The Part of No Part

The Part of No Part


September 2012 - August 2013

The Part of No Part an artwork curated by Dan Starling where five artists each designed a part of a performance by concentrating on one aspect of it: sound, costumes, staging, choreography, script. Starting in September 2012, The Part of No Part was presented in an episodic fashion, punctuating the regular programming at 221A over the course of one year and culminating into the grande finale, where each part was performed as part of a whole.

GRANDE FINALE of The Part of No Part
6:00-11:00pm, August 30, 2013
With the work of Julia Feyrer, Tiziana La Melia, Willie Brisco, Lief Hall, Sam Forsythe curated and performed by Dan Starling

Performed in Three Acts
7:30pm – A Letter
8:15pm – Notes from the Overcoat and the Undercoat
9:00pm – The Ghost & The Drone

The parts stick out:
The soundtrack is much longer than the script.
The costumes have their own script.
The projections exceed the stage.
The stage is a model that cannot be interacted with by the performers.
There is no resolution or composure.

The performance is like the hypercomplexity of today’s “foam”: the uncontrolled discourse of external references, a production of chaotic signifiers, a chronic vertigo, and an ideology of the surfer. This artwork has been inspired by the belief in that which is ‘out of joint’; ‘The part of no part’ is a term taken from the work of Jacques Rancière, which refers to the paradox whereby the ‘non-part’, that which has no defined place in a given order and as the exception to it, stands for the Whole.

Part 5: Script
8:00pm, August 2, 2013
Sam Forsythe

In 1997, Major League Baseball universally retired Jackie Robinson’s uniform number so that on “Jackie Robinson Day” all players on all teams wear 42. This example illustrates the symbolic order of contemporary art that can be summed up in the principles of Ranciere’s “Aesthetic Regime of the Arts”: the equality of all subject matter, forms and mediums. The triumph, however, of this gift of equality came with a catch: art was partitioned off as an autonomous form of experience. This contradiction is encapsulated by the lack of criteria that can be used to provide a justification for art’s autonomy.

But what is the genesis of the symbolic order of contemporary art? It came into existence with the French Revolution when a rather small middle class, numerically speaking, used a characteristic rhetorical strategy to subvert the relations of power in society to their benefit: it presented itself, immediately and straightforwardly, as humanity as such, the part that is the whole. The symbolic order emerges from a gift, an offering, which neutralizes its content in order to declare itself as a gift. When a gift is offered, what matters is not its content but the link between the giver and the receiver established when the other accepts the gift. For Lacan, language is such a dangerous gift: it offers itself to our use free of charge, but once we accept it, it colonizes us.

The cynical response to this situation has it that the project of equality sought by the middle class was accomplished not by the liberatory ambitions of the avant-garde art movements but by the spectacular dictates of the culture industry. While practical, something is obviously missing from the cynical position that every artist knows, encapsulated in the dictum: “You can do whatever you want, just don’t do that!” Our task today as producers of art, in an uncanny way, has come to mirror that of individual psychoanalytic experience: a recognition that “there is no big Other” to which we owe our autonomy. Performance art in the twentieth century has occupied a special place precisely because it directly addresses the symbolic order of contemporary art. Whatever our doubts, fears and compromises, in getting caught up in performance we are participating in an exercise in equality.

On August 2, 2013 Sam Forsythe will present Part 5 the script for The Part of No Part at 221A. Forsythe’s work is centred in performance both in individually and with the performance collective, New Forms of Life. His works are mainly text based spoken word performances that engage with film & video media, blurring fact with fiction, and ideas of the performative nature of truth, simulation and reality. Forsythe graduated from Städelschule in 2012. He lives and works in Frankfurt am Main.

Part 4: Choreography
8:00pm, May 31, 2013
Lief Hall

According to Mark Epstein, from the Buddhist perspective the acceptance of the Whole as broken is the character of a realized being. There is a time in every artist’s career where they feel like they must know everything about the history of art in order to start making it. For filmmakers this is the time when they attempt to watch every movie ever made. At first, this pursuit seems possible but sooner or later the relentless amount of the material overwhelms us. For a moment there is despair at this great defeat. But then, the moment of freedom occurs when you realize that it’s impossible know everything and this didn’t stop the artists throughout history from making their work.

How does this leap occur? In psychoanalysis it is through the “suspension of the critical faculty” that the analysand first encounters in the “evenly suspended attention” of the therapist. By presenting the analysand with an enigmatic desire that keeps the analysand working, trying to discover what the analyst wants from him, they sooner or later realize that the desire can never be fulfilled and that they must be responsible for choosing their own course. This is the potential role of a teacher (or curator?) in art: to allow the artists’s own unique truth to emerge that is absolutely different from their own.

Isn’t it this ability to “suspend the critical faculty,” as recommended by Freud, that produces the most profound experience of art? Paradoxically, it is the absence of grasping for the essential core that unleashes the flood of affect that makes art feel most real. On May 31, 2013 Lief Hall will present the choreography as Part 4 of The Part of No Part.

Part 3: Staging
9:00pm, March 1, 2013
Willie Brisco

What is the difference between an installation and a stage set? It is often said that the only difference between what is considered art and not-art is when an extra ‘nothing’ is counted as ‘something’ positive. Sublimation in Lacanian psychoanalysis is just this difference between the object and the Thing; an unidentifiable something, which is just a different way of regarding the object. This minimal difference is possible because of a master signifier or frame, which in our time is the gallery, the show, the artist. It is the attention to the frame that art posits its power over design and life.

The content of any artwork hinges on a stable imbalance of needing the frame in order to oppose it. Which is why ‘conservative’ artists can from time to time be radical: they are aware that the original frame is itself made up and therefore any form of ‘break’ with it only works to confirm it’s power. The foundation of the law is originally ‘illegal’ from the order that it creates.

This split between frame and content is the founding principle of the ‘Aesthetic Regime of the Arts’ as Ranciere discusses. It took the history of modern art, from ‘The Painting of Modern Life’ to Dada to Institutional Critique to confirm this foundational principle. Since this is already known to us, why not relax? The call for change will always win because living with this contradiction would be more unbearable. Can we hear the call and not react? Could this lack of action be the movement we’re looking for?

Part 2: Costumes
7:00pm, December 14, 2012
Tiziana La Melia

From the perspective of Art History, modern art’s intellectual superiority (heroic self-congratulation) over design is fully justified since designers are able to avoid confronting the abyss of their own desire due to one thing: the client’s desire. Designers can “play the game” with little problem since their desire is simply to fulfill the client’s desire. Conversely, detached from the guild or systems of patronage, modern artists are tormented by the enigma of the question of the other’s desire. Che vuoi? (what does the ‘Other’ want from me?) and ultimately propelled by the question, “how do I know what I want?”

So the story goes: while costume designers are busy making costumes to fulfill whatever desire they’ve been presented with, it is only in art that we can ask the question: what is a costume? But does this sterotypical theorization still hold? It is capitalism that turns the question around and affects design and art equivalently in its speculation about desire. For if something is produced that does not fulfill a need or a want, whatever it may be, it does not exist. To what degree is art in our society fulfilling the desire to be unproductive or for failure? In a state of super-abundance, less becomes more.

Are we too proud to be exploited as designers are? Should we be realistic and accept the game even though it may diminish our opportunity to confront the question of what it is we want to achieve as artists today? Could this be the story that we are trying to tell?

Part 1: Sound
7:11pm (Sunset), September 21, 2012
Offsite: Rooftop 211 E Georgia St
Car Rally by Julia Feyrer

For those who consider it a necessity to maintain the autonomy of art, performance art is irretrievably corrupted by ‘design'; lighting design, sound design, costume design, the script, choreography, props and staging are utilized to achieve certain effects. Epitomized by Wagner’s gesamtkunstwerk in the nineteenth century, recently Hal Foster has described “life-style” design as the agent of the anaesthetization of art, to make it conform to the “new spirit of capitalism.” In it’s necessity of using design then, is performance art the agent of the anaesthetization of art by design?

Viewed as a medium of art, performance fails because it sits ‘between the arts’, to use a phrase coined by art historian Michael Fried. However, does not this failure offer us a surprise? In two movements of Kant’s analysis of the sublime in The Critique of Judgement, the subject is confronted by that which exceeds, supplements or challenges its identity and at first, this awareness painfully impresses upon the subject the limitation of its perceptual capabilities. In the second moment, however, a “representation” arises where “we would least expect it”, which takes as its object the subject’s own failure to perceptually take the object in. Following Hegel, this introduces a gap, not in knowledge, but into the object itself, as a gap in which vertiginous possibility emerges.

And is it not this sense of possibility that we need desperately today? The title is inspired by the belief in that which is ‘out of joint’; ‘The part of no part’ is a term taken from the work of Jacques Rancière, which refers to the paradox whereby the ‘non-part’, that which has no defined place in a given order and as the exception to it, stands for the Whole.

Related Publication

The Part of No Part Catalogue

Edition of 50
146 pp.
8 x 10.5 x .5 in, 500 g
Unsewn Adhesive Bound

Project Support

BC Arts CouncilCanada Council for the ArtsCity of Vancouver