DISAVOWAL 

PANEL 2, MAY 20

Video presentations are below,

followed by a panel discussion.

 AMERICAN LANDSCAPE(S) AR 

 Seol Park 

 SCARLETT ON DISPLAY 

 Scotty So 

 IF YOU WANT MY MIND YOU CAN TAKE MY PAIN AS WELL (THE CRAWLING MAN PROJECT) 

 Kiron Robinson 

 
 
 

 PANEL DISCUSSION 

CHAIR: CATE CONSANDINE

Chair response

DISAVOWAL

Cate Consandine

 

 

Disavowal stems from the idea that upon perceiving something traumatic, like death or absence, the ego will do away with it, by moving to substitute the absence with a presence elsewhere. Denial hovers around this act. Freud’s interpretation of the term is salient: a fear is born in the child upon perceiving that the mother is missing a part of her genitalia, believing this to be a lack, the child displaces the fear onto an object nearby[1]. This diversion, this act of substitution is central to psychoanalytic constructions of disavowal. In artistic practice, one might argue that disavowal leads to unexpected creative acts.

 

Presented with projects by three artists, Kiron Robinson, Seol Park and Scotty So, I am most interested in how each employ mediated technologies. These technologies negotiate an important relationship of substitution between the virtual and the real body, the virtual and experiences in the flesh. In Kiron Robinson’s If you want my mind you can take my pain as well (The Crawling Man Project) artificial intelligence allows for a virtual body to be substituted in place of his own. Crawling on all fours, Kiron’s avatar descends and labours toward a shifting horizon. In this algorithmic scheme, death is averted for 38 years, a cunning solution.

 

Machine vision is engaged with specific reference to Seol Park’s American Landscape(s) AR. In the Met Museum, a mobile phone stands between the fleshy eye of its beholder and a nineteenth century American landscape painting. By diverting the look to a series of digital compositions in the phone’s app, the artist is able to navigate alternate experiences for the viewer. Rather than negating the space of contemporary art, new narratives spring from the phone as surrogate device.

 

In Scarlett on Display, the artifice of the performing body, in drag, is substituted into the virtual landscape of Wikipedia. With a master stoke of cut and paste, Scotty becomes Carrie Lamb, the chief executive officer of Hong Kong, then a Noble Lady in 1910s China, and so on. One is compelled to ask: is this disavowal serious or does it stem from comic parody? What complicates the political and speculative space of Scotty’s work, is the uncomfortable knowledge that the stand-in is taken for real.

 

In the context of Art Anywhere? it is a pleasure to open these compelling projects to you, and to contemplate in discussion with Kiron, Seol and Scotty, their complex dimensionalities.

 

[1] See Sigmund Freud, “Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old-Boy,” in Collected Papers, Vol. III (London:Hogarth Press, 1949), 149-295.

 

 COMMENTS 

Comments on this panel are now closed. Thank you to everyone who contributed.

  • Thank you Seol, Scotty, Kiron and Cate for these wonderful presentations and discussion.
    Seol, through your seamless use of technology I see two possibilities.  On the one hand, there is a certain didacticism in your project that will quickly wear itself out, while the paintings themselves remain there on the museum walls, sacrosanct and immutable.  On the other hand, you are making the paintings, which you have a great love of and respect for – the ground of suffering, despair and hope, the ground that exposes, locates and gives a particular context and texture to the experiences others. In so doing you are revivifying our experience of the paintings themselves. It is as though you are making us once more attentive to the capacity of surfaces, textures and colours to carry meaning beyond the merely representational, the formal or the abstract. This possibility brings with it an acknowledgement of the material ground of the image -where pigment and oil, and flesh and blood come together. 
    Thank you again. 

    Elizabeth Presa 

    • You're right about that there's art as content and art as objet. I love both -- art as content for its timeliness, agility, and for its healthy habit of spilling over to adjacent disciplines such as education, interaction design and activism... and art as objet for its presence in relation to a space and for the romance of its material, surface, weight, and the "artist's hand." I engage in both. Further, I believe art-as-objet lives in the paradigm of "ownership" (therefore commercial art galleries excel at handling objects) while art-as-content is more in line with the larger shift of paradigm to "access" (the media & entertainment industries navigate this better). Somewhere between the two, public art and public institutional exhibits are an area that's uniquely positioned to offer object and content together to their constituents, hence the construct of my American Landscape(s) AR, imagining just one such way. 

      Seol Park 

  • Thank you Kiron, Seol, Scotty and Cate for the terrific presentations and discussion. Kiron your piece is so thought-provoking! It gives me the sense of wanting to get a handle on life -- perhaps this is just why statistics are so handy! Unforgettable for me is a story (real or imagined--I can't remember) of a person who printed out on one continuous sheet of paper a checkbox for every day of their life (based on an average like your piece I assume). Before going to sleep every day they checked off that day, faced with a visualisation of every day passed and every day ahead. Like your work it illustrates the enormity and banality of living life. Scotty I found your project unexpectedly moving. It showed how Wikipedia's constant struggle to present "the truth" is as exhausting (and as futile) as Kiron's crawling through his future life. Rather than making me feel I should be more vigilant when using Wikipedia, it is making me see Wikipedia as an art project in itself -- searching for truth but not ever being able to achieve it. And Seol I really enjoyed learning about your interventions at the Met. They remind me that the art that is presented to us institutions like this, and the information that is provided about it, is from a particular point of view. I wonder if your project can become even more interactive, in a way that allows visitors to the museum to construct their own overlays for the artworks, sharing many more interpretations of the art. Great discussion, Cate! Thanks again to all of you.

    Louisa Bufardeci 

    • Hello. Yes, content augmentation by visitors is also possible :) The second half of my answer to Elizabeth (above) would be relevant to your point, too. 
      Also "Wikipedia as an art project in itself" is an interesting way to think about it! Makes me think of others things today that are born out of human creativity (just not presented in galleries and biennales) that could be seen as art projects. Some are accidental masterpieces. 

      Seol Park

  • For Scotty:
    Drag takes a significant place in queer culture. Perhaps this is because of its subversion of gender expectations and roles. Recent discussions about drag contest that it has lost its political impetus as identity has been subsumed into a capitalist mode of production. Queerness, including gender non-conformity, as a practice seemingly goes beyond representation. I think your practice is a great example of a queer(y)ing practice that subverts not just gender but also the substance of queerness as representation. Wikipedia is the site of what it purports to be objective collective truth. I am interested in what you see as the purpose for disavowing the 'objective truth' of Wikipedia (or 'the authority' as you called it in your talk), and why drag is the best medium for such a practice?

    Hayden Williams 

    • I think the purpose for disavowing the 'objective truth' of Wikipedia is a way of allowing other 'truths' to coexist on that platform. The rules of Wikipedia page editing is that you need to provide bibliography and authentic resources in a academic way or else it would be remove by 'admins' (who are also volunteering and they have to provide legit reasons to remove contents). As much as Wikipedia is not a site that is recognised by universities and academies, it is still a great  source for a common everyday search of quick truth. By creating 'authenticity' which convince over the 'authority', it allows the 'inauthentic' to become one of the truths and therefore question the power of truth on sites like Wikipedia that is given by the public.

      Using drag for this project is also away to question the truths of drag too. As time changes, the perception of drag has changed from only just about gender bending to the form of acting in different identities such as cultural identity, class, and even body modification into alien or animal like creatures. In one of the pictures of the project, I also dressed as a 1910s Chinese Opera performer as a female character, in that case, was it drag that I was portraying or was it a Chinese Opera performer that I was portraying?
       
      In drag, there is always the word, 'realness', which relates so much to my practice of world making. World making requires some kind of authenticities from the old world in order to construct a new world and I see the same with drag and the truths making on Wikipedia. From the original perception of disguising my gender from male to female through the process of shaving, makeup to become the 'authentic' feminine image, to the research and making of authentic garments and photographs, and with the irony and sincerity of camp in drag, it generates a stronger power of disguise through the use of drag on the 'truthful', free edit, authorised Wikipedia.​

      Scotty So 

    • p.s.  The copyright of some of the pictures that are still on Wikipedia are now take away from me for public use by the Australian Government because it was 'taken before 1955'. 

      Scotty So 

  • For Seol Park, Congratulations an a really thought provoking intervention that only intervenes in an existing experience. There is no disruption except by volition. It really is one of the first augmentations that I can think of as doing just that. I am interested in what you said about the readymade - bieng about the appropriation of art. Duchamp said to use a Rembrandt as an ironing board but ended up putting a moustache on the Mona Lisa. I am part of this research program and I am approaching  the bridge as a readymade. I will think more deeply about how I intervene and augment after seeing your work. Thank you. 

    Anthony Mcinneny

    • Projection work by Krzysztof Wodiczko is another example that may aid in your research. Thank you, and good luck with your research!

      Seol Park