“Paraphrasing Goya's oft-quoted title "the sleep of reason engenders monsters", Derrida puts forward a variant, "reason watches over a deep sleep, in which it has a stake". Reason itself seeks a certain blindness, a certain forgetfulness. An appeal to reason will therefore not in itself prevent you from sleeping. Indeed, that sleep might well be the sleep of a monster always about to be reborn, as shown by numerous recent world events. I hope to appeal here to a wakeful reason. I shall only be aiming to effect a minute displacement in the terms of the statement which has brought us together — underlining for instance the polysemy of the concept of monster.
The argument as presented to this working group enunciates an epistemological slant on research, theory and thought. Such an epistemological slant presupposes that those who wrote or thought out the argument have some knowledge in the area of (let us say) scientific research, or theory. Based on this knowledge in scientific theory they conclude that the research or theory brought into play or produced in the arts is of a 'monstrous' nature.
This view of things at once made me think of the argument of the "methodology of artistic research" working group led by Carole Gray at the Berlin ELIA conference in 1994. This argument put forward by Carole Gray already suggested that work should focus on theories such as chaos theory, nonlinearity, the uncertainty principle, hybrid methods. All of these can only function as metaphors for the artists involved, as they are unlikely to place them within their original scientific context with anything approaching rigour.
Would anyone even think of sticking such terms to the writings of established artists from the past? Would the thinking, the reasoning, the investigations of such artists as Klee, Kandinsky, Malevich, Matisse, or closer to us, Robert Morris, Mel Bochner or Gerhard Richter, would all this research in any way profit from being dubbed chaotic, uncertain, hybrid or monstrous? Or are we to believe that a recent epistemological break separates the writings of those artists from all the interesting thinking of today?
Isn't this tantamount to a return to age-old clichés according to which art is something quirky? Mightn't ill-understood, but widely vulgarised and broadcast scientific theories such as chaos theory, with its graphic suggestions, allow a confusion with the old saw of artists' spontaneity? […]”
Editors: Malcolm Miles