WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON?/VAD HAR DU PÅ GÅNG?
Exhibition and book launch at Lokal 30 / Warzaw
follow us on waywo.se
What are you working on? / Vad har du på gång?— a popular phrase at any given art opening. "What are you working on?" Where one's individual answer is the definition of one's self-justification. I act, produce and think; therefore, I am. The WAYWO project is a self-fulfilling journey through the contemporary art process. I define what I do; therefore, I am. We, artists Hanna Ljungh and Ulrika Sparre, initiated the project What are you working on? / Vad har du på gång? / WAYWO in 2012 fueled by our common search.
Sparre's work investigates mechanisms, behaviors and social patterns which constitute our lives. She explores subjects such as individuality, the impact of development towards individualism and consumerism in cont- emporary society. She is also interested in how non-religious and scientific beliefs are expressed in today's more secularized, Western society. Ljungh's work often circles around dominant concepts of interpretation. In her work, she questions ideas revolving around science, as well as how the human observation forms all that is not man-made. In her ongoing work Vivisections, she stages investigations, such as the geological excavation, where she lets a scientific subject matter be treated with subjective motives.
In 2012, the exhibition "we are still lost between the abyss within us and boundless horizons outside us" (Ljungh & Sparre) exhibited a selection of both artists' work which began a dialogue. These discussions then became a foundation for the project What are you working on? / Vad har du på gång? / WAYWO. Together, we wish to discuss cultural practices and examine how time is valued in our current era—more specifically, how the expectation of renewal pervades both society and the art world. In 2012, we introduced art critic and writer Jacquelyn Davis into the dialogue, which led to her becoming this publication's editor. The aim is to continuously work together with invited theorists, artists, writers, curators and others to conduct a close study of the concept of time and the 'contemporary.' We hope to allow room for ranging disciplines to meet and collide—in an attempt to say something more about the present and contemporary thinking.
During the Art Athina Platform Project in 2013, WAYWO participated by presenting videos and on-site interviews, presenting the initial question: "What are you working on?" Later that year in the exhibition "Vad har du på gång?" which occurred at Husby Konsthall, Ljungh and Sparre initiated the thought and potential problem through their site-specific sculpture Seize the Day (2013). At Husby Konsthall, their collaborative sculpture was created, resembling in form a monumental, infinite hourglass. Visitors were invited to climb a ladder and replenish sand into the infinite hourglass, then sand would trickle down to the floor. The act could be seen as an individual's ability to physically influence time.
In the 2013 exhibition at Husby Konsthall, we invited Polish artist Zuzanna Janin to present her work I've Seen My Death, Ceremony / Games (2003) where Janin participated by simulating her own funeral procession. On April 4th, 2003, Janin published death announcements in several Polish newspapers; then on April 7th, she was "laid to rest" in the Warsaw Cemetery. This work became controversial and triggered extreme reactions in the Polish art community. Only a scant few treated it as a subversive form of expression capable of promoting the contemplation of existential, philosophical questions and of encouraging an honest discussion of death. Furthermore, Lars-Erik Hjertström Lappalainen is an art critic with a philosophical background. For the WAYWO exhibition, he contributed a new text "Do or Die! Eller Bara: DÖ!" which is presented in this publication.
With the WAYWO project, we wish to examine how time is valued in present time and contemporary terms. Why do we value short-term projects? Does this way of thinking stem from an entrepreneurial form of thinking— where short-term planning and perspectives are now viewed as the norm? There will always be something or someone new to follow. What was made yesterday is—more often than not—already forgotten.
In many cities, it has become popular for exhibitions to remain open only for opening night and, perhaps, the following weekend. Then, the audience disappears and continues to the next party. "The majority of artists participating in these short-term exhibitions often present works made with limited resources. Part of this tradition is that there is no budget and no curatorial thoughts."(1) Is short-termism also linked to economic conditions? Young, unestablished artists are expected to make art without resources—combined with a demand to constantly create something new: a new product or new thought.
1. Walk of Shame (2011)—exhibition text by Line Halvorsen.
How does contemporary art emerge as an infinite perspective? Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman describes in his book Liquid Fear (2006) that people who avoid thinking about the eternal, minimize the risk of considering thoughts of their own death. Thoughts about our own mortality and infinity are given less significance, something which is obvious—for example: in politics. Expressions such as "seize the day" reinforce our sense of immortality and reduce thoughts of our own disappearance; when this finally takes place, however, there remains an explainable cause of death.
Are monuments previously erected to perpetuate history now preceded by continuous short-term, individual manifestations? According to a study To Believe Is Not To Know (2003)(2), fear of death is greater amongst art prac- titioners than in 'general' society. Let us pose the question: has our view of time, eternity and long-term thinking changed? Is this the reason why the short-term project has become a guideline for many contemporary artists? Why do many eagerly expect a new thought or new work?
Which is to blame: our fear of dying or lack of time? The more projects one has going on, the more one is able to justify being alive. When one is recognized as working on something, one is more certain to feel immortal. I have something going on; therefore, I am.
Constant, short-term, time frames within social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, emails (all used in the art world), as well as fast, commercial strategies aim to generate intellectual and economical surplus in the shortest periods of time possible. Social and environmental structures don't allow people to think in a long-term manner. Of course, this is a result of an economical perspective where waste, in terms of material goods, is seen as having economic value as it increases growth in terms of expanded consumption. To think sustainably (long-term) does not possess the same economic value.
So: could this be the primary reason why we want to go to art parties— because we harbor the expectation that we will indeed perceive something new? We agree: this reflects our own immortality.
Lars-Erik Hjertström Lappalainen writes in his text "In art this manifests itself in the way that people care less about artistry than about the artist's latest project. Time is shorter and scarcer." Perhaps the WAYWO project can be seen as a self-fulfilling prophecy, where we are not able to think outside the project. We work within the project structure: It starts with the idea, then the discussion, the project description, the exhibition, the publication, and last the archive. Or as Jan Rydén points out in his text The Eternal state of being busy, that the art world is very much part of this cult of the process, since we have abandoned the idea of progress in favour of process, it is not realistic to believe in utopian ideas anymore. What are we left with? A constant flux of the now, where we have no option but to work in short-term projects.
How about different velocities? The critique and analysis of art doesn't have the same speed as Twitter, FB or the blog. Due to the lack of time the art critique rarely goes viral. How does an artwork exist speed wise? What velocity does art have? When a work of art occasionally goes viral, it is almost always categorized as an art scandal, or provocation. There is an expectation of art to be slower in pace, more thoughtful or thought through. How does this work with a highly accelerated mode or method of production? Examining a project for art production begins with an examination of time. The project begins when artists divide their practice into shorter, more manageable pieces of time, where there are clear deadlines and a transparent structure. This tends to create a distance between the artist and the act of creation, an urge to make art more scientific and research based. A scientific mind is the norm in western thinking where in the end everything has to be proven to be understood or validated. Where the emotional and poetic is given less or no significance but when present also has to be fitted into the guidelines of the project.
Through the WAYWO project we want to highlight the potential problem of how the contemporary mind-set affects our outlook and expectations and those of other artists, their artistic practices as well as our perception of art as product, production or process.
Hanna Ljungh & Ulrika Sparre