In November we’re holding a workshop at Goldsmiths around circulation, distribution and dispersion of artwork.

I want to think about artworks that make claims about not being circulated. My interest in this area stems from my own work, but I want to use the opportunity to research things other people have done. Because of the nature of the subject I don’t anticipate sticking exclusively to examples from art, but I hope to draw some conclusions that have relevance to art.

Most of the work I’ve found on this subject is around event-based art. A starting point could be the dissemination of happening-type work Allan Kaprow calls “lifelike art”. In his 1966 lecture How To Make A Happening he urges us to “happen” in the real world and not in art, and not to put on shows for audiences. He differentiates between the happenings and the instructions or descriptions of them, saying that the latter are not art, “just literature”. Nevertheless these happenings enter an art context and find an art audience through this “literature”, or informally through anecdote.

The anecdotal form of dissemination has parallels in the contemporary brand-building of celebrities, through tales recounted never by the rock stars themselves but by less cool people on the sidelines of their activity. Doing crazy things needs to be kept separate from the drive to tell people you’re doing them or they won’t be crazy any more.

In Sartre’s Nausea the protagonist cynically writes “for the most commonplace event to become an adventure, you must – and this is all that is necessary – start recounting it. This is what fools people: a man is always a teller of tales, he lives surrounded by his stories and the stories of others, he sees everything that happens to him through them; and he tries to live his life as if he were recounting it. But you have to choose: to live or to recount.” (1965:61)

There are examples of prehistoric cave paintings produced in places so inaccessible that we assume they were meant not to be seen by other people. Christian churches are topped with intricate carvings invisible from ground level.

It might be appropriate to make reference to some concerns of my own practice, and perhaps cite part of a discussion I had at FormContent with antepress about whether you can ‘break’ a work by showing it, and whether no audience is audience enough, and how a group of works can be one another’s audience. Following my Vyner St LIKE WHEN YOU project, some thoughts about the ‘white studio’ (c.f. ‘white cube’) might also find themselves in here. I’m going to have another look at Ranciere, Heidegger, Agamben and Blanchot too, and their various treatments of the event.

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