Brett Bloom: On the Service Paradigm
Member of Temporary Services, Chicago.
Transcript from interview between Brett Bloom [BB] and Markuz Wernli Saitô on Oct. 31, 2006.
Can you briefly introduce Temporary Services?
BB: Temporary Services is an art space in Chicago since 1988. With the significant cut backs of art funding in the late 80s it became increasingly a political decision how investigations would be done and what could be presented. So we started to look at the social context which is suppressed or buried. The neighborhood of Temporary Services was working class where many organizations were serving people in this economically marginalized area. We wanted to feel as a part of that by providing services to help turn around things.
Personally I have a formal art training in painting. I moved to Chicago to get an MFA as an abstract painter but lost track... Then I came across Dan Peterman's Experimental Station which is this big warehouse with commercial workshop, and a bike shop for kids. A place where many artists from all over the world come through. This brought a shift in my practice. As the national funding for the arts collapsed in the 80s many moved to LA or NYC to pursue commercial careers. We on the other side grew into the public practice.
Can you talk a bit about the dynamics within Temporary Services?
BB: Temporary Services is like a family and makes for the core amount of the activity for all three of us [that is Salem Collo-Julin and Marc Fischer besides Brett Bloom]. Frequently we need to take a break and make space for each other. Temporary Services accommodates everybody's weakness and strengths. At first there was a ridiculous idealism and there were painful experiences. But idealism has to go in line with how you live your life. It requires strength to work collaboratively which is really stressful at times. As artist you usually pursue your own ideas. When you're starting to shift, these ideas are open for scrutiny. It's important not to take things personally. Out of all these experiences we just finished a book on collaborations.
What do you think about the artist as a service provider?
BB: An artist can come and present perspectives on how things are done. It is a kind of institutional critic. Fred Wilson e.g. looked at the suppressed history of the museum, an unrecognizable work that's already there. It is the social spaces that artists produce. This can produce a sociological analysis if we are talking of art as providing a service. In my most recent article I am writing about the project Flood by the art group Haha, which is literally producing vegetables for individuals with AIDS and provides spaces for discussion. This is tied to the internet boom of the 90s and in response to the major shifts of the global economy.
How does service translate into your life and art practice?
BB: I don't sell artwork because the art market has taken over art. I avoid the commodification by actually being 'there' on location, by having an active role in the process. It's not just about an object to be shown. Art is an extension of my life which means that I am building the kind of relationships that I want. This has also political implications. Making services challenges how artists are colonized by money.
At this point I moved beyond the service idea which can be limiting. Service doesn't explain the power structures we find ourselves in and how to negotiate them. I am interested in a distributed aesthetics which looks at the complexity of aesthetic experiences. People create uncontrollable situations and I think that connecting to people's desires can provide unexpected experiences. Providing a service doesn't resonate and warms people up. Service in art practice puts you more into the role of an actor than a provider. It implies a certain directional, and economical relationship which can be contrary to finding ways to empower others. It is important to take the drama out of it, open things up and have people create their own meaning.
How can an art practitioner work towards deeper interactions and relationships?
BB: The Experimental Station is a good sample for an initiative which provides the substantial time and space needed for relationship building. It makes sense to invite people into a space for ongoing conversations. Sometimes it's desirable to realize more experimental activities with short contacts.
How do you manage to earn a living as artist with public practice?
BB: You got to have several jobs. It is possible to acquire speaking fees, do production for exhibitions, work on book projects, and get teaching assignments. Usually it is about working on small level and figure out how it can impact larger audiences.
Temporary Services invents infrastructure or borrows it when necessary, without waiting for permission or invitation. Something that they were not taught in school. Temporary Services tries different approaches, inspired by others equally frustrated by the systems they inherited, who created their own methods for getting work into the public.
Momentarium creates situations where our very presence becomes the catalyst for shifting experiences we can integrate into our lives by fusing reality with co-created artifice.