Collection: talktalk 2003

talktalk

series from 2003

Christian Blau's Biopolitics: YEO-MAN, RESPECT!
by Stevie Schmiedel

Are these photographies or paintings? Christian Blau's very own technique
creates an effect which, according to the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze,
could be termed affect: the blend of two contrasting techniques evokes a
feeling of hypnosis. Sand is spread onto hessian and is covered
with photographic emulsion. Onto this rough landscape, a slide is
projected. This construct is fixated in a self-made creation of tubs, pipes
and flower pots, a scene reminiscent of an urban back yard. The images
thus produced come close to looking like prints, but only close: here and
there, out-lines are out of focus, look smudged. Nature meets technology,
self-made versus ready-made photo paper: these contrasts melt into
something that makes one linger and stare. The images present cool
rappers with sunglasses, posing for the camera – they could be MTV stills.
Eminem's hat is pulled deep into his face, and Missy Elliot's fist shows us
the finger. The images are subtitled with bits of text that look like rap lines,
but sound strange. They do not fit, extracted as they are from Michel
Foucault's "Archaeology of Knowledge": high-art intellectual phrases that
Puff Daddy would never slam. Contrasts, again, that -combined - create
meaning, one that does not make immediate sense, but nonetheless, holds
us compelled.

Foucault is one of the 'saints', says Christian Blau, whom an artist must be
fit to quote in the holy temple of the art gallery. He only skim-read
"Archaelogy of Knowledge" and tried to access it through secondary
literature. And that's why he does not feel fit to participate in the
word games of the intellectuals, the subversive minority. Whose work is
said to be political exactly because nobody understands it, and because it
keeps itself afloat somewhere in-between ironic pop-culture and
statements on the philosophy of linguistics. Christian Blau is frank: the word
jungle of the intellectual artists' society is just as 'fat', as phallic and
ostracising, as the hip-hop mafia: no difference between black-rimmed
glasses and black sunglasses. Behind both hide little fish who desperately
want to be big.

Hip-hop stems from black recitatives such as calypso and soka, afro-
american music that developed into raeggae in Jamaica, and,much later,
into hip-hop in the Bronx. Thanks to MTV and Motown in the last two
decades, the language of the ostracised reached the mainstream. Their
victory against the high arts, which they won using their own language,
telling their own sto-ries from the ghettoes, and fighting a war against
exclusion and racism, is celebrated even in the arts and social sciences:
it's official. Blau's images show that now, something has become 'big'
that must and may not be criticised due to its origin in a political history of
an oppressed minority. Same applies to the language of the intellectuals of the
Left, the artists and art critics, whose expression of a complex and
subversive politicality can only be understood by an ostracising minority.

In "Archealogy of Knowledge", but even more in his "Will to Knowledge",
Foucault describes that we cannot escape power structures: they
constantly produce our psyche and our modes of resistance against them.
Forms of resistance such as Blau's protest can, thus, not be seen as
actions of independent agents who stand outside of power. They are
embedded within a power structure which they can merely shift, but not
change. And let's face it: Christian Blau would love to 'slam it' and speak
Foucault's language fluently. The normalising practices of the self, in this
case an interaction of the media, the cultural ministries, private sponsoring
and art schools, determine who is trendy, and thus, who has power.
Consequently, the rebel is already sketched out: in Will to Knowledge,
Foucault describes how hetero-normativity produces a homo-sexual
subculture, who itself would love to be the norm, acknowledged, and thus,
phallic. A Foucauldian genealogy aims at revealing these correlations, to
disclose power structures without suggesting an 'outside' that could
present an alternative. For Foucault, there is merely the presentation of the
complex interaction of normative discourses; this exposure in itself can
produce shifts in power structures and hence defines what Foucault stands
for: biopolitics.

Blau's work reveals the production process of opposites that, really, belong
together. Anonymous technology and self-made, or nature and culture, are
just as close in his art as are power and resistance. The rough fabric of his
canvases disclose that wonders of technology can be produced d-i-y style
with natural materials. He reveals himself as one who would like to
participate in the making of meaning while simultaneously critising the 'fat'
guys. In a Foucaultian sense, this makes sense. And this simultaneity does
not hinder us in questioning the elitist language of the 'saints', nor the
political relevance of hip-hop. On the contrary. Gilles Deleuze, whose early
works accompanied Foucault's writing, created concepts such as the affect
or the image-temps in order to ascribe effects, such as generated by
Blau's work, their own political efficacy. Moments in which an inbetween
can be perceived, a unison of opposites - and only real artists, according
to Deleuze, can produce such moments - present real simultaneity, in which
there is not only black and white, but a multiplicity of continuously shifting
truths. In Blau's work, this simultaneity can be experienced without having to
fight our way through Foucault and Deleuze, but by simply being
hypnotically drawn into the work. This deserves respect, last but not least
the respect of the 'saints'.
And enables Blau to casually declare:
Let's talk about it, but please take off these silly glasses first.

SMS 11/05/03

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