Dear Danilo & Breda,
As far as I can tell from the passages provided here ‘Modern Kindness’ seems to be about an act of kindness complicated by modernity or modern reality. This makes the definition and act of ‘kindness’ even more interesting because it suggests that in every moment of our present reality we are potentially faced with our individual acts and with our hopes in spite of value systems of any ideologies that may otherwise be our social or political reality.
The one line that got me is:
‘That it is kindness, fundamentally, that makes life seem worth living; and that everything that is against kindness is an assault on our hope.’
Hope. That we will know pleasure and intimacy and be capable of including ourselves in others? And that we will be able to do this instinctively? It gets complicated here. Instinct. For instance, my instinctive and very immediate response to Danilo’s most recent posts included every one of the listed Modern Unkindness’s; a sense of moral superiority, an impulse for domineering beneficence and finally the raising of a protective wall of good feelings and positive thoughts. My instinct soon took me somewhere else but in the interest of kindness here is the whole story…
Are you a politician or an artist? I think you can’t be both. Being a politicized artist is one thing but I can’t agree with art taking politics as it’s totality and it’s raison d’être. I never could. Maybe you can change me? As for artistic politicians, wasn’t that Hitler? For me, art simply cannot take political aspects of life as it’s inspiration, it’s material and it’s conceptual support all at once. And this is all I’m reading from you in relation to your or my art. Maybe, early in the last century, in art and in film for instance (Eissenstein, Vertov, Medvedkin etc.) when socialism and capitalism were evolving out of their respective revolutions into a sort of a forced opposition this may have been a reality but I think it’s certainly is not possible at present. Not possible to maintain this position critically when the situation is so much more ‘dissolved’ and multiplicitous, politically and artistically. Yes, the ‘freedom’ you describe was present under the former Yugoslavia was there but take a look around you at the disappointed people of our parent’s generation, still unable to adapt to the rampart capitalism infecting what is left of the federation of Yugoslavian states, Serbia perhaps more so than others. There is a generation of hard working, well educated but unemployable people who have been let down by the Yugoslavian system and having been spoon fed all their lives by the state have no real tools with which to survive let alone thrive like the criminals and young opportunistic capitalists that are ‘Serbia’s new social values’ standing by your side. They’re(the real Yugoslavs) getting on with it why can’t you? You come across as such a Romantic, as one of the spoilt intellectuals of the century before last. When you generalise about of the plight of the poor young alienated male (and it is a distinctly male point of view that comes through) in modern society I’m not sure if you’re talking about your personal circumstances or something you read in a census or a compendium of modern philosophy or the ‘political art’ chapter in art history? Are they your real experiences? They are mine, all of them even the part where I’m an administrator by day to support myself, my family and my art. All apart from being male. Which brings me to the other problem I have with your point of view, literally, can you not see the other women in the performance stills? Really? Wait I’m not finished here. It’s obvious from our conversations that overtly political art is not something I can relate to as easily as you. It doesn’t mean that I am not politically conscious in terms of my own art practice or that there aren’t artists who I feel navigate political issues astutely and elegantly (Alighero E Boetti, Ana Mandieta, Thomas Hirschhorn, Felix Gonzalez-Torres etc.) Thought having said that, these artists like the above directors, like the New Wave (Godard etc.) after them also investigated the guts out of their respective media whilst making debilitating political commentary. This is something I can relate to. More. Conceptual rigor and medium specificity within art. And even when I can’t produce it myself all of the time I hope to. It’s the reason I can access their political views even if they are offensive or contrary to my own and not be alienated by them from the very outset. Which brings me back to the where I cut myself off earlier. Apart from obvious problems of displaying performance stills outside of the performance itself a reading of which is complicated further by a blog entry rather than art blurb about the performance itself and things lost in translation, you are way out of line with your comments about it. As I’ve said. Art is not politics. So of course I’m in opposition towards the place and the audience, visually as you pointed out and in every other way. For me that is the place of art. But that is a separate argument and a personal aesthetic and psychological preference. On the surface, if I try really hard, yes I can see why “does she have any underwear on?” might be relevant thing to spring to your mind. But it’s like me saying, Danilo’s work in sexual because he’s licking the window and the performance is called ‘Perfect Lover’. I am someone’s secretary and so are the women around me. It’s authentic, another aspect of art I can really relate to. I could have gone along those lines, the female staff sticking it to the Minister, immaterial laborers of the world unite! I could have not worn the dress that got you and incidentally the Minister talking and alienated the women around me, who incidentally during the course of our working together, sharing stories, learning the others’ languages, specifically asked if I had a special costume I performed in and having appraised it really wanted me to wear my dress. At this point, to avoid further misunderstanding, I have to qualify what I mean by ‘alienated the women around me’: socially, culturally, economically and politically by forcing my own political view onto their theirs which I would never do and which I detest. Instead, I was performing for or rather ‘with’ the women certainly before and perhaps more so than for anyone else present. Why? To affect our reality for a few minutes, for ten minutes or so, where some sort art transformed or transfigured our perceptions of reality. By our I mean the women present (participants), the meandering art audience, the Minister and his aide, the gathered elite, Breda who was documenting the performance and myself. Perhaps I should post a paragraph about my initial aims and the actual affects of the performance for us to talk about? Perhaps I should perform for you too? Anyway, there were many powerful figures in the room that day and I think picking on the Minister is too easy a thing to do. Me, for instance? And if anything, the problematics of my performance really arise around my relationship with the camera, the perennial problem. And perhaps with the person behind the camera, Breda, who if I’m brutally honest, I was absolutely performing for and trying to impress. Probably, because of something like acts of Modern Kindness between us, but that is another topic altogether for another post perhaps.
Basically, it got everyone including the Minister to a place they would not have come to otherwise, to see something (and I don’t mean me) they weren’t expecting and that got everyone feeling, thinking and talking. About what? Art, hopefully. And politics, as far as actual quantifiable values, the real impact of the performance might be that I and the women (and they were all women, from the two directors of Shirvanshahs’ palace to the wonderful girl I met, Jala, who was an interning at the time and was my interpreter for everyone including the minister) who made the performance happen at the Shirvanshahs’ palace contributed to the likelihood of there being another contemporary art biennale happening in Baku and to the possibility that a UNESCO protected building might continue to be allowed to be used as a place for contemporary art. But again, if asked, Breda and Jala are the reasons I’d return to Baku again.
So that’s the story. But then my instinct took me somewhere with a lot more potential…
You could be right about everything! You are in your own world as I am in mine. Right about everything. So it leaves me with The Stones:
“You can’t always get what you want,
But if you try sometimes you just might find,
You get what you need.”
Is that kindness?
I’m away tonight but I will be around tomorrow. Let’s talk some more.