Summertime is an institution. It is a time that is fragmented, templated, tagged with desire and cycled through the mechanics of civic organization. Summertime is also an urban in(ter)vention, it is a cyclical chrono-spatial remedy for the bio-social malaise caused by the tempestuous seasonal scenarios that penetrate and subvert the extra-temporal abstractness of the city. An intimate communion between the acknowledged variables is exposed and abstracted and communicated through its representations.
As desires go, summertime is like a lawn, a measured and maintained and also well-observed and clearly staged entity. It has been an age since summertime was conceived as a physiological response to an increased median temperature and extended daylight; it has evolved into a complex public ritual, a carefully conditioned and officially sanctioned grand-utopia that is deliverable as a package of fully personalized small-scale desirables.
Rhythms of nature directly influence individual psychological cycles—triggering fluctuations of physical, emotional, cognitive, and social behavior, and subsequently being imbedded into the memetic pools of the conurbation. Springtime in the city is a time of differentiation and anticipation of broken continuity. A spectacle of the signs of “natural” unfolding within the urban structures implies an imaginary insurrection against the static prominence of concrete—nature contaminates the purity of abstracted buildings, teasing, terrorizing and therefore humanizing them. The spatial concentration of humans—a historically preferred mechanism for increased productivity and survival, has ultimately contributed to some of the gravest conditions for the very survival of man as a biological entity. The polis as a quasi-organism nested at temperate latitudes and exposed to the seasonal thermal flux eventually developed into a conglomerated body of interlocked spaces organized in relation to multidimensional coaxial rituals. The gravitational pull of the central organ such as impenetrable castle on a rock, or a phallo-cranial cathedral, or an abdominal market square, or digestive bastille, or a pulmonary central park shapes the space and time of its subjects, synchronizes their movement and subordinates their positions, acting to a large extent, separately from the rhythms of nature. City dwellers, an assorted social platter of all-imaginable shades and shapes, and trajectories of flight, have nevertheless a similar spatio-thermal desire constituted of properties such as away, open, green, sunny and warm. Seasonal exoduses from the cities became a commonplace in the urban metabolism. Yet the mechanics of metropolitan de-pressurization, namely summer holidays are surprisingly out of sync with hormonal signals evoked by annual changes in the daylight hours and temperature, both profoundly obvious during the fall and springtime. The length and timing of the holidays is a result of the historic circumstances rather than a thoroughly thought behavioral policy. Delayed social response to the neuro-endocrinal reality of its citizens is one of the contributing factors to the tensions, or the “rough grind”, of the city.
Institutionalized as a summer break taken by the law courts in England since the times of William the Conqueror, vacations meant leaving the urban residence vacant for part of the year and moving to a summer home for reasons ranging from health and self-improvement to self-indulgence and congregation with the sublime. In (post)modern times, being a vacationer entitles and simultaneously re-contextualizes, the locational dimension of the vacation is being conflated with such constructs as choice and reward. Accessing a time-option as a commodity and exchanging it for a place-option, vacationing urbanites tend to perform the “end of the world” routine and temporary deviate from the abstractness of their social circumstance with a periodic accuracy. The ritual of the vacation does not arise solely as a response to an acute psychosomatic exhaustion, but perhaps is one of the few sanctioned and consumable articulations of otherwise abstract and inaccessible personal freedoms. Urban dwellers are detached and interchangeable figures on an increasingly fragmented and contorted city-world stage. Consuming holidays is an act of geo-Eucharistic reception, a Utopian communion with no-place and no-people where roles are assumed, realities are composed, staged, and devoured. In this sense, an artist is no vacationer. He/she is leaving the urban structures not to stage a symbolic “wild side” of the self by proudly displaying the souvenirs of nature such as a suntan, improved health, pictures verifying an encounter with nature, but to engage in a specific practice otherwise impossible in the structured and regulated space-time of the city. If we could epitomize a specific “genus” of an artist, then genealogical similarities would emerge with a hunter-gatherer vehemently pursuing singular prey rather than with a subdued agent of disembodied labor extending the abstract gesture of the machine deeper and deeper into the abstract space of the exchange.
A summer residence in Nida, Lithuania where a mixed group of young artists converged, served as a refuge or a creative centrifuge bolstering the re-embodiment of the mundane utility of an artistic practice along with all the elusiveness of pre-articulated imagination. They traveled to Nida driven by a strong yet patchily itemized desire for “making art” and armed with the specific identities rooted within particular artistic praxes. This was, however, just a starting point—an initial pattern of the kaleidoscope which was immediately shattered upon entering the zone of vague and dispersed conventions. Artists‘ seeking refuge on the beach is an ontological variant of flotsam floating ashore as the result of the mechanics of the cohesive and repetitive system called “the tide”. At the land‘s end the pulses of the city are vague and fully submerged under the rhythms of nature. The sight and sound of the sea epitomizes the very spectacle of nature, it exhibits gestures of phenomenological reduction articulating particularity and generality as the same thing. Erasing differences and setting similarities adrift, terminal objects become impossible collectibles and their assertions as meaningless as genres as the uniforms of the deserters—just the empty signs–when detached from the hierarchical backbone, becoming the loosely aligned parts of the conceptual detritus or more precisely the habitus of the refuge.
The currently dominant industrial cycle with all the “pre” and “post”, and even combined together with an agricultural period assuming it did appear in an early Neolith, is dwarfed in comparison with the perpetuity of the direct societies such as hunters-gatherers. Although interest in the prehistoric era is seldom sparked by other than academic necessity, current state of exhaustion of the planetary situation casts a new light on less organized or “primitive” structures. Low-impact and self-sufficient existence slowly emerges as a dominant ideology of the 21st century, it seeps into the various threads of social fabric challenging the existing mode of organization and promising a new type of social and spatial morphology. Despite the fact that tenacity and brutality are the dominant characteristics of the prehistoric human condition, reconstructed fragments of being-hunter-gatherer fit perfectly well into the post-urban utopia of a bucolic and amicable embrace with the sphere of the natural. Ideology or therapy or poetry aside, there’s one relational parameter or perhaps an unintentional gesture of this embrace, namely, an immediate consumption. Commonly seen as a trivial manifestation of mercantile mechanics, it shifts its spectrum, however, into the territory of reduced and responsible living when assumed in a wider context of a storageless society (in which all things must be carried—be portable). The narrative silhouette of this construct emerges as an inverse of the very act of storing which in itself is a primary sub-routine of the modern society present in a wide array of objects and conventions ranging from such innocuous devices as the refrigerator and up to the key social-economic institutions like the stock market, the church or parliament. Memory draws both storage and consumption together; more precisely it activates its faculties in an inseparable flow, which is storage and consumption as one.
The remoteness and natural seclusion of the Baltic coast, where the commercial grid of storage-dispersion is sparse and anemic, proved to be a perfect location for the camp designed for immediate creation/consumption. Removed from the grittiness and density of the urban space and plunged into the inclusive ambiguity of a communal setting, participants enfolded their dormant or suppressed dimensions into the new means of communication and new types of creativity. The absence of spatial and temporal fragmentation, necessary when institutionalizing large quantities of information, capital or labor, left an open and undistorted field, perfectly tuned for an instantaneous mediation. Immediacy as an aesthetic device doesn’t have a preferred medium; it gravitates however towards the readily available material of no value and manifests itself in a consonance with human scale or through the human presence. In this context, the object (of art), gave way to a process, usually unfinished and therefore unappraisable and solely predisposed for an immediate consumption by the group. Unlike “Happenings” or performances, well-documented and commonly accepted events of art history, occasions at and around the refuge and the material fallout left over from those events were never purely artistic. For example, an event could start as a communal gathering around the bonfire, shortly after evolving into a cooking event and then transforming into the dancing and pyrotechnical performance and then later yet breaking down into where it all started from—a stream of individual utilitarian flows. Along this trajectory, the mundane and trivial would emerge with an extra-dimension, they were never “just” what they appeared to be. Awareness of the context warped most of the lowly actions into the communicative or ritual-like acts; making art, on the other hand, lost its strict conceptual framework and functional clarity, rendering the practical outcomes of such an activity or the acts themselves into something of the genus art, perhaps only 65% art (plus or minus), and dynamically shifting its artistic value up or down on a purity grade depending on the patterns of desires and creation-consumption at that particular moment.
Professionalism is always predisposed to purity. Absolute purity is an infinity of one, which makes it the most effective storage device, a virtually inexhaustible source of power; in a real world, there is an array of common-sense mechanisms associated with purity and its manifesting itself into a meticulously kept and widely graded degrees of value, be it purity of gold or purity of skill (virtuosity), purity of breed, or purity of knowledge. In this regard, Nida was an erratic sanctuary of anti-professionalism (or “amateurism”), engulfed in unscripted and instant routines and infected with impurity and imperfection. Consumption of self-made art was part of a strategy of communal cohesiveness. Among the others, more traditional acts deployed by the group were shared meals and dance both very simple and effective strategies, easily fusing into one another, provided that conditions for their making are rife with post-structural agglutination. The coarse dialectics of creation (making something out of nothing) and abandonment (making something into nothing) occurring consistently throughout the folds of individual and collective activity, along with an intuitive concord of not storing anything more than just a memory, were the philosophical cornerstones of the residency-refuge—coupled with the sheer joy of non-value(able) creation. We eluded the stringent categorical framework persisting in justification, validation or evaluation of one’s own or the other’s artistic acts and art objects: a tactic of pre-storage distillation in order to expose value sufficient of consummating a transaction—indulging instead the instant routines of search and action, production and observation, consumption and abandonment. We left the trail of sensually dense and non-storable objects and/or routines, in a way that was refreshingly short lived and peacefully dispersible.
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