Art Practice Seminar
by Yann Chateigné
For several years now, I have been accumulating notes and documents, reference texts and interpretations, working hypotheses and fragments of writing around what I consider to be a subject, the Night. However, the night in this investigation is multiple.
It is both the moment of another relationship with space and time, the dark and secret point from which avant-garde groups, meeting in cafés, cabarets, drifting in cities, have shone. It is also the theatre of operations on which the "workers' dream" of emancipation and equality, of which Jacques Rancière speaks in La nuit des prolétaires, was based.
Night is also a conceptual reason, which allows us to think, at new costs, of another measure, another politics of time. And as many artists of the 1960s and 1970s have revealed, it is the place where lines, circles, spirals, in other words the Forms of Time dear to George Kubler, are embodied, physically and mentally.
Finally, it is a common, invisible and non-market territory, which is today subject to a progressive conquest, as Jonathan Crary describes it precisely in his essay on Capitalism Assaulting Sleep, by power structures, technological and economic, media and political battlegrounds. While the boundaries of night are constantly shifting, never before have so many artists seemed to have taken an interest in the question: between art and astronomy, political ecology and the right to opacity, night comes, returns and insists, within contemporary artistic practices.
However, I have not yet resolved to bring these ideas together in a proposal that could have been the sum of these researches, nor the synthesis. One of the objectives of this seminar will be to try to put the accumulated materials in order, to share and enrich them, to observe and interpret them, in order to make them visible and readable.
It is because the theme itself induces an ambiguous, even elusive form. A questioning is required, which makes darkness a reflexive object of the historian's own work, interested in invisible and minor stories, in those of the "strange" according to historian Michel de Certeau, or even of the occult.
What does this "return of darkness" mean? "From the moment this question arises, I know that the night is over," writes philosopher Michael Fossel, recalling how much a certain evanescence is attached to night as a subject. We will therefore be interested in the night as the very place of a non-knowledge, the shadow gradually incorporating itself into the body of research to become also the driving force, or even the method.
It is here that the night allows other types of explorations, other trajectories of thoughts, but also of imagination. The study then touches on speculation; history on fiction; discourse becomes production. As the novelist W. G. Sebald wrote,".... a little like marine plants and animals with their tentacles, we explore the darkness around us by feeling it.
The seminar is organized in seven sequences, or fragments with open relationships, which can occupy several sessions. Each session revolves around a text (or passage) to be read and discussed collectively, a thematic presentation, and the artistic, theoretical and bibliographic contributions of the participants.
First reading: Jonathan Crary, 24/7 Le capitalisme à l'assaut du sommeil, Paris, Editions La Découverte, 2013 - 14 / Chapter 4, available online here.
Art Practice - Critical Tools Workshop Course.