After 6 months and 2 days after the end of my internship, on the other side of the world, in Hong Kong, I suddenly understood the role the format of Public Programs play within the art worlds. When I told my wife she just laughed about my late epiphany so I think that my insights also won’t be of very valuable for people who are aquainted with „art working“, but I still hold on to the idea that it is sometimes necessary to point out the obvious as a desperate method of naive „de-illusioning“.
„Realness“ so to speak. Something that a lot of people have been missing in the art society. I imagine writing this text for „them“ and also for „us“ art workers so we might meet on the same page of reality again. An aim that I still see as the solemn purpose of the membrane group we founded while preparing for documenta 14.
As we all know the art world is actually not much of a world of its own since it obeys to the same rules as any other economic field. The reason we like this term so much is because it gives us the illusion of segregation from capitalist society and a sense of exclusivity that comes from a mutural, and often proclaimed, distrust in the hegemonic system of evaluating worth with money. However, it is just the same excusivity that we criticize within our institutions and social circles and that we also collectively claim to be be working towards making our field more accesible.
The Public Programs is the institutions answer to do just that and at this point I would also like to include the education department into the picture, since the education‘s and public programs‘ aim is actually the same. Yet, seen from inside the cell of „art world“ the public programs is for people who already touch the surface of their interest, whereas the people the education team is ought to „educate“ requires a longer fishing rod of pedagogic skill. This is just my interpretation of what I have experienced and although the d14‘s Aneducation went to great lengths to break up the narrative of teaching „uneducated people“ ( using terms like „unlearning“) their struggle was not a struggle with their public image but actually a struggle with the internal definitions. Whether or not they succeed is for themselves to evaluate and is too big to fit in the small scope of my little text. What I want to write about the same way both departments where used by the people within or affiliated with the institution.
The conflict I have stated above is no paradox when realizing (or accepting) that our collective narrative of „the art world“ is also just following economical, capitalist logic of accumulating new consumers. ( Others have written about this better and more extensively than I could at this point.)
Now, this is the part where I come to my late and obvious conclusion:
We can (and do) keep diffusing this uncomfortable fact by resorting to other currencies. Such as like human resources, vitamin B, social contacts. I think of it as an laundry our bad conscience about not reaching our own standard ethics. We are already taught at art school about the importance of „networking“ which is the same logic other buisnesses run by regardless of they trade. What really struck me though was the fact, that the Public Programs and the Education are actually expected to fulfill this platform of a market place for exchanging and evaluating each other’s currencies. It might seem harsh but somehow public programs and education workshops could almost be seen as a setup for the play that takes place behind the scenes. I can only support this with argument with observations I have made.
In Public Programs there is the event, where the biggest part of the audience already consits of peers, then questions are asked, after that some people stick around to ask more questions. Then the actual program starts: going to eat together. (The education sonetimes just skips directly to this last part.) During my time at the documenta 14 I have never followed any invitation to these after show hangouts, partly because I thought it was pretensious and I didn‘t feel I could offer the people attending the kind of entertaining conversations they where searching for. Another part of me thought of it as a waist of energy and resources, especially since I discovered that the bills where payed by our department. The first time I actually attended an actual „public program“ in this sense was yesterday, here in Hong Kong. (Where I also discovered that it was regarded as conpletely normal that the Public Programs hosted these events.)
I would like to give an introduction to the kind of characters who attend these meet-ups but it would serve no purpose other than elevating myself above them. So instead of giving you a cross section of the people shaping contemporary art discourse and the ones who follow them, I will only note that they where all aquainted, and I was no exception.
Please let me make it clear that my purpose is not to accuse myself and my colleagues of dishonest social relations. I think most people I met where honestly looking to spend a nice time together, but it also incoorperates an indifference to seperating work and private life.
I simply want to suggest being more conscious about this process of using social currencies as an act of morally „washing“ ourselves. Relying on each other would also be a big factor in a society that doesn‘t evaluate everything on the terms of money. In this relation based economy we have yet to learn how to treat people from „outside“ with an equal level attentiveness, giving them the same opportunities as we do. Still, we shame people who openly admit entertaining relations for buisness advantages, but I have yet get to know people who actively avoid having relations like this. This also wouldn’t solve anything. Because I do see the dilemma:
Who wouldn‘t tell their friend about another job opportunity, and who would consider their friend with an expertise in a specific field to fill that position? The artfield in particular, consists of people who are constantly searching for job ( aka. money) opportunities. Keeping these passed around within the circles of our friends and acquaintances is the same system that keeps rich people rich and poor people poor. It will and has already had a detrimental effect on „the art scene“ which is so arrogant to believe that our small reportoir of discourses cannot be understood or discussed with „non-art people“.
To everyone who is not too comfortable with this situation, allow me to suggest to re-assess our relationships with each other, starting with our self.
What is it that is truly meaningful to me? Do I really agree to that, or do I agree because I don’t have any arguments against it? What kind of solutions do I offer and what am I contributing to solving for the problems that I am talking about?
I hope we can discuss about this.
Cilian X. Woywod