35
years
v2_
 

Shifts

Short essay by Achim Wollscheid, published in "Book for the Unstable Media," 1992.

Shifts

Book for the Unstable Media

Duchamp's displacements moved 'context' into the center of artistic work and its presentation: the inversion of the object/subject relationship. The changing of positions which artifact and environment had been performing, concealed a explosive which, only after the realization of the Duchampian model, proved to be extremely dangerous.

The sacrilege he committed lies in the removal of the object (ready-made) from the basic subject-object relationship. After which the Art-Consensus-Cartel could only play the identification game: that between user/observer and object, playing identity and subject as the last cards in a game of intentional deception.

The Duchampian experiment proved successful in the artistic laboratory conditions of that time, perhaps because that which caused his rebellion also gave it a foothold: in the museum, his revolt found a suitable and convenient frame which eventually determined its direction. Consequently, Duchamps experiment with art became an experiment with the observer, who, in the laboratory of the cultural canon, became the equivalent of the removed object.

'Étant donnés: the happening is over, or nothing is happening.

The desperate 'museumization' of the present day, one of the causes of the escalating disappearance of an historic basis, evokes a single question: how many objects have to be removed from reality to prevent us from realizing that nothing is happening? The explosiveness of the subject (if there is one at all) results from the fact that the museum has taken the place of the ready-made, and society the place of the museum. What is missing is the security of a reference to a shifting of relationships, which is why 'experimental' art is no longer possible.

Nobody is outside. there is no outside. As a means of comparison of equivalent developing tendencies, technology could become an 'artistic' medium in such a delimitation of society. Because distribution and circulation of objects and emissions are the primary 'contents' or 'information of mass communication, the context-threshold, against which Duchamp's objects had been revolting ironically, is disappearing. If the distribution of technical media obeys totalitarian rules, 'publicity', the desert of uninterested acceptance, becomes, to a 'technicized' art, an aim for strategic action.

That which has no relation to anything, 'the public,' must once in a while be re-objectified. The task of 'art 'is to implant happenings into information. Because distribution/circulation comprises the primary content of information, the happening can take on two forms: ACCELERATION or ERASURE. 

© Achim Wollscheid / V2_, 1992

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