- Published: 28 July 2012
The discussion sprang-up after the DAMTP report was sent to the artists and curators of the Manifesta related event called HDI (Hotel de Inmigrantes) and also Cosmopolitant Stranger.
Response by Juliana Smith, an artist of the Hasselt HDI event:
power done. Power acted upon – something. You or me, who is power over who.
I had no power. My only power was to escape, inwards and away. I felt bullied.
Disgusted. What the hell was that? Actually.
In hind sight I should have left. Or I should have stood with Redas. We should of left… but it was like a bad car accident… watching – waiting… hoping something good or even productive would come of it…a life would walk out of the wreckage.
I like to like people and I am usually the good old party girl who can get along with everyone, ask anyone… the only people I usually have a problem with are lovers…
Where was the curating, the organization? We were puppets, and we paid to be so. I am ashamed.
I became a warrior for the Middle East and I am only half Iranian and a woman who hates to see world suffering, somehow landed in Palestine and was used because of the place?
I want to be the hero. I am not.
Not once did Koen or Tomasz introduce us to anyone, not with a name. Hi this is so and so. Do you know how good we are?
The group is good people. But did we get to excel or shine or meet together and put a topic on the table a real topic? No.
Did we create anything? Like really?
It was a mess.
Tomasz, I think you like this. (I like you, but perhaps, in my opinion, we have different strategies. Actually I know it. I am a capitalist after all. To deny it would be denial.)
I did not speak up enough. The same people spoke the most. I tried too, but also wanted to give room for those who were often quiet.
Koen is the local hero. That is clear. And he is a decent person. But we were used, as toys and for what? What was the point? What dialogue was achieved? Did we learn anything about migration or immigration? From Belgium or globally? What do you want from this?
I am not a chicken.
The University. That was gross. It was racist. It was immature. The sex tourist professor. Really? The science student missing food, really? Disgust. Who were they talking to? You want to lecture me? Excuse me. I think you forgot who we, the artists are. Where were the students? I do not need to be taught by them. None of us did. Why was this not considered? We should have presented to the students. They could have learned something from us. Gross.
I do not understand.
What was it about?
Too many men. I like men, everyone knows that but maybe it was just so – ugh. I cannot even articulate what I want to say, except –
To go forward, transparency must occur. The group must take the power.
Of course I want to go to Uruguay. Of course I want to see you all again. But please be clear of the intention. (I promise to read every detail from now on.)
I could get theoretical and talk about power and subjectification, but we have all read the texts… we know the talk…
Do I really want to be in the catalog? I am a bit embarrassed. Who is it for? Who will design it? What will it say?
I want full disclosure.
Will you make it seem like a success? Do you think my frustration and dissatisfaction are part of the point and does it satisfy you to have me be dissatisfied?
To the group, you know I adore the personal times that I was lucky enough to have. That is what I took away from it. The one on one time, the little encounters. That was valuable and worth, because I value the individual and can call you by name.
A lot of people in the group acted like it was some huge privilege. It was not.
I am not against the art system as a whole. I simply think like any field, it should be challenged and worked on. There are problems, lets discuss, try and find solutions and not feel grateful for a piece of bread, especially stale bread.
This taught me a lesson. I love being an artist and I am good at what I do, perhaps I am still emerging or coming into my skin... but I am not desperate. I need to feel respected and communicated with. It is
about questioning, learning from and moving forward. And then doing it all over again. Constantly working on it, like we do as people too.
Respond by Tomasz Wendland, curator of the Hasselt HDI event:
There was a clear rule in the invitation letter, that we will sleep together, eat together and work together.
There was an open opportunity for everyone to creat as much as anybody want, as big and as long as anybody want.
There was plenty of time, space and attention.
I was trying to amuse some of You, who say "I am a good artist", who were not able over 10 days to make anyting creativer.
I did 6 art works in that time and didn't need to ask anybody for permission. So You could do it as well.
There was a speaker corner in the city, conference at the university, everyday a chance to grasp an initiative and propose any discussion any activity. You have got provided all what we could provide, even bicycle and visit to Manifesta, which was not an obligation from us.
Koen has offered his own studio, people, documentation, food, organisation, university, city townhall.
Think a bit You egocentrics !!! What did You offered? what You can provide for the others? Are You able to do such a huge activity in YOu own studio, home, gallery, city, country? I doubt.
That was clear that Koen gives his own studio, and clean all the works from the main rooms. He did a party at the end, pay all the bills. Now we have some good works and some bad works which stay there 2 month and represent YOu artists on the level which You deserve, which is a level of Your creative "power". Blame Yourselves first of all and then You may blame others, who do activities.
There is no hidden profit by anybody from us. Koen is working very hard and has success. If You cannot
over Your own success, do not spoil other people with Your frustration. I have enough of such a „critical, sophisticated, distanced, wise " attitude which can only heart other people who try to initiate something good.
Some people are coming with their unsolved problem to any meeting, so they can attach others,
because they are not able deal with own problems. You must start to love people, who without being asked approach You to share love, who offer You all what they can. You must love others in order to be loved.
If You hate people who give You their hearts, because there would be actually more what You might want to get, it is so bad.
There was no single that You, for 10 days looking after me, giving me what You can give, working one year to be able to bring it to the point, so I could come and make my experience.
You are demanding more and better. So tell me what did You do with a free space You have got to improve as a great artist? Where is Your splendid art ?
BUt now positively. We new that HDI is about many different individuals, who come with their mental and psychical attitude, so You have made us reacher offering us Yourself as You are. It is a part of a community, it is a part of reality, it is a part of life.
HDI - Cosmopolitan Stranger was just about sharing life, but still being strangers.
Honesty against Honesty, Truth against Truth.
Anyway with big sympathy and nice memories.
Respond by HDI art striker Redas Diržys to curator Tomasz Wendland:
I never criticized you personally, but always the role you were playing in the project. Personally I found you being a great man to talk on everything except art issues – there you are kicking away all the arguments and switching on axioms – that happen in your last letter as well.
I’ve read every word of all your writings for the event – possibly I am from a very minority of artists who attended the event – artists are used not to read curatorial bullshitting as we all know. There was never written how many and what kind of artworks must be created, but was clearly noted that there will be no funding, neither assistantship for doing an art works. There were also written following: “…establish rules of coexistence between 40 artists coming from all over the world and discover new social relationships which will reveal new personal relationships in the 21st century”. So far you did not contracted me to do art and I have an experience that artists social relations without mediations of arts are much healthier – it seems that you’re so infuriated because its truth and you feel trapped as a curator – but it’s your own problem.
One thing is clear – if you aim to do a show – just do the show and invest into it – then later on not to blame anybody to produce “bad” art. If you aim in gathering people and establishing new relationships – arrange space and facilities for it. What you did was disrespect to the people you invited to fit your own prejudiced spectacle and to play roles prescripted, and treated people as common artworks too – including yourself personally. You are right – you provided board and logging in the way of experiment and everybody took it as a challenge – nobody blames you because of that. But there is no heroism too – if you are inviting people personally and providing them with what you’ve promised that’s called hospitality and at least in my country it is a common thing… exception could be possibly Dutch Treat… Finally as the result there happen a bad (=useless) show and no room (space, time and potential) left to the establishing of new relationships neither for discussion.
I want to remind you that I never promised you to make any artwork and even intentionally declared that I will do none. As nowhere was written that we must work together and do art – you wrote about it as an option, a possibility “to develop artworks”. Also [during the course of this project] I never called myself an artist, because I am not using that word anymore. It was you or somebody from organizational staff who placed my photo in the folder enlisting performances – it was not a performance – it was just me standing. You did an appropriation of me – and that was not prescripted in your concepts. But have you ever heard about invisible art? There were few Senegalese in 1977 who were doing something like that and were outstanding then even in Africa were post-colonialist westernization of mind took up the power. There I just want to remind that the origins of “white” ocularcentrist art and culture are racist and colonist in essence. And it’s you, who is so desperately defending it?
I cannot share with you in optimism that you produced 6 artworks – it says nothing about the quality. What was the efficiency of you artworks for further developing of human relationships? It just took away physic and psychic space from the people there – that is mine opinion.
You are very brave and fast to divide art into good and bad one. Do you have any criteria for that? So far I know the only criteria for determining what art is, and what is not, and what are the levels of all it’s hierarchies - are empowered and self-legitimatize institutions and as a curator you have some right for it too. But then – what’s new in the oppressive and subordinate relationships? Also - "bad" and "good" are moral criteria… and have nothing common with aesthetics… even opposite – it will displace aesthetics in the more friendly to the human beings and environment society.
You call it unsolved problem – yes, you’re right.
You call it somebody’s personal problem – I disagree with you – it’s our common problem, because problematic is the whole thing we all were [and still are] involved into:
It was structurally racist – despite you declared opposite.
It was sexist
It was exploitative, misusing.
Neither art, nor it’s system, nor yours hard job or slaverhood to it is not an excuse.
And it must be declared – if not in your papers – then DAMTP will do it and that is our initiative to our Hasselt community. We think that the best to happen there in Hasselt was outside of art format and I am inviting to publish our experiences there besides those belonging to institutionalized art rituals – just want to not let dismiss real things with art. That is how I see the future of Hotel de Inmigrantes initiative to be further developed. It’s pity that majority of artists are too careful about their careers – the real hotel de inmigrantes would happen with those to be able to emigrate from the trashy art bubble, what is the same bourgeois/capitalist structure as tourism - we all had experienced it in Hasselt. But might be somebody of you is still thinking about being immigrant in the quarantine and trying to infiltrate into the high-art corpse?
DAMTP rejects assimilation processes of immigrants into White Power bourgeoisie.
DAMTP is talking about Black Power of immigrants to disrupt structure of White Power.
And finally – love. You know – the relationship of art to life is the same like pornography to love. Keeping in mind your reliance on picturesque I would have some suspicions even in this concept of your approach. And, sorry, but your concept of love sometimes resembles the Stockholm syndrome …
Respond by Denise Catvalho, co-curator of the Hasselt HDI event:
Dear Redas, Tomek, and all,
I would like to enter the conversation but feel like I am entering a firestorm, which almost puts us in a position that we need to take a side. And since we are all free thinkers here, I also understand that I don't have to take a side, which is what I choose. One of my own handicaps here is that I was not physically present, except through skype, so I haven't been a part of some of your everyday experiences, and this is my loss of course. I wish I had been there to be able to see better with your eyes.
Two points Redas is addressing which I feel that I want to respond to. First, the idea of what an art work is, which I have to say, I am very interested in the expansion of that overused word, art. For many years I have been researching, curating, writing, experiencing life, all of which I think is for me a dialogue with art. If it wasn't part of experiencing art, I would not be doing. The idea of an art as an object is obsolete for many artists today, and it has been, at least in the west, for over a hundred years. Even the avant-garde modernists have questioned this issue. Of course, artists in the east, such as the Gutai group and others, since the 1950s, have questioned this idea. Obviously, art is much more than the object of art, which now is so important for a growing market of art which also transform the artist in a commodity, if he or she is famous and marketable. At the same time, we cannot think of art without histories, markets, etc. Art or whatever we think art is a product of our social realities in which markets also participate.
The concept of Hotel de Inmigrantes is also to expand something even more important than art: human relations. Artists' relations in a world that is terminating with the artist as a thinker, by objectifying or focusing too much on the commodity. I think that the experience of living together as free thinkers and creating beings is that we should find ways that don't fit the stereotypes of our everyday realities. I think the idea of love for me is important, but it is not an unconditional love, nor is sexist love, which I don't think was in any way intentionally expressed in this case at Hotel de Inmigrantes, Perhaps, what was expressed was what we all already know: how limited we are in our communication skills, how difficult it is to communicate with each other. I always remember that even animals can communicate better than us, with all our words, we lack the capacity to read between the lines. I think this was our biggest task in this event. Love is the ability to see the other's side. The compassion of seeing the other's side is not the same as having to swallow your own views over another's, nor have to shut up when you want to be truthful about how you think, but to expand your own understanding of how we see it across the border of our own individual limitation. And that is something we all need to continue to develop. Love can come out of desperate situations.
Here is my two cents, with a quote by Andre Breton: "If I place love above everything, it is because for me it is the most desperate, the most despairing state of affairs imaginable."
With warm regards to all of you!
Respond by Tomasz Wendland, curator of the Hasselt HDI event:
If You say:
"And finally – love. You know – the relationship of art to life is
the same like pornography to love".
Then it is how You think.
I never thought that my action was:
"It was structurally racist – despite you declared opposite.
It was sexist
It was exploitative, misusing."
I am sorry that in a way I misused You. I promise I will not do it any more.
Response by Martin Zet, an artist of the Hasselt HDI event:
I liked it.
I enjoyed the tension.
The hospitality reaching its limits.
Not clear days and the nights with their sounds.
Snoring symphony. So good that the night soloists didn’t know, didn’t remember who dominated and also the members of the disturbed audience had no idea about their/ours beforehand or later individual roles in those choir sessions. Here the real new relationships found the way. Uneasy but beautiful unconscious harmonising.
And I like it also now – the discussion initiated by Redas brings us to serious aspects of similar events and also to current redefinition of the activity we live. Interesting however taken – personally or generally.
My position is following: rationally - I identify with overcritical DAMTP view and am even more pessimistic experiencing recent attempts at militarization of our rows in events which are usually proclaimed to be special – essentially different from the others –therefore the participants are asked to be disciplined and also in art school system, which newly forces teachers and students to respect ridiculous evaluation of places and events and this way to subordinate the whole territory to transparent carrier building; emotionally - I adore any activity bringing people together and giving them/us chance to think and interact maybe painful but not harmful way and I really don’t mind how the platform is called. Can be even “art” – which Czech equivalent “umeni” speaks only about skill (the verb “umet” means: to know how to do something...).
As to art rituals I am the same divided – longing for and hating the whole thing from creating objects and dealing with them to taking part in and refusing the overwhelming commodification, from protecting artists as the nowadays martyrs to sentencing them/us to leave the exclusivity.
How it will be in the future? Maybe there will not be an interest in achievements, which would thank God kill the competitiveness. But there will always be the difference in devotion not only among the people but also within the lifetime on an individual.
BUT! before my particles will break free I want to be some more with you and others and also with me in different circumstances.
ART IS DEAD – LONG LIFE TO UMENI?
14.7.2012 in Libusin
Response by Enrique Badaro, an artist of the Hasselt HDI event:
cosmopolitan stranger, HDI Hasselt, was grand.
life and thinking in this world is hard, sometimes it takes some lives away. the conjunct of people sharing positive impulses, and compluses is a jewel to take care of.
personally, coming from south America, to dedicate so much time to art, in stead of struggling with everyday tough life, with poverty, with injustice-not about prices of art pieces, or who is nominated for the next bienalle, but with hunger, humiliating existences of searching food from garbage etc - was a privilege.
I am not a fool. Doesn’t mean that because I lived wonderful for 15 days I was saved from my surrounded reality.
But I leArnt a lot.
We Uruguayans learnt a lot- in general, Uruguayans located in a first level affectivity, love, friendship, etc, then can be art, well designed posters, or well designed exhibits.
I think to claim for more organization, structure, personal desires, is nonsense- we are adults, we have could to propose any new structure during these days, not as a coup d etat, but as a free and welcome attitude.
We as adults must not expect to receive everything squared and pre digestioned from above.
That I lived in usa, and Europe many times. The scaring in front a different or new structure or organization.
In south America we are acostumated to find side tracks every day, and it is a militant way of being. we educated our sons and daughters to be so- I learnt a lot, and I think it will be awesome for hdi in Uruguay, we are working hard for this, we struggle with politicians, ministries, embassies...but we are happy to follow this first and unique step that was cosmopolitan stranger Hasselt.
I loved the verb of martin in Czech M....... it englobes more than our collapsing definition of art, or visual arts, or...whatever-
love you all
and company from south, santiago, mirlo, alejandro
DAMTP comment from aside:
It is interesting that the curator Tomasz appeals not to the work done by Koen but to the capital (use of studio, of space, of money for a party...) of creation of art which is not as a labour but as an exercise of cultural capital...
The talk of love reminds me of the need for the reproductive workers union in fact the appeal to the heart I find quite sickening..!!! But I am not sensitive enough I know. We need reproductive workers unions!
DEad WOrkers Union (DEWOU-DAMTP) comment:
We agree on reproduction of life instead of the putridity.
We celebrate vermin, worms and ants in their labour of decomposing of that corpse to be left after everything what was still possible to be understood but is already forgotten.
We must confess that Homo sapiens is apparently loser in it.
We all will be together when our particles will fall apart!