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3rd party (working title)

24 May 2004

Why do artists or writers communicate their experience of art or writing? How does this affect the 'primary' loop of do / step-back-and-look (or re-read) / reflect / do? Is a secondary loop addressing someone else a silly diversion of energy, avoided in superstious manner by those who feel that it will introduce an uncontrollable turbulence that may sap the energy needed for closure? Or is it part of the constitution of the work itself, encompassing the context, others' reactions etc, sometimes in an openly collaborative approach?

Once this question has been posed, the problem shifts to keeping in check the meddling effect of this very metaverse. In what sense can a description of this relationship (the one between do and talk) factor itself out, bar shutting up at once?

I find that many are not interested in discussing this—or it may be just that I don't have many (sometimes anyone) for that. The usual split is clear: on the one side, the artist, aloof, irreverent, jocular or morose, and often unwilling to enter a pedestrian level of self-explanation; on the other, the journalist, neutered by implication of a medium that does not count (but in terms of the effect it might have on the artist's standing): the page we will use to light a fire; the journalist infertile in the field of art, who may ask his or her skewed or silly questions, concoct his filigran associations, references or biographical narrative to fill his or her lines; the journalist who will sheepishly tolerate off-hand treatment by the artist, made to swallow the notion that he will not get the joke, while being reluctantly admitted as a necessary element in the artist's food chain.

The artist coming out and writing essays on the own or other's work risks polluting or polarizing his or her judgement by creating an instance of opinion, pulled from the web of opinionated mumblings by thousands that already fills, like a dirty felt, the back of his or her mind. For those whose decisions are a largely rational affair or those who have found a trusted framework or method for safely executing their work, this may be less of an issue.

I feel threatened by a mechanism inherent in writing: that each description, even as it deliberately puts off judgement, creates the groove of the "this is so" and often the "this is why" of which there is no easy escape. It also creates the habit of falling into the trap of a discursive relationship to whatever comes in front of one's eyes - as if one had to be prepared to react this or that way rather soon. It reminds me of the 20 minutes the reviewer of a first night performance might have to phrase and transmit his or her verdict to the paper in time.

Another way to look at it is to ask whether the effect of description, explanation or judgement on any reader or onlooker of the work will be beneficial - or better, in what sense beneficial. For it is clear that a large number of people are keen on picking up cues for choice and judgement from the supposedly more knowledgable or culturally primed. I am not at all sure whether the inverse of this behaviour can with any right be assumed to be a 'genuine experience'. One sign of it may be that the response will be less sure, less quick, slow to find words, and more likely to be reversed and modified later on. It is a relation to the object and the hypotheses behind it or, transformed, within it, that is modeled on the supposedly primary troubled relationship between the artist and his or her emerging object.

(To be continued)

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