The hand-mechanical is, at least in my formulation of it, “monkish business.” These processes are quiet, disciplined, meditative, and are, to a large degree, hidden. Hidden not for secrecy, but for humility, to keep the process a process willingly undertaken, and to avoid the pitfall, the temptation, of performing the process. The process must, at all costs, be kept from becoming an image, from passing into a stable, transferable, and consumable representation. The process must repetitively dismantle and destroy any image of itself. The process must be thoroughly infused into the facts and factitiousness of the object as an object. The process must be a thing done, in time, a task completed and here, here, in the object that is in the reader’s hands.
& into 5b, which will pull its predecessor to pieces
There are a few different things going on, a few different ideas circulating, in the paragraph above. We will get at them through the question of authenticity: “to avoid the pitfall, the temptation, of performing the process.” What is “performing” the process? I would define it as using a particular working method because of the meaning of that method, and that meaning may be more than, or just as important as, the actual results. A method performed is a method deployed because of its ability to act as a signifier in and of itself. The performer acts with a large degree of self-consciousness. The conventions of the method are taken up, examined, and are either left intact, or they are disturbed, tweaked, displaced, reworked.
What is the opposite of “performing” a process? A process not performed is a process simply done. It exists as an event, in time, mute (yet always legible, like everything, to the desire to read), in the same way that the sun rises, the wind blows. The process done is engaged with by the artist as a fact, conventionless, its meaning and role so stable that there is, essentially, no meaning. The thing done is a thing real, of this world. The thing done is an authentic act in a simulated discourse.
[Here, here, is where the reversal, the folding, the doubling, of terms begins. It is never a question of one or the other.]
The idea of authenticity is an idea that is politically hard to let go of. If the world is shaped by economic flows and the spectacles of corporate power, then “authenticity,” of an act, of an experience, or of a person, is one of the few anchors that we have. And authenticity is important, necessary even. But authenticity is not the same thing as innocence. Authenticity comes from a deep and sustained engagement with an idea, to the point where the idea becomes inseparable from the one who struggles with it. Every role, every medium, every sign, every thing, every meaning is, authentically and at its root, unstable and multiple. The “performer” accepts this instability and manipulates the codes and conventions of the role, to see what new material it can yield. The one who simply “does” believes thoroughly in the stable meaning of their role, of their method, or wants to believe thoroughly in the stable meaning of their role, of their method.
The stability of signification is one of the oldest illusions. Feigned innocence will be the death of us all. And now the text gives way to a new formulation:
The hand-mechanical is a deliberate manipulation of the codes and conventions of artistic practice.
The photograph used in this post, in its singular form, is: Art Kane, Andy Warhol as Golden Boy, c. 1960, color photograph.