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Jan Verwoert 1: Introduction: 3.10.2008

Continuing the attempt to fight the oppressive paranoia over legitimation in current thinking on art practice, the talk will address the question how the act of making references to art history in a work could be conceptualized – contrary to common opion - as being more than just a strategic move destined to situate, position and hence legitimize the work.

As an alternative to the paradigm of stragetical moves, I will propose the paradigm of the pandemonium: Founded in opposition to the pan-theon, the house of gods (i.e. the historical canon), the pan-demonium is the house of all demons in the city of Satan. If inspiration is the moment when the spirits of other artists or thinkers make their presence felt in a work, than a way to receive that calling, acknowledge that one acts under the influence of other forces and show appreciation to the muses that amuse you, why not turn your work into a pandemonium to try and live with those ghosts?

To do so, to call those demons by their names might not even be the right thing to do. Relating to them may rather be a question of how to keep and share a secret. Contrary to the strategical paradigm that portrays references as transpartent entries into the book of history, thinking through the implications of the pandemonium model may show that this must not necessarily be so. Many references to art history in current conceptual practice are in fact not presented in a manner or fashion that would render them readily understandable. It is rather a hermeticism of coded innuendo through which reference are very often are made today, not least as a means to bond with viewers - or alienate them.

Rather than getting hung up on evaluating strategies or losses, would it not be much more revealing to discuss what ghosts we want to invoke, and even more importantly, how – in what manner, key, style or fashion – we want to do so in our work? How do we go about the practice of keeping and sharing our most treasured secrets: our sources of inspiration, influence and amusement?

Jan Verwoert

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