«No knowledge from where he had left. Nor of how. Nor of whom.

None of where he had arrived. Partially arrived.» 

Samuel Beckett

 

Rules and deviances

 

According to the dictionaries, "practice" is the act or effect of practicing; activity that aims at concrete results; which opposes the theoretical and abstract; an intentional action with bodily movement that has "practical effect".

Already the "deviance", is the act or effect of deviating; change of direction; departure from the normal position, from a standard of conduct, from a behavior deemed appropriate.

From these entries it is concluded that "deviant practices" are actions that violate standards, expectations or rules.

However, sociology warns us that "deviance is not a quality that lies in behavior itself, but in the interaction between the person who commits an act and those who react to it" (BECKER, 2008). There is only deviance because there is rule. And there is only rule because there are "moral entrepreneurs".

Deviances are thus decided in the political conflict, where certain social groups are able to elaborate rules and possible penalties for offenders based on specific interests. The success of this type of enterprise then becomes "a matter of political and economic power."

Thus, public recognition and the actual effectiveness of rules prove to be variable not only in time and space, but also in relation to factors such as class and social identity of those involved. For many "deviants", the rule applied (and not their behaviors labeled as inadequate) is what constitutes deviance.

This scenario is even more complex when we observe that collective life is governed not only by formal rules, enacted in laws, regiments and statutes, but above all by tacit (and controversial) agreements, sedimented by customs and traditions.

Leaving aside the invisible day-to-day "deviationist tactics" studied by Certeau (1994), we shall now examine some of the explicit deviance from informal norms.

 

 

Appropriate practices

 

Although resulting from a broad "interactionism", deviant practices appear in every way as a counterpoint to "appropriate" practices. Practices that we can group into a regime of ordinary rules and another one of extraordinary rules. 

Appropriate ordinary practices are found everywhere, scattered in socially foreseen ways to greet, buy, dwell, work, enter and leave. They consist of adequate "ways of doing," which we could simply call everyday practices.

Contrasting with these practices, there are also those that are developed in particular spaces and times, also governed by particular rules. Usually set apart from everyday life, every extraordinarily appropriate practice depends on a temporal demarcation (through specific schedules or calendars) and/or spatial one (also through specific places or ambiences).

The more autonomous this temporal, spatial and legal arrangement, the more autonomous will be their practices in relation to external obligations. Built according to special behaviors, such an arrangement allows the practices developed there cease to be considered inadequate, to become an acceptable (and desirable) complement to ordinary life.

Although they varied historically, culturally and geographically as to their connections with daily life, such activities could be classified as playful practices.

The etymology indicates that playful practices are related to play and fun, to activities that should occur outside the reality of work and of necessity (which does not prevent the ludic pass through the work environments to soften such dichotomies).

Games, as well as parties, are some of the best examples of a compartmentalisation of social praxis which in western modernity has reached its apex by structuring itself into multiple interdependent subsystems.

Primitive communities were also organized around the division of labor and lived time, but without the level of specialization of industrialized societies. Community life was more integrated not only by the absence of productivist values, but because the different activities constituted a totality conformed by hegemonic political forces and religious beliefs.

Scholars such as Roger Caillois (1988) discussed the possible anthropological foundations of this separation of regimes of practices, including through the notions of "profane" and "sacred". The profane as the scope of "the unfolding of habitual life" and the sacred as the domain of "intense emotions", religion and party.

Although they represent the momentary interdiction of the daily order, any "playful" occasion also depends, yesterday and today, on certain rules. There is only game and party because there is a place, a period and a legality of the game and the party, which must be obeyed precisely so that one can live (and represent) another side of ordinary life.

 

 

Deviant practices

 

These two sets of practices are equally appropriate because they operate according to different regimes collectively agreed upon, which, however, will be violated by deviant conduct. 

We also suggest at least two types of deviant conduct: the motivated type, which assumes the action as rule violation; and the unruly one, which tends to disregard any rule.

Actions of the first type are mobilized for some purpose; those of the second type, no. The former occur with the knowledge of the "etiquette" to be transgressed; those of the second type occur, by definition, inconsequentially.

Whether for practical, political and ethical purposes, or for obscure subjective needs, motivated deviant conduct is seen as extravagant (or even scandalous, if it is not framed in law as an infraction, delinquency or crime). It occurs to transgress.

Already the unruly deviant conduct may also manifest itself as extravagance, although it seems more accurate to speak of uneasiness, precisely because it is not founded on discernible goals.

At least in principle, the play consists of the unruly activity par excellence. Unlike the game, it does not comply with pre-established norms nor does it require special environments and times to happen. On the contrary, the play is a play, not a game, because it happens - there, where and when it is not expected.

According to the dictionaries, the play is a "freely structured game," which mixes fun and creation with anything at hand. The unruly character of the play can be easily observed by the importance that circumstances assume in its unfolding. A group of children gathered at random in a square of a small town evokes this type of activity.

But the play as the effectuation of a derangement presents many difficulties. In practice, play only happens when it is allowed. Although it does not have predetermined internal rules, it is constrained from the outside, before and after. It is the control of its temporal dimension, more than the spatial and legal, that ends up defining not only the possibility, but the beginning and the end of all play.

Although more creative and unpredictable than games and parties, and more unconcerned than any motivated deviant practice, play (whether of children or adults) emerges as a remnant of ordinary appropriate practices or as a surplus of motivated deviant practices.

These are practices that, even representing one of the archaic possibilities of self-determination of the subject, are also subjected to the dictates of the social schedule.

 

 

Deviances in art

 

Aside from the play, another kind of activity could be approached as an unruly deviant practice. It is History itself that often presents us art as an history of derangements. 

Even at the service of diffuse ends and always subjected to political and economic powers, all production of images has always been moved by the escape of rules. Whether as magic, téchne or modernist abstractionism, we could say with Freud (2012) that "fantasizing" - and imagining - is "an achievement of desire, a correction of unsatisfactory reality" (or, rather, abundance of libido).

On the other hand, although always guided by diverse conventions, this imaginative manufacture never corresponds to the handling of a code, as it happens in the use of the language. Images do not belong to a system of "signifiers" with "signifieds" attached to them, which can be decoded and used according to a grammar (DUFRENNE, 1998).

No set of images constitute a language. No image can be analyzed to the point of being rationally exhausted in a totality of collectively recognizable elements. Every image is inherently ambiguous by the absolute impossibility of demarcating all its contours and extensions, all its derivations and connections with its exterior.

The virtually deviant and unruly nature of the image can also be corroborated by the concrete consequences of its emergence. Plato would expel the "poet" from his republic if his poetry did not conform to certain ethical parameters. The poet should only be admitted to the pólis if he presented "in his compositions models of good customs" (PLATO, 2012).

The rigid aesthetic canons that sought to govern poetic activity in ancient Greece was the very demonstration of its potentially deviant character. In classifying "Comedy" as a kind of poetry that seeks "to imitate the worst men", Aristotle (2012) also informs us that "comedians" derive their name from "walking from village to village (kómas), for not being tolerated in the city".

Art as an unruly deviant practice can also be vastly verified in a more recent history of art, which is a history of those consecrated as socially beneficial. Caravaggio, Velazquez, Delacroix, and so many others who contributed to the respectable canon of Western art have often proved problematic for aesthetic and behavioral standards.

But it is with modernism and its notorious aesthecist individualism that the unruly deviance seems to be not only a trace of artistic activity, but a proof of its own integrity. Freeing itself from the old thematic and formal moorings that governed European visual culture before bourgeois revolutions, the newly established field of "fine arts" could finally assert art as "experimental" practice.

The artist's propensity to deviate from moral (and not only aesthetic) conventions seems then fostered by the very ethos of his activity. By seeking always to avoid any external interference on his work, the artist is inclined to value a "spontaneous and individualistic behavior and a disdain for the rules of society in general" (BECKER, 2008).

Bourriaud (2011) will even relate the liberation of "modern art" to eccentric conducts like those of the "dandies", which for him represent one of the models of the "invention of self". But while the nineteenth-century dandy still perform its eccentricity at the risk of proscription, the modern artist will finally have a socially constructed space of protection.

In the wake of democracies and modern divisions of labor, the "field of erudite production" arises not only to enhances markets, knowledge and mechanisms of legitimation (BOURDIEU, 2007), but also to safeguard artistic practice from intrusions that traditionally curtailed (without however eliminating) its reluctant unruly and deviant vocation.

 

 

Appropriate arts

 

The history of art as the history of its "autonomization", as proposed by Adorno (2007), nevertheless charged its price. Although it apparently persists, according to Bourriaud (2011) himself, as the less normatized of contemporary activities, and that Foster (2014) asserts that "the institution of art does not completely govern aesthetic conventions", artistic practice let itself, however, to be "framed" by a "symbolic space" as a counterpart to its craved derangement. A phenomenon that in some way refers to the regime of the extraordinary rules that we observe in the spaces of games and parties. 

Of the normatizing forces that cross the field of art today, "the market" is the most remarkable. There are even those who set out in major cultural magazines "the 7 commandments of art", didactically listing "what gives prestige, money and fame to an artist" (KATO, 2011). Two of these "commandments" refer particularly to the importance of art galleries and fairs, which would have come to "professionalize" the artist's career (and, why not, to suggest medias, techniques and dimensions of "objects", according to the known law of supply and demand).

The increasing bureaucratization of markets inevitably slips to the "public sphere". What might seem distant from the artistic practice itself, ends up reaching it directly, insofar as the "institutionalization" of access to spaces, resources and honors impels the spread of various control devices. The fullfilment of public notice for submission of proposals - often based on extra-artistic criteria or on particular curatorial contents - is just one example of this type of interference.

From the "institutional critique" undertaken by the neo-avant-garde of the 1960s, some of these devices became at least clear. Allan Kaprow dismantled the codes of reception of art, Hans Haacke accused its ties with economic power, Michael Asher dissected its architectural and administrative contexts, while Guy Debord, on the other hand, ended by abandoning it.

With the contribution of this generation, the scenarios, schedules and rituals of the art world ceased to slyly conform the "professionalized" practices and normalize the old dichotomies between artist and public, subject and object, leisure and work, art and everyday life .

However, the persistent tendency towards coding art promoted by markets, bureaucracies and institutions seems at once cause and effect of the ubiquitous rationalization of a modern culture which, according to thinkers as distincts as Hegel and Nietzsche, can only result in the very "end of art".

Contradictingly divided between a hard-won "autonomy" and its consequent distancing from social demands, art has oscillated in its political responses between the "ethical regime" of direct intervention in the extra-artistic reality and the "representative regime" of transmission of uplifting messages (RANCIÈRE, 2012). It thus appears or as motivated deviant practice or as extraordinary appropriate practice.

The instrumentalism underlying every process of rationalization thus seems to bring contemporary art to the conservative "aesthetics of content". In this case, art as a "derangement of all the senses", as Rimbaud wanted (BARROSO, 1995), or inebriate by the "spirit of music", as Nietzsche (2007) himself defended, tends to become melancholically an utilitarian and communicative phenomenon.

Converted into a sign, art degrades doubly: first, because it ties its practice to a priori contents that must shape a posteriori forms; second, because it reiterates a certain established concept of art (and, consequently, the very status quo that sanctioned it).

Instead of a libertarian praxis founded precisely on the "happening" of an unruly deviant practice, art becomes hostage to culturally elected "meanings", which include its own self-image. In this way, it abdicates the possibilities of a becoming of art itself that might, perhaps, overcome the imperatives of an insufficient present (or just affirm a surplus of energy).

 

 

Escape: ex-art

 

Escaping from representation is, therefore, escaping not only from specific ends, but from all authority outside the practice itself, since to represent is to put something in the place of another that precedes and directs it - being it the "objective" that grounds practice or the very "concept" of practice.

Representation as an attempt of repetition requires the renunciation of oneself in a here-and-now always unrepeatable, in favor of this something established elsewhere. From Artaud, Derrida (2009) then recommends that "non-repetition [...] should finally end the frightened discursiveness", through an "art of difference", which is "pure presence as pure difference." 

Recognizing that the problem of representation is the heart of the general problem of art's regulation (and decadence), we have sought to oppose creative practices that value circumstances, as well as unconscious, collectivist and relatively distant processes of the contexts, techniques and identities of art.

Practices that inevitably come from art itself (at least from that expectation of an art as an unruly deviant practice), but which only with some good will can today be categorized as such. It would perhaps be more appropriate to treat them even as an ex-art, as a set of multiple and unpredictable meetings in an incessant movement of confluence and escape.

What I specifically called "EX-ART: meetings" was a series of such practices that occurred in November 2016, initiated through the following invitation that I published on Facebook, on the 15th of the same month:

 

Dear friends,

 

could anyone suggest any time and place in Recife and come to record with my cell phone what I have to experiment for a few minutes on each occasion?

The videos, to be initially broadcast on a Youtube channel, are intended to show circumstantial and purposeless actions.

If so, we can schedule it right here. Thank you in advance for the availability of the interested parties.

 

P.S.: I want to believe that this is a small step beyond those who have reached the edge (Allan Kaprow and Guy Debord) and one step always below of those who have no edge at all (the autists observed by Fernand Deligny).

 

Immediately after the invitation, friends appeared in the "comments" of the post applying to participate. Dida Maia, Andrea Gorenstein, João Pessoa, Sephora Silva, Diego Salcedo, Deyse Lemos and Luiz Monte were the first to propose specific places and times for consecutive days, constituting, finally, the group that would conform this first series of meetings.

Dida arranged a meeting at 3:30pm, on the 17th (Thursday), at the «river's edge [...] at the embarkation port of the crossing from Jaqueira to Torre»; Andrea also arranged a meeting in the afternoon [but I could not remember the exact time], on the 18th (Friday), in the Seu Vital's bar, in Poço da Panela; João, at 10:17am [sic], on the 19th (Saturday), «in front of the Dona Lindu Park, on the beach promenade»; Sephora, at 10am, on the 21st (Monday), in the «Lima Street, in front of the Globo building site»; Diego, at 4pm, on the 22nd (Tuesday), at the «pedestrian exit of the Plaza Shopping, where is the smoking area»; Deyse, at 7:30pm, on the 23rd (Wednesday), «in the Derby Square, near the Agamenon Magalhães Avenue bus stop»; and Luiz, at 5pm, on the 24th (Thursday), «in front of the Sport Club do Recife».

The activities started promptly after I informed my interlocutor that he or she should just follow me, focusing the Nokia cell phone camera on my actions, which will be ended as soon as I picked it up again. Each of the seven actions performed and recorded lasted approximately one to five minutes, and can be checked below, through the link to the playlist that was generated on Youtube.

 

 

Inappropriate propositions

 

This series of meetings resulted in a series of propositions, possibly inappropriate; because what tends to be seen here as linearly drawn conclusions from an experiment may have functioned as "assumptions" that influenced the "experiment". 

They may seem inappropriate also by a certain systematizing and totalizing pretension, somewhat like the old avant-garde manifests. We recognize, however, two gains with the adoption of this probable anachronism: the possibility of synthesis and the clear taking of position. In this case, an openly "untimely" position, against the present, "in favor of a time that will come" (PELBART, 2000).

It should also be emphasized that this is a summary of what we have developed theoretically from these practices. At least in part, it defines certain attributes (or principles) that we presume to make these practices an ex-art.

 

1) Irrationalism

Attitude that values ​​affects, instincts, intuitions and unconscious processes in practices, whether in the most active or passive moments. It refers especially to the predisposition not only to accept without brakes the irruption of "ideas", but also to apply them with the minimum of mediation.

 

2) Constructivism

Principle focused on the construction of spatial, temporal and behavioral dimensions of practices. Although founded irrationally, it operates in an eminently critical way in relation to the concrete conditions that surround the practices and above all to the desired effectiveness of their purposively deconstructive effects (be they political, ethical or aesthetic) in a given physical and cultural context. It emerges clearly as counterpart of the general irrationalist attitude.

 

3) Circumstantialism

Positioning that counts on the circumstances for the accomplishment (and success) of any practice. It regards circumstances as a true device of escape from every first cause, which implies incorporating chance and the fortuitous, thereby tending to eliminate any pre-established notion of error or failure of the practices.

 

4) Collectivism

Perspective of attenuation of ego-centered and illusory personal authorship, which invests, instead, in the participation of an expanded collectivity, which includes not only interlocutors, but also natural and artificial agents, predicted or not. In this way, any practice is always approached as the functioning of an ecosystem.

 

5) Amateurism
Posture of certain contempt for professional, specialized and obligatory creative practices, with a view to escaping not only from their typical external impositions, but also from the social identities associated with them. In this way, such a posture also seeks to attenuate the codes and meanings inevitably derived from determined status of the practitioners, in a society that is widely hierarchized and apprehended according to professional work.

 

 

Edges

 

Memory is never a good adviser. We know its aptitude both to select and to invent, especially when it involves creative processes that refer to other activities and reflections carried out remotely. However, a principle of those practices insists on returning now: exactly that of excluding interference of pre-established concepts. 

To deviate from every "idea" to deviate from "codified" ideas and, thus, to bet on the unprecedent of the becoming. But to deviate from ideas would, in the limit, deviate from the language itself, something that only the autists observed by Deligny (2015) could (we never know for sure) have conquered.

For the French educator, without language there is no "command" or "thought project", and without command and thought project there is not properly repetition, only "reaction", supposedly free from censorship of representations, to a constantly changing environment. Just react - since "the new can only come from the circumstances" (DELIGNY, 2015).

The practices themselves have, however, shown the known difficulties for the realization of this paradoxical principle. "Ideas" - new and old - sprouted up at all times to be represented (until the last minute before we turned on the camera to start the actions). Although the "reaction to circumstances" has somehow prevailed, it is not difficult to imagine that certain ideas may have intruded on certain practices.

 

In view of the edges reached by artists like Kaprow and Debord, we will conclude these final considerations by highlighting some of the procedures adopted contrary to the invincible forces of repetition. Constructivist procedures that led, from the outset, to the construction of a "situation", so that something unforeseen could hatch.

Unlike Debord (2003), however, we have not planned "scenarios", "interventions" or "events", as is clear from the invitation itself on Facebook. They set schedules and places (sometimes unknown to me) so that everything would happen right there, at that time. Although there was a proponent for the meeting, there was no "director" for each "constructed situation" (as the Situationists recommended). 

Nor was there a script, as was common in Kaprow's happenings (and even in his later "activities"), in which the roles of the artist and the public, though radically transformed, remained hierarchical (KAPROW, 2003). In our case, some hierarchy evidently persisted, but now attenuated by the active participation of those who chose the place and time, and led the camera.

Participants, it is worth mentioning, that do not have artists status, which, in a way, reinforced the amateurism of the work (and the distancing of institutions). Even because my own social artist identity is dubious, since, as sociology suggests, my "main status" of university professor still seems to overlap with the "secondary status" of amateur artist.

Even knowing the importance of these deconstructive impulses, we also know that our problem does not concern the Hegelian overcoming of art as "a past reality" (HEGEL, 1993), but rather the persistence in facilitating the apparition of singularities and differences, always repressed by repetition implied in all representation. One task, we must admit, as difficult to be fully realized in the present day as little persuasive for the "administered world." A task, therefore, inappropriate for our time.

 

 

Gentil Porto Filho

 

to Andrea Gorenstein (in memoriam)

 

 

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