No apologies for having let the blog slide so much recently, I'll just get on with rectifying the situation somewhat, with a thought that's been bubbling around my head for the last couple of days as a result of having spent time at the wonderful Modern Times: Responding to Chaos exhibition of drawings (and some films) at Kettle's Yard in Cambridge, as well as having begun Seth Kim-Cohen's recent book In The Blink of an Ear: Toward a Non-Cochlear Sonic Art, and which I shall attempt to express, in what I am afraid may appear at this stage a somewhat gnomic fashion.
What occurred to me is whether drawing and improvisation (specifically of the mode employed by musicians such as Derek Bailey) might be seen as practices which involve - indeed require - skill, but do not reify it and which may leave traces (& may involve an audience) but which do not rely either on the production of a finished object or the performance situation for their meaning. They can thus provide a means of avoiding the fetishism of the "artwork" to which modernism is prone, as well as incorporating some of conceptual art's valuable critiques of modernism (such as of its formalism) without conceptualism's didacticism, indifference to material, or parasitic relation to the forms of artistic practice. That is, the banality and traditionalism of drawing and instrumental practise could be seen to provide a way out of conceptualism's cerebral cul-de-sac. Sustained engagement with a material on a daily basis - without always keeping an eye on the production of "works" - replaces the need to trademark every advance. (Though in practice of course certain territory will be staked out: few visual artists only engage in informal drawing, and few improvisers make no public performances or recordings.) In fact, does conceptualism not subscribe fully to a modernist conception of progress, for all that it claims to undermine modernist illusions of originality?
So I am wondering whether one can respond to the crisis of "the work" not by questioning the form of the work, its reception and so forth, but by engaging with material in such a way that the production of "work" qua work is a secondary, and at times even incidental result of an artist's or musician's activity. It also seems possible that other art forms could have comparable versions of practice: photography and field recording might be two examples.