|"On Insertions: A dialogue between Carlos Basualdo & Ben Kinmont", in Produit d'entretiens, 0 Issue, pp. 29-37, published as a magazine within Documents sur l'Art, no. 12, 2000.|
En mai-juillet 1998, Carlos Basualdo organisait l'exposition "Insertions" au Nordiska Museum et au Museum of Science and Technology de Stockholm. Produit dans le cadre du programme Arkipelag, le projet de Basualdo qui exitait aussi en dehors des espaces de deux musée, réunissait des travaux de Francis Alys, Teresita Fernandez, Félix Gonzalez-Torres, Ben Kinmont, Cildo Mereiles et Liisa Roberts. Trouvant son origine conceptuelle dans "Insertions in Ideological Circuits" (1970) - une pièce fondatrice de Cildo Meriles - "Insertions" fut pour son curateur, l'occasion de repenser l'exposition d'art contemporain en appliquant la notion d'insertion à la totalité d'un champ culturel. Due reste, ce projet fut un par exemple les principes de dématérialisation de l'ouvre issus de l'art conceptuel des années 60 et 70. Et d'établir le terme de "densité idéale d'information", cette condition qe Basualdo applique à une oeuver ou une exposition lorsqu'ells abondonnent une structure matérielle permanente. Pour PRODUIT d'entretiens, Basualdo et Kinmont reviennent précisément sur la proposition de l'artiste américan pour l'exposition suédoise. Intitulée "Vietnam War Ads: or, your bibliography is our sculpture" (1998) l'oeuvre complexe de Kinmont prenait alors l'allure d'une salle d'information organisée par l'artiste, de T-shirts faisant office de catalogues et d'annonces des années 70 réimprimées dans la presse locale. La discussion qui suit est notamment l'occasion pour Kinmont d'intoduire et d'expliquer une notion récurrente dans sa pratique, celle de "troisième sculpture". En plus de l'entretien, est ici pulié le communiqué de prsse de "Vietnam War Ads: or, your bibliography is our sculpture", rédigé par Kinmont lui-même.
I am curious about the ways in which the general context of "Insertions" may have affected you initial plans or the final output of your piece Vietnam War Ads; or, your bibliography is our sculpture. By context I refer not only to Stockholm and the main conceptual frame f the show, but also our preliminary conversations and the information that you ahd on the other artists in the show.
For "Insertions", I was interested in producing an histroical exhibtion within your exhibition. That the oringianl advertisements appeared in newspapers and magazines necessitated that the ads reappear in current periodicals. The gap or distance between these two points of the project was descriptive of both our own tie as well as that of several people during the 1960s and 70s. For Stockholm, it was also important for me to present the Fahlström insert as a preface to the show. Produced as an insert itself within a radical 1960s newspaper, the Fahlström piece helped to provide a bridge between the Swedish audience and the project as a whole and was hung at the entrance to the room containing the documentation. Regarding the other artists in the show, I was most familiar with Cildo (Mereiles)'s partly from conversations with you and also from the "Information" sow catalogue. Overall, though, I was probably more conscious of your activity as the curator, and my role as an artist creating a project which was somewhat curatorial and therefore had a relationship to the positiona and source of your authority.
I am interested in the ways in which an insertioan has to deal with the structure of its presentation, in order to remain such. In the case of your piece it is very interesting that it functions as an insertion in the exhibition as a whole as well as it insertied old ads in Swedish periodicals. Insertions are always at the verging of disappearance, they have to be in order not to become something else. How did you deal with that in the show?
It was important to me to show that the theme of insertions could also have a very real element to it, an element which could respond to some very real issues, such as the Vietnam war, and that the art world could and has had a voice in that direction. There was also the desire to be consistent with the theme: the origian appearance of the ads was an insertion of a voice to as wide a public as possible; the re-appearance of the ads would be inserted into Sweden momentarily; the show itself, your show, insertions would have a presennce outside of the museum spaces we occupied. In a way, I suppose, the sense of insertions to me was one of a movement between which, just as it is defined, one must move on. This is probably why questions are somehow most consistent with issues of insertions or in between-ness. But Carlos, I was also interested to know why you let my show iwthin you show at all? As I mentioned before, I was very conscious of the crossover of my role both as a project artist and a curator, even writing my project's own press release. But what did you think of your function in this case, and how do you view the future of such blurred roles of author and curator?
As I've said, I liked the idea that your project would actually consist in as a two-fold insertion: as a show within a show and as a series of ads inserted in Swedish periodicals. As you know I was mainly concerned about the context-specificity of the subject of the ads (I still wonder how they were read by the audience of the show and by the Swedes in general) and about the thresholds of disappearance of all the pieces included in the show and of the show itself. By threshold of disappearance I refer to the minium amopunt of information that a certain project has to produce in order to be perceived as such. My major concern was to duplicate at the level of the structure of the exhibition what I thought was the structure of the object exhibited, in this case a certain artistic/cultural strategu tjat o cjppse a bot arbotrarily to call "insertion" after the work that Cildo Meireles presented at the "Information" show, curated by Kynaston McShine at the Museum of Modern Art in 1970. For me, the integrity of curatorial intervention remains solely in the possibility of realizing that single operation: to produce an exhibition that functions as its object. I was not concerned about questions of authorship, as I think that a strategy of insertions problematize radically that concept. As a matter of fact, your piece was instrumental in displacing the question of authorship from the curator to what I would describe as an interface artist-curator. After all, the logic of the show itself was borrowed from the Meirele's piece. I see the curatorial role more as a function than as the product of an author. In that sense, the blurring of the authorial-authoritarian roles of the curator and the artists is only a logical consequence. It is both roles that are recasted by such collaborative projects. I am only excited by the prospects of such practices, but aware that projects like this need to be clearly of such practices, but aware that projects like this need to be clearly articulated in order not to become just superficial representations of such complexes interactions. Now, going back to the question of specifity. Why did you think of those ads in the first place? What is the genealogy of "Your Bibliography is Our Sculpture"? And, would you repeat your project in, let's say, Bogota?
Well, I first came across the ads when working on another project, " The Materialization of Life into alternative economies"; I was reproducing a Gordon Malta Clark Ad, and found the one by Lucy Lippard, Carl Andre, Rudolph Baranik, and others in ArtRite. The ads caused me to refocus my view of conceptual art and to raise the question of why such ads not occur today, was it as simple as there not being a Vietnam war, or was ther soething greater which points to a difference in how we view our practice as artists today; perhaps it is our reluctance to take an ethical position. The site of specificity of the project must be understood in relation to these questions. The project was done with a consciousness of a Swedish context - this was the reason for the inclusion of the Fahlström piece as a preface to the show, the time spent researching Sweden's postion during the war, etc. But more importantly the question was asked of as Swedish audience. As such it woudl inevitably be different according to its locale both geographical and temporal (e.g. the same would be true in Bogota, if done again in NYC in 1998, etc.). The differences of context are for the most part beyond my control; i.e. the other information surrounding the particular ad in the periodical, the familiarity the reader has with the histroy of art and the Vietnam war, the amount of time the viewer is able/willing to spend with the project, if he or she will see the other ads in the other periodicals, etc. This is the natural outcome of what is perhaps a more experimental practice, which has always been important to me in the case of project work. It is also interesting to try to come up with a means of valuing such an activity, especially when the institution is more set-up for solutions and objects. I also believe in the importance of clarity, however in the articulation you mentioned so that such practices don't become merely symbolic. What do you see as the possibilities of such articulation, how it can be done when the projects must extend beyond the Museum, or must be on the verge of disappearance?
It is definitely very complex. In the catalogue esay I introduced the term "ideal density of information" that refers to the threshold of invisibility of these kind of projects. In this context a successful exhibition is one thta is able to attain that "ideal density" so as to have a presence in front of the audience without becoming a spectacle. You can apply the notion of "ideal density" both to the individual pieces in the show and to the exhibition as a whole - after all, in a show about insertions it is logical that the whole exhibition has to become some sort of insertion also, this time in the museological context. The "ideal density" is somehow an intuitive category and it certanly depends on the general conditions under which the pieces and the exhibition take place Even considering that there is always a risk of museification, I also believe that a museological component is heighly desirable when dealing with this kind of show. But, having said that, it is very important to highlight the fact that the museological element, working as an information resource for the rest of the pieces in the show, would have to be an insertion itself, which means, being able to subvert the logic of the institution. That is the reason why I decided to combine in the exhibition pieces like yours and Cildo's with other pieces that would interpellate the architecture or the history of the space, or both. How can you reenact a strategy aimed at replaacing (in Meireles' own words) the notion of the market for that of an audience and contesting the very concept of authorship without re-inscribing them with a vengeance? I do not think there is a easy answer, but I believe that a curatorial strategy sensible to the context, attentive to the logic of it's subject, and open to a close dialogue with the artists could definitely rehearse some possible answers. I would be interested in hearing more about your ideas about sculpture and how is it that you see this piece as enacting them. What makes "Your Bibliography..." a sculpture? And, also in this sense, what is the role of the different components of the piece: T-shirts, information room, reprinted ads?
When using the term sculpture, I mean to begin with a fairly accessible idea and build it up, or explode it, depending upon how historical one choses to see events. Because I have been organizing projects where the primary contact has been with people in public spaces, usually outside or in homes. I have been seeking to develop a vocabulary, or project vernacular, which is useful for both myself and those participating. Most people understand a sense of the term sculpture. Even if I need to begin with a notion of an artist, a model, and a lump of clay as a simple, even conservative notion of the three parts of a relationship, most people on the street are are comfortable entering into a dialogue to discuss the possibilities of sculpture. What I have done is to then open up the discussion to notions of social sculpture and the thinking sculpture, or cognitive process as a sculptural process. Both of course were developed by Beuys, especially the former, and both have a means to talk about elements of the same construct. But I then also try to move onto another fairly simple, but missing concept, which is what I call the tird sculpture. Syntatctically, if the social sculpture is the group, the thinking sculpture is the individual, the third sculpture is a way of referring to the space in between. This concept was something I began exploring in 1989 with my first interactive project. It was a way to refer to the area between the art world and non-art world, to the space between the dominate culture and the subculture, between me and you, etc. But it was also to say that as much as it is something which can be identified, it is also something which upon identification, becomes a point which creates another third sculpture. In this way, the third sculture is never still and is often best sought through question asking and movement. So, to come to your question, how do I view this project, "Your bibliography..." as sculpture? Although the points of entry of the ads, the bibliographical citations before and now, represent points of appearance of a type of ethical practice, they also indicate a third sculpture determined by space from their original and their new appearances. Hence, "Your bibliography is our sculpture." The notion of the catalogue to the show/project "Vietnam war ads; or, your bibliography is our sculpture" would be a T-shirt reprinting the original bibliographical citations and the new citations was intended to keep the information moving, quite literally, and with some sort of strange use value. It would also enable any interested in recreating the exhibition to have the information available to do so. Does that make sense? I'm sorry that my answer was so long winded.