Public Space With A Roof

Beauty Unrealized: spider webs of personal universes seeking a form (2006)

Starting points


The last decade brought art practices that focused more and more on social interventions than the production of objects for contemplation, more on collaborative than individual production, more on discursive strategies than the production of images. This has become such a common practice that there is now the risk that this trend will become as formalistic as some of the movements within modernism and post-modernism that these practices intended to confront with and question in the first place. A particular problem with this predominant trend is that the art institutions, which sponsor these works, benefit while the communities they intend to reach remain stagnant. We believe that this sort of art practice has lost its ability to carry out its intentions while also falling short of contributing aesthetic values, seizing to be stimulating or inspiring for the individuals that encounter them in art institutions.

In order to help clarifying the stakes to produce art today in the contexts of this phenomenon, we readdressed traditional problems of modern aesthetics and art criticism. In the project Beauty Unrealized, we focused on the question of definitions of beauty and its importance as formulated in the following paragraphs.


The project


Like the majority of the PSWAR projects, Beauty Unrealized combined an exhibition with an accompanying series of talks, lectures, public debates, as well as a reader. We wanted to focus on art not influenced by any fashion or trend but which is time-tested and has retained its historical relevance. Invited artists, composers, film directors and philosophers explored the concept of beauty today in the scope of their own process of self-development and the influence it had on their work.


Concept


Beauty has been, particularly in the last few decades, a disputed term. It has been many times associated with things ornamental or decorative, while sadly becoming the buzzword for conservative critics who object to anything avant-garde. Perhaps, because of this stereotype and misuse, it has all fallen out of favour with the present art discourse. We believe that it makes sense to put it back on the table, to acknowledge it and start a discussion on its cultural relevance. Hence, part of our investigation explored what other concepts might have replaced beauty and how are they defined in relation to art. Lastly, we wanted to explore the definition of beauty in relation to immaterial aspects of the individual and collective processes.


Historical context


The basic idea underlying the most common practices of modern art since the mid-19th century was the endorsement that art is a specific kind of practice which cannot be mistaken for other social practices such as science, law, or medicine. The key characteristic of entities produced within the context of this practice was that they contain an immaterial energy and a specific meaning which distinguishes them from the other types of entities in the world. This specific attribute was often-times called “beauty.” Furthermore, the creator of these entities, or the artist, was conceived as an individual whose main objective was to produce “beauty” without being concerned with their future use.

With this project, we wanted to underline the importance of the production of objects as equally important as “social projects.” It is our belief that people have always communicated through objects in space and time and therefore we feel it is important to discuss the link between ideas and objects. Out main question was who produces art objects today and are they really so distant from the concept of beauty?


Exhibition


Objects of special value or objects of beauty are not only exchanged among people but also archived. In our digitalized reality, the archive has become an ultimate way of storing material objects as immaterial information. Nevertheless, most of the time these archives function as cyber-tombs, storing billions of information but never reaching the outer world. In our minds, we have tried to think what could be a place that differs from this, in which one could enter and get lost in the world of thoughts, ideas, questions, possibilities, and puzzles. Our conclusion was - a library.

During this project, we built a special library within our gallery space. The structure of the library consisted of shelves and containers whose size was shaped by the content. For the content, we invited different artists, filmmakers, writers, composers etc. to submit a list of items (books, films, articles, music, etc.) that have had a significant influence on them and their work. Through this investigation, we wanted to reveal the process of the artists’ personal development and the influence that objects made by some other people had produced on their own ideas and works. This ‘library offered a space for the visitors to freely engage with these objects on an intimate level. The exhibition stayed open for consultation and use for more than six months.

At the second level, the space inside the library was used to host several smaller exhibitions. The invited artists could present their past works, works in progress, or works produced for this project. Besides providing necessary support and production means for new works, PSWAR also invited artists to publicly present and discuss their work. Our selection of participants was based on bringing together people working in different mediums who deal with similar questions and problems, stimulating collaborations as a way to simultaneously exchange ideas and test the limits of particular mediums.