Blurting In A & L
by Michael Baldwin and Thomas Dreher
Blurting in A & L is a printed booklet whose content is a dictionary with blurts or »annotations«. The annotations were written by american members of Art & Language Ian Burn, Michael Corris, Preston Heller, Joseph Kosuth, Andrew Menard, Mel Ramsden and Terry Smith between january and july 1973. Michael Corris and Mel Ramsden chose terms as headlines for the annotations. The first letters of the headlines were used for an alphabetical ordering. In this order the annotations were numbered. References to other annotations were notated under each annotation with the intent to provoke a cross-reading or browsing: An arrow means a »conjunction« in a restricted sense (»implication«), and an »&« means a »concatenation«, a »conjunction« in a wider sense. After each headline follows an annotation, under the annotation follows a rubric with arrow-cross-references and under this rubric follows a chapter with »&«-cross-references. The points of reference were indexed via naming the numbers and headlines.
"Blurting in A & L" develops initiatives which began with the indexing project. This first saw public exhibition at Documenta 5 in 1972. The project continued in Art & Language in both the U.K. and the U.S.A. The notions of »blurting« and »concatenation« became part of its structural currency. »Blurting In A & L« is therefore a continuation of that project which saw its fullest and most complete expression in »Index 002 Bxal« (1973, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven). This is not to say, however, that the project ended with »Index 002 Bxal«. It continued in various forms, and with various logical transformations, until 1976 (see f.e. "Dialectical Materialism", 1974-76). It goes on in other ways in the current Art & Language practice (s. Kunstforum Bd.155/2001, S.131-135).
»Blurting in A & L« presents the discourse and the dialogue practice of Art & Language. The discourse investigates functions of the art-world (f.e. annotations 39,49,194), but doesn´t explore the function of art works within the context of art (compare annotations 252-258).
Proposals for wider frameworks were tested within the discourse of Art & Language. The resulting conceptions constitute a provisional program of Art & Language, whose consequences were exemplified in the context of art. These epistemological frameworks were used for a critique of the conditions of the art-world in a way which is as urgent today as it was in 1973. That´s the reason for the decision of the direction of ZKM, to install an online-version.
The members of Art & Language intend to abandon the separation of competences between artists, critics and observers, and to transform the art-world into a system of communication between contributors with equal capabilities of reflection (annotation 55). The presentational forms conventionalized within the systems of art and art exhibitions, and the ways of coding art itself were antithetical to a conception of art practice as discourse-oriented.
Art & Language designs what is, in its time, a new pluralistic framework and tests the possibilities of embedding it into a world which may or may not be the art world. For the members of Art & Language, these experiments with a conception which exposes the context conditions of one´s own practice, amounted to a call for a change in and of those conditions which were already institutionalised. The presentation of the own reflections about the context within the context reflected changes of the theory into a »theoretical practice« (Louis Althusser): The form of presentation creates conditions of reception for possible readers. With the model for forms of reflection these conditions were introduced into the discourse of art. The model constitutes not only a text, but a situation for readers as well as specific relations between the text and the reading-situation.
The explanation of forms of presentation became necessary for the members of Art & Language, because they developed the target in internal discussions, to find non-hierarchical forms of presentation with which to activate readers outside the group. The members of Art & Language developed their methodological basics within a process of »conversational exchanges« (annotation 78) and they wanted to provoke readers to proceed with this process. So the form of presentation of »Blurting In« sustains a reading habit, which creates a dialogical interrelation between parts of the text/annotations as »surface-structures« (annotation 338) and »set[s] of contexts« (annotations 10,103,236,275), which offer parts of the text. The dialogical intratextual character of the reading process should motivate further dialogues within contexts outside the group. The feedback between group-internal and group-external dialogues was the ideal case for Art & Language. In the seventies the members of Art & Language were only able to anticipate this ideal with their development of systems of indices, but they couldn´t concretize the feedback with external readers in a satisfying way. By organizing the circulation of Blurts in two stages: (1), to a fragment of the whole group who would work on the material as it passed between them, (2), subsequent to certain other members, not included in the first circulation. The material was then recirculated to all participants in stages (1) and (2) for further treatment. They received very limited feedback from external readers except in certain special cases. These were associated with a system which captured the formal or informal notations of the interlocutors of internal readers. The desire of Art & Language to carry the internal discourse to as many external readers as possible and to integrate the feedback, engenders the online version of »Blurting in A & L«. The original producers/receivers, interested former members of Art & Language who were not directly concerned with »Blurting in A & L«, and users who were neither of these, can communicate with each other in english and german (see «questions»).
Feature of the Project »Blurting in A & L online«
Dreher, Thomas: Art & Language & Hypertext: Blurting, Mapping and Browsing (presentation of "Blurting in A & L online", ZKM, Karlsruhe, 7.7.2002)