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What better way to conclude Despacio’s exploration of the Absence of Art than with a set of ideas for works that haven’t - and most likely never will be - realized? For this project, we partnered with the Artwork Agency, which provides ideas for artists who have none in a freely appropriable way. In the coming months, Despacio will bring together a selection of the agency’s online portfolio and display it throughout public spaces in San José.
The lifecycle of the artist is a strange one. Many start, but few continue. Failure, fatigue, and frustration seem to lurk at every corner of a budding artist’s career. Even stranger: out of those who do blossom, some aren’t allowed to stop. Artists who’ve attained a certain level of recognition—Marcel Duchamp, Lee Lozano, Cady Noland, or Agnes Martin, to name but a few—are forever engraved into the public’s imagination as such, despite their own proclamations to the contrary.
Change comes when worlds grow dry. For artists, this can mean doubt and disillusionment with the art world, a promised land which soon reveals itself to be no different than the market-driven world that surrounds it. Yet to return to the land of non-artists is never easy. Outside judgment adds itself to the weight of letting go, and what starts as a personal choice soon becomes a failure in the eyes of others.
Much of the pressure surrounding the practice of art, it seems, stems from meeting the expectations that come from being called an artist. This might be why many distance themselves from the name over time, whether their career is in tatters, at its peak or, more likely, never took off. The question then becomes: what happens to an artist’s ideas when they’re no longer an artist?
The Artwork Agency has gathered ideas from former artists to see how they resonate in public. By withholding the name of each idea’s provider, the agency respects each artist’s wish to no longer be defined as one, and explores the possibilities that come with breaking free from authorship.
Maybe this step back from the art world, away from its noise and stress, can nurture ideas that would never have seen the light of day under the pressure of execution. As Despacio begins to close its doors, we can’t help but think that this kind of time for reflection might change how we view the social, temporal, and signifying power of art. And with it, we hope, the very definition of the artist as such.
With these possibilities comes new freedom—to craft ideas that don’t need to be realized in order to be understood, and to lead artists and non-artists alike to rethink what it means to make art. Or maybe just what it means to forget it.
The exhibition opens Christmas Day 2018 throughout the public spaces of San José. Keep your eyes open (Installation Views). More about the initiative can be found on the websites of Artwork Agency and Random Institute.
Artwork Agency is an initiative founded in 2018 by Random Institute and developed in partnership with Sebastien Verdon. Financial support by Pro Helvetia.