Whilst the game playing of Playing the City may be the outcome of a fetish, we could also perceive it as a form of revisionism. An analogy can be found in the strikes that took place in France, during May’68. When the people of France abandoned the factories and took to the streets, the trade unions were crucial in breaking the strikes and getting people back into their workplaces; ostensively acting in the interests of the workers, the unions played the crucial role of intermediary between the reformers and State, eventually brokering a deal that would see the former return to their posts.60

Those who were striking were sick of a system that they saw as exploitative and wanted a new system, one that wasn’t rigged for exploitation. The unions’ coup de mâitre was in reducing these revolutionary intentions to a program of strictly professional demands61, ameliorating the threat of revolution and forcing a compromise with the State. In transforming a revolutionary challenge – a challenge that wanted to force new ideas, that spoke a new language – into a series of conventional demands (change in wages, working conditions, etc) the unions were able to neutralize the danger of the unknown, disarming a bomb that threatened to explode the status quo. The workers were forced to come to terms with the system, to speak the old language; and the new tongue - with its talk of revolution, of new ideas - was killed in its infancy, along with any ideas about an alternative system.

Just as the trade unions acted as intermediary between the State and those that threatened it, ameliorating their radical energy, we could perceive the various structures of the art world as performing a similar task. As we’ve seen, the very nature of ‘art’ (as in-between, as sea) poses an inherent threat to a system that fears the depths, threatening to explode definitions and suggest other ways. Anchored against this danger is the ‘art-world’, a structure with fixed definitions and conventions, that even plays the system’s most valued game, that of commodity exchange. In place of the trade union, we have the gallery, promising to sanitize the threat of ‘art’ – to quarantine it within its four walls from where it can be safely observed. Fluid becomes congealed; in-between is brought into a pact with the State, made to negotiate and fit into the status quo.

Gene Ray realises this compromise; “To transform art into a revolutionary weapon, it would first be necessary to “abolish” – that is, negate, decompose, dissolve, liquidate – the bourgeois paradigm of art. This negative movement would disentangle the truth of art – its promise of happiness and utopian force – from the untruth of the commodity form.”62 Ray realizes that to return ‘art’ to the sea would involve the decomposition of those structures that demand it become solid, that demand it stand still, stay in one place, pose for the camera and smile. In anchoring it to safe paradigms the gallery rebukes the truth of art; words like ‘exhibition’ and ‘performance’ become nothing more than labels of the bourgeois ideology.

“Set free this truth would then be carried on in a positive and creative movement that goes beyond […] the bourgeois paradigm in the construction of new practices […] To the extent that art realizes [this] it will supercede itself, qua art, and disappear into the conflicts of politicized life, becoming in the process a real weapon of hope.”63 Here Ray talks of the sea; the return of ‘art’ from solid to liquid, to the place of the ‘in-between person’ and not simply ‘the artist’.

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