Distortionary Dialogues

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The OG K-Hole?

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1 The OG K-Hole? on Sat May 26, 2018 6:46 am

avant.org/artifact/stephen-willats/

PS: check out the self organizing furniture.

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2 Re: The OG K-Hole? on Sat May 26, 2018 6:49 pm

Really interesting read. The most consistent feeling that I'm tracking here is an almost regretful remembrance of the idealistic dreams of the sixties colored by the appalling results of cybernetic research in our contemporary world, "which has got us into a lot of trouble, but anyway…"

The covers for the first few issues are beautiful. I wonder about the choice to include such simple, solid images given that the magazine seems to have such a deep interest in diagramming and charting out nodes and connections. The unicity of the cover, for Mr. Willats, seems to be designed to connote the magazine's interest in a mode of control distinct from what he perceives to be the dominant, top-down hierarchy of modern society: control as structured by "self-organizing, homeostatic, one-layer systems. The idea of networks between people." A fascinating focus, given the developments that the following decades were to bring in terms of technologies of surveillance and deputization.

Unfortunately, this interview doesn't provide me with a very detailed understanding of what kinds of contributors and pieces were included in the magazine, although it sounds like it became more and more theoretical as the issues progressed. However, given the conceptual weight behind some of the basic decisions in the magazine, the form/content distinction may be unhelpful in this case. Still, I am very curious - who was invited and why? What did they have to say based on the overall 'theme' of Control?

I like the idea that the art object (understood as art object, not as magazine) can be seen as a node inserting itself into the network of the recipient's existing connections, and thus can hijack or redirect certain flows of information and energy. The most direct example I find in this interview is the explicit command: "You’ve got a purple spot on the cover and a purple spot on the inside. The idea was that you took the purple spot inside, pinned it on the wall, put a chair underneath it and sat there with the magazine, so there was a connection between the two purple spots, the one on the inside of the magazine, which you put on the wall, and the one on the cover of the magazine. It was a kind of philosophical idea."
(Were readers told to do this? Were they supposed to arrive at this arrangement themselves? And what sort of philosophical idea is this?)
I think this sort of disruptive potential is augmented by the decision not to include the traditional trappings of printed matter (author, address, date, etc.). The more that the object seems to arrive from someplace outside of the network, the more the recipient might try to experiment with different means of fitting it into the network (or decide that it inaugurates the development of a new network structure altogether). What is so interesting here is that this foreignness is constructed not primarily via some presentation of unfathomable new ideas, but via absence of identifying information which is stamped onto every textual object within the network (ie, "if it doesn't have this mark, it cannot be authentic, it must be illicit or foreign). Again, we return to the form/content question.

Finally, the notion of self-organization... in what sense does this term have any meaning in a truly cybernetic world view? The recursive gesture of a 'self-' prefix seems to presume already that there is an accurately identified locus of, well, control. Can we say that a homeostatic system controls itself merely because there are no outside influences upon it? Perhaps -- theoretically. But the social reality is that no system, certainly not clothing or furniture, exists outside of certain projections of desire, will, power, etc... and the results are often disturbing. Providing options for customization or rearrangement will not only provide the potential for arranging certain detrimental systems - in some way, I want to suggest that it may in fact invite larger conceptual thought-patterns which are controlling and violent. This is not to suggest that Willats is himself doing so, or ignorant to the dangers inherent in his project, for I think he identifies them thoughtfully. However, it must be noted that when a human being is confronted with a self-enclosed network which they can survey and engage but not entirely control, they may experience a temptation to submit this network to ones which are more rigid and manageable, or to insert elements that restrict the freedom of its self-organization. Is there a meaningful difference between the concepts of self-organization and autonomy (self-law)? For the perversion of the latter concept demonstrates the greatest risk of basing horizontal or equitable distributions upon a notion of a discrete self: the danger that the ego's capacity to expand and consume other entities ensures an arrangement of distributed, ineffectual, bitter tyrants.

[ Posting without editing and with awareness that my rant became rather grandiose or self-involved. Oh well. Check out this video of a recent performance of the 'Multiple Clothing' piece wherein some man writes 'Violate' on a panel of the woman's dress, the camera lingering on the word as if to punctuate the moment with an awkward question mark, asking something like 'What is the gap in fantasy when these two individuals are told that they can customize a dress?' - http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/stephen-willats-multiple-clothing-0 ]

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3 Re: The OG K-Hole? on Sat Jun 02, 2018 5:41 am

I was interested in Willats interview as what he was doing decades ago very much resembles thought-patterns in the art world today. I feel, there is an urge, whether you're an artist, architect etc, to create something ‘outside’ of the current capitalist paradigm. Similar to the K-Hole’s reluctance to enter the formal art world, or Real Review with Architecture, and to create a sort of response or analysis, that then begins to own its own label as a art or some sort of cultural commentary somewhere in between ethnography and blog think-piece, while still retaining the aesthetic of a niche, capitalist publication.

Why does the artist need to be a vanguard? The very act seems problematic in some ways. Why create a publication? How is it subverting paradigms, while being clearly able to be fully absorbed by the capitalist qualities of art you sought to evade? What is the artist’s role in modern society?

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4 Re: The OG K-Hole? on Wed Jun 20, 2018 8:31 pm

I wonder about this urge and the spatial metaphors it engenders. How can we move 'outside' of capital? It is manifestly impossible when our task is to produce and distribute physical goods; you are right. Insofar as one wants to catalyze cultural change, one must exist within culture - and our culture is capital. Proposition: the only existence outside of capital must be a hermetic or asocial existence. True or false?

~

I think there is possibly a different logic at work in the development of these avant-garde publications. They do not seek to move outside of capital or even arrest its operations through direct opposition, but rather leverage its means in order to deliver a message that is critical or reflective regarding its effects in order to provide an open discursive platform. In the most generous view, such work is helpful because it provides a flashy, seductive in-road to some sort of radical consciousness motivating labor against capital. In the more cynical view, such work is a sham of self-promotion that elevates the artist's label or brand as a slightly more haute form of intellectualism than the one currently adopted by members of the creative class willingly acceding to the neoliberal order. Ultimately, both views are correct. When art's political effects are measured in terms of linear causality and concrete consequentialism, they are bound to be disappointing – a handful of bourgeois individuals gain credibility and capital, and a few smarmy observers stroke their chins. If the artist is leading a direct political revolution, then the full extent of their practice is not likely to be recognized as art.

~

"My art is rational, therefore my life is in danger." ~ Tongo Eisen-Martin

~

What is the artist's role? To my mind, this question can only invite a tautological response, unvarying with fluctuations in social conditions. The artist's role is to create art. (Possible corollary: in a society where the concept 'art' has become prohibitively stultified, the artist may be required to redefine 'art' whilst creating it.) When we ask how the artist ought to respond to social conditions, then already we have made art subservient to a political agenda. If we prioritize this question and attempt to plan an ideal response, we are not thinking as artists, but rather as activists who believe that words and images are the principal technologies to be used for social revolution. Art will have political effects; we know this from its history. We ought to be cognizant of our political expressions, and we cannot delink art practice from political formations. Yet if we let art become simply another stage upon which the ideologies of the day do battle, then the form has lost its radical potential to foster a space for imagination beyond existing paradigms. Perhaps we can think of art as a chemical process, one that takes given social ideas and paradigms as its input and offers strange, new, beautiful compounds as its output. To borrow and butcher a metaphor from T.S. Eliot, the artist ought to be a reagent rather than an agent. Instead of plotting out a vanguardist strategy that can be executed according to one's individual cunning, the artist ought to disappear in their utter absorption of the world around them – only in this way can they show this same world anew in a physical transmogrification, rather than merely displaying a stylized version of themselves.

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