dis-positiv as a Role Model, In: Through the 'Net. Studies in Jochen Gerz' "Anthology of Art", Cologne 2003

Art and Discourse
One remarkable development in modern art is the fusion of different disciplines. This fusion is primarily an internal process. Sculpture, for instance, used to be a discipline that strove to produce and reproduce classical models, in which the human form served as the mimetic basis. Now, however, sculpture is at the intersection of both, fine arts and performance art, and includes hybrid elements from disciplines as diverse as photography, painting, architecture, video etc.

At the same time, however, sculpture can maintain a close affiliation to „classical“ works. Today’s artists are no longer limited to a particular material or traditionally defined fields of activity; rather, an artist must master several traditional and non-traditional artistic disciplines. Innovation in modern art is the daughter of many parents.

At the same time, this fusion is an external process. Until recently, there was a large industry that contemplated and commented upon art and then processed it and mediated it to the public. Today, this congenial approach has given way to a more cooperative one in which criticism no longer plays a peripheral role but rather both effects and interacts with art. These two micro cultures - production and mediation of art - often clash in their prejudicial differences, but live in a very close symbiosis.

Theory considers treating a painting qua painting as obsolete and treating an object qua object as historical. And so do the artists. In answer to the historicizing (and discriminating) tendency of the theorist, the artist has developed a series of self-reflective strategies. As a result, 20th Century art, to a large degree, cannot be understood without critical theory. And so, art now serves the additional function of providing interpretation. To warrant putting every-day items in a museum requires an intellectual analysis of those items. Duchamp was an intellectual, as was Beuys, as is Haacke. The artist has become a theorist.

Artists have painted white (Manzoni, Ryman) and black (Malevitch) pictures; they have made socially conscious (Beuys) and immaterial sculptures; and they have posed questions about the progress of art (Nauman) or the expandability of its materials. It is no longer the object that is at the center, but the meta-object or dis-positive. The artist brings forth the work of art and the critic locates it, but the dis-positive is governed by two equal, competing and overlapping concepts: art as theory and art as production.

As modern art increasingly changes into theory, it became appropriate not so much to exhibit
a specific object, but to present the discourse itself as the topic of an exhibition. That was the beginning of the exhibition project dis-positiv. The goal of dis-positiv, which began in spring 2000, is to challenge, to further construct and to deconstruct one aspect of modern art: its increasing overlap with discourse. These seven-day exhibitions will not focus on specific works of art, but on a number of art historians, art theorists and curators who will themselves be placed behind glass to serve as embodiments of their discourse.

The Exhibition Project dis-positiv
In 1998 I developed an exhibition project about the Future of Art and it`s relation to discourse which was realized under the patronage of the Austrian UNESCO-Commission since 2000 at different venues.

dis-positiv understands itself as an artistic statement addressing the question of the future of modern art in its characterizing contexts. The exhibition and its publications deal with the way in which the historization of art, contemporary art theory and the art institution influence the production of the art object (and in reverse).

An exhibition catalogue (as a kind of a newspaper/magazine) is accompanying the project at each venue. It presents the discussions and controversies that form the foundation of the exhibition. An interactive web site (http://www.dis-positiv.org) functions as documentation and archive, allowing a wider public participation in the discussion and debate.The project started in Vienna, Academy of the Fine Arts (May 2-8, 2000), moving on to Cologne, Schnitt Ausstellungsraum (October 13-14, 2000), to Bregenz, Magazin4 (November 6-12, 2000) and to Berlin, staatsbankberlin (April 2-9 2003), and is in planning for New York for Spring 2004 and other venues.

The duration of the exhibition per location until now was about a week. The exhibition was running 4 hours daily combining two different units with two hours each. The architectural frame of the exhibition consists of a surface of 230 square feet (70 square meters) mounted Plexiglas that separates viewers from theoreticians. On each day of the exhibition, one or several theorists are being present in the exhibition space, separated from the visitors yet connected by telephone and Internet communication.

The art theorists, critics and curators function as objects of art themselves. The location determines the choice of those exhibited and thereby also determines the discourse. In this respect each location will shed a different light on the contemporary situation.

To enable the exhibited curator or theorists to do his/her work, an office situation is provided; with no specific pose for the curator/theoretician to take, he/she can move freely, sit or read. At the same time any sort of self-presentation is welcome and will only support the performing intention of dis-positiv.

The theoretician on view will be given the opportunity to present his/her idea of the future of art as he/she expects or hopes it to be. This statement is to be emitted by speakerphones into the viewing space. The statements is also be made accessible in written form in the especially published magazine and on the website.

Each exhibited person will carry a web cam on his/her shoulder enabling the viewer to adopt their point of view and transferring it to the website of dis-positiv by streaming video (http://www.dis-positiv.org).

An interactive website contains the complete number of statements from all locations. As a medium, not bound to specific places, the website guarantees participation of a broader public and enables a comparison on an international level.

A catalogue containing the positions of artists and critics in a more or less equal number accompanies each venue. The combination of having art critics and artists commenting the issue is an important aspect of the communicative intention of the project.

The exhibition project dis-positiv takes place at several European and US venues. At each location, theoreticians of the particular area are invited for participation.

In the Winter 2000 we were planning an exhibition of dis-positiv in the École Normal Superieure des Beaux Arts. For several months we were contacting partners, artists and theorists. Amongst others I visited Jochen Gerz and invited him to provide an artist statement about the leading question of dis-positiv. Jochen was very interested in the concept and confirmed to contribute a statement about the future of art within its relation to discourse. The planning of the Parisian realization is not yet completed. While I was concentrating on the Berlin realization I came across the first announcement of Anthology of the Art in the Kunstzeitung from July 2001 and I was very flattered to realize that ideas of dis-positiv get disseminated on a different platform.

Reflecting our Strategies
dis-positiv is an artistic statement (installation) understanding itself (1) as an ironic comment on criticism (x is obsolete, y is overdone, z is a copy), on iconoclasm and the continuous drive for novelty (does art always have to be brand new? Then art could be a sort of a brand, as it is in fashion). And (2) as a vision: If we define culture as the sum of local activities, the question of a global perspective arises. The problem is, that we don't have a global perspective, but we need one.

Reflecting and re-reflecting our strategies in art production, art theory, and art industry, in culture as well as in society or politics is a part of this project. We start at a local point to get a broader perspective by moving from one local point to another. dis-positiv is a roaming platform for ideas.

My own position in the network of dis-positiv is as an instigator. Throughout the working process, I turned into a complexificator, which is a role I was aiming for.