The following text, originally appearing in both Danish and English, has been transcribed from Situationister i Konsten - an Anthology of documents edited by Jens Jorgen Thorsen, Hardy Strid and Jorgen Nash and published by Bauhaus Situationniste in 1966.
The Communicative Phase in Art
An Essay On The Death Of Anti-Art
Jens Jorgen Thorsen
The Absence of God makes is not a limitation anymore. It is the threshold to Infinity. God's absence is greater. This is more divine than God... "night is a sun too", the absence of myth is a myth too. The coldest, the most pure, the only genuine". Georges Bataille (Le Surrealisme en 1948 edited by A. Breton & M. Duchamp)
The communicative phase in art consists in establishing communicative fields. CO-RITUS is such an establishment of a field of communication.
This basis of this phase is the disappearance of the spectator (which isn't the same as the dissaperence of the audience) and his replacement by the participator. A communicative art is an art which lives between. In the space between people. From that point of view art is no longer just a form of the aesthetic, of the philosophical, of the chronological or of the mental space. Art becomes a function in the social conception. The social space. Looked upon this way through the communicative glasses (Fjord), the organisation of society, the social patterns, town-complexes, business companies, production companies, stock-car racing traffic, toilet drawings, dancehall-life, farming and festivities all become manifestations of artistic value or at least have artistic possibilities.
The tradition of exhibiting art is in this case a work of art as well as the paintings. So the communicative phase of art shows up when you take the consequences of this conception. Today I recommended: Take the step just now. Join CO-RITUS.
In the CO-RITUS manifesto of 1961 you will find fundamental statements on this point.
ANTI-ART IS MORALISATION
The theory of alienation is based upon the idea that man in his base is good. But made evil, alientaed from his actions by evil surroundings. An assembly-line worker is alienated from the results of production. In a bad State the human being is alienated.These theories pushed forward the Bert Brecht theatre. The epic theatre.
As a contrast to the dramatic theatre, where one is only able to identify oneself with the action. Cry when the hero cries (Brecht). The epic theatre leaves the spectator free to choose because it tells a story. According to Brecht you have the possibility to laugh while the hero is crying.
The epic theatre inherently creates the estrangement, the dialectical opposite to alienation. This means that people put into a position as aliented from the story on the screen are not alienated from themselves anymore. They get back the possibility of judging and thinking. Being able to choose whether to be a 'yes-man' or a 'no-man'. Mixing the epic theatre with the dramatic one, the absurd theatre was born. Intended as a progress it was an answer to Brecht from the free art. Containing its seducing cocktail of emotions.
Mixing the absurd theatre with Zen-buddhism, Happenings rised, growing into environments, Fluxus &c.
The method of Zen is to create alienation by means of nature itself, observing the universal auto-motion long enough to be able to attain Satori, the highest knowledge.
Inspired by Zen, which refuses all books, formulations and pictures (they got the nickname the 'stink of Zen'), anti-art tried to push back art in favour of morals. Tried turning the artist into an anti-artist and the anti-artist into a moraliser.
According to the Zen sentence which goes "If you meet the Buddha, kill him and if you meet the patriarchs slay them at your feet". The anti-art was born in the late 1950s because of this myth about the disappearance of contents in favour of a basic conception. If you happen to meet the fine arts: kill them.
ANTI-ART IS ART TOO
A Good-year tyre by Oldenburg, a can by Kaprow, a pair of bloodstained trousers presented by Nam June Paik, a cardgame by Dick Higgins, a burp from Vostell or the empty space pointed out by Eric Ander-Zen. All these are things of beauty. Poems transformed into action, exhibited instead of painted. Each detail a thing from the surroundings placed on the screen with some purpose or after a certain plan. Exactly as La Gioconda (Mona Lisa) or another object from somewhere painted on the canvas in the traditional way.
So Art in the classic tradition leaves the spectator just as open as does the so-called open performance.
Because of that the salt-dealer Marcel Duchamp and Picabia were able to give her the official name LHCOQ (her ass is hot) and a little moustache a la Strid. Volf Vostell for instance would never allow you to put a moustache on him during a performance.
An audience at an Happening is still sitting gazing as if it were in a theatre or in front of a painting looking for the true basic conception. The conclusion: is open art any different from basic conception? Is it still art?
JORN ZORN SILKEBORG
As he at the same time attacks the Bohr Theory calling it a blind road (in his book De Division Naturae) I must confess to find this without consequence.
The spectator is anyhow dead, Jorn states in the Situationist Times. In any case it is impossible for the spectator to exist. In this he quotes the Bohr theory stating that observation changes the object you observe. An electronic microscope for instance changes the electronic relations in objects observed through it. I quote Bohr:
"Studying the primitive tribes the ethnographer is not only aware of the dangerous interruption he can cause to the culture through his touch upon it. He is also very often himself on his own body feeling how deeply his own way of life, his philosophy and mind can be changed through such studies. Especially I am thinking of the well known observation among explorers, that prejudgments they were not even aware of before could be shaked deeply through the harmony human life creates, even under habits and traditions quite different from their own ones".
Stating the death of the spectator four years after it had been stated in the CO-RITUS manifesto, Jorn is rather a little late. We are glad of his agreement. But he does not understand the basic in my argumentation: the death of the spectator is mutually the death of the classic artist. Jorn still works as a classic artist on classic art according to classic perception.
Taking the position of the sublime creator he evidently never understood the idea nor took the consequences of it. The consequences are taken in communicative art. With the CO-RITUS placing of art in new relations.
CO-RITUS IS NOT ANTI ART
The communicative phase of art is not death of art, but its expansion. Nor do we intend to kill the traditional art. But we proclaim disappearance of an illusion, a lie. We take the consequences:
a) through turning the spectator into a participator
Very soon the time will come when work starts moving the wings in order to fly away. A new time is going to rise carried to a new social balance by servo-technology, automatics and cybernetics. Changes which will make possible the disappearance of economical circulation in favour of a social circulation of an artistic type. Therefore the old French Situationistic theory on the passing (derive) is now completely worn out. Guy Debord's theory stated that by passing (deriving) rapidly through completely unknown surroundings of labyrinthic character, people should be forced into a 'verfremdungs'-situation wanting to express new wishes for a new urbanism. Labyrinths of this sort were named Derive-Labyrinths. To me this theory always seemed nonsense. As a sort of answer we built the Spiral Labyrinth in the Malmo Town Hall (though the French mathematician, Max Bucaille, in the Situationist Times No.3 tried to prove that a spiral labyrinth is impossible. It is only impossible plane-geometrically). In the CO-RITUS labyrinth it was made possible for the public to participate in various activities: building, painting, playing &c. The process was not passing (deriving) anymore but communicative creativity.
We praise with joy the new signs of understanding which after many years are coming up. Our street experiments concertos are starting gathering successors. (Especially we have enjoyed Quineau's cent mille poemes, the Steen osmotic theatre, the Boonean shooting pictures, the Rooke Wroom Rooms). So today is recommended, in the period where poetry is getting near to picture making, pictures are getting near to theatre, the theatre is getting near to action. Today I urge: let us make the city into a radiant workshop for the new art. Art will get new powers with CO-RITUS.