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Maybe it would be better if we worked in groups of three? Part 1 of 2: The Discursive


Some people are the motor of the event. Like an animator bringing characters to life. A character is drawn and through this process is free to behave in whatever way the animator wants it to. At our event you don’t know exactly who animates who, but it is definitely taking place. Everyone is part of the same story, but with separate lives. They are in the style of recent Manga comics from Japan, where each character has a complex formulation that frequently changes from episode to episode or from story to story. Narratives are stretched and the stories have no specific end. The active people sometimes prefix a name with “our,” as in “our Wallace” or “our Hugh.” Each participant could be the son or the daughter of another person at the party. You never notice this, but these relationships give some of the interactions between people, an aim, and a story.
There are also passive groups at the event. Maybe they are just visitors observing the party. They don’t react much. They read a lot, talk a great deal and sometimes exchange pictures. In the same way that children make collections of things, the passive groups pass pictures around. It is not clear what they say to each other. Mumbling a bit. Conversations that are always difficult to overhear.

—Philippe Parreno, Snow Dancing, 1995

A discursive model of praxis has developed within the critical art context over the last twenty years. It is the offspring of critical theory and improvised, self-organized structures. It is the basis of art that involves the dissemination of information. It plays with social models and presents speculative constructs both within and beyond traditional gallery spaces. It is indebted to conceptual art’s reframing of relationships, and it requires decentered and revised histories in order to evolve.

If we want to understand tendencies in art, we have to look at the structures that underscore the sharing of ideas. This is especially true when we consider discursive processes to be the base of self-conscious art practice. It is necessary to find a way to describe, map, and analogize the processes that have actually been taking place under the surface of recent models of curating and artistic practice. I’m trying for a moment to get away from anecdotal, local, and geographical relationships to artistic activity and away from “special event” consciousness. At the same time, I want to look at echoes in the culture that might provide a clue to parallel productive techniques.

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