|Let's talk about the your next show, the title is The Author as Consumer, right?
Yes, The show has got two parts and is suppossed to work on two different levels. The first part is a reflection on Michael Ashers death. Basically it is a response to his death, being puzzled by the reactions to it. At one time I wanted to call the show ?Michael Ashers Ashes", but this title seemed too bland, to sarcastic. So this meditation on Ashers ashes is one part. The other part consists of these very personal works, it is like a collage of all this baggage I was carrying around the last years. Hopefully Michael Asher can take a bit of this burden from my back (laughs).
See, talking about the show, trying to explain the show, to be honest - I can't read one more press release. I've read too much of them- in fact I think I am reading nothing else than press releases. One is bombarded with this utterly crap. It is truly annoying, it produces a silly contemporary state of mind, one is sucked in a second hand downgrade of ... In fact reading press releases ruins everything, your live your perception, your believes. I can' tell you how all this bores me to death.
Mhmm.. but could you describe the idea behind the "Author as Consumer", which gave the show its title?
Well, I think the huge success of the ready-made and all the following movements dealing with it, may it be Pop, may it be conceptualism and this following mess we now call contemporary art, has got to do with the fact that the concept of the ready-made is geared so much around the idea of getting rid of the decision - this most dreadful experience in an artistic process where you have to decide: Ok, this is it! But that means giving up so many things, giving up a complete fantastic world of possibilities of the other etc. So what the ready made, and especially the conceptualistic use of it from the 60s onwards, suggested is that there is a nice and easy consumeristic way of getting rid with the pain of being an artist: hey, why not just take whatever's out there, spice it with a bit of Wittgenstein and salt it with a murmuring hermeneutic crypticity, and voilá: nothing decided, everything ?works". So in this consumerist world the only thing left for the artist is to go shopping. You now might add, well, this is true for one single string of art, the Duchampian route if you like, but there is more to it: this whole nice and well done stuff you see on say Contemporary Art Daily now: it is all like going to the candy store, perfectly well made refined sloppy things which cry out: Art! Strange and odd, naive, hyper-perfect, whatever. Ahh, it bores me to death...
See, we talk, and we could talk about truly interesting things, about freedom, about love, if this would be possible, to talk about love, which I came to think is impossible, well anyway, the world is rich, I think the baroque did got that right at least, they saw this world as a folded one where the different and opposing things -love, freedom, belief etc. might come together in a weird spatial fold certain practices like art could provide. But also meditation, activities like ... well...
Could you emphasize this point of consumption and the corresponding role of the artist in contemporary culture?
Photography is the most evil consumption possible, it eats the world. But I can't let go of it. It's a shame. It's both a ready-made and a produced thing, which makes it even more evil. its the devils gift to the modern world. it killed all things beautiful...
But it doesn't stop here, you see - we are so used to his idea of plurality - and art was always in a way opposed to this idea, it dealt with the one thing, that one sublime object transcents everything. Now plurality and the need to choose are the main obsessions in contemporary society, one might call it the core of our attempt to seek transcendence in choice - and consumerism is only nothing else then the easy way out of this trap.
This is where the problem of decision comes into play. It is no wonder that Kant wrote his ?Critique of Judgement" at the dawn of the French revolution, which was in fact a bourgeois revolution, and started what later would have become modernism. I am now interested in the other end of this game, and that is doubt, Doubt with a capital D. The ready-made idea of the choice ends in a fatal and greedy consumption and Doubt is an inevitable side-effect of this. You can overcome this metaphysical doubt while shopping or with pressing the shutter of a camera. 1/125 th of a second of decisive relief in our world lacking of final solutions.
But to come back to the show: My work is undergoing a massive change at the moment - in the past I very much trusted in a certain evidence like in nostalgia, in a poetry of the evidence if you like. This left me, I am recently much more interested in structures of mediation, in that strange wish to exhibit. Which is something you can for one part explain with a little narcissistic disorder. But this is not all. There must be a very fundamental drive to ?show", to exhibit, which is just partly related to narcissism. You want to show, you want to be different and at the same time you relate to a certain discourse which might be ?in the air" or is something you discuss amongst your peers. I am at the moment extremely interested in this ?in the air" moment, morphogenetic field theories, the ?Zeitgeist" if you wish. This is of course something nobody really considers a serious discourse, but it is the one glue which holds the art-world together. This je ne sais quoi of ?that is hot" whereas other practices are not. So the question was: can one build a series of works solely on these assumptions of weird bar-talk, of a flavour in the air mixed with gossip? The core of this is actually a quest for the essence of the ?Now". So I try to be a medium of sorts, where I try to channel the ?Now" through my spirit into the works. The works on the other hand have still got a certain oldfashionedness built in, something which I can't help because this might be the opposite program of Sigmar Polkes ?Höhere Wesen befahlen" (laughs).
So you say you criticize this contemporariness, which is of course one important signifier for the production of value in the art-world?
No, not at all, there is no critique involved, which is really hard. We learned from so early on - not just in art-school but much earlier, it might be the earliest programming we underwent - that we have to be critical. In fact this is precisely the neoliberal state of mind: you have to be critical to fulfill your role as a member of late-capitalist society - you have to learn principles of judgement to be a consumer, it is your task to be judgmental because you deal with so much questions of choice: between 100 sorts of tomato sauce, mobile phones, toilet paper etc. you have to make the right decision. Same goes for culture, your choice of lifestyle etc... this very much relates to what we discussed earlier, this immanent duty to choose. So the ready-made is a wonderful symptom of this, a consumerist solution, which is does in fact complicate things.
One could be polemic and claim that the whole so called ?critical practice" is in fact grounded on this paradox: to quote a famous critic: "nobody wants to be creative anymore". The paradigm of being creative, once the core quality of an artist, has become highly suspicious. As an artist nowadays you have to be critical. But that leaves one thing completely unrecognized: that we all are highly critical subjects already and that there is this weird virtual commodity of criticality which is a highly sought after good and is being traded in society overall because it became the basis of our lives. So what I try to do at the moment is to just leave criticality behind, and search for a transcendence between failure and doubt.
Transcript of an interview with Michael Alfred Laurent by Michael Schultze, Berlin, April 2013