Honorific forms of criticism, as exemplified by arthood, reflect the intuitive understanding that any given system is severely limited when the system itself is controlled by any form of autocratic elite, whether of owners, managers, curators or administrators – institution proselytized by state bureaucracy. Artists will not be free to develop their potentialities to their fullest, under these conditions and the artist will remain a degraded tool in the production process directed from above.
We have a cursory idea of the exhibition that this submission is intended to work out. The process of getting it clearer is the purpose of writing this text. The exhibition is useful only as a means of testing possible solutions to problems associated by us with having an exhibition, boiled down to the question: can an exhibition be critical of exhibitions? So, for the time being, there is no useful purpose in any attempt to actualize or realize it. The exhibition will ultimately exist at best as the subject of a document to distribute. The exhibition is only discussed in order to seek a way to exhibit a body of work we are currently engaged in producing in the studio. As the exhibition remains theoretical, a paper model, it seems to follow that the drawings should remain in the plan-chest.
The question of whether arthood will ever offer the conditions for exhibition is open. Why can we not begin by achieving the pre-requisites for them?
The primary problem remains: how to display a work in a public context while simultaneously functioning clear of the contradictions of exhibitionism: that artworks assume freedom while simultaneously functioning as a by-product proselytized by the institution, proselytized by state bureaucracy that eliminates freedom, spontaneity, autonomy and importantly critical potential. Is it possible to produce an exhibition that wholly criticises exhibitionism?
We start from the point of view of having an opportunity, in a public context to exhibit. This opportunity constitutes a problem. Whatever arrangement of things ends up functioning as the response to the opportunity to exhibit, it will have been the outcome of an attempt at responding to the problem of exhibiting. Exhibition constitutes a problem because exhibiting our work corresponds with the opposite outcome of what our intentions are. We intend to operate a practice that does not affirm or celebrate, but criticise arthood in order to challenge and change it. We want to find a way to have our work comprehended as distinct from the output of arthood as it currently manifests itself, where everything, whether distinct or not, is comprehended in the same terms, where every exhibited work apes the same model of distribution.
Wishing to entice the blind we offer some words in the form of a proposal: a submission to be taken as a prompt or stand-in for a construct, whether in a high-flown way (that is to say, insight) or at a more humble level of diagnostic analysis. This proposal is held to discern, examine or illustrate a possibility: the exhibition to occupy and realise it.
The function of this exhibition proposal is to engage our practice by actively seeking out problems with regard to sustaining it and how to go about engaging in some form of distribution without being subsumed by the reductive character the art world.
Production needs to be carried on without being insidiously shaped by the relations of distribution. Perversely the exhibition does not need to be realized in order to fulfil that intention. This is no idle conceptual conceit. We do not need to realize the exhibition in order to try to falsify any of those suppositions made for it.
The proposal is the opposite of the justification of certainty that exhibition stands for. An exhibition does not constitute a worthwhile pursuit because any suppositions made for it cannot, in fact be falsified in the case of a completed statement such as an exhibition. Neither is it a cleverly crafted get-out clause. It is that a proposal, in its most bare form, is weighted towards relations of production as opposed to the relations of distribution, and this is more productive than an exhibition at the present time. We have no work, or we have work but no work that pertains to the conditions of the exhibition we would go on to propose.
Just to be clear: this proposal does not constitute a work of art just because it is the work of artists, or because it is the product of the studio for that matter. Work categorised by ourselves in that sense is being produced by us, with the extraneous exhibition described in this proposal in mind. This is not a response to a call for submissions or an example of professionalism subserving the institution.
A proposal that is the product of the studio because if it is unencumbered by the promise of exhibition becomes productive in gaining access to truth when we are objectively at our weakest: when we are forced to submit to the fact that we do not know what to do; when theory fails to cohere with practice, that is when theory exposes practice and practice exposes theory. It is in this reflexive gap between theory and practice, when they become internally and externally realised, that we can try to propose a perfunctory exhibition simply as a stimulus to engage, rather than as a command to submit to.
Working exclusively towards a body of work whilst also producing a proposal to an extraneous exhibition with no professional purpose; an exhibition proposal that knowingly cannot be fulfilled, seems to us a productive and healthy attempt to engage with these problems. Antagonism and contradiction are not one and the same.
It is its possibility or potentiality of being understood, its dispositional character of being understood or interpreted, or misunderstood or misinterpreted, which makes a thing a work. And this potentiality or disposition may exist without ever being actualised or realised, distributed or exchanged.
The production of this proposal for an extraneous exhibition allows us to produce our work unencumbered by the degrading influence of the institution while being able to engage with the problems of distribution on our own terms. We can engage in the production of a body of work simply for the sake of producing a body of work. To work it out, whatever that entails. We can feel secure in that we are not steering the outcomes towards some potential opportunity for exhibitionism, and that the work is one of the studio or a set of relations distinct in being conscious of the oppressive nature of the relations of distribution. We are secure in the knowledge that we are not ‘working towards the next exhibition’. But at the same time, working on a proposal for an extraneous exhibition allows us to engage with the problems that occur when concerns enter into the relations of the distribution and consumption of art. Potential solutions to these problems and errors can be tested within the production of a proposal without exhibitionism obliterating the efficacy of the work done wholly within the sphere of production. The production of a proposal that functions as an infrastructure around a work, allows for a critical approach to practice, keeping practice engaged in inquiry rather than reduced to a series of moves that promote, celebrate and affirm arthood in all its submissive institutionalism.
Jeffrey Charles Henry Peacock