Você está na página 1de 35

Schema Likes Childrens Day Care

Art and complexity in Dan Grahams work

By Antnio Cerveira Pinto
I - Interaction
I first met Dan Graham in 1980 when he came to Lisbon to show some
of his work at the National Gallery of Modern Art. This institution, which was
under the management of the artist Joo Vieira, where Julio Sarmento and I
then worked, was one of the nerve centres of Portugals artistic vanguard at
the time. Ernesto de Sousa, Leonel Moura, Michael Biberstein and others
were regulars. Indeed, until its extinction caused by a fire in August 1981, it
was mainly devoted to vanguards and to the artistic movements generated by
Conceptual Art, including the post-conceptual movements of the 70s,
especially performances, conceptual and narrative photography and the so-
called video art.
I remember that Julio Sarmento and I went to pick up Dan Graham at
the airport. And I recall his first comment about Lisbon, So many trees!.

Yesterday/Today (1975), the project that was put on at the Modern Art
Gallery on the occasion, consists of closed-circuit television providing a real-
time view of another neighbouring room, though the sound-track consists of a
recording made at the same time of day but 24 hours earlier. In Grahams
own words, the installation can take place in various public/ institutional
surroundings, such as an art gallery, in which the video camera monitors as
in the case of the John Gibson Gallery, where it was put on for the first time
the day-to-day activity of its managers office, while the soundtrack plays back
the recording of the previous day. In Lisbon, Yesterday/Today involved an
area of the Modern Art Gallery and a bar located in the neighbourhood
frequented by various specialists and other Gallery employees, artists,
passers-by and tourists. The video at the Gallery monitored everyday life at
the bar with a 24-hour discrepancy with regard to the sound track.
In the definition of this piece, the camera should be located in a public
area frequented by people who to some extent know the public/ private space
monitored by the video circuit. In this connection, Dan Graham says that
Yesterday/Today is both a representation and a narrative, comparing it
ironically to a soap opera, in which the day-to-day routine of a working
environment is perceived not as a simple specular image of real life, as though
we were viewing surveillance closed-circuit television, but as a true episode of
life, felt as such as a result of the effect of the verbal delay. This sensation,
which at the outside could become a habituation quite different from
dependence on television, is obviously incompatible with the type of sthetics
institutionalised by contemporary museological culture (as proven by the fact
that it often goes unnoticed).
Sociological studies show that the average viewing time of works of art
in museums is in the order of just a few seconds. Now, for its very nature and
intentionality, Yesterday/Today requires a lengthy, participative regard,
contrary to the touristic alienation that often marks cultural displays these
days. At the same time, it proposes a solid path to the survival of the art,
certainly as philosophical art, though it still stirs the body and the emotions;
rooted in the analytic intervals of History; subjective and episodic; in short,
immanent to the symbolic language produced by individuals as members of a
community determined by the social activity of representation and memory.
But another characteristic of this and others of his works is
imponderability. Since an interlocutor is required to shift from stand-by to
the active state, Yesterday/Today will react variously to the interaction that is
triggered. A project such as the model of Alteration to a Suburban House
(1978) should not even depart from the exemplary state. In turn, the integrity
of Proposal for Art Magazine (1969) depends solely on remaining simply as a
publication project. There are also technical and conceptual descriptions of
many of his works that are used by the author to implement them in a certain
manner but may, in the future, be realised by other interpreters in a different
way, certainly in keeping with the score, while employing new cadences and
materials synchronised with the time and the space of society.
This need to consider the possibility of updating the content of his
works stems directly from a vision alternative to the hypostasization of art as
an object of admiration and envy practised by the dominant ideology. Art,
which Dan Graham defined on many occasions through demonstrations of
what it is not, has become, in the analytical, technological and relativist age in
which we live, a praxis at once critical, experimental, global and refractory in
its essence to galleristic and museological constraints, even when its desire is
to be legitimised both by these institutions and by the market.
II - Future realities
Interested in the way in which the radical works of Frank Stella, Donald
Judd and Dan Flavin led the reductionist programme of formalism to the
most pure tautology, calling into question the exhibition areas themselves,
Dan Graham understood that the autonomic Utopia of art represented, after
all, a great emptiness of no use to mankind (nor to art either!), even though
there was still a minority of sthetes and collectors prepared to occupy it,
enthused by that zero degree of Form finally achieved by painting and by
Like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg and, in the
United Kingdom, Richard Hamilton, Dan Graham wanted to reintroduce the
problem of representation to the political heart of the artistic avant-gardists,
apparently incapable of solving by their own means the aporias on which they
had run aground. It was suddenly understood by all (Pop Art and Grahams
socialist conceptualism) that the post-war period had modified the world and
that urban societies, and particularly the countless suburban tribes, began to
structure themselves on the floating banks of a huge, dense communications
network formed of highways, motorways, highway junctions, airports,
superstores, leisure areas with their cinemas and fast-food outlets,
advertising, information, radio serials, soap operas, cars, radios, vinyl
records, magnetic tapes, beamed television, washing machines, vacuum
cleaners, holidays and blessed air-conditioning.
The lengthening of the period of mandatory education and the violent
reconstitution of social fabric in keeping with the technological advances and
global division of labour generated by the Second World War created, in turn,
a youth ready for criticism and symbolic representation on a scale
unimaginable until then. The channels open to data transmission and
ideological manipulation also became, paradoxically, one of the most
powerful vehicles of a culture of a new type, critical and desperately lyrical,
erotic and convulsive, melodic and enervated, ecological and psychedelic,
heroic and fleeting. Rock n Roll and the Pop culture impregnated the world
of wireless beams, reaching, like Coca-Cola, the most minute corners of the
planet. The Beatles blasphemy about their popularity greater than that of
Jesus Christ is a note symptomatic of the anthropological alterations in
progress worldwide at the time Dan Graham was searching for stronger
reasons for the subsistence of contemporary art than those poured out by the
bloodless formalist criticism of Clement Greenberg.
It is a known fact that Warhol envied the media dimension of the film
stars and the popular consumer articles, seeking to attract this new nascent
aura to the aristocratic limbo of the fine arts. A tin of soup, enlarged
photographically and printed on a well-framed canvas using silkscreen
techniques became, after subverting the iconological priorities of the
formalist avant-garde, a sublime representation and a jewel of the market.
Indeed, Pop Art advanced in a very simple manner, though no less
unexpected and courageous: it looked at the world around it and described it.
It was a world of stimuli in stress, it was a virtual world peopled with
technologically advanced representations and, at the same time, it was a
comic-strip world drawn full of linguistic and iconographic conventions. Pop
Art was dedicated to reproducing it in the conventional space of painting and
sculpture, thus giving way to a metarepresentation of reality and ideology
whose effect of shock and surprise was at one and the same time immediate
and lasting.
Grahams criticism of this important sthetic discovery can, I believe,
be summed up as a criticism of the separation perpetuated by Pop Art on
legitimising the survival of an elitist, enthroned art as a distinctive value of
the power and wealth of those that own it. In a certain way, it could be said
that what the advanced Capitalism of the post-war years gave to the world,
that is the possibility of a widespread communicational and symbolic
constellation, returns in Pop Art (that is, if we leave aside Warhols films) to
the times of the craftsmanship of unachievable unique objects. However, in a
less malevolent interpretation of the appropriationism of Pop one could say
that its protagonists restricted themselves to periodically regurgitating the
unidimensional world of the consumer society, obliging the dominant cult
class to pay for it in the name of democracy, of creative freedom, of its
peculiar types of paranoia and of the very self-criticism of the system!
In any event, Dan Graham sustains a need for a return to representation
starting from a sophisticated intellectual direction. The incompleteness of
formalism, mirrored in the tautologies of Ad Reinhardt (art as art), is
questionable if and only if we fall back on a stronger art, in the sense of an art
structured on higher constructive levels. Was it not this that Dan Graham
wanted to underscore when he referred to Gdels theorem in Thoughts on
Schema (March 1966), or when he says, in Other Observations (1969/73),
that information systems exist half way between matter and concept, while
being neither?
Post-war North American culture was largely influenced by the welcome
that its genuine Pragmatism, founded many years earlier by philosophers as
extraordinary as William James, Charles Pierce and John Dewey, had given to
the Phenomenology of Husserl, to the Logical Empirism of the Vienna Circle
(and later to the Analytic Philosophy of Wittgenstein), to the Existentialism of
Heidegger, to the Structuralism of Saussure and of Claude Lvi-Strauss and
also to the refined Marxism of the Frankfurt School (Theodor Adorno, Max
Horckeimer and Walter Benjamin, in the early stages, Herbert Marcuse,
during the 60s and 70s and then Jrgen Habermas). Representatives of all
these productive philosophical currents emigrated to America as Fascism and
Nazi barbarity gained ground in a Europe on the edge of an unprecedented
bellic and civilisational tragedy.
During the 60s these philosophical influences gained renewed
expression and were widely divulged through the appearance of intellectual
fashions built up around Structuralism, Semiotics and the Information
Theory (to which Noam Chomsky certainly contributed with Syntactic
Structures, 1957), or even neo-Marxist Existentialism, served up in the
agitated North American universities by what was left of the Beat Generation
and by that adorable philosopher loved by youth, the founder of the New Left,
Herbert Marcuse. The successive editions of Jack Kerouacs best-seller On the
Road, the publication of Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs, in 1962, the
premire of A Bout de Souffle (Breathless, in English) by Jean-Luc Godard
that same year, the publication of crucial works by Marcuse, One-
Dimensional Man, in 1964, and Aggressiveness in Advanced Industrial
Societies, in 1967, or yet the explosive book by Chomsky, American Power and
the New Mandarins, in 1969, contrast as surprisingly as productively with the
technological optimism of Marshall McLuhan, the early tours of the Beatles
and the rises of the sexy young John F. Kennedy to the presidency of the
United States.
This summary of references helps to determine the cultural broth in
which Dan Grahams original work developed and to establish a difficult
bridge between what is still worthwhile of the great trend of 20
century art
i.e., the trend towards abstraction and the possibility of a representation
that is neither propagandistic nor onanistic of the real worlds.
The development of industrial societies, of financial capitalism and of
the great urban agglomerations, on a par with the progressive replacement of
the manual techniques of symbolic representation by the lenses of cameras
and the respective copying systems and mass distribution of information,
brought about the insurmountable crisis of the Fine Arts, suddenly rendered
obsolete in what had been its irreplaceable value over thousands of years: the
ability to represent reality through the creation of mimetic images of that
reality, stylised to a greater or lesser extent, realistic to a greater or lesser
degree, but ever provided with unquestionable political, religious and cultural
authority. The photographic studio accessible to any bourgeois family and the
garden photographer, even more democratic, accessible to almost every
purse, inexorably pushed Painting and Sculpture to abstraction and to the
artists belly buttons.
Im short on time and space to analyse in detail this hypothesis
regarding 20
century art, but, even so, I would like to make a brief reference
as a means of locating Grahams art within the context of the implosive
sthetic formalism that dominated a large part of the sthetic discussions
related with the so-called emancipation of modern art.
The battle against the Academism of European Fine Arts, typical of the
late 19
and all of the 20
centuries, basically took three directions. The first,
against the rhetoric of thematics and against formalism, was headed by
authors such as Courbet, Manet, Lautrec, Grosz, Heartfield, Duchamp, Johns,
Rauschenberg, Warhol and Graham, among others. The second was
materialised as a sort of inevitable consequence of the social subordination of
Painting, linked to the concomitant creative freedom of the painters and to
their right to express themselves against the system of the arts, while at the
same time exulting psychological individuality as a new, inexhaustible world
for subjective representation. This second battalion of anti-academic
representatives included Rousseau, Gauguin, van Gogh, Matisse, Mir,
Munch, Kirchner, Dubuffet, Giacometti, Pollock, Bacon, Nauman, etc. The
third involved the ultimate effort of maintaining a zone of disciplinary
autonomy for the Fine Arts, within which, on the one hand, there was to be
resistance against the era of technical reproducibility announced by Walter
Benjamin and, on the other, there would be a vast questioning of the very
condition of artistic praxis itself in the age of scientific knowledge, technology
and information.
This latter strategy was consubstantiated in the battle lines that joined
together Impressionism and Conceptual Art, not forgetting Cubism, Neo-
plasticism, Suprematism, Post-Painterly Abstraction and Minimalism. One
must underscore names such as Monet, Czanne, Picasso, Mondrian,
Malevich, Newman, Ryman, Judd, Flavin and Sol Lewitt.
But modern art understood as the Brownian movement of post-
Romantic sthetics started by Impressionism acted, at heart, as a single
tendency towards disfiguration. Whether for not supporting the challenge of
photographic objectivity (and subjectivity), for fearing the nascent democratic
society, for knowing beforehand its inability to compete with the informative
era announced by the press, or simply for having been abandoned by the
major lay, religious and philosophical powers of the industrialised West, the
truth is that the iconoclastic and analytical philosophical trends of
Modernism, which had been born of Romanticism, became all the stronger, to
the extent that the sthetic avant-gardists of the 20
century were left only
with the progressive and systematic negation of the figure. This sthetic
negativeness, undertaken in the name of a false and enigmatic autonomy of
art, was reflected in a sort of widespread desire for primitivism, destined, it
was supposed, to achieve configuration of the inconfigurable. Mondrian
resuscitated Theosophy to explain his elevation to the essences, Malevich was
no less mystical and, as far as the entrails and nightmares that inhabit the
painting of Dal, Ernst and Picasso, we know that they were eternally
protected by the poetic blessing of Surrealism. With a certain mimicry of
philosophy and science the metaphysical and corpuscular dimensions of
abstraction were explained; with a certain mimicry of psychology we were all
in ecstasy over the increasingly calligraphic and theatrical ravings of
expressionism; with Puritanism, tempered in the meantime with the Zen
phenomenology, the minimalist desiderata that preceded the Post-Modernity
arisen from the various interceptions between Pop Art and Conceptualism
were saved.
If, on the one hand, Dan Graham considers external reality and people
in particular as the motivation and cause of art, though able to conclude that
the planet no longer needs it (!), even though it continues to need an art ready
to be something else (playground, talk show, newsgroup, chat room, etc.), on
the other, the constant references to the history of art and architecture allied
to the coherence of his work lead me to consider that his project still belongs
to the salvationist block of Modernity. Or at least, that the metamorphosis
now under way, passing through the middle of his art, suggests to him as
author and victim a prudent tactic of advances and retreats.
The Homes for America project by Graham in 1966-67 for the Arts
Magazine, on describing in the form of a commercial catalogue the choice
available in respect of a suburban dwelling area, generates from a combining
approach to the representation of reality a vision that cannot but be
considered as a parody and a criticism of the inert formalism of Minimalism.
The intellectual elegance of Minimal Art is seen to be subtly imbued in this
project (especially in the photographs of the houses with their faades aligned
and in the combining series built up from the 8 models of houses available: A,
B, C, D, E, F, G, H). But this parody also ends up by giving rise to three events
previously unseen in the art of the second half of the 20
century: on the one
hand, it literally reproduces the theme of representation with no encomiastic
deviation whatsoever, as might have been done by a Pop artist; on the other,
it describes in a clear, discursive mode the invisible economic structure and
ideology of a housing system typical of capitalism; lastly, it transforms the
journalistic style of representation into a Humanist discourse about
manipulated citizenship. The beauty and order of the reality, like the beauty
and order of the reality represented, can thus disguise a philosophical
deception that cannot be escaped neither in the name of architecture nor even
in the name of the autonomy of art, provided there is the intellectual
seriousness to view the world frontally, taking the necessary conclusions from
the act.

That this and other projects thought up for publication may easily be
confused with enigmatic journalistic pieces, ill-suited to being hung on the
wall next to a Pollock ( why? has anyone tried?), reveals a second
deceptive strategy of this first stage of his work, still very close to the self-
engrossed problematics of Minimalism. Nevertheless, these projects do have
the merit of innovating the terms of vanguardist conversation in an age
marked by the appearance of Conceptualism and, in general, by the great
enthusiasm generated by Saussurian Linguistics and by Wittgensteins
mythical Tratactus Logico-Philosophicus, on confronting it with the inevitable
detumescence of the media messages and supports.
There is a shell placed between the external empty material of place
and the interior empty material of language.
Dan Graham, in Other Observations, 1969/73
III - Complexity
To consider ideological production, which embraces the sciences,
common sense and the arts, as a sort of game (Ludwig Wittgenstein) or
language (Benedetto Croce) that can be carried out whenever there are
competent people willing to play or to talk, helps us to build up a less negative
vision of the hindrances typical to 20
century art. At heart, we might
suppose that modern art, like the sciences and professions in general, has,
owing to its growing complexity and specialisation caused by its successful
demand for disciplinary independence, been involved over the past hundred
years in the research of its own usefulness. The very notion of avant-garde, in
this context, should signify just that in the huge economy of the symbolic, of
entertainment and of the spectacle a small space would, after all, be reserved
for investigation and experience, responsible for the principles of constant
renovation of that same economy. Thus, the very incursions of the avant-
gardists into the territories besieged by the spectacle society should be seen as
mere critical exploration controlled by knowledge carefully built up over time.
Bearing this in mind, it is possible to understand better the projects that
Dan Graham prepared for publication during the 60s: Schema,
Detumescence, Side Effects/Common Drugs, Likes, Income (outflow) Piece,
Proposal for Aspen Magazine and Proposal for Art Magazine.
Dan refers to these magazine pieces as clichs, in the twofold ironic
and professional meaning of the term; as sort of small rock songs, tied to
the clichs of the moment, contextual and (I continue to quote him)
ephemeral as the paper dresses conceived by the fashion designers of those
times. In the apparently transparent reign of the media, the possible pages of
Scheme(1965)/Schema(1966) appear as enigmatic typographical iterations, as
puritanical versions of concrete poetry, as Buddhist tautologies, or as
inexplicable accidents of pagination causally side by side with a fantastic
advert for bras, as seen in the variant of Scheme called Figurative,
published in Harpers Bazaar in March 1968, in which one can read:
If nature didnt, Warners will. / Our Comfort Curve bra with low-cut
sides will do it for $5. Warners.
Dan Graham, in For Publication, 1975.

But if we think of the media as what they are, that is, advertising arenas
for aggressiveness and sex, in which a great deal of information is also
provided, then we can go a little further and understand Dan Grahams
dropouts as calculated demonstrations of media anticlimax. The
Detumescence project is an extraordinary paradigm in this connection.
DETUMESCENCE - I had in mind a page, describing in clinical
language the typical emotional and psychological aspects of post-climax in the
sexual experience of the human male. It was noted that no description exists
anywhere in the literature, as it is anti-romantic. It may be culturally
suppressed a structural hole in the psycho-sexual-social conditioning of
behaviour. I wanted the piece to be simply this psycho-sexual-social hole
truncated on the page alone as printed matter. To create it, I advertised in
several places. In late 1966 I advertised for a qualified medical writer in the
National Tatler (a sex tabloid). In early 1969 The New York Review of Sex
gave me an ad. As both of these ads were somewhat edited, I bought an ad in
Dan Graham, in For Publication, 1975.

The impact and complexity of this piece lie in the way in which it
unmasks the instrumental nature of the mass media and, at the same time,
manages to talk about a small obscurity of day-to-day life with a public that
knows not modern art and, finally, demonstrates to the Minimalists, whom he
admires, how it would be possible to generate a communicative
representation without scratching the more rigid, formalist dogmatics. The
autonomy, the ontological closure, the tautological circularity and the entropy
that so fascinated the Minimalists and the conceptual artists could coexist,
after all, in a linguistic construction equidistant from the respective signifier
and from the respective signified.
Involuntary body contractions ensue bringing a steep drop in
excitation. The most obvious indication of this is the rapid loss of penile
erection and the return of the scrotum and testes to an unstimulated state.
This action occurs in two stages. The first leaves the penis enlarged while a
continued shrinkage takes place concurrently at a slower rate. The body
slackens its tension. There is a loosening of physical tautness, and a
simultaneous sense of release and relaxation. Sensations of orgasm or desire
are extinguished; emotions recede; and ego is again bounded. Psychologically,
there may be feelings of anxiety, relief, pleasurable satiation, disappointment,
lassitude, leaden exhaustion, disgust, repulsion, or indifference, and
occasionally hatred depending on the partner and the gratification achieved
in the orgasm state.
Roger C. Sharpe, 1974,
in For Publication, 1975, Dan Graham.

This same objective is also achieved in Side Effects/Common Drugs.
Designed for a whole page of a magazine, a two-column table establishes a
parallel between taking 16 drugs and their respective side effects.
Accumulated consumption of different drugs obviously leads to a worrisome
accumulation of the side effects, now combined and enhanced. The
information is pertinent and a common illustration of any health-care
magazine or even of a general interest one episodically addressing the matter.
It is well known that there was a boom in drug reporting by the media during
the 60s, accompanied by a boom in their consumption.
Visually, the black circles that mark the intersection between each drug
and its side effects seem to cause a slight hypnotic effect, as if reading the
table of itself induced a simulation of the hallucinogenic world described by
the article. As in Detumescence, the conceptual process describes the passing
from an energetic state, or state of excitation, to the inevitably entropic effects
of the act. There is again a tautological circularity between causes and effects
that remits one to nothing that is externally identifiable. On the other hand,
no moral is inscribed in the work, just a sort of epistemology of that neutrality
so pleasing to the formalists. And nevertheless, here too, there is a process of
eminent communication, directed at common folk, in a schematic and
pedagogic language that all can understand without even suspecting that they
are beholding a work of art!
Likes (a computer-astrological-dating-placement service) is an ad
conceived by Dan Graham and designed by Georges Maciunas, published in
the Halifax Mall-Star of October 11
1969. No reader could decipher it as a
work of art, unless he or she belonged to the specialised community of
vanguard artists and had received word of the project in advance. As its title
suggests, it is apparently an advertisement for a dating service provided by
the Likes company located at 502 Lexington Avenue in New York. The
description of the ad, which contains a poll designed to be processed by an IT
statistical data analysis system, has a very cold and inexpressive design, while
the questions that it contains are as amusing as those of any other poll of the
kind published in magazines and papers around the world.
As in Judds boxes and Flavins fluorescent lamps, Likes depends, to be
a work of art, solely on prior information to the effect. Here too, in keeping
with the nominalist tradition of Schwitters and Duchamp, the ontology of a
work of art is entirely dependent on an ostensive proposition such as this is
a work of art or ceci nest

pas une pipe....
Likes is a particularly amusing piece, and it demonstrates once again
the extent to which Dan Graham seeks to establish a bridge between the
redoubt of the artistic vanguards and the millions of impassioned adolescents
that invade streets, cinemas and Rock n Roll halls. It should be noted, on the
other hand, how this attempt refers explicitly to the technologies that were
appearing in the mass media at the time: statistical study of audiences,
communicational interaction and computer technology.
The social concerns that drove his decisions when imagining a work of
art were clear to see in the answer he gave to a somewhat opportunistic piece
thought up by Robert Morris for his first retrospective at the Whitney
In the dandy tradition played by Marcel Duchamp, who had earlier
asked collectors for cash to develop a mathematical scheme to bankrupt the
Montecarlo casino, Morris had asked the Whitney management to place at his
disposal all its cash reserves during the period of the retrospective, to allow
him to play the stock market with the funds and to keep the gains secured in
the meantime. The museum refused, of course, but the conceptual work (a
train that Morris did not want to miss) was there, polemic and chic, well
suited to the sophisticated artistic community of Manhattan. Dan Graham
didnt like the joke and, in reply, developed a project that he called the
Income (outflow) Piece:
From April 2, 1969 I have been performing activities required to allow
my placing legally an advertisement (termed a tombstone) in various
magazines offering the prospectus describing a public offering of stock in Dan
Graham, Inc. The object (my motive) of this company will be to pay Dan
Graham, myself, the salary of the average American citizen out of the pool of
collected income from the stocks sale. All other income realised from the
activities of Dan Graham beyond the amount will be returned to the investors
in the form of dividends. [...]
[...] My intention is to solicit responses to my and my companys
motives from a spectrum of fields. Such responses might range from: Mr.
Graham is attempting to create socialism out of capitalism (political motive)
or, Mr. Graham is a sick exhibitionist (psychological motive) or, Mr.
Graham is making art (sthetic motive)... all categories of meaningful
information feedback. [...]
[...] The prospectus outlining the terms of the offering will also include a
valuation of myself and past activities by a friend, an artist, an astrologer, and
anthropologist, a doctor, and others. These individuals will each take a small
percentage of shares of the stock in exchange for these services.
Dan Graham, in For Publication, 1975.
Although filled with humour this piece backslides in its strategy calling
for a break with the self-complacent isolation of the avant-gardists. It does so,
however, in the name of a transparency between the public and private
spheres, generally incompatible with the traditional logic of Capitalism. This
Utopian transparency, which makes its author a being somewhat suspect (of
being a revolutionary, mad or an artist), nevertheless put Income (outflow)
Piece at the forefront of the social and ideological concerns that were later to
be at the root of the discussions of the nature of the co-called digital
democracies (or electronic or on-line democracies), which the exponential
growth of the Internet were to put on the agenda. The value of this project,
which obviously was not expected to become reality, is above all
demonstrative (heuristic) with regard to the process of de-definition of art
that had been under way for a long time. Income (outflow) Piece is a note of
constructive realism in a world too excited about the mundane negativeness
of art.
Irony of ironies, thirty years later, a Pop music star David Bowie
carried out an operation similar to Income (outflow) Piece, but with sthetic,
social and financial purposes that were quite different.

This declared intention to break with the isolation of the artistic avant-
gardists can also be seen in two other projects: Proposal for Aspen Magazine
and Proposal for Art Magazine. In the former, Dan Graham imagines co-
operation between artists and media, copy and communication companies in
the publication of the a special edition of the Aspen Magazine dedicated to the
subject of Information. In the second, Graham deals with breaking with the
endogamic nature of the artistic system through induction of a short circuit in
conventional ideas about the nature and value of art criticism.
Proposal for Aspen Magazine draws up a scheme for co-operation
between the artistic vanguards and society, here represented by the
companies that were to be responsible, three decades later, for the greatest
technical and cultural upheaval seen on the planet since the invention of the
steam engine. The magazines insert, which was later to have given rise to a
special edition, was to include pieces dedicated to the subject of Information,
which would act at one and the same time as advertising matter for the
companies involved and as works of art. Note the subtlety of Grahams
The artist might help the corporation in establishing its corporate
image while the corporation might help the artist in freeing some of the
limitations in relation to the reader and social-economic frameworks.
Dan Graham, in For Publication, 1975.
In Proposal for Art Magazine, Dan Graham, who in addition to being an
artist is well known as an excellent writer and art critic, thought up the job of
writing a critical census about an important exhibition of contemporary art
by three artists who were known to each other and worked in the same artistic
vein. Dan would then interview each one of them separately, asking them to
comment on the work of the other two colleagues. The interviews would later
be transcribed and published in full, signed by Dan Graham.
Accustomed to the rigid separation between art and criticism that
usually penalises strongly those artists who dare to frequent the critics club,
the artistic world is confronted in this project with the frequent artificialism
of the processes of legitimation of contemporary art. But more important still,
it is faced with the possibility of raising current artistic production to a richer
level of awareness, both for art and for criticism.
[...] The resultant structure is only the socio-psychological framework
(a self-enclosing triad), the reality that is behind the appearance of any
article in the art magazine, or art criticism.
Dan Graham, in For Publication, 1975.
This first stage of Dan Grahams work, which coincides with the projects
for publication, already reveals what, in my view, is his major contribution to
the art of the second half of the 20
century, that is, the need to create a work
of art thinking about its user. From a viewpoint of an sthetic reception
considered as the intersection of all available symbolic languages used at a
given time by a given community of individuals with the corresponding social
and moral expectations, works of art necessarily have an active addressee, an
addressee that must not be confused solely with the audience formed of a
group of connoisseurs sharing a particular knowledge of the fine arts.
This concern, solved by the frequent use of double-reflection mirrors
and other systems of feedback (videoscopy, etc.), can be seen in all his work,
from the publication projects to the more recent projects dedicated to
children, not forgetting the performances of the 70s and the architectural
projects of the 70s, 80s and 90s. To illustrate this point of view I would like to
close this brief essay by commenting on five projects that, in my view, are
exemplary: Present Continuous Past(s), 1974; Performer/Audience/Mirror,
1977; Alteration to a Suburban House, 1978; Two-Way Mirror Cylinder Inside
Cube and Video Salon: Rooftop Park for DIA Center for the Arts, 1989-91; and
Childrens Day-care/CD Rom, Cartoon, Computer Screen Library project,
In Present Continuous Past(s) there is a square room with two mirrored
walls forming a right angle. Opposite one of them is a video camera and a
screen that monitor everything reflected in the mirror in front with an eight-
second delay compared to real time. Since the confrontation between the
video system and the mirror acts as two parallel mirrors, the consequence of
this scenario is the formation of a continuous loop of images that literally
represent space-time as an eternal return of the past.
The first image reproduced by the monitor reveals an eight-second time
lag behind real time; then, this image is instantly reflected in the mirror in
front and appears again in the monitor eight seconds later, that is 16 seconds
after the process began; and so on and so forth to the end of time. In fact, this
continuous presentation of the past is a voyage in space-time, in which the
present does not exist (if not subjectively) and the future is no more than
speculation. To enter into this admirably simple and modest time machine
(no voyages to the future are allowed) generates a peculiar feeling of lightness
in those spectators who decide to remain for some time in this space that has
no chronological gravity.
Dan Graham often refers to the magic mirrors of the fairgrounds, as
well as to the mirrors of Rococo interiors and the vast surfaces of semi-
mirrored glass used in modern architecture, as recurring starting points of his
own research into the origin and purpose of representations. From a
cybernetic standpoint, any theoretical mirror is a potential generator of egos
to the extent that is can reflect living systems, machines themselves and other
artificial realities in the transformation of their respective identities. The
mirror is a sort of instantaneous clear camera, by contrast with the camera
obscura of the Renaissance; it therefore acts as an immediate switch of
certainties; and it may even, as a result of its ability to act in real time,
become a powerful generator of icons. I believe that it is this very iconological
potential that attracts the artist when carrying out his projects. His works, in
truth, are not representations of anything (nor the opposite, obviously),
rather they are a sort of vehicle destined to travel the distance from image to
conscience, wherever there are people interested in the journey.
This very involvement of the public in the construction of the work of
art (which strictly speaking does not exist outside this interaction) can also be
seen in the Performer/Audience/ Mirror project. Dan Graham, or any other
performer, stands conventionally before a seated audience. Behind him is a
large mirror that reflects the hall where the action takes place, he himself and
the entire audience. The actor begins by describing his own movements,
putting forward possible interpretations for them. He is facing the public and
the public is listening to him. Then, he notes and describes the behaviour of
the public, giving rise to immediate feed-backs that cause the audience to
acquire a new self-awareness (some laugh, others communicate visually,
some change their bearing, etc.). Then, taking the same five minutes of action,
he turns his back to the audience and begins a description of their gestures,
now invisible given his proximity to the mirror. Lastly, still with his back to
the audience though seeing it through the mirror, he once again begins to
describe the reactions of the audience. The time difference between the
behaviour of the audience described by the actor and its instantaneous
perception of itself through the image reflected by the mirror generates an
epistemological instability about the value of the perception and about the
certainties of conscience. In a certain way, it can be said that the formation of
the representation or that the realism of the representation arises entirely
from the dialogue established between the painter and his model. This
metaphor of the very genesis of the represented image thus seems to contain
an unexpected and curious parallel with Velzquezs Las Meninas. Here, too,
the public is caught unaware by the gaze of the painter, which apparently
interrogates our curiosity at the moment we invade his portrait session
dedicated to the young heirs of the Spanish throne. This challenge to our very
own gaze leads us, on the other hand, to a lengthier, more complex
involvement with this extraordinary painting. The reality that Dan Graham
seeks to reintroduce into art is not therefore a simple reality represented, but
the very philosophical reality of the representation made known by a game of
the imagination that is at once intelligent and amusing.

Although they almost always contain erudite allusions to the sthetic
discussions under way in the corridors of art, of art criticism and even of
architecture, the truth is that Dan Grahams projects play an eminently social
role in that they make their respective meanings depend on the presence,
either active or imagined, of the diverse public for which they are produced.
One of the more notable cases in which this premise can be seen is Alteration
to a Suburban House. In this typical suburban house, built to the strictest
tenets of architectural functionalism (whose sthetics legitimised the
economic profitability of modular construction in series, stripped of
decorative accessories), the faade has been replaced by a single pane of
transparent glass. Separating the semi-public area from the private area of
the house is a mirror the size of the faade, which runs parallel to the
transparent pane, dividing the building longitudinally. Those inside, during
the day, see the social area (which, as is well known, reflects the standing of
its inhabitants) increase twofold, while at night, when the transparent faade
is transformed into a semi-mirror, the living room expands infinitely as a
result of the effect of feedback caused by the reflecting surfaces that stand
face to face, while at the same time it blends with the outside world, reflected
in the inner mirror and visible through the temporary semi-mirror that the
faade of transparent glass has become. Those viewing the house from the
outside, such as the neighbours across the street, are confronted with
something unexpected: the transformation of a domestic area into one
exposed to public curiosity. This is an invitation, however, to iconological
awareness, to the extent that the viewer ends up by becoming a part of the
conversation begun by the play of mirrors
In connection with this project, Graham mentions two aspects that have
to do with the respective ambiguity and semantic density: on the one hand, he
says that the scenario resulting from this theoretical intervention could call to
mind a large billboard, although such an association would end up by being
countered by the immersion of the spectator into the specular loop generated
by the project; on the other, he recalls the contradictory view that this hybrid
of art and architecture could cause on being perceived now as an eccentric
architectural intervention, now as a sophisticated example of erudite
Thus, the complexity of the work of art is designed neither to increase
the metaphysical opacity of the world nor to reduce the possibility of a work
of art reiterating a nominalist entelechy. Rather to the contrary, it is designed
to bring democracy to the process of sthetic reception, transforming it into
an interactive social space dedicated to the sensations. As such, a
philosophically infinite place, a place that is poetically intriguing and
I spent the Christmas of 1998 in New York because, among other things,
I wanted to talk to Dan Graham following an invitation for me to co-operate
in the catalogue of this retrospective. At the time, he recommended that I visit
several art galleries located in the not very cosmopolitan area of Chelsea, he
warmly recommended a visit to the Museum of the Indian Peoples located at
the extreme South of the island, and he took me to visit a shop that provided
support to the fire-brigade of the block where his studio was located, just
north of China Town. On two or three occasions we took coffee, tea and some
delicious tarts at a small French bistro. His studio, in the heart of Soho, just a
short step from the Guggenheim, from many art galleries, from extraordinary
shops and from the famous Dean & DeLuca (the worlds most chic and
intellectual food, take-away and stand-up meal emporium), suggested right
away many obvious tourist routes. Dan, however, led me to discover in that
place overburdened with activity and occasional visitors (les voyeurs) his
huge private interstice formed of the stratification of the space inhabited by
the various generations that lend it history and of an inexhaustible civic
maturity, only tangentially coincident with the media view that Manhattan
proudly provides of itself. Once again, the attention of the artist appears
focused on the world of people, understood as a multiple and socially
pertinent thing, and not as an inadvertent consequence of an attention
excessively centred on the art world, where only illusionably can one find the
goddess of inspiration.
Looking at an enormous billboard with the symbol of Yin/Yang, Dan
asked, Do you know my piece based on Yin/Yang? The 60s are back, I like
There is a very surprising contrast between the rigour of the
descriptions and comments that Dan lends to his projects and their purpose,
at once sthetic and critical. This contrast is all the more remarkable when
we confront the coldness and elegance of the pieces that are finally concluded
with the entertaining use expected of them. Just as the Russian
constructivists during the October Revolution took art into the streets, so, too,
did Dan Graham structure his projects for us all, from a pedagogic standpoint
similar to what Gramsci theorised as being like a universal Didascaly, within
which the world felt as experience and history leads to the elevation of the
awareness levels of each one of us.
With regard to the contact established between the public and the piece
installed on the roof of the DIA Center for the Arts, the Two-Way Mirror
Cylinder Inside Cube and Video Salon, Dan once again underscores his
interest in active sthetic reception, by contrast with the dispersonalised
vision of the work of art induced by the logic of a simple look.
There is a dialectic between the perception of oneself and other bodies
perceiving themselves making the spectator conscious of him or herself as a
body, as perceiving subject, in isolation from an audience. This is in reverse
from usual loss of self when a spectator looks at a conventional work of art
where the self is mentally projected onto and therefore identified with the
subject of art. [...]
Dan Graham, in Dan Graham, Centro Galego de Arte Contempornea,
Santiago de Compostela, 1997
sthetic experience does not have to be too serious a thing, elevated
and circumspect. On the contrary, Dan suggests that museums should lend
the greatest importance to the so-called ancillary areas: auditoria, shops,
restaurants, bars, gardens, corners for courting, etc. Experience of art should
be an entertaining experience, and museums and galleries should come a
little closer to the idea behind the theme parks and the universal expositions.
Of course, the experimental themes are different, but the logic of the
reception could well be the same. Thus it is that on the terrace of the DIA
Center, by the side of the speculative device used for the amusing
performances of a public surprised by the coming and going of the reflections
of the glass surfaces, the artist also decided to set up a cosy corner where one
can take a coffee in peace and watch some of the videos chosen by a group of
curators invited for the purpose. These videos are divided into sections
architecture, cartoons, music and performance.
On a visit we made together to the Serralves Museum, we came across
two or three excursions of children accompanied by young monitors who were
explaining the work of Andy Warhol that was on display. I remarked that the
generations at school age are most likely the major reason for the success
statistics of contemporary museums. And I concluded, provokingly, that
artists should take more account of this sociological and cultural fact. With so
many pre-adolescents undergoing initiation to the arts via the museums, it
would be a good thing if artists were to produce work directed especially at
this segment of the public.
A fortnight later Dan Graham sent me two of his most recent projects:
Girls Make-up Room and Childrens Day-Care/CD Rom, Cartoon, Computer
Screen Library both dating from 1999 the latter having been presented at
the Marian Goodman Gallery in April and May this year.
Bearing in mind the central position occupied by information,
interactivity and virtual spaces in Grahams work, it could well be expected
that his premonition about the role of computers in the transformation of
present-day art, very clearly demonstrated in Thoughts on Schema (March
1966) and in the piece Likes, dating from 1967-69, would, despite everything,
have had greater importance in the projects of the eighties and nineties,
contemporaneous with the advent and development of personal computers.
We are, however, moving into a universe that is too new and does not have a
great deal of history. Into a universe that has expanded at an incredible speed
and whose manipulation requires knowledge as specialised as it is volatile. In
an age in which digital console and computer games have radically altered the
order of priorities of multinationals such as Microsoft and Sony, we can but
wait with extreme curiosity to see the response of the vanguard artists to this
new challenge. It is said that some time ago the same David Bowie that put
his personal brand on the stock market, exclaimed, when he came to know
about the deconstructions of the games operated by the JODI, a pair of
European artists who started in conceptual art and photography, you are
authorised to do what you like on my web site!.
Dan Grahams biggest contribution to contemporary art has, in my
opinion, been the reiterative launch of the philosophic and sthetic grounds
of an interactive art in a state of rupture with the elitist notions that tend to
view it as a private property of taste, in a state, of rupture, too, with the
formalist notions that tend to restrict it to a mere place for anarchistic
contemplation of the innominable. The Humanism which, on the other hand,
lends form to his projects, gives rise to an art in dialogue with history and
with the present time. Without falling into politically correct simplicities, he
always wanted to make quite clear his critical analyses in this apparently pure
and politically neutral matter consisting of art and architecture.
Olhos de gua, August, 2000

Você também pode gostar