Re: Question to Rainer Ganahl Q6

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Posted by Rainer Ganahl on December 14, 2000 at 16:47:02:

In Reply to: Question to Rainer Ganahl Q6 posted by Craig Martin on December 14, 2000 at 08:07:04:

Craig Martin
I'm interested to pursue and investigate for the moment the relationship between your work and that of Conceptual art, particularly the use of the photographic image. First of all, given the partial
break down and negation of visuality in CA, how do you see the function of the photographic image in your own work, beyond the documentary aspect? How does this differ from a first
generation Conceptual practice - I'm thinking here in particular of something like Adrian Piper's 'Catalysis' series, which documented her street performances in New York, questioning the
normative protocols of quotidian space. I regard these as having a strong correlation with your own comments regarding 'express[ing] certain things.....without fitting in properly'. Do you think
that the 'banal' nature of your own photos, as you've described them to me, can demonstrate 'an annoyance and embarrasment to a given unjust power-system?

Rainer Ganahl:
I didn’t want to give the false impression of some romantic rebellionism. I don’t see an “unjust power-system” in the field of art. I don’t even want any “justice”. I categorically reject the idea that there is a system that grants me or anybody else the permission to do my or his/her works or not. I just do what I find is consistent with my ideas and my context. Whether a taken esthetic and conceptual choice is accepted or not, leading to exhibitions, critical recognition, sales or not is mostly beyond my immediate influence. Taste formations and “public success” are largely arbitrary, change constantly and shouldn’t worry anybody. As an artist I only need to believe in my own work and justify it intrinsically for its own logic. This shouldn’t be made dependent on third party factors thought dialogs and reactions are important and necessary.

This answers also the first part of your question/comment on Conceptual Art. I don’t see in Conceptual Art a break down of visuality. Quite the opposite is true for me: it opened up a wide new area for visual arts to the point that one could almost see with eyes closed. Some of these documents may be poor in technical quality but I might consider them not just as intelligent but also as beautiful. Seeing became with Conceptual Art just more reflective, intriguing and complex.

As far as my photographs of my own reading seminars concern I have to repeat myself: after I made the first set of photographs during a reading seminar in Moscow, I realized for myself how esthetically successful they were and wanted to not have them reduced to documentary photography. I wanted from the very beginning to contribute this type of photography to a discourse on photography that is not about documentation but more about some kind of visual practice, some kind of visual investigation. I do this by printing them in a certain format, exhibiting them for years as art. Also don’t forget, that the 80s and 90s have been very much dominated by photo-artists, in particular Germans who used certain “topics” and made a carrier out of it. I guess, I must have been more influenced by this kind of reasoning then by thinking of Conceptual Art. But unlike these ex-students of the Dusseldorf Academy (from where I got a Master degree as well), my photos of students and intellectuals haven’t yet gained much of an attention by the art market. But I do believe in these photos of students and intelletuals, keep doing them, showing them and treat them as my art work even independent of the actual readings. I also will not just switch to another topic as certain of these former quoted photographers do, in a constant need of new “topics” since my photographs are intrinsic to my interests, my critical practices and agenda.

As a consequence of these reading seminar pictures, I started an on going new series in 1995 entitled: Seminars/Lectures. For example: “S/L: Terry Eagleton, The future of Marxism, University of London, London, 7/13/1999”; or “S/L: Allan Sekula, History of Photography, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia 11/22/1995”. These are photographs of other people in teaching and lecture situations. Together, the RS and S/L series have become a major part of my visual art production. This fact too differs from earlier Conceptual Art artists who didn’t look at their reading options under a systemic way of visual art production. I keep organizing them for a long time. It isn’t just a single instance for a single work, a single evening or event. It is by now 7 years I have been doing it and I will continue with this work. As to my limited knowledge of art history nobody of the Conceptual Art protagonists continued with an interactive practice over an extended period of time. Only a few came up with successful or less successful visual formulas they still keep exercising. On the other end, we see an astonishing phenomenon since the early 1990s: Quite some young artists are appropriating the event structures of Conceptual Art and treat it as a help-yourself archive for entertaining with smart jokes for specific occasions. By now, even curators try to tell artists when and where they need a ‘reading corner’, “a discussion forum”, a “dance lesson”, a “cooking or music event”, “a sauna” or a “travel agency

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