Piazza's Artspace in Brussels
Paulo Alves, this month’s artist in InBetween, is writing a diary in the context of LET’S FACE (IT), LEVINAS!
Day two. No progression in terms of building new art pieces or in terms of finishing those that had been started on day one. Which implies Stephanie, who has come, has no real art making to record. Instead Tom and I talk, and Steph might as well film the conversation. It is Work in Progress anyway. And while the idea of recording the interaction seems bizarre at the beginning, I sometimes end up forgetting that Steph is ogling us with her device. And she is listening apparently, because that young brain of hers is ticking.
The discussion starts by concentrating on the arrangement of space – white sheets of paper would help us structure it, but I would have to think about the implications of it. Might be better to leave the objects lit with no props, while the ambiance lights are off – a more natural way of filling the space. We talk about the vernissage day, which will not be a vernissage, it will rather be a happening as we then conclude.
Tom speaks out what he thinks. The vernissage that is not a vernissage should not seem too casual, the whole thing can’t look too serious, he asks me what do I expect people to take from there, I find myself without knowing how to answer this. My first reaction is to state that I do not want to impose any specific memory in the head of the visitors who shall have come. Tom explains, and Stephanie further clarifies, that the whole space should not become a sort of a temple, and that the role of art is not (it can not) be to prove that some theory is right. Tom thinks that some sense of humour needs to be added, Stephanie agrees. Tom suggests there should be some provocation, and Steph confesses afterwards that art that is not confrontational has always been something she has not fully come to terms with. My first thoughts are that all this thing about “art for the sake of art” and the focus on the formal aspects of art seems to be incompatible with such a view. I feel my foundations are totally shaking with so many pedestrian convictions being revised, I am glad and at the same time embarrassed with all those provincial convictions, and Steph later on adds “yeah, it’s the Other, after all”. A few hours later I wonder if formalism is totally sterile (or not) and I raise the hypothesis that, maybe, you are required to be confrontational AND at the same time the formal aspects of your art should be such that the art work can stand alone, have qualities by itself. Maybe you are expected to tick all the boxes at once. All this makes me tired and hence I decide not to decide.
Tom speaks more clever stuff I have in the meantime forgotten. To respond to his expectations, which seems very reasonable, or maybe even necessary (indeed, something was missing in the plans for the happening, and at least that part I was more or less aware of), I shoot back possible strategies to respond to his expectations. Sometimes he shoots back those tossed, flying plates with his sharp rifle. A lot is happening during this discussion, and yet I can’t write concretely about the strategies that seem to have held – otherwise the surprise factor, too, would be shot flat. We discuss about the communication strategy, I remind Tom that people should know that something is happening already, it is visible from the street, and already now people should be invited to pass by. We then proceed to the kitchen (the kitchen!!!) to discuss the title of the whole residency (we had dodged so far that label) and the planned happening (if that is what it will be), we talk further about the philosopher, we talk about the philosophers who guard the shrine of the philosopher, we talk about not mentioning the philosopher at all, we talk dumb-ass stuff about titles that would better fit an advert on VLAN. We’re now laughing and yet no bottle of beer has been popped open yet. This has been one intense conversation also about what not to do in an art space. I still cannot remember some important stuff that Tom has said, and that Steph validated. Got to see those recordings she made.