||Mr. Tuttle and Mr. Turtle
In the movie Brazil, a certain Mr. Tuttle plays the part of the man who
comes out of nowhere, solves a problem and disappears. He is a jolly man
and leaves just with his existence the hint, that there is a sort of secret
society he is rooted in. After all, he is searched after as terrorist,
because he solves the problems nobody is allowed to touch - except the
Mr. Tuttle made his way into a comic Philippe Mairesse and I did in June
2008 together, called ‘The Plant’, published as part of Crossed
Values. It is part of a series of cooperative comics, called ‘One
Day Comic’, where two persons within one day produce a comic. We
meet in the morning, and chat about what we really like to be part of
it. That reaches from stories, theoretical interest, stylistic ideas –
I always wanted to do something which looks like the WATCHTOWER of the
Jehovas Witnesses – to interest in special images and visual structures.
We talk and negotiate and eventually a shared interest would condense
into a story. That stage should be reached by noon, time is short. By
2pm, we have developed a storyboard. We would clarify who executes what:
One the text and the other one the drawings? More of a cadavre exquise
– typ of work? Only little time for every decision is available.
No going back and revising possible.
We finally realise, that the story does not work at all? Well, no way
back. Doing a One Day Comic is like racing a bumpy back road. It’s
never perfect, the plot is usually overloaded and incomprehensible, the
graphic style is speedy.
Being that closed with somebody for a day makes you hear each others brain
tick. You crash into each other. The result is a graphic story but foremost
it is a trace of that encounter. A footprint of communication. The surface
of the finished product is broken open by hastiness, opening windows into
the process. Besides the complex relation between images and text this
footprint of an encounter is the central issue of the project.
In the work with Philippe Mairesse, Mr. Tuttle is changed into Mr. Turtle,
and seems to solve problems by being slow. Doing a speed comic about a
man who is utterly slow seemed not only a nice twist, it first of all
indicates the dimension of time - in any given task.
It is similar to us making the comic; the status of the comic as object
in relation to the process of its making is diaphanous, the comic is merely
a gate backwards to the process. Paris/Berlin, 28.05.2008, Philippe Mairesse
and Henrik Schrat, that’s what it says on the back cover. The comic
is like an extended On Kawara, date – painting, the moment in time
and amount of time of the one day which was invested.
The situation and its framework is deliberately created, we participate
in it, but also watch it at the same time from outside, observe the situation
taking place and the time passing by. Different tasks structure the day.
Communication, decision making and production go hand in hand and produce
a sort of organisational music of possibilities and necessities.
The dimension of time and (inter)action entered in the 50ies the scenery.
Performances and Happenings bloomed during the 60ies. Debord had written
in 1957: “We must try to construct situations… i.e. collective
environments, ensembles of impressions determining the quality of a moment.
(…) Let us say we have to multiply poetic objects and subjects (…)
and that we have to organize games of these poetic subjects among the
poetic objects.” Time was for the Situationists a political and
social construction, where the Situation was also the activation of the
observer, transforming her or him into a participant. Communication becomes
a format with an aesthetic dimension in its own right. It is seen not
only as enhancement of possibilities, but with its democratic offering
as an ethical value. Everybody can participate in the arts, and art can
help getting people up from their seats and into the revolution. Performance
and Happening played out the dimension called by Debord ‘poetic’,
and expanded from the modernist understanding of an art piece as self
Some 50 years after Debords seminal text, the aesthetic value of processes
was to be defined in a different way. Two books mark – among others
– a reached new position at the end of the 90ies. They sum up what
had happened in their fields in the decade before. Coming from different
discourses, it is remarkable, that they have been published nearly at
the same time: Nicolas Bourriauds ‘Relational Aesthetics’
(1998) and Antonio Stratis ‘Organisation and Aesthetics’(1999).
Whilst Bourriaud is curator of contemporary art and critic, Strati, with
a background of Sociology, comes from Organisational Studies and Management
I only can use them here in the limited space as marker for a rising interest
which comes from different fields into the encounter of art and organization.
To clear terms like art and organization is not possible due to different
discursive backdrops. For now that should not bother too much, as long
as there is a consistency within the arguments themselves. Organization
is the more inclusive abstract term compared to corporations or business.
It expands to societies, NGO’s and groups. Organization also extends
to a more abstract understanding of processes and interaction apart from
applicable contexts in a corporation. It also shifts away from the mesmerising
the bottom line is always profit. The encounter seems to provide the potential
to overcome the repetitive routines of a postmarxist approach to art critique,
but to maintain a critical perspective, which has a well established tradition
within Critical Management Studies.
Gaining insight into organizational structures and to try to understand
driving values in organizations is a rich source of understanding social
reality beyond commenting on capitalism from an imagined outside. Maintaining
critical distance within a cooperation with an organization is essential
– the ‘secret society’ backing Mr. Tuttle could help.
Organizational Art could look for instance on what New Public Genre Art
has done, and the imminent problems with affirmation and instrumentalisation.
Lets return the One-Day-Comic as example of the aesthetics of a process,
and the relation between the product and the process. There is a (art)
product, which is the driving force behind the process, it is a clearly
product orientated process. But the products first message is: I am the
result of that communication process.
Grant Kester has focused in his book ‘Conversation pieces. Community
and Communication in Modern Art’ on “works that define dialogue
itself as fundamental aesthetic (as opposed to works centered on collaboratively
producing paintings, sculptures, murals, etc.)” But exactly that’s,
what the comic does: it produces collaboratively a piece of art. The link
itself between the product and the production is of interest. It is a
classic strategy of Marxist criticism to link a product to the conditions
and values of its production, to break open the polished surface which
detaches the product. If the process of making is becoming part of the
product, do we get the time based social dimension embedded in a product?
Well, to get the best of all possible worlds is never possible. Communication
and feedback as value has been an issue in management (studies) for a
long time, as well as in the arts field. But communication practice has
entered a new understanding in the last years. In the 90ies Hans –
Ulrich Obrist has asked – desperately? - “Collaboration is
the answer! But what is the question?” Participation as such seems
no longer to be a guarantee for progressive, social, political engaged
art thriving towards democracy and all the positive attributes we might
have attached it to. Participatory practices have become as well a tool
for the management of consumer behaviour. Commercial web applications
feed on the unpaid participation of the audience, without participation
the whole Web 2.0 architecture would not be possible, the undisputed benefits
of new information distribution has its downsides. They creep as well
into the nice concept of relational and organisational aesthetics and
deserve again a critical scrutinising.
Modernity has established art as untouchable and unquestionable from
outside the discourse - what became an unmatched story of strategic success.
As this unfolded, it reduced the tasks and competences artists are asked
for - and hence developed. So it seems the right move, to put they back
in the crossfire of different conditions. A lot of artists have been busy
in the last decade of exactly trying this out.
Today Artists in Organizations are treated a lot like Mister Tuttles,
coming out of nowhere and believed to be in possession of a magic stick
with a secret society behind them. Disappointments as a free gift is coming
along with it, clearing the map. Tested against reality, artists might
be able to develop tools with better grip to ethical and political questions.
If artists work in participative formats – may it be interaction
with organizations or other forms of involving other persons – their
role as emcee stands in the crossroad between an interpretation from the
organizational studies side and the arts discourse. On top of this, the
manager of the organization does not hesitate a second in asking: Does
it work for us? And is right about it. If in that context art claims participatory
and dialogical competences beyond representation, they should be perceptible
in action also from ‘the other side’: the proof of the pudding
is the eating.
If the organizational studies discourse and the art discourse have separately
developed a mutual interest in the aesthetics of interaction, it is a
promising start to reshape the place where art is art located in society.
Henrik Schrat, 06/08