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Compiled by Stuart Bailey
Published by Roma Publications with Culturgest and Dexter Sinister

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This extended caption comprises half of the exhibition Extended Caplion (DDDG) at Culturgest, Porto, April 25-June 27, 2009. It is the seventh occasion of my showing a group of artifacts whose only objective connection is that they have appeared in the pages of Dot Dot Dot at some point since its conception in 2000. The book collects the original source articles, ripped and scanned from the pages of the magazine and reprinted in full.

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BLURB:

Modernism never really failed, it just became hermetic. To initiate oneself into the experience that avantgarde works offer takes time, and initiating oneself is a labour of love.

Here’s the problem: given that the creation of a revolutionary artistic language designed to appeal to – and change the minds of – anyone anywhere was the stated objective of many an avantgardist’s attempt to radicalize the project of enlightenment, the crude fact that the world didn’t listen would seem to imply total failure. This might be true if we judge those avantgardists by their intentions and success, but is it not rather their ideas and work that concern us?

In which case, the question becomes: how can we address – engage with, speak about and do justice to – work that originally intended to talk straight, but now, hermetically, only speaks in code? We have to know how to decipher the code, and, at the same time, talk straight enough to allow others to share the secret.

The continued insistence on sharing the secret of avantgardism is vital, not least because keeping the secret safe only confirms the status quo. It’s what all conformists do: competitive academics and market players alike avidly protect their secret, i.e. the exclusive rarified knowledge (of what is ‘true’ and ‘good’ and what is not) they supposedly already possess. They must, as it is their capital and the foundation of their power position. On the other hand, struggling to share what remains difficult to share – the experience that underlies all good avantgarde work – means to squander that capital, irreverently, through art, pedagogy and publishing. There is a madness to the insistence on speaking about hermetic things. But it is precisely through this mad anticapitalist stance of insistently sharing secrets (rather than banking them) that such an irreverent artistic, pedagogical and publishing practice puts its avantgarde inheritance to use: the mad belief that the secret of something good could be shared with anyone willing to experience it.

So, if modernism never really failed and just became hermetic, the labour of love of initiating oneself and others into its experience involves sharing the secret of something good by speaking in code while talking straight, i.e. in a language that might at first seem completely unhinged.

Jan Verwoert, April 2009

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Posted 31 March 2011 18:19:06

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