Text 1 – To Assemble


Guided, goaded, led on by William Hogarth, Samuel Beckett, Ron Silliman, and other latter-day unsaintlies, ‘To Assemble’ introduces some of the themes recurring across the collected texts of ‘Art’s Plight’. It proposes that, across the contemporary arts, to commit oneself to ‘make-for-‘art’ is to assemble whatever-materials around a specific sense of ‘art’s’ ‘difference’ to all other forms of everyday activity: assembling entails a leap towards an ‘elsewhere’ that is ‘other than’ the worlds of everyday life. Making assembles its materials in ways, hopefully, that allow it to gather (to assemble) around this ‘difference’.

Sadly, Making and its assemblages (offered here in all their dissembling semblance) are always already absorbed, masticated, and heaved forth by the gross representing machinery (electronically digitised) of the state-capitalised technoscience that now sets the terms for all our days (and nights). Like the good-ex-late-modernist that it is, Making has to take up the representing machine’s challenge knowing in advance that it is, and will forever remain, the eternal loser. It starts out with its card already marked ‘Fail!’. Still, it’s too late to stop now isn’t it? It is isn’t it? That’s the question…

Take the fate of ‘medium’ under modernity, its continuing self-fraying, self-dispersing multiplying: we can’t keep it in the singular any longer. At every turn ‘medium’ has become ‘media’, mixing things up on representation’s thresholds. Medium’s recession is explored here as a key to the emergence of assembling as art’s mode of survival under capitalised technoscience. And it’s the latter’s machinery – social and engineered – that sets the terms for our everyday life. The representation, reiteration, and relay of everything – the arts included – are the staple diet of this machinery’s voracious maw. Every kind of power (all co-opted and applied energies) flow through its digestive juices. Of course from Making’s agitated sit-point it’s like having your life-blood sucked out and transfused into Entertainment’s ever-open main vein. If, and it’s a BIG IF, Making is to keep going somehow – to live-on as just-about-surviving while keeping the darkness of its ‘elsewhere’ in its failing sights – then it has to challenge itself endlessly to try to divert representation’s permeating flows and experiment with alternative forms of sustenance. It has to Make for somewhere other than the spectacular multi-fount of representation on which everyday life gorges and now seems to sustain itself in miserable comfort. To get on to this path it has to find ways of starving itself of power(s). The abjection which might just flow from the obligation to be responsible (and thus responsive) to ‘Art-alone’ is all that it takes. It’s a big ask though.

In setting the scene for ‘Art’s Plight’s’ stutterings, ‘To Assemble’ broaches some of the recurring themes and questions that shape Making-for-‘art’ as it tries to confront and interrupt the representing machine that controls its cultural position. Passing reference is made to the emergence and character of ‘assembling’ – conjunctive-disjunction – across the contemporary performing, musical, and visual arts as they take up the challenge of Making ‘otherwise’.