2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025
2026 2027 2028 2029 2030 2031 2032 2033 2034 2035 2036 2037 2038 2039
001. Jacerusalem

In the imminent scenario of a post-capitalistic era fully regulated by invisible yet ubiquitous corporations, how is the willing of the single individual going to keep existing and maintaining its integrity versus a most general conglomeration of mind-sets, a blind and inevitable procession within a main stream whose only aim is the very main-stream itself?

Jerusalem, the Holy City per antonomasia, comes as a metaphor for a most unique stronghold that still beholds to its unresolved human conflicts. As a paradox, this very stronghold do not hold the conflict separated by walls but there they are laying within, and right within we have its different forces facing against each other and try to push each other out. Aside from judging and pointing to the reader the oppressors and oppressed, we may now look into another dimension that has become very usual within the every day fabric of the city, for instance: - the casual tourists that do not seem to have any conflict supposedly as they already belong to some corporation securing their existences, and thus do not face any authentic problem and consequently do not really exist; - we may obviously encounter sparse flocks of religious people who visibly have problems and delegate to their religion the salvation and solution of them; - sympathizers of one or the other group may be present to support them and transfigure themselves into subtle heroes or rather the saints of our critical time even though they would mostly deny their passion and most likely shout their agnosticism.

Yet, and most rarely we might in this crowd of oppressors, oppressed, related sympathizers, casual tourists and religious people, we might identify a most enigmatic figure, a figure that could belong to all those that were mention above but, at the same time, no one at all, and "What in the name of whatever prophet is this guy up to?" might one of the many soldiers wander aloud with his fellow soldiers. And they would certainly be most entertained and yet cautiously suspicious of his most meticulous behavior, a rather compromising act in such a tense environment, Jacek Smolicky, arising from the crowd with his accentuated blondness dominating an already unusual height. What is such an unmistakable Westerner doing stopping in front of every security camera and taking a photo?

Technically the operation of Smolicky is defined as reverse-surveillance, or to better put it, a meta surveillance often used in much less sensitive scenarios and by people that are mostly phobic about being surveilled. It is not the case of Smolicky who, like an acute and daring Psychogeographer, is mapping the entire stronghold of human conflicts, conflicts that are now under strict surveillance and themselves fully under Panopticon like controlled, conflicts that in his picture he can most dramatically account. The resulting archive of pictures is an assemblage of many mirrors, dramatic mirrors if one has to really look into it, and mirror as it is known are much more terribly revealing then the actual picture, the picture of the casual tourist or the accusing pictures of the sympathizers. This is not enough, in his strict documenting method, Smolicky brings us a most indestructible aesthetic, a most objective reality, a grid from which we ourselves get imprisoned and cannot escape unless we maintain a certain superficiality and do not really look at this authentic commitment.

By delivering this reliquary to his motherland, a motherland that is now advanced in securing its destiny among capitalism, a motherland whose future generation may no longer experience any confrontations with real conflicts and vegetate most subtly, Smolicki brings such a human conflict back and most importantly, by doing so, he regenerates the existences of his countrymen who are brought face to face with a more real reality. With this, he also addresses another question: what is really our duty in the capitalistic orchestrated society?

For the more profound observer, we may further identify an element of Sousveillance, we may, in our careful examination of this repertoire, we may not fail to notice a further mirror within the mirror, and this is where Smolicki places a representation of himself, the very glass of the cameras which in certain instances reflect his very image, the image of an executor of a concept, an executor with a intuitive mission, the single real missioner of the most scattered crowd of the Holy City.

002. The Breaking Boundaries of Mr. Hsieh

In the mist of Manhattan fervent cultural atmosphere at the end of the 70s and beginning of the 80s, in the mist of an artistic exuberance dictated by art celebrities, in all that glamor worked Tehching Hsieh, a Taiwanese immigrant who illegally jumped off a boat and settled in the metropolis. In this Epicurean obscurity the Taiwanese artist “happily” conceived a cycle of five one year long performances to be executed one after the other starting in 1978 when he caged himself in his apartment. In 1979, and for a whole year, he was photographing himself punching a card every hour on the hour and in 1980 he lived a whole year without getting under a roof. In 1981 he lived tied up to a woman but this performance failed and as for 1982 he decided not to talk about art for the coming 13 years. After which his work was finally recognized and latter exhibited at the MoMA.

In his solo exhibition presented in the top most floor of the museum in the spring of 2009, a print out of all the photographs captured during his second performance can be seen linearly arranged throughout the perimeter of the space. The face of the artist who, according to his rules, had to photograph himself every hour and on the hour, looks increasingly weary considering that for a whole year his sleep was thus interrupted. Nothing other than this self inflicted torture readable on his face can be detected from this passage of time. Some documents also reveal the time in which Mr. Hsieh missed to stamp and photograph, likely overtaken by exhaustion. Mr. Hsieh performances are often viewed as some sort of masochism, an extreme art practice like that of the Viennese Actionism such as Otto Mühl and all the movement characterizing the body art of the 70s. The audience generally fails to view Mr. Hsieh as an outsider, a neglected immigrant who was far from being accepted from the cultural establishment in New York. Under this neglection, Dostoievsky already showed in his masterpiece Crime and Punishment, how is main character, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, felt unable to accomplish an heroic action and lacking any prospects, resolved to kill an old Jewish usurer. This Raskolnikov effect is increasingly characterizing the many emancipated individuals of our contemporary society who often conclude to perform a terrorist action.

Mr. Hsieh actions may be viewed under this lens, a neglected individual with aspirations who resolves to overcome his Kafka-like existence through a meditative suspension rather than a violent intervention. The Buddhist and Daoistic components of this endurance of reality are clear as clear it was probably Mr. Hsieh understanding that, among all art performers, he was going to be the first to attempt such an extreme quest and thus immediately reach the Olympus of cultural celebrities bypassing the often pretentious escalation of the cultural establishment. Even the superstar, Marina Abramovic, didn't fail to proclaim Mr. Hsieh a master of performance art. As these actions may be carried by artists outside the art establishment, thus providing a more authentic scenario to empower the life as art, art as life paradigm, we soon understand the importance of documentation as an evidence of the action. Prior the beginning of each performance, Mr. Hsieh signed a printed statement listing the rules he was going to follow in the coming year. Looking at another room of the Moma exhibition, visitors discover that while living one year without going under a roof, Mr. Hsieh traced on a map of Manhattan each of his movements. The documentation is everything that is left and this very fact transforms it into a holly reliquary just as the piece of the fabric of the most worn out rag of whatever Saint. Under all these premises we may also change our analytical lens and start reading Mr. Hsieh work considering his strong use of constraints. Raymond Queneu, one of the founders of Ouvroir de littérature potentielle (O.U.L.I.P.O.), a literary advant-garde of the 60s, writes in essay about “What is Art?” written in 1938: “The classic writer who composes his tragedy by observing a certain number of rules that he knows is freer than the poet who writes whatever comes into his head, and who is a slave to other rules that he doesn't see”. In a society with what another writer like James Joyce defined as an ocean of potentials, constrains can be seen as a way of defining a direction which would be otherwise kept open among all the possibilities. In this manner, one could see how Mr. Hsieh was able to generate a composition where time can be seen as a stanza and the performative rules as the rhythmical metrics. This can again be related to the artist cultural background well rooted in the Chinese culture of Southern Taiwan.

There may be other lenses from which to review Mr. Hsieh's conceptual and performative work of self-constraintment, there may be other more contemporary artists he could relate too as Andrea Zittel, yet again one may evaluate these performative actions through their actual statements and their ambition to embark something without any predecession, something which the very progression of society and its technologies keep on expanding without any consideration for any hermetic cultural discourse. As Mr. Hsieh's work might as well have been forgotten and not credited by the art world if it wasn't for the curator Alexandra Munroe and the thick MIT Press anthology Out of Now, celebrating his lifework, there are several other cases of uncelebrated cultural achievements of individuals outside the establishment, who were really able to merge their lives with their art. The 57 years long work of a Polish woman by the name of Janina Turek is another example. Again a neglected woman trying to transcend the misery of ordinary life creating strict rituals of self-awareness, what the above mentioned Anrdea Zittel, in her few weeks long experiments calls life-structures.

This life actions dictated by these courageous concepts take the old form of a novel by the Sicilian author Giuseppe Verga, a passage by Émile Zola, or a post-war film by Roberto Rossellini. The raw and real facts are presented to the imagination of the reader, they become authentic documents of our unmasked human nature. The difference now is that really in the first case the characters were forced to conduct such a penitent life while for Mr. Hsieh and Mrs. Turek nature is less harsh, it allows them to reflect in first person upon their own conditions and to document it as Doctor Zhivago does, seating in a remote winter cabin after the October Revolution and after spending the summer cultivating the land. In this instance Boris Pasternak, the author, is able to express through Doctor Zhivago's reflections in his journal, that it is the very condition of non-heroes and housewives making life so worth telling.