"The format encourages artists to collaborate: a Vietnamese artist will start working with a Danish, a Polish with a Greek, a known artist with a younger, an artist will collaborate with researchers, philosophers, journalists and art historians - all meeting each other under the clock just before deadline and working together. EMERGENCY ROOM is some kind of rendezvous."
"Another of my slogan in Athens exhibited was "Documenta is the Botox of capitalism". Everyone wants to look like a good person in this circus and press releases are not concepts they are seductions letters. They seduce in order to fool us better, to be more sexy and to exploit us/them better. They promote cars as ecological and then show casted activists to express about climate change. We don't question the sending of tanks, probably used in riots against women-protesters in Bahrain, but we have an art show about gender. It is a pickpocket method."
"A “critic show” can thus be a setting for fake criticism that gives us an illusion of being critique and having the freedom of thinking when we, in reality, are directed in a certain direction controlled by external forces and often interests of economic or political nature. This fake criticism within the contemporary art today could be the source of apathy in our society. If the lack of real concern or interest in making a change infiltrates the art community, and what we consider to be the advance guard force in our society falls asleep, we might risk that our world takes a direction of narrow-minded and almost totalitarian thinking."
"ART WILL CHANGE THE WORLD but art need a strategy to succeed. I believe in a category called emergency art which has the goal to change the world. "
Author: Olivera Z. Mijuskovic Special thanks to Tijana Miskovic, curator of the Copenhagen Biennale
At the beginning of April, the state officials of the Hellenic Republic and Germany have opened Documenta 14 exhibition in Athens. This year exhibition is co-hosted by the two countries. This multimedia exhibition started in 1955 in the city of Kassel in Germany. More than 150 artists present their artworks, performances as well as their installations in Athens from April 8 to July 16. I have that honor to select one of the artists for an interview for our magazine. I will present you the work of the worlds` famous artists Thierry Geoffroy Colonel.
Who is Thierry?
#DocumentaSceptic will through artworks in a gallery exhibition and in public space be addressing questions like "Is Documenta Dangerous? ", "Why Athens?", “Do artists have a role or a function?".
Artist Thierry Geoffroy Colonel has been working on questioning biennales and other cultural managed events like Documentasince 1989. Biennalist is one of his Emergency Art Format studying and exposing biennales concepts. Often those huge art events promote themselves with topics including critical goals, d14 will work with: "Learning From Athens" andBiennalist will through #DocumentaSceptic aim to analyze and express about the motivations, the context and the unfolding of the event concept.
1. Mr. Colonel you are French-born, but your biography tell us that you are true cosmopolitan. How was born the artist in you, and how travel and different cultures affect your creativity?
I am an artist because I have many things I like to discuss about. Ten years traveling and hitchhiking, have given me many thoughts and observations, as well as different methods of observations and analyze. In fact, I feel an irresistible energy to express. One of my phrase is "tout m'inspire" (everything inspires me). I can simply not watch football match by others because I want to play. Travels are extra inspiring but probably not necessary.
2. You are well-known among artist, art theorists and among art lovers as well, and thanks your manifest from 1989 entitled “Manifeste – Les differents Types de moving Exhibitions”. It was about “five types of moving exhibitions”. How did you manage to adhere to this manifesto, or whether the art is quite different today?
I am proud of having written a manifesto which is still what I do and probably will continue doing . If you look at this manifesto, it is even a concept frame for what later became Facebook. The 1989 manifesto is about mobility, flexibility and the capacity to adopt, this is why, later, also the Emergency Room manifesto could be born from the 1989 moving exhibition one. A manifesto is the Oeuvre and the rest. The oeuvres are what come as a result.
3. For me, as a philosopher and art theorist, it`s very interesting your “Emergency Room” – a concept to allow artists to respond to current events quickly. Sartre talked about the importance of engaged art, it`s some kind of his definition of freedom. Let us know what is “Emergency Room” for you?
Emergency Room is an art format and specially designed space for exhibitions changing every day, where professional artists are stimulated to express about the most alarming emergencies of today. It is a place where the public and the media meet artists’ intuitive, advance guard and sharp visions of the world. The hard and ultra fast conditions of constant daily production is generating artistic experiments and new forms of artistic expression. It is a laboratory for new types for artistic collaborations across different aesthetic directions, cultural backgrounds and generations. Approximately 450 artists, including recognized international artists have participated in its in 8 institutions. In Emergency Room artists are thermometers for detecting, measuring and giving diagnosis of the dysfunctions of the society. Artists are experts in capturing alarming issues immediately or even in advance - "in advance of the broken arm". They have the ability to spot and unveil what may be an issue tomorrow and have important implications for our future. With their art works they are not only able to treat emergencies but also to prevent accidents. In order important artistic visions to reach a large attentive audience as fast as possible, what artist feel now has to be exhibited in real-time - before it is too late. Through Emergency Room, artists can (if they wish) react every day and train collectively their "Awareness Muscle" (as a group, as an art movement or with the public). By being an exhibition alive, and commenting on burning events. By stimulating the immediate artistic expression before the moment has passed and it’s too late, it becomes an energy generator for artists’ enthusiasm. It is an art format that connects artists in new constellations across different cultures and art disciplines. Emergency Room deliberately chooses to mix different artist; for instance cross-media artists are sharing space with abstract painters, sculptors (biodiversity). The format encourages artists to collaborate: a Vietnamese artist will start working with a Danish, a Polish with a Greek, a known artist with a younger, an artist will collaborate with researchers, philosophers, journalists and art historians - all meeting each other under the clock just before deadline and working together. Emergency Room is some kind of rendezvous. As a caravan - like platform for moving exhibitions and by activating the audience and artists from all over the world, Emergency Room is a growing community that creates new connections between the artists. Emergency Room is thus not only a venue for displaying of artworks, but also as a fast growing movement. From earlier realizations of Emergency Room we already have a well-developed collaborative networks and followers from France, Greece, Italy, Germany, Vietnam and other countries. New artists will thus be involved in the international artistic environment around it and thereby get new international connections. In Emergency Room the Aesthetics of Emergency can be experienced, Aesthetics of Emergency is a special artistic approach that results in a new form of aesthetics, rhetoric, methodology, communication and organization. In order to be defined as Aesthetics of Emergency, an artwork has to be presented in real time, before the moment has passed and it's too late. The time aspect is important in the Emergency Rooms. The art has to be in time in order to capture the now, which makes new quality criteria, such as the pertinence. Pertinence becomes a more important criterion than the skills or execution. Artists develop new unexpected art forms that can be studied as aesthetics of the emergency in the Delay Museum. Aesthetics Emergency can be experienced in the Delay Museum and its collection of artworks, that were once exhibited in the Emergency Room. This collection includes works from the last 10 years collected in different Emergency Rooms like those in New York, Athens, Paris, Berlin, Hanoi, Naples, Copenhagen and Wroclaw. 450 artists are represented in the collection and their works were shown in real time, expressing for example about homophobia in Russia already in 2011 in Hanoi, financial crises in Greece while Athens was burning in 2007 and Iraq war in 2007 in MoMA PS1. The artworks from the Delay Museum collection can be organized by the institution curators in different ways and be read through different topics like global war, xenophobia, financial crisis, global warming, Iran-USA relationship, North and South Korea and surveillance society. The works can also be classified by aesthetic methods (such as only work done in collaborations or work only done by abstract painters, expressing in outrage and precise way), geographically and time-based (around specific events, like Arab Spring, financial crises etc.) In this way a curator can make an exhibition with works borrowed from Delay Museum showing what happened at the time of artwork production and evaluating the pertinence of the artistic expression. Physically the Delay Museum can be constructed as a specially built room (like at European Culture Congress in Wroclaw) or integrated in the already existing architecture of the institution like at MOMA /PS1. Even an insertion of Delay Museum artworks in the permanent collection of the museum is possible.
4. Athens is the main center of civilization thanks to ancient Greek world and democracy, philosophy, theatre, art, etc. You devoted a part of your artworks precisely to this city. Athens is maybe and symbol of the global economic crisis and suffer of ordinary people. Your concept “Biennalist” is closely linked with this story I guess. One of the artworks asks us (or politician) “Why do capitalism wants to looks humanistic?”Can you tell us more about “Documenta in Athens-Why Athens?”
Documenta wants to look like a renaissance operation (a kind of a charity organization) while, it in reality, is serving the expanding growing need of the industry. Documenta is a big publicity for companies and political ideology they are serving. It is a mascaraed where art is used as a cover-up . Capitalism uses art to pretend like being worried about individual human beings. Contemporary art is used to give an illusion of kindness. Contemporary art is used to give the illusion of dog watching. Another of my slogan in Athens exhibited was "Documenta is the Botox of capitalism". Everyone wants to look like a good person in this circus and press releases are not concepts they are seductions letters. They seduce in order to fool us better, to be more sexy and to exploit us/them better. They promote cars as ecological and then show casted activists to express about climate change. We don't question the sending of tanks, probably used in riots against women-protesters in Bahrain, but we have an art show about gender. It is a pickpocket method. We take the attention on this side to take better on the other Documenta serves some entertaining art shaking our emotions meanwhile another messages circulate, encouraging more pollution, more production of weapons, more unfairness. Since You are a philosopher you will probably be interested to know that the main production of weapons in Kassel will be a tank called Kant by coincidence or cynicism the industry of war will be named after the philosopher who wrote a proposition for perpetual peace. Capitalism want to look good because he can only a profit if we agree with its value, so that values have to seem good appealing to make us pray on our knees. I think the artists should have an important place in our society as free and independent minds that can produce vital reflections about sociopolitical conditions of the time we live in. Unfortunately often artists’ critical and important reflections are being used or misused for other purposes such as the promotion of products, gentrification, and cultural colonialism. In that case, the unique role of the artist, as the one independently and critically reflecting our society, becomes a simplified and bounded function with a purpose and task dictated by others. The only way the artist can avoid that his/ her role becomes a function is by constantly questioning the structures his or her art is being presented within. Biennials and big-scale exhibitions like Documenta should, as the most influential contemporary art structures, be a natural object for investigation. We have to be critical towards a “critical show”. Documenta is considered to be a Vatican of contemporary art today, carried by a belief in the critical potential of art. Documenta promotes itself as the ideal art platform for critical thinking and political postures, which is why decision makers and intelligentsia of the art world, pilgrimage to Documenta in search of the latest tendencies. Documenta and other big art events such as Venice Biennale have thus an enormous international impact and a great power to influence the public opinion. This influence should be evaluated by participating artists as well as the audience, who should not only absorb the messages communicated to them through the curatorial strategies, without being skeptical about their motivation. They should not fall asleep but be critical and constantly question the structure. A show labeled as “critic show” can give the public a feeling of being critical, but it can, at the same time, be drawing the public attention away from big and serious issues that authorities don’t want to create critic around.
Questioning the goodness of the contemporary.
In the world of contemporary art, staging-good-intentions is one of very new methods for protection against critique. Often a profile based on inclusion and interaction is being created to give an image of openness. Most of the contemporary art exhibitions are thus considered open, good, even humanistic platforms and are as such wrapped in a certain kind of unquestionable goodness, which keeps the critique away. When the curator of Documenta 14 presents the good intentions of the curatorial teams and touching stories that the audience gets emotionally moved by, he is creating a stage; a dramatic setup, which is difficult to criticize. This stage of goodness and caring is lifting the curatorial team above any critique. Their mission is protected because no one dares to criticize a good intention. Those who do so, get labeled as being against the good. Their critic would most probably not be embraced as constrictive contribution helping strengthen Documenta 14`s self-critique, but rather like a disturbing element or an almost terroristic action against the contemporary art world. But there should be critiqued of the staged goodness of the contemporary art, because it can be a serious cover-up for bad actions. Like white or green washing. With one hand we destroy something and with the other we try to fix the damage minimally, so our overall image stays positive and clean. So, even though Documenta 14 gives its stage for sharing of such as a number of real authentic Syrian refugee stories, we cannot know if there aren’t 10 or 100 times more refugees being deported because of Documenta 14 being in Athens and German interests in Greece. This image of caring has to be questioned and followed up with a great deal of self-criticism, which I don’t see yet in the program of d14. To navigate within these contemporary art structures, the art institutions, the artist, and the art thinkers are furthermore recurrently victims of an ongoing self-censorship. The self-censorship makes it difficult to reach the authentic and honest artistic intention. What is exhibited is just one part of the story while the other, at least as important part, has been auto-censured. Auto-censorship is more difficult to localize or fight then the direct censorship since it is an embedded control function the contemporary art is carrying in the DNA of its structure. It is more invisible than and thus more sophisticated and complex one, which often has an even stronger control effect. In Documenta 14 Athens it is my impression that the curatorial team has tried to involve as many artists as possible either by involving them in the organization, inviting them to showing their art or to help other artists. By activating big part of the art community in Athens, the curatorial team gains sympathy and indirectly they make sure that very few artists will have critical points of view towards documenta. Instead of posing critical questions to Document`s structure and influence, most of the artists would be busy being part of and celebrating it. Even if they see dysfunctions, they would probably do self-censorship, choosing not to talk about it and instead focus in other directions. A “critic show” can thus be a setting for fake criticism that gives us an illusion of being critique and having the freedom of thinking when we, in reality, are directed in a certain direction controlled by external forces and often interests of economic or political nature. This fake criticism within the contemporary art today could be the source of apathy in our society. If the lack of real concern or interest in making a change infiltrates the art community, and what we consider to be the advance guard force in our society falls asleep, we might risk that our world takes a direction of narrow-minded and almost totalitarian thinking.
5. Do you think that art can save the world? What is your message?
Yes. Yes, but art need a strategy to succeed. I believe in a category called Emergency Art which has goal to change the world.
6. Tell us about your new projects.
For the next 3 months I have an exhibition called: #DocumentaSCEPTIC/"Always Question the Structure " in Copenhagen at SABSAY, your public can find formats on this link and in September 2017-with curator Tijana Miskovic, we launch - Copenhagen Biennale.