Beyond Criticism and Arts of Postproduction
and Post-studio Practices / Heng-Gil Han
Led by Freddy, his close friend Dan came out to the Center the other day to see his friend’s paintings. I offered the both artists an exhibition tour. We saw Ilona’s street signs and we went to Jong Il’s exhilarating outdoor installation. Dan was amazed by the fact that we pulled off the event this year—people would cancel or postpone the kind of event like Jamaica Flux in the kind of current recession we all are in. I replied to him: “I really appreciate the Center, the artists, and the community members. Without their commitments, it wouldn’t necessarily have happened.” While I was saying that, I realized at once what the event is about, particularly this year.
I realized that Jamaica Flux this year is less about doing the job well, but more about the job being done. The point is not evaluative, but existential. To quote Elizabeth who told me a while ago: “You should be proud of it that you did it. That’s what counts!” This attitude or position is liberating. It raises a subversive question about “success.” It accepts and simultaneously throws off our common understanding of the relationship between (re)cognition and existence. In a way, the position is both ontological and ethical. It claims one’s liberty and free will. In this position, art is defined by freedom; art is free art versus beautiful art or pure art. The position aims straight at the dignity of one’s existence—“who can dare to throw a stone at this woman?” This existential must be the spirit that inspired the students of the late 1960s, and we are here today with the prospects of diversities and rhizomatic networks that Jamaica Flux is about underneath.
Notwithstanding, we too often remain as the children of the grid1, which is an emblem for the modernist’s abandonment of the age-old attempt to communicate with the world via the perspective. The fully self-focused and mute grid presented alternative destinations for arts either to communicate with others or not. For a while in the last century, artists seemed to have chosen the second option of solipsism, but it soon revealed as not viable. In the1980s, arts clearly made a U-turn and began to explore the first option—of communalism or “multiculturalism” as which the period is now known—to function as a social medium; for the grid can only be a grid when dots are connected one after another and one next to another. But once the dots were connected here and there, the grid imagined as neatly organized in the manner of dense coordinates of latitudes and longitudes began to decompose. It was no longer the rigid and invariable grid that came out from the convivial coupling of dots. The connected dots resembled like a field of saturated mushrooms. They presented a ground on which things can liberally be located in any place at any time next to each other despite their appearances of incommensurability. Not one and the single center, but many centers appeared at once. Similarly, Jamaica Flux aims for the public to encounter a work of art in public realms here and there at any moment during the ritual of their daily routines.
The modernist aesthetics was deeply informed by Kant’s critique of pure reason. Kant’s influence was so ironical that the modern uncritically assumed Kant’s critical position. For Kant, everything we humans can think—all entities entering in the realm of our consciousness—is a representation. We experience the world via space and time; and we require time and space to perceive and recognize an experience. Spatiotemporal distance is the core idea that came through with Kant. So it is always a representation—a sign or and an appearance—whatever we do. The world is the way we represent it. We take our representation of the world as if it is the world. Or we experience the world and take our real experience as if it is only a representation. In this thought, one’s body would be an appearance—but would the pain in your toe be a mere appearance of pain when you stub your toe?
The modern thinks of itself representing itself, i.e., it divides itself from the world whereby dividing itself into a reflecting self and a reflected self. But the self is identical with itself by definition; there cannot be 2 pieces of the self. One is a fiction, a phantom picture. The state of believing in a fiction is schizophrenic. A schizophrenic condition is pathological and requires an intervention. What the “interventional art” first should intervene with is the art itself, prior to intervening with the troubles of our mass-media consumer society, the capitalist socioeconomic politics, or the urban conditions of others’ daily life. Advanced artists, sophisticated writers equipped with theoretical tools (with lots of sophistries), art magazines and journals claming a high standard and the leadership of contemporary art should look themselves hard. Aren’t they those that spread a false picture of life? An ineffective theory, i.e. theory without producing practical outcomes, is not a theory, to be sure.
The fallacy of the modern seems to lie in the misfortunate understanding or conception of representation. The process of self-reflection is not a process of representing. The reflected self is not a representation of the self that involves the question of verification and truth. One reflects on oneself for an improvement. It is about an effective process of self-realization or self-actualization. It does not end at just thinking about oneself, it requires taking an action to improve the (problematic) situation. Kant’s critique of pure reason was an effective political action of suggesting the religious authority of his contemporaries to guarantee the autonomy of science and arts (as well as to guarantee the religious freedom of people) based on the clarification of how far humans can claim to know the world. Kant’s critique is so effective that we still talk about it after more than two centuries. Critiquing an entity ultimately entails an action.
Jamaica Flux 2010 is organized around the theme of art as action. Art as Action has three meanings as far as I can see based on the art history of the 20th century: 1. The term “action” refers back to Jackson Pollack and means any art that includes elements of gesture and motion in the pictorial frame in opposition to the traditional European art that focuses on composition and organization of the pictorial plane. For example, dripping, pouring and spreading painting on the canvas; or drawing with blinded eyes and free play of arm movements. 2. “Action” can refer to performance art that has developed in the 60s and 70s along with happening and events.
Once artists realized the pictorial plane exists for human’s free action, they literally turned the idea into the reality, performing action in a real time and space. These actions are unique and non-repeatable. 3. The third meaning of “action” appeared very recently after 2000. It relates to the philosophy of action in which the ethical perspective of action comes in play. The free action embodying human’s free will is limited to doing a good deed. Human’s free will and good will have to merge in order to unfold their potential powers. So artist started thinking of art as gift making or doing good things to others, communities or society.
Loosely guided by the meanings of “action”, Jamaica Flux 2010 includes arts that incorporates gestural elements, for example the three dimensional painting of Hyong Nam Ahn on view in the gallery; performance art and events that took place on April 10, 2010; and arts of action that artists provide their expertise and time to the community and to the exhibition for a good cause, such as Jose’s guided exhibition tour and Elaine’s voting system. Since these tools are not affordable for a non-profit organization like JCAL, the artists share their skills and knowledge to make it happen. I hope you enjoy the images of the works and the artists’ statements presented along with the images in this catalogue. I would like to thank all participating artists, the Center and its staff, and community members as well as the funding organizations to make the 2010 edition of Jamaica Flux happen. I also would like to thank Christopher K. Ho who has worked with me to edit all texts.
Project Director & Curator, Jamaica Flux
1 The phrase “children of the grid” stems from Christopher K. Ho. He came with the expression while we were talking about contemporary art with Jose Ruiz on a Sunday afternoon in the café at PS1.