On Art und Netart in Frankfurt 1996 - 2002

Arbeit aus Sorge is not mein concern

Posted by Stefan Beck on Tuesday, March 7, 2000
The establishment of a right-wing government in Austria caused a series of discussions among the board members of The Thing New York ("discontent in Austria").

The Paris based curator Robert Fleck asked all artists and Kulturschaffende to stay away from Austria as a response to the new government. This was rejected by Austrian artist Eva Grubinger, to whose contribution I'd like to comment:
"Dada is the american form of buddhism." (Johannes Baader)

While I share the view of Eva Grubinger and Joerg Heiser, that the current exhibition practice in Austria shall be continued in general, I have to state some doubts in particular.

It is unquestionable that art has to adobt and comment on the new situation, but how?

This is a good time to rethink the problematic relationship of art and politics. My views are like this:
An artwork is any piece which demonstrates the handling of a material, form and intended message to be percieved within the context of art. So, the first insight is that art is a recursive function. It is a circle. The relation between material/form and message is not a deliberate one. Pure form contradicts pure message, even if both in their radical form are hardly achievable.
By simple means, if material/form is subordinated under message it tends to become visual communication, not art.

On the other hand, material/form which outweights message will become - as any innovation - not understandable to everyone and left over to specialists to discuss its final status. Since art is normally based on formal innovation it's its natural fate to become future art, art of the future. As any expert can be deceived, and there's no neutral ground available (the prime achievement of modern art) from where to look safely at the developments the open passage of an artwork into the future can neither be predicted nor corrected.

Any artwork which makes concern ("sorge") its only concern as a kind of material is likely to weaken the ability of art to function as an immoral or anti-moral force. (The real problem any rightwing institution has with art is not art's ability to respond with:"You're really bad" but art's indeterminism, relativism, openess and anti-moralism.)

The biggest problem of people who work with a concern have, is, that they can not laugh about their concern. They take it too serious. Adorno's statement "no more poems after Auschwitz" is the typical representation of such a position. State organized murder of any kind is certainly not a funny thing.The sad example of the delayed progress with the Holocaust memorial in Berlin is the result of that uneagerness, that the respect and the piety towards the victims' dignity forbids any radical formal experiment and jokes.(a friend of mine's proposition towards the memorial was: make a playground) As art as I view it is against any authority, it's also against its own authority. The self proclaimed Ober-Dada Johannes Baader once remarked: "That damn Jesus said:>Look at the lillies on the fields<, but I tell you:>Look at the bitches on the street.<".

So the best thing I can offer as a receipt is:laugh, on myself and yourself, laugh on everything.

Moreover, the present coalition against a common and outward enemy tends to overlook the immanent aggressive and violent nature of art.The plain concern everybody shares about the state of Austria is very probable of transitorial nature. If Grubinger/Heiser state, that "For many younger artists in Austria, state grants are an existential part of making a living as an artist, since there is no relevant national art market." they misunderstand the real problem. That young Austrian artists have no choice but to become Staatskünstler is the real tragedy, and a phenomenon that existed long before Haider. Additionally, I don't think of a "relevant national art market" as a solution.

Comprehensivly, the best way to deal with the current crisis is to accept that there is nothing special about it. Art is always in crisis or not art. It is therefore potentially aggressive and dangerous. Anything which can be done to enlarge its potential of danger to anybody and anything while reflecting it on the same time is to be welcomed.

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