This took several goes to actually get my head around it but I’ve figured out the role of artiste mutant now.
Life in big cities is omnipresent in contemporary art. Imagery of streets, stores, markets, buildings, vacant lots, crowds and interiors is everywhere. Artists are fascinated by the transformation of this environment and the ‘becoming world’, e.g. post-industrialisation. It’s like the 19th century Modernists depicting the ‘becoming world’ of industrialisation and urban life. These two are also like me depicting the ‘becoming world’ of cyberspace which has recently become so prominent in everyday life. The streets of the city are like the pathways through cyberspace, stores might be websites, crowds might be viewing figures and comments. I have explored Internet iconography like artists use urban iconography.
Precariousness is linked to the artiste mutant. Precariousness is also omnipresent in contemporary art, linked to modernity: the fleeting, ever-changing nature of modernity, the shifting ‘crowd’ (changing habits of society).
Precariousness = mobility = modernity. Precarious art = modernity art.
Baudelaire’s artiste mutant he regarded as a man of the whole world, who understands it and all its uses.
The artiste mutant reflects the reality of modernity – the changing nature of modernisation, reflecting the mutating qualities of life (modernity).
The artiste mutant is a flâneur who’s able to become one with the crowd (a metaphor for modernity), conscious of mutations, responding to it, reproducing it in art: “a kaleidoscope gifted with consciousness”. Examples include Gabriel Orozco, Thomas Hirschhorn, Francis Alys and Jason Rhoades.
Therefore, I am an artiste mutant (a flâneur artist) and a precarious artist changing with the times and reflecting them.
Contemporary artists are utilising the remaining momentum of Modernists and thus modernity and modernisation, steering it in response to today’s landscape to form Altermodernism.
Flânerie in art includes Gabriel Orozco’s Yielding Stone, which refers to the erre of the urban pedestrian, an alternative form of portrait of the artist as flâneur. A plasticine ball picks up debris as its rolled around the city. The debris accumulated is the result of flânerie. This is like my colour specimens and cyberflânerie map, presenting the debris accumulated from cyberflânerie and serving as portraits of me as cyberflâneur with the latter, with the former the abstract pieces are the debris and portray me as a psychogeographer.
An interesting sidenote prompted by this chapter is the resonance Walter Benjamin’s description of the city has with the Internet. He describes the distance between the individual and collective diminishing just like global connectivity is doing. The immensity of the crowd destroys the bonds between the individual and the community. Likewise global connectivity and things like online shopping have shifted focus away from physical shops and neighbourhoods towards virtual equivalents.
Wandering has become an important response to city relations between the individual and collective for Bourriaud. Might it be that wandering forms are also important repsonses to virtual relations, either physical exploration to re-establish the importance of real-life community, or cyberflânerie as either a subversive act or, in my case, simply a contemporary, commonplace, accessible and popular way of doing things?
As a sidenote intersection between The Radicant and the tradition of psychogeography, the photographs of John Miller which show dinnerbreak flâneurs and flânerie, depict flânerie as being squeezed and hemmed into dinnerbreaks because of industrial production, drawing parallels with the narrative of the 19th century flâneur, finding himself increasingly unwelcome, his habitat shrinking in the changing Paris.
Also relevent here is Kendell Geers photographs of security systems in 1990s South Africa, where the wanderer is equally squeezed and threatened.
It seems comparisons can be made between Francis Alys’ multimedia art based on his 1991 journeys through Mexico and my practice. The body of work included drawings, photographs, films and actions. My body of work includes a variety of media. He recorded his strolls or collected found objects and images that were used in paintings. Likewise my ‘strolls’ and collected found objects, e.g. online newspaper articles, or photographs of industrial sites take art forms. Bourriaud asks “Why is it that the contemporary equivalent of landscape painting is based on action and narrative at the expense of representation?” It’s the same reason he says psychogeography is so important now – there’s no terra incognita – every conventional avenue has been explored, e.g. everything has been painted or mapped. Maps now feature experiences, like Franz Ackermann’s paintings. Likewise Alys says “I tried to create painted images that could become ‘equivalents’ to the action, ‘souvenirs’ without literally representing the act itself.”
All contemporary art is precarious art. It renders our established perspectives precarious, using everyday, familiar images like logos and street signs in discursive rather than the way of established facts are communicated to us: dictatorial and non-discursive. Art is the editing bench for reality. So I’m engaged in editing the reality or perceived reality of Huddersfield.
Building on this, in Bourriaud’s words, “art preserves intact an image of reality as a fragile construction and carries the torch for the notion of change…If contemporary art is the bearer of a coherent political project, it is surely this: to introduce precariousness into…representation by which the powers that be manage behaviours, to weaken all systems.” Therefore a political angle might be added to my work. Globalisation and Londoncentricity are values of the powers that be. They promote a view of the world as homogenous, replacing diversity with one global market for, say, McDonald’s, and Londoncentricity which presents itself as the only place to be in the UK, so many move there. By demonstrating that small identities still survive and thrive and that provincial Britain is still business-friendly, I can render established views precarious.
“Thus, wandering represents a political inquiry into the city. It is writing on the move” which Bourriaud says is as much as a “a critique of the urban”, so creates an aesthetic of displacement. One example of displacement aesthetics are Duchamp’s readymades like Fountain.
Wanderers are the contemporary equivalent of Duchamp – the mass produced object within the museum has become the journey forms within 21st century life. By representing my cyberflânerie in visual form I’m creating a type of displacement aesthetic and thus one of the wanderers Bourriaud describes.
I might also be a semionaut as well. Semionauts are artists who create paths through a miasma of signs, linking together industrial sites in Huddersfield together and with images of the past. My projection piece uses photography of Seahenge with MLSE technology, and I link the various industrial sites of Huddersfield with each other contemporarily but also Heterochronically with photographs of mostly King George VI’s visit to Huddersfield mills and machinery from that era. Bourriaud describes semionauts as joining up signs from a variety of cultural and geographic locations but the principle is the same.
Semionauts tend to use signs from a variety of different locations and cultures whereas I’m linking together similiar signs in the same geographic place but might the principle be the same? In any event I’m applying Hetereochronic principles which link signs from different times which might make me the time travelling semionaut.