Book published by Revolver Publishing
The book is based on Sæbjörnsson´s exhibition The Egg or The Hen, Us or Them, in Künstlerhaus Bremen 2011
From a conversation between Egill Sæbjörnsson and Jane Bannett:
1. Can we say that art is its own species, which might have co-existed with humankind
just like the dog was bred from the wolf?
JANE BENNETT: I like the idea of art as a species, or, even better, art as a “vital force” that joins up with different earthly bodies at different times and places. So, art would have an existence that retains a moment of independence from the artist. Art as a force that sometimes joins up with the “creative genius” of, say, a da Vinci, but other times with the striped bodies of zebras, or the graceful curve of a plant stem as it reaches for the sun, or the striated layers of granite.
It’s also interesting to note that some people today challenge the idea that humans domesticated the wolf to produce the dog. They contend instead that it was the wolf, hanging around human rubbish sites, who altered his/her own behaviour (pace, taste) to become a dog. Some of these dogs liked to herd and thus helped to make possible a human economy of livestock. Based on this view, it was the wolf-dog that induced the human-animal to settle down and become agricultural. I suppose one could say, analogously, that art lured the artist into being.
2. Is art older than art history indicates? Is there art without humankind? Are worms artists? Are minerals artists?
JANE BENNETT: The question “Are worms (or minerals) artists?” loses some of its sense once art is understood to be a lively, active force in the world, rather than a technique invented and deployed by people. It makes more sense to say that worms and minerals and people can sometimes be co-actants with the force of art.
3. Could it be that art is partly controlling humans? Is the oil on the canvas controlling the artist just as much as the artist is controlling the oil?
JANE BENNETT: Yes, it seems clear that when different combinations of materialities engage with each other (the oil, the artist-body, the canvas, the movements and sounds of each, etc.) the agency is distributed across the assemblage that forms. No one element is in “control”, or if it is, it does not reign for long. I don’t know if the oil exerts more or less power over the resultant “work of art” than the artist does. It’s probably impossible to discern exactly the distribution of agency at work in any given instance. But it seems most reasonable to identify the collective, the assemblage, as the real locus of agency, rather than any individuated element therein.