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Jan Verwoert 2: In reference to Irreverence: 14.11.2008

In reference to Irreverence

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 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 strategical 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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