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Interview with Reinaldo Laddaga on Art of Emergency. The formation of another culture in the arts: Part 1
by Santiago Garcí­a Navarro

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Santiago García Navarro: In what way is the characteristically modern relationship, still in force, between: function-author / work of art-object, and indeterminate public / relatively isolated spaces of reception, being affected today by artistic, political, labor, and post-Fordist mass-media structures?

Reinaldo Laddaga: To my mind the system of relations among objects, spaces, institutions, speech and persons, that arose within the arts in the course of European modernity is on its way to losing its uniqueness and even its dominance. Of course, what happens today in artistic spaces of the modern kind (Italianesque theater or public libraries) perhaps amounts to what has always occurred. But the fact is that a growing number of our artistic experiences unfold in vastly different spaces. This is, after all, because a growing number of our experiences, not only the artistic ones, take place in spaces that follow rhythms whose specificity we begin to perceive, but have not yet quite grasped. Our basic way of being in the world, among objects and individuals, has been affected by changes spanning many dimensions and, above all, by the availability of technologies that drastically augment our access to information and our capacity to communicate at a distance, while at the same time often distancing us from what in real space is closest to us. In this world, the kind of situation we find ourselves in when inhabiting public spaces seems ever more bizarre, more unnecessary, more strained. And many artists who are more tuned into these changes attempt to design stages or spheres in which the circulation of images, objects, speech happens in other ways.

The projects that I comment upon in my book are experiential spaces structured in a particular way, where the distribution of roles is very different from the space that once surrounded the work of art. They offer anyone who has the intention of (as Thomas Hirschhorn puts it) becoming "involved" in them, a space and a series of instruments to observe the information that happens in this space, but also to use this information in the process of acting upon our environments. Anyone wishing to come into possession of what can be derived from these projects can only approach them in a way similar to the way in which each of us approaches a website: as a space that we explore through a process whereby our decisions determine the way in which the thing itself becomes structured for us. We move forward to the extent that it appears that something in there can aid us to act upon our daily surroundings. What these projects offer is neither what is offered by the monument (the object before which we must devotionally place ourselves if we wish to feel its best possible effects) nor the event that pulls us along as it interrupts the plot of our daily environment. What they offer is a conjunction of spaces, images, speech, that are in various ways determined by one's own inclinations and interests. Instruments may be found for observing, reflecting, connecting with others or carrying out action. Since such entities as these did not exist until recently, I think that this quite probably signals the emergence of a different way of thinking about and practicing art.

SGN: I would like to compare your vision concerning the changes that have come about in the arts, with an idea by Paolo Virno. According to him, in the post-Fordist era, the most contemporary kind of work lives together -those whose basic recourse are linguistic/communicative- with those typical of other eras, such as the Ford factory, but also alongside a system of semi-slavery such as maquiladoras. Virno says that even in these old ways of working that are still present today, an entirely new post-Fordist era of social cooperation is at stake, a mode going beyond the factory or the maquiladora, which relies on the use or production of new flows (monetary, migratory etc.). Might one not postulate a parallel between this idea of Virno's concerning a present day conviviality among the new forms of art that you describe in the book and other, more traditional practices, such as art that is centered around the object, performance, or even the "relational aesthetics" Bourriaud promotes?

RL: In the post-Fordist era manners of work effectively live together. In Virno's view, and I believe that his description is correct, the simple capacity of establishing relations involving communication with others lives together with the capacity of carrying out a specialized kind of work (the worker is part of the production process not only as a professional or a specialist, but as a person). The worker becomes, in this way, a connecting agent from whom actions, let us call them of an "expressive" kind, are required. This is in line, however, with a multitude of other processes: from the generalization of therapeutic and nutritional vocabulary as rhetorical devices that persons use in order to speak about themselves (and, presumably, to think about themselves as well), to the appearance of spaces where the distribution of the public and the private, fiction and confession, self presentation and self-masking become distributed in incredible ways. Here I'm thinking about talk shows, blogs, the abundance of personal sites, the circulation of images of a domestic character.

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