August 9, 2016

Guest Blogger Vanessa Gravenor - This Precarity: Residential Interventions

To be a tourist in the late twentieth century is to invest in a broad range of assumptions about the travel experience. Notions of escape, adventure and a return to an Edenic past are pervasive to the language of tourism, and the objects gathered during travel protract the sense of being in exotic and remote places. 
Pamela Lee, Forgetting the Art World

A Residency is like a one night stand with the other, then after you are done, you are like fuck it. 
Indrani Ashe, artist, colleague, and beloved friend 

At the core of having an artistic praxis these days, seems to be the hypocritical and paradoxical experience of travel. Travels to the Middle East, India, Brooklyn, Berlin and back. Artists are mobilized and move around the globe, bringing back their tokens of found places like colonial artifacts, endemic to indigenous populations. I, myself, am certainly guilty of this practice. Reading Pamela Lee post graduation during a part time nanny gig I was using to fund my critical writing, and less than part time visitor’s service, coat check job at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, I uncovered the paradox of the career, the paradox that several writers are calling the precariat. The precariat in me. 


Artists leaving the Uferstudios, Indrani Ashe and Sonia Barrett

The pecariat’s paradoxical desire is to move, always keep moving. Yet, unfortunately, these movements do not yield a freedom, but an entrapment. One of these freedoms is the residency, where artists are mobilized by state funds in order to visit different exotic or already institutionalized places to create social interventions. In these residency programs, one often is urged to make sound, walking installations, in order to experience the city anew. Not all works produced within the residency contain these hackneyed tactics, yet, as fellow precariat Indrani Ashe quipped to me, residency art is always akin to vacation art, for the resident never lives situated within a place, but moves above the currents of culture. 
This “authentic interaction” within the city seems to be the battle of our times. Certainly, the 20th century artist was instructed to forget community, nation, and family in order to become an artist. This, in theatrical term, is what we call the picora, or the ever traveling salesman. 
The picaro is a character that has no interiority. Historically, it would be the traveling actor, the anti-hero/ rogue who would travel from city to city and perform a type of theatre. The picaro lives by its “wits” according to google, in a “corrupt society.” The picaro rejects fixed identity, pasts, the mother, the father, and family for these are things that would trap him or her within an enclosure, disabling mobility. The picaro occupies the space on the exterior, the margins and pierces through society’s interior. 

Why is it that the current precariat has so much in common with the picaro? So many times, I have encountered this picaro figure within the contemporary art world, and laughed and his (for the picaro is usually male) untimeliness. 

“I have no name, you see,” the picaro/contemporary artists says through his or her trickster teeth. 


Les Enfants De Paradis, or a.k.a. your everyday picaro

The language of global capitalism is such that it is only these figures who can live, not on the margins, but on the tops of academic society. The professor travels back and forth between cities, entrapped by his/her/their own creative capital, which won’t let them leave the city, their art career, but the city cannot supply them with financial stability, so the artist need to travel to second tier, third tier cities. Students are left with these maternal figures coming and going into and out of their academic lives, making us develop abandonment syndromes. “I had to get a year of therapy after one of my years in college from all the trauma my professor gave me.” A typical precariat sigh, one I have embarrassedly uttered, showing my shameful privilege. 

In his book, Your Everyday Art World, Lane Relyea discusses this turn towards networked living of the artist. This networked living, of course, has its utopian facets, for it can also facilitate communities and collectivities. Yet the collective nowadays takes on this temporary autonomous fashion, which has nothing to do with communal life, but everything to do with the privileged infidel, or the pirate, who, very much like the picaro!, has no interiority or allegiances, thus cannot begin to start facilitating any sort of community or network! 

I cannot afford a temporary autonomous zone, a fellow creative class said to me slyly, referring to our collective involvement. 

Magdalena Mitterhofer and Artur Cruscsz in Processed Being, Transart Triennale, 2016


Vanessa Gravenor



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