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2006: EXTENDED PLATFORMS
Susak Expo 2006 is not an exhibition. It is, however, a circumstance, a situation and an event entitled Extended Platforms: no plans, just a time and place. What happens when you put in place a structure that has all the potentiality for art to be made but at the same time has no expectations and leaves all outcomes open?
Daniel Devlin | Janko Matic | Michael Wedgwood | Brian Dawn Chalkley | Aya Fukami | Eddie Farrell | Caroline McCambridge | Michael Kutschbach | Wendy Repass | Katarina Dragoslavic | Natasa Ljubetic | Janice Harding | Craig Andrews | Yen-Sik Kim | William Mackrell | Tomaz Kramberger | Doug Lewis | Julius Welby | J.B. Klimack | Jessica Wiesner | Paul Carr | Lada Sega | Bruce McLean | Graham Hayward | Christine Booker | David Smith | Sea-Hyun Lee | Gabi Miks | Ron Haselden | Jo Melvin | Linda Lencovic | Herzog Dellafiore | Danijel Visak
SUSAK CONVERSATIONS, events in and around and between
Deškuorš Susački, Če je našilo ovde, vani i nasred
Jo Melvin, translated by Totka Picinić
ON WHEELBARROWS and the shadowy realm of inference
SUSAK CONVERSATIONS REFLECTIONS notes on the idea of situation
Susak Expo, an account and recollection
SUSAK CONVERSATIONS, events in and around and between
by Jo Melvin
Susak Expo 2006 begins as an idea to extend platforms by exchanges of contexts and languages through dialogues between people and locations. It’s an idea on the move, an idea in translation. And this text too, translated, will emerge with differences, to become another text. Translation can slip between languages to structure networks of thought. It enables simultaneous experiences to interact. It is vulnerable and open to incompletion as well as failure and misunderstanding.
The project may fail or it may succeed, its outcome and even the idea of its completion is uncertain. And because of this openness it is vulnerable, this is its character.
One thing about the idea of art is that it isn’t a single idea. And unless it has already entered the culture as history it’s not something already known beforehand. Even its history is not fixed, as we can engage in new dialogues through extended communication interchanges when we encounter the work. This encounter is a metaphorical site as well as a literal one, where there is the possibility for an exchange of feelings across different situations and circumstances. In other words the feelings and experiences of the viewer, the reader, or we could say simply the one who does the encountering, are brought into a relation with the existing historical work that enables a reconfiguring to take place. The work’s lineage is brought into the present now through its participation in a transfer of meaning and context negotiated by individual subjectivities. And in its own way this text submits too similarly through its translation, as an ideological model for Susak Expo.
In 1973 these words were painted on the wall of an exhibition space in Nova Scotia School of Art and design, Halifax, Canada following the instructions sent by the artist Bas Jan Ader1. A bunch of flowers should be placed beside the words. The flowers would not be replaced. They should not be extravagant, but simple common flowers, not roses. Crucially this work was conceived as a time-based event with clearly identifiable stages following precise instructions. The words were to be painted in capitals with light grey/blue paint on a white wall, after a few days the words should be painted over to obliterate their trace and restore the wall to its former colour.
The flowers should remain for the duration of the show in the same position, beside the place where the words had been. It lasted a week, the length of his show in the college gallery. It is significant that he referred to the installation of this piece, in other words its enactment, as a performance.
Some thoughts remain unrealised, never spoken or acted upon. Some, like Bas Jan Ader’s, become a monument to an ideal of the unspoken, forgotten and unimportant thought. The inspirational flash for a moment or less may have been marvellous but it failed to yield an active event. A line of thought carries many layers of meaning: if Bas Jan had not sent those instructions we would not have known his unsaid thoughts. The connection between us, and our response to the idea wouldn’t be made. Our unsaid thoughts now have the possibility of sharing a sense of communal understanding.
A conversation in a bar yields an unspeakable word. It is a word to be known but not uttered. To be known for reference is a yardstick of sorts, it helps to indicate how far you can go in your defining, of things and of experience. And what remains indefinable without a boundary to fence it, is this then unsayable? It reminds me of how the poet Coleridge pins down this complex and contradictory feeling as ‘a sight to dream of, not to tell.’ We have words to identify our purposes and we try to say what we mean. Our conversations go around and between two or more people, and with the promise of a closer meaning to close the gap between what we intend and its communication, we keep going. Our intention drives the conversation. We look for understanding in our companion’s gestures, and in their expressions, and we may wonder – do they smile or frown in agreement or disagreement, in confusion or boredom?
We rely on these signs when we are face to face, to see how our discussion is going, and make modifications to how we say what we are saying dependent on these reactions, always holding onto the idea of conversation as an exchange within an arena. The arena is complex because it’s a space defined on one level by the subject, the unspeakable word, and it’s first defining space and on another level the parameters of intention. The arena is not fixed. Although, as with my friend, it may begin in a bar, the conversation is not limited to this particular site. It continues in our thinking and when we repeat it to others. The story moves into different places, into cities and towns and villages and homes. It is told again and again in new locations by different people. Every time the story changes a little, it becomes a different story, someone else’s interests give it new meanings, and although it’s repeated it is never the same, never as it was before.
I’d like to return to the idea of conversation as a site for thought and action. The event of conversation begins with a thought and it can remain an idea or become activated and documented. Documented thought is an event. It becomes enacted through its traces of notation and the event’s actions are recorded through their documentation simultaneously by being witnessed.
I tell this story to illustrate how we may think about art. The word ‘art’ is loaded with conditions of what we expect from it. Historically and culturally the way the story about art is told is different because contexts have different values, but I intend to offer some ways of thinking like tracks or paths that can crisscross one another – but not just one single track, that would be like saying the story always remains the same.
There are questions arising from the stage of translation for this text firstly into Croatian and then Susakian that pragmatically sustain the fluid exchange of the idea’s unfolding story in its repetitions and reconfigurations. Consequently I come back to rework and re-form the negotiated space of the text’s becoming, where my aim is to achieve a transparency in the process of materiality by actualising the event of the encounter. The stage is an important word here in its dual meaning as the stage in the process to mark time, a series of occasions, and the stage as the platform for the event’s location where there follows a kind of performance through the acting out of ideas and situations. This stage is the Susak Klub. The players are Daniel, Katarina, Lada, Alenka, Boris, Totka and various others. I remain absent as a player in this context to become an interlocutor of its performance and to witness the textural re-enactment through the exploring questions of meaning and the transference of meaning’s context into a new time/space situation, the club.
Firstly I want to state that all writing is a conversation even if it remains hidden, because it becomes located in a situation. The situation here is not hidden, it is this text, and this text’s intention as well as its function is to locate the dialogues in and around Susak Expo, as well as the idea of Susak Expo. It is also a conversation that in its repetition in the act of translation yields an unspeakable word, a word that identifies more feelings, complexities, as lines of enquiry in thinking than can be uttered singularly. In Susakian there is no one word for art. The idea of what art is then needs to be performed, to be acted out through approximations of sense and meaning. Actions and extemporisations are thrown into a melting pot of social situations, in consequence leading to different projects, their outcomes and relativities through an idea of what the poet, the maker, the thinker do to reconfigure what we think we know – and this form of knowing, as an open-ended process, is determined here by a set of relational substitutions in circumstance and experience.
The absence in Susakian of this word “art” is a gift. It creates a specific gap made by the lack of one word’s containment for an impossible precision. Improvisation takes over in the event of this dialogue and the conversation driven still by its intention can through its players perform a series of acts to create the word’s sense specificity. This is neither an easy task nor glib one and it allows for a relational exchange of experience through the conversation, the story’s re-telling. In this process it becomes transformed. Ideas do not exist in a vacuum and the possibility here of art is that it enables a cultural exchange of meaning and through the value of interpersonal exchange it celebrates the value of subjective experience. I use the word “gift” to emphasise the nature of art’s promise, free to offer a shift in the extension of feeling by a different designation of feelings independent and separate from the notion of market value.
Finding a suitable phenomenal form for an idea is often fraught with difficulties; the thought in second thoughts may be ‘unsaid’ and then, to cite Bas Jan Ader’s subtle paradox, ‘forgotten’. There is no simpler or more gentle way of marking an event than with a bunch of flowers. We give flowers on many occasions, as celebrations in commemoration or commiseration. The flowers in his piece were left after the words disappeared. They withered but marked the place.
Conversations around and between textual exactitude don’t remain fixed as concrete entities, they become performed and enacted to locate meanings through events as synonyms in action. Ideas don’t survive in a vacuum and intellectual enquiry thrives on its exchanges and transformations. What we mean by intention is important because an intent is a gift of sorts, it offers something distinctly identifiable as one’s own yet is not idiosyncratic; it’s an intent to locate feelings and thoughts for others to engage with and then, the door is open. Exchange is a nexus of interstices where thresholds of difference in the house of languages, where every window on a word, every doorway to meaning is a different sedimentation of perceived experience.
From the ancient story of the tower of Babel we have the ideal of a transparency in meaning’s flux of contexts. Its repetition in our conversations brings together different horizons of experienced moments. The desire for communication transparency is one ideal and its intentionality motivates our perpetual improvisations in communication.
1 Wade Saunders ‘In Dreams begin responsibilities’ Art in America February 2004. This article includes facsimile prints of Ader’s instructions sent to Charlotte Townsend, the director of the gallery at NSCAD. I am indebted to his discussion of the work.
Deškuorš Susački, Če je našilo ovde, vani i nasred.
translated into Susački by Totka Picinić
Susak Expo 2006, počel ćinit jideju kruoz deškuorš z judima i somim mjestom da razdili od nas i stvore starinu zajik i veze. Tuo je jideja za jerase i jideja po našu. Po našu je sve koj novo kako bi se stvorile naše misli, kako i ovuof taštamenat i ovuof projekt, tako se more sve ovo razumit i nerazumit, ol uspit ol neuspit. Pak je najglavnije da ova stvor z jideju ni jedina njihova jideja, nego uvik kako se more širit kroz novi deškuorš.
Misli kje se ne su ćakulale,
Posle su se zobile
Ove besede su bile letratone na zidu na jednoj galeriji, uputil jih je jedan umjetnik Bas Jan Ader, kako bi klol garoufuoli pored ovih besedi. Rekal je da ovi garoufuoli ne smu bit sila rakamani, da vala su obični, da bi barzo uvenuli pored ovoga taštamjenta. Nike misli ostaju zoblene, a nike misli se nanke ni ne reču. Tako ustane spomen nezoblenih jideji. Kada god nam pride čudna jiskra, ali ju pustimo da nam se ostvari. A kad nam ovuof umjetnik Bas Jan Ader poslol vuov urdin mi nikad ne bi znali negove nediškurene besede. Bilo bi tješko stvorit ovu vezu nad nas i ove jideje.
Jedan deškuors na klubu stvoril je besedu ko se nikad nebi čakulala. Poznivat deštini pomore nam pokozat koliko lorgo moremo prit kozat svoje stvore i starinu. A kad čekot ne moremo ol nijećemo odredit tuo nam ne ustane na besedi. Ovo me poteže namisli na onoga ki je pisol pjesme, Koleri|a koj je to zapisol koj viziju ku sanamo al ju ne govorimo. Mi jimamo naše besede kje odredimo i kje govorimo ono će oćemo. Mi tjendimo i deškurimo. Jišćemo da nas se kapi zonimi zo kimi čakulamo, mi pratimo kako se čudu, kako se grunde po naj zoda se pokupimo.
Latimo se na te besede da vidimo kako naš deškuorš i po potribi kanbijiva našu jideju. Arene se ne kanbijiva. Deškuorš more počat na klubu va kegot uštariji, al se istešo širi po drugim mjestu s drugim judima. Svaki deškuorš se malo kanbijiva pa se počne čakulat čegot novo. Kigot otvori novu jideju i ako se čakulo svejeno, nikad nesu besede svejene.
Tornajmo se na jideju deškuorša od mjesta i misal za kogot delo, kad duro deškuorš uvik nam ostane misal da tako ostane jideja i da ju se zapiše.
Ovuof taštamenat je više klajen i razmišlen na umjetnički način. Ono će mislimo nuditi su niki novi puti, misli ki se uvik moru skuntrovat s drugim judima.
Đo Melvin, Pomajić 2006
ON WHEELBARROWS and the shadowy realm of inference
by Jo Melvin
In Susak wheelbarrows are highly significant functional objects. They are commonplace, as there are no private vehicles on the island. Some are customised and everything from builders’ materials to shopping is carried in them. Wheelbarrows are a familiar sight once you’ve spent any time on Susak. When Daniel Devlin told me he was thinking of painting the barrows orange as an art piece, my reaction to the idea was that its enactment would simply and directly address critical considerations on issues of intention, ownership and originality in contemporary practice. I will outline these and point to different ways of addressing them.
The painted barrow presents an incremental shift in perception for the viewer and through the fact that it is different, art as a way of thinking enters the cultural arena. It recalls a work by Daniel Buren in 1970, the stripe posters, that were placed in all the Paris metro stations, in the situation where you would expect to find an advert. Viewers may not have known the theoretical context the project addressed but they would or could have noticed the work, if regular metro travellers they would have noticed the poster’s re-occurrence in all the stations they visited. They may have speculated or they may have wondered. In either case a shift in thinking through looking would take place and the reflection on this sets in motion trains of thought that without the encounter with the poster(s) would not have happened.
The idea of painting wheelbarrows is pragmatic, and it has a direct visual effect on the environment. The barrows are generally grubby in appearance, some quite battered with erosion holes. Daniel outlined the scheme of his idea, to paint Susak’s wheelbarrows a uniform orange. They would be properly prepared in a workmanlike way, sanded down, then the application of undercoat before two final coats. A notice inviting owners to sign up their barrows for the work was placed in the central bar, thirty were consigned. It was free. This caused general astonishment even disbelief as well as a certain amount of humour at the absurd notion of a group of artists working freely on a laborious task. This fact marks one of the important considerations, the distinction from exchange value as commerce and introduces exchange as trust and gift. The gift exchange is from the artist and trust exchange is from the owner. The introduction of humour in the absurdity of the situation is another important factor.
I imagined the Susak resident noticing a pleasant difference, or the holidaymaker struck by the unusual number of orange barrows wonders at the reasons and thinks it a local custom. The encounter causes a subtle rupture of thought processes. The owner is pleased, a good as new object, better as it’s not drab looking but bright. It’s at this point where the art idea enters the project. It is through two distinct threads, one is nuance of meaning in the shift of perception, the other by bringing together different exchanges between people, of objects and of context. It operates pragmatically as an actual event and philosophically as the event of understanding. And it’s also like the telling of a joke where a whole range of interlinked references come to the fore without being directly stated.
There’s another story to tell here. The above is a theoretical position. In the conversations I referred to the idea of an impossible transparency by outlining how what I want to say is never tied to what I do say and that the gap between what I say and what I intend to say drives me to continue in hopeful expectation. It is also tinged with despair. But despair is not the subject, there is no time here in this outline of thoughts for dwelling on the despairing aspect, it is instead on the modification of what is said, each attempt begins again the aim for transparency between thought and its articulation, between the idea and its intended realisation. I wanted to be part of the wheelbarrow painting team. It’s convivial to engage in labour, sharing common concerns, it’s quite a luxury away from my normal routine of work in a different situation entirely. I would not have the same relationship with wheelbarrow painting here in Stoke Newington, but in Susak my so called ‘normal’ time based relations were temporarily unhinged. There was what I called a skewering of time. Others felt it too and it was not simply tiredness although this was definitely a factor. Our time awareness had no anchor, a day for instance, felt like a week, as the markers of familiarity weren’t there. This was simultaneously exhilarating and un-nerving. And for me it was precipitated by the collective energy of a group of people working. I don’t mean simply those on working together on the barrows, but the whole group endeavour with disparate but shared enterprise in participation.
But who, unless they’ve done the job before, would have thought the barrow to be such a complex object to paint?
SUSAK CONVERSATIONS REFLECTIONS notes on the idea of situation
by Jo Melvin
I am writing after the event of Susak Expo, re-tracing threads of apprehension. This discussion is framed by reflections on the simultaneity of apprehension and comprehension. I cast backwards what was then a forward motion.
My task, now, in this text and then, on the island Susak for the intense, short period at the beginning of July is to attempt to perform the act of thinking through a form of dialogue that is a conversation. The conversation may shift in direction but it has the singular intention to reach a possible transparency of intent. I hope the text serves to perform an exchange, like a mirror of recognition for those artists who were present, but that it also extends the act of exchange with those who weren’t there. Between what I say and what I want to say falls the shadow – between what I write and what I hope to write, falls another. Driven on though by the lack of exactitude, my lack becomes the determinant that drives the repetition of my attempt to communicate that indistinct in between-ness that is pertaining to the idea and the event of Susak Expo 06. The shadowy realm of inference and speculation is an aspect of the in between and it is located between those participating artists, between the artists and the residents, between the countries we come from and the island of Susak. It is in the space of recollection.
If not now, when? Before the event of Susak I wrote a short text where I explored the idea of specificity and situation, how location and context become transformed through the fluid motion of telling and re-telling a story and where translation becomes metaphorical…There are different points and situations, a multi-layered temporal linearity to weave these threads by re-casting thought processes in relation to, and alongside, the specific sets of events. It’s with this aspect that I will start. When does the expo as the idea, begin? Is it with Daniel Devlin as he speculates on a possible event? Or is it as it becomes specific through each participant’s individual journey to the island? This subjective engagement is realised through the anticipatory journey, then to share the individual trajectories of these journeys, literally and metaphorically is where something other than conscious subjectivity comes into the arena. This is the space between us where dialogue and exchange begins and potentially it’s a risky business. It may evolve or not, by leading to a realisation which in turn may fail. But without the risk it can’t fail and it’s not worth doing. The way exchange transaction is defined as the outcome’s success or failure is edgy, and anxiety prevents risk.
The threads of prospective trajectories crisscross in various ways. Some fuse to generate new intentions. Some are like the forester’s tracks that go nowhere … or they lead to somewhere indistinct. Some intentions maintain a singular, independent volition and remain inviolate. Other threads become too entangled and caught up in a confused state they become disengaged and worse, disillusioned. This disillusionment is the direct result of thwarted purpose of intention, and it leads back to the question or, more accurately the problem inherent in the proposition of Susak Expo as a concept without a plan. Here on this island a large group of artists, assembled by a shared and idealised vision of Susak Expo as still possible but unrealisable, found the ideas for its conclusion – that is its realisation, as a show problematic and contradictory. Accusations reflect a personal sense of loss, and they mask a mourning of what was thought to be possible. The difficulty of bringing into the open an arena, the island location, as a dual space, an actual place and a metaphorically possible one, for the experientially understood encounter and its documentation is the essence of contradiction. It centres on the dilemma of how to pin down the realisation without fixity. The story is told and in its differences it becomes like the game of Chinese whispers and takes on new character. These stories are part of the open agenda arising from the project’s intended beginning, and in a way they necessarily become central to its idea; they could not have been predicted or intended before the event. And the question after the event remains caught between an idea of success and its subjectivities, as somehow specific and the idea of failure that doesn’t fulfil the nominal specificity. One interpretation is of the event’s success and another is of its failure. Stories are told differently, felt differently and understood differently. But to reflect after the event is to recast the thought processes that led towards it whilst holding on to the fact that its not just an abstract philosophical problem concerned with aesthetic relations as an open procedural unfolding, but one directly faced with ethical relations, the inescapable realisation as put by John Donne: ‘No Man is an island.’ To address this notion necessitates acceptance of responsibility at a deeper level than usually assumed by the term responsibility, I am not referring to organisational logistics, but responsibility for one’s intended project and its instigation. This is to take on the work’s ambition. Ambition becomes authenticated in the act of responsibility.
Between the ideal and its realisation the shadow of doubt emerges, between what is said and what can’t be said there remains a space of impossibility, and paradoxically it alludes to the ideal as still possible. One must not spend time doubting, one must just begin. It is exemplified by the fact that the Susakian language has no word for art, and the idea of art becomes a wordless extemporisation that can be demonstrated in a series of actions, performed, located and in other words it leads to new situations.
One element I drew on in the conversation-talks and the short text is the way stories are used to demonstrate ideas and understanding specific to situations but not limited by them. The situation itself is one that reoccurs in different locations and at different times. The story’s dualism is the means to articulate through phenomenal form the indistinct idea that’s perhaps forgotten as well as the indefinable gap between: first the idea, then the intention, and last its realisation. Into each fall doubt, anxiety and uncertainty. The story’s dualism locates situations to provide spaces for inter textual dialogues where Plato’s cave becomes Kierkegaard’s banquet by conjuring with mirrors and spectres. The story is told differently but the shadows of us reflect back from the texts as I attempt to recreate the cave’s transformation into the banquet scene in Stages in Life’s Way and then to relocate the action to the upper room of house 600. Plato’s cave as a device to frame thinking about perception and a subsequent loss of clarity is embedded in meta-structures of understanding the world of feeling and inference. Kierkegaard’s banquet also takes place in an out of town location, like the cave it is remote, but it differs in the grand surroundings of a country mansion. The character’s delivery of after-dinner speeches plays on inference and intention and on the subject of love – love as the force for living, the reason to live.
My act of interlocution was to expose and demonstrate the risky substance as the energy of the situation by appropriating and remaking elements (from Kierkegaard, Plato, Diogenes) to find a form to locate the ideal and actual in the act of becoming realised in the present moment as a procedural event. It is a microcosm of Susak’s event as an arena and it’s not limited to a mirrored reflection of intention. Re-writing history as event by reliving it takes the subject beyond the present … and it’s a re-integration that goes beyond the perceptual limits previously encountered. It is an aesthetic enactment … and there’s a loss, unredeemed and unredeemable as the last talk did not take place. This sets up a new relation with what became retrospectively the last talk, the talk that did not conclude, the talk in other words before conclusion. This talk was not intended as the last, rather as the penultimate, the fourth in a series of five, before my departure that was also before the end. ‘Waiting for the end boys waiting for the end…’*
What’s become of them boys, waiting for the end … the conversations shift, repeat, redefine, extend.