art 2002/2

Dainius Liškevičius. Iš ciklo "Pasaulio centrai“. Enjoy Yourself. 1999–2002, 39,5 x 59,5

Authorship Without Author

by Virginijus Kinčinaitis

Concern with the original "author’s" voice and uniqueness of the work of art, generated by chaotic variety of contemporary art, is another attempt to reconsider the very concept of authorship.
Is work of art (text) a product of the author, or is artist created by his work of art? Does artist open new vistas of imagination to society or is his art just a reflection of society’s expectations?
According to P. Bourdieu, it is possible that no authentic work of art exists. It is likely that our imagination is dominated by the symbolical author’s significance that is assigned to him by society. The fetish signature of the artist matters more than artistic work. It is also possible, based on J. Baudrillard, that "operational cultural prostitution machines" intentionally produce myriads of names to lure and attract the flow of mobile masses.
It seems that the only possible discussion today is on ever changing strategies and concepts of authorship. Amateurism, kitsch, anonymity that find place in these concepts are potential signs of the future authorship.
Discussion on separate individuals seems to be useless given contemporary cultural theory context. P. Bourdieu proposes to approach social reality not as activity of separate individuals, but as complex manifestation of their mutual relationships and distances between them. It is not a free will, but the totality of these relationships that generates cultural values, symbols and signs of authorship. What matters in this context, is not the author, but how his name assigns an exclusive status for a particular discourse in society and culture.
Commonplace objects like traffic lights or similar might as well acquire a new significance, if manipulated by celebrated artists, who provide this object with the authorship function. Yet the author of such nature, claims M. Foucault, is not the source of meanings in that work of art. He is just a functional principle within a certain culture, used for selecting, separating and sorting out cultural activity. This principle does not encourage, but hinders free circulation of cultural signs and meanings. "Author" is not a source of originality, but an ideological figure.
Based on the concept of "exterior pressure", the inner world of the artist or art critic reflects the existing highly structured "artistic world" and its relationships. In the form of official authorization of symbolical artist’s powers, educational institutions offer a reward for this subjugation of individual. It is doubtlessly the way real author appears. Rather this is the "effect of the author", which is a result of wide social and ideological games. The question remains whether any free will or individual psyche has any room in these games?
It would be equally productive to look for contemporary authorship function and its manifestations in the global world, media, cultural policy, the Internet, press and the maze of everyday rituals.
Contemporary digital technologies offer a concept of author and his work that opposes radically traditional understanding of artistic creation. In digital reality author may be as much as mediator, a product of art is not the proof of authorship, but a place of temporary encounters. The cyberspace artist does not care to contribute anything new and ingenious to enormous flow of information via electronic networks, but is interested in manipulating different streams or bringing them into confrontation.
Virtual reality obliterates differences between organisms and machines, real and unreal, generating signs of post-organic area. This post-human realm is the key subject of computer art, yet it is the art that does not produce any unique identities, but mediates between different social practices.
The artists, who implant computer robots and microprocessors into their bodies, obliterate the boundaries between human body and his creation. The result is a boundless, constantly changing and interacting unity of computer chips, digital codes, organism, implants, virus dynamics and data banks.
Very similar tactics is characteristic of video art. The rituals of multiplication and recording of uninterrupted visual world encourage the viewer to take an active position, while the author withdraws aside. Video films that dominated "Documenta 11" encouraged the audience to give their attention to the real world, liberated from author’s subjectivity.
It turns out that this is a destruction of a socially constructed, therefore limited concept of the author, "the function of the author", but not the author as a person. Therefore it seems pointless to mourn the disappearance of heroic personalities and more meaningful to consider what cultural ideological mechanisms create the aura of such personalities and how the category of "authorship" functions in contemporary society and art.