Apathy and Areal

Practice without Discipline.

Moritz Majce

( Climate )

From the daily demands for more protection and security from an intangible terrorist threat and an increasingly obvious political incapacity to act on global issues such as climate change, migration and financial crisis, to allegations of rampant political lethargy in rich western democracies and a perception of art as somewhere between spectacular time-wasting, representative criticism and insured profit-making – everywhere you look you find a general mood of torpor driven by precipitant impotence. The global climate is one of smug self-assurance, our only passion being the restless archiving of the already known, incapable of escaping the raging standstill we find ourselves in. Nothing can move us anymore; we are living in a time of apathy.

( Exposition )

I see art as a technique of exposition. It is not the responsibility of art to impart knowledge or formu­late demands for concrete actions, but to disclose the frames of current practice and by doing so open up space for future possibilities. What is familiar is what we are used to, and what we are used to is most difficult to recognise, as we all know – we think and perceive within an anonymous, seem­ingly coercive system of the sayable, viewable and doable. Hence the task of art now can only be direct confrontation with the dominant procedures of the known and familiar, and the disruption of their normative, disciplinary and distributive routines. Only by creating new modes of operation and positions, new games and new rules can the all-too-familiar be exposed, declassed and transformed – this requires a different practice, a practice without discipline.

( Areal )

I understand an areal as an in-between space which extends within the neither-nor of “factual reality” and “staged fiction”. The term areal has two layers: on the one hand a spatial one, in the sense of field, territory, terrain and on the other as the privative alpha of the real or reality. The prefix a- of the privative alpha (literally: the a that takes away), unlike the negation (the unreal), implies a form of the effectlessness of the represented, breaking with the rigid binary opposition of the real and the un­real, and moving towards a dynamic, undefined and indefinable relation of tension between these two poles. The word reality contains the Latin res – object, thing. The real then represents that which is identifiable as substance, as an object, as fact and is therefore representable and really there. In contrast, the areal is the actuality which cannot be reduced to a thing or object and which only exists in the course of its process and in this way constitutes something which could be called resonance, rev­er­beration, echo. In the areal then, a spatial as much as a dynamic moment and a break with the opposition of the real and the fictive come into play. What is excluded from that distinction can only be experienced in this inter-space. In my work I am concerned with exactly this experience of an other space.

( Apathy )

A spectre is roaming around the western world – the spectre of apathy. And as soon as it has taken to the stage, the first wails of suffering set in to entreat again the spark of passion. “More empathy!” they lament aghast and then, the eager howl, “Back to true values!” – back to the new old regime of the considerate and measured – veracious values of humanity! These are the bugle calls of the react­ionaries of truthfulness, the school masters of a proper world of busyness, which can be heard far and wide. And their world is not a theatre, it is the operating system for the production of total impo­tence… but, why not for once and for the sake of decency save Miss Apathy from being screw­ed non-stop by limpest Pathos, why not stop tarting her up in a string of always the same permanent wave looks, but instead take the babe out sometimes and fool around with her a bit – and do it pre­fer­ably in neither a well-read nor well-educated, but almost clueless manner!

What I am trying to say and do here is the installation of a de-ranged field of action, an interference in busyness-as-usual made up of subtle tectonic shifts, a gesture that breaks with its frame, which gets away without negation and reaction, without denial and criticism. Perhaps just like in the areal, a break with the familiar pair of univocal-bivalent oppositions might be revealed in apathy – in this case with pathos and distance. And so an other apathy enters the scene, no longer in the first act, but not yet in the second, in-between, a displaced apathy in interspace, which equally evades the will to busy­ness as well as the will to resignation. An apathy which neither takes comfort in the pathos of nostalgic weltschmerz, nor performs the daily drudgery of enlightenment from the distance of an unmoved reason. An unsettled and nonchalant apathy that lingers within the hard core of indiffer­ence and impassivity, in a literally a-pathetic – passionately passionless, ardently cold-blooded – way. An apathy then, which does not secure its edifying wealth of experience, but one that frankly expos­es, interrupts and risks itself. Not as devout scepticism, nor as an invocation of the primal force of art but rather as a contrafaction of the factual, as a relentless parody of apathy. I am talking about setting forth into the apart areal of apathy.

( Twist )

That which I have named apathy from a socio-political perspective is for me inseparable from contemporary attitudes towards art, which are best summed up by the phrase “art business”: the busy production, utilisation and classification of cultural consumer goods. It is this situation – in which I live and work – that led me to develop the concept and technique of the areal action. I am not concerned with unmasking the machineries of busyness as the machinations of power once again. To reveal what has already been revealed thousands of times is nothing but a further reproduction of the same logic of commodities; I am speaking about the formalism of a callous criticism, which never risks failure and in the end serves only one purpose: to preserve the position of power occupied by those who proclaim the final truth of universal impotence. But there is no behind, no hidden truth, which could be finally revealed. And there is no further need for the sedative powers of a criticism without side-effects. The concern is to create confusion, rather than to stay calm. Because there is no reason to stay calm.

If I speak of an in-between here then, it is precisely not an easy exit from that which exists and that which really happens, but rather an attempt to open up a field of action exactly there. This field of action is on the one hand acting – action in the sense of a space of time, a course of events, a pro­cess, and also the activation of visitors – and on the other hand a field, an area, an areal between the common “reality” of an exhibition and its “fictional” staging. It is about introducing a dynamic moment of action into the format of the exhibition, which is usually focused on installing something in a space, i.e. to expand the practice of exhibiting art with the practice of theatre staging. The areal action is the staging of an exhibition and the exhibition of a staging at the same time. It brings together both, which appear as separate, but without unifying them. Its main characteristic is the inextricable inter­twining of two forces, twisting in opposing directions – a torsional moment, which consists of con­version and diversion, exclusion and inclusion. Its answer to the bonds of busyness is not to release the arts from all their restraints, but rather art as a question of entwinement. Its answer to the drill is a question of the twisting thread – a contorting-in-itself. To be clear: the concern here is not another example of an art form that crosses the boundaries of genre, but a disruption on the level of the division of formats – an unstable movement of (de-) formation whose difference only emerges in the process of its differentiation.

Once again the specific positioning of the areal between oppositions is revealed, here between the static moment of musing in an exhibition and the animated, dramatic moment of staging – between object and scene. The areal action is always experienced from within and from without. It is exactly what it appears to be and at the same time something completely different. It has no defined bounda­ries, everything happens between what is expected and the way things appear. The rules and roles remain the same and are different at the same time. It is about nothing else but opening up this inter­space. It is a technique for de-allocation, its aim being a kind of inversion of the role of the observer. It is not about watching, but about a process: the process of the dis-placement of the dis-play – you could say it is about something occurring, something that gazes at the observer and asks her to respond. While the fool dreams away on the tiger’s back, the bear places a paw on his shoulder …

An areal action emerges from the moment in which one exposes oneself to her: the participants find themselves embedded in what is happening, which befalls them, without allowing them the security of an impartial gaze – there is no audience and no spectacle anymore. It is at the same time a transfor­mation of the “factual” through its “fictionalisation” and the transformation of the “fictional” through its “factionalisation”: an intersection of planes, a play into one another, an intertwining-in-each-other – what I call the twist.

( Interplay )

An areal action is the cross-format staging of an exhibition and exhibition of a staging at the same time, using temporal-theatrical as well as spatial-installational components. It crosses the borders between art exhibition and theatre play – not on the level of artworks (be they objects, installations or performances) inside an exhibition frame but rather in an attempt to derange the very framework that makes an exhibition. Its aim is to interrupt habitual modes of the reception of art using moments of staging and in this way to disrupt the current attitude about what is expected from art, whether “political” indoctrination or “magical” immediacy. It is not a subservient procedure of “verfremdung”, nor does it assist in a rescue mission amidst unnatural “alienation”, nor is it the liberation from the “tyranny of text”. Instead it accepts its lack of knowledge about its own destination openly. It is not performance if that means that a representative of art presents himself directly in front of an army or more or less cultivated connoisseurs. It is not theatre if that means dishing up the once great to a community of sessiles, all hungry for refinement. It is not installation, if that means, producing spatial goods in order to place them in allegedly neutral confines of space, thereby obstructing the capacity of space. Forced “audience participation” also has nothing to do with the areal position, because it ignores the precarious unlikelihood of successful participation, which precisely cannot be secured or forced, as this takes it out of the audience’s hands – the audience remains an audience and is in­stead allowed to consume the endless public performance of the illusion of participation. The areal action does not believe in interaction by brute force, but rather in the fragile chance of intervention. It plays with, beside, below, in and between the genres, be they artistic or non-artistic, without belong­ing to any of them anymore. It is not concerned with questions of orientation, order, belonging, but rather tries to engage, in a deranged manner and with any means necessary, with and in the consti­tution of the world as busyness enterprise – i.e. it is an attempt to expose.

( Solo Action )

The solo action has three basic rules. Firstly, it can only be experienced alone: every participating solo walker is an accomplice of a singular action. Secondly, it can only be experienced partially: every participant can only take part in a part of the whole action once. Thirdly, it sets up an areal: the otherwise distinct borders between fictional staging and framing reality are suspended on the solo walk when crossing the threshold to the areal.

In order to perceive a space as areal, i.e. a specific staged time-space, it requires a moment of surprise, a kind of obstacle, displacement, distance which clears the path of all of the learned security of the habitual – a threshold that is part of the experience. The movement towards the location, the entry into the areal becomes an integral part of the action. For this reason the solo action is always composed of two zones: before visitors enter the event spaces of the areal, they arrive at the interspace. Its job is to create suspense, raise expectations and at the same time operate as a communication space. It is here that the action begins and here that it ends, from here solo walkers head to the event spaces and return afterwards.

( Derangement )

The areal solo action is my first application of the areal technique, as a way of examining the phenomenon of mass individualisation and as an attempt to push the primacy of the autonomous individual as well as the fashionable slogan of “having an experience” to the limit, in order to question the common ground of the world in a new way. Not in order to provide the answer straight away and affirm our mutual togetherness once again, but rather to ask a question and leave it as a question, as uncertainty, tension, indecisiveness. It is not about protecting assumptions, but rather losing them. Because it seems not quite clear what we have in common or who “we” even are. The setting up of the areal is a way of posing this question – which is not preventatively explained or declared, but is only exposed in the course of its process, in a different way for each single person. Its sense is constituted by a transformation of the position of impartial observation, which has nothing to do with the rhetorical appeal to active participation in a communal world, or the break­down of the barriers between art and life. Distance is nothing to be disposed of. It is also not about swapping commonplaces in an otherwise intact structure of oppositions, but about bringing this order into disarray – in the areal this means: an intertwining. What “we” need is not the strength to engage, but the courage for derangement. Not for the purposes of individualising the audience, but as an intensification of experience.

The question is: how can we deal with apathy, indifference, standstill, and why can’t we get out, although we really, really want to? The areal action is my attempt to pose this question anew and to expose, shatter and displace the frame of busyness, which seems to have us inescapably in its clutches, using the specific possibilities of art, perhaps thereby admitting other ways of perceiving and thinking, a different posture – in an areal in-between:

“A kind of huge exposition area in the very centre of the city, merged with the city, in which you pass unknowingly from exhibited objects to other objects, that expose themselves to you coincidentally, without being exhibitable; and only in the last moment do you realise that it’s these objects which the paths of the exhibition are leading you to.” (Pierre Klossowski, The Ruthless Philosopher)