Criptic Critic Conscience and Known for it

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"Type 3 Knowledge" - Collaboration with Carmel Skeaff - SUPERMARKET 2013- International Art Fair- Stockholm, Sweden

We received numerous ideas in the initial conversations we had with Carmel and Tao (through Carmel). As the ideas continued to change at each meeting, although they stayed within a certain thematic, we withheld from entering very far into a dialogue. For us, this led to a kind of freezing up in terms of processing any of their ideas, which in retrospect was less than ideal. Had C & T given us more concrete information at an earlier stage we would have been able to enter into more of a dialogue. This dialogue however was taking place intensely between C and T instead.
This meant a thickening in the relationship between the artists who had not previously worked together, as well as further experimentation on their behalf. This was very valuable for them and us in turn, however it did then require us to make some fundamental decisions without consulting C and T because of the time constraints. This was not necessarily a negative but definitely a formative thing.
It is also important to note that 2-3 days prior to emailing us the questions (on Feb 12), Carmel communicated to us that they would be giving us ‘some kind of questionnaire’. It was at this point we were also really trying to pull together the different threads of the projects to get a better overall feel of what the show would actually develop into for the space at the Kulturhuset.
In many ways we began developing a response to C & T’s questionnaire (as we began calling it) before we actually knew it’s content. This was not entirely blind, of course, because we knew of the types of ideas they were interested in exploring for the project. However, it was because of the pressure/ time frame that we did so.
We had already noted the number of canvassers in the area (largely because we would be trying to avoid them) around the Kulturhuset.
The content of the Questionnaire felt somewhat independent at the time, we were more concerned with how we could approach the format of a questionnaire as a work in itself. We think this is interesting because it shows how much time C&T spent talking about their ideas and their content and we spent more time at that point thinking about the structure and form of the work. We think this comes out of the pressure to interweave many things at once. It
becomes easier to try and think more logistically about how things might structurally fit together than how the ins & outs of their potential content will. This is a problematic situation to be in.
We were also aware of the seriousness of the institutional critique (*bad labeling) that C&T were interested in- in a general sense- and we felt it important that the work didn’t sit as just a paper inciting criticism and was actually active in it’s critique.
We approached a Unicef canvasser on the street near the Kulturhuset and asked her a few questions regarding her job. This is what we learned: She worked 5 days a week, Monday to Friday, in 5hr shifts with a one hour lunch break. She was paid 120SEK an hour and considered this a good wage, and seemed to think it relatively high for a canvasser. She said that they work in certain zones and that they rotate these zones with different companies so as to not crowd in certain areas too much.
It is important to note that we felt that the absurd/similarities/contrast/contradictory relationship between the canvassers as people who ask for money and ask for people to take some kind of social(?) responsibility was interesting in relation to C&T’s interests. There is correlation between the social responsibility of the artist as raised by C&T, as well as their interest in financial transparency, i.e. where do you give your money, who do you give your money to and so on.
We decided that we could ask for a canvasser to work for us only if we paid them their usual wage. We did consider the average wage of an artist or other profession re: performance, but felt that it was important that we were employing them to work as professional ‘questioners’ and NOT performers. (In retrospect we realized that had we hired performers or actors we would have had to pay them a lot more). We considered asking them to do just one hour work, or one hour a couple of times, although we realized this was largely due to the initial lack of interest from the Unicef girl and because of how hard we were finding it to actually locate any canvassers (this was because we were unaware that they didn’t work on the weekends) and we were also trying to consider worst case scenarios.
When we approached Tim he was with another canvasser Nelly, working for Amnesty International, however Nelly became less interested as we explained the project. Tim however was interested immediately and said he would like to be involved irrespective to whether or not we paid him. We did not have the questions yet so could not tell them explicitly what they would be talking about. We said that the questions would be about art and criticism in general and they explained they knew little on either subject.
We met Tim and his co-worker Lev, who came instead of the girl, the next day to discuss properly what we would like them to do. Lev in particular thought the whole situation was hysterical and they both responded with a lot of enthusiasm and energy. They agreed to work for their same rate of pay and duration in Sergels Torg outside the Kulturhuset.
We decided to provide them with the same collateral they have for Amnesty, which included:
A Binder- we made logo out of the phrase present in the introduction to the questions ‘type 3 knowledge’ and slipped it into the plastic cover of their usual binder. An ID card- we again simply made a cover the exact size that slipped over their amnesty card that had our logo on it and revealed their photo on their card underneath.
A Jacket- we gave them a scarf instead- the tracksuit top and bottom we had previously been given by Kieran and Luke. We felt this was the simplest and most logical way to constitute a
“uniform” as we were already in possession of them. These articles informed our logo color scheme.
We met one hour before they started in Sergels Torg to discuss the ideas behind the questions. We were aware of the absurdity involved in trying to explain the history of art. We provided them with a SUPERMARKET catalogue and talked in very simple terms about institutional critique. We referenced wikileaks and the vague understanding we have about ‘type 3 knowledge’ as the knowledge that is withheld from the general public by big business/governments regarding specific information such as financial sponsorship, power/conspiracy ... That if known to the general public would have a big impact on the way we make everyday decisions and theoretically fundamentally shift the way we view/live/invest in the world.
Tim and Lev responded with little confidence in our discussion and especially Lev seemed to feel as though we were asking him to ask people to questions he didn’t understand and that if he was asked what he meant he would have no answer. We were very explicit in saying that this is OK and a valid response and that we felt it important for them to respond however they felt comfortable. Their responses were in general very clear in highlighting the specificity of the questions, not to just SUPERMARKET but also to art in general, that we were talking about a specialization of a specialization. In a way the responsibility we had undertaken in being able to translate/understand these questions ourselves became apparent.
Tim and Lev also sat for an extended period of time and translated the questions into Swedish. It was interesting to note how during translating the questions they constantly referred to one another to confer the meaning and equivalent of each word. In a way, this was a pivotal moment in that the decisions they made personally, created the structure of the questions (we do not actually know how they translated these because we don’t know Swedish). This may be an interesting point to translate their interpretations of the questions and compare them----
We spoke to them about who they were going to talk to and we specifically did not want to preference the people entering/exiting SUPERMARKET- but rather to capitalize of the broad- general public who frequented the square. The guys went out into Sergels Torg and we realized that any hesitation they had conceptually were no longer apparent, as the nature in which they communicated with the public was overwhelmingly confident or successful. People repeatedly stopped and talked to them for lengthy periods of time. They appeared very non-threatening and their success rate in terms of entering into conversation with whomever they approached was overwhelmingly high. We had no reason to presume it otherwise, except that the complexity of the questions combined with the fact that they were asking the public meant to us previously that it was unlikely to elicit much response.
Afterwards we sat down with their answers, which they recorded in Swedish and let them discuss their experience with us. Overwhelmingly we felt that what was most interesting was how much insight into what they were asking people they had gained from the nature with which people answered. It had become a kind of reverse canvassing- depending on who they spoke to- but generally they seemed to identify when someone they approached understood what they were talking about, and took on their responses to inform their own, as yet undetermined, opinions about what they were talking about. In many ways this felt like the most poignant element of the project with C&T, in that by giving us the responsibility to approach
others with these opinionated questions we had opened the doors to let these two guys enter into their own understanding or opinion about art, in a way that was generated by the questions.

in response to C Skeaff and T Wells (photo: David Head)

Interpreting Variable Arrangements 2013.  In collaboration with Isadora Vaughan (with contributions from Lane Cormick, Shmulik Friedman, Helen Grogan, Johanna Nordin, Luke Sands & Keiren Seymour, Carmel Skeaff & Tao Wells, John Vella and Benjamin Woods)

SUPERMARKET 2013- International Art Fair- Stockholm

FREE PDF DOCUMENT (for above writing and more on other artists/ works in the show


Barry Thomas said...

I want to know more Tao... can you fill me in on what was asked? etc? outcomes?


Barry Thomas said...

I want to know more... what were the questions? outcomes etc.