The Ephemera(l) Institution 11

by Martin Gantman

The Performative

There is another possibility – or at least an additional enterprise that is operative within the constraints of the ephemera(l) institution. Suppose, for just this moment, that the entire undertaking: the walls, the books, the sometimes disquieting sculptural works that may be on display, the brain logo (Think People!), the website, the informative or elusive projects, is created specifically in order to set the stage for one ultra-long, lightly-scripted performance.

The players, sometimes with fore knowledge and others unwittingly, gather in the act of establishing this possibly felonious and nearly inconspicuous creation of the imaginary institution. Think of the institution as a stage set. The players coming and going “thinking of Michelangelo” (please forgive me) while the organization catalogs the participation, the events, the writings – all in the service of the play – and even more so, the realization of art. Even I, sitting here considering this circumstance, am an actor participating in the accomplishment of this theatrical moment.

Let’s momentarily accept, for the sake of this conjectural archeology, that this assumption has merit. If so, there is much to consider. For one, there exist many seriously produced works of art, literature, etc. that are accomplished within the confines of the organization – and under the guise of the institution. Does the camouflaged pretext of the institution mitigate the authority of these works?

Additionally, the reputation of the organization commands the visit of many spectators who look to the originality and uniqueness of the institution for additional knowledge and inspiration.  Does the unknown deceit of the organization’s overriding intention condition the material, and more importantly the message, gleaned from such visitation?

And most important, how do we approach the institution itself: the idea, the method, and the philosophical constraints? Has it become duplicitous?

I, diabolically, am going to leave these questions to you. It is not my mission to go in that direction. Moreover, to be fair, above I have cast the purported enterprise, I suppose for dramatic effect, as nefarious. There is certainly no evidence that suggests that sort of intent, and the scenario obviously does not have to be analyzed or viewed from that perspective.

But within the fanciful presumption of this theory, there lies an important comment about my personal focus, the ephemera(l) nature of the institution. While I know very little about the theory of theater, I feel fairly comfortable in presuming that live performance comes incredibly close to the original definition of ephemeron, a singular occurrence that rapidly disappears.

Heretofore I have focused on the interior elements of the institution, the materials it uses and the philosophy behind its constraints, as well as a view toward the nature of the institution once its physical body is no longer extant. But here there is another, intermediate, phase in this biology, the idea of an operational ephemeron. Ok, you may not see, as I do, the phenomenal possibilities in this discovery. After all it is I who, for about six weeks now, has been attempting to get a handle on this notion, ephemera(l) institution, while being distracted by detritus of all ilk.

But here we have it distinctly before us, if the tent is ephemeral then everything inside the tent must be as well; the whole thing, the tent, the philosophy, the material contents. If I were to take any element from inside this tent, ephemera(l) or not, I would be removing it from its context, the institution itself. That action would render moot any analysis of this particular element. At the same time the tent would not be affected by any singular or even multiple changes since it is the tent, the performative notion, that at the same time determines and is independent of the nature of whatever is inside.

In such a situation we are all props.

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