Friday, 27 February. 2009.
me: Hi, I’m 5 mins early but we might as well go for it.
me: hmm, I’m not sure if this is working very well, this computer is giving me trouble It says that you are typing but I didn’t get your last two lines.
Robert: I didn’t write anything yet.
me: oh, ok well thats fine then. What I thought is that we can use this conversation (after editing) to serve as an intro, as well as coming to an agreement about the comments issue.
Robert: Ok. I think we need a little more than an intro. I think maybe a justification even. I’m not sure that what you’re doing is what I had in mind when I invited you as a Guest Editor
me: I thought not, thats why I wanted to chat. I had to do a masters presentation on wednesday, and I took a similar approach (obscure content) which didn’t go down very well at all, but it got me thinking about how people respond to things that appear unexplained – either they think you’re trying to be smart, that you don’t know what you’re doing, or that you’re an idiot. Not altogether ideal.
Robert: So how do you see it.
me: Taking you up on your offer as guest editor was quite a contentious issue with us. In one way we were pleased with the invitation and the opportunity to do something with our time, on the other hand we were slightly wary of the context of art heat, We weren’t sure whether we would be able to use it as a neutral space.
Robert: It isn’t a neutral space.
me: No. I interpreted your offer, as well as your invitation of previous guest editors and some of your more recent posts, as an attempt to try and do something different with the site, to focus less on the heat side of things and take the blog further into a different area of criticism. Personally, I don’t value the musing blog style of writing
Robert: I am trying new things and different styles. But I don’t necessarily see the value of random content in this context Nor how it is different criticism?
me: We’ve only just started – you’ll have to trust us if we’re going to continue.
Robert: I can be convinced to trust you. I still need some vision.
me: with the decision to accept your offer we decided on a few conditions; the first was to disallow comments, the second was to avoid speaking in the first person or to express any opinion (which was decided after Ahmed made the point that most blogging is primarily aimed towards self-promotion).
Robert: Sorry. Went offline for a second. I’m back
me: ok. did you get that last bit?
Robert: until was to disallow comments
me: ok this was next – the second was to avoid speaking in the first person or to express any opinion (which was decided after Ahmed made the point that most blogging is primarily aimed towards self-promotion). I’ve always felt a bit ambivalent about Artheat, I have been told that it was concieved as a work, do you still see it that way?
me: What’s changed?
Robert: Nothing changed. It was conceived as work, but not executed as a work The value of writing seemed more important in this context than the value of the artwork it would have made.
me: I should admit then that I feel ambivalent about art criticism as well, (and art) in terms of its critical worth.
Robert: Ok. That’s a pity. I invited you because you are young and I thought you might have something critical to offer.
me: the offering thing is actually a case in point – the idea that a text or a work should aim to fulfill a reciprocal demand is often what sabotages it. But thats another discussion altogether. Can you tell me how you see the comments as an integral part of the site?
Robert: Reciprocal demand makes it effective in communication
me: Communication succeeds with or without it, a signifier is always a signifier, with or without intent, or demand. There’s a nice Samuel Beckett quote that sums it up, he says in conversation that he dreams of an art unresentful of its insuperable indigence, and too proud for the farce of giving and recieving.
Robert: Yes. But intent does give direction to the communication.
me: I know, but that isnt really the main issue – I don’t think that communication (language, text, art etc) should have to offer anything – its usually worth nothing, the promise of meaning only leads to more and more bullshit.
Robert: I am unfortunately too proud for the farce of philosophical debate. I do believe in meaning in art and in criticism.
me: ha ha, well thats ok, I usually struggle to convince people that meaning has no meaning, and end up trying to explain why human suffering isn’t important and looking like a crazy nazi. … Can we discuss the comments issue?
Robert: I think the comments issue is null and void until I feel convinced that what you are producing on the site has value. This is a site of art criticism. I need to know why you feel your posts are appropriate and not just illegible? Then we can discuss the details.
me: I can’t really defend them, but I can say that they are not illegible, its up to the reader to take what they can. Confusion can be productive if you are prepared to be confused and not just feel like a shit head because you’ve been left out of the loop (and there is no loop).
Robert: Ok. If I except that they might be legible, why are they appropriate in this context? … Sorry. Accept not except
me: got it, they’re our response to guest editing your blog, if you wanted contributions only then it would have been a different story, we were really hoping to be able to change a lot more, background, masthead etc. We had to break the ice somehow, artheat is not an easy space to work with.
Robert: Why do you need to challenge the medium?
me: because there are certain things that we disagree with, you said ‘opinion, comment…go wild just don’t get me sued’, we couldn’t simply accept the medium, we had to raze some ground first. But its also important that it isn’t seen as antagonistic, because it isn’t.
Robert: Razing seems a little antagonistic.
me: I guess it does, but its not, unless you don’t want anyone to fuck with your ground, in which case you shouldn’t invite them onto it.
Robert: I invite many people into my home
me: Exactly, and you have a choice to either let us stay or kick us out … I just knew that we had to discuss this at some stage because its too easily read as cheap sabotage or colourful antagonism.
Robert: That’s a passive aggressive stance.
me: Its not, if only gmail chat had intonation widgets, we’re not trying to fuck up your house … widgets/emoticons, you know what i mean.
me: it really works so well … Ok so now you know, I’ve got a lot more to say, what else…
Robert: I don’t know. I’m still not sure if what you are doing is effective in this context. However, I will give you the benefit of my doubt. On the other hand, I’d like the readers to have their say.
me: Well they can always email us – allowing people to comment is just like allowing people to vote, its an empty gesture, though I understand its function on your site when its operating as per usual…. I will post emails.
Robert: It’s not a function of the blog. It’s one of the principles of the blog. It’s not negotiable.
me: How not negotiable, we’re not asking you to take comments off entirely – I just don’t want to propagate anonymous cynicism, its possible that we’ll agree to just censor all the comments, though I doubt that that will help our case much …
Robert: I honestly do wonder, without wishing to be morbid, how I reached this present pass. So far as I can remember of my youth, I chose the secret road because it seemed to lead straightest and furthest towards my country’s goal. The enemy in those days was we could point at and read about in the papers. Today, all I know is that I have learned to interpret the whole of life in terms of conspiracy. This is the sword I have lived by, and as I look around me now I see it is the sword I shall die by as well. These people terrify me but I am one of them. If they stab me in the back, then at least that is the judgment of my peers.
George Smiley in a letter to his estranged wife Annefrom John Le Carré, The Honourable Schoolboy 1978
Robert: Francis, I have to run. I have to be at work in 5 mins. I think we have reached a point, can you finish via email?
me: No problem, thanks. I was just about to suggest a smoke break.