WHY ART? WHY NOW?

METACRITICAL QUESTIONNAIRE

by Boyan Manchev

The initial version of this text was published in Bulgarian under the title “QUESTIONNAIRE FOR THE SPARE TIME OF YOUNG CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS” (Literaturen vestnik, issue 31, 2012) and included an explanatory note that has been expanded for the purpose of the present publication:  

The proposed list of questions has no pedagogical, much less ethical orientation or ambition. It is related to my recent collaborative practical engagements with artists working in the field of performance and visual arts, and mostly with my teaching activities in masters programs of contemporary visual and performance arts in Berlin, Sofia and Paris (first of all, with my work as a professor of Philosophy and Art Theory in Berlin University of the Arts, in whose programs I purposefully encourage the critical (self-)reflection of the students). Metacritical questionnaire is the result of my conviction that the work of the contemporary artist is impossible without the effort of making critical and conceptual distinctions and organizing an active vocabulary. The proposed series of questions is only a primary and fragmentary expression of my engagement with the conviction concerned: the questions never bypass their author.    

QUESTIONNAIRE FOR THE SPARE TIME OF YOUNG CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS
Read in Bulgarian

SUBJECT, FORM, MATTER  
What are you busy with? Are you trying to find something? What did you find out?  
Are you an artist? Do you look like an artist? What is to be an artist? Why do you want to be an artist?   Who is the author of an “artwork”? Who is the subject of it? Are you an author? Are you the subject of your art?  
Do you think you have a mission? What is your mission?  
Are you successful in making the process of subjectivation effective?

QUESTIONS  
Is posing questions necessary to the creative process?
Does posing questions raise more questions? Should we pose questions which lead to more questions? Should we pose questions which cannot be answered? Does posing questions reduce or does it augment the potentiality of the work? Do answers reduce or do they augment the potentiality of the work? Do questions necessitate answers? Do answers necessitate questions? What is a strong question? What is a strong answer?  
What exactly are the answers to questions that have never been posed?

CRITIQUE  
Is critique an endless posing of questions?  
What kind of critique could we make of labor relations?
Is there a convention that requires us to assume a critical stance?  
How do you enact a voice?
Is there such a thing as a voice?  
What is power? What is powerful art?

CHOICES, DECISIONS  
Is it necessary for the artist to make decisions? About what?  
What kind of choices / decisions must an artist make?
How do you work on the decisions you make?  
Try to make choices in order to reduce the elements. Only such an ecology of creation could boost the energy of the work. There is too much going on anyway.  
Reflecting for the sake of reflecting. You must have yourself invested in the question you pose. How?   What is a strong decision? What is a strong choice? What is necessity in art? What is freedom in art?  
Is there a condition under which art must stop?  
What is the condition under which art must stop?

COMMUNICATION  
Does art necessitate communication? Why? By what means? In what manner?  
Does an idea remain unchanged when transferred to other people? By means of what language or tools is it transferred?  
How is it possible to constrain the readings you attempt to research?  
What is, if any, the essence of the after-effect of an (artistic) event?

AUDIENCE  
Do you need an audience? What for?  
Is audience participation part of the artistic material?  
Is the question “What do you want from me as an audience?” a good question?  
Does your work serve the audience? Do you give the audience a product? Do you sell the audience a product? Does the audience serve you?  
Do you think you have an implicit contract with your audience? What kind of contract is it?  
What do you want from me? What do I want from you? What is this relationship we are involved in?  
Do you need to erase the expectations of your audience?  
Do you give me something beyond the conventions of theater / exhibition / concert / reading? What is it exactly?  
Is it your job to provide answers to this? There is no way of saying what fair exchange is.  
What is the case in question: is it about people understanding or about offering something?  

LABOR, COLLABORATION  
Is art a form of labor? What kind of labor is art? Who are the workers? What are the forms of production? What is the gain? Who is the capitalist? Who is the one that produces? What is produced? What is exchanged? For what? Is there any exploitation in art? What kind of economy is it subjected to? What kind of market does it supply?  
Do artists / performers use the idea of collaboration as a pretext in order to access their own codes or take charge of it involuntarily – the excuse in the need to respect the other’s creative freedom through collaboration by erasing the deeper artistic necessity so as to confront and adhere to the necessity of the material and the formal parameters offered by the author?

CONTROL  
Do you analyze what you do while doing it? 
Do you believe that if everything fits together and “happens on its own”, in fact something goes amiss and does not happen?
Slipping out of belief is more interesting than slipping into belief – subverting the expectations, subverting the conditions.  
Do you need to control your medium / material / creative process? Do you need to “uncontrol it”? If no, why? If yes, how?  
Do you need a deus ex machina in order to exist beyond the scope of your control?

INSTITUTIONS  
Do you feel the need to do something to undermine the space of the theater / the art institution as a medium that enables you to pose a question such as this one? Is art concerned with the conventions of value?  
How does art relate to culture as commodity?  
To what extent and in what manner are you sensitive to the conditions in which you play / exhibit / perform?
Do you take interest in the forms of conventions you employ? How do you / we access these conventions and operate within them?  
Do you wish to create tension or cause disturbance in / with your work? Do you have sponsors? Do you wish to disturb them? Why?  
What is a critical institution?  
What is the institution of critique?  
Is critique normative?

METHOD  
Do you need a method? Is art a practice to be learned or is it something to be invented? What is learning? What is practice? What is invention?  
Do you know the ways of transposing your intellectual occupations into artistic means? Is this question valid? Do you understand it?  
Is there a journey or adventure in your work?  
What is simplicity? What is complexity? What kind of thing do you need? Do you really need it?  
How do these moments (“stumbling blocks”) lead to moments of effective simplicity?  
What kind of process do you put yourself through in your work? What are the affects that possess you?   Do you prefer to go through the whole process of production of the visible work, or not? Why (not)?   What is a random structure (a random generator)?  
Do you represent anything? Do you illustrate anything? Do you express anything? Do you transform anything? What? Why?  
I want to produce the quality of being insecure. Spontaneity is very important to it.  
How do you “unrehearse” the thing you know? What is the opposite of rehearsing towards perfection?  
Do you feel the need to say nothing? Do you know when to say nothing?

AFFECT  
Are you afraid of making decisions about your work? Do you feel afraid while working? Do you feel afraid while playing / exhibiting / performing? Why?  
What affects drive your creative work?  
What affects does you work incite within you?  

RESOURCES  
Are your resources limited? What is a limited resource? What is expenditure? What is waste?  
Does art have anything to do with ethics and in what sense? Who is the subject of the ethical operation?  
Is your working process anything more than just performance?

BEING WILD  
Is being wild a kind of blind spot, an obscure region from which the light of consciousness is excluded?  
The relation between blind spot and absorption: the blind spot cannot absorb what cannot be seen. Is it a vortex? What then is a vortex that could absorb you?  
How can excess or "wildness", or "madness" occur? For what reason should it (or should it not) occur?  
Do you produce anything that cannot be produced? Is it possible for expenditure or waste to enter a mode of production?  
“Wildness” is constantly constructed, but if you are too intent on constructing it, “wildness” is nowhere to be found. What has been digested is wild no more.  
Is being wild a pre-stage condition? Is it ob-scene: ob-scaena?  
Does the artwork have heroic origins? Does the artwork need to seek out a “monster”? Monster. The thing which I cannot explain or know? The thing which awaits me in the end, but only the loss can seek out?