Practicing Etiquette, Issue II.VIII
Robert Hayes Kee

The speech of the Party of the First Part is left-aligned and the speech of their interlocutor, the Party of the Second Part is right-aligned.

You seem to have obstructed my passage through this hallway.

To blame me for such an obstruction would be most unjust.

To whom should I attribute the placement and presence of this enormity?

I’ve no way of knowing.

This must be a manner of obdurate recalcitrance you offer.

Nothing of the kind.

Are you willing to participate in the relocation of this object d’art?

My concern is that as an object d’art the placement of this piece is part of the d’art and we cannot move it without dissolving that auricular status. Tilted Arc in storage is not the same piece as in Javits Plaza.

So the condemnation of this hallway to a place of non-passage is to be assumed as the intent of this piece?

Why assume the alternative?

Who permitted the conversion of this hallway to a gallery space?

Who permits the crossing of the gap between life and art? Is their collapse not the exact goal of the modernist project? To be a regressive postmodernist is the worst of reactionaries.

I am quite disturbed as this alignment between myself the alternative right that you suggest. Why would such an correlation even occur to you?

We must go forward for the progress of modernity to continue, how else can we avoid regressing? I see no sensible path.

I cannot see a sensible path around this boulder now obscuring passage down this hallway. Its Brancusiesque smoothness is not fair recompense for its obstruction of practical motion.

To whom does art owe practicality? That is a treasonous teleology against the very freedom of art. We have fought to avoid the Scylla and Charybdis of sanctification and propagandation in wresting art’s meaning from its previous owners. Why this insistence on a step backwards? You horrify me.

You suggest that we must assume artistic intention for this piece and that to resume the function of this hallway is to act as a philistine?

Until we can confirm the desire for audience interaction by the artist, whoever may have assumed the role, I see no alternative.

But isn’t the assumption of an audience already a retrograde position? Why collapse art and life and not the duality of artist and viewer? Why maintain the scaffolding of the capitalist structure of art and only dismantle its ideology? The paucity of your thought horrifies me. 

You sound like you are either an apologist for Beuys or a Marxist. The fact that those seem like equally plausible poles is a mark of creativity for your position. If I could reach across this thing, I would shake your hand for the novelty of your stance alone. I assume you have not taken a seat.

Flattery is not an acceptable dodge. We must turn to the practical matter of moving this rock.

I must consider your critique before I could contemplate if it is correct to move this work. After that, I would still need time to contemplate how to move this object practically after the previous considerations. Future movement is not close at hand.

This is the only path I know to my destination. I am obstructed and need to pass. Your thought experiment must wait for another time.

“Thought experiment”!?! Can you not see the immediate, practical implications our decision here? The very notion that you would separate thought and action shows that you have poorly considered the relation of those two. At this has settled the question; you cannot be a Beuysian, you must be a bad Marxist. Nothing else would make sense of your poor insistence upon action and practicality in the face of such difficult problems to think through.

Fine! You can think of me what you will. I will try to move the boulder myself, and I am going to force it in your direction with all my available strength. You should think of an alternative to standing where you are.

You wish to force the issue, do you? This manner of violence cannot be tolerated in the art world!

I think you completely lack of manners in our exchange trumps your calls to higher purpose.

Higher purpose? What is higher than life in art? Or art in life? You simply cannot think your way out of the nineteenth century! The roots of etiquette are in social control. We cannot subvert the control society with kindness. Where does that word appear in the postscript? Even you can take the time to read its six pages. “What counts is that we are at the beginning of something.” Heed those words and do not end our fruitful building here.

I now wish I could end you here.

The coils of a serpent are even more complex than the burrows of a molehill. You have reached the end without apprehending my meaning or your own goals.

I have set neither as a goal. Nor do I wish to do so now.