''Manifesto #1 (October, 2010)''
''1) Toward an outline of our position.''
We recognise that when the abstract concept is converted into a tangible work it must necessarily become subjected to forces that were alien to it when it remained in the scope of imagination. Just as when one puts ones feelings into words and finds how incapable one is of accurately expressing them there, the concept may become distorted or compromised by the factors involved in making a physical ‘thing' - a work of art. But this must not seem a deterrent - rather, this should be its justification. The concept must be introduced to the world and not stillborn in the imagination where it becomes frustrated. The process of moving an idea from inside to outside, its enshrinement in technique and form, its encounter with the difficulties of expression, constitutes an encounter with the manifold factors of reality - an affirmation of reality.
Our concern for ourselves consists in breaking down the need for models of humanity - we do not present ourselves on this stage as an example to be emulated; rather as a model of non-emulation; as individuals who, in desiring not to follow or to be followed, set the ideology of human norms into contradiction and positively affirm the radical insecurity of the human being. We do not insist upon permanent states of being, upon the fixity of forms, moralities or aesthetics, upon the unhelpful binary of good opposed to bad. We recognise that the individual rests upon nothing that is secure; our self-knowledge is a constant wrangle with ever-shifting modes of self-deception, our self-expression consists in the struggle between what we want to say and are actually able to articulate, our integrity relies upon our being able to stake out new positions and in being able to abandon them according to our judgment and our desire to create unfamiliar situations. We tread familiar paths only insofar as we might strike away from them alone, or connect disparate paths together in order to confound their legitimacy; even to dogmatise the path of ‘the new' inasmuch as its age belies its name. We see that the attempt to find some form of security, some stable body of rest, some final monument of knowledge, is a negation of our condition and a temptation toward the compromise of our integrity in favour of being sheltered by some stronger power than our own. The limits of our power must be defined by what we actually express.
We must overcome the demand to state, conclusively and all in one go, our position, identity, morality and aesthetic. We recognise that, as temporal beings, we cannot exist all in one go, and to make it appear as though we do constitutes self-deception. For the active individual in the audience, being of a rescinded concern for final definitions, will recognise that what the artist says in particular, and what he may later revise etc., will constitute his attitude toward understanding himself and his subject as particular things. Our need to approach the universal, to make final definitions about evolving subjects and to mass individual concerns into generalised categories must be recognised as a symptom of exhaustion, a subjection of the individual subject to superficial treatment and unhelpful classifications.
We delight in the examination of our own text with an eye to discovering the form and function of our self-deception - to read between the lines, as it were - and to discover again what we have said. We are concerned with our flaws inasmuch as they lead us toward more interesting tones of reflection and prefer that our audience reflect as we do on concerns of an ever increasing degree. And though it may be provident that we know our limitations so as to make the scope of our ideas more tangible and prevent them from straying toward the universal, we also comprehend that to know our limitations consists in deciding to discover them.
We must make visible what has previously been obfuscate in our understanding and must enlighten the reasons for its repression and, more importantly, be ready to articulate its content. In so doing we must reveal the text which informs and upholds the structures of authority which act on our understanding and must be prepared to stake our integrity upon the capacity to speak.
We anticipate that an individual in the audience will work as hard on the interpretation of our works as we have, for in so doing we will not make concessions in our work which might cloud its distilment and patronise the individual to whom we wish to address ourselves. In being specific thus about our own voice and the ear it seeks, we encourage sincere criticism of our work. Criticism demonstrates genuine concern and interest on the part of the audience inasmuch as it constitutes a demand for greater clarity of perception and must be valued as such. Criticism of the audience will be disposed in the same way.
We do not desire the largest possible audience. We seek to address the individual who exists in the audience; we seek the particular and not the universal. Our communication exists on the level of one individual to another, and in so doing, we aim to discover the individual.
''2) The concept of the ‘passive audience' is to be overcome.''
The individual in the audience is responsible for what he sees. Whether he wants to see as much as possible and confront his condition of being a human in the world who is free and who can choose, or whether he chooses to deceive himself as to his condition, responsibility, freedom or, indeed, chooses not to see much whatsoever; he is responsible for his choice and creates himself by choosing.
The individual in the audience must be responsible for what she brings to her seeing. She must recognise that what she brings of herself to her seeing, (her value-judgments, her perception of quality of an aesthetic or moral kind, her perception of flaw or error, etc.,) is the way in which she can perceive herself in what she sees. In effect, what she sees looks back at her. She must recognise that to establish a genuine relationship to what she sees, she must take an active role and be a participant in it. What is perceived is the stage of her involvement with her own life, and thus she can create herself by seeing.
''The twofold nature of entertainment:''
i) The active individual in the audience delights in entertaining possibilities, for this stimulates an examination of established values to determine their worth, enables new or unfamiliar values to be weighed and cross-examined, and widens the scope of active decision-making. An enhancement of life and an increased scope for self-mastery therefore becomes desirable and possible.
ii) The passive individual in the audience, who watches for entertainment or edification as an object in itself, seeks to confirm the beliefs he is already steeped in, delights in repetition, constricts his desire to what he already knows [but refuses to question the way in which he knows it] and nullifies his power of self-mastery in favour of sharing in the power of dominant values by consenting to their authority over him.
Critique of the minimum rigour of value-judgement: To value cultural objects as either good or bad, without defining precisely why they are so for us, and moreover, without examining what good or bad might mean for us, is useless. One might as well not value anything.
The active individual is not resentful toward the passive individual - resent is always a rejection of personal responsibility - but recognises her as an adherent of a worthy opponent. She will thus seek out the arbiters of that power to whom people are willing to be subservient in order to evaluate their authority by examining the form and content of their values. Furthermore, she will not resent the arbiters of power. Even though the active individual's desire and power is marginalised by the dominant modes of culture, she recognises her capacity for self-mastery in overcoming them. Furthermore, in accepting ever-greater degrees of personal responsibility, she perceives new desires, new difficulties, new decisions, new degrees of self-deception. Life is affirmed. And she delights in this new vista, for it enables her to see what she has tried hardest to conceal from herself; her condition of being human.
The passive individual, on the other hand, passes his personal responsibility to some other authority in order to minimise the scope of his decisions and thus, his freedom. Through the unquestioning allegiance to the authority of dominant values and, with a clean conscience, he takes a passive role in the collective asphyxiation of culture in his desire for repetitive, stagnant values. This is a basic requirement of consumer culture. Inasmuch as he refuses to examine the root and origin of his desire, his desires can be easily dictated to him by the arbiters of value. He therefore acquires a feeling of power by taking part in, i.e. consuming, the dominant values of culture, safe in the knowledge that his culture is the strongest, (for it has the most followers,) and that he can more easily hide there, (safety in numbers.) The result is that culture retains its power over individuals through the illusion of security, through a denial of the human condition, and by the same token holds the power to command.
The active individual cares not so much for answers to pre-existent questions as she does for the creation of interesting and well-formulated questions of her own. She recognises that ill-formed questions elicit ill-formed answers which, although having a value of their own, not only posit an obstacle to her consciousness as an individual, but perpetuate an impotence to think and to act. To be able to ask her own relevant, specific questions is of paramount importance to her, and the resulting expansion of her perspective serves to make her questions more acute and gives greater definition and style to herself. This rigorous demand for honesty requires that she does not shun contradictions as mere flaws or failures of integrity, but sees them as points of departure into new ways of questioning.
09 April 1979
Video art by Marianna OReilly