, to see what is missing in the existing in order to extract something that still belongs to it, though you also turn it against it. By having accepted your past, you liberate yourself from dependence upon it – you forget, and enable yourself for the future. Like one of the layers in Nietzsche's aphorism suggests:
· Was I ill? Have I recovered?
Has my doctor been discovered?
How have I forgotten all?
· Now I know you have recovered.
Healthy is who can't recall. (Gay Science)
And then, you create.