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Revisiting INDELIVERABLE - a project investigating a project

Why is it so difficult to pick up INDELIVERABLE, now that the PANOPE project is finished? I have collected a lot of material - photographs of tourism interfaces often taken at the places where project meetings took place, more than any off- or inverse writing, but no overall approach has materialized so far. It just needs to be worked out.

What is INDELIVERABLE (or rather, what will it be?)

To explain the context, I quote from the original INDELIVERABLE project sketch:

'INDELIVERABLE is a project investigating a project called PANOPE which deals with internet-based tourism services. (....) INDELIVERABLE deals with the contents of PANOPE, investigating its declared aims (as laid down in PANOPE's proposal and technical annex) and its results, written up in the PANOPE deliverables. Aspects that may not enter these deliverables are prime content in INDELIVERABLE. INDELIVERABLE's space may be defined as the inverted space of PANOPE, i.e. INDELIVERABLE will focus especially on what cannot or should not be said in official PANOPE documents.'

The tangle

One reason for the reluctance to "return to INDELIVERABLE" is the essentially discursive nature of the project, so it is a clear decision to deal with the relationship of my actual work context and art-making, to submit both and myself to a critique, and to somehow tacke this tangle with artistic means.

Entering the work seriously implies that there will be no clear separation of work-work and art-work anymore. The day and its only partly reflected practives will be the subject of the available time if the evenings and during weekends.

On the positive side, work-work will present itself differently, and the effect of self-awareness may transform both modes of work (one being bound much more tightly, of course).

Compromising or compromising?

With INDELIVERABLE, there is not the same kind of distance through method and material as in "Secret ballet" (which is now completed). While the actual approach can be fluid and recursive, there will have to be clear decisions regarding the epistemological status of anything included. Is it OK to invent events? Or just to camouflage events by renaming / relocating actors and objects? The more truthful the work (indexical, using citations, etc), the easier to uncover the actual referent project. As expressed in the intitial project sketch, I am still concerned that I might damage professional relationships, hurt feelings, jeopardize my own position and professional integrity.

So I guess people might advise to put a time lapse between the referent project and work based on it, so that any damage is limited simply by the fact that the actual situation (companies, jobs, issues) will have changed so much that little harm is done.

Trying to capture or better develop the reality of project work is not easy, especially as this is always work done in the context of other peoples' contributions. This has been a major issue in the first INDELIVERABLE sketch (see the discussion on potential repercussions, copyright, etc)

But another approach is being tactful and admitting and acknowledging an element of mild self-censorship. What I feel would be the core of the argument would not be dependent on particular names or deeds in Panope.

The question of output

Another question has been the choice of format for the output. Is it a series of displays including texts, photographs, and diagrams, to be presented together in an exhibition? Is it a book? Is it a web site? Or any combination of these? Once started, the material will tell the answer.

"Artistic licence"

The biggest sacrifice is that of "artistic licence" - or call it irony, "Uneigentlichkeit" (of what sometimes appears to be remnant traces of a surrealist taste) - features that create a certain thrill during work and remove the activity from the threat of didactic boredom.

But this stuff has to go, for this piece of work. Allowing the epistemological basis to be blurry or ambiguous risks everything and invites accusations. People will not be prepared to accept an argument of artistic licence when dealing with issues that formally and substantially give themselves as documentary or ethnographic / ethnomethodological enquiry. "Artistic licence" removes or even runs counter to the weight of the argument (if there is one).

The substantive issue / argument

So it appears this is the issue to be decided, whether there *is* an argument to carry through (or discovery to bring forward) which deserves submission under the rule of discourse. If "licences" (ambiguity and irony, fiddling and invention) are allowed in, the game will be profoundly different, since it establishes a second-order discourse on the devalued - exposed, decontextualised - bits and pieces from the first-order ethnographic/documentary source. This is an option, but it forgoes the discoveries to be had from a close investigation of the first- and second-order project documents and sources; the photographs; the reflections on the work, which can themselves be criticised; the option to include other voices, allow feedback, and so on. This is the richer project, it seems.

Double role of project worker/artist

What remains attractive in this project from my view now, after completing the referent project, is the close link to an actual work practice that is not related to art-making or the art market. So if this is an institutional critique, it is not one of art institutions or the art system. It is also not based on the situation of an artist being injected into an alien context, photographing the back side of computers at Siemens, factory workers slaving away, farmers, clean rooms, hospitals or prisons. This is not to say that such activities are not interesting (witness Sekula) but INDELIVERABLE will hopefully draw its strength fom the double role of artist *and* project worker: being inside and at the same time, (trying to be) outside.

Last update: 12 February 2005 | Impressum—Imprint