Overly Specific

When recently at a conference in the issue of camouflage I sat through a couple of extremely specific talks. Of course, that is something one might expect from a conference and meeting socialists with a very focused knowledge and to be part of the deal. But then, is it really important for me to know about the development of certain forms of camouflage within the Belgian Armed Forces during World War One? Sure that exists and that certainly has had is influence in later developments in other armies, other conflicts or other fields. Everything influences something else. That in of itself shouldn’t be astonishing.

I get the idea, that once you start focusing on some very specific topic, you start drawing connections. And that is amazing. It feels great. You understand stuff no one had even thought about before. Part of what drives artists forward has to do with that.

Yet it should be questioned, whether the overly specific issues serve a good purpose in a conference that aims at a better understanding of a contemporary issue. It’s a similar issue to the problem I see with dissertations. PhD students are forced to focus on more and more specific issues, partly out of the urge of becoming THE expert in a specific field, partly out of the urge to claim some previously unclaimed territory. But to me, both urges seem misguided. Authenticity or brilliance does not stem from claiming some random thing and make it yours by complete knowledge. It rather stems from rethinking the important stuff over and over again. Drawing new connections to our current state.

Spending three, four years of your life on a work regarding three gravestones in Switzerland (I’ve encountered such a case) seems almost pathological. It reminds me of someone going on his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, on his knees. Maybe he gains some insight. Maybe he returns slightly wiser. He certainly has proven his piety. But the world didn’t gain shit. In part a modern PhD is the mark of piety the academic world requires from its disciples. Like the brides knees of the past. It’s not a fault of the student, but the system that demands a thesis to be unique. This is highly misguided.

Back to the conference. As one familiar with my work might guess, I find the topic of camouflage extremely relevant. But historically, but relevant for us right now. Camouflage can be understood as blending in, while posing a threat. Becoming invisible. This is a vast topic. And I’m personally far more interested in the effects this is having on the receiving end of camouflage than in the multiple ways camouflage is implemented.

Showing a thousand different camouflage patterns side by side might at first seem interesting but upon close inspection I find it pointless. And it’s especially pointless to give the one millionth presentation on the way ships had been camouflage in WW1. A truly modern conference on camouflage should not include a single camouflage pattern, be it on fabric or on the hulls of ships. That might be challenging, but it is about the re-evaluation of a known topic for the current moment in time. And not about re-telling the stories of times gone by.

Whether a certain style of fabric was introduced in 1915 or 1916…. for God’s sake, who cares???

Maximum Voting Age

This was written on my phone on a train in Belgium. I am to lazy to check the spelling.

Just a quick thought that keeps popping up.

I am struggling with the way progress, over and over again, is being stifled by old conservative people who have managed to amass wealth and influence in their lives and who now seem to be afraid of change. Maybe this has always been an issue. Think of the Catholic Church. This institution had always been defined by old blokes and their apparent “wisdom”.

I believe that decisions should be made by those who are going to feel the brunt of the consequences. That does not mean that the poor should decide on the distribution of welfare, but I am talking about society as a whole. Many policies determine the far of society for decades to come, so why should key decisions being made by people who are by any chance long gone, when the full effects become visible?

He about a maximum voting age? It seems good and sensible to exclude those under 18 from the polling box. Why not also exclude those over – let’s say – 70? When I tried out this thought with people I’ve met, the main argument against was one of lacking representation. The people seem to be concerned about the idea that I’ve this is implemented, old people are going to use their lobby and are therefore then left behind. I have two arguments against this. People who are young now, know that they are going to be older art some point. So they are their own lobby for when they have reached a certain age. They better be careful in implying certain laws, concerning the elderly, since once they themselves have joined the club, they are not in position to alter the laws willy nilly. The other objection I would bring had to do with those under 18. They have always lacked to right to vote. So they always had to reply on the good will of society, when it comes to their needs and wants. They pose the threat of becoming voters soon, but if we look at the demonstrations by teenagers concerning climate change or school shootings, politicians seem not to be afraid.

As said, this is just an idea I am having and I just wanted to leave this here. I have to think about this further.

Manipulation

If the person who voted for Trump or Brexit against their own interest, believes he or she did it out of their own free will, ignoring the multiple ways in which they have been manipulated, why is it so hard to believe that a woman, wearing niqab or a burka should not be able to believe in her own freedom of choice? Manipulation that works as intended is almost unnoticeable. It settles deep in our self. It becomes part of the way we perceive ourselves. It becomes us. Manipulation that can easily be spotted is pointless. We wish to make it own decisions. We need to believe in our own liberty. Religion and politics, both seem to want is to make a deliberate choice of following their course. Salvation is only granted to those who choice the path of salvation.

Manipulation needs to disguise itself as being something sensible. Something that assists us on our path forward. With this disguise it becomes tricky to distinguish between real personal urge and Reaktion to manipulation and in my youth I might have simply responded to the conundrum by proclaiming that there is just no free will and everything is the result of being manipulated. But now, I wouldn’t go as far. We need some fundamentals to base or discourse on. Some things just need to be assumed for us to create a working society. And one of these things is the assumption of a free will. Let’s just assume that. Let’s just work on the basis that free will is possible.

But this assumption leaves us stuck in some absurdity. On one hand, the assumption needs to be made to provide democracy some kind of foundation, while at the same time we come to realize how vague this concept actually is. If even those people who are being manipulated believe in their free choosing, who are we to tell them otherwise?

Why I am trying to avoid having my works dated

Quite frequently I am being asked, why there are no years or dates given for the works shown on my site. As a matter of fact, I am trying to avoid giving the years of my projects in exhibitions as well. I don’t want to argue with curators or exhibition organizers on such unimportant issues, so sometimes I give in and give them a rough year. But if it would be entirely up to me, I wouldn’t do it.

When looking at other peoples websites, I am always driven towards the newer stuff – especially on sites that are organized by date of production. I think that is an impulse many people are feeling. But I think either a work is relevant for an artist or it isn’t. For me that means that there are some quite recent works which I would not include in an exhibition, since it just does not feel relevant. On the other hand, there are quite a few works of mine, which if I didn’t realize them already, I would try to do it. These works could be five or ten years old, I would still do them again. So what would be the point in me saying that they are ten years old?

Shitty Audiences

I was at a conference recently – about smartphone photography. There, quite frequently, people raised the question, if everybody nowadays must be considered an artist of some sort, since everybody takes pictures. This quickly veered off into the question of who should be considered an artist and what might be good – or maybe worthy art – to look at. This debate isn’t new and for my taste, there seems to be a shitload of terrible art – even by established and successful artists and photographers -, in- and outside the classical art scene.

But what gets overlooked is the quality of the audience. Most of the time, the audience of exhibitions is entirely passive. The come to look at pieces of art and they leave. The same is true for visitors to my website. But that seems normal. Some museums and galleries kept the antiquated remnant of the guestbook, but the way people interact with these can be entirely ignored. The internet claims to be interactive, and sites like Instagram enable interaction between creator and audience, but let’s face it, much of this interaction is limited to something that resembles a thumbs-up or -down. That Is just the claim of interacting, rather than the real deal. Sharing stuff is the same thing. If you – as a creator – take notice of the fact that people are sharing your work, it is mostly in the form of a reminder how many people encountered your work without interacting with it.

Sure, we could now bash on the artists, that they are not coming up with “interactive” art works. Why? Just so that it is even easier for the audience to interact? No, I believe that much of the audience is shit. They are lazy and bored. They just want to be entertained. That is all. Most people, I guess, are not even getting what they are looking at, if this stuff reaches a certain depth.

Yes, we can and should talk about the quality of art and artists, but we desperately need to talk about the quality of the audience as well. Bunch of lazy bastards!