Nine views of aesthetic understanding

Faceless conversation by Kevin Power

Life-Time-Life Project by Tamara Campo and Bettina Geisselmann



1./2. Kervin Power:

Upon seeing that the purpose of the sample is to converse with the spectator, my first reaction, somewhat ironic and cynic, is of relief, or what else were you seeking to do? However, I imagine that in the intention underlies the assertion of facing two postures. The first one, art produced for the artist’s satisfaction without considering the spectator, and the second, a work that seeks to open a discursive terrain. Therefore, my first question is: which space of dialogue did you seek to open? And what are the discursive parameters of the pieces that you will assemble? Could you tell me about the precise intention of the work and the process through which you argue this intention in the work?



Tamara Campo:

We begin with installation being one of the most often used building processes in contemporary art to promote new levels of contents from diverse origins, toward a social and cultural focus where space and movement assume main roles as guiding axes of the work’s meaning. Their main resource consists of mobilizing aesthetic-artistic values that are intertwined, revealing the most diverse senses, the most varied sensations, from expected or unexpected visual encounters.

The installation is manifested from the visual standpoint of a game that activates a dialogue of displacements, encounters, and escapes that alter the appearances of what is normally shown to the spectator. It does not set a recognized physical space nor a specific trajectory from which one departs or returns to, but rather a series of efforts and actions that are perhaps translated in the recurrent and cyclical keenness to reach a certain place, to reach a goal, to cross physical or psychological barriers, regardless of the cultural, political, or social system.

We open new queries in a space where there are no answers, save for the possibility of observing and being observed. The persistent dialogue of the movements awarded by the video art flows with the magic of the lights that simulate surveillance reflectors in an action field that moves on in time, like a game of balls that go from side to side, striving to overcome boundaries resembling nets, where the rules are transgressed by actions. It is the great board of life, architecture of an X space. One world penetrating another, a constant game of watchfulness. One invades the space of the other assuming new structures of meanings, new systems of controls.



Bettina Geisselmann:

In my understanding, there is a staging of certain actions that are summed up in images. They serve to visualize the work’s reason-to-be, which is the attempt to underplay time and space. At this point, the discourse is open and the spectator can appreciate different movements within movements, and transformed movements. Movement synthesizes the space-time relationship, and serves as tool to evince the contrast of different spaces and times.



3. K. P.:

Are you interested in losing the authority of style as an assertion of being?

T. C.:

From the moment when we decided to share this artistic project, translating our levels of ideo-aesthetic visual thoughts into a conscience of building as a twosome from very different cultural, historical or social contexts. We are conscious of multiplying in several voices a message that differs from the authoritarian position of the I or from a style as the assertion of being. A work that is executed from a collective dimension that extends from its process to its public exhibit.



4./5. K. P.:

Are you more interested in conceptual ideas or in the exploration of subjectivity? In the latter case, which areas of subjectivity interest you?

The work of Foucault has caused great impact in practically all fields of human and social sciences. Undoubtedly, one of the most valuable characteristics of his work deals with the sensitization of theoretical individuals and artists to the operations of power, and that which seeks to highlight the problematic or suspicious aspects of rationality, of knowledge, of subjectivity, and the production of social guidelines. In his rich and detailed analyses, he demonstrates how power is intertwined in all dimensions of social and personal life, permeating teaching, social sciences, and the art world. Foucault questions seemingly beneficial forms of thought and value (such as humanism, an individual’s identity, and utopian projects), and forces us to reconsider them. He unveils the links between power, truth, and knowledge, and describes the form in which liberal humanist values interconnect with the technologies of dominance, becoming their supports.

How would you then view the nature of this dialogue with the spectator when art so often tends to speak from a position of power? We must also remember that Nietzsche considered the disposition to power an art!



B. G.:

I believe more in the subjective than in the objective. I think we should be aware of our ignorance, of our reduced perception. And that our perception, on the other hand, is the only thing of which we are certain. To be completely abstract observers – without a viewpoint or a minimized viewpoint – would entail the capacity to sidestep our opinions and prejudices, which I don’t believe is possible.

In this work, we try to make time and space subjective, because the major concern is what happens, not when and where. Of course, time and space are absolutely abstract terms and they function in the work as concepts accepted by a majority; we make them subjective because we make them ours. We use concepts and subjectivity as different starting points for the idea or the connecting theme of the work. On one hand, from interest on our own experience and on the I, and on the other hand, the attempt of looking outside oneself in the concepts that are admitted by a majority. This allows confronting them in the work and engaging in the limit between both.



T. C.:

Without dismissing the interest on conceptual ideas, an important factor in this work entails the sense of play with the exploration of subjectivity – which operates as an experiment of suggestion with the senses to communicate to the audience – where the readings made are completed by hearing, viewing, the mark that may be caused by the movement of images, the desire to touch, of feeling a need to reach inside the projections, the capacity to penetrate according to the intellectual possibilities and readings that each one can carry out.



6. K. P.:

Do you believe that your work retains self-contained aspects? Why do you abide by these aspects? Do you think we live in a time of new subjectivities? How would you understand them? Which are, in your opinion – and I admit this is a question of huge proportions – the most important responsibilities of art at the present time? Is it an issue of socio-cultural or socio-economic issues, of personal poetics, of relationships between the spheres of art and science? Where would you focus your attention?



B. G.:

Being honest with yourself, sincerity. I don’t believe there are rules to follow, the artist must give all that he can and there is no “greater possibility.” For me, art is an act of absolute freedom. If I felt constrained in any sense, even in a sense of social duty or responsibility, I would devote my time to something else. Demand does not create the “art” product; art must find its place, and should therefore not be adapted to be better embraced by the audience.

In our work, we seek an analysis of scientific terms like the space-time relationship, sifted through a network of well-known values, like our body, our movement and our experience. These general topics can affect us all, they are contemporary, especially in the field of the virtual, of parallel worlds that have become commonplace.

On the other hand, we find a surplus of information and possible choices that causes widespread disorientation. I believe that a “survival” response has been created, which orders this chaos of responses in a new balance that is subjected to constant movement and change. In consequence, the tendency is to not have a fixed focus model, but rather one that is always open – in lesser or greater extent – to other interpretations.



T. C.:

As artists, we are in some way committed to conversing from the concrete historical space in which we find ourselves, and for this reason we must do our best to educate, inform, participate, and exchange through a process that is not foreign to the dialogue of geographical differences.



9. K. P.:

I remember that Barnett Newman said that he was not interested in the manipulation of neither space nor image, but on time, the sensation of time. Time that, for him, was not burdened with nostalgic or dramatic feelings, or references to history that take up so much in art. His friend Hess explained that he referred to the site, to the place, to the unmentionable. In my opinion, the aforesaid composes a very clear definition of the type of relationship that artists want to create with the spectator. In the case of Newman, it has to do with that which is transcendental, although this stance is difficult to sustain at the present time. Therefore, I wonder what is at the base of your desire to communicate with a spectator. What are the signals, the load that you try to send?



B. G.:

The power is of the art, and not of the artist, so there is little that we can do. Art has power if it is pure, and perhaps the only thing that we can do is to try not to prostitute it.



10. K. P.:

Some of you come from non-European contexts. Do you think it is possible to communicate the nuances and characteristics of your experience to a European spectator? What concessions are you willing to make? I also wonder if the other artists of the sample recognize something “European” in these works. As spectators, what do you think they communicate?



B. G.:

I understand that in these cases, artistic languages have been accepted in a very conscious and direct form; this has occurred in Western Europe in a more gradual, but less conscious way. Therefore, the concept of identity is possibly more shaped in the art of second and third world countries. But I believe that contemporary artists, regardless of their origin, should also simultaneously assume globalization and multicultural differences, integration, and identity.

We face an upsurge of new possibilities, renovation, appropriations, syncretism. In my understanding, art works as a catalyst of all of these variables. Subjectivity can contribute different nuances through personal experiences, through that which is intimate and lived, and counteract homogenization, global values.



T. C:

I see a very clear difference that collides aesthetically, such as the minimal coldness of expression very common to Europeans, and the Baroque overload contained in the language of the Latin.



11. K. P.:

To what extent do you think that current video art communicates or not with the spectator, given the short span of time spent with the image, and the unfeasibility of absorbing the duration of the video in many contemporary exhibits.



B. G.:

I don’t believe that it is purely a media issue, but rather general, since acceleration occurs in all environments. Perhaps the form in which these videos are shown is a mistake, since they are excessively long for the average visit; it would be necessary to find an appropriate museum-graphic solution, or include it in cinemas.

12. K. P.:

In conclusion, it is clear that in second and third world countries there is a strong commitment with the immanent aspect of their complex cultures; in the words of W.C. Williams this would be a “structure of the feeling.” They believe that their paths coincide with the western mainstream, and they should introduce in it the transgressions that imply an unclassified artistic practice. They have the obligation of reorganizing the modern period according to their own historical modernization experience, and of characterizing their own modernisms in order to enter in post-modernism, at least potentially, in their own terms. In other words, communication with the spectator is now much more complex, and artists must be aware of who they are targeting, not from the standpoint of the message or generalized contact, but rather from a particular and specific context.

How would you resolve this situation, or would you prefer to reduce it to a matter of commitment with the image and nothing else?



B. G.:

Inevitably, different focuses are given to a work from different cultural contexts. Some works cannot be read like the artist fancied, perhaps even from the beginning; however, if the context of the work is known beforehand, different clues can be given, if the clues are known by the artist! In any case, the concessions that can be made so that the work is understood and projected to an audience with a greater scope of ideo-aesthetic possibilities and different interpretive levels will always be conditioned by certain restrictions built by our own interests or motivations.

It is not a question of how many it reaches, but rather of what message arrives. The work has its own identity that is enhanced by the fusion of the information-perception relationship.