an other order

Adrian Piper, Pretend not to know, 1989

Order may be private or public. A friend of mine owns an enormous collection of classical music. His CDs fill the walls of a whole big room, floor to ceiling. What is interesting here is that they are chronologically organized by the composer’s date of birth. The order is eccentric because, to his wife’s despair, the owner and recipient of that order is just one person.

Then there is what we can call a public order. Here, there is a distance between the owner and the recipient. The word “order” acquires its double meaning of organization and directives for behavior. In this double interpretation, the owner of the order is the power structure. The order is codified in laws, decrees, and protocols, or is simply expressed through abuse of power.

It is here that art becomes a fundamental activity because it is one of the important tools in creating alternative orders. Using what is essentially a private order, the artist challenges the established and public order by proposing others. When the artist is good, his or her systems are unexpected and revealing. They subvert and expand existing knowledge, at least for the brief instant that passes between creation and the assimilation of the contribution.

Luis Camnitzer, “Museums and Universities,” e-flux journal #26


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