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

Dutton, Steve (2010) Clueless: contradictions, malapropisms and tensions within a contemporary art practice. In: 1st Annual International Conference on Fine and Performing Arts, 7 - 8 June 2010 , 2010 Athens, Greece. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

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.

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 was 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 proposed to explore an argument that refused 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 did this by drawing attention to my own practice within my collaborations of Dutton and Swindells and The Institute of Beasts, but I will also referred 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 (Presentation)
Additional Information:
Keywords:complexity, art
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Architecture
ID Code:6661
Deposited By: Steve Dutton
Deposited On:20 Oct 2012 14:27
Last Modified:02 May 2013 11:57

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