The Ephemera(l) Institution

by Martin Gantman

Prepping the Cracks

Damn it! I thought I was done with this. But you know what happens. Suddenly, at a time when you might be preparing the walls for the final coat, there is a thought, a glimmer, and then the realization that one might not have completely attended to everything.  As if something was left, perhaps on a shelf neglected, like a familiar book.

A major constituent of the Institute’s output is publishing. Several extensive volumes and a number of smaller editions, about which I have too little space to discuss save to mention that they all expand upon institutional predilections, have been completed within the relatively recent past. This operative component does not comfortably fit within the schema of the archival constraint. Rather, it is an example of production – from what the Institute likes to term its “space for creation.” Obviously not a dedicated space, it is a depiction of one way in which the Institute sees itself.  The books are obviously cataloged but they are also disseminated, co-existing with the institution from a space external to the archival notion. And the creating, including the space, is an action rather than a sign of captured memorabilia.

Thus the phrase, space for creation, evokes another comprehensive aspect of this institution, the performative space. This is not simply a space for performance, but also incorporates a performative comprehension – the activity of collaborating, the process of creating, and the accomplishment of producing.

This is complicated. The concept of the performative notion includes not only the space for functioning, as in physical, mental, perceptual, but also the overshadowing net of the performative idea. Everything can be seen as included within this performance. The creation of an institution, of a physical space, an archive, an ephemeral notion, a collaborational enticement and stimulus, a product(ion) all occur within this performative determinant.

Even I, in this role as an excavator, one who will take a spade, plunge it into this dense terrain of fertile knowledge aided by the thrust of a heavy foot, lift, very carefully, a shovelful of complex artistic notions, and slowly sift them through – well, you get it – or perhaps just a spoonful at a time in the archeological manner – very carefully; who has come to give air to this particular institutional design, perhaps to unwittingly expose arcane cracks, am just a player within this unfolding performative chronicle. Mind you, not as the passive Shakespearean stand-in in an open-ended play, as in life, but as an active collaborator, mindful, and wary, of the somewhat malleable institutional constraints that exquisitely encircle me.