The audience is the mother of self-invention

29 September–24 November 2012

With Pierre Bal-Blanc, Nina Beier, Cornelius Cardew, Ján Mančuška, Babette Mangolte, Mattin, Lilo Nein, The Great Learning Orchestra, Olav Westphalen and others

The audience is the mother of self-invention is an ambitious weekly series of performance-based events and short-lived exhibitions by Swedish and international artists, curators, filmmakers, and musicians that will begin each Saturday. The series, which begins on 29 September and runs through to 24 November, launches a new multi-layered programme of activities initiated by Index’s new director Diana Baldon. Exhibitions, workshops and musical performances will focus on presenting and critically contextualising the work of practitioners whose production cross-breeds with contemporary art and resonates with the Foundation’s on-going explorations and interest in visual displays and viewer-related experiments.

The series initiates Index’s intention to map out still-undisclosed art historical epistemologies. Through this process, Index aims to become an energetic site of identitary and discursive exchange; a stimulating platform for communication where innovative modes of aesthetic and curatorial production are confronted, with a view to address how they contaminate and re-configure one another. Each event will be accompanied with music by, among others, Ben Loveless, Roger von Reybekiel (Fel), Kim West, and sculptural display elements specially designed for Index by Tamara Henderson and Carl Palm.

During this time Index will focus its attention both on artistic and curatorial processes, and on the changing conditions for the presentation and reception of art. Instead of adopting the traditional format of a group exhibition, The audience is the mother of self-invention unfolds as a series of acts that, for three months, become an active form of showing and learning, whilst interrogating the expanded definition of scoring as a trans-scriptive device.

Throughout the 20th century artists have used scores as a way to map out movement and to record thought. Graphic notations, verbal instructions, storyboards and stage directions have been elaborated as de-scriptive and pre-scriptive sign systems, focussing on the ability of artistic processes to translate concept and work. As the legendary Scratch Orchestra (1969-72) examined, they also forged social contracts with members of the public. Co-founded by the British composer Cornelius Cardew, this experimental musical collective encouraged improvisation through inviting untrained musicians to join. For Cardew – who in the mid-1970s became entangled with far-left politics – graphic and text-based scores defied the hierarchy between composer and performer, placing more emphasis on the mutuality of their relationship. This concept was played out in his understanding of “self-invention”, which he described as a process of becoming; of testing the tenacity of both performer and spectator. Today’s nostalgic fascination with Cardew’s radical musical and political practice hints at recuperating the Orchestra’s cultural memory, whilst opening up questions about the difficulties of how to reconcile artistic and political responsibilities.

In the 21st century, artists have been revisiting and re-interpreting the infinite possibilities presented by scores as classic modernist tools. Annotations, variations, reconstructions and additions to the originals have become recognised trans-scriptive methods of work. These have evolved from the status of draft or documentary materials that stand in for objects, images or actions, into complex forms that put equal emphasis on both copy and original, or play with the act of re-staging historic precedents. This creates a productive space for discussion about the tensions between scoring and forms of agency involving the audience. Furthermore, it raises questions about the degrees of authenticity of a performance that transforms into an image, and its reception as documentary material. During a live event, the performer, the spectator, the mediating agent and the person behind the camera observe the action and inevitably enter into a mutually determining relationship. The presence of the performer is transferred to the presence of the spectator through the camera.

As the Austrian curator and scholar Barbara Clausen argues, documentation is no longer a pseudo-neutral commemoration of a physical moment or object, but a translation that enables documentation to become autonomous. According to Clausen, artworks always depend on audiences. Their memories, as moments witnessed through individual or collective experiences play an important role. Spectators are chroniclers directly involved in the constitution of an artwork; they can replace visual components with the inscription of the artwork into its medial reception, constantly dispersing. By confronting these polarities — of ‘before’ and ‘after’, precondition and anecdote — The audience is the mother of self-invention analyses the complex interaction between transcriptive procedures, event, mediation, reception and dissemination.

This project is kindly supported by Iaspis, the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture (BMUKK) and Connect Hotel City. With thanks to Horace Cardew, Elisabet Eurén, Julia Hölz and the Ján Mančuška Estate (Prague), Santiago Mostyn, Nils Ossian Andersson AB, Viktor Gustav Nyström Sköld, Stockholms Auktionsverk and all those who helped bringing this programme together.