The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

July 14, 2017

On art and art-making: I do or do not make pictures.

Art-making as continuous process of thinking and improvisation;
art-making as project- and statement- oriented; art-making as
plateaus and interventions; art-making as digital progress; as
analog microterritorialities; as flow.

I'm not sure I am an artist in any traditional sense, and for
many people, I'm not an artist at all. What is the reason for
this? I have no projects, no documentation of stages that stand
on their own as, for example, plateaus; I have no outcomes other
than the experience of the body or production as it is already
ongoing, in much the same manner as musical improvisation is
ongoing. So that it is a situation of lived experience, of
something else, not the confinement of an art-induced structure
that grants autonomy and totality to work conceived of and
produced to a certain point. That much is certain. If art might
actually be an investigation, say one that articulates the body
in relation the appearance of (totalized or partial) structures,
then there's the possibility that the investigation occurs among
dynamics - not of knowledge per se, but of knowing, a knowing
which possesses a somatic component, the body which may be, for
example, politicized, but is not on the order itself of the
political, a body as body for all that, an accumulation-body,
one encompassing its variegated chemistries and components. I
think of this as a deep ecology of the body.

So there is this work of the body and its dynamics and relations
to structure, and there is the issue of presentation, as if,
along a scientific trajectory, there are findings which are
enframed as a form of comprehension and transmission. The
enframing is buckled to its own languaging, within and without
the materials formed and formulated for presentation, and this
within and without presupposes an abject, neither one way nor
the other for example. (Even an example of an example, or an
example explaining an example is abject in this sense.)

It is always a mixture of modes, modalities, but in my case, it
is not a system of plateaus designed to enter a marketplace and
be sold within such; in fact, I generally give my work away
after a show, as a form of homage to a organizer, a friend,
someone who is a companion in a way. I continue to move on.
Hence, I am and am not an artist; at so many points I've been
told what I'm doing is not art, by which is meant, I am not
making art, but am doing something else, since for many the art
resides in the forms and figures that emerge after a period of

Contemplation itself is moving, and as movement it need never
coagulate into the ossified form of a statement or date, of an
indication of a series or progression, or a profession of series
or series of progression. One need not have any of that.

In which case there may well be a relation between this kind of
art which is a form of knowing, and meditation, in the sense,
that a result is always problematic, and may be a problem as

Art as a form of knowing is different than art as a stipulation
or answer to an institutional call. It's neither "better" nor
"worse" nor a "life-choice"; it's a way of being tied to deep
ecology, not as data, but as an internalization of flows and
dynamics. Contemplation would not end at the door of the gallery
(or begin there), nor would the gallery be viewed as a portal.
On a practical level I see the gallery as the potential to
access for further tools, to the extent that tools are necessary
- tools as well have their limitations.

If art is an intervention into the social, the habitus, the
real, it is also part of these and the intervention is not a
gate or barrier, but a wave, a con-vocation, con-vocalization.
In this sense it stands, not against the digital, but against or
within the problematic of the protocols of the digital, their
institutional, economic, and geopolitical connections, and the
harm and promise they carry, harm towards others, and the
promise to them. The protocol is always already a barrier, a
plateau; it is never "updated" but replaced; even with legacy
applications, it is a replacement, and the legacy disappears. It
is capital that drives it, whether bank or bitcoin. The protocol
lives among destinations; it carries a lost history of design,
fabrication, dissemination. It is natural, but it is also step-

I do not mean to imply either contemplative subjectivity or a
position of privilege, but something akin to an improvisation
without beginning or ending, at least in an untoward or contrary
phenomenology, an improvisation akin to dance as if the body,
even in its senescence and submission, were continuing its
movement and grace or gracelessness in the world. It is an
opening towards others, not a closing, and in the world of
galleries and other institutions, and world of opening these as
well. So many do not fit into fitness, genre, or canon; so many
are thereby excluded from participation in the formalizations of
culture and the conversations, communities, that appear to ensue
from them. Community itself is prior, of course; there is
sentience and community everywhere in the world. Again, one can
only call for the removal of barriers, for open sight, for deep
withdrawal before judgment or withdrawal in the process itself.

What if we all gave our work away, not necessarily in trade or
compensation, but freely? What would happen then? And what sort
of institutions might support this?

In my own case, I rarely know where a work becomes a work, if it
ever does, where it begins and where it ends, where it might be
located, what it might offer in terms of collapse into formal
and denuding structures. As formal culture becomes increasingly
allied to high capital, as our digital machines are tied to the
lowest capital and misery in their production, we need to think
and rethink our practices, what I consider praxis in its most
continuous sense.

Who are we when we produces a series of something? What is a
series? What are variations? What depths might emerge? What

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