PH Rado Jaušovec
Loup Abramovici, Bara Kolenc, Rado Jaušovec, Teja Reba
WELCOME TO PARADISE: GARDEN, DOCUMENTATION, DINNER
Exploring the meaning of art in our current social situation and its nutritional value – with all the phrase connotes – brings up a number of topics: the economic status of art as it relates to other statuses (personal, social, ideological) as well as its possible non-status or outside-status. The impetus for this exploration was a typical debate on a web forum begun with the rather predictable question: “Why should I go to the theatre if I don’t have enough money to buy bread?” The debate moved in the direction of condemning art as having no useful value, that nobody needs it in times of crisis, and that it is a drain on taxpayers’ money. This sort of commonsense approach triggers fundamental questions not only about the meaning of art and culture, but also about basic human values and the principles of a given society.
It opens questions about the sense and meaning of art that have become more urgent in the time of crisis, the economic crisis also being a crisis of values. What is art’s function in society? Is it an engine of society or redundant excess value? Even if it encounters repression – ideological and financial – it must endure. It must develop strategies of survival, not only for itself, but also for the whole of society. Society not only emerged out of culture, but is a culture. At a time when society perceives marginalia (money) as its essence, and therefore sees its existence as marginal, society is undergoing a process of disintegration and transforming into its antithesis. When everyone in society (even art itself in the frame of cultural capitalism) is focused on the idea of art’s reduced usefulness, when the circulation of desire that produces surplus value is justified only by bare needs, we find ourselves in a state of war, a state of plundering, each man for himself.
Two tasks emerged from the above questions: the first task was to maintain art’s surplus value in the most concrete way possible, and at the same time make it accessible and communicative; the second task was to test ways in which art could reflect its own conditions of production and how it could be to some extent liberated from them.
From this starting point, it wasn’t far to the idea of a garden. The most primary way of producing food is the cultivation of plants, which is in itself a gesture of culture. A group of artists created a garden on public-private space and thus literally became cultivators (cultural workers) while at the same time creating public good. In addition, they posed question about the surplus value of art – it if exists at all – and what separates art from skills. How does the art of gardening differ from art that gardens? Does art even need this kind of self-definition, which on one hand seeks a concept of virtuosity, and on the hand that romantic “something else”? Does it require the modernist self-sufficiency of the Artist and the Artifact, or does it exist somewhere in-between, somewhere beyond definition?
In a time when the production of food (and seeds) has become increasingly privatized, potentially jeopardizing the self-sufficiency of individuals and whole societies, and when art is dismissed by some as a useless appendage to be thrown overboard in times of crisis, a group of artists set out to find the intersection of ideas underpinning these two phenomena. During the research, certain artistic approaches evolved based on the artists’ own socio-economic situation in which a two-fold undernourishment surfaced – physical and spiritual (intellectual). The trans-art action communicated with the public and triggered reflection on certain topics: the life of a garden vs. the life of art; a garden as a lost/paradise; a garden – work or pleasure.
During the research project a collective was formed that worked from May to November 2012 out of the theatrical institute Maska Ljubljana. Its members included Bara Kolenc, Teja Reba, Loup Abramovici, and Rado Jaušovec.
1. WELCOME TO PARADISE: GARDEN
“ Dear visitors, passersby, neighbors!
The garden of paradise is offering its fruit. You are invited to enjoy them. The ripe fruits can be plucked and eaten. For your own use and enjoyment, with respect to the garden, the earth, the co-users, and producers. The garden is open from June 20 to September 10. But please, after September 10, don’t pick the fruit because we will be using it to prepare dinner. Your are welcome!”
The garden explores the contextual definition of art, in this case its museal- ization and festivalization, which on the one hand puts the artistic work into a temporal-spatial and production frame, and on the other hand establishes a context that is a sufficient condition for the artifact to become art. The garden, that was cultivated in front of +MSUM and its contextualization within the 7th Triennial of Contemporary Art in Slovenia, thus became a work of art that existed at the edge of naturalized art and at the same time at the extreme of artificial nature. It was a reminder that the life of art takes its time. It ripens, breathes, pauses, endures, withdraws, and, in its own time, gives fruit and rots, dies and disintegrates. It is the location of life that transcends the mortification of cultural institutions and art history written in advance. The garden offered way to grow more than the Triennial, to outgrow the festival’s temporality, and to take roots as an exhibition that was not possible to disinstall or store in a warehouse. It was alien, a parasite that was exhibited but cannot be dis-exhibited.
The garden was cultivated on +MSUM Plaza.
2. WELCOME TO PARADISE: DOCUMENTATION
The research documentation has three levels:
- Experiments that, on the one hand, explore the influence of art on the growth of plants (that is, culture) and, on the other hand, the influence of plants on humans, are evidently false, falsified, created. (Artists in the role of researchers do not adhere to basis scientific conventions).
- Social events in the garden that occurred without advance notice and therefore were not coherent units with clear marketing rules (title of the event, description of what is expected), but were conceived of as socializing events, the content of which were known only by those who came to the garden, because they were the ones who created it. Social events in the garden were simply the time when the garden was open to visitors, and visitors could choose the offered themes and activities that seemed most suitable and interesting to them at the moment. Socializing in the garden came in the form of workshops for visitors and art actions that guests carried out in the garden. In this sense, visitors played the role of actual participants in events in the garden.
- Presentations of the results and themes of the research project, which also problematized its own finality and the gesture of representation itself.
PH Aleš Rosa
“Culture: Good evening, welcome, we are very pleased that so many of you could come tonight. Probably we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you. So, thank you again. Welcome to our little piece of paradise.
Culture: The question is where are we today?
Project: We are in this garden project.
Artist: No, the real question is, where did we come from?
Project: We came from the garden, not this one, the other one...
Culture: We were in this in-between space there, on the margins, in a het- erotopian territory full of resilience...
Artist: We spent several months between these walls, in between madness and totality. On one side, the nuthouse, I mean the Ministry of Culture, on the second side the prison, I mean the museum, on the third side the polis, not the police, but the polis, the metropolis...
Artist and Project and Culture: We are still facing the fourth wall.
Project: We are facing the deadline because all things have to end and we have to get to a new idea. This may not mean much to you two, but it does to me.
Project: What role are you playing tonight?
Artist: I am the other and I am myself. What about you?
Culture: I am playing the Death of Culture.
Artist: Hmm, what do you mean by that? Ministry of Culture or mother culture/mother nature?
Culture: That is up to the spectators.
Artist: And, you, what role are you playing tonight?
Project: I’m playing the role of the project, the anti-project, no, the project- anti- project, and now we are about to reach the deadline...
Artist: So this is it. I’m dying. I see the tunnel but I don’t see the light at the end of it. Just like austerity in Europe. A never-ending agony. I wasn’t able to reach the end of my thoughts. I didn’t find the one Idea, the unique bril- liant Idea. The other said Knowledge is not for knowing, knowledge is for cutting. Was the Artist ever supposed to be a revolutionary? It’s too easy to say that Revolution is turning instantaneously into what you would like to see the world turned into. It is what I did all along, under the pretense of adaptation and survival in a given situation. The perfect neoliberal dream worker; flexible, egocentric, and individualist. There was a time when I had this silly romantic fantasy of achieving a good death: being buried and hav- ing a tree grow on top of my decomposing body. Rousseau didn’t succeed in abolishing private property, but his grave is a small Eden, on an island in a lake. Marat managed to die in a hot bathtub. Revolution demands destruction. I see red: tomato red. If the tomato is the people, the eggplant is the poet. Elegance and beauty on the outside, bitterness on the inside. In order to take away the bitterness you need to dip it into salt. Salt liquefies your blood, just like the wine the poets drink to get in touch with their sense of truth. The politics of taste. The principle of tolerance
Culture: This is very interesting. The project is over. The artist is dying. Should we make another project?
Project: Sure, I feel fresh and young again, when is the new deadline? Artist: (still in agony) A principle, a principle...
The documentation was comprised of three monitors playing recordings of the
performance exhibition and the final presentation of the EAT-ART collective (Maska Productions) at +MSUM.
3. WELCOME TO PARADISE: DINNER
Members of the collective gave a dinner for the closing of U3, on September 29, 2013 at 8:00 pm, +MSUM.