Relational tactics & con-art

Scenario’s of manipulation, responsibility and trust between initiating authors and participating audiences

This is a growing commented selection of works and projects that are understood primarily as artistic interventions. The works have in common that in all cases the initiating author manipulates the trust of (certain groups within) the audience in his or her artistic vision and practice. The term initiating author is used to indicate the person that starts the process of the interactive work – the person who is usually responsible for for the design of most of the technical and social rules under which it operates. The term was coined by Architecture of Interaction group. (See this blog)

Conceptual tools that help coming to terms with the notion of con-art:
- the artistic contract: the mostly implicit deal between audience and artist that organizes the mutual expectations between them.
The nature of the contract is is informed by genre, by knowledge of the audience of previous works of the artist, by the context in which contact between artist /and or artwork and the audience is made. Often the nature and the terms of the art-contract only becomes visible when it is broken.

- the art script: the art script is the behavioral and perceptual scenario that the audiences follow when participating in a process of making contact with works of art. The artistic contract is a part of the art script. Some of the works listed below only function because they are not part of a recognizable art script in the perception of the audience during the process of participation. Usually the works only become con-art when the con part is identified and revealed.

- con-art (working definition) For the moment we think of it as: art in which the artist bends, twists or breaks the rules of the art contract. Con-art is (obviously) a pun on the term con-artist, but does not refer to the ordinary scams of con-artists. Rather, it refers to projects intended as artistic interventions, that apply certain mechanisms that may also be recognized in the swindles of con-artists.

The projects listed below differ highly in terms of the amount and nature of the responsibility that initiators are willing to take. In a series of discussions in class we concluded that only those interventions in which the initiating author takes full responsibility for all experiences of the audience within the work, merit the label con-art.

Choosing to take responsibility
When artworks involve participation or interaction (as in non-trivial actions on the part of members of the audience that alter the shape of the work) the matter of the artists’ responsibility for the perception of his/her work, becomes more layered and complex.
The initiating author has to consider to what extent s/he wants to take responsibility for the actions of the participants, and for the effects of those actions. Different strategies are applied. And it is clear that not all artists oversee the different implications of their interventions.

Bart Schoenmakers approached con-art methodologically We are snot sure yet if all his statements apply, but these seem to hold:

• Con Art can only exist by the grace of the system, framework, or context it operates in.
• To present itself, the work mimics as part of its hosting system, but by definition it is separate from it, and operates under a different constitutive logic.
• The system or rather an actor within the system should mark the work as fraudulent in some way:
a. only in this way the work may lay bare the mechanics behind its hosting system
b. so that the audience are given the possibility to reflect on the work and the mechanics of its hosting system
c. (in other words) in order for the work to become art and for the artist to take responsibility

May we apply (and derive inspiration from, even ?) the notion ofprocedural rhetoric (Ian Bogost) on these kinds of works to understand their perceptional mechanics ? I hope to get back to that.

Not all these works are clearly con-art. But they all function around tension in the understanding of the artistic contract. We (DT-IDUM3&4&5) have been discussing the following works and interventions:

Christoph Schlingensief: Ausländer Raus A clear example of con-art. When discussing Ausländer Raus at the Schlingensief exhibition in Utrecht we arrived at the folling hypothesis: Artist that make con-artistic interventions, have messianistic tendencies in their personalities.

Martijn Engelbrecht: REGONED At first we though this was clearly con-art. However, since Martijn Engelbrecht denies the intention of actually making the audience believe the forms he sent were ‘real’, but rather that he only intended to stir up discussion on the topic of illegality, this work is not con-art. It was percieved as such however. Discussing this work led us to the conclusion that only if the artist holds that the belief of the audience in the con is essential for the artistic effect, a work may be labelled con-art.

BNN: De Donor Show Maybe not intended as art, but otherwise a classic example of the con-art mechanisms in full throttle. As an Idols-type reality TV show, it is formally close to Schlingensiefs Auslander Raus. But BNN never claimed it to be art. It was an elaborate hoax to stir people into more awareness about the issues around organ donation.

Agnes Meyer-Brandis Public Meteor Watching in Herzele (BE). This is a border case, because Agnes Meyer-Brandis does not rely on the moment of revelation for the artistic effect of the work. Rather, it relies on the maintenance of the illusion – the permanent suspension of disbelief. This work has more mythological intentions. I think by now we don’t consider this con-art, allthough Agnes Meyer-Brandis does take full responsibility for what you might consider as complex hoaxes.

Pilvi Takala – The Trainee A pure example of con-art. Pilvi Takala claims she is an intern at Deloite & Touche, doing brain work for the communications department.

Zuzana Janin - I’ve seen my Death Another clear example. Zuzane Janin staged her own funeral, and attended it in disguise.

The Yes Men More activist than artistic in intentions.

Marina Abramovic Rhythm 0 and other works.
Some of the works engineer tension around the responsibility of the participating audience. Abramovic’s Rhythm 0 for instance. Here it is maybe more the audience that breaks the term of the art contract, allthough it is clear that Abramovic is investigating into the outer boundaries of possible relations between artist, audience and artworks. One question is to what extent it can be said that the audience acted on authority of the artist in Rhythm 0? To what extent was it absolved of responsibility by the invitation of Abramovic to do whatever it felt like doing ? We didn’t think Rhythm 0 was not con-art, since all the terms of the art contract are transparant, clear and met by Abramovic.

Weg van Nederland:

The Chech Dream

The Contemporary Art Bubble

Yu Zhu eating people