Within the framework of my research into Asger Jorn´s writing and thinking I organize public sessions with special guests at a variety of venues. The guest´s practice, knowledge, insights, or responses are informative to my research, or steer the direction I take on a particular topic. The sessions also often respond to the context of the hosting institution, or to a specific request. Making the sessions public is a way to share and enter into a dialogue with the audiences.
On Sunday 12 January 2014 a public session at Casco, office for Art, Design and Theory in Utrecht took place including a lecture by me, and an improvised performance by Mattin. http://new.cascoprojects.org/
The lecture I presented is an adaptation of the one for the Athens Biennial. Still largely based on Jorn’s text Value and Economy – Critique of political economy and the exploitation of the unique (1959), I relate some of Jorn’s ideas on the relationship between artist and society to contemporary notions of cultural entrepreneurship within a political situation of “repressive liberalism”, as some sociologists call it. For my lecture I specifically looked at the essay ‘Repressive Liberalism: The Dutch Cultural Policy System’ by sociologist Pascal Gielen (Kunstlicht 1/2, 2013). In his article Gielen seems to suggest that it would be possible to give art a certain independence from conventional ideological idealism (as was Jorn’s stance), and many of his ideas seem tightly connected to Jorn’s notions on value, his concept of art, and the relationship between art and society .
My lecture was followed by a performance by Mattin. He had asked Casco’s director Binna Choi and artist and writer Alexi Kukuljevic to perform the roles of De Jong and Dubuffet using Casco´s material conditions as material for improvisation in an institutional setting. The performance subsequently included the noise of metal foldable chairs stacked onto a pile, me reading out a text from one the book’s in Casco’s library, the sound of a printer and more. Casco at the time, was involved in the collective research ‘(Un)usual Business’ (a research on a new form of economy based on ‘weak’ theory of ‘community economies’) so the text that I was asked to read aloud seamlessly fitted to the lecture that I just held preceding Mattin’ performance. Interestingly enough the topic was similar, but the perspective highly contrasted. Instead of addressing the false rhetorics of freedom in our current ‘market society’, this text was claiming that over the past 30 or 40 decades (in the western world) more resources had been allocated to the arts, and more people had had the opportunity to officially educate themselves as artists.
The set-up by Mattin was aimed to highlight our practices not as acts of freedom of expression in a neutral context but as being embedded within a complex set of interests including economic and symbolic values. The performance created a heightened awareness of both sound and silence, and also created the feeling of uncomfortableness in many people as they were turned into participants, asked to use their own voice and verbalize opinions. This way, the performance gradually shifted from something more abstract and strange to a critical discursive setting. To Mattin “the latter part represented not a moment of agency but instead represented a general paralysis of artistic practices, being able to comment about anything but not finding ways to cut through the determinations imposed by the market.”