After Kevin and Kirsten came to visit us in Detroit and we talked about art I wrote this piece
that will be published in Proximity magazine and was published in LA too…
It is called
“My (The) Problem with community art…and why Williiam Burroughs eat Superflex any day of the week”
Check out this great blog by our writers Caroline Picard and Erik Hagoort:
see for some samples of their writings the posts below
Posted on July 17, Author: Caroline Picard
In greeting one another there is an expectation.
You put your hand out with the expectation it will be received in a reciprocal clasp. Some kind of up-down-shake is expected.
They say you can learn everything about a person based on the way in which he or she shakes a hand. Is it a limp grasp? Is the grip premature? Does one’s partner, like a politician, grasp both your hand and your elbow? Yet, in order to measure someone’s shake, one must participate in the action of shaking and therefore allow oneself to be measured.
With this in mind, an artist and friend, A.E. Simns developed a handshake game. He created an index of handshakes, along with accompanying diagrams. One handshake can lead to another, for instance that same politician just mentioned can be countered with “The Dirty” (where you wiggle your middle finger in the palm of your opponents palm as it clasps yours), which can then lead to subsequent responses.
I have included some examples from his index below. The first video included above is another example of a handshake (unfortunately the volume is low, so please be sure to turn up your headphones).
“The Bitch Smack” where you are to take your partner’s hand and smack it, very quickly and very hard. The icons surrounding the figured are indicate the appropriate “feelings/sensations” inspired by this shake.
18. The Comrade
A shake for friends and enemies both, this handshake to be used in such instances where you desire a firm intimacy. The Benefactor puts out a hand, eyes bright and hard and smiling. The Beneficiary takes said hand, and with rhythmic precision both Benefactor and Beneficiary use their remaining and respective hand to reach in and grasp the other’s elbow. In deceptive times a special knife (known as a knuckleswitch) has been worn which, when set off by a pressure pad on the palm, flicks out and shivs the opponent. Thus, just as this is a celebratory shake for friendship and loyalty, it can also stir up the panic of death.
19. The Rifle
Like The Comrade with a little more play, upon grasping The Benefactor’s elbow, pull the whole arm of your opponent up to your line of sight and cock it, as though it is a rifle and you are aiming to shoot something behind your opponent’s back. The Rifle is an excellent anti-asasination solution toThe Comrade, when assassination is suspected. The Rifledeflects any knuckleswitch without acknowledging suspicion for the other. It sends a message of protection and has been used as a secret handshake to demonstrate loyalty in darker times. To that end bother Benefactor and Beneficiary can execute The Rifle on one another simultaneously, thereby creating a metaphorical fortress of defense.
20. The Cold War
In which no hands are shaken, but both individuals stand across from one another, staring with unrelenting gazes.
Identity in Action – Posted on July 10, 2011, Author: Caroline Picard
When I think of reciprocity, I visualize a call-and-response scenario: a give and take, or the meeting of a positive action with a subsequent positive action. In order to understand reciprocity one must therefore define boundaries: to attribute one action with its source, thereby attributing the subsequent action with its subsequent source. There is a cause/effect relationship embedded in the course of movement and, at first, it seems like separate identities are necessarily contained—because one must be able to hold a single body responsible. In thinking though, about how a shared action in common can generate a greater return, I started wondering after those boundaries. For instance, what does it mean for several people to enact an airport? Who is the author of such an action? At a certain point, the boundaries of authorship get murky.
In his book, The Ecological Thought (Harvard UP, 2010) Timothy Morton reassesses the individual’s relationship to nature, encouraging us to recognize a fundamental and interstitiary “mesh” of which we are all a part. He is not examining art communities. Instead he studies scientific allocations of species and how its distinctions frame humanity’s specific relationship to nature. Over the course of his book, he continues to break down the most basic categorical distinctions—pointing out the blurry line between plant and animal by examining species that occupy abutting biological kingdoms. There is such a minimal difference between an anemone, say, and a fungus that assigning one the attributes of plant and the other those of an animal becomes arbitrary. Only via farther-out consequences—for instance when comparing a palm tree and a lion—does the difference seem apparent. Each member of the “mesh” is distinct, “The mesh is…the entanglement of strangers” (p. 47). We are not so categorically different, but rather necessarily contingent. This approach disrupts ideas of hierarchical thinking. “Thinking interdependence involves dissolving the barrier between ‘over there’ and ‘over here,’ and more fundamentally, the metaphysical illusion of rigid narrow boundaries between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’”(39). Morton focuses on the idea of cooperation, arguing that the mesh consists of countless, various bodies acting independently but in congress. Its members gain from being a part of a group so that there is a built-in reciprocity. He emphasizes “cooperation,” because those individual parts are serving their own interest—what is compromised and enhanced by the additional purposes working with, against and around it. Rather than focusing on a local effort, Morton suggests we inhabit an inclusive mind-space that accounts for the whole mesh. By expanding our awareness beyond an immediate vicinity, he argues, we expand our consciousness to reflect not only other humans in other parts of the world, but also animals and—he would argue—stars. The specialness of community, therefore, lies in an apprehension of the entire, massively intricate system. Which is where the idea starts pressing into something mystical even without the personal connection that mystical experience often boasts. In tandem with this view is kind of death of self-as-center. Can our ideas of community survive such a non-center?
The other question that comes to mind for me: can we admit a degree of categorical poresness, while still being inspired to respond through action? If we are, all us, responsible for participating in the whole mesh, then where does one’s own responsibility stop? And where does this leave us with regard to “ownership?”