Nicolas Bourriaud. Postproduction. Culture as Screenplay: How art reprograms the world.

INTRODUCTION.
IT’S SIMPLE, PEOPLE PRODUCE WORKS, AND WE DO WHAT WE CAN WITH THEM, WE USE THEM FOR OURSELVES. (SERGE DANEY)
Postproduction is a technical term from the audiovisual vocabulary
used in television, film, and video. It refers to the set of processes
applied to recorded material: montage, the inclusion of other visual
or audio sources, subtitling, voice-overs, and special effects. As a set
of activities linked to the service industry and recycling, postproduction
belongs to the tertiary sector, as opposed to the industrial or agri-
cultural sector, i.e., the production of raw materials.
Since the early nineties, an ever increasing number of artworks have
been created on the basis of preexisting works; more and more
artists interpret, reproduce, re-exhibit, or use works made by others
or available cultural products. This art of postproduction seems to
respond to the proliferating chaos of global culture in the information
age, which is characterized by an increase in the supply of works
and the art world’s annexation of forms ignored or disdained until now.
These artists who insert their own work into that of others contribute
to the eradication of the traditional distinction between production and
consumption, creation and copy, readymade and original work. The
material they manipulate is no longer
primary.
It is no longer a matter of elaborating a form on the basis of a raw material but working with objects that are already in circulation on the cultural market, which is to say, objects already informed by other objects. Notions of originality (being at the origin of) and even of creation (making somethingfrom nothing) are slowly blurred in this new cultural landscape marked by the twin figures of the DJ and the programmer, both of whom havethe task of selecting cultural objects and inserting them into new
contexts. .
Relational Aesthetics, of which this book is a continuation, described
the collective sensibility within which new forms of art have been
inscribed. Both take their point of departure in the changing mental
space that has been opened for thought by the Internet, the central
tool of the information age we have entered. But
Relational Aesthetics dealt with the convivial and interactive aspect of this revolution (why artists are determined to produce models of sociality, to situate themselves within the interhuman sphere), while Postproduction
apprehends the forms of knowledge generated by the appearance of the
Net (how to find one’s bearings in the cultural chaos and how to
extract new modes of production from it). Indeed, it is striking that the
tools most often used by artists today in order to produce these
relational models are preexisting works or formal structures, as if the
world of cultural products and artworks constituted an autonomous
strata that could provide tools of connection between individuals; as if
the establishment of new forms of sociality and a true critique of
contemporary forms of life involved a different attitude in relation to
artistic patrimony, through the production of new relationships to
culture in general and to the artwork in particular.
A few emblematic works will allow us to outline a typology of post-
production.

REPROGRAMMING EXISTING WORKS
In the video Fresh Acconci, 1995, Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy re-
corded professional actors and models interpreting performances
by Vito Acconci. In Unfitted (One Revolution Per Minute), 1996, Rirkrit
Tiravanija made an installation that incorporated pieces by Olivier
Mosset, Allan McCollum, and Ken Lum; at New York’s Museum of
Modern Art, he annexed a construction by Philip Johnson and in-
vited children to draw there: Untitled (Playtime), 1997. Pierre Huyghe
projected a film by Gordon Matta-Clark, Conical Intersect, at the very site of its filming (Light Conical Intersect, 1997). In their series Plenty
of Objects of Desire, Swetlana Heger and Plamen Dejanov exhibited
artworks and design objects, which they had purchased, on minimalist
platforms. Jorge Pardo has displayed pieces by Alvar Aalto, Arne
Jakobsen, and Isamu Noguchi in his installations.

INHABITING HISTORICIZED STYLES AND FORMS
Felix Gonzalez-Torres used the formal vocabularies of Minimalist art
and Anti-form, recoding them almost thirty years later to suit his
own political preoccupations. This same glossary of Minimalist art
is diverted by Liam Gillick toward an archaeology of capitalism, by
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster toward the sphere of the intimate, by
Pardo toward a problematics of use, and by Daniel Pflumm toward
a questioning of the notion of production. Sarah Morris employs the
modernist grid in her painting in order to describe the abstraction of
economic flux. In 1993, Maurizio Cattelan exhibited Untitled, a canvas
that reproduced Zorro’s famous Z in the lacerated style of Lucio
Fontana. Xavier Veilhan exhibited La Foret, 1998, whose brown felt
evoked Joseph Beuys and Robert Morris, in a structure that recalled
Jesus Soto’s Penetrable sculptures. Angela Bulloch, Tobias Rehberger,
Carsten Nicolai, Sylvie Fleury, John Miller, and Sydney Stucki, to
name only a few, have adapted minimalist, Pop, or conceptual struc-
tures and forms to their personal problematics, going as far as dupli-
cating entire sequences from existing works of art.

MAKING USE OF IMAGES
At the Aperto at the 1993 Venice Biennale, Bulloch exhibited a video
of Solaris, the science fiction film by Andrei Tarkovsky, replacing its
sound track with her own dialogue. 24 Hour Psycho, 1997, a work
by Douglas Gordon, consisted of a projection of Alfred Hitchcock’s
film Psychoslowed down to run for twenty-four hours. Kendell Geers
has isolated sequences of weli-known films (Harvey Keitel grimacing
in Bad Lieutenant, a scene from The Exorcist) and looped them in his
video installations; for TV Shoot, 1998-99, he took scenes of shoot-
outs from the contemporary cinematic repertory and projected them
onto two screens that faced each other.

USING SOCIETY AS A CATALOG OF FORMS
When Matthieu Laurette is reimbursed for products he has consumed
by systematically using promotional coupons (“Satisfaction guaran-
teed or your money back”), he operates within the cracks of the pro-
motional system. When he produces the pilot for a game show on
the principle of exchange (El Gran trueque, 2000) or establishes an
offshore bank with the aid of funds from donation boxes placed at
the entrance of art centers (Laurette Bank Unlimited, 1999), he plays
with economic forms as if they were the lines and colors of a painting.
Jens Haaning transforms art centers into import-export stores and
clandestine workshops; Daniel Pflumm appropriates the logos of
multinationals and endows them with their own aesthetic life. Heger
and Dejanov take every job they can in order to acquire “objects of
desire” and rent their work force to BMW for an entire year. Michel
Majerus, who integrates the technique of sampling into his pictorial
practice, exploits the rich visual stratum of promotional packaging.

INVESTING IN FASHION AND MEDIA
The works of Vanessa Beecroft come from an intersection between
performance and the protocol of fashion photography; they reference
the form of performance without being reduced to it. Sylvie Fleury
indexes her production to the glamorous world of trends offered by
women’s magazines, stating that when she isn’t sure what colors to
use in her work, she uses the new colors by Chanel. John Miller has
produced a series of paintings and installations based on the aesthetic
of television game shows. Wang Du selects images published in
the press and duplicates them in three dimensions as painted wood
sculptures.
All these artistic practices, although formally heterogeneous, have in
common the recourse to already produced forms. They testify to a
willingness to inscribe the work of art within a network of signs and
significations, instead of considering it an autonomous or original form.
It is no longer a matter of starting with a “blank slate” or creating
meaning on the basis of virgin material but of finding a means of inser-
tion into the innumerable flows of production. “Things and thoughts,”
Gilles Deleuze writes, “advance or grow out from the middle, and that’s
where you have to get to work, that’s where everything unfolds.”

The artistic question is no longer: “what can we make that is new?”
but “how can we make do with what we have?” In other words,
how can we produce singularity and meaning from this chaotic mass
of objects, names, and references that constitutes our daily life?
Artists today program forms more than they compose them: rather
than transfigure a raw element (blank canvas, clay, etc.), they remix
available forms and make use of data.
In a universe of products for sale, preexisting forms, signals already emitted, buildings already constructed, paths marked out by their predecessors, artists no longer consider the artistic field (and here one could add television, cinema, or literature) a museum containing works that must be cited or “surpassed,” as the modernist ideology of originality would have it, but so many storehouses filled with tools that should be used, stockpiles of data to manipulate and present. When Tiravanija offers us the experience of a structure in which he prepares food, he is not doing a performance: he is using the performance-form. His goal is not to question the limits of art: he uses forms that served to interrogate these limits in the sixties, in order to produce completely differentresults. Tiravanija often cites Ludwig Wittgenstein’s phrase: “Don’tlook for the meaning, look for the use.”
The prefix “post” does not signal any negation or surpassing; it refers
to a zone of activity. The processes in question here do not consist
of producing images of images, which would be a fairly mannered
posture, or of lamenting the fact that everything has “already been
done,” but of inventing protocols of use for all existing modes of rep-
resentation and all formal structures. It is a matter of seizing all the
codes of the culture, all the forms of everyday life, the works of the
global patrimony, and making them function. To learn how to use
forms, as the artists in question invite us to do, is above all to know
how to make them one’s own, to inhabit them. .. ,
The activities of DJs, Web surfers, and postproduction artists imply a
similar configuration of knowledge, which is characterized by the
invention of paths through culture. All three are “semionauts” who
produce original pathways through signs. Every work is issued from
a script that the artist projects onto culture, considered the framework
of a narrative that in turn projects new possible scripts, endlessly.
The DJ activates the history of music by copying and pasting together
loops of sound, placing recorded products in relation with each other.
Artists actively inhabit cultural and social forms. The Internet user may
create his or her own site or homepage and constantly reshuffle the
information obtained, inventing paths that can be bookmarked and re-
produced at will. When we start a search engine in pursuit of a name
or a subject, a mass of information issued from a labyrinth of data-
banks is inscribed on the screen. The “semionaut” imagines the links,
the likely relations between disparate sites. A sampler, a machine that
reprocesses musical products, also implies constant activity; to listen
to records becomes work in itself, which diminishes the dividing line
between reception and practice, producing new cartographies of
knowledge. This recycling of sounds, images, and forms implies in-
cessant navigation within the meanderings of cultural history, navi-
gation which itself becomes the subject of artistic practice. Isn’t art,
as Duchamp once said, “a game among all men of all eras?”
Postproduction is the contemporary form of this game.
When musicians use a sample, they know that their own contribution
may in turn be taken as the base material of a new composition.
They consider it normal that the sonorous treatment applied to the
borrowed loop could in turn generate other interpretations, and so
on and so forth. With music derived from sampling, the sample no longer represents anything more than a salient point in a shifting car-
tography. It is caught in a chain, and its meaning depends in part on
its position in this chain. In an online chat room, a message takes on
value the moment it is repeated and commented on by someone else.
Likewise, the contemporary work of art does not position itself as the
termination point of the “creative process” (a “finished product” to be
contemplated) but as a site of navigation, a portal, a generator of
activities. We tinker with production, we surf on a network of signs,
we insert our forms on existing lines.
What unites the various configurations of the artistic use of the world
gathered under the term postproduction is the scrambling of bound-
aries between consumption and production. “Even if it is illusory and
Utopian,” Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster explains, “what matters is
introducing a sort of equality, assuming the same capacities, the pos-
sibility of an equal relationship, between me – at the origins of an
arrangement, a system – and others, allowing them to organize their
own story in response to what they have just seen, with their own
references.”
In this new form of culture, which one might call a culture of use or
a culture of activity, the artwork functions as the temporary terminal
of a network of interconnected elements, like a narrative that extends
and reinterprets preceding narratives. Each exhibition encloses within
it the script of another; each work may be inserted into different
programs and used for multiple scenarios. The artwork is no longer
an end point but a simple moment in an infinite chain of contributions.
This culture of use implies a profound transformation of the status of
the work of art: going beyond its traditional role as a receptacle of
the artist’s vision, it now functions as an active agent, a musical score,
an unfolding scenario, a framework that possesses autonomy and
materiality to varying degrees, its form able to oscillate from a simple
idea to sculpture or canvas. In generating behaviors and potential
reuses, art challenges passive culture, composed of merchandise and
consumers. It makes the forms and cultural objects of our daily lives
function.
What if artistic creation today could be compared to a col-
lective sport, far from the classical mythology of the solitary effort?
“It is the viewers who make the paintings,” Duchamp once said, an
incomprehensible remark unless we connect it to his keen sense of
an emerging culture of use, in which meaning is born of collaboration
and negotiation between the artist and the one who comes to view
the work. Why wouldn’t the meaning of a work have as much to do
with the use one makes of it as with the artist’s intentions for it.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s