Two suspicion...

Conference held in the discussion "The work of artist and institutions(II)", Consello da Cultura Galega, Santiago de Compostela 2008. Translated by Tito Salvadores

I have seen my first suspicion confirmed in Pedro G. Romero´s text. I suspect that the institution is everywhere, that there is not an outside the institution. This has been a problem I have never faced directly, I do not plan my work thinking of the institution as a problem, but I have met it as a limit many times. And I have just found it when I have meant to do the right thing, the ´normal thing to do´ I would say, replying to everyday questions with a certain ingenuity (I have seen it later). Perhaps because the word ´normal´ encases in itself this conflict of what is naturalised . From this dialogue with what is intitutionalised the limits of my work are born, which I will call failures.

I understand failure as an inherent part of work, as the logical remains of conceiving work as a process, with being conscious as the work itself changes with its taking place, to bring about the naturalisations which I have not yet discovered in me.

The second suspicion has to do with the institution art. I suspect that it is not so different a place, that the problems we face for being inside, or not, of this institution are not so different to those of other institutions, other forms of knowledge. To say with María Lois (introduction to “a trama rururbana. Documentos de trabajo”) ´Because in the end all are representations, all: what art does, the political geography, urbanism…all, some more linked to the sciencies or disciplines which are more linked to reality, and others more prone to get out of it´. To say with Katya Sander that the institution art does not exist solely in itself, but through the relationship to its audiences .

I suspect that to reproduce this desire to get in or out of this institution is a desire to be institution. And also that the fights to do something different, to be something different, must be faced as a totality, in the continuum of existence. These fields of the diffuse visibility which are the place of politics proper. To say with Ángela McRobbie (through Maria José Belbel) that ´the work of the new cultural industry has been seen frequently, in a wrong way, under my (her) point of view, as elitist work. The result of this is that little attention has been paid to structural inequalities… the sociological common sense tells us that there is a great difference between working for Ryanair and working .. for fashion or media companies (or art companies I say)… the (concept) of immaterial work does not help us to understand (these differences)

Under these two suspicions, I must say that I work with/in the institution, that I do not propose myself an antagonistic relationship, but that it is the dynamics of the vital experience (as a whole) what creates fissures which make me rethink my relationship with it, my vital experience of the institutions which inhabit a way, the multiple ways we can understand that the institution affects us.

That is why I do not think how to face it. They are partial fights and in a context. That is why I do not think about how to live in it. Or outside it, which in the end means to ask oneself the same question.

The problem related to it appears on the limits of my own work as an artist. Or as a mediator, or as researcher…I do not know how to define myself. But this is what I wanted to tell.

The oldest of the four failures has to do with a project for ´La ciudad interpretada´, which took place in September 2006. I recall that that summer we were here too talking about identity and culture and that I spoke about this work as a project. The work has to do with the use of the public areas. Already, at that moment I used pieces which were in themselves objects of interpretation, as I like to call them.

And in that name the willingness to show a process is already expressed. The willingness to work the device as a transition .In other words, in itself it did not had the intention to solve anything but to serve as a vehicle to say other things. In this case, to turn into a vehicle the image (this group of representations) which the neighbourhood had of their public space.

In two stages their replies came to me. The first limit, as an artist, as a public space, came to me anonymously. A bench put in. Fifty centimetres less of parking space in a place where parking is not allowed is a threat, at least for that/these anonymous person/s who wanted to talk with me in this way. I represented, in a way, the institution, because I put a bench. But there were also other categories affecting the space which were much stronger than I. Other naturalisations, other institutions.

The second stage, even more disturbing, came in a more elaborate way. After two and a half hours of conversation, suggestions and a very interesting analysis of the use of the public space of the squares with ten women, one of the most active ones confesses to me that she does not really goes there to play with her grandson. That she does go there to use the ´public´ space. I suspect she does not think of that space as her own.

I am not surprised by the contents of her statement, I am surprised by her sincerity, I am surprised about not having thought about it earlier. I am surprised that in the end, one of the conclusions of the object is that daily life paradox. But I am not sure whether I have come to understand it completely. I mean, to understand as in to put it into a context the final reaches of the political implications which I found after her statement.

This gap is the place for the following thought .And this is something that affects me as well as the object or the public space we are talking about. And that is what I mean when I talk about interpretation and about process.

The second limit shows the conflicts to place myself in relation to the device , the need to remake it each time I have to talk about what my project is about, in this case, a model.

The model wanted to be a public square, to recover a sense of square that the place represented in it had lost. This place, a factory and the surrounding land, was a square in itself, so the goal was to lay down the model as such. But as the square device was been built, by the voices which gathered around it, by the newly-acquired habit of walking about it…then the device was losing its shape in a certain way. It was disappearing. Until in the end only the stories told around it remained.
And the stories end up in paradox. The multiple layers of the place, as physical space, as natural environment, as a manufacturing area…cannot be separated from one another and the resolution of a problem (for instance, the cancellation of debts) provokes another one (the destruction of a form of life), saying it in a brief and partial way, of course. But at the same time, and this is what I wanted to talk about, the device has failed as an object. It has failed above all as a means to talk, away from the square, about its function. Because those who were there and had nothing to tell, did not find a square.

And I am in between, having the feeling that I have not been able to stitch all that together.

But also, doubting whether to stitch, to suture is the correct thing to do.

It has to do with my position in_between, with the negation to situate myself as the union of all discourses, legitimising the discourse, as institution.

Recovering a way, I find myself with paradoxes that are very similar to those of the factory. As I had learnt that these are nothing but the different sides of the same thing, I tried that the story passed through me to tell it. So the different discourses, from that of the politician to those of the neighbourhood, passed through me, and I told them.

Because of my reluctance to the stitch, an affirmation of company, an ´aha´, ´mm´ dirties the stories. In the end I resort to grimacing . Now it is me who provokes the vision of the paradox, who makes evident that, in spite of telling the truth, there is a being outside this reasoning, which is not defined as a pair of opposite concepts, that it is not the neighbourhood against the politician, that it is elsewhere.

Here the limit which speaks about the failure of telling also expresses itself by means of successive devices which are changing their shape, but it is expressed in me, who, as a mistake agrees, both with the politician and with the neighbourhood.

I do not want to express a contradiction either, but I know there is something which reminds me of that paradoxical sincerity of the resident woman who contributed to San Pedro´s story, it is something which has to do the fact that the device is in the difference, in the various differences between the two discourses, between the audio and the image, between the blueprint and the image. That the grimace is now in the translation.

And I agree because I think, truly, that there is a (partial) answer in each of the device, but I do not know how to tell it all.

I am left with that problem in my head.mmm

And I accept that there will come up another limit which I want to face. I have not been able to avoid doing something to work with these paradoxes.

The institution has made itself present everywhere: in the access to work but also in the work relations, in the ways one has to make oneself recognisable and in the limits to accept ways to work, in the relations between public and private…in all these questions my experience of everyday life has been affected by the institution. And I have always tried to question the natural answers which I have given to these proceedings. Sometimes I discover them, sometimes I do not.

With relation to feminism, I surprises me how sometimes certain texts are quoted, some issues are assumed (which I have also assumed) only in theory. The paradox is in the everyday life. It is because of this that I have suspected that the scope of the institution art is a part of all. It is certain that I can only speak from my standpoint, and my standpoint is also that of the art, but I cannot use cyborg, for example, as rhetorical form, or I cannot talk about biopolitics without questioning my private relationships.

That is why, when Uqui Permui and Ánxela Caramés talked to me about their project to make a feminist file, it seemed to me it was the ideal place to work with these paradoxes. I know that they would have preferred that I did not talk about them but about the project, but it is important to me to mention this fact: that it is not necessary to personify, to look for the main characters. But they are there.

That is why it seems to me so interesting, because it is about creating a device which can make way to this sort of things: to the space that there is between public things and privacy, to name the people who are behind collective processes, I mean, this intermediate space between what is personal and what is collective…and above all, a device which will be a questioning in itself, to celebrate the process as a form.

To think of file as a container in which the discourse is a tool to rethink what to file means . A device which works with these intermediate spaces. To work between what we say and what we do, between what we have naturalised and what we have emptied because we have used too much. With the paradoxes, not only of the public space, but also of many essay quotes, of many instances of private behaviour, of many strategies which have forgotten their roots.

To write up feminisms in capital letters, as a celebration, seems to me to be a good device. To write it up on the other side of a blackboard on which to rethink how to file all that.

And to understand it is a process which does not end in me.

1. I could say with Hito Steyerl, that to tell something, even to convey what other people say, to testify, is an exercise of exposing these naturalisations. ´If testimony in certain cases is no good, this not only affects the documental ways that cannot do without it for the best possible representation of certain facts. The problem is rather a deeper one. Testimony not only informs about the world, but also originates it in a political and social way. If we want to get over the solipsism of our individual experience, we cannot give up testimony. If we want to know what is happening in a far away war, normally we must trust testimonies. To be interested in a testimony generally implicates opening oneself to the experiences of others. It is a step towards the resolution of the paradoxical problem which Wittgenstein described in such a plastic way: to feel the pain in somebody else´s body´. Hito Steyerl, can the witnesses speak?

2. The art-institution never only exists as itself, but always also through its relationship to its 'public', Katya Sander Criticizing Institutions? The Logic of Institutionalization in the Danish Welfare State [02_2004]

3. This is no easy task, especially since ‘new culture industry’ work is frequently viewed, wrongly in my mind, as privileged work or even as elitist work. The result of this assumption is that little attention has been paid to the structural inequalities and exclusions that prevail (Gill 2007). Looking to Hardt for guidance we find that so wide is the frame of reference that any attempt to investigate how affective labour operates at ground level, would entail looking at what is wildly disparate work, so disparate that it is not usually considered within the same sociological frame. Adopting Hardt’s perspective would require us to consider, for example, the thousands of young women working as air stewards for Easyjet and Ryanair, and interfacing with the public on a daily basis, attending to their bodily needs, alongside the equally numerous young women who are specialists in events management and party organisation, and who seem to run about London and most other major cities working for umpteen companies and clients at the same time . Such groups might well be each performing immaterial labour but basic sociological common-sense tells us that there is a huge difference between working long shifts for Ryanair, and providing party services for fashion or media companies. Although these jobs are also frequently performed by men, masculinity in these cases has to be modified so as to compliment the theatricalised styles of femininity normatively deployed in the carrying out of these tasks, to include flirtatiousness, warmth, charm and friendliness and so on. Immaterial labour does not really help us to understand this, instead we need to look to feminist sociologists, in particular Adkins and Weeks, and of course Judith Butler.´, Angela Mc Robbie, Women As Multitude? Notes on Feminism and Immaterial Labour, pg. 12-13, from the article from María José Belbel, Exit.Book, 2008.

4. I think that this gap between what is said (what it is known) and what is done is a space of action, but not a vacuum. It is the expression of a paradox, but at the same time its own place for thought. Which, in spite of the fact that it cannot be solved easily, we have to face. As Hito Steyerl says ´the result of such an affirmation (since testimony is not possible) is that the documents produced in spite of all resistance are suppressed from history too. The four images of the prisoners remained, in this sense, voiceless. Even though they succeeded in getting out of the camp, they were effectless´.

5. In this sense the concept of device that I use here has to do with the extended concept that Pedro also talks about, in relation too to the idea of language as device.

6. Grimace, stuttering…speech problems. With this expression I state again the value of interruption, which, as I was saying, is not a vacuum, but the opening to something else which is still to be defined. And above all the rupture of a reasoning which was being naturalised.

7. As for example how Suzanne Lazy has approached her work for wack! Making questions of the sort ´How can making personal stories publicly known serve to empower those telling them?´ And using these questions as tools to understand the file.