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07 August 2017
Archive: In homage to Manel Clot


It’s what happens with the Internet, that is gigantic and enormous but despite this, or perhaps because of it, we run the risk of forgetting things that ought to remain amongst us, like some of the ideas that our much admired Manel Clot brought us in the first edition we published at A*DESK (in 2002 in a little corner of ACCA’s website and which we recovered in 2006, now with our own domain). We dedicate this month to paying homage to him, recuperating and elaborating upon what we consider to be a text of reference, like almost everything he did.

On the other hand, judging from what has happened recently in a context close to us, we are also interested in denouncing any situation of hetero-patriarchal violence and as an eminently feminine magazine (in its management and ways of doing) we believe it is important to remember that there are ways of thinking that go beyond schisms or binomial thoughts, and that it is essential we are attentive to understand.

During this month of August we take a rest, recuperating the archive, something we love doing, even more so if we know that the excuse for this year is the great Clot. We want this month to serve to recharge batteries so as to be able to return in September to continue expanding horizons; Manel, you’re in our thoughts.

Article of reference


Four things about expectations of transformation and relational perimeters of artistic practices from the ambit of criticism (the critic as a producer or the overcoming of psychoasthetics) MANEL CLOT

“A Friend of Mine Said That Art is a European Invention” Jimmie Durham

#Everyone is more than familiar with the cutting forcefulness of the text in which, in 1966, Roland Barthes contested the anger of those who accused him of using only a hermetic and artificial language, cryptic and devious that- supposedly – did nothing more than further obscure the plausible difficulties of some works to be able to be interpreted, camouflaging and avoiding, in this way, the real need for more practical and authentic solutions, contributing instead, merely small – albeit numerous –enigmas or rhetorical traps veiled, it has to be said, in an exquisite virtuosity and refined formal sophistication: “…the work is not an exterior and closed object that is later empowered by the language of another (that of the critic), nor is it the abutment of a commentary (word accessory)….” [1].

The work, therefore, cannot remain confined to the exterior of our subjectivities, dealt with and analysed as a mere object/case study, distant and totally removed from any possible trace of our experience of the world, expelled from all possible contamination of our own experience of the world, preserving it, once again, from possible mundane degradations, altering in this way, in quite a strange manner, the terms of that classic phrase: “tout ce qui était directement vécu s’est éloigné dans une represéntation” [2]. The definitive impossibility of any autonomous, decontextualized consideration, is therefore, also accompanied by the acknowledgement of the scarce impact that traditional interpretative, descriptive or explanatory points of view exercise upon the transformational processes which the complex, multiple territory of contemporary artistic production experiences: practices, criticism, authorship, the locations, institutions, socialization, technologies, subjects, the spectators/users, the new user communities, commercialisation, reproducibility, the subcultures, the activisms and what Benjamin called the context of living social relations [3].

##It will have to be the very actualisation of this never sufficiently reclaimed non-exteriority of the work, the discourse and the practice of art, along with a more than reiterated renunciation of the habitual, expected hermeneutic underpinnings, one of the truly fundamental characteristics that ought to enable us to set in motion, amongst other equally relevant aspects, new reflections on the changing conditions of the relations between the mechanisms and functions of criticism on the one hand, and the devices and expansion of the creation to which it adheres on the other. It will be what will associate any intent at a critical approximation towards an initial, unavoidable, acceptance of the generic idea, the perimeter sense of the figure and presence of the context and systems of rhizomatic work. It will also be that which must, definitively, refocus the resistance to the danger of a decline in critical awareness and experimental implication, as much as to the excessive technologized spectactularization that derives from an identification or perverse (con)fusion between what it is to be in a place and the simulated and apparent surroundings of this place, that is to say the imposture of its representation – as the perpetual shadow and weight of a sort of contingent psychoaesthetics [4]- and the loss of analytical and situational capacities, a fact that at times hovers above what we could call the multiplied and intensified scene of contemporary art practices (immersed on the other hand, in accelerated processes of techno-cultural reconfiguration and productive and spatial relocation). Perhaps we ought to recuperate that experience of the political subject in postmodernity proposed by Chantal Mouffe, “a subject constructed at the point of intersection between the multiplicity of subject positions”, [5], and as such not a unitary subject, and apply it to the construction and confection of the relational map in which to develop, with a certain multiplicity of gazes, the respective practices and mutual interactions of the artist and the text of the critic.

### In logical adherence and aggregation to the text of the artist, the critic’s text doesn’t explain nor interpret, it formulates. It neither deciphers nor de-codifies. Nor does it translate or facilitate, so much as it intensifies. It intensifies the sense, not the meaning. It amplifies and expands the operative and referential mechanisms. It adds. It provides protonyms. It impacts horizontally. It generates other narratives and provides new codes of negotiation with the relational perimeters that the changing contextual dynamic socialises and modifies. It stresses the irrefutable condition of all artistic production as a cultural construct, it discards any possible essentialist, immutable and universal temptation, dismantling the so deeply rooted pretentions of apolitical autonomy and self-sufficient neutrality, it evidences the progressively less monolithic character, [6] –associated with the ins and outs typical of a non-hegemonic disintegration stemming from postmodern and transversal heterogeneous thinking of the disparate areas proportioned by gender, post-colonial and visual cultural studies. It shows the factual multiplicity originated by evolutionary processes of a much less linear type: “… the work of the critic consists in studying these processes in the present” [7]. ]. It contributes to create and increment an awareness of the present, an epochal commitment and sense of reality. It reconfigures a notorious and evident return to a less realist and more substitutive real. It reclaims intimate involvement with the experience of the world, relational ties, affective exchange, immaterial work, symbolic production, the subjects of experience, the reconfiguration of memory, ideological assumptions and the worlds of life. It symptomizes a certain epochal responsibility and defends the awareness of a sort of continuous present that nevertheless never renounces the strata of memory, constituted in practice as “une mémoire sans souvenir” [8]. It outlines the progressive expansion of the instrumental frameworks and relational perimeters that dramatize production. It permeates the hardened nuclei of false dichotomies that have made art a fundamentally and excessively classist practice. Visualizing the inevitable head on collision that is occurring between the persistence of a monolithic principle of late-capitalist reality and the rise of a growing pleasure principle directly associated with the new behavioural situations and relational practices arising from the energetic avalanche of an unstoppable arborescence generated by user communities. It rethinks the multiple implications of disorder without renouncing learning from deception. It charts the processes of the necessary interactions within the social sphere: “works of art ought to be considered as living beings, that is to say, originating from and objects of social agency” [9]. Thoroughly updating the sense of the figure “works of art” sense – perhaps currently too tied to the object and the physical, limited to the contours of manufacture –, we could thus think more directly about the expansive activity entailed within the situation of “artistic practices”.

#### What to do when a large part of the traditional instruments of aesthetic experience are no longer the only ones or main ones with which to approximate the growing complexity of contemporary artistic practices, as much in relation to those that constitute the critical underpinnings as to those who endeavour to order the gaze of the spectator? What is there to say when of two objects or situations that are exactly the same only one is incorporated into the art-institution, based on what? What to do when shifts through the multiplied diversity of artistic practices have to pass through the very visible incorporation of specific ambits of the experience of the world of artists, ambits nevertheless, that equally make experience of the world and likewise also demand it from its viewers? How to act in response to the acknowledged changes that have escalated in the production, location, diffusion and configuration of practices and works [10]? What to do when artistic – or artified- performatic activity superimposes, in duration and existence, real time, installing itself within the present, almost constructing a sort of post-production reality? How to ascertain, from the loci of criticism, the relational qualities and production of meaning in visual practices, that are from the outset deliberately not aesthetic, how to handle entirely divergent products of experience [11]? What instrumental perspectives link up ambits as active and complex as the fictionalisation, artistification, representation, verisimilitude, convention and hyperreality? How to operate amidst the insuperable sliding between one principle of power and one of authority? “Is it still useful to talk of individual works of art as a focus of culture in the era of the commercialisation of cultural articles of mass consumption and their instantaneous multiple electronic reproductions in the media?” [12] What to do with criticism? What to do, therefore, with language?

##### If we consider recurring aesthetic criteria have been seen to be progressively stripped, in their immense majority, of traditional attributions and pertinent efficiency – although omitting here, for the moment, the fact that curatorial practices, also in evolution, are clearly constituted as the logical and quintessential zone of operations of the text of criticism, the place par excellence for essays, a sort of true site, with all the theoretical and procedural transformations that this implies-. Equally, we will have to accept that to propose a more productive and adjusted approximation to the territory of artistic practices, thinking much more concretely about the ambits and mechanisms associated with criticism, we will also have to bear in mind other aspects and questions of perhaps a more sociological and transversal nature, more intercultural and hybrid, ones which are, however, already fully installed in the various devices set in motion by creators. We’re talking of aspects, for example, such as those that belong or stem from the agitated sphere of visual culture and those which are related with the transformations experienced, in this era of techno-cultures, in the processes of production, manufacture, distribution, exhibition and reception of the artistic text. Or of questions such as those derived from an insistent presence of the multiple ambits of daily life and their direct relation with the immaterial and experiential work. Or of subjects like the socialization of personal experiences and the places where a plausible activism visualises the insertion of art into the social sphere. Or of modifications in the relational structure that link artistic production and the processes of artistification with the deferred experience of works and artistic situations in the public stage. Or of elements like the progressive inter-linguistic contamination of artistic activities within scenarios, attitudes and repertories traditionally associated with stadiums of low culture, mass or consumer culture, and subcultures of all types, as much social as economic, of gender or of groups. Or of shifts like the loss or, to put it better, the abandonment of the sole meaning of purity, giving way to no/purity and im/purity. Or of assumptions like the decision to transgress, amongst other tests and trials, the distinction between pure/impure, high and low culture, distinction/vulgarity, specificity/situationism, already not a clear differentiation between cultural spheres so much as also implying a notorious antagonism between groups and classes.

###### The text by the critic and through the critic, any sketch of theory with vocational and plural intentions, any laboratory test, any curatorial endeavour, ought to stem from the eminently contextual character of artistic production, it ought to consider the impossible universality and essence of its qualities, to reaffirm their inalienable no-exteriority and must become firstly and fundamentally a conversational device: without expecting complicity so much as contributing interlocution, not connivance so much as coexistence, not resignation so much as exchange, not collusion so much allusion, not interpretation so much as completion, not deciphering so much as intensifying, not directing so much as assuming, not effectiveness so much as affectivity, not direction so much as involvement, not juxtaposition so much as interaction, not cohabitation so much as integration, not multiculturalism so much as transculturism, not politics so much as action, not an event so much as recognition, not integration so much as dissolution, not tolerance so much as difference, not biography so much as experience.

####### The enormous and rich interstitial space –content and contained, in continuous displacement and mutation- resulting from the expected disconnection and imbalance between the zone of creation and criticism, this clearly inter-zonal and multiform area, ought to convert and reconfigure itself as the ideal and logical scenario for translations and exchange, new formats and spatial re-orderings, the scene that ought to characterise the progressive abolition of barren spaces of silence, the creation and development of new critical and reflective apparatuses, the investigation and search for different terminals outwith the traditional ambits of the art institution, and the sense that will be able to insist on the relaxation and actualisation of the ideas of margin and periphery and the relations between cultural values and social reality, centre and orthodoxy, complexity and complication, contradiction and difference, dissidence and cultural practice: “aesthetics has to do with art but art does not necessarily have anything to do with aesthetics. Enough of this confusion of categories” [13]. This ought to be the expanded sphere, (once the dualisms and methods of lineal thinking are dismantled and abandoned), as through power we question in depth and definitively – with epochal responsibility, a sense of consequence, an adaptation to the unstoppable changes and modifications that affect the totality of the artistic fabric in our present (and that, as such, impede barren analyses based on rhetorical or merely iconographic fragmentations), and an awareness of the future – about the diligence and plausibility of practices without tradition and interrupted legacies.

[1] Roland BARTHES, Crítica y verdad (1966). Trad. José Bianco, Siglo XXI editores. Buenos Aires, 1972.

[2] Guy DEBORD, La Société du Spectacle. Folio. París, 1996.

[3] Before asking: what relation a poem has with respect to the conditions of production in any era, I would like to ask: what is its position within them? This question directly concerns the function of the work within the literary relations of production within an epoch”, Walter BENJAMIN, “El artista como productor”, in Tentativas sobre Brecht. Iluminaciones III. Taurus. Madrid, 1990.

[4] Celeste OLALQUIAGA, Megalopolis. Contemporary Cultural Sensibilities. Univ. Minessota Press. Minneapolis, 1991.

[5] Chantal MOUFFE, El retorno de lo político. Paidós. Barcelona, 1999.

[6] Lucy R. LIPPARD, “Lligams estrets, espais separats: l’art multicultural en un moment decissiu”, Nexus, nº26. Barcelona, July 2001.

[7] Nicolas BOURRIAUD, Esthétique relationelle. Les presses du réel. Paris, 1998.

[8] Helène CIXOUS-Michel FOUCAULT, “À propos de Marguerite Duras”, a Michel FOUCAULT, Dits et écrits I, 1954-1975. Gallimard. Paris, 2001.

[9] Alfred GELL, Art and Agency. Clarendon Press. Oxford, 2000.

[10] Works of art” don’t exist. A work and their practices exist that we can denominate as artistic. They have to do with the production, significant, affective and cultural, and play specific roles in relation to the subjects of experience”, LA SOCIÉTÉ ANONYME, “Redefinición de las prácticas artísticas s.21

[11] “Recent evolutions in (European) art seem to distance it increasingly from any form of essentialism and autonomy. Instead of operating from a deliberately distinct position, recent art seems to be directed towards a dissolution within visual culture or daily life”, Jean-Marie SCHAEFFER (ed), Think Art. Theory and Practice in the Art of Today. Witte de With. Rotterdam, 1998

[12] Paul WILLIS, Cultura viva. Diputació de Barcelona, 1998.

[13] Ole BOUMAN, “Diez puntos hacia una nueva práctica del comisariado”, at

A*DESK, Independent Institute of Criticism and Contemporary Art, is dedicated to learning, publishing and research related to the criticism of contemporary art. Taking the view that critical thought makes individuals free, its mission is to defend actively the importance of criticism: to generate debate about contemporary art, to enable each individual to establish their own opinion and by doing so promote culture.


07 August 2017

Archive: In homage to Manel Clot

31 December 2018

Artist’s Status

30 November 2018


31 October 2018


"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world" (John Le Carré)