A Digression on Art

Art? Yes.

We are an ecological research and design team who makes art. The art we make are things like public policy papers, wetlands, restaurants, bacteria laboratories, clothing, houses, research institutes to study urbanism, and new sense organs. This might strike one as odd. Or rather it might strike one as odd to call this art — after all there is little that is odd about restaurants or wetlands. But why consider this art? And yes, of course one could say that anything is art today —  if one just decides it is art. But that is a lazy and trivial answer.

For us there is a reasonably straight forward answer to why our work is art. We are artist who work in opposition to three common assumption that grounds much of the development of art since the 1600′s. We reject the (1) the fact-value distinction, (2) the primary vs secondary qualities distinction, and (3) the “is-ought” distinction. All three of these are arguments  separate human perceptions, feelings and values from reality (facts). Facts are about what is really real — the stuff “out there”, and values are just our (subjective) interpretations of these facts. But, if as Nietzsche points out, you cannot seperate facts from values in any total manner. And that in reality you first need values and a perspective in order to generate facts. Given this the whole edifice comes crumbling down. And with it the overly neat divide between the soft and hard science (with art being at the far end of the soft sciences). Art cannot claim a subjective, interpretive or even critical position based on these implicit distinctions.  Now none of this means that we are relativists or disparage science — far from it. What this shift means for us and the logic of our practices is that world is not simply “out there”. We are in and of the world. And as such we are continuously shaping and being shaped by it. This condition of shaping and being shaped is for us the fundamental locus of art — the co-composition of the real. And it is from here that we begin.

So why restaurants, wetlands, and policy papers? We begin each project by asking what needs to be done? What are the most useful ongoing processes that we should enter into? These rarely lead us back to the tools and logics of contemporary. This is mainly because the logics of contemporary art, despite all of its efforts to be more than this, are about visual browsing. We are too curious, delighted and perplexed by this world to stop there.