Over the past few months the Solvent Collective, a group of 10 UTD alumni, undergraduate and graduate students, has been planning Working Title, an ongoing installation at Ro2 Art’s downtown project space. They kicked off the project this past Saturday and will be inviting two additional “generations” of artists to continue to add to their installation over the next two weeks. Art&Seek asked some of the artists involved for their thoughts on the project and the process and importance of collaboration in the Dallas art community. We hope they and others will continue to check in as the project continues.
Working Title, aims to bring otherwise unrelated artists together, collaborating on an evolutionary installation, and seeks to respond to several panel discussions and multiple articles and blog posts have been asking the same question: is Dallas ready to be an Art city? And, what can we do to help it along? While galleries have been established and the general art presence in Dallas has grown steadily larger over the past few decades, it seems the community surrounding the arts is still sorely lacking. Artists appear factionalized, collectors aren’t ready to collect emerging artists, and while some think our “radical regionalism” may have died with the internet, many artists are finding themselves desperately seeking representation in the established art centers in hope of being noticed.
In order for Dallas to take the next step to becoming a more established art scene, a collaborative and open relationship between both artists and the public must be embraced, community interaction must be encouraged. Working Title seeks to spark this interaction by prompting collective and collaborative action between multiple otherwise unrelated Dallas artists as well as the the other aspects of our community: viewers, writers and collectors.
As one in a billion, an ant in a massive colony, the artist pushes forth, triumphantly avant-garde style, into the unknown, staking out his niche, his history. Yet he exists in a muffled, overcrowded, all-encompassing world of multiplicity, do-overs, and re-appropriation of everything. Art for art’s sake, art for self-expression, for commentary, for whatever whim is wilting under the focus of so many millions of artists that it is blocking us from our next rendezvous as intellectual beings. James Bridle, prophet of the New Aesthetic, says that we should enthusiastically focus on “our collaboration with technology, whether that’s bots, digital cameras or satellites.” While this should be an important element of our next step, it is but a tool to zoom out on the bigger picture: without collaboration, brotherhood, solvency, and most importantly, *community*, the invaluable strides in both fine arts and technologies serve stagnant claims.
As members of the generation that saw the rise of the internet and communication technologies, we must use these changes to positively impact our works, intellect, and lifestyle. Just as modernism bloomed from the blackened rubble of new warfare and mechanical factory lines, we must bloom as harmonious as perfectly tangled vines upon a grid of communication.
Working Title aims to resolve the seemingly unrelated factions of stylistic artistry into a cohesive bond in which the process of work produces the glue of community. Solvent in particular attempts to facilitate the interaction among the local Dallas community in organic, artist+audience-participatory projects. Working Title breaks boundaries of gallery art, inviting the ideas of relational aesthetics to come into play. But also, Working Title aims to take a step away from Relational Art by corralling the social activity to productive artistic activities and turning shared time into art and solution. Kyle Chayka says in a online article about Relational Aesthetics, “the goal of most relational aesthetics art is to create a social circumstance; the viewer experience of the constructed social environment becomes the art. The task of the artist is to become a conduit for this social experience.”
Yet these social happenings can be a bit aimless at times, not utilizing this interaction of artist and public to its fullest advantage. The acts of creating and working together cohere community into a bond that can discuss, elaborate, comment on, and solve local community issues. Combine this with the live dynamic of Working Title (live feed, live sculptural happenings, live portraits, etc), and the technological dynamic (live internet feed, live Facebook portraits, Twitter/Instagram-ization) and it encapsulates a solution to Dallas’s disparate character through the art process.
The problem of modern art is identical to the problem of modern man: that is, how to escape the “terror of history”? As the baggage of historical events piles on, as the wreckage of a calamitous past continues to stretch towards the sun, who would be unjustified in yearning for a retreat—after the fashion of archaic man—into the ahistorical realm of myth and archetype? Conversely, when faced with the monumental accomplishments of Art, arranged in formidable tradition, what arrogance is required of the novice who might dare to add him or herself to its ranks? The horizon of time delimits the possibilities of freedom as it simultaneously discloses the consequences of facticity. Progress binds as it liberates, forcing those aware of their own temporality to contend with a constant stream of new and irreversible events.
In his book The Myth of the Eternal Return, Mircea Eliade postulates the following exchange between archaic man (ahistorical) and modern man (historical):
In the last analysis, modern man, who accepts history or claims to accept it, can reproach archaic man, imprisoned within the mythical horizon of archetypes and repetition, with his creative impotence, or, what amounts to the same thing, his inability to accept the risks entailed by every creative act…To these criticisms raised by modern man, the man of traditional civilizations could reply by a countercriticism that would at the same time be a defense of the type of archaic existence. It is becoming more and more doubtful, he might say, if modern man can make history. On the contrary, the more modern he becomes—that is, without defenses against the terror of history—the less chance he has of himself making history. (156)
Both sides are charged by the other with creative impotence. Modern man is imprisoned by a history of which he is both a part and alienated; archaic man, who retreats from history, is bound to repeat mythic gestures, surrendering his individuality in the process. Yet creativity persists in both cultures. Invention irrupts with astonishing frequency regardless of society’s stance on temporality.
It is best, I believe, to consider Solvent’s new exhibit Working Title as an experiment in the dialectical exchange between freedom and history. When each successive generation of artists steps into the gallery, which option is more likely: that the remains of the previous installations inspire their imaginations or stifle them? As the space is irreversibly filled with the work of previous generations, who have left nothing but the suggestions of the artworks already on display, a situation emerges that tests one’s own willingness and capacity to “make history”. Is history to be considered, in the final analysis, an unimaginable burden or a sacred spring of insight and inspiration? Like Benjamin’s angel of history, blown blindly backwards into the unknown, the artists involved must come to terms with the storm of progress.
Our mechanism of the generational installation provides an eloquent allegory for the growth opportunities we have seen as emerging artists in the Metroplex, as well as offering an interface for more established artists to interact with and understand the nature of our work. As representatives of the Millenial generation, we have integrated the parallel reality of the Internet into our process – pulling content from Facebook, mobilizing social networks, and embracing our audience (perhaps even drawing them into the work) through virtual discourse. The entire installation process is streamed live via our website and thereby exposed, providing insight into the mythology of the artist by connecting the audience to the creation of the work.