Artists Art Issues Exhibitions About Us Search

Art & Social Space
The enacting of the public (from performativity to emancipation) in Alicia Herrero's 'Public Considerations'
by Teresa Riccardi

Bookmark and Share


This manner of considering the performativity of acts of speech has some precedent in Argentine art, in particular in that of the late the sixties and early seventies. Two artworks articulate points of reference and intersection for Public Considerations. The first is the artwork/installation realized by Lea Lublin in Yvonne Lambert Gallery, Paris (1974) after a journey to Chile, where she presented this proposal for the first time. The second, which in fact pre-dates the first, responded to a project presented in the Di Tella Institute, Mesa Redonda- Esto es un juicio (1967) by Margarita Paksa.

In the Chilean version, Lublin focused on the economy and the structures governing the art system. The social situation of art and culture was exposed through synoptic charts, diagrams, screens and round tables where cultural operators (sociologists, economists, intellectuals and artists) spoke. Examined in Cultura: Dentro y Fuera del Museo (1971), the institution was confronted with its role and political interest as a legitimising apparatus of the cultural machinery. In Projet: Dedans/Dehors du Musee and Polylogue Exterieur (1974), two continuations of the first experience, Lublin favoured interrogation and discourse in considering the place of enunciation. Here the 'prestigious' discourses of art were tackled on the basis of interviews with cultural agents, registered and recorded on audio for the gallery space. Projet: Dedan-Dehor du Musee and Polylogue Exterieur presented questions, from a feminist perspective (in this case libidinal and psychoanalytical) that disseminated themselves amongst figures in the Parisian intellectual field such as the group Tel Quel. These were historic spaces and moments, in which the word Culture became synonymous with criticism and malaise. Lublin's artistic practice returned the art and signs (exposed as symptom) to the repressive frameworks that the system imposed with its own logic, reclaiming the word from social memory. Following an interview methodology, the artist invited personalities to respond to questions that she had formulated. At the same time she acted as interviewer. Simultaneously, she placed those personalities in front of the cameras, where - under the effect of feedback on the monitors - they viewed their 'live registers', allowing them to observe and adjust their gestures as they responded to the interview. On another hand, the action of Prende la Parole (taking the word) responds in turn to the residual gestures of assembly politics, the art of oration and the repertoire of acts of political speech: those shared by the university or union sphere, or in the form of free expression that artists or politicians employ to expose the contradictions of the performativity of culture and its seductive siren songs. To 'take the floor', as we understand it today, would mean to understand democracy as a space for disagreement(12). Here, a determined type of speech situation is given 'in which one of the speakers understands and at the same time doesn't understand what the other is saying'. Here, subjectivity responds more with the will to free itself than with an idea of verifying the forms of division of knowledge and reason. It's not about rhetoric, but rather about enacting a difference and doing this in the face of those highly conventionalized gibes, repeated again and again in political rhetoric and which empty the words of meaning.

In the case of the artist Margarita Paksa, the proposal was conceived of together with other artists and collaborators. In it, the scheme of enactment of the round table panel and between artist and public took place through questions and taped responses. In this project the artist focused attention on the emission of value judgements and specialized art jargon and 'the highlighting of the presence of communication codes', avoiding 'all possibilities of that which is termed spontaneity'(13). Interest was concentrated on the proceedings and on a proxemics designed by the round table that distributed the arranged hierarchies within space and within the stereotyped codes that proposed the event of the round table to a public 'appropriate 'for the situation. The level of performativity responded with humour, and at the same time with the presence of an unexpected public activity. It exposed the contradiction of the live presence of artists who respond in an automated form to the questions pre-programmed for the participants. Nevertheless it is the public that is the margin of manoeuvre. It is the public that is exposed. Paska asks to what point the voice of the public stretches, what its limit of tolerance is. She asks how to play its subjectivity against the passivity, tedium, or interest of a conversation of these characteristics.

From another perspective, a more recent case where the public has been the subject under consideration was the exhibition 'Vida Pública' ('Public Life') realised a few years ago in the National Arts Fund (FNA) and curated by Karina Granieri. The catalogue reads:

Public Life is the result of common materials: public sphere and the live presence of the other. It attempts to conceive of the public as shared territory. As Paolo Virno commented on Hannah Arendt's use of the expression 'public happiness': it is something related to the fact that our mind (yours, mine) is always a public, social mind and cannot be realised if not in relations to its own peers." (14)

In the exhibition the artists presented diverse situations and actions, situated between the aesthetic and the political and linked to how and where an artist lives and by what means they sustain themself. They as what their work is, its value and its function in an affective geography situated between memory, work and economy. In Granieri's production, she exhibited herself as artist and curator in front of a collection of proposals that permanently marked the vulnerability of their exhibition, in the frame of the practices of institutional criticism. Nevertheless her proposal was articulated as resonant instrument in an artistic community where difference were worked upon from the actions and gestures from the past and from other communities, in public and above all inside and outside the exhibition room.

To summarize, in this scene that we describe, these artists elect a practice of community that (as in Public Considerations) is considered in situ, in specific, determined and traceable contexts.(15) They are spaces and subjectivities in a historic moment, in dialogue with the stylization and crystalization of gestures that form the genre to which they refer. They test the judgement of reason as implied in Paksa's project. With a taste for performativity and the situation of speech, these three acts bring together not only the choice of innovative contexts for the artistic platforms of the body in action, but also the consideration of processes of mutability, alteration and continuity of the species in the forums and round tables. These artists celebrate the intention of making visible these recurrent topics in art, forming links between them and with discourse on the economy, education, cultural policy, public and private space. These practices act (enact) the public and speak without fear (parrhesias) in the debates of the cultural sectors and in the creation and design of participative communities. These proposals, on occasions camouflaged or part of mimicry, operate on the same wavelength of action that overlaps with the specialists and operators of public structures and policy that establish the legality of territory of the cultural industries.

3 of 4 pages     previous page     next page

back to issues