I think What is the Function of an Artist? is truly a durational project. It seems to make sense that, to understand whether or not the responses I have received while living this year in Bristol reflect a pre-austerity appreciation of the arts, I will need to ask the question again in the future. As I prepare to hang the posters in public, I am aware that the project will say one thing now and, quite likely, something else in two, five, ten years’ time. This is both exciting and frustrating.
Is the measure of a work found in its being able to say something definitive? If so, does that something need to be said now? Does it make sense to talk about this work now and, if so, in what context? What am I communicating? To whom?
I am drawn to work that takes years to be realized. I find that sort of commitment by other artists inspiring. In his ‘Time Exchange’ project, José Antonio Vega Macotela spends five years exchanging time in the world with time in a prison with the prisoners of a Mexican jail. He completes tasks for the prisoners outside of the prison in exchange for them using the same amount of time to complete a task for the artist inside the prison. Of the project, he says: The conclusions that I have reached are still vague; they are slowly taking shape as I write and think back on what took place over almost five years. Even now, no matter how much I write, remember and reflect, the Gracian quote keeps coming back to me: ‘We have nothing of our own except time.’
I like José’s willingness to publicly own the vagueness of his conclusions. Although our year here is coming to an end, I guess the same cannot be said about this project. Once the posters have had an in situ experience, I may have something else to say about them. From there, what I remember about my time here once I am reflecting on it back in St. Louis may, again, impact my understanding. As the global conversation around austerity continues, it too may play a part in how these first responses are experienced. This is the beauty of durational work, its place is not static. I am going to have to be comfortable with vague conclusions.