Correction: I do believe in talking as a means of communication. However, after spending 2/3 of my life in school, and especially after many dreary years in humanistic and social studies, I have been talking and debating a lot. I happily dropped out of university and into art production instead, shortly before I was supposed to write my Master Thesis. One of the reasons for that decision was the continuous debating in circles at uni. Don’t get me wrong, the debate is necessary, but talking is just one among many forms of communication, and in intellectual debates certain issues seem to be recurring – especially the sociological aspect of how you discuss. Yesterday I attended a meeting at Prags Boulevard together with fellow Spacer Christina. The event was hosted by the wonderful FUKK – the United Independent Artists of Copenhagen. As I get bored with my own writing, I will now use bigger letters to sum up what this debate made me reflect upon:
THE WAY WE CHOOSE TO USE A ROOM FOR DEBATING AND THE WORDS WE USE AND HOW WE USE THEM ARE CRUCIAL FOR THE OUTCOME OF OUR DISCUSSIONS AND IF SOMEONE IS TAKING UP ALL THE SPACE IN A ROOM IT IS COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE AND I GOT SO TIRED OF SEEING THAT SITUATION AGAIN LAST NIGHT THAT IT MADE ME FEEL LIKE I WAS BACK ON MY CHAIR AT THE UNIVERSITY SO I WANT TO QUIT THE ‘TALKING ABOUT TALKING’ AND IN STEAD SALUTE FUKK FOR THEIR AMBITIONS AND PROPOSE WHAT I THINK WE COULD USE A SELF-TAUGHT COMMUNITY OF ARTISTS FOR.
The debate took its starting point in an article written by artist Thierry Geoffry and curator/art theoretic Tijana Miskovic. The Geoffroy/Miskovic proposal was to create a kind of Master’s degree in a task force of artists ready to deal critically with political and societal issues of today. I will not go into further detail with the idea now, although I find it highly interesting. It is by no means easy to be an artist in this country if you don’t have a degree from an art academy (Danish or foreign). Galleries and exhibition spaces simply will not even look at your work. So school is everything, it seems. But art was also always something that came from the gutter and from dedicated amateurs who kept working. Those of us who choose to work outside of the schools need each other’s knowledge to progress. This seems to be what FUKK is trying to encourage. I am a big fan of those people, everyone in the room was last night.
HOW TO TALK
But there were many things going on in the debate last night. I felt very angry. Probably just as angry as Geoffroy did. This time around I will not consider the contents of the mentioned article. I am pointing at the way we discuss and how we allow for others to be present in a room. I did not like the aggressiveness in the first part of the discussion last night and I felt in my entire body an old weariness of the concept of verbal and intellectual discussion. Geoffroy felt attacked by the audience –>That is bad. Geoffroy often did not allow people to finish their sentences –> That is bad. Interesting points were lost in the air in front of people’s mouths because they had to concentrate on being heard –> That is stupid. In my opinion, the debate was much too full of attack-defense rhetorics. For the first part of the debate, this completely took the focus away from the matter in hand. And it made me think this: “how can you create room for critical thinking if you will not let your fellow artists finish their sentences? Why use so much time on talking instead of doing?”
HOW TO DO
So let’s move away from the talking and address the doing. I am very much rooting for making an alternative to the established art schools. I am not against the academies, I just think art benefits from being approached from different angles. And since art plays an important role in critical thinking, there should be space for alternative schools (and this goes for many types of education). But there is something I lack out here in the wide-open space of no-schooling. Speaking from a personal viewpoint, that I suspect will be recognized by many other self-taught artists, I will propose the following three necessities:
1. The need for feedback I use the word feedback and not criticism. Feedback is the stuff that greater and better works are made from. Giving and receiving feedback is one of the best exercises when it comes to to training your ability to make better decisions about your art. And the good thing about feedback is that it sounds friendlier than criticism. I know, I know, it’s the same thing. But this is the point: We need to ‘feed each other back’ with our knowledge, so to say. The beautiful part is that with a group of artists with a multi-faceted variety of backgrounds, I believe that we can go very far with the criticism. Sorry: with the feedback.
2. The need for activism I use the term activism because I believe we need mutually encouraged action instead of talking and building castles in the sky. A realization of the projects, getting your fingers dirty, experimenting, failing, but first and foremost a continuous non-stop willpower that stems from the sheer joy of doing artwork. Because artists are some of the most dedicated people I know – most of us are broke as f*** but we will always find money for paint, glue, camera-gear and a pack of cigarettes. Maybe there’s not enough for new clothes and food, but there is not a single of my artist friends who is in it for the money. However, at some point you do need to pay for the bill at the dentist, so if you want to make money from your art, you need to keep trying. I would like someone to keep kicking my ass or cheering me along as I fail with yet another attempted project. Imagine a group of people standing in a circle and they keep slapping each others faces or embracing whole-hartedly whilst saying “come on”. That’s what I want.
3. The need for a common platform As an outsider to the art schools you experience a very low level of interest from the established institutions and possibly much greater difficulties in proving to funds and grants that you are actually an artist, though you don’t have an art degree. It can be a frustrating and lonesome task to structure, finance and believe in your projects when you continuously seem to be fighting against a system of institutionalized art in which you don’t seem to belong. And this is even though you might do works that are more interesting than what Damien Hirst or Olafur Eliasson have done for the past ten years – but the world will never know! The art world functions like this: if you want to make it big you must take care of your opportunities and networks, and I hold no grudge against it. There is no use, it’s a fact and it will not change. It’s just that the world should know about your artwork. The platform should thus be a place for showing your works to the world. I’m talking about exhibition spaces, venues, experimental showcasing, happenings etc.. But I am also talking about the platform as a more structured network, a society that can exist as a backbone or helping hand for those who need it. Let’s say we make a web page that is either really good looking or experimental and avant-garde. Let’s say we make monthly meetings for showcasing and feedback. Let’s say we get to know one another and make it a social thing with an intended focus on building engaged art experiments. Let’s say we take what FUKK has already begun creating and stretch that thought to reach all the self-organised art groups that already exist in Copenhagen.
FROM ALL OF US TO ALL OF US
I must say that the talking got better as the evening progressed and everyone moved the chairs closer to each other. And this was important. Because if collaborative work and the sharing of knowledge is what we want as outsiders to the established art world, then we need to know how to communicate. I prefer debates where the talking in itself doesn’t take up energy from the point in focus: in this case the idea of creating an alternative art school for dealing with political and societal issues. Because if we want to be inclusive, everyone should feel welcommed to speak and be heard. Especially if we want diverse groups of artists who can represent all the various insights needed for creating art that has the ability to address diverse problems in society.
Finally, I want to stress the importance of having a meeting like this. I want to bow down and salute FUKK for taking the initiative to create a sincere visionary project. I hope there will be room for all kinds of collaboration between the autonomous art groups in Copenhagen. But enough with the talking. As it was said by a member of FUKK: “why do we need the government’s money and recognition? Why not just do it?” This is my kind of talk. More of that, please!
Yes, this is just another way of saying: please be nice and let’s get to work. I sure spent a lot of words on getting to that point… I guess it’s because I went to the university. FML.