Concepts for an Operational Art

Published in: Art and Artists, No. 10, January 1969, pp. 47-49.

Art as that area of working with matter that is not in the pay of the system in the sense that a "job" is

Rather, the work is self-regulating, demonstrating the capacity to make uselessly, i.e. to give form to an alternative and individual system of usefulness and value. This does not mean art for art's sake. That formula has become abortive, embraced by the establishment for its decoration so as to rob the art project of its essential revolutionary function as a popular incitement to self-action and environmental transformation. With some exceptions, the predominant over-cultured esotericism of today's art forms and language is a shrinking away from this function

Architecture as a multi-state and responsive morphology of structure

The environmental planning of an age is not neutral rather it is the expression of the prevailing attitudes, and when in existence it reinforces those attitudes by structuring the basic elements (house, street, city landscape) from which we infer the structure of the whole. One of the main festures of the present environmental design programme is a monumental rigidity which precludes any significant role or identity of the user. It is the same third-rate democracy as the political structure as a whole the range of freedom given (voting and furniture) is demeaning. To counteract this and again indicate to every individual his capacities as architect of the totality, an alternative form of environmental situation is envisioned which is in itself as undetermined as possible, depending for its life and forms on participant action and invention. Pneumatics seem at this moment to be one of the most useful means of realizing this programme. But not as a futuristic fantasy on paper, but as an event in operation now, confronting the institutional monolith in its midst.

Spectacle as a model of vitality for everyday

Spectacle indicates the dynamic proportions by which the individual can mould his environment it is the symbolic scale of excitement towards which the everyday yearns. Yet institutionalized spectacles (parades, festivals, displays etc.) fail because they are carefully circumscribed so as to disallow any inference or interference with the workday routine. The event is out of reach of the people's grasp the role given them is that of passive comsumer without identity. The problem now is to realize those new forms of spectacle which are non-alienated, reaching the individual and embedding that scale of excitement which puts in his grasp an expanded territory to act in. Some examples which come to mind are the outdoor projects of Yves Klein and Claes Oldenburg, Christo's wrapped buildings, and street happenings in general.

Technology as an open resource for the extraordinary

While the capacities of technology are clearly phenomenal, at the same time its most advanced exercise the moon project is its greatest abuse. For in the context of poverty in half the world, this project becomes the symbol by which the system demonstrates to everyone that technology is beyond his understanding or control. It becomes another of the alienated comsumer spectales. Humbled by the complexity and scale of this resource, we begin to feel that the development of its forms car, bomb, electric toothsbrush, etc. are determined virtually by force of nature. The system is thus able to recruit technology to its market principles with impunity. What is needed now are more and more demonstrations of technological application outside the dictates of the institutionalized programme. Such an open-ended exploitation of technological resources becomes the evidence for all people that it is there as an extension of their individual wills and freedom. Tingueley has been able to do this with the machine, Otto Mhl with food products, Nam June Paik with television, and John Latham with the book.

Conclusion: Event as the articulation of communication through time

The event we look for is when a particular structuring of art/architecture/spectacle/technology makes operational an expanded arena of will and action open to everyone.