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Generator: Under A New Sky
Took place: Birmingham 2007.
Part of the Birmingham City Regeneration Programme for Sparkbrook

[ Under A New Sky ]   [ Generator photos ]


FOREIGN - some project notes

1. Cedric Price calls them design thoughts. Generators. This would be a call to artists to respond to Cedric Price's original 1970s 'Generator' project'...never fully realised', intentionally, or not, as a paper architecture. Destruction of the plan. Is there a question of generating nonplans, or virtual 'platforms' in the fields of bad avant-gardes, and architectures, bad politics, or from the leftovers, especially the bombed out sites of global [war-torn] cities? Further is it possible, as Alain Badiou's work on universalism suggests, that we can again have a beautiful idea, enthusiasm for the future, and most importantly a discourse that is not divisive about the 'foreign'? It is a political and social problem that Price also identified. It is also an urgent question.

2. The Foreign. Start point; nothing 'specified' but nothing 'packaged' either, by reading Kristeva from May '68, also Edward Said on Freud and the Non-European, foreignness can be theorized as a continual relocation of a subject. More importantly, by dislocating the 'foreign' from the racialist logic of multi-culturalism, a kind of autopsy is performed on the ideological body.

3. A moveable facility or a platform to host various kinds of works situated in and around Birmingham's peripheries, in/out of sight/site; to make a virtue of the non-site, the evacuated field, the fuzzy logic of invention that may make for a better mutuality. Among the many working collaboratively, from the late 1960s to the early 70s, Paul Neagu and the Generative Art Group constructed generators, or 'hyphens'. The first works were never pure sculpture, but performative things, or interpolations, inserting new or foreign matter between space and action.

In these dislocated, yet related activities of the informational city, that Price anticipates as an intelligent, devolved architecture, [info-centres, media manifestations, public interventions, non-visual displays], generators stand on the unsteady ground as hyphens: as conjoining deferral and insistence for meaning; resisting easy classification, their dynamic switches concrete modernity with a small utopian possibility and back again.

The artists and curators here [Yona Friedman, Dan Graham with Maurizio Bortolotti; Runa Islam; Nooshin Farhid &; Paul Eachus; Reza Aramesh; Al Fadhil with his brother, Ahmed [tragically killed in Baghdad in an American bombing attack, whilst preparing this collaboration]; Goshka Macuga, and Peter Lewis, offer a way of being aware of the necessary displacement [i.e. the foreign] in the struggle for modernity, at the very least, by individual movements and enthusiasms, held mutually together as the subject of an invitation.

4. The various strands constitute a series, or a number of individuated projects evolved from the artists' proposals in and around the Birmingham area, to be commenced in the period 2006-2007. This could be imagined comprising various unspecified productions, as splinters of activity. These splintered temporal locations would be advanced into a classical system as enactments in publication, event, or in the emergency format appropriate to the energy of the 'generative'. This selection has been designed to not distance artists whose work does not figure as relational [disingenuously], but as definitive, interstitial, non-discursive, 'suburban' or elliptical. A generative practice is enabled through the model without necessarily any surplus narrative resolution beyond the model itself [i.e. an occurrence]. 'Accidental' crossings or crossovers [side-stepping literally the orient/occident axis] over a period of time [specific to each work] emerge by negotiation with the artists, not by the curator's will alone. The curator stands in the same space as the artist. These parameters had been defined by the architect Cedric Price as a more adaptable 'project' to be found in the ruins of modernist realism. As far as possible, researching both the active situations in cities from Central Europe and the Middle East, such as, in this particular assembly, Birmingham, Baghdad, Tehran, Berlin, London, Milan, Bregenz, [i.e. in geo-political re-alignments] what emerges is the contemporaneous historical time of a diffused global condition. In seeing how these different locations are interpolated and where they produce new formations we have the beginnings of invention and self-determination. We seek to rescue certain ideas already initiated in order to extend the groundwork; to examine for example ways of addressing the commodification of 'Arab Artists' in any claim of 'transparency', so as not to fall immediately to global economic and political pressure, commerce, through our own laziness.

The strategy therefore was originally to be developed to return to genealogical models, from 1960s /70s such as the collaborations of John Latham / Barbara Stevini, 'Artist Placement Group', Cedric Price's 'Generator' project, Dieter Roth's publications and collaboration with Richard Hamilton, Paul Neagu's 'Generative Art Group', all that challenged their particular historical conditions, now clearly in retrospect, as a struggle for recognition. This is also addressed in the current research of Redux, in London, as 'artist' or 'project' space designed to manufacture new works generated from a breakdown of private space; also in the positive institutional networks it opens up, and their effects [for example, in recently meeting and forming a collaboration with Maurizio Bortolotti, who, whilst at Domus Academy, had initiated workshops, specifically of Olafur Eliasson's machinic 'drawing generators', and Yona Friedman's 'Merzstrukturen' [deriving from Kurt Schwitters]. Schwitters 'Merzbau' generated a lot of these trajectories as a toolbox for imagining social practice, whilst not forgetting the polemic.

Around the idea of a context-independent art form, we envisage the inter-subjective possibilities of working in parallel locations. The multiplication of an 'apparatus', ideal and real, generated through the model. It can be found as exemplary in Runa Islam's film works that very often incorporate 'models' that move as arbitrary signs through a cross-generational and cultural 'time-lag' [a term nominated by Levi-Strauss, to measure the rate of change in cultures as binaries, which Islam criticises as a suspect ethnography]; or Tony Chakar's re-readings of the cartographies of cities set against canonical texts that generate a sense of non-centred spatiality. Or the collaboration of Al Fadhil and his brother Ahmed, in Baghdad, having written slogans [recently at Berlin Biennale 'All the Nations are Illegal] test the way the West (European) establishes its grand identity on the basis of a negative view of the (Middle) East.

I have invited artist/curator Goshka Macuga to design modular units for fabricating, is therefore drawn not as a pre-condition for interpretation or any poetic mystification of the curatorial selection process, but rather as an enactment of 'to/from' [for example, from an idea in the writing of Edward Said] notations of the foreign and an alteration of the fixations prescribed to it: the urban and suburban zones of fabricating, is therefore drawn not as a pre-condition for interpretation or any poetic mystification of the curatorial selection process, but rather as an enactment of 'to/from' [for example, from an idea in the writing of Edward Said] notations of the foreign and an alteration of the fixations prescribed to it: the urban and suburban zones of relocation that frame hidden truths via traumatic experience.

In particular the works of artists in the Middle East are to be 'relocated' within the modernist episteme, to stand in its stead. These disestablishing relations have been in place over the last few years. Said writes of the West's response to re-readings of its own episteme [also he differentiates himself from Fanon's total rejection of Western knowledge and its 'humanism' in the face of brutal colonialism] positive views about the adaption of works of art informing non-European artists and writers [e.g. Conrad, Freud] in their fictional geographies, re-mapping their experience of a 'place' as such. The lack becomes the subject, as an interpolation, an 'integrated' projection into an altered realm, without repressing one to be imagined in the 'future'. Of course nothing may emerge, yet mistakes may become footholds. However there is no 'territory', no 'possibility' left. The contemporary use as small and temporary museum containers [also to conceive formats for a freely distributed publication] that configure to reach out to imaginary/new communities. Maurizio Bortolotti [whom I have invited as a curator and collaborator] thinking in counter-point, has invited Dan Graham into the project. This 'relay' of curating and artist uses the same media [photos, videos, internet etc] as the terrorist. At the same time it is clear that there is also no radical artistic gesture to compete with the sovereignty of terrorism, as a new perverse turn of the aesthetic. A zero sum game radically negates that capacity of art to create a narrative capable of capturing society's imagination, of altering that society. The presence of the so-called 'enemy within' or the 'axis of evil' delineates and surveys the third-world as clandestine subversion within first-world nations. Artists understand and complicate this as an interpolation, always already there, as the process and conflicted relation to authority and legality. The research of artists is not a form of terrorism.

5. How would one be able to avoid the totalising force of recuperation [i.e.] of activisms displaced into an over-arching episteme, the Law, [as examples or synedochal objects in a museum] feeding the repressive/co-dependent state apparatus? The museum curator 'cures' the image by firstly making it unwell. Edward Said conceives alternatively, through music, of a contrapuntal space, as does Gilles Deleuze. The 'fold' may problematise global power and multi-culturalism, through its sensuality and play by the 'warping of locations'. In terms of recent activities of artists and thinkers from Lebanon, such as Walid Sadek, it is not a question of place, nor of cultural identity, nor aesthetic, in regard to installation art [see Walid Sadek 'From Excavation to Dispersion: Configurations of Installation Art in Post-War Lebanon', Tamáss, Contemporary Arab Representations, 2003] the ensuing criticism directed to the curator, generally, may be justified, of importing a particular [in this case Arab] cultural identification, a subtle process of dis-identification by institutional means. Sadek writes 'hence there is a gradual shift of installation art from its 'installationist' mode, that is, constructional and excavationist and which relies on the particularities [even if only temporary] of a place ' to another mode whose basic characteristic is that of a floating intervention in an already existing non-artistic field. '[p.75, Sadek, Tamáss]. The works of Nooshin Farhid, Paul Eachus and Reza Aramesh resonate from this acute observation by Sadek.

Such a shift is already recognisable in their work [it precedes theory such as this, written down now after the event, yet anticipates works from an understanding of precedence]. They favour a precise, light or parasitical instrumentalisation of the already existing and dominant epistemological networks: the informational, cultural and distributional. These artists have something to say in terms of the diasporic milieu of Birmingham, where mutuality exists despite the continual media assertions of hysteria aimed to give rise and reaffirm state policy toward Middle East conflict. At this stage of correspondences and research, it is paramount to give ourselves the whole picture as it emerges, at least as far as we are able, of a situation [i.e.] physically or virtually, for this project.

© Peter Lewis, curator, 'FOREIGN' for Generator 2006.

Latin interpolatus, past participle of interpolare to refurbish, alter, interpolate, from inter- + -polare (from polire to polish) transitive senses: to alter or corrupt (as a text) by inserting new or foreign matter or insert (words) into a text or into a conversation.

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