Dolce utopia - Page 2

Work vs. entropy as hustlers, philosophers, and experimenters get down in sweet new (art) spaces
Fork it over, motherfuckers! Philip Huang (right) brough some wit and realness to a recent conference on the art economy

An artist's work is likely to suffer if entirely withdrawn from the world (Proust's last writings, where he ensconced himself in a cork-lined bedroom for three years, attest to this).

The mutability of an "in-between" or "third way" of making art was proposed by speakers at the "What is the Good of Work?" seminars organized by the Goethe-Institut in New York. Aimed at "think(ing) of unemployment as an artistic and philosophical category" given the amount of unemployed artists, the seminar "takes its starting point in the claim that today the artist — defined by creativity, unconventionality, and flexibility — might be seen as a role model for contemporary workers."

Liam Gillick, who spoke at the most recent seminar Jan. 30, believes today's artist has an opportunity to "to reflect on permanent leisure." "The good artist is always productive and works all the time," he says. This "work" isn't necessarily work or leisure in the traditional sense, but work characterized by "flexible knowledge-workers exercising self-organization and self-determination where the studio functions as a laboratory." Gillick views entropy as art's current model: resistance and production via indeterminacy and flux.

In a similar spirit, albeit unwittingly, this article was written in several spaces (Herbst Theater; BART; seat 14B on a Boeing 757; Everyman Espresso and Fresh Salt Bar in NYC; a friend's Brooklyn bedroom that isn't really a bedroom but a living room with a partition; and all the criss-crossing streets in between), in several formats (notebook; laptop; cell phone; napkin; and folds in my brain). There were distractions — turbulence announcements; actors rehearsing scripts of banal, big city dating-related dialogue while jogging in place; a man's heinous, relentless laughter that sounded exactly like a 1980 VW Rabbit desperately trying to turn over in the dead of winter; and near the rampant heat of a misused radiator. This may account for its moments of disjunction, but its words are imbued with many shifts in space and time, so that ideally they reflect more than a static mirror might.

Metacognition, or "thinking about thinking," as Lehrer explains it, is crucial to problem-solving and development. As is distance and movement. This is why Lehrer suggests doing work when traveling, walking — even daydreaming. Distancing oneself from an immediate obstacle allows for relaxation, which allows alpha waves to generate, which leads to moments of insight and epiphany.

"We shouldn't be complaining about uncertainty or the prospect of no future," Gillick claims. Nor should we follow the opposite instinct of scrambling for "transparent utopias." Those, he warns, are never "transparent but actually opaque and dangerous."

I believe art critic Nicolas Bourriaud proffered the best way out of the current impasse faced by artists in a time of economic struggle and failure: "I am not persuaded that we should respond to this sort of 'all or nothing' by another globalizing system," he says. "I'm under the impression that we are approaching an era of 'dolce utopia,' to quote Maurizio Cattelan. It's the idea of constructing temporal spaces which permit for a while experimentation."

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