Two Hundred Pounds of Thought #1
'Two Hundred Pounds of Thought' is a publication, a mechanism designed to produce an artwork that insinuates itself in a distributive network rather than relying on standard modes of exhibition. For each issue The Hut Project solicits contributions from four cultural producers on a set theme. For a fee of fifty pounds, we ask that each contribute a text that they deem to be of a value equivalent to their payment - be that one word, a thousand or none.
Through this mechanism, The Hut Project implicates itself in a strategy of legitimation, purchasing fifty pounds worth of cultural capital per writer. In all the fees paid out equal two hundred pounds. The resulting publication acts as an exploration of the value of ideas, as well as expanding a network of collaboration.
Issue one solicited contributions on the theme of collaboration. The invited parties were Dave Beech, JJ Charlesworth, Mustafa Hulusi, and David Thorp. Dave responded by contributing the text of an interview he had given to Babak Ghazi, and requested that his fee be paid to Babak. Mustafa contributed a text describing his ongoing collaboration with his own public 'billboard' identity. JJ and David agreed to take part in the project but failed to contribute their texts by the required deadline. We took this silence to be their fifty quid's worth.
Babak Ghazi interview with Dave Beech
The Hostility of Hospitality
Babak Ghazi: you once talked about the 'violence of hospitality'. How does this relate to your space?
Dave Beech: The hostility of hospitality (taken from Derrida's idea of hostipitality) emerges from the deconstruction of the opposition hospitality/hostility. The point is not that hospitality on its own is hostile or violent; the point is that the opposition does not hold. And again, the point is not that hospitality and hostility are identical or that they are secretly the same thing: the point is that the opposition between them does not hold. One reason that the opposition between hostility and hospitality does not hold is that it is based on opposition. Hospitality, Derrida reminds us, is the opposition to opposition.
Derrida's investigation is a deconstruction of the Kantian opposition of hospitality and hostility. Welcoming the stranger as a friend (as a proxy friend, we might say) is a virtue perhaps but it is not without its economy of power. Hospitality moderates the split between friend and stranger without confusing the roles of host and guest. In fact, from a structural point of view, it could be said that the hospitable elision of the friend/stranger opposition preserves the vital distinction between host and guest. Mastery conditions hospitality. If, in Kant, hospitality is owed to the stranger as a duty, it follows that the host receives authority in the very act of welcoming. Hospitality is possible only on the condition that it is impossible. Welcoming the stranger into the economy of the household, of which the host is master, means to submit the stranger to the host's mastery. For there to be hospitality, Derrida says, there must be a door. But if there is a door, and there must be, then hospitality is hostile to the stranger.
Someone has a key to the door, Derrida adds, which means that someone controls the conditions of hospitality. Indeed, hospitality is the door - the threshold - that closes onto the world of strangers in order to be able to permit entry to strangers-as-friends.
Hospitality is hostile to the stranger by virtue of demanding the stranger be greeted as a friend. The stranger is not an intruder but a friend when the host authorises the guest as a proxy friend. Hospitality is opposed to hostility - which fixes the stranger-as-stranger - so as to be more effectively hostile to the stranger. It would be a mistake to think of hospitality as hostile only inasmuch as it administers (rations, legislates, selects) passage across the threshold; hospitality is hostile to the guest through the effect of including the stranger in the law of the 'house'. To accept an invitation, therefore, is to codify oneself, or allow oneself to be so codified, and thereby to submit to the 'house rules'. Invitations are not issued without conditions; they are demands for proper behaviour. Effectively, to welcome a stranger as a friend, then, is to convert the stranger into a friend in order to welcome them as a guest. The guest is the iteration of the stranger that submits to the mastery of the host. Only the host has the authority to issue invitations. Hence, every invitation is a coded - in both senses, of cryptic and semiotic - order to comply. And, the warmth of the welcome assures compliance. The friendlier the host, the more efficient is the conversion of the stranger into the guest. That is to say, the ebullient host allows the guest to believe that the authority of the host is not being imposed at all. Likewise, the more inviting the invitation, the more conspicuous is the concealment of the hostility within hospitality.
Derrida's warning about the hostility concealed within hospitality should not be underestimated. It has a very important contribution to make to our understanding of culture, especially culture's forms of attention and modes of address. Like Adorno's critique of 'mass' culture's fraudulent happiness and premature reconciliation, Derrida unfolds the greeting with devastating effect. It means that culture cannot blithely congratulate itself on its friendliness or inclusivity. Inclusion is subjection in Derrida's terms. Judith Butler has made a similar point in her discussion of the campaign for gay marriage: the claim to extend the 'right' of marriage to non-heterosexual people may appear at firstto be a claim that works to extend existing rights in a more universalising direction but the claim has the effect of widening the gap between legitimate and illegitimate sexual exchange; lesbian and gay people who seek this legitimation break alliance with single father and mothers, divorcees, non-marital and non-monogomous people, as well as other gay and lesbian people; it stregthens the hand of the state in the regulation of human sexual behaviour; and so on and so forth. The hostility of the state to gay marriage can, therefore, be seen as a difficult freedom, an uncomfortable (inhospitable) emancipation from control (the hostility within hospitality).Likewise, the possible hospitality of the state to gay marriage is a kind of sweet threat.
Our gallery does not grow out of Derrida's deconstruction of hospitality/hostility - certainly in no direct sense. The model for the space is that of a node or a hub, a place of meetings and exchange. For this to operate we must be hospitable. Remember: the solution to the aporia of hospitality/hostility is not hostility. And our hospitality is, in a certain sense, on behalf of the city of Manchester, who we do not 'officially' represent - which is, maybe, the cue for a whole set of other questions. Nevertheless, our hospitality - our welcoming of the international artworld to Manchester as friends and neighbours - is not naive (ignorant of the problems of hospitality) but remains, I would say, contradictory. We try to play out the contradictions (rather than deny them or wish them away) in several ways: by not quite adopting the authoriatarian/managerial model of the curator (not being the head of the household - we are tenants, of course); by engaging in dialogues at a distance from the gallery and in advance of contractual-type agreements with artists; by operating in Manchester rather than London or NY (there is a real sense of half-light here, where you are not quite invisible but you are not under a spotlight either); and so on. We are, if you like, not solving the problems of hospitality at floating ip, but we are not cynically exploiting it either. We are, in effect, doing our best. We could have developed a slick, businesslike international art centre, and instead we chose to be a small but significant set of voices on the outskirts of the cultural map. We feel that there is value in such a strategy and a degree of freedom too. If we are hosts in the Derridean sense by virtue of running a project space in Ancoats, we are not hosts in any larger sense. At some point we need to understand that hosts are not all equal in the fact of their welcome; some are official hosts, others are authorised hosts, while others again are unofficial, small-time, contesting hosts. I'm reminded of two things. One, a rock guitarist friend of mine telling me that I was a gnat on the underbelly of the artworld (which he thought was a piss take but I liked); the other is from Vito Acconci, when he said of his architectural works: I prefer to be in the corridors, I wouldn't know what to do in the main part of the space.
Issues of Identity and Ethnicity
The image I wish to use has no political references and it is not my aim (intentionally or unintentionally) to offend anyone. In case there is confusion to my political stance, I wish to state clearly that I am not a Turkish Nationalist. My position on Cypriot politics is very liberal, pluralistic and humanist.
I have made work previously that explores my interest in an individual's personal interpretation of visual symbols that have political significance in relation to their identity. I drain the images of their political content by either displacing the image or else deconstructing to rearrange the graphic elements creating a misfiring of meaning.
One artist that I would say who has been very influential on me is Ken Lum. I share his interest for the topics of displacement, identity and immigration.
As a London born, raised and educated Turkish Cypriot, my parents (like the most other London based Cypriots) would take us on extended summer holidays to Cyprus. From this early age, I was visually aware that the north was part of a divided island, and so was saturated visually with the star and crescent flag. In direct contrast, one would look cross the border in, say Nicosia and see the Greek/ Cypriot flag. I gathered that this was the binary opposite to the star and crescent. I would return home to the north London suburb where we lived and resume mixing with my Greek Cypriot school friends. On reflection, I was fascinated with the use of graphic logos for 'branding' as markers for territory. Was this the only difference between the two people? How did this relationship work?
Years later, after leaving art school, I was for a period working for a fly poster and billboard company, distributing posters all across London. I soon became aware that certain designs were more successful in obtaining peoples attention than others and concluded that the origins of the most striking yet banal logos are national flags and their historic uses in a military context. I had almost come full circle.
My design 'Nicosia', a project to be placed as a parallel project for the exhibition 'Leaps of Faith' is completing this journey. The design has no meaning. It comes from a simple exercise of designing the most visible arrangement of shapes and colours that capture a viewer's attention in a street context, using my experience of looking at thousands of different posters over a period of almost 10 years.
I can describe this as a materialization of a fictional flag of a semi real/ semi imaginary geography. A bright, breezy pop realization of what Nicosia can mean to me, my own Karaoke flag for the region.