Date: Sun, 6 Oct 1996 15:57:04 +0100


Art, Power and Communication

Alexei Shulgin

I intentionally wrote this paper directly in English which I am not good in and I know that what I am going to say may sound rather declarative, generalised and clumsy. But the only alternative to this I see is to say nothing. In all other cases multitude of possible interpretations and associations will wash out those grains of sense I am almost hopelessly trying to find and bring out.

How one can dare to use words trying to explain something? Isn't it obvious now as never before that words fail to describe anything? Let's be honest - words now are nothing but just another medium for an artist.

1. The mechanics of repressive social institutes requires certain level of stability. People, that those institutes are basing their power on, are brainwashed by istitutions that want to have a certain past, present and future. They have some possessions to lose. They need stability to keep their values, though these, in fact, are imposed on them. But, the past does not exist, because it can be easily re-written. Describing the past and history writers are trying to possess it, to obtain power on it, and through it - power on the present - using people's desires to have some certain (or uncertain) past to identify themselves. Not everybody is satisfied with the past; that's why each new past maintained by historians-seducers attracts people's attention: will I (my family, my country, my gender, my race) look better in the light of the brand-new past?

The same counts for the future. It does not exist either: every new future proposed is just another attempt to take the power. But the present does not exist for the majority of people either. They are living through it and basing their movements on false and imposed pictures of the past and future they have. They don't communicate.

2. What theory? Yes, you can make a brilliant logical conclusions, but what about their starting points, what about axioms? Aren't they completely uncertain and uncompulsory?

3. Talking about art we always imply art forms in which this art exists. Art forms that are approved and regulated by rotten art institutions. Even underground art always refers itself to established one. Art, artistic activity as we know it now, is a result of a will for communication, suppressed by power social structures. Only art based on the idea of representation has become possible under those circumstances.

Computers brought out some alternative - "media art" that has immediately become a synonym for "experimental art" from the point of view of the high art society. Looking at very popular media art form such as "interactive installation" I always wonder how people (viewers) are exited about this new way of manipulation on them. It seems that manipulation is the only form of communication they know and can appreciate. They are happily following very few options given to them by artists: press left or right button, jump or sit. Their manipulators artists feel that and are using seduces of newest technologies (future now!) to involve people in their pseudo-interactive games obviously based on banal will for power. But what nice words you can hear around it: interaction, interface for self-expression, artificial intelligence, and communication, even.

So, the emergence of media art is characterised by transition from representation to manipulation. But manipulation is more communicative than representation. With the coming of the Net something new, shyly calling itself is emerging. Now it tries to define itself and is experiencing a difference from other forms of creative activity. The problems of the current period of, as I see them, are deeply rooted in a social determination of the notions "art" and "artist". Will we be able to overcome our egos and give up obsolete ideas of representation and manipulation? Will we jump headlong into realm of pure communication? Will we call ourselves "artists" anymore? means communication means present.

4. Artists! Try to forget the very word and notion "art". Forget those silly fetishes - artefacts that are imposed on you by the suppressive system you were obliged to refer your creative activity to.

Theorists! Stop pretending that you are not artists. Your ability to obtain power on people by seducing them with intellectual speculations is very obvious (though understandable). But the realm of pure and genuine communication is much more appealing and is becoming very possible nowadays.

Media artists! Stop manipulating people with your fake "interactive media installations" and "intelligent interfaces"! You are very close to the idea of communication, closer than artists and theorists! Just get rid of your ambitions and don't regard people as idiots, unable for creative communication. Today you can find those that can affiliate you on an equal level. If you want, of course.

5. Question: How to turn very natural will for power into artistic tool instead of banal use of it for obtaining the power itself?

Answers: a. Forget about past and future, because they don't exist, concentrate on present that can't be described and therefore possessed by anybody. b. Change your occupation just before you became well-known in your sphere as the movement you are in manufactures its own history. Then, when you start something else as a beginner, your will for power and will for recognition will give you strong creative impulses. c. Don't be dependent on the medium you are working with - this will help you to easily give it up. Don't become a Master.