exploring the cultural context of practice across the arts

AP title-page image Scanned-02This sequence of texts by Michael Phillipson is gathered around questions of the arts’ representation under technoscience. Issues addressed include, autonomy, digital technology, embodiment, gift and giving, inspiration, improvisation, knowledge, language (writing, voice, syntax), performance, place, waste and work. Each text is available free to download.

Irrespective of medium/media, the making-process and its outcomes (objects, compositions, performances, events) are appropriated, evaluated, and given their social ‘place’ and put to ‘work’ by a complexly organised machinery of representation. It is the latter’s work that shapes and permeates every aspect of the making context. The now global electronic organisation of this representing work operates under the collaborative rule and interests of technoscience and capital. Responding to the legacy of past art (modern and postmodern included) making now challenges itself to pass through this representing machinery and hold to the possibility of art’s difference. This is the defining tension of art’s contemporary plight.

If makers commit themselves to trying to disclose the hopeful ‘promise’ of their feeling for art’s possible ‘difference’, they face the predicament of sustaining this ‘promise’ while held fast within the very different interests of the machinery of cultural representation. ‘Art’s Plight’ shares and seeks to articulate the ‘promise’ of art’s difference by exploring what the predicament may demand of makers making for art alone. It situates making as a process of reconciling feeling and tactic.

Drawing from a diversity of artists’ materials and writings, the texts seek to show how artists’ compositions and performances, aside from all theoretical/conceptual/critical approaches to art, already offer creative responses to the demands of holding to art in the face of its appropriation by the machinery of representation.

Artists consulted include:

From the visual arts: Francis Bacon, Helen Chadwick, Marcel Duchamp, Marlene Dumas, Mona Hatoum, Alfred Jarry, Jeff Koons, Mark Leckey, Luc Tuymans, Orlan, Cornelia Parker, Stelarc, and Cy Twombly.

From literature: Antonin Artaud, Paul Auster, Samuel Beckett, Michael Brodsky, Christine Brooke-Rose, William Gaddis, Gabriel Josipovici, Franz Kafka, Stefan Mallarmé, Christopher Middleton, J. H. Prynne, Laura Riding, W. G. Sebald, Wallace Stevens, and Virginia Woolf.

From music: Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Glenn Gould, Jonathan Harvey, Olivier Messiaen, W. A. Mozart, Conlon Nancarrow, and Giacinto Scelsi.

Other writers drawn on include, Giorgio Agamben, Franco Berardi, Gilles Deleuze, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Jean-Luc Nancy, Sadie Plant, Michel Serres, and Philippe Sollers.

The texts of ‘Art’s Plight’ will be of interest to both practitioners, educators, and students across the contemporary arts, and others concerned with performing’s cultural context. The sequence may also resonate with the diverse interests of Aesthetics, Art History, Contemporary Social Thought (including Critical Theory and the Social Sciences), Critical and Contextual Studies, Culture and Media Studies, Language/Discourse Analyses, Literature Studies, Performance Studies, and Post-Structuralism.

Responding to the arts’ open relation to language, the texts explore their themes through a diversity of voices. Although they offer and develop recurrent terms across the sequence, each may be consulted and downloaded individually according to readers’ interests. A selection of earlier published writings by Michael Phillipson broaching some of the concerns of ‘Art’s Plight’ is offered via the ‘archive’ page. All the texts and supporting materials are made available free to download as separate PDFs.

The site also provides the opportunity for response to the contents of ‘Art’s Plight’ and comments and feedback are welcome!

A full range of media by Michael Phillipson can be found at www.michaelphillipson-arts.co.uk

…the body of art is but the body of the world at one remove…