Fuck History

13 Oct

History and repetition appear to have been a slight problem for the 20th century man. Never have we seen such a hysterical relation to preservation. Why; what’s good with veteran cars, with vintage sneakers, old buildings? Bulldoze the crap away. Look you don’t become an imperialist just because you want something to go. Just because buildings are old they are not cute or climate friendly, no they are discriminating, fucks ecology (which might be a plus) and stuck is aesthetically repulsive. Move out!

History hasn’t been good, but only through remembering can we avoid making the same mistakes again. A paradox builds on an idea that history proceeds without collapses, without holes, ruptures or radical paradigm shifts, but crawls along the axis of time like a snail leaving a trace behind itself to know how to find the way back home again. Consistently history has left a trace and its presence has faced the future. The trace has had different qualities and sometimes consisted of some slimy goo that made time crawl even slower. There is still a trace but today the snail seems to crawl with the rear-end first and exploring the next cool thing with its ass instead of with its tentacles. Enough of metaphors, I’m not a poet, I’m not an architect from Brazil.

If history is to repeat itself it also has to remain the same, remain at last identical in respect of kind. Repetition, in the sense of history, as well as variation lives on the ability to maintain oneself as one. Thus remembering history not only makes repetition possible but insists on its repetition. Obviously change is not enough. Change is gradual and not a breach. Change is positive and not connected to some terror, it’s open and kind of a better version. Change in 2010 equals upgrade, and repetition is inscribed so handy. The way out of the trap of repetition implies a bigger risk, not a change within history, or the historical development, what is needed is to change what history itself is. History as we know it is open and forgiving, sympathetic and violent enough to disgust us, but never bad enough to make us kick it out of the system.
Stop making reconstructions. Just stop it. Dance and choreography is in a bad enough state as it is. We don’t need to dive back into its more or less tacky past, it is already horrible and it will not get better if we turn to already used material. Let it rot.

Whatever you think you are doing when you resurrect older pieces, when you do Trisha Brown’s “Accumulations” with your students or force them to dance something so embarrassing as “Trio A”? Every time they dance some of the so admirable 60s stuff they are not operating here and now, every time you have your students do contraction they are not doing here and now. Reconstruction is nice, it’s sympathetic and good. In school it violates the students and makes them admire, but as the person reconstructing the whatever piece basically never met the choreographer but does it like third, fourth, fifth hand it is all in the wrong sense. However, it is of course so much better than to have to listen to the artist’s anecdotes about how amazing it was when… and circumstances this and that, and New York at that time, how… Jezuz, save me from reconstruction. Save me from Yvonne Rainer, and save me from Deborah Hay. And save me from all others who want to make money on past sins. Stand up loser, if you don’t have anything better to offer than surveilling history then stay home, close the door one last time and stay home. I prefer mucho better that history repeats itself than to have to endure the original or a reconstructed “Trio A”.

And for you who reconstruct other people’s work, shape up: we know that you are just doing it for the sake of money, value, fame. If it was important for you, and not for the market, why don’t you just keep it in the studio? Oh, the programmer saw it by accident and you were totally innocent. No, you are just too mediocre to do anything decent and need someone else’s wave to surf, and so does the programmer. Obviously it is perfect, if you do a reconstruction of whatever, the programmer can make money on both you and the choreographer that you reconstruct. Oh, you think you do it for some kind of historical accuracy, and what do we need that for? You think it is important for others to get to know about this and that piece, why? Because you want to say you invented it, found it… Because you want to reclaim your history stolen away from you by performance studies? But hey, was it that good, let them have it. They didn’t just take the good part they also took all that crap that your countrymen did that’s a little bit embarrassing. Let the Americans have it.

Even more compromised is exhibitions that attempt to draft a narrative through recent history in respect of some more or less pertinent notion. Stop resurrecting old pieces, stop it stop it. Especially stuff from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Nothing is getting better because there is something from that time around. Stop it. Permanent collections are fine but damn that’s another story. How many times do I have to see that time delay piece from Dan Graham, how many times do I have to consider that horrible corridor by Bruce Nauman, and even worse [I know I’m a racist] how many times do I have to encounter Lygia Clark. Leave it behind, leave it behind. Fuck those rubber bands, forget that plastic net to carry home you fruit, and especially forget about these big pieces where you are supposed to sense whatever it is yourself and your spirit. No, thanks. I don’t want anymore, and you know those piece are just there because the dead artists foundation thinks it’s a good idea, and because you are a coward. Every time, e-ve-ry time you put up a Clark you are not exhibiting somebody else woman, Brazilian or anything else. Every time you insist on Graham, fuck you. I like it too but hey why the hell do you have a museum store. The reason why you want to show those things is because you have no better ideas and most of all because it feels good, cuz everybody else did before you.

Stop the archives. Forbid them. I don’t want to have to see people sitting in there with head phones and a flat screen being fascinated by Ana Mendieta. She was, and oh she was so before her time, but not anymore. Make a hole and put it all away. And when you are anyways at it, dig a hole for Mike Kelley as well, he is, he is, he is the Woody Allen of visual art. Spit on him, or no spit on the place where the hole was where you buried all that crap. Spit on it.

I like history, but not this one. I don’t like any versions of it, and certainly not today when history also has become commodity. History is excellent and it’s all so contemporary. Yet it is time to turn to history, to turn back. Not around, it is time to turn back, to a moment, to historical instance, to which our contemporary discourse is not compatible. We have to turn back to history constructed on another paradigm, on another mood of thinking, on a way of coping with the world that we are simply foreign to. We have to stop making ourselves open to our history and instead turn to a history that is so closed, so locked away, so hard and stubborn that that only way to deal with it is by changing who we are.

No, I’m not interested in repeating it, or to re-live it. I don’t cherish feudalism, knights, dirt, slavery and which burning or whatever, but in turning to history that cannot be understood. Engagement in something incompatible to our own historical paradigm is the only way that we can change history in a radical sense, by making ourselves open to an absolute closed system, not because it is “closes” but because it does in no respect belong to us. Only then can we produce a history that wont promise to repeat it self, that want make us feel fine, but actually shiver of fear. Time machines is not enough, no no it just criss cross between known moments in history, we need a time war machine, an apparatus that can catapult us out of our very understanding of time itself. Perhaps it is not we that needs to be or not afraid of repeating history, but we should instead offer our self like a good meal to history to make it repeat us. It will be catastrophically unpleasant, a morbid festival. Make yourself a fresh meal for history.

12 Responses to “Fuck History”

  1. esthel October 13, 2010 at 23:46 #

    the problem is that history was written by who wined the wars, and those same people are the ones that make too many movies about the same history.

  2. Billy-Bob Thornton October 14, 2010 at 00:10 #

    After some minor mishaps, I see you are back on track.

    One point though. While it’s useless to admire someone for being radical at some point in time, it is wise to learn from them.
    What do we learn? Well, for instance that any radical attempt of counter-acting hegemony by a certain aesthetic sooner or later gets engulfed into mainstream, categorized, labeled, safe.

    Well, it’s clear since quite some time that a radical attempt at something else, at resistance, cannot be ONE aesthetic, ONE idea, ONE obstacle. It has to resist labeling (and no, I’m not talking about the artist talking about his work – yeah, it’s so far out I cannot put into words what it is).

    History, like many other things, can be an enemy and a friend.

  3. esthel October 14, 2010 at 00:40 #

    But is not a matter of a radical attempt of something else, something else is already there, you just don ´t know it because is not mainstream.

  4. Billy-Bob Thornton October 14, 2010 at 06:45 #

    Well, that is of course a viable argument, although – How do you know that there is something else already?

  5. esthel October 14, 2010 at 14:41 #

    Because the world is very very big, and most of art things that happen around we will never know about, nobody writes about them and much less in english. So of course, it `s hard to find radical actions in a context that only looks at himself , and that only validates art from a different context if responds to paradigms of western art. And every other manifestation is just judge from this local western ideas and when lucky considered curious or exotic.

  6. Billy-Bob Thornton October 14, 2010 at 18:01 #

    But then it’s not really art, is it? It may be an activity remeniscent of art (there are trees in the forest even if you don’t see them), but you got to remember that art – as we understand it these days, is a western (and quite recent) invention.

    There are attempts at other art-worlds than the mainstream one, but not any that have the discoursive / positional strength to displace The World of Contemporary International Art.

    Any art that is different enough / new enough / good enough will quickly get picked up by the mainstream.

    Also there are inherent incongruencies in an overall theory of art – meaning that there are paradoxical standpoints. It is also very inclusive up to a certain point (as long as you play by the rules)..

    But of course, if you happen to find something which YOU consider art and is somehow completely new and radically different, I would be very happy to see it.

  7. esthel October 14, 2010 at 22:40 #

    “that art – as we understand it these days, is a western (and quite recent) invention” .

    But isn ´t that exactly the point!That the problem is that one quite small group of people is defining what art is?
    And the worst thing is , because of historical reasons, that is also creating the parameters in the all world of what and why something should be considered art.
    So of course ART is stucked. There is only one language spoken, no way that some radical change happen in those circumstancies. And an example of a possible radical change , mmm, what if is not about representation or non representation, if instead of studing greek I learn tojolabal where that word ,rapresentation, does not even exist.
    And something called “The World of Contemporary International Art” when it does not have anything to do with THE WORLD….mmm, don `t believe in that.

    • Billy-Bob Thornton October 15, 2010 at 07:20 #

      Because art’s world is rather small, it is possible to change, and it has proven itself possible to change, time and time again. However, the group of people who define art is exactly as big as the art world itself.

      ART is stuck now, because, since 20+ years, it has been too concerned with THE REAL WORLD, and social concerns that is repeated over and over, as if art was a good medium for social (total-world) change. It cannot go back to modernism, so what next?

      For 20+ years, the content has been more or less the same, the message the same (when there should be no message), the understanding of forms the same, the key venues the same, quality the same.. consensus leads to stagnation. It’s viable to think that conflict will break this stagnation. Right now, the feeling seems to be that this situation is uncomfortable (for the art world). We’ll see what happens when pressure is piled up.

      Art is interesting because it’s art. It’s a fiction of manifestations that philosophy itself cannot inhabit.

      Radical change (as proposed by art) is subject to the art-world and its own. Political hope in the WORLD is a different thing alltogether.

      I am sure that learning a language is a good idea. I don’t think that it solves anything (by itself) though.

  8. Billy-Bob Thornton October 15, 2010 at 07:26 #

    Esthel, you can yourself create the parameters for why something should be considered art. There is no “master” who decides that, unless you are desperate for a programmer or a curator to decide it for you. Maybe it (the parameters) will be accepted by your peers, maybe not..
    And if you are convinced that you are right you propably won’t listen to what the peers say anyway.

  9. esthel October 15, 2010 at 15:33 #

    Billy Bob, I know is not about using art as a medium to do political or social change. I just think that it would be great if we all could know more about what `s happening in art in the world , outside what the machinery propose as art. I think there is a substancial problem that prevents art to develop in relation to the specifity of each context, because there is this idea that the history of western civilization is the history of the world, and so inevitably this homogenization of context and forms happens. For example you talk about modernism, and in Mexico you could say that we really never arrive to a modernist socity, you only read about that in the books. So most of artist in the world are inspired by a western history that is very interesting to know , but that is not theirs. And what I really long for , would be the possibility to a real dialogue from different perspectives and not just a “refrito” of just one view. For that to happen, first the “other countries” should stop teaching only one side of history , and artists should stop believing that to do something important they need to be recognize in the western art machinery. It ´s a problem of self- esteem, an heritage from the colonizational process. Second, it would be really helpful if the western machinary stop imposing one and only history and one and only point of view. And that ´s not only a problem of the curators and programmers ( although it suks than in the Bienale of Dance in Cuba who decides what `s good and what `s not are french curators) is also a problem of a lot of artists that sometimes go to this “other countries” like in cultural vacations, and worst of all thinks that they are super known by averybody , ja! For example this famous choreographer that went to Brasil and got really obset because he saw a piece from some dancers that he said they copied him, and theese poor guys never saw that work, you know!
    So really, my comments are not based on hunger or lack of recognition, I just think that some change (hopfully radical) could come with a real dialogue and exchange, that would of course need translators (and not only because of the language). Because this idea that we are all comunicated , is not true. Only people that thinks that everywhere in the world everybody knows who lady gaga is, believe in this false idea that everything is on internet…it could be, but is not.
    And maybe this sounds like hippy thoughts, like peace and love, but believe me they are not, is not at all ever and ever to agree on something, is just about having a more complex conversation.

  10. Billy-Bob Thornton October 16, 2010 at 20:15 #

    Well, it’s an interesting thing you bring up, Esthel. Basically it seems to me like the idea of stepping outside of Discourse (in the sense of Foucault) to communicate..
    I don’t think it sounds hippy, just terribly difficult, since there are tresholds of the accepted in all areas of societies. The good thing with “western” civilization, and it’s stories, is that there is quite a lot of leeway, from within – at the very least if one can master the existing stories and languages to one’s advantage.

    Hence, it is possible to question existing stories, within that system – but of course, it also makes it extremely hard (if not impossible) to remain completely different.

    I do think it would be possible to gain overall support for methods that allow difference, however. If we consider the rise of interdisciplinary science (although they are now not so promising anymore), It does show that there is possibility to create grounds for something else within fields that take themselves very seriously. Hence, I think it is a good idea for you to think about what kind of method could allow dialogue between radically different conditions.

  11. Anonymous October 21, 2010 at 00:07 #

    uff, that is a question!
    but just basically simple translation would help. Nowadays if you don ´t know english you don ´t have access to a lot of information, I think I red that like 80% of people does not Know english and like 80% of the content in the net is in engish.
    I´m just so surprise how much a context does not know so many things about another context. Starting from history. I ´ve heard preatty smart people have a complete lack of knowledge about another history than the european-US, as much as I have complete lacks OFFS about history of China. History of dance, for example.

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