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28 October - 9 December 2001
Especially for its first solo show at Stedelijk Bureau Amsterdam, Orgacom* has asked five communications companies and advertising agencies to present their views of Orgacom. The five companies specialize in: creative management consultancy (FHV Corporate), corporate communications (Inc-21), customer communications (Proximity), organization communications (Signum) and event marketing (XSAGA).
This exhibition is a sequel to an art project that Orgacom began in February 2001 in the five companies of the FHV Group. Having held interviews with around fifty members of staff and management at the different companies, Orgacom spent a period as artists-in-residence at the FHV Group. During this period Orgacom used the information it had gathered to make a number of proposals for an art work. The art work presents an image of the values that play an active part in the FHV organization.
For the presentation at Bureau Amsterdam, Orgacom has reversed the roles by asking the companies of the FHV Group to make a presentation about Orgacom. The five companies will each articulate their particular view of Orgacom’s concept in a visual presentation. Each presentation is accompanied by an explanation on paper which visitors may take away with them. The five presentations are similar to the media presentations that these companies habitually make for their clients. These specialists in the fields of image management, corporate branding, direct marketing, internal communication and event marketing are therefore providing feedback for the artistic communicators of Orgacom. The exhibition is accompanied by Bureau Amsterdam Newsletterno. 63 with an essay by Jeroen Boomgaard in which he presents his ‘feedback’ from an art-critical viewpoint.
Today many artists are once again challenging the autonomous status of art by organizing actions and activities which take place in the social domain and which aim to bridge the gap between art and social reality. Orgacom occupies a special place in this tendency through the way it aims its activities directly at companies and organizations.
Through the exhibition at Bureau Amsterdam, Orgacom hopes to encourage debate about the way in which the art world judges ‘social art’. Orgacom is of the opinion that it is inconsistent, on the one hand, to promote the integration of art in society, while on the other hand not involving experts from outside the art world in the assessment of an artistic concept like Orgacom.
Orgacom: ‘In our society, the emphasis is placed on the role of the artist as a maker of products, while art and artists can also be employed as advisors in the fields of creativity and innovation. Orgacom is not only an artistic concept, we are also specialists in the visual communication of business culture.’
Orgacom was founded in 1997 by Teike Asselbergs (1973) and Elias Tieleman (1970). The name Orgacom is a contraction of ‘ORGAnatization’ and ‘COMmunication’. Orgacom can be contacted at: PO Box 1372, 1000 BJ Amsterdam; www.orgacom.nl ; firstname.lastname@example.org
The name Orgacom, as is probably clear by now, stands for organization and communication. The artist duo Teike Asselbergs and Elias Tieleman, who go under the cover of this name, want to generate an exchange between art and the business world and, if all goes to plan, the success of this undertaking will be revealed at Bureau Amsterdam. The name is, however, somewhat misleading. It arouses the impression that the artists present themselves as organization and communications experts, a field which is already saturated with overpaid amateurs. But this is not their intention: their specialization remains fine art and it is through art that they want to reveal something about the organization within a company and to do something with its communication. A great starting point, but one that raises a whole series of questions.
Gulf and bridge
At first glance one wonders why artists would want to immerse themselves in the world of business with all its problems and to produce art there. After all, the autonomous position of the artist offers all the freedom in the world and the grant system in the Netherlands means that financial considerations are not such a major issue. Yet the path into less protected areas beyond the borders of art’s autonomy are proving highly popular at the moment. Within the framework of a renewed drive to return to ‘real’ life, many artists are trying to escape from the safe, but ineffective position of art. To do so they are organizing all kinds of activities which try desperately to avoid the term ‘art’. That registrations of these activities are then presented in spaces which lie at the heart of the art world doesn’t seem to bother them. While this way of working can produce surprises, the elimination of art seems to be purely fictional. Because Orgacom works from the premise that it is not at all easy to escape art, that art and business are clearly and radically different worlds, its members have chosen a different format for their projects. Precisely because there is such a huge gulf between these two areas Orgacom believes that a bridge needs be built in order to draw art out of its isolation. Orgacom therefore agrees with the critical view that art is ineffective, but tries to respond to this without resorting to performing a vanishing act. Orgacom believes that art and business can learn from each other and feels that the traditional separation of the practical things of the everyday and the useless things that belong in a museum is unproductive for both parties. The ways in which art and businesses already work together (there is even an organization called Art and Business) largely fall within this traditional role division and are therefore unacceptable to Orgacom. Making something attractive to go on the wall, an eye-soother for personnel and clients, is not where Orgacom’s interest lies. Its work may in the end be visually attractive, but it must also relate to what happens at that location.
Object and concept
Today it has become a little strange for an artist to make things. Painting, sculpture - it all comes across as rather dated. A performance, an action, interaction with the audience, these are the formats art prefers to adopt. This predilection for the temporary arose in the 1960s, but at that time could be explained as a resistance to the marketability of art, or in Marxist terms, its commodification. The political content does not weigh so heavily these days; the ideal appears to be aimed at adjustment rather than radical change. However, what links these two moments is a correspondence with changes in the economy, which throughout the last century shifted from manufacture to service industries. The companies with whom Orgacom has chosen to work operate within the service industry. The whole of Orgacom’s operation therefore acquires a logical coherence: striving for a new role for art leads to the ideal of an improvement in communications within existing
social frameworks, and this in turn leads to collaboration with businesses who have made communication and organization their job. It therefore seems even more strange that Orgacom seeks refuge in this constellation within the more or less old-fashioned form of art. The final result of their collaborations is always a tangible product which is left behind at the location. And yet this process of coagulation, which generates a concrete and recognizable art form, is a consequence of the choices made by Orgacom. The famous bridge assumes that there are two banks which have to be joined. In other words, the exchange between the two separate worlds can only be set in motion if both are aware of the gulf that divides them, of their different natures. You could say that the precondition for this desired exchange is that what is made should be recognized as art and that the artists consequently have to resort to a somewhat stale visual vocabulary. If you were to
emphasize what its work is ultimately about, namely art as a service, the differences between Orgacom and all other organization and communications bureaus would be rendered obsolete and the specific contribution Orgacom is able to offer potential clients would become obscured. Only by deploying a recognizable form, by appealing to the familiar position of art - which they in principle reject - can Orgacom create a niche for itself. The objects that they leave behind therefore have a double charge, and this duality comes into play once they have returned their activity to the other side of the bridge.
There and here
The familiarity in one place is proportional to the lack of clarity in the other. While the work within the business environment has to be recognizable as art, and then as art with a message about the company, outside, in the glass box of the exhibition space, the work, as Orgacom is fully aware, has a very different position and meaning. This is why Orgacom’s exhibitions often emphasize the working process rather than the end result. But their aim is exchange and art should not contribute to the business side without being offered something in return. Because there has been an exchange between art and commercial operations at a less visible level for a long time now - artists use the services provided by the business world, paid for or sponsored, or they use methods and techniques which have been borrowed directly from that sector -in Orgacom’s case a more concrete exchange needs to be made visible. Hence, at an exhibition in W139 in Amsterdam there was evidence of the presence of a well-known employment agency which used its expertise to help artists to find jobs which were specifically geared towards their abilities. Here, in Bureau Amsterdam we are confronted with the feedback from the companies for which Orgacom has worked over the last few months. They have assessed Orgacom as a company on those aspects they, the companies, specialize in. Yet it is precisely the concrete, visible nature of the exchange that produces a problem. However promising an employment agency for artists initially seemed to be, in the end not a single artist found work through it. The moment the exchange becomes visible within the framework of an exhibition, it also becomes symbolic. In a certain sense the same occurs here at Bureau Amsterdam. The idea underlying this exchange was that businesses would be able to promote themselves at the same time as subjecting to close examination
the process that Orgacom had tried to set in motion. But if you wanted gain a better understanding of the work of the different businesses presented here, there would most certainly be a folder or a website containing all the information you need on what they do and how they do it. The question is whether the visitor who comes in search of Orgacom will be interested in the companies’ opinion. This question becomes even more pressing when you realize that the companies’ reactions focus on those points which they themselves specialize in and which, moreover, are geared towards emphasizing their own competence in their particular field. This does not address what the visitor to comes to see, i.e. the work of Orgacom as art. By making the exchange more concrete the result once again becomes symbolic. While the visitor wants to form an opinion of Orgacom’s work as art - feedback which is also vital to its success - he or she is presented with the opinions of a
number of companies, an opinion which holds limited interest for the viewer because it is not about the workings of this work as art. An opinion, moreover, which has a somewhat dubious relevance for Orgacom, precisely because it was formulated specifically for this
Analytical and synthetic
The form chosen by Orgacom implies a highly complex manoeuvre. You could say that it is precisely because the statements presented here are not about art, that the exhibition as a whole is exclusively about the purpose of art. What is exciting is that we can only understand it once we are aware of the underlying concept. The exhibition’s message to us is about the possibilities for art according to Orgacom. Even if there is nothing of their work on show, the concept is their work. Thus they position themselves with in the thirty-year old tradition of conceptual art. Not only because there is no work to look at which has been produced by the artists’ own hands, but also because the fundamental thought in conceptual art is that art can be nothing other than a statement about art’s possibilities, an analytical proposition. In other words, every revision of the purpose of art says something about the purpose of art and nothing about the world around it; a synthetic statement is impossible. It is remarkable to note that the exchange Orgacom wants to generate is hereby brought to a standstill. Inside the companies it works for Orgacom tries to make a statement by cloaking itself in the familiar form of the art object, but saying nothing about art’s possibilities Once in the exhibition space, Orgacom adorns itself with conceptual abstractions, the only subject of which is art. Where concept and object do not finally meet, the question is whether the gulf has indeed been bridged. The banks are only symbolically linked; the real building has yet to begin.