Week 46: Ontological Walkscapes

Scott: So Kathy just picked up an email and this is our first time trying it. It's like as soon as you turn on a mic it polarizes everything you say. So yeah, hey Stephen so you want to hear what Karen ultimately said? And we'll just sort of start this off informally because we have three people on the line and everybody hear me already.

Stephen: Scott I think you're going to have to move closer to the mic.

Scott: Oh yeah.

Male: I can't hear anything.

Scott: Hello.

Stephen: Yeah.

Scott: How about this is this better?

Stephen: That's good.

Male: Yeah that's better.

Scott: All right. I'll figure it out I haven't figured out how to use this yet. But yeah anyway.

Stephen: So you were saying something about what you found out from Karen.

Scott: Yeah so basically Karen finally showed up in New York about eight hours late and the two curators there they were like yeah we don't know what's going on but part of his stick is that he does these sorts of disappearing acts. So I guess they were sort of wondering if well by stick I meant he takes these walks right and he can sort of take a variable amount of time taking them I guess. And so they had no idea what was happening. So basically he showed up and so we were able to talk to him and he said well he didn't really want to do Skype from there he didn’t' really feel equipped to do it even though Quinton offered to go up and help facilitate it and everything but felt that Stephen could adequately describe his work.

So anyway can you guys still hear me okay?

Stephen: Yeah

Scott: Awesome.

Male: I can hear.

Scott: Okay. So yeah that's the way we left it. And somehow it sounded by at least filtered through the two curators there that this was sort of part of what he wanted to do. He agreed that it would be a good idea to have you sort of stand in for him Stephen.

Stephen: Okay.

Scott: Interesting. And also we have Sam coming at a little after 7:00 now around 7:15 it sounds like so we'll do a double feature I guess. So anyway I pasted in this description earlier and Greg and Matthew saw that. I could start to read this out if that would be helpful. What do you think? Hey Stephen would you prefer to sort of talk about these projects a little bit or would it be better for me to introduce by reading this out loud?

Stephen: What I wrote you mean o?

Scott: Yeah I mean it's a little bit of an unusual way to start for us but I think its part of what happens when…

Stephen: Yeah.

Scott: I don't know I thought a full moon but I'm not sure what happens.

Stephen: Yeah okay. So if I understand correctly he's not coming is that right?

Scott: That is correct.

Stephen: Okay. So there's no chance that he's going to show up? No.

Scott: Not before we're finished. Actually there is a chance that he'll show up before we're finished but there's no good chance because they didn't show up in New York until like 4:30 and they were supposed to get there in the morning.

Stephen: Okay. How is that possible?

Scott: I actually don't know.

Stephen: Okay. Well I'm a little taken aback by this I must say, but maybe I could say a few things because I have collaborated with Karen on the two projects which she was supposed to talk about. And I have written about those so maybe I am kind of in a position to have some thoughts on them. I mean obviously it's not the same thing as talking to him because I collaborate with him whereas he initiated those projects.

Scott: Right exactly. And I mean he will actually be here. Oddly they'll both arrive probably after we're done…

Stephen: Okay.

Scott: …just because they're staying here. So I think that's…

Stephen: Okay.

Scott: So I think that's the deal. I mean we also will be talking with Sam so at any point we can move on to talking about Red 76 as well. But it still seemed interesting enough. I mean this was written up and it seems like a very interesting project so it'll be awesome to talk about a little bit if you feel up for it.

Stephen: Oh for sure. Let me talk about it in this order then. First let me talk about the conditions under which I first met Karen and then I've co-authored two books with Karen. The first one is called "Remaining Time" and the second one is called "Ontological Watch Groups". Actually that title was actually my title originally which we developed together. I'll describe that a little bit how that worked. In 2005 I was invited to be part of a conference in the Ukraine and I gave a talk about what I call Competing Ontological Landscapes, in other words when fictional landscapes are superimposed on physical geographical landscapes, and about the kind of ontological chauvinism that takes place when different predatory ontology's come into contact with other ones.

If doing art criticism and talking about art in a kind of a different way. What's interesting is that immediately after I gave my talk this guy I'd never heard of before was asked to talk. And we all discovered at that moment, he'd been asked by an art journalist, Spanish art journalist which he'd been collaborating to give a talk and what we discovered at that moment was that he didn't speak English at all. In fact he had been communicating with the art journal through his translator which is his wife which he's with in the United States. And in fact he speaks Russian and Armenian but he speaks them with a very severe stutter. And when he's speaking these very sudden cracks emerge in his discourse. The way people stutter and there's that kind of a gap that emptiness between sentences.

And it's very interesting that that's the case because what he was talking about was a very particular dual political situation in the former Soviet Union. So you have to remember that Karen was born and grew up in the Soviet Union and was in his late 40s when the Soviet Union collapsed politically. In the early 1990s the very day that the Soviet Union collapsed this just as a political project there was a terrible earthquake in the southern part of the Union in Armenian near Yerevan and they're the capital. And this town that was about 15 kilometers outside of the capital which was highly appreciated by the members of the Nomenkaltura at the time where they built their datches because that had good hair and good water and so on. The terrible earthquake hit that town and it literally collapsed asunder. All the datches collapsed. The entire town sort of collapsed. There were huge fishers emerged in the roads absolute devastation. And what's interesting is that it happened the very day that the Soviet Union collapsed politically. So you had almost a geological representation of the geopolitical collapse of well I guess the largest country in the world at that time.

And what happened was the big wigs like the Soviet big wigs they cut their losses. They just left their datches in ruins and moved on to the new neoliberal system that replaced communism and went onto sort of privatize all the datches plus the naturalized businesses. The people who lived in the town, I mean the farmers and the peasants, were told by the experts that in fact they had to evacuate the village because things were never going to get better. Now what the earthquake had done was it destroyed the bedrock of that mountainside and it was really just nothing but dirt now and it was inevitably going to collapse more and more, and they couldn't live there anymore. The government offered them a reconvinced of I think about $200 or $250 dollars to go and live someplace else. Now the interesting thing about those people is that they had not been living in that village, their families hadn't been there for hundreds of generation right, they'd actually moved there within living memory because they were refugees from what is called Westerner Media, which is the eastern part of what's now Turkey refugee of the Genocide of 1915, 1916. I mean to escape that they're ancestors had and they moved to this village and became farmers.

So these people were in no way inclined to like move out and move on. So they hung in there and they held their ground literally, they held their ground even as that ground continued to collapse beneath them. And every morning when they wake up they go outside and they see a new fisher has sort of cut the roadway in half, it's really quite an amazing thing and that hear that sound of the collapse. But there's a kind of an upside to it, if I could call it an upside, it is that what happened is the soil itself has been transformed and pushed upwards and it's become an incredibly fertile area for organic farming production, which of course is increasingly on demand in Armenian as everywhere else. And so these people, despite the fact that they're homes are being like permanently wrecked even as they rebuild them, are actually doing fairly well in terms of their vegetables and fruit production. It's a very, very interesting case of what's happening in the post Soviet landscape, which is precisely what is of interest Karen Andreasyan and which was of interest to me as well because I was talking about these ontological landscapes and I mean I wasn't talking about physical landscapes I was really talking about what happens when fiction comes into contact with reality.

And so we went to collaborate on that. And what Karen does as an artist is really nothing whatsoever. Actually I remember in a previous talk here I described what he does at sweet fuckle.

Scott: I remember that. So Stephen but he does do – I'll pull that link up actually and send that to everybody, but I mean he does do something right.

Stephen: He does.

Scott: Right.

Stephen: What he does is he accompanies that village in its collapse and he accompanies the people who live there in their journey accompanying that collapse. He doesn't actually intervene, he doesn't actually build roads or he doesn't do paintings of collapse, or occasionally he does document what's going on and he takes photographs and he's done some video, but those are really just sort of bi-products of an observation or accompanying process. What it is, is that he doesn't say that it's his artwork he just simply says we can look at this incredible metaphoric potential through what these people are doing and my naming it as an artist as a kind of an artistic not as an artwork. But as sort of the art critical lens which we've developed over the history of art we are looking at this it's kind of the essence.

Scott: Yeah hey Stephen I think we had a little lag for a second.

Stephen: Okay.

Scott: And we're back.

Stephen: Yeah. So I don't know exactly where I got cutoff but it's basically his presence as an artist, his role, is just being there and accompanying those people or accompanying that village in its collapse and accompanying those people in their incredible kind of trajectory. And that project was an object of a book which we did together called "Remaining Time" in reference to the [inaudible 16:17]. It entirely just sort of collapses because of the erosion of the underground river beds led to a very different project when it came into collision with an unexpected turn of political events.

[Inaudible audio breaking up]

Stephen: Anyone else.

Scott: Yeah we're here. I don't know if you saw that but the last few sentences, actually the audio interested sounded like you were stuttering. And at first I wasn't sure if you just really were and then it started fragmenting out to the point where we were pretty sure that it wasn't that and then you got cutoff.

Stephen: Okay. No I'm not given to [inaudible breaking up]. In public space, public expression it's just a way of life as people's life has become much more difficult since the end of the Soviet Union. I mean the Soviet Union was obviously a disastrous political culture but it provided a certain potential for, I don't know, development in life that has literally disappeared with neoliberal capitalism. And it's palpable each time I return every year and a half or so to our meeting to see the general decline, the general rising in frustration and general depression.

Two and a half years ago there was a presidential election the election was totally rigged and the man who was proclaimed President at the end of it obviously had engaged in massive electoral fraud and was not, well of course we know these sorts of things is not specific to places like Armenia it happens in very large and old republics all over the place, but it led to very large demonstrations and those demonstrations went on and on and on until the government ordered that they be stopped or that the army to fire live bullets on the demonstrators which they did; they killed at least 10 people. Demonstrations were banned and this is where the project that Karen will be presenting a fragment of in New York began, is that they wanted at once to stop the demonstrations but maintain a return to normalcy. And so they couldn't simply say that people were not allowed to walk in the streets they just were not allowed to demonstrate in the streets.

And so what developed was I think one of the most original and yet invisible forms of political dissent which has emerged over the last little while is that in one of the central parts of Yerevan people just began to walk. In other words, they would meet every night at about 7:00 and they would just walk around and around and around this circle in the park. They wouldn't have banners, it wasn't a demonstration it was simply walking, but it was walking political because the regimen knew fully well what these people were doing but it couldn't exactly demonstrate or prove that that's what they were doing because it didn't look like they were doing anything except walking because they weren't doing anything except walking. But they were walking with a political intent. And I think what struck Karen about that and it's certainly what struck me about it is that that's very close resemble, this kind of invisibility but undeniability is very similar to something which happened to art in the course of Modernity is that things could actually become, while remaining what they are could become propositions of what they are.

And so it was in this way that the ontological walkscape that Karen is so interested in actually began. It's a form of, not I think of political walking, but of walking political. And it's ontological in the sense that it's both a walk and a proposition of a walk. It's both a walkscape, so just plain it is what it is as minimal artists used to say, and at the same time it has a double ontological status it's also with this political dimension. Yeah that's right they're ontological is that they're both a thing and also a proposal about walking right and a proposal about a different way to do politics. So there's a lot to say about that but that's kind of the basics. But this is also linked to an ongoing research project which Karen has been carrying collectively first of all with these students and then with a lot of other people about walking as a way of perceiving and reading and understanding the transformation of the post Soviet landscape understanding it as a walkscape.

There's been like the new regimen which has come to power, which is basically a bunch of oligarchs who are sort of selling off cheap mining rights and just about everything there is in Armenia to foreign companies there is a particular hatred towards anything that looks remotely like modernist Soviet architecture, and particularly a hatred of anything that looks like the 1970s Soviet architecture. And of course this is something which we've noticed across Europe as well, I'm talking about in capitalist here, is there's a particular hatred with the 1970s. Also in the United States when Nicholas Sarkozy became President of France he declared war on May 1968. He said that his presidency would put that legacy to rest once and for all. So that hatred of 1970s of collectivism, that hatred of protest, of rethinking the machines of desire which we are is the sort of thing we should [inaudible breaking up].

Scott: Oh no you're starting to break up again just now.

Stephen: Sorry.

Scott: You just started breaking up right now.

Stephen: Okay I'll continue.

Scott: Just now, just at the beginning of that sentence.

Stephen: Okay. Well what I was saying is…

Scott: Better now yeah.

Stephen: …1970s particularly palpable in a place like Armenia. And not only [inaudible 25:41] because Karen actually lacks these sort of very angular concrete [inaudible 25:48] it's the truth of the development of that country. I mean no matter what you think of the Soviet experience it was almost a century long experience in Armenia and it's eraser is surely not a way of moving forward but really a way of just repressing something which will return in form. So he's engaged these practices of walking political, not only as a form of at once invisible but undeniable political dissent but also a way of receiving sort of the devastation of the post Soviet landscape across the country. And I think that's what he will be presenting in New York, although I don't exactly know because I haven't spoken to him about what he's showing in New York. But I believe that it's a project around the proposed destruction of a valadrone, in other words of a bicycle track, in downtown Yerevan. It was built in the late 1960s a very beautiful example of this modernist Soviet concrete based architecture. And of course which will be replaced either by luxury housing for the lucky few or even more probably by a orthodox church built of course with traditional stone material and made to look it had been there forever. This sort of example of an invented tradition, which in fact is just a post modern imposition of a kit style design to ensure greater writer logical control.

So he's not so much interested in documenting that kind of idea the rise of ideological control through collusion between the orthodox church and the oligarchs in political power in cahoots of course with trans national capital, but more interested in looking at, focusing on this post Soviet landscape and the remaining examples of that Soviet architectural style. And that's also an image which I find particularly interesting and particularly interesting to explore it, not so much through the use of video or photography but through the use of walking. And he links this to - and this is I'll just end my little presentation here maybe we can have a discussion now my monologue's been going on long enough – links it to a very, very interesting movement in the 1920 Soviet [inaudible 28:45] which is called Factography.

Factography was kind of a derivative of the entire constructivist movement in the '20s in the Soviet Union and it's a sort of predecessor but an extremely incisive predecessor to what would become the documentary practices that emerged in the 1970s and '80s in which they actually become dominant components of the artworld today. And it's a kind of a focus on facts but facts not of something which were given but facts are something which are produced. And his particular take on factography is that facts can be also produced through walking, and that's something in which I think he's developed quite a lot. It's interesting that he's doing this and it's not, let me just say, it's not political neutral or even artistically neutral within the context of the former Soviet Republics. The imminent art critic and historian from Russia Boris Royce has this very strange tendency to somehow equate Soviet experience with the Stalin experience. See Stalin not so much as the destruction of the Soviet Union but of its essence incarnate. And Karen Andreasyan and may other people have, or at least many of his friends, have a very different take on the Soviet experience which they found in the 1920s. They had factography constructiveness was found to be a very powerful and progressive political experience and one with which they were and also groups like [inaudible 30:32] at the summit in New York to renew with that incredible [inaudible 30:41 audio broke up].

Scott: We heard you at incredible.

Stephen: Sorry.

Scott: You stopped at incredible. It went incredible [static sound]. That might have sounded like real static. Hey Stephen I'm actually here trying to…

Stephen: Okay.

Scott: …give a sense of how it sounded at first. But it probably sounded like real static to you in return.

Stephen: Yeah a little bit. Anyways that's obviously what I wanted to say. I just wanted to say that [inaudible 31:44 breaking up] to the stance Mudley sort of expressive art production that's going on in Armenia today because he's taking a very clear. I mean he's not even what might be loosely called as sort of post conceptual artist. It's really a kind of, I mean you could call him post conceptual except that it's not sure, at least in his opinion there wasn't a kind of conceptual art previously.

So the question remains then can you be post conceptual without their having been conceptualism. And which is why I think he is much more inclined to lay claim to that factographic experience which he reinvigorates through walking political what he calls his ontological walkscapes. So anyway that's kind of my take on his practice which is inherently conceptual obviously which is inherently collectiveness and his inherently yet invisibly political.

Scott: Yeah it's always an interesting question about. I mean if you don't mind me saying this it's always an interesting question. When people want to talk about art within these kinds of, well separating it into isms you know, or kind of era based ideas of art, because there definitely is there a zeitgeist at different points and there are also people working in similar enough ways to be able to classify it. But at the same time it's not always happening in all regions. And so when someone's working regionally it's funny to talk about modernism in a nation that has never been modernized. It's a…

Stephen: Well [inaudible 34:01]. There was a Soviet modern [breaking up]. Armenia had embraced modernity. I mean with strong tradition a desire to rationalize the public space. Of course the political system per say had never slowly involved the modernity it was repressive political system. Modernity in terms of arts and modernity in terms of social morass and so on was definitely a part of Armenian experience. It is now in post modernity is equated with Soviet totalitarianism for obvious ideological reasons and this sort of post modern neo limber mindset has decided, and that's the reason it's decided to drive out every last remananet and trace of Soviet modernity and form particularly the architecture that I was talking about.

Scott: Yeah Stephen just to clarify, I mean I definitely wasn't saying that that applied to that region but if you know what I mean. It was just to give some sort of sense, maybe a more direct sense, because conceptualism isn't really easy to say "Well have conceptualism happened to a region." Whereas it's a lot easier to say that modernity had happened to a region. And I find it interesting sometimes when let's say certain countries in Africa when people are making post modern work there's that similar kind of disjoint, if you know what I mean. I think that's the only reason I brought that up.

Stephen: Oh okay.

Scott: Sorry the static was actually so bad during the second half of what you said I couldn't tell if you actually did get it or not. Cool. Yeah today's a really weird day for a lot of people.

Male: Is here there?

Scott: Oh yeah I think so he's writing now I can tell he's writing.

Stephen: I'm here I just didn't want to monopolize the amount of the speech. I mean if someone else has stuff to add or to say on something else. I think Sam is going to show up at some point.

Scott: Yeah Sam should be here really soon. So you know I posted that link to ontological landscapes on the Basekamp Web site.

Stephen: Okay.

Scott: I don't know if you saw that but here's the short URL or ontological walkscapes.

Stephen: Okay great.

Scott: I was using the other text for the landscapes. But yeah but I didn't post the information about Sam or about Red 76 because we hadn't really cleaned it up yet.

Stephen: Right.

Scott: But I think we can bring up his, when I say his Web site, the Web site of the main project that same has representing Red 76 is part of.

Stephen: Yep.

Scott: And I don't want to move onto it too quickly but yeah you're right he should be here pretty soon just for people who want to get started. But yeah like definitely it would be great to talk with Karen and we'll be talking with him when he comes here tonight.

Stephen: No but he's a fascinating character. There's lots of things about his work that I didn't mention. One key aspect of it is, in fact Karen doesn't - what I mean is he does lots of things. He's a very industrious energetic hardworking person on the one hand. What he doesn't do is create things. I mean if you like – factography it's about producing facts but it's not about creativity. And I think that Karen stands about the sort of creative economy that has urban, I mean among other things, within our [inaudible 39:06]. It definitely feels that art has no track with that kind of – essentially art has never had has anything with exclusivity or creativity.

I know that seems like kind of a hard line position and it's one that I like to raise in those exact terms but it's interesting to hear how he, he doesn't talk in genatotic terms, negotiates that way of being a practicing artist without creating things rather by accompanying processes, walks, and other geological collapses.

Scott: Yeah but you know Stephen it would definitely be – I'd like to know more about that coincidental geological collapse. I mean I had heard that sort of but I'd really heard it described the way you described it. The very next day you were saying after the collapse of the '78 Union. I mean it's just…

Stephen: Yeah literally.

Scott: Yeah.

Stephen: Literally Gorbachev was trapped in his datches Putin took control in Moscow just the Soviet Union was disintegrating as a political project, not as a political project, as a geo political giant it was collapsing asunder. And that same day the Village of Folk Everage collapsed and the terrible earthquake all across the southern caucus and the City of folk Everage collapsed n the theologically nearing the geopolitical collapse completely collapsed upon itself and all the datches all just turned into rubble in seconds. There is a Web site that you can Karen has a Web site it's…

Scott: Vocal Bard or the ontological walkscapes or blind dates.

Stephen: No voch everette.

Scott: Voch everette okay. Vochbird now I know. Yeah I thought it was.

Stephen: Vochbird exactly.

Scott: I think each image oh interesting.

Male: What's interesting?

Scott: Just because it wasn't really clear but the navigation on this Web site was.

Stephen: Well that's the thing that Karen has to explain to you. It's based on a relatively complexed algorithm and all those numbers reflect the time [inaudible 42:39] between the two clicks. There's kind of like a fisher between those numbers. If you go to this page here then you see a rather obscure arrangement of document and clicking on any of those documents will leave you to…

Scott: Oh right.

Stephen: …different places. So for example, you see there's a little book there which is this one, well there's a number of books right but here – well anyway I'll let you kind of discover that [inaudible 43:23] give a reason to idea many particular way. But all across those images there are different links to click on which leads you into – I mean Miriam's whole idea of a kind of an ontological scape or image scape of some kind. You think you're looking at one image but in fact what you're looking at when you look at an image is all sorts of crevices that leave you, or all sorts of I guess what Elizabeth Gatari would call Lines of Flight, which could leave you in all sorts of different directions. Each book is a line of flight or potentially a different landscape.

Scott: Definitely. I think something's broken in Chrome but we get most of it.

Stephen: Sorry about that.

Scott: Perfect. That's great yeah. It is well done I was just inperceptive. I do saw it as an image at first.

Stephen: Yeah. Well it is an image. I mean that's like everything else. And obviously [inaudible breaking up]. And the interesting thing about vochaverte is that it's not an artist controlled profit because it's a village so the only people who have control over the destiny of that book is, but I think it's a geological destiny that no one has control over, is that people control and become of it are the people who live there not the artists. So this is an art project which the artist does not have control.

Nato: Stephen.

Stephen: Yeah.

Nato: It's Nato. How do you describe this as being different than say a kind of ethnography?

Stephen: Well I guess I wouldn't want to necessarily say that it was. I guess it is a kind of ethnography except there's a very major difference. Ethnography is a discipline it's a discipline which has [inaudible.

Scott: I think we lost him.

Stephen: Can you hear me?

Scott: It's getting better yes but now you're not there.

Stephen: You're not hearing me. The signal is becoming really low here.

Scott: We can hear you now.

Stephen: Okay. I'll try and speak slowly so that [inaudible].

[child speaking]

Stephen: Are you guys…

Scott: Yeah we're here.

Stephen: …receiving my voice.

Scott: Now we are. It's just going up and down a bit.

Stephen: I can't hear you.

Scott: Oh what about now can you hear me now okay?

Stephen: I'm not hearing you.

Scott: Really? How about now?

Greg: Stephen can you hear me? Stephen. Nothing. Hey Basekamp.

Scott: Hey Greg.

Greg: Hey Parker.

Nato: Was that Greg?

Scott: Yes it is.

Greg: Yep.

[child speaking]

Greg: Hi kiddo. It seems we lost Stephen. All right I'm going to go back on mute.

Scott: The question exploded. Hey we also got your written text too which…

Stephen: You guys there.

Scott: Yeah we're here Stephen. We got your written reply though which I don' know if you wanted to augment that at all, basically that art is extra disciplinary, transdisciplinary, whereas ethnography is within a specific discipline. Well geez you know what, I think we're not going to be able to continue this.

Hey Stephen.

Stephen: Hey. So I'm kind of hopeful this is going to work better because I want to answer Nato's question which I thought was a good one. Am I audible now?

Scott: You are it sounds great.

Stephen: Okay. So listen, yeah, I mean on the one hand of course it is ethnography I mean it's obviously a dimension of that, but the difference is that I think ethnography is discipline. I mean it's an academic discipline with its community of researcher with a cannon of – it's a constituted body of knowledge with a cannon of references. You can contest and in fact you're expected to contest if you're a researcher, but at the same time you have to acknowledge or else you're taken to be a crank. And art certainly is carrying an drasian practice it is not a discipline in that sense it's not disciplined in the same way although it has a definite rigor which is why I stressed the fact that it is – I mean there's a definite methodology. Methodology in the most general sense because method means meto odos, odos being road and meta being of the road. So it's a shifting methodology but it's walking itself very closely linked to methodology.

But what it is it's an extra disciplinary practice. In other words it cannot be disciplined in the same way, it's an inherently – it doesn't have that constraint of having to respond a cannon of constituted objections. And I think that that is not just wordplay it makes art of this kind essentially different from the practice of the social sciences or any kind of science actually. And it also makes it interesting for artist like Karen to collaborate with scientific or ethnographic methodologies. But it does oblige him to engage in extra disciplinary collaboration, inter or trans or both.

I don't think there's such a thing as an art discipline, not in ethnography. I think that art is rigorous, art has a history but art has rested itself free, has met itself from everything with its own history and it's not in the way that sciences do have to contend with that motion of discipline. Of course there's many ongoing attempts on the heart of the [inaudible 55:20] and museums to discipline. Disciplining arts is a major component of the main stream art world today in my opinion. And it's one with its someone like Grassient is very concerned. I'm mostly hearing Parker I think I don't know whether you guys are hearing me.

Scott: We're totally here. I'm not muting the audio to keep the exchange going.

Stephen: Okay.

Scott: Yeah your audio is really great now Stephen. It was just so broken up before…

Stephen: Yeah.

Scott: But it's plain so because sometimes it would go really strong and then we'd try to tell you when it got tragic.

Stephen: Yeah.

Scott: So just to go on your note about, and I don't want it to be so meta about disciplines, but I keep thinking about the geographic practice in particular as a kind of discipline that's become somewhat extra discipline in the sense that a lot of post modern geographies out of Lavefe has begun to take on everything and to really resist its own history. So I'm wondering if there's other disciplines that you think have moved into kind of an extra disciplinary status.

Stephen;You know what as far as I know nobody has. I think what happens is that when you get people like geographers like Trevor Pegland for example, as an artist and that's what makes Trevor so incredibly interesting to me is that he's using the incredible knowledge that the geographical discipline has produced over the course of its history. But he's framing it in that extra disciplinary frame of art. Because let's say when he collaborates with someone or with a collective what makes that collaboration interesting, what makes it necessary, what makes it fruitful is an initial diversity. Because in fact if we always want to collaborate with people that we have a lot in common with, because then we don't have to be sniping at each other all the time. But in fact similarity doesn't bring much in terms of collaboration.

What is interesting is whether that initial diversity. But when that diversity – so it's interesting to think well what is different than art and what specific competencies and incompetencies does art have? Well one thing that it doesn't have is a lot of knowledge. I mean the art is extremely impoverished in terms of knowledge but it's extremely rich if you like in terms of this freedom or this open ended methodology which is in some ways intrinsic to art in a kind of an essential way. I mean a lot of art is not like that for sure but in a kind of essential way it is like that. And what you find in disciplines, academic disciplines and others is that you find almost the reverse. You find it's a kind of closed and locked down type of knowledge direction but there is a great deal of knowledge there. And I think that's what makes some people work with someone like Trevor Pegland so interesting is that he's actually been able to access what's best both about an academic discipline and an extra disciplinary practice of art.

And I wouldn't say that this is model that Karen Andreasyan is using because he tends to not work with academics. He infiltrated the art department at the Yerevan University only to resign in protest because of the capitulation of the university in general towards illegitimately elected government of the country.

Scott: When you say he infiltrated does it mean he got hired but he didn't really like it.

Stephen: No that he pretended that he was doing something that he wasn't doing basically. In fact well he's written about this himself, and in fact I think it's on the Web site at the ontological walkscapes Web site where he talks about the meaning of that infiltration. I don't know that particular episode but I believe that what he did was that he got himself into the art department, not under false pretenses because he's too well known of an artist to do that, but with a different type of outlook. And he said he was going to do something that he in fact had no intention of doing. And he used that time, that public time that he had with the students to carry out the ontological walkscapes project.

And that was kind of the point whether than working with academics and people from the academic disciplines Andreaysan tends to work with, if you like, ordinary people. He tends to work with peasants, he tends to work in this case the students, but he works with students on the basis of kind of information and backgrounds which they had coming from different walkscapes, different walks of life, different landscapes from around the country of Armenia. And the types of testimony which they can bring to that factography practice.

Scott: Yeah I'm so holding myself back from bringing up the question of whether arts a field because I just got a text message from Sam saying just got back, network is down, I'll phone in a minute. But just with this caveat that we might get cutoff any moment because – then again by the time he shows up we'll probably be done with our chat but we'll see. Well anyway okay how about this? During the summit that you organized Andrea Frasier kind of made a slightly small back peddle in her earlier argument in order to accommodate the idea of multiple artworlds yet wouldn't really acknowledge that there were multiple ones because that would be a pretty hard argument for her to continue to position herself against. And I think I sensed a little bit of bitterness between the two of you Stephen, you and Andrea.

But basically she did recognize that there were multiple, oh what is it subfields, of the field of art. And I think this is the first time – you didn't really like the idea of subfield Stephen which I agree that there's a sort – they're multiple meanings of that and one is a little bit condescending but I think you also seemed to take issue with the idea that art is even a single field. And so I guess I wanted to bring this up as that, okay I know we're making this glossary, we're all going to be contributing to this glossary. You were talking about disciplines and so often a discipline is referred to as a field, let's say the discipline of art is often referred to as a field of practice and study or certain disciplines are referred to as a field. And I'm wondering about the relative value of that term. And also whether even seeing art as a single field is appropriate or a battle worth fighting.

Nato: Yeah just to kind of build on that too because I'm just thinking about – you know Andreas facing calls from Bordeaux in some ways and I think it's really productive to use Bordeaux when prioritizing this kind of conception of art in this way of staying art does this or art does that. Because of course art is so context specific at times it's capable of doing things at other times it's capable of doing totally boring things. And it seems Stephen when you talk about art capacity to be extra disciplinary I think well maybe in some instances yes in other instances absolutely not. But you kind of speak of it in a very kind of totalizing way that isn't broken apart in a different fields or related to the kind of context of the social infrastructures that produce that idea of art regionally as well as structurally. So how do we work through all that?

Stephen: Wow that's a huge question. In fact I guess it's a bunch of questions. First of all when Bordeaux and Frasier used the notion of field they don't use it in a sense of discipline. I mean it's true that we say "Well in the field of art or in the field of anthropology", but that's not the way we [inaudible 1:05:17] using the right term. They're using it in a sociological sense but the field is that place in which all the actors with which we have to negotiate to obtain our purposes are present in which we sense and feel and measure, incorrectly or correctly, their power and we have to negotiate a path through that field taking account of their presence there as well. That's very different I mean in a way it's similar it's fundamentally different from a way an academic discipline is concentrated.

I find even the very notion of discipline its problematic work. I mean the idea of disciplining practices, porportments, speech, disciplining to me and I think it sounds a little bit like cleaving its sounds a little bit like formatting, it sounds like making distinctions between what is socially obligatory or socially forbidden. And that's why Nato that I kind of go a little bit over the deep end sometimes maybe in saying well art is using that kind of collective magnetic formatting. I know full well that 99.9% of art it does nothing of the sorts and it jumps immediately right into bed with the first prop on the feet when it comes to allowing itself to [inaudible 1:07:05] but art is essentially can mean anything.

To me it's not [inaudible 1:07:16] it means not doing just any old thing anything goes, but it means finding an essence outside that kind of discipline. Even though it's worth in other ways that kind of discipline it doesn't need to be proven but disciplines can produce an incredible kind of talent. It just that it seems to me that art can be able to do anything it shouldn't and I found a great prescription enormous shouldn't see you know opening in that direction. So I agree and I don't agree. I didn't agree with Frasier I think about these notions of field because I really just I feel, literally I think that yeah each [child speaking] really our responsibility to try and break with that notion just one point back there in which is [inaudible 1:08:23] I feel that I need to say no that there's no reason why you couldn't set to deploy your competency and your incompetencies in a different field right. And sure most people in that field are not recognizing the way you use art, okay, but that's not even the case.

Scott: Yeah I actually do have a thought but Chris had a quick question let me switch over to her.

Chris: It's just I was thinking about it. Can you hear me?

Stephen: Yeah, yeah I hear.

Chris: It's just making something I was something I was thinking about rock music. And it's like it seems like everybody was thinking oh wow rock and roll music but it seems like that had sort of also gone into different genres no longer what it was originally like the same thing with art.

Stephen: I think I understand what you mean. I mean it's just that what I don't like about this, let me look at it this way, disciplines and the police is that they tend to say what is music and what is noise? They tend to say what is discourse and what is nearly gibberish? And when rock music first emerged it's true that people didn't say "I don't like that kind of music." They said "That's not music", they said "That's just noise." And it required the kind of resistance to break with that disciplining ear which have a great deal of societal sort of wherewithal behind it to get to the point now where rock music is, particularly more than the mainstream, it's kind of what defines what's noise and what's music only. I'm not sure that's the answer to your question but that would be one way of seeing how that normativity between what is in terms of the discipline what is acceptable and what's not mandatory and what is taboo.

Scott: Yeah but it is an interesting quandary when you say that we got to throw out 99.9% of art doesn't count and we're going to only…

Stephen: I think…

Scott: No, no, but I think the percentage maybe accurate and then I think but that is a kind of interesting circumstance right where you're discounting them also a high percentage of what calls itself art. And the reason I say that is because at some point you think why do we hold onto this term right because it almost like…

Stephen: Totally.

Scott: It almost becomes a default term for lack of a better one or something because certainly there's so many other what would you call them people that have gone extra disciplinary in different fields rock and roll or dance or poetry or farming or just on religious in some way.

Stephen: Yep.

Scott: In some ways it becomes something that their discipline didn't want them to be. Does this make sense?

Stephen: Yeah. No I think that's the most fundamental. I think that may even be the most fundamental question which we have to address. And I guess one of the questions we want to address in 2011 because as you probably Plausible Artworld is going to transform to some extent into of low words. And the first word that we have to attend to is the art itself because as you just said we're giving that word such an incredible semantic burden we have overburdened it to such an extent that it's almost like the landscape that Karen Andreasyan was looking at it's going to collapse and thunder. You can't shed that much meaning on one three letter one syllable word because the way you and I probably use the word art and the way most other people use it are so at odds with one another that we're making that three letter word stretch from miles and miles.

And I don't know for how long that could be done and what's going to happen when that collapse at first? Well my answer is why do I trickle into the word art, why don't I just grow up and say extra disciplinary practices or find something maybe a little cooler than that but something on those lines? Well one is that I'm kind of low to leave the monopoly of the definition of the word art to those people whose usage of it I find so particularly uncongenial. So maybe I'm waiting for them to give up the word or maybe I just think that if I use the word in my way and you use it in your way and they use it in their way we'll see in some point what will happen. After all meanings of words change over time. But I entirely agree with you that, and I think it's a wonderful question, whether it really make sense if we just don't sound like zealots at a certain point clinging on these words I've described, which actually have more or less shaken themselves free of the yoke. So art exerts their historical condition of plausible is to do to the fact that art does have a history and every art practice towards certain aesthetic and position making have to kind of reference back to that history.

Nato: But certainly Scott brought up a good point when he talked about, I mean it all sounds sort of crass but why not just be simple about it, to talk about he mentioned Africa but let's just talk about the kind of colonialist position of art as a framework right. And that there are of course art extra disciplinary culture phenomena in resistance to power that aren't coming out of that lineage whatsoever certainly, that in fact had to produce. I'm sure there's been versions of ontological walkscapes in colonialist positions because those were the necessary forms in order to resist the dominant positions put upon people that didn't come out of like an art lineage. Does that make sense?

Scott: Like Ghandi for example.

Nato: Like Ghandi, Ghandi's a genie because…

Stephen: You're right. No, no I think Ghandi is a great example. I think the great example Karen Andreasyan has mentioned that many times. It's true who can rival, I mean what performance artist can ever rival Andy's watch across lineage.

Scott: Hey Stephen I hate to interrupt you. Now we have 10 more minutes left almost exactly.

Stephen: Okay.

Scott: And Sam was able to get online either through his phone or some other way and he's trying to call so.

Stephen: Okay.

Scott: Can we just bookmark this and we can have a super short sharp chat with Sam about Red 76 for a few minutes.

Stephen: Great. Yes that's great but I would like to continue at some point that discussion with Nato because it's something that really – I'm improvising Andy again I'm really interested in learning the…

Scott: Okay let me just talk to him for a second and then emerge our calls. Hey Sam can you hear us?

Sam: Hi.

Scott: Hello. Can you hear us okay? Let's try this hey Sam.

Sam: Hello.

Scott: Hey, hey, hey.

Sam: Can you hear me?

Scott: Yes. That is an awesome picture. So hey I'm going to add you to this other audio chat that's already going on. There's just a few people on the call. Does it sound good?

Sam: Yeah I'm going to cut out again, hopefully not.

Scott: Okay. Well we'll give it a shot.

Sam: Okay.

Scott: And call you back in a just a sec, call you back right now.

Sam: Okay.

Scott: Hey Sam.

Sam: Hello.

Scott: So now we're aligned with, well on Skype anyway with Matthew Flatt, Greg Slanton also from Basekamp, Stephen Wright and us there's a number of people in the room right now, including Parker who you can hear. How's it going? We've got about 10 minutes. Okay we lost Sam again we're going to try him one more time. We're going to give this a shot because today is a little strange but.

Sam: Hello again.

Scott: Hey again. So we'll give it one more shot. If the connection is still really terrible we can just try it again another time or we can talk for a few. Can you hear me or is it just like – oh it is really bad.

Sam: Let's try but the audio is pretty bad.

Scott: You know what we'd love to talk to you dude and I think we should probably do it on another time and make sure that all connections are totally solid so that we don't have a frustrating time. In fact I lost you. Everybody else on the line just hand tight for a second, because that took five minutes and if we do that again then we're over so. Okay you know what we might as well continue on with our talk guys for the next five minutes or so because no use lamenting over bad networks.

Stephen: Mine is pretty good. There's a lot of interference on yours that's for sure. Now it's clear.

Scott: Yeah that was just Parker. Oh the interference before was it [inaudible 1:21:42]?

Stephen: No it's electronic interference.

Scott: Oh I think it was because there was dual calls going on.

Stephen: Okay. Well Nato maybe you want to go back to your question you were just in the midst of asking because maybe you had an answer as well.

Nato: I don't have an answer but I do understand the problems a little bit in so much as I keep trying to think about how to not completely – I mean the word art has such baggage too as much as neutral and it is western and it is part of a kind of condition, so it's like I'm always – and even just thinking about in the United States just thinking about how the arts are very racialized and how it breaks down in terms of class and race in the United States. And so my allegiance to the term is very fraught I suspect. Sometimes I'm like it's really good because it's a very broad umbrella to bring a lot of people together, other times I think it's such a limited kind of space that it actually produces more problems than solutions. So this is just to say that I'm very torn about its usage often. Sometimes I find it productive and sometimes I find it reductive. So I'm not saying anything. But I do think those problems need to inform the way we think about what these kinds of ontological practices can be. Because of course there are certainly like when Discerto wrote about people walking in the city in a sense it was kind of like a minute version of an ontological walkspace right.

Stephen: Yeah definitely. Yeah.

Nato: And that was not coming out of the lineage of art that was just coming out of the lineage of people resisting the powers that be in their everyday life. So I guess it's like trying to come up with a language for that would be really productive.

Stephen: For sure. I think it's a really – it's more than a fair question it's really kind of a crucial one given what's happened to art in the last little while. Even if you take a kind of relatively, I mean interesting but relatively mainstream art proposition, like you take Martha Rossler's Library that Efflux first of all setup in the lower east  [inaudible 1:24:32] traveled around. At first I thought well that's, and I still do, that it was a really cool project because it raises a whole bunch of issues. It is the first school library of an artist, it's a very good library, it's a lot of rare books in there that you don't always have access to, and you do a free photocopy machine. It had a real significant use study; no doubt about that.

And I was thinking well it has a kind of a double value because not only does it have use value as a library but it's also a proposition of a library. You're always in your mind having this idea that its self-understanding is its art. So it's kind of twice as good as just the ordinary real thing. But someone said to me "Well no in fact it's kind of useless as a library because it's always in the back of your mind that this is Martha Rossler's Library. And so you can't actually use it properly because you're constantly like looking around to see what's art among people when you know there's nothing arty about the thing.

So I think what you're saying is when something has, when it comes out of as you call the lineage of art or has self-understanding of art is it enriched back or is it just sort of weird. I mean is it weirding us out or is it actually doubling our perception or our perceptive intentional. And I think that's a really [inaudible 1:26:07] of one example of Martha Rossler's Library but I think all of these projects that have doubled ontological status because they come from the lineage of art it all raise that question. And honestly I don't know what the answer to it is. I know it's an answer maybe there's answer in different, maybe sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. But I know that people like our friend Demetrius Selinsky from [inaudible 1:26:31] that's one of the key arguments that he makes for not supporting that kind of art of double ontological study. He likes art that is fore grounded as art and that's the reason why he thinks it can have powerful political potential.

Now that's not my option in art at all. It isn't something that I, but I completely hear that argument and I think that when you talk about art that's been like so significantly racial life and in that way over determined and classified until one does have to wonder if when you find out it's art it's kind of off putting and confusing. I don't know.

Scott: Oh you know what guess what time it is.

Stephen: I know it's after 2:00.

Scott: It's two after yeah. So you know…

Stephen: It's two after 2:00 I mean for me.

Scott: For you. Well it's three after 8:00 now. So I would really like sometime soon to clarify, actually we have to clarify what do we mean by propositional? I mean in the sense that okay it's proposing something but if one of the most common parts, or the sort of components of this double ontological status that art has is that it's also some kind of a proposition, I often describe it as that it's injected with meaning or some kind of symbolic value. But I think you're describing something very perspective. You know often when something is a proposition it's meant to be well what does it actually proposing that a thing could be redone again or is it proposing it to us for consideration?

And I just think we might want to clarify that because depending if we're talking about it's a proposal for our consideration then we're talking about the contemplative value again which is definitely there. But if we're talking about a proposal for this could be something, meaning like it could be done again, it could be expanded or it could be, then we're talking about the kind of definition of plausibility that we often get asked. Like well do you mean that it's reproducible, do you mean that it's expandable, things like that. I think we might want to try to tease that out sometime soon.

Stephen: Yeah. I don't know if we can tease it out but we can certainly play around with it for sure.

Nato: Let's have some playtime with it.

Scott: Yeah.

Stephen: Hey listen, great talking to you guys. It kind of turned out better than I was thinking when I heard that Karen sort of left us between a rock and a hard place.

Scott: Yeah I opened up with a very drastic kind of news but.

Stephen: Yeah. Okay well anyway say hi to him when he does finally see fit to show up.

Scott: I think we'll never get to meet Karen actually.

Stephen: Is that true?

Scott: Yeah I think so unless he feels like meeting me for lunch tomorrow or something because you know.

Stephen: Okay. Well so I'm checking out because I got to get up early tomorrow morning because that's what I'm supposed to be doing here. Good talking to you Nato thanks for your questions.

Nato: Okay. It's good to hear your voice.

Scott: Until next time.

Stephen: Yeah well I think next week we're going to – I think let's confirm with Urban Tactic rather than risking a bit of confusion like this week. Does that make more sense?

Scott: Okay it's a deal.

Stephen: Okay talk to you soon. Bye.

Scott: Okay. Bye.

Stephen: Goodnight.

Scott: Goodnight.