Thomas Dreher : Blurting In A & L online
Introduction to the Website
The website of Art & Language within the website of the ZKM Karlsruhe presents the lexicon »Blurting in A & L« (1973) in an online version because a translation into hypertext is feasible: Michael Corris and Mel Ramsden noted connections between 408 entries/annotations/blurts by other American members of Art & Language as well as themselves. The connections can now be presented as links between different webpages.
The website includes articles which contextualize »Blurting in A & L« within the activities of the group in the seventies. Present and former members of Art & Language (Michael Baldwin, Michael Corris, Philip Pilkington, Mel Ramsden) summarize and reflect on their activities. Thomas Dreher embeds »Blurting in A & Lq within the proceedings of the discourse of Art & Language.
Around 1972, the group had fully recognized a need for a criticism of their own theoretical foundations. Using the philosophy of science (Popper, Lakatos, Feyerabend, Kuhn, among others) as methodological signposts, the members of Art & Language inaugurated a criticism of the art world and tools for a self- contextualization within the ensuing problem field. The entries/annotations/blurts in »Blurting in A & L« reflect the discussions at this particular stage. »Blurting in A & L" was followed by discussions focussed on sociological theories, which helped to contextualize the problems of the institutions of art (museums) and the art market (galleries) within the wider social field of the postmaterial forms of bureaucratization. These debates were accompanied in 1975/76 by efforts to embody the basics of the critique of bureaucratization in a subsystem of slogans as a way of reaching a wider public without loss of reflectivity.
A discussion forum starts the debate with seven questions concerning the actuality of the discourse of Art & Language within contemporary art activities. Former and present members of Art & Language will begin with the discussion, and then every user is invited to participate. The online discussion forum realizes an intention of the members of Art & Language: it opens the internal discussions for interactions with external users.
Each page within the website Blurting in A & L online allows spontaneous entries into an accumulative forum, which adds every new entry to older entries. The accumulative forum seeks to provoke inscriptions regardless of thematic limits, while it is hoped that the discussion forum will be based on themes - with the questions as reference points - and guided by reflective reactions to the contributions of others. The accumulative forum allows the filling in of signs regardless of their meanings and, indeed, for the sake of increasing the number of signs or the accumulated length of entries. The discussion forum can lead to similar accumulations, but it will allow restarts on a dialogical and discoursive level: this is an experiment.
The discussions concerning relations between signs and meanings helped members of Art & Language to problematize the functions of propaganda and sloganizing in a way which anticipated - parallel to a French discourse (Barthes, Foucault, Baudrillard, Derrida, Lyotard) – the debates of the eighties on postmodernism, which re-constructed and de-constructed authority built into the processes by which sign-meaning correlations are conventionalized and institutionalized. The answer of Art & Language was and is that a constant dialogical and discoursive process of de-construction and re-construction of the wider context (social relations) of their own activities (art) is unavoidable. The website presents not only traces of this process between members of Art & Language: it offers all users a forum for proceeding within a »theoretical practice« (Althusser) based on dialogue.
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