Project Theme radical : vaguely

Artistic manifesto

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

An artistic manifesto written by Rossitza Daskalova about the radical-vaguely event

Rossitza Daskalova

Art historian Rossitza Daskalova died on the eleventh of January 2003. Many of us are profoundly saddened by the emptiness left by Rossitza’s passing, both in Sofia, her place of birth, and in Montreal, her adopted home since 1990. After her death, we, her friends, thought to act as she would have wished by seeing the radical : vaguely project through to its completion, and doing so in the same spirit as that in which she prepared it during 2002. That is also why we thought of publishing the unifying text of the project, a text that reads like a manifesto, that testifies to her quest for the absolute, and to her passion for art, for artists, and for the world in which we live today.

Space, outside ourselves, invades and ravishes things:
If you want to achieve the existence of a tree,
Invest it with inner space, this space
That has its being in you. Surround it with compulsions,
It knows no bounds, and only really becomes a tree
If it takes its place in the heart of your renunciation.

R. M. Rilke [1]

Rossitza Daskalova

A laboratory and nomadic project, radical : vaguely brings together artists from distant parts of the world (Canada and Bulgaria) who belong to a generation that grew up during the Cold War, lived the actual lifting of the Iron Curtain, and is currently experiencing the boom of new technologies and the globalization process. radical : vaguely investigates the waves of fundamental changes in our socio-political, economic, cultural and ecological environment. radical : vaguely is creative research into the depths of the here and now through art-making, a universe having at its core the potential to discover topologies and temporalities [2] that can open new perspectives and expand our perceptions of reality, and consequently allow creative transformation and constructive growth to occur from within. [[radical : vaguely is based on the ideas of progressive hermeneutics and the dynamic coming-to-being of truth in the work of art as Martin Heidegger defines it (The Origin of the Work of Art, in Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. A. Hofstandter, Harper and Row: New York, 1971, p. 63): "Truth wills to be established in the work as this conflict of world and earth. The conflict is not to be resolved in a being brought forth for the purpose, nor it is to be housed there; the conflict, on the contrary is started by it [...] In the strife the unity of world and earth is won. As a world opens itself, it submits to the decision of a historical humanity, the question of victory and defeat, blessing and curse, mastery and slavery. The dawning world brings out what is as yet undecided and measureless, and discloses the hidden necessity of measure and decisiveness." Thus, the theme radical : vaguely embodies Heidegger’s idea of "conflict of world and earth" as dynamic contradictions through which authenticity can be revealed hermeneutically. Hence, radical designates the "necessity for measure and decisiveness" ("the hidden necessity," as Heidegger points out, is the birth of the radical, which comes about vaguely, from that which is concealed), whereas vaguely designates "the yet undecided and measureless." Situated in Nietzschean terms, the idea behind radical : vaguely can be interpreted as the intersection of Apollonian and Dionysiac principles (Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, trans. M. Jolas, Beacon Press: Boston, 1969). Furthermore, in the framework of Socratic thought, radical : vaguely constitutes the dynamic intercourse between the injunction "Know thyself" and the affirmation "I know that I don’t know." Moreover, the often-quoted Socratic comparison of philosophy to pharmakon (whether it be poison, potion, or medicine) is implied in the theme, where radical pertains to choices and affirmations, and vaguely to the intrinsic ambivalence and fluctuation of ideas.]]

The theme explores the artists’ individual search for authenticity in the present through the making of art. It creates a common ground for artists who, from different cultural backgrounds and remote places of the world, are carrying out a personal investigation into the nature of authenticity today, who are examining its cultural, socio-political and psychological strata through the experience of an unfamiliar yet interconnected situation. Some of the principal similarities in these artists’ works are the practice of risk, improvisation, and inventiveness.

The purposes of this approach to art-making can be found in the desire to break free from stereotypes gone stale and from stagnant frames of reference that are cloistering our being in the world now, and to clear the noise that shrouds our clarity and awareness in the experience of the present. The distinguishing characteristics one can observe in the artistic practice of the artists participating in radical : vaguely include the recurrent choice of negotiation over speculation in the communicative aspects and in the ends of the creative process, and a devotion to depth over superficiality in a situation of in-betweenness that stems from a rapidly changing, varied reality in perpetual transition. In this sense, these artists’ art-making manifests itself as a commitment to eradicating falsehood in order to see anew, to open new perspectives and to reach a sense of wholeness and truthfulness.

radical : vaguely casts an ironic perspective on the defeatist voices proclaiming that art has failed as a revolutionary force, that the use of new technologies in art has failed to radically change society and the course of events. The very premise that art itself can immediately institute a revolution, or radical change for that matter, is erroneous, for art will then cease to be itself. [3] Art is in fact a laboratory where one can create a renewed sense of being by releasing vital content and shaping new vital entities. This renewal is the necessary ground for fundamental change in a process that starts with a leap into the unknown and ends in a continuous shaping and reforming at the heart of the work. In this laboratory, through a process of clearing and unveiling, there takes place an awakening of the authenticity of being, which is a revolution — a revolution as a constant revolving around an axis, revolving along the tender spiral of creation, a continuous, recurring evolution [4] — a revolution of the self first. This process may unfold in ways that are invisible, yet reverberate on innumerable planes and facets of existence.

In these respects, the thread connecting the artists’ individual creative research in radical : vaguely is a network consciousness rooted in the personal, in a rhizome-like lucidity about the present moment and the individual’s role as a creative agent in the act of weaving the tapestry of the here and now. Originating from and working in different cultural contexts, these artists demonstrate in their works a profound involvement in the concerns of the present and in understanding the deeper meanings of the new components that enter into today’s reality; they compose with and through them. The unifying principle in the participants’ artwork is the interrogation of the very criteria by which contemporary reality is perceived and evaluated. What are the meanings and dimensions of radicalism, of virtual revolutions, of interactivity and interconnectivity in the age of the electronic network? What is the physiognomy of information now?

In today’s reality — governed as it is by speed and the instant dissemination of information and a constantly, explosively changing environment — being, as living, reflecting and creating, is radical and revolutionary to begin with. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the simultaneous occurrence of the I-Bomb phenomenon, as Tom Sherman [5] calls the advent of new technologies in our civilization, "revolution" and "radical" may have become inseparable words. [6] Their recurrence in contemporary culture is manifestly stretched to such an extent that they are clouded by noise and nearly emptied of their meanings. The term radical unquestionably implies fundamental change, from the roots, and revolution, a radical replacement of one order by another. That being so, must we then call "revolutionary" such futile enterprises as establishing unlimited capitalism or an improved communism?

Revolution is a radical change and change is a disruptive phenomenon, splitting a whole into parts to produce a schize, a gap between before and after, a shredding of both here and there, splintering the spatiotemporal continuum, creating vacuums in the spheres of culture. On the one hand, change serves to expose latent polarities; on the other, it engenders new polarities. For example, we are currently witnessing the coexistence of society’s atomization and globalization, often propagated as a reinvention of human destiny comparable to religion and even communism. We cannot ignore globalization’s arrival, along with such processes as global warming. Therefore, when we speak about radical change and revolution in the present context (lessons of history in mind), we are confronted with the responsibility of understanding what "radical" means, and of delivering its meanings over and over again. In L’homme révolté, a critical reflection on the idea of revolution throughout human history, Albert Camus affirms that revolution is only possible through and within creation, and creation is a process of continuous striving and evolution.

The artists participating in radical : vaguely produce art which strives to establish meaningful relationships between here and there, before and after, self and the other, between the individual or the community and the world. [7] Working within a society heading toward globalization and immersion in information technology, artificial intelligence and genetic engineering, these artists are engaged in lifting the curtains and breaking the barriers of that which is artificial, false and simulative — and therefore superfluous — in order to illuminate contemporary reality in its many dimensions and bring out creative potential, as well as to understand the vital content of processes and phenomena that are taking place now.

Tendencies toward nihilism and cynicism in contemporary culture, manifesting themselves both in cogitation and in activity, are quickly settling into the gaps created by the waves of change, perpetuating superficiality and evasiveness, a chimerical sliding on surfaces, a maniacal shifting of attention from one screen to another, or clicking from one web page to another. (In other words, the virtual ceases to be virtual and the network is turned into a web of disconnectedness.)

The simulative, artificial roads taken by the parade of radicalism lead into pixel-pulp vagueness that manifests itself as loss of authenticity, as modes of non-participation and, consequently, of resistance to radical change, which in itself is a state of crisis, an opportunity for a fundamental renewal. In such a situation, the function of art-making would lie in stripping away superfluity, in creation that acts as an antidote to the fabrication of lack and incompleteness. It relates disparate things, interconnects and unifies to open new perspectives on reality.

Within the parameters outlined in the above, the project radical : vaguely is a retrospective and critical reflection on dreams and ideals turned illusory and burnt into the revolutionary process itself, on the lack of depth and participation, and on the dissipation of creative intent in the process of transition and transformation. [8] An ironical outlook on the futility of radically destroying old (more precisely, the previous) systems and ideologies and erecting new, seemingly better ones in their place. Because truth cannot be held solely by an individual or a group, nor by a system or a particular epoch. However, we all contain its particles and, potentially, can touch its essence in the creative process.

radical : vaguely involves artists who are working in a fluctuating, unstable environment and composing with its elements. It explores creative will as radical in nature, having the potential to transfix the noise while penetrating into the depths of being. The creative process is revelatory in its connection with the authenticity of being. Excess and insufficiency, the surplus and the void produced by change, and by difference, can only be contained and integrated by poetic language. On the one hand, radical : vaguely is about the relativity of the truths we hold onto; on the other, it is about clarity of intent in the creative process and a readiness to pick up the threads of discontinued existence, to weave the unknown and the unpredictable stuff of being into the fabric of the present.

The present moment imprints itself onto the space-time continuum (the instant intersects with infinity and with eternity) in a chain of rhythmical notations. In the flux of being (and here, radical : vaguely pertains to the illuminating moments of experiencing truth within the flow of being), truth cannot be a final destination, a stasis, but is rather a continuous journey, during which, at precise moments, we arrive at its revelations. radical : vaguely is a reflection on creation, which comes into being in the dreaming, searching, travelling, vagabonding mind, rhythmically punctuated by precise choices and decisions. It is the interplay between contemplation and vigilance, reflection and participation, observation and action.

Rossitza Daskalova, November 2002

French Translation by Gilles Lessard

radical : vaguely, Canada-Bulgaria exchange

Rossitza Daskalova, radical : vaguely, Expression, Centre d’exposition de Saint-Hyacinthe and Plein sud, centre d’exposition en art actuel à Longueuil, coeditors, 2003, 16p. ISBN 2-922326-38-1.

[1Rainer Maria Rilke, Poem, 1924, in Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. M. Jolas, Beacon Press: Boston, 1993.

[2In the territory of art-making and its algorithm, North becomes South, East becomes West, and vice-versa; the directions of the world become interchangeable in a polyvocal I am You, and You are I, They are Us and We are Them... where the strange is familiar, the global is local, the personal is political, art is science, and vice-versa... in an interplay of elements, a whirling inner motion toward a source in which the body/mind and nature/culture oneness dwells in unity with the universe. It is a special kind of play, an interplay of elements, rendered not fixed and static, but fluid, subverting established hierarchies, interconnecting, and finding the essential links between phenomena and between processes of natural and symbolic order. Seemingly remote and heterogeneous, these components enter into different configurations and play themselves out in dynamic conflicts.

[3The expression "art will cease to be itself" is analogous to Heidegger’s definition of truth in the work of art: "... the clearing is pervaded by a constant concealment in the double form of refusal and dissembling ... The nature of truth, that is of unconcealedness, is dominated throughout by a denial. Yet this denial is not a defect or a fault, as though truth were an unalloyed unconcealedness that has rid itself of everything concealed. If truth could accomplish this, it would no longer be itself." (Heidegger, op. cit. p. 54) In these respects, radical : vaguely refers to truth (something fundamental, in the roots of things) that comes about — vaguely — in a process of ever-changing masks and veils and, as Heidegger puts it, as "unconcealedness," "dominated throughout by denial."

[4This reference to evolution (as revolution) is to be understood in the context of the new revolution of biotechnology and genetic engineering following the boom of information technologies. By association, and on a completely different stratum of interpretation, the tender spiral of creation refers to the practices of the philosophical school of the Sufi tradition, which was and still is a reform movement, a subculture, within the Islamic tradition. The "exotic" and "mystical" dance of the whirling dervishes is in fact a practice of connecting with truth, or of dis-covering truth by revolving, spinning around oneself with open arms and travelling in a spiral-like motion within the depths of oneself while travelling along the cosmic spiral. This movement of turning in one place with ever-increasing speed and in all directions at the same time is practiced such that each individual performs it separately while being in a group. The main purpose of performing the dance is to free oneself from all that is false and artificial, to connect with one’s deepest self and with being in the world. It is a way of converging different dimensions and planes of existence. Exploring further the mytho-poetic and ritualistic origins of art-making and philosophical thought, such travel is similar, in the Greco-Roman tradition, to the travelling of Hermes (from whom hermeneutics takes its name) between the underworld, the earth, and the ether, transporting messages from different planes of being. What is interesting in this proto-model of contemporary communication is that, as Albert Camus points out in his book L’homme révolté, for the Ancient Greeks, humans were not essentially different from their gods, they were simply distanced by degrees. Pursuing this vein of interpretations, radical : vaguely is about articulating truth, an allusion to the Damoclean sword, and watching the process itself. And vigilance in the dialogue of opposites.

[5Tom Sherman, Before and After the I-Bomb. An Artist in the Information Environment, Banff Centre Press : Banff, 2002, 384pp.

[6Among other phenomena, the term I-Bomb refers to atomic energy (the splitting of the atom), to the social processes of atomization in the information age and to their psychological effects on the individual — a splitting of the self.

[7"All the distances in time and space are shrinking. Man now reaches overnight, by plane, places which formerly took weeks and months of travel. He now receives instant information ... Distant sites of the most ancient cultures are shown on film as if they stood this very moment amidst today’s street traffic ... What is it that unsettles and terrifies? ... the fact that despite all conquest of distances the nearness of things remains absent." (Martin Heidegger, The Thing, in Poetry, Language, Thought, op. cit. p. 166) In this sense, the idea of radical : vaguely is related to disconnectedness, discrepancies, the absence of nearness, and the creative act as an instrument of making relationships between things. It is about the urgency for critical intervention of consciousness (the creative act as a radical instrument in the process of metamorphosis) into this unidentified, spectral vagueness which unsettles and terrifies and permeates our existence.

[8"Critique is concerned with the truth content of a work of art, the commentary with its subject matter. ... If one views the growing work as a funeral pyre, its commentator can be likened to a chemist, its critic to an alchemist. While the former is left with wood and ashes as the sole objects of his analysis, the latter is concerned only with the enigma of the flame itself: the enigma of being alive. A Klee painting named ’Angelus Novus’ shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage ... a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is called progress." (Walter Benjamin, Illuminations. Essays and Reflections, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn, Schocken Books: New York, 1968, pp. 4-5)

Home > Expositions > Passées > Programmation 2003-2004 > Project Theme radical : vaguely