Artwork in contemporary art contexts
Artwork is a method that borrows from somatic, spiritual, therapeutic techniques and aesthetics but it is centered on transforming artworks into practices. Central to Artwork is the idea that artworks should be practiced, that art shouldn't just be seen, it should be lived. Why all the effort to create artworks just to be finished in products to be consumed? Sometimes you can have the feeling that the final products, the "artworks" are the tombstones of the practices, thoughts, affects, perspectives behind them. In Artwork, works that are done mostly to be looked at are activated in the bodies of visitors / clients / students, they're transformed into Artwork – an artwork and a new method at the same time. Artwork is ambiguous, it can appear as performance, therapy, exhibition, workshop, promotional event, text, artwork or a combination of these, depending on the context – art, philosophy, spirituality, therapy, education, alternative medicine, literature. Ideally, audiences / clients / visitors from many of these fields are brought together at the same event. Artwork is the meeting of these publics, conventions and perspectives around artworks as practices.
Artwork in performance and dance contexts
In Artwork, works in any medium are transformed into practices and performances. Artwork embraces an ontology of art put forward by Dave Davies among others, for which all art is performance – artworks are processes of some kind, rather than the contextualized or decontextualized products of those processes – they're generative performances through which works come into existence. Artwork takes the works from the products, objects, images, spectacle back to the performances and practices behind.
Among the many forms Artwork can take are sessions in ambiguously set spaces, having an atmosphere between an art venue, a promotional booth for the Artwork method and a studio for somatic therapy sessions. The performers can be seen also as gallery guards and Artwork method representatives, creating a complex and possibly puzzling situation – exhibition, somatic method launch, performance, workshop, therapy. Artwork crew can work with interested people, individually or in groups. People, ideally invited from different contexts (art, therapy, spirituality, philosophy, contemporary dance…), have to negotiate their presence there, choosing their degree of participation on the range Artwork client - spectator. For people choosing to be spectators, the sessions, with their mixture between performers and people attending them, might appear as performances.
Central in Artwork are works like Love, Unexperiences, Unimages, Unhere, Collapse Yoga that subvert and invert the performance and everyday corporealities – instead of controlling, choreographing the bodies or making them express something, the focus is on body sensibility. The switch from control to affects, to embodied love, is fundamental in the Artwork method and its appearances. And this inversion can be crucial in our world in which arguably all the ills can be traced to an exploitative relation with the body, extended to nature and world.
Our lives are formed by the culture in which we are, by our mental environments and embodied certainties. To shape them differently we need practices that act at the level of their structures – technologies of the self, forms of life experiments. They were the domain of religion, and they can feel disciplinary, rigid and inadequate now, many not updated in hundreds or thousands of years. If our practices are created for another epoch, for a totally different type of subjectivity, disciplinary, conventional…, that's what we become. Forms of experience and practice that appear in dialog with contemporary situations and phenomena are proposed in art. It's the domain where new answers, and the awareness of new problems appear. Many artworks explore new thoughts, new sensibilities and forms of experience. Not just for the sake of novelty but out of an involvement with personal and collective contemporary issues. Nietzsche saw the potential and the need in approaching life through art but he noticed that, sadly, the artists are not applying their craft to it. Artwork aims to remediate this, and to contribute to the urgent project of affecting the forms of life that enable the current realities.
Contemporary art has at its core the drive to surpass itself, to deviate from the consensus and mess with its own axioms, through works that expand what can be considered art. In art, and especially performance you can sometimes feel that body practices can give access to the meta-conceptual, to the levels where the implicit perspectives, realities are shaped. Artwork is interested in these meta-experiences, meta-practices that shape the quality of other practices, and what and how it is possible to experience things in general. We become what we do, our practices. We can be artworks.
Artwork in healing
The therapeutic and transformative functions of art are often minimized and avoided because of the impression that they diminish an artwork, or expel it from the art field. Yet, there were artists who transformed their lives or parts of their lives into art. Artwork explores the opposite, the transformation of art into life – the embodiment of artworks based forms of thinking, feeling and acting. Artwork transfers to life art instruments, processes, practices, aesthetics, exploratory attitudes, and introduces an art sensibility and attention in everyday perceptions, in the senses, in what we already see, hear, touch, feel, do. Being centered on artworks, the Artwork method might appear as paradoxical and counterintuitive at times, deviating from the well meaning, enforced positive feel of most therapeutic approaches.
Most somatic / spiritual practices aim at improving strength, balance, coordination, flexibility, appearance, Artwork, through works like Collapse Yoga, listen to the deep desires of the body for asymmetry, incoordination, weakness, relaxation, unbalance, abandon, collapse, freedom.
Most somatic / therapeutic / spiritual practices aim at self-awareness and self-knowledge. Artwork, through works like Unimages, makes us increasingly unknown, stranger and puzzling to ourselves and others.
Most practices seek normalization and control of emotions. Artwork, through works like Unexperiences, deviates affectivity, creating artificiality and playfulness in our own states, opening us to meta-experiencing.
Most practices aim for more clarity, light, safety. Artwork, through works like Darkness, Fear makes the body sensible to darkness, amplifying its fear – the royal bridge to the unknown.
Most therapies want to enhance the stability of our reality. Artwork through works like Undreaming approaches reality as a virtual reality, as dreaming that can be eventually Undreamed.
Most somatic / spiritual practices idolize life. Artwork, through works like Unexist, connects us with death.
Most practices speak about love as a nice abstract attitude towards nature and the others that it's good to have. Artwork, through works like Love is interested in embodying love – it actualizes love in the body, sometimes as an ecstatic, unbearable feeling.
Most practices push for sociality. Artwork, through works as Pillar Artist, agrees with Simondon that we have to pass through the ordeal of solitude, to get to the "collective" – to form the necessary affects and capacities, the body that is truly capable of community.
Most somatic / spiritual practices pursue "presence". Artwork, through works like Unhere, introduces disconnections from the time, place and situation in which we find ourselves, alienations that open the possibility of new connections.
Artwork in education
Artwork can also take the form of workshops, courses or retreats. Via experience people are introduced to artworks, to contemporary approaches of art. Artworks are activated in the participants' bodies with the aim of creating experiences that provoke new thoughts, perceptions and feelings. Most of the selected artworks activate body affects, capacities, experiences that introduce perturbations, anomalies and twists in self-presentations, perceptions and conventions. The participants will be also invited and assisted in creating and discussing their own practices based on artworks. They can be as performative / somatic / spiritual / therapeutic as each of the participants desires and they can be ritualized to become everyday practices. This sets the conditions for one of the aims of Artwork, the participants to create their own artworks as well.
Artwork in writing
For each work actualized in Artwork will be a text. The texts are based on notes written from inside, while practicing the artworks. They combine the style of explorers' live diaries with theoretical inputs associated with those explorations. In the past, the unknown was spatially distributed, the extraordinary was geographically accessible. There were fantastic stories and speculations about places like Antarctica, Amazonia… which were firing the imagination of explorers. There were alien cultures, subjectivities that had the power to activate possible exits from the implicit certainties of one's time and space. Now cultures are more and more homogeneous. It feels like there is nothing to explore, that we already know what is, there is nowhere to go. In this situation, art can be one of the last possible explorations still available to us. Contemporary art has at its core the drive to surpass itself, to deviate from the consensus and mess with its own axioms, through works that expand what can be considered art. It's where new territories can be explored.
Drafts from a future Artwork book:
Artwork workshop at Beyond School, Minitremu Târgu Mureș:
Artwork workshop at ETI Sovata: