WAYWO Project publication
DOWNLOAD THE WAYWO publication pdf here
What are you working on? / Vad har du på gång?— a popular phrase at any given art opening. "What are you working on?" Where one's individual answer is the definition of one's self-justification. I act, produce and think; therefore, I am. The WAYWO project is a self-fulfilling journey through the contemporary art process. I define what I do; therefore, I am. We, artists Hanna Ljungh and Ulrika Sparre, initiated the project What are you working on? / Vad har du på gång? / WAYWO in 2012 fueled by our common search.
In 2012, the exhibition "we are still lost between the abyss within us and boundless horizons outside us" (Ljungh & Sparre) exhibited a selection of both artists' work which began a dialogue. These discussions then became a foundation for the project What are you working on? / Vad har du på gång? / WAYWO. Together, we wish to discuss cultural practices and examine how time is valued in our current era—more specifically, how the expectation of renewal pervades both society and the art world. In 2012, we introduced art critic and writer Jacquelyn Davis into the dialogue, which led to her becoming this publication's editor. The aim is to continuously work together with invited theorists, artists, writers, curators and others to conduct a close study of the concept of time and the 'contemporary.' We hope to allow room for ranging disciplines to meet and collide—in an attempt to say something more about the present and contemporary thinking.
In the 2013 exhibition at Husby Konsthall, we invited Polish artist Zuzanna Janin to present her work I've Seen My Death, Ceremony / Games (2003) where Janin participated by simulating her own funeral procession. On April 4th, 2003, Janin published death announcements in several Polish newspapers; then on April 7th, she was "laid to rest" in the Warsaw Cemetery. This work became controversial and triggered extreme reactions in the Polish art community. Only a scant few treated it as a subversive form of expression capable of promoting the contemplation of existential, philosophical questions and of encouraging an honest discussion of death. Furthermore, Lars-Erik Hjertström Lappalainen is an art critic with a philosophical background. For the WAYWO exhibition, he contributed a new text "Do or Die! Eller Bara: DÖ!" which is presented in this publication.
With the WAYWO project, we wish to examine how time is valued in present time and contemporary terms. Why do we value short-term projects? Does this way of thinking stem from an entrepreneurial form of thinking— where short-term planning and perspectives are now viewed as the norm? There will always be something or someone new to follow. What was made yesterday is—more often than not—already forgotten.
How does contemporary art emerge as an infinite perspective? Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman describes in his book Liquid Fear (2006) that people who avoid thinking about the eternal, minimize the risk of considering thoughts of their own death. Thoughts about our own mortality and infinity are given less significance, something which is obvious—for example: in politics. Expressions such as "seize the day" reinforce our sense of immortality and reduce thoughts of our own disappearance; when this finally takes place, however, there remains an explainable cause of death.
Lars-Erik Hjertström Lappalainen writes in his text "In art this manifests itself in the way that people care less about artistry than about the artist's latest project. Time is shorter and scarcer." Perhaps the WAYWO project can be seen as a self-fulfilling prophecy, where we are not able to think outside the project. We work within the project structure: It starts with the idea, then the discussion, the project description, the exhibition, the publication, and last the archive. Or as Jan Rydén points out in his text The Eternal state of being busy, that the art world is very much part of this cult of the process, since we have abandoned the idea of progress in favour of process, it is not realistic to believe in utopian ideas anymore. What are we left with? A constant flux of the now, where we have no option but to work in short-term projects.
How about different velocities? The critique and analysis of art doesn't have the same speed as Twitter, FB or the blog. Due to the lack of time the art critique rarely goes viral. How does an artwork exist speed wise? What velocity does art have? When a work of art occasionally goes viral, it is almost always categorized as an art scandal, or provocation. There is an expectation of art to be slower in pace, more thoughtful or thought through. How does this work with a highly accelerated mode or method of production? Examining a project for art production begins with an examination of time. The project begins when artists divide their practice into shorter, more manageable pieces of time, where there are clear deadlines and a transparent structure. This tends to create a distance between the artist and the act of creation, an urge to make art more scientific and research based. A scientific mind is the norm in western thinking where in the end everything has to be proven to be understood or validated. Where the emotional and poetic is given less or no significance but when present also has to be fitted into the guidelines of the project.
Hanna Ljungh & Ulrika Sparre
2. Ulrika Sparre's MA project while at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design.