manifestations of sensing

Early on in his book ‘How Art Can Be Thought: A Handbook for Change’ Allan deSouza writes ‘individuals amass data through experience, surveillance, research, investigation, imagination and memory’. Although I agree with this statement generally, in our current age there is also a need to acknowledge ‘the unclear’ and ‘the undefined’ as an important part of contemporary experience as well as art generation, outcomes, documentation and discourse.

Particularly since the 1990s, the art world has emphasised clarity, rationality, definition and precision as signifiers of ‘good’ contemporary art. However, as our local as well as global financial, social, political and environmental systems are driven into ever-increased states of uncertainty the high cost of clarity, definition and precision are becoming too obvious to continue to ignore. Under such conditions, maintaining states of being unfinished and unresolved is a difficult but, I would argue, important part of contemporary practice.

Although approached from a more historical and process/outcome perspective, the 2016 Met Breuer exhibition ‘Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible’ that explored ‘the evolving concept of unfinishedness as essential to understanding art movements from the Renaissance to the present day’ provides significant insights into what stands on the horizon line.

Image: Alice Neel.  James Hunter Black Draftee , 1965. Oil on canvas. COMMA Foundation, Belgium, © The Estate of Alice Neel (detail).

Image: Alice Neel. James Hunter Black Draftee, 1965. Oil on canvas. COMMA Foundation, Belgium, © The Estate of Alice Neel (detail).

We will not lead. We will only detonate.

New Babylon-Antwerp , 1963, ink on city map, 52 × 64 cm. Via Frieze ( click here  to go to article)

New Babylon-Antwerp, 1963, ink on city map, 52 × 64 cm. Via Frieze (click here to go to article)

The Situationists International (SI) (1957-1972) formed in revolt against the commodification of art and the apathy and malaise that had arisen within the urban centres in the European alliance. Blending Surrealism, Marxism and a strategy of revolution, the SI were a group of writers, poets and artists who championed individual and collective liberation from mass media and consumerism by constructing ‘moments of life’.

These moments of life were constructed using actions, objects, writing and ideas that were already in existence but were re-configured as affirmations. Although the group considered themselves to not be a political group, the outcomes of their work most often had a political grounding (such as the anti-institutional, subversive graffiti) and could constitute any action of any scale – from a single moment to an epic gesture.

The SI are commonly linked to the French student revolt of 1968 that saw mass protests, strikes and conflict erupt across France in an effort to revolutionise the cultural and social fabric of the nation. From sex, to religion, gender parity, gay rights, intellectual freedom and everything in between, the players in this month of revolution adopted many of the SI working methods – embedding the SI ideology of the connection between art and society into the global cultural domain. A legacy that continues today.