FormContent – Position A: Thank you again for attending this informal dinner for two’s. Allow me to introduce my selves in equal and collegiate halves – I mean not to preform or pretend that both halves are present, they are not, but I have been given permission by all members to speak on their behalf – and assume the position of both Form and Content. That is only as far as Form is Content, however not so far as forgetting, your position, as artists and practices, the bodies with which we confer. If you have brought objects, projections or sounds to introduce your practice in its absence or on its behalf, let us know. We welcome interruptions that take the form of preparing food, moving quietly about the space or humming a tune. We too will interject with such gestures to make sure there is enough time for as many practices to meet, find support etc. as possible.
As you might know or not we were invited by Gabriel Hensche to cost-host this ‘closed studio’ – an invention we see as solidarity in response to solitude. We did not curate or invent this format but are hosted as a foreign voice, a moderator, in a discussion on issues between artists and their practice when this partnership is displaced and experience the solitary intimacy of time without home, family or friends, and space without material, means or perhaps catalyst.
The position we are granted here is not an obvious one and it is thanks to the openness of Gabriel and Cité des Arts that we are able to discuss the conditions of a residency within a current understanding of the wider conditions of artistic production in the world today. We FormContent are here residents with you tonight sharing the experience of being in a permanent un-residence. Our position is a nomadic curatorial initiative and this line of research, practice informs our way of placing daily life in negotiation with the institutions we are confronted with. It is conceived as an informal and perhaps intimate moment of reflection and debate involving various figures and, as such, intended for a limited number of people therefore operating as we often do, within a salon. Getting back to the core – the subject – why we are all here – our relationship with our beloved practice, fragile, interrupted, dependable or stoic – these modes which lead to our reflection.
FormContent – Position B: If I may conjecture at your condition – by projecting my own- the Subject, is a cyclical foreigner. Entering from out of context, he explores his surroundings with a certain naiveté and interest, responding either openly or closed to various residual effects imprinting on him or his practice. Speaking about it, he and I began to see the practice separately, taking on a kind of colour, blurr or word which occupied space. I had previously met several other people’s practices in an archive in London which share a similar tone and which I could no longer immediately associate with their partner the artist. There were bits of each other there and certainly they shared a name, yet one seemed quite divorced from the other – becoming solitary by its unchanged interests despite the artists ongoing evolution. In the case of the residency the subject(s), he and his practice, are aliens amongst aliens, they cannot re-create their previous routine or have the same interactions as before, nor integrate as if born from this place. Their constant coming and going, the ‘state of un-residence’ as they move from one to the next, is the result of seasonal resources and shifting interests, which keep them in a constant state of estrangement yet with an ever expanding ’network’ – a contemporary temporality.
FormContent – Position A:
‘The Fon in West Africa called the female portion of their androgynous creator Mawu; she is the mother of the trickster Legba. In ancient days when Mawu lived here on earth, Legba was her obedient servant. When he did a good deed the people ignored him and thanked Mawu, and when he did an evil deed the people blamed him directly, as if Mawu had nothing to do with it. Legba complained of this arrangement. Mawu replied that in governing the world it is best if the master be known as good and the servants be known as evil. “Very well”, said Legba. Now Mawu had a yam garden and Legba told her that thieves were planning to steal her crop. So Mawu assembled all the people and announced that anyone who stole from her garden would be put to death. That night Legba stole Mawu’s sandals and wearing them on his feet, stole her yams. When the theft was discovered, Mawu assembled the people and searched to find a foot that matched the footprints in her garden. When none could be found, Legba asked if Mawu herself might have come in the night and forgotten about it. “Who, me?” said Mawu, that is why I do not like you Legba. But very well, I will measure my foot with that footprint.” When Mawu put her foot down, it fit the print exactly.
The people began to laugh and shout “the owner herself is a thief!” Mawu was humiliated. She left the earth, however did not go far – only about 10 feet up into the sky. Legba was still her servant- every evening he would come to her and give an account of the day’s activity and receive his instructions for the following day. And again, whenever Legba did something wrong people blamed him, and Mawu herself would join in the reproach. Irritated, Legba conspired with an old woman. Every evening after she had washed her dishes, this old woman would throw the dirty dishwater up into the air and soak Mawu with it. Angered, Mawu soon departed. Now she lives on high and Legba, her son, remains on earth.
…At the beginning of the story, Legba is differentiated from his mother on her terms, not his own, and that irritates him. If he is really her obedient servant, executing her will without fail, then she should at least acknowledge that his actions, both good and bad, are her actions. In the little drama that Legba engineers, that might mean acknowledging that the owner of the yams really is the thief (which seems like a lie, but if the mother rules the son [the multiple the singular], it’s a lie that tells the truth). Mawu wants to pick and choose, however, she wants to hide her own duality so that people will think she’s good and never bad, high and never low. Legba’s ruse forces her to come clean [or dirty – as she is innately both] she must differentiate herself from him more fully or else confess their unity. She chooses to differentiate. She completes the separation from her offspring, whereupon Legba is not quite so watched over and can himself become the ambivalent author of what humans take to be both “good” and “evil”. ‘
– Lewis Hyde, ‘Trickster makes this world: how disruptive imagination creates culture’ (1983).