Exposed Pipe/ ماسورة موسيقية
“Exposed Pipe/ ماسورة موسيقية for Byblos Bank Art Gallery” makes indirect reference to Gutai founder Senkichiro Nasaka’s sound sculpture of brushed aluminum pipes (1969?), but also to Robert Morris’s “Box With The Sound of its Own Making” (1961) *, except instead of electronic music, or the sound of construction, we hear recordings of The Internationale (لاشتراكية) in various languages resonating softly but distinctly from the pipe as one approaches it closely. Like the work by Morris* the project I am proposing for your Art and Labor exhibition refers back to its own making in so far as it appears to be part of the physical plant of the building that is assembled by on-staff laborers of AUB. It only becomes “art” via Duchamp and thanks to its location in the gallery with a name tag etc… But simultaneously the piece also appears to nakedly reveal a normally hidden part of the universities concrete infrastructure. However, as a work of labor by the physical plant crew it also belongs to an abstract category of institutional bureaucracy in which normally invisible wage laborers are typically not considered part of its educational enterprise, and yet they are nevertheless essential to its operations. Thus the notion of an “exposed pipe” (and here a pipe also suggests music that is being “piped” in to a space like Nasaka’s intervention). The multi-lingual sound recordings of The Internationale take the brute specificity of the physical pipe into another dimension, a historical dimension in which the notion of universal abstract labor becomes the foundation for both exposing and transforming class-based society. The crew who assemble the piece are invited to become co-authors of the “work” with me, but of course it is up to them. However, if they agree then their names should appear with mine in any print context: Greg Sholette with Ghassan el Hajj, Khalid Hamza and Haitham Hassan.
* The Morris box has a double reading I think in so far as it can be read as either a philosophical pun on the notion of self-referential objecthood (a favorite subject of art theory in the C. Greenberg years), or it could be read as a reference to changing labor conditions and the notion of the art worker or cultural worker (also a concept that emerges in the 1960s). More specifically Morris seems to refer to the state of artistic craft at a time in which some artists began “de-skilling” their practice by using industrial techniques and outside assistants to fabricate their “work.” By contrast, I suspect that Nasaka’s pipes are not about labor, but are intended as an intervention into the space of an exhibition both physically and aurally.