East Street Art: CGTV in Leeds

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photo credits (East Street Arts and Communist Gallery)

On Saturday 30 June 2012 CGTV went to Leeds Market  and  The Comm(o)nist Gallery presented OBITUARY TIMES:

Ana Laura Lopez de la Torre’s Death of a Good Man: ‘A homage-obituary to Sarthou’, with Anne Robinson’s ‘Roaring Girl’; Jonathan Trayner’s The Ashley Hare Record Archive; Kate Renwick’s Bone Pickers  with James Gulliver, James Maxtead and Rufus Stone (from Hastings); Lado Daraxvelidze – contacting MuseumTVStation (broadcasting from the Netherlands); Daniel Lehan with Josee Dubeau present ‘le petit théâtre de Gatineau’ including Laika in Space (from Canada); Steven Ounanian’s ‘the hem of my garment’ (Point based puppet); Andrew Cooper’s  Manic-ins live-The Mark-It is unhappy ∆ Plus a fleetfoot grave visit from Laughing Bear Research Centre, and including others from Leeds. From 8 pm to 10 pm  at LAB, the basement, Cross York Street, Leeds LS2 7EE

The Comm(o)nist Gallery’s evening of films and dialogue: The Reel Voice, Films for a Change, on friday 28 June 2012:

Miyuki Kasahara, Rosario Ferrera, Grunts for the Arts, counterproductions/lado, Lado Daraxvelidze, Ana Laura Lopez de la Torre, Brede Korsmo, Nick Clay, Bioni Samp, Alexander Maclean (Bank of Ideas), Savvas Papasavva, Fiona Flynn, Fionn Bretall, Anne Robinson, Simon Coates, Laura Malacart, Mikey Georgeson, Charlie Fox, Mark McGowan, Ryo Ikeshiro, Jonathan Trayner, John Couzens, Dean Kenning, Enda Debuca, Josef B,  Andrew Cooper, Kate Renwick, Josh Ross, Stephanie Dickinson, London Met Students, Calum F Kerr

 From 8pm to late  at LAB,  the basement,   Cross York Street, Leeds LS2 7EE

All  events  generously  supported   by  East Street Arts,   see http://eaststreetarts.org.uk/

Steve Ounanian, Ron and Laughing Bear in Leeds Covered Market.

The project and collaboration proposed a number of intertwined and interlocking events, interventions and workshops as part of the opening week of LAB and in relation to the porous shifts at Performance Studies International 18, located at Leeds University. This was an experiment in working together,  with Leeds based artists, international artists, and an unsuspecting public. Thanks to the foresight and support of East Street Arts, and to all the Artists and individuals who made these series of events so possible, varied and real.

Performance Matters: Not a lot. Cultural disvalue and dysfunctionality.

OR Dysfunctional collectivity: the delusion of performative freedom (for whom?) beside its potential to labour against.

Agamben’s description of another methodology in The Signature of All Things: On Method and his mining of Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge might stand in as a useful and valuable characterization for the very matter of performance. By delineating performances’ material and immaterial qualities, as paradigmatic – ‘a matter not of corroborating a certain sensible likeness but of producing it by means of an operation’ – it is possible to re-evaluate the matter of performance through its juxtapositioning – a thing made outside the everyday – in “showing”, “exposing”, “placing alongside” and “conjoining together” (Agamben 2011: 23).

‘Priests help poor people more than many philosophers—But not in this gallery…sometimes galleries and artists think they are allowed to do anything because they live in a special area, in an oasis, in a territory outside of moral laws.’ (Marx return in Brixton, 2011)

And so we ask and seek for some answer… (MARX speaks again)

Only then with regard to the dead

Is there born in us a sudden and startling

Realization of the fact that this basic trait of the living

Is brought out and made possible by

Their complete lack of differentiation

By their indistinguishablility

By their universal similarity

Mercilessly abolishing all other opposing delusions,




Only then do the dead become (for the living)


For that highest price, achieving

Their individuality,

Distinction, their character, glaring and almost circus-like.

(The Theatre of Death, Kantor 1975; 115-116)


We are re-collecting and re-turning hidden, lost, repressed, even dead histories, through a certain resistance to the smooth levers of cultural capital – and through a naïve questioning of existing structures disvaluing, cultural practices and objects which are over-valued.  We will destabilize in order to redistribute the sensible – if they will not do it then who will… if not, we will…

We are re-collecting together, congregating, and conjuring up new places in which to make  (our) art – imagining extra institutional space that is as grand as, even grander than the space that already exists – the ‘free’ spaces that have been given over to us with all their permissions and labyrinthine protocols (open only to those initiated into the priesthood). OUR (AH) our free space?

We care very much, too much, that performance matters. In this we take especial care of the matter of performance – ‘our performance’ – improvised, in the careful capture of the intention of the intentional, in the creation of disjunction and in novel, unexpected conjoinings:

‘Just as in the case of recollection – which Plato often uses as a paradigm of knowledge – where a sensible phenomenon is placed into a nonsensible relation with itself, and thus re-cognised in the other, so in the paradigm it is a matter not of corroborating a certain sensible likeness but of producing it by means of an operation. For this reason, the paradigm is never already given, but is generated and produced by ‘placing alongside”, “conjoining together” and above all by “showing” and “exposing”.'(Agamben 2011: 23 – In speech marks from Foucault Archaeology of Knowledge: 209)

Here I and We wish to concentrate predominantly on the concept and performance practice of “conjoining together”– a paradigmatic shift that plays across and within forbidden categories, between the tensions of independence and interdependence, appropriation and assimilation, and between the categories of freedom and the un/reality of free choice. I speak here of that Con Joining that allows for a more uncensored, uncertain speech that encourages heresy and heterodoxy. That mixes and mingles form, language, sentiment, intention, and desire, in new enjoyments and creative spaces that have yet to be be colonized by cultural capital and all its dead unweilding weight. A performance matter that literally appears, guerilla-like, as the ‘uninvited guest’, or as an insertion – a naïve and sometimes crude grafting that jolts the senses – between understanding and misunderstanding, between the sensible and the nonsensible. This is about shifting position, confronting our understanding and our feeling: about a real discomfit on the part of the artist/s, a dissolving of control, and a subtle attentiveness to the ‘intention of the unintentional’. There is a movement, an energy, a vibration, shifts in expectation, mood and understanding, a shimmy of words, images, feelings – we are making culture together, improvising and building new sets of relationship, new juxtapositions that undermine habituated, unreflective and complacent hierarchies.

It is this imperative, to meticulously and continuously interrogate and undermine the practices and privileges of art as an institutional structure; by delineating the specific parameters of creativity, its framing devices, and in taking care, of the particular, in order to encourage  real sustained experiments in the creation of an alternative space and in art-making with an undefined public. The function of the street studio – the workings of art exposed in all their mundane simplicity, like the butchers craft, chopping of pigs trotters or the fishmonger descaling a crate of gurnards, or the stacking of shelves; in these showings, exposings and ruptures, where, who or what is in control is constantly recalibrated, shifting to and fro ‘in the intention of the unintentional.’ Here then, within a ‘dysfunctional collectivity’ it is possible to question how we work together as artists – making, collaborating and thinking these extra-institutional activities – that in their dysfunctional collectivity, parody, ape and undermine the operations of existing institutional behaviour.

Here the cauldron of the theatre stands in as a metaphoric paradigm for the institutional space of cultural production– a space only animated by the audience as actors, and the actors as artists, or we may say only given life by the entering in of a reality suspended, reflecting back onto the bleak deathliness of life’s injustice (recalling Diogenes’ walk backwards out of the Athenian theatre, as the audience leaves); a reversing or disjointing – the human re-configured as the marionette. The reality that for most of the actors/spectactors, the act of being in the institution FUNCTIONING IN IT, requires only this stamp of approval, the ready mechanical applause of the crowd. Where this leave taking from the theatre is nearer to the true experience of theatrical (or artistic) consumption than actually having to sit through its interminable fictions – and that this is nothing less (nor more than) the acme of this post-fordist performance, a charade of creativity where productivity makes nothing, changes nothing, inaugurates no thing. We shall call art production ‘cultural capital’. And we shall seek to dismantle, undermine and destroy as much of this fool’s gold as it is humanly possible. Or is this it….

A/countering reality

I recollect here another figure of this ‘marginal’ avant garde – this return to Tadeusz Kantor’s words.  How exactly to wrest performance, that is the process of artistic creation, its potential – in art’s liberatory breath – away from the dead class and so by reinvigorate the ground on which art exists. By a simple expedient of political grounding? By activism, by an exposing and a questioning…? By a re-encountering with  reality…

ART FOREVER in CONTACT WITH REALITY (Kantor, stated in 1970)

But where “the value system of the work of art is always in conflict with this ‘reality’.” Here where the artist must always choose the side of life, departing from the domain of art in a continued conflictual process. So that he (Kantor) might proclaim again:

“Total creativity is total reality’”

Kantor’s ‘Theatre of Death and of the Impossible’ resonates with Artaud’s assertions on the theatre of cruelty and the absurd. They propose in their parallel ways, divided by a sliver of time, a kind of operation that does not deny reality, but makes it into another parallel realm, a total reality, built out from its forgotten horrors, its shadowy depths, informed by disease and catastrophe – conjoining art with reality:

‘Only at the brink of catastrophe, when the sanctioned

fabric of “reality” is being rent,

compromised, and unveiled, when it uses its own phrases to admit that

‘everything has become nothing more than fiction,’

when contradictions and

alternatives obliterate each other in an inexplicable way,

does the ‘situation of the artist’

approach the discovery of its mystery.

But it is too late.

Maybe no one

Can perceive this moment. (from the situation of the artist 1977:  130-131 Kantor – trans. M. Kobialka)

Dis… inoculation – or Let the Artist die.

Daily, hourly, by every minute and second of the day, wedded and welded to the operations that captivate and capture our every waking thought, within this post-industrial grid, we are asked to think for ourselves in a free space, a space that we hardly have any sense of and even less control over. We think we are free. But we are only inoculated, sealed off from reality, inside our bubble of cultural capital. Only a radical dis-inoculation, of art and its operations allows for the construction of a new alternative space –  a dysfunctional collectivity – that turns the valuable in art, into a fine dust, and re-conforms the hidden grist and dirt from below into something unutterably invaluable.

Performance matter becomes at the very centre of artistic intervention, especially when that matter literally dissolves and exposes the mechanics or efficiency of artistic practice. Here there is the heightened anxiety, an urgency required in attempting to recapture the ground of ‘performance’ from its ubiquitous, unreflexive use, precisely because there is real use in disvaluing and exposing the disfunctionality of cultural production; to literally measure and judge the rhetorical claims of artistic freedom and experimentation; to take care of what matters in performance by asking – what is being said – and perhaps more significantly questioning how, when and by whom culture is being made and re-presented. In placing together (in the being together apart) – here a shopfront with a motley band of troubadours, a giant ear that listens, academic philosophical discourse placed alongside a discourse made up from drawing and stains extracted out from the matter of the market – the stinking discarded remains of everyday discourse.

Showing and/or exposing, we can see it flashing before our eyes, or in the sweat of work, joining together to make something a new, with ventriloquised and reconstructed voices. We recreate song, choruses, voices conjoined together… briefly, unexpectedly, hopefully. And the cracks between experience and expectation… between what is possible and impossible… appear then, to disappear.

Finally, if we are not to go on strike, down tools, disappear, go underground and recede entirely from view, then we (and I speak as much as a pedagogue, educator and as citizen) us artists must acknowledge our deep complicity in the economy of the artworld. And I mean here the whole network of relations that binds ‘freedom’ of expression, to all manner of operations within neo-liberal capitalism, the privatisation of public space, the cooption of democracy, the creation of ever more complexity, of hierarchy, exploitation and species professionalism. All to hide from what, from the world clamoring outside…

(reflection on stage in real space…)

‘If we make a step further on this road, it might happen that a smile will turn into a grimace: …. Because of those mysterious laws of reversibility, the imperative of contemptible death in the title {LET the ARTISTS Die} … Fame and Glory touch down in the hell of a bottomless social pit: the world of bums, pimps, artists, whores. Art,…, turns into a despicable chamber of torture,

From which the artist’s appeal to the world is tapped in a prison code.’

(Kantor, from Reflection 1985: 155)

June 2012 Charlie Fox – Communist Gallery

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