CARSTEN HÖLLER THE BAUDOUIN/BOUDEWIJN EXPERIMENT: A DELIBERATE, NON-FATALISTIC, LARGE-SCALE GROUP EXPERIMENT IN DEVIATION
The Baudouin/Boudewijn Experiment will take place in one of Belgium’s most famous architectural landmarks: the Atomium. Built as the Belgian Pavilion for the 1958 World Fair in Brussels, the Atomium imitates the structure of an atom, and is made up of nine spheres connected by tubes. In the Brussels and European Conference Rooms, situated in the central sphere, a space will be set up to accommodate 100 people who are invited to spend twenty-four hours in the space, stepping out of their usual, “productive” lives for one day.
From 10.00am on 27 September until 10.00am on 28 September 2001, the space will be closed to the outside world. Public access will be denied, and the inhabitants will be allowed to cease their normal activities. They will do nothing at all, and they will do it collectively.
The necessary infrastructure such as furniture, food, sanitary installations and safety measures will be provided. Though no particular programme or means of entertainment will be suggested, participants are free to bring with them what they wish. Essentially, the experiment will be to experience what happens when people are freed from their usual constraints and yet collectively confined to a particular space and time.
The Baudouin/Boudewijn Experiment will not be documented by means of film or video; the only “recordings” will be the memories of the participants, and these will be disseminated through the stories they may tell after the event. The experiment will thus be completely unscientific, since objectivity is not the aim. Rather, it will be a unique opportunity to experience together the possibilities of escape from one¹s daily routine, to participate in a unique event with an unclear outcome.
Those taking part in the experiment will be following the example of the late H.M. Baudouin, King of Belgium, who was declared incapable of governing the country for twenty-four hours on 4 April 1990, and thus suspended his royal activities during this period:
"Belgium’s political system is based on discussion and compromise between different interest groups, without clear central control. The king has no real power, and the prime minister generally implements agreements. However, all laws accepted by the Belgian parliament must be signed by the king before they can be applied. The expression ‘Belgian compromise’ has been applied to this characteristic process of problem solving: complex issues are settled by conceding something to each party concerned, through an agreement that is often so complicated that nobody completely understands all of its implications. In spite of the apparent inefficiency of these settlements, they do work in practice, because they resolve existing conflicts and thus allow life to go on without argument or obstruction. The ambiguities and confusions that arise from such compromises are usually solved on the spot, due to the Belgian talent for improvisation.
A memorable and internationally renowned instance of such improvisation occurred when a law legalising abortion was due to be passed. On religious grounds, King Baudouin concluded that his conscience would not allow him to approve the law. The government discovered a small paragraph in the constitution stating that the approval of the king is not required in situations where he is deemed incapable of governing, a provision for exceptional circumstances such as the mental illness of the ruler. The compromise reached between government and king was that he was declared incapable of ruling for long enough to pass the law without his signature. When the time came and his signature was requested, he resigned from his duties for the space of a day.
Though people who respect formal rules might be shocked by such a pragmatic treatment of a sensitive issue, the problem was solved in a way that was acceptable to everybody: the king’s conscience remained intact, and the democratic decision was implemented with a minimum of delay. The solution to this dilemma was ingeniously simple. It was a short-term deviation from one¹s usual behaviour, a shift or suspension of ones’ normal professional role. In contrast to the king’s singular project (which aimed at solving a particular dilemma), participants in The Baudouin/Boudewijn Experiment will collectively ‘deviate’ from their everyday lives and roles in a certain space and time. As if interrupting the continuous line of their existence, they will suspend their activities to include an alien moment of ‘not doing’.”
- Jens Hoffmann, Carsten Höller, Barbara Vanderlinden
The exhibition’s title, suggested by Gillick, is derived from the writings of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, who used the term “any-space-whatever” to describe a cinematic moment defined by multiple perspectives that are unmoored from the coordinates of time and space. In relation to this exhibition, the notion of ever-shifting views reflects the ideas of diversity, mutability, and potentiality that inform the work of the participating artists. Their goal is to activate their environments, eschewing self-reflexive critique in favor of engagement, entertainment, and seduction, so that the everyday becomes a source for provocative new narratives. — Nancy Spector, Chief Curator
The question that has always plagued Sierra’s critics is, why? Why the endless recapitulation of oppression? Why the agonizing object lessons in human suffering? What ends do these serve? Although more knowledgeable and more indignant about the underlying causes of economic disparity than most, Sierra is no human-rights activist. If he refuses to try to change what he decries, it is because doing so would assume an outside—an innocent, triumphant perspective from which to survey the havoc wreaked by systems that create and feed on injustice.
That said, Sierra’s work most certainly strives to disarm viewers by involving them in relations they might believe they rise above. Sometimes it polarizes an audience along an (un- or underacknowledged) class, racial, or national fault line. More often than not, it exacerbates an existing tension in the social field. (“Submission” does all three.) At best the artist’s efforts are revelatory and disruptive, but they are never constructive. Neither mimicry nor parody nor critique, exactly. Sierra’s work presents something of a conundrum. It is politically charged, but not oppositional, stirring but not affective. Of course, it all depends on how one defines efficacy vis-à-vis art. If we expect from a work like “Submission” concrete solutions and punctual resolutions, then we will be disappointed. Not so, however, if we look forward to an incisive exploration of the spatialization of power and the imbrication of vision, surveillance, land, and human relations.
But I was wrong about the empty page. Or I was wrong about myself. A relationship developed. I found myself thinking about the piece of paper, being moved by it, taking it out of its envelope several times a day, wanting to see it. I had the page framed and put it on my living room wall. Many of the breaks I took from looking at my own empty paper were spent looking at Singer’s.
Looking at what? There were too many things to look at. There were the phantom words that Singer hadn’t actually written and would never write, the arrangements of ink that would have turned the most common of all objects—the empty page—into the most valuable: a great work of art. The blank sheet of paper was at once empty and infinite. […]
And it was also a mirror. As a young writer—I was then contemplating how to move forward after my first effort—I felt so enthusiastically and agonizingly aware of the blank pages in front of me. How could I fill them? Did I even want to fill them? Was I becoming a writer because I wanted to become a writer or because I was becoming a writer? I stared into the empty pages day after day, looking, like Narcissus, for myself.
I decided to expand my collection. Singer’s paper was not enough, just as Singer’s books would not be enough in a library, even if they were your favorites. I wanted to see how other pieces of paper would speak to Singer’s and to one another, how the physical differences among them would echo the writers. I wanted to see if the accumulation of emptiness would be greater than the sum of its parts. So I began writing letters to authors—all of whom I admired, only one or two of whom I had ever corresponded with—asking for the next sheet of paper that he or she would have written on.
Like most writers, Jonathan Safran Foer has a large amount of blank paper. Unlike most writers, however, Foer’s blank paper is hanging on the wall of his living room.
'Would you like the tour?' asks the 25-year-old, jumping off his sofa. 'I feel like I need to get a laser pointer,' he laughs, pointing at a piece of graph paper. 'OK, this is Paul Auster. This is Susan Sontag. This is Isaac Bashevis Singer's - I got that because a friend of mine was working on his archive. This is…'
The framed paper, it transpires, is a pet project of Foer’s. Over the past few years he has contacted various famous authors asking for the piece of paper they’re going to write on next. Or, rather, the piece of paper they would have written on next had not this spectacularly polite Princeton graduate got in touch.
'You can get anybody's address if you really want to,' explains Foer.
“Endurance, whether it concerns objects or relations, has become a rare thing. When we look at artistic production today, we see that in the heart of the global economic machine that favours unbridled consumerism and undermines everything that is durable, a culture is developing from the bankruptcy of endurance that is based on that which threatens it most, namely precariousness. My hypothesis is that art not only seems to have found the means to resist this new, instable environment, but has also derived specific means from it. A precarious regime of aesthetics is developing, based on speed, intermittence, blurring and fragility. Today, we need to reconsider culture (and ethics) on the basis of a positive idea of the transitory, instead of holding on to the opposition between the ephemeral and the durable and seeing the latter as the touchstone of true art and the former as a sign of barbarism. Hannah Arendt: ‘An object is cultural to the extent that it can endure; its durability is the very opposite of functionality, which is the quality which makes it disappear again from the phenomenal world by being used and used up.’ In this new configuration, the physical duration of the artwork is dissociated from its duration as information and its conceptual and/or material precariousness is associated with new ethical and aesthetic values that establish a new approach to culture and art.”—Stichting Kunst en Openbare Ruimte - Nicolas Bourriaud, Precarious Constructions. Answer to Jacques Rancière on Art and Politics
“I love the power of forms made in urgency and necessity. These forms have an explosive density. They are untameable and rebellious. These forms are very far from ‘over-design’ and ‘over-architecture’ everywhere! The legitimacy of these forms comes from commitment, from determination, from the heart. These forms do not want to impress by overeducating aesthetics or by mainstream aesthetical concerns, and these forms are not subject to changes of lifestyle. These forms have nothing to do with fashion.”—Thomas Hirschhorn: Philosophical Battery (interview)
Perhaps this is why people speak ever more often of connections, of connecting and being connected, rather than reporting their experiences and prospects in terms of relating and relationships. Instead of talking about partners, they prefer to speak of networks.
Unlike relationships and partnerships, which stand for mutual engagement over disengagement, network stands for a matrix for simultaneously connecting and disconnecting. In a network, connecting and disconnecting are equally legitimate choices and carry the same importance. Network suggests moments of “being in touch” interspersed with periods of free roaming. In a network, connections are entered on demand, and can be broken at will.
Connections are “virtual relations”. Unlike old-fashioned relationships (not to mention “committed” relationships), they seem to be made to the measure of a liquid modern life setting, where “romantic possibilities” (but not only “romantic” ones) are supposed to come and go with ever greater speed and in never thinning crowds, stampeding each other off the stage and out-shouting each other with promises to be more satisfying and fulfilling.
Unlike “real relationships”, “virtual relationships” are easy to enter and to exit. They look smart and clean, feel easy to use, when compared with the heavy, slow-moving, messy real stuff.
One 28-year-old man, interviewed in connection with the rapidly growing popularity of computer dating, pointed to one decisive advantage of electronic relations: “You can always press delete.”
Zygmunt Bauman who introduced the idea of liquid modernity wrote that its characteristics are the privatization of ambivalence and increasing feelings of uncertainty. It is a kind of chaotic continuation of modernity, where one can shift from one social position to another, in a fluid manner. Nomadism becomes a general trait of the liquid modern man, as he flows through his own life like a tourist, changing places, jobs, spouses, values and sometimes even more (such as political or sexual orientation), (self-)excluded from the traditional networks of support.
“When one object (for instance me) transitions from a certain set of objects to another set, it briefly undergoes the uncanny realization that not-at-homeness is always the case, that sensual relations are never the real thing.”—Ecology without Nature: Shoplifting Advice
“Then you realize how much your world was just a sensual object. And then it hits you. Your regular world was itself a kind of displacement of some real object(s). The sense of place is already a displacement. As the airporter rounds the corner of the block just a few streets away from your familiar haunts, you realize that your town is irreducibly withdrawn from access. That the strange dreamlike airporter interior with its reflections of outer lights and bizarre swaying of your body, is what it is like. More real than the dream you were just living in. Or a transition to a different dream, and the ironic gap between them.”—Ecology without Nature: Displacement and Worlds
In this essay, Nicolas Bourriaud reacts to Jacques Rancière’s claim that his ‘esthétique relationelle’ is little more than a moral revival in the arts. According to Bourriaud, the significance of the political programme of contemporary art is its recognition of the precarious condition of the world. He elaborates this theme in his recently published book The Radicant.
POP IDOL was the inspiration for My Favourite Track (2004), in which [Gillian Wearing] returned to London’s footpaths to ask people wearing Walkmans to sing along to whatever they were listening to. She does enjoy, very gently, the awfulness of the singing, but what really fascinates her is the moment when people cast aside inhibitions.
"I’m fascinated," she once told The New York Times, by people who appear to be self-contained but don’t fit. The people who, if only for a moment, stick out like sore thumbs." People like the woman she saw dancing alone, to no apparent tune, in the foyer of the National Theatre, who became the inspiration for Dancing in Peckham.
"When I was younger, I used to love it when you’d go to a dance and there would always be one girl who would go completely wild, who just didn’t care," she says. "I wanted it to look like that. In fact, I used to try to copy that when I went to clubs: that was the person I wanted to be, someone who could just go into their own world, but I was only mimicking it."
These scenes of abandonment are not all whimsical. One of Wearing’s toughest pieces, Drunk (1997-99), is a video of street drinkers she befriended and asked to come to her studio to drink and be filmed. It sounds inherently exploitative, but the short film is full of tenderness. It is also surprisingly formal, a cross between ballet and Beckett.
“On a row of five monitors five people sing their favourite track, badly, and all at the same time. Christ, it’s awful - like that irritating guy who always manages to sit in front of you on the bus, droning along to the mosquito-hum of his Walkman. Christ, it’s awful - Bryan Adams, Gloria Gaynor, Bob Marley and Crystal Gayle are all murdered by their anonymous amateur interpreters. My Favourite Track (all works 1994) is an incoherent babble of inarticulacy, a celebration of ineptitude. Like Dancing in Peckham, it is touching because it gives a small insight into our commonplace, endearing fantasies: that we possess within us an ability to dance and sing, despite the most telling evidence that we can do neither.”—Frieze Magazine on Gillian Wearing’s “My Favourite Track”
Unlike unrealized architectural projects, which are frequently exhibited and circulated, unrealized artworks tend to remain unnoticed or little known. But perhaps there is another form of artistic agency in the partial expression, the incomplete idea, the projection of a mere intention? Agency of Unrealized Projects (AUP) seeks to document and display these works, in this way charting the terrain of a contingent future.
Living as Form is an unprecedented project that explores over 20 years of cultural works that blur the forms of art and everyday life, and emphasize participation, dialogue, community engagement, and activism around social issues. Living as Form provides a historical look at these socially engaged alternative practices, and the role artists have played in reshaping our world. Presented by New York City-based public art presenter Creative Time, the project brings together 25 curators, document over 100 artists projects in a survey exhibition at the historic Essex Street Market building, create six new social based commissions throughout the Lower East Side, hold three public talks, and culminate with a book that addresses this complex field of cultural production.
When you cheat on your partner you add to the heartbreak, pain and jealousy in the atmosphere. Cheatneutral offsets your cheating by funding someone else to be faithful and NOT cheat. This neutralises the pain and unhappy emotion and leaves you with a clear conscience.
“[Zizek] has also noted that the “close door” button in an elevator does nothing to hasten the door closing but merely gives the presser a false sense of effective activity. Like many of Zizek’s observations, this is the kind of insight that forever changes one’s experience, in this case of elevator riding, even if one does not necessarily follow Zizek in his comparison of the beguiled button-presser to the hapless citizen of a Western liberal democracy who thinks he’s participating in the political process by voting but, because of the consensus on fundamental issues shared by both major parties, has actually been offered no choice at all.”—Slavoj Zizek-Bibliography/The Marx Brother/Lacan Dot Com
“It is a well known fact that the close-the-door button in most elevators is a totally dysfunctional placebo which is placed there just to give individuals the impression that they are somehow participating, contributing to the speed of the elevator journey. When we push this button the door closes in exactly the same time as when we just press the floor button without speeding up the process by pressing also the close-the-door button. This extreme and clear case of fake participation is, I claim, an appropriate metaphor (for) the participation of individuals in our post-modern political process.”—Slavoj Zizek-Bibliography/Human Rights and its Discontents/Lacan Dot Com
“I also value ‘unfinished’ or provisional work for its permeability – like a garment with its seams showing, a kind of rough draft that seems to hold the possibility of an unpredictable encounter rather than being a closed system. I think that’s probably the essence of live art for me.”—Katerina Kokkinos-Kennedy « lala
“Procrastination most often arises from a sense that there is too much to do, and hence no single aspect of the to-do worth doing… . Underneath this rather antic form of action-as-inaction is the much more unsettling question whether anything is worth doing at all.”—What we can learn from procrastination : The New Yorker