3. Theoretical framework and intentions
cONcErn departs from an understanding of our environment as an eco-techno-symbolic system of which we ourselves are part, which conditions our existence and which our existence conditions in return. This view of our environment is informed by Augustin Berque’s reinterpretation of the term ‘mesology’, which, although formerly used synonymously with ‘ecology’, might be understood as being fundamentally different to the latter. According to Berque, ecology treats the environment as an object of study out of which human subjectivity is abstracted. ‘For ecology, the environment is something objective, which exists in itself and which can be measured’. For mesology, on the other hand, the environment, or better the milieu, is not something that exists in itself, precisely because human existence is not abstracted out of it. On the contrary, human existence is structured by its relationship with a milieu, just as a milieu is structured by human existence. What is more, for mesology the human milieu not only consists of an ecological system but also includes what French anthropologist André Leroi-Gourhan’s has termed the ‘social body’. To be more precise, ‘Leroi-Gourhan interprets the emergence of our species as an interactive process between an individual “animal body” and a collective “social body”, the latter being progressively constituted by the exteriorization and deployment, in the form of technical and symbolic systems [language, science, art, etc.]’.
Taking into account the nexus between human existence, ecology, technology, and art, cONcErn seeks to consider the difficulties and potential of artistic production in an ecologically and socially weakened milieu that is predominantly shaped by technological and growth-oriented strategies. Conceived as an artistic experiment, cONcErn attempts to place the artwork at the centre of its inquiry and envisions establishing a mesology of art, for art, and through art.
Concretely, cONcErn aims to create an artistic infrastructure centred on a dynamic space for storage and visibility of artworks that, for varying reasons, are at risk of destruction, disposal, or abandonment. Of course, in some cases, such a destiny for an artwork is part of the artist’s intention and forms part of the symbolic dimension of the work – for example, the ‘auto-destructive art’ of Gustav Metzger, the ritualistic incineration of artistic creations at the annual Burning Man festival (figure 12), or the various practices that might be referred to as ‘ephemeral art’, such as land art, performance art, and street art. However, on many occasions the ‘loss’ of an artwork is due not to an artist’s deliberate decision but to logistical difficulties, such as lack of storage or transport facilities. cONcErn considers the involuntary disposal of artistic creations as a generally overlooked phenomenon that provides a singular starting point for our investigation. At the same time, we believe that it would be foolish to make a rigid ideology of the endeavour to safeguard ‘endangered’ artworks. cONcErn does not reject destructive and ephemeral art, which it aims to complement in its reflections and perspectives, in particular, with regard to economic, ecological, and social issues.
cONcErn strives to embrace the diversity of artistic expressions – whether established or marginal – through the suspension, or at least a shift, of established criteria for selection. How does cONcErn implement this politics of inclusion?
(a) cONcErn is conceived as a dynamic infrastructure. For each situation in which an artwork is at risk of destruction or abandonment for logistical reasons, cONcErn will seek to investigate, with the particular artist, the possibilities and requirements for safeguarding the artwork. Artworks taken care of by cONcErn remain the property of the artist and, if possible, stay with cONcErn on a temporary basis only.
(b) The assimilation of artworks at the storage site will ideally be a process based on ‘elective affinities’ between the artworks and the host milieu. We imagine cONcErn as a ‘sensitive milieu’ that affects the artworks and, in turn, is affected by them. It might therefore be possible that certain artworks will not find a point of attachment with cONcErn. Above all, what substantiates the assimilation of an artwork is its biography and the anecdotal context surrounding its liaison with cONcErn.
(c) The storage site is envisioned as an open space that permits the artworks to remain in continuous relationship with their environment, to continue their vital modes of exchange. What would cONcErn be good for if the artworks were draped with big white sheets, with no interaction between them, out of sight and out of reach? In what aesthetic experience would they be able to partake? In a shared space, the entrusted artworks are potentially reactivated by the very milieu that they are creating. Such a regrouping of ‘endangered’ artworks might provide a unique resource for research in art, offering new insights into contemporary artistic creation and its ‘logistic realities’. It also might serve as a precious pedagogical tool that will potentially provide a singular perspective on the large diversity of artistic practices, whether they are established or marginal.
(d) The ensemble of artworks in the host space will be complemented by an ongoing archive of documentation about artworks that have been (or are at risk of being) abandoned or destroyed. cONcErn’s aim is actively to look for stories and images of such artworks and to be in continuous dialog with artists about their experiences with the issues at stake. In addition, whenever cONcErn might not be able to integrate an artwork into its host space, it will try to assist with its potential disposal and to produce documentation of the artwork and its context for inclusion in the archive.