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A view of 'culture' and 'life' ... from where I am currently sitting (Alytus, 2008) Print
Written by Roddy Hunter & Judit Bodor   
Tuesday, 09 December 2008 13:43

An action/lecture initially formulated and performed for a Live Art Symposium dedicated to discussing the work of Tehching Hsieh at Site Gallery, Sheffield, England in 2001. At this point the action/lecture was titled A view of 'art' and 'life' ... from where I am currently sitting given the discourse emerging from Hsieh’s work and in particular from the last two of his ‘One Year Performance’ series (1978-86). The first of these, subtitled ‘Art/Life’, was a collaboration with Linda Montano that involved them being tied together by an 8-foot rope every hour of every day for twelve months between 1983-4. The second and perhaps more pertinent to the present Art Strike conference was his last ‘One Year Performance’ in which Hsieh spent a further continuous twelve month period between 1985-6 without making, viewing, discussing or participating in art. Importantly too his documentation of this ‘One Year Performance’ – usually an expertly handled in-depth strategy in his other ‘One Year Performances’ – was kept to the barest minimum signifiers of a poster and a statement created in advance of his year without art.   

 The action/lecture was developed further as a collaboration between Roddy Hunter and Heiko Fischer at the 11th Performance Art Conference, Maschinenhaus Essen, Germany in 2003. At this point, Hunter had come to believe that the discussion of the relationship between ‘art’ and ‘life’ should be overtaken by a discussion of ‘culture’ and ‘life’ and thus replaced almost every mention of the word ‘art ’in the ‘original’ text with the word ‘culture’. This was largely a philosophical concern in line with Mikhail Bakhtin’s (1993, p. 2) view that: 

“…two worlds confront each other, two worlds that have absolutely no communication with each other and are mutually impervious: the world of culture and the world of life, the only world in which we create, cognize, contemplate, live our lives and die or-the world in which the acts of our activity are objectified and the world in which these acts actually proceed and are actually accomplished once and only once.” 

This view supports understanding of the similarity between art and culture more succinctly as both being worlds in which ‘the acts of our activity are objectified’. 

This philosophical grounding provides the basis to consider not only the ‘objectification’ of ‘the acts of our activity’ in art – this may well be an admissible and accurate function of art in the cultural context – but also of a socio-economic-political ‘commodification’ of our lives through ‘culture’ in the sense that the designation of European Cities or Capitals of Culture as proposed by the European Union since 1985 and which is planned for Vilnius in 2009 implies. That the forthcoming Art Strike proposed as the activity of the third Alytus Biennial in 2009 intends parallel critique of Vilnius ’09: European Capital of Culture this grounding seems pertinent for discussion. Having re-adapted and updated the action/lecture of Sheffield and Essen to be ‘A view of 'culture' and 'life' ... from where I am currently sitting (Alytus, 2008)’, Roddy Hunter and Judit Bodor Hunter may also propose a ‘Festival of Human Activity’ as an undocumented and non-reproductive contribution to any Art Strike of 2009 associated with the third Alytus Biennial. 

Bibliography:

Bakhtin, M.M., 1993. Toward a Philosophy of the Act.

Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1998. Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action. Cambridge: Polity Press.Culture

Live Vilnius ’09: European Capital of Culture. 2008. [Online]. Available at: http://www.culturelive.lt/en/main/ [accessed 16 June 2008]

European Commission – Culture. European Capitals of Culture. 2008. [Online]. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/culture/our-programmes-and-actions/doc413_en.htm [accessed 16 June 2008] 

Home, Stewart. 1991. The Art Strike Papers. Stirling: AK Press

Hsieh, Tehching, 2000. One Year Performance Art Documents 1978-1999. [DVD-ROM]. Brooklyn, NY: Tehching Hsieh.

Miller, Roland. C., 2000. Montage, Collage and Bricolage; The assemblage of ’Incorporating’ 1998/1999. Unpublished PhD Thesis. De Montford University. 

RODDY HUNTER is a recognised artist, organiser, writer and teacher in the field of contemporary, mainly performance, art practice. He is known for contextual and conceptual works concerned mainly with knowledge and ideology in social contexts. His performances usually take place over extended time-periods and often involve or inhabit both constructed and ‘found’ spaces and locations. His work has been seen throughout Europe as well as in North America, Asia and the Middle East over the past two decades. Some of this work is featured in Ice Cream: Contemporary Art in Culture (Phaidon, 2007) and in his first monograph Civil Twilight & Other Social Works (Trace Samizdat, 2007). He taught at Dartington College of Arts between 1998-2007 where he became Director of Art before taking up his present position as Head of Fine Arts at York St John University, England. 

JUDIT BODOR is a curator and lecturer living in York, UK. She holds MAs in Arts History (Eötvös Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary) and in Arts Management (Dartington College of Arts, Devon, UK) and is currently lecturer in the Field of Art at the Dartington Campus of University College Falmouth, UK. Since September 2006 she is also responsible for the public programme of The Gallery at the Dartington Campus. Between 1999 and 2004 she has been involved in the activities of Artpool Art Research Centre, an internationally established avant-garde art archive and exhibition space in Budapest, Hungary (www.artpool.hu). Since 2002 she has been researching and lecturing on archiving contemporary art and contemporary art archives as part of international series of art events, symposia and residency projects throughout Europe including Hungary, Slovenia, Poland, England and Northern Ireland.